Governing

Clinton the Pragmatist

Ezra Klein: “What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her ‘thrill’ over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular.”

“This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them.”

Hurricane Cleanup Poses Governing Test for Republicans

“The catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey to southeastern Texas will pose an immediate test for the White House and Congress, pressing policymakers to approve billions of dollars in recovery funds even though they haven’t agreed on much else this year,” the Washington Post reports.

“White House officials and GOP leaders were already taking stock of the challenge on Sunday, even as the floodwaters in Texas — and the eventual cost of recovery — were still rising. One senior White House official and GOP aides on Capitol Hill said late Sunday they expected to begin discussing an ’emergency’ package of funding soon to help with relief and rebuilding efforts, even if agreement as to the size of such a package remained premature.”

Kushner Will Lead SWAT Team to Fix Government

Washington Post: “The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.”

What Kushner needs to read: Chapter 4 of You Won, Now What? titled “It’s Not a Business.”

Nobody Knew Governing Could Be So Complicated

McKay Coppins: “The GOP’s inability to maneuver a health-care bill through the House this week—after seven years of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare—is, indeed, emblematic of a deeper dysfunction that grips his party. But that dysfunction may not be as easy to cure as Ryan and other GOP leaders believe.”

“That’s because it has been nearly a decade since Washington Republicans were in the business of actual governance. Whether you view their actions as a dystopian descent into cynical obstructionism or a heroic crusade against a left-wing menace, the GOP spent the Obama years defining itself—deliberately, and thoroughly—in opposition to the last president. Rather than engage the Obama White House in a more traditional legislative process—trading favors, making deals, seeking out areas where their interests align—conservatives in Congress opted to boycott the bargaining table altogether. Meanwhile, they busied themselves with a high-minded (and largely theoretical) intra-party debate about what 21st-century conservatism should stand for. They spent their time dealing in abstract ideas, articulating lofty principles, reciting memorized quotes from the Founding Fathers.”

“In many ways, the strategy paid off: Republicans took back Congress, slowed the progress of an agenda they genuinely opposed, and ultimately seized control of the White House. But it also came at a cost for the GOP—their lawmakers forgot how to make laws. Indeed, without any real expectation of their bills actually being enacted, the legislative process mutated into a platform for point-scoring, attention-getting, and brand-building.”

Quote of the Day

“Welcome to the real world of responsibility. The fact is that, right now, the heat is on the Republicans. It’s on us… We now have two-thirds of the statehouses in America. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the White House. It’s now on us to produce results.”

— Gov. Chris Christie (R), quoted by the Washington Post.

Quote of the Day

“They had their shot in the election… But in this country when you win the election you get to make policy. I always remind people, winners make policy and losers go home.”

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), quoted by The Hill, in response to nearly 1,000 protesters who showed up for his speech.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“In campaign world, rapid response is vital. In governance, it can be lethal if it’s in reaction to things small and unimportant. It just strikes me as crazy that the soon-to-be leader of the free world would be waking up each morning this weekend and tweeting comments about what someone said at a play in New York.”

— Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), on Facebook.

Trump Will Soon Learn That Governing Is Different

Playbook: “Trump has spent the last year controlling the narrative. He’s lost it. Oh, and by the way, Trump is about to face a new normal. He spent the year worrying about crowd sizes and rallies. That delivered him the presidency. But now a single senator could stymie his plans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said yesterday that he would do anything in his power to stop John Bolton from being secretary of state. All he has to do is place a hold on his nomination, and Trump has to grovel to his former rival. And this isn’t even coming from Democrats yet!”

No More Gridlock

Rick Hasen: “If, as it appears likely, we have a Republican President, Senate, House and Supreme Court, policy and law will shift sharply to the right.  Putting aside what that would look like on the merits, it does give us something we have not had in our system of divided government: a chance for a single party to govern and be held responsible and accountable by the voters. Gone would be arguments about the other party obstructing.”

“It is a very different world than the gridlock we have seen.”

More from Hasen: Trump would get 2-4 appointments to the Supreme Court.

Clinton Transition Team Steps Up Work

“The secretive team tasked with preparing for a possible Hillary Clinton presidency is ramping up big time,” Politico reports.

“With polls pointing to the likelihood of a Clinton win, her transition team is hiring staff, culling through the resumés of possible Cabinet nominees and reaching out to key Democrats for input, according to people familiar with the process.”

Jockeying for Administration Positions Already Begins

“Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have yet to face off in their first debate, but both candidates have already moved teams into a plush marble-and-glass office building a block from the White House, where they are vetting résumés, sketching out organizational charts and otherwise planning the transition to a Trump or Clinton administration,” the New York Times reports.

“The jockeying for jobs that usually consumes the two and a half months between Election Day and Inauguration Day is well underway in Washington, with people swapping their notional lists of cabinet officers and speculating about who might get the plum deputy posts just under them.”

Reuters: White House discusses transition with Clinton and Trump teams.

Gates Says Obama Has Too Many ‘Yes Men’

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested on MSNBC that President Obama has “centralized power and operational activities of the government in the White House to a degree that I think is unparalleled.”

He added: “I don’t see the kind of strong people around the President who will push back on him. I will give him credit. I pushed back on him a lot and he never shut me down. He never told me to be quiet or refused to see me or anything like that. But I don’t see people around him like that now. “

You Think Running for President Is Hard?

First Read: “Finally, when it comes to Bush and Rubio, both men have been voicing their frustrations — the Washington Post reported on Rubio’s dissatisfaction with the Senate, while Bush complained about the state of the GOP race (‘If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it’). But here is a reality check for both Rubio and Bush: If you think working in the Senate or campaigning for president is frustrating, just wait until you’re president. This is as easy as it gets.”

Mike Allen: “Very few soundbites live past a news cycle, but top Republicans were still buzzing last night about comments Jeb Bush made Saturday in South Carolina that were taken as churlish, even defeatist.”

Byron York: “It’s probably an understatement to say voters don’t like such talk.”

Is Today’s Politics Incompatible with Governing?

First Read: “In today’s highly polarized political world, this is how you win elections — by motivating your base and by recognizing there are few swing voters left. But it also makes governing harder, especially when the parties are trading electoral victories every two years (with Democrats benefitting from presidential turnouts, and with Republicans benefitting from midterm turnouts). When you have data-driven candidates appealing to win 51% of voters, it means that a president’s job-approval rating is never going to get much higher than that, and it means that bipartisan policy goals (like the TPP free-trade agreement) are the exception rather than the rule.”

“Bottom line: Campaigns don’t engage in persuasion anymore. They simply look for unmotivated like-minded potential voters and find an issue to motivate them. And if someone wins office by not having to persuade a voter who actually swings between the two parties, there isn’t any motivation for said elected official to compromise. This cycle of polarization will continue until someone wins a massive election based on a different premise.”