Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Midday Potpourri

Sully: Cheney's Washington Post

First Hiatt fired the only opinion writer who really held Cheney to account for war crimes, Dan Froomkin. Then he hires a mediocre writer, and proud Catholic-for-torture, and Cheney's former speech-writer, Marc Thiessen, for a weekly column. So it's perhaps no surprise that Bart Gellman, the best journalist on Cheney in the country, whose series of pieces which became The Angler is the definitive expose of the paranoid incompetent who was veep under Bush ... has now moved after twenty years to Time magazine.

Watching this paper die a sad and sordid death as it gathers a gaggle of neocon sycophants and has-beens around a proud war criminal like Cheney is truly depressing.

John Cole: The Farce

I’m kind of enjoying watching this joke unfold:

An uneasy truce may have been reached between the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spent nearly four hours Tuesday trying to calm the fears of Tea Party leaders who worry that the GOP is out to co-opt their grassroots energy ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

Steele met with about 50 Tea Party leaders from grassroots organizations around the country in a lengthy bull session at the Capitol Hill Club, a cushy Republican meeting-spot located next to RNC headquarters.

It is going to be funny watching them pretend to retain their “independence” while magically discovering that they share all the Republican goals.

Thhink Progress: CPAC will feature a Pelosi piñata and Reid punching bag.

Tomorrow, conservatives from around the country will converge at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which serves as a “showcase of the heart and soul of American conservatism.” The Washington Scene reports that this year’s CPAC will prominently feature a Nancy Pelosi piñata and a Harry Reid punching bag for guests to take turns beating:

pelosisAttendees at a conservative conference in town this week will have the opportunity to whack a pinata of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Conservative Political Action Conference “CPAC” begins Thursday here in D.C. and will feature a party Friday evening where guests will have the opportunity to whack a Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pinata.

Keri Ann Meslar, director of development for the Greater Washington Sports Alliance and Katherine Kennedy of The Blonde Charity Mafia will be two of three famous D.C. residents taking a turn at the pinata during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which starts on Thursday. Meslar will be the guest “whacker” at a CPAC-sponsored party in Georgetown.

Mary Christopher, outreach coordinator for CivicForumPAC, said the Pelosi piñata will be filled with favorite Pelosi sayings, bills and candy. The party hopes to invite two other well-known D.C. residents to smash the piñata first, before others in attendance will be invited to try to take the Speaker down. “We’re hoping to have the females whack the piñata and males try their hand at a Harry Reid punching bag,” Christopher said.

CPAC will kick off tomorrow with a keynote speech by Florida GOP primary gubernatorial candidate Marco Rubio.

Yglesias: Congress Is Very Important

John Stossel reflects on Evan Bayh’s retirement:

Wow. By all accounts, he would have easily won re-election. How rare and refreshing when a politician voluntarily steps down. How even more rare and refreshing for him to acknowledge that he can contribute more in the private sector.

The truth is, he certainly can. If Bayh succeeds at business, he will enhance more lives and create more jobs than all of Congress ever does.

The popularity of this sort of rhetoric among small-government types mostly illustrates how small-brained they are. It should be both obvious and uncontroversial to observe that the policy environment shaped by congress has an impact on the welfare of the American people that far exceeds that of most businesses. This is equally true whether or not you’re skeptical of the value of activist government. If you think that taxes are economically ruinous, then politicians who stand against tax increases are doing great things for the economy. And if taxes aren’t economically ruinous, then politicians who advocate for higher taxes and more social services are doing great things for human welfare.

Obviously a small number of businessmen and innovators come up with world-changing ideas. But the majority of people who succeed in business, like the majority of people who succeed at anything, do so in a rather modest way. Senators are very successful politicians who have a major opportunity to shape the country for good or for ill.


With the first anniversary of the stimulus package coming today, there's going to be a fair amount of analysis on the merits of the economic recovery initiative. A good place to start would be this piece from the NYT's David Leonhardt.

Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.

Let's say this bill had started spending money within a matter of weeks and had rapidly helped the economy. Let's also imagine it was large enough to have had a huge impact on jobs -- employing something like two million people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.

If that had happened, what would the economy look like today?

