Read/React: President Still Suffering from "Let's Hug It Out" Syndrome

Ezra Klein discusses why the President's deal on nominations is lame.

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The White House scored a victory after a threat to make recess appointments caused Senate Republicans to confirm 29 people. According to Ezra Klein, the administration celebrated the victory by bungling it

At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had made 10 recess appointments. Over the course of his presidency, he would make almost 200. Bill Clinton made about 150. In describing recess appointments as "a rare but not unprecedented step," Obama made it harder to actually make any, because he's defined the procedure -- which, unlike the hold, is a defined constitutional power of the president rather than a courtesy observed in the Senate -- as an extraordinary last-resort. He also promised, later in the statement, that he wouldn't make any appointments this recess.

Working backward, why not make recess appointments this recess? The administration remains terribly understaffed. Senate Republicans have slapped a historic number of holds on Obama's nominees, and Richard Shelby's effort to hold all of Obama's pending nominees as part of a multibillion-dollar shakedown made Nelson's Medicaid deal look like petty theft. What was the danger, then, of making recess appointments? That it would lead to a fight over Republican obstruction that the administration might actually win?

Worse, why explain the recess appointment as some sort of emergency measure? At what point does the administration accept that its success is dependent on finding ways to avoid being filibustered? Reconciliation can't be considered a nuclear option and recess appointments can't be saved for special cases. George W. Bush understood this and used reconciliation and recess appointments routinely in his first year. That meant it was no story when he used the processes for his next seven years. Obama is making the very consideration of these measures a story, which means any decision to actually use them will be a big deal and will make the president look like a bare-knuckle partisan.

All that said, this is probably what bipartisanship looks like today. As I've argued many times before, the relevant differences between the parties aren't substantive, and so they cannot be solved with substantive concessions. Instead, they're political, and that means a deal in which Obama gets something he wants but does something to damage his administration's future effectiveness (and thus its poll numbers) is the sort of deal Republicans are likely to take.

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