Monday, November 21, 2011

Caddell and Schoen crack me up

If you want to read some first-rate hackery, be sure to check out Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen's op/ed in today's Wall Street Journal. No, it shouldn't surprise anyone that these allegedly Democratic pollsters don't have Obama's best interests at heart, but beyond that, the op/ed reveals deep and profound misunderstandings about partisanship.

The basic premise of the piece is absurd: Obama is so unpopular that he can't win next year, and even if he somehow won, he'd have to run such a negative campaign to do so that he couldn't govern in a second term. Therefore, he should decline his party's nomination and let Hillary Clinton run in his place.

Okay, granted, Obama may need to run a very negative campaign, just as he did in 2008! And he still managed to govern because, you know, he had a Democratic Congress for his first two years in office. Caddell and Schoen are convinced that we've had gridlock recently, though, because of Obama's strident tone:
We warned that if President Obama continued down his overly partisan road, the nation would be "guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it." The result has been exactly as we predicted: stalemate in Washington, fights over the debt ceiling, an inability to tackle the debt and deficit, and paralysis exacerbating market turmoil and economic decline.
There are quite a few people who would disagree with the notion that Obama has been intransigent in his recent dealings with Republicans. (Remember the debt ceiling negotiations? Who was being intransigent then?) But beyond that, did it ever occur to Caddell and Schoen that this might have more to do with just the president's tone? That there might be sincere and enormous policy differences between the parties?

Wait, here's another good one:
If President Obama were to withdraw, he would put great pressure on the Republicans to come to the table and negotiate.
Yes, conceding defeat is a great way to extract concessions.

But the piece gets even better when they start talking up Hillary:
Not only is Mrs. Clinton better positioned to win in 2012 than Mr. Obama, but she is better positioned to govern if she does. Given her strong public support, she has the ability to step above partisan politics, reach out to Republicans, change the dialogue, and break the gridlock in Washington.
Ah, yes, nothing like Hillary Clinton to rise above partisan politics. I'm sure the Republicans wouldn't start opposing her vehemently once she were the nominee. It's not like her name was ever synonymous with every evil thing conservatives attribute to liberals.

I know it's been a few years, but do Caddell and Schoen remember that these were exactly the reasons many people supported Obama over Clinton in the primaries? He was supposed to be the one more likely to "step above partisan politics, reach out to Republicans, change the dialogue, and break the gridlock in Washington." How's that worked out so far? Oh, and remember when Bush ran as the uniter, not the divider? How'd that go?

Folks, it's not that these politicians are lying -- I'm sure they'd sincerely like to reach out to people across party lines. But partisanship is bigger that one politician, and it's certainly not a function of tone. There are massive, historic forces compelling the parties apart from each other. Hillary Clinton would be just as polarizing a president as Obama, if not more so.

Nonetheless, I'm sure her path to the White House next year would be an easy one after Obama's decision not to run. Just ask presidents Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey.

Update: More goodies from Matt Glassman. His conclusion:
I’ll just leave you with a funny thought an old college buddy emailed me, writing “the only upside to Gingrich winning the nomination and then taking on HRC for the presidency would be that Kurt Cobain would probably come out of hiding with like 5 full albums worth of great new material.” Amen to that.


Geoff G said...

Caddell and Schoen have my deepest respect. Setting out to write the stupidest op-ed on the WSJ editorial page takes gumption as big as churchbells, particularly if you're publishing on Monday and going for the stupidest of the week, as C&S obviously are.

Steve Greene said...

Dare I say that was breathtaking in its stupidity even for the WSJ Op-Ed page? Wow.

Personally, I predicted that if Obama hosted any state dinners, his approval would decline. Should've listened to me.