Conn Carroll - Yes, Uber is a Highly Ideological and Political Issue
Posted: 8/21/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

The American Prospect's Paul Waldman does not think highly of recent Republican Party efforts to expand their appeal by promoting "sharing economy" companies like Uber. It's not that Waldman has anything against Uber, he just thinks their is no political salience to the issue. Waldman writes:

I have no problem with the Republicans embracing Uber. Taxi regulations usually have a logic to them, but they can also be ridiculous. In the places where Uber is being fought, it's a pure battle of interests, with the existing businesses fighting to keep their privileged position. It's really not an ideological contest at all.

Not all progressives, however, seem to agree with Waldman. Dean Baker, co-founder of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently wrote for The Guardian:

But the downside of the sharing economy has gotten much less attention. Most cities and states both tax and regulate hotels, and the tourists who stay in hotels are usually an important source of tax revenue (since governments have long recognized that a modest hotel tax is not likely to discourage most visitors nor provoke the ire of constituents). But many of Airbnb's customers are not paying the taxes required under the law.

Airbnb can also raise issues of safety for its customers and nuisance for hosts' neighbors. Hotels are regularly inspected to ensure that they are not fire traps and that they don't pose other risks for visitors. Airbnb hosts face no such inspections – and their neighbors in condo, co-ops or apartment buildings may think they have the right not to be living next door to a hotel (which is one reason that cities have zoning restrictions).

Insofar as Airbnb is allowing people to evade taxes and regulations, the company is not a net plus to the economy and society – it is simply facilitating a bunch of rip-offs. Others in the economy will lose by bearing an additional tax burden or being forced to live next to an apartment unit with a never-ending parade of noisy visitors, just to cite two examples.

The same story may apply with Uber. Uber is currently in disputes with regulators over whether its cars meet the safety and insurance requirements imposed on standard taxis. Also, many cities impose some restrictions on the number of cabs in the hopes of ensuring a minimum level of earnings for drivers, but if Uber and related services (like Lyft) flood the market, they could harm all drivers' ability to earn even minimum wage.

So far from a harmless and isolated "battle of interests" in the transportation sector, it turns out that "sharing economy" companies like Uber and Airbnb challenge the very legitimacy of many government fixes to supposed market failures. 

Consumers are essentially being offered two economies: 1) a traditional, highly regulated economy that supposedly ensures their safety, protects them from fraud, and promises a minimum level of quality, but at a higher cost and with limited flexibility; 2) a modern, essentially unregulated economy where people rely on information provided by their peers to ensure their own safety, protect them from fraud, and secure valuable services.

The more younger voters use, choose, and identify with the second model for organizing human behavior, the more likely they are to be sympathetic to Republican limited government messages.

Does the spread of Uber and Airbnb guarantee Republican dominance? No. But by embracing the sharing economy Republicans have found an innovative way to introduce their brand to a wider population of voters that are normally told, in Waldman's words, that Republican only like "cutting taxes" and "trying to keep gay people from getting married."

Daniel Doherty - NYT: U.S. Commandos Tried to Rescue James Foley
Posted: 8/21/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

Reportedly captured by an affiliate of the Free Syrian Army and turned over to ISIS, the late journalist James Wright Foley was held in captivity for a period of years before he was brutally executed earlier this week. But the U.S. government didn’t forget about him; on the contrary, the president himself green-lighted a top-secret operation to rescue him and other hostages in Syria. Alas, the mission failed.

The New York Times reports:

A secret nighttime military mission authorized by President Obama to rescue Americans held captive in Syria failed early this summer when a team of two dozen Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in the northern part of the country but found after a firefight with Islamic militants that there were no hostages to be saved, administration officials said Wednesday.

The officials — speaking a day after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video showing the American journalist James Foley being beheaded — described what they called a “complicated operation” in which the commandos were dropped by helicopter into Syrian territory in an attempt to rescue Mr. Foley and others being held by the Sunni militant group.

