Swing State Pres

Friday, May 3, 2013

April Month In Review: A Startling Reminder of the World We Live In (May 3, 2013)

April was a startling month, a microcosm of the 21st century to date.  These are our times: 

·         Madmen control inhumane weapons that are used, or threatened for use, on our homeland and abroad.

·         We “respond” spectacularly in many ways: heroic first responders who instinctively treat the wounded; relentless investigators who quickly close in on the perpetrators; and, in the Obama Administration, nimble diplomats who work hard to defuse the most titanic of threats.

·         And yet, when it comes to “prevention,” specifically preventive legislation, our elected officials, our Congress in particular, fail us with numbing regularity.

It was all on display in April, which started with Kim Jung-Un of North Korea, the 28-year old dictator, threatening the use of nuclear weapons against, among others, South Koreans and, for some odd reason, Texans.  It ended with clear evidence of the use of chemical weapons on the part of the hideous Syrian government.  Both events were sobering to say the least, each testing our ability to demonstrate strength, respond effectively, and yet avoid knee-jerk military responses.  The Obama Administration has worked hard to avoid overreacting, earning plaudits across the board.  John Kerry’s round-the-globe dash appears to have resulted in a North Korean back down, and Obama’s “go slow” approach to the Syrian threat also ensures that every avenue will be exhausted before American troops are deployed.

In Boston, we were again confronted with terror on our homeland, and the images of bloody victims, heroic “first responders” and breathtaking investigative work to catch the perpetrators will be enduring images.  President Obama once again shined in his role as First Healer, with a speech that even Mitt Romney declared was “superb.”

But politically, the month was defined by the demise of the gun control bill in the Senate.  The provision seen as most effective by Americans in actually preventing future Newtown-esque nightmares was the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to expand background checks to gun show and Internet sales.  This proposal has the support of roughly 90% of Americans, according to numerous polls.  And yet even this provision failed, securing only 54 votes, 6 short of the required 60, including “nay” votes from four Democrats in gun-friendly states.  Other gun control measures fared even worse.

The aftermath of this failure has been fascinating.  President Obama came under attack, with some of the pundits (including Maureen Dowd) voicing the view that it must be Obama’s fault if he cannot translate 90% public approval into 60 votes.  This is a flawed read to my mind, an utter denial of the obvious truth that Washington has changed, as backroom deals continue to recede in the face of near-total polarization of our political environment.  Does anyone really think that world-class schmoozer Bill Clinton could have pulled out six more votes?  Get real.

More interesting, to me, was the negative polling aftermath for a number of Senators who opposed the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.  Public Policy Polling (PPP) has been running a number of polls on various Senators approval ratings, pre-vote versus post-vote.  The pattern is that approval ratings seem to be falling among those who voted against the gun control measures (and vice versa).  This might mean these some senators misread their constituents in opposing the measures, since the data shows overwhelming support.  Democrats are already working to see how a revised bill might be crafted to win the requisite six additional votes, working on those who appear to be feeling the backlash.



% Favoring
Vote On





Expanded
Expanded
                Approval Rating
Change

State -
Background
Background
Before Vote
After Vote
Net
Senator
Party
Checks
Checks
Pos/Neg (Net)
Pos/Neg (Net)
Approval
Flake
Ariz - R
70%
No
n/a
32/51 (-19)
n/a
Murkowsky
Alaska - R
60%
No
54/33 (+21)
46/41 (+5)
-16
Begisch
Alaska - R
60%
No
49/39 (+10)
41/37 (+4)
-6
Ayotte
NH - R
70%
No
49/35 (+14)
44/46 (-2)
-16
Portman
Ohio - R
72%
No
35/25 (+10)
26/34 (-8)
-18
Heller
Nev. - R
70%
No
47/42 (+5)
44/41 (+3)
-2
Landrieu
Loius. - D
72%
Yes
47/45 (+2)
49/41 (+8)
+6

Finally, President Obama submitted his budget, leaving us with three different budgets (Senate, House, White House) that have no chance of reconciliation, thereby inhibiting our economic prospects and allowing the insidious sequester to continue.  That is, unless you are an air traveler, the Republicans swiftly led the process by which funds were restored to rehire furloughed air traffic controllers.  If you are at lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy than “delayed flights” and are merely, say, hungry as a result of the sequester, you remain so.

It should be pointed out that the Obama Administration caved on the air traffic controllers too, after initially staking out a position that there should be no changes short of an overhaul, proving once again that courage is sometimes lacking from all sides.

The political news from the Obama Budget was his willingness to put forward entitlement cuts.  Any responsible plan to reduce our annual deficit must include entitlement reform of some magnitude, so bravo.  But this will be an election issue in 2014.  Incredibly, Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon), the chair of the House Republican’s re-election committee, called the Budget a “shocking attack on seniors,” which is a text-book definition of “cynicism” since of course Republicans would go much further than Obama’s proposed cuts.








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