Subscribe via RSS Feed

The BULLY PULPIT Tautology

[ 102 ] April 26, 2013 |

Chait notes the circular nature of green lantern arguments as media accounts rush to blame the eminently predictable failure of Congress to pass gun control legislation on the White House:

Would the threat of canceling the trip have caused Begich (and six fellow senators) to reconsider, as the story implies?

Obviously, we can’t go back and re-run history and find out. We can, however, find a reasonably close approximation. During Bill Clinton’s first two terms, a Democratic senator from a red state (Richard Shelby of Alabama) defected on key votes. Clinton tried the “ruthless” approach of punishing Shelby by denying him these sorts of discretionary executive branch perks — first limiting his tickets to a ceremony honoring the Alabama football team, then threatening to move some NASA jobs out of his state. The tactic was universally seen to have backfired.

Did it really backfire? Probably not. Shelby voted the way he did because he assessed his own beliefs and interests. But that is the beauty of ignoring structural factors for stories about people: You can always tell a new one. If the president was nice, he should have been mean. If he was mean, he should have been nice. (Unless he prevailed, in which case his shrewd politicking saved the day!)

Presidential hero stories have two archetypes. One is Lyndon Johnson arm-twisting. The Times today hauls out LBJ biographer Robert Dallek to contrast Johnson’s ruthless arm-twisting with Obama’s stand-offishness. Of course, LBJ enjoyed huge majorities in both houses, along with a majority-rule Senate. When Johnson’s majority shrank following the 1966 midterms, his domestic agenda shriveled away, too, despite his presumably undiminished grasp of arm-twisting and legendarily threatening body language.

And it’s not just that LBJ had huge majorities to work with before 1967; he also had something arguably even more valuable, liberal Republicans who supported (or weren’t strongly opposed to) his agenda during a time of weak party discipline. As Drum notes, it’s not clear what more Obama could have done to get Snowe’s vote for the PPACA, and there’s nothing that Lyndon Johnson could have done about that either.

Indeed, arguments about Obama’s excessive faith in bipartisanship — which have a great deal of truth in themselves — are often assimilated into green lantern critiques. Specific attempts to explain how Obama could have gotten sufficient Democratic votes for a public option are so embarrassing that most people making them just end up mumbling about FDR or assume the can opener in some other way. But it certainly is true that Obama and the Democratic leadership did spend a lot of time on a doomed effort to get Republican votes, and I suppose that’s something that could have been done differently. The problem is, though, that there’s a reason that the Democratic leadership placed too much hope on getting some Republican votes: if there’s no possibility of any crossover, the leverage that the leadership has over conservative Democrats is vastly reduced. If Snowe and Grassley supported the PPACA, you could tell Lieberman to cram it with walnuts when he pulled the Medicare buy-in double-cross. But when every possible vote for the bill is also necessary, the median Democratic votes call the shots. A lot of LBJ’s successful deal-making was based on everybody’s knowledge that if he couldn’t get what he wanted from A he may well be able to get it from B. With modern norms of strict party discipline, the possibility of cutting deals is greatly reduced.

And, of course, the argument collapses on itself, because (as with the argument that he could have gotten a much bigger surplus) the argument that Obama screwed up relies on an excessive faith in the possibility of bipartisanship. Because passing minor gun control legislation wasn’t a longstanding administration priority, I can’t say to an absolute certainty that Obama and Reid couldn’t have found some way to get every Democratic vote. I don’t really understand what leverage Obama is supposed to have over Heidi Heitkamp, given that he lost her home state by 20 points and won’t be in office the next time she runs, but who knows, maybe he could have found something. But given that 1)this wouldn’t have been enough to get the legislation through the Senate, and 2)even in the extremely unlikely event that you could get more Republican votes in the Senate, there’s no chance the House would pass any gun control legislation worth passing, I have no idea what the point of doing so would be. You don’t pull out all the stops to get legislators to pass symbolic votes.

Share with Sociable

Comments (102)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Tnap01 says:

    I don’t really understand what leverage Obama is supposed to have over Heidi Heitkamp,

    I don’t know, couldn’t Harry Reid buy a Cat house and trap Heidi in a Pat Geary like situation?

  2. mpowell says:

    LBJ congress was different in so many ways, its not really comparable. I’m fully prepared to believe that if the parties are not really split on an issue, you actually need to persuade people on both sides of the aisle and there are actually a significant number of votes in play, that arm-twisting, log-rolling and all sorts of other political games can get you votes. But when every member of the opposition party is firmly opposed to your agenda? There’s not much at play there except keeping the most conservative dems on board.

