We’re Asking the Wrong Hiring Questions

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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121 Responses

  1. mark boggs says:

    “showered up you…”

    Is this gonna be like a bidet?Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’m not sure which is going to be better, the original post or the hilarity that will ensue in the comments.Report

    • Maybe if it was posted tomorrow AM.

      I think it might lag on account o’ the posting time, though.Report

    • Jason, perhaps there’ll be some takers, but the straw man count in the OP is way too high to engage the legitimate arguments in the post.

      President Obama has been under constant fire from the right wing. And by and large, the slings and arrows have been tremendously silly. In fact, I can’t even decide which “outrage” that we as a country talked about over the past year is my favorite. Is it that he is a terrorist plant from our sworn and bitter enemy, Kenya? Or that his telling kids to “stay in school and be good citizens” was the first step in creating a neo-Sturmabteilung Brown Shirt army? Or was it the concentration camps he was preparing just outside of town? Or his plans to eliminate all news and talk radio that was not NPR? Or his implementing Sharia Law to forcibly convert a Christian nation to Islam?

      All this is rhetorically unnecessary and substantively irrelevant:  Fact is, only a minority of the stockholders approve of the job the current CEO is doing.  We shall strongly consider letting his contract expire and hiring a replacement.

      And further, it is premature: the real challenge is in arguing why the current CEO should be retained, since a candidate to replace him has not yet been decided upon.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Good grief, Tom.  You’re going to take post on corruption in Obama’s White House, that starts by commenting on how screwed up the process that we went through to pick him in the first place, and count it as a pro-Obama love letter?  How is that not going out of your way looking for what you want to find?Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I entered into evidence the paragraph in question as my objection, Tod.  I didn’t write a generic and mindless bash on you.   But I may be underappreciative of the tightwire you feel obliged to walk, this I admit.  Still, for you to even acknowledge that “Obama is a Muslim” shit cheapens your own argument.  Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.  I see too many thoughtful people lie down with these dogs.

          If the 2012 campaign goes as I hope, it’ll focus on the CEO’s incompetence at running his own administration, as well as its corruption, but not of the petty type that feathers one’s own nest.  We leave petty theft to Congress; BHO will never want.  Dick Cheney had made his nut as well—that he would sell out our country for Halliburton money was absurd.

          If BHO is corrupt, it’s for ideological purposes, and that affects the health of the nation.  It’s a matter of great importance. I have gone back & reread yr post, and that is indeed yr larger point, so for reacting to the graf that jumped out at me, I do apologize: I didn’t take your tightwire and predicament into proper sympathy.

          [Hell, empathy, Tod.  I just got appointed to the front page, and have promised mgmt that I would try to walk the same tightwire.]

          But I don’t expect anyone to get a clean bill of health on the corruption thing. Perhaps Jimmy Carter, but if that was a virtue, it was also his greatest failing: the man did not know how to make a deal, even with his own party. We don’t have to elect Machiavelli’s Prince, but neither do we need a president who cannot abide—compromise with—reality.

          As for the smallpox thing you [most equitably] cite here, I’m willing to give BHO the benefit of the doubt until I hear more.  I do trust these guys we eventually nominate or elect to be president.  I don’t think they’re cynical—when they pitch gov’t money toward friends, I think they honestly believe [hope] it’ll achieve its purpose and be money well-spent.

          The only real “character” question is how honest they’re capable of being with themselves.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Shorter Tom:

            Why even consider how the Republicans might make stronger arguments, when complaining about bringing up strawmen is so much more fun?

            Never mind that the original post was about how to get past the strawmen, and on to something that, in a saner world, might count for a lot more.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              Also, Tom, consider that there is a serious use vs. mention problem in your objection.  Tod isn’t using these strawman arguments.  He’s merely mentioning them — the better to put them behind us, forever we hope.Report

              • Oh, Jason, “mentions” can often be prejudicial, and can be rhetorical dirty pool.  Neither are the listed things like “concentration camps” accurately assigned to “Republicans” without a qualifier like “a wack handful of.”   Further, I replied substantively to the rest of the OP in the very comment you append yours to.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                So, according to this view, statements of fact are evidence that reality actually does have a liberal bias.

                Cmon Tom. A little while ago, polls showed that something like 65% of self-identified conservatives were uncertain that Obama is a US citizen.Report

              • I was speaking of the “concentration camps” specifically, Mr. Stillwater.  If you want to defend the bill of goods, you must defend the whole bill of goods.

                As for polls, I’m cautious.  I do believe folks give answers like the one you cite to give the finger to BHO and probably the pollster too.

