We talked yesterday about some Beltway criticism of President Obama for his inability to get Republicans to be more cooperative. I generally looked at the bigger picture, but let’s also pause to consider a specific example that is not quite what it appears to be.
The New York Times, hoping to prove that the president is reluctant to “twist arms,” relied on an anecdotal lede: Sen. Mark Begich (D) of Alaska asked the White House for a favor, urging the administration to dispatch the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to his home state to discuss a long-simmering dispute over construction of a road through a wildlife refuge in Cold Bay. The administration agreed to send Jewell.
But a month later, when it came time to vote on background checks, Begich didn’t return the favor, and instead sided with the minority. Worse, the White House is still sending Jewell to Alaska, which the NYT uses to argue a point: President Obama lacks “an appetite for ruthless politics that instills fear in lawmakers.”
But before you say, “LBJ never would have let this happen,” there’s a problem with the Times’ version of events: the real reason for Jewell’s Alaska visit was a deal last month between the administration and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).
Murkowski had vowed to block Jewell’s confirmation by any means necessary unless the Interior Department reconsidered. The administration, eager to see the former REI executive confirmed, relented. Murkowski laid out the details of the arrangement in a Senate hearing and in a statement released on the same day as Begich’s letter. […]
Murkowski voted for Jewell’s confirmation on April 10. She got what she wanted; the administration got what it wanted. If there was arm-twisting, the administration appears to have been the twistee. But the road’s not built yet, Jewell is Interior secretary, and reports of the death of Obama’s ability to work with Congress appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
The NYT, hoping to prove Obama hasn’t learned how to deal effectively with Congress, appears to have highlighted an example of Obama having learned quite well how to deal effectively with Congress. And this was the article’s only example of the president’s alleged ineptitude.
Bring on the next meme; this one’s useless.