"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Out In The Fever Swamps”:The One Thing To Know About Obama’s Philosophy On Executive Actions

There he goes again: President Barack Obama is issuing an executive order to tighten regulations of gun sales to make background checks modestly more effective. And in doing so, Obama is thumbing his nose at Republicans who claim his habit of end-running the legislative branch to act on his own reveals a dictatorial temperament and perhaps even a threat to the Constitution. Out in the fever swamps, the conspiracy theory holding that Obama is going to cancel the presidential elections and rule by decree will gain new adherents. And here and there (and from “centrist” pundits as well as Republicans) you will hear angry talk about the president once again betraying the bipartisanship he promised to bring to Washington back in 2008. You’ll even hear some progressive and Democratic validation of this treatment in the form of claims that Obama is pursuing extremism in the defense of this or that urgent policy goal.

Obama himself laid the political groundwork for this action not by insisting on his as opposed to Republicans’ ideas about gun safety, but by noting repeatedly that the Republican-led Congress has refused to act even in the wake of catastrophes like those at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Here’s the relevant statement from the White House:

The president has made clear the most impactful way to address the crisis of gun violence in our country is for Congress to pass some common sense gun safety measures. But the president has also said he’s fully aware of the unfortunate political realities in this Congress. That is why he has asked his team to scrub existing legal authorities to see if there’s any additional action we can take administratively.

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all. They are in denial about climate change and in paralyzing internal disagreement on immigration, and refuse to consider any new gun regulations. So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground. In all these cases, the absence of action creates its own dreadful policies, most notably on immigration where a refusal to set enforcement priorities and to fund them forces arbitrary actions no one supports.

So taking executive actions is hardly a betrayal of bipartisanship, but rather a forlorn plea for it. And it’s significant that Obama is usually acting on issues in which the Republican rank-and-file are far more supportive of action than their purported representatives in Congress.

Back during his announcement of candidacy in 2007, Obama made it reasonably clear that he didn’t just want to cut deals between the two parties in Washington, but also intended to force action on them when gridlock prevailed. After discussing several national challenges, he said:

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

Knowing that a Republican president could and probably would roll back all his executive actions, Obama is not taking a preferred course of action. If, of course, a Democratic succeeds him, his policies will take root and probably endure. Eventually, the two parties may come to agree on the challenges the country faces, and then have actual discussions — and disagreements and competition — over how to address them. That’s bipartisanship. And counterintuitive as it may seem, Obama’s executive actions may be necessary to produce bipartisanship down the road.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 5, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Gun Regulations, Gun Violence, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald The Sensible”: There’s No Centrist Superman To Save You

You’re all well familiar with Kubler-Ross’s famous five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Here are Tomasky’s five stages of watching a Republican debate: mockery, rage, double rage, boredom, despair.

I start, as I’d reckon most liberals do, with mockery, which was easy Wednesday night when most of them said in essence that their greatest flaw was that they cared too much (in fairness, Hillary Clinton had earlier said something similar). Then one of them says something unforgivably idiotic—and yes, there’s such a thing as forgivable idiocy—like Carly Fiorina pretending that the characters “401k” were handed down to the human race from God on Sinai and not created by the very federal government she was in that selfsame sentence traducing, and it’s rage time. And so on and so on.

But I end with despair, because the previous two (if we’re lucky) hours have revealed to me that these candidates and the citizens cheering them on just live in a totally different universe than the one I and most of my friends inhabit, and while there can be an occasional meeting of the minds on certain small matters, the sad fact is that we are going to be stuck with the current polarization for a long time yet. I think at least eight more years.

People in my position aren’t supposed to say things like this. We’re supposed to keep telling your sort that bipartisanship is in sight, shimmering in the gloaming just beyond the poppy fields. Now it’s true that Congress did just pass that budget on a bipartisan basis, but that of course is an aberration. And you know it and I know it, and everyone who writes sentences like “Perhaps this will usher in a new era of blahblahblah” knows it too.

I was reading David Brooks the other day, his column fantasizing about “a sensible Trump.” This hybrid ubermensch with “impeccable outsider status but also a steady temperament, deep knowledge, and good sense” would, in Brooks’s telling, bring together the leaders of both parties. He would sit them down and explain to them that we need to help people in the lower half of the income distribution, and that the answer is sitting right there in some research by a Harvard team led by the economist Raj Chetty.

Following the Harvard team’s example means doing some things Republicans like and some things Democrats like, so both sides get a little something but give up something too; but if we can do this, argues Donald the Reasonable, we will have started to solve our two greatest problems, stagnant wages and partisan dysfunction.

I happen to be familiar with the research of which Brooks speaks, and I’d be delighted for Raj Chetty’s work to serve as model for federal government action. But there is, unfortunately, no reason to think in real life that anything like this could happen.

