Saturday, March 6, 2010

Health Care Saturday

Weekly Address: The Immediate Benefits of Health Reform

Booman: Your Liberal Media
You can tell that the media is liberal by looking at the Sunday morning political talk show lineups. On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham is balanced by Evan Bayh. On Meet the Press, Orrin Hatch is balanced by Harold Ford. On This Week, Mitch McConnell is balanced by no one. On Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney is balanced by no one. On State of the Union, Tom DeLay is balanced out by Chris Van Hollen and Brian Baird. Obviously, that means there are no progressives and, aside from Van Hollen, no mainstream Democrats. It's extreme right-wingers matched up against the most 'centrist' Democrats in the business. The only person on any of these shows other than Van Hollen who will wholeheartedly defend the president's health care plan is Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. That's how they game the system against us.

The Republicans think that the media is liberal because the reporters believe in things like global warming and the value of the United Nations and the theories of evolution and plate tectonics. But, just because the media is educated and cares about world opinion doesn't mean that they are helpful to liberal causes like avoiding senseless wars or extending health care accessibility to 30 million Americans. They're not helpful. If they were, they'd have invited Raul Grijalva and Sheldon Whitehouse on their shows instead of Harold Ford and Evan Bayh.

DemfromCT (DKos): Gallup: Obama Retains More Trust Than Republican Leaders On Health Reform

It's a truism that when the parties battle, some independents and non-political people turn off to both parties. But that hides the fact that there are winners and losers in the battle for public opinion. One big loser is health insurance companies, but they are only marginally less trusted than Republican Congressional leaders.

This Gallup poll released yesterday notes:

Americans remain more confident in the healthcare reform recommendations of President Obama (49%) than in the recommendations of the Democratic (37%) or Republican (32%) leaders in Congress. But these confidence levels are lower than those measured in June, suggesting that the ongoing healthcare reform debate has taken a toll on the credibility of the politicians involved.

Take a look at the numbers (click for bigger pic):

But take a look at the expanded graph for who the real losers are:

Republican leaders, 32. Health insurance 26. Losers.

Hey, you can take my word for it. I'm a doctor, and I come in at 77. And I'm telling you, health reform needs to pass. And I am far from alone.

The graphic, put together by Christopher Hughes, MD here, stems from data collected at Doctors For America.

Some of those organizations (AAP, AAFP) were interviewed here on Daily Kos.

Let's see Republican obstructionism for what it is: fear of losing the issue politically, as well as losing the vote in the Congress. And that's what's about to happen.


Arguably the single biggest threat to health care reform is Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and his dozen Democratic allies, who are threatening to kill the legislation over indirect, circuitous funding of abortion.

Efforts to work with Stupak are ongoing, but it's worth emphasizing a relevant detail: Stupak is just wrong about the underlying policy dispute. Whether he knows he's wrong, and he's just hoping to kill health care reform, is unclear. But the accuracy of Stupak's claims aren't in dispute: the facts aren't on his side.

ABC News did a nice job fact-checking Stupak's argument this week, and Slate's Tim Noah (a Monthly alum) published the definitive takedown a couple of days ago, explaining that some areas of the debate are open to interpretation and debate, but this isn't one of them: "Stupak happens to be wrong."

Ideally, this would be enough. Democratic leaders would explain the truth to Stupak and his allies, making the case on the merits -- the Senate compromise language, endorsed by center-right Dems who oppose abortion rights, already does what Stupak & Co. want, which is to prevent public funding of abortion.

But Stupak has been reluctant to listen to reason, and continues to make claims that simply fail to stand up to scrutiny. The new goal is to strike a related deal that would address Stupak's concerns in a separate-but-connected bill. That may or may not be enough.

If reform is going to pass, however, the votes are going to have to come from somewhere. Stupak claims to have a dozen "yes" votes in his pocket, all of whom will bolt and side with Republicans. Without them, Pelosi would need a dozen Blue Dogs who opposed reform in November to switch, which may prove too high a hurdle.

In the meantime, though, it's worth re-emphasizing reality -- Stupak's argument is factually in error. That will make negotiations with him more complicated -- lawmakers who stick to a mistake after it's been exposed as a mistake can be challenging to deal with -- but that's where we find ourselves.

Ezra Klein: Stupak's abortion argument: Still more about class than choice

Matt Miller hits on one of the most important points in the abortion and health-care debate. The practical effect of Bart Stupak's position is not that the federal government will not subsidize abortion by subsidizing health-care insurance. It is that it will not subsidize abortion by subsidizing health-care insurance for poor women. We already spend much more subsidizing coverage that includes abortion for richer women:

This entire debate is ridiculous, because the feds already subsidize abortions massively, via the giant tax subsidy for employer-provided care. Today the feds devote at least $250 billion a year to subsidizing employer-based coverage, a subsidy that skews incentives horribly (but which big business and big labor wouldn’t let the politicians touch this year). A Guttmacher Institute study says that 87 percent of typical employer plans cover abortion, and a Kaiser study found that 46 percent of covered workers had abortion coverage.

As I've written before, the Stupak amendment is as much about class as it is about choice. Imagine if Stupak attempted to expand his campaign to the coverage employed women receive. It would, after all, be the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage. But it wouldn't have a chance. That group is too large and too affluent and too politically powerful for Congress to dare to touch its access to reproductive services. But the poorer women who will be using subsidies on the exchange are a much easier target.

Ezra Klein: McCain's Medicare brinksmanship

"No problem is in more need of attention and action by Congress than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs," reads John McCain's campaign Web site. But back in Congress, McCain isn't exactly making good on that promise: He has turned his attention to Medicare, and the action he has proposed will make the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs virtually impossible to correct.

Last night, John McCain introduced an amendment that makes Medicare immune to the reconciliation process. That's all fine, except for McCain's record: Of the nine reconciliation bills McCain has voted to pass during his time in office, four of them included substantial cuts to Medicare. For those keeping score at home, they were the Balanced Budget Act of 1995, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The Balanced Budget Act of 1995, in particular, included many more cuts to Medicare than anything on the table today. Now he's saying that "entitlements should not be part of a reconciliation process." They're "too important."

The issue here isn't mere hypocrisy. It's dangerous shortsightedness. If McCain wants to try to strip the Medicare reforms from the health-care bill, that's his right. But to render Medicare untouchable to the reconciliation process will hamstring future congresses that need to make tough decisions to avert the consequences of the program's substantial deficit. In his zeal to attack the health-care reform bill, McCain is making it harder to address our entitlement spending. It's wildly irresponsible and shreds whatever remaining credential McCain had as a deficit hawk.

McCain may know that the campaign is over. But it's increasingly clear that he's not over it.

Ezra Klein: Can't judge a policy by its price tag

This argument from Charles Krauthammer is really very weird:

The final act was carefully choreographed. The rollout began a week earlier with a couple of shows of bipartisanship: a Feb. 25 Blair House "summit" with Republicans, followed five days later with a few concessions tossed the Republicans' way.

Show is the operative noun. Among the few Republican suggestions President Obama pretended to incorporate was tort reform. What did he suggest to address the plague of defensive medicine that a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests and procedures being done for no medical reason? A few ridiculously insignificant demonstration projects amounting to one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of his health-care bill.

