As Keith Olbermann pointed out last night, the guy who wrote this idiotic piece in D Magazine (a magazine which hosts a slathering, groupie-ish George W. Bush love letters page, works for CBS Sports, which is to say he works for CBS News. Per Politico's Glenn Thrush:
Even if this was off the cuff, it's not going to go over well with the sports bosses at CBS.
The network's golf analyst, David Feherty, writing a column in D Magazine about the George and Laura Bush moving to the Dallas area, says U.S. soldiers would shoot Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:
"From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though: despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."
By the way, how can it be "off the cuff" when a guy took the time to write it, spell check it, presumably read it over, and send it to an editor, who presumably read it, approved it, and posted it on the magazine's website? Come on, Glenn... In any case, the unbelievable piece of right wing scholarship was caught by Media Matters, which is bad news since Media Matters rarely just reports and then leaves stuff alone. They follow up. Just ask Don Imus. In short, the commentary has very likely put Mr. Feherty's future at CBS in doubt.
Feherty is the same genius who last week thought it would be a hoot to ask Tiger Woods if he "felt like a loser." Not exactly the way to get ahead at CBS, I'm thinking. ABC, maybe...
As Arlen Specter makes the case for his own defeat
in the Democratic primary. Today, on "Meet the Press," a feisty Benedict Arlen stated his case firmly: he is not now, nor has he ever been, a loyal Democrat. Oh, and he absolutely, positively will NOT support a public/single payer health care plan, or, as we already know, the Employee Free Choice Act. Watch:
All I can say is, "Go Sestak!" And as for Harry Reid: you've been suckered again. And your constituents, both at home in Nevada and in the Democratic caucus, deserve to know: just what did you get in exchange for Specter's disloyalty, other than the humiliation of already having promised him a gavel?
WASHINGTON - Moving with lightning speed, key lawmakers announced agreement Wednesday on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days.
"The middle ground we've reached creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the participants in an exhausting and frenzied round of bargaining.
The bill includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the news conference in which members of the Senate announced the agreement, and it was not clear whether she stayed away out of unhappiness or a scheduling conflict.
Officials had said previously that one of the final issues to be settled was money for school modernization, a priority of Pelosi as well as Obama and one on which they differed with Collins and other moderates whose votes will be essential for final Senate approval.
The WaPo reports on the new D.C. Don Corleone, Susan Collins' ... take:
"I'm particularly pleased that we have produced an agreement that has the top line of $789 billion," she said. "It is a fiscally responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs and policies and tax relief that will help turn our economy around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country."
Collins, one of three Republican senators whose votes for the bill yesterday gave it a filibuster-proof majority, also said that in the final version, "we were able to increase the amount of infrastructure spending," which she called "the most powerful component in this bill to create jobs." She said the bill contains about $150 billion for infrastructure including transportation, environmental, broadband and other projects.
More than 35 percent of the funding goes for tax relief, Collins said.
And a bit more on what they were fighting over:
Before the House-Senate conference, Democratic negotiators convened a final meeting with Senate centrists who had forced steep cuts in the spending portion of the stimulus plan -- which at one point last week had grown to almost $940 billion in new tax cuts and domestic spending.
Even after the Senate scaled down its version to $838 billion, approved 61-37 yesterday, the centrists continued to demand more reductions. Senate aides said the targets were reducing Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut of $500 a year for most individuals and $1,000 a year for most families, paring it down to $400 and $800, respectively.
Other reductions were likely in a $15,000 tax credit for all home purchases in the next year as well as a tax credit for the purchase of new cars, both of which were added to the Senate bill after little debate.
House Democrats have objected to wholesale deletions from their original bill during the Senate debate, but they appeared likely to see some return of aid to states that totaled $79 billion in their plan. The Senate reduced that figure to $39 billion. Senators also zeroed out a fund that would finance school construction, another priority for which House Democrats are pushing to restore funds.
