Saturday, August 11, 2012

Obama and luck

I'm going to pick on one of my favorite political writers on the internet today...p m carpenter. In writing about Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his VP nominee, carpenter suggests that "President Obama is the luckiest politician alive."

He certainly isn't the first one to say that. But it reinforces a narrative that I think is too grounded in this particular moment, while ignoring how we got here. So I'm going to ask you to fly up high with me to take a look at the forest instead of just the tree in front of us.

I've said it so often that regular readers here are probably bored with hearing it. But after the Bush/Cheney debacle, Republicans had a choice to it time to re-think our approach or double-down on the stoopid?

They had to make that choice on the heels of Barack Obama being elected President...the man who catapulted onto the national scene by saying that "we are not a red America and a blue America, but the United States of America." In other words, they knew the door was open to tackle the mess Bush/Cheney had left behind in a bi-partisan manner.

So what choice did they make?

In hindsight, we all know the answer to that one. But how many of us knew it at the time? According to Michael Grunwald, VP Joe Biden knew.
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.

The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Notice that Biden was made aware of the "total obstruction" strategy during the transition. He says he didn't tell the President who his sources were, but you can bet $10,000 of Romney's money that he told him what the plan was.

So, can we please dispense with the idea that President Obama was "naive" going into this?

But then, why would he spend so much time during those first two years trying to woo support from Republicans? The answer is two-fold.

First of all, he needed their votes on things like the stimulus. Remember that bill was passed less than a month after his inauguration. Time was of the essence given the free-fall the economy was in and Democrats were still 2 shy of the 60-vote majority the Republicans were requiring to get anything through the Senate (Specter hadn't switched parties and Franken was in the midst of a re-count).

But the second reason is perhaps more pertinent to the point I want to make. To get there, we have to imagine what would have happened if President Obama had done what so many of the left wanted him to do...come out fighting an ideological battle. For example, what if he had actually proposed single-payer or Medicare-for-all health care reform (let's for a moment leave aside that he didn't campaign on that)?

Under that scenario the Republicans wouldn't have been forced to go to the extreme of denouncing a health care reform policy they themselves had designed (and that their future presidential nominee had implemented as Governor).

This happened over and over again...Republicans - in their commitment to total obstruction - were forced to abandon even their own policies and move farther and farther to the extremes in order to put distance between themselves and President Obama.

That's how we got here folks - to the place where Romney is touting himself as a "severe conservative" and being forced to pick a running mate who wants to dismantle the entire New Deal.

So screw the idea of "luck." We're here because conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy worked.
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.
Yep, the Republicans have nothing...and it shows.

P.S. I just have to add that relegating the accomplishments of one of the most intelligent Presidents this nation has ever had to "luck" or calling him "naive" have always sounded racist alarm bells in my head. I'm not suggesting that has been anyone's point. But it seems obvious to me that when we are tempted to come to those kinds of conclusions, we'd best dig a little deeper. This man is anything BUT lucky and/or naive.


  1. Obama is not lucky. He is skillful. Republicans have gone where Obama led them.

  2. Despite hearing the political pundits blather incessantly this weekend, the Romney campaign demonstrated an extraordinary lack of political theater placement. In fact, it's tragic. According to the Wall Street Journal, Romney purportedly "picked" Ryan as his VP running mate last Wednesday.

    -- Mr. Romney told Beth Myers—his longtime adviser who was the head of the vice-presidential search—on Aug. 1 that he wanted Mr. Ryan as his running mate. He then called Mr. Ryan and asked to get together, according to an aide. Mr. Ryan formally accepted the position on Sunday, Aug. 5, when Mr. Romney offered him the slot in person --

    If that's true, then why did the Romney campaign select the backdrop of a retired warship for their VP roll out? While scanning the assembled crowd, it became apparently clear that the Romney campaign had missed the basics of advanced planning.

