Balkinization  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is Obama really as smart as I thought he was?

Sandy Levinson

Today's Times indicates the possibility that President Obama is willing to sacrifice "universal coverage" for a "bi-partisan bill" that can gain Republican support. But doesn't he realize that it is simply not in the interest of the Republican Party to given him a scintilla of support for any kind of major health bill. Consider, from the Times story, "Republicans showed no new signs of willingness to work with the Democrats. Asked what he would be willing to work on with majority, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered meek praise for Mr. Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan but did not offer a single example on domestic policy."

Teddy Kennedy, after all, helped to elect George W. Bush in 2004 by virtue of having provided key support for No Child Left Behind and then the Prescription Drug Bill. Both reassured some "independents" that George W. Bush really was a "uniter and not a divider," etc., and Democrats were left to languish for another four years. So why should Republicans give Obama any kind of victory at all? I suppose the argument is that they'd be afraid to go to the country having simply stopped medical reform in its tracks, but that's a calculation.

I am dismayed at Obama's apparent perception that the Republican Party can be "worked with." David Broder might believe that, but that's because Broder is hopelessly deluded about contemporary American politics. I expected far more from Obama, who is clearly one of the smartest people we've ever had as President. But whom is he thinking of as potential collaborators? Why won't that person justifiably fear being challenged in the next Republican Primary by a mad-dog Tea Partier precisely for collaborating with the enemy, i.e., the Democratic President of the United States. If he thinks he's got a genuinely good (or even defensible) bill, let him insist on bringing to a vote in the Senate and then challenge Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (or George Voinovich, who used to be a reasonably decent governor of Ohio and who doesn't have to fear a primary challenge because he's retiring) to be the senators responsible for failing to bring succor to the literally increasing numbers of Americans who are losing health insurance and/or are one illness away from bankruptcy.

Generally speaking, I don't like to criticize Obama, not only because I'm still so happy he's President instead of his 2008 opponents, but also because my repeatedly argued view is that our defective Constitution is far more important in explaining our governmental breakdown than deficiencies in leadership or even Republican partisanship, which is wholly rational given the logic of a two-party system in the modern era. But, here, I'm absolutely dismayed. I try to imagine what FDR or Harry Truman would do in similar situations, and it sure as hell isn't rolling over and playing dead. (One could say the same, incidentally, about George W. Bush or Margaret Thatcher, so such stubbornness is obviously not always a "good thing." It depends on one's own politics.)

Is Obama really constitutionally (pun intended) incapable of feeling or expressing anger? What kind of community organizer isn't able to whip up the audience by attacking an opposition? It's clear that we were sold a bill of goods about "change we can believe in," but, then, I think the Constitution comes close to making such change impossible. But even within the limits of our defective Constitution, he could be doing far, far more to take advantage of the "bully pulpit" and (re-)organizing a mass movement capable to taking on the Tea Party.

UPDATE: Timothy Egan has a marvelous posting well worth reading. It concludes as follows:

"If Democrats were to waste this majority, and have nothing to show for it but bailouts of the biggest banks, auto companies and insurers, they deserve to be returned to minority status in the fall.

Who are they governing for? They can cowboy up, pass health care that helps right the major wrongs of the system and then explain what they’re doing. One way to start is to point to the bottom line, the market, and ask who gets rich when nothing changes."


Comments:

Actually, the Republican party could be worked with, but the intersection between Democratic and Republican conceptions of health care reform is fairly minor, and all of it put together wouldn't amount to a major bill. Certainly, they can't be worked with to produce a bill whose aim is partisan entrenchment by moving another sixth of the economy into the government sector.
 

By the way, Obama IS pretty smart. His present difficulties aren't because he isn't smart. They're because his skill set is almost exclusively oriented towards getting elected, not governing. They're not the same thing, as he's learning.
 

There is, I think, no plausible argument that the Obama bill would move 1/6 of the economy into the government sector. (Actually, I'd be happier if that were the case.) But, I assure you, I have no desire whatsoever to argue that point. Rather, isn't it the case that all political parties, at all times, are moved to "produce a bill whose aim is partisan entrenchment"? For better or worse, do parties ever support legislation that they believe will cut seriously against them in the next election?
 

"the Republican party could be worked with"

Well, individual Republicans can be, as shown by votes in the stimulus, various federal judges, global warming (Lindsey Graham), and other issues.

As a whole, the party doesn't want to be worked with. Baucus actually tried to work with some of them, and see where that got him. We know this from internal reports where the strategy was just the opposite. This includes McCain who suddenly is against stuff he used to be for.

"is skill set is almost exclusively oriented towards getting elected, not governing"

This conflicts with all the stuff that actually was accomplished in the past year (and while he was in the state legislature) that involved him working with others to "govern."