The wrangling may be the reason that not just Pelosi, but also the White House, have withheld the kudos from what just might be a moderate mish-mash bill:
... in a bewildering _ if temporary _ turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House withheld immediate expressions of support, and the formal meeting of congressional bargainers who will need to ratify the deal was delayed.
At a news conference in the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by moderate senators of both parties, said agreement had been reached on a compromise that "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill."
“Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses — that may not be the case here,” Pelosi said. “At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table — that they weigh in.”
Both Obama and Pelosi are hoping to restore significant stimulus spending eliminated by the Senate, especially $21 billion in school construction and technology grants, $10.3 billion in COBRA insurance and $8.6 billion in new Medicaid coverage for the unemployed.
Personally, I blame Harry Reid, who has given virtual veto power over the bill to Susan Collins.
Stimwinder: Two Maines, a Pennsylvania, and a side of bacon
According to MSNBC, the three Republicans who have pledged to vote for the stimulus compromise bill are Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. If Ted Kennedy comes back, which is shameful for him to have to do (as Atrios points out,) that would give the Democrats exactly 60 votes, which NBC says they need because the bill would raise the deficit. Not sure I trust them on that -- need to look it up. But there it is. Cue the food metaphors!
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said the agreement was a bipartisan effort and cited the work of Collins and Specter.
"We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows," Nelson said. He said the compromise included $350 billion in tax cuts that would reach 95 percent of all Americans.
Collins said negotiators cut more than $110 billion in "unnecessary spending" in the compromise package.
"Is it perfect? No. Every compromise reflects choices that are necessary to bring people together," she said.
Specter said he supported the deal even though parts of it "give me heartburn."
So it seems we have a deal. The punkdafied Democrats in the Senate, led by the compromise king, Harry Reid, have crafted a deal (apparently co-produced by Olympia Snowe of Maine and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.) The deal? Supposedly, it's 52% spending and 48% tax cuts -- up from the 30 percent tax cuts already forked over by the House.
So what's wrong with this picture? I can still remember taking the class dubbed "Ec 10" at Harvard, taught by former Reagan economic advisor Martin "Marty" Feldstein. One of the few tidbits of that course that I remember is this: people tend act, according to utility theory, according to what they think is best for them. And they can be made to act on what's best for others only to the extent that they see the good in an action for themselves. For instance: if you give a hungry person $100, they will probably buy food with it. If you give a full person $100, you will have a hard time convincing them to use the money for food. So why, pray tell, would you give a rich person a tax cut, putting more cash in their pockets, and assume that they will use the money to help out the jobless? What, I ask, is in it for them?
Answer: not much -- not in this economy. Tax cuts, even for the middle class, will likely be saved, not spent. Whereas, tax cuts to the poor are guaranteed to be spent back into the economy, because the poor need to spend.
Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill, Republicans -- the losing party in the last two national elections -- have managed to scam more tax cuts out of the stimulus bill, by accusing Democrats, successfuly it turns out, of "spending rather than stimulating." Well, let's return to our "Ec 10" lesson, shall we? See, as it turns out, the definition of "stimulus" in ecoomic terms is ... um ... spending. Go figure.
As Media Matters points out, Republicans have succeeded in getting the media to frame the debate as either government spending or stimulation, with tax cuts placed in the column of stimulation. But the problem is, tax cuts are not stimulative. And spending is not just stimulative, it is the very definition of stimulation. As President Obama put it today, "that's the whole point! Watch:
And MM's Jamison Foser adds:
Fundamentally flawed stimulus coverageby Jamison FoserIf there's one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative. That's a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media's coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative.
Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: "Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple. ... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.
"Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don't seem to understand that.ABC's Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: "And as you know, there's a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn't stimulate. A lot of people have said it's a spending bill and not a stimulus."
