Does Obama Really Want To Get to 60?

A mostly political weblog.
Nov. 9 2008 11:45 PM

Does Obama Really Want To Get to 60?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mark Krikorian  looks at Obama's likely actions on immigration and sees ... hope! He expects Obama will prioritize . ...

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To the chagrin of hard-left activists, [incoming chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel has said of immigration that "For the American people, and therefore all of us, it's emerged as the third rail of American politics. And anyone who doesn't realize that isn't with the American people." Last year Emanuel told a Hispanic activist that "there is no way this legislation ["comprehensive immigration reform"] is happening in the Democratic House, in the Democratic Senate, in the Democratic presidency, in the first term."

There's a twist ending, though. ... P.S.:   In March, we're due for a fight over reauthorizing the government's  E-Verify system, which now screens one of 8 new hires for legal status. Obama has said he supports E-verify. Senator Menendez of New Jersey opposes it. ... The real objection to E-Verify is that it works, no? ...

Backfill: See also this mixed WSJ assessment , which concurs with Emanuel--"Mr. Obama will be focused on the economy and tax policy and isn't likely to expend political capital on such a divisive issue"--but which overdramatizes the anti-"comprehensivist" electoral losses, at least as described by Krikorian:

Roy Beck of Numbers USA [a leading anti-"comprehensive" lobbier] has done a preliminary analysis of House results and finds that there are six incoming pro-amnesty Democrats replacing somewhat anti-amnesty Republicans, though none of the Democrats made immigration a major issue. On the other hand, three other newly elected Democrats ran on very strong pro-enforcement platforms and four others appear to be much more hawkish than the Republicans they’ll replace. In Beck’s words, "The results of this evening have not been a reason for celebrating. But neither have they been a reason for us to put on sackcloth."

4:52 P.M.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Get Me a Ron Burkle Type: It looks to me as if bankruptcy might be a better solution for GM than a federal bailout-- union contracts could be redone, duplicative dealers axed --except for one factor: GM sells cars, and nobody wants to buy a car if they think the manufacturer isn't going to be around to honor the warranty or provide spare parts. Formal bankruptcy would itself help sink the GM ship . A bailout could be a way to essentially do what a bankruptcy would do, but without the sales-killing stigma. Taxpayer money would be a lure to force the necessary dealer and UAW concessions. a) But do you trust Pelosi's Congress to ever make either of these groups give up some of its pay or perks? No. That's where the White House (either Bush's or Obama's) should come in. A job for Ron Burkle! (Talking unions into giving up contract gains was once his specialty .)   b) Wouldn't it be good PR if the UAW stepped up to the plate and unilaterally, voluntarily, offered a substantial package of givebacks in exchange for all that federal money (and maybe a cap on executive pay)? I don't expect this to happen--for internal purposes, union leaders probably have to be seen as going down fighting for every dollar. But it would help get the money, no? [ Also improve the unions' image and help them pass "card check"-ed Sorry I suggested it.]  10:53 P.M.

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Will 'more time to blog' replace 'more time to spend with my family'? Al Martinez  blazes the trail . ...  8:22 P.M.

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I dont understand Andrew Gelman and Matt Yglesias' point.  You don't win the House of Representative when you rack up a large percentage of the national "two party "Congressional vote, or when you win a large "average swing" vote on a "state-by-state" basis. You win when you win lots of actual House seats . That's what can pass or defeat legislation. And measured by actual House seats the Democratic gains (of about 22) were a little less than expected. There is a reason for this. Maybe my favorite theory--the SeeSaw Theory -- isn't the reason. That's fine. It's just a theory. But that's different from saying there's nothing to explain because by some other, meaningless measure, Dems did great.. ... See Yglesias' first commenter . ... Update: Gelman gropes for common ground  [see P.P.S.]. ... 7:57 P.M.

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Hispanic Hype Alert--That Crucial Latino Vote: Not there, says Krikorian:

[T]he benchmark in garnering Hispanic votes for Republicans is Bush's 40 percent showing in 2004. So So what would have happened if McCain had matched Bush's performance, instead of the 31 percent he actually got? Based on CNN's exit polls, McCain still would have lost Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, not to mention, say, California and New Jersey. Conversely, even if Obama had won 90 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas, instead of 63 percent, he still would have lost the state. With the possible exception of North Carolina, where the results were close but the number of Hispanic voters is too small to register in the exit poll, there doesn't seem to be a single state where the Hispanic vote was critical to the outcome. [E.A.]