Well, it would look almost exactly as it does now. Because those nice descriptions of the stimulus that I just gave aren't hypothetical. They are descriptions of the actual bill.

Among people who know what they're talking about, the fact that the stimulus has been successful isn't even controversial anymore. The leading economic research firms -- IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers, and Moody's -- estimate that the effort has already created as many as 1.8 million jobs, and will create about 2.5 million jobs when all is said and done. As far as the independent Congressional Budget Office is concerned, those are conservative estimates -- the CBO believes the stimulus is already responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs.

Leonhardt describes the skeptics as "misguided," adding that one can "pick just about any area of the economy" and find evidence of success.

To be sure, the recovery effort should have been bigger and more ambitious. And it would have been, had Senate Republican "moderates" not demanded that the bill be scaled back, offering less assistance to states and local governments -- one of the most effective areas of the legislation. As has become apparent, changing bills to generate "bipartisan" support invariably means making the bills worse, and the stimulus, alas, fits this model.

But the Recovery Act was nevertheless instrumental is rescuing the economy from the abyss.

One year ago, we had three choices: approve the Democratic stimulus plan, approve the Republican spending-freeze plan, or do nothing. We can all be deeply thankful President Obama and a Democratic congressional majority were in office at the time, because two of those three options would likely have been cataclysmic for the global economy.

That Republicans still claim any credibility on this issue is literally laughable. Every time they claim the stimulus didn't work -- an argument we'll no doubt be hearing quite a bit today -- the GOP, which was responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place, looks a little more ridiculous.

Greg Sargent:

* Obama stimulus front-man Joe Biden sends the president a very long report on the Recovery Act’s success as a gift for its first birthday, accompanying a major P.R. effort today.

* But: Jake Tapper rightly notes that the need for such an aggressive sales pitch a full year later “speaks volumes about how successful the Obama administration’s selling job has been.”

* And: The GOP response, from Eric Cantor: “1 Year, $862 Billion, 4 Million Jobs Lost.” Cantor’s full statement here.


Reasonable people can disagree on whether to expand nuclear power in the United States. The Monthly has been more than a little skeptical about the idea, but support for and opposition to the idea do not necessarily fall along clear ideological or partisan lines.

President Obama, for example, has long expressed a willingness to consider domestic nuclear expansion, and yesterday took a big step in that direction.

President Obama seized a key Republican energy initiative as his own Tuesday, promising $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees for a pair of Georgia reactors that he said would give new life to the U.S. nuclear power industry and create a surge of high-skill jobs.

By helping to finance the construction of the reactors -- the first new U.S. nuclear power units in more than 30 years -- Obama is hoping to jump-start his efforts to pass comprehensive climate-change legislation, which has stalled in Congress in the face of GOP opposition.

I'm happy to let energy policy experts weigh the merits of the loan guarantees. What I found interesting, though, was the reaction from Georgia's right-wing Republican senators, who are thrilled to see their state benefit -- the Obama administration's proposal is likely help create thousands of jobs in Georgia -- but can't quite bring themselves to even use the president's name.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman noted yesterday, for example, that Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) issued a seven-paragraph, 392-word joint statement, lauding the new nuclear initiative. Number of times Isakson and Chambliss used the words "president," "Obama," and/or "White House"? Zero. Even though the senators were delighted to hear the president's announcement, as Bookman concluded, the two "just couldn't bring themselves" to agree with Obama by name.

The president suggested yesterday that an initiative like this one could help bolster bipartisanship, with a Democratic administration finding common ground with GOP policymakers. But the fact that Republican senators don't even want to mention the president, even when they're thrilled with one of his decisions, only reinforces the fact that Republicans just aren't interested.

  • from the comments:

    I've only had one cup of coffee, but please tell me that this post was penned with not a little irony. You are rubbing their nose in something of which Chambliss and Isaacson are very proud. They will never mention that "boy" in the White House.

    Posted by: scott F. on February 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM

Filibuster falls from favor Feb. 16: New York Times columnist Gail Collins talks with Rachel Maddow about rising tide of animosity toward the Senate filibuster.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Again, this is the right sentiment, but it's incomplete.