Reasonable people can disagree with whether state-run demonstration projects are the best way to figure out an effective medical malpractice system (they can also disagree with Krauthammer's number, which is eye-poppingly high, and bears no relationship to the demonstrated gains from tort reform. Many states have imposed harsh tort reforms and their medical system is barely any different. Texas is one of those states, yet McAllen is the national poster child for unnecessary care).

But whatever tort reform you attempt, it's not going to be expensive. Tort reform is a series of regulations that change the way lawsuits are handled. Saying that the experiments come to only "one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of his health-care bill" is saying exactly nothing about them. If they made all malpractice lawsuits illegal, they'd actually have a negative cost to the federal government, but by Krauthammer's logic, they'd be a total slap in the face to reform advocates.


It was just five years ago that Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) was so anxious to let oil companies drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he tried to use the budget reconciliation process to do it. "If you have 51 votes for your position, you win," he said at the time, adding, "Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so."

This week, Gregg not only said there's something wrong with majority rules, he manufactured a bizarre history of the Senate that exists only in his imagination.

[U]nder the Senate rules, anything that comes across the floor of the Senate requires 60 votes to pass. It's called the filibuster. That's the way the Senate was structured. [...]

The Founding Fathers realized when they structured this they wanted checks and balances. They didn't want things rushed through. They saw the parliamentary system. They knew it didn't work... That's why we have the 60-vote situation over here in the Senate to require that things get full consideration.

That guy named Judd Gregg who said, "If you have 51 votes for your position, you win"? Yeah, he's gone missing, and has been replaced with this shameless hack.

It's hard to overstate how truly ridiculous Gregg's analysis is. It simply has no foundation in reality. The Senate wasn't "structured" to require supermajorities on literally every bill, nomination, and resolution -- that's the exact opposite of the truth. This isn't a subjective question open to interpretation; Gregg is just lying.

And when Gregg says the framers of the Constitution "saw the parliamentary system" and rejected it, he's just making things up. Matt Yglesias, who refers to Gregg as "an idiot," explained, "There were no countries operating on a modern parliamentary system when the constitution was written. And why doesn't it work? It seems to work in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Korea, etc."

Keep in mind, Gregg spent years nurturing a reputation as something of a high-minded moderate. Indeed, the New Hampshire Republican briefly agreed to join President Obama's cabinet last year, before abruptly changing his mind. Now that he's retiring from Congress, the senator can finally be himself. Released from the burdens of satisfying donors or impressing voters, Gregg can be as honest and as honorable as his conscience dictates.

And this is what we're left with -- an embarrassing buffoon.

Think Progress: Gregg: Not ‘A Lot Of People’ Would ‘Really Care’ If Democrats Use Reconciliation To Finish Health Care

For weeks now, Republicans have been grousing that, if Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to finish health care reform with a simple majority, it “would be unprecedented in scope.” “It would really be the end of the Senate as a protector of minority rights,” declared Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). It would “harm the future of our country,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). “They will lose their majority in Congress in November” if they use reconciliation, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) predicted.

On Fox News last week, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-AZ) declared that using reconciliation “to pass the most significant piece of public policy” of his lifetime would be “a railroading of the system”:

GREGG: We’re talking now about changing the entire way that health care is delivered in this country. We’re talking about taking the federal government and growing it from 20 percent of the economy to 25, 26 percent of the economy. We’re talking about changing the way that you and your doctor interact and you and your hospital — and your hospital treats you. These are huge public policy issues which really are way outside the reconciliation concept because they need debate. They need discussion. And they need to be subject to amendments on the floor of the Senate in order to do them correctly, or at least to have a proper airing of them and a fair treatment of them.

Watch it:

But this past week, the GOP has begun trying to downplay reconciliation in an effort to “scare House Democrats against voting for the health care plan, arguing that there’s no guarantee that the Senate approves a reconciliation package.” On CNBC, Gregg mused that “once they pass the great big bill, I wouldn’t be surprised if the White House didn’t care if reconciliation passed. I mean, why would they?” In an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show, he even suggested that reconciliation was “almost irrelevant”

GREGG: But that’s what the game plan here is. Is to pass that bill, the big bill, and what they’re doing is they’re using this other bill, reconciliation, to basically buy off votes in the House from the more liberal members of the House who want to make this bill even bigger and more intrusive. And when they get those votes and they pass the big bill, that will go down to the president and it will be signed. And this side bill, which is called the reconciliation bill, will really become almost irrelevant. I mean, as a very practical matter, there isn’t really going to be a lot of people who really care whether it passes or not because they will have already gotten their massive bill through and it will be law.

Later in the interview, Gregg further contradicted his previous claims that reconciliation would be used as “an entire rewrite of the health care system of America.” “Even if they did something else, it would be at the margins. I mean it’s not going to dramatically impact what is this huge bill that will then be law,” said Gregg.

Bernstein: Hey, House Dems: Don't Worry About the Patch

Greg Sargent has more great reporting about the GOP's latest plan to derail the health care bills. Remember, the plan is Pass Then Patch: House votes on the Senate bill, then House votes on the relatively small reconciliation bill that makes relatively small changes, and then the Senate votes on the reconciliation patch.

The new plan is for the GOP to challenge lots of provisions in the patch as violations of the Byrd rule. The hope, according to Sargent's reporting, is to force at least one change, which would then mean that they House would have to vote yet again. The real plan, however, is to scare House Democrats into voting against the main (Senate-passed) bill, because the Dems are nervous about whether the Senate will leave them hanging once again.

The problem with the new plan is that the Democrats are not going to have any problem at all in passing the reconciliation bill: it's all ice cream, no spinach. The "patch" part of Pass Then Patch is made up of repealing various deals that the GOP has been complaining about; trading in the (unpopular) Cadillac tax for a (popular) tax on rich people; the GOP ideas that Obama put in his letter to Ried and Pelosi this week; and a bunch of other relatively popular items. If looked at as a stand-alone bill -- which it will be, at that point -- I'm guessing that well over 55 Senators will support it, and I would set a betting line at 58. And take the over. All the problems are with finding 217 (or whatever the number turns out to be) for the main bill.

The deeper problem with the new plan for the GOP is that as far as I can tell, the patch bill is being pretty carefully drafted to avoid Byrd rule problems.

The even deeper problem with the new plan for the GOP is that it puts them in a position of opposing repeal of the Nelson deal, the Florida deal, etc. The one thing that I believe might be very vulnerable to a Byrd rule challenge is lifetime caps. Does the GOP think that it can hold all 41 Republicans on that issue? I don't. Moreover, do they really want a vote on lifetime caps?

The yet even deeper problem with the new plan for the GOP is that if they do manage to stop the patch, then health care reform would still have passed.

Granted, none of that matters if the Democrats hear "Republicans have a plan" and hightail it for those hills were always hearing about. As I read the coverage, however, the House Democrats are getting over their concerns about the Senate, and we're down now to the core issue of Democrats who want the bill to pass, but without their vote. I don't see how this latest GOP tactic speaks to that situation. Or at least, House Dems should be getting over their concerns about the Senate. Yes, the Senate has double-crossed them before, many times, but this time the Senate has an easy vote remaining, not a hard one.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Following the Al Qaeda 9

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

Reconciliation Follies

Marshall: A Friggin' Crock
Let's stop dancing around it. On "reconciliation" the Republicans are being such a gang of hypocritical liars it's shocking even for them. It really is. The Health Care Bill isn't being passed through reconciliation; it's being used to pass a few amendments to the bill that's already passed. The Republicans have used it numerous times and themselves and for bill's that were far bigger in budgetary terms than this bill. The whole thing is just an immense crock. And it's borderline scandalous that any of their nonsense is even being taken serious. E.J. Dionne has a great column explaining the whole thing. Do read it.

