Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Tuesday Night

with 18 comments

* You may have heard that Quentin Tarantino’s longtime collaborator, Sally Menke, died while hiking in Los Angeles’s extreme heat yesterday. Here are there “Hi Sally” outtakes from Inglourious Basterds and Death Proof.

* Matt Taibbi vs. the Tea Party in Rolling Stone.

Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit.

* Also in Rolling Stone: a lengthy interview with Barack Obama that makes the case he’s done everything right and you’re all just haters. Personally I wish White House had thought this utterly boneheaded “Vote for us, you jerks!” message through for ten seconds before running with it. Greg Sargent:

But the point is, it’s entirely counterproductive for the White House to rail in some generalized way about the left’s “whining.” Far better to think clearly about what these arguments actually are, and to grapple with them head on.

If the Dem base is unenthusiastic, give Dems something to get excited about, or effectively tell them why they should be excited. If you disagree with Maddow or Greenwald on what’s possible in terms of policy, or if you disagree with the Adam Greens of the world on politics, explain why they’re wrong, rather than spewing epithets in all directions. Above all, don’t vaguely question the right of these various parties to make those arguments. This is, after all, democracy, and as Obama himself has repeatedly said, democracy is a messy business.

More highlights from the interview from TPM. At least he hates Fox News too.

* And then there’s this: Is Obama Trying To Indoctrinate Your Children With Muslim Comic Books?

* Please, something that doesn’t make me miserable: The Absurb Logic Behind Some of the Most Famous Banned Books.

18 Responses

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  1. Barack Obama that makes the case he’s done everything right and you’re all just haters.

    While I agree that the White House’s approach to disgruntled liberals has been frequently boneheaded, counterproductive, and condescending, do you really think that’s a fair characterization of what he said in the interview?

    If the Dem base is unenthusiastic, give Dems something to get excited about, or effectively tell them why they should be excited. If you disagree with Maddow or Greenwald on what’s possible in terms of policy, or if you disagree with the Adam Greens of the world on politics, explain why they’re wrong, rather than spewing epithets in all directions. Above all, don’t vaguely question the right of these various parties to make those arguments.

    This is a pretty good description of what Obama was doing in the interview.

    Shankar D

    September 30, 2010 at 4:21 am

  2. In the space of two or three paragraphs he called those disgruntled liberals he’s supposedly reaching out to inexcusable, irresponsible, unserious, lethargic, and childish. If he were trying to give me something to be excited about he’d give me a sense of what he’d do in the next two years and how he plans to circumvent the inevitable (and likely emboldened) GOP obstructionism.

    To borrow your phrase from the other night, at this point the White House message is just the liberal version of vote for us or the terrorists Republicans win. These guys won’t even schedule a vote on *tax cuts*; what are they going to do after they’ve lost a bunch of seats? My guess is nothing.

    gerrycanavan

    September 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

  3. For what it’s worth I think there’s something to be said for what David Corn writes here too:

    …even with that clear signal, the White House continued to try to make compromises with their opponents. The Obama administration took single-payer off the table and offered little support for the public option when campaigning for the health care bill. The final bill — which contained neither — had almost no Republican support.

    In March, the president adopted a conservative call to open more waters to offshore oil drilling but got little in return. In the end, partisan bickering led to the climate bill being pulled in the Senate. Republicans have vowed to block legislation in the next Congress.

    Many of the Obama administration’s problems are completely of their own devising — so the repeated insistence that they’ve done all they can and anyone unhappy is just a whiner isn’t just insulting, it suggests they haven’t learned a thing.

    gerrycanavan

    September 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm

  4. In the space of two or three paragraphs he called those disgruntled liberals he’s supposedly reaching out to inexcusable, irresponsible, unserious, lethargic, and childish. If he were trying to give me something to be excited about he’d give me a sense of what he’d do in the next two years and how he plans to circumvent the inevitable (and likely emboldened) GOP obstructionism.

    This makes me wonder if you only read those two or three paragraphs or if you read the whole thing. He spent most of the piece trying to explain why liberals should be excited about what they’ve accomplished in two years. He also explained his disagreement with the Adam Greens on the issue of politics, as Sargent suggested he do.

    As for the paragraphs you’re referring to, he said that if people are sitting on their hands and standing on the sidelines in this election, that’s irresponsible. He said it while acknowledging complaints that they haven’t done enough fast enough and about legislative compromises and have made certain compromises, and that the administration has “admitted warts.” If this is really hurtful to people on the left, they’re proving criticisms about their oversensitivity correct.

