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December 16, 2009



I'm sort of sympathetic to people who are complaining about what Taibbi keeps leaving out: Congress. The US has a seriously goofy constitution. There are tons of veto points, and a deeply unrepresentative Senate can thwart a great deal of even a popular President's domestic initiatives. I find Obama disappointing for things that he does more directly control: secrecy (though he's better than Bush, I think), executive control, torture stuff, failure to investigate past abuses, etc. I dunno, do you think that let's him off the hook too easily? Do you think he's failed to push for legislative advances that would have stood a plausible chance of passing?


I don't know how much the veto powers within the US consitution are activley restraining him. I don't get the sense that he's pushing very hard or that it's very important to him to take measures that might overcome them, through impsing greater discipline on the congressional caucus, for instance. It's difficult to believe that he couldn't just utterly crush Lieberman, for instance, if he wanted to do that. And what does the US consitution say about this supermajority business? You wouldn't have someone in your class saying they really wanted to do their assignment, but they needed a supermajority.

I think really that he's just a conventional centre right manager-politician: to the extent that he has any convictions, they veer towards pathological centrism. Over here stands justice. Over there stands injustice. Obama will take his place firmly in between these two extremes.

But then it has to be said that the American system has done very well by him, so it's logical that he should be loyal to it. And as a foreigner I do feel a lingering appreciation for the general absence of craziness.


I can't help noticing that although this is being sold as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for healthcare reform and something that requires compromise with Congress without end, when it was the bank bailout bill that was getting fucked up by an obstructionist Congress, all sorts of things previously considered impossible became possible.


It's difficult to believe that he couldn't just utterly crush Lieberman, for instance, if he wanted to do that. And what does the US consitution say about this supermajority business?

Isn't this just an argument from WILL? I thought we didn't believe that all political problems could be resolved with enough WILL. It's hardly a new or controversial statement that the US constitution, and even more so its run-time implementation including the case law, the congressional rules of procedure etc, is designed to let senators hold stuff up (I think the Federalist put it more elegantly).


To a certain extent I suppose, though I was thinking more about LBJ than Stalin. And like Dan says, the administration shows plenty of will when it's doing something it really wants to do.


Well congress can hold stuff up, but a president can still get a lot through if he really wants to. He compromised from the outset on healthcare. He didn't even bring his own proposal. As a negotiating technique this is obviously hopeless, something Obama obviously realises as he doesn't use it for the ones that matter (blowjobs for Goldmans). If you want to see what a president can get done if he really wants to, and has public support (albeit less than Obama had for healthcare), look at the early Bush years.


He could also call on his supporters to make the same amount of noise as his opponents do, and see which voice was stronger.



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