  3. Matt McIrvin says:

    I’ve recently heard the complaint that Obamacare is evil because it forever precluded the possibility of national single-payer health insurance… from a Ron Paul supporter. Much of this stuff is just not grounded in anything like reality.

    • Murc says:

      I’ve met a fair number of Paul-curious people who are very left-win, often socialistic, in their political views. They’ve kind of made Ron Paul sort of a receptacle for all their hopes and dreams while ignoring everything about him that makes him, well, a reactionary crazy.

      They’re rarer now than once they were, but man, back in 2008 it seemed like they were EVERYWHERE.

      • Matt McIrvin says:

        Well, to be fair, liberals did the same thing with Obama. But ignoring everything about him that makes him a fairly ordinary Democrat seems like a less extreme action.

        • Pseudonym says:

          Obama is, with notably rare exceptions, more liberal than Congress, and it’s rarely his insufficiently liberal policy preferences that are preventing more liberal policies from being enacted. (Ok, that’s at least arguable.) Ron Paul is a neoconfederate.

    • TribalistMeathead says:

      I’m fairly certain I’ve seen libertarians argue that universal health care is good because it takes the burden of providing health insurance off employers, particularly when it’s subsidized by the employer.

      The beauty of libertarianism is that you can argue whatever you want as a libertarian and, when challenged on it, respond that your opponent obviously knows nothing about libertarianism.

      • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

        The beauty of libertarianism is that you can argue whatever you want as a libertarian and, when challenged on it, respond that your opponent obviously knows nothing about libertarianism.

        Yeah, or they just don’t understand Libertarianism. It’s especially useful after your opponent has provided countless examples of how (aside from a tiny handful of issues) Libertarianism is no different than standard Conservatism. Dismissive, hand-waving, sighing and eye-rolling can also be used for added effect.

      • NonyNony says:

        I’m fairly certain I’ve seen libertarians argue that universal health care is good because it takes the burden of providing health insurance off employers

        People who call themselves libertarians who say things like this near me get smacked with a rolled-up newspaper. Because in my experience they cannot answer the follow-up question which is “lolwut? How is your libertarian position any different from a bog-standard centrist-leaning liberal position on this then?” If they can even come up with an actual answer (as opposed to setting up some strawman liberal to argue against), once fully parsed their answer is usually “because liberals are icky and I’m not a liberal”.

  4. TT says:

    I get as frustrated as anyone by Obama’s pursuit of Bipartisanship for Bipartisanship’s sake, habit of offering preemptive concessions, etc. But as was made clear by others, sending the Interior Secretary to Alaska was actually a favor to Murkowski, to keep her from further obstructing/blocking the confirmation of said secretary. It was not, in fact, a failure of Obama to demonstrate his virility by personally dangling Begich from Marine One a thousand feet over Prince William Sound.

  5. Murc says:

    I’d like to mention just as addendum to this that, in order for political arm-twisting on the part of the Executive Branch to be possible, we would basically need a much less transparent and far more corrupt legislative process, controlled from the top down, and a party structure that mirrors that.

    I don’t think progressives would particularly like it if the Democratic Party leadership could utterly destroy anyone who stepped out of line. That power would rarely be used in support of their interests; it would instead be used to destroy left-wing outliers.

    • Lefty68 says:

      Exactly. Proponents of the “arm-twisting” view of presidential power seem to assume that the U.S. has a party system more like a parliamentary government, where the party leadership has much more influence over individual legislators than is actually the case here. I’m guessing that the very same people would be outraged by any proposal to give central parties that kind of power, such as abolishing primaries.

    • Barry says:

      “we would basically need a much less transparent ”

      I figure that we have a highly non-transparent system now, which helps the insiders. Senators can block a bill and never be called on it.

  6. James E Powell says:

    Another thing LBJ had working for him, one not always mentioned, was the huge emotional support he was given because he was seen as carrying on the mission of the martyred JFK.

    You can read books that explain that the Kennedy people did not feel this way, but the great mass of American voters did not know or share the ill will of the insiders.

    • Matt McIrvin says:

      You can see it in his poll numbers: Johnson came in with a huge store of goodwill, not as extreme as what Bush had after 9/11, but considerably larger than what Obama had coming in off the 2008 crisis. And it lasted about as long as Bush’s post-9/11 bump.

      • Matt McIrvin says:

        …And it’s worth noting that by this point in his administration, Johnson’s numbers were really starting to tank from Vietnam. Bush wasn’t in the doghouse quite yet; Obama’s about even with him for job approval right now.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      The emotional support was made fully tangible in the 1964 election.