Lists are repeatedly cited in response to such naysaying, so can be easily found if you wish.
 

Sandy:

It is obvious why the GOP would not want to support any Obama domestic policy because their constituents overwhelmingly oppose these polices. We have this quaint idea that elected representatives are supposed to be representing our policy desires and not their own.

It is not so obvious why any Dems in the districts and states won by Bush and/or McCain would want to continue to support Obama domestic policies that their constituents vigorously oppose.

Indeed, after the good voters of MA, including 22% of Dems and nearly 70% in Indis, elected a GOP candidate explicitly promising to stop Obamacare, Obama deficit spending and Obama terrorist policy, it is not so obvious why any Dem not representing a 70% plus Dem district would want to continue to support Obama domestic policies that their constituents vigorously oppose.

The Dems are only seeking GOP support for bipartisan political cover from their angry constituents, not out of comity or a genuine desire to compromise. The GOP will not provide them that cover or they will lose their jobs in November as well.

I commend your desire for Dem representatives to recreate a political Jonestown by continuing to push Obama policies against the wishes of their constituents. Please carry on. I almost feel sorry for these Dems caught between you in their base and the majority of their constituents. Their misery will be short lived. There is a tsunami election coming that will sweep many of them back into the anonymity of private life. VA, NJ and MA were just the beginning.
 

Another way to confront the problem of Obama's apparent idiocy on this point is to ask, 'if Obama were smart and saying this, why would he be saying it.'. The answer to that question is, I think, that Obama is saying these thingsin order to get liberal Dems in the House to understand that he would prefer to lose their votes and accept incremental reform rather than keep their votes and push something controversial through reconciliation. Which is to say, smart Obama would understand that the Republicans aren't worth talking to, so when he seems to be talking to them it's probably for the benefit of another audience.

Personally, I take the 'Obama is an idiot' line, but I'm a Democrat and we eat our own.
 

The Republicans can only be united by just saying no to everything. And look what they got by that strategy.

The Democrats are playing with the old rules, that each member of Congress has his or her own "Democratic" party. Getting sufficient campaign contributions is all it takes to go it alone. With increasing seniority comes increasing power, but not necessarily (or even likely) leadership abilities.

The American people are mad at Congress for good cause. The members, particularly in Congress, in the power positions have sold their souls, if they had any, to their contributors.

The big money own the Republicans and probably always will, social conservatives notwithstanding. Big money also appears to own enough of the Democrats to get their way no matter what. That is why the American people are angry: big money gets everything, the public interest a few scraps.
 

Take a peek at Tom Toles' political cartoon in today's (1/21/10) WaPo titled: "Opposition to everything is the route to successful governing!" displaying the elephantine Republican Party followed with "Horton Hears a Hallucination" and a footnote "But it's so loud and clear."

It's too early in the morning for me to check into who is "Horton" but based upon his tsunami comment above, perhaps it is our former backpacker who may be building an ark in anticipation.
 

OOPS! It's been a long time since I've read Dr. Seuss' "Horton the Elephant." I wonder if Dr. Seuss were still with us would he have written a sequel to "The Cat in the Hat" about our Coloradan in his backpack?
 

I don’t know if Obama thinks he has a “good” bill or not. I think he believes it is a good thing to provide free or subsidized healthcare to people who cannot afford it. But he was either unwilling or unable to sell it on this simplistic basis. Instead, he allowed the public to see that health care reform would necessarily involve a series of incredibly complex choices (how to structure the insurance market and design insurance policies, how and how much to compensate medical providers, what services to cover, how to structure insurance subsidies, how to pay for the cost of the program). Obama himself appeared to have little or no interest in the details of these choices, and was evidently willing to make many of them on the basis of naked political bargaining (eg, the drug companies get a ban on reimportation, the insurance companies get the individual mandate, Nebraska and Louisiana get special subsidies, the unions get exempted from the Cadillac tax, etc). Given this, I am not sure how Obama or anyone else can believe this is a “good” bill, any more than one could believe that it is safe to live next door to a nuclear reactor designed by fifth graders with crayons.
 

mls closes his comment with this:

"Given this, I am not sure how Obama or anyone else can believe this is a “good” bill, any more than one could believe that it is safe to live next door to a nuclear reactor designed by fifth graders with crayons."

I would guess that if mls lived next door to such a reactor, he would move. But what would mls do if the bill passed?

mls' comparison seems like that of a fifth grader with a computer.
 

Do the Senate Democrats realize they have a 59-41 (18 vote margin) majority? That may not be filibuster proof, but it is still a sizable margin.
 

There is a House GOP health care bill that was deep sixed by the Dems in committee without a vote and them voted down by the Dems as an Amendment to Obamacare.

http://www.gop.gov/solutions/healthcare

If the Dems genuinely wished to find common ground on the the areas where the citizenry largely agrees, here is a starting point. Of course, there is no way the Dems would agree to forego control over the health insurance industry or agree to tort reform.

