Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Puts the "Ape" in Apricot

I'm sorry, I have no idea what Josh Kraushaar is talking about here:
One of President Obama's political weaknesses in his first term has been that he's all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he's had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party's core constituencies...when it comes to political bravery, Obama isn't going to win any profiles in courage, either.
He goes on to bash Obama for failing to support Simpson-Bowles, and for supposedly not making specific budget requests during the debt limit fight, and for a few other things, none of which read as anything like "avoiding making tough decisions" to me.

I think what it comes down to is that I don't understand the entire concept of "political bravery" as discussed by the press. I can imagine a few definitions. Bravery generally is about subjecting oneself to danger or risk, particularly in pursuit of some greater goal, right? But I'm not sure I get why, for example, specifying one's position publicly in a negotiation would fit. Kraushaar's criticism only makes sense if (1) Obama perceived it to be better negotiating strategy to make his position public; (2) believed that doing so would be painful or dangerous or risky in some way; and therefore (3) decided not to subject himself to the pain or danger or risk. Does that sound like what happened in any of the negotiations with Republicans so far?

The truth is that running for president takes physical courage, and whatever the kind of courage that's involved in knowingly subjecting yourself to having millions of people say nasty things about you. Matt Bai was actually getting to this today, and while I might quibble a bit with him (natch!) I think he's on the right track. But actually being president doesn't really, as far as I can tell, have a whole lot in common with with choice between meeting the bully on the playground or hiding out in the lunchroom. It's just not about that sort of thing.

Aw, might as well get to the main point that annoys me, which is the notion that courage is about "taking on..."the "party's core constituencies." I'm just baffled by the importance the press places on this, apparently just for it's own sake. It's just nonsense to think that it's often sensible for presidents to do it, and at any rate it has little to do with whatever political bravery is.

Look: George H.W. Bush was famously prudent, perhaps to a fault, and George W. Bush was reckless to a fault, but that doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with courage. I mean, I've seen Obama's choices on bin Laden described as courageous, but I don't really see that, either. They do their jobs, they make decisions (yes, Obama has made plenty, including very tough ones indeed in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan), and generally they give it their best, which may or may not turn out well. But "political bravery"? In almost every case I recall reading about it, it was just junk to fill columns. I don't think there's much to it at all, and I certainly don't think that Kraushaar is telling us anything about Obama in this case.


  1. The notion in itself does seem incoherent and unsystematically applied. It only becomes understandable (gains a coherent, rational purpose) if one analyzes what opinion postures and larger notions of politics it enables: personalization, obsession with tactics, agnosticism on and downplaying of policy content and genuine political commitments, a surface of embrace of moral language (to attract some interest, give some sense of meaningful stakes) without having to tie that to politics and cultural identity ('divisive' matters, which it is assumed everyone always wants to get beyond anyway).

  2. Well, I would say the OBL decision did take some political courage. Had it gone to hell, it would have been a political disaster for him.

    And "hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain"? WHAT?! What does this guy think the ACA fight was all about? If he thinks Obama wasn't involved with - or deeply associated with - that fight, he's just a moron. It looks like, come 2012, healthcare reform won't actually provide a political gain, but presumably Obama thought there would be payoff in his massive expenditure of political capital.

    "has avoided taking on some of his party's core constituencies"? Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!

    Just a couple of examples:

    1. Didn't fight for public option
    2. Expanded war in Afghanistan
    3. Didn't pursue EFCA
    4. Spiked EPA ozone rules

    Those are just a few.

  3. I can only guess that 'taking on some of his party's core constituencies' is meant to evoke Bill Clinton's Sistah Souljah riff. Which was a shrewd move on the Big Dog's part, but what it had to do with political courage is mysterious to me.

    More realistically, surely this is another instance of fantasy centrism on the part of the Beltway MSM elite. For whom merely blowing off factions of your own party is not enough; what you're supposed to do is vocally badmouth 'em.

  4. He's just trying to outdo his Mom's awesome take-down of the Hermanator.

  5. I wouldn't look too deeply into this one. His columns are usually pretty superficial and bad. He's one of these DC political journos who seems to know very little about politics beyond superficial spin and media work. He's sort of always predicting an imminent GOP win.

  6. I wonder how many of your readers actually pay attention to this kind of stuff because I surely don't. I come to your site for real political scientific understanding and to avoid this stuff. Unfortunately, you keep bringing it up.

  7. The Left is gettin' drilled across the country because of their fiscal irresponsibility. This is happening at the federal, state and local levels. It promises to continue, because the Left's current response is to carry on with fiscal irresponsibility.

    So you can look for continued calls for the Left to change course, because the smarter lefties well understand that the current course is leading them to electoral armageddon.

  8. As a general proposition, I am in favor of any post, on any blog, that is titled 'Puts the "Ape" in Apricot.'

  9. the current course is leading them to electoral armageddon.
    How many armageddons are we supposed to undergo at once? Not too long ago, "anonymous" was scoping out the electoral armageddon that Herman Cain was going to spell for Obama. So would that have been a double armageddon?

    What would be really cool would be if a Republican wins the presidency and goes in on a new war in the Middle East. Then we could have a triple Armageddon, including a real Armageddon armageddon! It would be the armageddon of armageddons!

  10. Excuse me, but I agree that Obama has been a weak leader and hasn't taken on the parts of his party that he needs to. I couldn't say, like JB does:

    "I have no idea what Josh Kraushaar is talking about here."

    Kraushaar doesn't make a coherent argument, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a coherent argument to be made. A lot of former supporters are feeling that Obama isn't a good leader. I don't think you can deny the truth of that, especially considering his falling approval rating. So it's important to look for the reasons.

    I'm one of the disappointed and came up with a much more coherent explanation than Kraushaar, as I write here

    As for "taking on the core constituencies," a better wording would be "moderating the core constituencies." Obama failed to moderate the Democrats in the House, and the entire Democratic has been paying the price for that failure, except maybe those hack Democrats in dreadfully safe seats. The same exists on the Republican side (Louie Gohmert) but seems to be kept well away from power.

  11. How many armageddons are we supposed to undergo at once?


    As many as it takes for the Left to figure out that their fiscal irresponsibility is bringing on these electoral armageddons.

    So it may be a while. ;-)


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