That formulation -- "it's a spending bill and not a stimulus" -- is complete nonsense; it's like saying, "This is a hot fudge sundae, not a dessert." But nonsensical as it is, it has also been quite common in recent news reports. There's another problem with Gibson's formulation, though -- in describing the stimulus as a "spending bill," he ignores the fact that the bill contains tax cuts, too. Lots and lots of tax cuts. And those tax cuts, by the way, provide less stimulus than government spending on things like food stamps and extending unemployment benefits. It probably goes without saying that Gibson didn't ask if the bill would be more effective if the tax cuts were replaced by additional spending.
MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, among others, has repeatedly suggested "welfare" provisions in the bill wouldn't stimulate the economy. This is the exact opposite of true; those provisions are among the most stimulative things the government can possibly do. There are some fairly obvious reasons why that is true, beginning with the fact that if you give a poor person $100 in food stamps, you can be pretty sure they're going to spend all $100 of it; but if you give a rich person $100 in tax cuts, they probably won't spend much of it at all.
But we needn't rely on logic and common sense to know that welfare spending is stimulative; economists study these things. One such economist is Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com, who served as an adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign. Zandi has produced a handy chart showing how much a variety of spending increases and tax cuts would stimulate the economy. According to Zandi, a dollar spent on increasing unemployment benefits yields $1.64 in increased gross domestic product, and a dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in GDP. As for tax cuts, Zandi says the most effective form is a payroll tax holiday. A one dollar reduction in federal revenues as a result of such a tax holiday would produce a $1.29 increase in GDP -- far less than the benefit realized from extending unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, providing general aid to state governments, or spending on infrastructure. ...
Now that a deal has apparently been done, let's hope that the 42% of the now $790 billion deal is tax cuts for the middle and lower middle classes.
Otherwise, it might be time to impeach Harry Reid.
Obama finally fires back (Senate Dems, not so much...)
After taking weeks of crap from Republicans who are busy braying for more tax cuts for the rich, while the country literally falls apart, President Obama finally hit back yesterday, while signing the State children's healthcare bill Dubya vetoed twice. Said Obama:
"In the past two days, I have heard criticisms of this plan that, frankly, echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place," Obama said, before signing a children's health insurance bill.
He took aim at the "notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems" and warned against the idea that the economic crisis could be tackled with "half steps, and piecemeal measures and tinkering around the edges."
Obama also faulted unnamed opponents he said believe "that we can ignore the fundamental challenges like the high cost of healthcare and still expect our economy and country to thrive."
"I reject these theories, and by the way so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change," the president said, in his most edgy partisan language in his two weeks in office.
Meanwhile, guess who is emerging as the face of the opposition in the Senate? John "Defeated in the Last Election" McCain. He had this to say about the bill:
"No bill is better than this bill, because it increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars," Senator McCain told CBS News, a day after Democratic leaders sent signals that they did not yet have the votes to pass the measure.
Really? No bill? And who might be blamed for the tanking economy if no bill passes? That's right: Republicans. Oh, and the spineless Democrats, led by the even more spineless Harry Reid, who purportedly form the Congressional majority. As this post by Tommy Christopher over at Political Machine puts it:
I had to chuckle a little when I saw Matt Lewis' similarly titled article (actually, it was less a chuckle, and more of a singular "Ha!"), because I was preparing to blast Senate Democrats for their utter lack of balls. As my trip to the inauguration proved, Democrats are more than willing to dance at them, but completely disinterested in having any of their own.
The Huffington Post reports that Senate Democrats are wandering around, decrying their lack of votes to pass the stimulus plan...
Only they don't need 60 votes. All they need is for Harry Reid to do his job and impose the old fashioned fillibuster rules. Which Republican will be willing to take the bait? And if they don't, the bill would pass on a straight up or down vote. Grow a pair, Dems.
Meanwhile, Obama floats an op-ed, reiterating his opposition to old, stale, failed tax cut policy.
As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.
Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:
The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.
