Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Obama and the Washington Consensus

There are a number of young, very astute, intellectually brilliant bloggers TC has been following over the past number of years.  They include Matty Yglesias, Josh Marshall, Ezra Klein, Jon Chait, Nate Silver, and Greg Sargent.  To this list one must add Noam Scheiber of The New Republic. His takedown of Bob Woodward of Watergate fame is not to be missed. It captures all of the corrupt, dysfunctional character of 21st century Washington D.C.  It is a review of Woodward's book about Obama, The Price of Politics.  This paragraph stood out:
...the book is perfectly in sync with Woodward’s oeuvre. There is a body of respectable Washington opinion that considers Obama unworthy of the presidency: he hadn’t put in his time before running, didn’t grasp the majesty of the office, evinced no respect for the way things were done. He not only won without courting the city’s elders, he had the bad manners to keep his distance even after winning. This is the view Woodward distills.
There is a relatively simple dynamic at play among establishment Washingtonians. They favour changes that would take from those on lower incomes and give to the wealthy. The Woodward book is about the debt ceiling crisis and deal from the summer of 2011 and Obama's alleged failure to play the bipartisan Washington game even when the ideological extremism of the Republican party made this impossible. This summary paragraph from Scheiber says it all:
So, to review, the Republicans were theologically opposed to even the meagerest, mangiest revenue increases—even to the minimum amount of revenue Obama could have gotten without them, even in exchange for trillions of dollars in spending cuts—and yet Obama is somehow to blame for blowing up the deal because … why, exactly? Because he didn’t invite Boehner over for grilled cheese? (The mind boggles over the catastrophe that would have ensued had Obama texted Boehner via iPhone.) This reeks of the frozen-in-amber Sally Quinn lament that politicians don’t spend enough time bantering at Georgetown dinner parties, when in fact there are vast structural forces militating against collegial deal-making. Namely, that national politics has become intensely polarized over the last generation as the parties have sorted themselves along ideological lines. During that same time, the Republican Party has completely lost its marbles, having turned into a collection of anti-tax jidhadis bent on the upward redistribution of wealth.