Is there any way that Barack Obama’s handling (or, if you will, under-handling) of Russia during the elections was not scandalous and disgraceful? Honest question. And these answers do not count:

  1. “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway if he’d spoken out frankly about it.” Perhaps not. But it may well have, and the stakes of the race were literally a fascist president or not. You don’t leave anything on the table in that eventuality. Not to mention that it was a pretty fucking important development that the public had an interest in knowing regardless.
  2. “He thought Hillary Clinton was going to win anyway.” So did we all. But she didn’t, and it was a bad assumption. What else?
  3. “Mitch McConnell was going to roast him for being partisan if he said anything.” So what? He doesn’t work for McConnell. Sometimes the thing that brings you partisan advantage is also the right thing to do. It’s not always a conflict. Should we really be concerned about Obama’s image among Republicans? Is not making a mess really worth not taking every step possible to deal with a nightmare scenario?
  4. “There was nothing he could do.” No. Nothing is what he did. Doing something would be more than what he did.

I just don’t find any of this compelling. He had the ability to act, he didn’t. That’s really hard to forgive, particularly since the reason for not acting was because he was concerned about appearing partisan. And all of this reasoning, while offered after the fact, applied just as much ex ante as well. All this makes Obama appear a tragic figure, someone who simply couldn’t break his rigid attachment to how he thought things ought to be, someone who just couldn’t overcome his pride and amend his glorious vision even after it became devastatingly clear that it wasn’t going to happen. Ultimately, he much more resembles Woodrow Wilson than Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson: bipartisanship on the one hand, the League of Nations on the other, both with devastating consequences for their parties. Let’s just hope that Democrats don’t spend as long in the wilderness post-Obama as they did post-Wilson.

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TrumpCare vote delayed. What’s next?

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This complaint always confused me. It’s usually a complaint about The Kids Today, but it’s not as though the all-powerful Childrens’ Sports Union demanded that this practice start because it wasn’t fair for only some to get them! It was adults who chose to start doing it. And honestly, it’s much more defensible than just a couple of top performers getting one as sports are team efforts, particularly the ones young kids tend to play, so giving just the top kids trophies merely encourages members of a team to play selfishly in order to get more praise and recognition, which come to think of it might explain why a lot of older people think it’s a grand thing. (And yes, I understand how sports are consumed and how there’s a strong interest in pro sports to stand out individually because you get more money/fame/awards, but in the context of childrens’ fucking soccer, it’s nonsense to create “stars” out of top perfomers who are often just kids who develop physically a bit faster than the others. The sports “gods” of my elementary school days are now without exception burnouts who couldn’t handle the pressure and adulation, such as they were, at a young age for something they never really earned.)

Honestly, no trophies would be the most defensible position, but if we’re going to have them, the recognition of all members of a team as contributors seems the more sensible model. I doubt this really has much of an effect on their social outlook and politics later on–the lack of good jobs, all that student debt and all those anti-gay Christian right warriors probably had more to do with creating the Bernie youth movement than getting some trophies during their pre-pubescent years–though who knows for sure.

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  1. Let’s say that Barack Obama wins the election to the House that in reality he lost in 2000, but the rest of his career goes exactly the same–wins the Senate seat in 2004, the White House in 2008. This means he goes to Washington as an anonymous backbencher in 2001 instead of as a celebrity senator in 2005. This also means that he sees with his own eyes such things as Republicans breaking whatever House rules they like in order to pass the bills they want to pass, Tom DeLay outright bribing people to pass Medicare Part D, the GOP using the Iraq War Resolution and the Homeland Security Act as partisan cudgels in order to win the midterms. Does Obama still go to the White House with the theme song from The West Wing burning in his ears, believing that Republican politicians are decent, reasonable people you can do business with?
  2. Let’s say that Bill Frist doesn’t retire in 2006 and remains the Senate Republican leader in 2009-2010. Does he go all the way to maximal obstruction like Mitch McConnell did in reality, or does he just incrementally build upon what Senate Democrats did under Bush, which incrementally built upon what Senate Republicans did under Clinton, etc.

I think my answers are (1) far less so and (2) not as much as McConnell but more than just an incremental increase. After all, in the second case, McConnell would still have been the whip, and had a lot of influence.

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Well, at least one of them:

  1. Susan Collins’s final pretense at being in any meaningful way moderate.
  2. Dean Heller’s hopes at any chance of winning another term.
  3. Rand Paul eating humble pie and voting for the bill over some pretty unequivocal objections to the underlying nature of the bill (they’re a bit more specific and broadly philosophical and not just vague “concerns,” like the rest of them) so there’d be a bit of a climbdown, and he’d look a fool).

