In lieu of Joe’s open thread, I want to talk a little bit about something that happened late yesterday.
FOX’s Glenn Beck, whose criticism got a top Obama aide fired this week, has also been agitating about ACORN and its involvement with the 2010 census. The Obama administration has just announced that it is severing its ties with ACORN, and they admitted that they made the move because of the conservative criticism.
The Census Bureau on Friday severed its ties with Acorn, a community organization that Republicans have accused of voter-registration fraud.
In splitting with Acorn, Mr. Groves sought to tamp down negative publicity that the partnership would taint the 2010 census.
Acorn, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is one of 80,000 groups of unpaid volunteers working with the bureau to raise awareness of the effort.
“It is clear that Acorn’s affiliation with the 2010 census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 census efforts,” Mr. Groves wrote.
I think it’s dangerous to pander to people like Glenn Beck. Having said that, I personally believed that it was impossible for Van Jones to continue in his job after it was revealed that he had ties to the “9/11 truth” folks. Politically, that is indefensible, regardless of your personal views. And ACORN screwed up badly one too many times. But…
It’s possible to defend each of the recent administration actions individually (e.g., severing ties with ACORN, getting rid of Van Jones, changing the immigration language in the health care bill to address Joe Wilson’s concerns, even dropping the public option after conservatives angrily disrupt Democratic Townhall meetings (I don’t defend dropping it, but I can imagine arguments made for dropping it (to save the bill, etc.)). Each action can be justified by the argument that by severing ties with ACORN, or getting rid of Van Jones, the administration has effectively stifled the criticism by nipping the problem in the bud, and thus removed a potential threat to their larger goals.
This is perhaps true – I say perhaps because I don’t necessarily agree with each action. But, for arguments sake, let’s say we do agree. The problem is that at some point, individual actions, in the aggregate, send a larger, and wrong, message. The ACORN action, on the heels of Van Jones and Joe Wilson (not to mention failing to follow through aggressively on campaign promises regarding the public option and gay rights, among other issues) – and then admitting that these actions were taken to appease some of the administration’s most vocal conservative critics, does not assuage those critics. It inspires them to cause even more trouble.
It is not a negotiating tactic to give something for nothing. If you constantly give your opponent what he demands, and ask for nothing in return, he will demand even more in the future, and likely in a more aggressive manner. There is a very real danger that these actions, in the aggregate, are helping to revitalize a once disparate, and disillusioned, conservative base and Republican party. So that not only has the enemy been given more reason to attack, but the attacks will become more lethal as well.
This is why Joe and I have written much in the past several months of the administration’s desire to assuage its conservative critics, while asking for little to nothing in return (e.g., giving the Republicans 40% of the stimulus bill in the form of ineffective tax cuts in order to win only 3 Republican votes, and then have the Republican party as a whole spend the next six months savaging Obama for passing the bill). The Republicans are in essence being told to keep up the fight and never negotiate, and eventually President Obama and the Democrats in Congress will cave to their demands, while asking nothing in return. It’s not the message I would choose. And I think it’s going to make it very difficult for the administration and Congress to get anything done in the future.