                Do you believe Obama blows dogs?  Yes, mark me down for “strongly agree.”Report

              • mark boggs in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                But polls show democrasts won’t vote for “mormons”.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s different.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                What is your contention, Tom.  That I made this up?  That it was not a talking point on FOX and the talk radio set for a while?

                If your point is that “concentration camps” was never an actual concern of the GOP, I agree – but neither was the birth certificate, except in as much as it could generate votes and donations.  But if that was your point than you missed mine.  The things you object to me using are what the right has actually been talking about, vocally, for the past couple of years.  My issue is that they talk about that stuff and don’t worry so much about the actual corruption they should be.

                The worst mistake the Tea Party ever made, in my opinion, was to take what looked to be a serious and positive movement about issues of governance and allow itself to get baited into championing anti-Staln rhetoric and the birtherism movement.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tod, I think your conception about what “the right” thinks is filtered by those who focus on what might make it look bad.  This is a phenomenon I observe often in those who don’t dip into the rightosphere [say Instapundit]  regularly, and get their info about it from those who are hostile to it.

                In the larger sense, to troll the dregs of either side is unproductive, but I’m sure you’ve noticed we spend an inordinate amount of time on them. For instance,  I assure you the left thinks and talks a lot more about Michele Bachmann than “the right” does.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                The entire “birther” issue is a brilliant false-flag operation by the DNC. By “creating” a false controversy (to distract from the myriad REAL controversies available) and allowing it to fester, they’ve established a perfect deflection mechanism. Otherwise, why would a known high muckity muck in the DNC be the water bearer for the “controversy” in the first place? Why spend so much “hiding” the documents, they’ve already spent over $3M, it would be cheaper to pony up the $50 fee and make a copy. Unless of course the /true/ purpose is to continue the sleight of hand. Nothing to see here (corruption, cronyism, criminalism) move along, hey look squirrel!Report

              • Ward, even if Republicans were baited, they jumped with great enthusiasm and held on with all of their might long past the point where it was apparent that they were in the wrong.

                (I think there is something to TVD’s interpretation, though. I suspect a lot of Republicans hadn’t thought about it, didn’t really care, but found it to be a way to express mistrust of the President.)Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                For instance,  I assure you the left thinks and talks a lot more about Michele Bachmann than “the right” does.

                The problem with this contention, Tom (although it may very well be accurate), is that when the nuts and bolts start flying around, the whole discussion sounds like a debate over the Scottishness of representative samples.  I think that’s unfair to everybody involved.

                At one point, Ms. Bachmann had a 28% rating among polled GOPers.  Now, some of this might have been the polled people giving Mitt the finger, I’ll grant you, but that doesn’t explain *all* of it.

                Now, maybe the Intellectual Right never considered her a viable candidate.  You certainly didn’t, IIRC.  All that’s fair enough.

                I think a fair rejoinder is a list of Conservatives, and their public record of endorsement for one of the existing candidates.  Do you have a list handy?

                I’d gladly accept such as  some evidence for who the GOP *actually* cares about.

                My impression, at this point (as a non-Rightie reader, to be fair), is that nobody in the GOP is all that afired to write any endorsement of any of the current candidates.  In fact, your “Make Mine Mitt” post is the only one I can recall in recent days throwing chips down (for which you ought to be commended, if I haven’t already).

                This is asking you to do a lot more work than anybody on the left has to do, because the incumbent is getting the nod from the Democrats whether you like it or not.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Will, those weren’t Republican’s jumping with great enthusiasm but the citizenry. The only “Republican” to bring it up with sincerity was Trump, another stalking horse for the DNC (Trump has ALWAYS been and still is a Democrat).

                Patrick, I said it before and I say it again, Cain’s my candidate.

                If Ronald Reagan were to appear on the scene today the Republican establishment would reject him (as they did the first time). He wasn’t the establishment’s candidate, he was the people’s candidate.Report

              • Plinko in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, with all due respect, spend a few days listening to Rush, Hannity, Levin and Boortz and I think you’ll find many of the items Tod mentioned brought up nearly daily, if not hourly. I know when I happen to tune in during my daily commutes I hear them and their ilk with disturbing regularity.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Perhaps minor-leaguer Boortz, Mr. Plinko, but not the others.  I listen too, and “concentration camps” was not on the agenda.  But to litigate your impressions [or mine] is pointless.

                Further, talk radio is not the real world.  But if you tune in today, you’re going to hear Solyandra and the scotching of the XL pipeline and exactly what Mr. Kelly says we should be talking about, and not concentration camp or birther nonsense.

