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August 16, 2012 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Obama’s stimulus has been an astonishing, and unrecognized, success, details Michael Grunwald in Slate.

Or as Biden would say -
posted by growabrain (82 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nothing at all?
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:40 AM on August 16, 2012


Or as Biden would say - grow a brain.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Literally, folks.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2012


I've heard differently, so this can't be true.
posted by Aquaman at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


He said: It's a big fucking deal
posted by growabrain at 8:44 AM on August 16, 2012


I am not a millionaire yet so this cannot be true.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:44 AM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era (2012) by Michael Grunwald
posted by stbalbach at 8:54 AM on August 16, 2012


Stimulus was a good and necessary thing, but I don't think it's unreasonable to have higher expectations of what was supposed to be a transformative presidency.
1. Too small by half, which the author admits.
2. Too much of the existing stimulus was in the form of tax cuts, which dollar-for-dollar does not even come close to approaching the efficacy of government spending on economic recovery. This is something that should be obvious to anyone who has passed middle school math. A total waste of resources and a capitulation to republicans. See below.
3. The "60 votes" thing is a total straw man. This could have been done with reconciliation. He needed to scratch his bipartisanship fetish, which is why the stimulus was too small by half.
4. Crappy messaging. Obama needed to appear centrist and bipartisan, so the messaging was centrist and bipartisan. Which means it was confusing and dumbed down, and it downplayed the project's actual successes. Its chances against the fox news/GOP wurlitzer were predictable.

So, yes, better than nothing and worse than what should have been. What makes this frustrating is that he could have done better and deliberately chose not to. It is the hallmark of the cautious, pragmatic presidency that was not part of the bill of sale in '08.
posted by moammargaret at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2012 [33 favorites]


I guess since there's still 8.4% U3 unemployment, U6 is creeping back up in the 15.0 range, unemployment is 25% for new graduates, something like 45% of critical infastructure is rated as deficient by the Army Corps of Engineers, US borrowing costs are literally negative after factoring in inflation, and given this new evidnece that the stimulus was an overwhelming sucess, Congress must be rushing around as we speak, preparing a new stimulus bill that's three, maybe four to five times as big.

Right?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:59 AM on August 16, 2012 [28 favorites]


He needed to scratch his bipartisanship fetish

I think the continual quest for bipartisanship is part of what we were all expecting when we framed this as a 'transformative presidency' four years ago.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:07 AM on August 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


Please, sir, I want some more.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The "60 votes" thing is a total straw man. This could have been done with reconciliation.

I don't think it was eligible for reconciliation. It's not a "get out of Congress free" pass that can be used on any bill. There's a number of restrictions, not the least of which it has to be specified as a budget (and has to be done so before coming to a vote) rather than a generic spending bill.

He needed to scratch his bipartisanship fetish

Obama needed to appear centrist and bipartisan, so the messaging was centrist and bipartisan. Which means it was confusing and dumbed down, and it downplayed the project's actual successes. Its chances against the fox news/GOP wurlitzer were predictable.


It was passed less than a month after he took office. I don't think that they (or most of us) knew how crazy the GOP was going to be at that point.

On review, pretty much what shakespeherian said.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2012 [11 favorites]



I think the continual quest for bipartisanship is part of what we were all expecting when we framed this as a 'transformative presidency' four years ago.


If by all you mean everyone except me, sure. I wanted him to smash the Cheney bullshit and ram their mistakes down the collective Republican throat.
posted by spicynuts at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I think the continual quest for bipartisanship is part of what we were all expecting when we framed this as a 'transformative presidency' four years ago."

