« Reviews That Will Almost Certainly Make Me See Your Movie | Main | Why Politics Sucks in 96* »

March 09, 2007

Broder's Choice

Life is comprised of actions and reactions. If you touch a hot stove, for instance, you'll burn your finger. If you listen to Barack Obama speak, you'll want to have a thousand of his babies. And if you start some overly-funded, ill-considered campaign to restore bipartisanship to Washington, you'll get a glowing David Broder column. Action, meet reaction.

The latest poorly conceived bundle of bipartisan virtues to get the Broder treatment is the Bipartisan Policy Center, a heavily-funded, heavily-hyped initiative of Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, George Mitchell, and Howard Baker (all former Senate majority leaders). The BPC, Broder says, is a function of the four aged leader's "alarm at the breakdown in civility and at the fierce partisanship that has infected Congress and blocked action on national priorities." And this time, they will lead by example. "Listening to them," Broder sighed, "it was possible to forget, for the moment, that they all were party leaders as well as Senate leaders. "Common ground," to use Daschle's term, carried more weight than the Republican labels on Baker and Dole or the Democratic brands on Daschle and Mitchell." You can almost see the hearts Broder doodled across the margins of his notes.

The BPC, of course, already has $7 million in the bank and acres of newsprint hyping its prospects. One assumes the lavish funding comes because bipartisanship works so well. After the Baker-Hamilton Commission got the President to draw down the troops and begin talking to Iran and Syria about...oh, wait, sorry. Tripped through a wormhole there. Maybe the same one that Broder went through, actually. See, I remember Bob Dole. I remember what he did to kill the Clinton health care plan and deny any compromise measures. There's this great book called The System which lays out the congressional maneuverings in great detail. A few quotes:

All the co-sponsors of Dole-Packwood were prepared to vote against Dole-Packwood, including Dole and Packwood! I remember Sheila [Burke] saying to Dole in my presence as we were bringing up something with respect to Dole-Packwood and some senator (it may have even been me) saying to Dole, 'I can't vote for that.' Sheila said to Dole, 'And neither can you!"

Chew on that for a second. In order to block a compromise, Bob Dole voted against his own compromise bill..

In the Senate, Bob Dole privately discarded any pretense of seeking a compromise...Bennett was appointed leader of the issue deemed most critical to opponents: employer mandates. He and his team produced a thick briefing book to use in the Senate floor debate. The goal was to frustrate and crush any Democratic bill. Don't let any Democratic measure come to vote.
As Bennett said. "Dole made it very clear: No bill is the strategy."

David Broder is aware of all this. He knows that Dole eschewed bipartisanship when it could have helped the country overcome the health care crisis, and is only now courting the label to secure his legacy. And do you know why I'm so sure Broder is aware of all this? Because he wrote the damn book!

Yet Broder, who's been observing national politics for the better part of the last 300 years, is willing to buy into this absurd think tank of four powerless retirees based solely on the promise of bipartisanship -- even as it's bipartisanship apart from all the forces that makes politicians partisan (electoral concerns, powerful interests, party pressure, future ambitions, etc). It's absurd. And it's profoundly unserious. You can't bipartisan the health care crisis. You can't bipartisan Iraq. You can't bipartisan energy. There are solutions to these issues, and you have to be courageous enough and concerned enough to actually make the hard choices and advocate for the right ones. And maybe, if you're forceful enough, and savvy enough, you can get members of both parties to agree that your solution is the right one. But you don't start with bipartisanship, you end with it.

The BPC, which has no power and no political vulnerability, isn't even taking on such contentious questions -- they're starting with farm policy. And Broder, an eminent Washington Wise Man, one of the few with the standing and platform to adjudicate some of these disputes, is happy to marginalize himself along with them. But they have an excuse: They're retired. They're chasing legacies. What's Broder's?

Also at Tapped

March 9, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I'm guessing that they'll have some terrific salmon dip at their functions. Maybe an open bar!