Robert C. Byrd: Reconciliation can be used to find savings

Letters to the Editor

Thursday March 4, 2010

It has been said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In the Daily Mail's March 2 editorial regarding health care reform legislation, "Using reconciliation would hurt Democrats: Choking off debate is no way to muscle through health legislation," the newspaper's misunderstanding of congressional procedures misinforms readers who, in rapidly increasing numbers, find themselves unable to obtain or afford medical insurance.

The editorial correctly quoted me as saying in the spring of 2009 that using reconciliation to enact a huge health care package would "violate the intent and spirit of the budget process . . .".

I believed then, as now, that the Senate should debate the health reform bill under regular rules, which it did. The result of that debate was the passing of a comprehensive health care reform bill in the Senate by a 60-vote supermajority.

I continue to support the budget reconciliation process for deficit reduction. The entire Senate- or House- passed health care bill could not and would not pass muster under the current reconciliation rules, which were established under my watch.

Yet a bill structured to reduce deficits by, for example, finding savings in Medicare or lowering health care costs, may be consistent with the Budget Act, and appropriately considered under reconciliation.

With all due respect, the Daily Mail's hyperbole about "imposing government control," acts of "disrespect to the American people" and "corruption" of Senate procedures resembles more the barkings from the nether regions of Glennbeckistan than the "sober and second thought" of one of West Virginia's oldest and most respected daily newspapers.

My commitment to protecting the best interests of all West Virginians and the American people remains as firm and consistent as my devotion to observing the necessary and essential Senate rules and procedures intended to guarantee debate and the airing of diverse views.

Robert C. Byrd

Washington, D.C.

Byrd is the senior U.S senator from West Virginia.

DougJ: I just wasn’t made for these times

Sometimes the silliness of our public dialog scares me more than it amuses me.

Steve Benen on reconciliation:

Scholars of propaganda could write an impressive paper on the Republican campaign on reconciliation in recent months. Partisan hacks have managed to convince an entire political world and a media establishment that use of a fairly routine Senate procedure is not only problematic, but genuinely scandalous. They’ve even convinced some Democrats to feel squeamish about a process Republicans have used repeatedly with no qualms at all.


I’m really not sure how we got from we don’t torture, to that torture stuff we do isn’t torture, to anyone who opposes torture hates America. Apparently that’s where we are.

I sort of understand how these things came to be, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s all very strange. I know Tom Friedman thinks all our problems can be cured with a new tax credit for R&D and that the Village thinks a big bipartisan commission could clear all this up. But I think the problems here run deep.

E.J. Dionne (WaPost): The Republicans' big lie about reconciliation

For those who feared that Barack Obama did not have any Lyndon Johnson in him, the president's determination to press ahead and get health-care reform done in the face of Republican intransigence came as something of a relief.

Obama's critics have regularly accused him of not being as tough or wily or forceful as LBJ was in pushing through civil rights and the social programs of his Great Society. Obama seemed willing to let Congress go its own way and was so anxious to look bipartisan that he wouldn't even take his own side in arguments with Republicans.

Those days are over. On Wednesday, the president made clear what he wants in a health-care bill, and he urged Congress to pass it by the most expeditious means available.

He was also clear on what bipartisanship should mean -- and what it can't mean. Democrats, who happen to be in the majority, have already added Republican ideas to their proposals. Obama said he was open to four more that came up during the health-care summit. What he's (rightly) unwilling to do is give the minority veto power over a bill that has deliberately and painfully worked its way through the regular legislative process.

Republicans, however, don't want to talk much about the substance of health care. They want to discuss process, turn "reconciliation" into a four-letter word and maintain that Democrats are "ramming through" a health bill.

It is all, I am sorry to say, one big lie -- or, if you're sensitive, an astonishing exercise in hypocrisy.

In an op-ed in Tuesday's Post, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offered an excellent example of this hypocrisy. Right off, the piece was wrong on a core fact. Hatch accused the Democrats of trying to, yes, "ram through the Senate a multitrillion-dollar health-care bill."

No. The health-care bill passed the Senate in December with 60 votes under the normal process. The only thing that would pass under a simple majority vote would be a series of amendments that fit comfortably under the "reconciliation" rules established to deal with money issues. Near the end of his column, Hatch conceded that reconciliation would be used for "only parts" of the bill. But why didn't he say that in the first place?

Hatch grandly cited "America's Founders" as wanting the Senate to be about "deliberation." But the Founders said nothing in the Constitution about the filibuster, let alone "reconciliation." Judging from what they put in the actual document, the Founders would be appalled at the idea that every major bill should need the votes of three-fifths of the Senate to pass.

Hatch quoted Sens. Robert Byrd and Kent Conrad, both Democrats, as opposing the use of reconciliation on health care. What he didn't say is that Byrd's comment from a year ago was about passing the entire bill under reconciliation, which no one is proposing. As for Conrad, he made clear to The Post's Ezra Klein this week that it's perfectly appropriate to use reconciliation "to improve or perfect the package," which is the only thing that Democrats have proposed doing through reconciliation.

Hatch said that reconciliation should not be used for "substantive legislation" unless the legislation has "significant bipartisan support." But surely the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which were passed under reconciliation and increased the deficit by $1.7 trillion during his presidency, were "substantive legislation." The 2003 dividends tax cut could muster only 50 votes. Vice President Dick Cheney had to break the tie. Talk about "ramming through."

The underlying "principle" here seems to be that it's fine to pass tax cuts for the wealthy on narrow votes but an outrage to use reconciliation to help middle-income and poor people get health insurance.

I'm disappointed in Hatch, co-sponsor of two of my favorite bills in recent years. One created the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The other, signed last year by Obama, broadly expanded service opportunities. Hatch worked on both with his dear friend, the late Edward M. Kennedy, after whom the service bill was named.

It was Kennedy, you'll recall, who insisted that health care was "a fundamental right and not a privilege." That's why it's not just legitimate to use reconciliation to complete the work on health reform. It would be immoral to do otherwise and thereby let a phony argument about process get in the way of health coverage for 30 million Americans.

Bernstein (Daily Dish): Scandal! Or, Whatever

Here's a challenge for the press: which fringe political nonsense is going to be the next White House travel office scandal (lasts for months if not years before fizzling out) and which is going to be the next Kevin Jennings (bubbles up from the crazy, but fizzles before anyone beyond a narrow group hears about it)? Take today's kerfuffle, explained ably by Kevin Drum. Will it still be around after Easter? Who knows?

Mostly, however, I agree with Steve Benin, who says:

If Republicans had the congressional majority right now, Congress would literally launch a federal investigation into something like this. Come 2011, it's likely any nonsense published by the Weekly Standard (or related outlets) in the morning, will produce subpoenas by the afternoon. This was the model from 1995 to 2000, and it would be just as ridiculous next year.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post, which is to encourage everyone to predict the first Member of the House to file for impeachment against Barack Obama, and the date that he or she will do so. I'm afraid that Bachmann, Brown-Waite, Joe Wilson, and Ron Paul are already taken, but that leaves plenty of others to choose from -- including the possibility that none of them will do it.