Thus, the Dems can go to the voters with Obamacare.

Chausovsky, the problem is not that the Dems do not have a supermajority of votes in the Senate, but rather that a heavy majority of the voters oppose Obamacare.

dr, Obama is not an idiot, he is simply utterly inexperienced in governing and over his head.
 

Brett:

Certainly, they can't be worked with to produce a bill whose aim is partisan entrenchment by moving another sixth of the economy into the government sector.

No proposed bill whatsoever "move[d] another sixth of the economy into the government sector".

Not to mention, no Republicans are up in arms about the bloated third of the federal government going to "defense" spending. Talk about lack of return on investment ... unless your campaign contributors happen to be industry bigwigs.

Cheers,
 

Bart:

It is obvious why the GOP would not want to support any Obama domestic policy because their constituents overwhelmingly oppose these polices.

Where "constituents" is defined as business fat-cats and the idle rich. The rest are lemmings, blindly following the lies of Limbaugh and Hannity over a cliff.

Cheers,
 

Bart:

There is a tsunami election coming...

Yes. Just as there was in 2008, according to you.

Cheers,
 

Arne:

Your "the voters are stupid" whine is like clockwork. It happens every single time voters toss out the Dems for turning left.

Feinstein did the voters are too dumb to understand Obamacare song and dance yesterday. When Barabara "Don't call me Ma'am" Boxer faces CA voters this November, let's see what CA voters think about being called stupid.
 

I don't think Obama has any choice but to try to work with at least some Republicans on health care and other issues. If he tries to strongarm them on health care he will turn the current defeat into a major rout. I think Prof. Levinson is for once underestimating the level of anger out there and its possible consequences.
 

Bart:

Your "the voters are stupid" whine is like clockwork.

Half the voters are stupider than average (assuming normality). This is a problem we need to address.

Cheers,
 

I think I'm fairly aware of the anger, and one of my regrets is that there are no left analogues to those whipping up the right. My regret, of course, is that the anger isn't directed more at our truly deficient political system. To blame Obama for not adequately confronting the jobs crisis misses the point that the truly dreadful United States Senate was unwilling to pass an adequate stimulus bill until Obama submitted to the extortion of Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and then-Republican Arlen Specter. And they could get away with such extortion only because of the Maine Senators having far more power than any modern democratic theory would justify and the indefensible practice of the Senate in adopting a 60-vote rule as the norm. Why aren't people marching on the Senate?
 

Sandy:

Why aren't people marching on the Senate?

Several hundred thousand marched on the House and Senate on 9/12 and there have been lesser marches on the member office building since then.

Of course, they were not marching because of the filibuster check on Senate power. Rather, they were marching to protest abuses of that power like the enormous pork bill posing as economic stimulus.

The reason there is no left analogue demanding passage of an even more enormous pork bill is that it would be unseemly for SEIU workers and various other Dem special interests to be marching demanding tax payer money. It is a far easier sale to claim that this corrupt monstrosity was a "jobs bill."
 

"no left analogues"

You mean other than Jane Hamsher sorts, who even put out ads? Lot of "whipping up" in her corner, so much certain Dems in Congress cried out that they were unfair. Wah wah.

As to not matching on the Senate, really? A possibility: All this talk of "Obamacare" on all sides. If its "Obamacare," it's not up to Congress, right, even if it allegedly is the group that actually passes legislation.

It is "Obama." Thus, Coakley isn't really the problem. No. I read in my paper that "Obama" is in large part to blame. As with people in these parts calling Sen. Nelson a "centrist," reasons are a many.
 

Bart:

Several hundred thousand marched on the House and Senate on 9/12...

I thought it was two gazillion ... but that's hardly an answer to Prof. Levinson's question.

Cheers,
 

Tom Toles' WaPo political cartoon today (1/22/10) has the Dems in a huddle near the goal line:

"It's the last play of the game. It's fourth and one inch. We're behind by five. What do you think? Field goal or punt?"

Who needs Will Rogers to remind us that the Dems are not an organized political party? Horton the elephant knows this.
 

Off topic somewhat in anticipation of a later posting on Citizens United that will permit comments:

Comparing Citizens United with Dred Scott.

Discuss.
 

Shag:

Why are you on the left so terrified of free speech?

I am beginning to like the Roberts court. They resurrected the 2d Amendment last year and reinvigorated the 1st this year in two wonderfully sweeping opinions.

Now they need to return the 10th Amendment for a trifecta. Then again, with the death of Obamacare, one of the better opportunities may be gone.
 

