Failure Accomplished

Paul Waldman asks if it’s too soon to declare the current Congress a failure.

In fairness, with a Democratic president there really isn’t much that a Republican Congress can achieve unless it’s willing to compromise, which this Congress isn’t. But after six years of waiting for the moment they’d take complete control, you’d think they’d have some kind of plan. If they do, it’s hard to discern how it’s supposed to work. Every conflict they have with the president only seems to make them look worse, and they seem to be lurching from day to day with no idea how to do anything but fall on their faces.

Ironically, the Republicans had a lot more power when they were in the minority than they do now. With a Democratic Congress, the administration set out an ambitious legislative agenda, which Republicans were able to obstruct and subvert as long as they stayed unified, which they did very well. But once they took control, the administration all but gave up on legislating (apart from unavoidable tasks like passing budgets to keep the government open), which leaves Republicans with no fights to wage apart from the meaningless ones they manage to concoct on their own. And they can’t even figure out how to win those. Winning Congress has put Republicans in a position where they have little choice other than to make things worse.

The box they’ve put themselves in is that they can’t actually do anything. Even if they were capable of doing something, they can’t allow themselves to do it. The few things they might be able to do, like approve the XL pipeline, will be vetoed, and anything that wouldn’t be vetoed would probably get them in hot water with the base. Waldman continues,

They could come to an agreement with President Obama on infrastructure spending, which everyone used to agree is absolutely necessary. They could make tough but realistic demands on the budget, and pass something that Obama will be willing to sign but still manages to move government’s priorities in the direction they’d like — even if tea partiers call it a betrayal, because tea partiers will call any compromise a betrayal. If the Supreme Court rules in their favor in King v. Burwell and takes insurance subsidies from millions of people, they could be ready with a plan to help them immediately, instead of just celebrating the fact that they successfully made so many Americans’ lives worse.

All that could happen. But based on their first month with control of Congress, does anyone think it will?

The health care issue more than any other reveals how hamstrung they are. They’ve been promising their own version of health care reform since the bleeping Clinton Administration. Where is it? The one halfway workable idea they came up with ended up becoming Obamacare, which they have sworn to destroy.

Recently the GOP announced it was creating a task force, headed by Paul Ryan, to come up with an alternative plan in case the SCOTUS screws with the subsidies. CNBC reported,

The GOP has been criticized for their continued opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health law without offering a serious alternative to the program, which is credited with significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans last year.

But the pending Supreme Court case, due to be argued in March, has spurred what could turn out to be serious action by Republicans.

But … but … but … for years they’ve been saying they do have an alternative plan. Lots of them, actually. Here on this very blog I have written about them. For example, I wrote about a plan back in 2009 that, remarkably, is a lot like their other plans. These plans largely are designed to provide talking points so they can fake having a plan. They survive scrutiny about as long as a Popsicle in July.

They’re in the same box regarding presidential politics. They may not allow themselves to address real issues or propose workable solutions, because it will piss off the base. Michael Tomasky wrote,

I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about. If this was the standout speech, I sure made the right decision in not subjecting myself to the rest of them. It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against “frivolous” lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter “fraud””—all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasn’t a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces.

There’s lots of noise that Walker is the front runner this week.

He’s gained because those items— kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thing—are what pass for ideas in today’s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country’s core economic quandary. Rick Santorum is, in fairness, but a) his solutions are the same ones conservatives have been advertising for years (lower taxes, less regulation, more two-parent families) and b) he’s not going anywhere in the polls so far, undoubtedly precisely because he’s trying to drop the homosexuality-is-bestiality shtick and talk about actual economic problems.

This vacuity works for them sometimes, especially when they can blame screwups on Democrats and OH LOOK MUSLIMS SHAIRA LAW MOSQUES BOOGA BOOGA. So, one can argue, they don’t need to accomplish anything; they just have to persuade enough voters that Democrats will take away their guns / give them cooties / hate Jesus. So we’ll see.

29 thoughts on “Failure Accomplished

  1. I think the Republicans in Congress thought that everything would magically fall into their GOP lap after winning a majority. So focused on getting this, they forgot to actually plan any legislation.

