[Re-posted from earlier today]
Responding to the idiotic conventional wisdom that Obama just doesn’t have the schmoozing skills to be an effective president, Norm Ornstein loses it:
“Didn’t any of you ever read Richard Neustadt’s classic Presidential Leadership? Haven’t any of you taken Politics 101 and read about the limits of presidential power in a separation-of-powers system?”
No, it seems, they haven’t. It’s a terrific piece, because it grapples with actual history:
No one schmoozed more or better with legislators in both parties than Clinton. How many Republican votes did it get him on his signature initial priority, an economic plan? Zero in both houses. And it took eight months to get enough Democrats to limp over the finish line. How did things work out on his health care plan? How about his impeachment in the House?
No one knew Congress, or the buttons to push with every key lawmaker, better than LBJ. It worked like a charm in his famous 89th, Great Society Congress, largely because he had overwhelming majorities of his own party in both houses. But after the awful midterms in 1966, when those swollen majorities receded, LBJ’s mastery of Congress didn’t mean squat.
And the GOP Obama faces is arguably the most partisan, factional and deranged that it has been since I started observing it in the mid-1980s. Zero votes for a modest stimulus in the worst recession since the 1930s right after a new president’s astounding electoral victory? Total, hysterical and futile opposition to healthcare reform – rather than working to make it better? Mitch McConnell’s entire strategy of simply denying Obama a second term, regardless of what he did or did not do (and failing)?
If you want to be obstructionist douches in the American system, oppose everything and anything Obama wants in the House, and demand a 60 vote super-majority to pass anything in the Senate, then that is your prerogative. But the GOP is offering nothing constructive on healthcare, nothing that can seriously be accomplished in a two-party system on the debt and entitlements, nothing but Captain Hindsight on Syria, and nothing on climate change, or gay rights. Nothing. The few of them who have championed immigration reform are going to face a storm of hostility from their base – and will endure a media hazing from the “conservative” media industrial complex.
Nonetheless, Obama is schmoozing on.
And nonetheless, he has guided the economy to a sustainable recovery – unlike any other developed nation. He got his stimulus through; and he got universal healthcare. He ended two draining, bankrupting, failed wars. He presided over a civil rights revolution – and played a key role in nudging it to fruition. He has created a coalition that, without gerrymandering, would command majorities in both Houses, and may well become a durable realignment to his party’s favor. If immigration reform passes, the substantive legislative achievements will be huge.
This is how to make sense of the over-coverage of Benghazi on the right. Some, like Butters, just want to save themselves from primary challenges; others see this as an early opportunity to bloody the woman who might crush them in 2016. But all of it is a sign of desperation. I keep asking myself: this is all they’ve got? This is what they want to place in front of the public in a time of great challenges at home and abroad? This?
You don’t need to turn a lamentable piece of government incompetence and some weak, shifting talking points into Watergate and Iran-Contra combined if you actually have a popular and constructive set of proposals for Americans to weigh. They have already derailed four careers (Susan Rice’s and three State Dept officials) and ended one entirely at the State Dept. And yet they are still breathless for more accountability, even as they are running on fumes.
Some Republicans seem to think this kind of negative nihilism is a way back to power. They need to remind themselves that Roger Ailes’ need for ratings is not the same thing as the GOP’s need for votes.
(Photo: Getty Images).