Patterico's Pontifications

2/11/2010

The Beltway vs. the Chicago way

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:50 am



[Posted by Karl]

The first year of the Obama presidency did not go so well, prompting finger-pointing by all involved. Pres. Obama has renewed his effort to blame the GOP for his failures. This is perhaps the least interesting move, given that the tactic has yet to help him or Democrats in polls or at the polls.

More interesting is the sudden, yet predictable, eruption of stories blaming Obama’s staff — particularly those sharing his Chicago ties. Mickey Kaus is on-target — almost hilariously so — in describing these as “save the president” pieces. After all, Obama is the top dog and cannot (barring impeachment) be fired.

However, these pieces are also part of a classic genre of DC journalism: Blaming the Others. Beltway insiders — and the journos who depend on them as sources — rarely miss a chance to assert that they, and only they, can tame the federal leviathan.

In contrast, RCP’s Jay Cost argues that one of Obama’s main problems is that he has deferred too much to the entrenched powers on Capitol Hill:

President Obama has installed Nancy Pelosi as de facto Prime Minister – giving her leave to dominate not only the House, but also the entire domestic policy agenda. The indefatigable Speaker Pelosi has taken advantage of the President’s laissez-faire attitude by governing from the left.

***

It’s easy to blame the Senate for inactivity – but the problem is the House. It has consistently passed legislation that is too far to the left for the Senate and the country. Ultimate responsibility rests with the President, whose expressed indifference toward policy details has allowed the more vigorous House Democrats, led by an extraordinarily vigorous Speaker, to dominate. That the President consistently praised the House and blamed the Senate in his State of the Union address suggests that he remains unaware of this problem.

I am a Jay Cost fan (follow him on Twitter!), but I respectfully half-disagree with him here. I disagree in part because I think Obama is a leftist ideologue who likely prefers Pelosi’s style and substance; his passive inclinations merely serve those impulses here. But I mostly disagree because it is generally unfair to blame the executive branch for the legislative branch.

Every generation (since WWII, anyway) seems to fall prey to the temptation of electing a hopey-changey Democrat. Yet every one of those presidents ends up having to deal with Congress. JFK fought Congress, and had trouble passing his agenda. Jimmy Carter fought Congress, and had trouble passing his agenda. Bill Clinton caved to Congress, which pursued an agenda that lost Democrats their majorities. Obama let Congress work its will and… well, you get the picture.

From time to time, we hear talk of “the imperial presidency,” but Congress remains the first branch of government. The cliche that “the president proposes, but Congress disposes” is closer to the mark, though Congress also does its share of proposing. Pelosi was not installed as de facto prime minister by Obama; she was elected by her colleagues in the House, who now have to live with that decision as they scramble for survival in the midterm elections. Pres. Obama may shake up his staff — but aside from helping smooth some egos, it will not fundamentally change the real problem on Capitol Hill. That may take a shakeup from voters.

–Karl

34 Responses to “The Beltway vs. the Chicago way”

  1. For a full year Democrats controlled the White House, the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof super-majority of the Senate.

    And what did they show the American people? That they can’t get their signature legislation passed, and that what they could pass was such bad policy, that they cannot be entrusted with the nation’s finances.

    What a performance. And what do we see now? Its all the Republicans fault. I’ve seen kindergarten children invent better excuses for their messes.

    SPQR (8475fc)

  2. I disagree in part because I think Obama is a leftist ideologue who likely prefers Pelosi’s style and substance; his passive inclinations merely serve those impulses here.

    Any analysis that doesn’t draw the exact same conclusion isn’t worth a damn. Of course Obama is of the left. His history and mindset don’t indicate anything but that. If politicians like Nancy Pelosi were too centrist or certainly a bit too conservative for his tastes, Obama wouldn’t rely on her for anything.

    He may move into slightly non-ideological, slightly non-partisan territory on occasion, but that would be due mainly to his limousine liberalism. A situation in which his inflated ego and cushy comforts bend to money and tricky deal-making. For example, schmoozing with and accomodating all the chameleon-political types on Wall Street to benefit the goals of his campaign fundraising.

    Mark (411533)

  3. SPQR,

    I’d be careful about the “they can’t get their signature legislation passed” attack. The left is busy convincing itself to ram thru ObamaCare on the argument that they will be punished if they show they cannot govern. They’re having trouble getting their big items passed because (a) the bills are too big; and (b) the public doesn’t want them. Getting their signature legislation passed might boost support from Dems one or two points, but that probably won’t be meaningful in many midterm contests.

    Karl (f07e38)

  4. “I disagree in part because I think Obama is a leftist ideologue who likely prefers Pelosi’s style and substance; his passive inclinations merely serve those impulses here. ”

    Which part of his leftist ideologue-ism is behind shoveling billions to wall street banks?

    imdw (842182)

  5. Michael Barone has an interesting piece on this topic today. His conclusion is that the real problem created by Obama’s deferral to Congressional leadership on the crafting of policy is that the senior Dem. leaders in Congress are almost uniformly from what Barone called “monopartisan” districts where they will never face a legitimate election challenge themselves — meaning they have no risk at all in pursuing an extreme left-wing agenda. He names Pelosi specifically, but I think the description would also apply to most of the Dem. “Old Bulls” heading up most of the major House committees — Rangel, Waxman, Burton, Frank, Conyers, etc.

