Wednesday, November 5, 2014

President Obama: Please proceed, Senator McConnell (updated w/ video)

If you didn't get to watch President Obama's press conference this afternoon, I encourage you to do so.

He made a point of saying that he looks forward to hearing from McConnell and Boehner on what their agenda for Congress will be. And that he's willing to work on those areas where they can agree.

While some will undoubtably view this as pre-capitulation, its actually an amazing power play as well as a reprisal of conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
Over the last 6 years, Minority Leader McConnell has been able to embrace a "post-policy" approach focused on total obstruction.  Now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, President Obama is basically saying "puts your cards on the table and let's see what you've got."

After last night's election results, both National Review Online and Rush Limbaugh are counseling McConnell to keep up the obstruction. Jonathan Chait pretty much nailed what McConnell will see as his most effective strategy going forward:
McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.
So if you were President Obama, how would you chose to counter that? The truth is, no matter what you do, you're not going to get liberal policies enacted with Republicans in control of both chambers. If you simply yell and scream about obstruction, you look like a weak ineffective victim.

Today the President simply called on McConnell to "put up or shut up." That's his best way of undermining McConnell when/if the gridlock continues. In other words, its the best power play he has now - given what the midterm electorate did yesterday.

I also think that long before he decided to run for president, Barack Obama diagnosed what he thought was our biggest problem. No matter how daunting the challenges, what has kept us from tackling them has been our inability to do this:
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will.
Until we can get there, we won't be able to move forward on much of anything else.

So...please proceed, Senator McConnell :-)


  1. Great post! Just my 2 cents, but I think the rank-and-file Teapartiers will expect results now that they own Congress. They will want to see the Personhood Amendment passed and ACA destroyed. I don't know if continued gridlock will work this time.
    -- Lydia

    1. You're absolutely right. McConnell will now find himself in exactly the same position as Boehner - having to deal w/ a house full of lunatics. Bless his heart ;-)

  2. I've often wondered if one of President Obama's most important tasks is to keep the federal government functioning while also helping to draw out the racist poison from the American bloodstream. Like a sick patient undergoing treatment, that process is bound to include setbacks and disappointments like last night. As the poison comes out the patient appears to get worse even though it's actually part of the healing process. It's important for progressives to keep our eyes on the real prize: an America that's truly, finally based on equality and justice for all. The Prez understands that and I think it drives everything he does.

    1. Thank you. I needed that reminder. And I agree with you, but sometimes it's very hard to maintain perspective.

  3. It's been remarkable to watch political pundits and analysts contort themselves into explaining (and justifying) the election results. They have disingenuously placed all of the blame at the foot of the president. But despite their repeated attempts to make such pronouncements, the thin layer of wisdom embedded in the American consciousness is loudly proclaiming otherwise.

    It can no longer be denied by reasonable people. To witness a nation knowingly vote against their self-interests, while the other half purposefully disengages by looking the other way, reflects that Obama's presidency has unsettled the racial fabric of the country.

    The facts are clear: Obama and his administration turned around the economy that was left in shambles by Bush, the stock market has more than doubled during his two terms, millions of Americans now have access to affordable healthcare, the most wanted terrorist in the world was killed under his watch -- and of course, the list goes on.

    At what point do political pundits stop callously implying that the American people don't "feel" like the country is headed in the "right direction"? It's extraordinarily lazy and insulting. We know the truth and it was sadly reaffirmed yesterday. America is being forced to face the ugly truth of its unreconciled racial past -- which is being reflected in the mirror of our present day.

    If President Barak Obama were President Mitt Romney, is there any doubt about how the election would've turned out?

    1. "America is being forced to face the ugly truth of its unreconciled racial past -- which is being reflected in the mirror of our present day."

      This. The problem here is that only a few want to call it for what it is, and the mainslime media are not amongst that few.