Thursday, May 17, 2012

Elsewhere: Recess Appointments, "Replace"

At Greg's place, I updated the latest repeal-and-replace news. No, we're not going to have a replace bill, but Republicans can't quite bring themselves to fully admitting that.

And over at PostPartisan, I argue that today's Fed confirmations are evidence that Barack Obama's recent recess appointments worked. I don't often write "told ya so" posts, but I'm gonna say it this time. This is just basic applied Neustadt, right? Energy in the executive. Presidents "persuade" (in Neustadt's term) by bargaining aggressively, using their formal powers to create bargaining chips (what Neustadt unfortunately called "vantage points"). While the presidency isn't very powerful in the sense of presidents being able to just order everyone around, they do have more bargaining chips than anyone else in the system, and used wisely and aggressively they can wind up extremely influential -- but a passive president will wind up very weak.

So: if Senate Republicans are blocking exec branch nominations, a president should figure out what tools he has to fight back. If House Republicans are blacking recess appointments to prevent Senate recesses and therefore to prevent recess appointments, figure out some way to fight back. When Obama mostly didn't fight back, the situation got worse and worse; once he did, things started improving. Which, again, is basically what I said before the appointments and after the appointments when Republicans threatened to increase their obstruction.


  1. In its oblique way, this post may be the most powerful indictment of Obama I've read yet...I know you've been spanking Obama for appointment passivity for years, but could "lack of energy" also be charged with letting the GOP House drag us to the cliff's edge over the debt ceiling, dragging out the HCR negotiations for a year, doing next to nothing re mortgage relief, etc.?

    1. I mostly disagree. I think the Obama Administration was pretty aggressive on legislation, overall - big agenda, worked hard to get it passed. Yes, there were some tactical mistakes I'm sure, but I don't think most of them were from inattention.

      I can see the case for saying they weren't aggressive enough on housing sense is that that was a policy decision (for better or worse) and not inattention, but I don't really know. Generally, I'd say that there's a possibility that Obama was generally insufficiently attentive to the exec branch side of the job, but whether that's true or not will have to wait on more evidence.

  2. I don't often write "told ya so" posts, but I'm gonna say it this time.

    Are you kidding? You're constantly writing "I told you so" posts; and most of the time, they are accompanied by a "I usually don't do this" caveat.

    Not saying that's bad. You should let people know when your predictions turn out correct. But please, drop the faux-modest schtick, mmmkay?

  3. Personally, I didn't think you were right. I thought appointments would feed the conservative fire.

    I do think it's fair to say that Obama's appointments, when stalled, actually made finding appointments harder. First off, the staff assigned to the appointments and negotiating with Congress are still 'busy' with meaningless tasks, and second, finding people willing to be interrogated or ignored for months by Congress becomes more difficult. So that part I think shouldn't be understated.

  4. @anon, yeah and when he's not using "the faux-modest schtick" he getting offtrack during lectures and once he gave my test a B when I should have gotten a B+!

    Seriously though, I would agree with Yglesias that Obama's slowness on executive appointments is probably the biggest "unforced error" of his presidency (which I actually think is evidence of how good he's doing as President compared to the mistakes that W or Clinton made). That said I don't think if Obama led the charge on appointments from the get go there would necessarily be that much difference either in dealing with this problem or in actual policy outcomes. Central Banks', like the ECB, policies and the whole profession of economics strike me as being so incredibly dysfunctional right now that putting Paul Krugman on the Fed board wouldn't lead to that big of difference, at least in my opinion. Personally if I had to guess, I would actually say Rahm probably had something to do with this, just because Rahm really had a legislative based view of the Presidency during the first half of Obama's term. That is, the goal of the President should be signing significant pieces of legislation into law while the other stuff, with a few exceptions like the Supreme Court or National Security, is secondary or more symbolic than important. But that's just my guess.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?