                Oh, and bigtime on Chris Matthews on Barack Obama’s disengagement with his own party members in Congress.  Now there’s a topic for a post…Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, I’m not sure that I’m following you here.  Why is it that you believe these topics to be “trolling the dregs” of today’s American right?  While I don’t think of there being a uniform or homogenous group of symbols and belief for something as big as “the right,” I’m talking about things that have become staples on FOX News, and talk radio fixtures like Limbagh, Hannitty, O’Reilly, etc.

                Aren’t all of these, or at the very least FOX News and Limbaugh, indicative of the mainstream?  If the vast majority think of either FOX or Limbaugh as fringe dregs, they certainly do so quietly.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tod, if you insist on litigating this:

                Is it that he is a terrorist plant from our sworn and bitter enemy, Kenya?

                Asinine.  Citation[s] needed, without trolling the dregs.

                Or that his telling kids to “stay in school and be good citizens” was the first step in creating a neo-Sturmabteilung Brown Shirt army?

                I recall that one, but it was a little more complicated.  Hyperbolic, but not asinine.  No objection.

                Or was it the concentration camps he was preparing just outside of town?

                Asinine.  Citation[s] needed.

                Or his plans to eliminate all news and talk radio that was not NPR?

                Unfairly stated. Limbaugh in his own words on Obama and the Fairness Doctrine.  That there was support on the left for its return is indisputable.  Was this a preemptive strike by Limbaugh? Likely.  But no claim was made that Obama had actually made such plans.  A push at best here.

                Or his implementing Sharia Law to forcibly convert a Christian nation to Islam?

                You’re kidding, right?


              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Are you seriously telling me you don’t remember any of these being issues these past two years, Tom?


              • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I remember claims that Der Chimpler was going to institute a draft and then cancel the elections.

                Sadly, this website was not around then… but, as far as I know, the only conservatives here who went Birther were Mr. Cheeks (who says a lot of things) and The Ghost That Haunts Us.

                I doubt that the leftier folks should be asked to defend against the wackier things said about Dumbya.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Obama implementing sharia law, Tod?  Where do you get your info?

                I thought at least you’d just say you were exaggerating for effect.  But y’know, often “they” are, too, but by the time it gets through the Media Matters filter, all context and tongue-in-cheek intention is lost.

                I really wanted just to register an objection, not rake you over the coals on this.  All I can say is that I listen to “them,” and the picture painted by their opponents is ridiculous.

                I posted Limbaugh in his own words, and the reality of Public TalkEnemy #1 was quite reasonable.  But defending him or talk radio as a whole is a mug’s game.  All I can object to is taking statement X from talkshow host Y as representative of the whole, or confusing the toy department with the real world.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                First of all, I love that the conservative defense against the consistent speech on right-wing radio is, “oh, you just don’t get the subtle sarcasm and jokes” ignoring of course that most of the time, Media Matters and other such horrible sites include a sound clip so you can hear the inflection so all can hear the comedy timings of Mark Steyn and Rush.

                Second, Sharia Law was a big enough worry that Oklahoma passed a ballot measure against any judge using it in a ruling. I wonder where they got the idea this might happen?




              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yes, if you rewrite my premise, Jesse, you win.  What you write about is a long way from “Or [Obama] implementing Sharia Law to forcibly convert a Christian nation to Islam?

                It’s clear you’re only interested in scoring points, not actually discussing any of these issues, so thx for your reply.  I cannot counterargue caricatures.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Why did the mainly conservative population of Oklahoma become concerned that Sharia Law might be imposed upon them in the past two years then?

                Or just google Obama Sharia law and find the pages of links to right-wing blogs about Obama appointees and Obama himself being in favor of sharia law.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Asked & answered infra Jesse. You’re trolling the dregs [google the blogs!]  but it doesn’t amount to an argument.  And no, I’m not going to defend every time a right-winger takes a piss.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I wasn’t aware that 70% of the state of Oklahoma = a right-wing taking a piss.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tod, do they say “Or [Obama] implementing Sharia Law to forcibly convert a Christian nation to Islam?”

                I’m not going to sit through the video to find out.  Regardless, I wouldn’t hold “the left” responsible for something I saw on MSNBC.

                I’ve had my say on this. I think you ruined a pretty good essay needlessly.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                No, that was me just being flip.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tod, why didn’t you just say so and spare us [me!] this mess?  I didn’t enjoy it.

                I think I’ve earned enough sweat equity in this discussion to say folks should consider that people on the right can be flip as well, and you shouldn’t deep throat everything they say.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Sorry, Tom.  I agree with that.  I carried the attitude from the first part of the post to the second part, and I see where that was not the best move.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well, when it comes to SHARIA!!! IN THE UNITED STATES!!!, it should be pointed out that it’s something that some Muslims do want their religious leaders from their Mosques to use to settle some internal civil disputes.

