Landry’s Obama Snub, Redux

Over the last couple of days since the news hit about Rep. Jeff Landry telling President Obama to stick his meeting with House Republicans where the sun don’t shine, it’s been interesting to see the reaction from the media types as well as the ordinary folks.

As usual, there’s a substantial disconnect.

I was, of course, on the side of the media types. Which is a bit unusual. I said that it was a mistake for Landry to have come on so strong in telling Obama off. For two reasons; that it was rude and wouldn’t look good, and also that it would create a distraction from the strong impression Republicans need to convey to the American public that while some of the policy choices in the Ryan plan might not be as easy and fun as folks might like at least the GOP is serious about the budget – and Obama is not. You’ve got to go to the meetings to give the impression that you’re serious, particularly when almost all the other House Republicans are going.

I also said it would have been more effective had Landry gone to that meeting and made a point of causing a small ruckus there, and then calling a press conference after the fact blasting Obama as some sort of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Which would likely have been just as rude as snubbing Obama for the meeting in the first place, but it would have been more effective rudeness. There’s a real Mr. Smith Goes To Washington narrative available to Landry, seeing as though he’s a freshman whose district is getting chopped up and most of it smacked together with Rep. Charles Boustany’s district (Boustany made no waves at the White House). As such, he’s free to do lots of unconventional things to get attention. But to be Mr. Smith, you have to be the guy who’s so sure in his beliefs that he’ll go into the belly of the beast to talk about them until he drops. Mr. Smith isn’t the guy who tells the President “you’re not worth my time,” notwithstanding the fact Landry is absolutely right that Obama’s bloviations are a waste of hot air to a GOP congressman.

My point wasn’t that Landry should be quiet and demure. My point was that if he wanted to tee off on Obama, the way to do it would have been to dove-tail his message with the overall GOP strategy. If everybody else is going to the White House in a vain (in all likelihood) attempt to find a solution to the budget problems and the debt ceiling, then go. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to score all the points you want because you went there and put up with this clown in the White House who’s killing your district’s economy with his stupid offshore oil policies and who’s spending the country into banana republic status.

In other words, my objection was tactical.

But like I said in the piece, I don’t blame him for refusing to meet with Obama. Some of the reaction in the comments to my post and elsewhere this has been discussed has been to the effect that while the office of the President might deserve the kind of respect that would command Landry’s presence, the current occupant has through his actions greatly diminished the office. And that’s true. Obama’s despicable action at his George Washington speech, in which he had Paul Ryan sit in the front row before humiliating him by savaging his budget plan as killing old people and puppies and so on, was perhaps the worst public example of presidential thuggery in modern times. But as bad as it was, it was no different than what he did to the Supreme Court last year at his State of the Union speech, in which he called out the justices for the Citizens United decision while they were there. The office might still deserve that respect, but Obama’s behavioral history is such that he himself has earned lots of Landrys telling him to pound sand. I don’t disagree with the commenters making this point.

But today, the legacy media people are starting to opine about all this. The Thibodaux Daily Comet’s editorial, entitled No Upside To Snubbing The President

In our system of dueling political parties and participatory government, compromise and persuasion are integral to the process. Landry squandered an excellent chance to put those powers to work. If another such chance comes along, he should seize it rather than stubbornly clinging to dogma.

Louisiana, particularly south Louisiana, needs the federal government’s participation and cooperation on everything from flood protection to coastal restoration to the Gulf of Mexico oilfield.

Refusing to even listen to the president on a matter as important as the nation’s budget crisis will not help Landry or his district now or in the future.

It’s funny, because here I am largely on the same side of this editorial and yet I don’t agree with hardly any of it. I’m not interested in Landry compromising with Obama; there isn’t much to compromise about. Either Obama’s spending breaks the country, or that spending stops. Either Obama allows the offshore workers in Landry’s district to go back to work, so we can produce our own oil, or he doesn’t. And Obama hasn’t offered much in the way of compromise; he’s offered Mediscare and sent his scum-sucking, tax-cheating, Goldman Sachs whore spin doctor of a Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner out to cry wolf about how if we don’t raise the debt ceiling by $2 trillion the economy is going to collapse. Compromising with Obama unless something significant is changed is entirely the wrong advice for Landry or any other House Republican.

Like, for example, a budget. Let’s see a Democrat budget. Then we might have something to negotiate. Which Landry noted in his statement snubbing Obama; he said he wasn’t going to the White House to negotiate with himself, and he was correct in that assessment.