Posted by: sglover | Mar 9, 2007 11:42:21 AM

Interesting that the basic premise here is that Broder shouldn't have wasted the time it took to pen the article, yet it seems that you are happy to take the time to write about Broder writing about it. Weird.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Mar 9, 2007 11:51:27 AM

Dole, Bob Dole? You mean the Bob Dole that said in 2004 that: It is an appropriate topic, I guess, but it's not a very good issue any more than the war in Vietnam would be, or World War II or World War I or the war in Korea-- all Democrat wars, all in this century. I figured out the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.

That was a very bi-partisan statement, don't you think? From a supposed war hero, too.

Dole will be Dole (either Bob or Liddy). He was (is) a highly partisan hack, and sometimes was effective in that role. What's David Broder's excuse for playing bi-partisan when he mouths GOP talking points with regularity - and he's a so-called 'journalist' and 'dean' of the Washington press corps?

At least most farmer's are decent enough to put the tired old jackass out to pasture when he's past the time of working usefullness and is due for retirement. What's WaPo's response to Broder's decline? Off to the pasture with him. Or the rendering plant.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 9, 2007 11:52:25 AM

"Chew on that for a second. In order to block a compromise, Bob Dole voted against his own compromise bill.."

Oh, they all do it. Charlie Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft, then voted against it.

"The goal was to frustrate and crush any Democratic bill. Don't let any Democratic measure come to vote."

"He knows that Dole eschewed bipartisanship when it could have helped the country overcome the health care crisis,"

Remember social security?

Anything that can be said about Bush and social security (it was a bad plan, etc.) can be said ten-fold about Clinton's health care plan. In TN, there is something called TENNCARE, it was and is a disaster and a drain on the TN taxpayer. I believe you were upset cuz Gov. Bredesen had to cut the roles. TENNCARE was a complete failure. People would take the ambulance to the ER for headaches, cuz they could, people were exploiting the prescription drug program(the average person had 2 or 3 prescriptions, the average TENNCARE recipient had 15) and many prescription drug busts were linked to TENNCARE, illegal immigrants and out of state residents were kept on the roles while deserving Tennesseans were denied or kicked out of the program.

Isn't TENNCARE similar to the Clinton's healthcare proposal?

As far as bitartisanship, what was the Democrat stategy when they were in the minority?

To obstruct.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 9, 2007 12:14:43 PM

Anything that can be said about Bush and social security (it was a bad plan, etc.) can be said ten-fold about Clinton's health care plan.
How about that there was no crisis in the case of Social Security, whereas there was a health care crisis and it's only worsened in the intervening years?

But then if you actually believe people enjoy taking ambulances just for the hell of it and basking in the beauty of the ER waiting room for hours when they have headaches, you'll believe anything.

Posted by: KCinDC | Mar 9, 2007 12:36:31 PM

KC, you should do a little research into SSI. I don't know how old you are, but social security won't be there when I am eligable for it. I guess if you are 50 and over, you might collect something.

Oh, and given that #1, I live in TN and #2, I spend a few days a week in a hospital I think I know a little more about it than you do. I have seen deserving people kicked off TENNCARE and I have seen people who couldn't speak English (I assume illegals) ride the ambulance for a fucking ear ache. Do you know what the problem was? A chunk of wax in their ear.

And by the way, insured or not, I have never seen anyone in need turned away.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 9, 2007 12:46:50 PM

I almost forgot KC, the ear wax guy in the ER, he was a 'frequent flyer'. That is a sophisticated medical term for someone who frequently seeks pain meds.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 9, 2007 12:52:03 PM

I’ve been thinking we need some words to separate out the different meanings of “political”.

A) When you say political here, you obviously mean “the process of accomplishing a policy, supported by one party and not the other”.

B) When disgruntled voters or Broder use political, they are almost always referring to the idea of doing something purely for electoral concern and not for any policy effect.

I think there really is too much of B), but it still doesn’t help that people (both columnists and voters) continually confuse A with B. The JOB of our elected representatives is A.

Are there any better word we can use? Partisan is just as bad, and ideology has gotten a bum rap meaning just as much “crazy extremism” as “consistent system of thought”.

