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Tag: "Obama administration"

That Term “Stockholm Syndrome,” I Do Not Think…

[ 4 ] December 6, 2010 |

Without getting into the debate we’ve been having in comments about his merits as a columnist, I note that Frank Rich’s latest much-praised column makes no sense:

THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness.

My question: what shows of kindness? The Republicans have been nothing if not blunt about the fact that they have no interest in dealmaking on anything but the most favorable terms, and have swatted away olive branches with a refreshing lack of equivocation. And while I think that the majority of political observers greatly underestimate the leverage wielded by congressional conservatives, even I don’t think that the Republicans have the inherent leverage of captors. Tax cuts are an issue that Republicans really care about, but far from aggressively using his leverage Obama has been very clear about his plans to cave. There’s plenty of blame to go around — conservative Senate Democrats are probably the primary villains here — but Obama isn’t a prisoner on tax cuts either.

Does the Obama Administration Have to Appeal the DADT Ruling?

[ 58 ] October 21, 2010 |

Absolutely not.

There’s nothing particularly complex here. The DOJ has no legal obligation to do appeal the DADT ruling, and there’s ample precedent for allowing a ruling of unconstitutionality to stand. And the case for making an exception here couldn’t be more compelling: the law unjustly burdens minority rights and lacks both popular support and the support of legislative majorities. (This case, therefore, can be easily distinguished from refusing to defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.) Whether or not one agrees with me on this, however, when the administration claims it doesn’t have discretion here they’re not telling the truth.

On the Potential Impeachment Of Obama

[ 31 ] October 14, 2010 |

I have some wonky thoughts about the possibility that a Republican Congress would impeach Obama over at TAPPED. The answer: maybe! Given prior assumptions about presidential politics it’s very unlikely, but it’s not clear that these assumptions still hold. Certainly, the conservative media is laying the groundwork.

On one point Chait is indisputably correct: no matter how feeble the pretext for an impeachment, Jonah Goldberg would enthusiastically support it.

Pre-emptively Caving to Obstructionism

[ 8 ] August 30, 2010 |

Obama’s approach to judicial nominations has, indeed, been very weak. The legislative situation is about to get a lot worse, so now is the time to get as many nominees confirmed as he can. And it’s not as if failing to fill vacancies is making it more likely that other major legislation will be passed or anything.

The Geithner/Warren Question

[ 23 ] July 17, 2010 |

In response to reports that Tim Geithner is trying to scotch Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and presumably prefers someone who is sort of willing to overlook the whole “consumer protection” part of the mission), Yglesias and Fernholz point out that the sourcing for the claim is far from airtight.

The real key here, I think, is Tim’s point #1 — it’s Obama’s decision. As Krugman has been fond of pointing out recently (and as we recently discussed without the metaphor with respect to foreign policy), when it comes to appointments the Cossacks work for the czar. Even if the story is right, Obama is free to ignore Geithner’s advice and would have plenty of political support if he chose to pick Warren. So we’ll see if Obama picks Warren, somebody just as good, or somebody not as good, but no matter what the outcome the credit or blame should be directed at the top of the organizational chain. What Geithner thinks about Warren is largely beside the point.

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90% Amnesia

[ 7 ] March 11, 2010 |

Stephen Green asserts that to find a president criticizing the Supreme Court you have to go back to Old Hickory.   (And his quote is actually apocryphal, although since it’s “fake but true” I’ll give him a pass.)   But, of course, there are many more recent examples, some least of which come from Saint Reagan.  And Roe was joined by the extra-unassailable Chief Justice — heavens to betsy!   The other obvious problem is that Obama never said he wouldn’t comply with the Court’s ruling, making the analogy with Jackson null.

The remainder of his argument he delegates to Glenn Reynolds, who claims that responding to Roberts’s whining is bad politics for Obama while failing to mention that the Court’s decision is extremely unpopular.   Unlike Reynolds, Obama knows exactly what he’s doing here.

Bad Deal

[ 0 ] February 13, 2010 |

The GOP essentially wins yet another procedural round in the Senate. It should be noted as well that using various tyranny-of-the-minority tactics to prevent presidents from staffing their administrations is indefensible even by Senate standards; the increase in recess appointments is a perfectly justified way of dealing with the situation.

The Alito/Obama Non-Story

[ 0 ] January 28, 2010 |

Neither did anything wrong.

Obama to ask Congress to repeal DADT

[ 0 ] January 27, 2010 |

CNN is reporting that Obama will ask Congress to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation. Of course “asking” could mean everything from making this a legislative priority to engaging in a largely empty symbolic gesture. Given that Obama almost certainly has the authority to stop discharges based on sexual orientation by issuing an executive order, it will be interesting to see how seriously he pursues what up to now has been perhaps his most egregiously broken campaign promise.

