Ezra Klein (Washington Post): I had some issues with David Brooks’s column Friday on the two parties’ sequester positions …. A transcript of our conversation follows.
Ezra Klein: In the column, you said that the Obama administration doesn’t have a plan to replace the sequester. I feel like I’ve had to spend a substantial portion of my life reading their various budgets and plans to replace the sequester, and my sense is that you’ve had to do this, too. So, what am I missing?
David Brooks: First, the column was a bit of an over-the-top lampooning column about dance moves. I probably went a bit too far when saying the president didn’t have a response to the sequester save to raise taxes on the rich. In the cool light of day, I can say that’s over the top. There’s chained CPI and $400 billion in health proposals. So I should say I was unfair. I’m going to attach a note to the column, if it’s not up already.
Eugene Robinson (Washington Post): Here’s how to negotiate, GOP-style: Begin by making outrageous demands. Bully your opponents into giving you almost all of what you want. Rather than accept the deal, add a host of radical new demands. Observe casually that you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the hostage you’ve taken – the nation’s well-being. To the extent possible, look and sound like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
This strategy has worked so well for Republicans that it’s no surprise they’re using it again, this time in the unnecessary fight over what should be a routine increase in the debt ceiling. This time, however, something different is happening: President Obama seems to be channeling Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. At a news conference last Wednesday, Obama’s response to the GOP was, essentially, “You talkin’ to me?”
Obama’s in-your-face attitude seems to have thrown Republicans off their stride….
….The stakes are perilously high, but Obama does have a doomsday option: If all else fails, he can assert that a section of the 14th Amendment – “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned” – makes the debt limit unconstitutional and instructs him to take any measures necessary to avoid default.
Maybe that’s why, in this stare-down, the president doesn’t seem inclined to blink.
St Louis Dispatch: When Sen. Jon Kyl and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor quit the (no longer) bipartisan deficit-reduction talks last week, it was not exactly a “Profiles in Courage” moment.
Serious deficit reduction can’t be – and shouldn’t be – accomplished without tax increases and broad elimination of tax expenditures, which would have the effect of raising taxes. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform last year acknowledged that … But tax increases, in whatever guise, fail the current Republican purity laws…
It’s sad to see what has happened to the Party of Lincoln … Today we have the spectacle of smart, patriotic men and women putting their brains and integrity on ice to please a party dominated by anti-intellectual social Darwinists and the plutocrats who finance and mislead them……
E.J. Dionne: …. Prudence went on vacation during the administration of the second President Bush, but it’s back as the hallmark of President Obama’s approach to foreign policy. And it was the underlying theme of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week.
You would think this would be popular. But it turns out that Obama finds himself almost alone in his effort to define a broad new middle ground in international affairs. It’s not that the center isn’t holding. It’s that most politicians don’t seem to want to go near it.
….Obama is trying to get out of Afghanistan, carefully. He’s trying to put “a difficult decade” of war behind us. If he is reelected, he would chart a new course freed from the two enormous military engagements that George W. Bush undertook.
…His withdrawal schedule from Afghanistan is too slow for the doves, too quick for the hawks. In the case of Libya, he’s too aggressive for those weary of American military intervention and not bold enough for those who think the United States has a moral obligation to bring down the Gaddafi dictatorship. The fact that almost all our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year goes unheralded.
…Obama is not being excessively prudent to worry that a quicker withdrawal could disrupt our alliances, undo our achievements on the ground and weaken our efforts to leave a relatively stable situation behind when we do get out…….his effort to find a more stable middle ground in foreign policy deserves more support than it’s getting.
Paul Krugman: ….I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again….
…It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate….
…Where’s the toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.
And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.
….efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger … but even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people…..
Howard Kurtz (The Daily Beast): After two years of carping about President Obama ramming his ambitious and costly proposals through Congress, some on the right now fume that he is determined to get his way by using — the nerve! — his executive powers.
Charles Krauthammer’s latest column, on this very subject, contains a curious omission, almost a sense of amnesia. The esteemed scribe details how the Obama administration is pushing through three important changes in federal policy, accusing the president of trying “to impose a liberal agenda on a center-right nation” through “regulatory stealth.”
….but here’s the thing: Every president uses the federal bureaucracy to push the country in his preferred ideological direction. That, in fact, is part of what elections are about. Each White House occupant appoints agency chiefs who agree with his philosophy ..… the Krauthammer column implies that Obama practically invented the nefarious practice.
Take, for example, George W. Bush. His EPA moved to loosen clean-air rules near national parks. His Interior Department cleared the way for oil drilling on 130,000 acres of pristine federal land near national parks in Utah (which Obama has since reversed) …. his Minerals Management Service, which referred to oil companies as “clients,” told the firms they did not have to provide detailed response plans for blowouts because such plans were “purely speculative or generic.” This was five years before the BP oil disaster …. his White House Council on Environmental Quality edited an administration report to emphasize scientific uncertainties about global warming …. his Securities & Exchange Commission mounted 87 percent fewer fraud investigations that led to federal prosecutions…..
….Obama may well be engaged in a “leftward lurch” toward stricter federal regulation, as the conservative Krauthammer views it. But when it comes to using the Executive Branch to achieve political goals, he’s had plenty of company.
Robert Shrum: There is something at the heart of progressive politics that yearns to turn on its own. So it’s open season on Barack Obama.
It’s right to expect the assault from the right; the patently obvious plan there is to oppose, obstruct, deadlock, and depress the economy.
Now, from the other side of the spectrum, progressives and the Democratic chattering class are increasingly and, at times, even bitterly critical. Obama doesn’t fight enough, communicate enough, change enough. Even his great achievements are tainted….
…The next two years will be decisive, not just for the election, but also for a generation and more. The stakes are too high for liberals to indulge the psychic satisfaction of Obama-bashing.
But the cudgels are in full swing. Paul Krugman, the canary in the coalmine of the liberal commentariat, has just assailed “progressives who had their hearts set on Obama”: They “were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion.”
Disgruntled with Obama from the start, Krugman has a Nobel Prize in economics, but not politics; he has never explained what the president could have done, other than stamping his foot, to secure a trillion or more in stimulus followed by a second one.
….The prospect of realignment should still beckon Democrats. They should pursue it; they can and should prod Obama; but in a tough and testing time, they also have to offer him a measure of trust. The alternative is a lost chance to bend history and probably a long exile in a cul-de-sac of liberal righteousness without results.
… He and they have their share of mistakes, missed opportunities, and miscommunications. That could be said of every great president. So it’s time for progressives and Democrats to concentrate their convictions and come to this understanding: Barack Obama’s all we’ve got—and he’s already gotten more done than any president on our side in half a century.