Posted by: Tony V | Mar 9, 2007 12:53:24 PM

Oh and Toke you are right about one thing. Recent Democrats in the minority have done all they can to obstruct. A lot of that is because when they did try to compromise in the early years of Bush they were given nothing but further beatdowns on those bills.

And there isn't really anything wrong with the minority in either case trying to obstruct. It's what partisans do in effort to advance their ideology or prevent the ideology. Ezra was just pointing out that Broder, who seems obsessed with bipartisanship, is lavishing praise on an excessively partisan creature who Broder wrote the book on.

Posted by: Tony V | Mar 9, 2007 1:01:12 PM

Considering Broder's reflexive and unconditional love of bipartisanship, it makes sense that he'd love the idea of this group. But considering the complete and total credence he gives to politicians such as Bob Dole, who may or may not be a partisan bombthrower at this point in his life, I've got to wonder just how much partisanship really bothers him, or really if perhaps he just has the memory of a goldfish. Exactly how partisan would any of these guys had to have been in their past incarnations for Broder to distrust them - or at least ask them to disavow previous works?

Posted by: Jon O. | Mar 9, 2007 1:20:05 PM

KC, you should do a little research into SSI. I don't know how old you are, but social security won't be there when I am eligable for it. I guess if you are 50 and over, you might collect something.

Toke, this has been beaten to death in dozens of places, on-line and off-. You are, as usual, spreading lies. There is no Social Security "crisis", and while you can fret about whether it's going to be there when you retire (how old are you, anyway -- 17?), folks who are, unlike you, mathematically competent and intellectually honest have shown, time and again, that Social Security can remain solvent with some very minor fixes.

Posted by: sglover | Mar 9, 2007 1:20:09 PM

But you don't start with bipartisanship, you end with it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is the received gospel of the moment among the netroots. Politics is a bazaar, so both sides start at extremes and then maybe bargain to compromise, if one side can't just crush the other. Whoops, that often just leads to nothing at all, while sometimes starting with a compromise measure actually does work. There's no one rule that can guide all politics. There's nothing wrong with recognizing the need for more bipartisanship, less polarization. Especially now. Farm policy sounds like an excellent place to start.

The argument that Dole was a partisan is silly. They were all partisans, and still are. How does that make what they're calling for less important or useful?

$7 million annually isn't all that much for a think tank. For that small investment we may get something very valuable.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 9, 2007 1:23:56 PM

Weird. Really? 'Cause it seems perfectly rational to me to point out B.S. when you see it. Nevermind the fact that the basic premise was actually that bipartisanship is a result, not the means.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 9, 2007 1:25:53 PM

There is no Social Security "crisis"

Yeah, Gore was pulling our leg about that in 2000. We've borrowed huge amounts from the Social Security fund that at present we don't have the tax receipts to pay back. Paying it back is going to require some major tax increases, and the longer we wait, the more draconian they'll be.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 9, 2007 1:32:37 PM

Interesting that the basic premise here is that Broder shouldn't have wasted the time it took to pen the article, yet it seems that you are happy to take the time to write about Broder writing about it. Weird.

Posted by: Dave Justus

I took a different point from the post: that politicians often practice bipartisanship in name only, but somehow, supposedly smart Washington journalists like Broder are frequently fooled, and also treat the process of amiable bipartisanship as an end in itself regardless of the actual results. See, for example, atrios's phrase "High Broderism." The Bipartisan Policy Center may be inconsequential in the sense that it will accomplish little, but is probably a good example.

Posted by: Cyrus | Mar 9, 2007 1:45:00 PM

Payroll taxes were raised for the purpose of funding a Social Security surplus, that surplus was used to keep income tax low, and now that we may need to start drawing on the surplus suddenly it's a "crisis" that income taxes might have to go up? And the solution is to throw away those "worthless" IOUs and convert the loan from payroll-tax-payers to income-tax-payers into a permanent gift? Also, how does the amount of money needed to fix Social Security compare with the amount we've thrown away without a second thought to buy the Iraq war? Do we have an Iraq war crisis? How about all the other government programs that don't even have special taxes to fund them? Are they all in crisis?