Speak for yourself, I was hoping that *this* would be the campaign promise that he'd break, and that he'd cruelly and methodically crush the republicans. If he loses in November, it'll be his own fault. The republicans used their tiny bit of leverage in congress to make him look like a loser, and nobody wants to vote for a loser.
posted by mullingitover at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2012


Read the article, but not the book. The article mentions the fruits of biomedical research stimulated by the Recovery Act. They will not be obvious for 5 to 10 years. But note this quote from the interview:
The stimulus is also pouring $1 billion into desperately needed “comparative effectiveness research” that will help doctors and patients learn what kind of treatments actually work.
What a novel idea! Let's actually do research to see if all these expensive biomedical products do what they purport to do.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:16 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Speak for yourself, I was hoping that *this* would be the campaign promise that he'd break, and that he'd cruelly and methodically crush the republicans.

Well I mean that's all well and good but I wasn't the only person who responded well to the 'no red states and no blue states but United States' thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:18 AM on August 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Let's actually do research

It's basically impossible for the federal government to do any type of meaningful testing. Basic tools such as randomized controlled trials are off limits due to a maddening set of restrictions ranging from the APA to the PRA (paperwork reduction act, ugh). I could write a whole series of internets worth of why and how this came to be, but it sucks and it needs to change.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's basically impossible for the federal government to do any type of meaningful testing. Basic tools such as randomized controlled trials are off limits due to a maddening set of restrictions ranging from the APA to the PRA (paperwork reduction act, ugh). I could write a whole series of internets worth of why and how this came to be, but it sucks and it needs to change.

I would read those internets.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:22 AM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's tragic that Obama is getting blamed for not doing enough for jobs and the economy considering his efforts were hobbled at every turn by his Republican adversaries. It's even more tragic that people who would otherwise vote for him are swallowing his adversaries' narrative, hook line and sinker.
posted by crunchland at 9:23 AM on August 16, 2012 [59 favorites]


allen.spaulding: " I could write a whole series of internets worth of why and how this came to be, but it sucks and it needs to change."

Wanna read dem rants.
posted by boo_radley at 9:23 AM on August 16, 2012


Well I mean that's all well and good but I wasn't the only person who responded well to the 'no red states and no blue states but United States' thing.

Yeah, I guess I've always wondered whether liberals were just projecting their own opinions on to Obama, or if they simply forgot that he ran as 'transformatively aisle-crossing' as a specific tactic against Hillary Clinton, who was portrayed as aggressively partisan and straight-up hated by conservatives.
posted by muddgirl at 9:24 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


allen.spaulding I have to nth that request.

If you don't have time to explain it in more detail, can you point us to a good place to start?
posted by Tevin at 9:25 AM on August 16, 2012


The power of the filibuster isn't "tiny" by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:26 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


The power of the filibuster isn't "tiny" by any stretch of the imagination.

True, but it's not like we forced the Republicans to actually filibuster at any point. BUT, that's Harry Reid's bag of neuroses/politics, not Obama's. Unless the president secretly asked Reid to always back down before a filibuster happened.
posted by muddgirl at 9:29 AM on August 16, 2012


When I leave my job I'll be more free to talk about it. But there's a basic left-right convergence on bad government.

See the left really likes things like transparency and accountability and fairness. Which is nice, have a gold star. So they build in all this bureaucracy (also too many people on the left have law degrees and thing MOAR RULES is often the outcome of process-oriented people).

So we make sure government has to publicly post an order every time it wants to buy a box of kleenexes. And then we need a fair bidding process. And then we need an appeals process and a formal review to make sure it was fair. And then we need to make sure that every time someone blows their nose it's recorded. And if we want to ask people if they want a kleenex, that's fine, but if we want to ask more than 9 people if they want a kleenex, then we need the approval of a separate government agency that needs at least 90 days of notice and dozens of forms to be filled out (and to get approval you need to promise Cass Sunstein some ancient prima nocta rights over your firstborn law review article).

And as the left is burdening government, the right is sitting back and grinning. Sure, transparency is great, hell, why only allow a 60 day review period. Let's make it 90! When you don't want government to work, more burdens are great.

And in a nutshell, that's why we never test to see if rules actually work, let alone do anything sophisticated like an A/B test with constant tinkering and updates. Capital One and Google run thousands of live trials a year to fine tune their products. Most government agencies run zero.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:32 AM on August 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


*and thus MOAR RULES
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:33 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Literally, folks.

