You can’t buy votes with earmarks now!

MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2013

The Post’s prebuttal to Dowd: Even after all these years, the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin doesn’t “get” Maureen Dowd.

On Friday, Eilperin joined Sean Sullivan to offer these thoughts about Obama’s inability to pass gun legislation. According to Eilperin, no one could accuse Obama of something Maureen Dowd would soon be accusing him of:
EILPERIN AND SULLIVAN (4/19/13): No one can accuse President Obama or Vice President Biden—whose office oversaw the White House strategy on gun legislation—of sitting on the sidelines when it came to the compromise bill authored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.). Biden made calls and held meetings with state, local and national politicians each week since his office issued the Administration’s gun plan more than three months ago. The White House worked with lawmakers to help craft the bipartisan compromise, according to White House officials, and Obama personally called undecided Republicans and Democrats both last week and then on Tuesday and Wednesday—right up until the Senate vote.

They also tried to ramp up pressure on senators through outside groups...
"No one can accuse Obama of sitting on the sidelines," the Post pair said. Two days later, Maureen Dowd accused Obama of that very sin, as seen in our earlier post.

In fairness, one can always say that Obama could have done more to get the bill passed. Dowd’s column became an instant classic because of the way she made her case:

She said Obama should have played it the way Michael Douglas did in The American President.

The American President was a Hollywood movie. In Hollywood movies, things work out the way the screenwriter wants. In real life, it may not happen that way. Dowd seemed hazy on this distinction in her ridiculous column.

Why did Manchin-Toomey fail despite widespread public support? We will be exploring that question a bit more this week. For what it’s worth, Eilperin offered a semi-intriguing take on this rather obvious question. The headline on her column said this:

“How the ban on earmarks killed the gun bill”

A president can’t buy votes the way he could in the past, Eilperin says. Along the way, she quotes John Boehner lamenting the end of this hoary old practice:
EILPERIN AND SULLIVAN: It’s not just Democrats who miss this sort of negotiating tactic at times. A year ago House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a reporter he missed earmarks because they made it so much easier to pass legislation.

“When it comes to things like the highway bill, which used to be very bipartisan, you have to understand it was greased to be bipartisan with 6,371 earmarks,” Boehner said. “You take the earmarks away and guess what? All of a sudden people are beginning to look at the real policy behind it.”
Could Obama have used the old approach with earmarks to get the gun bill passed? We doubt it, but we can’t really say.

How did it work in the movies?


  1. I've done my part to keep The Daily Howler solvent. It's time for all you other regular Anonymous commenters to step up too.

  2. Was Boehner really lamenting the end of earmarks? There is evidence that he was. James McConnell's column of 2012 says,

    Bemoaning his inability to push more than a temporary three month extension through the House, Boehner told a reporter “When it comes to things like the highway bill, which used to be very bipartisan, you have to understand it was greased to be bipartisan with 6,371 earmarks. You take the earmarks away and guess what? All of a sudden people are beginning to look at the real policy behind it.”.

    Yet, Boehner's quote doesn't sound to me like a complaint. He says the lack of earmarks forced people to look at the real policy. To me, that sounds more like praise than a lament.

    1. Yeah, I read it the same way.

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  6. The reason earmarks are not so important is probably because of the change in Republican politics. Formerly an incumbent could stay in office by bringing home the bacon, logrolling and earmarking. Republicans paid only lip service to the idea of reducing government expenditures. Now an incumbent may face a primary challenge from the extreme right and must take extreme positions on issues like government expenditures, even though earmarks have never been a big budget item. So again, politics have become more partisan especially on the Republican side and the demise of earmarks is probably a result, not a cause of this.

  7. For what its worth, Robert Draper's book also shows Boehner lamenting the loss of earmarks as a negotiating tool.

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