HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Twitter:
@digby56
@DavidOAtkins

emails:
Digby:
digbysez at gmail
David:
isnospoon at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic
Common Dreams
AmericanPoliticsJournal
Smirking Chimp
CJR Daily
consortium news

Blog-o-rama

Eschaton
BagNewsNotes
Daily Kos
Political Animal
Driftglass
Firedoglake
Taylor Marsh
Spocko's Brain
Talk Left
Suburban Guerrilla
Scoobie Davis
Echidne
Electrolite
Americablog
Tom Tomorrow
Left Coaster
Angry Bear
oilprice.com
Seeing the Forest
Cathie From Canada
Frontier River Guides
Brad DeLong
The Sideshow
Liberal Oasis
BartCop
Juan Cole
Rising Hegemon
alicublog
Unqualified Offerings
Alas, A Blog
RogerAiles
Lean Left
Oliver Willis
skippy the bush kangaroo
uggabugga
Crooked Timber
discourse.net
Amygdala
the talking dog
David E's Fablog
The Agonist


Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Monday, January 28, 2013

 
The President's Tragic Flaw

by David Atkins

The New Republic has an interesting interview with President Obama out. There's not much earth-shattering in it, but this bit in particular is both maddening and instructive. For context, the conversation is about Republican obstructionism:

CH: You spoke last summer about your election potentially breaking the fever of the Republicans. The hope being that, once you were reelected, they would seek to do more than just block your presidency. Do you feel that you've made headway on that?

President Obama: Not yet, obviously.

CH: How do you imagine it happening?

President Obama: I never expected that it would happen overnight. I think it will be a process. And the Republican Party is undergoing a still-early effort at reexamining what their agenda is and what they care about. I think there is still shock on the part of some in the party that I won reelection. There's been a little bit of self-examination among some in the party, but that hasn't gone to the party as a whole yet.

And I think part of the reason that it's going to take a little bit of time is that, almost immediately after the election, we went straight to core issues around taxes and spending and size of government, which are central to how today's Republicans think about their party. Those issues are harder to find common ground on.

But if we can get through this first period and arrive at a sensible package that reduces our deficits, stabilizes our debts, and involves smart reforms to Medicare and judicious spending cuts with some increased revenues and maybe tax reform, and you can get a package together that doesn't satisfy either Democrats or Republicans entirely, but puts us on a growth trajectory because it leaves enough spending on education, research and development, and infrastructure to boost growth now, but also deals with our long-term challenges on health care costs, then you can imagine the Republicans saying to themselves, "OK, we need to get on the side of the American majority on issues like immigration. We need to make progress on rebuilding our roads and bridges."
President Obama is a man of many admirable qualities and strengths. But he has a character flaw worthy of Shakespearean tragedy that is perfectly illustrated in this little snippet. That flaw is the desire common to many tragic anti-heroes imbued with a certain narcissism, to believe that he can do what no others can--in this case, to transcend seemingly impossible political divides by bringing the two parties together to achieve bipartisan policy goals.

There are those who claim that the President is fundamentally centrist and believes in a Rockefeller Republican vision on economics. And yet there is much evidence against this notion: the Affordable Care Act, the fiscal cliff deal and the President's successful negotiation on the debt ceiling all had fairly progressive outcomes given the standards of the era and the capacities of Congress to achieve them. The President's Supreme Court choices have been excellent. True, there has been little prosecution of Wall Street villains or abnegation of certain kinds of militaristic foreign policy. Those are problematic to be sure, but not necessarily determinative of the President's vision. There are other explanations for these problems, mostly having to do with a desire not to upset too many apple carts at once during a time of turbulence and overwhelming political hostility.

Rather than second guess the President's motives, Occam's Razor suggests that we take his words at face value. His words are remarkably consistent and have been for years: he wants to bridge the partisan divide and make Washington functional again. The fact that Republicans seem absolutely committed to breaking American governance and destroying the President at all costs doesn't seem to faze him much, nor does it cause him to question their essential goodwill and allegiance to nation's fundamental well-being.

The President seems to genuinely believe that if a Grand Bargain on taxes, spending and deficits can be reached, then Republicans will be placated enough to be reasonable on other pieces of the Administration's social and economic agenda.

This vision presumes an enormous amount of good faith on the part of the Republican Party that is not in evidence. It first presumes that Republicans actually care about cutting deficits instead of simply slashing the safety net and redistributing wealth upward to the obscenely rich. The deficit-ballooning presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush alone are evidence enough to prove otherwise. The President's assumptions secondarily presume that if Republicans were to see their deficit objectives fulfilled, they would be placated enough to be reasonable when considering the President's other policy goals. That, too, requires a suspension of disbelief. The history of the Republican Party over the last few decades has shown that any giving of ground is considered not a good faith effort at quid pro quo negotiation, but rather weakness to be exploited by further demands.

Significantly, it also presumes that making concessions to Republicans on taxes, deficits and spending is worth their cooperation on other issues such as immigration. Unless Republicans were to play against type by cooperating on significant action against climate change (a highly unlikely scenario), such trades would almost certainly be counterproductive to the overall interests of the American people even if they were possible.

But it appears that despite all evidence, the President believes that political reconciliation is somehow possible, and that a chastened Republican Party will come to the table as a legitimate negotiating partner once the deficit is taken off the table as an issue. He needs, for some deep-seated reason, to believe it. Perhaps he believes that American governance is reaching a point of no return and that if he can't save it, no one can. It would be an odd belief for an African-American President dealing with an entrenched opposition based mostly in the old Confederacy. Perhaps he believes that no policy legacy would be more celebrated than the cultural legacy of having "solved" the hostility-generating issues for all time and having brought back an era of good feelings to Capitol Hill based purely on his own charisma and determination to accomplish the goal.

Who knows? But it's increasingly clear (and has been since he began running for President back in 2007) that the President is pushing for a Grand Bargain less out of a conviction that benefits must be taken from the middle class for the benefit of the wealthy, and more from a belief that only from such pain can a broken legislative system be fixed. He is bound and determined to be the man to fix it, and no amount of direct Republican hostility to him and every fiber of his being will dissuade him.

The President's tragic flaw is ultimately a function of misplaced idealism. The problem with Washington isn't that Republicans and Democrats can't get along. The problem is that the entire Republican Party and far too large a section of the Democratic Party has been utterly captured by corporate and plutocratic interests. Worse still, a majority of the Republican Party has been taken over not just by run-of-the-mill plutocrats, but by rabid Objectivists not just corrupted by wealth, but enraptured by an intense, pseudo-religious allergy to empathy and the common good. Cooperation between the parties in this climate isn't something to be wished for. It's devoutly to be avoided.

The President is right about one thing: legislative accomplishments worthy of a legacy etched into Mount Rushmore are utterly impossible in the current political climate. But changing that equation depends not on bringing the two sides together, but rather on serious reform of the legislative system that helps cleanse both parties of what ails them. If President Obama wanted a legacy worthy of his considerable ambition, he would spend more time pushing for filibuster reform than for Grand Bargains, and more time weeding money out of politics than defusing partisanship.

But it will be difficult to convince him otherwise. Like many a Shakesperean tragic hero, his own misplaced idealism and overweening confidence in his own personal charisma will likely deny him the legacy of success he so deeply craves. Fortunately, it is only the beginning of his second term, and the curtain has barely risen on Act III. There is still time to adjust course and change the fate of this Presidency before the tragedy is etched irrevocably into the history books.


.

Search Digby!