Archive for July, 2009

Confirmation

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Barack HusseinSecretMuslimTerroristMarxistMalcomXScaryBlackDudeCopHater Obama is not a citizen.

Gatesgate

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by Brien Jackson
I haven’t commented on the Saga of Harry Gates yet, largely because I find the story, or, more appropriately, the media narrative around it, to be so stupid, but let’s clear something up here; what officer Crowley did was not only “stupid,” it was plainly illegal and a gross violation of Gates’s civil rights, and any person or society that does anything but condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms has a real problem on their hands in relation to how it respects the rights of its people.

But there’s the shiny object of race, and it’s a black man challenging the Irish-American white working class no less. Teh horrorz! In a way, I really wish the racial angle wasn’t present in this story. It’s not that there isn’t still a huge problem in the area where the police interact with African-Americans, because obviously that’s still a huge problem, it’s just that in this story, the nature of police abuse really has nothing to do with race, other than Officer Crowley’s umbrage at being called a racist. But it’s not hard to see the situation playing out more or less the same way if Gates had been white and had called the officer an incompetent donut eater or something. And beyond the rather silly question of whether or not the incident was racially motivated, or whether Crowley is a racist, that’s the real story here; the way police use their state sanctioned power to enforce deference to them and squash any criticism of them in public. Indeed, a cop blogging at Crooked Timber actually made the case for why this is a necessity.

Let’s be clear, there are many different ways in which people interpret the first amendment, and many different places at which people draw the line in regards to how far a right extends. But if the protection of free speech is to mean anything at all, it has to protect the right of the citizenry to criticize the government. Take that away and you’re just a run-of-the-mill authoritarian state. And the police, when on duty at least, are agents of the state, excercising state power to enforce the law, deprive people of their liberty, and in some cases their life, and just generally deprive you of your own self-agency. In a liberal democracy, that’s a tremendous power that must be wielded with the utmost discretion. Yes, policing is a difficult job in its own right, and the requirement to respect fundamental rights in cases like this makes it more difficult than it already is, but that’s just the way things are in an open society that’s conscious of protected rights like ours. It is much easier to be a cop in Tehran or Moscow I’m sure, but that’s hardly an argument for becoming more like those societies.

And also, to be as clear as I can, Gates himself certainly seems to be the worst kind of priviledged asshole. At least originally, there’s no reason to think Officer Crowley was doing anything other than checking out a report of a possible breaking and entering, which is perfectly reasonable. Indeed, does anyone doubt that had it been a real burglarly and the police had not responded, or had been slow to respond, Gates would have been (justly) righteously pissed off about that? I doubt it. So Gates never should have said anything, not because he should have feared the gun, but because there wasn’t anything to complain about at the time, but this does not excuse Crowley’s actions. Because while the juvenile “they were both assholes” contention might be true, only Crowley acted in a way that was an abuse of his power, and a violation of the other parties civil rights. It is not a violation of your rights to be called a racist, or pretty much any other name. Similarly, it is not against the law to criticize or personally insult a police officer, because the police are agents of the state and the Constitution protects your right to be disrespectful of state power, plain and simple. Police might not like it, but that’s just a part of the job they absolutely have to respect. And really, I don’t see what’s so hard about that. I mean, would it really have been that difficult for Crowley to offer up an insincere apology to Gates, walked away, and gone back to the station to have a laugh about what a gigantic d-bag Gates was? How does something that stupid even get to you? Anyone working any form of customer service has had stuff like that happen to them, and they don’t even get to talk back, much less arrest the asshole. And maybe more jarringly, is the kind of person who can’t let transparently stupid insults like that roll off his back the sort of person you really want walking around with a gun, and significant societal leeway to use it?