White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.
"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."
Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.
By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...
I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.
Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...
News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.
The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from coolstamps.com]
During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:
On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.
On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.
And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:
*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999 Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas Gary Feess Central District of California Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi Karen Schreier District of South Dakota
Vote 262: September 8, 1999 Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida Vote 263: September 8, 1999 Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington
Vote 307: October 5, 1999 Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri
Vote 308: October 5, 1999 Brian T. Stewart District of Utah
Vote 309: October 5, 1999 Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit
And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.
What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:
Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.
Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.
[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:
Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.
Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.
The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.
The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.
So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.
In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.
UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:
No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats. Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.
And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.
At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.
UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...
UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?
The ephemeral power of the Senate leadership was revealed as the colorful vapor it is today. Joe Lieberman didn't just survive a vote on his future in the Senate leadership, he mopped up the withering opposition to him, including cowing Harry Reid, the "leader" of the Senate. Around the web we go, first to the Huffpo with the vote count:
Lieberman's colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday to approve a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He will leave the Environment and Public Works panel, however.
As you can see, it wasn't even close. From the Hotline blog, here's the Senate's chief Quizzler, Mr. Reid:
"Joe Lieberman is a Democrat, he's part of this caucus."
"We accepted the statement made by one of the more senior members of the Senate that this was not the time for retribution. It was a time for moving forward on the problems of this country.“
"We have all kinds of problems that we need to move forward on, and we need to be unified. We need to be unified as Democrats, we need to be unified as a Senate, and that's what this meeting that we just complete was all about: Moving forward."
"I pretty well understand anger. I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was. ... But I also believe that if you look at the problems we face as a nation, is this a time we walk out of here saying, 'Boy, did we get even?' I am very satisfied with what we did today. I feel good about what we did today. I don't apologize to anyone [about] what we did today. We're moving forward."
"The question is, 'Do I trust Senator Lieberman?' The answer is 'yes' I trust Senator Lieberman.'"
If trust were horse manure, Reid apparently would be covered in it. Now to Politico, where we meet the architects of the Democrats' most dramatic fold-down to date:
Lieberman gave a nod to President-Elect Barack Obama who had reportedly urged a mild rebuke that would keep the former Democratic nominee from defecting to the GOP caucus.
But he saved his warmest thanks for Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who introduced today's compromise resolution.
Remember those names in case any of those jokers is up for re-election in 2010... and throw in Florida Senator Bill Nelson, and DSCC chair Chuch Schumer in the barrel while you're at it. Still working on the other members of the gang of 43.
The vote on Lieberman's fate came in a closed-door session in which Lieberman, members of the Democratic Senate leadership and some current and soon-to-be-senators all spoke.
Sources who were inside the meeting said Lieberman did not apologize for supporting McCain during the campaign, but that he did say he was sorry for some of the statements he made about Obama.
Oh, yes, the apology. Outside the secret bitch session (and I don't mean "bitch" in the sense of the word "complain..." Lieberman explained his supposed contrition:
"There are some (statements) that I made that I wish I had not," Lieberman told reporters. "In the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that. And now it's time to move on."
Yes, well... I'm all for forgiveness and all that, but not in this case. Joe Lieberman has made a virtual career out of screwing Democrats, from his hypocritical tisking of Bill Clinton during the whole Monica mess (Joe himself ditched the first wife because she wasn't pious enough... ahem...) to his neocon boosterism for war in Iraq. Now, Democrats have put him in a position to thwart the Obama administration's attempts to ramp down the Orwellian "homeland security" tactics imposed unconstitutionally upon the country by the Bush administration, or to investigate the president at will. Remember, if you make Joe angry, he promises to punish you by becoming a Republican. I assume that after bitch slapping his Democratic former colleagues, that threat remains not only operable, but more ominous than ever.
