Woulda Shoulda Coulda, Blanche Lincoln Edition

Jon Chait and Glenn Greenwald are having an argument about Obama’s superpowers. I agree wholeheartedly with Greenwald that Obama’s detainee policy is awful, I’m open to his argument that Obama could have lobbied harder in many instances, but I’m not buying this:

Lieberman and Ben Nelson are up for re-election in 2012, and Lincoln is this year. Does anyone actually doubt that an Obama threat to support a primary challenge against any Democratic incumbent, to encourage Democratic fund-raisers to send their money elsewhere, or to refrain from playing any role in their re-election, would influence their votes on matters important to the White House?

I don’t doubt that White House supported primary challenges would influence votes of Senators like Lincoln and Nelson — it would make them even more unstable prima donnas, out to tweak the White House at every opportunity, while being ever more loyal to their corporate overlords. The Lincolns and Nelsons of the world raise funds by appeasing a bunch of corporate special interests, and they can accomplish that trick as long as their donors know they’re buying a loyal vote. At least with Obama’s support, the Lincoln/Nelson type of Senator can risk losing a donor or two on the rare occasion that they do something even slightly progressive.

Greenwald thinks that this article “proves” that Obama’s support put Blanche over the line. I’m not sure about that, but what if she had won even if Obama supported Halter? What’s Obama’s move then? He has to go back on bended knee, all apologies, and make still more compromises to get Blanche back in the tent. Better to play it the way Obama did and let Blanche make compromises to appease Halter supporters.

Also, too: Glenn makes a big deal of the begging and pleading that Arlen Specter did to keep his Judiciary Committee chairmanship under the Bush Administration, contrasting that with Obama’s treatment of Lieberman’s Homeland Security chairmanship. In the end, both of those guys kept their seat. The rest is theatrics.






143 replies
  1. 1

    What I really don’t understand is that if someone said “does anyone doubt that the United States could credibly threaten to bomb Iran back into the stone-age and thereby get the Iranian government to do what it wanted?,” Greenwald would rightly recognize this as hooey. But change it to “Obama could threaten to try to end to career of Democratic Senator X and of course they’ll see to his every whim,” and you’re delusional if you don’t agree. Greenwald’s views of Congressional politics are essentially no different than the neoconservative view of IR. It’s very weird.

    And the distinction between the President’s power in national security matters and domestic policy has been made so many times, I have a hard time actually believing Greenwald is making a good faith argument here. Either way, it’s a good example of why no one will ever take him seriously as long as he persists blogging like a lawyer.

  2. 2
    cat48 says:

    This completely ignores Bill Clinton’s influence which is a lot stronger in Ark. than Obamas. More likely, the Big Dog pulled this out if anyone did.

  3. 3
    Stroszek says:

    Cue Greenwald’s 20,000 word hit piece on mistermix… now.

  4. 4

    Also, Greenwald’s contention that incumbent Senators are dependent on the party for raising campaign funds is so comically wrong that Salon really needs to find out if he actually thinks it’s true and, if so, forbid him from publishing writings about domestic politics on their site. Seriously.

  5. 5

    @cat48:

    Meh, I think it’s probably safe to assume Clinton was working as a surrogate for the administration here.

  6. 6
    Napoleon says:

    Greenwald is just wrong.

    By the way someone may want to point out to him that Obama does not decide committee chairs.

  7. 7

    Also, too: Glenn makes a big deal of the begging and pleading that Arlen Specter did to keep his Judiciary Committee chairmanship under the Bush Administration, contrasting that with Obama’s treatment of Lieberman’s Homeland Security chairmanship. In the end, both of those guys kept their seat. The rest is theatrics.

    Also to add; the Republican weren’t in the same boat vis-a-vis the number of votes they had in their caucus in 2005 that the Democrats were in in 2009, so Specter had much less marginal value to Republicans than Lieberman had to Democrats. More importantly, this was arguably the catalyst to the series of events that led to Specter switching parties and voting like a Democrat, making it possible for Democrats to pass comprehensive healthcare reform, so at the end of the day this was a disaster for conservatives.

  8. 8
    debit says:

    @Napoleon: He doesn’t, but I do remember hearing, in the case of Lieberman, that the WH told Senate leadership to give him what he wanted. At the time I was furious, but I can see now that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference either way.

  9. 9
    Cat Lady says:

    @Napoleon:

    Obot cultist of Dear Leader.

    /Greenwald

  10. 10
    Jim says:

    I think some of the broader points Greenwald makes are good, but he’s being really disingenuous by citing Ezra Klein in an article where he’s basically talking about grievances over civil rights policy. In terms of Obama’s power, there is a massive difference between civil rights/foreign policy and domestic policy. I could be wrong, but AFAIK, Ezra basically never talks about the former. It’s not cool at all to cite Ezra’s references to Obama’s power over financial reform/health care reform and say he’s defending every incidence of wrongful detention.

  11. 11
    4tehlulz says:

    Obviously, mistermix received a visit in the shower from Rahm and his “enforcer.”

  12. 12
    EconWatcher says:

    When the chips were down, she voted for the health-care bill. She’s from a right-wing state. She’ll probably lose her seat for being “too liberal.” What do Greenwald and his fellow travelers want from her?

  13. 13
    Xboxershorts says:

    I believe election shenanigans saved the primary for Lincoln.

    Shutting down ALL but 2 voting machines in a county that heavily supported her opponent seems like a pretty clear message from the Lincoln machine….

  14. 14
    Stroszek says:

    @Jim: For some reason, the FDL crowd really hates Ezra, so the nigh-nonsensical dig was probably just Greenwald throwing a bone to their shared audience.

  15. 15
    cleek says:

    @EconWatcher:

    What do Greenwald and his fellow travelers want from her?

    purity of thought as demonstrated through purity of deed.

  16. 16
    pointer says:

    I don’t read Greenwald because there’s always a 90% chance he’ll use the phrase Dear Leader and other hackish capitalizations.

  17. 17
    VERBERNE says:

    On civil rights and detainee policy Glenn speaks for a lot of us; domestic political events not so much. It is alright for Jane Hamsher and Glenn to think that they can elect liberals/progressives from every part of the country even though that is blowing smoke up every ass in the country. There is a reason that there are Blue Dog Democrats, because that is the only Democrat capable of being elected from whatever district/state you want to talk about. That is just the lay of the land. Whereas the John Birch Society saw a commie hiding behind every tree, Jane/Glenn see progressives hiding behind every tree, city, county, state in this country. Wishing this is so doesn’t make it reality.

  18. 18

    @Jim:

    Of course, the entire article is disingenuous, since (so far as I know) no one but Bernstein has argued that the President does not have substantial power in the realm of national security/foreign policy, and many commentators openly disagreed with Bernstein when he made that post (most notably Lemieux and Farley). Yglesias, at least, has even explicitly noted the amount of authority the executive has in these areas for the sake of contrasting it with the amount of actual authority the President has in domestic policy. There’s basically 3 conclusions you could draw from this post:

    1. Greenwald hasn’t actually read any of the articles he’s criticizing.

    2. He’s read them, but he’s too dense to understand them.

    3. He’s deliberately skewing the distinction being made between national security policy and domestic economic policy to distort the arguments (read, people) he’s attacking.

  19. 19
    Adam Collyer says:

    I don’t doubt that primary challenges would influence votes of Senators like Lincoln and Nelson—it would make them even more unstable prima donnas, out to tweak the White House at every opportunity, while being ever more loyal to their corporate overlords.

    This argument and Greenwald’s are slightly different. Glenn is arguing for Presidential support of a primary challenge. Your contention, John, seems to be that any primary challenge at all makes Senators like Lincoln and Nelson more unstable. Maybe it’s just an issue of different language, so all apologies.

    If it’s not, I don’t necessarily agree. I was supportive of the Halter challenge to Lincoln, and in the end it did make her support a more progressive effort in the financial reform deal. I support primary challenges to incumbents philosophically because I believe that people have a right to choose their representative on the ballot.

    This is very different, however, than expecting a sitting President to go out on a limb and support a primary challenger when the vote that matters on critical legislation lies with the incumbent. It’s no surprise that Obama supported Lincoln – her votes aren’t theoretical like Halter’s currently are. They actually matter and can make or break his legislative agenda. Progressives should be mindful of that when castigating the President for “selling them out.” He’s just making sure that we actually have votes for our agenda currently. Does anyone think that future Senator Sestak is going to vote against the President’s agenda out of spite because Obama supported Specter in a primary?