      Without 68 senators and 295 congress critters plus the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, LBJ gets the same results from the ‘emotional support’ that any other president would get, namely nothing – incrementally speaking.

  7. ploeg says:

    Anybody who uses Lyndon Johnson as an example of a president who used the “bully pulpit” doesn’t know what “bully pulpit” means. “Bully pulpit” means using your position to appeal directly to the people (through public campaigning and direct or indirect appeals through the media), so that the people apply pressure to their representatives. Appealing directly to the people was never old Lyndon’s strong point. Lyndon typically came across as preachy and unctuous when making speeches. Lyndon much preferred to twist arms behind the scenes, which is as far from any sort of “pulpit” as you can get. Not that the “bully pulpit” and arm-twisting are mutually exclusive (they’re not), it’s just that Lyndon was a lot better at applying “the treatment” than he was at making public appeals.

    In any case, Johnson was sui generis in many ways. Just because Johnson did it doesn’t mean that any other president could do it.

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      People make that mistake because, whether out of confusion or just free association, they merge “bully” the noun with “bully” the steampunk adjective. Like the difference between a kickass candidate and a candidate who kicks people in the ass.

    • John says:

      This is worth noting, I think. I think related to this is the fact that Johnson’s methods to get legislation passed as president were basically indistinguishable from his methods to get legislation passed as Senate Majority Leader in the 50s. LBJ is just about the least BULLY PULPIT-y president of recent years. Presidents who relied on the bully pulpit as their strategy for passing legislation were Truman and Kennedy who, unsurprisingly, didn’t actually accomplish anything.

      I think people get confused because LBJ was a BULLY, so they think this must have something to do with the bully pulpit.

      • NonyNony says:

        I think people get confused because LBJ was a BULLY, so they think this must have something to do with the bully pulpit.

        Yes. I think that this is part of what’s going on, at least with comparisons with LBJ.

        But there’s also a faction that argues for more Bully Pulpit because they know what it means and just want to hear Obama whipping up crowds to take torches and pitchforks to the Congress whether it would be effective in getting their agenda passed by the Congress or not.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Lyndon typically came across as preachy and unctuous when making speeches.

      Which is too bad. I use his civil rights speeches in speech class as exemplars of how to write a speech. They’re better than 95% of what came before and after him, and I’m looking at you, Teddy Sorensen. I read select paragraphs ask students to guess the author and people routinely say “King” or “Lincoln”….

  8. scott says:

    Also, is Superman faster than the Flash?

    • Murc says:

      I’ve actually had this debate in deadly earnest. It usually starts with defining terms, and involves the phrase “pre-Crisis” being used a lot.

    • joejoejoe says:

      I had a supersize DC comic that asked just this question as a kid. They had a race and were equally fast until some bad guys interrupted the race and Superman and Flash teamed up to kick their ass.

      I think this random quote from the internet sums things up.

      …if Superman were strong enough to fly through the gravitational fields present at the center of the sun (much more impressive than taking a punch from doomsday) he would also be able to easily bench press the planet earth.

      Obama can’t benchpress planet earth but he should be able to produce a sufficient number of carrots and sticks to keep his own party members in line. Obama’s big failure is using the power of persuasion on his own party. Just buy people off and/or step on their toes. That is how it has always worked.

  9. joe from Lowell says:

    In addition to liberal Republicans, LBJ also had conservative Republican senators who didn’t use the debate rules to cheat.

    All of this comparisons between Obama’s ability to get the votes and LBJ/FDR’s ignores the point that Obama got enough votes in the Senate to pass these bills. The fault for their failure lies with the procedural abuses of their opponents.

    • LittlePig says:

      Exactly. There were reasonable, rational Republicans in those days, folks with a genuine concept of ‘public service’. These FOXNation peckerwood Republicans today all act like Veruca Salt.

    • Murc says:

      The fault for their failure lies with the procedural abuses of their opponents.

      I actually assign more blame to the Senate Democrats for their failures than the Republicans in this one, frankly.

      The Republicans don’t want ANYTHING to pass. They’re completely up-front and open about that and have been for years. They’re deploying the rules of the Senate, as written, in order to achieve their legislative priorities by imposing a sixty-vote requirement on just about everything.

      The Senate Democrats decided they were fine with this. They had three chances to use the Senates rules to achieve their own legislative priorities (in 2009, 2011, and 2013) and declined to do so.

      When you cheerfully spot somebody twenty runs, it’s hard to complain when they win the ballgame.

