Minggu, 21 April 2013

......The End of the Honeymoon for Obama: What’s Next..?? >> ..Obama, regardless of the personality and political approach he displays on any given day, keeps running into the same wall of insurmountable opposition. The cold, hard reality is that the president is trapped in a very frustrating box: He realizes that the vast majority of Congress is as impervious to his pressure as it is his charm. He is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t — and he knows it, several of his friends tell us...>> ...Of course, Obama’s predicament isn’t his own fault. Because of the outrageous filibuster, to get almost anything done in the Senate he has to win over four Republicans and keep all the Democrats in line. In the House, the Republicans have a majority of thirty-one votes. Given this arithmetic, anybody who expected great things from Obama’s second term was being delusional. Absent a surprise Democratic sweep in the 2016 midterms, it was always going to be a four-year slog. That’s the way Presidential second terms usually turn out, as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all discovered...>> ..At least for now, depending on how the reaction to what’s happening in Boston shakes out, immigration reform is still alive—partly because the Republican Party needs Latino votes, and partly because many of the business interests that bankroll and support it are pro-immigration. But, if Obama wants to get much more done, he’s going to have to work the system more successfully than he did on gun control. Ultimately, all of his stumping and speechifying didn’t work. Even with the Newtown families and archconservative Republican Pat Toomey on his side, he couldn’t win over enough votes to pass a very modest bill. Inevitably, more questions will be raised about his inability, or unwillingness, to court and cajole members of Congress. Again, that’s a bit unfair. Short of kidnapping their children, it’s hard to see how the White House could have won the votes of Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, and Mark Begich, all Democratic senators in red states who are up for reëlection next year. As for Republicans, asking them to defy the N.R.A. is largely a lost cause...>> ..The second strategy would be more ambitious, and riskier. It would involve finally abandoning efforts at bipartisanship, declaring war on the Republican obstructionists, and going all out to overturn their majority in the House in November, 2014. As my colleague Ryan Lizza noted last month, when the latest round of budget negotiations broke down, “A fundamental fact of modern political life is that the only way to advance a coherent agenda in Washington is through partisan dominance.” While incumbent parties usually do badly in midterm elections, the Republican majority is small enough, and the party’s approval rating is low enough, that winning the seventeen seats the Democrats would need to take the House isn’t wholly out of the question...>> ..The second strategy would be more ambitious, and riskier. It would involve finally abandoning efforts at bipartisanship, declaring war on the Republican obstructionists, and going all out to overturn their majority in the House in November, 2014. As my colleague Ryan Lizza noted last month, when the latest round of budget negotiations broke down, “A fundamental fact of modern political life is that the only way to advance a coherent agenda in Washington is through partisan dominance.” While incumbent parties usually do badly in midterm elections, the Republican majority is small enough, and the party’s approval rating is low enough, that winning the seventeen seats the Democrats would need to take the House isn’t wholly out of the question...>> ...Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Service Employees International Union seeded the super-PAC with $3 million in start-up funds. At the outset, Obama and his top allies distanced themselves from Priorities, refusing to bless the project or help raise money for it. This was no surprise: Obama had ripped the Citizens United decision in his 2010 State of the Union address and blasted super-PACs as "a threat to democracy." ..>> ...In the beginning, the super-PAC fighting to reelect President Obama, Priorities USA Action, couldn't catch a break. Priorities was raising paltry sums each month compared to super-PACs backing Republican candidates. After one particularly negative story about Priorities' struggles, co-founder Bill Burton wrote to one journalist, "If you didn't read the story and just looked at the pictures…I feel like I came out pretty good."..>> ..Restore Our Future last week announced one of its biggest ad blitzes of the 2012 campaign. The super-PAC said it will spend $12 million on a nine-day ad spree in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin...>>



April 19, 2013

The End of the Honeymoon for Obama: What’s Next


obama-boston-interfaith-580.jpeg
Barack Obama is going gray, and no wonder. He said a while back that it was hereditary, but weeks like this one must be accelerating the process. Even before Friday’s dramatic shootout and manhunt in Watertown, it had been a remarkably stressful few days for the President.

On Thursday morning, barely twelve hours after standing in the White House Rose Garden and consoling some of the Newtown parents who had come to Washington in a futile effort to put pressure on Congress to introduce tougher gun laws, he departed for Boston, where he told an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, “Every one of us stands with you.”  