What Are They, For Lack Of A Better Word, Thinking?

[ 0 ] January 22, 2010 |

I’ve been puzzling over the same questions Rob has — that why both the White House and the Raul Grijalva set among House progressives seem publicly committed to positions that are utterly irrational. And…I’m still not sure, but here are my guesses.

The House liberals suddenly against voting for the only viable health care reform option are the tough case, not least because there are probably a few groups. As Krugman says, there does seem to be a group of House Democrats who are just genuinely acting irrationally, convincing themselves that there’s some kind of underpants gnome theory that will translate the right kind of posturing into a better Senate bill even though the post-special election edition of the World’s Worst Deliberative Body couldn’t even pass something as good as the current bill. There’s not much to say about this except that it’s crazy. In addition to this, there are probably heighten-the-contradictions types: some who just don’t think the bill improves the status quo (pretty clearly erroneously, I think, and the argument is particularly indefensible if you voted for the House bill, which is hardly radically different than the Senate version), along with some who don’t actually think the status quo if preferable to the bill but are deluding themselves about how soon the next opportunity to reform health care will come along. Since the latter group are acting almost as irrationally as the underpants gnomes faction, this isn’t a very satisfying explanation, but I don’t see any others.

As for the White House, I see an intelligible but profoundly misguided logic to their actions. Unless the administration has hired Mark Penn while I wasn’t looking, I don’t think for a minute that Obama or his senior advisers really believe they can get Republican votes in the Senate for a health care reform measure. Rather, I think they consider the reform bill doomed, and are invoking bipartisanship as a way to try to transfer some blame for the likely failure to Republicans. The problem with this, of course, it’s that it can’t work. The White House needs to face up to a simple reality: they own health care. If nothing gets done, it will be blamed on them, not the GOP. The public doesn’t care about the labor pains; it wants to see the baby. It’s not entirely fair — yes, it’s awful that the Republican minority in the Senate has substantial power without responsibility, and yes if the United States had political institutions appropriate for a modern democracy a better bill would have passed months ago. But, you know, ugatz fair. You govern with the institutions you have, and Obama needs to be doing everything he can to get the Senate bill through the House and a reconciliation bill through the Senate, will making it clear that there’s no viable Plan B. It may not work, but if it doesn’t he’s in serious political trouble either way.

In short, there’s no way to assess the situation, I don’t think, without seeing horrible failures of leadership: Obama, Frank, Weiner, any number of others — even if they come around in the end, they’ve acted very irresponsibly at a crucial time, and it may be too late. It’s very hard to have any optimism left.

Time to Fire Up the Ad Hoc Constitutional Generator

[ 0 ] January 11, 2010 |

What’s especially rich about John Kyl holding up presidential appointments over trivial and irrelevant policy matters (in this case, a little stupid moralism about online gambling) is that Kyl was one of the many hacks who used to argue that the “advice and consent” clause of the Constitution solemnly required the Senate to give up or down votes to all presidential nominees. I look forward to Byron York’s next attempt to argue that he is, in fact, being perfectly consistent.

The Constitution permits the Senate to vote (or not vote) on presidential nominees however it deems fit. But as I’ve said before, to the extent that there should be norms of deference to presidential appointments, they make much more sense in terms of executive branch appointments than to life-tenured appointments to an independent branch. While the Constitutional permits them, the norms and rules that permit individual Senators to hold up appointments to the executive branch are entirely indefensible on the merits, like so many Senate rules.

Imperial naivete

[ 0 ] December 2, 2009 |

St. Ignatius of Georgetown bestows his benediction on Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan, but, being a liberal columnist at the liberal Washington Post, he regrets that the announced plan fails to commit the nation explicitly to perpetual war:

Obama thinks that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their act togetherat last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on a date certain, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or else. That’s the weak link in an otherwise admirable decision — the idea that we strengthen our hand by announcing in advance that we plan to fold it.

Of course one would have to be an idiot to imagine that Obama’s announced strategy of employing a Surge(tm) with a “date certain” for withdrawal is what it pretends to be. The plan as presented is obviously for public consumption: the real plan will have to be either:

(1) To abandon Afghanistan, as the Bush administration eventually abandoned Iraq, but only, as in Iraq, after a face-saving military triumph over the current wave of civil insurgency, aka the declare victory and leave option; or

(2) Perpetual occupation.

The most Orwellian moment last night was Obama’s proclamation that, unlike previous empires, “we do not seek to occupy other nations.”

We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

As a country, we are not as young – and perhaps not as innocent – as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. Now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

Stirring sentiments indeed. He might want to repeat them in Oslo next week, when he picks up his Nobel Peace Prize. It certainly beats “We should invade other countries when it gets good results.”

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