First there was Thursday’s Politico hit piece. Yesterday, we had Milbank’s Without Pelosi, Obama is adrift hit piece (front page link title is “Pelosi’s Faded Relevance”), while McClatchy had a piece titled Pelosi’s influence fades in House and her party.
The fact is that Pelosi is still very influential — as seen here, here, here and here. So why the sudden effort, in the midst of a long and intense budget fight, to poor-mouth her? And who’s behind it?
My guess is that this may well be coming from the Obama White House. Why? Because she’s one of the few things that’s standing between him and his total destruction of any reason to vote Democratic over Republican. She has to be neutralized so he can successfully embed his plan to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as a Democratic Party platform plank. He’s already pushing a Republican budget plan as the furthestmost “left” of all possible plans (and there’s already a plan endorsed by Conservadem Claire McCaskill and her Republican buddy Bob Corker that’s even worse) — what happens should Pelosi work to stop it in its tracks and replace it with a much better plan, as she tried to do with the Ryan plan two weeks ago?
Pelosi has a bit of leverage to shove the terms of discussion back away from the far right, as there’s now dissension in the GOP ranks as to whether they should back away from a no-increase-in-tax-revenue pledge, as well as growing rumbling from the Wall Street titans who would be first and hardest hit by a failure to raise the debt limit. Yet Obama is busily undercutting any stand-fast messaging Pelosi and other real Democrats might attempt:
… On the one hand, Obama says that a failure to increase the debt limit would plunge the country into chaos. This comes as even GOP hopefuls like Haley Barbour are telling their fellow Congressmen that they shouldn’t take a clean vote off the table. But in the next breath, Obama says that some spending cuts would have to be carried along with the vote.
Obama could pretty simply offer nothing and allow Wall Street to force Boehner into submission. This would be a successful strategy, as evidenced by the fact that Boehner, Eric Cantor, and everyone in the GOP insists that the debt limit will be raised. So you can only conclude that spending cuts or structural reforms will be attached to the vote because that’s what the President wants.
Speaking of planks: At some point, the Democrats in the House are going to look at the coming election and decide whether to follow Obama off the plank or stand up to him. Obama may be able to beat whatever insanely amoral candidate the GOP sends out against him, but the Obama record will be hard for a lot of House Dems to live with.
They know that in addition to defending their own record, they’re going to have to defend his. That is, unless they stand up against it. Obama looks to be depressing the base — he’s down to only 77% approval among Democrats right now, which is why the once-formidable OFA organization is a pathetic anti-progressive shell of its former self — and many of the House folks know that they are going to need the base if they want to win. (Ironically, the one time OFA was on the verge of actually intervening effectively and progressively in a recent political issue, the ongoing fight against Scott Walker and Company in Wisconsin, Obama’s people angrily reined it in. But I digress.) At the same time, the Republican field is set to be so rabidly unelectable (the GOP’s kingmaker in Iowa is going to ensure that no one can win the Iowa GOP caucus this coming winter without being insanely bigoted or willing to fake it fluently, an act that will doom the winner in the general should he or she get the nomination) that Obama has no excuse not to run as an actual Democrat instead of taking former Clinton strategist Mark Penn’s advice and being even more of a corporate sellout.
Pelosi probably knows all of this already and she’s not going to be fooled or awed by a big White House PR blitz, which is why Obama seems to fear her so intensely.
There are already hints that Pelosi is itching to break with Obama over his politics and policies. When she spoke at the National Conference for Media Reform a little over a week ago, a “stop the wars” chant erupted when she was about to leave the podium — and she was heard to join in. The open sparring with the Obama White House’s Gene Sperling over Obama’s unhelpful and Republican-favoring meme reinforcement, as well as his ignoring the Democratic side of the aisle, was spun by the anti-Pelosi Politico crowd as resulting from “the frustrations of three-plus months in the minority”, but it sounds more like the frustrations of dealing with an administration that seems bound and determined to jettison every last part of the Democratic platform having the least little bit of the New Deal still attached to it — and as a result is much more comfortable talking the language of billionaire tax-haters and Grandma-haters like Pete Peterson the deficit peacock than when discussing things like the common good and government’s role in preserving it.
The next few weeks will be very interesting.