Ringside Seat: Obama's Imaginary Washington

Having won re-election comfortably and with poll after poll showing majority support for most parts of his agenda, President Obama will soon submit a budget to Congress that features significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Why? Well, they are "entitlements," and all right-thinking people in Washington agree that "entitlements" simply must be scaled back.

Naturally, when news broke, Speaker of the House John Boehner responded by saying, "We're glad that President Obama has agreed to our demand for cuts to the safety net, and we will now demonstrate our goodwill by agreeing to some upper-income tax increases." Kidding! As anyone who has been even vaguely aware of the progression of national politics over the last four years could have predicted, what Boehner actually did was reject Obama's offer outright, since it also included some tax increases.

Did Obama expect anything different? He couldn't have, given that he appears to have a functioning brain. So where does that leave him? Well, he has now taken a position in favor of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and Republicans will only agree to a budget with even more cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Maybe this is one phase in a complex and sophisticated negotiating strategy that ends with the Republicans giving in, vital programs protected, and the insane budget-cutting that is constraining the American economy finally coming to an end. But it's hard to see how.

So They Say

“Usually the first call I get at home in the morning is Schumer. The last call I get at night: Schumer.”

 —Harry Reid, on the Senate's self-proclaimed "hard-working, hard-charging fella" Chuck Schumer 


Daily Meme: Attorney, General and Good Looking

  • “She also happens to be by far the best looking attorney general in the country." So said President Obama of California's Kamala Harris yesterday. Cue the outrage.
  • Politico media reporter Dylan Byers's tweet: "How did it become so difficult to call a woman good looking in public?" made the situation even worse.
  • The backlash to both Obama and Byers was swift and voluminous.
  • "Perhaps not the best thing to say, Barack. Hard to imagine him saying that about, oh, any male attorney general."
  • However, Obama does in fact have a habit of calling his male colleagues "good looking." However, the remark takes a different tone when you apply it to women facing an uphill battle in the limelight already.
  • As Irin Carmon notes, it's "not enough to ask whether Obama would say the same thing about a man, or point out that he occasionally has or that others do. There is simply no comparison between how women’s looks and men’s looks count toward how society values them as humans. For every shirtless shot of Obama, there are probably 500,000 think pieces about the relative elasticity of Hillary Clinton’s skin."
  • Buzzfeed tried to even things out by making a list of the 13 hottest male attorney generals—which was topped by vice-presidential son Beau Biden.
  • James Carville didn't make things better with his defense of the prez. “Look, I’m a 68-year-old guy and I do notice honestly the way that women look sometimes, but you’ve got to learn to sort of keep your opinions to yourself. I doubt if he’ll do it again. Not the worst thing that ever happened. Based on the pictures, it’s probably true.”
  • Jonathan Chait writes, "It's not a compliment. And for a president who has become a cultural model for many of his supporters in so many other ways, the example he's setting here is disgraceful."
  • Amanda Marcotte sums up the situation well: "Obama has done so much good work in leaving a better world for his daughters and all other young women. ... It's a shame to see him undermine his enlightened policies with comments that highlight women's ever-present decorative duties—especially when we know for a fact that such remarks erode women's opportunities and even their own sense of deserving equality." 
  • Obama apologized to Harris, according to Jay Carney: "He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance."

What We're Writing

  • Robert Kuttner writes that Obama's perverse budget strategy is not just killing the economy, it's also destructive for Democrats.
  • The war in Syria marched past the two-year mark last month, and the list of atrocities grows longer by the moment. Each passing day, says Faisal Al Yafai, will make the eventual reconciliation that much harder.

What We're Reading

  • Will she? Won't she? We still don't know, but The New Republic doesn't think Hillary has any chance of clearing the field.
  • The jobs report is out, and gains are way down from last year, with temp work attracting the most new workers (not good).
  • Dave Weigel explains why the NRA can trump the 90 percent of Americans who want gun-control laws.
  • The Atlanta cheating scandal is yet more proof that teachers don't care about students and that we need to charter-school them out of existence. Or maybe (just maybe!) it means that the whole logic behind high-stakes testing is whack.
  • A federal judge has ruled that Plan B should be available over the counter to everyone, no exceptions.
  • Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York is assembling a secret list of Republicans who are willing to waffle on weapons.

Poll of the Day

A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that a million years ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries, Republicans favor Marco Rubio, and Democrats' favorite is Hillary Clinton. This isn't surprising—when you poll people this early in the game, of course the most prominent people in the party are going to attract the most support. More interesting, however, is who's waiting in the wings. For Democrats, after well-known (and well-worn) quantities Clinton and Joe Biden come Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand—people either known for being on the more progressive wing of the party, or for quietly shifting there in the past few months. The Democratic primaries are also dominated by voters from the left edges of the party, something Clinton and Biden know well from being bested by it in 2008.

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