Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why does Pelosi support Obama?

No, I don't know Pelosi and I've never heard her directly endorse Obama, but anybody who has been following this campaign understands what she means when she makes a comment about the primaries.

I have been trying to understand Obama's enduring appeal. I can see being infatuated with him: the rhetorical skill, those high-flown sentiments. But the more one looks into his past, the less one finds. This is a man who got his legislative seat by using rules, yes "rules", to disqualify his opponents. The bills he passed in his last year in the Illinois legislature? Handed to him on a silver platter by Emil Jones. His election to the U.S. Senate? The Republican opponent had to bow out due to a sex scandal & was replaced by an out-of-stater. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats could have run and won with anybody who was breathing.

He does not appear to have any deep-seated convictions. A review of his career in the Illinois legislature & the U.S. Senate suggests a man who doesn't want to make anybody angry or require him to defend himself. Remember, many of those "present" votes were not orchestrated by Democrats. They were his choice. And he seems to have ducked votes in the Senate that might negatively impact his run for President.

As far as I can tell, he fulfills an unknown (to me) need on the part of Democrats for their own Ronald Reagan: you know, a guy who holds a few global principles, can deliver a good speech, but doesn't want to be bothered by the details.

How does this explain Pelosi's support and, I suspect, Harry Reid's as well? Simple. As a Bay Area resident, I hate to say this but Pelosi has proven herself to be a singularly ineffective Speaker. And Reid might as well be Minority Leader for all that he has accomplished, although he, at least, has the excuse of a 1-vote majority (Lieberman- who no doubt uses his position as an Independent to exert pressure).

The guiding principles of Pelosi and Reid seem to be:
1. Don't make waves.
2. Don't embarrass anybody, Republican or Democrat or the President, by making them go on the record by voting "no" or issuing a veto. Reid counts noses and if he can't get 60 votes (to avoid a fillibuster) or 2/3 to override a veto, he doesn't even bother to put legislation to a vote. After all, why make Republicans angry by actually forcing them to go through the discomfort of a fillibuster? Pelosi seems to rely on a similar strategy.

Their governing philosophy has much in common with Obama's "unity" trope - and his "present" votes. "Let's just all get along." I think Pelosi and Reid see in Obama a President who won't get in their way, a President who will set forth some Reagan-like exhortations and let them go about their business.

But they know that a President Hillary will demand results. She cares about the big picture, but she knows the details matter. She will make demands upon Pelosi and Reid; she will expect them to do everything possible to pass her agenda.

I rather suspect, therefore, that Pelosi and Reid don't really care whether or not Obama becomes President as long as Democrats retain control of the Congress. After all, with McCain in the White House, they can continue to blame their incompetence on a Republican President.

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