    I do think, when taken in context, primarying Ben Nelson-types are a waste of resources. Ben Nelson is as liberal as Nebraska is going to get. He’s a vote for the majority leader, cloture most of the time, and a 50/50 shot during an up-or-down vote. Those things are fine with me. What’s ironic is that all of the people who were supportive of the “50 State Strategy” are so angry with conservative and moderate Dems. Are they unaware that the “50 State Strategy” meant selecting the “right Dem for every district?” That means finding conservative and moderate Dems in conservative and moderate districts while, over a period of decades, building the grass roots of the party and shifting the district more liberal. You want to primary these people now? You just helped elect them 4 years ago!

  20. 20

    @Stroszek:

    I’ve never been a big reader of FDL, but as far as I can tell it goes back to Ezra making Jane look like an idiot over that fiscal summit thingy early last year.

  21. 21
    LarsThorwald says:

    I respect Greenwald a lot, but he has just become unreadable. He is better when he rights about civil libertties and national security, but outside of those areas he is frequently making arguments that are without support or which are supported by just some of the worst assumptions (see above).

    But an area that I do have a problem with Greenwald is he never explains what the solution is. Agreed that we should never have established the prison at Gitmo, never should have detained kids and cab drivers and comedians as “enemy combatants” and named them the worst of the worst, agree that the idea that we could subvert the Constitution by arguing that GITMO isn’t in the United States and therefore habeas isn’t available as a forum to these foreign nationals was almost child-like in its fantastical view of the law. I grant him everything on whether what we did to get to where we are now was right. It wasn’t, it was wrong. I grant that.

    The question is: how do we end it? We can’t keep them in GITMO. We cannot send them home because countries are not accepting them. We cannot bring them here to the United States and resettle them because that is politically untenable. So what do we do? How does Obama address these thorny issues?

    I would love love love love to hear Greenwald’s plan for shutting down Guantanamo. I would really love that. But I haven’t seen it. If it’s out there, point me to it. If not, then what’s his solution to this problem? How would the Great Glenn Greenwald untie this Gordian knot? Because unless and until he offers some insight on that, I will just see him as a breath-holding arm-crosser on this issue.

  22. 22
    Xboxershorts says:

    @VERBERNE:

    I tend to agree with this comment but wish to add some clarity…

    There ARE progressive minded folks in every city/county/state in the country.

    They just aren’t electable in every city/county/state.

  23. 23
    EconWatcher says:

    Stroszek:

    I can easily understand why the FDL crowd hates Ezra. He’s coolheaded, smart, and well-informed. His postings typically contain carefully marshaled facts and analysis rather than spittle-flecked vitriol. Don’t you just hate guys like that?

  24. 24
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Jim:

    I think some of the broader points Greenwald makes are good,

    I do too. And the poster, Mistermix, agrees with the main point of his piece about imprisoning people without any due process.

    But watch all of that get lost now in a thousand posts calling Greenwald “an idiot” and someone who doesn’t know the first thing about anything or, what was the one above, Salon should fire him for being so completely clueless about government. Or “an infant throwing a tantrum”, that was one I loved.

    Cole has pointed out more than once that it’s possible to disagree with someone without demonizing and rejecting everything he says. As for whether others here agree– just watch this drive. Er, I mean thread.

    I like disagreement. I just hate the childish over the top extremism.

  25. 25
    Brian J says:

    Upon first glance, this would only work with people like Lincoln, who it seems, to me at least, is motivated by actual policy differences, however irritating. Senators like Nelson and Lieberman, on the other hand, base what they do on…well, I am not sure what, exactly, but it seems like a mix of trying to be a stick in the mud and stroking their own egos.

    I also wonder what the historical record is for this sort of threat when it comes to House members. I could see it making more of a difference when it comes to them, because they represent districts as opposed to entire states (yes, there are some whose entire district is a state, but that’s only a couple), and it’s probably easier to carry out the threat of a primary challenge when you are targeting a specific type of person.

  26. 26
    Malron says:

    @Cat Lady:

    Meh, sounds like Greenwald believes in the unitary executive president, doesn’t it? At least he does when he thinks it’ll benefit his side…

  27. 27
    Stroszek says:

    @EconWatcher: In Greenwald’s defense, the Democrats’ electoral problems are largely a result of Blue Dogs and “moderates” who overvalue media perceptions compared to the tangible consequences of policy.

    I can’t say Lincoln would be a lock for reelection if we had an immediately available public option and a more proactive, less anti-poor stimulus, but she almost wouldn’t be in the dire situation she’s in now.

    The mistake all these Dems make is that the average voter is going to disassociate them from the party as a whole because they helped “moderate” what ended up being less-than-effective policy. They’re not. They’re going to look at the tangible economic conditions and vote against the incumbent. Outside of die hard partisans, voter angst about ideology is mostly just a vehicle for expressing material concerns.

    As the job market begins to see more significant improvement, you can be certain that less people will be identifying Obama as “liberal.”

  28. 28
    kay says:

    Lincoln already held a sizable advantage with Arkansas’ African American voters before being forced into a runoff. In the initial primary matchup in May, Lincoln beat Halter 58 to 42 percent among blacks, compared with her much narrower 44 to 43 percent performance across the electorate, Patterson said.

    I’d draw a different conclusion. Greenwald’s chosen candidate didn’t connect with African American voters, and Lincoln did.
    Since Democrats don’t win a state-wide general election without strong support from that essential part of the Democratic coalition, seems to me like Greenwald better figure out why that is, if he plans on going on to other states. Democrats don’t win without the whole voter base, and minority voters are essential to that.
    I’m not sure telling them that they voted for Lincoln because Obama ordered them to is a smart way to persuade them to back his next candidate. Seems like a good way to piss off 16% of the Democratic electorate, but maybe Greenwald has another 16% up his sleeve, so he doesn’t need them.
    Democrats have a carefully cobbled together “majority”, and always have. It’s why it’s so difficult to manage the competing interests. There aren’t some mass bloc of Democratic voters that haven’t been identified, in Arkansas. Halter had to win all of it, liberals, unions, minority voters, or he wasn’t ever going to win the general anyway.
    Sounds like Greenwald isn’t so much mad as Obama, as he is mad at discovering the reality of “the Democratic electorate”. Democrats add sometimes disparate groups together, to get to 51%, and that’s been true for 30 years.

  29. 29
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Hamsher hates Ygelsias, too, and Dave Weigel. There was a series of twitter fights a couple of months back, that were incredibly funny to watch, in part because of the silly format (/old man).

    Lieberman has said several times that he might run as a Republican in ’12, so I don’t know how a primary threat would scare him. He’d probably love to have an excuse to bolt. I’m surprised he hasn’t already. I think the best strategy for getting rid of Lieberman is to let CT politics simmer on their own. As for Nelson: Nebraska makes Arknansas look like a swing state. There was a ‘netroots’ candidate a couple of years back, whose name is escaping me, but he at least as far right as Nelson. Hell, I think the Dems best shot in NE would be Chuck Hagel, but IIRC he’s not real popular anymore, and he has some kind of personal grudge against the Democratic Party (again, IIRC).

  30. 30

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    I’ve made the point hundreds of times that major newspapers that expect a veneer of credibility shouldn’t allow people (see Broder, David) to publish writings about topics they know nothing about under their banner, so why should Salon be any different? I don’t have a problem with Greenwald’s writings about law or civil liberties, but so far as politics goes, it becomes clearer every day that he’s not just wrong, he literally just doesn’t know very much about it (such as not knowing that incumbent Senators generally raise a lot of money, and get a paltry comparable sum from the party). Either that or he’s being deliberately dishonest. Either way, if I were his publisher, I’d demand he stick to topics he understands.

  31. 31
    Brian J says:

    @VERBERNE:

    Part of the problem is that they don’t know how to distinguish between an acceptable conservative Democrat and an unacceptable Democrat. This might not matter a lot if there’s one issue where someone keeps thwarting whatever progress you are trying to make, but overall, it’s important. A lot of people here realize that for whatever reason, the country isn’t going to elect Bernie Sanders-type Democrats in every state, and we are okay with it. Making an exception on one or two issues to elect someone like Bob Casey instead of Pat Toomey (or whoever he ran against) makes sense, because they with us most of the time and vote for our leadership.

