Tue Feb 26, 2013, 12:18 PM
n2doc (37,801 posts)
The false equivalence pundits are part of the problem
by Greg Sargent on February 26, 2013 at 9:12 am
The battle over the sequester has sparked a corollary argument over the proper role of pundits in assigning blame in political standoffs of this type. A number of us have argued that the facts plainly reveal that Republicans are far more to blame than Obama and Democrats for the current crisis. The GOP’s explicit position is that no compromise solution of any kind is acceptable — this must be resolved only with 100% of the concessions being made by Democrats — which means any compromise Dems put forth is by definition a nonstarter at the outset.
Analysts reluctant to embrace this conclusion — an affliction I’ve called the “centrist dodge” — have adopted several techniques. One is to pretend Dems haven’t offered any compromise solution, when in fact they have. A second is to argue that, okay, Dems have offered a compromise while Republicans haven’t, but Dems haven’t gone far enough towards the middle ground, so both sides are still to blame for the impasse. (The problem with this dodge is that it fails to acknowledge that Republicans themselves have openly stated that there is no distance to which Dems could go to win GOP cooperation, short of giving them everything they want.)
We’re now seeing a third technique appear: Acknowledge that Republicans are the uncompromising party, but assert that it’s ultimately on the President to figure out a way to either force Republicans to drop their intransigence or to otherwise “lead” them out if it.
Case in point: David Brooks. Last week Brooks was widely criticized for a “pox on both house” column in which he based his entire argument on the falsehood that Obama has no plan. Brooks repented for his error, and today he offers a good faith effort to describe what he’d like Obama to do to change things. It boils down to this:
My dream Obama wouldn’t be just one gladiator in the zero-sum budget wars. He’d transform the sequester fight by changing the categories that undergird it. He’d possess the primary ingredient of political greatness: imagination. The great presidents, like Teddy Roosevelt, see situations differently. They ask different questions. History pivots around their terms.
Also along the same lines:
Fantasies of Presidential Will
I find your refusal to compromise … disturbing.
Greg Sargent is rightly disturbed by the latest meme in the effort to make the sequester a bipartisan failure. Pundits acknowledge that Republicans are being intransigent, while Obama has been willing to make concessions — but it’s nonetheless Obama’s fault, because he should be “exercising leadership”, whatever that means.
This sounds familiar. Remember how, back a couple of years ago, the meme was that Obama shouldn’t be doing health reform, because he should be “focusing on the economy”? I never understood what that was supposed to mean; it clearly didn’t mean calling for more stimulus, both because that wasn’t going to happen and because the pundits didn’t support more stimulus. So he was supposed to be furrowing his brow, saying “I’m focused, I’m focused”, and that would produce results somehow.
Now he’s supposed in some similar use of the Force, and thereby get Republicans to do something they clearly won’t.
I guess it all comes down to the image of politics as theater, with no role for actual policy or policy divides. And it’s nonsense.
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