    To borrow your phrase from the other night, at this point the White House message is just the liberal version of vote for us or the terrorists Republicans win. These guys won’t even schedule a vote on *tax cuts*; what are they going to do after they’ve lost a bunch of seats? My guess is nothing.

    Yeah, they probably won’t do anything if they lose a bunch of seats. Isn’t that the point?

    If they maintained their majority, they probably wouldn’t do as much as some would want (myself, included), but it would certainly be more than what would be achievable otherwise. The Democratic Party has a lot of moving parts. It’s not the fault of Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi that there are dozens of Democratic legislators who have conservative policy priorities.

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 10:55 am

  5. even with that clear signal, the White House continued to try to make compromises with their opponents. The Obama administration took single-payer off the table and offered little support for the public option when campaigning for the health care bill. The final bill — which contained neither — had almost no Republican support.

    This single payer stuff is grossly ignorant and dumb. They didn’t take it off the table. It hasn’t been on the table for 60 years. All of the Democratic candidates ran on essentially the same universal health care platform. It’s very irritating to see people who showed up for this debate in the summer of 2009 getting all outraged about it.

    As for the public option, I don’t understand the point here. The public option was killed by Democrats, not Republicans. Does David Corn think that if Obama had run around the country giving speeches in favor of the public option that Joe Lieberman — whom the left wanted to kick out of the party 10 months earlier — would’ve been cooperative? Somehow, Republicans are both irredeemably incalcitrant, but Joe Lieberman (or, on climate change, the 41st Republican) will do whatever Obama wants if he just tries hard enoguh.

    In March, the president adopted a conservative call to open more waters to offshore oil drilling but got little in return. In the end, partisan bickering led to the climate bill being pulled in the Senate. Republicans have vowed to block legislation in the next Congress.

    Fair criticism.

    Many of the Obama administration’s problems are completely of their own devising — so the repeated insistence that they’ve done all they can and anyone unhappy is just a whiner isn’t just insulting, it suggests they haven’t learned a thing.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about specifically,k but if you’re alluding to legislative tactics, I think it’s unreasonable to elevate your views to the level of ideology and then to suggest that they’re so obviously right that they’re not subject to reasonable disagreement. For example, I frequently see people emphatically insist that there is no point in pursuing Republican votes for legislation, because they will never support you. That’s just empirically wrong. It was wrong on the stimulus, wrong on the financial reform bill. Yet no one wants to revist their dogmatic certitude about how the political process works.

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

  6. Yeah, they probably won’t do anything if they lose a bunch of seats. Isn’t that the point?

    My point was more that they’re bound to lose a bunch of seats no matter what anybody does.

    The Democratic Party has a lot of moving parts. It’s not the fault of Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi that there are dozens of Democratic legislators who have conservative policy priorities.

    Is your take that what Obama has achieved is the absolute best that could possibly have been achieved? I think they could have achieved much more if they’d been more aggressive early in the administration, both in terms of arm-twisting Blue Dog legislators when they had the leverage of popularity and crisis and in terms of bucking Senate proceduralism by finding creative ways to sidestep the filibuster, especially through the reconciliation process and perhaps even by invoking some version of the dreaded “nuclear option.”

    The only arm-twisting I remember was on a military spending bill — and it was against the progressive caucus.

    Obama bet a lot on his own hype as a “uniter.” It didn’t work, and it was obvious early on that it wouldn’t work. It’s fair to criticize him for still trying to compromise with the GOP after all the time; how many votes did preemptively lifting the oil moratorium turn out for the climate bill? It’s not beanbag, it’s a war and he’s losing. His problems are not the fault of the oversensitive left, who’ve been telling him to fight harder this the whole time and who (unlike the Blue Dogs) have *always* come through for him in the vote counts in the end.

    gerrycanavan

    October 4, 2010 at 11:11 am

  7. The public option was killed by Democrats, not Republicans. Does David Corn think that if Obama had run around the country giving speeches in favor of the public option that Joe Lieberman — whom the left wanted to kick out of the party 10 months earlier — would’ve been cooperative?

    My understanding is that either the public option or the Medicare buy-in plan — either of which would have been the nose-in-the-tent towards single payer — could have been passed by reconciliation. The ACA is good law but it doesn’t have a built-in path towards single payer.

    For example, I frequently see people emphatically insist that there is no point in pursuing Republican votes for legislation, because they will never support you. That’s just empirically wrong. It was wrong on the stimulus, wrong on the financial reform bill. Yet no one wants to revist their dogmatic certitude about how the political process works.