  32. 32

    I’ll just make the comment I’ve made several times previously when this issue came up: The POTUS should *not* be involved in stumping for a candidate in a primary. He should hold his fire until the general election. Let the people of the state sort it out. And, as far as that goes, I will never forgive Clinton for stumping for that blue dog corporocrat Lincoln. He showed his true colors there, as much as he did on NAFTA.

  33. 33
    Stroszek says:

    @EconWatcher: Yeah, my guess was that he engages them in actual debate without responding to their flamebait, a terrifying prospect for people who (despite making frequent use of phrases like “dear leader”) wallow in a bubble of aggressively enforced consensus via polarization.

  34. 34
    eemom says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    as I can tell it goes back to Ezra making Jane look like an idiot over that fiscal summit thingy early last year.

    Also calling our her constant demagoguery and lies about HCR — which he always did politely, in contrast to Lady Jane’s own jihad-esque approach to any disagreement.

    There’s also the fact that Ezra landed that WaPo gig. Let me tell you a little secret — much as Jane pretends to be the righteous Warrior Princess of the counter-establishment, she’d freakin KILL for a seat at the “Village” table.

  35. 35
    Jim says:

    I find it a bit amusing that Greenwald just recently said this to Friedersdorf:

    Q: Presuming that the Republican nominee in 2012 is also bad on civil liberties, what should a voter who cares deeply about these issues do?

    A. That’s hard to say, because ultimately, elections are about comparative choices, making it difficult to assess what one should do against an unnamed opponent. If the GOP opponent is substantially worse, that would be a different calculus than if s/he is merely marginally worse or roughly as bad.

    This sounds awfully like a roundabout way of saying “It sucks, but I guess my readers should vote Obama in 2012.” I.e., pragmatism.

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    it’s a good example of why no one will ever take him seriously as long as he persists blogging like a lawyer.

    oh please, don’t tar the name of my poor maligned profession with Greenwald. He does NOT write like a lawyer — not a good one anyway.

    As I’ve mentioned before, the little twerp has very little experience actually, like, PRACTICING law. Nor does he have any claim to legal scholarship. That’s why the “expert” treatment he always receives on legal issues is such a fucking joke.

  37. 37

    @eemom:

    Not meant to disparage lawyers, it’s just always struck me that Greenwald writes like a lawyer would argue orally; that is, saying things that are technically true but functionally non-sequitors, using the one-way flow and lack of immediate pushback to paper over the holes in his arguments without addressing them. Of course, there’s probably a personality trait involved too.

  38. 38
    kay says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Oh, please. Leiberman won because Connecticut has a lot of Independents and they voted for him. He replaced the segment of the Democratic electorate that Lamont grabbed with Independents and Republicans.
    This isn’t rocket science. It’s a numerical majority. If the “insurgent candidates” can’t cobble one together, they lose.
    Whining that Halter underperformed with African Americans is just ridiculous. It’s a race. She won. She knew the various groups she had cobbled together in a state like Arkansas to win before, and she relied on them. Surprise, surprise. How dastardly!
    Acting like those voters are following Bill Clinton or Obama like zombies isn’t a way to win them next time. All of these states are different. Maybe Greenwald should learn about the people who live in them.

  39. 39
    ricky says:

    @eemom:

    As I’ve mentioned before, the little twerp has very little experience actually, like, PRACTICING law. Nor does he have any claim to legal scholarship. That’s why the “expert” treatment he always receives on legal issues is such a fucking joke.

    So where does Jane Hamsher dervie her political following?
    Expertise. Ever see her movies?

  40. 40
    mistermix says:

    @Adam Collyer: I should have said “White House supported primary challenges” . I’ve got nothing against primary challenges, I just understand why Obama wouldn’t want to engage in one. I updated the post to make that more clear.

  41. 41
    kay says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    You can’t really talk about Democratic politics without understanding the particular state Party apparatus. I looked at the Greenwald article and that’s missing. His, to me, is a weirdly helicopter, federal view. It isn’t like that. It’s much more complex, and local. In a way, his view is patronizing. They have a lot of local control.
    He actually needs the traditional Democrats, at the county level. He has to win them over. There aren’t that many left-leaning voters. It’s not like Democrats have whole blocs to spare.

  42. 42
    kay says:

    I just think this is a losing strategy. The Democratic “coalition” is really fragile. It’s fractious. That’s why it’s so hard to hold it together, and there’s so much maddening compromise, and why we all tear our hair out, looking at the Senate.
    Each voter group thinks they are essential. And, they are.
    I suppose you could replace one or another group of reliable Democratic voters with independents, but isn’t that going to entail still more compromise? Doesn’t that take you further Right? How does that get you Left?
    I guess I’m not seeing it.

  43. 43

    @kay:

    I think that’s complicating the matter a little bit. As I see it, there are two things going on here:

    1. Greenwaldians are basically arguing that, where difficult Senate votes are in question, the Democratic President should always deploy sticks, never carrots, to get them on board. This is weird because there are the same people who recognize that this basically never works in foreign policy, so why they think it will work in Congress I don’t get.

    2. Further complicating the argument somewhat, they’re also trying to use these deal-making relationships to “prove” that Greenwaldian progressives aren’t getting what they want simply because Obama is selling them out, not because they don’t have enough votes.

  44. 44
    eemom says:

    @mistermix:

    But isn’t it kind of unheard of for the party leadership to support ANY primary challenger, unless and until s/he succceeds? Don’t they sort of automatically have to support the incumbent?

  45. 45
    eemom says:

    Greenwaldians

    OMG.

  46. 46

    @eemom:

    They don’t have to, but the odds of them supporting a primary challenger to an incumbent are incredibly low, mostly because the incumbent almost always wins.

  47. 47
    kay says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    Obama is selling them out

    I reject the whole “selling them out” argument. Health care was an elaborate, multi-layered negotiation. It wasn’t Obama’s job to carry the whole liberal side. That isn’t his role. It was liberal’s job to carry the liberal side. If they’re saying they can’t overcome the awesome power of Obama, okay, although they had 30 some-Senators at the table, okay, but I don’t think it was ever Obama’s duty to carry their specific position.
    He’s the head of the whole Democratic Party and the whole country, more broadly. Blanche Lincoln Democrats are Democrats, and there are a lot of them, as she just proved.

  48. 48
    burnspbesq says:

    @LarsThorwald:

    He is better when he rights about civil libertties and national security,

    And so far he can’t be bothered to write about the awful Humanitarian Law Project decision.

    I’d like the 2005-07 version of Greenwald back, please. The current edition is a waste of time. If you used to be a Greenwald fan, try Balkinization or Scott Horton.

  49. 49
    liberal says:

    @kay:

    Greenwald’s chosen candidate didn’t connect with African American voters, and Lincoln did.
    Since Democrats don’t win a state-wide general election without strong support from that essential part of the Democratic coalition, seems to me like Greenwald better figure out why that is,…

    IIRC from news reports it’s quite clear why blacks supported Lincoln: because Bill Clinton and maybe others encouraged them to vote that way, presumably with the blessing of Obama.

  50. 50
    Bobby Thomson says:

    Also, too: Glenn makes a big deal of the begging and pleading that Arlen Specter did to keep his Judiciary Committee chairmanship under the Bush Administration, contrasting that with Obama’s treatment of Lieberman’s Homeland Security chairmanship. In the end, both of those guys kept their seat. The rest is theatrics.

    A bit tautological, don’t you think? We’ll never know if Specter would have kept his seat without the groveling. (I’ve got a pretty good idea, though, that he wouldn’t have kept it if he had campaigned for John Kerry.)

  51. 51
    liberal says:

    @kay:

    Acting like those voters are following Bill Clinton or Obama like zombies isn’t a way to win them next time.

    Do you have any evidence that the claim that Clinton and others influenced the African-American vote in favor of Lincoln is incorrect? And how really does that zombie-fy the voters?

  52. 52
    kay says:

    @liberal:

    liberal, no offense, but this is a losing argument. You are going to have to recognize that Democrats are a coalition. You are going to have to win all of it, or find some more voters.
    Whining that one or another piece of it were unduly influenced and somehow duped into supporting a candidate is just a loser.
    You can’t win with that. It’s also divisive and counterproductive and ultimately patronizing.

