How Obama fails after he wins

Maureen Dowd, who often makes my teeth hurt as much as Wolfe Blitzer, gets it exactly right today. The gun purchase background check legislation should have passed the Senate and could have passed the Senate, if it had just a little push from the Oval Office.

How is it that the president won the argument on gun safety with the public and lost the vote in the Senate? It’s because he doesn’t know how to work the system . . . It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him . . .

President Obama thinks he can use emotion to bring pressure on Congress. But that’s not how adults with power respond to things. . . .

The president was oblivious to red-state Democrats facing tough elections. Bring the Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich to the White House residence, hand him a drink, and say, “How can we make this a bill you can vote for and defend?”

Sometimes you must leave the high road and fetch your brass knuckles. Obama should have called Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota over to the Oval Office and put on the squeeze: “Heidi, you’re brand new and you’re going to have a long career. You work with us, we’ll work with you. Public opinion is moving fast on this issue. The reason you get a six-year term is so you can have the guts to make tough votes. This is a totally defensible bill back home . . . ”

. . . Obama should have pressed his buddy [Sen Tom Coburn]: “Hey, Tom, just this once, why don’t you do more than just talk about making an agreement with the Democrats? You’re not running again. Do something big.”

This is where Obama fails. He needs to remind himself that he is “the most powerful man in the world” and then he needs to get his hands dirty.

25 responses to “How Obama fails after he wins

  1. Moe, you are Down are taking a different view of this than I did when I said in a comment on the Erstwhile Conservative’s blog:

    “I too feel a sense of outrage over the venality of Senator Blunt and the other 46% who caved to NRA pressure. However, I also have to recognize the political reality that the electorate in red states is vulnerable to the NRA’s single-issue demagoguery and therefore I would pose the question: ought Landrieu of Louisiana vote for a sensible gun-control bill that had no chance in the GOP-dominated House and thereby risk having her seat turn red? I think not, sadly. If this issue is to be properly resolved, it must be from the bottom up. Whatever Blunt’s sins may be, he nevertheless knows his base.”</blockquote.

    If the political landscape were more normal these days I might agree with you. You know, like it was in the days of Ronaldus Magnus and Tipster O'Neil for example, when political cooperation and compromise were not mortal sins. 😦

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    • Jim, while I agree with your analysis of how it would ultimately have worked out legislatively, and I agree too that reform from the bottom up is going to be the most effective route to reform . . . a win in the Senate, howevver narror,w (well, it won, but 54 is no longer enoough) have moved the conversation forward by a leap.

      Many of these people aren’t up for re-election for years yet . . . I think it’s a chance they could have taken. And I wish Obama and his people had seen it that way and pushed harder.

      Maybe it would have only been symbolic, but odn’t symbols matter?

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  2. A few things here…..

    The President KNEW from the jump that he was NOT gonna get a win in the Senate….
    If not him…His people can count….
    While most Progressives and Lefty’s wanted to believe they could get vote…Realist KNEW otherwise….
    That 90% number IS BullShit….
    Think….
    If you where to walk from just South of the Mason-Dixon line out to New Mexico and asked EVERYONE if they supported GunControl or even background checks you wouldn’t get 30% I’d bet….asking 400 people in a survey isn’t about the real thing…..

    I agree with the thought that even if the Dem’s have 55 members in the House they ain’t gonna get 55 votes on this….

    Al Gore found out the hard way that Gun Control is a political none-starter…
    It really doesn’t matter how much the President gets in bed to jaw bone the issue….

    In America it’s the votes…
    And the Senator’s voting AGAINST gun control have done so because in THEIR State they’ll be all right voting AGAINST what their citizens believe is their ‘Right’ to have their guns…..

    I’m for the cops knowing, who and where the guns are…

    But as long as the ‘other guys’ have the votes….

    My view don’t count…..

    You gotta have the votes….

    It’a as simple as that….

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    • There’s also a related point – that 90% figure was from a ridiculous poll that merely asked “do you favor increased background checks” without references any details or consequences.

      Think about it. It’s the equivalent, insofar as using a bad poll, of stating that 90% of Americans want violent crime to be reduced as a rationale for repealing the 13th Amendment or actually using the provisions therein to actively allow the State and only the State to enslave the Blacks (Constitutionally legal BTW).