                You know, the way that some Christians have their Pastors use Biblical Theory to decide internal disputes.

                I think it’d be better to bite the bullet and say, sure, there are Mosques that have done this in accordance with the Liberties we find in the First Amendment and there are Right Wingers who go batshit insane at the thought of such things.

                The same way that Left Wingers go crazy at the thought of a pastor talking about “voting your conscience when it comes to the infants’ blood-spattered democrat vs. the godly republicans in the voting booth this Sunday”.

                Liberty means that Muslims get to act like Muslims in their Mosques. Even if there are people who don’t like liberty.

                Pretending that there are Muslims who do not want Sharia law to decide how to clear up grey areas is… what? Whitewashing the truth?Report

              • RTod in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I agree with this.Report

              • We’re chill, Tod.  The meta, the real joke, is how the usual suspects declined to defend BHO against the body of yr OP, but lined up at my ankles to literally defend yr “flipnesses” instead.

                Rather a mirror image of your real point, if you follow me here.Report

              • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That would be because, given the facts presented, O is wrong.

                I know you love quotes so here are two from noted commie David Frum.

                “….The thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

                “We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.”Report

              • You’re going to have to do much better than quoting David Frum, Greg.  Dial 2011, dude.Report

              • FWIW, citing David Frum critiques of the GOP is like citing Mickey Kaus or WRM as a Democrat.

                Personally, I agree with a lot of Frum’s criticisms, but it’s become his industry. So “even David Frum says…” has lost its meaning.Report

          • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            If BHO is corrupt, it’s for ideological purposes

            If that ideology is “remain in power.” Otherwise, your statement is so absurd that it suggests you haven’t been paying attention at all.Report

  3. Plinko says:

    From my experience working in publicly-traded companies, it does feel like governments run an awful lot more like big businesses than most of us are willing to admit.Report

  4. mark boggs says:

    After reading the thing in it’s entirety, I not only could use the bidet but a nice hot shower, too.  Just to get rid of the icky.



  5. Will Truman says:

    Awesome caption, man.Report

  6. Dan Miller says:

    “Aren’t we better set for success with competent and non-corrupt leaders, regardless of political label?”

    Absolutely not.  I’d rather have corruption of this type in a president who agreed with me ideologically, rather than cleanliness from an opponent.  $433 million in corrupt contracts is small ball compared to $1.6 trillion in non-corrupt-but-extremely-wrongheaded-IMHO tax cuts.

    Moreover, I’d note the following: let’s say liberals or conservatives really did follow this course of action–imagine, for instance, that Democrats impeached Obama over this.  Would the Republicans applaud their actions but not use them to score ideological points? Of course not (and the same is true in reverse, of course, if the GOP had impeached Bush).  Whichever side did it would be hurting themselves, for everyone’s benefit.  We don’t base our economy on that, so I’m not sure why it’s a workable proposition for our political system.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Dan Miller says:

      I’d rather have corruption of this type in a president who agreed with me ideologically, rather than cleanliness from an opponent.

      Wow, really?


      How come?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Picture a person who is pro-gay marriage.

        Do you think that this person would prefer his opposition to be perfectly principled folks who are morally upstanding or would you think that this person would prefer them to be Ted Haggard types?Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

          The former, of course.  Which is why it seems odd to me that they would pick the guy with a history of corruption.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Really? Because I always started to giggle like a crazy person whenever I read about this or that pastor found in flagrante delicto during the fiercest parts of the gay marriage debate.

            While it never quite took all the wind out of the sails of the opposition, it was a spectacular opportunity to discuss such things as rights to privacy (seriously, people argued that what Haggard did was not my business… which, ironically, I agree with but, ironically, it sure as heck felt like they didn’t agree with the words as they tumbled out of their mouths like teeth in a nightmare).

            Am I alone in this? Have *I* been Evil Jaybird all this time?Report

    • James K in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Whichever side did it would be hurting themselves, for everyone’s benefit.  We don’t base our economy on that, so I’m not sure why it’s a workable proposition for our political system.

      It’s similar to a Prisoners’ Dilemma.  Moving from Defect-Defect to Cooperate-Cooperate is a non-trivial problem.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to James K says:

        Yeah, I get understanding the scope of the problem.  I don’t understand the preferring corruption and incompetence so long as it’s someone on your team.Report

        • trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:


          Let’s set off to the side the debate over long-term damage to the party brand. And let’s assume that this smallpox issue was a premeditated sweet-heart deal to a favored donor. How does it compare to the impact the guy from the other team had over the last two seasons? Which would you choose between the two?