My guess is that (1) is least likely. Collins is sort of like Dianne Feinstein in that she rarely sticks her neck out to the right when the lights are on her (though in all fairness Feinstein has been quite a bit less horrible this term, she even supported that resolution against Saudi arms sales which astonished me, symbolic or not). Collins likes being a highly visible (if largely useless) Washington moderate, fawned over by the press and No Labels jagoffs. And while there’s no reason to believe that that crew would show her any less love if she voted for TrumpCare, I doubt Maine would send her back for another term. She’d be joined to Trump indelibly in 2020 (or in 2018 if she runs for governor) and Maine is I think the poorest blue state, lots of people who wouldn’t take kindly to such a vote. And I don’t think she wants to move onto the Joe Lieberman phase of her career yet. Collins also has strong leverage in that she could win as an indy if she wanted, in fact, that would make her much stronger if she did. GOP needs her more than she needs it.

My guess is that (2) is most likely for the opposite reason. Heller may well decide that he’s already screwed so why depart from being the party hack he is? After all, if he derails the bill, no wingnut welfare for him after he loses in 2018. Of course, if he thinks he has a chance he’d have to be crazy to vote for it, though then again, Tea Partiers can bring Sharron Angle out of mothballs for a primary challenge that this time she’d win. Heller’s one of these guys like Mel Martinez or that guy who held Ted Kennedy’s seat for a month after he died, just a boring party functionary who could never survive the loss of its support. Someone like Lisa Murkowski had the skill to win after losing her party’s nomination but that’s all Alaska politics, patronage and family ties and all that shit come into account. Heller has nothing similar to lean on. Without the party’s support he’s nothing. So he won’t jeopardize that.

As for (3), I really couldn’t gauge. They could lose Collins and Paul and still win, which may well be what it comes down to. Paul’s survived the worst McConnell has dished out before and standing on (insane) principle, damn the consequences, is part of the family brand. On the other hand, at the end of the day, all Republicans have a not-so-hidden hard-on for helping out their rich friends at the rest of our expense. So it’s hard to call.

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I’ll just repost this:

Pursuing well-off white suburbanites is one of those ideas that never pans out but never goes away. Democrats and their consultants see people who are well educated (true), often don’t have iron-clad culture warrior stances on the issues (also true) and who have some discomfort with the religious-populist orientation of the GOP (true again). Problem is that most of these folks (though certainly not all!) have been acculturated into a sort of aggressive selfishness in which social concerns are seen as “not their problem” at best, and certainly less important than paying as close to no taxes as is humanly possible. Obviously you tailor different messages for different audiences but in terms of reaching people whose essential attitude is “not giving a fuck about anything going on beyond their front yard,” it’s really hard to see how Democrats can edge out Republicans with this group.

Look, I hoped that the repellence of Trump and Handel would make it happen for Ossoff, but as they say, the fundamentals were not in his favor. Some wonder aloud at how Republicans only care about/can only do tax cuts, but it apparently doesn’t dawn on people that this is merely because they know their base well. I used to joke that the GOP could run Heinrich Himmler and he’d still get 80% of the GOP vote if he held the line on taxes. Not such a funny joke anymore, I grant you.

 

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Yeah, I’m more than tired of these “Trump voters like Trump” pieces, but the absurdity of this shows just how impossible it’s going to be for that fever to break:

“It’s very frustrating that he gets pushback on everything that he tries to do. It’s just everything. Everything,” said Debbie Maddox, 61, a retiree and Trump supporter from the Houston area who visited Trump Tower this month with her daughter and two grandchildren. “They just don’t give him a chance to do it, no matter what it is. He’s always wrong.” […]

“All of this stuff just makes you hate politics,” Maddox said. “All of it is just so negative. I don’t think I’ve heard so much junk during any other presidency.”

I guess I missed the part of the Obama presidency that was positive and where he didn’t get any pushback. In all fairness, of course, I did blink regularly during those eight years.

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It’s a bit hard for me to grapple with the idea of a top-level politician who is genuinely frightened of interacting with normal people as someone living in the USA. Sure, they often try to minimize random interactions in a lot of cases, but for presidential candidates, say, you’re expected to head over to shitty cafes in Dubuque and talk to people (Marco Rubio didn’t bother and he lost, in part because of it). And if you’re president, you’re expected to go to places where a disaster happens and hold peoples’ hands. (I expect Trump to be quite bad at this when it happens, incidentally.) I don’t blame politicians for wanting to avoid the public as much as possible–it can be random and unpleasant to no end whatsoever–but there are some times where you can’t, and being a good politician is knowing when you need to let people vent at you. Theresa May, again, is not a good politician, but just how bad and how cloistered and brittle a person she is is an ongoing surprise.

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