Wednesday, October 16, 2013

And Now, Humorous Credit-Taking

Earlier I watched a truly great politician moment: "Gang of 14" Senators going to the Senate floor and congratulating themselves for working out an agreement to re-open the government and raise the debt limit. Not the agreement; the actual deal was apparently only tangentially related to the Gang's. But an agreement, nonetheless. They are immensely proud of having participated in a process which had little or nothing to do with ending a shutdown almost three weeks in, and raising the debt limit at the last minute.

There are basically two ways to take this.

One of them, and the one I try to be in favor of most of the time, is to just enjoy the spectacle of politicians being politicians. Of course they want to present themselves as full of spirit of bipartisanship, not to mention can-do efficacy. Of course they want to present themselves as part of the Good Washington. It's silly, but it's what politicians do, and we need politicians, so why complain?

The other one, when I'm in a less charitable mood...start with the Republicans. Some of them (John McCain, in particular, whatever his petty, personal motives; sorry, can't help that) have been pretty good about fighting back against the radicals. Others? Not so much. And while obviously the first blame for all of this has to go to the radicals, the truth by all accounts is that the radicals were dramatically outnumbered in both the House and Senate Republican conferences. And yet those sane Republicans too often hid their beliefs, voting to go along with most, if not all, of the craziness that they themselves said was doomed. Don't forget: these seven Gang-sters voted unanimously over the weekend, with the rest of the Republicans, to kill a clean debt limit bill by filibuster. Granted, what the Senate did wasn't very important in the grand scheme of things, but they could have provided a bit of cover House Republicans. They did not.

Then there are the Democrats. Maybe they deserve a break; one way of reading the entire thing (and Brian Beutler has been good on this) is as a process of producing tough votes for Democrats to take. Still: these moderate Democrats, by predictably clinging to whatever Republicans they can find in order to constantly prove their distance from Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and all, help to enable those sane Republicans to actually act as irresponsibly as Tail Gunner Ted and his group.

The true humor in all of this was that the Senators actually finishing up the deal and how it was going to be handled were off the Senate floor because they were busy working on it; the Gangsters were congratulating each other for working together to reach a deal precisely because they had time on their hands while the real work was going on.

At any rate, as I said, pretty much this is just what politicians do, and if you want to have a functioning democracy, you're going to need some politicians, and no question about it but that even the best of the workhorses will still take the opportunity when available to show off in the winner's circle.


  1. Having just finished discussing "home styles" in my intro American class, this strikes me more as "position-taking" (bipartisanship, compromise, anti-default, etc) rather than taking credit for the final outcome.

  2. I'm a former Mainer who's gotten quite fed up with Collins and Snowe. It was hard to take complaints about Washington not getting anything done and increased partisanship from folks joining in as many filibusters as they did...

  3. these moderate Democrats, by predictably clinging to whatever Republicans they can find in order to constantly prove their distance from Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and all

    Huh? To which moderate Democrats do you refer? The one good thing about this whole fiasco is seeing the Democratic caucus unite as a bloc even as the GOP splinters apart...

  4. I wonder if we will see attack ads in the 2014 cycle on incumbent "go along" GOPers being called out for lacking leadership from left and right challengers.

    I can see these ads running back to back... "GOP Senator Van Squish couldn't stand up to Obama and the Radical Leftists, sticking the struggling American People with ObamaCare." followed by "GOP Senator Van Squish couldn't stand up to Ted Cruz and the radical Tea Partiers, nearly crippling a fragile recovery and putting people out of work at a time when we need jobs!

    In a few weeks, this all be largely forgotten, but in those districts and states where a significant Democratic candidacy can be mounted, I wonder if being a squish on the right (for caving) and a squish on governing (for being a "go along") will be damaging to the GOP incumbents. That seems to be a pretty strong populist message to hit home and it seems like they can be hit on both sides.

  5. If you're elected, will you vote for a government shut down or for default? If that becomes the clear central question, then the sides will be clearer. And after what we've just been through, this may well be the question that voters want answered.

  6. Is susan collins taking credit? That'd be funny.

  7. It's also pretty amusing that members are beginning to blame the media. Every interview and segment I caught of major network newscasts bent over backwards to portray the last two weeks as a case of an unreasonable Congress in general, unwilling to "negotiate." The GOP was actually quite successful in getting neutral media to adopt their messaging. It just seems that that didn't extend to public polls buying the message.

  8. On a less humorous note, here's a friendly question for the experts: is the new debt ceiling deadline potentially much more dangerous than the one we just escaped?

    As I understand it, we'll now bump up against our borrowing limit in early February 2014. According to ballotpedia, maybe 10% of states hit their filing deadline for congressional candidates by early February 2012, with the majority coming soon thereafter.

    I'm thinking that the squishes in the GOP house ultimately chickened out this week for two reasons: one, they are in competitive districts, and two, they are too personally obscure to land a cushy sinecure in the aftermath of causing financial chaos, if that occurred.

    In early February, many - perhaps most - of these squishes will be looking right down the barrel of a potential Tea Party primary challenge. We think we just got off a roller coaster; perhaps its about to get a whole lot wilder.


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