I Don’t Think Garland is a Sacrificial Lamb

There’s been a great deal of talk about how Garland is a “sacrificial lamb,” but I’m just not buying it. I think Obama nominated Garland because he likes the nominee, believes that he is a good man, and believes that he can seat him. Here’s my reasoning.

1.) Obama doesn’t do sacrificial lambs, or throw people under the bus, or have people fall on their swords, or whatever other metaphor people want to use. In his administration, there have been, that I can recall, five high profile exits.

The first was Van Jones, and Obama didn’t sack the guy, he resigned, and he had to. He’d made a string of unforced errors, some of which were pretty stupid, and he was just not a good fit with the no-drama Obama team. Rahm left to become Mayor. Hillary left to get ready to become the nominee this election. That leaves Shirley Sherrod and Chuck Hagel. Hagel left because of disagreements with his boss and a whole lot of other issues in the Pentagon.

That leaves Sherrod, and that truly was a shitshow. Obama himself has said this was a mistake. Maybe I am missing some others, but these are the ones I remember. This is not a record indicative of someone who routinely mistreats or screws over people for political gain or when the going gets tough. The man does not “use” people. It’s not who he is.

It’s actually one of the things I admire most about this administration and the man. I think being a halfway decent President is akin to steering the Titanic while juggling blindfolded, and Obama has managed to do this with grace all while half the nation has been trying to trip him, throwing spitballs at him and screaming racial epithets. We’re never going to see an administration this well run again in our lifetimes, and he did it under fire from all quarters.

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2.) Obama has never governed as a screaming liberal, and I don’t see him starting now. For better or for worse, Obama has never governed as a hard left progressive. If historians were honest, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would be listed as the best moderate Republican Presidents of the last 100 years. Having said that, Obama has achieved a very progressive list of accomplishments. I have long felt that Obama’s personal views are far more progressive than his governance- I don’t think for one minute his positions on gay marriage ever evolved, I think they are the same today as they were years ago. What evolved is the nation full of neanderthals he is forced to govern.

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3.) Obama has a sense of “fair play,” even when it isn’t deserved. I think it would have been completely out of character for him to nominate a left wing liberal to replace Scalia even if he could get said liberal seated. I just don’t think he would do it. I believe Obama trusts the kind of slow revolution with irreversible gains to large dramatic revolutions that can lead to just as radical course corrections. He plays the long game, and understands that seating Garland will already make the center of the court the most liberal it has been in years, and understands that barring a disaster for Democrats in the fall, will become even more so in the not so distant future.

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4.) Garland is strong on the role of the federal government an agencies. While this can make many progressives mad, it makes pretty solid sense to me, examining Garland’s record, why an African-American President with a keen take on history would nominate someone who shows deference to the federal government and agency decision makers over “state’s rights.” I believe Obama views that Garland would have been on the right side of many recent bad rulings (VRA, affirmative action, etc.)

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5.) Obviously, Obama understands that this puts the Republicans in a disastrous hole politically, particularly since they are basically on record saying “If Obama nominated X, we would confirm,” so Obama went out and nominated X and they are left stammering and shifting from foot to foot as dribble like this oozes out their cornfed pieholes:

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama has politicized the Supreme Court nomination process by putting forward veteran appellate court judge Merrick Garland during a presidential election.

“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate after Obama, a Democrat, announced his choice at the White House.

“Instead of spending more time debating an issue where we can’t agree, let’s keep working to address the issues where we can,” the senator from Kentucky said.

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6.) Obama does not want to leave unfinished business when he leaves office on 20 January 2017. Obama took office with a toxic smorgasbord of disasters both immediate and impending, all because his idiot predecessor couldn’t operate a lawnmower much less a nation. He does not want to do that to Hillary, who he believes will be his successor (and I think he is happy about that). He knows how that screwed up the start of his administration, having to focus on fixing things instead of advancing the ball, and he does not want to do that to someone else.

I think he also believes that this is HIS pick, not just some pick you sock away until the next President, whomever that might be. He’s a Constitutional lawyer, FFS. He actually believes in the process and the Constitution.

So, for all those reasons and probably a few more, I think this is a sincere, serious pick, and not some cynical ploy or sacrificial lamb. I think that not only does Obama think he can get him on the court, he wants him on the court. And I don’t think for one instant he would pull Garland’s nomination should the GOP agree to seat him in the lame duck session.

That’s not the kind of man he is, not the kind of negotiator he is. He sees value in Garland being on the court, and will get him on there, and he would never nominate someone like Garland and then pull the rug out from under him. It’s not in his DNA.

Have at it.