The criminalization of “contempt of cop” simply has got to stop. There’s nothing illegal about talking back to the police, asking for their badge number, criticizing the way they do their job, or even calling them names. It might get under a cop’s skin, it might be totally baseless, and it may even be downright offensive, but it’s simply not against the law. You have a Constitutional right to do it. And in this country, you simply can not be arrested for excercising your Constitutional rights, no matter how much of an asshole you may be in the process. And then you have this:

So, since the president is keen on offering instruction, here is what I would advise he teach his Ivy League pals, and anyone else who may find himself unexpectedly confronted by a police officer: You may be as pure as the driven snow itself, but you have no idea what horrible crime that police officer might suspect you of committing.  You may be tooling along on a Sunday drive in your 1932 Hupmobile when, quite unknown to you, someone else in a 1932 Hupmobile knocks off the nearby Piggly Wiggly.  A passing police officer sees you and, asking himself how many 1932 Hupmobiles can there be around here, pulls you over.  At that moment I can assure you the officer is not all that concerned with trying not to offend you.  He is instead concerned with protecting his mortal hide from having holes placed in it where God did not intend.  And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own.

So you either acquiesce to police disregard for your Constitutionally protected rights, or they shoot you. Lovely. I have no idea if this guy is legit, or how representative it is of cop culture (or the LAPD culture), but in any event, the warlike mentality of police departments absolutely has to stop.

Conservatives Make No Sense On Healthcare

Monday, July 13th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

A.L. makes a point I’m seeing more and more of, and one that needs to be made a lot more:

This is a sentiment commonly expressed by conservatives and libertarians. It’s also totally ridiculous, an example of an almost childish kind of magical thinking. I am as big a believer in the power of the marketplace as anyone, but the market is not the Force. Its powers cannot be harnessed to achieve all policy goals. There are very obvious limits to what the free market is capable of producing. For instance, the market will NEVER lead to the provision of goods and services that are unprofitable. That’s why you can’t buy an Ipod for a dollar or be chauffeured across town in a limousine for 50 cents an hour. That’s why you can’t buy private flood insurance if you live in flood plain or buy auto insurance if you’re legally blind. The market won’t provide these goods and services to you because doing so makes no economic sense.

For some reason, though, conservatives and libertarians like to pretend that these basic rules don’t exist when it comes to health care, that if we just did away with Medicare, Medicaid, and various regulations, the market would somehow magically produce affordable medical care and health insurance for everyone, including the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. It is difficult to overstate how divorced from reality this fantasy is.

The free market had plenty of time to work its magic prior to the passage of Medicare, but for obvious reasons, it failed to provide the elderly with any affordable options. Because elderly people require much more in the way of medical services, on average, than younger people, it makes no economic sense to offer them health insurance, at least not at premium levels that most people can afford. The result was an epidemic of uninsured elderly Americans who were being bankrupted by medical bills. That’s why Medicare was necessary. It was a response to a massive market failure.

The words “Market Failure” really can’t be used enough in this context. In my experience, however, there’s something of a different dynamic at work between conservatives and libertarians here though. Conservatives sing hosanas to “free markets” the same way they do to “drill baby drill.” It’s a buzzword they don’t really understand, and little more. Libertarians, on the other hand, largely seem to deny that a market failure is possible, in part because, in my experience, they tend to have a self reinforcing notion of what is and is not government intervention into the market. I don’t know very many libertarians who are against government issued patents, for example, even though, at their base, they’re market distorting rights to a temporary monopoly. But without them technological advancement wouldn’t be profitable due to the free-rider issue, so the government distorts the market to make increasing knowledge capital profitable. The general response to these sorts of things has just been to deny that they represent government intervention into a market that wouldn’t otherwise function, and voila!, no market failure.

But in regards to healthcare, I think most people can see that there’s really just no way to sustain a working private insurance regime. There’s no money to be made, for example, by covering a pre-existing condition. Or covering a 53 year old man with a long family history of chronic heart disease. Or the elderly in general. And on a certain level, that’s ok. Really, there isn’t much other choice for a profit seeking company. But it does leave you with a bad macro outcome, because those people are still sick, or are still going to get sick, and they’re going to need healthcare, and that healthcare is going to have to be paid for. And the fact that they’re either not going to get care, or they’re going to get uncompensated care, creates other problems for the rest of the system as well, so there has to be some sort of net for them to fall into. This is why a public option makes sense, the same way Medicare made sense in 1965; you just can’t have this many people going without coverage, and there’s no way the private market is going to cover them efficiently. It’s the picture of a market failure.