The Army commandos fought their way to the spot where they believed that ISIS was hiding the hostages, the officials said. But when the team swooped in, the hostages were gone. “We’re not sure why they were moved,” a Defense Department official said. “By the time we got there, it was too late.” The official said it may have been “a matter of hours, perhaps a day or two” since the hostages had been there.

So U.S. intelligence officials had the correct location, but for some reason, the hostages were moved just before Army commandos could get to them. Devastating. Still, the article notes that although one U.S. soldier was “slightly wounded” during the attempted extraction, no Americans died. The raiders, meanwhile, took out at least a handful of Islamic terrorists.

And yet while the rescue attempt was daring, laudable, and dangerous, some at the Defense Department are questioning why the administration released information about the raid in the first place:

Two Defense Department officials, who spoke separately on the condition of anonymity because of the operation’s delicate nature, expressed anger at the administration for revealing the mission. One of the officials said the aborted raid had alerted the militants to the Americans’ desire and willingness to try to rescue the hostages, and, in the aftermath, had probably forced the captors to tighten their security.

But, the official said, the conference call on Wednesday revealed new details that ISIS is not likely to have known. “This only makes our job harder,” the official said. “I’m very disappointed this was released. We knew any second operation would be a lot harder.”

Although this, perhaps, is a plausible reason:

Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said the administration had “never intended to disclose this operation” but had felt that its hand was forced by news media outlets that were preparing to report on the mission. “An overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security made it imperative that we preserve as much secrecy as possible,” she said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Still, how could “media outlets” have access to this sensitive information if someone from the administration hadn't first leaked it? This explanation therefore doesn't address the underlying problem; namely, classified information continues to find its way into the hands of journalists and reporters. Why? Nevertheless, the Defense Department released this statement yesterday confirming the mission, and vowing to never leave captured American citizens behind when they can plausibly be rescued:

As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home.

The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.

Sadly, there is still another American journalist being detained by ISIS. And unsurprisingly, his fate remains uncertain.

Leah Barkoukis - ISIS, Mexican Drug Cartels Teaming Up?
Posted: 8/21/2014 10:00:00 AM EST

The relationship between drug trafficking and terrorism has long existed, and can take many forms depending on the goals and needs of each party. Sometimes hybrid criminal-terrorist organizations form in which terrorist groups become involved in the drug trade to fund operations, purchase equipment, and pay foot soldiers. In return, they provide safe passageways for the drugs and give traffickers tips for circumventing customs and security forces. Other times a localized criminal organization or terrorist group lacks expertise, so increased contacts and business with major drug cartels helps advance the sophistication of their operation. Ultimately, though, both have logistical needs and working with or even talking to each other allows the groups to share lessons learned, important contacts to corrupt officials, and operational methods.

Thus, it’s not surprising to hear that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is already talking to Mexican drug cartels. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a member of the House Judiciary Committee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, said as much on Newmax TV’s “America’s Forum” on Wednesday when asked if there’s any interaction between the two.

“My opinion is yes,” he replied. “There seems to be at least a talking to each other. How much? I don’t know. But ... drug cartels use the same operational plan as terrorist groups do. They kill their opponents, they behead their opponents, they brag about it and they have operational control of many portions of the southern border of the United States. Mexico doesn’t. The United States doesn’t. Otherwise they wouldn’t be crossing daily with their drugs. They’re as vicious as some of these other terrorist organizations. We need to recognize them that this is an organized international crime group. And we have to deal with them as such.” 

Even amid all the domestic and international crises going on at the moment, it’s important that the American people and lawmakers not give up on putting pressure on this administration to beef up border security. The crisis at the Southwest border is about more than just the illegal immigration of tens of thousands of Central Americans—it’s about national security. Criminals, violent gang members, drug cartel members, and yes, terrorists, are also coming in and will continue to do so as long as this administration puts politics and political correctness ahead of security.

