We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again — so it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can,make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
President Barack Obama, statement on the death of Nelson Mandela, December 5, 2013
I’m looking forward to reading the book. I didn’t get an advanced copy of Double Down: Game Change 2012, so I probably won’t get a chance to read it until the beginning of next week.
I’m not surprised that the Obama campaign thought about dumping Biden for Hillary — it’s politics, and while Plouffe said they never seriously considered it, I’m sure they did because there was a point where it looked like Romney could actually win the election. But as I said last year when I was asked whether they SHOULD dump Biden for Hillary, Joe Biden has been a hard-working, loyal, and incredibly influential Vice President. They only reason that they should have done the switch and made Hillary VP and Biden Secretary of State is if Biden wanted to do it. He deserved that much. Biden has been the closer on several significant pieces of legislation with Congress. Obama has needed Biden, no matter how much Biden might tend to go off page (and I think his tendency to speak his mind if both overrated and refreshing).
By the way, there’s no way Hillary Clinton would have taken the Vice Presidency in the second term of an Obama Administration. She spent most of her time as Secretary of State traveling the world, and the best possible strategy for her potential 2016 run was getting the hell out of government. If she was Vice President, whoever her opponents are in 2016 (both Democrat and Republican) could tie her to whatever goes wrong in Obama’s second term.
I think both parties need to dump their leadership in both chambers of Congress in order for things to have a shot at turning around. We are in the midst of a strange situation — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate are abysmal, don’t have the influence or power to whip their caucuses in line, aren’t respected by junior members within their own party, can’t work together effectively with the opposition or the President, and yet they are entrenched in their respective leadership positions. It’s as if the coach of a football team was terrible at his job, couldn’t win a game, lost the respect of his players, had no chance at out-coaching the opposition, but couldn’t be fired for some reason.
The House of Representatives isn’t a legislative body; it’s a tar pit. The Senate is no better. A big part of the blame belongs to us. It is our job to toss out shitty, ineffective, inefficient members of Congress. The Senate is tougher to do that with because they have six-year-long terms and only a third or so of the Senators are up for reelection every two years. But we have the ability to make changes in the House of Representatives every two years. We could fire every single member of the House and replace them with someone new in 2014. Will we? Of course not. The voters are partly to blame.
The senior members of the House and Senate — on both sides of the aisle — are largely to blame for the day-to-day bullshit that has brought the government to the place that it has been in for the last six years or so. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer should not have jobs. They are the party leaders of the worst Congress in American history. I didn’t include the Senate whips — Dick Durbin and John Cornyn — because I think those two are the only party leaders in Congress who are worth a shit, but I wouldn’t put up a fight if they lost their jobs, too.
The party leaders in the House and the Senate should have control of their respective caucuses at all times. If not, they aren’t leading. I’m stunned at how little respect many of the junior members of Congress — even freshmen in the House of Representatives! — have for the leaders of their own party. Raul Labrador, a Republican member of the House, was elected in 2010. In 2011, as a freshman Congressman, Labrador stood up in a GOP conference told John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of a team.” That’s right, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives — one of the five most powerful positions in the country when there is someone useful in the job — implored his fellow Republicans to work together, a freshman Congressman from Idaho straight up told him no in front of every other House Republican. Speaker Boehner should have remembered that disrespect and in 2012, he should have CRUSHED Labrador. He should have withheld RNC money from Labrador. He should have built up a primary challenger against Labrador. He should have pulled together every powerful Republican that can breathe and walk, flown them to Idaho, and campaigned against Labrador. Instead? Nothing. Labrador was reelected last year. That’s just one example.
The Democrats are just as bad. They control the Senate and they have a Democrat in the White House. But Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and the Democrat from Nevada is, hands-down, the worst Majority Leader in American history. Nobody is intimidated by him, nobody is influenced by him, nobody respects him. And why should they? Why should the White House defer to him? In 2011, Vice President Biden met with Senator Reid to help pass the two-year extension to the Bush-era tax cuts. The White House wasn’t ecstatic about the deal that they made with Republicans to extend the tax cuts, but politics require compromises. Progress requires compromise.
So, when the Democratic President sent his Vice President to settle the issue with the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, how did Harry Reid decide to help out his President and Vice President? He said this to the President and Vice President of the United States:
"You guys went and did this deal. You go sell it. Not my deal, not my problem. Not telling you I’m against it, not telling you I’m for it, not yelling at you, just saying you guys made this deal. Hope you can line up the Senate Democrats behind you because I’m not going to."
Harry Reid wasn’t taking a stand because of a strong, ideological position that he was absolutely opposed to compromising on. No, Harry Reid was acting like a fucking baby because the White House closed a deal that Harry Reid simply couldn’t do on his own. If FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 were President, Harry Reid would be working in a pawn shop in Las Vegas tonight. But Harry Reid is still the Senate Majority Leader.