          In all honesty, I’d rather have had Nixon over Bush II – sometimes a bull in a china shop does more damage than a fox in the hen-house.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to trizzlor says:

            Trizz, Mr. Kelly is not calling for a vote here, but a discussion first, esp since the other guys you mention are 1) dead and 2) not on the ballot.

            Since you clearly think little of either of them, you have given President Obama the faintest praise imaginable.  Which might just be all he has earned…Report

        • Dan Miller in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I don’t think “team” is the right way to say this (and frankly, it’s a bit of libertarian rhetoric that’s always kind of irritated me, so maybe I’m just prickly on it).  But look at it from my perspective–the difference between Gore and Bush, say, is the difference between tax cuts for the rich vs. helping close the deficit, to the tune of hundreds of billions.  What’s a few hundred million here or there? (And this perspective is equally valid from the other side–I don’t blame Density Duck for not calling out Bush on corruption, just as I don’t feel the need to call out Obama).

          To be perfectly clear: corruption and incompetence aren’t the only bad things that you can do as president.  They’re not even close to the worst things.  You can sincerely believe that something is a good policy, and pursue it for the best reasons, and still have it be a terrible idea, and if it’s bad enough it’s a lot worse than padding somebody’s pocketbook with a no-bid contract.  So given a choice, I’ll take somebody who may pad pocketbooks but won’t invade Iraq (or insert your policy bugaboo here).

          It’s also worth noting that I grew up in Chicago so I probably have a higher tolerance than most for “honest graft”.Report

          • Dan Miller in reply to Dan Miller says:

            OK, one more thought: it’s also worth noting that basically all president’s have something like this under their belts.  Bush’s MMS, Clinton and Mark Rich, LBJ and his incredibly shady TV holdings; I’m too lazy to go look it up, but I’d bet there are similar incidents for all the presidents (and certainly all the modern ones).  It’s the presidential equivalent of breaking a glass if you’re a bartender.  In an ideal world, you would never drop a glass–but the bar budgets for breakage anyway, and nobody gets fired for breaking glasses unless the problem is really egregious.Report

            • James K in reply to Dan Miller says:

              It’s strange to hear someone speak in such dismissive terms of something that would likely land you in prison in my country.Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to James K says:

                Well, I’m not making a big distinction between things that are actually illegal and things that aren’t illegal but are extremely slimy (e.g. the Marc Rich thing).  I don’t know which category this one falls into, not being a lawyer or having all the facts.  But all presidents have at least a little bit of slime on them, whether or not the law was actually broken.  It’s kind of an occupational hazard.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to Dan Miller says:

            Obviously when you swim in the cesspool that is politics in Chicago, you can come out smelling like a rose. It must be the unique content of said cesspool there that somehow isn’t as “sticky” as it is everywhere else. I guess they set this series in Chicago because they were all out of other largish cities? Nothing whatsoever to do with its reputation I’m certain.Report

        • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Tod, I don’t think he’s thinking about it as teams. He’s thinking about it in terms of the help/harm that a politican would do.

          I’m not a liberal, and I can’t stand the Democrats, but I will likely never vote for a Republican because of the harm that they can and likely will do in power. Witness the first 6 years of the 2000’s, but more than that, I mean carrying a 1950s ethos into the 21st century.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

            I see where you’re coming from, Chris.  But I think what I’m reaching for here isn’t throwing just Obama out and who cares what the GOP does in his place.

            I think I’m arguing that the kinds of arguments we are all having, right left and center, are best as ancillary arguments.  For starters, I don’t think that we really have “philosophically based” policy opinions like we think we do.  Which is why someone can spend half the day ranting that keeping the federal government out of people’s personal lives one day and ranting that government should make laws to keep same sex individuals from being teachers the next.  (Or, in the interest of balance, arguing that respect of all creeds is a fundamental cornerstone that must be protected while protesting evangelical gathering.  Which does happen in my city.)Report

    • Well, if I had to choose between corruption perpetrated by someone on Team Mostly Liberal like Me or by Team Conservative, Particularly on Social Issues, then yes… obviously I’d prefer that the team I mostly support most of the time be the one making decisions (and thus in a position to perpetrate corruption of this kind), as they’re more likely to do other things I like.

