Friday, March 04, 2011
Giddy At The Prospect Of Other People's Suffering
The news that Boehner may "play ball" with the White House to destroy Social security has made the Villagers' day. Here's Andrea Mitchell:
Andrea Mitchell: Washington may be closer than we thought to doing something real about the long term budget deficit. House speaker John Boehner has reportedly given President his word that he will not exploit the politically charged issue of entitlements if Obama takes the lead.
New York Magazine national political columnist John Heilman joins me.
This could be a whole new era! Entitlement reform, on the table, in this coming budget year? What are the chances?
Heilman: I think the chances are pretty good although I don't think it's going to happen the way that Speaker Boehner would like it to happen. I don't see a whole lot of pressure on the president to do what Speaker Boehner would like to do which is to say, go first. You know, we saw in the Wall Street Journal poll in the last couple of days there's not a lot of public pressure to take on these entitlement programs and to the extent there is public pressure it's coming from the Republican base.
So I think the White House taken the attitude that they are ready to address these issues, but the Republican party is the party that's going to have to go first and I think Speaker Boehner is going to have to do that if they are going to make this progress. I think he's going to feel forced to by his constituents in the Republican party who want to see this happen.
Mitchell: Of course, the alternative is that both the White House and the Speaker stand off and play a game of "after you Alphonse" and nobody does anything and we reach a critical point here.
Heilman: Well, that's certainly possible and you know look, as I say, the White House is comfortable politically with waiting.
And look, I think the truth is that I think the president actually believes that something has to happen on this and the question of sequencing is a political question. I think it's a matter of long term policy and in fact is a matter of long term politics.
It's in the interest of both the White House and the Republican Party to eventually figure out a way as they skirmish around and figure out who's going to go first and who's going to go second and who's going to have whose back. Eventually it's in all their interest to walk off this cliff together, so to speak, although that metaphor suggests that it's in no one's interest.
Heilman: I think it is in their interest to get this off the table politically. The White House would love to have deficit reduction off the table politically in 2012 because that's the only thing Republicans have to run against President Obama on.
Then they both went on to talk about how the President and the Republicans have to raise a billion dollars each at a minimum for 2012 what with all the outside groups putting in their billions too.
Mitchell was positively giddy with excitement about this. After all, despite the fact that three quarters of the American people do not want cuts in social security,"everyone" knows that it has to happen. After all, the alternative might be to raise taxes wealthy celebrities like Mitchell and Masters of the Universe and we can't have that --- they might "lose confidence" and then where would we be?
Heilman is right that the Republicans need "entitlement reform" more than Democrats. After all, it's only their base that is demanding these cuts. The Democratic base is adamantly opposed as are Independents. But logically that means that the GOP should be the one's to propose the cuts and the Democrats should beat them over the head with it. That's certainly what the Republicans would do in their place.
However, according to Heilman, the White House and the Republicans and the Tea party are really on the same side in this --- against three quarters of the people and the only thing that's being "negotiated" is who gets the blame. Apparently, the White House does have some political instincts left and know that the GOP will have no compunction about running against them in 2012 as Social Security killers, which makes Boehner's statement so surreal. After all, the Republicans have been on record against Social Security for more than sixty years so for them to "generously" offer not to run ads against the president if he does their dirty work for them is a sign that we are so far down the rabbit hole that we are likely never to climb back out.
But they did. No word on whether or not the Koch brothers and Freedomworks signed on to the same pledge. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they didn't.
And then there's the silly idea that they can "get deficit reduction off the table" so we can talk about "winning the future." It's especially ironic considering that Obama's main claim to the election in 2008 was that he wouldn't have voted for the Iraq war resolution. Remember this sage advice from Carville and Greenberg in 2002?
The debate and vote on the resolution will bring closure on the extended Iraq debate that has crowded out the country’s domestic agenda as Congress concludes. But there is substantial evidence, as we indicated at the outset, that voters are very ready to turn to domestic issues. It is important that Democrats make this turn and provide a compelling reason to vote Democratic and turn down the Republicans...
“This decision [to support or oppose an Iraq war resolution] will take place in a setting where voters, by 10 points, prefer to vote for a member who supports a resolution to authorize force (50 to 40 percent).”
Here's a little bit more background:
Democratic strategist Bob Shrum writes in his memoir to be published in June that he regrets advising Edwards to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. He said if Edwards had followed his instincts instead of the advice of political professionals, he would have been a stronger presidential candidate in 2004.
Shrum writes that Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, called his foreign policy and political advisers together in his Washington living room in the fall of 2002 to get their advice. Edwards was "skeptical, even exercised" about the idea of voting yes and his wife Elizabeth was forcefully against it, according to Shrum.
But Shrum said the consensus among the advisers was that Edwards, just four years in office, did not have the credibility to vote against the resolution and had to support it to be taken seriously on national security.
Democrats decisively lost the 2002 election and that vote for the war twisted presidential candidates up in knots ever since then. It almost certainly cost John Kerry the presidency in 2004. (I often wondered if Obama would have succumbed if he's been a senator -- after the FISA vote, I knew.)
It's fine to try to set the agenda, and Democrats should do it more often. But this method of capitulation so that they can "pivot" to what they want to talk about has never worked. For some unknown reason, the Republicans refuse to go along with it and the American people never seem to be very impressed with the strategy.
Now, I suppose the Democrats will make the case that they are not being political this time and are doing what their consciences demand regardless of whether or not it's popular. But if that's the case then we have reached a point at which our leadership is no longer responsive to their constituents or capable guardians of the economy. Unless their consciences are telling them that people should suffer needlessly, they are either venal, stupid or disingenuous because Social Security is not an immediate problem, does not contribute to the deficit and a potential loss of benefits cannot be "solved" by ensuring that loss of benefits. It simply makes no logical sense.
No, however venal, stupid or disingenuous they might be, it is obvious that this is entirely political and it's even worse than the idiotic advice to back the Iraq war resolution. At least they had the excuse that the people were more or less behind it. In this case, only a small, highly partisan, extreme right wing faction wants the government to do this thing. Why in the world would they think they'll be rewarded by anyone for doing it? Indeed, the truth is that they'll be punished by the shadowy Republican groups that will use it to make sure that nobody over 55 ever votes Democratic again --- Shadowy Republican groups that are backed by the very big money plutocrats they are trying to appease with this assault on average working people.
I hope that Heilman is wrong and that the White House is not thinking along these lines. They may win re-election simply by default, considering the GOP field. But they will almost definitely lose the Senate as well as the House and American liberalism will be an empty shell going forward. But the if the Democrats can't keep Social Security off the chopping block in the middle of an economic crisis -- with 75% of the people behind them -- then I suppose that ship has already sailed.
digby 3/04/2011 12:53:00 PM