Our intrepid former backpacker execizes his free speech without instilling fear in either me or anyone else on the left. Where in originalism in its various formulations does "We the People" include corporations? Corporations don't yodel from Colorado hilltops like our intrepid former backpacker. Corporate speech means money, and quite a bit of it, to influence elections of people, not corporations, in our republican form of government, adding to the spin that takes place on a daily basis in extreme ideological directions.

No one fears our intrepid former backpacker (just as no one fears me). In fact, he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him, as a perfect foil.

Perhaps corporate money will take us back to pre-Brown v. Board of Education days, or even pre-New Deal days, so all can enjoy the roaring twenties (with Harding, Coolidge and Hoover).

But at some point, stockholders may rebel at the monies being spent. More likely there will be a populist movement that may finally recognize various inequalities that come with conservatism. Even a local attorney relying upon "alleged" drunks for a living might realize this - unless he become AG under Pres. Palin.

Our intrepid former backpacker focuses upon the First and Second Amendments. Of course, shooting off one's mouth might result in Second Amendment shooting, especially if the Second Amendment is extended to the states via Chicago either without limitations or with strict scrutiny as the yahoo gun nuts are aiming for.

But our intrepid former backpacker ignores other rights of individuals that Bush/Cheney stepped on for 8 years (with more and more violations being revealed).

As for our yodeler's trifecta with the Tenth Amendment, what kind of a cornucopia might that present? Be careful what you ask for as it might be FDR's second bill of rights.

[Note: there's a great farmer's daughter joke about a champion yodeler who messed around being shot dead right between the eyes by the farmer on a hilltop that he could not get over by the time the farmer counted 100 and decided to get off one more yodel. But this is a family blog.]
 

Shag wrote:
>Comparing Citizens United with Dred Scott.

I think they are different enough that a comparison may not produce useful discourse (but perhaps so). I'd be interested in knowing if anyone has considered that allowing corporations full and normal access to the US political process (sans stand in a polling booth) also allows non-US citizens that access as well? This decision seems to move in the direction and lend weight to the notion that a shareholder is like being a citizen.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

"allowing corporations full and normal access to the US political process (sans stand in a polling booth) also allows non-US citizens that access as well"

I don't necessarily see that following. The ruling held that corporations as such should not be treated differently. Even Stevens accepted that (at least arguably) in respect to media corporations.

The Court avoided the issue of regulating foreign money. But, given the number of legal residents who are not citizens, citizenship itself should not be a barrier to access.

Scalia noted btw that corporations might be limited by their charters. This suggests certain limits on them in particular.

For instance, does Exxon have power to use corporate funds against abortion? Is Prop 8 different, given it affects their pocketbook? Disclosure laws were upheld. Is disclosure of a corporation different from a person, who might be physically harmed?
 

>I don't necessarily see that following.

Well this is about money in politics. FECA does prohibit donations from foeign nationals (not holding a green card), so while that prohibition may stand, it seems it can now be more easily gone around. I mean, I don't stand to say its good or bad in and of itself for political dialog, but seems an aspect unconsidered.
 

Shag from Brookline said...Where in originalism in its various formulations does "We the People" include corporations?

Corporations represent the interests of the people who are shareholders, employees and customers of the business and it is the speech of those stakeholders which is at issue. Who the heck did you think was speaking, a bank of computers?

Once again, why do you fear free speech? Is it perhaps that when folks learn the actual content of your policies, they rise in rebellion and chuck you out of power.

Perhaps corporate money will take us back to pre-Brown v. Board of Education days, or even pre-New Deal days, so all can enjoy the roaring twenties (with Harding, Coolidge and Hoover).

Are you a complete paranoid lunatic? Oregon has no limits on corporate political speech and they remain a proud member of the left coast.
 

Let's consider the modern day corporation as it has evolved over the years in considering this yodel from our intrepid former backpacker:

"Corporations represent the interests of the people who are shareholders, employees and customers of the business and it is the speech of those stakeholders which is at issue."

What indeed are the voices of the "shareholders, employees and customers" when a corporation speaks? Do these "people" vote on the corporation's speech? Do these "people" have standing to challenge the content of the corporation's speech? Or is it the management speaking at the expense of these "people" who have no say in the content of the corporation's speech?

And hasn't it been the long time strategy of conservatives to undo the New Deal? And didn't the current conservative movement get its start in the mid 1960s with the Civil Rights laws under LBJ? Nixon's Southern Strategy did not happen? Would the 1960s Civil Rights laws have come about if Brown v. Board of Education did not pave the way (albeit slowly) in 1954? The not so subtle overtones of conservatives with regard to civil rights did not surface with the election of Pres. Obama?
 

The issue of foreign participation in campaigns is interesting. As I understand it, it is illegal for foreigners to contribute to candidates, as it is for corporations and unions.

But Citizens United was about whether it could be made illegal for corporations to runs ads (or a movie) that criticized a candidate. Is it, or should it be, constitutional to prohibit foreigners from criticizing candidates?
 

