Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ezra Klein: Obama gave Ryan a "death hug"

Ezra Klein wrote a fascinating column in Bloomberg yesterday. He starts out by explaining how the Republicans initially ran away from Paul Ryan and his budget.
In 2008, Ryan released the first version of his budget, the “Roadmap for America’s Future.” So while Obama and the Democrats in 2009 were pushing big plans to stimulate the economy and reshape the health-care system, Republicans had a big plan of their own all ready to go.

But as Ryan Lizza recounted in the New Yorker, Republican leaders “wanted nothing to do with his Roadmap.” Their theory was that Obama’s agenda was rapidly becoming unpopular, and the smart strategy was to attack, attack, attack.
He then goes on to explain the steps President Obama took to make Ryan the de facto Republican leader and his budgets the focus of the opposition. This all culminated in the President's speech on April 13, 2011 comparing Ryan's budget to his own alternative.

Prior to Romney picking Ryan as his running mate, most people predicted that the campaign would build on the questions raised about Romney's past at Bain and his finances by tying it all to his support for Ryan's budget.

Why would President Obama do all that? Klein's answer demonstrates that he understands what I've been calling "conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy" and others call the death hug.
Putting the Ryan budget at the center of the 2012 election has the tactical benefit of forcing Republicans to defend an unpopular proposal; more important, it has the long-term strategic benefit of potentially discrediting the Ryan budget as a political document. Prior to Ryan joining the ticket, a Romney loss seemed likely to strengthen the Republican Party’s conservative wing, because the defeat would be blamed on Romney’s moderate past. Now, if the Romney-Ryan ticket loses, it will vindicate skeptics of the party’s rightward shift, potentially strengthening the party’s moderates. That could produce a more cooperative opposition for Obama to work with in a second term.
That pretty well describes this President's long-term thinking and his game plan for transformational politics in an era of obstruction and polarization. Its what set up the countdown to detonation for extremist's control of the Republican Party.

As Klein points out, there are risks to this kind of strategy. But that's how this guy rolls. And it's why, when people describe him as lucky or naive or weak, they simply don't have a clue about this man.


  1. He does take huge risks with his Presidency on a fairly routine basis, but we've seen he only does so when he's darn certain he's going to succeed. I enjoyed reading the source article; thanks for pointing to it. I love your analysis.

    1. Ezra's analyses are always on target, always to the point and correct. He's a brilliant guy with an awesome sense of humor and a very clear understanding of fact. But most refreshing is Ezra's ability to decipher and explain things in a very clear and down to earth way making it easy and available for everyone to understand even the most complex issues. I follow Ezra on facebook and watch and listen to him every chance I get.