Joe Lieberman stumps for his candidate of choice: John McCain
Jane Hamsher, blogging at at the Daily Beast makes as good a case against Revoltin' Joe as I've read, including his penchant for lying, back-stabbing, race-baiting, and self serving threats to become a Republican. I say, let him. Here's Hamsher:
Where to begin? Well, let’s start in 2000, when Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president—in response to pressure from the Bush campaign and without checking with his own campaign—conceded hundreds of fraudulent overseas ballots supposedly from military voters that cost Al Gore the election, the notorious "Thanksgiving Stuffing."
Let's skip lightly over Lieberman’s part in the culture wars, his sanctimonious rebuke of President Clinton on the floor of the Senate at the start of the impeachment charade, and his critical role as part of the so-called “Gang of 14” breaking Democratic resistance to putting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court. Let’s jump straight to Lieberman’s December 6, 2005 speech where he rebuked his party:
It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.
While Lieberman was quick to denounce Clinton for a private matter he leaped to the defense of Bush as even Republicans realized his strategy in the Iraq War was disastrous. Criticize George W. Bush and his conduct of the war and you're a traitor.
Lieberman subsequently told the New Haven Register that he opposed legislation that would have required all publicly funded hospitals to provide Plan B contraception to rape victims, saying "it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital" (for which he earned himself the sobriquet "Short Ride.")
The 2006 Democratic primary campaign in Connecticut was in some respects a warm-up for Lieberman’s negative attacks on Barack Obama, ironic given that Obama endorsed him. Lieberman had been assigned to show the freshman the ropes in the Senate and Obama called him his “mentor.” Obama rushed to the state to deliver a ringing endorsement of Lieberman at the annual party dinner. No good deed goes unpunished.
Lieberman’s opponent, Ned Lamont, was a wealthy banker from Greenwich, an antiwar activist and gentlemanly. Supported by the Democratic establishment, Lieberman claimed he would abide by the results of the primary. But when he lost he ran as a member of a new political party, called the “Connecticut for Lieberman Party.” He blanketed cars in parking lots of African-American churches with flyers suggesting Lamont was racist. (Lamont had resigned from a country club, not because it practiced discrimination but because he felt it was not diverse enough.) Meanwhile, Lieberman stoked racial tensions by telling Jewish groups in Connecticut saying that Lamont had surrounded himself with people like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Al Sharpton "who are either naïve or are isolationists or, frankly, some more explicitly against Israel."
Lieberman also declared himself a "non combatant" in the 2006 congressional races and refused to say which party should have the majority. The Bush White House and Karl Rove openly lent him support, winning him a vast majority of Republican votes and the election.
I think Reid and the Democrats do want to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee. That's a powerful and important committee. And remember, committee chairs have subpoena power. If Democrats are less than anxious to hand that power to a guy who supported the GOP nominee and repeatedly said that Obama wasn't qualified to be commander-in-chief and so on, can you blame them? I can't.
At the same time, I can see why Reid wants Lieberman to keep caucusing with the Democrats. First of all, three Senate races are still up in the air. Wins in all of those three could bring them to 59, and Lieberman would then become that precious 60th senator. Of course this doesn't mean that Lieberman would vote with the Democrats all the time, and clearly he would not most measures having to do with Iraq withdrawal. But on many domestic matters I'd assume he would.
Another question: What exactly do the Republicans have to offer Lieberman? They have no power -- no committee chairs, no nothing. If Lieberman jumps, it would be bad for his state and constituents. Also, one could well wonder how Nutmeg Staters (people from Connecticut; as far as I know there is no such word as "Connecticutters" or anything like that) would feel about suddenly having a Republican senator on their hands. Every county in the state went for Obama, by strong margins, too. There's little doubt that a recall petition would be commenced. I don't know how far it would get, but surely someone would try, and it would get lots of attention.
... and he concludes that whatever nice-making he's doing now, Reid has little choice but to show Lieberman the door, as regards his chairmanship. (So get it done already, Harry.)
