Monday, December 09, 2013


Over at National Journal, Alex Seitz-Wald says that Adam Lanza was the person who derailed President Obama's second term. Oh, really? Tell me how, Alex:
... In truth, [Obama's] agenda went off the rails on a crisp December morning last year, when Adam Lanza strolled into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 20 children and six adults. Obama hasn't gotten back on track since.

The Connecticut massacre set in motion a cascade of events that led the White House to burn through its only real window to accomplish its goals. The month before the shooting, Obama had won a convincing reelection and a modest popular mandate.
One major liberal wish-list entry, immigration reform, seemed not only within reach but almost inevitable.
Only if you were a naif who believes the Republican Party can ever suppress its blinding hatred of Obama to cooperate with him, or any Democratic successor, ever again. Or if you were a Beltway-insider journalist. (But I repeat myself.)

Go on, Alex:
Immigration was in an almost impossible bipartisan sweet spot: a singularly important policy goal for Democrats that could be a political boon for both parties. For Republicans, it was a way to fix a demographic problem revealed by the 2012 election. Still, they'd have to move quickly.

The populist Right that had torpedoed immigration reform under George W. Bush seemed quieted by defeat, but it wouldn't stay that way for long.

Then Lanza's rampage altered the debate in Washington. Suddenly, priority No. 1 wasn't immigration reform but gun control.
Explain to me why Democrats and Establishment Republicans had to move quickly. Was there a brief moment when the Obama-hating, Democrat-hating, immigrant-hating Republican voter base was going to feel mildly less enraged by Obama, Democrats, or immigrants? Was there a brief moment when the GOP base was going to accept the notion that Obama is a legitimate president and that elections have consequences even when Democrats win them?

Seitz-Wald seems to believe that a base driven to rage by every last Obama initiative would somehow not have been driven to rage by this one, if it had immediately followed an election in which the based loathed and despised the victor (and wasn't particularly fond of the loser, who was instantly blamed for the loss, which came about, they believed largely because he didn't express a sufficiently elevated sense of contempt for the victor).

In the months following Newtown, according to Seitz-Wald, the Obama administration fought for gun control instead of immigration reform, and by doing so "fatally, and irrevocably, antagonized the populist libertarian Right, the same people whom mainstream Republicans and Democrats needed to stay on the sidelines for immigration reform to succeed." Nonsense. The Obama administration "fatally, and irrevocably, antagonize[s] the populist libertarian Right" merely by existing.

This is a variant on the usual Beltway claptrap: that if you're just nice to Republicans, they'll cooperate and help you govern. Even the comity-craving president no longer believes this.

Seitz-Wald says the moment was lost after the gun control fight, which was followed by Benghazimania and the IRS revelations and Snowden and Syria and then the shutdown and the bad rollout of But if none of those things had happened, angry Republicans would still be fighting with Obama. They'd be fighting with him over immigration. They'd have made that their hill to die on, whether the allegedly compromise-seeking Republican Establishment wanted them to or not.

The battle never ends. It's not Obama's fault or Adam Lanza's fault. It's the sociopathically angry Republicans' fault. It's always their fault, because, well, they're sociopathically angry. Permanently.


Victor said...

Sociopathically angry, and always the victims of some nefarious plot, or other.

Obama, the Trickster God, changes shape from a barely literate field negro who can just make out what's on his telepromter, to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Pot, in a matter of seconds!

aimai said...

They just can't help themselves. The Republican party has issues: it needs to get immigration reform done because it can no longer simply coast on sabotaging it. That's their problem. Just because Obama and the Dems would like to get immigration reform done doesn't mean they would be the only beneficiaries: the Republican party needs to get this done for its own reasons. If they are incapable of holding their members of congress together thats their own fault. If they are incapable of orchestrating public opinion among their own voters: that's their fault. Nothing Obama and the dems can do can fix the fact that the Republican party and its voters are on a suicide course. And its not Obama's place to throw the Republicans a life line, either.

The entire model of these pieces of journalism is based on a kind of chin stroking, faux detail oriented, politics without the politics. The Republicans are constrained by long term structural issues. No one is really constrained by a fake timeline like "a week or so of good will." They don't act out of good will but out of self interest, expediency, and opportunism. They lost the opportunity to act, as steve says, when their base was encouraged to believe that the country could exist through eight years without an agreement by both parties to govern. They went to their voters over and over again and told them that no government was the best government, and now we are all paying the price since their voters will not brook any actual legislation which is bipartisan in nature.

Knight of Nothing said...

You nailed it. There was never, ever going to be "peace in our time" on any of these issues with the GOP as it is currently comprised.

I'm a fan of Charlie Pierce and co-blogger Robert Bateman. Last week, Bateman wrote a kind of troll-y, "modest proposal" piece to create a gun buy-back program out of the DoD's budget. The rage machine went into overdrive - over 2,600 comments and still going. This was my first personal experience with the blinding fervor of gun nuttery. They just cannot stop, ever. I tried to point out that, you know, if their goal is to be goodwill ambassadors for all those "peaceful, law-abiding gun owners" supposedly out there, their approach is, well, a little off.

Ten Bears said...

Careful Vic, comparing a human to Coyote (pronouned kai - yote) can bite you on a bad spot. Probably should double-check anything in the next couple of days that looks like a treat.

No fear.

Victor said...

Ten Bears,
Thanks for the 'head's-up!'

Vicki Hartley said...

Even more delicious, this is now being labeled a liberal fantasy on A Plain Blog About Politics. Seems Liberals are the one pushing the Lanza story.

Anonymous said...

At any rate, Benghazi came first, or has everyone already forgotten "Please proceed, Governor?"

Glennis said...

Wow, such a profound article. Real-life occurrences changed political agendas. Seitz-Wald sure is brilliant.

The New York Crank said...

Alex Seitz-Wald's explanation of Adam Lanza's formidable power of political influence reminds me of the answer I got, half a century ago, from the late sleaze-a-loid publisher, Bob Harrison. ("Confidental" magazine, "Titter" magazine. "Inside News" among others.)

I asked him how to get news stories with the kinds of headlines he favored: "Actor, Drunk On Water, Kills Five People With Sports Car." "And Fidel Castro's All-Girl Firing Squads," And "Female Vice Squad Raids Call Boy Brothel."

"There's only one way kid," he confided in me, with total sincerity. "You gotta make them up."

Very Crankily Yours,
The New York Crank