There are few things that irritate Republicans more than the fact that Barack Obama went through an entire term with nothing but minor scandals to tie him down. No Watergate, no Iran-Contra, no Lewinsky, not even a little Valerie Plame. It wasn't that the GOP didn't try to create one, though. There was "Fast and Furious," in which the administration supposedly let Mexican drug gangs get all kinds of weapons from the U.S. on purpose, so that when it was revealed it could be used as an excuse to take away everybody's guns. Despite the Republicans' best efforts, the conspiracy theory didn't pan out. There was Solyndra, in which the administration supposedly knowingly squandered taxpayer money on a bunch of their cronies using a technology destined to fail.
Last summer, Congress passed a law reducing the number of executive-branch positions that require Senate confirmation. One hundred and sixty-six offices would now be able to be filled without endless hearings, anonymous "holds," and everything else that slows down the process of getting people to do the work of government. So, did that streamline hiring and make the executive branch more nimble? Hardly. The problem is that there are still an incredible 1,200 positions that have to go through the "advise and consent" process.
It has long been axiomatic among political professionals that gun-rights supporters vote based on the gun issue, while those who favor more restrictive gun laws don't. Consequently, office-holders believe that contradicting the National Rifle Association (NRA) carries a political cost, while supporting the NRA's position doesn't, even when the group is at odds with what most Americans want. That may partly explain why expanded background checks, which polls have shown enjoy the support of nine out of ten Americans, weren't able to overcome a Republican filibuster to pass the Senate.
This morning, Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania made an astonishing admission: The whole reason Republicans opposed expanded background checks for gun-purchasers was President Obama. It wasn't that the president went too far or that he was making unreasonable demands; it was just that Obama supported the proposal on the table. As Toomey said, “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”
That is incredible. It’s as if a good chunk of the GOP has regressed to kindergarten, where they refuse to play with toys that someone else likes.
If there’s a silver lining to this revelation, it’s that it offers a way forward for President Obama as he tries to pursue his agenda. Namely, he has to pretend that it isn’t his agenda.
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For many—most?—liberals, the aftermath of the 2000 election is like an old injury that won't heal. Most of the time you don't think about it, but if someone touches it, the old pain flares up again. Despite Antonin Scalia's frequent admonition to "Get over it!", doing so is awfully hard. Had George W. Bush been a run-of-the-mill Republican president, it might have been easier. But he wasn't; he was an epically awful president whose ability to cut such a far-reaching path of destruction made him exceptional.