After more than four years in the Oval Office, the president has rarely demonstrated an appetite for ruthless politics that instills fear in lawmakers. That raises a broader question: If he cannot translate the support of 90 percent of the public for background checks into a victory on Capitol Hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years in office?And so on and so on. Again, I'm not sure where this need to absolve a batshit-crazy Senate of responsibility for their own actions is coming from, but it's gotten to the point of absurdity.
Here's the flaw with the entire argument, which in the New York Times case is predicated mostly on losing Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska: Even if Obama had gotten every last Democrat to vote for expanded background checks, it still would have been blocked, for the simple reason that a cadre of hard-right Republicans vowed to filibuster it and anything like it. That led to the now-commonplace requirement that every last little thing, even the very popular things, need to get a supermajority of 60 votes rather than a simple majority of 51, and that, in a Senate rendered somewhere between dysfunctional and outright incompetent by a large faction who see blocking their own Senate from functioning as a holy cause, killed not just every speck of meaningful gun reform but is also responsible for the sequester, the debt ceiling fiasco, a multitude of judicial and executive nominations currently in limbo, and countless other things.
Why is it on the president to somehow twist Republican arms to support something that between 80 and 90 percent of the public supports? Why is the story not about how a hard-right Republican caucus vows to reject even the things that 80 to 90 percent of the public wants? The background check amendment was intended to better keep weapons out of the hands of violent felons and terrorists. Why isn't the story "holy f--k, in America we actually still let violent felons and terrorists buy assault rifles, and there's actually a goddamn party that successfully blocked even the most basic efforts to fix that?"
How extremist do Republican Party leaders have to get before we get one, just one, story about how the Republican Party is, in fact, extremist in these things? This is the same Senate that couldn't get votes to approve international treaties on the disabled and for tighter restrictions on weapons trafficking—neither would have had any notable impact on the United States, but both failed because of the outright conspiracy theory peddled by actual Republican legislators that it would be a gateway to the United Nations seizing control of U.S. laws. The Republican caucus is mired both in their own delusions and in the earnest belief that government should be wrecked from the inside out, gutting not just the New Deal but pretty much every other department and duty that does not revolve specifically around the use of military force. It's not secret—they say it on television. They say it to reporters. They say it to you, Beltway crowd, in big rooms and to lots of applause.
What's not to get? And why is that most fundamental story so very carefully tiptoed around, while psychoanalysis of all the more centrist players continues to be obsessed over as political parlor game?