Good Policy Is Good Politics

Everyone likes Mark Blumenthal. Even me. But I take strong exception to his accepting Andrew Sullivan's false characterizations of the critiques from some of us of President Obama on the stimulus package. Blumenthal quotes Sully as follows:

As Andrew Sullivan summarizes this morning . . . Paul Krugman, who wants a partisan war on the GOP . . .

Sullivan has years of attacks on Krugman (all of them completely wrong) under his belt. He is not to be trusted when he discusses Krugman. Not surprisingly, he misstates Krugman's argument. Krugman is engaged in a policy debate on the stimulus package. Something Sullivan can not do, as a self proclaimed conservative Obama supporter. He has a problem now - he is a "conservative" but he really can not argue policy here as conservatism is a bankrupt ideology -especially in this moment. So he turns it into a discussion of "partisan war," in the finest traditions of David Broder. Unfortunately, Blumenthal gets taken in by this game. More . . .

Blumenthal, after reviewing polling numbers, writes:

[E]vidence of the limits of bipartisanship? Let's remember that Obama holds an overall approval rating that most polls now peg in the mid-sixty percent range, after winning with roughly 52.9% of the votes cast. Doesn't the aggregate approval rating, including approval from roughly a third of Republicans, say something about the benefits of the "bipartisan" messaging? . . . If there is a lesson in this particular decline in approval ratings, it has little to do with the stimulus plan. I'm not sure I see a lesson here, unless Obama can find a way to hold an inauguration every week.

This analysis entirely misses the point of the critiques. It is not about whether Obama's polling went up or down in the short term - it is about whether Obama's political tactics are achieving good policy. It is stunning that Blumenthal can not understand this basic point.

In the end there will be a "polling argument" in all this - but it will be as elections approach, when results are evaluated. Blumenthal and too many people like him can not see past the day to day gyrations of the polling trees and miss the policy (and eventually, political) forest.

Bad job Mark.

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    Thank you so much for taking on (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:15:07 AM EST
    and challenging the constant B.S.  Krugman at this point is only fighting to keep the heartbeat of this country going.  God save us from the do-gooders who don't understand that the body America is due for a total breakdown and faces a brush with death without immediate job creating stimulus.

    Full disclosure (5.00 / 5) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:16:22 AM EST
    I have years of attacks on Sully under my belt. But unlike Sully's attacks on Krugman, mine on Sully have been proven correct.

    How can you say those MEAN things. . . (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:22:58 AM EST
    about that brave and daring pilot?

    (Time for a new diminutive for Andy).


    Will the brave and daring (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:26:09 AM EST
    pilot run for national political office?

    I heard he's going to be nominated. . . (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:28:29 AM EST
    for HHS Secretary.

    Ha. Howard Dean will be pissed. (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:30:48 AM EST
    Too bad for Howard. (none / 0) (#12)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:33:23 AM EST
    The Obama camps seems to like him the same way BTD likes Bloomberg.

    Except BTD never used Bloomberg (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:36:32 AM EST
    did he?

    oh why not? (none / 0) (#58)
    by rghojai on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 01:01:42 AM EST
    maybe it's oooooooold, but the capt. sully cocktail: two shots of gray goose and a splash of water.

    Good point (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:36:11 AM EST
    BTW, you new Sully really rolled himself out well. And I say that in an uncynical way. Very impressive.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#15)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:39:31 AM EST
    You couldn't escape him on the local news, and I think he struck just the right note.

    A. Sully has a different nickname, but it's very uncivil.


    Can I say this? (none / 0) (#59)
    by ghost2 on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 01:11:10 AM EST
    I love this man, and his wonderful wife too.

    So much integrity, it is a rare thing to behold.  


    I do not trust nor like Sullivan. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by AX10 on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:00:04 PM EST
    He has always been a weasel.
    His sudden support of a Democrat is strange at best.
    Sully is still a conservative at heart.  He still blames the people for the mess we are in.  He does not blame the banks and politicians for this disaster, who deserve the blame for what has occured.

    Krugman is too (none / 0) (#57)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 10:43:35 PM EST
    smart for A Sullivan

    Good policy is certainly NOT. . . (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:10:51 PM EST
    always good politics.  I'm sure we can all think of plenty of policy issues that we'd like to see aggressively pursued that would have profound negative implications for any politician who pursued them.