“If There’s Hope, It Lies in the Polls”

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I wonder how many people will understand the political literary reference I made in the title of this post? More on that later, but what I am describing is the hope that is brightening the breasts of many of those poor defeated souls on the right who are now clinging to an arbitrary measurement devised by a pollster who has consistently had poll results that skew to the right as the “evidence” that the country is “moving to the right” and ostensibly away from President Obama and the Democrats.

Of course I’m talking about the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll and the bogus “Presidential Approval Index” that Rasmussen has devised that current shows the President at “Minus 8.”

Reading that figure would lead many to believe that 54% of the public disapproved of the job he is doing with only 46% in favor, right? Wrong, because, you see, what Rasmussen has done is to subtract those who “strongly disapprove” of the President’s job performance from those who “strongly approve.” This “index” does not consider those who either simply approve or disapprove.

First off, the subjective nature of the word “strongly” makes polling based upon this kind of judgment suspect in my mind.

Second, the fact is that even Rasmussen’s poll shows that a majority approve of the President’s job performance.

Third, as I have said before, Rasmussen’s poll numbers are way skewed to the right compared to other pollsters. The RCP average of polls has the President’s overall approval/disapproval rating at 56.3% – 38.5%.

Fourth, whereas approval ratings can be leading indicators as predictive agents for future elections, we are still almost 3 and a half years away from the next Presidential election, so these polls are mostly meaningless in terms of analyzing them to assess the President’s “vulnerability” next time out.

So we have a pollster who skews right making up an index that means nothing especially given the placement of his data alongside others, and we have a group of people on the right misinterpreting the significance of those same flawed numbers in an effort to “prove” to themselves that they were right all along and that the country was somehow “mislead” into voting for the President and are now “seeing the light,” right?

The good news is that most people, if asked to comment about this “significant drop in the President’s popularity” and being asked if they “regretted voting for the President (which is another way the right wingnuts like to cheer themselves up)” would likely respond to the person asking them this question by saying: “What the fuck are you talking about?”

So, take heart all you Fox News devotees. You have three and a half more years to cry yourselves to sleep at night with made up numbers.

Then you will probably have to come up with some new ones to hold you until 2016…

by Writeside

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Douthat Confirms He’s an Overachiever

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

When we one day look back at the death of The New York Times, I hope we can all agree that the decision to pay Ross Douthat for the priviledge of publishing his bullshit Very Serious Columns was a disastrous decision that, couple with the idea to precede him in that spot by Bill Kristol, absolutely destroyed the credibility of the entire enterprise. His column on Sarah Palin this week probably isn’t the worst column he’s written yet, and really, that’s probably the worst thing about it. There’s a lot of stupid to wade through here, but this is the part that stuck out to me, and a lot of other people:

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

As someone who doesn’t have an Ivy League degree, and probably isn’t going to have one, let me just say; this is complete bullshit. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t really plan to instill my kids with the belief that if they want to do something, they’re entitled to be a success at it despite how much ability or effort they may lack, and I never had anyone tell me that either. I had a lot of people tell me that if I worked really hard, I’d be able to achieve anything I wanted, but that’s a rather crucial difference, and Douthat’s exclusion of it rather changes the “ideal” he’s describing entirely. To say nothing of the absurdity of arguing that, on the basis of lacking a degree from an elite East Coast university, you’ve naturally achieved more, or overcome a more substantial hurdle, than Barack Obama. I’ll outsource this critique to Conor Friedersdorf:

It is true that she isn’t an elite in the sense that George W. Bush and John McCain were — they came from families with political connections — but it is hard to see how she embodies the up-by-the-bootstraps narrative more than Barack Obama (or Joe Biden, for that matter).

