Sunday, January 24, 2010

What We Have Here Is A Failure to Anticipate

Several years ago, at the Kennedy School, I defined 'Leadership' as "the communication of the inevitability of success." The Jets new coach, Rex Ryan, shows how it's done: "He spoke loudly and often about the talent that surrounded him, until the players believed every word he said."
Atrios: My Big Concern Was That They Believed Their Own Bullshit
And apparently, if the WaPo is to be believed, they did.
The Obama legislative agenda was built around an "advancing tide" theory.

Democrats would start with bills that targeted relatively narrow problems, such as expanding health care for low-income children, reforming Pentagon contracting practices and curbing abuses by credit-card companies. Republicans would see the victories stack up and would want to take credit alongside a popular president. As momentum built, larger bipartisan coalitions would form to tackle more ambitious initiatives.
And now they're fanning out with the "we're just powerless" message. Jeebus.
Think Progress: DeMint Lies: ‘I Did Not Want’ Health Care ‘To Be The President’s Waterloo’

Last summer during the peak of the health care reform debate in Congress, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) claimed that if Republicans are “able to stop” President Obama’s push for health care reform, “it will be his Waterloo.” “It will break him,” DeMint said.

Today, during an interview with DeMint on ABC’s This Week, host Terry Moran aired audio of the quote and asked if it was appropriate to call for breaking the president. DeMint responded by lying, issuing an outright denial that he ever made the statement:

MORAN: So did you break him? And is that really how Americans want you to behave here in Washington, break the president? […]

DEMINT: I did not want this to be the President’s Waterloo. But pushing through a massive government take over of our health care system was certainly not a good idea. … We’ve been as Republicans pushing health care reform for years.

Later in the segment, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) called DeMint out:

MENENDEZ: Well Terry, my good friend Jim DeMint did want to break Barack Obama and the Republican whole political strategy is for this president and this Congress to fail. The sad thing about that it’s not about Barack Obama failing or Democrats in Congress failing, it’s about the country failing at one of the most critical challenges the country has had.

Watch it:

Of course Menendez is right. The GOP strategy on health care has simply been to obstruct, delay, and kill reform.

Back in September, DeMint was proud of his “Waterloo” comment. “If we lose the health care battle, I think we’ve lost it all,” he said, adding, “And that’s why I’ve said strong things like Waterloo and other things. … [I]f we stop him on health care then I think we have the opportunity to maybe realign the whole political system in our country.”

Aravosis: It's never a winning strategy in Washington to tell everyone how powerless you are

For a while now, the White House has been pushing the talking point that the presidency is inherently weak, that it can't accomplish much on its own, and that the true power in Washington is on the Hill, where the President has little to no influence. The White House pushed that spin again today in the Washington Post:

White House advisers say Democrats need to understand that Obama is not all-powerful.
First off, that is an amazingly naive and dangerous talking point. Where in life do you achieve success by telling everyone how little power you have?

Second, it's simply untrue. The Bush example, which we've talked about many times before, gives truth to the lie. George Bush was many things, but impotent was not one of them. Did he push good policies? No. Did he get what he wanted far too often? You betcha. And Bush had only between 50 and 55 GOP members in the Senate during the height of his effectiveness. That is not to say that Obama should emulate George Bush's conservativeness. It is to say that he should emulate Bush's strength. Much of what Bush did he did legally, via his rubber-stamp Congress. The President has an awesome amount of power, if he recognizes it and knows how to use it.

The article continued:
"There is this sense on Capitol Hill that somehow the president can go out and make a speech and everything just magically becomes better," said a senior White House adviser who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly. "If there is a lesson out of the Massachusetts race, it is the people on Capitol Hill have to realize nobody can go win this for you. If you're going to cast the vote, then you have to be prepared to argue why it was the best vote."
Pot calling kettle on that one. When fighting back against accusations that the President didn't do enough on health care reform (or on gay rights, or any other issue), the most-often cited talking point is how many speeches, town hall meetings, YouTube videos the President did on the issue's behalf. Left out of the discussion is just what those speeches, meetings and videos actually said - whether the President endorsed and pushed for specific policy changes, rather than general principles that could be applied to any outcome, no matter how weak. And whether the President did anything substantive to actually push for specific legislation, lobbying members of Congress, etc.
I keep waiting for the White House to step up and urge the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill, and to urge the Senate to give the House assurances about improvements to be made through reconciliation. It's the solution that so many reform advocates keep emphasizing, and they could use some help.

But at least publicly, that's not happening. David Axelrod appeared on ABC's "This Week" earlier, and Terry Moran asked if health care reform is "dead," in light of some of the comments President Obama made to George Stephanopoulos this week. Axelrod responded:

"No, that's not true at all. I think what he's saying is let's take a look at this. There are so many elements of this -- tax breaks for small business, extending the life of Medicare, more assistance for seniors with their prescription drugs, a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, help for people with pre-existing conditions -- that are too important to walk away from. What he's saying is, let's get back to it."