Why? Because before he got elected, Donald the Reasonable would have to take a position on abortion. He would undoubtedly try to find some kind of nuanced lane, to use the au courant word, somewhere in between the standard Democratic and Republican positions. But this of course would just dissatisfy both parties. And as the Republicans appear to be moving toward a position that doesn’t even acknowledge the traditional three exceptions, any deviation from that by D the R will brand him just another baby killer.

He will have to take lots of positions, this fellow. On same-sex marriage. On whether insurers should be compelled to cover contraceptive services. On immigration and citizenship. On who his model Supreme Court justices are. On free trade. On a minimum wage. On how much he’s willing to mix it up with Putin. On whether Hollywood and the universities are ruining America. On climate change. He can’t run for president saying, “Well, sure, all those things are important, but what I’m really all about here is implementing the ideas of Raj Chetty.”

In other words, partisan choices are utterly inescapable. I don’t celebrate this, but I don’t necessarily lament it either, the way a lot of centrist pundits do. These are important things. They’re all worth fighting over, and for. There are plenty of compromises that Democrats and liberals should, and I’m pretty sure would, be willing to make in the climate-change fight, for example. A carbon tax vs. credits, how much fracking and drilling, the mix of renewables, the amount we should contribute to the UN fund—all these and more can be debated by two parties that have different views on the urgency of the problem and the proper role of government in addressing it. But when one party just denies the consensus of 97 percent of the scientific community, you can’t compromise with it. You just have to defeat it.

The hope, if there is one, is this. Hillary Clinton wins. That constitutes the GOP’s third loss in a row (and, in popular-vote terms, sixth out of the last seven). Maybe then the GOP takes a look in the mirror and at the data, which will show them if they study it honestly that they lost, again, because they failed to carry purple states that as a party they’d simply become too conservative to win.

The Ted Cruz “we weren’t conservative enough!” wing will still argue its position. And of course the Republican-led House (or House and Senate, the GOP retains control) will start out by blocking President Clinton in every way it can. But she’d probably win re-election in 2020, simply because most incumbents do, and then the Republicans would be looking at 16 straight years of being locked out of the White House, and the country will be that much more Latino, and Clinton will take Georgia and come close in Texas, and finally they’ll run up the flag. So in 2024, we might have a choice between a liberal-moderate Democrat and a conservative-moderate Republican, which the Republican would probably win, and the party’s conservative wing would be somewhat tamed.

That’s the only hope for the country, really. There are extremists. They need to be defeated enough times so that their less extreme comrades can outmuscle them and guide their party back to a place where we’re all at least agreeing on basic evidentiary propositions. There is no Donald the Sensible who can save us.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Donald Trump, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Don’t Know Jack”: When It Came To Climate Change, Kemp Was As Extreme As The Rest–And A Model Of GOP Irrationality

CNN commentator Michael Smerconish–a former right-wing pundit who was effectively chased out of the conservative movement after he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008–has attempted to hold up the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a model of the broad-minded bipartisanship today’s Republicans should emulate. However, his analysis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Smerconish suggests that Kemp rejected right-wing orthodoxy throughout his political career, citing the following views:

Possessing the forethought to have opposed the Iraq invasion.

Willing to oppose an effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants, including education to children.

Equally reverential of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eager to seek votes in all neighborhoods and say things like: “We may not get every vote, but we’re going to make it unambiguously clear . . . that we want to represent the whole American family, that no one will be left behind, that no one will be turned away.”

Utterly incapable of launching a personal attack…Kemp was a big-tent Republican, the original compassionate conservative.

Apparently, Kemp’s compassion didn’t extend to those victimized by human-caused climate change. Nineteen years ago, Kemp–then-GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole’s running mate–launched an acid-tongued attack on then-Vice President Al Gore during their sole debate, accusing Gore of promoting “fear of the climate” and embracing an “anti-capitalistic mentality” because Gore dared to call for strong action to combat carbon pollution. (This was, of course, two years after Kemp appeared at a mid-February CPAC conference and moronically joked, “So much for Al Gore’s theory of global warming!”)

In 1999, Kemp aligned himself with the powerful climate-denialist “think tank” known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute; in this capacity, he viciously attacked climate science and took credit for President George W. Bush’s decision not to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. Some centrist.

Yes, Kemp criticized the racists who blamed the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act for the 2008 financial crisis. Yes, he said some nice things about Obama’s historic 2008 victory. However, when it came to climate change, Kemp was as extreme as the rest–and as a model of GOP rationality, he was far from the best.

UPDATE: From 1997 and 2002, more on Kemp’s vicious attacks on climate science.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Climate Change, Jack Kemp | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Revenge Of The Conservative Pragmatists?”: Willing To Save The GOP From Itself By Doing Common Sense Constructive Things

Even as the uncertainty around who will succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House seemed to grow murkier today, there was also a rare sighting of governing amid all the chaos.