*** Update ***

I’ve added a new post commenting on the “moderate Republicans” line and what I really meant, and this from Aimai in the comments can not be said enough:

I also wanted to add that people seem to have a hard time grasping that Obama’s gestures, choices, policy tactics almost always have more than one side to them. They are usually a plan A and a plan B rolled together. To very young, angry, or stupid political viewers its always a zero sum game in which your first shot is your only shot and you can only get everything or nothing. But Obama’s pick of Garland wins whatever the republicans choose to do. He has asserted his constitutional duty, he has embarrased them publicly, he has split their senatorial caucus, he has given the democrats ammunition in senate races, he has increased the likelihood of right wing primaries, and if they roll over and take garland he gets a pick he is happy with completing three historic appts. Lots of his offers to the republicans have had this aspect. Its why they are afraid to negotiate with him at all.

Personally, I think any analysis of Obama and his administration is silly if it does not keep this extremely telling moment in mind:

“I like to know what I am talking about, Ed.”

The idiom goes that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Obama has both of his.



Good News from Iran (for at Least Four Americans)

Thanks, Obama! (and Secretary Kerry, too; not to mention his predecessor Hillary Rodham Clinton… )

Jessica Shulberg, at the Huffington Post:

VIENNA, Austria — Four American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter, were released from Iranian prisons on Saturday and are set to board a Swiss aircraft from Tehran to an as-yet-undetermined location, where they will be freed as part of a prisoner release deal between the U.S. and Iran. The agreement is the result of 14 months of high-stakes secret negotiations between the two traditional adversaries.

The deal comes on the same day that the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report confirming Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers — a move that triggered broad sanctions relief. As part of the prisoner exchange, the U.S. will release seven Iranians who were being held in the country on sanctions violations. All were born in Iran, but six are dual Iranian-American citizens. The seven men all have the option to remain in the U.S.

Administration officials insist it’s a coincidence that the prisoners’ release happened on the same day as implementation of the nuclear deal…

The Washington Post has much more detail, including live updates and bios of the four Americans being released.


Read more



A Special Thing

This is really sweet:

As his eldest son faced the prospect of resigning as Delaware’s attorney general amid health concerns, Vice President Joe Biden received an offer that floored him: financial support from his boss, President Barack Obama.

In the never been told before story, Biden recalled how concerned Obama had been.

Describing in an interview with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger one of his weekly lunches with Obama, Biden said he told the President he was worried about caring for Beau’s family without his son’s salary.

“I said, ‘But I worked it out.'” Biden recalled telling Obama. “I said, ‘But — Jill and I will sell the house and be in good shape.'”

Obama, Biden remembered, pushed back vehemently on the thought of Biden and his wife selling their home in Wilmington, Delaware.

“He got up and he said, ‘Don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house,'” Biden continued, speculating Obama would be “mad” he was retelling the story.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe — promise me. Promise me.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.’ He said, ‘promise me,'” Biden recalled.

I’m really looking forward to the what I hope are numerous historical comparisons of President/Vice President relationships. These guys have something special.








Who’s Weak?

Let’s grant for a moment that Barack Obama is the wussiest wuss who ever wussed. That means that whatever he asks for is the bare minimum we need to combat ISIL, and all the chest beating manly men in the Republican party should do at least that and much more. Here’s the ask:
ISIL2
Here’s the response: No, Maybe and Probably Not* They’re too scared of the NRA and too unwilling to give Obama any power to do two of the three bare minimum items on the list.

*That the article has the responses to 2 and 3 mixed up due to bad editing, but you get the picture.








The Razor Cuts Deep

Hanlon’s Razor states that you should “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.”  Maybe then I’m drastically overthinking why rural Kentucky voted Matt Bevin as governor.

The 66 percent of Owsley County that gets health coverage through Medicaid now must reconcile itself with the 70 percent that voted for Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin, who pledged to cut the state’s Medicaid program and close the state-run Kynect health insurance exchange.

Lisa Botner, 36, belongs to both camps. A Kynector — a state agent representing Kynect in the field — recently helped Botner sign up for a Wellcare Medicaid card for herself and her 7-year-old son. Without that, Botner said, she couldn’t afford the regular doctor’s visits and blood tests needed to keep her hyperthyroidism in check.

“If anything changed with our insurance to make it more expensive for us, that would be a big problem,” Botner, a community college student, said Friday at the Owsley County Public Library, where she works. “Just with the blood tests, you’re talking maybe $1,000 a year without insurance.”

Yet two weeks earlier, despite his much-discussed plans to repeal Kynect and toughen eligibility requirements for Medicaid, she voted for Bevin.

I’m just a die-hard Republican,” she said.

Bu there’s more to it than that.

The trend seemed to hold across the state. At Transylvania University, political scientist Andrea Malji said she has crunched state data and found a “99 percent confidence level” between the counties’ Medicaid enrollment levels and their gubernatorial choices. The larger the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to back Bevin, she said. The lower the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to favor the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway.