In Ross’s telling, what separates the meritocratic ideal from the democratic ideal is whether you can be a success story without having attended Columbia or Harvard. Okay. Well Joe Biden was born into a middle class family to a father who had a long spell of unemployment, and later found work as a used car salesman. He made a success of himself having graduated from the University of Delaware in Newark and the Syracuse University College of Law. Why isn’t he the embodiment of the democratic ideal?

But I actually don’t want to concede Ross’s premise. Given the history of race in America, the election of a mixed race black man to the presidency — Columbia and Harvard or not — ought to have as much a claim to fulfilling the democratic ideal as the nomination of a woman who didn’t attend an Ivy League college. We’ve had our Andrew Jacksons and our Jimmy Carters. Despite the frequency of Ivy League presidents, no one doubts that a candidate from a less elite educational pedigree can be elected. Which candidate caused more Americans to reconsider the kind of person who might be elected to the presidency, Barack Obama or Sarah Palin?

I’d add that it just seems strange to imagine this supposed split occuring between people with Ivy League degrees and people with degrees from non-Ivy League schools, especially considering that only about 1/3 of all Americans have a college degree at all. And while I can see Palin, as an individual, may seem like the great affront to meritocracy, being that she was totally ignorant of more or less everything and still got nominated by a major political party to be Vice-President of the United States of America and all, it would seem to me that the real enemies of some meritocratic ideal would be the George W. Bushes and John McCains of the world, who have each spent a lifetime trading on their fathers and grandfathers despite an obvious lack of any abilities on their own part, not Barack Obama, who elevated mhimself from a decidedly middle class upbringing to excel at elite universities and become President of the United States. I will, however, grant that Douthat’s perspective could be somewhat clouded, given that his profession is one of the few areas I can think of off the top of my head where the major cultural split really is between people with Ivy League degrees and everyone else, and that non-Ivy Leaguers do have a scandalously hard time getting ahead there. But that’s hardly an excuse for someone writing in a publication that fancies itself the gold-standard of journalism, particularly given the overall shoddiness of basically everything Douthat has written for the Times so far. Worse, this really isn’t anything new for Douthat, so the Times should have known in advance they were getting this kind of garbage. Then again, looking at the other people they’re paying for this stuff, you have to wonder if they even care.

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Iranian Clerics Defy Regime, Criticize Elections

Monday, July 6th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Just when it seemed the Iranian protests may be running out of steam, some of the most influential clerics in all of Shia Islam have voiced their disapproval of the regime, and criticized the recent elections:

An important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult.

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

There’s a lot of ways in which this is important to the situation. The most apparent is the timing; the government has just recently threatened anyone who continues to dispute the election, hoping to be much like a parent who just says “enough” to end some behavior they don’t like anymore. But even after that, this group of clerics have announced their opinion, more or less in open defiance of the regime. Secondly, there’s the problem this creates for whatever shred of legitimacy Khamieni hoped to maintain. Remember that the Supreme Leader is supposed to be the final arbitrer on matters of religion and state, and even if many of the Grand Ayatollahs don’t really believe in the system the Ayatollah Khomieni constructed, they’ve more or less abided by it since the revolution. That’s no longer the case here, and this pronouncement is a blow to the Khamienists, who had been using the specter of divine blessing to bolster the “official” results of the election.

On a more practical account, this creates some real tangiable problems for the regime. We’re not talking about your local priests or country preacher here, these are some of the most learned, most respected scholars in all of Shia Islam, a branch of faith that deeply venerates it’s Grand Ayatollahs. There’s really no good way for the regime to respond here. A self-styled theocracy can’t very well imprison, torture, execute, or even really sanction it’s highest ranking relgious leaders and scholars while still maintaining the facade of religious trappings, and this is a real problem for Khamieni, who must choose between leaving the clerics alone, likely to rouse more headaches for him, or cracking down on them, exposing to everyone that the religious nature of the regime constructed in the Revolution is long gone, and Khamieni is just a typical dictator. Ultimatlely, I think the regime only has those two choices; crack down on all of the dissenters, including the religious leaders, and rule the country as a police state (this assumes that the security services are comfortable adding well respected ayatollahs, or even grand ayatollahs, to their “enemies list,” which shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion), or tamp down their own response some, and just hope that the air leaves the protesters sometime soon. I have no idea what they’ll do, but either way, I suspect the regime’s days truly are numbered now. I just don’t see how you reset things now.