      • brewmn says:

        I hope someday soon we learn what Harry Reid’s thinking was on the recent filibuster “compromise.” He couldn’t have believed that anything but near-abolition would make a difference. That decision remains completely beffling to me.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Reid’s thinking was almost certainly “I don’t have the votes for this, but I have them for that.”

          • Murc says:

            This.

            I often think badly of Harry Reid, but whatever else you can say about him, he LIKES passing stuff. He enjoys it when that happens.

            Blame attaches to him and to Democrats in general for being unable to get their caucus to actually get shit done, but in that specific case… well, he didn’t have the votes. It happens.

            • Dana Houle says:

              Reid only has the power of persuasion and of legitimacy bestowed on him by the 53 free agents who voted him Majority Leader. When Reid doesn’t push something, or pushes something half-assed, there are always cries about how Reid sucks, yadayadayada. Seldom do people step back and note that he almost never gets surprised by Dem votes or puts something on the floor that doesn’t achieve his goal, either to pass it or to have a marker on GOP intransigence and/or votes to use against Repub incumbents. So when he doesn’t do something, like change the filibuster rules, unlike most folks, I assume he just didn’t have the Dem votes and didn’t have a lever to pry them out.

              • Dana Houle says:

                Also, Reid’s power within the caucus is based in part on an honor system with his members. If they don’t lie to him or screw him unnecessarily, he doesn’t expose whose votes he has on an issue and whose he doesn’t. So, we don’t really know what happened on the public option (namely, if there were even 50 votes), and we don’t know who the problems were RE the filibuster.

                And since we don’t know who was blocking filibuster reform, we also don’t know if any groups were getting a few members to do their bidding. It may have been, for instance, that choice groups or labor don’t want to be exposed should the Repubs control all three steps in the legislative process. If so, choice might go to, say, Boxer, or labor might go to Sherrod Brown. But because we don’t know, unless they state it publicly, whose votes Reid does and doesn’t have, we also can’t know why he doesn’t have them, and what may be influencing those senators’ decisions.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Right. Blame the senior and/or conservative Democrats who support the filibuster. There’s not much Reid can do if he doesn’t have close to the votes necessary.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  But Udall said he had 51 votes for the filibuster.

                  Out loud. In public.

                  “The crucial thing for all of you to know is Harry Reid’s got 51 votes to do the Constitutional option at the beginning of the Congress,” Udall said. “My sense is if he can’t get agreement on the other side, then he’s going to go forward.”

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  My take is that Udall did have 51 votes to get rid of the filibuster if no bargain could struck with the Republicans, but that some of those 51 – who would have voted for full repeal if the Republicans didn’t come to the table – preferred a deal.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        I actually assign more blame to the Senate Democrats for their failures than the Republicans in this one, frankly.

        Which is fucking nuts.

        Every single Republican goes one way. 95% of the Democrats go the other.

        Obviously, the problem is the Democrats as a whole.

        • Murc says:

          I’m not sure I get what you’re saying here, joe.

          The Senate Democrats had three chances to implement majority rule in the Senate ever since it became clear Republicans were going to block everything. If we’re going to be very charitable to them, lets call it two chances; 2011 and 2013, leaving out 2009. It was entirely and 100% in their power to do so and the Republicans could not have stopped them in any way, shape, or form.

          They decided not to.

          Way I figure it, that makes their failures their own fault.

          I blame the Republicans for having horrible, terrible policy positions and being, you know… sociopaths. I have trouble blaming them for using entirely legitimate levers of power to accomplish their legislative goals. That’s what political parties do, it is their job.

          Basically, what this boils down to: if the Democrats have the power to do something, and the Republicans can’t stop them, and the Democrats don’t do that thing, that’s a DEMOCRATIC problem. Not a Republican one. There are many problems with the Republican party, but “the Democrats are feckless” is on us.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            I’m saying that lumping the Senate Democrats into a single “they” is always wrong.

            It is particularly, egregiously wrong to do so when the position you are assigning to “they” is one that 5-10% of them support, and 90-95% of them oppose.

            If only the Senate Democrats voted, there would be no filibuster rule. It continues to exist because Republicans are allowed to vote. To blame this outcome on the Democrats is insane.

            • Murc says:

              I’m saying that lumping the Senate Democrats into a single “they” is always wrong.

              The Senate Democrats are collectively responsible for getting stuff done. Their failures to do so are collective and they all bear a certain amount of blame for it, just as they all bear a certain amount of collective responsibility for their successes and get kudos for it.