Oh, Bidenisms. Ladies and gentlemen, don't get me started on Bidenisms. During (and before, and after) Campaign 2008 I worked at a certain cable network which carries political rallies from first speaker to last handshake (and often before, and after). As the inspiration for Biden Bingo alone, I regard the man as a national treasure worthy of an LBJ-Library style animatronic.

One mid-October evening during an especially long-winded speech at an especially bland event we decided to keep a running tally of them, which quickly evolved into something like the Kentucky Derby. The contestants: "Folks," "Ladies and Gentlemen" (typically slurred into something like "lays and gen'le"), "Look," "Literally," "God Love Him/Her," mentions of Scranton, and mentions of his mother. Honorary contestant: a shrieked "get up," a catchphrase supplied by the campaign and always accompanied by pistoning arms.

Folks leaped out in front to an early lead, given the number of folks present; but Ladies and Gentlemen had an initially strong showing---they were, it emerged, the tortoise to the folks hare. The crowd was exhorted to "look" precious little (Obama is usually Captain "Look") and remarkably few non-literal things were "literally" to Joe. Scranton and Mom spiked around the middle of the speech and again toward the end when his voice would become sincere whispery Biden. Only twice was God asked to love then-candidate McCain. "Get Up!" was a novelty and the count was not recorded.

The final tally from his 40-minute speech: Ladies and Gentlemen by a nose at 38, with Folks a strong second at 34. Look got a respectable 9, tying Mom; Literally got 5, Scranton 4, and God Love Him/Her 2. For some reason I still carry around the index card with this count in my wallet.

It didn't take long for us to discover that you could actually form a coherent -- coherent by Biden standards -- sentence from these: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Folks, Look: my Mother, God Love Her, back in Scranton, literally used to say 'GET UP!'" We always listened for the closest approximation of this and if it ever occurred were going to try to work it into a promo. But it didn't; we have only our sublunary Joe, an imperfect reflection of the Ideal.
posted by MimeticHaHa at 9:41 AM on August 16, 2012 [55 favorites]


It is the hallmark of the cautious, pragmatic presidency that was not part of the bill of sale in '08.

I'm sure you will get favored out the wazoo, but as mentioned I remember a guy who talked about not-blue-not-red states, who favored civil unions but not gay marriage and who promised to continue the war in Afghanistan. Who is this liberal-dream-bizarro-world Obama running in 08 and where can I find out more about him?
posted by dig_duggler at 9:46 AM on August 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


True, but it's not like we forced the Republicans to actually filibuster at any point. BUT, that's Harry Reid's bag of neuroses/politics, not Obama's.

It's not anyone's neuroses. "Classic" filibusters disappeared in the 70s when the multiple-track system went into place.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


It was passed less than a month after he took office. I don't think that they (or most of us) knew how crazy the GOP was going to be at that point.

I had a sense that they were going to be complete assholes, but was hoping against hope they wouldn't go that far.

MimeticHaHa, I don't understand. It seems to me that you could do that with nearly any politician. It doesn't seem exclusively Bidenesque. (And not saying literally when not talking about literal things seems like a good thing.)
posted by JHarris at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2012


The real price tag for stimulus: Between $1 trillion and $1.7 trillion
posted by zombieflanders at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2012


Lord knows there's more than enough to complain about these days. But if you're still looking for that magic piece of information that will finally tip your voting decision between these two presidential candidates who are both so obviously qualified to run a democratic country, then you've been living in a cave. Jesus.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:51 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a sense that they were going to be complete assholes, but was hoping against hope they wouldn't go that far.

I was thinking it would be like Clinton, i.e. less outright gumming up the works and more oddball conspiracy bills. Instead we got both (with Lieberman, Nelson, et al happy to play along). After all, he had most of Clinton's team and was himself a centrist Democrat.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:53 AM on August 16, 2012


It's tragic that Obama is getting blamed for not doing enough for jobs and the economy considering his efforts were hobbled at every turn by his Republican adversaries.