Even if the Latino vote was decisive, Krikorian notes, it wouldn't necessarily follow that the best strategy for GOPs is to pursue it--which might be a tough sell--as opposed fo figuring out a way to win a bigger share from far more numerous whites and blacks. ... 7:35 P.M.

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Faster 538: Dems are slobs.** They mess up more ballots that can then be salvaged in recounts. Meet Senator Franken....

**-- Sorry, I meant " vulnerable voters ." ...  7:12 P.M.

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Dick Morris: "The Election Is Not Over." He's right. We've been set up for a plot twist after the credits , if the Dems sweep the three undecided Senate seats, which is entirely possible. And there is a big difference between 57 Democratic senators and 60. ... P.S.:  I don't endorse Morris' pro-GOP fundraising efforts. But I'm pretty sure I'd rather have 57 than 60. Already the prospect of a GOP-led filibuster is encouraging some labor unions to modulate their demands to end secret ballots, for example. ... P.P.S.: Democratic presidential campaign aides have reportedly been dispatched to the Georgia runoff. But you have to wonder: Does Obama really want to get to 60? Getting a large,"filibuster-proof" majority would dramatically increase the expectations from his party's left, and from its entrenched Congressional interests, making them that much harder to control. Without 60, Obama can cite the filibuster threat and easily steer a moderate, popular center-left course. With 60, he'll have to use heretofore untested muscle to control Dem demands regarding the Detroit bailout, union "card check" elections, immigration, health care, tax cuts, the Fairness Doctrine (sorry "Forced Balance") etc. ... 

Update: [ Don't you want Obama to think big out of the box on some issues, like health care?--ed Yes. But even there it's not clear 60 would help more than it woud hurt. a)  Even within the Obamaesque consensus that Jonathan Cohn says is emerging , emblodened libs could easily push for too much--unaffordable subsidies, loose coverage limits (think "mental health parity"), protection for lavish union plans, draconian drug price controls that ignore the  dilemma of non-rising marginal costs , and resistance to cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for all of it; b) Cohn says Dems don't need 60 to pass health care anyway! And businesses are on board! (Presumably they'll have a few GOPs in tow).

In any case, I'll risk less health care to avoid the disaster of card check, immigration semi-amnesty, and  a Leyland-like auto bailout. ...

More: If Obama really wanted 60, wouldn't he go to Georgia to campaign for the Democrat in the runoff? [ Might not want to risk losing his first postelection fight. See Crowley --ed . But if he really wanted 60 ...]  3:18 P.M.

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[C]onversations with several Obama advisers and a number of senior military strategists both before and since last Tuesday's election reveal a shared sense that the Afghan effort under the Bush administration has been hampered by ideological and diplomatic constraints and an unrealistic commitment to the goal of building a modern democracy -- rather than a stable nation that rejects al-Qaeda and Islamist extremism and does not threaten U.S. interests.

I'd give up on the drug war (and the attempt to eradicate Afghanistan's opium crop ) before I'd give up democracy.... P.S.: So we really are in for a mirror image of the 20th century, when it was liberals who criticized the U.S. government for siding with strongmen in order to fight the global enemy (Communism)? ...  There are even hints that "some senior military strategists" see elected Afghan President Karzai as a dispensable, Diem-like figure. ...   2:53 P.M.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Gawker: What was Antonio Villaraigosa doing onstage at the Obama economic summit? He is not one of America's 17 most confidence-inspiring economic minds. ... Update: Hellisotherpeople makes a good point-- better to start to pay back Latino voters with this  "appointment" than with other, more substantive concessions I can think of. ...  4:13 P.M.

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Obama will act quickly to " chart a new course for immigration enforcement, some Obama advisers say ."  Hmm. After all, why not give the fractured GOP rump a unifying issue right out of the box? ... Rahm, you there? ... Rahm? .... 3:59 P.M.

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A New Morning in America: Nic Harcourt, who for a decade has deadened L.A. musical culture (much like the L.A. Times deadened L.A. political culture) with his soul-killing taste for breathy pop and humorless delivery  is leaving his influential position as music director for local NPR affiliate KCRW. ... If only the Times could go away as quietly and costlessly. ... P.S.: Harcourt "rarely pays attention to lyrics," reported the NYT in a clueless puffer a few years ago. I mean, who cares about lyrics? Bob Dylan never worried about 'em, right? ... P.P.S.: Change we can believe in! ... P.P.P.S.: Bad news for Pete Yorn. ... 3:21 P.M.