              That’s kinda how it works. I will note that we on this blog often assign collective blame to the Republicans. That’s often justified nowadays, but… well, if we got into a discussion about the Republican failures of the 80s and 90s, would you hop in and say “well, blaming the Republicans as a whole just isn’t fair. What about the individual remnants of the party in New England like John Chafee and Chris Shays who are still responsible legislators?”

              • joe from Lowell says:

                just as they all bear a certain amount of collective responsibility for their successes and get kudos for it.

                Oh, really?

                If the Senate passes a minimum wage increase, and Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, and Joe Lierberman voted against it, you’d give them credit, because they’re part of this Democratic collective that Got Stuff Done?

                Of course you wouldn’t. Heck, I don’t believe you for a second when you accuse Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren, and Sherrod Brown of not being “the problem.”

                I will note that we on this blog often assign collective blame to the Republicans.

                That’s because the Republicans act like a collective, voting in lockstep in a way that the Democrats do not.

                if we got into a discussion about the Republican failures of the 80s and 90s, would you hop in and say “well, blaming the Republicans as a whole just isn’t fair. What about the individual remnants of the party in New England like John Chafee and Chris Shays who are still responsible legislators?”

                Uh, Murc? From the blog entry: And it’s not just that LBJ had huge majorities to work with before 1967; he also had something arguably even more valuable, liberal Republicans who supported (or weren’t strongly opposed to) his agenda during a time of weak party discipline.

                • Murc says:

                  From the blog entry

                  So you’re Scott now, are you?

                  I look forward to your performance in future threads, whenever anyone assigns collective blame to Republicans in situations or errors where there were any Republican dissenters at all, for you to jump in and say that it is wrong for them to paint with a broad brush.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  From your comment, smartass: I will note that we on this blog often assign collective blame to the Republicans.

                  Please stop the bullshit.

                • Murc says:

                  I will note that we on this blog often assign collective blame to the Republicans.

                  I fail to see how you citing a single example of Scott providing nuance (which, to be fair, he does often, as the nature of the arguments Scott prefers to make often requires nuance and precision) undercuts my point in any way, shape, or form.

          • FlipYrWhig says:

            But that just seems to transform the Real Bully Pulpit into a palladium for the Senate. “If Harry Reid _really_ wanted to fix things, he’d Find A Way, and since he hasn’t, he doesn’t want to, so he’s the problem.” Sometimes people genuinely believe (stupid) things, like that the filibuster is good/traditional/important, and there’s no budging them no matter what they’re offered.

          • rea says:

            Blaming the Democrats for this is like blaming the mugging victim for getting drunk and trying to walk home alone through a bad neighborhood. Let’s not lose sight of who are the muggers here.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        The Republicans don’t want ANYTHING to pass. They’re completely up-front and open about that and have been for years. They’re deploying the rules of the Senate, as written, in order to achieve their legislative priorities by imposing a sixty-vote requirement on just about everything.

        So, you know, don’t blame them or anything.

        The Senate Democrats decided they were fine with this.

        No, a tiny minority of Senate Democrats decided that.

        So, obviously, the problem is the Democrats as a whole. They’re worse than the Republicans.

        • mpowell says:

          Indeed. What was so unfortunate about the last round of decision-making on cloture rules was how opaque the process was. Any dem who didn’t support getting rid of the fillibuster should have been targetted for future primaries. In my opinion, it’s the single worst issue for a Democratic Senator to be on the wrong side of (because it really means you’re on the wrong side of every other damn issue). But we don’t even know who they were exactly.

          • somethingblue says:

            But we’re not allowed to blame the Democrats as a group, because.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              …the vast majority of them were on the right side.

              This is a difficult concept for you?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              What part of “Don’t attribute the actions of the worst actors to everyone in a group” is eluding your “blue” mind?

              • Pierre Gervais says:

                “group”. Obviously that’s where the problem lies: you don’t seem to ascribe any contents to the word “group”.

                Which is funny in a way because, where I come from, the U.S. is presented as this two-party system which can’t evolve a third party because you HAVE TO belong to one of the dominant parties yadda yadda. Except that belonging to one of the dominant parties is meaningless, costless and irrelevant. Oh well.

                PG

                • Hogan says:

                  where I come from, the U.S. is presented as this two-party system which can’t evolve a third party because you HAVE TO belong to one of the dominant parties yadda yadda.

                  This is silly. Of course you can belong to a third party.

                  Except that belonging to one of the dominant parties is meaningless, costless and irrelevant.

                  How is that different from belonging to a third party?

