My good friend Michael Tomasky has a blog over at The Guardian…
I consider it what he called it in his subject line–an "affectionate joust." (Mike is an ace former Nation intern, a longtime friend, a brilliant writer and not-frequent-enough-in-my-view Nation contributor.) In his blog he takes on (some of) my comments on MSNBC’s Ed Schultz show last night. (A little friendly cherry-picking, Mike!) I don’t disagree with much of what Mike writes. My first reflex is certainly not to blame Obama. (See my column on "Obama, One Year On"–posted below, for more on why I think progressives would be wise to avoid reflexive criticism.) But I do think President Obama could step forward at this time, challenge lobbyists more directly, speak out more forcefully about the cruel Stupak language, call out self-righteous egotists like Joe Lieberman, demand some party unity on a bill that will define not only the Democratic party’s future in 2010–but for a long while. And why not bring in LBJ? Sure history by analogy is often imperfect, but there are also lessons to be drawn from models of Presidential leadership.
What I did refer to on the Schultz show (in a 3 minute segment!) and what Mike fails to mention–is the desperate need for structural reform of a dysfunctional and increasingly anti-democratic body. (That would be the Senate) Here we agree. Mike writes that we need process reform of Congress–a grassroots movement to do away with the filibuster, for example. The Nation has been championing this critical reform for decades–most recently with must-read pieces by Thomas Geogeghan, William Greider and Chris Hayes. I also had the cojones to write an 8000 word essay–"Just Democracy"–in July 2008 which focused on the filibuster and laid out a passel of other pro-democracy reforms which groups like FairVote and Public Campaign have championed for many years.
And in a column I wrote on the first anniversary of Obama’s election–taking stock of what has and hasn’t been accomplished, disappointments and hopeful steps–I point to structural obstacles. Hell,I know one election isn’t going to solve all of our problems. I post that column below, and hope Mike will link to it, because he must know that real short television segments do not do justice to the complexity of our arguments and ideas. That’s why my job is to edit this rag.