BD: "Corporations represent the interests of the people who are shareholders, employees and customers of the business and it is the speech of those stakeholders which is at issue."

Shag from Brookline said...What indeed are the voices of the "shareholders, employees and customers" when a corporation speaks? Do these "people" vote on the corporation's speech? Do these "people" have standing to challenge the content of the corporation's speech?


Yes. Shareholders choose the boards and consumers choose whether to buy the corporation's products.

In any case, if the only person's speech being offered by the corporation was that of the CEO, what business is it of the government to censor that speech?

Once again, why do you folks on the left fear free speech?

And hasn't it been the long time strategy of conservatives to undo the New Deal?

What part did you have in mind? Hell, what is left?

The failed stimulus and make work programs are gone.

The insane tax rate structure is largely gone.

The banking regulations and AFDC were reformed back in the Gingrich years.

Reform of the intergenerational ponzi scheme known as Social Security will probably have to wait until it goes insolvent in a decade or so.

And didn't the current conservative movement get its start in the mid 1960s with the Civil Rights laws under LBJ?

No. The current libertarian conservative movement started with classical liberalism back in the eighteenth century. Government racism is entirely the province of Dems.

The not so subtle overtones of conservatives with regard to civil rights did not surface with the election of Pres. Obama?

President Obama failed because he is an inept leader whose socialist policies are an anathema to the American voter, not because the failed President happens to be half African American. Play your pathetic race card elsewhere.
 

Our intrepid former backpacker closes his yodel in response with this:

"President Obama failed because he is an inept leader whose socialist policies are an anathema to the American voter, not because the failed President happens to be half African American. Play your pathetic race card elsewhere."

Here, our yodeler calls Obama a "failed President" after just one year and a couple of days into his four year term. Compare that to the 8 years of Bush/Cheney that was dumped on Obama. Would our intrepid former backpacker say those were 8 successful years?

And just what is a "half African American"? Oops? A little slip-up from our yodeler's not so subtle racial views? Granted, our yodeler has at Balkinization stated forthrightly that he agrees with Brown v. Board of Education, praising that unanimous decision quite high in the ranks of 20th century SCOTUS decisions. Our yodeler was not born when Brown came down. But the brakes were applied to its due deliberate speed. We know what happened in the mid 1960s with LBJ's Civil Rights laws that in effect extended the benefits of Brown to areas in addition to education. (I don't recall exactly, but perhaps our yodeler was born by that time.) And who fought these Civil Rights laws? Was this the birth of the current conservatives? Our yodeler's response:

"No. The current libertarian conservative movement started with classical liberalism back in the eighteenth century. Government racism is entirely the province of Dems."

It would take too long to unpack this. But our yodeler takes us back to the 18th century as if today's conservative movement is a continuum of the founder/framers. And how many of today's conservatives are libertarians? (Some of them are libertines.) Let's see, back then "We the People" did not include women, slaves and Indians, and surely not corporations. (Were there any corporate signatures to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?)

There is no fear of speech per se. The fear is money. Yes, we all know "money talks" and then there is the Golden Rule: he who has the gold rules.

Perhaps our yodeler's screed was a reaction to TV's program last night to raise funds for the plight in Haiti. But once again our yodeler is out of tune - and shooting blanks.
 

Shag from Brookline said...

Here, our yodeler calls Obama a "failed President" after just one year and a couple of days into his four year term. Compare that to the 8 years of Bush/Cheney that was dumped on Obama. Would our intrepid former backpacker say those were 8 successful years?

It depends how you keep score.

If you are scoring the President's ability to enact legislation, Bush was an enormous success and Obama an almost total failure. Congress designed the past year's legislation while Obama gave speeches and his signature legislation - banking, Obamacare and cap and tax appear doomed. This is Sandy's measuring stick.

If you are scoring Presidents by the quality of the legislation he does enact, then Bush loses a great deal of status. Apart from tax reform and outlawing partial birth abortion, Bush "big government conservative" domestic policy was qualitatively if not quantitatively as bad as anything passed in 2009.

"No. The current libertarian conservative movement started with classical liberalism back in the eighteenth century. Government racism is entirely the province of Dems."

And how many of today's conservatives are libertarians?


A heavy majority of the center right continues to say that government, taxes, spending and borrowing are too large and must be reigned in. This is the primary objection of the Tea Party movement winning elections from VA to MA. Limited government is the primary tenet of classical liberalism.

There is no fear of speech per se. The fear is money. Yes, we all know "money talks" and then there is the Golden Rule: he who has the gold rules.

What is the qualitative difference between shareholders putting money into a corporation who in turn speaks for them on matters of interest to the corporation and folks like you sending in even more money to the Obama campaign over the internet to promote your causes?

