Both Sides Now : Obama a Leader? Tea Party Loser? SuperPacs Legal?

By Mark Green

It's August, when everyone's gone but a lot's happening. Congress is hearing from constituents who care more about "entitlements" than cuts. Obama appears about to stop playing rope-a-dope with opponents while Perry learns the ropes of running for president. And: can cities shut down social media to prevent crime (remember Tom Cruise and the "Office of Pre-Crime" in Minority Report)? (Listen to entire show below.)

*On Obama's Leadership: The President has been attacked by many on the "professional Left" and all on the Right for a lack of leadership, with liberals fretting that he's too compromising and conservatives asserting that he doesn't specify his plans. Has he been more transactional than transformative? Or will he again (sports metaphor alert!) limp to the line of scrimmage and break off a big run?

Kellyanne Conway argues that the President didn't do much when he had congressional majorities yet is also "overreaching" and "joyless." She cites Obama supporter Drew Westen's scathing opinion piece in the NYT on the President's lack of a narrative and managerial experience.

Ron Reagan, to the contrary, thinks that he's "underreached" because there's no sincere Republican party to negotiate with since they simply want to defeat him. While he agrees with Frank Rich that 44 has been too passive, he predicts that Obama may be on the verge of changing his tone after the August recess. "He has to decide what kind of president he wants to be." [The third view: he played possum when necessary and now will strategically shift from being a legislating/compromising President to a more outspoken/contrasting one.]

*On Tea Party's Sliding Popularity. We listen to Bill Maher satirically explain why Democrats need a nutty left-wing version of the hostage-taking Tea Party, "let's call it the Donner Party -- we will eat each other before giving an inch!" Since the Tea Party has gone from a favorable rating of one-third to now 20% favorable to 40% unfavorable, according to the CBS-NYT poll, are they the inmates taking over the asylum? We listen to kudos from Bill O'Reilly and George Will, the latter implying they will be like Goldwater leading to Reagan. Kellyanne explains away recent poll decline to "scaring people because of their success," adding that they surely have changed the conversation and agenda in Washington at least on debt and deficit issues. Also, the Tea Party has no obvious leaders so there's no Perot to fail and drag down the whole movement.

Ron mocks them as an amalgam of "people in tri-cornered hats led around by Koch brothers money... and representing the 19% of Americans who don't believe in evolution." As for changing the debate on deficits, he observes with admirable disinterestedness that it was President Reagan who first changed the conversation when he doubled deficits and then when VP Cheney concluded that "[President] Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

What about Governor Perry's attack on Fed Chairman Bernanke's monetary policies as "treasonous"? Kellyanne agrees they were "inartful and inaccurate [because they were] about the person not the policy." Ron thinks the comment shows the Governor to be "an incredible lightweight [who lacks] presidential character."

*On the Rise of SuperPacs. These new entities are spending hundreds of millions of new dollars on behalf of candidates because a) Karl Rove found an IRS provision previously thought to allow deductible gifts to charitable groups and b) the Supreme Court in Citizens United last year by 5-4 concluded that corporations for the first time could spend unlimited monies out of their corporate treasuries for political purposes because companies were "people" constitutionally. ["Can I marry GE, "the host muses?]

Kellyanne defends them as lawful and constitutional; she also stresses that the issue should be disclosure and wonders why this segment focuses only on the GOP given big-spending liberals like George Soros. (She's asked why the GOP filibustered and defeated a law requiring SuperPac disclosure... and asked about Soros, who doesn't give secret gifts from corporate treasuries).

Ron thinks that all private money should be banned because interest groups "don't give it for nothing" and it's ruining democracy... but at the least the IRS should investigate these new creations and Obama by Executive Order should require federal contractors to disclose their political donations.

*Quick Takes: Newborns' life-expectancy, Bloomberg's $$, Social Media & Crime. Both agree that a heel prick of blood from newborns showing likely diseases is desirable but disagree about any testing pre-birth about gender because it could lead couples to reject girl babies like in China (says Kellyanne, with Ron disagreeing). Mayor Mike Bloomberg is both a policy official and donor, giving $30 million to a program trying to reduce unemployment among black youth: Ron thinks that fine while Kellyanne worries about combining such power politically and financially in one person. Ron takes a strict civil liberties view of allowing police to interrupt social media that could be used to organize flash mobs and riots, while Kellyanne thinks it could have a useful law enforcement purpose.

*On the Radar:
Mr. Reagan notes three GOP presidential primary debates coming up in September alone, including one September 7 at the "Reagan Presidential Library."

Ms. Conway cautions about how rising energy, food and clothing prices will hit average families hard when school comes back in September. The Host suggests that listeners get On Demand HBO's Gloria: In Her Own Words because, irrespective of party, "she showed how to overcome prejudice and insecurity to make history. Diana Nyad couldn't swim all 103 miles, but Gloria Steinem did over her lifetime."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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