Tim F.: Doing What They Do Best

Republicans have a huge robocall effort today to sic their teabaggers on key Dem Congressmen. That sucks, but it illustrates a point that I cannot stress enough: these calls make a difference.

Do you know your Representative’s staffers on a first-name basis? Maybe you should. They appreciate hearing a friendly voice once in a while.

Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

Guide for first-timers here.


It will help to point out to your Rep that 95% of these angry callers wouldn’t vote for a Democrat if Jesus Christ showed up at their door and told them to.

John Cole: Sick of This man

The most tedious man on the planet speaks:

The Senate’s healthcare bill would lose 12 Democratic votes in the House, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday.

Stupak, the sponsor of an amendment to the House healthcare bill that barred federal subsidies for health plans covering abortion, said that 12 lawmakers who had previously supported healthcare reform legislation in the House would be ready to switch.

“It’s accurate to say there are at least 12 of us who voted for healthcare that have indicated to the speaker and others that unless you change this language, we will vote against it,” Stupak said during an appearance on MSNBC.

Name them, Bart. Until then, STFU.

Kind of crazy that an atheist can’t chair a committee but a panty-sniffing religious moralist can attempt to sink the signature legislation of the party and no one blinks.

*** Update ***

Bart’s number: 202-225-4735

Suggested Script: “Hi, my name is XXXXX and I am from XXXXX, and while not normally a constituent, Rep. Stupak insists on making me with his repeated attempts to kill HCR because of his fetus fetish. Please be assured I intend to donate the maximum amount to any opponent of Bart’s, Republican or Democrat, if he manages to torpedo HCR, andwill worked to have him stripped of any and all committee assignments and removed from the Democratic caucus. And this includes if he should have any delusional gubernatorial aspirations.”

Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) represents a district that's historically been unfriendly to Democrats. It was, for example, Kratovil who was hung in effigy by right-wing activists last summer, outside his district office.

It wasn't especially surprising, then, when Kratovil, one of Congress's least progressive and most vulnerable Democrats, voted against health care reform last November. Earlier this week, however, his office suggested that Kratovil is open to considering the more moderate Senate bill.

Now he's making clear that he does not intend to change his mind. It's his reasoning, though, that seemed odd.

"He would vote against it," the spokesman, Kevin Lawlor, says. Crucially, Kratovil would vote against the Senate bill even if there's some kind of verbal guarantee that it would be fixed via reconciliation later, Lawlor says.

The only way Kratovil -- one of the targets of a barrage of NRCC robocalls hammering the reform proposals as "dangerous" -- could support the Senate bill is if it's fixed first via reconciliation, before the House votes on it. But no one expects this to happen.

Here's hoping that Kratovil's reasoning goes far beyond this, because if he's willing to see health care reform die over this procedural issue, he's both foolish and callous.

I'm trying to imagine how a lawmaker goes back to his district and says, "Sorry, struggling families and businesses getting screwed by the dysfunctional health care system. I was considering supporting a solution to this mess, but I couldn't -- I wanted one chamber to go first, not the other. So, you're screwed. Good luck."

Maybe now would be a good time to remind some lawmakers that the issue here goes beyond institutional rivalries, polls, attack ads, hurt feelings, and parochial piques. Real people are struggling. There are families that can't get coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and they need a champion. There are small businesses that can't afford coverage for their employees, and they need a champion. There are entrepreneurs who want to start a business but can't because the premiums are unaffordable, families facing bankruptcy because their insurers dropped them when they needed help most, industrious workers whose wages have been stuck while health care costs rise, single moms waiting tables who can't afford to buy coverage on the individual market -- they all need a champion.

And instead of rising to the occasion, some in Congress are worried about legislative procedures? Indeed, they're more worried about these procedures than they are in helping struggling families?

I understand campaign anxieties. I don't understand this.

The Good and the Ugly

Fallows: Two Illustrations of Good, Clear-Minded Journalism

David Leonhardt, in an "Economic Scene" analysis piece in the NYT today, talking about fears that the U.S. unemployment situation might be about to get even worse. One problem is the continued weakness of consumer spending. And then:

The second problem is that the stimulus program and the Fed's emergency programs are in the early stages of slowing down.

These programs have done tremendous good, as I've written before. The bubbles in housing and stocks over the last decade were far larger than an average bubble, and yet the resulting bust is on pace to be shorter and less severe than the typical one in the wake of a financial crisis. That's not an accident. It's a result of an incredibly aggressive response by the Fed, Congress, the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

Why do I mention this at all? Because he didn't let the current landscape of partisan argument scare him into a "sources say" approach. The most ill-informed part of the GOP/Fox criticism of stimulus spending is that unemployment is still bad, so the programs must not have done any good. It's almost embarrassing to have to point out the reply, which is: unemployment would be even worse without the intervention. (So the stronger argument would be: the stimulus should have been larger all along.) The real point is, Leonhardt wasn't cowed into saying, "sources say the programs have done tremendous good." He could just say what the facts were. Plus, he gracefully points out that both the Bush and Obama administrations were pulling the plow.

Also, just now on NPR's All Things Considered, Michele Norris's interview with Sen. Lamar Alexander about what happens next with the health-care reform bill. (Link here; audio will be there later this evening.) Alexander was manfully making the same points he did at last week's Health Summit -- the Republican "ideas" that had been added to the plan were "rear view mirrors on a car going the wrong way," passing the bill on a majority-vote reconciliation would be a historic offense against Constitutional balance etc. In each case, Norris in a polite but no-nonsense way asked him the "Yes, but what about???" questions. Didn't GW Bush get his big measures through by reconciliation? Why was it good then and bad now?

The impressive aspect, which should be standard in big-time interviews but obviously isn't, was the refusal to take a first-level talking point as the end of a discussion, and instead raising the counter-evidence. Significantly, this was not just "gotcha" counter-evidence familiar from many talk shows, the effort to smoke out some minor changes of position over time, but rather the probing of deeper holes in an argument. And, before you ask, of course politicians from every part of the spectrum should be subjected to such "Yes, but what about?" questions. This just happens to be what I heard today.
Marshall: Keep'n It Foxy

Proud day for CNN. See the chyron about right-wing complaints about the Obama Department of Justice ...

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John Cole: Anatomy of a Smear

If you want to see how the wurlitzer works, and how our media establishment has completely failed us, go read Glennzilla:

When discussing the McCarthyite DOJ witch hunt spawned by Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol, I wrote yesterday: now that “we have real, live, contemporary McCarthyites in our midst—Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol—launching a repulsive smear campaign, we’ll see what the reaction is and how they’re treated by our political and media elites.” On Twitter yesterday, I wrote: “How media figures treat Liz Cheney after her vile McCarthyite smear campaign will say a lot about their character.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spoke volumes today about himself and his “news network.” First, on Twitter, he excitedly promoted his upcoming story about what he called the “intense debate about Obama Justice Dept bringing in lawyers who previously represented Gitmo detainees.” On March, 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow famously devoted his entire broadcast to vehemently condemning Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts, explaining: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent.” By contrast, Wolf Blitzer—receipient of an Edward R. Murrow award—sees such smear campaigns as nothing more than an “intense debate” to neutrally explore and excitingly promote.

Read the whole thing. Just plain disgusting.