I have no fear whatsoever of the market place of ideas because I know the principles of classical liberalism work and are in all ways far superior to statism and socialism. You support censorship for the same reasons.
 

Libertarianism is somewhat like originalism with its Howard Johnson [am I dating myself - non-sexually, that is?] varieties. Being a little bit libertarian is not quite the same as being a little bit pregnant, is it? Some time ago I asked what was the difference between a libertarian and a libertine and a response came forth high from a mountain top [no, not in Colorado!] from a wise man who said: "Libertines actually get laid."

By the way, what were the views of pure libertarians on slavery/abolition pre-Civil War, on the Civil War amendments and on Brown v. Board of Education at those respective times? Are libertarians by definition originalists?

Our yodeler probably got hoarse before he could tells us what a "half African American" is. Is this a census category for conservatives?

Back in the 18th century that our yodeler romances over, stocks and bonds were not of the corporate variety.

[Note: I half expected our yodeler to point to John Hancock's signature as a corporate signature. Damn, all my traps don't work.]
 

As to Citizens' United, Glenn Greenwald has two important posts about it.
 

Shag from Brookline said...By the way, what were the views of pure libertarians on slavery/abolition pre-Civil War, on the Civil War amendments and on Brown v. Board of Education at those respective times? Are libertarians by definition originalists?

Classical liberals and a large swath of what would be considered today to be religious conservatives outside of the South led the abolition movement, were the authors of the Civil War amendments and supported Brown v. Board.

Libertarians are originalists. That does not mean that they support every part of the Constitution, but rather they support the rule of law and the amendment process.

Our yodeler probably got hoarse before he could tells us what a "half African American" is. Is this a census category for conservatives?

Libertarians would eliminate racial categories because all men are created equal. Once again, racial categories like all other forms of government racial distinctions and preferences are solely Dem creations.
 

Our yodeler demonstrates that he is a "dictacontra" with this:

"Libertarians would eliminate racial categories because all men are created equal. Once again, racial categories like all other forms of government racial distinctions and preferences are solely Dem creations."

It's too bad the framers/founders as reflected by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) were not libertarians. Presumably there were no pure libertarians among the framers/founders, at least from the slave states. And while I appreciate the elimination of racial categories, my question was addressed to the author himself, a self-proclaimed libertarian, of his description of Obama as a "half African American." Was this a slip of his tongue or of his mind?
 

Shag:

...my question was addressed to the author himself, a self-proclaimed libertarian, of his description of Obama as a "half African American." Was this a slip of his tongue or of his mind?

As you well know, I was trumping your play of the Dem race card claiming that the opposition to Obama's policies was because of his African American heritage.

The same folks who opposed lily white southerner Jimmy Carter's policies oppose the half white Kansan and half Nigerian Obama's policies.

Wy can't you folks on the left simply defend your policies without resorting to the race card or censorship?
 

Gallup just polled the issue and found 57% of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/125333/Public-Agrees-Court-Campaign-Money-Free-Speech.aspx?CSTS=alert
 

Reform of the intergenerational ponzi scheme known as Social Security will probably have to wait until it goes insolvent in a decade or so.

It always cracks me up when players in the stock market ponzi scheme disparage SS as a ponzi scheme.
 

Our intrepid former backpacker still evades with this:

"As you well know, I was trumping your play of the Dem race card claiming that the opposition to Obama's policies was because of his African American heritage."

I do not well know that and I did not play a Dem race card. Now he makes a plain vanilla (pun intended) reference to "African American" in place of his original "half African American" reference to Obama. And then he adds this:

"The same folks who opposed lily white southerner Jimmy Carter's policies oppose the half white Kansan and half Nigerian Obama's policies."

Many of the folks who opposed Carter did so because of his recognition of civil rights and the movement for civil rights. Obama is all American under the Constitution as amended. He is not from Kansas; he is not from Nigeria. A lot of the lily white who opposed Carter did not want his efforts for a new southern racial attitude to succeed.

By the way, how does our yodeler define "lily white"? Is there a sense of purity involved? Does a "dark white Mediterranean" qualify? (Caution: a trap is being set.)
 

shag:

What the hack is this if not the play of the Dem race card?

shag: The not so subtle overtones of conservatives with regard to civil rights did not surface with the election of Pres. Obama?

BD: President Obama failed because he is an inept leader whose socialist policies are an anathema to the American voter, not because the failed President happens to be half African American. Play your pathetic race card elsewhere.


Now you are doing it again with this nonsensical charge:

Many of the folks who opposed Carter did so because of his recognition of civil rights and the movement for civil rights.

