Balkinization  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Both Mary and I are right

Sandy Levinson

I appreciate Mary Dudziak's thoughtful post on the legitimate disillusion with aspects of Barack Obama's presidency.  I think it is a disgrace, for example, that he so completely capitulated to the well-off complainers about relatively modest delays in air travel while he has remained basically silent about the insane sequester cuts that are affecting those who do not regularly engage in air travel.  Far better for the "sequester" to be considered on an "all-or-nothing" basis than allow Republicans and scared Democrats to cherry-pick those relatively few aspects of the sequester that impinge on those at the relative top of the class structure (including, I must confess, well-paid law professors like me who fly a lot).  I also think that it is fair to criticize Obama (or, for that matter, to praise him) for certain foreign policy decisions given the relative autonomy that American presidents may have in that domain, or in making certain kinds of military decisions. 

That being said, I continue to think that Maureen Dowd's criticism of Obama for failing to play sufficient hardball vis-a-vis the background-check bill is mistaken.  The President has far less practical power with regard to domestic legislation.  Would it really make sense, for example, for the President to threaten Mark Begich, whose re-election to the Senate is essential if Democrats are not to be rendered irrelevant after the 2014 election, because he is cautious about putting his re-election in jeopardy by voting for a bill that a) would, at best, be only marginally helpful in helping to reduce violence attached to guns; and b) would very likely not be passed by the House.  Critics are basically asking the President in effect to place Begich's re-election in jeopardy by asking (or imposing pressure on him) to engage in a "grand gesture" that would not only risk his re-electionbut also would probably not eventuate in actual legislation.  The reason for the latter is the bicameralism that is an important part of the Constitution.  Its purpose (and function) is to make it harder to pass legislation, which means, among other things, that a member of either house of Congress must calculate the actual odds that the other house will be receptive.  Jimmy Carter many years ago successfully put pressure on Democrats in the House to support some energy reforms that then went nowhere in the Senate, which, quite understandably, angered the House members who went out on a limb. 

As it happens, I support bicameralism in a polity as large as the US (or, for that matter, even Texas, though not, e.g., any state smaller than New Zealand, which functions just fine with one House of Representatives), though I despise the principle of equal representation in the Senate.  But we should be aware that even the best bicameral systems (far better than our own) may impose costs as well as benefits.  In any event, we should be able to combine both "personal" sorts of criticisms of the kind that Mary offered with the more "structural" ones that I emphasize.  It is altogether possible that if everyone were making structural arguments, I would feel compelled to point out that individuals and other contingencies are important as well, as Mary correctly suggests.  But, to put it mildly, I don't think there's an excessive emphasis on structural argument in our contemporary discourse. Just read every single one of the Times' or Washington Post's stable of columnists, of all political persuasions.  So until one of those worthies does indeed connect the dots, I will continue to complain about the partial nature of their often otherwise helpful analyses. 


Comments:

" because he is cautious about putting his re-election in jeopardy by voting for a bill that a) would, at best, be only marginally helpful in helping to reduce violence attached to guns; and b) would very likely not be passed by the House."

None of which would have mattered to him if it had, c) been popular with his constituents.

The bill went down for a perfectly legitimate reason. Very few people were enthusiastic about it, and a LOT of people were opposed to it. Even if we assume, (Which I find dubious.) that a majority of the population favored the bill, at some attenuated level, is it really a good idea to be passing bills that 51% kind of vaguely approve off, and 39% of the population hate with a passion?
 

What if President Obama vetoed the non-sequestering of the FAA? Imagine the brouhaha if he had. (Imagine an air disaster occurring and blaming Obama.) No, Sandy, there is no disgrace on Obama's part in this regard. Hopefully the commentary following this action will focus on other critical results of the sequester, to get public opinion and support. Obama has been forceful in his response, including noting a band-aid effect. In my lifetime (beginning in 1930), much progress has been made. But progress does not result instantaneously, usually taking two steps forward and one step back. (David Strauss in his Book Review "Not Unwritten After All" in the Harvard Law Review sharply critical of Prof. Amar's recent book notes at page 1562 on the adoption of the Constitution and certain Amendments: "But while there are key moments, much of American constitutional history is a three-steps-forward, two-step-backward slog. That is certainly the story of race and sex equality and of free speech, for example.") Obama does not have a magic wand. Yes, he can do better. But so can Sandy and Mary. So can we all. Criticism is fine, so long as it is constructive. We who claim to be liberals and progressives do not all walk in lock-step. No excuses are being made for Obama. But there is the matter of addressing political realities.

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], I don't fly so much as well-paid law professors or Congressmen, but think of the damage they might cause by remaining longer in their venues because of flight delays.
 