Meanwhile, Steve Clemons offers more well deserved harsh words, and a possible compromise:
Joe Lieberman wants to keep his status and committees and caucus with the Democrats. He has been a fear-monger and someone who has promoted a dangerous, reckless false choice between American relations with Israel and other parts of the Middle East. He is a devout neoconservative who has been a key enabler of many of the most nefarious groups that promoted the Iraq War and who want a series of new wars in the region.
But more than that, he strongly supported someone a heartbeat away from the presidency who knew virtually nothing about America's place in the world, who knew nothing of American history and its leaders and conventions and founders.
If Dems would like to keep Joe Lieberman in the caucus, give him responsibility for education policy, telecom policy, health care -- but the price for the Dems keeping this fearmonger is that he be removed from any position with key responsibility for national security or domestic security matters.
There is, however, one major problem with the idea. Lieberman, by committee seniority, is not very well poised to take over some of the panels The Note's Steve Clemons recommends giving him. He already has a couple subcommittee chairmanships, one of which would be stripped under this compromise because it's on the Armed Services Committee. Would the chairwoman of the Environment & Public Works Committee step aside to make room for Lieberman, or would the other senator more senior on the panel do so? It's hard to imagine they'd relish the idea of being robbed of authority that would result in anything nice happening to Lieberman. The one committee where Lieberman is best positioned to take over without any intramural fights is the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee -- not the most glamorous assignment, but maybe enough for Lieberman to save face and maintain some power in the Senate.
Or they could just strip him of his chairmanship and let him caucus with the GOP. Be well rid of him. On domestic matters, he'll still vote Democrat, if he wants to keep his Senate seat and not be turned out like a two-dollar whore by the voters of Connecticut.
UPDATE: Obama's vote? Spare the traitor. (I disagree, but I understand why he'd make that gesture.) But if the comments on this Hartford Courant thread are any indication, the voters of Connecticut may not be feeling so generous. Can they wait four years to get rid of Joe Double Cross? They may have to. There are no recalls for U.S. Senators under current law. Impeachment may another matter, though I'm not certain. Could be worth a stroll through the good old Constitution...
Joe Lieberman will meet with Maj. Leader Harry Reid this week to discuss his future in the Senate, and whether his disgraceful performance during the presidential election will cost him his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Reports CNN:
This aide says that Reid, who is calling the meeting, has not yet decided what to do. The aide admits that the decision will be determined in part by the final election results tonight — and just how close the party is to a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority — but insists that the biggest factor involved is lingering anger among Senate Democrats over Lieberman's Republican convention speech.
This aide also said that Senate Democrats aren't that upset about Lieberman's constant presence and cheerleading on the campaign trail with John McCain — instead, they've been put off by the things he said about Barack Obama at the Republican convention in St. Paul.
Lieberman stuck with McCain through the end, which isn't a bad thing in itself, but as the unnamed aide said, his rhetoric became increasingly abusive toward Obama on the campaign trail (like telling odious Newsmax that he "fears for America" under a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate) and that's why he should lose his chairmanship. Of course, with 56 seats so far, Democrats may need Lieberman's vote to break the odd filibuster, but I somehow doubt that with the ass kicking handed to them yesterday, Republicans will have the stones to try and block every part of Barack Obama's agenda. If they do, Lieberman may have to choose between standing with the losers and definitely losing his Senate seat in two years, or taking his demotion, voting with the winners (whose ideology he mostly still shares) and going back to Connecticut hat in hand in 2010. Not a good set of choices, but they're the choices he created for himself.
During a prime-time address at the Republican National Convention, the Connecticut lawmaker had rapped Obama as an untested candidate beholden to Democratic interest groups.
But a day after Tuesday's election, Lieberman, a fixture alongside McCain on the campaign trail, congratulated Obama for his "historic and impressive victory.