      But that’s assuming that corruption is inevitable, and a certain degree must be accepted and overlooked.  I don’t accept that as a given.  Even though I am almost certainly going to vote for Obama again (sorry, Tom), it doesn’t follow that I wouldn’t want political corruption that happened on his watch investigated and condemned.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Also, if we take some amount of corruption as a given, you should at least ask whether voting for the other team is going to decrease it on the margin.  If not, then corruption as an issue pushes you in the same direction as ideological issues.

        I don’t know whether this is the case.  My gut tells me that everyone always thinks it’s the case.  Which means roughly half of everyone is always and necessarily wrong about this.Report

        • Plinko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          I’m not sure if that’s the right uptake.

          It’s entirely possible (I’d even say probable) that most voters believe the additional harm caused from not having their political preferences being put front and center are greater than any marginal difference in corruption, even if their preferred party is somewhat more corrupt that the other. That is, they’re willing to tolerate their side’s corruption-oppo corruption =x because their  perceived political policy preferences are much greater than x.

          Heck, it’s probable that both parties deeply discount the negative effects of their own party’s corruption because, consciously or not, they realize that their political allies benefit on balance from the corruption. That is, everyone believes the net harm of their oppositions corruption is greater regardless of other political policy preferences.Report

    • A question regarding this line of reasoning, which I think is: 1. honest; and 2. de facto the line of reasoning of most people in the US.

      If bribery, whether technically legal or illegal, is not impeachable, or at least not worthy of an impeachment conviction (which requires the support of a significant portion of the President’s party under almost any conceivable set of circumstances), what practical constraints (as opposed to nominal or theoretical constraints) are there to a President’s power?  If, as I suspect, the answer is along the lines of “none,” “minimal,” or more likely, “the threat of the President or his party losing an election,” and if, as seems to be the growing consensus around here, the major practical difference between Presidents of the two parties is on long-term legacy stuff like appointments and bureaucratic hiring, what incentive does a President have to provide good short-term governance and to avoid corruption at any given turn?

      First follow-up question: what should this imply about the relative importance, at least in the primary campaign, of a candidate’s record of ethics and competence over ideological purity?

      Second follow-up question: what does this imply about the practical utility of campaign finance and anti-bribery laws on the federal level?


  7. Creon Critic says:

    The people doing the hiring have vastly different expectations of what the presidency is for. Some have limited expectations, read the Constitution, the President has defined powers, expect a President to be capable of intervening or influencing in certain domains and not in others. Others doing the hiring have quite far reaching expectations, “the buck stops here” means a great deal to them. Also, the head of state is unlike other offices in that a great many people feel deeply emotionally invested in it, and given the history of the United States the gender, race, religion, etc., of a President has huge social/cultural meaning. In a sense part of Louis XIV’s bold “L’état, c’est moi” still applies today.

    Some members of the public expect politicians – surely to libertarians’ horror – to solve all problems great and small. From Truman “losing” China to the communists to Clinton setting a bad example for the children, the presidency is just freighted with far more than most any office I can imagine (other than perhaps heading a religion). What you’ve identified as extraneous considerations to you represent a certain outlook on the presidency. I’m sympathetic to some of the points you make. But I can understand why a lot more feeds into the decision than selecting someone to lead a company that makes this or that widget. Heading a nation is sui generis.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Here is a telling quotation attributed to Huey Long:

    Those of you who come in with me now will get big pieces of the pie. Those of you who wait until later will get smaller pieces of pie. Those of you who delay too long will get — Good Government.Report

  9. E.C. Gach says:

    Right on Tod.

    One of the largest problems facing our country, politically at least, is our complete disregard for the principles upon which our government is structured.  Failing to respect or even acknowledge them, especially in everyday public discourse, ends up leading us on wild goose chases going after not the most unimportant issues, but completely fictitious ones.

    My ideal President would have a humble and conservative foreign policy coupled with managing the executive rather than being the third wheel in Congressional politics.

    Take the Sunday morning talk shows today and how they address the issue of Obama’s “lack of leadership” on the super committee’s deficit negotiations.  Whatever you think he may or may not have achieved, for better or worse, the fact of the matter is that the President has no business “leading” anything but the executive.  That we expect a President to have an answer for everything and put forth legislation for every issue is one of the most dangerous concepts to infiltrate our national psyche.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      I agree with Mr. Gach here about the constitutional role of Congress.  Many people dial up data about the health of the economy and ship of state under Dem or Rep presidents.  But this is of course facile: Congress counts.  And according to ECG’s own analysis, the Gingrich Congress deserves far more credit than it gets for the good times under the Clinton presidency.

      The president does, however, wield the veto pen, so his role in legislation and the direction of the ship of state is far from negligible.  Further, in the current crisis, with a divided Congress, either BHO is the leader of the Dem Party or Harry Reid is, the latter being a rather absurd thought.