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      • We’ve all heard the poll numbers – many, many, many polls. She carelessly cites the only one of them that said 90%. But jonolan, ALL the polls, some quite complex, showed huge majorities favoring modest gun controls.

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    • james, all true, all true. But in this instance, it’s a matter of standing up for what’s right. I wish I had heard Obama and the Senators who did vote for it asking how background checks etc could be perfectly constitutional at gun lshops but a threat to the republic at gun shows?

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      • James, I’d have like to hear that to…for the entertainment value.

        The real issues with the now-failed bill were largely not the ones being used to influence people.

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  3. And yea I repeated the point….SEVERAL Times…..

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  4. Both Moe’s are right. Remember way back when you and I debated Hillary vs Barack. This was exactly my point. I’m disappointed that the prediction was right.

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    • Woodstock, I do remember and indeed Hillary would have been tougher. But let’s remember she was also quite a bit more hawkish than Obama and that could have had serious downsides too!

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  5. Dowd’s an idiot and one who wants a tyrant so badly it’s hurts. Obama so far from being the “the most powerful man in the world” to say that he is is farcical at best.

    He had little, if anything, to offer Dem pols in 1st term – remember, many of them refused to have him campaign for them – and now, as a lame duck, has nothing because he has nothing to bring to the table and no position of strength from which to negotiate.

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    • The President of the US is still “the most powerful man in the world’ no matter how it’s going domestically. As for 1st term? Seriously? Passing health care after a century of other presidents failing? I’d say that was pretty significant.

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      • Domestically is that matters when it comes to convincing politicians to do it your way, Moe. The rest may influence other nations but not domestic politicians who need domestic votes.

        As for Obamacare – it’s significant and significantly awful, no matter what side of the divide you come down on. It’s also a large part of why Obama lacks any power.

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        • Point taken – this is a domestic issue. I use the phrase in terms of how he should perceive himself in negotiations. It’s a hell of a mantle and he should wear it.

          As for Obamacare, the simple fact of it existing – wildly imperfect as it is – is victory in this climate. For myself, I think it’s deeply flawed but bettter than nothing. The only thing that’s likely to work – since our problem isn’t insurance, it’s cost of health care – is Medicare for all. A huge pool, plenty of healthy young people and they do the best job by far of containing costs.

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          • Even Obama isn’t that self-absorbed and he’s certainly not completely stupid. For him to think of himself in that manner when negotiating with Congress and the various Governors would require that he ignore or be utterly ignorant of how politics works. “The Most Powerful Man In The World” is only as good and as useful as the votes he can bring in or turn away from those he’s negotiating with.

            In fact, that’s the way our government was deliberately set up. The POTUS isn’t supposed to have any power over Congress or the several States beyond what he can garner through the voting public’s beliefs.

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  6. I’d suppose that Obama mostly just blaims Congress in his head – but at some level it has to bother him, that he couldn’t even do this one right, or at least get closer.

    Epic and moving speeches just don’t cut it.

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    • Hey mac, nice to see you. And yup, I agree. I heard some pundit yakkety-yakker say recently that Obama’s people seem to think the speech is the action, when the speech is really the kickoff. You still have to play the game.

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    • I think you’re half right, mac. Obama blames Congress, Americans, and anyone he can because he honestly believes that his words should be enough, him being both the First Black POTUS and owed obedience as a reparation and “The Most Powerful Man In The World.”

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      • How the hell do we work reparation in here jonolan??? That one always throws me for a loop.

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        • I’m not quite willing to believe that there’s no basis in Obama’s psyche for his feelings that he should just be obeyed when he speaks and, after reading his two books, a form of racial angst and feelings of being owed are the only ones I can come up with.

          I could, however, be wrong. I’m good a profiling people – often part of the job – but Obama’s a bit of cypher in manner ways insofar as I’m concerned.

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  7. Most Presidents run into trouble in their second terms. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both had more trouble getting anything done working with Congress in their second terms. After ObamaCare and reelection, maybe there ain’t a lot of political capital left for this President. The next fight he picks with the GOP will show one way or another.

    Or perhaps all Presidents should just avoid the political quicksand of gun control.

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    • Actually, Alan, Clinton – despite all his problems – had far less trouble in his 2nd term than his 1st when it came to getting things done. That’s because he was wise enough to see the shift in Congress, leave his Leftist agenda behind, and work with Congress instead of against it.

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