Daniel Doherty - Romney: Heck, Even I Never Thought Obama Could Be This Bad
Posted: 8/21/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

During the last election cycle Mitt Romney was crushed by President Obama in the Electoral College and lost by nearly 5 million popular votes. That’s to say, the public overwhelmingly decided that the incumbent president was the better and more qualified of the two candidates, and safely re-elected him.

Still, even if that’s how history ultimately unfolded, the former Republican presidential nominee isn’t putting his disagreements aside -- or rallying to his defense -- during these difficult times. On the contrary, he recently told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in West Virginia that even he was surprised by how much of a failure President Obama’s second term has become (via The Washington Times):

The former Massachusetts governor has some pointed words for the man who defeated him two years ago, saying President Obama was doing “a good deal worse than even I expected.” He cited the U.S. economy and troubles abroad in such hot spots as Iraq, Syria and Russia.

“I was not a big fan of the president’s policies, as you know, either domestically or internationally,” he said, “but the results of his mistakes and errors, in my opinion, have been more severe than even I would have predicted.”

That’s about as uncharitable as Mitt Romney gets. Still, the past few weeks have been anything but easy for the president and his advisers. The death of Michael Brown and the subsequent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri has only added to the president’s growing list of unresolved problems. Abroad, we’ve also witnessed the slaughtering of innocent civilians in northern Iraq and the execution of the first American citizen by the terrorist organization ISIS. To make matters worse, the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas -- and Ukraine and Russia -- also threaten global stability and security.

Despite these challenges, however, there’s a reason why my colleagues over at Hot Air routinely describe Obama as “semi-retired.” That’s because he often gives off the impression that he is. He frequently delivers concise statements on important subject matters, only to jet off to a fundraiser or hit the links shortly thereafter. Still, even if the president isn’t “semi-retired” as some claim, his actions suggest he’s not totally engaged, either. As ABC News openly wondered: Does he even care about optics anymore?

It’d be one thing if President Obama was merely a floundering president way over his head; it’s quite another (and a real problem perhaps) when nearly half the country thinks he’s “already checked out.”

Matt Vespa - Bernie Sanders 2016?
Posted: 8/21/2014 8:20:00 AM EST

This certainly would be a surprise if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, runs in 2016. The self-described democratic socialist said last week we shouldn’t “anoint” Hillary just yet.

Sen. Sanders also isn’t afraid of being called a socialist. And said he had a “damn good platform” for a presidential run (via Yahoo!):

"If the American people understand what goes on in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and other countries, they will say, ‘Whoa, I didn't know that!’” Sanders said, pointing out that health care is considered a right, “R-I-G-H-T,” among even the most conservative politicians in Denmark.

Sanders described his credo as a fight to protect America’s working class from what he sees as the threat of an approaching “oligarchic form of society.”

“You have today in America more income and wealth inequality than any time in this country since 1928 and more than any major country in the world,” Sanders said. “So, you got the top one percent owning 38 percent of the wealth in America. Do you know what the bottom 60 percent own? 2.3 percent.”

“You know what that is?" he said. "That's called oligarchy."

Though Sanders isn’t making any secret of his possible 2016 presidential bid, he said he’s still determining whether he could generate a sufficient level of grassroots support on which to build a campaign.

One of Sanders’ most likely competitors, should he choose to seek the Democratic nomination, is Hillary Clinton. And while Sanders praised Clinton for a successful career, he was critical of the Democratic Party’s seeming coronation of the former secretary of state.

"She has accomplished a lot of very positive things in her career, but I'm not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people,” Sanders said.

Though he stopped short of criticizing Clinton directly, he said she is not a sufficient champion of his message for the middle class.

Well, even “the most conservative politicians” in Denmark would be labeled liberal here in the U.S. Also, the senator should know that conservative means something entirely different across the pond. As for presidential ambitions, Sanders, like Warren, is hinting at making challenges so that more centrist–or perceived centrist– candidates, like Hillary Clinton, make sure their leanings veer towards the left.