  53. 53
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @kay:

    Oh, please. Leiberman won because Connecticut has a lot of Independents Republicans and they voted for him.

    Fixed.

    Lieberman was the de facto Republican nominee that year. Connecticut Republicans were smart enough to recognize it, but too many Connecticut Democrats were not.

  54. 54
  55. 55
    eemom says:

    @liberal:

    IIRC from news reports it’s quite clear why blacks supported Lincoln: because Bill Clinton and maybe others encouraged them to vote that way, presumably with the blessing of Obama.

    So you’re suggesting that black voters just did what they were told?

    Wow.

  56. 56
    kay says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    I followed the process part of the health care debate really closely. There are jurisidictional issues that are all but determinative to an outcome.
    The Senate Finance committee have exclusive jurisdiction over vast sectors of anything in HHS. The Senate Finance committee is the most conservative bloc, as a whole. Baucus took the most conservative committee and then gave the most conservative members drafting rights. That was right out of the box. The more liberals members were not going to win after that, barring some huge grass roots pressure. The only people who could have affected that initial process were the more liberal members of Finance, because no one else was getting in, past exclusive jurisdiction.
    No one can overcome jurisdiction. It means you can’t get in. They couldn’t get past Finance.
    The place for liberals to seize the initiative was prior to Baucus seizing control over that first process. Everything after that was desperate catch-up. That happens. You lose the first round and are basically screwed, barring a miracle.

  57. 57
    liberal says:

    @kay:

    He’s the head of the whole Democratic Party and the whole country, more broadly.

    So?

    …but I don’t think it was ever Obama’s duty to carry their specific position.

    Of course it’s not his duty. He can carry whatever position he wants to. But the party’s going to suffer when the base doesn’t get out and work.

    Yeah, sure, I’ll vote for Obama in 2012, but I’m not going to give him any money. I’ll leave that to the mouthy centrists posting on this blog. After all, if Obama’s so wonderful and he’s closer to your position than mine, then in some sense, it’s your role to work more and give more, right?

    Unfortunately for the party, while it might be important to capture centrist votes, it’s mainly the base that does the work, aside from using loot from monied interests to purchase TV ads.

  58. 58
    lol says:

    Greenwald needs to crack open a history book and check out how the primary challengers against conservative Dems worked out for FDR: he took out one and permanently pissed off the rest. As Omar Little said, “you come at the king you best not miss.” Especially when your shot cost $10 million.

    Also, his whining that Lincoln only won because she won African American voters isn’t altogether different than the odious (and common) Republican refrain of “Democrats aren’t actually that popular once you get rid of the black people.”

  59. 59
    liberal says:

    @eemom:
    No, I’m saying voters use shortcuts in making decisions. A reasonable shortcut is to listen to authority figures they trust. If you knew anything about political science or economics, you’d know there’s an entire subfield about such “signaling,” but since you’re an idiot, you wouldn’t know anything about that.

    BTW, I don’t have to listen to condescension from someone who’s intelligence is so low she makes arguments that allow one to logically conclude that Americans are not entitled to oppose ethnic cleansing because of ethnic cleansing that occurred in America’s past.

    What’s next, eemom? We can’t righteously, immodestly oppose human slavery because we had slavery in our past?

  60. 60
    ricky says:

    Greenwaldians

    I prefer Greenwaldos myself. Because of the color they are easier to find.

  61. 61

    @liberal:

    I still don’t understand how the losing side of a primary can so self-assuredly call themselves “the base” with a straight face or any self-awareness.

  62. 62
    kay says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    Right. Lamont had to win the whole Democratic base or replace it with something. Leiberman replaced Lamont voters with Republicans, and got enough Democrats to support him.
    Where was Lamont going to find the replacements for conservative Democratic voters? Independents? That might have worked in Connecticut, but would it work in Arkansas?
    Can you really rail against conservative Democratic voters, without finding some voting group who will carry a Democrat in their absence?
    Or, alternately, is this about influence of one group of Democratic voters (liberals) over other groups? That’s fine, that’s a plan, I just don’t think it’s helpful to point to another crucial group as the “reason” you lost. Presumably you’ll need them, in the general.

  63. 63
    liberal says:

    @kay:

    Whining that one or another piece of it were unduly influenced and somehow duped into supporting a candidate is just a loser.

    That’s stupid. I’m not whining. I’m making a statement of fact.

    You can’t win with that. It’s also divisive and counterproductive and ultimately patronizing.

    ;

    LOL! We can’t undertake tactical analysis and let facts speak for themselves? We can’t comment critical on what party leaders (I’ll count Bill Clinton among them) do?

  64. 64
    MBunge says:

    @liberal: Unfortunately for the party, while it might be important to capture centrist votes, it’s mainly the base that does the work, aside from using loot from monied interests to purchase TV ads.

    And a quick glance at where Karl Rove’s “all base, all the time” approach to politics got the GOP demonstrates…?

    Mike

  65. 65
    liberal says:

    @Brien Jackson:
    I’m referring to nationally.

    Even if nominally non-liberal Democratic voters outnumber more active liberal party members, that means nothing because you’re not weighting by strength of interest, willingness to give time or money, and so on.

  66. 66
    eemom says:

    @liberal:

    mischaracterizing what I said again, eh little dork? Is that what people schooled in political science and economics learn to do?

    How old ARE you, by the way?

  67. 67
    liberal says:

    @MBunge:
    Logical fallacy. You’re implicitly assuming that the only alternatives are Karl Rove or Obama’s path. I’m not arguing that Obama et al only do as the base wants, merely occasionally.

  68. 68
    liberal says:

    @eemom:
    I’m not mischaracterizing anything, you blithering idiot.

    And I’m not about to reveal personal identifying information in a blog comment section, particularly not to a douche like yourself.

  69. 69
    kay says:

    @liberal:

    You know, I don’t insult you as part of making my argument. I love how sensitive you are to any critic, while calling the critic a “mouthy centrist”, and telling me how much we need the whole Democratic base. Yet, you’re perfectly willing to insult the part of the base that you don’t acknowledge as important, despite the fact that you just lost.
    Don’t worry. I’m not at all thin-skinned. It’s unlikely I’m going to base a vote or a donation on your dismissal of the voters in Arkansas, those “mouthy centrists”. I would suggest that’s not a great way to win them over, nor is you and Greenwlad’s contention that they were taking direction from Obama or Clinton. What goddamn nerve. Only liberals are weighing interests and making clear eyed independent decisions? What goddamn arrogance.
    I’m not clear to me why I have to tiptoe around liberals, while they savage every other part of the Democratic base, but I’ll keep doing it, because I don’t want to be accused of “hippie punching”.

  70. 70

    @liberal:

    Ok, so allowing that Obama’s approval rating amongst self-identified liberals is somewhere between 75-80%, where does the minority get off calling themselves “the base?”

    My point is that it’s a useless term that serves no purpose other than to implicitly make an argument from authority, that the opinion of “the base” should count more than everyone else’s. But there’s no way to quantify a singular electoral base for a major party in a country this big.

  71. 71
    burnspbesq says:

    @kay:

    Oh, just haul off and punch him (her?). He/she deserves it, and you’ll enjoy it.

  72. 72
    kay says:

    @liberal:

    You lost among a crucial component of the Democratic base. What an ‘analyst” would do is look at that, before parachuting in to another state, but don’t bother.
    That would indicate some respect and humility. That’s a “loser” strategy. It’s “capitulation”, and “weak”.

  73. 73
    EconWatcher says:

    kay and eemom:

    No disrespect, but you’ve come perilously close to feeding a troll. And in response to eemom’s unanswered question, I’m guessing college sophomore, poli sci major.

  74. 74
    kay says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I can’t wait to see how this strategy plays in states with huge urban populations surrounded by blood-red land mass, in the crucial counties that carry every single Democrat in those states.
    Russ Feingold, who wins with two counties, is probably sweating bullets. Divide that fragile coalition, and conquer the….Democrat! That’s smart.
    Ohio would be a goddamned blood-bath for the eventual Democratic candidate, with the brilliant Arkansas Strategy.

