Saturday, August 13, 2011

Donna Brazile Offers Obama "Four Options" to Get the Nation "Back on Track"

In a CNN op-ed, Donna Brazile offers President Obama "four options" to get the nation "back on track." Brazile is a staunch supporter of Obama. She is also a major Democratic Party insider. Brazile managed Al Gore's presidential campaign. She also currently serves as vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee.

Brazile encourages Obama to become a "bold executive" because congressional Republicans have unified to obstruct legislation and policies that many Americans support. Given her status as an ally to the president and an influential figure within the Democratic Party, Brazile has carefully framed her op-ed as offering advice for the president, rather than criticism. Nonetheless, her advice mirrors recent liberal and progressive criticism of the president that emerged following the debt-ceiling debates.

Here is a snippet from Brazile's op-ed:

Here are four options available to [Obama] right now:

1. Empower his Cabinet: A story on Thursday reported that the White House is going to begin releasing new job creation ideas each week. This is a good start, but President Obama needs to develop an economic action plan with his Cabinet that he can implement strictly through the exercise of executive power. This has the added political benefit of getting the president's bipartisan Cabinet members like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on TV, making Republicans in Congress look even less reasonable. And speaking of executive power...

2. Don't be afraid to be an executive: If President George W. Bush used the argument of the "unitary executive" to justify warrantless wiretapping and torture, surely President Obama can wield executive power to put Americans back to work while Congress dithers on. There's a big toolbox available, and the president needs to get aggressive in using it.

3. Flex monetary muscle: During the debt ceiling debate, some legal scholars pointed out that while the Treasury is limited in terms of how much paper money it can print, there is no such limit on the minting of coinage. They jokingly recommended the government could mint two $1 trillion coins and deposit them in the government's coffers to help pay off the debt. While this certainly isn't a real option, it goes to show how much authority the executive branch has on monetary policy.

4. Acknowledge the bully pulpit has changed: Because of the ever-shortening attention span exemplified by Twitter and the 24/7 political news media, the power of the presidency as a mover of public opinion has been diminished. However, the president still has a lot of power to cajole public and private entities into action. Whether that's persuading banks to lend, corporations to hire, or public and private institutions to reorganize, the president needs to hit the phones. Even if cold calls have been fruitless before, persistence is a virtue.
My Take

I agree with the heart of Brazile's argument, and I have written a blog post with similar themes on Dissenting Justice. I also believe that if Brazile -- who is a close ally of the president and party insider -- is offering public criticism of (or "advice" to) Obama, then many Democratic Party leaders are probably unhappy with his style of dealing with Congress. In the future, I expect others to make similar arguments. It is unclear, however, whether Obama can or whether he will modify his negotiating style, which has proven ineffective for dealing with a highly partisan Congress.


Caro said...

Donna Brazile is the primary person for putting us in the position of having a right winger who calls himself a Democrat as president.

She was chairman of the Rules & Bylaws Committee of the DNC, and is responsible for its decision to give some of Hillary's delegates to Obama, something that had never been done before in the history of the DNC and was clearly against the rules, to make sure he would be the nominee.

Until she admits the mistake she made and tells us how she's going to keep from making mistakes like it in the future, I have no interest in what she has to say.

Carolyn Kay

Matt P. said...

I think it isn't so much that Dem leaders are unhappy with how he deals with Congress but more that they are unhappy with his 39% approval rating! I bet their internal polls are worse. Of course they aren't mutually exclusive I suppose.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Matt: I thought it was in the 40s. Regardless, the two aren't mutually exclusive. Numbers like that show erosion of support among Democrats. I have always questioned his credentials. I hate saying "I told you so," because I think he would have made a much better president in 2016 -- serving behind Hillary Clinton. If not, at least people would have known much more about him.

Caro: I don't think I would say she has primary responsibility. Remember Howard Dean's position? Also, the Superdelegates were very enthralled by Obama and moved to his side, hoping to cozy up with the White House. I guess they miscalculated what his presidency would give them. Also - as much as I hated what happened in Florida, the Clinton campaigned signed off to the decision early on (and later). I hate it, but there were a lot of forces preventing it from going the other way. It just could not have happened without causing great detriment to the party.

Joyce L. Arnold said...

Hey Darren, thanks for another thoughtful post.

In your comment to Caro, you write about the FL decision: "It just could not have happened without causing great detriment to the party." I think that's probably correct, but I also think it raises a fundamental (and by no means new) observation about our political system in general: something like, when the good of the party takes precedence over the good of the people, we're in trouble.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Joyce: at the time I wrote a blog post saying that this was about the voters -- not the candidates. I actually got a voting rights scholar who was a big Obama supporter to agree with me. She was the only one I know who had a consistent position on this issue -- except for Julian Bond and other old civil rights veterans. They know the effect of denying voting rights to individuals. I do not want us to base voting rights law on the choices of the candidates; it should remain based on the impact to voters. This was a unique situation, and Obama capitalized on it.

I think the worst part, however, were the caucuses. Research has shown that the use of caucuses has a disparate affect upon poor persons, persons of color, disabled individuals and people with children. Because people have to remain with the group all day, these individuals will have lower rates of participation. I really wish we could reform that process. I think that people of color had a higher rate of participation in states that used the primary format. And Texas -- which uses both -- is a great comparison. Clinton won the primary, but he won the caucus (I think I am remembering this correctly -- or it was very close).

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

edit: "disparate effect."

Nell said...

It is not Florida to which Caro refers in her comment, but Michigan where the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC re-assigned 4 of Hillary Clinton's earned delegates to Obama as well as awarding him all of the uncommitted delegates -- all of this in spite of the fact that Obama's name did not appear on the Michigan ballot. In Florida, both Clinton and Obama were on the ballot, and when the Florida delegation was eventually restored to its full voting strength, each candidate got the delegates they earned.

Not that the eventual recognition of the Florida and Michigan delegations mattered in the least, since the convention (you know, where candidates used to be nominated after a real voting process, which sometimes *gasp!* involved more than one ballot) was a total sham.

And Donna Brazile's fat fingerprints were all over this travesty.

Darren, your comments about the caucus system are spot on and Texas is a perfect example. Barry won the caucuses while Hillary won the primary. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands more voters participated in the primary than in the caucuses, Obama received more Texas delegates than did Hillary. The caucus system is in need of serious reform, but the Democratic party has no will to fix it.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks for the correction, Nell. I remember blogging on this issue (before the final resolution). It was heartbreaking, particularly for the voters. I still believe there were multiple factors at play in the Michigan and Florida scenario other than Brazile. I am not saying she was not involved, but she was not alone.

And clearly, the caucus system is awful. People try to justify it based on the substantive discussions that take place, but as a voting rights buddy of mine said -- that excuse is insulting to voters who have already studied the issue and made up their minds.

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