Allahpundit made a note of this last June after Sen. Warren’s interview with Huffington Post Live:

What she’s really doing here, I think, is preserving a little strategic ambiguity to keep the pressure on Hillary to pander to the left. She’s not going to run and she wouldn’t win if she did, but if she starts speaking campaign-ese, she can make sure that Hillary invests in plenty of income inequality rhetoric next year that the left can hold her to later.

Alas, Sen. Warren isn’t going to run. But the progressive challenge threat remains. Hillary still hasn’t sharpened her already dull campaign skills from 2008–and don’t expect anything once 2016 rolls around. She’s not a good campaigner, who could struggle if Sanders decides to channel his inner-Warren. Even if he is in the race just to raise the issues adored by the far left of the Democratic Party.

Although, given her recent gaffes, especially about her wealth, and the outrageous demands Hillary makes when making speeches; it's not totally insane (we’re talking Democratic politics here) to say that he could siphon some of Hillary’s grassroots support. At Netroots Nation, the crowd went nuts when Sen. Warren gave her keynote address; a sign that shows she’s where the Democratic base aligns on the issues. And that’s a bit unnerving. Sen. Sanders also fits in with this crowd very well.

Additionally, Hillary also isn’t looking as invincible as she once did in February. The left-leaning Washington Post documented her precipitous decline last week:

A new poll from McClatchy and Marist College documents that decline pretty well. In hypothetical matchups with potential 2016 Republican candidates, Clinton has seen her lead decline from 20-plus points in February to the mid-single digits today. She leads Chris Christie by six points after leading him by 21 points six months ago. She leads Jeb Bush 48-41 after leading him by 20 in February. She leads Rand Paul 48-42 after leading him by the same margin early this year.

But for right now, Sen. Sanders is defending Israel, telling people to “shut up” at town halls about the Gaza conflict. I guess we can assume his position on Israel won’t be a hostile one if he mounts a 2016 campaign, right?

(Warning: mild language)

The fireworks begin around 3:15. One woman says Hamas' tunnels in Gaza were for "survival purposes."  

Matt Vespa - Grand Jurors Say Gov. Perry Is Being 'Disrespectful,' Or Something
Posted: 8/21/2014 7:40:00 AM EST

Several members of the grand jury that indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges are a little hurt that the governor labeled their actions as politically motivated (via Houston Chronicle):

Several members of the grand jury that indicted Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that his claim the indictment was based more on politics than substance is unfair and disrespectful to the months of work they put in.

The jury, which met weekly for four months, "really tried to keep an open mind and come to a fair decision given all the testimony that we heard," said Janna Bessin, one of the 12 Travis County residents appointed to serve on the grand jury.

"It's too bad," Bessin said, calling the criticism unfair. "But I guess that his side's job – to really spin it."

Perry was indicted on one count of abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison; and on one count of coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony carrying a punishment oftwo to 10 years in prison.

The charges are related to Perry's threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney office's Public Integrity Unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following her drunken-driving arrest and the widely-viewed video of her booking in which she was belligerant with police officers. Lehmberg refused and Perry vetoed the $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit.

Gov. Perry turned himself in Tuesday, got his mug shot taken, and said outside the courthouse "I'm here today because I believe in the rule of law. And I'm here today because I did the right thing.” 

Gov. Perry has actually seen commentaries and editorials from across the political spectrum saying how this indictment is a gross exercise in overreach. Former White House adviser David Axelrod called it “sketchy.” The New York Times, which isn’t a fan of Gov. Perry, criticized the charges as “overzealous.” Jonathan Chait, former editor of the New Republic, called this whole fiasco “unbelievably ridiculous.”

Oh, as for the jurors speaking out, it seems like you're breaking the law. Bryan Preston over at PJ Media has what Texas law says about the oath of grand jurors:

Now, as to Texas law. Here’s what it says.

