Thursday, May 31, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Rikkert Faneyte, 43. Perhaps not much of a ballplayer, but a good story nonetheless.

Plenty of good stuff:

1. Greg Koger on the sudden turn against consensus in the Senate. Explanation? Partisanship, not ideology. Sounds right.

2. Excellent post about LBJ from Scott Lemieux. Although I haven't read the Caro book, what Lemieux says sounds right to me. Two comments. I wouldn't assume that bullying cabinet secretaries can always work. It may have been easier for LBJ in the particular circumstances of 1964, but I'm interested in whether that's really how he got his way with them -- and if so, the extent to which it had (as Neustadt would predict) unfortunate consequences down the road. The other comment is something I know nothing about: why didn't the Democrats pass stronger labor legislation during the high point of LBJ's presidency? Was that part of what Johnson gave up to get the other things through?

3. Carah Ong, a blogging political science grad student, does a little research into how exactly the whole Medal of Freedom thing works, or at least how it did during the Reagan Administration. Good fun.

4. Yes, this year doesn't appear to be anything like 1980. I suspect, by the way, that Reagan didn't do better because he wasn't a very good candidate, but it's not as if I'm going to get anyone to believe that. Nate Silver explores.

5. Max Read: "The New York Times Should Fire Tom Friedman and Let Paul Simon Write His Column Instead." Well, okay, but, we're stuck with songwriters, I'd rather they set up a rotation with, say, Bob Mould, Carrie Brownstein, Frank Portman, and...I don't know, wouldn't it be fun to have KRS-One in the rotation? Just think of the opportunities for denouncing him!


  1. It depends on what you mean by Reagan not being a good candidate.

    Given his policy positions, Reagan was a phenomenal candidate. He was an excellent speaker who could combine deep ideas with a simple style - indeed, his 1964 speech for Goldwater is the best political speech I've ever heard. He was photogenic, got on well with the press, had good contacts and fundraising abilities, and had a solid record of achievement behind him in politics. I cannot imagine a better conservative candidate for President.

    He was also a good candidate in the sense that he authentically represented his political constituency, and did his best to govern in the way he said he would (although tempered by hostile Congress).

    He was not a good candidate in the sense of maximising the total number of possible votes. But by that standards the Republicans should never nominate a conservative - it's tough to win running against the liberal establishment (there's that word again!). However, the aim of the Republicans, or any political party, is more than just winning power, it is doing something with that power. It is counterproductive to win power, if the only result is that you, rather than your opponents, enact an agenda to which you are opposed.

    All in all, I think Reagan was undoubtedly the best Republican candidate of the 20th century.

  2. C'mon, gotta get Randy Newman in there.

    1. Thanks for playing -- I'm actually really disappointed that this didn't generate some good discussion.

      Randy Newman? Maybe. Good songwriter, although not my favorite, although I've never really listened to him a ton. Better than Paul Simon, I'd say. I tried to stack my list with people who can write, meaning prose, or speak on political subjects. Has he done that?

  3. I read the headline and asked myself, "Wait a minute! Didn't Paul Simon die a few years ago?"

    Sure enough, Wikipedia shows that Simon died in 2003.

    It wasn't until I got to the end of the article's first paragraph that I realized they were referring to the singer, not the bowtie'd Illinois Senator.

  4. Re: Caro/LBJ. Ordering Freeman to cut 5,000 employees from USDA wouldn't have been too hard, given the size of the department and the ability to play games (permanent full-time employees and temporary parttimes--both Forest Service and CSS would have had lots of summer employees). And since the FY ended on June 30, you could move summer payments from year to year. Ordering a subordinate to do something is to my mind different than "bullying".

    Re: labor--If memory serves, and it may not, labor was riding high in the 60's, the peak of the influence of Meany and Reuther (witness LBJ's wooing of Meany which Caro describes). I think their major ask was a repeal of Taft-Hartley, but that was a bridge too far.

  5. Passed along for your enjoyment, a little skit about political scientists in Australia.

  6. Re labor: Labor reached its deepest penetration of the White House with JFK. Relations were LBJ were strong at the beginning because he continued JFK's strategy. The WH did work pretty hard to get repeal of the right-to-work provision of the Taft Hartley Act, but the southern Dems plus Republicans in the Senate were still very strong on this key issue and it came up short. Also, mainstream "northern" papers like the Washington Post opposed repeal in the name of states rights! Of course, the WH also soon had a lot of other stuff to get through the Senate. But what happened with LBJ and labor was an almost complete breakdown by 1968, in part because Johnson followed the advice of the CEA/WH economists about how to manage the economy rather than consult with union leaders about the always fundamental issues of wages and prices and productivity.

  7. Dr. B,

    Regarding Caro & LBJ, the most recent book really only covers Johnson from 1960-1964. Of Johnson's part of that presidential term, he was focused mainly in that year on passing the Kennedy program (tax cuts, civil rights), and being able to win re-election. We may have to wait for Caro's next book to read his take on Johnson relations with labor in his 2nd term (if Caro makes it).

  8. The repeal of Section 14(b) of Taft-Hartley (which permitted state right-to-work laws) was supported by the Johnson Administration but filibusted in the Senate, and one of those voting against cloture was Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, a liberal Democrat who represented a right-to-work state and was potentially facing a tough re-election campaign in 1968. George Meany never forgave McGovern for that vote, and it was one reason the AFL-CIO refused to endorse McGovern for President in 1972.


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