As for the federal government’s participation and cooperation, I’m thinking of Herman Cain’s now-famous question – “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” The Corps of Engineers seems to have done a great job handling the spillways with the high river, which has almost nothing to do with the president, but outside of that the Obama administration has been a flat-out enemy to Louisiana on virtually every score. It’s been three years and if there’s cooperation from Washington, we haven’t seen it. And neither have any of Landry’s colleagues in the Louisiana delegation.

And the final point, that Landry’s snub of Obama won’t help him or the district, is completely wrong. First of all, the district isn’t getting any help from Washington until Obama is either out of office or has been politically forced – not cajoled or charmed, but forced – to change his policies. And second, the reaction Landry has gotten from the voters he’s going to need next year if he runs against Boustany indicates the Thibodaux paper has it entirely wrong about whether he helped himself. South Louisiana can’t stand Obama, and it’s done talking nice with him. Landry, for better or worse, achieved hero status with lots of people by pulling that stunt. And if the New York Times-owned Daily Comet can’t get that, it seems pretty clear they’re out of touch with their own readership.

But while the Daily Comet only had one critical editorial, the Times-Picayune wasn’t satisfied until they had two of them today.

The first, from Manuel Torres

No one expected a fiscal solution to emerge from the White House session. But none will be forthcoming if the parties involved aren’t civil enough to talk to one another. Besides, Rep. Landry also missed an opportunity to lobby for issues that are important to his constituents.

Rep. Steve Scalise, for example, pressed the president to speed up permits for offshore drilling. He said the president and his economic advisor, Gene Sperling, promised to follow up on the issue. Rep. Scalise said he will stay on their case to see if President Obama is sincere about the offer. That’s what constituents expect from their representatives.

Rep. Landry ought to understand that.

I haven’t talked to Scalise or any of his people this week, but I’m almost positive that everybody in that camp believes Obama was shining him on. He might have talked about speeding up permits, but while that was going on Obama was nominating John Bryson, a certifiable enviro-loony who co-founded an organization responsible for as much or more hindrance to oil exploration than any other, as his choice for Commerce Secretary. Which is not to say Scalise wasn’t doing his job; he was. And hopefully he now has a little leverage to get something done. But even Scalise had to pull out the whole “trust, but verify” line in describing his interaction with the president; he knows a promise from Obama isn’t worth the carbon dioxide it’s made of. And Landry’s issues are largely the same as Scalise’s.

And then there was Jarvis DeBerry

The rookie congressman’s petulant rejection of the president’s invitation reveals that he’s not even going to try to be influential in Washington. Granted, rookies have little influence to begin with, and rookies from districts doomed for redistricting have even less than that. Still, if Landry’s not even going to try to engage in talks on the important issues, he’s wasting what time he has in Washington.

Again, Landry’s time on Capitol Hill isn’t likely to last past January 2013. Louisiana is losing a congressional seat, and in January, the state’s other five House Republicans and Cedric Richmond, the only House Democrat, reportedly met over Chinese food and voted Landry off the island. Their plan, which the Louisiana Legislature later approved, sliced up Landry’s district into three parts, leaving him a district that heavily favors the re-election of Rep. Charles Boustany.

You’d think that if Landry were making a list of people he doesn’t want to meet with, his fellow Louisiana Republicans would come first. But more than that, you’d think that a lawmaker looking to accomplish things in Washington would know not to let ideological differences become personal. Actual friendships have been known to develop between Republicans and Democrats, and sometimes politicians from the two sides actually work together. It’s why they’re there, really: to work with the other side to get things done.

Antagonizing the president won’t help him accomplish anything. That’s bad news for his constituents; for not only is Landry’s district doomed by redistricting, parts of it are being washed away by the Gulf of Mexico. Effective coastal restoration is going to require a commitment from the White House. It’s the White House Landry chose to offend this week.

This, of course, is a complete joke. Does DeBerry propose that Landry will gain influence by sucking up to Obama like Joseph Cao did (Again, “How’s THAT workin’ out for ya?”)? Does he think sitting quietly at that meeting will do the trick? To call this line of criticism off-base is far too kind. And it reinforces the rather obvious observation that Jarvis DeBerry, for lots of reasons, is the absolute last guy Landry needs advice from. At least DeBerry didn’t call Landry a racist for the snub like some of the commenters under his column did.

I’m left scratching my head having read these three pieces of analysis. I still don’t think I was wrong in criticizing Landry’s decision to tell Obama off. But the cases the ink-stained wretches in Thibodaux and New Orleans made tells me I don’t like the folks on my side of the issue.



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