Monday, April 22, 2013

Man-bites-dog alert: MoDo gets something right!

I find that saying very useful that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. With MoDo, it's more like twice a year. Or once every two years.

But in this column, No Bully in the Pulpit New York Times 04/20/2013, she actually has a point that she doesn't bury in dumb snarky remarks.

She says that Obama lost on gun regulations because, "No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him." Of course, in 2008 she directed a stream of her crackpot gender-identity weirdness at Hillary Clinton, who actually was more familiar with knocking heads with the Republicans and more willing to do it to get stuff done. But it's surely a measure of the magnitude of his failure on this that even Maureen Dowd can more-or-less see what went wrong.

I mean, this is MoDo, so even her decent analysis is shaky in some ways. You can't really describe why the gun legislation went down without talking about the state of the what Charlie Pierce calls the "feral children" of the Republican Party in Congress. And the NRA gun lobby to which they are subservient. Digby wrote the other day, "It's hard to know what to say about this, but increasingly I believe that the NRA is actually a suicide cult." (Crazy talk for crazy times Hullabaloo 04/19/2013) Digby, BTW, writes several posts a day, all of them more sensible than pretty much anything MoDo ever published in The Paper Of Record.

MoDo also seems to accept without question that 60 votes is the normal standard for a Democratic proposal to get through the Senate. "It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate," she writes. In fact, it's a procedural standard that the Democrats in the Senate could abolish at any time with a majority vote. But they leave it in place, month after month and year after year, with an intransigent Republican Party ready to filibuster pretty much anything they don't like. Fifty-four votes is, after all, a solid majority vote in the 100-member Senate. Even the most loyalist-minded Democrats must wonder if the Democrats aren't leaving the filibuster in place as an excuse not to pass a lot of things that are highly popular in the country.

Some of this has to be just bad negotiating skills, and we've seen numerous examples of it before. I was always dubious that Obama was serious about the assault weapons ban, but he pretty clearly did want to get some kind of background check passed. But, as MoDo quotes him, he said in the State of the Union address this year, "The families of Newtown deserve a vote." That in itself sounded like Obama's famous President Pushover act, already signaling that he was ready to compromise with Republicans on gun regulations. And she is right in saying, "he was setting his sights too low. They deserved a law."

But it's also driven by Obama's themes of making Bipartisanship and Compromise into goals in themselves. With those as goals, and more specifically with his new budget proposals to cut benefits on Social Security and Medicaid, he needs Republicans and Blue Dogs to buy into those proposals and vote for them in the Congress. And that severely limits his negotiating room. When he's already offering up the crown jewels of Democratic social policy as a starting point for the budget negotiations, what's he going to offer Republicans for a supportive vote on background checks?

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