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David Broder is Not Smarter Than a 5th Grader

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

If I tried to write about every dumb thing David Broder said, I probably wouldn’t have time to write about anything else. Still, his effort today, another shocking paen to the unending virtue of “bipartisanship,” is particularly onerous, and deserves a few words. Yglesias, Booman, and Krugman have already done a good number on it, so read what them to gauge most of my feelings on this abject nonsense (I especially liked Yglesias’s notation that Broder really has no business being a political journalist in the first place).

I’ll just add that what really jumps out at you the longer Broder tries to keep this schtick going is how embarrassingly thin the premise is. I think it was Yglesias who, a while back, noted that the dynamics of an expanding caucus altered the dynamics of bi-partisanship (you’re getting more votes and the opposition is getting more ideologically extreme), but that this sort of arguing from Broder & Co. never seems to reflect that. You get the same nonsense whether there’s a 54 seat majority with half a dozen moderates in the minority or whether there’s 60 members in the majority and only two moderates in the minority, even though the reality is very, very different. It’s also odd just how little logic is involved in this excercise. Presumably, Broder is a fetishist for bipartisanship because he equates “bipartisan” with “consensus.” But, ultimately, an increasing majority caucus is in and of itself an example of some emerging consensus. After all, when you consider not just that there are 60 Democrats in Congress, but that they represent every region in the state, as well as the fact that the Democratic nominee for President just won 365 electoral votes, including Indiana and North Carolina, that seems like pretty conclusive evidence that there’s broad approval for the Democratic agenda, especially considering how poorly Republicans continue to poll. So there’s really no reason for anyone who’s paying attention to think that a bill garnering 56 Democratic votes and 4 Republican votes must necessarily be better than one getting 60 Democratic votes and nothing else.

But then, given Broder’s own statements, you have to wonder just how much attention he’s paying.

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Palin Resigns!

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to make sense of Sarah Palin’s announcement that she’s resigning the governorship of Alaska barely halfway into her first term. A lot of other people have tried parsing the text of the speech, which I’m not going to do, in part because it was totally incoherent, but also because the reason for the resignation probably won’t be found in the speech. But if you want to, well, I warned you:

Ouch.

Anyway, a couple of points. From a political standpoint, this is pretty much the end of Sarah Palin. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying too hard. Plenty of Governors have declined to run for re-election to seek another office (Charlie Crist is doing it now), but, so far as I know, none of them have actually resigned the office to do so, at least not successfully. Also, if this was the intention of the speech, I imagine Palin would have announced her candidacy. It’s too early for that, of course, but it’s also hard to get credit for something you’re not really doing. Palin’s political advisers might be amateurs, but I don’t think even they could make such a silly mistake.

With that in mind, the other thing I’ll note is that this was obviously not a well thought out, highly planned, decision. The speech was clearly not written by a professional, the delivery was rushed, hectic, and uncertain. If I had to guess, I’d venture that the decision to resign was made no sooner than 36 hours or so before the press conference. This raises the rather tantalizing question as to what exactly is going on, and perhaps we’ll never know that. There’s been speculation that another major scandal may be about to break, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If there’s an ethical, or even legal, problem coming down the pike, resigning the office won’t stop it from breaking, and being out of office puts you in a weaker position, politically, than being in office. Now it’s certainly possible that Palin and her team are just too dumb to realize that, but given that mch of Palin’s political persona revolves around “fighting enemies,” it just seems unlikely that such a potential issue would be met with resignation.