So Bevin — who said during the campaign that “the fact that we have one out of four people in this state on Medicaid is unsustainable” — racked up votes in rural, mostly poor counties where far more of the local population than that holds a Medicaid card. This was true even in traditional Democratic Party strongholds, such as Pike and Breathitt counties.

Malji, who is from Pulaski County, where Bevin captured 72 percent of the vote, said she heard people back home denounce “Obamacare” while thousands rushed to sign up with Kynect. They didn’t seem to realize that Kynect, Kentucky’s response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is the same thing as Obamacare, she said.

There’s either voter disconnect here, where the people weren’t thinking about or weren’t aware of Bevin’s stance on health care, or these counties just have higher levels of social conservatives who thought it was more important to vote on social issues,” Malji said.

I don’t buy the former because of the correlation.  Bevin made it very, very clear what his stance was and made it clear for six months.  He went to town halls in these counties and straight up told them that he would get rid of Kynect and Medicaid expansion. His ads made it clear that he thought Kynect was going to bankrupt the state.  What I do buy is that maybe they decided that they could stick it to the party of the ni-CLANG! president, and that Bevin wouldn’t take my Medicaid, just take it from those people.

Governor-elect Bevin of course has other ideas.

I do not intend to re-enroll people at the same level going forward,” Bevin told reporters several days after his election. “There is not going to be a continuation of enrolling people at 138 percent of the poverty level. That is not going to happen.”

Perhaps we should call it Bevin’s Law:  white people will vote overwhelmingly against their own self-interest if it means it hurts those people too.


Gitmo Closure, Redux

I want Steve M. to be wrong here about Dems chickening out on accepting Syrian refugees, but given the repeated history of Dem cowardice on closing Gitmo, I don’t think he is.

And if this can’t be legally blocked by governors, the courts, or a Republican Congress, I’m predicting raw George Wallace-style resistance by the governments of the Southern states especially — or, perhaps, confrontations involving angry True Patriots with AR-15s. As I’ve said before, I lived through busing in Boston. I know how ugly this sort of thing can get if at least some of the people holding government power reject the rule of law.

We’ve been through this sort of thing before in the Obama years. The president wanted to close Guantanamo, send some of the detainees to stateside penal facilities, and conduct trials in New York City. The backlash was fierce, and no one had his back — and please recall that this was in 2009 and early 2010, when his party had large majorities in Congress. (The mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, who’d endorsed Obama in 2008, ultimately stabbed him in the back on this.)

When Obama’s opponents have an ideal opportunity to prey on voters’ fears, they’ll do it, relentlessly. So this is going to be a losing battle for the White House.

I don’t doubt President Obama will find a way to get something done on this, but it’s not going to be pretty.  Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire didn’t hesitate to crap out, presumably to help her Senate chances next year, even though the State Department has taken in refugees since 9/11 without problems.

So what happens?  Hearings?  Legislation tacked on to must-pass bills?  I’m not sure, but what I’m not seeing is Democrats in Congress backing the President’s position on this.  And that makes me think it’s possible that this turns into trying to close Gitmo all over again.

But betting on Democrats not named Obama to have moral courage in the face of rampant Islamophobia has already been a loser for the last seven years.  You’ll forgive me if I think it’s not a solid bet this time around, either.

[UPDATE] If this poll that Greg Sargent brings up is any indication, it’s that Islamophobic assholery in the US hasn’t changed too much in 14 years.

A major new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests these GOP lawmakers and candidates may be reading the mood of the overall public — and GOP voters in particular — with dispiriting accuracy.

The poll finds that Americans overall agree by 56-41 that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and the American way of life. Meanwhile, Americans are almost perfectly split on the value of immigration: 47 percent say immigrants strengthen the country with hard work and talent, while a depressingly high 46 percent say they are a burden on the U.S. because they take jobs, housing and health care. The CEO of PRRI tells religion writer Sarah Posner that the findings show an “increased xenophobic streak” among the American public overall.

So yeah, this is not going to be a good time for refugees.



Praise Jeebus This Man is President

The idea of a Republican as President right now scares the hell out of me:

Earlier Monday, Obama had defended the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State, which has largely focused on airstrikes, amid calls for deploying a large number of ground troops in response to the Paris terrorist attacks. Obama said a ground invasion would be a “mistake” because it would require using U.S. troops to occupy Iraqi and Syrian cities indefinitely.

Obama also said he respected the debate over what to do against the Islamic State, but “if folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan.”

“If they think somehow their advisers are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them,” Obama said. “And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect the people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.”

Z

I’m worried how HRC would respond, too.