                  If you’re looking for the party that will allow you to be Lenin, theorizing the revolution with one hand and running it with the other, you’ve come to the wrong place. In so, so many ways.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  you don’t seem to ascribe any contents to the word “group”.

                  A ascribe exactly as much meaning to the group “Congressional Democrats” as they do themselves. in the case of the Senate, that is very, very little.

                  Anyway, I’m trying to explain how Congress acts, not provide a talking cure for your ennui about American society.

      • scott says:

        Silly Murc. Joe never holds Democrats responsible for their acts, omissions, or anything else. Like Scott L, he believes that whatever Democrats achieve or don’t achieve at any given moment is all that could have been achieved. Like Providence or the Invisible Hand, it is all that nature would permit.

        • Murc says:

          Like Scott L, he believes that whatever Democrats achieve or don’t achieve at any given moment is all that could have been achieved.

          Scott Lemieux believes this? I’m gonna have to ask you to expand on that, as it doesn’t match his writings at all. Just a few weeks ago he was calling Democrats out on making shit-stupid legislative offers (the Social Security cuts) and that’s just off the top of my head.

        • chris says:

          No, he just doesn’t believe that *everyone* that loses is throwing the game. Sometimes the other team plays too!

          At least, that’s how I interpret his posts. I probably shouldn’t actually speak for him though.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Silly Murc. Joe never holds Democrats responsible for their acts, omissions, or anything else.

          1. You look a bit stupid writing this immediately after what I’ve been saying about Holder’s Public Safety Exception expansion.

          2. You should try to make personalities less of a force in your thinking. If there is something wrong with my argument arising from some bias, go on and point it out. It’s funny how the people who spend so much time accusing me of such bias can never seem to do that.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What kills me on this is: people who were idolizing LBJ on the health care debate were holding up Medicare and Medicaid as sterling examples of progressive policy and criticizing the ACA as an overly compromised kludge. The only way to hold this view is to know A) literally nothing about Medicare (the ultimate backroom compromise) and Medicaid (the ultimate kludge) BUT ALSO B) know nothing about the ACA, which addresses EVERY major issue in the US health care system.

    • liberal says:

      …which addresses EVERY major issue in the US health care system.

      That has to be the stupidest comment I’ve seen on the Interwebs today. Thanks for the laugh.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks, it’s nice to be engaged on such a substantive level!

        Specifically I was referring to how the ACA addressed the single adult exemption in Medicaid (oh, just 30-odd M uninsured), pre-existing conditions, abysmal provision of preventive services (USPSTF driven mandate), the completely FUBAR long-term care non-system (via the CLASS Act section, which unfortunately was unmade by administrative provisions), inadequate spending on community health and prevention promotion (the Prevention and Public health fund), and last but not least, the donut hole.

        What better piece of legislation were you expecting to see passed?

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      He didn’t say ‘successfully addresses’, now did he?

      (Assuming masculine for Anonymous on purely etymological grounds…)

  11. brewmn says:

    Indeed, arguments about Obama’s excessive faith in bipartisanship — which have a great deal of truth in themselves…

    I’m still not convinced Obama’s “excessive faith in bipartisanship” is anything other than a marketing ploy. To believe that Obama hiumself truly believes that biprtisanship is possible today, is to believe that he is completely unaware of events that he has been at the center of for the last six years.

    I don’t think Obama is an eleven-dimensional chess master (although I think his political calculations are light-years ahead of his lefty critics 90% of the time), but I don’t think he’s Chauncey Gardner, either. He would have to be much, much more obtuse than he appears to be to still believe that bipartisan support for any legislation that is remotely progressive is possible in today’s Congress.

    • chris says:

      Bipartisanship still polls well, though, so it does the Republicans some reputational harm to be seen publicly kicking that dog over and over and over. That’s why Obama sets them up to keep doing it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Seriously, if you study health policy, the ACA is like every single item on the health wonk’s Christmas list.

  13. Njorl says:

    I read on the internets that Obama has the power to kill anyone anywhere. Surely he could use this to political advantage.

    • Barry says:

      (sigh) And the joke is that there’s maybe a few Republican Senators/Reps who’d have the moral ground to complain if they woke up in Gitmo, in a ‘stress position’, indefinitely.

  14. Sly says:

    Also: The conservative lobbying and political organizing culture had shriveled considerably by the 1960s, and didn’t begin to see a resurgence until the 1970s. In terms of guns in particular, the NRA leadership actually supported the 1968 Gun Control Act (which, among other things created the Federal Firearms License system to regulate interstate gun sales) as it made its way through Congress and didn’t turn full gun-nut until about a decade later.