    In the case of stimulus, policy that produces a clear improvement in the economic situation is probably good politics as well (although you still have to deal with the "What's the matter with Kansas" effect).

    But even when policy and politics run together, that doesn't mean that good politics is no longer good politics.  And maintaining the "bipartisan high ground" in the public debate remains good politics.

    In the case of the stimulus bill, Obama seems to have gotten more or less the bill he wanted (it's yet to be seen what the conference committee produces) while attracting the absolute minimum number of Republicans required.

    I give him reasonable political marks on this job.

    If more spending gets put back in (none / 0) (#21)
    by magster on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:17:20 PM EST
    and it still passes, then Obama should get a passing mark.  

    I don't know think Ben Nelson would have been any less damaging to the ultimate package had Obama started out more partisan.  Coupled with the fact that Republicans are being blamed for their stance on the stimulus and for not working with Obama, if Dems can get a better post-conference bill past the Senate, the final stimulus package is probably as good as it was ever going to get both policy wise and politically.


    The error was in asking for too little (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:21:13 PM EST
    in the first place, leaving no room to negotiate with a few Senate Republicans.

    Bingo!! (none / 0) (#55)
    by NYShooter on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 07:02:30 PM EST
    Ladies and Gentlemen, we have winner.

    Stand up and take a bow; yes you, in the third row.

    Here's your prize, a cute little kewpie doll, and a big round of T-L applause.

    And now, on a lighter note: The fact it was so obvious is why it probably wasn't tried in the first place.



    Ifs and hypotheticals (none / 0) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:20:11 PM EST
    I am surte you would object to anyone saying Hillary would have done it better and gotten more.

    I similarly object to your stating what you think "would have happened."

    Here is the real question, do you think it could have been any worse than this? Only if Obama out and out opposed a stimulus or embraced a GOP stimulus style package.

    this is actually about as BAD as it could be imo.


    A passing mark (none / 0) (#28)
    by magster on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:30:54 PM EST
    is a C.  It beats an F. If it passes without more spending added back in, it gets a D+, IMO.

    With that said, it's Ben Nelson and the so called "gang" of whatever number who early on saw undercutting Obama and the House Dems as a political opportunity.  I was very dissilusioned with the way the stimulus package started, but watching the Senate this last week and a half, a better initial stimulus package would not have gotten 60 votes, or if it had, it would have been stripped down to something along the lines of what we see today.

    I know it doesn't fit with your blaming first and foremost Obama's bipartisan la-la talk, but the # 1 problem is not Obama, it's the Blue Dogs.


    actually, yes, i truly believe she would have. (none / 0) (#43)
    by cpinva on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 02:00:20 PM EST
    I am surte you would object to anyone saying Hillary would have done it better and gotten more.

    for the very simple reason that she really stands for something, other than just wanting to get along with republicans. as we've clearly seen, such is not the case with pres. obama, as it wasn't with sen. or candidate obama.

    wait, i'm sorry, i take that back! pres. obama has stood for something: candidate obama.

    it is my fervent hope that pres. obama proves me dead wrong, and wrings the necessary concessions from the republicans, to keep the country from spiraling downward.

    when mr. sullivan shows up, with his nobel in economics, then perhaps i'll take something he has to say seriously. unti then...............


    It is all (none / 0) (#46)
    by JThomas on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 02:37:51 PM EST
    speculation but I very much doubt that more republicans would fall in line behind a President Clinton than for President Obama.

    It is that 60 vote dealy that is hurting it,not President Obama or a President Clintons unwillingness to go deep.


    Nonresponsive to my post (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:18:15 PM EST
    in that you do not address my critique of Blumenthal's analysis.

    If Blumenthal had written something along the lines you wrote in your comment, I would have disagreed with it, but acknowledged that you addressed aspects of the critique (really only addressed aspects of MY critique, Krugman did not deal with the political fallout issue).

    Blumenthal does not address it at all and assumes the critique as falsely stated by A Sullivan.



    Obama's stated goal was 80 Senators (none / 0) (#27)
    by pluege on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:24:01 PM EST
    He fell 25% short prior to conference, which only can jeopardize the minuscule conditional republican "support" he managed to get, not improve on it.

    70-80 (none / 0) (#39)
    by RussTC3 on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:33:27 PM EST
    I heard 70-80.  Not incredibly important, but still needs to be mentioned.