John Cole: Fuck These People

Really all I have to say:

This is why I laugh when I hear the term principled conservative or I listen to the folks at the Next Right or the Frum Forum talk about principled conservatism. Nice party you got there. I’m sure the Fonzi of Freedom Nick Gillespie will appear on Fox News or at Big Government to decry this bullshit.

Anyone with any associations with the GOP at this point has no excuse.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Marshall: Heat

TPM Reader DP checks in from Upstate ...

I live in Upstate NY and there is a commercial running quite frequently urging people to call Arcuri and tell him to vote no. They link him to Pelosi and spew a lot of untruths (income tax surcharge, massive medicare cuts, government take over of health care) and suggest that Arcuri is the critical vote. I think the commercial is from Concerned Voters of America. Arcuri's district is fairly rural and pretty conservative by NY standards and he really squeaked out a victory last time against a poorly funded candidate. He may be feeling the heat.
Sargent: Exclusive: GOP To Unleash Huge Wave Of Robocalls Warning Of Dem Plot To “Ram” Health Reform Through

National Repubicans are planning to unleash a huge wave of robocalls tomorrow targeting dozens of House Dems and warning their constituents that Obama and Nancy Pelosi are plotting to “ram” their “dangerous” health reform plans through Congress.

The robocalls — the first paid media by the NRCC’s new “code red” program, which targets Dems on health care — comes after Obama told Congress to pass reform via reconciliation.

The calls are meant to spook House Dems right at the moment when the White House and Dem leaders are about to undertake a grueling effort to round up support for what’s expected to be a hair-raisingly close vote. It warns constituents that the targeted House Dem risks supporting this “dangerous” move.

“Even though a majority of the country wants them to scrap it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are planning to ram their dangerous, out-of-control health care spending bill through Congress anyway,” the call says, according to a script provided by a GOP official.

The version targeting Dem Rep Frank Kratovil of Maryland continues:

What’s worse, Congressman Frank Kratovil might vote for it. Frank Kratovil votes with Nancy Pelosi 84% of the time and may follow her orders on this bill too. Frank Kratovil might vote for a bill that will kill jobs, raise the costs of health care, and increase taxes. Frank Kratovil should be focusing on creating jobs, yet he might be the deciding vote that causes this massive new spending bill to pass.

The call concludes by calling the reform proposals “dangerous” a second time and admonishing voters to call their Representative and urge a No vote “before it is too late.”

The call — which will be pumped into GOP, independent and Dem households — will target 25 House Dems who voted for the proposal the first time, 11 who voted No, and four open-seat Dems who have yet to say how they plan to vote this time.

The call is another sign that the national GOP is doubling down on making the looming reconciliation vote a major issue in the 2010 elections, portraying it as the latest in back-room dealing presided over by Pelosi and other Dem leaders. It raises questions about whether Dems are planning anything in kind. Full script here.

Greg Sargent

* The full court press begins: Obama to take his health care sales pitch on the road, with stops in Philadelphia and St. Louis next week.

* And: Tonight at the White House, Obama will woo House Dems who voted No last time.

* Ben Smith obtains an RNC fundraising document that reveals a plan to raise money by vowing to “save the country from trending toward socialism” and depicts Obama as The Joker.

It’s always worth recalling that it’s the official RNC position that Obama, while perhaps not a full-fledged socialist himself, is moving us “towards socialism.”

* Mitch McConnell had the foresight to see months ago that there’s a political upside in not putting out comprehensive GOP proposals: It makes it easier to make the story all about Obama’s proposals.

* A piqued Robert Gibbs wonders why Republicans “can’t take yes for an answer” and support a health bill with GOP ideas in it.

* Maybe wavering Blue Dog Dems should consider supporting the new health proposal and take credit for watering it down from its original, scarier version?

* Back on the Merry-Go-Round with Bart Stupak: He now says a dozen House Dems who voted Yes last time could flip to No.

* Which is interesting, because last week he put the number at 15 to 20.

Republicans freak out in face of health reform passage
March 3: Rachel Maddow reviews some of the latest acts of Republican lying and hypocrisy as they freak out in desperation to block health reform. Senator Sherrod Brown discusses what further obstruction he expects the bill will face on the way to passage.

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

Aravosis: Secret RNC fundraising plan depicts Obama, Reid, Pelosi sending America into 'Socialism,' targets 'ego-driven' wealthy donors

UPDATE: I just found this on page 31 of the secret RNC fundraising plan. They made a photo of Obama as the joker (not sure painting a black man in white face is entirely wise) and under Obama's face wrote the word "Socialism." That alone deserves an apology from Michael Steele directly to the President.

From Ben Smith:

The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to "save the country from trending toward socialism."

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.
The presentation explains the Republican fundraising in simple terms.

"What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate...?" it asks.

The answer: "Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”
The small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading “Visceral Giving.” Their motivations are listed as “fear;” “Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;” and “Reactionary.”

Major donors, by contrast, are treated in a column headed “Calculated Giving.”

Their motivations include: “Peer to Peer Pressure”; “access”; and “Ego-Driven.”
And just an aside. I've been arguing for a good year that the Democrats need to nip this "socialism" crap in the bud. The Republicans have taken a bizarre slur and made it real for many people. It's sick, and it's crazy. And when you don't respond, it gets worse.

UPDATE: Statement from DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse on RNC Fund Raising Document
If you had any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, that the Republican Party has been taken over by the fear-mongering lunatic fringe, those doubts were erased today. The Republican Party, which barely 20 percent of Americans will even admit they belong to anymore, seems hell bent on damaging their battered brand even further by engaging in the most despicable kind of imagery, tactics and rhetoric imaginable. This type of politics at all cost approach to our public discourse is what the American people are sick and tired of – and if anyone thinks this wasn’t approved of or signed off on at the highest levels they are kidding themselves. Republicans across the country have cheered on crowds where these very images appeared, they’ve encouraged and perpetuated scandalous lies about the President and his plans. And, from calling for secession to condoning violence against government officials they have sunk to new and unbelievable lows.

It’s no wonder the RNC reacted with alarm when they learned the American people would see this presentation. This revealing document proves what the Republican party has long denied. But now, by their own admission, the express strategy of the Republican party is not to offer new ideas, but ‘fear.’ Republicans can no longer deny that they are peddling fear when they are literally selling it as their path back to power. It is a sad commentary on the state of the Republican Party that, devoid of ideas and solutions to our nation’s problems, problems created on their watch, that they would resort to these type of tactics. It’s sad. But true.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Process & Policy

The President gave a very good, clear, powerful speech today.
Booman's Quote of the Day
Here's an excerpt from the President's upcoming remarks on the health care bill (via email):

“At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I don’t know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right. And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.”

So much for Scott Brown.

Greg Sargent
Obama’s speech, which is now underway, is pretty tough and confrontational towards Republicans: He says the differences between him and the GOP are fundamental and can’t be bridged, and he sharply challenges them to vote against his proposal, suggesting that if they do, they’ll be revealing that they’re siding with the insurance industry against Americans.
Ezra Klein

And so Obama gave no quarter today. Gone was the pretense that Democrats and Republicans basically agree on health-care reform. "Many Republicans in Congress just have a fundamental disagreement over whether we should have more or less oversight of insurance companies," Obama said. "And if they truly believe that less regulation would lead to higher quality, more affordable health insurance, then they should vote against the proposal I’ve put forward."