  75. 75
    Sheila says:

    Why do I think that President Obama might know a little bit more about what can be accomplished within the confines of our government and how to accomplish it than Glenn Greenwald? Might it be that President Obama actually has been working within the government, knows those lurking within it and how to deal with them, is more intelligent than anyone in the media, and actually has some people skills? Perhaps it is time for the media, including the blogosphere, to pool all their resources and take over our government so they can prove to us how easy it is to transform the entire country in a few months. I’m sure their “righteous” outrage will accomplish a great deal in bringing most Americans’ minds into line with their own so that we can have an entire country of angry, arrogant people.

  76. 76
    kay says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I apologize. I know how annoying that can be. I can’t stop once I get going.

    It’s eemom’s job to shut me up, just so you know. I rely on her caring intervention. That might be why we have a breakdown here.

    We all have our roles :) She’s my “minder”.

  77. 77
    Emma says:

    Sheila: But that would be real work! They just want to kibbitz and bellyache and look righteously outraged without having to do the dirty stuff like actually govern and compromise and all those disgusting things.

  78. 78
    El Cid says:

    Meanwhile, Bush Brain Karl Rove marches from victory to victory in the Permanent Republican Majority.

    A new 527 group conceived by veteran GOP hands Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie and launched this year with predictions that it would raise $52 million to support Republican candidates has thus far failed to live up to the fundraising hype.
    __
    The group, American Crossroads, raised only $200 last month, according to a report it filed Monday with the Internal Revenue Service, bringing its total raised since launching in March to a little more than $1.25 million. It spent $76,000 in May, primarily on legal fees and salaries, bringing its total spending to $140,000.

  79. 79
    kay says:

    @Sheila:

    I actually agree with Greenwald on the basic premise of most of these screeds. I don’t think Obama had any particular attachment to any specific provisions in the health care bill. I never claimed he did. I think it’s obvious he didn’t.
    I think the loss for liberals was early, and nearly insurmountable, and it has to do with the make-up of the Senate Finance sub-committee who set the parameters of the Senate debate. They can do that, because they have exclusive jurisdiction. A loss like that is really difficult to overcome.
    The determinative battle was the first one. Liberal Senators needed a better plan out of the gate. When they lost that, they lost the war. All the rest was mitigating that first loss. That happens in court, too. You need a plan, or you’re on defense, and losing, the whole ride.

  80. 80
    eemom says:

    @liberal:

    then I’ll proceed with my estimate based on the level of maturity and self-awareness you’ve displayed on this blog, which puts your age at about 14.

    On the other hand, calling people “douches” is the kind of thing my son does, and he’s 11.

  81. 81
    Erik Vanderhoff says:

    While my politics align far more with Greenwald’s than Chait’s, I find him to be so grating that I hope Chait cleans his clock.

  82. 82
    kay says:

    @Sheila:

    I only realized this after the law passed, so I’m not claiming I had a plan for the first crucial round and the liberal Senators did not.

    Still. I wasn’t supposed to have a plan. They’re Senators and I’m not. I think those desperate arguments you heard from liberal Senators was an attempt to salvage a flawed or non-existent strategy.

    So, there’s blame to go around. That’s a shocker, right?

  83. 83
    burnspbesq says:

    @kay:

    Word. If you offend your friends and your enemies, you don’t have much left to work with.

  84. 84
    kay says:

    Just to piss more people off, and do some more useless hindsight, during the health care debate, I was pining away for Clinton and Kennedy.
    I think those two would have made a huge difference. We lost our two best advocates, two people who had institutional knowledge (Kennedy) and passion on that issue (Clinton) and absolute command of every twist and turn of the policy, two really high-profile people media love to interview.
    So, that was a real loss, and tough to let go of.

  85. 85
    booferama says:

    Unfortunately, neither Greenwald nor Chait wins the argument. Greenwald’s absolutely right about foreign policy and the Obama administration’s continuation of human rights abuses. What probably motivates most of his anger has to do with how little is written about Obama’s continuation of Bush’s policies in that regard.

    Chait doesn’t acknowledge that key issue in his rebuttals, which is a pretty big blind spot. Still, he’s more right about the issues regarding the party, etc. I think Greenwald has some good points to make about elections, the role of the president in the party, etc., but he overstates them.

  86. 86
    kay says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I don’t think Greenwald has enough knowledge and history re: the Democratic Party to weigh in on a place like Arkansas. Like any other huge organization, the Democratic Party has factions, and long alliances, it relies to a certain extent on relationships. I’m not talking about “power broker” relationships. I’m talking about a long history of people working together, at the county and state level. I don’t know that he can dismiss that accrued history, or remain unaware of it, and win.
    I was blown away when he wrote that screed saying Obama had no allegiance to the legal decisions that are part of civil rights, like Brown. Obama believes in legislative action on civil rights, and there’s a good reason for that. The Reconstruction amendments didn’t remedy anything for African Americans, because judges wouldn’t enforce them. Courts failed. It took Congress, and 100 years, and the civil rights legislation of the sixties. That’s a rational position for Barack Obama, he’s in that “camp”, and it’s shared by a lot of African Americans. Greenwald was apparently unaware of that whole division, on civil rights. That gave me pause.

  87. 87
    ChrisWWW says:

    “I don’t doubt that White House supported primary challenges would influence votes of Senators like Lincoln and Nelson—it would make them even more unstable prima donnas, out to tweak the White House at every opportunity, while being ever more loyal to their corporate overlords.”

    mistermix,
    So, how much money did you donate to Lincoln to keep that from happening?

    Seriously, aren’t these Blue Dogs tweaking the President every damn week anyways?

    All I know is that I don’t want to hear about the intractability of the Senate from people who don’t care to even try to change it.

  88. 88
    Tom Hilton says:

    Can we please stop pretending that Glenn Greenwald has anything of value to say about anything other than a very limited range of civil liberties issues?

    The guy is a lying narcisssistic douchebag. It may be worth putting up with that on the very few issues he appears to understand, but outside of those issues there’s no reason at all to give him the attention he craves.

  89. 89
    BlizzardOfOz says:

    Shorter: Obama can’t try to achieve an agenda, what if he fails? Then what???

  90. 90
    CalD says:

    Well to put a somewhat less gratuitously nasty spin on it, administration-sponsored primary challenges would also make it possible for Washington insiders to run against Washington, which could actually end up being a rather huge boost this year in particular. And while a lot of this stuff is just politics and everyone in the game throws a few elbows under the basket at crunch time, the people who do it for a living know that and most of the bruises will eventually fade, it’s still not exactly the most sure-fire way to make friends either.

    Certainly if an incumbent does make it back for another term after an unsuccessful primary challenge, they don’t come back owing any particular favors to people who called them nasty names and spent millions on attack ads against them. In fact if anything, you’ve just proven pretty conclusively that not only are you no friend of theirs, but that they also don’t actually need you for much.

  91. 91
    colby says:

    “IIRC from news reports it’s quite clear why blacks supported Lincoln: because Bill Clinton and maybe others encouraged them to vote that way, presumably with the blessing of Obama.”

    I’m not sure that’s true. They certainly didn’t just fall in line like that over in Alabama (and while Davis’ universally acknowledged “Friend of Barack” status didn’t yield an explicit endorsement, that was probably balanced out by the fact that he’s far blacker than Clinton or Lincoln).

  92. 92
    colby says:

    “Well to put a somewhat less gratuitously nasty spin on it, administration-sponsored primary challenges would also make it possible for Washington insiders to run against Washington, which could actually end up being a rather huge boost this year in particular.”

    I think that would only work if they could really demonstrate some independence from Leadership, though. And that means voting against big bills (that’s why so many House Blue Dogs were let off the leash on HCR). That can be pretty counterproductive to progressive interests (At least the interests of THIS progressive) depending on the bill.

    “Certainly if an incumbent does make it back for another term after an unsuccessful primary challenge, they don’t come back owing any particular favors to people who called them nasty names and spent millions on attack ads against them.”

    I think this is true, too, or at least, it can be in enough cases to make it precarious (given how much each individual Senator is empowered by the chamber’s rules). So I think you end up with the immediate votes AND future votes endangered. I dunno, I’m cautious, but I wouldn’t risk that unless the reward was mighty high, too.

  93. 93
    tim says:

    Glenzilla so clearly kicks your ass on this and all other topics, you’d be better off pretending not to read him.

