This bizarre Maureen Dowd column makes me wonder if someone's been marathoning The West Wing (not a bad thing!):
How is it that the president won the argument on gun safety with the public and lost the vote in the Senate? It’s because he doesn’t know how to work the system. And it’s clear now that he doesn’t want to learn, or to even hire some clever people who can tell him how to do it or do it for him.
It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him.
Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.
Walter Russell Mead beautifully explains the problems with Dowd's column:
Maureen Dowd will clearly not be in much demand as a political strategist after this column, but the President needs to pay it some attention. Many liberals like Ms. Dowd have extremely unrealistic ideas about where the country stands and how politics work. They genuinely believe that a huge majority (90 percent!) is slavering at the bit to get more liberal legislation passed. They genuinely believe that the presidency is invested with awesome and numinous powers that can translate the will of the 90 percent into sagacious liberal laws without doing anything dirty or distressing.
When, inevitably, reality falls short of their hopes, they don’t re-examine their ideas about how politics work or where the country stands. Instead they blame the President for failing to deliver what he clearly could if only he were willing to try.
And I personally wonder if Dowd missed an article in her own New York Times. In it, Jeremy Peters detailed Sen. Dianne Feinstein's pained efforts to convince Senators to vote for background checks. She failed, and it was never going to happen:
When Senator Dianne Feinstein led the successful push for a federal assault weapons ban in 1994, she had a simple pitch to skeptical colleagues: What would you need to support this bill?
But when she started asking that question this year as she pushed for a renewal of the ban, the answer was almost always a resolute “Nothing.”
“It was just, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t,’ ” Ms. Feinstein, Democrat of California, recalled of the refusals that kept coming. “They didn’t give me a long litany of reasons.”
To put it another way, when Dowd's column was making the rounds on social media yesterday, the Beltway crowd was loving it.
But people who actually study politics on a serious level weren't. If you study contemporary American politics, the "bully pulpit" is no longer a serious thing. Without the power to promise contracts, jobs, and other less than above-board transactions, the President is far less powerful than you'd think.
And if you think Barack Obama could have moved Heidi Heitkamp's vote with a stirring one-on-one plea followed by the promise of more roads money for North Dakota, you probably shouldn't be writing columns on the subject.