    Because the represent the most liberal districts in the entire country, and because most of them have been in the House for 30 years or more, there is no chance of challenging them either inside or outside Congress.

    Obama put crafting the stimulus in their hands in Jan. 2009, and they produced a bill that was mostly a pay-off to Dem. party constituencies and enactment of long-dreamed-of left-wing policy proposals.

    That “monopartisan” approach set the tone for the first year and empowered the likes of Waxman in the House and Boxer in the Senate to pursue a fantasy like “Cap & Tax.”

    Shipwreckedcrew (dfa1f1)

  6. Campaign contributions are behind that, dimwit.

    JD (1d90a6)

  7. senior Dem. leaders in Congress are almost uniformly from what Barone called “monopartisan” districts where they will never face a legitimate election challenge themselves

    And Congressional members on both sides of the aisle are responsible for the ridiculous gerrymandering that’s been the chief cause of this outcome. The only thing that would rectify this would be term limits across the board, but we all know that’ll never happen.

    I think Obama delegated so much authority to Pelosi and Reid because he’s never actually had to lead anything in his life, other than a campaign.

    Dmac (799abd)

  8. What a shocka to find that i-make-democrats-wince is to the left of Obama.

    Icy Texan (a7ec3f)

  9. Karl — I think Obamacare is dead because Pelosi will never get 218 votes in the House. Events have already deprived her of 4 votes (Murtha, , and a 5th is on his way out (Abercrombie).

    She might have had several votes in reserve the first time around, but that vote came only 4 days after Virginia and New Jersey, and the Dems had convinced themselves at that point that both those races turned on local/state issues, and had no bearing on the actions of the Dem Congress.

    Well, they could not escape the message of Massachutsetts.

    Does Cao from Louisiana vote “yes” again?

    His “no” vote would be cancelled out by Kucinich because he voted “no” the first time, but would certainly vote “yes” if it meant passage of the bill.

    How many votes does Stupak hold on the issue of the Senate bill’s abortion language?

    How many Dems elected in 2006 or 2008 in traditionally GOP districts voted “yes”, but would likely be committing electoral suicide by voting “yes” again?

    There is a line of argument that says “they voted for it once, so the damage is already done.” I don’t buy that. Someone like Baron Hill in Indiana will not survive, under any circumstances, if he votes “yes” again.

    There are a lot of freshman and sophomore democrats in nearly identical circumstances as Hill. They won close elections in generally friendly GOP districts in middle America, where the GOP is going to be able to recruit strong challengers – maybe even the very same ex-Representatives that they beat in the Dem wave years of 2006 and 2008 — who will have money to campaign effectively. Voting “yes” to pass this legislation in the face of public opposition would bring about a likely end to their careers.

    Another argument is that enough Dems believe that losing the House and/or Senate is a price worth paying to make this happen, since repeal would be almost all but impossible before the private health insurance industry ceases to exist, leading to de facto gov’t health care.

    While I think that has some visceral appeal, what it fails to consider is that thousands of Capitol Hill jobs literally ride on maintaining control of one or both houses of Congress. If the GOP regains the majority, thousands of Dem. staffers will lose their jobs, both in the offices of the losing candidates, and in the dozens of committees and subcommittees where Dem. control establishes the staffing levels.

    Old Bulls who waited more than a decade to become Committee Chairmen — with no term limits on the Dem side — won’t sacrafice their new-found power, and return to minority status, simply to pass this particular health care reform. For them, their re-election is assured, and there is always next year to try again.

    Shipwreckedcrew (dfa1f1)

  10. Forgot to mention the other votes already lost to Pelosi besides Murtha:

    Robert Wexler resigned his Florida seat in January. While it is a safely Dem. district, the seat is now empty, and won’t be filled until an April special election.

    Abercrombie announced his resignation for later this month, and the special election to replace him won’t be until May.

    Same for Murtha’s empty seat — the expectation is that Rendell will set a special election to coincide with the regular Penn. primary election in mid-May.

    I thought there was one more current vacant seat, but I was thinking of Cao’s vote, who is not expected to vote “yes” again since he only voted “yes” last time after 218 Dems had already voted “yes”.

    Shipwreckedcrew (dfa1f1)

  11. “Which part of his leftist ideologue-ism is behind shoveling billions to wall street banks?”
    Comment by imdw — 2/11/2010 @ 11:35 am

    So he’s not a Leftist, but is in-league with the Fat-cat Republicans that dominate Wall Street?

    You just can’t make idiocy like this up, no one would believe it.