  2. For the majority of the country, with its low expectations of Congress, nothing will have changed much if the Republicans can’t/don’t really do anything. If the Supremes rule against the Obamacare subsidies, I suspect the majority reaction among the public will be “it was a bad idea anyway”. Expect nothing to come out of this Congress to resuscitate it. If the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing were smart they could pick up on this and at least make the argument for single payer, even if the timing is wrong to truly push for it.

    The focus is shifting to the 2016 election. At this very early date I would bet on a Jeb + Walker ticket. Walker is out of his league for president, but as veep… Rand Paul is looking sillier the more visibility he gets. Koch boy Walker – who I am really growing to despise – has a proven, focused mean streak that the base eats up – less coarse and problematic than Chris Christie – which would allow Jeb to play the good guy, in the general.

  3. Good title; a succinct description of the R agenda. These are conservatives who do not conserve. Given any set of policy options, they seek out the most destructive one. Perhaps we should call them ‘destructivists’, and their philosophy ‘destructivism’.

  4. Dear GOP:
    We know what you want to do TO most us, but what would you do FOR most of us?

    If Ted Cruz reminds me of Joe McCarthy, do you know who Gov. Scott Wanker (sic) reminds me of?
    A dumbed-down Richard M. Nixon. He has Nixon’s beady and shifty eyes and receding hairline, and he’s plenty vicious – but he ain’t anywhere near as smart as Nixon.

  5. Lynne,

    I don’t think they thought things would fall in their lap – I think they wanted power for power’s sake, and control of a house of congress gives you the power to set a lot of the narrative. I’d bet (and maybe lose) that the Obama administration has been investigated more than the Clinton administration, and while they occasionally found some wrongdoing by small fry in the Clinton investigations, I’ve seen nothing like that in the Obama administration. Everything has been made up.

    Problem is, when a major political party decides that Benghazi is Big News, reporters have to pay attention *as long as enough of them say it’s big news*. If one or two say it’s big news, no biggie. But the Republicans have good message discipline.

    The biggest thing to be afraid of is that they might accidentally pick up a theme that actually resonates. Alas, we can’t expect them to continue to pull stuff like this:

  6. I’d say it was safe to declare this Congress a failure no later than November 5, 2014. The only thing to do now is start campaigning for 2016.

  7. Walker would be a good choice for us; he’s a LOT more beatable than Jeb. Jeb’s surname “baggage” notwithstanding, he can sometimes sound rational on some issues— not so, Walker. Governor’s mansions, in general, have not been the most fertile ground for cultivating presidents, in any event.

  8. LongHairedWeirdo:
    What does a dog do when it catches the car? That’s the R’s problem.
    I looked up the i-am-spartacus post. It got weird toward the end when she got stuck on echoing herself. Bad craziness.

  9. Here’s the first few paragraphs of a speech Obama gave this morning. Heads are exploding all over – the link to the full speech is at the end of the teaser.

    “THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well, good morning. Giving all praise and honor to God. It is wonderful to be back with you here. I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger. These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today.

    I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast. It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries. And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.

    I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings. (Applause.) I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today. (Applause.)

    There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR. (Laughter.) This may be the first. (Laughter.) But God works in mysterious ways. (Laughter.) And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation. Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt. (Laughter.) I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel. (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that. (Laughter.) ”

  10. I saw a documentary on Los Vegas a while ago and they showed a picture of Bugsy Seigal
    wearing a fifities style hat – he was the image of Paul Ryan. I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t an attic somewhere full of Dorian Grey type pictures. These guys keep recycling themselves.

  11. Hey guys, this is way off topic, but I thought I let you all know I have been having some visual problems and swelling around my left eye. It got so bad Wednesday I had my work partner take me to the er. They did a cat scan and found an “impressive” mass behind my left eye ball in the eye socket where it appears to be isolated. The fun starts with a biopsy in about two weeks. Please excuse the deterioration of my spelling as my eyesight worsens.
    This should be interesting.

  12. I am sorry to hear this Erinyes. I am sure all of us wish you the best and join you in the hoping for the best outcome and a speedy recovery.

    I am not inclined to prayer but, you will be in my thoughts and I will try to send some prana.

  13. Prana ? You mean little fish with big teeth ? OK, I hear they’re delishous.
    Thanks, goatherd, I’m trying to stay up beat rather than beat up.

  14. erinyes,
    You know you have my best wishes and thoughts!
    Please keep us up to date!

