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Thread: The Wonky Political Side of Why Obama Has Failed as a President and Leader

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    The Wonky Political Side of Why Obama Has Failed as a President and Leader

    Morning Jay: The Myth of GOP Intransigence
    6:00 AM, JUN 15, 2012 • BY JAY COST


    There is a persistent theme in liberal circles that President Obama tried to reason with the Republican party, but they are now so extreme and so politicized that it was all for naught. This is essentially the thesis of the recent book by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, which I reviewed here, and Obama himself made basically this point in his campaign speech yesterday:

    [I]n the decades after World War II there was a general consensus that the market couldn’t solve all of our problems on its own; that we needed certain investments to give hard-working Americans skills they needed to get a good job and entrepreneurs the platforms they needed to create good jobs; and we needed consumer protections that made American products safe and American markets sound…

    It’s this vision that Democrats and Republicans used to share, that Mr. Romney and the current Republican Congress have rejected in favor of a no-holds-barred government-is-the-enemy market-is- everything approach.

    This is an important part of the Democratic understanding of the current political landscape. After all, President Obama came to Washington promising to break through the partisan gridlock; not only did he fail, his major domestic achievements saw less support from the opposition than any president in the postwar era.

    Somebody has to take the blame for this. Liberal Democrats want to pin it all on Republicans, for obvious reasons. And of course their water carriers in the Washington establishment have given this argument a non-partisan gloss.


    Yet consider this story, which ran in The Hill yesterday:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this week that President Obama never made a sincere effort to reach out to him after the 2008 election.

    McCain was once seen as a potential ally of Obama. But far from becoming a partner — as the left hoped for and the right feared — McCain has turned into one of Obama’s thorniest adversaries…

    “This idea that this president or his people reached out to me is patently false,” he said. “To somehow allege that I didn’t somehow respond to their overtures, that’s patently false. That’s their narrative, and I understand their narrative, but it’s not substantiated by the facts.”

    McCain pointed out that Obama invited him to the White House in 2009 to discuss immigration reform.

    “I said, ‘I’d love to join you,’ and never heard from him,” McCain said…

    This undercuts the Democratic thesis of Republican intransigence, and points to an alternative explanation for the hyper-partisanship in Washington, D.C.

    It starts with the recognition that Republican members of Congress, far from being the activists that liberals make them out to be, are in fact highly rational, concerned above all with reelection, which colors every decision they make.

    To be sure, the bonds of partisanship complicate things. All else being equal, the fortunes of Republican members are positively correlated with a Republican president, and negatively correlated with a Democratic president. The opposite holds for Democrats. So, Republican members will need a good reason to vote with a Democratic president, and Democratic members of Congress will need a good reason to vote against him.

    This means that it is incumbent upon the president to work hard to attract support from the other side, to overcome the force that partisanship exerts against such deals. Obama did not do this at all. Instead, his White House adopted a thoroughly passive nature when it came to bipartisanship, and legislative craftsmanship in general. So, it should come as no surprise that they wound up with bills that satisfied the powers-that-be in the Democratic caucus, but failed to attract Republican votes.

    What did the White House seriously expect? Did they honestly think they could let David Obey write the stimulus, George Miller write the health care bill, Henry Waxman write cap and trade, and Barney Frank write financial reform--and Republican support would magically develop?

    Knowing this president and his team of advisers, maybe so. But this was foolhardy.

    If it was serious about attracting GOP support, the White House should have done three things differently:

    (1) Cultivated a sense of emergency about the recession. FDR did this with the Great Depression, and actually borrowed a page from Woodrow Wilson’s management of World War I. The idea here would have been to declare the recession so bad that the typical partisan battles had to be suspended temporarily. This declaration would have had to stretch beyond mere words, and actually result in Republican leaders playing a key role in the management of the recovery (thus getting to take credit if it was a success). If Obama had offered this, it would have put pressure on GOP members of Congress via their constituents back home.

    Instead, by the time the country realized the depth of the economic crisis, the president had already moved on to health care and cap and trade.

    (2) Eliminated the “deal breakers.” Time and again, Democrats pointed to Republican ideas that they included in their legislation as evidence that the GOP was simply unwilling to cooperate. The problem, however, is that the very same legislation included all sorts of deal breakers, items that the GOP could never support under any circumstances.

    The big problem for Obama here was his insistence on going big – the stimulus was one package, and the health care, cap and trade, and financial reform bills sought to redraw all the lines of entire industries in one fell swoop. There were bound to be deal breakers for just about every Republican in every one of those bills.