The rest of the reform bill is "too important to walk away from," too. If the House passes the Senate bill, Americans can benefit from the tax breaks for small business, the strengthening of Medicare, the help for seniors -- and so much more. It just takes one roll-call vote in the House to deliver a victory for the ages.

And that victory may not happen unless the White House intervenes to help make it happen. It may be up to Obama to personally facilitate a deal.

That said, it doesn't have to be on the president's shoulders. As we talked about yesterday, Congress is its own branch, with its own leaders. It's in members' interests to get this done. Congress should realize the importance of delivering on the promise of reform -- whether it gets instructions from the White House or not should be irrelevant.

Booman: Mice Not Men
I like Chris Van Hollen. I like him a lot, actually. I'm glad he's honest and that he can articulate a strategy. But his strategy is a strategy for scared little wimps. I don't give a rat's ass if the Ben Nelson medicaid deal makes the Senate bill's 'brand' look tarnished with independents. That's just transactional sausage-making. Own it and love it, and tell the critics to stuff it. And then take it away in reconciliation. It's the opportunity to tell the voters "I voted for it because I knew I could vote against it later" in perfect Kerryspeak. Everyone in the caucus is afraid of that one little line, so health care reform is essentially dead?

It's hard to muster a sufficient amount of contempt for the congressional Democrats.

  • from the comments:
    Waaay back, I ran a study on Leadership style, decision-making, policy effectiveness and popularity. Long story short, we compared styles across the Autocratic vs Democratic spectrum when dealing with a contentious, vital issue in hopes of determining the most effective and most popular leadership style.

    Long story short, the most effective leadership style was also the most popular: The most effective, appreciated Leader stated his policy preference, then listened to all parties, exhaustively, then went ahead and came to a decision that was exactly the same as the original policy (no need to explain yourself!). This was the only style that actually increased popularity (aka political capital).

    The least appreciated leadership style (uses up political capital fastest)? The Obama model. Let the sausage makers make the sausage. People simply come away with the impression that the Leadership was unnecessary, even when it was the Leader who designed and shepherded the entire process. The Leader was almost universally was challenged when the next decision needed to be made. That's one reason I am afraid of Obama's choice to go after banking regulation at this moment. He should have picked a gimme that didn't have a realistic 'it will cost jobs' opposition, because opposition will come, just to test his 'leaderhood'.

    And I thought he was an intellectual (wink). I'm sure that dissertation is somewhere in the basements of Berkeley's psych library..

    Do or do not, there is no try.

    by anarchronarchist (mincers (-at-) hotmail (-dot-) com)
These are the guys who are setting the narrative . . .
The idea was always shallow and more about rhetoric than reality, but it looks like the notion of "compassionate conservatism" is officially dead. Take the latest rhetoric out of South Carolina, for example.

South Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Saturday he could have chosen his words more carefully when he compared people who take public assistance to stray animals Friday. [...]

Friday, Bauer said giving food to needy people means encouraging dependence. It also gives the recipients a license to have children who will also be dependent on public aid, he said.

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals," Bauer told a Greenville-area crowd. "You know why? Because they breed.

"You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

This is, by the way, not only the sitting lieutenant governor, but also one of the leading gubernatorial candidates in South Carolina this year.

"It amazes me how some Republican politicians claim a monopoly on Christianity and then go out and say and do some of the most un-Christian things imaginable," said Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod (D), who participated in a candidates' forum yesterday. He added, "Bauer's comments are despicable and the total opposite of the Christian values Bauer espouses."

John Cole: Scott Brown, Moderate

According to one of the bobbleheads on Face the Nation, Scott Brown is a moderate. Here is Brown’s website: other than lip service to a right to choose, show me how he is in any way a moderate.

About the only way you could claim he is a moderate is if you define moderate as “someone who does not come across as a hater.” Other than that, issue after issue he strictly follows the right-wing company line.

John Cole: Grayson Comes Out Swinging

Alan Grayson sure is fired up about the Supreme Court campaign finance ruling, and has a package of legislation he wants to advance in response:

Here are the bills that Congressman Grayson has introduced, and what they aim to accomplish:

1) The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act (H.R. 4431): Implements a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.

2) The Public Company Responsibility Act (H.R. 4435): Prevents companies making political contributions and expenditures from trading their stock on national exchanges.

3) The End Political Kickbacks Act (H.R. 4434): Prevents for-profit corporations that receive money from the government from making political contributions, and limits the amount that employees of those companies can contribute.

4) The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act (H.R. 4432): Requires publicly-traded companies to disclose in SEC filings money used for the purpose of influencing public opinion, rather than to promoting their products and services.

5) The Ending Corporate Collusion Act (H.R. 4433): Applies antitrust law to industry PACs.

Grandstanding, or do any of these have a chance? According to the Great Orange Satan, Conyers is on board.

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