Brett continues with his deep down concerns that his arsenal in South Carolina may be confiscated, perhaps under the guise of the safety of his neighbors and especially his family. But someone has to stand with Sen. Lindsey Graham's (Cracker, SCar) concern with the lack of angry white male voters. (Maybe they can be sequestered in South Carolina.)

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], is Brett on the NRA payroll or merely its volunteer designee-monitor at this Blog?
 

Brett is a life member of the NRA, we are working independently in the same cause.

As for Graham, his greatest concern right now is an excess of angry voters, white and otherwise... angry at him. He's really been burning bridges lately, perhaps he's thinking of retiring?
 

Sandy: That being said, I continue to think that Maureen Dowd's criticism of Obama for failing to play sufficient hardball vis-a-vis the background-check bill is mistaken. The President has far less practical power with regard to domestic legislation. Would it really make sense, for example, for the President to threaten Mark Begich, whose re-election to the Senate is essential if Democrats are not to be rendered irrelevant after the 2014 election...

Voter support for his policies or at least an absence of opposition is generally a prerequisite for any president to assemble a legislative coalition to enact those policies. (Cf. the 2009/2010 House enacting the stimulus and Obamacare)

If the polls are to be believed, however, massive electoral support was present for firearm sale background checks and the reelection of Congress critters should not be a consideration.

Heck, four of the necessary five GOP votes had already defected. All Obama needed was to convince his own caucus and one more GOP senator like Ayotte to enact the bill.

The problem was that Obama never even tried to work these Senators to obtain their votes.
 

Pres. Obama's press conference late this morning is discussed under the header "Obama On Sequestration: I Can't Order Congressional Republicans To Behave" at:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/obama-sequestration-_n_3184950.html

Perhaps Sandy might wish to reconsider his "disgrace" reference.

Regarding public opinion on the FAA action by Congress, Jon Stewart's Daily Show commentary last night should sink in over the next few days.
 

I'd say the problem was that his own caucus knew quite well those polls weren't, in fact, to be believed.
 

Brett may not be aware of Sen. Flake's poll experience following his gun control vote. Apparently his polls weren't flaky.
 

The polls can be correct and also unimportant: support for some 'gun control' policies can be broad but it ain't deep, while those against it are deeply so. For those in tight election states that's the difference between winning and losing. I bet Obama knows that, and it's why he didn't work his own caucus much at all. I mean, if you're a liberal is an exemption riddle background check law worth a Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell? I'd say not.
 

I don't like commenting on blog posts w/o comments but citing an article you wrote is fairly acceptable on that level.

Kudos on Koppelman spending the time answering - 70 pages worth - real lame arguments against SSM. He cites an earlier work of his that does it in half that space, but still.

----

Why did Obama have to "work his own caucus much at all" or rather what evidence of that? 90% of the caucus voted for the bill. Expecting perfect purity in the Democratic Party is a tad off. If it mattered, like the 60 Dem votes for ACA, maybe. But, it didn't. He needed Republican votes. So, yes, marginal votes was weighed against other electoral factors.

Meanwhile, Brett rests on faith here. He "finds" something dubious. Actual poll data doesn't count since it is "not to be believed." Heads I win, tails you lose.
 

Joe:

The fact that Democrat Congress critters outside of the deep blue Left Coast and NE tend to wander off the reservation out of electoral survival is all the more reason a Democrat president needs to work them continuously to enact his policies.

Otherwise, why bother to vote for a Democrat president?
 

Our SALADISTA (FKA our yodeler) asks:

"Otherwise, why bother to vote for a Democrat president?"

The veto power is one reason. (More reasons to follow as our SALADISTA fumbles with his tossing.)
 

Meanwhile, as to structure, an interesting discussion:

"Two Presidents are Better Than One: The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch"

http://booktv.org/Program/14385/Two+Presidents+are+Better+Than+One+The+Case+for+a+Bipartisan+Executive+Branch.aspx

Sandy Levinson provides a supportive blurb according to Amazon.
 

As a follow up to Brett's take on Sen. Lindsey Graham (Cracker, SCar):

"As for Graham, his greatest concern right now is an excess of angry voters, white and otherwise... angry at him. He's really been burning bridges lately, perhaps he's thinking of retiring?"

take a look at Juan Cole's 5/1/13 post at his Informed Comment blog headed:

"Top Ten Problems in South Carolina Lindsey Graham should worry about more than Benghazi"

This may present an opportunity for Brett who would surely be a "Cracker Jack" opponent in a Senate challenge of Graham, quite a prize for South Carolinians..
 

Joe, regarding Sandy's "supportive blurb," I'm wondering (in the manner of Gerard at CC) whether there has ever been an "unsupportive blurb" for a book. (As I recall, Jack Balkin provided a blurb for "Rehabilitating Lochner: ..." that may have been close.) First prize for the best answer will be one week in South Carolina and second prize two weeks in South Carolina.
 