Gone was vague language and gesturing coyness Democrats have favored on the path forward. "The United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform," Obama said. "We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades. Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a supermajority of sixty votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts."

So that's it, then: The health-care reform bill that Congress will vote on will be a close relative of the health-care reform bills that Congress has already passed. No Plan Bs, no starting over, no accommodation with continued obstructionism. "I have therefore asked leaders in both houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks," Obama said. "From now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform."

What's important about this speech is that it didn't leave any paths open. It attacked the Republican bills, the arguments for piecemeal reform, and the idea that procedural impediments are sufficient to excuse the further delay of a verdict. This is the end of the line. There's not a magic alternative behind the curtain or a hard reset that will lead to a harmonious bipartisan process. It all just is what it is. And now it's time for a vote. It's time for health-care reform to either pass or fail.

QOTD, Tim F.:
Newsroom staff don’t know much about policy and (like most people) almost nothing about Senate procedure but they can do personality and horserace in their sleep, and “access” is practically a currency in their world. No, scratch that last part. In DC ‘access’ is not practically a currency. It determines your status in the cocktail party hierarchy. It gives you job security.
Tim F.: Unbelievably Frustrating

I understand that as a blogger I can afford to take the long view on health care reform, while many members of Congress unquestionably have their career at stake over this one vote. Nonetheless I think that Representatives who have gotten spooked by bad HCR poll numbers are making a terrible mistake. It might help to argue like Josh Marshall does that vulnerable seats got killed the worst in 2002 1994 (inexplicably got the date wrong there). He’s certainly right, but dry logic has only so much impact on crisis days like today. These Reps need a heap of supportive phone calls from constituents.

This is crunch time. Please phone and make sure that your Representative will supports the current road map: pass the Senate bill, then resolve issues such as the excise tax with a reconciliation fix. Tomorrow may be too late.

Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

Guide for first-timers here.

The Senate parliamentarian will likely be in a position to rule on what can and cannot be considered under reconciliation rules. So, naturally, the GOP is already going after the parliamentarian, offering an example of working the ref and laying the groundwork for future whining.

Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive strike against the Senate's parliamentarian -- a hitherto little-known official who could determine the fate of the Democrats' health care reform efforts.

In interviews with POLITICO, several Republican senators and aides cast Parliamentarian Alan Frumin -- a 33-year veteran of the Senate -- as someone who is predisposed to side with the Democrats if they attempt to use the reconciliation process to pass parts of their bill.

"I think clearly the majority leader has his ear, and I've got concerns," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). "I think if he does not look at that very careful -- reconciliation is supposed to be very narrowly defined, large legislative things don't seem to fit in those parameters -- I would think that reconciliation would make or break the perception of his objectivity."

DeMint really doesn't seem to realize that Dems have no intention of trying to pass the entire health care reform package through the reconciliation process.

Nevertheless, this push is pretty sad. Maybe Republicans are trying to bully Frumin before he's even asked to rule on anything; maybe Republicans are trying to cast doubts on his integrity now so they can attack him later. Either way, the GOP's desperation is getting increasingly ugly.

Indeed, for all the talk about the importance of independence in the parliamentarian's office, let's not forget recent history -- when the Republican majority didn't like the previous parliamentarian's rulings on reconciliation, they fired him.

Try to imagine, just for a moment, what the reaction would be if, later this month, Harry Reid fired the Senate parliamentarian for ruling the "wrong" way on a reconciliation question. Think about how intense the media scrutiny would be, and how loud the cries of outrage would be from Republicans.

And then try to remember the fact that Trent Lott firing the former parliamentarian was considered largely a non-story at the time, and that GOP use of reconciliation was deemed routine.

There really wasn't any doubt about how the process would have to proceed -- Dems haven't exactly been trying to keep this secret -- but I suppose official confirmation helps make the way forward even clearer.

Sen. Tom Harkin told POLITICO that Senate Democratic leaders have decided to go the reconciliation route. The House, he said, will first pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate to House leaders that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate.

Harkin made the comments after a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office including Harkin and Sens. Baucus, Dodd, Durbin, Schumer and Murray.

By agreeing to pursue reconciliation, the Senate leadership almost certainly believes it will have the 51 votes needed to approve the budget fix. This makes sense -- even center-right Dems have been coming around on this procedural question in recent weeks, frustrated by Republican obstinacy.

I should emphasize, for any lawmakers or reporters who may be reading, that by agreeing to the majority-rule route, Dems aren't talking about passing health care reform through reconciliation. Health care reform was already approved by the Senate in December, and it passed 60 to 39 through the regular ol' legislative process. No tricks, no abuses, nothing unusual at all.

Rather, reconciliation will now be used -- if all goes according to plan -- to approve a modest budget fix that will improve the final reform bill.

In terms of institutional wrangling, Harkin's green light for reconciliation should help encourage House Dems to go first, as some House leaders seem prepared to do. Cohn added, "The key now is giving the House some sort of assurance that the Senate will, in fact, pass the amendments via reconciliation."

The other key, of course, is finding 216 votes in the House. Party leaders voiced some additional optimism this morning, but whether or not this is strategic is unclear (if nervous/vulnerable Democrats are led to believe reform is in trouble, they're more likely to bolt, giving the leadership an incentive to keep sounding optimistic).

President Obama is scheduled to present his vision on the way forward in about a half-hour. I suspect his remarks will be watched closely on the Hill.


Watching President Obama's speech this afternoon on the way forward on health care reform, I noticed something I haven't seen from the always-cool chief executive in a while: real passion.

It was unmistakable -- this president wasn't just making the case for reform, he was practically demanding it. Forget any rumors you may have heard about half-measures or additional compromises. President Obama is going all in.

From the outset, the president reminded his audience why the notion of reform being "rammed through" is silly. Referencing last week's summit, Obama noted:

"This meeting capped off a debate that began with a similar summit nearly one year ago. Since then, every idea has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everyone has said it. So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works, not just for the insurance companies, but for America's families and businesses."

The president noted several areas of agreement with Republicans, and presented his plan as a middle ground between the left (which wants single-payer) and the right (which wants to let insurance companies do as they please).

He also spent some time outlining exactly what his proposal is all about, including the notion that reform would give Americans "more control over their health care," while building on the existing system. Obama presented his package in three parts: (1) ending insurance company abuses; (2) creating a marketplace for uninsured individuals and small business owners; and (3) bringing down costs. All of this would be paid for, and would bring down the deficit.

At that point, the president started knocking down GOP talking points -- forcefully.

Why not go with a step-by-step approach?

"Some also believe that we should instead pursue a piecemeal approach to health insurance reform, where we just tinker around the edges of this challenge for the next few years. Even those who acknowledge the problem of the uninsured say that we can't afford to help them -- which is why the Republican proposal only covers three million uninsured Americans while we cover over 31 million.

"But the problem with that approach is that unless everyone has access to affordable coverage, you can't prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions; you can't limit the amount families are forced to pay out of their own pockets; and you don't do anything about the fact that taxpayers end up subsidizing the uninsured when they're forced to go to the Emergency Room for care. The fact is, health reform only works if you take care of all these problems at once."

Why not start over with a blank piece of paper?