Art. 19.34. [365] [416] [404] OATH OF GRAND JURORS

When the grand jury is completed, the court shall appoint one of the number foreman; and the following oath shall be administered by the court, or under its direction, to the jurors: “You solemnly swear that you

will diligently inquire into, and true presentment make, of all

such matters and things as shall be given you in charge; the

State’s counsel, your fellows and your own, you shall keep secret,

unless required to disclose the same in the course of a judicial

proceeding in which the truth or falsity of evidence given in the

grand jury room, in a criminal case, shall be under investigation.

You shall present no person from envy, hatred or malice; neither

shall you leave any person unpresented for love, fear, favor,

affection or hope of reward; but you shall present things truly as

they come to your knowledge, according to the best of your

understanding, so help you God”.

Bold added. For the grand jury misconduct.

Ky Sisson - "Ice Bucket Challenge": Don't Waste Water
Posted: 8/20/2014 6:10:00 PM EST

Scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed hasn't been the same in the last few weeks. 

Rich, poor, young, old, Dr. Dre, and your uncle you haven't seen in years have all been participating in the nationwide phenomena known as the "Ice Bucket Challenge." In the name of finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS), the "Ice Bucket Challenge" has raised $31.5 million in just over 3 weeks. The idea is simple: donate to the ALS Association or pour ice water on your head, challenge someone else to do the same, and post to social media.

Governor Jerry Brown of California was challenged by Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson and instead of taking on the challenge himself, he volunteered his Welsh corgi, Sutter. Ironically, the bucket of water is poured out in front of the California Capitol Building with what appears to be a water conservation sign in the background. Watch the video here.

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" has been scrutinized by critics in California where the state is experiencing the worst drought in recored history. The Long Beach Post estimates that 6 million gallons of water have been wasted on the challenge worldwide, but any water wasted in California is intolerable. State-mandated fines of $500 are in effect for those wasting water for any reason.

Many people don't understand that the challenge is meant to be a punishment for not donating to charity. Instead it has become an excuse to post a silly video on social media. 

Will Oremus of wrote:

"As for 'raising awareness,' few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt."

The 1.2 million "Ice Bucket" videos shared on Facebook show little knowledge of what ALS is (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) from their creators. They mostly consist of "Hi, my name is so-and-so and I challenge so-and-so." Giving a little education on the disease would at least justify those who are doing the challenge and not donating, which is what many younger people are doing. 

While there is probably people who do the challenge and donate to ALS research, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" is being called a ploy by those who claim to support a cause and aren't really doing anything. Some call it "slacktivism," a play-on-words for people who don't do much for the cause they are supporting (post a Facebook video, for example) and claim to be an activist for. 

Matt Vespa - REPORT: Fracking Doesn't Create Destructive Earthquakes
Posted: 8/20/2014 5:40:00 PM EST

The debate is over; fracking doesn’t cause destructive earthquakes. The highly non-controversial way of extracting natural gas, which has been used since 1947, has been a focal point of some absurd claims that they’re a threat to the environment (via Associated Press) [emphasis mine]:

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found.

People feeling the ground move from induced quakes — those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground— report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.

Fracking and natural gas exploration has been a huge issue for the environmentalists. They claim fracking contaminates water, which was disproven by the Environmental Protection Agency when they tested the water in Dimock, Pennsylvania in 2012. They said the water was safe to drink (emphasis mine):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today [July 25, 2012] that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

Between January and June 2012, EPA sampled private drinking water wells serving 64 homes, including two rounds of sampling at four wells where EPA was delivering temporary water supplies as a precautionary step in response to prior data indicating the well water contained levels of contaminants that pose a health concern. At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water. The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern.

As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water. EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA.

Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap. EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

Dimock became the epicenter for the drinking water contamination hysteria thanks to Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary Gasland.

Right now, environmentalists and green energy advocates have to solve a few problems with their own pet projects, specifically in solar fields where 28,000 birds are bursting into flames over the intense heat emitted from the plants. Additionally, wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and turning nearly a million bats into burgers (via NRO):

California’s massive Ivanpah solar power plant can produce enough electricity for 140,000 households — but the environmental cost is nothing less than an avian slaughter.

