At a fundraiser last night, President Obama unleashed a surprisingly spirited and comprehensive attack on both-sides-to-blame media coverage. While he has taken issue with Beltway coverage before, what was particularly noteworthy this time is that he made the case that “false equivalence” coverage is fundamentally misleading in the sense that it obscures the basic imbalance that currently exists between the two parties.
It’s worth quoting at length (per the White House transcript):
“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.
“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.
“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. There are no radical proposals coming out from the left. When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy. When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism. We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…
“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago. We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system. All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.
“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true. What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”
I’m not sure Obama has ever gone so directly at the idea that today’s GOP has become what some of us have been calling “post-policy“; that the basic imbalance resulting from that is the primary cause of reigning Washington dysfunction; and that on a fundamental level, press coverage is failing to reckon with these realities.
This will prompt the Green Lanternite pundits, who continue to trace the problem to Obama’s failure to move Congress, to argue that he is merely making excuses for failure. I would note, though, that in his remarks, he also said the only remedy for the problem is for Democrats to vote out Republicans, which is to say, it’s on Democrats to fix by winning elections. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see whether folks will reckon seriously with the question of whether Obama’s diagnosis of today’s GOP, and of the relative moderation and willingness to compromise on the part of Democrats, is, you know, true.
* DAM BREAKING IN VA SCANDAL? NBC’s First Read crew calls it, citing Alison Lundergan Grimes’ call for VA chief Eric Shinseki’s firing:
The Democratic dam is already starting to break for the Obama administration when it comes to the allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals around the country….And now comes the Memorial Day weekend, with lots of politicians holding events with veterans, which will probably put even more pressure on Democrats — especially those from red and purple states — to speak out. For the Obama White House, it’s bad timing to be dealing with this VA mess.
It would not be shocking if there are some personnel changes this Friday late afternoon before Memorial Day weekend.
* DEMS LAY DOWN HARD DEADLINE ON IMMIGRATION REFORM: National Journal notes the rising chorus of Democrats who are saying that House Republicans have until summer to act on immigration before the President goes it alone. This quote from Harry Reid pretty much sums it up:
“Let’s pass immigration reform today, make it take effect at the beginning of 2017,” Reid said. “If Republicans don’t trust President Obama, let’s give them a chance to implement the bill under President Rand Paul or President Theodore Cruz.”
Bluff called. No matter how many times John Boehner claims the problem is distrust of Obama, the problem actually is that House Republicans are not yet willing to embrace some form of legal status under any circumstances. The result: Obama will almost certainly have to do something unilaterally this summer, though it will fall well short of what advocates want.
* REPUBLICANS CATCHING A BREAK IN MISSISSIPPI? The Post has an overview of the Mississippi GOP Senate primary, which is the Tea Party’s last chance to oust an establishment “moderate” Republican, Senator Thad Cochran. But as the story reports, Tea Party standard bearer Chris McDaniel is struggling, thanks to recent missteps.
Conservative groups are pouring money into the state in advance of the June 3rd primary, and Dems are hoping for a McDaniel win, making a surprise pickup (which would make the GOP road to a majority very step) possible. But if Cochran hangs on, it will be the latest sign things are breaking the GOP’s way.
* BUT THE GOP IS ‘STILL DRINKING THE TEA': Eugene Robinson on why the defeat of Tea Partyers in primaries does not really signal a meaningful shift for the GOP:
Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in persuading the party’s activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.
As I’ve detailed here, at least four top-tier Republican Senate candidates, all “establishment” picks, are climate skeptics and have endorsed Personhood measures.
* PREPARE FOR A TORRENT OF LIES ABOUT EPA REGULATIONS: Glenn Kessler takes apart a real howler from a mining industry trade group: Because of new EPA regulations on new coal-fired power plants, your electricity rates are set to nearly double! If and when the administration rolls out its rules on existing plants — the real political third rail — the din of claims about soaring energy prices and job crushing Obummer Big Gummint will be absolutely deafening.
This will be perhaps the most pitched political battle of the summer, with untold ramifications in tough Senate races, particularly where energy policy is already at the fore.
* LOTS MORE WORK TO DO ON GAY MARRIAGE: The Post has a good editorial noting that gay marriage is legal in 19 states and counting, and that there is cause for optimism that marriage equality will continue marching forward. But there’s still a long way to go:
Though a 2013 Supreme Court ruling set the precedent that lower courts have used to legalize same-sex marriage over the past year, the justices were extremely careful to avoid a sweeping ruling. The lower courts have been taking the justices’ limited language and filling in the presumed implication — that the Constitution cannot tolerate bans on same-sex marriage. But many commentators have pointed out that there may not be five votes to support that interpretation if and when the issue returns to the Supreme Court. Though there is a strong chance the court will remain on the right side of history, a negative ruling from the justices would likely dash the hopes of same-sex couples in those states where the legal battle is still active.
As the editorial notes, there has been a notable lack of a backlash to rulings legalizing gay marriage, suggesting how rapidly the country is shifting. That very well may weigh on SCOTUS, to the good.
* PUSH TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO CONTINUES: The New York Times has an overview of Senate Dems’ continuing push to close Guantanamo prison in the face of largely GOP opposition. The House yesterday passed curbs on NSA surveillance, but it continues to pass measures keeping Guantanamo open. Senate Dems passed a committee version of the bill that would close it, but that won’t get GOP support, suggesting that the left-right civil liberties alliance in Congress has its limits.
* AND NETANYAHU SAYS OBAMA GOT SYRIA RIGHT: Jeffrey Goldberg reports:
Netanyahu issued what was for him a full-throated endorsement of an Obama initiative, calling it “the one ray of light in a very dark region.”
“It’s not complete yet,” he went on. “We are concerned that they may not have declared all of their capacity. But what has been removed has been removed. We’re talking about 90 percent. We appreciate the effort that has been made and the results that have been achieved.”
I’m sure this will get a ton of media attention today.