OUT OF MIND

I have recently binge-read (I must admit some of the reading was skimming) all of Bob Woodward's books about the presidents between 1992 and 2016. And reading them all at once more or less in order makes one thing really jump out. In the Bill Clinton and Obama books, the congressional Republicans make regular appearances in the narrative. In the George W. Bush books, Democrats in Congress – or anywhere else for that matter – don't exist.

To make sure I wasn't imagining things, I checked the indexes. In State of Denial (late W years) Tom Daschale, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are mentioned once each. Once. And not in any way that is significant. Reid is quoted as being "disappointed" about some committee appointed to look into money spent in Iraq. Daschale was called to schedule some kind of hearing. Pelosi I couldn't find at all, although the index lists her on a page she does not appear.

The Clinton books, which incidentally I think are the best reads in the sense of being enjoyable, focus predominantly on characters around the White House, obviously. But people like Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich are in it a lot. They are physically present every chapter or so, and when they aren't the White House staff are talking about them. The names of minor Republicans in Congress come up too, as potential targets to be wooed.

It's not just a majority/minority thing; Obama and Clinton had a congressional majority for only two years compared to six* (The Senate was a coin flip for two years, so I guess four years depending on how you look at it) for Bush. That certainly matters. But I think there's more to it than that. Even after losing Congress in 2006, the Bush administration inner circle continued to act as though the Democrats did not exist. What they wanted was not a topic of conversation, even idly.

It could be tempting to write this off as an artifact of Woodward; that for some reason, Woodward was biased and portrayed the situations differently. I find it hard to come up with a convincing logic to support that. As far as Access Journalism goes, Woodward is a pretty reliable Scribe. And I'm unaware of allegations that he has some kind of big bias that leads him to want to write the Democrats out of the Bush story. It seems to reflect the reality around him, that in the Bush White House they didn't particularly give a shit about the opposition party. I think that matches reality to those of us who remember the W years and "unitary executive theory."

Clinton was somewhat successful at getting GOP buy-in, albeit at the cost of constantly giving them (and moderates in his own party) concessions. Obama, though, got nothing. Unfortunately it took him too long to discover that no amount of bringing them to the table or giving them sweeteners was going to get him anything in return.

Anyway, this is hardly an observation I quantified beyond checking the indexes to make sure I'm not crazy. Nonetheless I think it says something that comports with the current election – that Democrats are wired to try to woo moderate Republicans while Republicans make no effort whatsoever.

24 thoughts on “OUT OF MIND”

  • A Woodward completist concerning this time period should also read his rousing, consequential tome, "Dan Quayle: The Man Who Would Be President". Quayle remains every bit the golfer Trump is.

  • "Democrats are wired to try to woo moderate Republicans"

    They always fall in love when they get to do their favorite shared activity: punching hippies.

  • An analogy for the olds; Democrats are Charlie Brown, Republicans are Lucy. An analogy for the older olds; Democrats are Krazy Kat, Republicans are Ignatz.

  • It's merely the tribalism that the "Pick handle" wing of the GOP, as they've become dominant, Democrats are seen not as humans who disagree, but as "Other". It's got to be a disconcerting experience to deal with contemporary Republicans when they've been raised to view many aspects of tribalism as nearly as gauche as voluntary flatulence in elevator cars. In short, Republican representatives only represent other Republicans and their party affiliation takes precedence over their citizenship.

  • Liberals are liberal! We believe everybody deserves a hearing, even semiliterate psychopath greedheads. This is not a pose, it is an actual belief. Conservatives believe it's dangerous and unnecessary to give any to anybody not in their club.

  • There is another reason that Democrats always wooed the moderates. From the '80s to the '00s, public polling of the US showed that people who identified liberal were like ~20% of the population and people who identified conservative were like ~35% of the population, and everyone else self-described as moderate. So Democrats always had to woo moderates, and depending on district or state, even moderate-right voters to win elections. As millenials entered the voting population this began to change, but a lot of the Democratic establishment took a long time to grasp that, and some still haven't.

  • It's been announced that John Kasich has been invited to speak at the Democrats' convention (whatever that may end up being).

    How much more can the left get shit on?

  • Republicans do not think Democrats are "legitimate" holders of power in Washington D.C.

    Nor do any members of the press. Nor do Democrats.

  • ….Democrats are wired to try to woo moderate Republicans while Republicans make no effort whatsoever.

    Not only wired but conditioned to such behavior, herded by mediot curators and gatekeepers such as Woodward. Frankly, if I found myself even skimming through Woodward's corpse of court stenography, I'd find myself wondering just what malevolent celestial force I'd managed to piss off. He's a supplicant who fell into permanent official investiture by the grace of Robert Redford.

    The most useful thing (whether it's apocryphal or not; I don't know or care) Woodward ever contributed to this sham of a political process was follow the money. Doesn't matter that the context was Deep Throat talking about paying the plumbers, the thing is it's the prime operational principle for everything.

    Why do we have a perpetual campaign, why are professional panel pigskin prognosticators already gaming out 2024? Who keeps all those weasel-faced consultants farting in silk? Where does all that money come from, and to whom does it flow, and how?

    Why does the left always get shat on? Because there are no leftist billionaires, and the American political system — in its entirety — is merely the vehicle by which billionaires keep their taxes low and the peons barely fed. It is an insurmountable barrier to entry, as a Porter's Five Forces aficionado would observe right away. So the main goal with whatever "leftists" there are is simply to discourage them from participating at all. They don't have any money to "donate" anyway, so what would be the point?

    It is, as Frank Zappa noted way back when, the entertainment branch of industry, and within that branch are specific kewl-kid pecking orders that confer legitimacy on, say, Newt Gingrich, while studiously ignoring, for example Noam Chomsky.