    This is not some unique historical occurrence, either. Henry Clay tried to pass the Compromise of 1850, and failed at first. He just could not put together a coalition. It was Stephen Douglas who had the idea to break the bill into pieces, to craft different coalitions for different sections of the proposal.

    Obama could have done that on the stimulus, as well as health care reform – separated them and won GOP support on the items of each that lacked such deal breakers. Indeed, that was exactly the experience of Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. He failed to attract any GOP support for his comprehensive health care bill, but Kennedy-Kassebaum, which guaranteed health insurance portability, passed overwhelmingly in a GOP-controlled Congress.

    (3) Targeted gettable votes. McCain’s experience with the White House is instructive. The Arizona senator is, at his core, a restless reformer who could have been won over on immigration reform, tax reform, spending reform, and so on. What’s more, there was a fairly substantial bloc of Senate Republicans in the previous Congress – mostly from the Midwest and West – who could have similarly worked with the president.

    But the problem is that they did not get the attention they required. Again, the benefit of the doubt always swings in the direction of one’s own party. This means that the president would have had to do some serious courting of these members, and early on. They should have had input in how the bills were drafted, given vetoes over deal breaker provisions, political cover, concessions on other pieces of legislation, and so on.

    Now of course, doing this would never have resulted in a majority of the GOP caucus supporting the president. Far from it. His worldview and their worldviews (or, better put, the worldview of their constituents) are just so at odds that common ground probably could never have been found. But he could have gotten some GOP support if he had worked hard for it.

    I do not think the president did any of this because he did not really want to. His rhetoric in praise of bipartisanship on the stump occurred before he knew he would have a filibuster proof majority in the 111th Congress. That changed the calculations of the president and his congressional allies, leaving the congressional GOP redundant and thus not worthy of courtship.

    From my perspective, I have no problem with that. It was a rational thing to do. But don’t turn around and blame the GOP for your own lack of interest in their support. That’s just classless. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid had the votes to go it alone in 2009 and 2010. That’s what they chose to do. They should live with the consequences.

    [url]http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-myth-gop-intransigence_647258.html?page=2[/url]

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    [QUOTE]
    It starts with the recognition that Republican members of Congress, far from being the activists that liberals make them out to be, are in fact highly rational, [B]concerned above all with reelection[/B], which colors every decision they make.

    To be sure, the bonds of partisanship complicate things. All else being equal, the fortunes of Republican members are positively correlated with a Republican president, and negatively correlated with a Democratic president. The opposite holds for Democrats. [B]So, Republican members will need a good reason to vote with a Democratic president, and Democratic members of Congress will need a good reason to vote against him.[/B]
    [/QUOTE]

    This is what's wrong with politics.

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    [QUOTE=doggin94it;4492552]This is what's wrong with politics.[/QUOTE]

    It seems the point of the piece was "It's all Obama's fault".

    Amazing no one here brought up Lindsay Graham's words yesterday?

    [QUOTE]Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist on Tuesday, telling ABC's Jonathan Karl that he supported eliminating tax deductions in order to help get the country back on solid fiscal footing.

    "We are so far in debt that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks," Graham said.[/QUOTE]
    Last edited by cr726; 06-15-2012 at 12:55 PM.

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    [QUOTE=cr726;4492648]It seems the point of the piece was "It's all Obama's fault".

    Amazing no one here brought up Lindsay Graham's words yesterday?[/QUOTE]

    You missed the point completely. Shocker!

    Obama declined to reach out and build coalitions with the GOP. It is a basic and fundamental fact of political life that large scale sweeping legislation should be bipartisan. The political risks of not promoting bipartisan legislation is what we have today. A country divided. Legislation that is horrible. The party in power that forced the legislation down our throats has already been punished by the electorate. Democrats got annihilated in the mid term elections. This article is about the crux of Obama's failures as a leader.

    Graham's statement proves the point of the article. There are people in the house and Senate willing to work together for solutions. The failure to bring them together is on the President.

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    LOL, your blinding hate for Obama is comical. Graham is the first GOP to tell Norquist his promise is childish.

    The GOP created the our way or you are not a Patriot bs, Obama isn't that great, no sh1t, but the Congress isn't doing anything to help either.

    [QUOTE=chiefst2000;4492698]You missed the point completely. Shocker!