Well, said blurb won't likely to be provided on the book. But, I bet someone with a sense of humor probably did that at least once. The left/right not liking your book, e.g., is a badge of honor for some.

Good luck, Colbert-Busch (D-SC), supportive of the gun bill and SSM.
 

Shag:

Are you actually arguing that you elect Democrat presidents for their veto and not to enact the policies you support?

Your knee jerk opposition to anything I post is getting quite humorous.
 

Is our SALADISTA (FKA our yodeler) with this:

"Your knee jerk opposition to anything I post is getting quite humorous."

evidencing the effects of CO's legalization recreational ganja or his suffering of at least one of the "Four Humours"? [Clue: Black Bile!]

Another reason to elect a Democrat as President is to avoid having a neo-con as C-I-C.

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], speaking (as was our SALADIST] of "knee jerk opposition," that seems to describe the GOP in Congress beginning with day one of Obama's first term.

[More reasons to vote for a Democrat President to follow "posts" by our SALADISTA.]


 

Your knee jerk opposition to anything I post is getting quite humorous.
# posted by Bart DePalma : 10:01 AM


Says the nutcase who was blaming Obama for shit that was happening while Cheney/Bush was still president.
 

With Mr. Obama, the buck always stops somewhere else - Congress, states, GOP governors, Syria, Russia, al Qaeda and most especially the GOP House's decision to enact his own sequester.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/president-obamas-april-30-2013-news-conference-transcript/2013/04/30/0edc67b0-b1a3-11e2-baf7-5bc2a9dc6f44_story_4.html

Obama would like you to believe he is not really part of the federal government at all.

While he has not had the time to talk to Congress critters to enact his priorities, Mr. Obama did take the time to call NBA player Jason Collins to congratulate him on coming out and discussing the call at yesterday's presser.

Priorities.
 

Perhaps our SALADISTA (FKA our yodeler) thinks that maybe President Obama should have first called Sen. Lindsey Graham (Cracker, SCar); or had a beer with Sen. McConnell (Turtle, TN); or to call our SALADISTA to tell him how hilarious his Caesarist reference was. Yes indeed, priorities. We know our SALADISTA's priorities since the first day of Obama's inauguration. But Obama was reelected. Now our SALADISTA has higher priorities: to expand his DUI practice in the Mile High State (of mind) with the legalization of recreational ganja. (He should be cautious of inhaling second hand fumes.)
 

OOPS! CORRECTION:

"Sen. McConnell (Turtle, KY)"


 

With Mr. Obama, the buck always stops somewhere else - Congress, states, GOP governors, Syria, Russia, al Qaeda and most especially the GOP House's decision to enact his own sequester.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 12:32 PM


Dumbfuck, YOU were blaming Obama for shit that was happening while Cheney/Bush was STILL president.

 

"enact his own sequester"

This conservative meme on the right that the sequester should be blamed on Obama is hilarious. Do you think Obama would have suggested the sequester absent what was going on with the GOP at the time?

Imagine labor and management at odds over a new CBA with the clock ticking on the old one. Management wants a 10% benefits cut, labor wants none. Labor suggests a 1, then 2, and then 3% cut while management says "no compromise, we want 10." In order to avert the CBA expiring labor suggests there be a 5% cut and, if certain sales or production targets are not met there will be 8% cuts.

If the targets are not met and the cuts kick in, what sane third party observer would say "ah, what is labor complaining about, those cuts were their idea!"

What conservatives are doing is even better than that though, it's as if they are trying to gain the sympathy of the workers by saying "hey, you can blame those cuts on labor" when of course if they had their way there would have been greater cuts.

"Mr. Obama did take the time to call NBA player Jason Collins to congratulate him"

I wonder if you think it would have been a waste of President Truman's time if he had called Jackie Robinson upon his signing of a contract in MLB?
 

But, of course, Obama did want the sequester. He didn't want it to take place, he wanted it as a bogie man, a nightmare alternative to the legislature arriving at a budget meeting his approval, but he did want it.

I don't suppose he imagined that he wouldn't be able to make it hurt enough in practice to cause the public to demand he be given his spending increases to end it. But that's not the same as not having wanted it.
 

Brett

I'm wondering where you get that idea from.

We can know fairly what Obama wanted by looking at what he asks for at the start and throughout the impasse; likewise we can look at what the GOP demanded. The sequester looks like a midpoint between the two, which is hardly remarkable because that is essentially what it was.

In fact, if anything it was more of a capitulation to the GOP than a compromise as one can note that it included absolutely none of the tax increases that Obama asked for at the start of the impasse but was instead entirely made up of what the GOP had been calling for: budget cuts/spending increase decreases. This is why Boehner said of it "I got 98% of what I wanted."
 

