Commentary Magazine


Topic: Milbank

The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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Adults Like Us

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

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RE: “Yes We Can, But…”

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

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The Last Thing This Administration Needs

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

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No Virtue in Specter’s Self-Centered “Bipartisanship”

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

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Obama Undercuts Immigration Reform

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

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And What If It Passes?

Dana Milbank writes on the Slaughter Rule fight (which, to the Democrats’ dismay, is now transforming the final week’s health-care debate into a nationwide argument over the Democrats’ desperation tactics):

Republicans are demanding an up-or-down vote in the House on the full bill — never mind that they spent the better part of a year opposing an up-or-down vote on that very measure in the Senate. Democrats have come up with the inelegantly named Slaughter Solution of “deeming” and “self-executing rules” — never mind that they once argued (unsuccessfully) that such a technique was unconstitutional.

Oh, puhleez. Certainly Milbank and the Washington Post‘s readers know the difference between the Senate, where the norm is to require that legislation get by the filibuster, and the House, where the norm is to actually vote on the bill. But the false equivalence disguises just how unprincipled and unsustainable is the Democratic tricksterism. Milbank contends that the hue and cry raised by Republicans is just more gamesmanship and political obstructionism. He cracks in conclusion: “Slaughtering the rules? Well, maybe. But you think that will stop Democrats from finally getting health-care reform passed? You must be deeming.”

Well, maybe. But the problem for the Democrats is twofold. First, they have to pass the bill. The parliamentary stunt is proving embarrassing for the very members who must cast the decisive votes. But more important, if it passes, the Slaughter Rule is going to join the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase in the pantheon of disreputable deals and gambits that Republicans will run against — this year and until the whole shebang is repealed. The public proved exceptionally interested — contrary to the Democrats’ back-of-the-hand denial that voters care about “process” — in those backroom special deals. It was after all a central theme in Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

Why have the Democrats become ensnared in process and legitimacy questions all over again? Well, the “merits” of the bill aren’t sufficient to persuade the Democratic caucus of this legislation’s desirability or political utility in helping them keep their seats. So they resort to the same sleights of hand that helped lift Scott Brown into the Senate. The Slaughter Rule might help pass the bill, but its stench will greatly aid the Republicans’ argument that this is a noxious piece of legislation, arrived at by illegitimate means.

Dana Milbank writes on the Slaughter Rule fight (which, to the Democrats’ dismay, is now transforming the final week’s health-care debate into a nationwide argument over the Democrats’ desperation tactics):

Republicans are demanding an up-or-down vote in the House on the full bill — never mind that they spent the better part of a year opposing an up-or-down vote on that very measure in the Senate. Democrats have come up with the inelegantly named Slaughter Solution of “deeming” and “self-executing rules” — never mind that they once argued (unsuccessfully) that such a technique was unconstitutional.

Oh, puhleez. Certainly Milbank and the Washington Post‘s readers know the difference between the Senate, where the norm is to require that legislation get by the filibuster, and the House, where the norm is to actually vote on the bill. But the false equivalence disguises just how unprincipled and unsustainable is the Democratic tricksterism. Milbank contends that the hue and cry raised by Republicans is just more gamesmanship and political obstructionism. He cracks in conclusion: “Slaughtering the rules? Well, maybe. But you think that will stop Democrats from finally getting health-care reform passed? You must be deeming.”

Well, maybe. But the problem for the Democrats is twofold. First, they have to pass the bill. The parliamentary stunt is proving embarrassing for the very members who must cast the decisive votes. But more important, if it passes, the Slaughter Rule is going to join the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase in the pantheon of disreputable deals and gambits that Republicans will run against — this year and until the whole shebang is repealed. The public proved exceptionally interested — contrary to the Democrats’ back-of-the-hand denial that voters care about “process” — in those backroom special deals. It was after all a central theme in Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts.

Why have the Democrats become ensnared in process and legitimacy questions all over again? Well, the “merits” of the bill aren’t sufficient to persuade the Democratic caucus of this legislation’s desirability or political utility in helping them keep their seats. So they resort to the same sleights of hand that helped lift Scott Brown into the Senate. The Slaughter Rule might help pass the bill, but its stench will greatly aid the Republicans’ argument that this is a noxious piece of legislation, arrived at by illegitimate means.

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RE: Time to Clean House

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

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