Friday, February 12, 2010

Wimp in the White House? (Jonathan Zasloff thinks so)

I wouldn't quite go so far as Jonathan Zasloff does (see below) ... but I sympathize with his frustration.

One could read the situation differently. The glass-half-full perspective would emphasize that Obama's mere threat to call the Republicans' bluff shook loose almost half the nominations they have been blocking, as reported here:
The Senate confirmed 27 executive branch nominees Thursday after President Obama threatened earlier in the week to use recess appointments for some of the long-stalled picks.

"At the beginning of the week, a staggering 63 nominees had been stalled in the Senate because one or more senators placed a hold on their nomination," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House Thursday evening. "In most cases, these holds have had nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications or even political views, and these nominees have already received broad, bipartisan support in the committee process."

Obama said he told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday that he would make recess appointments if Republican senators did not lift holds.

"Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing 29 nominees to receive a vote in the Senate," Obama said.

Senators confirmed three deputies for Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner: Marisa Lago and Mary John Miller to serve as assistant secretaries and Charles Collyns to serve as a deputy undersecretary.

Caryn A. Wagner also won confirmation to serve as Homeland Security undersecretary for intelligence and analysis -- after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) lifted a hold on her from earlier this week. Patrick A. Corvington was cleared to serve as head of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an agency of special concern to President and Mrs. Obama and their focus on volunteerism.

Senators also confirmed several assistant, deputy and undersecretaries at the departments of Defense, Justice, Labor and Veterans Affairs and Ronald C. Machen, Jr. to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. [....]
On the other hand, there is also something to be said for Zasloff's glass-half-empty reading of the situation (below). What took him so long? And what about the other positions still left unfilled?

On the face of things, it seems hard to quarrel with the proposition that if one side is going to play hardball, it's a little self-defeating for the other side to pretend the game is still softball. And I continue to feel perplexed about the curious timidity of both the Congressional Democrats and the White House in confronting the Republicans' strategy of unprecedentedly monolithic all-out obstructionism. If they're going to score tactical successes with this strategy, which they definitely have, at least they should have to pay a political and public-relations cost for it. Then again, what do I know? Maybe the people in the Obama White House really do know what they're doing. Stay tuned ...

--Jeff Weintraub
The Reality-Based Community
February 11, 2010
Wimp in the White House
By Jonathan Zasloff

Now that the Senate has graciously decided to approve less than half of the nominees that it had held up, President Obama has announced that he will make no recess appointments in the Senate’s upcoming recess.

The NLRB still has no quorum. There are still several judges held up. The Senate did not even move on 3 key Defense Department appointments blocked by Richard Shelby (R-Romper Room).

At the same time in his administration, George W. Bush made several recess appointments, while constantly attacking pliant Senate Democrats for obstructionism and riling up the GOP base: he particularly relished appointing management lawyers to the NLRB. Obama seems to relish telling his most devoted supporters to STFU.

Rahm Emanuel cut his teeth working for Bill Clinton when he faced a Republican Congress. Obviously, Rahm seems to like it that way. But the fish rots from the head.