Tag "Barack Obama"

Thank you statistical models.  Thank you Nate Silver.  I think I’ll be reading your book.


Live election coverage starting at 7 tomorrow night on Politico.

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Also, I honestly thought you’d never see Obama (or any President, really)  mention Gary Busey’s name on national TV.

(Also, Seth Meyers killed it too.)

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve just drunk too much of the Kool-Aid because I seem to always find myself agreeing with Barack Obama.  I’m not exactly a my team/your team kind of guy (I’m always the one that admits a bad call in my favor in sports, for example), so I don’t really think this is what’s happening.  I just think my political disposition is squarely in line with this President, which apparently is something of a rarity among Democrats lately.

When I checked in on the blogs late last night and saw the tax deal that was struck, I stuck out my lip, slowly nodded my head, and said, “Hmm.  Not bad.”  Which is not to say that I was necessarily excited about the deal, but it had a little more “sugar” in it than I had expected. 2% payroll tax cut?  Sounds good to me.  UI extension for 13 months?  Not bad.  Temp extension of Bush tax cuts for 2 more years?  Could be worse.

I think thats the key phrase.  It could be worse.  But could it be better?  The kids over at DailyKos would have you think so.

But what is this magical solution that our President has so stupidly failed to see?

Is it to have a staring contest with a emboldened political party that will clearly not back down, while raising taxes on lower to middle class families during a sluggish recovery that is still posting 9.8% unemployment?  Is that the solution America is craving?

Is it the likely death of unemployment insurance for people who are out of work through no fault of their own?

How about a guarantee of zero fiscal stimulus for 2011?  Is that the silver bullet to economic recovery?

Do people honestly believe that anyone will remember this in 2012?  Or that they’ll even blame Republicans for it?  That ship has sailed.  The only real chance of using this issue as an electoral bludgeon was before the midterms, not after, which I will remind everyone is exactly what Obama wanted to do, but the Democrats in Congress punted.

So now the tricks and gimmicks are over.  It comes down to what’s best for the economy today.  Middle class tax hikes, or temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich?  Extended unemployment benefits, or an expiration?  Fiscal stimulus, however modest, or pro-cyclical contraction?

I’ll take the deal.

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I think it’s pretty safe to say that any major legislation that hasn’t passed already is absolutely dead in the water. Cap and trade? Forget about it. Card check? No way. A second stimulus. Nope. And looking back, I’m really happy that health care reform passed when it did, because the Dems would have gotten clobbered either way. At least we still have that.

So what do we have to look forward to then?

The way I see it, the brand new House Republican majority has two basic options: punt or blitz.

In the punt scenario, the GOP can just sit back and quietly block any major pieces of Obama’s agenda, but not mount a serious fight against current legacy problems. No government shutdowns. No new major policy initiatives. No serious budget stare-downs. Just throw enough red meat at the base to keep them happy, but not enough to draw a bunch of attention to yourself (maybe some hearings on how Al Gore made up global warming).

In this scenario, the GOP would basically hope to survive 2012 by not taking ownership of what looks like a still pretty weak economy in 2012. Based on the latest Fed projections, we’ll still be looking at ~7.5% unemployment in two years, which might be enough to drag down Obama.

The problem with this strategy would be keeping the caucus in line. The class of 2010 has some pretty motivated freshman with Tea Party sentiments that may not want to sit on the sidelines while things drag on. If this is the path the GOP chooses, watch for a disgruntled GOP caucus stepping out of line here and there.

In the blitz scenario, the GOP would launch a major oppositional agenda and put it center stage, with big time fights between Speaker Boehner and President Obama dominating the media. This would be 1995 all over again. Budget showdowns and the whole kit and kaboodle (maybe even an impeachment!).

The problem with this strategy is it gives a clear foil for Obama, which he didn’t have during 2010. It was very hard for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans when they were in the majority. The thing to keep in mind is that the Republicans still are not very popular. This was more a “not-Democrat” wave than it was a Republican one. If the GOP serves its agenda up as a target it will get wrecked by Obama. In an Obama v. Boehner fight, I pick Obama every time.

So what’ll they choose? My money’s on punt, but I’m hoping for the blitz.

The real wildcard here is what Obama does in response. He can try to force the GOP into either of these roles.

The one thing that seems extremely unlikely is that there’s actually some meaningful compromises that happen on major policies during the 112th Congress. Not that I wouldn’t welcome it, but color me skeptical.

(Which is sad, by the way.)

The first real test of this will be the lame duck tax cut fight. If the GOP brings the noise and mounts a full blown fight creating an impasse, signs point to blitz. If they agree on a temporary extension, signs point to punt.

I can’t wait.

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The story is that Obama had nothing prepared when he addressed the House Democratic Caucus today, and it definitely has a very loose structure. But I think this is one of his bests. It is very inside baseball stuff, but it gives you a nice window into this man’s soul.

The close:

And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.

But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.

And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.

Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.

Thank you very much, House of Representatives. Let’s get this done.

Now go read the whole thing.

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This was classic Obama, and it’s really amazing and fresh.

Please take the time to watch it, or read it.