"Now that the election is over, it is time to put partisan considerations aside and come together as a nation to solve the difficult challenges we face and make our blessed land stronger and safer," Lieberman said in a written statement. "I pledge to work with President-elect Obama and his incoming administration in their efforts to reinvigorate our economy and keep our nation secure and free."
If the 109th Congress will go down in history as boot-licking hand maidens to a criminal White House, the 110th will go down as the most cowardly, utterly useless opposition body in U.S. history -- the polar opposite of the body that faced down Richard Nixon, and the wimp-ridden antidote to the scheming, partisan body that tried to undo the election of William Clinton.
How useless is the current Congress? Let me count the ways...
They can't compel Karl Rove or Josh Bolten to testify before them, and their constant threats of "contempt!" fall by the wayside...
They can't out-maneuver Republicans, who stop bills cold on the House and Senate floor.
They capitulated in cowardly fashion on FISA, giving Bush everything he wanted on domestic surveillance and telecom immunity, junking the Fourth Amendment in the process (and they've got more coming, from the still-enforced PATRIOT Act to complete surveillance of the Internet.) ***NOTE: read this post on the Bushies' database of some 8 million Americans whom they could surveil and detain at will in the event of "an emergency" if you really want to feel sick to your stomach.***
They continue to give Bush everything his heart desires on Iraq, backing down time and again on the issue of a timetable for orderly withdrawal, and forking over all the cash Dubya's Pentagon can stuff into a sideways appropriation.
They cannot reign in a recalcitrant attorney general who is thumbing his nose at them as surely as his predecessor did.
They cannot pass meaningful legislation outside of a housing bill that even Bush wasn't dumb enough to veto in an election year.
And their only concern, from Pelosi on down, appears to be getting re-elected.
Worst of all, they refuse to hold accountable, through the only means the Constitution allows: impeachment; a president that many of them -- or really any of them who have an iota of understanding of the Constitution -- know committed clearly impeachable offenses (many of these guys are lawyers.) Instead, the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, like their GOP-led predecessors, are spending their time "saving the president's chestnuts" and scheming among themselves to hold sham "impeachment-like" hearings that are unworthy of press coverage (which is why they aren't getting any,) while promising the White House that nothing will come of them. Even Dennis Kucinich, the author of the "hearings," capitulated, allowing the House leadership to let him make a fool of himself and his colleagues, while wasting the valuable time of dozens of earnest witnesses (not to mention bloggers, who thankfully have lots of time on their hands...)
What then, is the purpose of our current Congress? A useless bunch, almost all of them, particularly in the House, where most of the rotten, Bush-petting legislation and cowardice orginates, but also in the Senate, where Harry Reid and company continue to quizzle and cower under the outright treachery of one Joseph Lieberman.
With all of the lack of spine, one wonders whether the administration's domestic wiretapping extended into the Congressional office building. That might at least explain why they continue to do the bidding of a lame duck president and his criminal gang. Next, I expect them to approve offshore oil drilling and pass a law declaring torture to be the law of the land. What more damage can they do to the constitution and the Republic at this point, having declared, in essence, that there are no impeachable offenses -- that a president can break the law with impunity, and that he and his cabinet; hell, his FORMER cabinet members -- can feel free to ignore Congress altogether, with Congress's blessing. They have squandered their constitutional prerogatives, made a mockery of their own authority, and allowed that man, that idiot in the White House, to humiliate them and blacken our country's honor, not to mention killing more than 4,000 of our bravest citizens in furtherance of a fundamentally un-American neoconservative cause.
Now the Debbie Wasserman Schultz's of the world might explain that I simply don't understand how politics works -- the Congress has to "get the people's business done," and the people want lower gas bills, not impeachment. Well when members of Congress take the oath of office, they, like the president, swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The pork for their districts comes later. And because the Constitution is so fundamental to our freedoms, to our ability to live free in a country that still belongs to us, and not the president, impeachment of a criminal administration IS the people's business. Getting re-elected, well, that's YOUR business, Debbie. Besides, what exactly has Congress gotten done "for us" in the last two years? Hm? Not much.
