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Saturday, September 08, 2012

What is to be done?

Flipping through the teevee channels just now, I caught sight of Mitt Romney speaking to a crowd about Obama's acceptance speech (which the governor says he read but did not watch). As one might have predicted, Romney slammed the President for not offering any specific plans for the future -- a charge that can fairly be leveled at both candidates. Romney also stressed our continuing high unemployment figures, as well as the cost of the stimulus.

Obama should have addressed all of these points in his speech. Michael Tomasky offered this response:
"Let’s be blunt. Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase...”
Why the hell didn't Obama take the opportunity to drive home the message that the stimulus package was, to a large extent, devoted to tax cuts for the non-wealthy? Most of those who benefited from those cuts don't even realize that the cuts existed. In fact, quite a few ninnies have formed the ludicrous impression that taxes went up.

Why don't Democrats force Romney to argue against tax cuts?

As for unemployment -- well, give Obama credit: The American Jobs Act would have put a couple of million people back to work. The Republicans blocked it. The Democrats did mention the Jobs Act during their convention, but not often enough to make a proper impression. Obama didn't make any reference to it.

Why don't Democrats force Republicans to argue against jobs?

And that brings us to the big problem with Obama's speech: The lack of specificity. That concern also bothered Eliot Spitzer. As he mulled over the problem on his Current TV show, a troubling truth became clear. Obama offered no specific proposals because there is nothing he can do.

The President does not make law. Without bipartisan cooperation, little in the realm of domestic policy is achievable.

FDR, by contrast, had more across-the-aisle cooperation. He got it because many Republicans, chastened by the national ill-will directed toward Herbert Hoover, felt obliged to remake their brand. (Of course, both parties had liberal and conservative wings in those days.) He also got it by threatening to use emergency powers -- not an option available to Barack Obama.

Mitt Romney has, in recent days, signaled his own plan: Military Keynesianism. For Republicans, defense spending is the only ideologically acceptable jobs program. That's why Romney wants more military spending than the Pentagon has asked for.

I doubt that he'll get it: The dominant Grover Norquist faction wants Defense to shrink along with the rest of the government. Thus, Romney -- like Obama -- has little room for action. We live in one nation, under Grover.

What is to be done? If a smart guy like Spitzer is stumped, then so am I. But I know this: We can't reward obstructionists with electoral success.

The only good news is that some forecasters believe that jobs will slowly begin to return next year regardless of which candidate wins. If and when that happens, the rooster will take credit for the dawn.

About those disappointing August employment numbers: Please forgive the Fox-ism, but some people say that August is always pretty lousy, jobs-wise. Even before the Wall Street meltdown, the August figures under Bush in 2008 showed only losses. People forget that Dubyanomics began shedding jobs early that year.

Not only that: The Bush record shows job losses -- not tepid gains, but losses -- in August of 2007 -- a time when, in Republican mythology, everything was supposed to be hunky-dory.

On an unrelated note: Sarah Palin says that John Kerry "diminished himself" by mentioning her name during his speech. I agree. Since this woman will probably never hold office again, why should any of us continue to diminish ourselves?
Where was the Grand Orater of the 2004 convention?

He only exists in the fever dreams of O-bots. Barack couldn't bite the hand that feeds him so you won't hear what needs to be said about righting America.
Kerry still smarts from the 2004 drubbing, and a big part of his problem, is no longer anything but a professor Emeritus of Political losses; Bob Shrum.

The 2004 speech was hampered by that self-same reluctance to get tough and mean, and so the 2012 Convention speech was not gutted for content matching GOP rhetoric.

Bob Shrum said that? Very foolish. John Kerry has been a senator since 1985 and is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee. If that's "losing," then I would love a chance to lose on that level.

As I recall, Kerry was tough enough in his 2004 acceptance speech. But he didn't have a ready response when he was swiftboated. That came later.
Ben -- I'm sorry; I re-read your original statement and now understand it better. You castigated Bob Shrum, not Kerry, as the Professor Emeritus of Losing.

Well, that's a lot more accurate!
Too funny. You said once that we had similar tendencies. Mine is 'ready, shoot, aim" as my writing style is a stream I try to capture (heuristics) and sometimes, I don't edit. Often, that is a mistake.

Ben: My posts are rewritten for style several times. Sometimes I rewrite older posts that no-one reads anymore, just to make a sentence clearer.

My rule is that if a rewrite is cosmetic or stylistic, I see no need to inform the reader. If I've changed the factual assertions or my opinions, I'll offer an advisory.

That's why I don't like Tweets. You can't rewrite the suckers!

That's also a problem with comments.

Swiftboating is what republicans are all about, and something Team Obama learned to use against Bill and Hillary.

Corporate America wanted a second Bush term ( a third if you count Obama) and so instructed the print and broadcast media not to look too closely at the charges leveled by the Swiftboat Vets. This is the type of political jiu-jitsu the gop uses best. Take an opponents assets and turn it into a liability. Twice, in 2000 then in 2004, they turned a Vietnam vet into something worse than a slacker in a TANG unit.

Though certain bog-trotter journalists donned the knee pads willingly such their hatred of their English betters.
If the Ds had exercised the nuclear option at the start of the session in 2009, which enables the filibuster to be abolished with a majority vote, the Rs wouldn't have been able to obstruct anything. The Ds are fully complicit here.

We are looking at a bipartisan policy success where (a) corporate profits are at a record high, (b) permanently high disemployment keeps workers desperate and compliant, and (c) wages are gradually being driven down to world levels.

Obama is not weak at all. He is doing exactly what his constituency wants, and he also believes in it.
lambert, I do not believe all of that -- and you are getting skittishly near my new (temp) rule, but seeing as it's you...

At any rate, this is the sort of ultra-cynical "It's hip to be hopeless" crap that is sure to turn this country over to the libertarians who want an end to Social Security.

But...regarding the filibuster: The nuclear option is not the way to go. The way to rewrite the senate rules is during an actual "Jimmy Stewart" style filibuster. Most people don't know that the rules CAN be rewritten under those circumstances -- and that if the Republicans are doing the filibuster, then the Dems are most likely to have a majority present in the chamber. The rules state that the rules can be changed by a vote of those PRESENT.

Of course, under those circumstances the Dems would also be bereft of the filibuster option.
Since your point goes to tactics, we agree, then, that the nuclear option would work as I suggest; the link has a very detailed account of how the procedures would work. At the start of any Congress, the rules are set ***by majority vote.*** All the pros know this, because there was a huge controversy about the nuclear option under the Bush administration.

If the Democrats had used to the nuclear option in 2009, then Republican obstructionism wouldn't have been possible, and every single piece of legislation that the Democrats have been blaming the Republicans for preventing could have been passed. One can argue that there were good reasons for not exercising the option, but if so, those reasons were more important than the legislation, getting people back to work, a stimulus of better size, and so forth.

* * *

As for being cyncical and hopeless, I am in fact quite hopeful. It's just that I don't place my hope in the legacy parties any more; I've become realistic about what they can really deliver.
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