    So thoroughly researched and sourced and reasoned are his articles that they leave his BJ haters sputtering hateful, glib insults in return.

    what a joke you people are. Your inferiority complex re GG is glaring.

  94. 94
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I haven’t checked the facts on the ground or anything, but it seems to me that Obama’s support for Lincoln takes the shape of a reward for _good_ behavior, insofar as she ultimately voted for the final HCR bill. Like mistermix I don’t see how a threat to support Halter necessarily leads Lincoln to act better on HCR or other not-well-regarded bills; the evidence that Lincoln performed better on Wall Street reform than anyone expected suggests that the primary challenge from Halter helped nudge Lincoln, but couldn’t Obama’s support for Lincoln also be a reward for that? I guess I’m just rehashing the case of Carrot v. Stick.

  95. 95
    kay says:

    @tim:

    He’s one lawyer. It’s one lawyer’s opinion on the Senate primary in Arkansas. Glenn Greenwald doesn’t know why the Democratic primary voters in Arkansas backed Lincoln.
    I do think it’s interesting that his initial foray into electoral politics ends with a post-mortem that includes no analysis of the Halter strategy, at all.

  96. 96
    kay says:

    @colby:

    The news report at the top of the page consists of a single quote from a single black voter.
    If that’s the “data” we’re relying on, we’re in trouble.
    Why not just call it Greenwald’s opinion? That’s what it is. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

  97. 97
    Uloborus says:

    @Brien Jackson:
    Yes. I really just put this together myself, and I think it’s crucial. How do you define ‘the base’? Is it the largest group of Democrats, or liberal Democrats? Either way, if you’re in the 20% that don’t approve of his performance, you’re not ‘the base’, you’re ‘the fringe’.

    Is it the people who are most reliable in working for, giving money to, and voting for Democrats? Then presumably a bunch of people who spend all their time debating whether a Democratic president should be opposed or merely treated with apathy are not ‘the base’. I mean, they’ve disqualified themselves.

    What other definitions are there? ‘The actual base would agree with me, but they don’t know the truth’? That one’s a winner.

    Nobody who’s talking about how Obama has betrayed ‘the base’ or not given anything to ‘the base’ is actually ‘the base’, and they need to accept that. They’re ‘the fringe’. That doesn’t make them automatically WRONG about anything, but the arguments they’re using have a huge gap in their foundation.

  98. 98
    Adam Collyer says:

    @mistermix:

    I figured as much, but it wouldn’t be a blog comment if I couldn’t argue :)

    And sorry for referring to you as John. My pre-work, early morning routine means that I neglect the actual authors of blog pieces, apparently?

  99. 99
    Citizen Alan says:

    @eemom:

    So you’re suggesting that black voters just did what they were told?

    Oh for fuck’s sake! The overwhelming majority of the electorate, regardless of race, creed or color, is grossly underinformed about nearly all political candidates below the office of President because the overwhelming majority of the electorate has shit to do and doesn’t have enough hours in the day to do exhaustive research on every candidate’s positions and past voting history. When a well-known and much-admired former politicians comes out and gives a strong endorsement to one candidate over another, that matters. When the endorsement comes from a living legend, as Bill Clinton is to Arkansas Democrats and especially Arkansas’s minority Democrats, and the endorsement is in favor of the incumbent anyway, it matters a lot.

    It does not demean black voters or any other class of voters to point out these perfectly obvious facts. If George Bush gave a strong endorsement to an incumbent Texas Senator who was trailing in a close primary race, it would probably have put him over the top by the same margin or more, but that doesn’t mean that conservative Christian voters just “do what they’re told.”

  100. 100
    AxelFoley says:

    @EconWatcher:

    Stroszek:

    I can easily understand why the FDL crowd hates Ezra. He’s coolheaded, smart, and well-informed. His postings typically contain carefully marshaled facts and analysis rather than spittle-flecked vitriol. Don’t you just hate guys like that?

    Sounds like the same reason they hate Obama.

  101. 101
    Zeke says:

    Tim:

    Wipe your chin.

  102. 102
    Resident Firebagger says:

    Call me a Glennbot (I certainly think of many of you as Obamabots), but I believe Greenwald kicks your asses here. Were Cheney/Bush powerless when they were running things? Do you even recall how Obama waxed the progressives on war-funding? You think he couldn’t perform some parallel action on the Blue Dogs if he really wanted to do? Oh, this weak and powerless president that we all had to vote for. Don’t you see the lunacy in that rationale?

    Obama went out on a limb for Lincoln in Arkansas even though, as I understand it, Halter was polling better than her vs. the Republican candidate. You could argue that Obama wasted his time even getting involved in that race, since the Dems will likely lose the seat anyway.

    Why would Obama support Blanche if he didn’t think his support would accomplish anything? Why would he support her if he didn’t agree with her sleazy corporate stances?

    I do disagree with Glenn on Lamont/Lieberman. As at least one previous commenter noted, Joe-Lie has Connecticut Republicans to thank for his ongoing presence in the Senate. Probably nothing Obama could have done there to change the outcome (especially being only a senator then). But of course he was firmly behind Joe…

  103. 103
    burnspbesq says:

    @tim:

    Tim wins for most unintentionally hilarious comment of the millenium to date.

    Just wondering … are you capable of autonomous thought, or have you been fully assimilated into the Borg Greenwald collective?

  104. 104
    Uloborus says:

    @Resident Firebagger:
    Actually, yes. We do think Bush had many powers Obama doesn’t, because Bush had a Republican party willing to back him up on absolutely every point, and a Democratic congress that just bowed out of the way. Oh, and a 5-4 majority in SCOTUS.

    This is extremely important. Our government is designed on a system of checks and balances. In a very real sense a president can do absolutely anything Congress and the Supreme Court won’t stop him from doing. Obama is A) not willing to push that, because Bush’s willingness to push it was disgusting and immoral, and much more importantly B) the checks and balances on Bush completely failed to function. They’ve already functioned repeatedly to stop Obama from doing things he wanted – like closing Guantanamo. Bear in mind, some of the things Bush did were blatantly illegal. The law did not stop him. Precedent did not stop him. Congress and the SCOTUS were supposed to stop him, and they cheered him on instead. Obama does not have that luxury.

    Also, I think ‘why would he support her if he didn’t agree with her sleazy pro-corporate stances’, while a reasonable sounding argument, has been objectively disproven. If Obama is in the can for corporations, he’s got a Hell of a way of showing it. Everybody he’s supposedly sucking up to – Wall Street, Oil, Insurance – they hate his guts. I’m completely avoiding other explanations of why he did it and whether or not it was a good idea, but that particular one seems very unlikely.

  105. 105
    Chris G. says:

    @Brien Jackson: And this is a big part of what Greenwald doesn’t get. Presidents are not going to waste their finite time, attention, and political capital trying to get rid of someone in their own party because they don’t want to lose if the challenge fails. If Obama had gone all-in for Halter — and let’s set aside the laughable notion that this would have been good for Halter in Arkansas — and Halter had lost, Obama would look like he’d lost, too, and that would very likely hurt his ability to deal with other issues and legislation and policy priorities, and leave him with a pissed-off Blanche Lincoln to deal with.

  106. 106
    kay says:

    @Resident Firebagger:

    Does Glenn Greenwald have some particular knowledge or expertise in the Arkansas Democratic primary voter set? Does he know the county chairs? Did he speak to a single voter? How much time did he spend down there?

    No? Then he’s basing this whole analysis on his 3 months work as a “consultant” in a single primary race.

    There are commenters here who have more experience than that. You can agree with his opinion, but don’t try to sell it as anything other than an opinion. It’s not.

    The Greenwald lovers appeal to Greenwald’s authority is amusing. Is there nothing he doesn’t know? Anything he isn’t the last word on? From health care policy to the machinations of the state Democratic Party in Arkansas, the World’s Smartest Lawyer is the expert.

    He’s one voice. One opinion. Because he’s your absolute favorite doesn’t mean anything at all.

  107. 107
    kay says:

    @Resident Firebagger:

    Just so you know, Lincoln was well ahead with African American voters in the first race. Halter didn’t lose them. He never had them.
    But that doesn’t fit the narrative, or the carefully chosen data, so let’s breeze right by that, and examine The Big Dog’s perfidy and Obama’s evil intent, and breeze right by Halter’s early deficit there, because that would entail looking at the candidate and the strategy, in a post mortem, and we can’t go there.