His speech was artful and heartfelt, as were his remarks in the Rose Garden. But in Washington, they don’t give out many marks for artistic impression, and they don’t suspend politics for memorial services. By Thursday evening, when Obama returned to the White House, Politicos Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, two of the most widely read journalists in the capital, had posted a lengthy article entitled “Behind the Curtain: Obama, boxed in,” which read like an early obituary for his second term:
Obama, regardless of the personality and political approach he displays on any given day, keeps running into the same wall of insurmountable opposition. The cold, hard reality is that the president is trapped in a very frustrating box: He realizes that the vast majority of Congress is as impervious to his pressure as it is his charm. He is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t — and he knows it, several of his friends tell us.
The article cited Obama’s inability to win the support of red-state Democrats like the four senators who voted against enhanced background checks for gun buyers, his likely failure to get anywhere with Republicans on the budget, and the opposition to his Social Security proposals from liberal Democrats. The White House’s spinmeisters will doubtless dismiss the Politico article as overwrought, which it was.

Three months into a four-year term is too early to reach any definitive judgments. In a previous post, I argued that over the long term, the N.R.A.’s blatant power play could end up backfiring, as angry citizens assert their democratic rights. Nonetheless, VandeHei and Allen have a point. In the past couple of weeks, Obama’s second-term honeymoon has come to an end. With the hostile reception to his budget proposal and his defeat on gun control, the underlying weakness of his position, which the White House had managed to mask for a while, has become clearer.

Of course, Obama’s predicament isn’t his own fault. Because of the outrageous filibuster, to get almost anything done in the Senate he has to win over four Republicans and keep all the Democrats in line. In the House, the Republicans have a majority of thirty-one votes. Given this arithmetic, anybody who expected great things from Obama’s second term was being delusional. Absent a surprise Democratic sweep in the 2016 midterms, it was always going to be a four-year slog. That’s the way Presidential second terms usually turn out, as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all discovered.

For a while there, though, the White House seemed to have gained the initiative. It used the fiscal cliff deadline to force Republicans in Congress to accept higher taxes and then called their bluff by allowing the sequester to go into effect. Whether this was the right thing to do for the economy remains to be seen, but it certainly put the G.O.P. on the defensive. With at least some Republicans eager to present a more moderate image to the public following their defeat in November, there appeared to be room for further deals on gun control and immigration. And by making an overture on entitlement reform, the White House made clear it still hadn’t given up its hope of achieving a “grand bargain” on taxes and spending.

At least for now, depending on how the reaction to what’s happening in Boston shakes out, immigration reform is still alive—partly because the Republican Party needs Latino votes, and partly because many of the business interests that bankroll and support it are pro-immigration. But, if Obama wants to get much more done, he’s going to have to work the system more successfully than he did on gun control. Ultimately, all of his stumping and speechifying didn’t work. Even with the Newtown families and archconservative Republican Pat Toomey on his side, he couldn’t win over enough votes to pass a very modest bill. Inevitably, more questions will be raised about his inability, or unwillingness, to court and cajole members of Congress. Again, that’s a bit unfair. Short of kidnapping their children, it’s hard to see how the White House could have won the votes of Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, and Mark Begich, all Democratic senators in red states who are up for reëlection next year. As for Republicans, asking them to defy the N.R.A. is largely a lost cause.

The consoling news for Obama is that, to some extent, gun control is sui generis. For almost twenty years after the losses sustained in the 1994 midterms following Bill Clinton’s push on assault weapons, the Democratic Party as a whole considered it such a toxic issue they wouldn’t go anywhere near it. After the Newtown massacre, Obama decided to try and take a stand. Even after the loss, when the history books are written, that will be a big mark in his favor.

The other issues he has to deal with now are less polarizing. But the fact remains that the President’s strategic position is weak, which leaves him with two options: look for crumbs or go big.

The first strategy would involve continuing to search for legislative deals with the Republicans on issues like the budget, and, where they aren’t possible, using executive orders to advance a progressive agenda in modest ways. On the environment, for example, the executive branch can use its administrative authority to toughen up the rules for power plants, cars, and other polluters. The new standards for fuel economy that Obama introduced in his first term show that such changes can have a significant impact. But incrementalism would be the order of the day.

