Great minds

As you know, I get enough of my ideas from Kevin Drum.  It’s kind of cool, though, when we independently reach the same conclusions.  He posted this on Ignatius’ column in the wee hours of the east coast morning:

A “firm presidential statement”? Seriously? Where do people come up with this stuff? Obama has made dozens of firm presidential statements, and it’s had precisely zero effect. Republicans couldn’t care less about his firm presidential statements.

Roger that.


Obama just needs to give a speech!

Or so the answer seems if you write Opinion for the Post.  David Ignatius starts out with the standard “they’re both wrong!” approach”

I’m no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis. As I’ve written often, he needs to provide the presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.

Hmmm, last I checked, that was pretty much what Obama had proposed.  But he’s not gripping the wheel firmly enough?  To Ignatius’ credit, we do get this:

Much as I would criticize Obama, it’s wrong to say that both sides are equally to blame for what’s about to hit us. This isn’t a one-off case of Republicans using Obama’s sequestration legislation to force reckless budget cuts. It’s a pattern of behavior: First the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling; then they were careening toward the “fiscal cliff.” This isn’t a legislative tactic anymore; it’s an addiction.

I kept reading, hoping that Ignatius would give us the magic answer of what Obama needs to do to firmly take the steering wheel and drive the country where we need to go.  The answer?

The House Republicans are still grabbing for the wheel, and the car is rumbling toward trouble.

Obama tries everything to gain control — except a clear, firm presidential statement that speaks to everyone onboard, those who voted for him and those who didn’t — that could get the country where it needs to go.

Are you serious??  This could all be resolved if only Obama made a “firm statement”?  What planet is Ignatius living on?  Does he understand anything about how government works.  It is absolutely amazing to me at what passes for punditry these days.  Oh, and Edwards might want to try reading Ezra Klein’s great New Yorker piece about the pervasive ineffectiveness of presidential speeches.

Video of the day

So, I missed the James Bond 50th anniversary montage at the Oscars because… I missed the Oscars.  Because, I hardly see enough movies to make it worth it anymore.  And Seth McFarlane– seriously?  Anyway, Slate’s Alex Heimbach points out that this montage is far superior to what ran at the Oscars.  I’m not going to bother with that one, but for Bond fans, this is definitely good stuff:

Photo of the day

Loved this In Focus collection of photos from 1963.  Apparently the world was quite black and white then.  Love this great Civil Rights image I had never seen before:

Mrs. Gloria Richardson, head of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, pushes a National Guardsman’s bayonet aside as she moves among a crowd of African Americans to convince them to disperse, in Cambridge, Maryland, on July 21, 1963. (AP Photo)

Knee-jerk bipartisan-think

I read this “pox on both their houses” Post editorial on the sequester yesterday and just thought, how utterly predictable and ridiculous.   Yglesias [emphases in original]:

Today’s lead editorial from the Washington Post is a great example of the modalities of BipartisanThink in action. They say that in the debate about how to replace sequestration, Obama has the correct position and his opponents have the incorrect position so the real issue here is that Obama is failing by failing to talk about his correct position in the manner

Fred Hiatt prefers [emphasis added]:

In the petty arguments over this self-inflicted wound, there are merits, or demerits, on both sides. The Republicans are right when they say that the sequester was Mr. Obama’s idea, in the summer of 2011, and that he agreed to a deal that was all spending cuts, no tax hikes. He is correct that he hoped the sequester would never go into effect but would be replaced by a 10-year bargain that would raise revenue and slow the growth of entitlement costs. He is correct, too, on the larger point: Such a deal is what’s needed, and the Republicans are wrong to resist further revenue hikes.

But if that’s what’s needed, why is Mr. Obama not leading the way to a solution? From the start, and increasingly in his second term, Mr. Obama has presented entitlement reform as something he would do grudgingly, as a favor to the opposition, when he should be explaining to the American people — and to his party — why it is an urgent national need. Obama priorities such as health and energy research, preschool education and job training: Those come from the discretionary budget.

See, this is the genius of BipartisanThink. Either the parties agree and everyone can cheer and everything’s good, or else the parties don’t agree in which case one party is wrongly taking the wrong side of the argument and the other party is wrongly failing to lead the other party to the true path. Equipoise preserved.

In a similar vein, Chait takes down columns by Bob Woodward and Ron Fournier blaming Obama:

Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ‘Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.” Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. [emphasis mine]  David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.

Now, there’s certainly some smart editorial writers and Op-Ed columnists out there, but the knee-jerk bipartisanism of so many centrist/establishment is just truly, amazingly intellectually vapid. Jedi mind tricks, indeed.

The Republican Party at Thanksgiving dinner

Great post by Michael Tomasky on the problems with today’s Republican Party.  Short version: it’ s the issue positions, it’s the irrational anger/hatred towards “others.”  Love this metaphor:

 But they’ve [moderate Republican columnists like Brooks and Douthat] been participants to varying degrees in these recent conversations I’m talking about, and frankly, they are wasting their own and their readers’ time. They’re like a family in deep denial at the Thanksgiving table. Guys, debating the best way to cook brussels sprouts is of marginal utility. Whether Cousin Ruthie wears her hair this way or that way is not worth dwelling on. The overwhelming fact at hand is that Uncle Ralph is drunk again, and he’s being a belligerent racist homophobic ass again, and he is preventing any civility and progress from taking place, and it’s been this way for four Thanksgivings in a row, and you are intentionally choosing to say nothing about it.

I do not understand how they can watch this and let it happen—to their party!—without saying anything. This past week, we have had four Republican senators—Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Rand Paul—in essence demand that a cabinet nominee, Chuck Hagel, disprove rumors against him. It’s one thing for Breitbart bloggers to do that. But senators? Using tactics that are straightforward McCarthyism? If one of the above named or some other prominent conservative pundit criticized that quartet, then good for them. But I sure didn’t see it, and I think I would have…

We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network. They drive this hatred daily, and they intentionally misinform and lie; you think it’s an accident that polls always find Fox viewers the least connected to empirical reality? Pushing this fury and constructing this alternate reality is great for business. But it’s horrible for America…

This is the poison in our politics. Nothing changes until it changes. Somebody has to initiate it, and the people I named are the only people who can. Of conservative thinkers—and I apologize to him in advance for naming him, because I’m sure praise from me in this context will make him wince—only David Frum has addressed this problem. His 2011 New York magazine essay “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” said it well. He understands that this problem is one of the central facts of our current historical moment.

Photo of the day

Well here’s a cool concept, photos of government bureaucrats at work around the world.  Couldn’t resist this one from Yemen:

The Face of Bureaucracy: Portraits of Civil Servants Around the World bureaucracy 8

Yemen, bureaucracy, 2006. Yemen-35/2006 [AIM., AAN (b. 1982)]. Alham Abdulwaze Nuzeli (b. 1982) works at the regional office of the Ministry of Tithing and Alms in the city of Al-Mahwit, Al-Mahwit governorate. Monthly salary: 12,000 rial (US$ 67, euro 46).Behind her a portrait of president Saleh of Yemen. (Jan Banning)

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