Thursday, March 18, 2010

"this herd of bloviating assholes"

Marshall: All On Board
Dennis Kucinich didn't just switch his own vote on Reform. He's now helping House leadership whip the vote with other wavering members, something colleagues find astonishing and say they've never seen him do before.
mistermix: Five Hundred Thirty Five Reasons for Our Current Predicament

In a typically good analysis of the recent uptick in support for the healthcare bill from moderates and liberals, Nate Silver says:

Liberals like the idea of being the scrappy underdog—being the fighter—and Obama, after a strangely aloof performance on the health care bill throughout 2009, has been fighting the good fight.

I’m sure there are many things that Obama would change about 2009 if he had a do-over, but being “aloof” probably isn’t one of them. One big difference between the Obama and Clinton healthcare reform efforts, aside from the obvious benefit Obama gains from hindsight, is that the current push is being led by someone who served in Congress.

Obama had first-hand knowledge of the preening, feckless and cowardly jackasses he was dealing with. If he were perceived as dictating the contents of the bill, or pushing Congress around, he’d have bruised the fragile egos of those, like Max Baucus, who wanted to be seen as the real authors of the bill. And if HCR became “Obama’s bill”, it would have been far too easy for the Democratic caucus to run away at the first sign of trouble. The path Obama took, though painful and ugly, is probably the only way that we could have gotten as far as we have.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch a few clips from the new C-SPAN archive and try to imagine what more Obama could have done to corral this herd of bloviating assholes.

Tim F.: The Era Of Stupak Exceptionalism

Bart Stupak, still complaining.

Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation over abortion has been a “living hell” for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

The telephone lines in his Washington and district offices have been “jammed” and he’s gotten more than 1,500 faxes and countless e-mails — most of which he says don’t come from his constituents.

Does Bart talk with colleagues in the House? Every Democrat in DC is getting slammed by angry stupid callers from outside their district. Fighting a quisling battle on their behalf apparently doesn’t insulate a guy from wingnut rage as much as Stupak thought.

At any rate, this means that you guys will need to use redial a lot to get through to your Congresspeople. Don’t give up! Do if for the underpaid staffers and volunteers who will be listening to a screaming out-of-district moron if they’re not talking to you. If teabaggers have killed off the phone lines entirely, send a fax or consider writing a Letter to the Editor to your local paper. OFA has useful online tools if you have never done it before.

After making countless unreasonable demands, offering a variety of inaccurate claims, and threatening to work with far-right Republicans to kill health care reform, Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) isn't having any fun.

Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama's healthcare legislation over abortion has been a "living hell" for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). [...]

"How's it been? Like a living hell," Stupak said.

I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for Stupak now? If he's waiting for an outpouring of sympathy, I suspect he'll be waiting a long while.

These comments also stood out.

The ideal outcome, Stupak said, might be for the House Democratic leadership to get the votes they need without him and for the bill to pass.

"You know, maybe for me that's the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs," he said, and "vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do."

I'm not sure what to make of this. Stupak, who claims to have always supported health care reform, apparently wants the legislation to pass, but also wants to be on record opposing it -- because of abortion provisions he's already mischaracterized and doesn't seem to understand.

What an odd lawmaker.

Bart Stupak vs. 59,000 nuns March 17: After pointing out that Catholic Sisters support the health reform bill, Rachel Maddow talks with Tracy Weitz, a director at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, about Rep. Stupak's canard about abortion funding in the bill and the importance of freedom of choice to women's health.

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

When former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-Pa.) talks about the challenges of casting tough votes, she knows of what she speaks.

In 1993, Margolies (then Margolies-Mezvinsky) was a targeted Democratic freshman representing a Republican district. Bill Clinton needed her help to pass his budget plan, which Republicans insisted would lead to economic disaster and national ruin. Her constituents bought into the far-right rhetoric and opposed the Clinton plan, but Margolies supported it anyway.

The Clinton policy went on to produce remarkable economic prosperity -- Republicans' uninterrupted track record of wrong predictions goes back quite a while -- but voters nevertheless threw Margolies out of office in the '94 midterms.

In a terrific Washington Post op-ed today, Margolies tells Democratic lawmakers wavering on health care reform: "I am your worst-case scenario. And I'd do it all again."

[I]t is with the perspective of having spent nearly two decades living with your worst political nightmare that I urge you to vote for health-care reform this week.... The moral of my brief political story is not that casting a tough and decisive vote necessarily predicts a bad electoral outcome for you, nor that the majority of your constituents is always wrong or always right.

It's that there are times in all our careers when we must ask ourselves why we're here. I decided that my desire for public service at that moment was greater than my desire to guarantee continued service. Yes, there are few jobs as rewarding (mostly) as being a member of Congress, and I was let down after I lost. But I believed then and now that being able to point to something tangible that changed our country for the better was a more powerful motivator than the possible electoral repercussions.

I urge you simply to cast the vote you can be proud of next week, next year and for years to come. Given the opportunity, I wouldn't change my vote.

Margolies's piece, which is well worth reading, notes that Republicans will attack vulnerable Dems anyway, so they might as well "cast the vote that you won't regret in 18 years." She also reminds lawmakers that their constituents' judgment is not flawless -- her district actually thought Clinton's economic policies would be awful. Her constituents got it wrong, but benefited when their representative got it right. If the goal is for lawmakers to help those they represent, Margolies succeeded in siding with her district's best interests.

There's one point, though, that her op-ed didn't mention, but which is also worth keeping in mind -- with her judicious vote in 1993, Margolies secured a place in history. Indeed, her name is still remembered on the Hill, all these years later, as an example of wisdom and courage. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Marjorie Margolies did the right thing and made a positive difference in the lives of millions.

Isn't this why candidates run for Congress in the first place? Do these wavering Dems really want to be remembered for cowering on the biggest vote of their careers? Do they really want to be known forever as politicians who wilted when given history's spotlight?

Or would they rather put their stamp on history and be remembered as a hero?

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