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.