    Sadly, it really will take a revolution or a cataclysm for the current order to be thrown off in any meaningful way. There are too many dogsbodies within the system who are financially discouraged from asking inconvenient or "improper" questions of Their Betters, who are really only using the Chuck Todds and Bob Woodwards of the world to talk to each other in the first place.

  • The mainstream press treat the Democrats as if they have no agency. They are never driving events, the thoughts of Republicans are always the key as to whether the government will or will not do something/

    Why? It Could be bias, or it could be that the Democrats actually don't act like they have any agency.

  • I remember reading/hearing it's not too difficult to figure out Rehnquist is a major source for The Brethren. Seems about right.

    And then there's the infamous bit in The Final Days about Kissinger noticing Nixon's teeth marks on the cap of a child proofed prescription bottle.

    Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Rehnquist and Kissinger were major sources, and to be fair, Woodward mentions his Republican leanings in All The President's Men. What he doesn't mention is that at times he sounds like a fucking robot. Listen especially to how he says the word "reporting."

  • I haven't had any use for Woodward for at least 40 years. Carl Bernstein seemed to stay true to that quaint thing some journoz still believe in; ethical, diligent investigative reportage. Woodward's a whore who would fluff Trumpligulamygdala for an interview.d

  • I think this is why the Republicans have been freaking out about AOC; she is not a concessionary Democrat.

  • Unfortunately it took [Obama] too long to discover that no amount of bringing them to the table or giving them sweeteners was going to get him anything in return.

    I really don't buy this theory. It's too forgiving of a man who is extremely smart. At the time quite a few people were saying that he was actually getting what he really wanted. There was a report early in 2009 that he had a dinner with a bunch of conservative columnists, and he was reported to have told them that he really, really wanted to "reform" Social Security and Medicare. Later, he pushed for his "Grand Bargain" (aka "Grand Betrayal") long after he should have realized it was hugely unpopular with his party. I believe that, like Bill Clinton before him, he is really a centrist Republican, a thing which does not exist in the Republican Party any more, but which made up the Democratic Leadership Council and later the DNC.

  • Woodward was and probably still is a Republican and his biases are pretty obviously Center-Right. He usually avoids analysis or even the laziest forms of historical reflection in his books, but the exceptions are glaring—-like dismissing the Steele dossier in his Trump book as hack work. He also is clearly all-in with Republican foreign policy and sneers at the democratic "wise men" and also is obviously all-in on things like "entitlement reform"—no doubt he has a weekend house somewhere that needed enough tax benefits to payoff. The emphasis on Republicans in Democratic administrations also reflects the phony version of "fairness" in Beltway reporting—they have to show that they care about both sides and are so easily played by media whores in the GOP that it's amusing. Woodward is essentially a free rider on all this.

    Gingrich (not so much Dole) was consequential in the Clinton years and the Beltway press slobbered all over him (and ignored his infidelities) until he self-destructed. They still seem to like him–he's quotable even if he is basically just a gas bag. The Bushes viewed their phony majority (term 1) and esp. their tiny majority (term 2) as mandates so, of course, they ignored the Dems until they overreached with Social Security.

    Woodward, the writer is just dull as dust. I can't imagine binge reading any of his stuff.

  • Biden Harris may provide some relief for the ongoing "Kissastrophe", a worthwhile thing. I don't see the United States recovering much of our squandered soft power in my lifetime, the "Overton window" looks out into a landfill.

  • Best-case scenario coming up: four years of listening to Biden/Harris tell us that we need to give more money to cops because of how bad the economy is but we can't afford "social programs" because of the deficit. No Trumpkins get charged with anything. Then we get whichever fascist the GOP A/B testing shakes out, and democracy is over.

  • Tim H.:

    "the "Overton window" looks out into a landfill."

    And it's in the side of decrepit doublewide that has two satellite dishes on the roof and the big, original one in the front yard, right next to the chevy on blocks.

    How many folks decided that they STILL can't vote for Biden, after he picked Harris?

    If Trump manages to somehow win the coming election, well, shit will get WORSE.

  • Conservatives these days…. seem unable to have a positive self image without seeing folks worse off, worse yet, they're Hell bent on increasing the number of folks worse off. I do believe if they were the last people in town that could afford shoes, they'd think they were, somehow, winners. They can't wrap their heads around the concept of "We're all in this together.".

  • Yup, it's conservatives who locate social justice at the lowest common denominator on the collective misery index. We're all in this together….except for politicians, government workers and other selfless bureaucratic elites who get paid no matter what, and to whom, along with their mouth-breathing street mascots, the regular rules do not apply.

  • My big (vague) takeaway from Woodward's Clinton book (and it's prolly been 25 years so) was Bubba's total abandonment of any "progressive" goals which might raise the budget deficit because Alan Greenspan (the Randian dumbass) said if he (Bubba) did so it would hurt the bond market. Clinton obviously "forgot" about Reagan's explosion of the deficit during his two terms of tax cuts for the rich. Jfc I'm still mad about it.

  • uh, i mean Greenspan told Bubba that an increase in social spending which raised the deficit would hurt the bond market, so Bubba's like, "ok, guess I'll just end welfare as we know it, lol. And pass NAFTA!!"

  • Somebody sounds upset about a dent in his income.

    Oh, Inky, whither the Lieberturdlican self-reliance?

    BTW, honey, I saw that post of yours a while back about how this, that or other was your pathetic excuse for never delivering the fucking evidence of Ed's support of the twintowerbombers.

    Thing is, dumbfuck–you managed to forget what you had said in a previous post.

    You're a pathetic asshiole and, if it's even possible, a worse liar.

    Fuck off, troll.

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