What a load of bovine excrement. Folks opposed Carter because he destroyed the economy, encouraged Soviet expansion, completely bolixed up Iran, asked his teenage daughter for nuclear policy and was terrified of swimming rabbits. Hell, I am a politics and history junkie and I can not think a single significant civil rights act Carter enacted, nevertheless one which might get the average voter riled up.
 

mls wrote:

But Citizens United was about whether it could be made illegal for corporations to runs ads (or a movie) that criticized a candidate. Is it, or should it be, constitutional to prohibit foreigners from criticizing candidates?

Good point. It doesn't make sense to prohibit foreign interests from running political ads trying to sway the outcome. However, the SCOTUS decision seems farther reaching than just ads, and opening the gates of political finance to foreign interests via corporate shareholding I think has potential issues. Imagine foreigners via corporations pitching huge amounts of money and influence to sway the outcome of an election. Since it does not follow that a shareholder of a US corporation is also a citizen, its seems like inviting foreign influence directly into the political process. It might be worth considering the scenario whereby a foreign interest sponsors, via campaign contributions through a US corporation, a specific candidate who they believe will support their interests.

The principal of limiting foreign influence on the political process seems to have significant precedent. Yet now, it does seem to have been overlooked.
 

Here's our intrepid former backpacker's junk politics and junk history:


"Hell, I am a politics and history junkie and I can not think a single significant civil rights act Carter enacted, nevertheless one which might get the average voter riled up."

No where did I assert or suggest that Carter enacted a significant civil rights act. Rather, Carter, from a deep southern state was making an effort to get the south to accept civil rights.

And bringing in rabbits and Carter's daughter suggests the bitterness of our yodeler toward those who tried to implement civil rights in an area that had long denied such rights.

By the way, our junkie somehow neglected to mention Billy Beer, peanuts and Carter's mother.

Yes, that's the ticket we get from our yodeler's junk politics and junk history, still ducking what is a "half African American" and what is "lily white," his phrasings.
 

FWIW, the opinion noted:

We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process. Cf. 2 U. S. C. §441e (contribution and expenditure ban applied to “foreign national[s]”). Section 441b is not limited to corporations or associations that were created in foreign countries or funded predominately by foreign shareholders. Section 441b therefore would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process. See Broadrick , 413 U. S., at 615.
 

Thanks, Joe, for pointing to Glenn Greenwald's articles.

As for this excerpt from the decision quoted by Joe:

" ... whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process."

might such a compelling interest result in the Government accessing stockholder lists to identify those that are foreign individuals or associations? If so, presumably such a compelling interest could apply to foreign corporations as well as domestic. Also, perhaps the business activities of corporations, both domestic and foreign, might reflect foreign interests of the corporation whether or not there are foreign stockholders. And the matter of stock held in "street name" would have to be addressed to identify the true stockholders. If there are such compelling interests, would such information be available to the public? (Query whether such information is currently available to the Government, or the public?)
 

To everyone:

Sandy, your observation that it is rational for either political party to promote partisanship by their respective policies is correct. However, you don't address the cause of the present hyper-partisanship (perhaps "stalemate" is more appropriate). The rise of hyper-partisanship is caused by the decline of the median voter. In years past congressmen would always act, vote, and speak as if in the next election they would face a fictional candidate, one that voted with the median voter. However, with the significant decrease of voter participation, only the very energized and enthusiastic vote. In other words, the median voter has waned and the partisan voter has ascended. Therefore, if a congressman wants to be re-elected their votes would move farther away from the median and more in line with their respective constituencies.

This trend was on a national stage in Massachusetts. Yes, Mass. has a 3-to-1 registration edge for democrats, but, as has been reported ad nauseum, Mass. has near 47% independents. The independents, the median voter, came out overwhelmingly to defeat Coakley, a liberal candidate.

Alexis De Tocqueville accurately wrote that in the United States one gets the government one deserves. Well, our electorate has become polarized, thus our elected officials have become polarized. I expect Washington will remain so until the return of the median voter.
 

I have some doubts about the "median voter" concept but here in MA the situation described by James is reflected in today's (1/24/09) Boston Globe editorial. Competition is always good in politics as a monopoly by a single party may result in corruption. But uncontrolled campaign financing can corrupt the political process.
 

Bart DePalma lets it all hang out:

The same folks who opposed lily white southerner Jimmy Carter's policies oppose the half white Kansan and half Nigerian Obama's policies.

Disgusting. Rancid. Vile. And enormously stoopid to boot. But I'm glad our intrepid back-packer is laying out his execrable viewpoint for all to see.

Cheers,
 

I agree. Pandering to obstructionists is not compromise, it's giving irresponsible fools permission to derail and destroy.

The context matters though: the bill is already so weak we'd be better off without it. It does more harm than good.

So what's needed isn't to resist further illusory compromise; it's to get back to a bill that does more good than harm. That's where the smarts come in: recognize what's needed, what's not negotiable, recognize whose cooperation you no longer require to get there, and do it.