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The Big Three's Little Secret:  I hate to make invidious solidarity-eroding comparisons between competing UAW shops, but Detroit's cars aren't uniformly inferior to their Japanese competitors. Ford's products have been consistently less unreliable, in recent years, than vehicles made by the other two members of the Big Three. From the most recent issue of Consumer Reports :

Ford's three brands--Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury--continue to pull away from the rest of the Detroit automakers. Almost all Ford models are now average or better, with the exception of some that are truck-based. Excluding those, Ford's reliablity is now on a par with good Japanese automakers.

GM is a "mixed bag." Chrysler seems hopeless. "Almost two thirds of its products rate below average for reliability."

I know reliability isn't everything. Most Chrysler products are ugly too! ...  P.S.: If the automakers react the way GM reacted when its Saturn subsidiary actually started making good cars, their legislative strategy is clear: Figure out a way to punish Ford!  ... 1:34 P.M.

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Fragging Palin: If McCain's such an instinctive man of honor, where is his "vigorous defense of his running mate"? 1:04 P.M.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

NYT buries story on labor's "card check" campaign on the bottom of page 25.  I smell liberal bias! As noted earlier, it's in labor's interest that the "card check" story gets as little publicity as possible. The NYT is complying. ... When I tell my underinformed, idealistic SoCal liberal friends that labor wants to end the secret ballot, the typical response is "Why would they want to do that?" Or else they assume that I have it backwards and it must be  management that wants to eliminate the secret ballot. ... Union legislative strategists may think that demanding "card check" is a great, scary bargaining chip , to be traded away for a pro-labor compromises on other rules (like holding quick elections, or empowering arbitrators to set contract terms). But I wonder if it's not so disreputable sounding that it doesn't actually discredit all of labor's other, perhaps more reasonable demands --putting the unions in a worse position than if they'd never asked for it in the first place. It's not a bargaining chip. It's a poisoning chip.  Getting voters to cheer for the "Employee Free Choice Act" is a little like getting them to cheer against Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront . ...  11:48 P.M.

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Say You Won't Steal Fitzmas!  A plea from Obama's hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune , for the President-elect to reaffirm his apparent promise not to fire local U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, even as Fitzgerald closes in on Obama's Democratic colleagues. ... Fallback plan: Indict fast. ... Clever Way Out for Obama: Justice Fitzgerald? Or at least a Federal Appellate slot. ... How does Fitz feel about Roe ? ...[ via Newsalert ]   11:30 P.M.

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In the past week, I bought a CD online at Amazon, then I bought the same CD at Barnes & Noble. Amazon price: $9.99. B&N price: $16.99. My impression is that this sort of price differential has opened up pretty much across the board. B&N is doomed, no? ... 

Alert Reader N asks, pointedly : " Why didn’t you buy the second CD from Amazon?" Because I needed it that day for a birthday present. This is what B&N and Borders are (sometimes) good for. But it's hard to believe that the I-need-it-in-my-hands-right-now sliver of the marketplace is enough to sustain a large, expensively-located building and sales staff if you lose the basic I-need-it-in-a-couple-of-days market. ... 11:11 P.M.

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I admire Rahm Emanuel. Without him welfare reform might not have happened in 1996, and the Dems might not have won back a House majority a decade later. (Two milestones that, I think, are not unconnected--welfare reform made liberal government acceptable again.) Emanuel is smart, relentless, disciplined, gets things done, a winner, all that stuff But here's my problem with having him as chief of staff: Suppose you work for President Obama. You send a memo up the line to the Oval Office. If a week later Rahm Emanuel tells you he's showed it to the President, would you believe him?

By way of an answer, I should add that among Clinton-era welfare reporters, the rule of thumb was that you called Rahm to get the administration's line and then you called Bruce Reed to find out if it was the truth. ... 

P.S.: But Rahm was not the unnamed Clinton official who foolishly boasted to Michael Kramer, early in the administration, that the Clintonites would "roll" Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Ask Lawrence O'Donnell if you don't believe me. ...  8:57 P.M.

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