    There was no official campaign logo or slogan boldly displayed declaring the new "Romney / Ryan" ticket. There were no "Romney / Ryan" campaign posters or flyers. In fact, the only thing you could see were a few sprinkled American flags that were being waived by bored onlookers.

    Contrast today's scene against the VP roll out of Biden with Obama in 2008. The Obama campaign had created and distributed their new official campaign posters and banners. The stagecraft in Illinois aptly reflected the importance of that day.

    There should be no doubt that Romney was bullied into picking Ryan. Although his campaign will deny it, their rapidly defunct campaign roll out of Ryan suggest otherwise.

  3. 'Afternoon, Ms. Pants

    Annnd, you're gonna have to say this, in any number of iterations over and over again. Know why??

    I'm VERY serious that Pierce needs to read you. And, it appears, so does pm.

    As I've said, you run it down all the time. Mr. Critter up above says it in three words. I'll say it like this....

    Black, or Brown,or Asian, orrr Female and BRILLIANT and capable and confident is NOT an oxymoron!

    What we see is that, even for folk that are supposed to be on "our" side, who present as that they really do know better (i.e. Pierce and pm), but when presentations are done that CLEARLY show that there is NO OTHER explanation for what was seen than actual skill and a keen intellect....

    Noooooooooo.......that just CAN'T be right. I know! It's LUCK. Why, he's just like Felix The Cat.

    We, ever since we have been brought here, have done one remarkable thing after the next for hundreds of years, now - with much the same end result. A breath taking resistance to admit that we (and, again "we" are, also, Brown, Asian, or Female) are peers.

    And, the longer that continues, the longer PBO is gonna tear their - conservative and "liberal" alike - collective butts UP.

    Which leads me back to something I said to you a bit ago, now which your piece shows yet again....

    Ms.'re needed.

    1. This one is for you Mr. Blackman. Cause you got me goin' with your comment on the Pierce article!

      So please excuse me because when I get goin', my language goes downhill.

      but...who the hell says that when "we" do it, we're going to do it the same way the tired old white guys have been doing it for centuries now?

      People are blind to what PBO is doing because he's doing it HIS way...smarter.

      That brings me to this line of yours - which I LOVE:

      And, the longer that continues, the longer PBO is gonna tear their - conservative and "liberal" alike - collective butts UP.

  4. Republicans have spent the last five years disparaging community organizers. To them, a community organizer has no useful/marketable skills. This has caused them to miss the forest by staring at the trees. Conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy is the exact community organizing tactic PBO has used on the republicans. They've been so busy painting him as weak and ineffective that they missed the trap he set for them. Thanks for pointing this out, Ms. Smartypants. I'm addicted to your blog, and even though I don't comment very often, many of your posts are on my FB page.

    1. Biases are often deadly because they leave you blind.

      And thanks so much for your support majii!!!!

    2. Majii, too bad more prominent Democrats stood up for private equity and Bain than ever stood up for community organizers and ACORN.

  5. You certainly make your own luck in any successful endeavor through hard work and patience and cunning and whatnot, but it's also true that it's not exactly historic brilliance to take the side of NOT privatizing social security or dismantling Medicare.

    Democrats certainly ARE lucky that Republicans have made repeated legislative attempts at these things over the years. Radical redistributionists (whether right or left) make for easy foils.

    Lucky doesn't mean undeserving.

  6. I'd like to get your take on how the addition of Ryan affects the race. Frankly, it scares me, because he's so extreme, but he presents himself as a reasonably intelligent choirboy, without Romney's wishy-washy-ness. The average low-information voter won't necessarily believe the ugliness of Ryan's goals (and in earlier focus groups on the Ryan plan, that was just the outcome--people thought it was a farce, that no politician would seriously enact such ideas).

    1. My take on Ryan is mostly that we'll have to see how it plays out.

      But mostly I agree with BooMan.

  7. Hi smarty! This is my first time posting. I just have to tell you, your outlook is so refreshing. I'm so tired of hearing the cave/weak attack from fellow libs. Keep up the good work. :)


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