You're right. Maybe we should save some of that blame for Democrats who didn't do enough to hobble President Bush at every turn when he was trashing the economy and starting unnecessary wars.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:56 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


dudebro is trying to have it both ways (and, man is this dude a bro.) as macroeconomic stimulus the picture is pretty stark: Obama's stimulus just managed to balance out the contraction of spending at the state and local level. with the continued depressed economy and the completely misguided pivot to deficit reduction the picture now is that government spending is contracting while the economy continues at a much lower level than it ought to be.

but, dudebro is saying: "look at these awesome alt-energy programs." but then, there's no comparison between what is happening in, say, Germany wrt wind and solar and what is happening in the US. Sure, things are better than before, but before was disastrously low. as an alternative energy bootstrapping program, obama's stimulus is just as inadequate as it is in macroeconomic terms. and don't get me started on how awesome "Race to the Top!" is.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


RonButNotStupid: You're right. Maybe we should save some of that blame for Democrats who didn't do enough to hobble President Bush at every turn when he was trashing the economy and starting unnecessary wars.

I'd rather not have the two halves of the government at eternal war with one another, so I'd much rather blame the ones engaging in pointless obstructionism.

That being said, as long as they're doing it, we also need to, but that's not a good thing and it wasn't so obvious back then how much the right was operating in bad faith.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're right. Maybe we should save some of that blame for Democrats who didn't do enough to hobble President Bush at every turn when he was trashing the economy and starting unnecessary wars.

I know! You'd expect them to find some way to get around those Republican majorities in both houses in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Stupid fucking Democrats!
posted by Talez at 10:06 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." -- Mitch McConnell, October 23, 2010.
posted by crunchland at 10:19 AM on August 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's tragic that Obama is getting blamed for not doing enough for jobs and the economy considering his efforts were hobbled at every turn by his Republican adversaries.

Not only is that not an accident, it's the main plank of the Republican strategy. As encapsulated by the McConnell link by crunchland above.
posted by Rykey at 10:31 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know! You'd expect them to find some way to get around those Republican majorities in both houses in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Stupid fucking Democrats!

I can't quite tell if you're being sarcastic, but the Senate in the 108th Congress was evenly divided, and was split 45-55 in the 109th Congress. Like the Senate after the election of Scott Brown in January of 2010, neither one had a fillibuster-proof majority, and as Republicans have shown, that's more than enough leverage to completely bring the majority's agenda to a screeching halt.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:33 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know! You'd expect them to find some way to get around those Republican majorities in both houses in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Stupid fucking Democrats!

The senate Dems could have filibustered. But they backed down over and over. Remember the "nuclear option"?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:34 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the continual quest for bipartisanship is part of what we were all expecting when we framed this as a 'transformative presidency' four years ago.

I was expecting an effort, at least as strategy to be able to say, "I tried," but if I invite my new neighbor to a softball game and s/he shows up, accuses me of being Satan Jr., and starts hitting me with a bat, I'm picking up my Louisville Slugger.
posted by ambient2 at 10:36 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The assertion that somehow nobody could have predicted that the Republicans would be hostile to Obama has got to be the most incredible act of naivete in political history. I do hope that nobody who had Obama's ear in 2008 was telling him such things.
posted by moammargaret at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"...(and to get approval you need to promise Cass Sunstein some ancient prima nocta rights over your firstborn law review article)."
This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.
posted by wintermind at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2012


If you liked that one, wait until Cass publishes a survey of the literature about that joke, mostly citing the six pieces he wrote about it between now and when I posted it.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


...but if we want to ask more than 9 people if they want a kleenex, then we need the approval of a separate government agency that needs at least 90 days of notice and dozens of forms to be filled out (and to get approval you need to promise Cass Sunstein some ancient prima nocta rights over your firstborn law review article).