Posted by: KCinDC | Mar 9, 2007 2:02:33 PM

The trouble with Broder and others of his ilk is that the lost era of bipartisan comity for which they pine, to the extent that it ever existed, was a fleeting, transitory historical moment. It was the result of the post WWII economic boom and the percieved need for unity in a world divided into Eastern and Western blocs. The vaunted Cold War Consensus. It was a politics without precedent in our history, incapable of outlasting the peculiar circumstances that gave rise to it.

What the apostles of bi-partisanship seemingly fail to realize is that partisanship in our politics doesn't arise sui generis. It isn't simply an expression truculence or greed for power. The partisan divide is an expression of deep social and economic divisions within our body politic. Palid calls for bi-partisanship are likely to have as much efficacy in mending these breaches as plastering over the cracks in the foundation of a house.

That the fact of partisanship may disrupt the clubby atmosphere of DC is a cross that Broder an Co. will simply have to bear.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Mar 9, 2007 2:20:30 PM

KC, I could just let you argue this out with Gore and the Democratic Party from not that long ago, but I'll make a couple points. If we don't deal with repaying the fund, repay the surplus, which will of course be needed to pay benefits, the problem will just get bigger and bigger. The solution is to face the music sooner instead of later by raising the taxes to the point that the fund will be repaid when the money is needed for benefits. Yes, we have an Iraq crisis too, fiscally speaking. It has ben a huge tax drain, and we need to raise taxes for that too.

What the apostles of bi-partisanship seemingly fail to realize is that partisanship in our politics doesn't arise sui generis. It isn't simply an expression truculence or greed for power. The partisan divide is an expression of deep social and economic divisions within our body politic.

They don't fail to realize this. They just recognize that polarization isn't the best way to deal with it.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 9, 2007 3:57:22 PM

Funny how all these bipartisan groups waited until the Republicans lost Congress.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Mar 9, 2007 4:51:18 PM

Equally funny how those who were calling for bipartisanship before that vanished at the same time.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 9, 2007 5:02:24 PM

Yeah, Gore was pulling our leg about that in 2000. We've borrowed huge amounts from the Social Security fund that at present we don't have the tax receipts to pay back. Paying it back is going to require some major tax increases, and the longer we wait, the more draconian they'll be.

When US income tax hits 60%, start talking to me about "draconian." Right now it's possible to close the deficit purely out of the defense budget and health care waste.

Posted by: Alon Levy | Mar 9, 2007 5:42:39 PM

$7 million annually isn't all that much for a think tank. For that small investment we may get something very valuable."
I cannot even concieve of a possible world where the Bipartisan Policy Center would ever produce something "very valuable".

Posted by: Korha | Mar 9, 2007 7:02:38 PM

I'm amused to see how the second sentence of this post was changed when it appeared on TAPPED.

Quite understandable, sensible even, amusing all the same...

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden | Mar 9, 2007 7:43:24 PM

Maybe someone who wasn't a child when this was going on could tell me, but when the Democrats controlled Congress for forty years, did they ever block the opposition by not letting them introduce legislation, by not attaching amendments to bills, by closing down debate, and so on? Did they call their opponents traitors simply because of a disagreement? Did they go and campaign in the majority leader's state? The Republicans did all of those things, and then some, during their twelve-year reign. The Democrats are far from perfect, but the breakdown in civil discourse points far more to one party (and to their friends at certain news and media outlets, for that matter) than the other.

Posted by: Brian | Mar 9, 2007 10:51:11 PM

"Did they call their opponents traitors simply because of a disagreement?"

Were those opponents deriding our troops or falsely accusing the president of lying in a time of war? Were those opponents making unsubstanciated allegations against our troops and president? Were those opponent's message broadcast to our enemy thru the enemy's propaganda network(Al Jazeera)?

As far as media outlets, the Democrats have CNN, CBS, NBC/MSNBC, NYT, WP and of course Al Jazeera

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 10, 2007 12:01:54 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.