The Netroots Nation conference has traditionally been an occasion for mainstream media types to take a whack at the unreasonableness of the left. Michael Grunwald offered up, if not a classic, a fairly representative example of the genre on Swampland yesterday. Take this paragraph designed to dispatch left criticisms of Barack Obama with patronizing parentheticals:
It’s true that President Obama is not as liberal as some Daily Kos bloggers would like him to be. (Although he has blogged at Daily Kos.) He continued some of President Bush’s national security policies. (Although he did end the war in Iraq.) He ignored left-wing calls to nationalize troubled banks. (Which turned out to be the right call.) He’s pushed for middle-class tax cuts and public-employee wage freezes that his base dislikes, and he’s outsourced most of the Republican-bashing that his base craves. (Which may be why he’s way more popular than his party.)
Let’s take the parenthetical potshots one at a time:
It’s true that Obama has posted on Daily Kos – although the most prominent instance was when he took to Daily Kos to criticize progressives for being too hard on senators that backed John Roberts (more on that one here and here).
Folks who were hoping that a lame duck Dodd would be more inclined to push for more aggressive financial regulatory reform should be disappointed to hear that Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, is now considering negotiating away creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency in an attempt to win over Republican senators. Actually, all of us should be disappointed. What’s as discouraging as the move is the motivation: Dodd is saying he wants a financial regulatory reform that Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the committee, can support. He’s created a team of four Democratic senators and four Republicans to try to hash out a deal.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? Dodd and Shelby seem to be reading from the Max Baucus – Charles Grassley script that consumed the healthcare process in the Senate for long enough that now a special election result in January has the chance to blow up the bill again. What did they get to show for it? Olympia Snowe voted the bill out of the Finance Committee but then voted with every other Senate GOPer to declare it unconstitutional.
What’s most frustrating about this is that it’s just bad negotiating. Chris Dodd only weakens his position by giving Richard Shelby (and thus Mitch McConnell) a veto over financial regulatory reform. Republicans have no motivation to help Democrats pass a strong bill regulating the banks – first, because Republicans are in bed with the banks, and second, because Republicans want to keep bashing the Democrats for being in bed with the banks (a strategy which is paying off, judging by the polls in Massachusetts).
Even if the Democrats are desperate for Republican votes (whether to give moderate Democrats cover, to make up for Democratic defections, or to earn a bipartisan aura), the best way to get them is to show you’re ready to pass a bill without them. Then there’s a shot a Republican offers to support a weaker version. The worst strategy to win Republican votes is to try to show how reasonable you are by offering them veto power in exchange for being willing to talk to you. We call that negotiating against yourself.
And as Matt Yglesias observes, there are worse things that could happen than a Republican filibuster of financial regulatory reform.