  108. 108
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Resident Firebagger:

    Were Cheney/Bush powerless when they were running things?

    Cheney/Bush’s record of getting their agenda through Congress is greatly exaggerated. They got tax cuts and the Iraq War, and they only got those because they won Democratic support for them. Medicare squeaked by with one vote, and that was because DeLay held the voting open until 2 am.

    Looking back, they didn’t really accomplish much of their agenda at all. Well, other than looting the government for the benefit of their friends and supporters, but they did all of that through things like appointments, not legislation.

    And yet there’s this weird myth that Bush got everything he wanted just by being The Decider. Even liberals have bought into it. It’s bizarre.

  109. 109
    kay says:

    I also love the idea that Bill Clinton came in and took voters who rightfully belonged to Halter.
    For people who spend a good part of their time saying they are taken for granted by the Democratic Party, that’s an interesting sense of entitlement you got there.
    Clinton stole your voters! Those voters should know better than to trust the Democrat they’ve listened to for 30 years. What the hell is wrong with them?

  110. 110
    Uloborus says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    Well, I think that attitude isn’t based on legislative accomplishments, it’s based on the way Bush abused his executive powers. The war in Iraq was a great example. Congress gave him permission to use military force if sanctions and inspections failed. Bush immediately – *immediately* – went ‘Yay, time to invade!’ Wiretapping, torture, his absurd signing statements – all that was abuse of executive power.

    And like I said above, Bush only got away with it because the people who were supposed to stop him were completely unwilling to. Any president in that position is going to be able to pull the same crap.

    Hint: Obama is not in that position.

  111. 111

    @Chris G.:

    There’s also the fact that, for as much as people like Resident Firebagger go on about how Halter was polling better than Lincoln, he was still trailing by about 20%. SO in all likelihood the Republican wins that seat anyway, and there’s no sense expounding effort on it. The only thing of value the administration could get out of the race was Lincoln’s vote, which they got.

  112. 112

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s also worth pointing out that they wouldn’t have gotten Part D enacted if the Democrats had pursued the current GOP tactic of filibustering every vote.

  113. 113
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Chris G.:

    If Obama had gone all-in for Halter—and let’s set aside the laughable notion that this would have been good for Halter in Arkansas—and Halter had lost, Obama would look like he’d lost, too, and that would very likely hurt his ability to deal with other issues and legislation and policy priorities, and leave him with a pissed-off Blanche Lincoln to deal with.

    Yes, exactly so, and it’s the biggest factor Greenwald et al keep refusing to acknowledge. If you pick fights AND LOSE, in contemporary politics, you weaken your ability to win further fights. People who see fight-picking as virtuous in its own right — Kos, Hamsher, Greenwald, e.g., although the issues they prioritize don’t all overlap — brush off the risk of picking a fight and losing it. When you are in power and want to get things done, losing a fight has MASSIVE downside.

  114. 114
    John Cole says:

    I do have a problem with Greenwald is he never explains what the solution is

    For detainees he has been quite clear on a solution- put them on trial, and if they are convicted, jail them. If they are not, send them back to their home country.

  115. 115
    gwangung says:

    @John Cole:

    For detainees he has been quite clear on a solution- put them on trial, and if they are convicted, jail them. If they are not, send them back to their home country.

    Amazingly enough, I think most people around here agree with him on that.

    But I think that’s an area where he’s expert in, and can demonstrate, at the drop of a hat. In other areas, he’s not demonstrably an expert, and doesn’t show his work; people are less likely to take his word in those areas.

  116. 116
    Tom Hilton says:

    @gwangung:

    But I think that’s an area where he’s expert in, and can demonstrate, at the drop of a hat. In other areas, he’s not demonstrably an expert, and doesn’t show his work; people are less likely to take his word in those areas.

    Exactly–the same point I was trying to make upthread (albeit rather less politely than you do here).

  117. 117
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @John Cole:

    If they are not, send them back to their home country.

    Unless I’m misremembering, I thought that was part of the issue too: their home countries don’t want them back, or can’t guarantee their safety.

  118. 118
    Oscar Leroy says:

    I don’t doubt that White House supported primary challenges would influence votes of Senators like Lincoln and Nelson—it would make them even more unstable prima donnas, out to tweak the White House at every opportunity, while being ever more loyal to their corporate overlords.

    Completely, totally wrong. Lincoln only proposed a super-strict new banking regulation bill after she got a challenge from the left. Arlen Specter, too, got more liberal to fight off a more liberal challenger.

    Anyway, your entire post is flawed. “If Obama did A, then B would happen,” even if true, does nothing to back up the “Obama is powerless to do A” hypothesis.

  119. 119
    Oscar Leroy says:

    What I really don’t understand is that if someone said “does anyone doubt that the United States could credibly threaten to bomb Iran back into the stone-age and thereby get the Iranian government to do what it wanted?,” Greenwald would rightly recognize this as hooey. But change it to “Obama could threaten to try to end to career of Democratic Senator X and of course they’ll see to his every whim,” and you’re delusional if you don’t agree.

    What a terrible analogy. Elections happen no matter what, and no incumbent is guaranteed a return to office. Further, someone is almost sure to run against that incumbent and will probably get a lot of support. A war of aggression, on the other hand, does not have to happen at all and is not even close to a normal part of a country’s operation. Threaten a country with bombs and their existence is called into question; threaten a candidate with unseating them, and the worst that happens is they look for another job.

    Cue Greenwald’s 20,000 word hit piece on mistermix… now.

    [sound of crickets chirping]

  120. 120
    Oscar Leroy says:

    Greenwald is just wrong. By the way someone may want to point out to him that Obama does not decide committee chairs.

    “(Reuters) – Senate Democrats on Tuesday yielded to the wishes of President-elect Barack Obama and allowed Joe Lieberman to keep his committee chairmanship despite having backed Republican John McCain for the White House.

    Democratic aides said Obama, shortly after winning the November 4 election for the presidency over McCain, urged Democrats to do what it takes to keep Lieberman, who represents Connecticut, in their Senate conference where he routinely votes with them.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article.....MC20081118

    But the president can’t influence anything, oh no.

  121. 121
    Oscar Leroy says:

    What do Greenwald and his fellow travelers want from her?

    Are you serious? Do you really think Blanche Lincoln is a trusted ally in moving America toward a better future?

    Of course, the entire article is disingenuous, since (so far as I know) no one but Bernstein has argued that the President does not have substantial power in the realm of national security/foreign policy

    What does this even mean? It’s disingenuous to respond to something Jonathan Bernstein said because only Jonathan Bernstein said it? And anyway, other people such as Ezra Klein agreed with Bernstein.

  122. 122

    @Oscar Leroy:

    the worst that happens is they look for another job.

    WEll I think we can assume they rather like the cushy life of being a Senator, and you’re effectively threatening to try to end their political life, so I think the analogy is sound enough. Anyway, the point is that Greenwaldians generally recognize that big sticks don’t work that well to persuade people, until the targets become conservative Democratic Senators.

  123. 123
    Oscar Leroy says:

    Meh, sounds like Greenwald believes in the unitary executive president, doesn’t it? At least he does when he thinks it’ll benefit his side…

    As opposed to many people here, who were mad when George W Bush locked up people without trials, but don’t care at all when Barack Obama does it, or orders the assasination of an American national for that matter.

    I’d draw a different conclusion. Greenwald’s chosen candidate didn’t connect with African American voters, and Lincoln did.

    Well, now we KNOW that Barack Obama’s endorsement had no effect on the outcome of this race, don’t we?

    Sounds like Greenwald isn’t so much mad as Obama, as he is mad at discovering the reality of “the Democratic electorate”. Democrats add sometimes disparate groups together, to get to 51%, and that’s been true for 30 years.

    It’s hilarious that you would write that about Glenn Greenwald.

  124. 124

    @Oscar Leroy:

    What does this even mean? It’s disingenuous to respond to something Jonathan Bernstein said because only Jonathan Bernstein said it?

    Well yeah, because the framing Greenwald uses hints that all of his targets argued that the President is weak where national security policy is concerned.

