Quotes of the day

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wasted no time in attacking President Obama’s new gun control proposals.

“President Obama’s series of gun control measures amount to an executive power grab that may please his political base but will not solve the problems at hand. He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the 2nd Amendment and the legislative process,” Priebus said, attacking Obama for including executive orders as part of the response.


Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized — and fully prepared to lead a national movement to loosen the grip of resignation and cynicism in the face of brutality and carnage…

Most heartening of all was the tone the president took. He did not cast himself as an evenhanded umpire far above the fray, handing down ideas that all people of good will would inevitably accept. He acknowledged that the battle ahead would be difficult. He predicted he would have to fight the lie that his plan constituted “a tyrannical assault on liberty.” And he sought to mobilize a new effort to counteract the entrenched power of those who have dictated submissiveness in the face of bloodshed.

“Enough,” Obama declared, insisting that change would come only “if the American people demand it.”


It’s the second time in just the past 72 hours where Obama has chosen to ask for everything he wants and leave little (initial) room for compromise. The first time came Monday when the President sought to seize the rhetorical high ground from Republicans by casting the raising of the debt ceiling as something on which he refused to negotiate under any circumstances.

That approach is a marked change from Obama’s negotiating position in past legislative fights in which, Democrats often complained, he negotiated with himself — starting with an initial offer somewhere close to where he wanted to end up and then watched as Republicans pulled him further and further to the ideological right before the deal was done…

His base will love it. Republicans will hate it. The question now is whether it will work to get something done.


Rapidly accelerating a process that began during his campaign, Obama since November has confidently picked fights with Republicans—and challenged the most conservative members of his own party—on a broad range of foreign-policy and domestic social issues. Besides gun control these include immigration, the pace of withdrawal from Afghanistan and the nomination of Republican senator Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary, a red flag for the GOP’s neo-conservative wing.

Obama in effect is answering a question that liberal political thinkers have asked since the 1970s: how would the Democratic Party behave if it could diminish its dependence on conservative white voters? His forceful moves on all these controversial fronts represent a calculated gamble that the evolution of the US electorate has reached a critical tipping point…

On all of these issues, the president is simply “following his coalition,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, now perhaps the leading liberal group in Washington. “The point I make, in my role [of talking to] the whole coalition, is there’s the possibility of a progressive [electoral] majority that sustains a lot of good things for everybody in it, but we have to deliver [for our voters].”


“The NRA is continually trumpeting [that] they increased their membership by ‘x’ amount in this month,” Gibbs said on Morning Joe today. “The president has the most exciting campaign apparatus ever built. It’s time to turn that loose. It’s time to turn that loose for something more than just an election. If the NRA’s got a list, then Obama for America has a bigger list and it is time to get activated again.”…

Gibbs thinks the Obama campaign can bury the NRA. “This list will get active and it will do things if the person in charge of this list asks them to do so,” he said, suggesting that Obama campaign volunteers should “get on that old pair of shoes that they knocked on doors with and get out there and do something.”


You may agree 100 percent with the president’s position on gun control, but his stagey histrionics, his endless reliance upon human props, his cheap sloganeering, his emotionally driven hectoring: all of that bespeaks a very deep contempt for his audience, which is the American people. If he really believes that surrounding himself with adorable little tots is a substitute for substantive arguments for well-thought-out policy proposals, he thinks that the people — you people — are a bunch of rubes. Unhappily, 51 percent of the American people are happy to endorse his low view of them. There is something peculiar to political enthusiasts, a phenomenon I observed at both conventions this year: People in political audiences know that they are being manipulated, cynically and professionally — and they enjoy it. Obama’s admirers look up to him because he looks down on them, not in spite of the fact. There is something more at play than the mere admiration of stagecraft…

The magic of theater is that is has the power to overwhelm thought: For a moment, you forget that you are watching actors reciting lines that they have memorized and making scripted movements, and you are taken into the world of the play. Obama’s politics of histrionics — the little children, the Sandra Flukes, the imperial stage dressing — also is conceived with the goal of overwhelming thought. That tells you something about the president and what he stands for. The continued success of this traveling medicine show of a presidency tells you something about the American people.


House Republicans have backed themselves into an awkward place on the debt ceiling: unwilling to vote to lift it, but equally unwilling to take the blame for not lifting it. They’ve been looking for an escape from the dilemma. In 2011 Obama cut them a face-saving deal. This time, he’s insisted, no deal. His White House has rejected every brain wave that might de-escalate the confrontation, including the notorious “trillion-dollar coin” concept. His strategy—as he said at his Jan. 14 press conference—has been to reduce the Republicans’ options to a stark binary pair: “They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.” Or, in other words: They can blow up the credit of the United States—or they can yield. That’s the choice, there’s nothing else on the menu.

Facing that stark choice, Republicans in Congress and the country have indicated to the party base that they will probably have to yield. The president has insisted, however, that Republicans will receive nothing in return for yielding…

A government shutdown would end disastrously for the congressional GOP. Which is precisely why Obama is goading the Republicans to do it. In the words of Club for Growth president Chris Chocola: “They [Republican House members] think this is the only way to get Obama’s attention.” That, of course, is just what President Obama wants them to think—so they’ll do just what President Obama wants them to do. What he wants is not a deal—not anymore, or anyway, not now. What he wants is a reckless Republican overreach, leading to public outrage, leading to a Republican rout. The president has been often quoted as saying he wants to “break the fever.” Translated into plainer English: he wants to break his opponents.