    I also have some medical problems – my 56 year warranty has run out, I guess.
    Once I know all that I need, I’ll probably tell you guys.
    Hopefully, it’s minor.

    Th!s aging thing is vastly over-rated.

  15. Erinyes: I wish to echo the thoughts of everyone wishing you the best. I know what it is like to have something thrown at you out of the blue. It’s good that you do have a sense of humor (the prana comment). The Chinese word for prana is qi (pronounced chee). So I will send some positive thoughts and qi along the waves. It’s also good to call on your guardian angel. I hear they are always around just waiting for you to ask for their help.

  16. I am Spartacus! …er, ah… I mean, John and/or Joan Galt and I am also … that guy in the movie where these bad guys are …

    I can’t say this actually makes sense, but it does shed light on one of the consistent features of the right wing mind. They rail against Hollywood when it doesn’t deliver acceptable Zhdandovian product, but they envision themselves among “The 300,” or confuse Arnold for Conan, or fail to winnow some other reality from illusion. I can imagine that each night, as they set of for dreamland, they put on their Rocket Man suits with the fervency of a child and never completely change into their reality wear when morning breaks.

    There is an old observation that “celebrities are famous for who they are rather than what they do.” That’s part of the reason, baggers and friends can’t govern, and why they see no reason even to try.

    I have the impression that Mitt Romney wanted to BE the President, in the same way Britney Spears wanted to be Britney Spears. He wanted the world to accept his view of his own importance. He thought “it was his turn”, and besides, it would look good on his resume.

    Maybe whole troupe of howler monkeys is just playing a dress up game, pretending to be various kinds of American heroes, and their motivating fantasies are about being somebody rather than doing something.

    Once you get the “cheat sheets” and the agenda from ALEC and the Koch brothers, really the rest is just “strutting your hour upon the stage,” looking the part and memorizing your lines.

  17. erinyes – sending you my best wishes. Keep us posted.

    I wonder if you have a benign tumor called a “meningioma” — I had one of those removed from my right occipital lobe (the back of the brain) in 1999. The diagnosis was terrifying but I came through it with functions intact. (Well, the jury’s still out.) Meningiomas often grow around the eyes also. Medical science is stumped as to their origin.

    If the mass is “isolated” that may be a good sign that it can be safely removed and won’t return. Good luck… hang in there… prepare to surrender all modesty when hospitalized. I will always remember my first food after waking up from the surgery: orange jello that tasted like heaven.

  18. Thanks, grannyeagle, I don’t have a feeling of impending doom, hell, my workout this morning included 3 sets of 150 half crunches on my teeter inverter, 3 sets of 60 pushups, three sets of 35 lb. Dumbbell curls, 3 sets of leg raises, and 3 sets of bar dips. Trying to stay fit and being the funny man on Facebook. I’ll beat this or die laughing.
    Thanks for the Purana transfer.( auto correct got me again).

  19. Erinyes… Wishing you the best. I’m not much on praying, but I am praying for you in the sense that you have the best possible outcome through this ordeal. I imagine the prospect of not knowing what is going on with this mass causes a great deal of anxiety. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  20. Thanks everyone. Joan, I’m hoping I have what you had. The consultation is on the 19th, biopsy the next week. I don’t know why, but I’m not very worried.I’m on sick leave because I can’t drive or run around on the interstates with funky vision. I’ll be a boring pest for the nex tseveral weeks.

  21. “I’ll be a boring pest for the next several weeks.”

    Hey, erinyes,
    Be careful.
    Now you’re treading on MY turf!!!

  22. I’m coming out of the closet with my real name if anybody wants to friend me on Facebook. Rick O’Connor in kissimmee, fl.

  23. If you remember, I was “outed” by some Reich-Wing loon a while back. Maha wrote about it.
    My name is Victor Small – and, if you saw me, you’d laugh. 😉

    But he got my home town wrong.
    And, since I care for my elderly, diabetic, nearly blind mother, and don’t want any loons and/or cranks bothering her, I’ll just leave it at this:
    I live in Upstate NY.

    Nice to meetchya, Rick O’Conner!
    I guess your last name explains the “erin” and the “yes” parts of your moniker.

  24. My daughter is Erin, she looks like a beautiful fairy. At this point, any attacks from nut jobs will be met with humor. I need to keep my spirits high.

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