    Obama declined to reach out and build coalitions with the GOP. It is a basic and fundamental fact of political life that large scale sweeping legislation should be bipartisan. The political risks of not promoting bipartisan legislation is what we have today. A country divided. Legislation that is horrible. The party in power that forced the legislation down our throats has already been punished by the electorate. Democrats got annihilated in the mid term elections. This article is about the crux of Obama's failures as a leader.

    Graham's statement proves the point of the article. There are people in the house and Senate willing to work together for solutions. The failure to bring them together is on the President.[/QUOTE]

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    [QUOTE=cr726;4492793]LOL, your blinding hate for Obama is comical. Graham is the first GOP to tell Norquist his promise is childish.

    The GOP created the our way or you are not a Patriot bs, Obama isn't that great, no sh1t, but the Congress isn't doing anything to help either.[/QUOTE]

    Many many Republicans have pushed for tax reform that reduces deductions and eliminates loopholes. That is Romney's platform at the moment. He called for reduced deductions and ellimination of loopholes in exchange for lower overall rates. The theory is that the wealthy take advantage of loopholes and deductions disproportionately. We use words like simplification of the tax code.

    Your concept that the GOP created some my way or the hiway thing is absurd. You are blinded by your ideology. Every President has had to work with congress to get things done. Clinton was very good at is as were Reagan and Bush 1. Bush 2 had bipartisan support for most of the programs they passed as well. Obama seems to feel he is above it all. He openly expresses disdain at having to deal with petty congressmen and senators. For Obama it's not necessarily a partisan thing. He doesn't like dealing with Dems or GOPers in congress. It is a departure from the traditional way things have gotten done in Washington and the results show that his way does not work.

  7. #7
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    Stop it I can't stop laughing.


    [QUOTE=chiefst2000;4492829]Many many Republicans have pushed for tax reform that reduces deductions and eliminates loopholes. That is Romney's platform at the moment. He called for reduced deductions and ellimination of loopholes in exchange for lower overall rates. The theory is that the wealthy take advantage of loopholes and deductions disproportionately. We use words like simplification of the tax code.

    Your concept that the GOP created some my way or the hiway thing is absurd. You are blinded by your ideology. Every President has had to work with congress to get things done. Clinton was very good at is as were Reagan and Bush 1. Bush 2 had bipartisan support for most of the programs they passed as well. Obama seems to feel he is above it all. He openly expresses disdain at having to deal with petty congressmen and senators. For Obama it's not necessarily a partisan thing. He doesn't like dealing with Dems or GOPers in congress. It is a departure from the traditional way things have gotten done in Washington and the results show that his way does not work.[/QUOTE]

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    From the Book The Amateur:

    The article is long but this part was pertinent to the conversation. Book written by a Newsweek/NPR reporter that is not associated in any way with conservatism.


    Stories tumble out that reveal a man who believes he is all but omniscient -- unwilling to give any credence to the views of others (especially but not limited to those across the aisle). Experts in management are interviewed who point out that he lacks essential qualities of leadership. I[B]ndeed, the book gets its title from an outburst from Bill Clinton, who was trying to encourage Hillary to take on Obama in the Democratic primary of 2012:
    Obama doesn't know how to be president. He doesn't know how the world works. He's incompetent. He's...he's...Barack Obama's an amateur.[/B]


    Read more: [url]http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/the_amateur_barack_obama_in_the_white_house.html#ixzz1xtSdZBmE[/url]

    His disdain toward working with others is manifest. He has gained a reputation over the last few years as being cold and distant, refusing to engage, as have other presidents, in the give-and-take of politics, in the social niceties that help grease the wheels in Washington. Liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recently advised him to read Robert Caro's newest volume on the life of Lyndon Johnson as a primer on how to be president. Johnson, of course, was a master at pulling levers of power, but he also knew how to persuade individual politicians on both sides of the aisle to work with him on legislation. [B] But, of course, LBJ also had the common touch and, having risen from humble beginnings, never considered it beneath him to work with those underneath him. Not so Barack Obama. He complained to foreign leaders that he had to waste time talking with "congressmen from Palookaville." At another time, he switched locales and said he was tired of dealing with people from "Podunk."[/B]
    His campaign trail comments regarding small-town America as being populated by "bitter" people who cling to guns and Bibles was not a one-off. They are reflective of his views.



    Read more: [url]http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/the_amateur_barack_obama_in_the_white_house.html#ixzz1xtS1wFPQ[/url]

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    The author doesn't really elaborate on "how Obama did not reach out like LBJ and make coalitions".

    Need I remind you Chiefs?