"Both during and after last week's summit, Republicans in Congress insisted that the only acceptable course on health care reform is to start over. But given these honest and substantial differences between the parties about the need to regulate the insurance industry and the need to help millions of middle-class families get insurance, I do not see how another year of negotiations would help. Moreover, the insurance companies aren't starting over. They are continuing to raise premiums and deny coverage as we speak. For us to start over now could simply lead to delay that could last for another decade or even more. The American people, and the U.S. economy, just can't wait that long."

And while the president didn't use the word "reconciliation" specifically, he did outline a legislative approach that makes sense:

"[N]o matter which approach you favor, I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform. We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades. Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a supermajority of sixty votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts -- all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority.

"I have therefore asked leaders in both of Houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks. From now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform. And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well -- every family, every business owner, every patient, every doctor, every nurse."

As for the politics, Obama decided instead to focus on right and wrong.

"In the end, that's what this debate is about -- it's about the kind of country we want to be. It's about the millions of lives that would be touched and in some cases saved by making private health insurance more secure and more affordable.

"At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I don't know how this plays politically, but I know it's right."

This was as combative and aggressive as we've seen the president in a while. His tone was defiant and unflinching. He used the word "Republican" 10 times, usually in a negative and critical context. It's as if the president was actually sincere about his bipartisan outreach, and felt personally insulted by the Republicans' games.

If Congress was waiting for the Obama to signal his commitment to getting this done, it's safe to say the president left no doubts.

John Cole: Reconciliation a Go

So reconciliation is on, and this has the usual suspects all in a huff:

These guys don’t even understand how threats work. Usually, to have some effect, you have to issue the threat PRIOR to engaging in the behavior. What could the Republicans possibly do that they haven’t already?

We’ve already seen record numbers of filibusters and clotures. They’ve already used every parliamentary trick in the books to bog down the legislation. They’ve negotiated in bad faith, stalled, and then voted en masse against. They’ve lied and misrepresented everything the Democrats have tried to do. They even insisted that we wheel the near dead Byrd onto the Senate floor late night, and openly prayed for the death of another Senator. And now we are supposed to fear obstructionism?

Bring it on. Up until now, the Democrats have suffered because people don’t really understand the concept of 60 votes, and have just wondered why Democrats don’t just pass their bills. They’ve looked at Democrats as the parents of an unruly child who just don’t have the nerve to get their kid in line.

But now, after the Bunning stunt, in which he wasted millions and deprived millions of needed aid, slowed down road construction, and made a bureaucratic nightmare of unemployment benefits, the American people got a glimpse of what is going on. One man had a hissy fit and thwarted the will of both parties.

So I say to Erick and the teabagging Republican Senators- bring it on. The neighborhood is starting to realize this is not just bad parenting, and now that the problem child isn’t just a problem for the parents, but is running around slashing everyone’s tires and generally making a mess of every damned thing, they are starting to pay attention. Even the media is running out of excuses and are starting to realize this isn’t 1994, but 1996.

So, go for it. I double dog dare you.

  • from the comments:

    Comrade Dread

    The only thing that mildly worries me is that the next time Republicans gain power, they’ll turn up everything to 11 and really go bats*** crazy.

    That being said, I kind of expect them to do that anyway, so what the h*ll?

Tim F.: Better Living Through Hippie Punching

Where is the mystery about Rahm stories? Mainstream media reporters hate hippie bloggers. Don’t know why. If I had to guess I would say that hippie bloggers make criticisms that cut deeper than the broad-brush personality-based drivel that right wingers typically serve up. A lot of managing editors (the guys who assign and approve stories, and who often lean Republican) want to be “more like FOX.” Bob Somerby has an Indiana Jones vault of evidence that most reporters arbitrarily split the difference between parties and cast around for excuses to punch hippies because it might blunt ‘liberal media’ criticisms (ha ha, I know, right). To some degree every case is a unique snowflake.

Newsroom staff don’t know much about policy and (like most people) almost nothing about Senate procedure but they can do personality and horserace in their sleep, and “access” is practically a currency in their world. No, scratch that last part. In DC ‘access’ is not practically a currency. It determines your status in the cocktail party hierarchy. It gives you job security. Getting a cold call from someone at Rahm’s level is like a researcher publishing in Science or Nature. After that you’re a made man. Compared with the agony of reporting health care minutiae compounded with Senate rules that even most Senators can’t reliably explain, this Rahm crap is a delicious chocolate sundae that makes you skinnier and whitens your teeth. It hardly seems like a disincentive that it also pisses off Media Matters and gives Somerby the fits.

John Cole: Truly Bizarre

Another day, two more Rahm stories.

I don’t think I have ever seen such an infatuation with a President’s Chief of Staff, ever. It really is insane.

Aravosis: 'At 50, Emanuel has the lean, taut look of a lifelong swimmer, with broad shoulders and distractingly prominent quadriceps.'
The new art form of pro-Rahm suck up pieces enter its homoerotic phase. I'm disgusted yet titillated at the same time. This must be how Sarah Palin supporters feel.
The leaked stories have gotten so bad that even Broder is calling foul. Will wonders never cease.
David Broder (WaPost): Emanuel and his 'advisers'

In the space of 10 days, thanks in no small part to my own newspaper, the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right.

This remarkable fiction began unfolding on Feb. 21 in the Sunday column of my friend Dana Milbank, who wrote that "Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter," i.e., a one-term failure.

A week later, presumably the same anonymous sources convinced Milbank to pronounce that Obama "too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers."

And on Tuesday, The Post led the paper with a purported news story by Jason Horowitz saying that a president with Obama's "detached, professorial manner" needed "a political enforcer" like Emanuel to have a chance of succeeding, "because he [Emanuel] possessed a unique understanding of the legislative mind." Unfortunately, the story said, "influential Democrats are -- in unusually frank terms -- blaming Obama and his closest campaign aides for not listening to Emanuel."

It sounded, for all the world, like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation in Washington.

Except that the chief of staff doesn't usually force the president out. When George H.W. Bush had had enough of John H. Sununu, of course it was Sununu who walked. Maybe the sources on these stories think Obama is the one who should leave.

Here in a few paragraphs is what others high in the White House think is going on:

The underlying problem, in their eyes, is a badly damaged economy that has sunk Obama's poll numbers and emboldened Republicans to blockade his legislative program.

Emanuel, who left a leadership post in the House to serve his fellow Chicagoan, Obama, has worked loyally for the president, and is not suspected personally by his colleagues of inspiring these Post pieces.

But, as one of them said to me, "Rahm likes to win," and when the losses began to pile up, he probably vented his frustrations to some of his old pals in Congress. It's clear that some of them are talking to the press.

There are good grounds for questioning the legislative strategy and tactics of this White House -- just as there have been with other administrations. A president who sets out to engineer large-scale changes in basic economic, social and legal structures at the same time he is fighting two wars and dealing with the fallout from a fiscal calamity is risking defeat. Obama has courted that risk knowingly because he thinks -- as I do -- the nation really is in peril. His party in Congress and its leadership are too often more narrow-minded and parochial than the president. And the Republicans have chosen the easy path of near-unanimous opposition.

None of this would rise above the level of petty Washington gossip, except that some of Emanuel's friends are so eager to exonerate him that they are threatening to undermine the president. Milbank, presumably reflecting what he hears, calls Obama "airy and idealistic" and says he readily succumbs to "bullying" from Republicans and Democrats alike. I hope the mullahs in Iran don't believe this.