Democrats announced at a press conference today that 218 House members have signed a discharge petition to force a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Discharge petitions are very rare — the last one that worked came in 2002, forcing a vote on campaign finance legislation some 13 years ago.

The Ex-Im Bank finances deals involving American exports, and its supporters say it is crucial in helping American companies compete with companies abroad for contracts and thus in sustaining U.S. jobs. But it has been a longtime target of conservatives who discern “crony capitalism” afoot.

At the presser today, Nancy Pelosi said:

“This is a very important day, because we have broken through the wall of obstruction in the Congress to get the job done in a bipartisan way. Which is what we all come here to do.”

And Democratic whip Steny Hoyer said:

“What today showed was, when people are allowed to express their will, we had 42 Republicans sign a discharge petition.”

What Pelosi and Hoyer are saying is that the success of today’s discharge petition shows that it is possible for a bipartisan coalition to come together on something if a way can be found to get around the GOP leadership’s refusal to hold a vote on it.

Now, we don’t know if Ex-Im will actually get reauthorized. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is already dumping cold water on the possibility of it getting to the Senate floor. But the question today’s discharge petition raises is whether it could be used to bring together a bipartisan coalition on other things that conservatives will insist that GOP leaders prevent votes upon.

“This suggests another way to go about this,” congressional scholar Norm Ornstein tells me. “If you end up with leaders who refuse to bring things to the floor that would pass with a lot of Democrats and that some Republicans want, make the discharge petition a regular tool. Don’t just do it once.”

Ornstein says that many of the House Republicans who signed the discharge petition aren’t necessarily moderates, which are a rarity in today’s GOP, but are better described as “conservative pragmatists.” Ornstein argues that, theoretically at least, many of these Republicans might be willing to sign discharge petitions to accomplish things like more funding for infrastructure and even lifting the debt limit, getting around a protracted standoff that GOP leaders might feel constrained to pursue to prove to conservatives that they are “fighting.”

The question would be whether Republican moderates would be willing to repeatedly defy the leadership, as well as conservatives activists and voters. “How willing are they going to be to say, ‘we’re going to save our party from itself by doing common sense things that are constructive, even if the crazy people say they don’t like it’?” Ornstein says.

All of this of course seems very far fetched. So do other solutions that would require breaking out of partisan patterns, such as Brian Beutler’s suggestion of the election of a coalition Speaker who, supported by Democrats and Republicans, would not have to live in fear of the House Freedom Caucus. But in a way that’s the point: Anything that is going to achieve results seems far fetched right now. Which means everything is worth trying.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Conservatives, Discharge Petition, Export-Import Bank | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Literally Since Day One”: GOP Hostility Towards Compromise Runs Deep

When an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found earlier this year that a plurality of Republican voters believe GOP lawmakers compromise too much with President Obama, it seemed hard to believe. Congressional Republicans have refused to work with the Democratic White House on anything, literally since Day One. Maybe respondents didn’t understand the question?

No, that’s not it. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted yesterday that rank-and-file Republicans just want as much confrontation as humanly possible. The latest report from the Pew Research Center makes this clear:

The survey finds deep differences in how Republicans and Democrats want President Obama and GOP leaders to deal with issues. Fully 75% of Republicans want GOP leaders to challenge Obama more often; just 15% say they are handling relations with the president about right and 7% say GOP leaders should go along with Obama more often.

Fewer Democrats (49%) want Obama to challenge Republicans more often; 33% say he is handling this about right while 11% want him to go along with GOP leaders more often.

That’s quite a bit of asymmetry. In the overall population, the number of Americans who want GOP lawmakers to go along more with the White House is roughly identical to the number of Americans who want Republicans to “challenge” the president more often.

But among GOP voters, the results are lopsided. This actually explains a lot.

We like to think there’s a natural resistance to gridlock – the public doesn’t like it when policymakers can’t agree on anything, and nothing gets done because institutions are paralyzed by partisan and ideological differences.

But results like these paint a very different picture. Republicans don’t just have an aversion to bipartisan cooperation, they also look at six years of near-total GOP opposition to everything the president proposes – including instances in which Obama actually agreed with the Republican line – and conclude, “It’s not good enough. We want even more partisan confrontations.”

This is broadly consistent with Pew findings from a year ago, which showed that liberals expect and support compromise, but conservatives are hostile to the very idea of compromise.

Christopher Ingraham noted at the time, “A party that is ideologically predisposed against compromise is going to have a very hard time governing, particularly within a divided government.”

It’s an important detail for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the reminder about who has Republican officials’ ear. It’s tempting to think elected GOP officials would see polls showing broad support for cooperation and compromise, and then adopt a constructive posture to align themselves with the American mainstream. Clearly, however, the practical realities show otherwise – Republican policymakers are listening to Republican voters, and no one else.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 22, 2015

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Congress, GOP | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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