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Obama Breaks Up With Congress - Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker


On Tuesday night, in the State of the Union address, President Obama treated Congress like an ambivalent lover: He didn’t quite break up with the Hill, but he did make it clear that the relationship wouldn’t be repaired anytime soon. Sure, he’d still be willing to hook up occasionally and enact legislation, but he’d also be O.K. if they went their separate ways.
The speech repeatedly used a device to make this point. At the outset, after some hokey anecdotes about American workers—a teacher, an autoworker, a farmer—Obama made a clear statement about his policy goals for the year, a basket of ideas “to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.” He explained each idea and included two options: a path on which Congress joined him to pass legislation and one on which he acted alone.
While most State of the Union speeches showcase the President making strident demands for Congress to enact his agenda, Obama exuded the sense that he had moved beyond the chamber’s pathologies and dysfunctions. He set the tone early in the speech, when he talked about energy policy. He said that he would use his own authority to “cut red tape” and to help states to build factories that use natural gas. As for Congress? Obama did not call on lawmakers to pass his energy bill; instead, he simply offered a suggestion: “This Congress can help by putting people to work building fuelling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.”

He added that he would appreciate an infrastructure bill, but if that was too big a lift for Congress he would “act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”
And Congress shouldn’t think that Joe Biden needs it, either. The Vice-President, Obama said, would be reviewing federal job-training programs to make them more efficient—strictly an executive-branch thing. He allowed, almost as an afterthought, “If Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.”
One could be excused for thinking that the President was using the oldest trick in the book: trying to make his old partner jealous of his new one (in this case, the executive order). To be sure, there were some of the more forceful demands that a President traditionally makes in a State of the Union. Obama insisted that “this Congress needs to restore” unemployment insurance, and he ordered lawmakers to “send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again.”
And, despite his emphasis on less grandiose initiatives, Obama didn’t actually abandon any of the big items on last year’s legislative agenda: tax reform, comprehensive immigration reform, gun control. He mentioned all of them. But, over-all, his tone of resignation and his laundry list of smaller ideas reflected a new sense of realism about the fact that there’s little on which he and House Republicans agree.
Obama now understands, like other Presidents before him, that the State of the Union is a giant con. The media builds it up as an evening with potentially transformative effects. The stagecraft, with the Commander-in-Chief addressing a sea of applauding congressmen, emphasizes the President’s alleged primacy in our political system. But it’s all just a show. The ratings for the event are in decline.

Besides, political scientists have made it clear that the speech rarely changes minds. It may even have the opposite effect. The act of making the speech often pushes partisans to cling more tightly to their preëxisting positions. (The very task of having to wait for Obama caused one Texas Republican to tweet, “On floor of house waitin on ‘Kommandant-In-Chef’… the Socialistic dictator who’s been feeding US a line or is it ‘A-Lying?’ ”)
Several generations of political leaders and journalists have been taught to believe that, in the words of the political scientist Richard Neustadt, “Presidential power is the power to persuade.” Presidents always come into office believing that, with bargaining, cajoling, and pure reason, they can bring members of Congress around to the idea that passing the White House’s agenda is in their interest. Obama believed this in his bones; his 2008 campaign was premised on it.
But modern political scientists have abandoned some of Neustadt’s core claims. They’ve settled on a far less exciting analysis, which casts the President as a more passive victim of circumstance who can do little to move Congress unless he already has a majority of votes. Instead of emphasizing the potential of great Presidential leadership and heroic abilities of persuasion, this more structural view emphasizes the limits of a system in which Congress and the President—despite the way it looked on TV on Tuesday night—are co-equal branches of government. Congress contains land mines that the White House has almost no ability to defuse: the extreme polarization of the House, based on a geographic sorting of the public; the rural-state tilt in the Senate that gives Republicans an advantage; the filibuster, and more.
It has taken Obama years to transform from a Neustadtian into a structuralist, but last night marked the completion of the cycle. That metamorphosis has forced the White House to think hard about how Obama can effect change on his own, and it’s one reason that the President recently asked John Podesta to come aboard. (Podesta, who has long advised the White House to use more executive authority, watched the speech with other top Obama aides from the back of the chamber. He seemed pleased.)
It’s prudent to be skeptical when listening to the White House’s new claims about what it can accomplish without Congress. After all, if Presidents could solve America’s biggest problems on their own, they would. But every modern President pushes the boundaries of executive authority, and Obama laid out some creative ideas last night that are not just token reforms. For instance, his climate-change policies—which rely on E.P.A. regulations—can be implemented with no input whatsoever from Congress, though of course Congress can try to undo them. Obama also hinted that he may use his pen to preserve more wilderness and other sensitive lands, an environmental tool that Bill Clinton often used, but which Obama has not. His push to encourage businesses and states to raise the minimum wage and his own executive order to raise the minimum wage for future federal contractors are not trivial. He has wide latitude to reform the practices of the N.S.A.
But many of the other actions that he outlined will have limited impact. The White House can’t implement gun control by fiat, and it can’t fix the tax code or repair the immigration system on its own. Obama’s new realism is necessary and appropriate, but at some point this year he will need to rekindle his relationship with Congress.

Proof of how superficial prejudices are - or: Beauty is only skin deep

Honestly: It's snowing in my part of the South

Too cold to stay out at 18 degrees. We are not used to this, bless our hearts.
But I took this photo as proof, and one more I may use in the contest (different subject, just in case the contest is blind )

Republicans Promise to Respond to State of Union with Grumpiest Faces Ever/promise by Borowitz htt

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address tonight, congressional Republicans are promising to respond with what they call their grumpiest faces ever.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) confirmed that the G.O.P. have been practicing in front of mirrors for weeks in the hopes of creating just the right grouchy-face look for the TV cameras.

“Tonight, President Obama is going to lay out his vision for this country,” he said. “We owe it to the American people to look like someone just pissed in our cornflakes.”
For some, the task of looking crabby “is just another day at the office,” said Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), widely viewed by his fellow-Republicans as the reigning sourpuss in Congress.
“It’s a gift I have,” he said. “It’s one of the perks of being a steaming cauldron of spite.”
Perhaps the most sustained performance of sulkiness will fall to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who will be seated behind the President and therefore will be on camera for the entire duration of the address.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me to look sullen for an entire hour, but I’m up to it,” he said. “It helps that I will be in the same room with so many people I despise.”

Photo of a clever inventor. It's about hoodies.

Me in my Kitchen listening to the Godfather as I cook, so it's important to tell someone who gets it

that a few days ago I saw Chris Christie answer a young boy's question about what his favorite movie is. "You're too young to see it" said Christie to the boy "it's The Godfather".

Surprise anyone?

Audrey Hepburn: Beautiful but so much more - did you know this about her:

Varied/interesting lineup on Real Time with Bill Maher - tonight at 10 and 11 on HBO

REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER continues its 12th season FRIDAY, JAN. 24, exclusively on HBO. Allowing Maher to offer his unique perspective on contemporary issues, the show includes an opening monologue, roundtable discussions with panelists, and interviews with in-studio and satellite guests.

Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich is the top-of-show interview guest. Musician Willie Nelson is the mid-show interview guest. The roundtable guests are journalist Josh Barro, Democracy for America founder Howard Dean and political strategist Carly Fiorina.

Rachel to be on the Late Show with Letterman tonight! She says she will wear

the same jacket, a different shirt, and glasses.
Bet she will wear running shoes as well.

OK - I know it's an Oxymoron in more ways than one. Louie Gohmert's brain illustrated.

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