    When you cover ... (5.00 / 2) (#48)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 04:12:58 PM EST
    politics like a sport, you're going to be more attracted to polls than policy.

    Krugman is one of the few pundits who regularly discusses policy.  And does it in a clear and comprehensive way.

    So he will always create problems for other pundits.

    According to the Kossian O-Machine... (none / 0) (#3)
    by Salo on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:19:33 AM EST
    ...Krugman is a hack anyway. So he's just a bitter hater too according to Sullivan.

    These Ordinary non-ideological types like Brooks Sully and Ignatius simply co-opted the Democratic primary and gave us their favourite pick.

    This is ridiculus (none / 0) (#23)
    by pluege on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:19:07 PM EST
    Krugman wrote a book heralding the economic and social value of unions. (His book further railed against the racism republicans have used for decades to achieve and maintain power.)

    Krugman is a huge advocate of the New Deal economics. Without his gravitas, the republican/corporate media meme that the New Deal was a failure would be the new reality by now.

    Although Krugman does not often venture into environmentalism or civil liberties issues, his economic outlook is unarguably liberal.


    And I still don't understand (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:23:12 PM EST
    how free trade when it really is free trade weakens us and isn't a "liberal" stance.  

    Opposing free trade (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by Democratic Cat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:08:38 PM EST
    is not a "liberal" position. IMO it is an "excuse me while I place my head in the sand and try to deny reality" position.  Plenty of liberals, including most of the liberal economists that I know, are in favor of free trade.

    That (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by CST on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:40:12 PM EST
    head in sand description is the best one I've heard so far.

    Whether or not you "support" free trade, globalization is here and it's not going anywhere.

    Personally, I am pro-union, that doesn't mean I agree with them on every single issue.  I just believe they have the right to exist and workers should have the right to collectively bargain.

    I also think free trade requires regulation and oversight, to keep people from using tax havens abroad (which isn't "free trade" because trade implies a two-way agreement and we don't get anything in return).


    Spot on (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Democratic Cat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:50:33 PM EST
    I also am pro-union and believe strongly in the right to bargain collectively. The reason unions are against free trade is not that they are "liberal," whatever that means, but because they are protecting their own members' current jobs. There are consequences to that (e.g., goods may be more expensive than they otherwise would be, which hurts everyone) and putting a "liberal" label on it is misleading.

    People who are against free trade should ask themselves why we have free trade among the 50 US states, and what would happen to overall welfrare in the US if we didn't.


    One important difference (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Steve M on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 03:46:27 PM EST
    is that we have free movement of labor as well as capital among the 50 states.

    In addition, the 50 states all have adequate wage and safety standards, which can't be said for all of our trading partners.  Indeed, those standards are mandated by federal law, precluding any possibility of a race to the bottom.


    Maybe (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Democratic Cat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 04:31:10 PM EST
    There are certainly differences in minimum wages and in other regulations across states -- there is actually a patchwork of state and federal laws. So it comes down to what you mean by "adequate." In the international arena, who defines what is adequate? If Swedish environmental laws are tougher than ours, should the Swedes refuse to trade with the Americans? Or should they think that our standards are good enough, even if they are lower than theirs?

    I don't think that a country's trade policy should be used generally to try to harmonize standards across countries. The fact remains that the US would be poorer if it did not trade as freely as it does.

    This does not mean that I buy clothing made in Indonesian sweatshops. As a consumer, I have the right to make purchase decisions on whatever basis I want. Give me full disclosure about a product's origins and let me decide what to buy. That's a very different solution than barring goods at the border because someone in Washington has decided that wages are too low in Indonesia.


    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Steve M on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 06:37:01 PM EST
    You just completely fail at reading.

    Thank you for thinking that I am young (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by Democratic Cat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 05:56:57 PM EST
    I find it odd how often people try to dismiss and insult each other with the accusation that "you're young."  In my case, I wish that were true, but alas it is not.

    I have no idea whether you are young or not.  But you are certainly rude on an otherwise very civil blog. I will do you a favor and refrain from engaging you on any topic as you don't seem to want to have a civil and informed discussion.


    Yes (none / 0) (#6)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:26:17 AM EST
    Blumenthal is in horserace mode. Stunningly lame.

    It's policy, policy, policy and then policy.  