No joke, this may be the number one problem that brings down the massively funded National Children's Study into a pile of rubble.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2012


See the left really likes things like transparency and accountability and fairness. Which is nice, have a gold star. So they build in all this bureaucracy (also too many people on the left have law degrees and thus MOAR RULES is often the outcome of process-oriented people).

It's too bad there aren't more results oriented engineering types in the mix putting together government regulations/programs. The Democrats actually believe in government thus they really need to do everything possible to make it work well. There was a time when the best and brightest worked for the government not just Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:15 AM on August 16, 2012


So does this mean we can forget about the shredding of the constitution, shadow wars and drone killings?

I don't think either will be forgotten, and history shows. The New Deal didn't erase the cruelty of Japanese-American Internment.
posted by FJT at 11:16 AM on August 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


So does this mean we can forget about the shredding of the constitution, shadow wars and drone killings?

So I assume you have a viable electoral and political alternative, right?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:17 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So does this mean we can forget about the shredding of the constitution, shadow wars and drone killings?

No. That's what America is now.
posted by pompomtom at 11:23 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought it didn't matter who I voted for in 2000. Boy was I wrong.....
posted by dig_duggler at 11:24 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, you were right. Unless you're a member of the Supreme Court slumming on Metafilter in the middle of the afternoon.
posted by Naberius at 11:37 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't quite tell if you're being sarcastic, but the Senate in the 108th Congress was evenly divided, and was split 45-55 in the 109th Congress. Like the Senate after the election of Scott Brown in January of 2010, neither one had a fillibuster-proof majority, and as Republicans have shown, that's more than enough leverage to completely bring the majority's agenda to a screeching halt.

The VP would cast the deciding vote in the 108th. It was Republican control.

I'm also making the naive assumption that they would have operated fairly within the spirit of the process rather than fight dirty using technical procedure to be obstructionist. But it doesn't really matter in the end because things like the Iraq war resolution passed 77-23.
posted by Talez at 11:42 AM on August 16, 2012


In 2009 I was the poorest I'd ever been and I was choosing between buying groceries or paying rent. Ultimately, I choose groceries and moved back in with my Dad -- his house is falling apart and the spare bedrooms have been given over to mice and mold so I was sleeping on a mattress in the living room with no privacy.

Three weeks after I moved, I was offered a job that was funded by the Recovery Act. My job was to be a career coach for disadvantaged youth who were also given summer job opportunities thanks to ARRA. The infrastructure was already there thanks to the older Workforce Investment Act and we were just doing this mad expansion of an already proven program. The reporting was onerous and we took it very seriously.

I helped a youth aging out of foster care buy food to make it until college started up. I took a political refugee youth to his college orientation. I helped kids with minor criminal backgrounds get a fair shake on their first job. I helped kids with PTSD from asylum families. I helped a girl experiencing domestic violence go back to high school. I helped a youth get an internship that I myself had applied to before ARRA. And, oh yeah, we helped hundreds of kids get their first jobs and many of them proved their work so valuable that they were hired on full time after the Federal help had ended.

The infrastructure for straight up turning money into valuable jobs exists. WIA, 501c3, green job investment, AmeriCorps, teaching incentives. We can do it if we have the political will. Goodness knows there is enough work that needs to be done and enough people who want to do it.
posted by Skwirl at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2012 [45 favorites]


Anyone who expected Mr. Obama to be some sort of leftist firebrand was reading the bumper sticker and not the fine print. I was reading the fine print and voted for him gleefully nonetheless. And I have not been disappointed. He has been an exceptional President, which is all that he promised to be. He has not been a GREAT President, which is what we actually needed. But he has delivered what he promised. Everything he promised. He deserves another term. Go out and vote.
posted by NedKoppel at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Speak for yourself, I was hoping that *this* would be the campaign promise that he'd break, and that he'd cruelly and methodically crush the republicans.

