--Jason Zengerle on Tucker Carlson and The Daily Caller --Evan Bayh prepares for a career as an evil lobbyist --Ezra Klein makes a point I was trying to make, but does it much better --Leon Wieseltier on populism --Simon Johnson on the (intellectual, not political) return of capital controls
WASHINGTON--If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing, and liberals are losing. Who's winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction, and the Tea Party. The two immediate causes for this state of affairs are a single election result in Massachusetts, and the way the United States Senate operates. What's not responsible is the supposed failure of Obama and the Democrats to govern as "moderates." Pause to consider where we would be if a Democrat had won January's Massachusetts Senate race.
When Evan Bayh suddenly retired on the eve of the deadline to qualify for the primary ballot, liberals immediately suspected that he'd screwed over his party. (Matthew Yglesias: "He’s ditching his seat in a manner calculated to throw control of it to a conservative Republican.") But Republicans think Bayh was trying to screw them: Republicans are livid about the timing of Sen.
Evan Bayh quit the Senate in part because he's angry at "left bloggers": In his two terms in the Senate, Bayh cut a centrist path and worked across party lines, which at times frustrated liberal Democrats. "He hates the Senate, hates the left bloggers," a friend and longtime adviser to Bayh said. "They are getting their wish, pure Democrats in the minority." That's just pathetic. I hate a lot of lefty bloggers, too, but I don't let them dictate my career decisions. It's unbelievable that this guy was once considered presidential timber.
A year ago, I wrote an article for TNR on the dysfunctionality of Congressional Democrats: The last Democrat who held the White House, Bill Clinton, saw the core of his domestic agenda come to ruin, his political support collapse, and his failure spawn a massive Republican resurgence that made progressive reform impossible for a decade to come. The Democrat who last held the White House before that, Jimmy Carter, saw the exact same thing happen to him. At this early date, nobody can know whether or not Barack Obama will escape this fate. But the contours of failure are now clearly visible.
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capeheart calls Evan Bayh's retirement a "brain drain." Hmm. How to out this. I once had the chance, along with numerous other reporters and editors, to speak with Bayh in an off-the-record context. I'd say the group was quite favorably disposed toward him going into the discussion -- here was a young, popular, telegenic moderate Democrat everybody could see on a presidential ticket soon. As far as I could tell, everybody came away thoroughly unimpressed. He said nothing especially disagreeable, it was just that he seemed so mediocre.
Wow, first he unleashes a huge oppo hit on potential opponent Dan Coates, then Evan Bayh announces he's retiring. What's the story there? The latest poll had Bayh up twenty points. Did the Republicans find some skeleton in his closet? Did he get a lucrative K Street deal? Call me a cynic, but it's not normal for ambitious pols like Bayh to suddenly quit in their prime for no reason. Anyway, chalk up another likely Senate seat for the GOP.
Now that's more like it. President Obama on Wednesday addressed a meeting of Senate Democrats. It wasn't nearly as dramatic as his visit to a House Republican retreat last week. The question-and-answer period mostly featured vulnerable Democrats, like Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln, who used the opportunity to grandstand about the perils of liberalism and importance of fiscal discipline--or, at least, their own very curious brand of it.
President Obama is going to address another Congressional gathering today. The audience will be more friendly this time: It will be the Senate Democratic caucus. But the stakes will be just as high as they were when Obama spoke to Republican House members last week. Health care is bound to come up at the meeting. I assume Obama will raise it during his prepared remarks; if not, he'll get questions about it. And the big controversy right now is whether the Senate is willing to amend its bill through the budget reconciliation process.
In the days immediately after the special Massachusetts election, which gave Senate Republicans the ability to block votes on legislation, the prospects for reform looked so bleak that one reliable source emailed me a one-word message: “Dead.” But within 24 hours, that same source had emailed me another one-word message: “Alive.” And that’s a pretty good description of where things stand today, at least based on what I've gleaned from conversations with insiders over the last week. According to these sources, Democrats have made progress--more progress, certainly, than might be evident from a