Thursday, October 28, 2010

Question Day!

You know, I'm having difficulty focusing on the blog or anything else what with the World Series and I think I'll break things up a bit by having a question day.  You ask, I answer.  Anything is fair game: the midterms, the next Congress,  the historic 111th, old Senators, nepotism, Congressional reform, campaign finance, Obama, past presidents, political movies, whatever.  Leave questions as comments here, email me, or tweet to my attention.  Haven't done one of these in a while, so we'll see how it goes...I'll try to get to whatever you ask.


  1. Last night on the Daily Show Jon Stewart asked the President whether some of the frustration of his supporters could be traced to a seeming promise of the Obama campaign to transform the system, rather than working within the system, in order to bring substantive policies. By system, I assumed Stewart was referring to our political system and its sensitivity to interest groups (not necessarily a bad thing), and I assumed Stewart was referring to the efforts to "buy" industry's support, or at least silence, during health care reform or financial regulatory reform.

    My sense is that most Presidents have worked "within the system" in order to bring about change, and that the cooperation of industry (or at least some part of industry) is necessary for reform to succeed. Is this correct? Have there been any instances in American history where a President has "transformed the system" in order to bring about reform?

  2. I'm currently in college, and in my class on congressional strategy, my professor is adamant that Harry Reid is one of the worst majority leaders of all-time. His argument is that Harry Reid backs down from his threats, thereby losing all ground in negotiations since the other side knows it doesn't actually have to give up anything during bargaining. More specifically, he says that Reid's threats to let Republicans filibuster are empty since Reid has never forced a live filibuster. The "cost" of filibustering, in both the public eye and terms of Senate norms, has been reduced by Reid into a cheap option Republicans can afford to do all the time.

    In other words, he wants Reid to pick an issue, and force the R's to read from the telephone book. He says this will raise the credibility of Reid's threats and reduce the overall number of filibusters by R's, though most will still be "virtual."

    So. That's the best explanation I've heard for "live" filibuster, but I'm not convinced. I also don't know what I think of his claim that Reid is among the "worst ever."


  3. Your views on whether Harry Reid has been an effective majority leader, or whether most of the blame should go to Obama.

    Historically, how in your view does Reid rate -- especially against some of the ones deemed successful, like Johnson, Mansfield or perhaps Geo Mitchell.

    My favorites, both for what they were able to accomplish and for their lack of corruption/high moral values (obviously that factor seriously devalues one ML on the list) as they performed their duties -- Mansfield, Mitchell.

    Reid strikes me as just barely Mansfield Lite, which isn't a bad rating, but perhaps he comes up short in that he had to work with a president who wasn't as robust and forceful and smart in the early going with his economic program, and prioritizing it with other legislative goals like HCR.

    I'd like to see him re-elected, but would much prefer Dems look for a bolder leader, someone with a stronger public profile who's also stronger on the issues most Ds care about, someone who, say, wouldn't name Scalia as a justice worthy of praise in a debate.

  4. (Hey, great minds think alike, Voltaire -- or is it Francois Marie Arouet ...? Didn't see your post until I'd posted mine.)

  5. @Brodie - call me whatever you'd like. Frannie, Volty, it's all good.

    And thanks in advance, Bernstein, if you answer our question!

  6. As long as we're talking about Majority Leaders here, it looks like there will be a race between Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin if Reid falls on Tuesday. Schumer seems to be more of an LBJ-type, willing to twist arms as well as spread money around and work with industry partners when necessary. Durbin, on the other hand, seems to be more like his former boss and mentor, Paul Douglas.

    Given that 1) The Democrats will be fighting the Republicans tooth and nail over the next two years, so they should create clear differences with them and 2) The Democrats are going to be playing major defense in 2012, who should the Dems go with? Schumer, who won 15 Senate seats when he headed the DSCC? Or would it make more sense to go with the liberal fighter, Durbin, who will emphasize the differences between the two parties?

  7. I'm interested in your extended opinion on the Harry Reid questions as well.

    But here's another topic. Prof. Jarvis and I have been debating the value of "multi-partisan" redistricting commissions in lieu of legislatures doing that work (let's call that gerrymandering). While I don't expect you to have an opinion about California redistricting per se, you seem to be generally a fan of commissions doing the work that is too politically volatile for politicos to touch. And I've seen you write disparagingly of gerrymandering (in the context, I think, of DeLay's failed endeavor in Texas). Then again, I've seen you write in support of gerrymandering in the context of the messy Democratic process.

    I'm interested in your thoughtful opinion, though I'd understand if the subject is too arcane for general interest.

  8. Is Kevin Drum's story about the Greenspan deal to raise Social Security taxes plausible? Coyote Blog claims here that it's not, but I wasn't there and I don't know if Coyote's characterization of Tip O'Neill is accurate.


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