    AD - RtR/OS! (011035)

  12. Pelosi was instrumental in Obama’s election as President. When Obama and Hillary were tied for the Democrat nomination and headed for a contentious convention which Hillary could have won, it was Pelosi who stepped in and delivered the super!delegates to give Obama the nomination. Not only would Hillary have dethroned Pelosi as the most powerful woman in the US government, Hillary would insist upon things being done her way, not Pelosi’s.

    Obama is Pelosi’s puppet.

    davidt (844778)

  13. Most of the ruminations about legislative “tricks” to get the HCR passed is designed to keep the looney left on board as long as possible. Eventually, they will try to say “We tried and tried and those evil Republicans stopped us somehow.” The looney left, which is more susceptible to conspiracy theories than anybody else outside of Arab counties, might buy that.

    Witness imdw’s delusions about fat cat bankers for an example. They were all, including Paulson, Obama voters.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  14. imdw’s motto: Working hard to exceed my previous levels of stupidity.

    Old Coot (ddf8be)

  15. “So he’s not a Leftist, but is in-league with the Fat-cat Republicans that dominate Wall Street?”

    Nope I think he’s your standard pro-business democrat. We’ll see how much he fights for unions on this Becker thing.

    imdw (3e429f)

  16. Did it just say that Ostumbler is a pro-business democrat? Snicker, gag, guffaw, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    cannot stop laughing. imadimwit needs to audition for the Comedy Club.

    peedoffamerican (44a207)

  17. I’m so ashamed…
    I enabled Imadickwad to beclown himself…
    AGAIN!

    I feel better already.

    AD - RtR/OS! (011035)

  18. Big Zero’s administration will be caught napping when the next crisis opportunity (commercial real estate collapse) hits… which will crush community banks. There can be no recovery without community banks lending to small businesses. No recovery, no jobs.

    GeneralMalaise (4d34a1)

  19. Obama is so pro business he’s almost a rethuglican! Remember when he told those wall street guys”I’m the only thing between you and pitchforks.”?
    Pro Business

    Imbw. / (f56df2)

  20. Oh my bad. I’ll refrain from that.

    Mr. Pink (f56df2)

  21. Much appreciated Sir. :)

    Stashiu3 (44da70)

  22. 45.Slams banking, auto companies, oil companies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies,……sure am glad he’s not antibusiness.

    Next thing you know he would be taking over auto companies, banking, insurance companies…..OH wait he has done that to 2 out of the 3, and is trying to take over the health insurance industry.

    Damn sure am glad he is just sooooooo pro-business.

    peedoffamerican (44a207)

  23. imdw thinks that ”I’m the only thing between you and pitchforks” is pro-business? That’s great, and imdw probably thinks that “Nice business you got here, want to buy arson insurance from Guido” is free enterprise too.

    Every time I think imdw has said the dumbest thing, he comes up with a better example …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  24. I missed the part where ginormous government deficit spending to prevent businesses from failing was deemed capitalist.

    Karl (cc4af5)

  25. Got past me too, Karl. Like so much of imdw’s brilliant thought …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  26. “I missed the part where ginormous government deficit spending to prevent businesses from failing was deemed capitalist.”

    Hey more capital for them! Seriously this guy shovels billions to business and then all of a sudden he’s a bolshevik because he wants a consumer financial protection agency, or wants to bring back glass steagal-like protections.

    imdw (d80111)

  27. With brilliance like that there’s no need to explore the heavens for Black Holes.

    AD - RtR/OS! (011035)

  28. imdw, whip that strawman! Whip it. Whip it good.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  29. “Next thing you know he would be taking over auto companies, banking, insurance companies…..OH wait he has done that to 2 out of the 3, and is trying to take over the health insurance industry.”

    See I think here’s the problem: The guy shovels billions to banks, with some minor regulations, and this is a “takeover” or a “nationalization.” They force the whole country to become consumers of insurance companies, and this is a “takeover” of insurance.

    imdw (de7003)

  30. Speaking of shoveling, imdw, the Ministry of Truth says double-plus good effort.

    GeneralMalaise (4d34a1)

  31. Sure is a lot of straw (and other substances), must be a pony in there somewhere.

    AD - RtR/OS! (011035)

  32. “Which part of his leftist ideologue-ism is behind shoveling billions to wall street banks?”
    Comment by imdw — 2/11/2010 @ 11:35 am

    I thought that was one of the things he was blaming Bush for at least deficit-wise, while taking credit for stabilising the financial system. Are you suggesting he’s he’s willing to take responsibility for TARP from a budget perspective now? I don’t think so.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  33. “Are you suggesting he’s he’s willing to take responsibility for TARP from a budget perspective now? I don’t think so.”

    During the state of the union he said he “supported the last administration’s efforts to create the financial rescue program.” He also said of it:

    “I promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular — I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.”

    That certainly seems to take responsibility.

    imdw (de7003)

  34. Its mendacity knows no bounds.

    JD (30371c)


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