    Has Blumenthal caught Village fever?

    I dunno (none / 0) (#20)
    by Steve M on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:11:54 PM EST
    Should we really expect more than horserace analysis from the guy who blogs for pollster.com?

    You're (none / 0) (#35)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:21:13 PM EST
    probably right.

    By the way, do you remember paczki's? And are they just a Michigan thing or are they pre-lent elsewhere?


    I believe (none / 0) (#36)
    by Steve M on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:23:46 PM EST
    that they are found elsewhere because I remember reading that different places have like 10 different spellings for them.  But I'm not sure anyplace makes as big a deal out of them as Detroit does!

    Per Wiki (too much information): (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:58:07 PM EST
    Chicago celebrates both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population.

    Also in Milwaukee bakeries (none / 0) (#53)
    by Cream City on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 06:19:11 PM EST
    on the South Side, hugely Polish.  Also can find czarnina, duck blood's soup, etc.  

    So stick to horserace critiques (none / 0) (#44)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 02:12:18 PM EST
    and stop pretending the critiques of Obama on the stimulus are horserace critques.

    Krugman is wrong (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:29:04 AM EST
    on policy.  I could care less about his politics.

    I believe Peter Schiff is right and he blames both parties.

    We'll know in a couple years who is right.

    Is it always a dichotomous (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by hairspray on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:52:13 PM EST
    answer?  Maybe it should be who was more correct in important ways. Some people are correct in their positions but when they add them up they come to a false conclusion.  Take 'free trade.' Why is being for free trade a conservative and not liberal position?  

    Krugman is right to (none / 0) (#34)
    by Slado on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:18:48 PM EST
    support free trade.  If for no other reason then if we don't we will be left behind because everyone else has moved on.

    That however is not what the stimulus is about.  The Free Trade argument is a sideshow.  

    This debate is whetehr the federal government can somehow spend enough money to reverse the economic cycle we find ourselves in.

    Krugman and others think it can.  Schiff and others think it can't.   That's the debate.

    Schiff simply says deficit spending and our reliance on low interest rates to boost our economy got us in this mess and more borrowing and deficit spending will result in us making the problem worse and last longer.

    I agree.  Krugaman does not.

    We'll see who's right.


    you've got the debate wrong. (5.00 / 3) (#45)
    by cpinva on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 02:14:00 PM EST
    it's not simply a matter of defecit spending and low interest rates, it's what that deficit spending is used for.

    if used for wars (which produce nothing) and tax breaks for the wealthy (the bush way), then yes, it is a waste. that's not what krugman is advocating, and you either know it, or are intentionally ignoring it. that was his policy problem with the conservative bush administration.

    were that not the case, the allusions to FDR and the "New Deal" would make no sense at all. Krugman's stated main concern is that the stimulus package, in its present itteration, won't be sufficiently large to accomplish the stated goal.

    the bottom line: we are a demand economy, reliant on consumers to stimulate production. you get them to buy by having them employed.

    giving money to companies, to purchase new (and mostly unneeded) plant and eqpt. (investment tax credits), or to the wealthy, in the form of tax breaks they won't spend, won't accomplish the desired goal of increased employment.


    Blumenthal is not the only one (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:31:01 AM EST
    who completely misses the policy argument. It's endemic.

    Love It (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 11:32:05 AM EST
    Sully short circuiting, no qualitative change though, in what is coming out of his mouth.

    Please (none / 0) (#29)
    by SOS on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EST
    stop referring to Sullivan as Sully.

    Have some basic respect, humility, and decency.

    silly-sully, maybe? (none / 0) (#33)
    by sancho on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:16:57 PM EST
    "conservatism is a bankrupt ideology" (none / 0) (#38)
    by RussTC3 on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 01:32:33 PM EST
    Not true.

    Perhaps "Republican" conservatism is a bankrupt ideology, but I don't believe conservatism in general is.

    If you utterly reject Democracy ... (none / 0) (#56)
    by RonK Seattle on Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 08:41:35 PM EST
    ... then you can argue the primacy of policy.

    OTOH, if you heart Democracy even the least little bit, you must acknowledge that the perfection of  policy is routinely trumped by popular approvals ... even when approval is independent of - or opposed - to the best policy prescriptions.

    That one reason the winning majority faction is best advised to leave something on the table for minorities factions.