Remember back during the George W. Bush administration, when lefties laughed and laughed at the intellectual (as if!) contortions the right engaged in as they tried to reconcile their isolationism and defict hawkishness with Bush’s spending sprees and the invasion and occupation of Iraq? And, remember back during the Dem primaries last year when we were told over and over again that Barack Obama was a magical healing presence who could bind up the nation’s wounds and banish partisanship to the ends of the Earth?
Well, some of us–or should I say more accurately, some of you–better sit up, grab your forks, and get ready to chow down on some Humble (or Umble) Pie. Check out this embarrassment from Michael Tomasky: apparently, because Obama hasn’t accomplished much in his first 11 months in office and because partisanship has only gotten worse, it means that the U.S. political system is “broken.” That’s right–Dear Leader is in fact powerless before a few determined loudmouths in the Senate. (I’m speaking of President Joe Lieberman, President Blanche Lincoln, President Olympia Snowe, President Max Baucus, President Ben Nelson, President Chuck Grassley, and President Mary Landrieu–who all have more power than President Barack Obama because they’re not afraid to use the levers they have to get what they want. Too bad Obama didn’t learn at their feet when he was their junior colleague!)
Sigh. If you’ve been watching the Washington healthcare debate, you know what that sigh was about. We Americans have always been proud of our constitution and the principle of separation of powers. The system has always ensured that the minority party has certain rights and that the executive branch cannot just muscle through Congress any old thing that it wants. Our founders wanted a system that moved slowly.
Do they ever have it. In fact, we now have a system that barely moves at all. Watching American politics through British eyes, you must be utterly mystified as to why Barack Obama hasn’t gotten this healthcare bill passed yet. Many Americans are too. The instinctive reflex is to blame Obama. He must be doing something wrong. Maybe he is doing a thing or two wrong. But the main thing is that America’s political system is broken.
How did this happen? Two main factors made it so. The first is the super-majority requirement to end debate in the Senate. The second is the near-unanimous obstinacy of the Republican opposition. They have made important legislative work all but impossible.
Sigh! How did this happen? (Does he realize how limp he sounds? Are there any grownups–real women and men who aren’t afraid of a fight–left on the left?) Funny how our last President, a man whom the left liked to laugh at for his bad grades at Yale, his incuriosity, and his provincialism didn’t find that “important legislative work [was] all but impossible!” (I said he was the Worst President Ever–but I never called him ineffective!)
Yes, that’s right: our beautiful U.S. Constitution which served us well–or at least some of us well–for 221 years is now fatally broken, because Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish what he promised, because the Republicans are big meanies, and they’re more united and are better at politics and parliamentary maneuvers! Whaaaaaaaaaaa! Call the whaaaaaaaaaambulance! Who ever would have predicted this? And while we’re waiting, let’s ask: whose fault is this, really? Who’s letting the Republicans threaten a filibuster without calling their bluffs and making them actually do the hard, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style old-fashioned filibuster? Who’s spreading the meme that it takes a supermajority of 60 votes, instead of 50+ Joe Biden to get a bill out of the U.S. Senate? And who was afraid to lead when his approval rating was in the mid-60s and let it melt down to the high 40s?
(For the record, I agree that the Senate is fundamentally undemocratic! But–that’s nothing new, as I wrote here last summer. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld: You have to govern with the Constitution you have!)
Somewhere–either from above or below–the ghost of Lyndon Johnson is laughing at these crybaby Dems and so called “progressives,” and crying for the rest of us. WWLBJD? I’ll tell you: He would have phoned up those Senators, and talked to them about some up-and-comer D.A., mayor, or congressperson in their states he’d be inclined to support in a big way in a primary challenge if they didn’t play ball with the President. He also would have let them know that their hometown crowd-pleasing porky pet projects would be stripped, defunded, and kicked to the curb, and that he would make sure their constituents knew whose fault it was. (But of course, this scenario presumes that we have a President who wants to pitch for the home team instead of a President who wants to be the Umpire.)
Remember History’s Greatest Monster’s warning: “When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.” I fear that he’ll be proved right, yet again.