YEAH!

wait. how exactly does one do that? do you know how our government works? i've never seen either side do that to the other. have you?
posted by Avenger50 at 12:49 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes.
posted by moammargaret at 12:56 PM on August 16, 2012


Ira Glass:
Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? What a bunch of incompetents the Dems seem like. Most people don’t even understand the health care policy they passed, much less like it. Ditto the financial reform. Or the stimulus. Some of the basic tasks of politics — like choosing and crafting a message — they just seem uninterested in.

I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting? Kurt Eichenwald! Mark Bowden! John Heilemann and Mark Halperin! I’ll pre-order today.
posted by moammargaret at 1:23 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


it wasn't so obvious back then how much the right was operating in bad faith.

Dude, come on. This has been obvious since the Clinton impeachment, if not before.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:37 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obama gets his own Swift Boat attack ad (video)
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on August 16, 2012


The words "ignorant fucking moron" come to mind.
posted by GrooveJedi at 1:53 PM on August 16, 2012


Michael Grunwald is doing an AMA on Friday.
posted by Jpfed at 1:54 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts?

It's because Democrats have been and always will be far less cohesive in terms of party unity. There's a reason everybody quotes Will Rogers' quote about not being "part of an organized political party, I'm a Democrat." It's because it's true. Some are defense hawks, like Lieberman. Some live in areas with many Democrats but lots of dirty energy jobs, like Landrieu or Manchin. Some are . Apart from those that are essentially DINOs (*cough* Ben Nelson *cough*) they'll vote with their party at least some of the time, maybe even most of the time, but on big bills they'll make a big stink because being the deciding vote gives them power and an ego trip.

Republican lawmakers and presidents just don't have this problem, because the party itself doesn't have this problem. Collins and Snowe occasionally switch, but even they vote with their party way more than the center-right Democrats, and they're both gone within a couple years.

Dude, come on. This has been obvious since the Clinton impeachment, if not before.

Again, it really wasn't this level of crazy. Ask anyone who was working in politics then, or take a look at the use of the filibuster. It truly is an unprecedented amount of obstruction.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:54 PM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Obama gets his own Swift Boat attack ad (video)

Quote from the article by a representative of the SEAL-boat group:
"We have become a political weapon. We are not."
Yes. Yes, you are.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:00 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have lived and worked in Washington DC since 1995 in a politically-related field, and I know many, many people currently involved in politics, and I will say again it was obvious since the impeachment, if not since the 1994 Federal government shutdown that the GOP is only interesting in blocking Democratic policies and promoting their own. They do not want to negotiate and they haven't hidden that fact in years.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:01 PM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I will say again it was obvious since the impeachment, if not since the 1994 Federal government shutdown that the GOP is only interesting in blocking Democratic policies and promoting their own.

Well, no, it's been that way since they were the two biggest parties. That's kind of how they define each other.

They do not want to negotiate and they haven't hidden that fact in years.

They may not have wanted to, but the numbers show that they did, even in the Clinton years.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:06 PM on August 16, 2012


...they'll vote with their party at least some of the time, maybe even most of the time, but on big bills they'll make a big stink because being the deciding vote gives them power and an ego trip.

My impression is that these folks come from what would otherwise be Republican areas, but for some reason (presumably because they feel more closely aligned with the principles Democrats espouse) they want to be Democrats. Their contrary votes tend to be those that would cost them re-election in their districts or states. If they hold out for something that makes them look like a hero in the eyes of their constituents, they increase their re-election chances. Ben Nelson may be, at least in part, a representative example of that phenomenon. Not quite sure why Lieberman is such a Blue Dog, though. He's from Connecticut, after all.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:06 PM on August 16, 2012


Not quite sure why Lieberman is such a Blue Dog, though. He's from Connecticut, after all.