Vice President Joe Biden doesn't seem to miss his days as a senator.

In an interview with CBS "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith, Biden was blunt about the nation's political system. "Washington, right now, is broken."

Having served in the Senate for more than 30 years, Biden has seen a fair share of gridlock in Congress, but the current version is the worst ever, he said.

"I don't ever recall a time in my career where to get anything done, you needed a supermajority, 60 out of 100 senators.... I've never seen it this dysfunctional," he said.

Right. The system in Washington is "broken." Every effort does require an inexplicable "supermajority." The entire policymaking process is "dysfunctional."

But what officials need to understand is the importance of taking the next step -- explaining why this is and who is responsible.

As much as I'm sympathetic to the vice president's entirely accurate concerns, his omissions make all the difference. For viewers who don't know what filibusters or cloture votes are, they're thinking, "There's a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. If the system is broken and dysfunctional, maybe it's Democrats' fault."

Except, for anyone interested in reality, that assumption couldn't be more wrong. If legislation received up-or-down votes in both chambers -- the way Congress operated for the better part of two centuries -- the system would work quite well and the dysfunction that drives everyone crazy would largely disappear.

Biden, in other words, needs to name names -- Republicans broke the American legislative process. They did so deliberately, during a time of crises, because they're desperate to undercut the Democratic majority, regardless of the consequences. The GOP's tactics have no precedent in American history, and violate every democratic norm that keeps our system moving.

It's not enough to share Americans' disgust; Dems need to help the public understand this mess. They can do so by avoiding jargon and legislative terminology, and calling Republicans' obstructionist tactics what they are: a dangerous political scandal.

Don't talk about "filibusters" or "supermajorities"; talk about the Republican "scandal" that has brought the system to a halt. Talk about Republicans "shutting down" the American policymaking process, and ignoring the will of the voters.

Ezra Klein: Translating McConnell
Howard Fineman delivers some real talk on Mitch McConnell:

The blizzard had paralyzed Washington. So it was an apt day for a chat (by phone) with Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who is working successfully—yet with surprisingly little personal notoriety—to bury the Barack Obama presidency in an unplowed cul-de-sac called the U.S. Senate. As the GOP leader there, McConnell strands Democrats in snowdrifts of parliamentary procedure and nasty talking points. "We are not just reflexively looking for areas where there will be no progress," he assured me. Having spent many years listening to McConnell, I can translate: he is reflexively looking for areas where there will be no progress.

But, to be fair, that's sort of what the minority leader should be doing: Trying to get himself and his allies back into the majority. It's not even a dirty, partisan thing, If you're a Republican, and you believe Republican ideas improve the nation, then you want to be back in power so you can get to work improving the nation. It's a clean, partisan thing.

The problem comes when you take that perfectly sensible position and pair it with a set of parliamentary powers that allow the minority to get back into power by obstructing any efforts the majority makes at governance. The problem, in other words, isn't Mitch McConnell. It's the unplowed cul-de-sac.

And then there is this guy, wishing for ponies ...

Slajda (TPM): Dodd: It Would Be 'Foolish' To Change Filibuster Rules

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) told Morning Joe today that he's opposed to changing the Senate's filibuster rules. He also spoke to the virtues of partisanship.

Dodd, who recently announced he will retire from the Senate this year, said he thinks it would be "foolish" to change filibuster rules.

"I'm totally opposed to the idea of changing the filibuster rules. I think that's foolish, in my view," he said.

The problem, he said, was a lack of civility in the Senate, stemming from a lack of "chemistry" among senators.

"You can write all the rules you want, but at the end of the day, if the chemistry isn't there" you don't have a functioning Senate, he said.

There's a movement to change the filibuster rules, lead by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has dismissed the idea.

Dodd was asked about Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-IN) retirement announcement yesterday, in which he said that the Senate is "dysfunctional" with "brain-dead partisanship." Dodd disagreed.

"There's nothing wrong with partisanship. I think we've got to get over this notion that there's something inherently evil about partisanship. This country was founded in partisanship," he said. The problem, he said, is "the lack of civility. It's the inability to compromise."


(H/T The Hill)

No comments:

Post a Comment