    Most modern conservative institutions are post-Johnson, and were largely birthed through the internal purity purges that occurred within conservative political clubs that found themselves marginalized for much of the Kennedy/Johnson era. Especially Young Americans for Freedom, the campus group that became a major nexus for conservative activism in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Richard Vigurie’s direct mail operation, the Moral Majority, the NRA, ALEC, the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, etc; all these came out of YAF.

    I suppose its hard to imagine a time when liberal institutions were ascendant and it was “uncool” to be a conservative, but that time did exist, and its no coincidence that the most successful liberal presidency in the modern era (arguably) occurred during that time.

  15. philadelphialawyer says:

    Yeah, it is dreadfully unfair to criticize Obama for anything.

    After all, anything he might have tried to do to get more and better and more progressive legislation through Congress was bound to fail. (And, if you disagree, I have a nine million word essay, complete with equations, charts, graphs, and photographs with circles and arrows on the back, that PROVES that you are just wrong! Wrong!!! WRONG!!!!1!!!) So, why should Obama have wasted his time, his energy and his political capital even trying, when he obviously had more important and productive things to do? Obama is not FDR or LBJ, and does not have their Congresses, therefore he couldn’t and can’t do anything legislatively but the little bit he has done/is doing. And LBJ never even used the bully pulpit, so how could Obama use it? It’s not like Obama, unlike LBJ, is actually an effective speech writer and extremely able speech deliverer, who is telegenic besides, right? FDR did use the bully pulpit, but, but, but, well so what? And it’s not like Obama came into office with a super high approval rating and a load of good will, like LBJ did (oh wait, he did, so never mind).Anyway, Obama is “light years” smarter than “90 per cent” of his leftist critics, and that is proven by the fact that a commenter here says so. So all you mean liberals should just shut up and leave him alone!

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      What’s the LD50 for silly? How much straw is necessary to kill a man?

    • Murc says:

      Yeah, it is dreadfully unfair to criticize Obama for anything.

      It is? That doesn’t seem right. Obama’s done a lot of things wrong. Many of the commenters here and a number of our hosts point them out quite a lot. If you’re going to take this position around here, you’ll need to justify it better, I think.

      After all, anything he might have tried to do to get more and better and more progressive legislation through Congress was bound to fail.

      Interesting assertion. I’m open to being persuaded here. Which pieces of legislation were you thinking of specifically?

      (And, if you disagree, I have a nine million word essay, complete with equations, charts, graphs, and photographs with circles and arrows on the back, that PROVES that you are just wrong! Wrong!!! WRONG!!!!1!!!)

      I’d like to see these. Got a link?

      Obama is not FDR or LBJ, and does not have their Congresses, therefore he couldn’t and can’t do anything legislatively but the little bit he has done/is doing.

      Your second clause doesn’t follow naturally from your first. You start with a factual statement, then make an ENORMOUS logical leap in extrapolating Obama’s political capabilities from there. It needs to be better supported.

      And LBJ never even used the bully pulpit, so how could Obama use it? It’s not like Obama, unlike LBJ, is actually an effective speech writer and extremely able speech deliverer, who is telegenic besides, right?

      This is just incoherent.

      FDR did use the bully pulpit, but, but, but, well so what?

      What you want to be saying here, I think, is “FDR did use the bully pulpit, but there’s very little evidence that it made a difference legislatively.”

      And it’s not like Obama came into office with a super high approval rating and a load of good will, like LBJ did (oh wait, he did, so never mind)

      Well, his numbers weren’t anywhere NEAR what LBJ’s were, but this is more or less accurate. I’m not sure where you’re going with it, tho. You just drop it in there and don’t DO anything with the statement.

      Anyway, Obama is “light years” smarter than “90 per cent” of his leftist critics, and that is proven by the fact that a commenter here says so. So all you mean liberals should just shut up and leave him alone!

      This is also incoherent and also it is wrong. Your arguments should be better-supported.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yeah, it is dreadfully unfair to criticize Obama for anything.

      Thank you for your courageous stand against the zero people who have ever made this argument.

    • chris says:

      arrows on the back

      I read this as “arrows in the back”, perhaps because the rest of the post read so much like a Dolchstosslegende. All the liberal agenda of my dreams would surely have passed Congress if Obama hadn’t stabbed it in the back!!

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Yeah, it is dreadfully unfair to criticize Obama for anything.

      This is what someone writes when an argument makes his tummy hurt but he can’t put together any rebuttal.

      And it’s not like Obama came into office with a super high approval rating and a load of good will, like LBJ did (oh wait, he did, so never mind

      Obama came into office and passed the most extensive, most progressive legislative agenda since LBJ, who came into office with even more good will and an even larger majority in Congress.