In a lot of ways, he's not. For instance, he's fairly strong if not reliable on votes for GLBT issues, labor rights, reproductive choice, and gun control. But he's deep in the pockets of the financial and entertainment industries, and IIRC a lot of health insurers have offices in CT. Of course, he's also extremely hawkish on foreign policy, though I can't tell if that's a personal thing or the defense industry (especially the Navy and their contractors) that are his constituents. It's definitely personal--if not a little misguided--when it comes to Israel and/or the Middle East, though.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:20 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lieberman is lovingly known as The Senator from Allstate around these parts.
posted by spitbull at 3:56 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


allen.spaulding, I briefly met Cass when I worked on the Hill because my boss was involved in some legislation on regulatory reform. I appreciate your remarks in a way that only someone who's read the APA can.
posted by wintermind at 4:30 PM on August 16, 2012


Thanks wintermind. I know Cass and genuinely respect him as both a former student and someone who has had my fair share of disagreements with him. He's the kind of person who you can disagree with and respect more for it. He came for a visit at my new job and we got into some old debates immediately. This time it's about the value of disclosures.

There's a lot of inconsistency with his thinking there here so it's pretty easy to find fault. Specifically I think he generally subscribes to a model of rational behavior that's just behavioralism-lite - he spent too much time in Chicago. (Cass: people are actually rational save for one or two predictable heuristics which we can model and therefore preserve rational economic behavior and neo-classical economics. Me: People are not rational, it's time to jettison Chicago-school thinking. Focusing energy on disclosures just blames the poor for being poor because they failed to read the fine print written by lawyers and accepted bad terms for bad products. Instead of improving disclosures lets make products safe. Cass: You skipped class a lot and I'm married to Samantha Power).

But he's a great guy. Seriously I mean that. He is a genuinely smart and descent person with good values who may sometimes end up on the other side of a political debate but he's the kind of opponent you dream of. He was next in line for SCOTUS after Kagan, but I think things may have changed. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing and am not really rational. Which makes sense for me, but not him.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:07 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? What a bunch of incompetents the Dems seem like. Most people don’t even understand the health care policy they passed, much less like it. Ditto the financial reform. Or the stimulus.
How many Democrat members of Congress or the Senate have been individually affected by the stimulus program? How many have been affected by healthcare reform or changes in public education?

Tax cuts and financial de-regulation? Now there's something both Democrat and Republican politicians understand on a deeply personal level.
posted by fullerine at 1:37 AM on August 17, 2012


Interesting article, thank you.

The Republican message was much simpler: No.

Republicans were also maniacally disciplined about repeating that message. During the stimulus debate, Democrats used most of their airtime quibbling with Obama’s specifics, which helped confirm the GOP message that the stimulus was a porky big-government mess. And once it passed, Obama and the Democrats moved on to other business, like health care, financial reform, and so on. The Republicans never moved on. Their message—big spending, big government, big mess—never changed.


I think that this simple point cuts right to the heart of political messaging in a way that Lakoff et. al. tend to overcomplicate. Having one, unified message, that is simple and that is repeated everywhere for long enough for people to absorb it, can carry you a long way - even if you have nothing in the way of accuracy or competence or honesty to back it up. Especially if you remain on the attack.

Obama as a campaigner is quite good at this, actually - he tends to attack his enemy's weak points in a politely aggressive way - and they do tend to be genuine weak points (Romney's possible tax evasion, Ryan's attack on Medicare), rather than the amazing manufactured out of the air weak points that Republicans favour (John McCain's black child!, swift boating!, voter fraud!).

But Obama's strength in this area doesn't seem to be mirrored by his party (just as Clinton's wasn't). Ironically enough, for a party that embraces Ayn Rand, the Republicans seem to field thoroughly mediocre and unimpressive individuals, who succeed because of the collective will of the party that backs them. Democrats tend to succeed with undeniably very smart and charming leaders who temporarily herd the left-wing cats and build little legacy.

Whenever I see people on the left bickering over the smaller issues and not evangelizing on the bigger ones, I do feel a certain frustration, because they seem to be squandering their strengths (empiricism, creativity, competence, constructive responses to problems, a sense of society as a whole rather than just me/family/my business). But then, maybe that is the price you pay for not having an ideology that will, inevitably, ossify into dogma. Maybe that is stronger in the long term. Some days, I really do wonder.
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:37 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I guess I've always wondered whether liberals were just projecting their own opinions on to Obama, or if they simply forgot that he ran as 'transformatively aisle-crossing' as a specific tactic against Hillary Clinton, who was portrayed as aggressively partisan and straight-up hated by conservatives.