The second strategy would be more ambitious, and riskier. It would involve finally abandoning efforts at bipartisanship, declaring war on the Republican obstructionists, and going all out to overturn their majority in the House in November, 2014. As my colleague Ryan Lizza noted last month, when the latest round of budget negotiations broke down, “A fundamental fact of modern political life is that the only way to advance a coherent agenda in Washington is through partisan dominance.” While incumbent parties usually do badly in midterm elections, the Republican majority is small enough, and the party’s approval rating is low enough, that winning the seventeen seats the Democrats would need to take the House isn’t wholly out of the question.

Which way will Obama go? As long as there is still a good chance of immigration reform passing Congress, he will surely continue to work with Republicans who are willing to coöperate. But if immigration reform goes down, too, what point is there of sticking with this strategy? The anger Obama exhibited following the Senate votes on gun control showed another side of his personality—a tougher, more combative side, a part of him willing to label his opponents scoundrels and liars. With the Super PAC that supports him, Priorities USA Action, already preparing to raise—and spend—more money, the President may be coming around to the view that going into battle is his best option.

Read more of our coverage of the recent events in the Boston area.
Photograph of Barack Obama exiting after speaking on Thursday at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, by Spencer Platt/Getty.


Watch Out, GOP: Obama Super-PAC Is Coming for You in 2014

| Wed Feb. 20, 2013 11:41 AM PST
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/02/obama-super-pac-2014-midterm-2016-presidential-election
 
 
A screenshot of the Priorities USA Action ad "Donnie."

Priorities USA Action, the powerful pro-Obama super-PAC, unloaded $65 million in the 2012 presidential race, battering Republican Mitt Romney with attack ads that depicted him as a profit-chasing, cold-hearted plutocrat with a history of screwing over the middle class. Priorities was the counterexample to the Republican outside groups that spent hundreds of millions with little impact: Its ads were deemed hugely effective, and Priorities played a decisive part in Obama's narrow victory in Ohio last November.

But Priorities isn't shutting down now that Obama is safely ensconced for a second term. Instead, it will raise and spend big money to help the Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election, a Priorities fundraiser tells Mother Jones. The fundraiser says it is too early to comment on the group's strategy for next year's midterms or the upcoming presidential race, but he confirms that Priorities will remain a fixture in Democratic politics. The super-PAC currently has $3.4 million in the bank.

Priorities USA Action, the brainchild of Obama White House alums Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, launched in April 2011 with a single goal: Reelect President Obama. Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Service Employees International Union seeded the super-PAC with $3 million in start-up funds. At the outset, Obama and his top allies distanced themselves from Priorities, refusing to bless the project or help raise money for it. This was no surprise: Obama had ripped the Citizens United decision in his 2010 State of the Union address and blasted super-PACs as "a threat to democracy."

Priorities struggled in 2011 and early 2012 to raise significant amounts of money, while Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future reeled in huge sums. (After one scathing story on Priorities struggles, Burton wrote to reporter Robert Draper: "If you didn't read the story and just looked at the pictures…I feel like I came out pretty good.") One exception was a $1 million check the comedian Bill Maher cut to Priorities.

But the super-PAC's fortunes began to change in February 2012, when Obama reversed course and signaled to his donors that he wanted them to give to Priorities. Republicans ripped Obama for flip-flopping on super-PACs, but Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina defended Obama's decision by stressing that Democrats would be buried in outside money if they didn't utilize super-PACs.

"This decision will help fill a hole on our side," Messina wrote in a message posted on the Obama campaign's website titled "We Will Not Play by Two Sets of Rules." Top Obama advisers, including Messina, David Axelrod, and David Plouffe, soon began appearing at Priorities fundraisers, giving the super-PAC the stamp of approval sought by many deep-pocketed Democratic donors.

Priorities' fundraising improved with each month as Election Day neared—and it received a boost after it former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel joined its effort to corral big contributors in the final stretch of the campaign. After the election, Priorities could claim some of the credit for Obama's win.

With Priorities and Organizing for Action, the nonprofit created out of Obama's 2012 campaign to boost the president's legislative agenda, Obama and the Democrats are building an impressive outside infrastructure. And Democrats' embrace of super-PACs and outside money no longer appears reluctant, if it ever was: There are super-PACs raising and spending money to elect Democrats to the House and the Senate, and there are more and more single-candidate super-PACs springing up to elect specific Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

Democrats may want political money reform, but for now, they're all-in when it comes to big-money politics.


