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The Sorkin Fallacy


Since I was accused by a couple people in the last presidential power thread of creating a strawman, I should note that David Sirota and especially Drew Westen have provided the latest very real examples of people asserting that FDR imposed an uncompromising liberal agenda on Congress.  (Westen, needless to say, mentions the “I welcome their hatred” speech while failing to mention that it didn’t stop Congress from stopping much of his post-1936 agenda and compelling grossly immoral compromises on most of what remained.)   The fallacy, as Chait aptly puts it, that “the president in the not only the most important figure, but his most powerful weapon is rhetoric” is unusually persistent despite the fact that outside of overpraised TV shows it’s utter nonsense.   In the actually existing world of American politics, 1)the president is subordinate to Congress on domestic (although certainly not foreign) policy, and 2)the “bully pulpit” does not give the president any significant ability to get legislation enacted or shape public opinion.

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