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Thursday, September 01, 2011

What Markos Said
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Markos over at dkos hits the nail right on the head over the speech scheduling stupidity:

Obama has two options:

1) Immediately say, "That's cool, we'll do it another day." The date, again, is inconsequential. Why get in a fight over this?

2) Go on the offensive. Make the argument that Obama chose the day because it was the first day Congress was back in session. What's more important to the American people than jobs? And anyway, the White House ran it by Boehner and he had no objections, so why is he freaking out now?

Either one would've been fine. But instead, we got a crazy hybrid—the White House initially went on the offensive, called Boehner a liar, started working reporters on a pushback campaign, and then, suddenly, collapsed to Boehner.

It was the worst of all worlds. Rather than look accommodating or strong, the White House came off looking indecisive and weak. All over the biggest non-story of the month. It was a great way to cap off a dismal August...

Obama's fiercest defenders rushed to rationalize yesterday's mess. "He looks like the grownup in the room!" Maybe. But no one gives a shit. Look at the numbers above. "Boehner came off looking childish!" Maybe, but so what? He's not running for national office. "Who cares, this doesn't matter!" Yup, it doesn't matter, other than the fact that we have a whole new slew of headlines making Obama look weak...

Bottom line, if Obama's approach to governing was proving popular, then there'd be little fault. If triangulating against liberals bolstered his numbers with independents, then that'd be cool! Heck, if slapping my first-born in the face bumped his numbers up with independents, I'd tolerate it. But it's not. His current approach isn't working. Capitulating to the GOP on matters big (and small) only reinforce the notion that he's weak. No one cares that he's the "grownup" in the room. No one cares that he's "reasonable" or "compromising" or "serious."

I disagree with Markos on the notion that bolstering Obama's numbers among independents is necessarily terribly important right now. Independents shift with the political winds, and improving poll numbers among malleable voters 15 months before the election is sort of pointless. To say nothing of the fact that the whole point of politics isn't to win elections, but to drive public policy in a particular direction. And, of course, many will take offense with Markos' characterization of the necessity of electing Obama and the silliness of encouraging a primary challenge--though I think Markos is right on both those counts.

But Markos' key critique of the Administration is well-taken. First, everything they do is almost designed to make them look craven and weak. Being accommodating is one thing; being constantly humiliated like Charlie Brown kicking a football is quite another.

And it's not even working to attract independents. It's terrible politics, in addition to being terrible policy.

Keep in mind that these are some of the top political professionals in the entire United States advising the Administration on these maneuvers. Which means that either they're utterly incompetent idiots as Digby and I have repeatedly argued, or they're paid-off corrupted tools of a grand global elitist conspiracy. Personally, I find the latter idea preposterous hogwash, a comforting opium for the sorts of people who want to believe that there are no solutions, or that the solutions are as as easy as grabbing pitchforks and guillotines and letting blood run in the streets. Yes, there's rampant criminality--in Wall Street's case, even an entire culture of criminality. And those criminals should be held to account. But that doesn't mean that the entire governmental and financial apparatus--or even most of it--is run either by elite criminals or their paid-off lackeys. It just doesn't work that way, as anyone who has actually dealt with the individual policy makers in question knows.

But there are a growing number of people in this country who incline to the sorts of Bircher fantasies espoused by the likes of Glenn Beck on the right, to the Alex Jones/Jesse Ventura brand of "both sides do it" crazy, and to various lefty conspiracy mongers as well.

And it's no surprise. It's just really hard--and frankly terrifying--for a lot of people to believe that we're really governed by selfish, short-sighted, incompetent morons. That our lives are really and truly dominated by idiots who set their eyes on a shiny object like next quarter's profit statements, or moving the polling dial with white female independents aged 35-65 by five points, or some other stupidity, so much that they miss the big picture, and then grab as much of the loot as possible and make the best of the situation after everything smashes to bits. That's understandable. But if policy makers want to limit the growing number of conspiracy mavens out there, it might be advisable for them to try putting competent people in charge for a change. Otherwise, they'll get the paranoid public attitudes toward them that they deserve.