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Intitial first reactions:

  • I was surprised at how he captured the audience at the end.  You could hear a pin drop in those last paragraphs.
  • I loved the smack down on the Senate:

I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together. This week, I’ll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can’t wait.

  • I loved how he gave credit to the House for passing so many bills. It subtly highlighted how the Senate is responsible for so much gridlock
  • I would have liked a more detailed explanation of what is in the health care bill. It seemed like a great opportunity to clear up some confusion.
  • I was surprised when the Republicans didn’t stand for a lot of things in this speach. Reducing deficits? Tax cuts? Enforcing immigration laws? Really? You don’t like that?

I’d call it a success.

Now go check out Nate Silver’s list of House Democrats at risk of voting no on the Senate version of the health care bill. If you see your Representative, make a phone call.

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Reading liberal blogs these days is a lot like reading advice columns:  Obama shouldn’t have done that.  Obama should do this. I can’t believe Obama did that!  FIGHT, BARACK, FIGHT!!

One thing that I’ve learned about Barack Obama, though, is that he never punches when you want him to.  He sits back, takes punches, amasses criticism, and right when you can’t take it any longer, right at that exact moment when you feel like the whole world is coming down around him…POW!!  He smokes you right in the jaw.

Remember Hillary Clinton?  Jeremiah Wright?  John McCain?  Those health care town hall meetings?


It’s the rope-a-dope writ large.  Let your opponent creep on in, take up all the oxygen, and then right when they think they got you, you hit back and you hit hard.

Bottom line?  Hold your judgment until after the SOTU.  We’ll see where we stand then.

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I’ve been very critical of my friends over at DKos lately, and I can’t seem to stop.  I wandered over again today to see the reaction to health care reform passing the Senate, and the reaction was fairly positive.  There was a nice post by DemFromCT.

But then I looked further down and ran across this post quoting Drew Westen, who I am told “isn’t just any guy with a computer. He’s an expert on political communication, the guy who wrote The Political Brain, and as digby says, the “it boy” of the Democratic party.”  So obviously, he’s the bees knees, and we should all hail his opinion:

What’s costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting….

Consider the president’s leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there’s a conflict, because if there’s a conflict, he doesn’t want to be anywhere near it. [...]

Leadership means heading into the eye of the storm and bringing the vessel of state home safely, not going as far inland as you can because it’s uncomfortable on the high seas. This president has a particular aversion to battling back gusting winds from his starboard side (the right, for the nautically challenged) and tends to give in to them. He just can’t tolerate conflict, and the result is that he refuses to lead….

The time for exhortation is over. FDR didn’t exhort robber barons to stem the redistribution of wealth from working Americans to the upper 1 percent, and neither did his fifth cousin Teddy. Both men told the most powerful men in the United States that they weren’t going to rip off the American people any more, and they backed up their words with actions. Teddy Roosevelt was clear that capital gains taxes should be high relative to income taxes because we should reward work, not “gambling in stocks.” This President just doesn’t have the stomach to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do (except women to have unwanted babies because they can’t afford an abortion or live in a red state and don’t have an employer who offers insurance), and his advisors are enabling his most troubling character flaw, his conflict-avoidance.

This is complete garbage.

May I remind Mr. Bad Ass Democrat Drew Westen that it was under Obama’s watch, his first year as President to boot, that comprehensive health care reform is about to be passed.  This is something that FDR and LBJ, heroes of progressive lore that they are, could not pass.

It was clear from the outset that the Senate never wanted to pass a bill, but we soldiered on.  Somehow Mr. Westin thinks that Barack Obama had nothing to do with it, which I find completely at odds with reality.

Furthermore, this is exactly the kind of attitude that frustrates me beyond belief from the netroots on this issue.  It’s this idea that if only Barack Obama got into a staring contest (or perhaps an arm wrestling match) with Joe Lieberman, then the public option would have passed.


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Barack Obama swats a fly, with Presidential style.

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Despite many hot-headed remarks from several members of Congress, Obama wisely stays out of the fray.  This neuters any possible propaganda from Ahmedinejad and others that the unrest is being stoked by outside forces, specifically the United States.

Obviously, all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be, that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes — the United States can be a handy political football, or discussions with the United States [can be].

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence I have been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values, and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.

Here’s the video of a Basiji shooting into the crowd, killing at least one person:

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I think Obama’s rhetoric is at its best when he talks about religion.

Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the belief in things not seen. It’s beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

And this doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us even as we cling to our faith to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.

It’s his ability to recognize the simultaneous importance and fragility of faith, and his talent in bringing seemingly contradictory belief structures together in common purpose, that makes him so incredible.

As a non-believer, it’s easy for me to cringe at the word “faith,” but when Obama presents it, it seems so much less abhorrent.

Side note – This speech reminds me of a speech I watched a long time ago that was one of the reasons I became an Obamaphile.  Here’s part one:

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Proving the NYT isn’t above the fray:

Q. The first six weeks have given people a glimpse of your spending priorities. Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?

A. You know, let’s take a look at the budget – the answer would be no.

Later on in the day, Obama called the NYT for a clarification regarding this question:

President Obama: Just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter. It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question. [...]

Well, I just think it’s clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

I think that covers it.

Yes.  I think that does.

[h/t Ezra Klein]

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