So far Obama has disappointed greatly in accomplishing the above. It's not smart to pretend folks who have stabbed everything you attempt every day of the last 365, are somehow going to come to their senses on day 366.
 

Arne Langsetmo said...

Bart DePalma lets it all hang out:

The same folks who opposed lily white southerner Jimmy Carter's policies oppose the half white Kansan and half Nigerian Obama's policies.

Disgusting. Rancid. Vile. And enormously stoopid to boot.


Its probably not polite to pick on the geographically challenged. Picking on the morally challenged, on the other hand, might get another consideration
 

"The context matters though: the bill is already so weak we'd be better off without it. It does more harm than good."

Let's deal with reality. "Starting from scratch" = doing nothing. Pass the bad bill and improve it over time.

Medicare et. al. started off a shell of its current self.
 

Today's (1/26/10) WaPo editorial "Charles 'Mac' Mathias Jr.: Principled moderate who aided his state and country" is a response to our intrepid former backpacker's racial comments. Where are these moderate Senate Republicans today? Yes, there are a few, but they refuse to stand up. Back here in MA we had in my lifetime moderate Republican Senators who put country before party. MA Democrats did not have to fear Senators Saltonstall, Lodge (Jr.) or Brooke. Mathias faced up to the then Republican "Southern Strategy" in the 1970s. A chorus of "Maryland, My Maryland" is in order.
 

Further as to Citizens United, SCOTUSBLOG has this 1/24/10 post by Prof. L. Tribe "What Congress Should Do About Citizens United."
 

Still further on Citizens United, Prof. Michael Dorf's FindLaw 1/25/10 column "The Supreme Court Rejects a Limit on Corporate-Funded Campaign Speech" closes with this:

"The decision's effect on the Court is another story. Ironically, the majority's failure to acknowledge the importance of the government's interest in avoiding the appearance of corruption could lead to just that appearance—except that the government institution that will appear to many Americans to have been corrupted is the Supreme Court itself."

So much for CJ Roberts as umpire.
 

Shag must have enjoyed Stevens' journey into the "original understandings" of the 1A, including his pointing out speech is 'oral communication' when a decade ago Stevens wrote an opinion on how limits on Internet "speech" was a violation of the 1A.

L. Tribe finds Stevens' opinion "masterful." I found his section there only such if it was meant as irony.
 

As to Brett's suggestion Obama isn't very good on "governing," the ACLU has given the administration a mixed report, complimenting it on various efforts done in that department.

report

This also is in the "Obama is no better than Bush" reply department.
 

Joe,
Could it be that Prof. Tribe thought J. Stevens' irony was "masterful" rather than Tribe's own irony?

In any event, Stevens got the "res gestae" reactions of Roberts and Alito demonstrating their super-sensitivities respecting their Senate confirmation testimonies. (Sort of like "instant replay" of an ump's decision, n'est pas?)
 

Pass the bad bill and improve it over time

Sounds great until you've watched a weak bill pass -- and stop all progress for thirty years.

To discover whether a given weak bill is better or worse than nothing, you have to weigh in the chances of not getting another chance for 30 years. In this case I'd say it's pretty high.

That's why powerful interests love weak bills. Big Tobacco is a master at this.
 

"Sounds great until you've watched a weak bill pass -- and stop all progress for thirty years."

The weak bill in the 1930s was followed by various other protections (e.g., involving health plans that got around WWII price controls) in less than 30 years.

Meanwhile, some people had protections. OTOH, Kennedy was upset he rejected Nixon's "weak" health reform bill given what followed (hint: not a better bill).

It helps, of course, that we ignore all the things this "weak bill" will do to help people because we don't like some things it does.

Thus, people (as a letter over at Talking Points Memo notes) die because they are refused insurance that this "weak bill" will secure and we feel holier than thou as they suffer and die. To name but one thing.

"To discover whether a given weak bill is better or worse than nothing, you have to weigh in the chances of not getting another chance for 30 years. In this case I'd say it's pretty high."

I don't have such assurance, especially given changing technological and sociological trends, that this is true.

Last year, e.g., children health care was expanded. Such piecemeal sympathetic legislation is easier to pass than major bills of this nature, so the idea that various improvements will not be provided for decades to me is presumptuous in the extreme.
 

Still, yet, further on Citizens United, consider retired Justice O'Connors' take reported in the WaPo by Robert Barnes (1/26/10): "O'Connor: Corporate campaign funds would affect judiciary." The lady's got a sense of humor, somethng Justice Alito is lacking.
 

Robert Barnes has a follow up blog post at WaPo titled:

"O'Connor: 'Don't know' if Bush v. Gore the right decision"

on an interview of O'Connor. Politically, it surely was the "right" decision even though legally incorrect. What do they say about repenting at leisure?
 

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