Obama Super-PAC Plans $30 Million Battleground Ad Blitz

| Thu Aug. 2, 2012 8:39 AM PDT
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/obama-super-pac-ad-blitz-crossroads-gps
 
obama attack ad
Priorities USA Action, the super-PAC backstopping President Obama's presidential campaign, isn't about to let the GOP money machine steamroll the president this fall. To bolster Obama, Priorities is ramping its anti-Romney campaign by buying up $30 million in broadcast and cable TV time in six crucial battleground states—Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Washington Post reports.
This ad buy is arguably Priorities' most crucial of the 2012 cycle. Obama's road to victory in November runs through these six battleground states. And the GOP's biggest outside groups, including the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future and dark-money groups Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, are pumping tens of millions in anti-Obama ads in these states. Obama will need all the reinforcements he can get—that's where Priorities comes into play.
Here's more on the buy from the Post:
[Ad buy] sources would not indicate whether this was the totality of the ad spending Priorities USA Action would make on the election or whether this was the first flight of a broader buy. The group, in coordination with the Service Employees International Union, is currently funding Spanish-language ads in Colorado, Florida and Nevada—an effort they say will continue.
Priorities USA Action, which is run by former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, has raised $16 million this year—as of the end of June—and $21 million since the start of 2011. It recently received a $1 million donation from actor Morgan Freeman. The group says it has another $20 million in commitments.
Those fundraising figures are dwarfed by the activity of Republican super-PACs and other conservative-aligned outside groups led by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which has pledged to spend $300 million on the 2012 election.
Priorities' fight against GOP groups is an uphill battle. In the super-PAC cash race, GOP-aligned super-PACs have raised nearly $219 million compared to $77 million for Democratic-aligned super-PACs, according to the Sunlight Foundation. For some perspective, the largest GOP super-PAC, the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future, has raised more money than every Democratic super-PAC combined.

Hollywood And Labor Unions Pony Up for Obama Super-PAC's Record Month

| Mon Oct. 22, 2012 8:40 AM PDT
Dreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com 

Dreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com

In the beginning, the super-PAC fighting to reelect President Obama, Priorities USA Action, couldn't catch a break. Priorities was raising paltry sums each month compared to super-PACs backing Republican candidates. After one particularly negative story about Priorities' struggles, co-founder Bill Burton wrote to one journalist, "If you didn't read the story and just looked at the pictures…I feel like I came out pretty good."

How times have changed. Last month, Priorities hauled in $15.2 million, a new monthly record for the group. Big donations came in from Hollywood director and producer Steven Spielberg ($1 million), Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg ($1 million), hedge fund manager James Simons ($1.5 million), Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner ($2 million), and attorney David Boies ($1 million).

The United Auto Workers, of which I'm a member, also waded into the super-PAC wars for the first time, giving Priorities $1 million. United Association, the plumbers and pipefitters union, chipped in $673,100, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association gave another $250,000. Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart, a decidedly anti-union company, gave $300,000 to Priorities as well.

Since its inception in April 2011, Priorities USA Action has raised $50.8 million. The group will need a stellar October fundraising haul to reach its goal of $75 million for the 2012 election cycle. (Priorities also has a shadowy nonprofit affiliate which has yet to disclose how much money it's raised.)

Restore Our Future, the super-PAC backing Mitt Romney, turned in a strong September as well. The group raised $14.8 million. ROF's donor list is filled with familiar faces in the world of big-money Republican fundraising. With his $2 million donation last month, Texas homebuilding king Bob Perry has given a total of $9 million to Restore Our Future. Oxbow, the energy company run by Bill Koch, brother to Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, gave another $1 million, as did Robert McNair, who owns the Houston Texans, and Stan Herzog, a Missouri businessman.

Nearly $4 million of Restore Our Future's September donations came from corporations, such as airline interior supplier Greenpoint Technologies and rental company Penske Corporation. Restore Our Future has raised $111.5 million since its creation in March 2011.

Restore Our Future last week announced one of its biggest ad blitzes of the 2012 campaign. The super-PAC said it will spend $12 million on a nine-day ad spree in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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