    [url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-are-the-problem/2012/04/27/gIQAxCVUlT_story.html[/url]

    [QUOTE]Norquist, meanwhile, founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 and rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge the following year. The pledge, which binds its signers to never support a tax increase (that includes closing tax loopholes), had been signed as of last year by 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators, according to ATR. The Norquist tax pledge has led to other pledges, on issues such as climate change, that create additional litmus tests that box in moderates and make cross-party coalitions nearly impossible. For Republicans concerned about a primary challenge from the right, the failure to sign such pledges is simply too risky.[/QUOTE]

    [QUOTE]And seven Republican co-sponsors of a Senate resolution to create a debt-reduction panel voted in January 2010 against their own resolution, solely to keep it from getting to the 60-vote threshold Republicans demanded and thus denying the president a seeming victory.[/QUOTE]

    [QUOTE]This attitude filters down far deeper than the party leadership. Rank-and-file GOP voters endorse the strategy that the party’s elites have adopted, eschewing compromise to solve problems and insisting on principle, even if it leads to gridlock. Democratic voters, by contrast, along with self-identified independents, are more likely to favor deal-making over deadlock.[/QUOTE]

    [QUOTE]No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking.
    [/QUOTE]

    [QUOTE] Shortly before Rep. West went off the rails with his accusations of communism in the Democratic Party, political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have long tracked historical trends in political polarization, said their studies of congressional votes found that Republicans are now more conservative than they have been in more than a century. Their data show a dramatic uptick in polarization, mostly caused by the sharp rightward move of the GOP.
    [/QUOTE]

    And this:

    [url]http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/14/opinion/frum-mann-ornstein/index.html?hpt=hp_c2[/url]

    [QUOTE]For example: Because Senate rules often require unanimous consent to move to the next order of business, a determined minority can force delay on almost any action it opposes.

    Since 2009, Republicans have used this power of delay hyper-aggressively. Compare and contrast the treatment of executive-branch nominees.

    Sixteen months into the George W. Bush administration, Memorial Day 2002, only 13 executive-branch nominations awaited confirmation by the Senate. At the corresponding moment in the Obama administration, Memorial Day 2010, 108 nominees were awaiting action by the Senate.
    This comparison is supported by another academic study. The confirmation process got gradually slower between the 1960s and the 1990s. Then, suddenly, in the second Clinton administration, the confirmation process seized up.

    Under the elder Bush, a Republican president facing a Democratic Senate, 92% of nominees were confirmed within an average of 57 days. In the second Clinton administration, facing a Republican Senate, only 74% of nominees were confirmed, taking an average of 110 days.[/QUOTE]

  10. #10
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    Yea, you aren't blinded by hate. Great f'n source. Give it up. Every President has issues.

    [QUOTE=chiefst2000;4492850]From the Book The Amateur:

    The article is long but this part was pertinent to the conversation. Book written by a Newsweek/NPR reporter that is not associated in any way with conservatism.


    Stories tumble out that reveal a man who believes he is all but omniscient -- unwilling to give any credence to the views of others (especially but not limited to those across the aisle). Experts in management are interviewed who point out that he lacks essential qualities of leadership. I[B]ndeed, the book gets its title from an outburst from Bill Clinton, who was trying to encourage Hillary to take on Obama in the Democratic primary of 2012:
    Obama doesn't know how to be president. He doesn't know how the world works. He's incompetent. He's...he's...Barack Obama's an amateur.[/B]


    Read more: [url]http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/the_amateur_barack_obama_in_the_white_house.html#ixzz1xtSdZBmE[/url]

    His disdain toward working with others is manifest. He has gained a reputation over the last few years as being cold and distant, refusing to engage, as have other presidents, in the give-and-take of politics, in the social niceties that help grease the wheels in Washington. Liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recently advised him to read Robert Caro's newest volume on the life of Lyndon Johnson as a primer on how to be president. Johnson, of course, was a master at pulling levers of power, but he also knew how to persuade individual politicians on both sides of the aisle to work with him on legislation. [B] But, of course, LBJ also had the common touch and, having risen from humble beginnings, never considered it beneath him to work with those underneath him. Not so Barack Obama. He complained to foreign leaders that he had to waste time talking with "congressmen from Palookaville." At another time, he switched locales and said he was tired of dealing with people from "Podunk."[/B]
    His campaign trail comments regarding small-town America as being populated by "bitter" people who cling to guns and Bibles was not a one-off. They are reflective of his views.



    Read more: [url]http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/the_amateur_barack_obama_in_the_white_house.html#ixzz1xtS1wFPQ[/url][/QUOTE]

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