From friend of the blog Emily Hauser: “Just a reminder: It is possible to support the President on some issues & oppose him on others & retain your I’m A Progressive Card.”

I, of course, am impressed and grateful for the Affordable Care Act, arms control and climate regulations, while I’m not so wild about Administration policy in general on the Middle East, security, or education. But what’s been interesting so far–and perhaps underobserved–is that second term Obama has been acting like a president. The obsessiveness over getting a tax deal a month ago was a throwback to when Obama seemed to aspire to being an ersatz Senate Majority Leader, but apart from that it seems as though he’s found the right issues to emphasize, and the right ways to move them along. Getting a debt ceiling surrender from the GOP was a very nice, finesse moment. He’s been pitch-perfect on guns and immigration so far, and we might well see something come out of them. And while the economic consequences of the sequester occurring will probably be nontrivial and pretty lousy, but getting significant defense cuts and splitting the opposition aren’t bad consolation prizes. I don’t really think that Obama is interested in “annihilating” the GOP, in Boehner’s words. Stepping back and letting them do the job themselves seems more his style. And luckily, they’re willing to oblige!

Also, I think I’m getting sort of a hair-trigger when it comes to the Catholic Church. Their most recent failure was to convince the British government not to adopt marriage equality. My question is: why are they still doing this? They shouldn’t be doing this. When they do stuff like this, the voice in my head just shouts, “Shut up!” They can mobilize the troops, I guess, or whatever subset of them that continue to agree with the establishment of the church. Fair enough. But they’ve become what in politics is what advertisers call a negative brand–knowing that they support an issue makes that issue less appealing to the electorate than not knowing it. Every cause they backed in the US last year backfired against them, and it was their opposition to the contraception mandate that has led to the greatest revival of pro-choice political energy in over thirty years. The reason for this is simple: the Catholic Church has become so completely identified with pedophile priests that it would have to be the number one answer if it came up on Family Feud. There is no moral authority to be found there anymore. That wasn’t the case when the first scandals broke and it didn’t have to be this way, but it is, and the level of denial here on their behalf is off the charts. They’d serve their causes best by keeping their mouths shut, maybe acting more behind the scenes and mobilizing their followers. Let me say this, though. I’d be more than happy to see all the building money obsessed megachurches burn to the ground, as they don’t put anything into the community (except maybe property taxes) and they do little otherwise in my experience. But there are some salvageable components in the Catholic Church. I’d rather they just butted out of politics and got their act together, but the more likely course is steady attrition and decreasing prestige in the West, due to the arrogance and near-sociopathic lack of empathy on the behalf of the institutional leaders. So be it.

Is there anything more boring than the Chuck Hagel confirmation? There are almost no stakes to it. At first, it seemed like the stakes were huge. Hagel was someone who was critical of some of the stupider aspects of the establishment consensus on foreign policy! Finally, something to fight for when it comes to Administration military policy. Only he basically dropped all that as soon as he decided to take the job. So the stakes are minimal: stopping some admittedly awful people from winning a turf battle and chilling the conversation on Israel and Iran even further. That’s not irrelevant–denying Bill Kristol a victory makes him look weak, and as the cliche goes, power is perception–but it’s boring as fuck. It reminds me of Tanner on Tanner, in which a fervent Iraq War opponent winds up becoming a mealymouthed centrist as soon as a hypothetical Administration job is dangled in front of his face. It’s a good miniseries, here’s a taste:

  1. Matmos says:

    I can’t agree with you more on the Catholic Church. The minute you see “Catholic Bishop” attached to anything — except, in a small way, that press release from the Los Angeles diocese just recently — you know what you’re getting. And it’s not going to change until the current crop die off, some of the *next* crop who were taught by the current crop die, and they start allowing married priests and women priests. The first two from institutional inertia and fear, and the last two because until they do that they will continue to scrape the bottom of a really shallow barrel in terms of their pool of potential priests. It’s not what you’d call a growth industry for the well-adjusted.

    • Lev says:

      Put it this way: if there were a country club or a big company that as a matter of policy allowed only men (and in practice only old men) to have any power in it, there would be an uproar. I see no reason why that shouldn’t be across-the-board.

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