BD: "enact his own sequester"

Mr.W: This conservative meme on the right that the sequester should be blamed on Obama is hilarious. Do you think Obama would have suggested the sequester absent what was going on with the GOP at the time?


Obama has lied pathologically about supporting a "balanced plan" of tax increases and spending cuts.

There is no way Obama would support a spending cut of any kind without a proverbial gun to his head.

When presented with an unmoving GOP House, Obama decided to get cute and offer an across the board sequester that would gore GOP spending priorities like defense under the assumption that the GOP would later cave and reverse the sequester.

The GOP jumped all over the sequester as the only spending decrease they were likely to get from Obama and declared victory.

When the sequester got close, some of the Senate RINOs got wobbly, but amazingly the GOP House held steady and the cuts actually went into effect.

Obama tried to ratchet up the pressure by making these minuscule cuts as painful as possible. This largely failed until the air traffic controller furloughs created airport delays. Unfortunately, Obama got caught waiving the furloughs for DC and its ruling class. Once that story went viral, Congress reversed Obama's furloughs in a NY minute.

In sum, this was Obama's mess from start to finish.

"Mr. Obama did take the time to call NBA player Jason Collins to congratulate him"

I wonder if you think it would have been a waste of President Truman's time if he had called Jackie Robinson upon his signing of a contract in MLB?


Robinson faced actual discrimination. Collins has not faced anything but fawning press coverage.

In any case, the point was not that Obama took the time to call Collins, but rather that he cannot be bothered to do so with Congress to enact the policies for which folks like Shag and bb elected him.

Obama is not a leader or a president, he was and always will be an agitator.
 

Your comments undercut themselves. You say Obama did not want, indeed cannot bring himself to offer, spending cuts, and that the GOP does want spending cuts, and then blame the sequester, which is of course all spending cuts, on Obama.

Incredible.

"Robinson faced actual discrimination. Collins has not faced anything but fawning press coverage."

I wonder why Collins waited so late in his career to 'come out' and why no other pro athletes have done so? If it's only "fawning press coverage" then what fools they be, eh?
 

Our SALADISTA (FKA our yodeler) opines:

"Obama is not a leader or a president, he was and always will be an agitator."

Surely our SALADISTA is agitated with the re-election of America's first African-American President. Which is another reason (non-cconstituional, of course) for voting for a Democrat for President.

Our SALADISTA has stressed Obama's training as a community organizer as a problem for his performance. Does that make Obama an agitator? Or has our SALADISTA failed in his efforts to brand Obama as a Caesarist? Our SALADISTA is tossing in the top-loading washing machine to his derriere arsenal of bile.
 

If Brett has access to the NYTimes website, he might read Thomas B. Edsall's lengthy essay "Guns and Political Suicide" to better understand voters that contrast with Brett's Elmer Fudd-ish views from the interior of his arsenal. Edsall makes the point that the NRA (which relies on angry while men members) demographics are changing as well as national demographics.
 

Mr. W:

I am sorry if I was not clear. Let me simplify for you.

Obama opposes any spending increases unless forced to accept them.

The GOP House forced him to accept a tiny reduction by threatening not to raise the limit on the federal credit card.

Obama tried to make that tiny reduction as painful as possible by first offering it as an across the board sequester affecting necessary functions and then using his discretion to disproportionately apply the cuts to necessary functions.

Obama's purpose in making this tiny reduction as painful as possible was to get the GOP to agree to reverse all the cuts.

The attempt failed.
 

Only in Bartworld is Obama to blame when the GOP gets 98% of what they want.
 

"The GOP House forced him to accept a tiny reduction"...which took the form of the sequester.

If one wants to say that the form of the cuts was suggested by Obama when the GOP pushed him to agree to some kind of budget cuts, then OK. But saying that the cuts are Obama's fault is absurd. As you yourself note if he had his way there would not be a sequester at all.
 

Mr. W:

In this case, form is substance.

By employing an across the board sequester, Obama was intentionally proposing cuts to necessary services like air traffic control which were not in the far deeper, but targeted cuts of the Ryan budget.

No matter how you spin this, Obama owns the sequester from beginning to end.


 

No matter how you spin this, Obama owns the sequester from beginning to end.


# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:24 PM


Dumbfuck, when your alternative to the current cuts is even deeper cuts, and you refuse to negotiate, then you own the current cuts. Beginning to end.

 

Our SALADISTA (FKA our yodeler) with this:

"No matter how you spin this, Obama owns the sequester from beginning to end."

ignores the role of the Senate and the House. Here's a link to "School house rock I'm just a bill" in case our SALADISTA has forgotten the process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dVo3nbLYC0
 

perhaps under the guise of the safety of his neighbors and especially his family. But someone has to stand with Sen. Lindsey Graham's (Cracker, SCar) concern with the lack of angry white male voters. (Maybe they can be sequestered in South Carolina.)
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