I know that I am ranting, but the whole subject pisses me off because the problems are so clear and the solutions are so simple. The party leadership — Majority and Minority, Democrats and Republicans — from both chambers of Congress — House and Senate — NEED TO GO.
There is one more person who deserves some blame for how shitty the 112th Congress (9% approval rating, by the way) was and the 113th Congress has been, and he’s not a member of Congress: President Barack Obama. As I mentioned above, every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, would have absolutely smashed individual members of the House and Senate, specific blocs of voters, and each chamber of Congress as a whole if they had been as intransigent, disrespectful, and ineffective as these last two Congresses have been. It wouldn’t have gotten as bad with many of those Presidents because they either had a mastery of the legislative process or they used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to win the public opinion war. President Obama has done none of these things. Junior Senators and freshman House members from Obama’s own party have no problem openly criticizing the President or opposing Administration goals. That should NEVER happen. Joe Manchin should be working in a coal mine in West Virginia instead of taking shots at his own President whenever he feels like it. Manchin’s predecessor, Robert Byrd, earned the right to be independent whenever he wanted, but even after 50 years in the Senate, Byrd knew to support his President. What’s even worse is that Obama’s top Cabinet members are legendary Senators — Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Whenever a President wants something from his Democrats on the Hill, he should get it. If not, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel should be laying the "Johnson Treatment” on anyone who needs it. They have to because Obama obviously doesn’t have that weapon in his arsenal. As embarrassing as Obama’s influence with his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill has been, can you imagine how bad it would be without Joe Biden doing the dirty work with Congress over the past four years?
There’s a lot of anger in this post and I know that it is all over the place, but I am truly angry about this subject. As I said, the problems are clear and the solutions are obvious. And the past 80 years of Presidential/Congressional relations are a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t. We need new party leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. And we need a President whose approach to dealing with useless Congresses and intransigent, disrespectful Congressmen is more FDR/Eisenhower/LBJ than Carter/Obama.
Good luck, Mr. President.
I’ve been thinking about the last question I got about Speaker John Boehner saying that he isn’t going to negotiate with President Obama anymore and about how generally terrible Congress is and I came to a thought.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President. The Speaker controls the flow of legislation in the House and is easily the most influential member of the Legislative branch — probably the third or fourth most powerful person in the country. The Speaker is an enormously important component to the political process in the United Sates.
It requires a simple majority of the votes of 435 people, many of whom are casting ballots on the first day of their new job in Congress, to elect the Speaker of the House. The voting is almost always done along strict party lines. John Boehner will probably be Speaker until January 3, 2015. It only took 200 people to decide that. Although the Speaker of the House is a tremendously powerful person who influences the lives of every American in many ways, John Boehner is really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of Ohio. Nancy Pelosi was really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of California.
Understanding all of this, shouldn’t we choose the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in a national election? Shouldn’t candidates for the Speaker have to face all of the voters of our country? Shouldn’t all Americans help make that decision?
Alright, kids, let’s see if this Smart-Ass Commentary works for a debate. It worked well during President Obama’s State of the Union Address and during the Republican and Democratic Conventions, but I can’t promise that this experiment won’t be a total trainwreck.
It’s the second of three Presidential debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This is a town hall format from Hofstra University, alma mater of my favorite publicist in the whole wide world, Joe Villa of the WWE (that’s one WWE reference and I think you should take a shot every time I make one). Candy Crowley of CNN is moderating.
President Obama needs a good showing tonight because Governor Romney kicked the ever-loving shit out of him in the first debate. I thought Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential debate, but it was close and Paul Ryan came across well, in my opinion. This is really, truly, genuinely, seriously, authentically, legitimately, hugely important for Obama.
And here we go…it’s clobberin’ time (take a shot).
•After moderating this debate, Candy Crowley will be heading back to the North Pole so she can get ready to deliver everyone’s toys.
•They switched things up — Mitt with the blue tie tonight and Barack with the red one. How will that affect their performances???
•(It won’t. It’s just a fucking tie.)
•You know, if they really wanted to mix things up, instead of a third debate with one another, the candidates should have to speak at one of their opponent’s political rallies. That would be awesome to watch, especially if they did it randomly so the audience didn’t know ahead of time that they were getting Obama instead of Romney or vice versa.
•I wish we could hear what they say during their introductory handshake.
•Wouldn’t it be smart to talk trash at that time or try to throw the other guy off?
•Seriously, imagine how confused and off his game Obama would be if Romney ended the handshake by saying something like, “How about trying to keep it real this time, my nigga”. Obama would be stunned.
•Oh man, how am I going to keep this from being 40,000 words when I want to mock everyone who asks a question?
•At least that 20-year-old kid in his grandpa’s suit wasn’t nervous or anything. Ninety minutes of awkward people asking boring questions. This will be awesome. And by “awesome” I mean “stab me, please”.
•President Obama looks like he’s getting thinner, doesn’t he? He’s starting to look fragile.
