Fresh off his weeks-long stint flacking for Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, Vox publisher and All In fill-in host Ezra Klein further dabbled in Beltway view-from-nowhere dumbshittery Wednesday night when he declared, to MSNBC viewers, that President Obama broke politics. He promised to change politics, but instead, he broke them worse than they already were broken. Just listen:
“The president didn’t do all of this by fixing American politics. He did this by breaking American politics even further.”
It goes on like that, and if you can stand it, check out the whole thing, but everything you need to know about Klein’s flawed, credibility-seeking logic is right there. As you can see, he goes on to say tat it’s not President Obama’s fault, but to be clear, he’s not saying Obama didn’t break politics, he’s saying Obama was forced to break politics. The theory is that despite all of his promises, Republicans were such pricks that Obama had no choice but to become a partisan ramrod, further dividing our country.
Now, even if you accept that narrative, saying Obama broke politics is like saying Jesus sure stained the shit out of that cross. Klein pegs unyielding Republican resistance to the President to 2010, arguably after Obama had done some stuff to piss Republicans off. The truth is, it started within hours of President Obama’s inauguration. President Obama didn’t break politics, politics set out to break him, from Jump Street.
But even if you accept that President Obama should take the blame for Republican dickishness, because he should have just kept reaching out, and kept trying, and compromised with them, well, that’s what he did. There’s this legend around DC that the President had this huge Democratic majority for two years, and got to ramrod his every whim through Congress, but in reality, his obstruction-proof majority lasted about 14 weeks, in all.
Even when he had that majority, though, the President still let Republicans stick all kinds of crap in the Affordable Care Act (which was, itself, a Republican idea), and loaded up 40% of the stimulus with tax cuts. Against all good sense and reason, he negotiated with the Republicans on the debt ceiling in 2011, which led to the disastrous sequester. He left a good chunk of the Bush tax cuts in place in the fiscal cliff deal when he didn’t have to, and gave up the payroll tax holiday. He and the Democrats offered up a background check bill that was so watered down, dolphins were mating in it, and the Republicans still shot it down. He’s put more troops on our border than Bush put in Afghanistan, and they threaten to impeach him over immigration. If anything, President Obama has been entirely too committed to smashing his head against the brick wall of futile bipartisanship.
The shame of it is that Klein pegged his premise to a Rolling Stone article by Reid Cherlin, a former Obama press aide who is also an excellent, keenly insightful writer who did not say that Obama broke politics. Thankfully, an awesome technical difficulty finally made it stop, at least for a minute:
What’s weird is that Klein used an almost identical photo of Obama to illustrate his point as I used earlier today to illustrate the opposite point. That’s the insidious thing about the Beltway mentality: if you stare long enough, what you’re looking at doesn’t change, but what you see does.
Ezra Klein is a hell of a smart guy, but this recent instinct of his, whether it’s a credibility-seeking move or a too-vigorous resistance to confirmation bias, is not serving him well, and it’s serving MSNBC viewers even more poorly.