They Really Did Believe Their Own Bullsh-t

So this is depressing, if it’s true (boldface mine):

The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans—or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false, and that, in Pfeiffer’s words, “what drives 90 percent of stuff is not the small tactical decisions or the personal relationships but the big, macro political incentives.”

If you had to pinpoint the moment this worldview began to crystallize, it would probably be around the first debt-ceiling showdown, in 2011, when Obama tried repeatedly and desperately to cut a budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner only to realize, eventually, that Boehner did not have the power to negotiate.

It took them three years to figure this out? They drank their own Kool-Aid. But it gets worse:

This analysis puts the administration at odds with the reading of American politics that still dominates much of Washington reporting. Many political journalists imagine that the basic tension for the White House lies between Obama’s liberal base and appealing to Americans at the center, who will be crucial for tipping elections.

Is our journalists learning? At least the Administration did:

Obama’s most politically successful maneuvers, by contrast, have all been unilateral and liberal. “Whenever we contemplate bold progressive action,” Pfeiffer said, “whether that’s the president’s endorsement of marriage equality, or coming out strong on power-plant rules to reduce current pollution, on immigration, on net neutrality, you get a lot of hemming and hawing in advance about what this is going to mean: Is this going to alienate people? Is this going to hurt the president’s approval ratings? What will this mean in red states?” And yet this hesitation has always proved overblown: “There’s never been a time when we’ve taken progressive action and regretted it.”

This was deeply at odds with the lesson Bill Clinton and most of his aides (many of whom staffed Obama’s administration) had taken away from his presidency. But by the beginning of Obama’s second term, at least, the president seemed fully convinced.

Too late perhaps. But this is something Clinton supporters should consider: I have serious doubts that her insticts–and she’s already risk-averse to begin with–are appropriate for the moment.

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1 Response to They Really Did Believe Their Own Bullsh-t

  1. wj says:

    The reason the veterans of the Clinton administration learned different lessons is simply this: they were dealing with a different Republican Party. It would have seemed ridiculous at the time, but in retrospect Newt Gingrich was a (comparatively) sane individual who actually had some interest in a government that worked. Today, he wouldn’t fit in the GOP . . . outside maybe Maine.

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