President Obama and Governor Scott have something in common. Legislative bodies that refuse to go along confront them. The proposals may be different, but the intransigence is the same.
President Obama has been criticized for failing to schmooze the members of Congress. Governor Scott arrived under the assumption that the Legislature was a cross between a group of errand boys and a rubber stamp, only to discover it isn’t. The President saw a heartfelt and compelling argument for reasonable gun control measures go down on a procedural vote in the Senate and the Governor has watched much of his agenda get kicked to the curb by a legislature of fellow Republicans.
We have had Democrats in the White House and Republicans in charge in Congress and things get done. We have had Democratic governors and Republican legislatures and things have gotten done, but right now, nothing gets done.
I have a theory; one thing is missing: the fear factor. Despite the crackpot fringe that thinks Mr. Obama was serious when he said he was, “…no longer the young Socialist Muslim terrorist he used to be,” most people realize he’s a middle-roader. They also realize he’s not a natural schmoozer, nor is he comfortable with the heavy weaponry of politics—the threat of serious damage for those who oppose him. Governor Scott is, reportedly, a pleasant fellow but his policies are uniformly disliked and his approval ratings remain mired in the thirties. With those kinds of numbers your chances of being re-elected are dismal and if you are an unpopular lame-duck governor there’s no clout. There’s no fear.
The President has used the bully pulpit; no question that he is a gifted speaker who can engage an audience and resonate with them. But he’s so reasonable, he’s the constitutional law professor; you do not expect from Obama the sort of mano-a-mano intimidation that Lyndon Johnson used so well.
When Johnson wanted something you were “invited” to the White House, found the big man in the Oval Office who would greet you cordially, explaining he was just looking over a list of proposed military base closings, but wanted to talk with you about another piece of legislation. This talk was delivered as he towered over the visitor, having invaded the visitor’s personal space and generally ended with a reminder that the safety of the USA could be managed without Fort So-N-So’s continuing existence. Minds were changed.
I cannot imagine Barack Obama explaining to Lindsey Graham that, what with all the environmental problems at Myrtle Beach and aging facilities, it might be a very good idea to build a new Marine Corps training facility elsewhere than Parris Island, perhaps in Florida, what did he think? By the way, he really believes that a thorough discussion of gun issues is called for and he expects the Senate leadership to allow a thorough discussion of the issues. Mr. Graham leaves, considering the damage of a leak about the possible closing of Parris Island and how that would help his re-election.
Most politicians will tell you that, given a choice of love or fear on the part of their colleagues, fear goes further and gets more done. A lesson of the school yard is that after being nice fails, reason fails, sometimes a dust-up over by the swings will get ‘er done and change some attitudes.
The President still enjoys the clout to produce a thick ear if applied in the right place with sufficient conviction. The question is, “Will he?” Barack Obama doesn’t lack nerve, but will he use that same grit he has displayed in international affairs to whip the domestic opposition in to line? Governor Scott got bits and pieces of his proposed pay raises for state employees.
He got a few million to give away in the name of economic development, the bribery system so beloved of southern governors and so doubtful in terms of its effectiveness. He got a sharp stick in the eye over Medicaid and said he won’t call the Legislature back to try again. The Legislature has a mind of its own, an agenda of its own, ambitions of its own. Governor Scott has a line-item veto pen but it will be interesting to see what shakes out of this session.
Scott’s predecessors have played rough and won. But his predecessors were all politicians. Scott is not a politician, he’s a businessman.
Steve Jobs would understand, I’m not so sure Rick Scott does. Jobs could be a nasty, mean-spirited bully when it worked to his advantage. I don’t see that in either Obama or Scott.