      Not knowing this is one of the reasons that the people who can read charts and graphs keep winning the argument.

  16. cpinva says:

    to be blunt, it really doesn’t matter what reid did or didn’t do on filibuster reform, since nothing is ever going to pass in the house. what we have, for at least another year and a half, is kabuki theatre, masquerading as congress.

    • Murc says:

      to be blunt, it really doesn’t matter what reid did or didn’t do on filibuster reform, since nothing is ever going to pass in the house.

      One of the most important things the Senate does (confirming people) doesn’t involve the House in any way, shape, or form.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      That won’t give any Democratic supporter much comfort if another (or two) Supreme Court appointments are to be made before 2016.

  17. Pierre Gervais says:

    OK, I try once again -with little hope.

    There is something called the Republican Party. It manages to maintain an almost complete stranglehold on a number of policy issues, and to block most moves of its Democratic opponents, even though it is clearly in the minority, which shows every time there is a nationwide, not gerrymandered election. How does it do that?

    Now I may be wrong, but again I would like to submit to you that the Republican Party achieves what I am obliged to call its success by being an actual, ahem, party. With a very vocal, very active base entirely ready to go after its own representatives if they don’t toe a series of mostly crazy ideological lines. And lots of David Brooks tepid-water-in-the-head types who follow even though they are shocked, shocked I say, by all this political violence.

    If I had a surefire way to turn the Democratic Party, or the Socialist Party on my home turf, into a reasonably coherent political operation with clear objectives and a minimal amount of internal discipline, of course I would patent it and get rich by selling it on Daily Kos.

    But in the meantime, could we at least refrain from arguing that the Democratic Party is not doing better because it can’t (a dubious proposition because the counterfactual is hard to prove anyway), and that therefore everything is for the best in the best of all possible words? Maybe some minimal energy and time could be spent on figuring out how not to be beaten back, and back, and further back, however many elections we apparently win? Which, in my humble opinion, means not waiting for Max Baucus to retire before deciding that we should try to do better than him, even if we don’t succeed at first?

    Just sayin’

    PG

    • Murc says:

      How does it do that?

      It’s operating in a counter-majoritarian system which is explicitly designed to make change very difficult, geography favors it, and the past couple decades have seen the way we make laws change such that horsetrading is far more difficult.

      Seriously. That’s how it’s doing it. Oh, the other stuff you mentioned is kind of important, but by and large the Republican Party manages to do what it does because there are a ton of empty square states whose ten million or so citizens outweigh a hundred million elsewhere in the country, and all it has to do is paralyze a single one of the three major veto points in the system and EVERYTHING closes down.

      The Republicans purging their own only appears admirable because they have enough of a buffer it hasn’t reduced them to a permanent minority. I’d like to purge me some Democrats as well, but if I were a Republican, I’d think twice before, say, going nuclear on Mike Castle in Delaware.

  18. Davis X. Machina says:

    How does it do that?

    It has access to more money than God, operates in a deeply racially divided United St and operates, under James Madison’s Constitution, instead of, say, in a Western European social democracy, with a constitution that doesn’t antedate steam locomotives…

    It also systematically appeals to the worst in people.

    The rest is just technique.

  19. tomstickler says:

    What’s the “can opener” reference to? A can of whupass?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Final point: LBJ, the last bully pulpit President, accomplished what he did against a very different
    GOP and conservative movement, whose ass he thoroughly trounced. Said ass-trouncing birthed Movement conservatism, which reformed around a gloves-off, eliminationist strategy, and has ever since been the ascemdent wing of the GOP that we are dealing with today. Unless Rockefeller Republicanism is coming back. Does anybody think LBJ could have passed Medicare in 64 if the Goldwater wing had been dominating the GOP?

    • Murc says:

      Does anybody think LBJ could have passed Medicare in 64 if the Goldwater wing had been dominating the GOP?

      I do, actually. It would have been a bit different maybe, and harder to do, but I think it could have been done.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Absolutely. With 68 senators, 295 congress critters.

      Of course, the details might be a little different. Those Southern Democrats would have had more input to the final product without the Republican moderate votes being freely substituted for theirs.

  21. [...] 10. Good Scott Lemieux post on “the bully pulpit tautoloy.” [...]

  22. [...] hackery contained in this short paragraph is kind of an impressive accomplishment. First, you have the green laternism. The green lanternism is used to invoke a both-sides-do-it-ism that is obviously inaccurate. And [...]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.