Rachel Maddow’s take…
Clearly, the phenomenon needs a name. There are so many Beltway pundits blaming President Obama for Republican intransigence so often — for reasons that vary from strange to stupid — that there must be a label to describe this runaway meme.
Greg Sargent has been using a name that makes a lot of sense: the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power. (I’ve always been more or a Marvel guy than a D.C. guy, but never mind.) Even if you’ve never heard of Green Lantern, it’s easy enough to understand the concept: Beltway pundits seem to think the president has supernatural “leadership” powers that he can use to bend Congress to his will. Party, ideology, policy, elections, history, legislative procedures — none of this matters under the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power. The pundits believe Obama has this magical ability, and if Congress is failing to enact the White House’s agenda, it’s necessarily proof that the president is failing to use his mystical powers effectively.
As the argument goes, President Obama is the Man In Charge — of the executive branch, of Congress, of the legislative process, of all federal policymaking — and if he’s not getting his way, well, he’s the one wearing the supernatural ring, so it’s only fair to blame him.
Why does anyone in professional political commentary believe this child-like Green Lantern Theory? I honestly have no idea, but the number of pundits fully embracing the bizarre idea appears to be growing.
Peggy Noonan, today:
“[I]f you’re a leader you can lead right past it.”
Maureen Dowd, Wednesday:
“Actually, it is [Obama's] job to get [congressional Republicans] to behave. The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.”
Ron Fournier, Wednesday:
“Great presidents rise above circumstance…. Obama needs a coach to look him in the eyes and say, ‘Mr. President, I’m not excusing the other team. They suck. But you need to beat them, sir. That’s your job.’”
Dana Milbank, Tuesday:
“Obama is correct about the dysfunction, and the difficulty of passing even uncontroversial bills. But his stance was frustratingly passive, as if what happens in Congress is out of his hands. It’s the president’s job to lead, and to bang heads if necessary.”
This is really only a small sampling, and it only reflects the pundits who’ve been making the argument in print. Many more have been pushing the same Green Lantern Theory in broadcast media, too.
I don’t imagine I’ll persuade those who believe the Green Lantern Theory to change course, but I hope they’ll keep a few simple observations in mind.
1. Be specific. Media professionals who use their platforms to give the president advice — “lead right past it,” “bang heads,” “somehow get Congress to do stuff” — should be prepared to fill in the gaps. “Lead more” is not an example of serious, mature commentary on public affairs. “Here’s what the president should do to get his agenda implemented….” is more constructive. Those who believe there’s more Obama can do should actually say what more Obama can do.
2. Be mindful of history. Obama has tried schmoozing. He’s tried embracing Republican ideas. He’s tried bringing Republicans onto his cabinet. He’s tried pushing ideas that his base hates. He’s tried meeting Republicans more than half-way. Republicans don’t seem to give a damn and continue to refuse to compromise. With that in mind, constructive commentary won’t blame him for failing to try to get something done.
3. Recognize how different the status quo is. Those who believe there are two mainstream political parties that should be able to find some common ground on the major issues of the day are mistaken. Congressional Republicans are quantifiably radical, and the abandonment of congressional norms and procedures have reached a level unseen in American history. To argue, “Other presidents seem to have been more effective in working with rivals” is to overlook the fact that there is no modern American precedent for what’s become of the Republican Party.
4. Acknowledge the burden of proof. When Fournier was asked on MSNBC yesterday what the president should do to “lead” that he isn’t already doing, he said, “Let me turn that question back on you.” No. Wrong. The burden is on those who believe the Green Lantern Theory to justify its power, not those of us who believe in Civics 101 to prove them wrong.
5. Appreciate how happy you’re making Republicans. GOP policymakers are ignoring popular will, abusing the rules, undermining public institutions and the economy, and refusing to compromise, govern, or even act like responsible grown-ups. Pundits know this, and proceed to blame Obama anyway. They should probably pause one of these days to realize that they’re doing Republicans an enormous favor — what incentive do Republicans have to be responsible if they know the president they hate will be blamed by the political media establishment for their own intransigence?
In my opinion, President Obama did a tremendous job at the WHCD. See for yourself…
President Obama entered to a new rap intro and joked that this is what Rush Limbaugh warned you about in the second term. Obama thanked everybody including his wife, then said, “Everybody loves Michelle. She’s on the cover of Vogue, high poll numbers, but I got my own magazine cover.” He then joked that he had to admit that that he is not the same strapping young Muslim Socialist that he used to be. Obama joked about going 2 for 22 on the basketball court at the White House Easter Egg Roll. He said, “Two hits, twenty misses. NBC executives asked, what’s my secret?”
The president joked about needing something new for the second term, then showed a picture of First Lady Obama’s bangs on his head. The president made a joke about Conan’s Tonight Show fiasco. (That one didn’t go over so well.) Obama later took a jab at CNN say he admired them covering all sides of the story in case one of them might be accurate. He joked about Axelrod working at MSNBC, because MSNBC used to work for Axelrod. Obama got in a joke about the History Channel’s The Bible and the devil looking like him. He said Fox News thought the portrayal was unfair to the devil.
Later, the president made a Sheldon Adelson joke centered on Adelson spending $100 million to defeat him. Obama said, “You’ve got to really dislike me to spend that kind of money. That’s Oprah money. You could have bought an island and named it Nobama for that kind of money.” He said Adelson would have been better off offering him the money to drop out of the race. He said he would have thought about it, but Michelle would have taken the money.
The president also joked that if Republicans were serious about minority outreach, they could start with him. Later he joked that he is taking his Republican outreach on the road. The president said, “A Texas barbeque with Ted Cruz. A Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul, and a book burning with Michele Bachmann.”
