Jon “Titty-groper” Favreau now works for the Daily Beast:
…Much has been written over the last few weeks about the limits of presidential power. Some smart observers have pointed out that these limits are not new; that historically they have had less to do with the personalities of our leaders than the structure of our democracy. The founders, reluctant to entrust any executive with the kind of authority that was so abused by the king they revolted against, created a separation of powers between co-equal branches of government.
But how boring is that? The more exciting story to tell is how Lyndon Johnson charmed and strong-armed his way to massive legislative victories. Much less interesting is the fact that most of those victories occurred while his party held record majorities in Congress. By the end of his second term, following the loss of 47 House seats and three Senate seats, one aide joked that Johnson couldn’t even get a Mother’s Day resolution passed.
Today, a minority of senators can kill bipartisan legislation that is supported by a majority of their colleagues. And they frequently do. In the House, the speaker alone can kill bipartisan legislation that is supported by a majority of his colleagues. And he frequently does. Following some of this country’s worst mass shootings, a Republican senator and a Democratic senator with A ratings from the National Rifle Association authored a gun safety bill requiring criminal background checks that was supported by 90 percent of the American people. If I were a reporter, I’d be more interested in what was wrong with the Congress that refused to pass that bill than the man at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue who relentlessly campaigned for it at more than a dozen events around the country.
But that’s just me. This Congress has so profoundly disappointed the American people that I suppose the real news would be if they ever did anything that even remotely reflected popular will. At this point, getting angry with Congress for failing to legislate seems as useful as yelling at a puppy for peeing on the floor: neither of them knows any better.
This president has played plenty of hardball and softball with members of Congress. I was there when he cut deals and cajoled his way to a health-care victory that 100 years’ worth of Democratic and Republican presidents had sought and failed to achieve. I saw him do the same with the recovery act, and student-loan reform, and Wall Street reform, and “don’t ask, don’t tell”—a legislative legacy that, whether you agree with it or not, already stands tall against any other president’s in recent memory.
I’ve also seen what happens to Republicans who dare to even contemplate cooperation with the White House. When Congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia accepted the president’s invitation to join him at an event highlighting the shipyard jobs that sequestration would destroy in his district, the two men had a warm and constructive conversation aboard Air Force One. The president talked about his willingness to pursue entitlement reform. Rigell said he was open to closing tax loopholes for the wealthy. In return, he was threatened with a primary challenge by his local Tea Party, attacked by Grover Norquist as a “cheap date,” and flooded with nasty calls and emails from conservative activists.
If you’re a Republican in Congress, what’s more likely to sway your vote—a trip on Air Force One and a personal plea from Barack Obama, or the threat of a Tea Party challenge that’s taken down so many of your colleagues in recent elections?
Gee, it sure is nice to see that the guy who used to write speeches for Obama to read to us is now able to put aside his political leanings and write objective and balanced essays, isn’t it?
I don’t know about you but I want my congressional representatives to be responsive to the people who elected him/her rather than swoon over a free plane ride (at taxpayer expense) or even a fancy White House dinner (at taxpayer expense).
What makes the Tea Party so effective is that they can produce votes. And most places aren’t like Chicago – you can’t just stuff a few ballot boxes, you have to bring real live voters to the polls.
BTW – Obamacare was jammed through without any Republican votes.