Temperatures near the towers can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, heat certainly sufficient to fry a fowl.

That’s a common occurrence, the AP continues; federal investigators saw a bird burn roughly every two minutes. Ivanpah owner BrightSource estimates that “about a thousand” die each year, and one environmental group says the plant kills up to 28,000 birds each year.

Ivanpah isn’t the only green darling with a lot of bird blood on its hands, either. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines slay 440,000 birds each year, and the an analyst writing in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says it’s closer to 573,000 — in addition to 888,000 bats.

So, does this mean we should all live in teepees? 

Ky Sisson - Low Approval Ratings Prompt More Obama Press Conferences
Posted: 8/20/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

President Obama has held more press conferences this year than all of 2013 in light of constant national and international turmoil that has plagued the president's second term. Republicans believe it is due to Obama's record-low approval rating, which according to  Real Clear Politics reached an average of 41.8 percent. 

For a president that has been criticized for being out of touch and hard to reach, Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University, told  USA TODAY that Obama has held 16 press conferences up until July of this year, more than 2013, which totaled 14 appearances.

Kumar in  USA TODAY said:

"You need to have the public know who you are...That's an issue for him." 

The White House is quick to say that the trend is more about the issues and less about the president making a renewed PR stunt to slow his bleeding legacy.

Republican strategist Rich Galen told USA TODAY:

"They're looking for anything that can stop the slide...If you don't define yourself, your opponents will do it for you."

Even while on vacation, President Obama has made five press statements during his time at Martha's Vineyard. Earlier today, he spoke on the tragic beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS militants. 

Kevin Glass - Why It Matters That Obama Doesn't Hold Much Sway On Capitol Hill
Posted: 8/20/2014 4:00:00 PM EST

Many analysts subscribe to the theory that the Congressional GOP is the main source of all dysfunction on Capitol Hill. Their monolithic will to block progress, this theory goes, impedes legislation on Capitol Hill and there's really nothing anyone can do about it but ask constituents to apply pressure.

Vox's Ezra Klein writes that Capitol Hill Democrats' frustrations with President Obama are "ridiculous." This is in reference to a New York Times article that described those frustrations. While the NYT got multiple Democrats on the record with those complaints, Klein cites "a lot" of conversations he has with members of Congress, saying that all of them agree that their voting pattern has not been changed by President Obama's behavior.

Putting aside one obvious thing - no legislator wants to admit that their ideals that underlie their voting behavior is so shallow and malleable that a cup of coffee with POTUS will change it, especially to a member of the press - we could find a myriad of examples in which President Obama's lack of sway within his own party may have impeded legislative action on the Hill.

Just this year, Democrats on the Hill led action against a bipartisan piece of trade legislation that the White House was publicly in favor of. As the Financial Times reported, Sen. Sherrod Brown and other pro-labor Democrats helped block legislation sponsored by Max Baucus and Dave Camp for the Trade Promotion Authority.

Now, this is a relatively small-bore issue, and it might be that no amount of Obama politicking would have caused Democrats to back off their opposition to trade legislation. Democrats can be quite monolithic and uncompromising when it comes to free trade agreements. (Why, one might be surprised that Democrats are often just as monolithic and uncompromising as one thinks Republicans to be!) But it's not just here. President Obama's relationship with Harry Reid has proven to be fractious, and it's not hard to imagine a better working relationship resulting in Harry Reid himself working harder for Democratic comity. Obama politicking might not be enough to pass gun control measures (though some have said that a more shrewd White House might have found victory on extended unemployment benefits extension), but to point out that Republicans have a few pet issues on which they won't compromise is not to excuse the White House.

As Joe Manchin told the New York Times, sometimes a little introspection is a good thing. It might be possible that there is literally nothing President Obama could have done over the previous six years that would have resulted in a better working relationship and more of his pet legislation passed. But no amount of anonymous conversations that Klein has with unnamed legislators will change that legislators, by and large, do think Obama could do better.