One of the highlights was a video of Steven Spielberg announcing that his next project will be Obama, with Daniel Day Lewis as Obama (Obama playing Obama), and Tracey Morgan as Joe Biden.
Obama wound things down by quoting Groucho Marx, and reminding Ted Cruz that he said Groucho not Karl Marx. The president closed on a serious note with thoughts and optimism for the people of Boston, West, TX, those hit by flooding in the Midwest.
This was one of President Obama’s better WHCD performances. The president was funny, but sincere. It was fun to see the president poke fun at himself, and it was also interesting to note that the White House hears every unhinged crazy right wing conspiracy theory out there.
The president is a natural performer, and his joke writers were really good. The WHCD also allows the president to blow off a little frustration, and Obama did that tonight with his jokes about the Republican refusal to work with him.
Tonight President Obama will once again attend the White House Correspondence Association dinner. If you’ve never seen him on the daïs, cracking jokes I recommend that you view the videos below to see just how good he is. The dinner will be broadcast on C-Span as well as major news and cable outlets tonight starting at 9:00 pm. The POTUS usually starts his shtick at 10:00 pm.
President Barack Obama on Friday sparked a Twitter explosion when he said in a press conference that he can’t perform a “Jedi mind meld” on the GOP, a phrase tweeters were quick to jab at, noting that the president should have said “Jedi mind trick.” The president also drew Twitter snark when he said that when it comes to negotiating with Congress on issues like averting the sequester, “I am not a dictator. I’m the president.” — a line that comes hours before sequestration is set to kick in. Here’s a look at how the political Twitterverse reacted:
BREAKING: The President has apparently conflated Star Wars & Star Trek. it’s a Jedi mind trick and Vulcan mind meld.
— Ari Shapiro (@arishapiro) March 1, 2013
One for the books: || WASHINGTON (AP) – Obama says he can’t do ‘Jedi mind meld’ and persuade Republican leaders to do what’s right.
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) March 1, 2013
Or maybe that is Nerd-in-chief?Anyway, there’s no such thing as a Jedi Mind Meld.
— Catholic Democrats (@CatholicDems) March 1, 2013
Jedi mind TRICK, not meld. Impeach this clown.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 1, 2013
How will the “devastating cuts” from the sequester impact the Jedi Academy?
— Garrett Quinn (@GarrettQuinn) March 1, 2013
point to the Republicans RT @dougheye: Star Wars has the Jedi Mind Trick. Spock uses the Mind Meld. Come on, Mr. President!
— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) March 1, 2013
Awesomeness is. RT @simonmaloy Obama: “I cannot do a Jedi mind meld.” What is happening?
— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) March 1, 2013
— Alex Weprin (@alexweprin) March 1, 2013
The president has to politely inform them he is not, in fact, a dictator. Weird strain of caudilloism in Beltway press.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 1, 2013
“I am not a dictator, I’m the president.” Oh my god, the press releases, I can already see them.
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) March 1, 2013
“I’m not a dictator I’m the president” THREAT! THREAT!!!!
— HuffPost Hill (@HuffPostHill) March 1, 2013
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 1, 2013
Jonathan Bernstein asks the question of the day:
Marco Rubio is going to give the Republican response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address this year. My only question: Why? Why would he want to do that?The SOTU response is, basically, a no-win proposition. It’s very difficult to give it well. After all, the president of the United States has such a huge advantage, speaking in the House chamber with a cheering audience, usually for an extended time. Out parties have tried a variety of formats, but none of them comes close to matching the democratic pageant of the SOTU — and by the time the response is given, no one really wants to sit still for another speech, anyway.
If I were a rising political star, I would run, not walk, if party leaders asked me to give the SOTU response. My kid has a piano recital that night. It’s my anniversary. Anything. I think you’d have to be nuts to agree to do this.
That said, I’m curious to see what Rubio comes up with. As near as I can tell, he’s lately decided that his niche is to be a smart, non-crazy brand of Republican. During the Benghazi hearings, he asked actual substantive questions, rather than joining the conspiracy theory fever swamp with the rest of the panel. On immigration, he’s making the rounds of talk shows trying to build support for a compromise with Democrats. He seems to believe—rightly or wrongly, I’m not sure—that he’s enough of a conservative darling that he can get away with this.
The SOTU response would be an ideal forum to push ahead with this program. It’ll be a little hard to tell if he takes advantage of it, since SOTU responses tend not to be too fire-breathing in the first place, but there should be hints. Does he judiciously agree with a few of Obama’s proposals? Does he go out of his way to propose compromises? Does he offer any hints of heterodoxy on a national stage? Reading the tea leaves on this should be interesting.
I can see the General’s point. Bill O’Reilly, in my opinion, is a bigot to the nth degree.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell chided Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night for focusing on his ethnicity when discussing his support of President Barack Obama.
At the beginning of a lengthy interview, O’Reilly questioned why Powell, a Republican, had supported Obama in 2008 and again in 2012.
Powell said he was troubled that the Republican Party had moved so far to the right and that Obama was the best choice. But O’Reilly questioned why Powell voted for Obama when the President’s policies didn’t seem to help African-Americans. O’Reilly rattled off a list of statistics to prove life for the average African-American had not improved under Obama.
“Why are you only seeing me as an African-American, Bill?” Powell responded. “That troubles me. I’m an American.”
O’Reilly defended his question, noting that Powell had condemned Republicans for looking down on minorities. Powell, apparently trying to change the subject, said the economy had improved but not enough.
“Not for African-Americans, not for minorities” O’Reilly interrupted.
Powell explained that the economic situation of minorities would improve once the economy recovered from the recession and financial crisis.
The two Republicans also clashed over voter ID laws. Powell alleged the laws were a cynical attempt to disenfranchise minority voters, a claim that O’Reilly dismissed.