Monday, January 21, 2013

Democrats Are Not Responsible for Republican Dysfunction

A few days ago David Brooks wrote The Next Four Years. He laments it but thinks in Obama's second term Democrats will think: “We live at a unique moment. Our opponents, the Republicans, are divided, confused and bleeding. This is not the time to allow them to rebuild their reputation with a series of modest accomplishments. This is the time to kick them when they are down, to win back the House and end the current version of the Republican Party."

Not surprisingly, some of the regular columnists I read took umbrage to this.

Kevin Drum, Let's Get One Thing Straight: It's Republicans Who Are Picking Fights, Not President Obama. "Politics is everywhere, and I don't doubt that Democrats would like to take advantage of Republican divisions. What party wouldn't? But look: if one party is dominated by a bunch of loons who make every political skirmish into a sign of the apocalypse, you really can't blame the other side for exposing this. What choice do they have?"

He gives the recent example of cabinet appointment fights for Susan Rice, Chuck Hagel and Jack Lew. "So what's he supposed to do? After winning reelection handily, is he supposed to agree that he won't nominate anyone to serve in his cabinet who isn't pre-approved by the most hardcore members of the opposition party? Of course not. That's crazy. Hagel and Lew are perfectly ordinary nominees, and Obama wasn't picking a fight with anyone by selecting them. He was just nominating people who agree with his policy positions. It was Republicans who insisted on turning this into a mortal insult."

"The same is true for Brooks's examples. It's Republicans who picked a fight over the debt ceiling that makes them look like wackos. It's Republicans who picked a fight over hurricane relief, earning the ire of Chris Christie and other members of their own party. (What was Obama supposed to do? Not propose any hurricane relief?) Ditto for gun regulations, where it's the NRA taking an absolutist position, not the president. Obama is plainly willing to compromise here, just as he's plainly willing to compromise over the budget. It's Republicans who aren't."

Ezra Klein, Is the Republican Party Obama’s fault?. First his own opinion, "The logic here is weirdly impeccable. The Republican Party’s dilemma is that House Republicans keeps taking all kinds of unreasonable and unpopular positions. If Obama weren’t president, the House Republicans wouldn’t be taking so many unreasonable and unpopular positions. But since Obama is president, and since he does need to work with House Republicans, he is highlighting their unreasonable and unpopular opinions in a bid to make them change their minds, which is making House Republicans look even worse. And so it’s ultimately Obama’s fault that House Republicans are, say, threatening to breach the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way on spending cuts. After all, if Mitt Romney had won the election, the debt ceiling wouldn’t even be a question!"

Then he comments on Brook's column, "So White House officials’ devious plan to destroy the Republican Party, in Brooks’s view, is that they will propose more moderate, popular policies than they did in their first term, thus making Republicans look terrible when they vote against everything."

Jonathan Chait did the best takedown, David Brooks Now Totally Pathological. He begins:

"Brooks begins by noting that the Grand Bargain on the deficit, which he has spent the last two years relentlessly touting, is not actually possible. Why is it impossible? Because, he writes, “A political class that botched the fiscal cliff so badly are not going to be capable of a gigantic deal on complex issues." Oh, the political class? That’s funny. In 2011, Obama offered an astonishingly generous budget deal to House Republicans, and Brooks argued at the time that if the GOP turned the deal down, it would prove their “fanaticism.” Naturally, they turned it down. Obama continues to offer a bargain including higher revenue through tax reform in return for lower spending on retirement programs, but Republicans refuse to consider higher taxes. So, in summary, this proves “the political class” is to blame."

He then goes through Brooks own examples of simple measures Dems could do that Republicans would like and shows why they're wrong. Education Reform? Obama passed some in 2009 and Brooks praised it. More Visas? Democrates tried last months and Republicans killed it. More natural gas drilling? It's already booming! An infrastructure bank? Republicans have called it DOA. He goes on…

"Right – Obama is the one inviting confrontations over the debt ceiling. Never mind that, before 2011, the debt ceiling was just an occasion for routine posturing, and Republicans insisted on turning it into a showdown with real, dangerous stakes. Also never mind that Obama offered to sign the plan — proposed by Mitch McConnell! — to permanently defuse the debt ceiling and let Republicans use it to posture against him rather than actually threatening a global meltdown. And never mind as well that, by refusing to cave in to extortion, Obama seems to actually be defusing the real danger to the world economy.

This is all Obama’s fault because it makes Republicans “look like whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.” Brooks displays an almost surreal lack of interest in the underlying reality that Republicans actually are whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy. It is his responsibility to conceal this reality from America."

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