    You’re elevating the exceptions as if they were the general case. At this point the GOP is filibustering *military spending bills*; that the filibuster was cracked in a handful of high-profile situations doesn’t mean that pursuing GOP votes is necessarily viable in all or most circumstances. The GOP minority in the Senate made it very clear very early on that they intended to deny Obama any accomplishments by filibustering roughly 100% of his legislative agenda; the strategy on the public option, energy, and immigration should have taken this into account, rather than just letting these things die on the vine.

    gerrycanavan

    October 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

  8. My point was more that they’re bound to lose a bunch of seats no matter what anybody does.

    The exact number of seats they lose will depend on what people do. This vague cynicism doesn’t really jibe with our best understanding of how elections work.

    Is your take that what Obama has achieved is the absolute best that could possibly have been achieved?

    No, of course not. I’m 100% confident that no administration will achieve the best that can possibly have been achieved. My take is that they have a good faith commitment to a broad and relatively ambitious set of progressive policy goals, and that they’re doing what they’re employing what they honestly think are the best tactics and strategies to accomplish those goals. I have my own criticisms, most significantly about the stimulus, but I don’t have much reason to believe they’re

    I think they could have achieved much more if they’d been more aggressive early in the administration, both in terms of arm-twisting Blue Dog legislators when they had the leverage of popularity and crisis and in terms of bucking Senate proceduralism by finding creative ways to sidestep the filibuster, especially through the reconciliation process and perhaps even by invoking some version of the dreaded “nuclear option.”

    But can’t you see that this is all hindsight-based armchair politicking that is subject to reasonable disagreement?

    Re: arm-twisting Blue Dog legislators, they did this! They did it on the stimulus, on climate change, and on health care. A lot of people are about to lose their seats because of their votes on these issues, including just about every one of the last Democratic reps who agreed to vote for the final health care reform package.

    The Senate is where most of the problem is, but consider that they did use reconciliation to push the health care bill over the finish line. What’s your plan for how to draft a climate bill that could survive the procedural strictures of reconciliation? I would be down for some kind of “nuclear option,” but how confident are you that you can get 51 Democratic Senators to go along?

    Obama bet a lot on his own hype as a “uniter.” It didn’t work, and it was obvious early on that it wouldn’t work. It’s fair to criticize him for still trying to compromise with the GOP after all the time; how many votes did preemptively lifting the oil moratorium turn out for the climate bill?

    Yes, I think that they did not do a good job on the climate change bill in the Senate, and offering preemptive concessions was not a good idea. But I wouldn’t universalize based on this one issue? It wasn’t “obviously early on” that it wouldn’t work. They passed the stimulus with Republican votes. And then in the last 5 months, they passed financial regulatory reform with Republican votes. A few weeks ago, they got Republican votes to pass the small business lending bill. Everyone loves to talk about how the Republicans always play Lucy to the Democrats’ Charlie Brown, and there’s certainly something to that. But the idea that the Democrats should never even try to pick off a couple of necessary votes to get something passed, or that this isn’t a context-dependent issue, is really narrow-minded.

    His problems are not the fault of the oversensitive left, who’ve been telling him to fight harder this the whole time and who (unlike the Blue Dogs) have *always* come through for him in the vote counts in the end.

    I certainly agree with that, and I think that political pressure from the left is a good and important thing. I myself frequently call the offices of Webb and Warner to complain about their votes that I consider to be out of alignment with certain liberal priorities. But I’d note that the “fight harder! yell louder!” argument frequently comes without any useful specifics, perhaps in part because most of the people making it have no useful experience with legislative politics. (The inverse problem is that most of the people with experience are stuck in a self-reinforcing echo chamber. So I wouldn’t leave them to their own devices either.)

    I’d also note that your general statement is not without exceptions. Scott Brown was able to extract some unhelpful concessions on the financial reform bill because Russ Feingold wouldn’t support it. I wonder if Russ would’ve voted for it if he weren’t running for re-election. It’s not all white-hate vs black-hat in there.

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 11:37 am

    • Fixing a paragraph from above:

      No, of course not. I’m 100% confident that no administration will achieve the best that can possibly have been achieved. My take is that they have a good faith commitment to a broad and relatively ambitious set of progressive policy goals, and that they’re employing what they honestly think are the best tactics and strategies to accomplish those goals. I have my own criticisms, most significantly about the stimulus, but I don’t have much reason to believe they’re not committed to the same policy priorities that I am, with the notable exception of the balance between national security and civil liberties.

      Shankar D

      October 4, 2010 at 11:40 am

  9. You’re elevating the exceptions as if they were the general case. At this point the GOP is filibustering *military spending bills*; that the filibuster was cracked in a handful of high-profile situations doesn’t mean that pursuing GOP votes is necessarily viable in all or most circumstances. The GOP minority in the Senate made it very clear very early on that they intended to deny Obama any accomplishments by filibustering roughly 100% of his legislative agenda; the strategy on the public option, energy, and immigration should have taken this into account, rather than just letting these things die on the vine.