Transformative bipartisanship was Obama's brand long before anyone thought of him running for President. Heck, he hadn't even run fr the senate when he made the "no blue states and no red states" speech Shakespeherian refers to above. It is one of the great mysteries that so many lefties immediately forgot this after the election and complained that Obama had "betrayed" them and failed to live up to a series of completely non-existant policies.

But then, decades of political science research shows that almost no one, left or right, actually reads campaign platforms or informs themselves as to candidates policy positions before they vote.
posted by yoink at 6:56 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good point, yoink I should note that I think that liberals and progressives have many valid reasons to criticise Obama and hold him to a higher standard than, say, Romney. But I don't think that 'he's too bipartisan' is one of them.
posted by muddgirl at 7:03 AM on August 17, 2012


why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts?

I'm not so sure it's a matter of "being less effective at crafting a message and having a vision" as much as "realizing they can't bank on the ignorance, religious fundamentalism, and flag-waving jingoism of their base the way the Republicans can."
posted by Rykey at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2012


It is one of the great mysteries that so many lefties immediately forgot this after the election and complained that Obama had "betrayed" them and failed to live up to a series of completely non-existant policies.

It's really not a mystery at all. I think I've said this before on the blue, but look: In 2008, there were a lot of people (and their number included more than a few moderates, by the way), who did not actually pay attention to Obama. Instead, they heard "hope" and "change" and then proceeded to fill those airy phrases with whatever hope they had and whatever change they may have wanted. So, we've got my leftist Occupy friend who thinks Obama is a traitor to the cause, and we've got David Brooks bitching about how dare he criticize Congress.

It wasn't very difficult to tease out who Obama actually was. You didn't even have to examine his campaign platform. There was a legislative record, he had written two books, he discussed policy in some detail, major newspapers and magazines wrote serious profiles of him, even his speeches frequently went beyond just the lofty rhetoric that made him such a sensation. But most people didn't bother to look. Most people wanted to think Obama was just like them.

This was, I think, a deliberate strategy on the part of the Obama campaign, by the way. Hope and change sell. I recall reading a profile of him around that time wherein he referred to his personality as a Rorscach test, and I think that's about right. Disappointment with Obama says more about the person expressing it than it does about Obama himself.
posted by breakin' the law at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was, I think, a deliberate strategy on the part of the Obama campaign, by the way.

This seems to contradict your earlier comments -- that his record is ridiculously easy to assess, that he said what he was going to do but people didn't listen, etc. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding.
posted by verb at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2012


This seems to contradict your earlier comments -- that his record is ridiculously easy to assess, that he said what he was going to do but people didn't listen, etc. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding.

Hopefully this explains it: Obama is a politician. He is not above, or immune to, common political tactics. In 2008, the campaigned in the manner that would attract him the most voice, just like every other politician in the history of politics. This meant emphasizing his gift for speechmaking, and filling many (though not all) of those speeches with uplifting vagueness.

But he's also a person with priorities, principles, inclinations. These things weren't too hard to to find, if you cared to find them. Obama emphasized the parts of himself that people could project their dreams on, but that does not mean he concealed who the actually was. It means he was trying to get millions of people to vote for him. I don't think that's contradictory; it's just how elections work.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2012


Votes, not voice. No idea why I typed that...
posted by breakin' the law at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2012


How many Democrat members of Congress or the Senate have been individually affected by the stimulus program?

"Democratic Party," please. "Democrat Party" is a slur. "Let’s just call people what they call themselves and stop the Mickey Mouse here." -- Chris Matthews
posted by kirkaracha at 4:13 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, never knew that. I actually corrected it from Democratic party because it seemed wrong, one would assume all parties were democratic. Sorry.
posted by fullerine at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2012


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