What do the Beltway moderates actually want?

Centrist thinkers keep begging Barack Obama to pursue "bipartisan" goals he already supports

Topics: Politics, Republican Party, David Brooks, Lanny Davis, Michael Steele, Editor's Picks,

What do the Beltway moderates actually want? Michael Steele, Barack Obama, David Brooks (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/Carolyn Kaster/Nam Y. Huh)

As David Brooks taught us last week, Barack Obama’s cunning plan to sabotage and undermine the Republican Party is to repeatedly force them to act as extremist and irresponsible as possible by proposing popular and sensible things that they refuse to support. By advocating gun control and immigration reform, two things Obama supports because he and most liberals believe them to be morally and politically necessary, Obama is tricking Republicans into revealing that they are dysfunctional, leaderless, and increasingly divided into two camps: the all-out crazies and the merely corrupt. This saddens David Brooks, naturally, because most things seem to sadden David Brooks, America’s Foremost Humility Expert.

But as the president begins his second term, I thought it’d be useful to try to figure out what “moderate Republican” columnists and “pox on both houses” centrists actually want the president to be doing.

How would we go about identifying the sorts of policies that would qualify as bipartisan, uncontroversial and capable of uniting America around a common goal again? Well, there are Brooks’ suggestions, which are mostly things Barack Obama has already repeatedly announced his support for. As Jonathan Chait pointed out, these suggestions are either things that have already been done or things that Republicans would just not support if Obama proposed them again.

We could also look, for guidance, to longtime Washington insiders Lanny Davis and Michael Steele, who have been fulsomely praised by much of the Beltway press for putting aside their political differences and joining together to … make a lot of money as lobbyists. Their “strategic communications” firm. (“Strategic communications” is P.R.-speak for “doing P.R. for politicians, athletes, corporations, institutions or dictators that have recently been discovered to have done something unbelievably horrible.”)

Recently, Davis and Steele were interviewed — for the five-hundredth time, I believe — by Howard Kurtz, at a nuclear industry-sponsored “breakfast-cum-panel discussion titled ‘The Media and Beltway Gridlock.’” It took place, appropriately, on K Street, which is to lobbying what Fleet Street is to British newspapers. Usually in Washington the alternative to “gridlock” is “policy crafted according to the wishes of groups rich enough to hire people like Lanny Davis and Michael Steele.”

Davis contended media outlets aren’t doing enough to cover the areas on which Republicans and Democrats find common ground. He asked Kurtz whether he can get “column inches” for such stories, to which Kurtz replied that he can get column inches for any damn story he likes.

Yes, the media never covers the times when Democrats and Republicans all agree on stuff, and that is why no one knows we invaded Iraq. (Though, to be fair, no one — outside of the Internet — did really cover our most recent bipartisan success story, the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act.)

And what three policy areas did Lanny Davis identify as “common ground” between the parties? Immigration reform, gun control and global warming. Three issues, that is, that effectively define the wildly different domestic policy priorities of the current Democratic and Republican parties.

Rich, moderate Republicans support immigration reform. The party itself does not, as George W. Bush learned. Gun control is “bipartisan” in the sense that a large number of Democrats share the entire Republican Party’s fanatical opposition to it. Republicans do not believe global warming is real, and even if they did they would not support any measures to halt it. (Though Davis simply brought up global warming to pimp nuclear power — did I mention who sponsored this little breakfast panel?)

Of course, if the rich, moderate Republicans want to actually accomplish “bipartisan” problem-solving legislation, they are focusing all of their attention on the completely wrong person. The problem is that the Republicans in the House are effectively a leaderless band of radical malcontents with no clue how to effectively pursue their horrible goals. As Dan Drezner writes:

Like the revolutionaries in Stephen Walt’s Revolution and War, the current crop of GOP elites seem to believe that loud, repeated affirmations of their preferences will simply and eventually steamroll Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and the American people into acceptance of their policy platform. One would have thought that the aftermath of the 2011 debt ceiling fight, the 2012 election, the fiscal cliff negotiations, and the superstorm Sandy relief bill would have led to some earning. But it hasn’t. And that’s the scariest fact of all.

The one topic all good centrists and moderates agree on is deficit reduction. Specifically, it has to be deficit reduction accomplished by cutting Social Security and Medicare. And that would be accomplished in 10 minutes if the GOP hadn’t decided that it made more sense to wish very hard for severe social insurance cuts than to actually pass the less-severe ones the Democratic president effectively offered to give them.

In other words I guess I am pro-gridlock, if it means people like David Brooks, Lanny Davis and Michael Steele don’t get their way.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>