    No, I don’t think I am. The Charlie Brown complaints have always been offered in the context of “a handful of high-profile situations” like health care and Lindsey Graham’s bolting on climate change. But if you want me to point to more than the stimulus and financial reform, I can point to credit card reform, tobacco regulation, Lily Ledbetter, etc. The point, though, isn’t to keep score. The point is that the fact that there is a score means that while recognizing the broader climate, you have to evaluate each situation independently to determine whether you’re going to be able to get GOP support or not.

    And in any event, a lot of this stuff is misplaced. Part of the problem with climate change and the public option was not Republican legislators, it was Democratic legislators.

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

  10. My understanding is that either the public option or the Medicare buy-in plan — either of which would have been the nose-in-the-tent towards single payer — could have been passed by reconciliation. The ACA is good law but it doesn’t have a built-in path towards single payer.

    How confident are you that 51 Democrats would have agreed to use reconciliation to pass the public option or Medicare buy-in?

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 11:50 am

  11. How confident are you that 51 Democrats would have agreed to use reconciliation to pass the public option or Medicare buy-in?

    As I remember it the OpenLeft list was at fifty when Reid pulled the plug. 51 is Biden.

    Obviously we’re arguing counterfactuals here, so there’s not much point in going on in this vein. What primarily frustrates me about the Obama administration is the sense that the best opportunity for real action has been lost in a maelstrom of needless proceduralism — proceduralism that will miraculously dissipate the second President Palin or President Gingrich takes office and begins to run amuck. In Jan. 2009 Obama was very popular, the Republicans very unpopular, and the nation was facing a very deep crisis; it just wasn’t the moment to reach across the aisle and let the enemy dictate terms.

    If he’d taken a harder line, even cut a few legislative corners, but gotten better results, I think we’d be looking at a much better situation this November.

    gerrycanavan

    October 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

  12. I think your last post is really vague, so it’s hard to dispute, but as long we’re acknowledging that we’re dabbling in counterfactuals, I wish you’d acknowledge that there’s more room here for reasonable disagreement that your standard snarky one-liners seem to permit.

    In any event, further to our evident agreement that the White House screwed up climate change, here is Ryan Lizza’s very good piece on how the thing fell apart. It’s worth noting, though, that the story here isn’t that the White House was willing to make legislative compromises, but that they didn’t seem to care enough to try to make the necessary, if messy, compromises:

    But the Administration had grown wary of cutting the kind of deals that the senators needed to pass cap-and-trade. The long and brutal health-care fight had caused a rift in the White House over legislative strategy. One camp, led by Phil Schiliro, Obama’s top congressional liaison, was composed of former congressional aides who argued that Obama needed to insert himself in the legislative process if he was going to pass the ambitious agenda that he had campaigned on. The other group, led by David Axelrod, believed that being closely associated with the messiness of congressional horse-trading was destroying Obama’s reputation.

    Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

  13. Shankar D

    October 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm

  14. […] How the climate bill went south. Via Shankar in the comments from a post from last week, where we’ve been talking about whether or not I’ve been […]

  15. > This single payer stuff is grossly ignorant and dumb. They didn’t take it off the table. It hasn’t been on the table for 60 years. All of the Democratic candidates ran on essentially the same universal health care platform. It’s very irritating to see people who showed up for this debate in the summer of 2009 getting all outraged about it.

    OK, let’s say that’s true that all the Democratic candidates ran on weaksauce health care reform (including a public option as a weak bare minimum gesture towards real reform). Why do you think it’s OK that Obama compromised towards the right (thereby deviating from his campaign line) but not towards the left? Why was it OK to have people in the room (literally around the table during those HCR negotiations) who want to end Medicare, but not those who want to allow anyone to buy into it?

    And the fact that Single Payer has been off the table for 60 years is exactly what we’re talking about. Putting it back on the table would have been a nice (and smart, strong, tough, effective, and progressive) thing to do and instead the guy made a backroom deal to drop the public option (which would have made the ACA more effective and popular (pun intended)) and was more afraid of pissing of hospitals than pissing off his base.

    He reaps now what he sowed then.

    Alex Chaffee

    October 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

  16. […] could have predicted that the Democrats’ incomprehensible decision to punt on the middle-class tax-cut extension would turn out badly? President Barack Obama’s top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post […]

  17. […] Better still would have been to make this a campaign issue last September, but no one listens to me. […]


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