•Romney seems like he’s feeling confident because of the last debate. He’s going to just start putting his arm around Candy Crowley and begin singing Pat Boone songs.
•Another nervous audience member. Dude was shaking like my head when the President begins another boring, uninspiring answer.
•These debates should be like that old pop-up video show on VH1 but with instant fact-checking from reliable sources.
•Obama: “That’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.”
Romney: “But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem.” — That is a killer line from Romney and Obama needs to combat that instantly, every single time, by mentioning the do-nothing, record-low-approval-rating, obstructionist Congress. Obama isn’t, so Romney is winning the message war.
•Romney is controlling this debate. He’s controlling the arguments. YOU ARE THE INCUMBENT, MR. PRESIDENT…TRY TO PRETEND YOU ARE IN CHARGE!
•I’m getting very frustrated. It’s like Obama doesn’t even care.
•Obama: “I’m used to being interrupted.” — ASSERT YOURSELF! LBJ wouldn’t have allowed that. Nixon wouldn’t have allowed that. Reagan and Clinton wouldn’t have allowed that. You are the President, assert yourself and take control.
•27 minutes in and Obama finally points out that Congress has hindered him.
•I hate to have to keep saying this, but if I’m going to be an honest observer, Romney is more focused. He explains what he wants to say better and with more confidence. He even seems more passionate and empathetic.
•Obama is a bit more aggressive right now, but he’s not connecting. I never thought I’d see the day where Mitt Romney would be connecting with people better than Barack Obama.
•Oh, well hello, Catherine Benton. I’m Anthony. Feel free to Facebook me if you want to talk about the issues, if you know what I mean…
•It would be hilarious if Romney talked about his respect for women or gender equality by saying, “The President had an influential grandmother in his life, and I looked up to my 57 grandmothers and loved each one equally, just like my grandfather did.”
•Now this is where Obama shines — the arguments about Planned Parenthood and health care choices for women. That’s where you get the passion that Romney has for job creation.
•Holy shit, an audience member with an interesting question! The lady who asked Romney about the differences between he and President Bush deserves a gold star.
•And Romney can’t run away from Bush quickly enough.
•Obama wants to kiss that lady on the mouth for letting him point out that Bush left him a steaming pile of dogshit when he left the White House.
•Smooth move by Obama to contrast Bush and Romney with examples that actually made Bush look MORE reasonable. That was the best thing Obama has done in two debates so far.
•When the black dude in the audience said that he voted for Obama in 2008 and wanted to know why he should vote for him in 2012, do you think it would have been controversial if Obama just blurted out, “BECAUSE I’M BLACK!”? I think Drudge would have had a problem with that.
•It’s taken 90 minutes of the 1st debate and nearly 60 minutes of the 2nd debate, but President Obama seems to have finally realized that he should try to get himself reelected.
•I have to be honest with you guys; it’s difficult for me to be a smart-ass with these debates because they are just too important. I get wrapped up in being focused on what the candidates are actually saying and it’s hard for me to try to write something funny.
•Obama getting pissed off at Romney about the Libyan attack was a strong moment.
•Oh, hey, what’s up, mamacita?
•Goddamn, this is a long 90 minutes, isn’t it?
•If I was in a Presidential debate, I would make a completely ridiculous claim about my opponent just so he’d have to deny it. I’d say things like, “Governor Romney, is it or is it not true that you eat kitten paws for lunch every Thursday?” or “Mr. President, it’s been said that you exercise by open-hand slapping newborn babies in their little faces whenever you can’t get to a basketball court, correct?”
•The President is just rambling. I listened to every word he said and I couldn’t even tell you what he was talking about. No spirit, no passion.
•We’re getting close to the end, thankfully.
•It’s pretty wild to think that Romney would be the third-oldest President to ever be inaugurated if he’s elected. He looks younger than half of the Presidents inaugurated at a younger age than he will be on January 20th.
•Speaking of January 20th — Inauguration Day — that’s my birthday, so you might want to start shopping and getting your gifts for me. I’ll go ahead and wait if you need to write that down real quick……got it? Good.
•Solid final question to lead into a final statement.
•Romney once again showed some passion with his answer.
•In debates, I think Obama’s cadence when he speaks hurts him. It makes it seem as if he is stammering at times when it’s just how he speaks.
•Yay, it’s over.
Final thoughts: I think Romney won this debate, too. It wasn’t a massacre like the first debate and Obama had some strong points, particularly in the middle part of the debate. For me, though, it keeps coming back to passion. Romney seems like he wants it more, seems like he cares more. I know how important it is to Obama, but he’s just not connecting. He’s not connecting with ME. If Barack Obama isn’t connecting with ME, I think he’s in trouble. Mitt Romney is a better debater and, astonishingly, he might actually be a better public speaker. There was more aggression out of Obama tonight, but there were still too many moments where he let Romney run through him or where he looked to the moderator to save him.
One debate to go and 20 days to Election Day and I have no idea who is going to be our next President.