In a few weeks, Barack Obama will have a chance to do something he hasn’t done particularly well during his first year in office: successfully defy his opponents and, at the same time, reassure his most loyal supporters. At issue is the fate of Craig Becker, one of Obama’s nominees for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Last month, Becker was denied a vote on his nomination when Senate Democrats failed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Now, the Senate’s coming Easter break will give Obama an opportunity to put Becker on the NLRB via recess appointment.
I have assumed that the real purpose of today’s health care summit was to rally public support for comprehensive health care reform – the kind of reform sketched out in the president’s own proposal this week – and that by rallying the public, the administration hoped to allay the fears of wavering Senators and House members that they would suffer retribution in the fall if they voted for the bill. It was part of what I’d like to call the White House’s “outside” game. But I wonder whether the White House really gets it. Yesterday, on the eve of the summit, when Henry Waxman’s House committee
Scott Brown did not win in Massachusetts because Democrat Martha Coakley believed that Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling liked the Yankees. If you want to see the same chilling pattern that elected Brown in erstwhile Democratic Massachusetts, look at the latest Franklin and Marshall poll on Pennsylvania politics. Pennsylvania has voted for a Democratic president since 1992. It has two Democratic senators, a Democratic governor, and its congressional delegation consists of twelve Democrats to seven Republicans.
Politicians who hold or aspire to high office have learned the hard way (e.g Trent Lott speaking at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party) that when you speak to a select group of loyalists in these viral times, you are also addressing a national audience, including people who would like nothing better than to latch onto some gaffe or fringe conviction.
How can we measure whether President Obama’s health care summit on Feb. 25 is a success? Well, the obvious answer is that it will succeed if Congress passes comprehensive health care reform soon afterwards. But there is an intermediate step that may be necessary.
I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main (as they put it) “pro-Israel” lobby in Washington. The only organization of that kind that I’ve ever given money to is Americans for Peace Now. And I have defended critics of AIPAC, including Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of The Israel Lobby, from charges of anti-Semitism. But I think Walt and Mearsheimer have been dead wrong in trying to blame the Israel lobby or the Israeli government for America’s invasion of Iraq.
The excerpts that Bloomberg published Wednesday from its interview with Barack Obama provoked some indignation from Simon Johnson, Paul Krugman, and others, but the full interview, published yesterday morning by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, deserves a few additional howls.
I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main (as they put it) “pro-Israel” lobby in Washington. The only organization of that kind that I’ve ever given money to is Americans for Peace Now in Israel. And I have defended critics of AIPAC, including Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the authors of The Israel Lobby, from charges of anti-Semitism. But I think Walt and Mearsheimer have been dead wrong in trying to blame the Israel lobby or the Israeli government for America’s invasion of Iraq.
Jon Chait reads far too much into my analysis of Obama’s weakness with white working class voters. He mistakes a special for a general theory of the Obama presidency. I am the last person to attribute all of Obama’s political difficulties to his inability to touch the hearts of the white working class. If I had to explain the rise in voter disapproval of his presidency, I’d rate the rise of unemployment, Americans’ inherent distrust of government programs, and the intransigence of the Republicans well above the special political problems I described and tried to explain.
Here is a fact: Barack Obama has trouble generating enthusiasm among white working class voters. That’s not because they are white. He would have had trouble winning support among black working class voters if they had been unable to identify with him because he was black. He has trouble with working class voters because he appears to them as coming from a different world, a different realm of experience, a different class, if you like. And that’s because he does. I have recently read several stories about Obama that treat these difficulties as if they were paradoxical.