      So—esp if the president is the type who insists “something must be done”—it falls on BHO at this time to exert some leadership, and to criticize him for not doing so is entirely proper.  It is entirely in his power to help break the congressional logjam and inappropriate for him to do no more than complain about it.


      • E.C. Gach in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Agreed on the Gingrich point Tom.

        It irks me to no end when people cite what one President did or another.  Clinton cut taxes and Reagan raised them….well actually the Congresses they presided over did those things, not in a vacuum of course, but it’s completely fallacious to talk about Presidential legacies while widely ignoring the much busier and more complex Congressional events that did or did not make those legacies possible.Report

        • Ethan and Tom:

          Given that neither of you were aware of this corner of the intertubes in 2009, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on an idea I had to address this problem, which I put forward here:


          • I’m intrigued.  Checking it out now.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            MarkT, I see a bi-annual election for Demagogue-in-chief, a Speaker Ron Paul or Jesse Ventura, or perhaps an “outsider” Herman Cain-type.

            We take the presidency seriously because he commands the military, but I’m not sure we could resist making Congress an even bigger joke than it already is.

            As for the Senate, Trent Lott called it “herding cats,” and I think its 6-year terms were designed to make it so, to encourage such feline independence. Senate leaders strike me as unremarkable as a group [Reid, McConnell], less leaders than followers and vote-counters.

            I think your commenters in the OP pointed out some of the possible unintended consequences, and if you’re of the “we need to get something done” persuasion, I’d say letting legislators elect their own leaders and whips is the best way to give them someone to rally around, or at least someone to mediate the intraparty compromises necessary to even get to first base.


            Thx for asking.  I’m honored.Report

            • Curious as to whether you could elaborate a bit more on why you think we’d wind up getting more of a demagogue in chief than anything else.  In the short-term, perhaps, but it seems to me that in the long run a demagogue in chief would have a remarkably difficult time getting anything passed; with short, two year, terms, a demagogue isn’t likely going to last more than a term if he doesn’t succeed in getting a good amount of stuff passed.

              And I admit up front that this is something that would probably be unpalatable to the “do something now” types by placing an additional veto point into the process.

              One thought I have to significantly modify and moderate the idea would just be to formally place the Speaker and the local House candidate on a ticket a la President/Vice President.   After primary season, the candidates of each party would determine who they are putting forward as Speaker.

              One reason Congress is viewed as such a joke, I’d submit, is that its actual workings are so low-profile – we only really hear about those workings is when there’s a close vote on a controversial bill on which the President has used his bully pulpit in one way or another.  Outside of those occasions, the only times we see or hear much about Congress is when a member (almost always a firebrand rather than a backbencher) is grandstanding on some talking head show, trying to get their name in the papers.  Committed ideologues (including committed centrists) love these types when they’re on the same side, but then wonder why the rest of the R’s or D’s in Congress aren’t just as awesome.  When they’re on different sides, committed ideologues assume that these grandstanding firebrands are representative of the entire opposing party’s members.

              So for the committed ideologue, there’s little way to avoid the conclusion that 90% of Congress is Teh Suck.  And, as you and I have agreed elsewhere, everyone is a committed ideologue of some sort.

              But even if we’re not all committed ideologues, it’s probably safe to say that those who aren’t just don’t care all that much about the details of policy or follow the sausagemaking process terribly closely.  They may want Congress to DO SOMETHING, even if they have little idea what it is they want Congress to do.   They know only that every time they see a member of Congress, they’re being a belligerent firebrand of some sort, so they figure that belligerent firebrands unwilling to do what is necessary to compromise and DO SOMETHING are the entirety of Congress.

              The exception, of course, is when we read in the local paper that our local Congressman got some grant money for the district or fixed someone’s SS check, etc.  These things probably even impact our lives more directly than 99% of the stuff that gets into the national conversation.  So we tend to figure our Congressman’s a pretty good guy even as we think Congress as a whole is a joke.

              I think it’d be nice if we could have someone, in some way directly accountable to the people, on whom to more properly focus for the success or failure of the legislative branch.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                MarkT, I think the president IS that guy responsible to the people, the 4-yr term.  Reagan & Clinton both got done what they could: Reagan led foreign policy in return for Tip O’Neill raising taxes, Clinton was dragged kicking and screaming through welfare reform, but in the end moderated it closer to Dem-left sensibilities. Both were effective presidents, partisan policy preferences aside.

                I think we only have room for one “the buck stops here” guy. Further, I think the 2-yr terms in the House would make the Speakership inherently unstable: only party loyalty and discipline ensures the continuity of a Hastert or Pelosi past one term.