Doing a two dollar examination from afar, with the perspective of an ex-political operative, my best guess is that someone has dug up some embarrassing personal information about Palin and has used it to get her out of the way. What could do that? It’s hard to say. Something that would destroy her credibility with the Republican base would be especially damaging, because not only would it wreck her political ambitions, it would erode her ability to cash in on her political celebrity by depriving her of a fanbase. So that’s what I would bet on.

In any event, somewhere Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour are smiling.

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Harry Reid Says Something Smart

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

by Brien Jackson

In my last post a few days ago, I off-handedly remarked that gay rights seemed, to me, to be akin to a progressive version of the right’s critique of Obama’s handling of Iran; if only he would announce his support, everything would change. Nevermind the institutional limits or the lack of any ability to do anything particularly concrete. When I wrote that, however, I had completely forgotten about the persistent progressive criticism of Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, which seems like a much more useful comparison. And I suspect we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this sort of criticism after this:

Still, there’s little doubt that Reid will have his hands full just keeping his caucus in line — especially given its geographically and ideologically diverse makeup.

Reid says he expects the tactic of gentle persuasion to work best, given the size of his Senate Democratic flock and the political divergences within it. “I don’t dictate how people vote,” he said in an interview this month. “If it’s an important vote, I try to tell them how important it is to the Senate, the country, the president … But I’m not very good at twisting arms. I try to be more verbal and non-threatening. So there are going to be — I’m sure — a number of opportunities for people who have different opinions not to vote the way that I think they should. But that’s the way it is. I hold no grudges.”

I’ve only read a couple of posts on this so far, but generally speaking it seems that the criticism is that Harry Reid is weak. And it’s true that the quote does make him sound like something of a weakling, and it’s also true that Harry Reid as Majority Leader is pretty weak, but it also seems like pointing out that the reason a lot of this is so is that the Majority Leader position is just a fundamentally weak role. I’ve noted it many times, both here and elsewhere, but the problem most people make in judging Reid is to assume that the Senate Majority leader is analogous to the Speaker of the House. That just isn’t so. For a variety of reasons, the former doesn’t wield anywhere near the power the latter does. And that’s the way the Senate likes it. Power is concentrated with committee chairman and swing votes, not with leadership. And given the long duration of a Senate term, leadership really doesn’t even have uch of an ability to use the ballot box against marginal members. Mary Landrieu doesn’t have to run for re-election until 2014. How many votes is she going to cast today that are going to remain hot issues 6 years from now? And as Reid roughly found out when he tried to remove Lieberman from his seniority in the caucus, the Majority Leader does not get to dictate intra-caucus issues to nearly the degree the Speaker of the House does, mostly because the fact that his caucus is about 1/4 the size of the House caucus means each member has much more involvement in the question.

It also seems worth pointing out that Reid is right on the substance. It’s true that the Democratic caucus is 60 members strong, but it’s also accurate that this really isn’t an accuratte assessment of the number of votes they’re likely to have on any question. Putting aside whether or not the caucus can stay in line, two of those 60 members are Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy, who are going to miss most votes due to health reasons and effectively leave you with 58 members most of the time. With that in mind, I actually think Reid is doing a pretty good job of framing the problem, from a political standpoint. If he were out and about giving credence to the notion that Democrats can do whatever they want because they have 60 Senators, the default story for any failed cloture vote would be how Reid couldn’t keep the caucus in line. Aside fro being bad for Reid personally, that sort of primary narrative gives cover to the people who break ranks, by casting it as primarily Reid’s fault. The way Reid framed it, however, as the Senate, and the Democratic caucus in particular, being a much more individualistic chamber, and with members largely making up their own minds vote to vote, makes it much easier to construct a narrative blaming marginal Democrats by name for blocking votes, making it much riskier for them to do so. Do Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu want to wake up to see a headline reading “Sen. Nelson/Landrieu Kills Healthcare Reform?” I rather doubt it. And that sort of pressure makes it harder for them to break ranks in meaningful ways.

Harry Reid does and says a lot of stupid things, but this isn’t one of them.

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