  125. 125
    Oscar Leroy says:

    Yeah, my guess was that he engages them in actual debate without responding to their flamebait, a terrifying prospect for people who (despite making frequent use of phrases like “dear leader”) wallow in a bubble of aggressively enforced consensus via polarization.

    Too funny!

  126. 126

    @Oscar Leroy:

    But the president can’t influence anything, oh no.

    I think this tendency to assume that the same set of circumstances hold for every situation might be the most annoying thing about Greenwald’s writing. It’s just so tedious.

  127. 127
    Oscar Leroy says:

    The Democratic “coalition” is really fragile. It’s fractious. That’s why it’s so hard to hold it together, and there’s so much maddening compromise, and why we all tear our hair out, looking at the Senate.

    So. . . that makes it a good idea for Obama to endorse a corporatist Democrat like Lincoln, instead of endorsing Halter or not endorsing anyone?

    We all know what is going to happen: in a week or a month most of the people here will have totally forgot about the Arkansas primary and go back to attributing Obama’s troubles to the mean, incalcitrant Senate, over which he has no leverage whatsoever.

  128. 128
    Oscar Leroy says:

    1. Greenwaldians are basically arguing that, where difficult Senate votes are in question, the Democratic President should always deploy sticks, never carrots, to get them on board. This is weird because there are the same people who recognize that this basically never works in foreign policy, so why they think it will work in Congress I don’t get.

    What, we can vote away the existence of Iran like we can vote away the Senatorship of Blanche Lincoln? We can’t? Then this is a bullshit analogy.

    2. Further complicating the argument somewhat, they’re also trying to use these deal-making relationships to “prove” that Greenwaldian progressives aren’t getting what they want simply because Obama is selling them out, not because they don’t have enough votes.

    We have actual Senators saying that Obama did what he could to stop the public option. So why do you have trouble accepting this? “There weren’t enough votes”. Golly, who could have predicted that cowardly Senators worried about re-election would choose not to support something left twisting in the wind by a popular newly-elected president?

  129. 129
    Oscar Leroy says:

    Also, Greenwald’s contention that incumbent Senators are dependent on the party for raising campaign funds is so comically wrong

    Where, exactly, did Greenwald say this? And I mean exactly.

  130. 130
    Oscar Leroy says:

    I reject the whole “selling them out” argument. Health care was an elaborate, multi-layered negotiation. It wasn’t Obama’s job to carry the whole liberal side. That isn’t his role. It was liberal’s job to carry the liberal side. If they’re saying they can’t overcome the awesome power of Obama, okay, although they had 30 some-Senators at the table, okay, but I don’t think it was ever Obama’s duty to carry their specific position.
    He’s the head of the whole Democratic Party and the whole country, more broadly. Blanche Lincoln Democrats are Democrats, and there are a lot of them, as she just proved.

    Interesting. Obama couldn’t campaign for something that two-thirds of the country wants because Blanche Lincoln (who just squeaked by a primary challenger and is projected to lose in the general election) didn’t want it? Just because only 52-55 Democratic senators wanted the public option didn’t mean he should work for it, either. After all, not every single Democrat wanted it. Very sound reasoning.

  131. 131
    Oscar Leroy says:

    But isn’t it kind of unheard of for the party leadership to support ANY primary challenger

    Kind of. Of course, if your campaign slogan is “Change”. . .

  132. 132
  133. 133
    Oscar Leroy says:

    @liberal:

    Let’s all be clear about this: Obama himself recorded an ad supporting Blanche Lincoln.

  134. 134
    kay says:

    @Oscar Leroy:

    I think the liberal Senators lost the first round, and it was pretty much over after that. Because the Finance Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over vast sections of the current Medicaid and Medicare apparatus, the Finance subcommittee that drafted the bill that then came out of that committee (exclusive jurisdiction, remember) became the template. So, the most conservative members of the most conservative committee drafted the Senate bill that got through Finance. Have to go through Finance. Can’t get there without jurisdiction.
    I said at the time and I stick to this, that the best that was coming out of that committee was the trigger. It had to get through Finance, and it had to get through that subcommittee.
    Now, there was probably a way for the liberal Senators to have planned to get around the jurisdiction issue: there’s a FULL Finance Committee, after all, but they didn’t have a plan (apparently) so they lost the all-important round one, Baucus and the conservative minority won, and the liberals never recovered.
    Because this was so process-driven, my tendency would be not to blame the President, but instead to blame the liberal Senators, who, after all, understand jurisdictional issues, and should understand process planning. It’s hard to come back from a mistake that big, and they didn’t.
    I think it is the liberal Senator’s job to understand process, and plan. I guess a full-throated bully-pulpit message from the President might have rectified that original error, but I’m not sure.
    I think it’s smarter not to let it get away from you in the first place.

  135. 135
    gwangung says:

    @Oscar Leroy: Don’t oversimplify. You make mistakes that way. For example, citing stats that two thirds of American voters wanted health care ignores the fact that a) not all in favor wanted the same thing and b) not all voters in a particular area A wanted the same things as voters in a particular area B.

  136. 136

    @Oscar Leroy:

    What, we can vote away the existence of Iran like we can vote away the Senatorship of Blanche Lincoln? We can’t?

    We’re talking about Obama specifically here, are we not?

    We have actual Senators saying that Obama did what he could to stop the public option.

    This is the really rich part; the guy who accuses everyone else of having Dear Leader syndrome unquestionably accepting the naked assertion of a politician because it’s what he wants to hear without a trace of irony.

  137. 137

    @Oscar Leroy:

    Well this is interesting, you’ve obviously read his posts, because you’re basically just re-stating what he wrote in places, yet we’re to believe you totally missed this:

    If the White House subtly directs the major Party fund-raisers and its money apparatus to refrain from supporting a particular incumbent who impedes Obama’s agenda, that would be a serious impediment to that incumbent’s re-election bid.

  138. 138
    kay says:

    @Oscar Leroy:

    I guess I’d have to say that Obama would have had to delve really deeply into Senate process to affect the result you were looking for. I don’t know 1. that that is his role, or 2. that he would have gotten anywhere, directing individual Senators on things like full or sub-committee decisions, and jurisdiction. That strikes me as a very rule-bound body, and exclusive jurisdiction means just what it says. It’s really jealously guarded, because it’s such absolute power. I don’t know that the President can micro-manage the Senate to that extent.
    He would know. He was in it, once.
    While it’s true he could have pushed for a public option, using the bully pulpit, sometime after Senate Finance voted their version out of committee, I think losing that battle lost the war. That’s my hindsight, anyway.

  139. 139

    @Oscar Leroy:

    Well, since you put it that way.

  140. 140
    kay says:

    @Oscar Leroy:

    I think I came at this differently than you-all did. I focused on Congress, because the prior health care battle (S-CHIP expansion) was centered on Congress (Bush was President). We won that in Congress. Obama had to sign it, of course.

    I didn’t expect Obama to carry particular provisions into the bill. I knew it would be Senate-process driven, and there would be a lot of Congressional maneuvering, with their zealously guarded procedural rules and little feifdoms. I think if I were planning it (a liberal in the Senate, say, just for kicks) I would use the procedural process and rules to my advantage, rather than waiting for the Prez to sell my ideas to individual Senators. In other words, I would not have relied on President Obama’s vision of a health care plan carrying my specific, preferred outcome.

    I think they needed A Plan. “The President threatens a veto without the public option” is not a plan, it’s an admission that they lost.

  141. 141
    Chris G. says:

    @Brien Jackson: There’s that, too. Like John Cole, I didn’t see much downside to Halter primarying Lincoln, but I also am not the president of the United States.

  142. 142
    Brad Potts says:

    To Brian Jackson,

    Your comparison of Greenwald to neoconservatives is not analogous in the slightest.

    Greenwald explicitly noted that President Obama is basically the functional head of the democratic party. If he says Blanche Lincoln will not receive Democratic Party support, she will not receive party support.

    If you can point out how the US represents some collective group of nations that will cut off support for Iran, then yes they are analogous, but until it looks like we can bully Russia, China, India, Turkey, Egypt, and the rest of the middle east into some collective coalition of nations, your comparison falls completely flat.

  143. 143

    @Brad Potts:

    Greenwald explicitly noted that President Obama is basically the functional head of the democratic party. If he says Blanche Lincoln will not receive Democratic Party support, she will not receive party support.

    Based on what?

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