From too many years of covering politics, I have come to believe as Axiom One that the absolute worst advice politicians ever receive comes from journalists who fancy themselves great campaign strategists.

Milbank now is urging Obama to emulate Gordon Brown, who is probably just weeks away from being voted out as Britain's prime minister, and start bullying people himself. That is -- well, it's in the great tradition.

Veins in his forehead.

Bodenner: Narrative Fail

While the Cheneys are busy making scary YouTube videos, Obama continues to execute the war on terrorism:

The Pakistani Taliban confirmed Tuesday that a senior commander wanted in the deadly 2006 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi was killed in a suspected American missile strike in northwestern Pakistan.


Guess someone at the CIA or Pentagon didn't get [Cheney's memo that the president is "trying to pretend we're not at war".] There has been a grievous failure to "connect the dots" here: despite overwhelming evidence from Fox News, Mr Cheney, Liz Cheney, Scott Brown and furious other torture supporters, the president, the military and the intelligence services seem not to have understood that they're supposed to think we're not at war. We risk a major attack on cherished narratives if this kind of complacency keeps up.

Elliott (TPM): Anatomy Of A Smear: Cheney Attacks DOJ Attorneys As Terrorist-Friendly (VIDEO)

An attack on Justice Department officials who previously represented detainees at Guantanamo was spawned by Sen. Chuck Grassley at a hearing last November, ricocheted around the right-wing media, and culminated today in a video release by Liz Cheney's group that all but accuses the lawyers of being terrorists.

The campaign-style ad from Cheney's Keep America Safe dubs the lawyers "the Al Qaeda Seven" and asks, "Whose values do they share?" while flashing a picture of Osama bin Laden. (Watch it below.)

At issue are DOJ lawyers who, before they joined the administration, represented detainees at Guantanamo, filed amicus briefs in detainee-related cases, or were involved in advocacy on behalf of detainees.

The names of two of the officials, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal and National Security Division Attorney Jennifer Daskal are known. But Republicans have seized on the fact that the DOJ isn't releasing the names of seven other officials who fit that description. Thus, the "the Al Qaeda Seven."

The critics are not only questioning the loyalty of top lawyers in the Obama Administration, but are also attacking the age-old and thoroughly American practice of lawyers defending clients with whose ideology they may not agree (see Adams, John).

Katyal represented Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, in the landmark case that led to the overturning the Bush Administration's military commissions. As senior counsel for Human Rights Watch, Daskal worked on detainee issues.

A professor at Georgetown, Katyal became one of the most celebrated young lawyers in the country after arguing -- and winning -- the Hamdan case before the Supreme Court.

The attack began at a Nov. 18 Judiciary Committee hearing. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, raised the issue with Attorney General Eric Holder, asserting that Katyal and Daskal have a conflict of interest. A couple weeks later, Grassley and the other committee Republicans asked the DOJ to produce a list of names of officials who previously worked with detainees. The department responded Feb. 18 with a letter from one of Holder's deputies that said nine officials fit Grassley's criteria. But the letter did not give the names.

The Republicans reiterated their demand for a list of names in a new letter on Feb. 26.

In the meantime, the interest in the story heated up in the right-wing media and spilled over into the mainstream. The Washington Examiner's Byron York seized on the DOJ's response to Grassley. National Review and the Weekly Standard got on the case. Michelle Malkin raged at "Corruptocrat AG Eric Holder." Investor's Business Daily published an editorial titled "Department of Jihad."

Finally, on Feb. 26, ABC picked up the story.

Today, the Web ad from Keep America Safe, which Liz Cheney founded as an outlet to advance her agenda last October, was featured on Politico. The Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb, who works at lobbying firm Orion Strategies and is also Keep America Safe's spokesman, told Politico: "Holder has hired lawyers who used to represent terrorists to work in President Obama's Justice Department, and he won't tell the American people who they are."

Despite the heated rhetoric (Grassley claimed that the DOJ officials' past work "creates a conflict of interest problem"), a legal ethics expert tells TPMmuckraker that there is no ethical breach.

"It is not a conflict of interest under the rules of any U.S. jurisdiction for a government lawyer who has represented detainees in private practice to work on detainee issues at the Justice Department.," Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU Law school, said in an e-mail.

"Under U.S. legal ethics rules in every state, this is no different from hiring an antitrust lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, or an environmental lawyer from private practice to work in the same general area of law for the government," Gillers said. "They, and a lawyer who has represented detainees, can work in the same field for government so long as they stay away from the specific matters on which they worked in private life."

The Justice Department said in its letter to Grassley that political appointees recuse themselves from particular cases in which they were previously involved.

Judiciary Committee Democrats have so far been silent on the issue. Press secretaries for several top Judiciary Dems did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But some liberals who work on national security issues are outraged.

"It's not kind of like McCarthyism, it is exactly what Joe McCarthy did with his Communist witch hunts," Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress tells TPMmuckraker in an e-mail. "Cheney accuses the Attorney General of the United States of being a supporter of al Qaeda and running the 'Department of Jihad,'" a reference to the Investor's Business Daily editorial that is featured in the Cheney ad.

Watch the ad below:

Bodenner (Daily Dish): John Adams And The "Gitmo Nine"

A reader writes:

Whenever I read about Cheney and her ilk's galling demands that the government abdicate due process of law because they're more frightened of people in caves than our forebears were of the Soviet Union or Axis powers, I always think of John Adams and the Boston Massacre. I can only imagine what would be said today of someone who defended alleged terrorists if they were to run for high office. Adams' infamy over defending, and winning, a case for the hated British was eventually seen for what it was: a defense of liberty.

I couldn't find a clip of the courtroom scene from John Adams, the HBO miniseries, but the speech above hits all the right chords. And below is a diary entry of Adams recounting his feelings about defending the eight British soldiers - murder suspects that no other lawyer in Boston would represent. It's a must read for anyone interested in learning from a true Tea Party patriot:

Before or after the Tryal, Preston sent me ten Guineas and at the Tryal of the Soldiers afterwards Eight Guineas more, which were. . .all the pecuniary Reward I ever had for fourteen or fifteen days labour, in the most exhausting and fatiguing Causes I ever tried: for hazarding a Popularity very general and very hardly earned: and for incurring a Clamour and popular Suspicions and prejudices, which are not yet worn out and never will be forgotten as long as History of this Period is read...It was immediately bruited abroad that I had engaged for Preston and the Soldiers, and occasioned a great clamour....

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.

Marshall: Spy Vs. Spy
You'll remember that Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) has pursued what can only be called a fairly anti-Muslim line during recent years in the United States Congress, culminating in her recent call to investigate Muslim "intern spies" operating on Capitol Hill. So you had to know it was going to be a raucous evening when she held a townhall meeting with the Muslim community in Charlotte last Thursday. Audio included.
Marshall: The Horror
First Shelby. Now Bunning. I don't know what the pithy way to phrase it is. But somehow the Democrats need to capture for people that the true horror of Republican rule would be every couple weeks having some cranky, seventy-something guy from the South pulling a freak out, screaming at the country to get off his lawn and shutting down the government until the veins in his forehead de-bulge.
Speaking of veins and foreheads . . .
C&L: Rush Limbaugh Compares Nancy Pelosi to a Terrorist

Ed Schultz calls out Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck for their hate filled rhetoric in this edition of Psycho Talk.