Michael Crowley over at &c. has drawn attention to a Jonathan Chait column in the L.A. Times this summer that I missed, about George W. Bush’s “creepy” obsession with the exercise habits of his staff. As Crowley points out, this obsession may have something to do with Bush’s close bond with Harriet Miers, who not only helped him clear brush down at the ranch, but has also gone running with her idol on occasion, matching him step for step. I realize that “working out” is something of a bipartisan obsession among young political folk in Washington. I’m constantly amused at twenty-something colleagues who care barely afford to rent a rabbit warren, and who live on reception food and dollar beer specials, but who invariably have expensive gym memberships. “You’re at an age where your body will forgive you anything,” I occasionally say to them. “Junk that monthly gym fee, and you could probably eat lunch more than twice a week, or take the big step up from 3.2 beer to Sierra Nevada.” But in Bush’s White House, the working-out thing seems to be a priority unlimited by age. And this must warm the well-exercised heart of Gary Aldrich, the former FBI agent who penned a tell-all book that focused on the devolution in body-shapes and overall personal grooming between the Bush 41 and Clinton White Houses (a theme similar to the paradise-lost maunderings of Linda Tripp, who also considered the Democratic invasion of the White House something of a Sack of Rome). When Aldrich’s book first appeared, I figured he was just a semi-fascistic outlier who cashed in on the bottomless right-wing appetite for anti-Clinton material. But there seems to be a pattern here: who cares if the White House “works” in Democratic administrations, and doesn’t in Republican administrations; the real question is whether it “works out.”Betcha “Brownie” was a real Spartan.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.