                The short terms in the House were designed to accommodate shifts in popular sentiment, but I think investing the Speakership with more power is too much of an accommodation, and yes, I would expect the firebrands to achieve ignition and be the types who could ride popular sentiment to an election win.

                Two years later, a different one.  A [non-molesting] Herman Cain springs to mind: let’s roll the dice, things can’t get any worse.  We always hate Congress as a whole*.  But each new speaker would be a lame duck, each elected to hassle Congress, not work with it.

                Hell, if anybody could do a good enough job to get re-elected, we need him more as president!  The pickings have not been that great, I think we agree.  😉

                One of yr commenters noted that with mid-term elections tending to swing against the president, we’d be liable to always have a mixed gov’t, making the president a bit of a lame duck himself at the 2-year mark.

                So I can most easily imagine a less functional and less stable gov’t, not more.  You prefer the former, I the latter, so I don’t know what’s in it for either of us.


                *”Suppose you were a member of Congress. And suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself...”—Will RogersReport

              • “I think the president IS that guy responsible to the people, the 4-yr term.”

                On this I completely agree.  To me, that’s the lion’s share of the problem, though.  He’s the legislator-in-chief, the head of the bureaucracy, etc., etc.  But Constitutionally, he’s only supposed to be the head of the bureaucracy, the military (but I repeat myself!), and foreign relations.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                MarkT, I was very interested in the other part of yr OP, executive branch regulatory power becoming a de facto legislature.

                A feature I particularly despise about Obamacare, how much is left up to the discretion of the Sec of HHS.

                Such stuff vitiated yr call for an accountable head of the legislature, and it’s Congress to blame for passing laws that are near open-ended.  But I’m not sure the structure of the system is the problem. It seems even worse in the UK


                At least we can change presidents.  The UK’s “quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations” scare the bejesus out of me.


      • North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        It seems to me Tom that Obama’s done what he can to keep the comittee on task. His promise to veto any attempts to wriggle out of the sequestration consequences of a logjam are far from weak tea.Report

  10. Typically fantastic post, Tod.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around buying a treatment for a disease that, absent a catastrophic failure of international intelligence, is highly unlikely to strike human populations ever again.  (True, one never knows if a smallpox-like virus might emerge, but then one never knows if a treatment what works for smallpox might work on something smallpox-like.  And we really have no verifiable way of knowing if this treatment works for smallpox, from what you’ve written.)Report

  11. North says:

    A depressingly good post.Report

  12. greginak says:

    Tom- Couldn’t help but think of this quote from The Newt from Saturday given the thread.

    “I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head on and described as what it is which the use of government to repress the American people against their own values. “Report

  13. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Yes, Greg, that argument’s been going for 100 years, and is of special interest to me.  I could argue either side.


    • Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Oh more than 100. Check out this book– you might like it. For whatever reason, there haven’t been many books at all studying the antiphilosophes before Burke.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Thank you kindly, Rufus.  I’m on it.

        Since as you know I [and Himmelfarb] are loath to credit the Enlightenment for the American Experiment as much as does today’s prevailing wisdom, any pointer to a nexus between the Counter-Enlightenment and say the Second Great Awakening would be greatly appreciated.Report

  14. greginak says:

    @Tom -wow its like no criticism or stupid quote or action by R’s ever actually means anything. Huh. Dial 2011?Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

      Defend BHO from the body of Mr. Kelly’s post here, Greg, and leave me and the “other side” out of it.

      Esp not with quotes from quislings, Greg, as some argument from “authority.”  Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen, ex-Dems, just opined that Obama shouldn’t either bother to run again.  I did not and would not even attempt to make any hay of that. I’m afraid you still don’t get it, or me.  I want us to up our game.



      • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        I already said that, given the facts presented, it looks like O did something sleazy. Do i have to defend that? Do i need to research the topic for an essay.

        Quisling?? Well that does give away the game. Calling him a traitor. Yes please let us improve our game. Yes i know Fox news employees said those hilarious things. Can’t make that stuff up.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

          You still don’t get it, Greg.  You don’t make a “neutral” argument from authority with a quisling, be it Frum or Caddell or a Bruce Bartlett or Dick Morris. I’m speaking of formal argument and rhetorical credibility here, not the color of our flags.

          You either learn the other fellow’s language if you want to convince him, or continue to speak just your own to you and yours.  Your call.Report

  15. Kim says:

    … if we picked presidents the way people picked boards of directors, then Al Gore would be president. Or Jeb Bush.

    … just sayin’Report