Checks and balances are endangered when Congress refuses to perform its oversight role and hold members of the executive branch accountable for their actions. The Intelligence Committee decision is just the latest in a series of caves to the White House by this Republican-led Congress. Congress caved when it reauthorized the PATRIOT Act, which includes provisions that deprive Americans of civil liberties. Congress has failed to fulfill its oversight responsibility for a wide variety of executive agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which has reportedly reduced some fines for safety violations and failed to collect others at all.2 Congress has refused to investigate the Bush administration’s attempt to hide the true estimated cost of its Medicare prescription drug benefit, the White House’s disclosure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, and corporate special interests’ and oil lobbyists’ involvement in Vice President Cheney’s energy policy task force.
It’s no wonder that, according to the Washington Post, “Government scholars and watchdog groups say the decline of congressional oversight in recent years has thrown off kilter the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers created to keep no one branch of government from becoming too powerful.”iii
At this stage, I'm not even sure why they're there. We should throw off this false patina of multi-cameral government and simply install our president as king. He already has his puppet parliament.
If I had my way, our pathetic Congress would be turned out on their asses this fall, starting with Nancy, Harry and the hugely disappointing John Conyers, and with the exception of a small handful, including Jim Webb (because of his advocacy for our veterans), Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman and Robert Wexler. The rest of them can go to blazes. (Chuck Hagel is retiring, Barack Obama is running for president.)
Unfortunately, most of these clods' seats are perfectly safe.
And that might be the biggest shame of all.
I'll close with part of the testimony from Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the other "good guys," at the faux-impeachment hearings yesterday:
"What this Congress does, or chooses not to do in furthering the investigation of the serious allegations against this administration - and if just cause is found, to hold them accountable - will impact the conduct of future presidents, perhaps for generations."
"Mr. Chairman," Baldwin continued, "there are those who would say that holding this hearing - examining whether or not the president and vice president broke the law - is frivolous. I not only reject this, I believe there is no task more important for this Congress than to seriously consider whether our nation's leaders have violated their oath of office. The American public expects no less. It is, after all, their Constitution. No president or congress has the authority to override that document, whereby 'We the People' conferred upon the branches of government limited and defined power, and provided for meaningful checks and balances."
There can be no question at this late date in the Bush presidency that the issue of whether the American system will be characterized by "meaningful checks and balances" is at stake - and that goes to the heart of the matter of why Friday's hearing ought not be the end of a process but a beginning.
Even after George Bush and Dick Cheney have left the White House, the definition of the presidency that they have crafted will remain.
"On January 20, 2009, the next president and vice president of the United States will stand before the American people and take an oath of office, swearing to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.' This commitment and obligation is so fundamental to our democracy that our nation's founders prescribed that oath in our Constitution. They also provided for the removal of the president and vice president for, among other things, 'high crimes and misdemeanors,'" Baldwin explained to the committee. "Presidents and vice presidents do not take that oath in a vacuum. They are informed by the actions or inactions of past presidents and congresses, who establish precedents for the future."
It is in the power of the Congress to begin setting the precedent to which Baldwin addressed herself. That power was defined by the framers of the Constitution, as were the practices and procedures to be used in executing it.
... (The) American people have been forced to sit by while credible allegations of abuse of power mount:
And we continue to sit by, waiting for a Congress with the courage to act.
UPDATE: Check out Congress' latest capitulation, to big oil. |
The Senate votes 50-48 to reject a Thad Cochran (Miss) attempt to stop Congress from setting a timeline for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Good looking out, Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith. Lieberman: I literally cannot wait for your next reelection fight. Now, the House and Senate versions go to conference, and Bush will whip out his veto pen. But if the Dems play their cards right, they could back him into a corner where it's take it or leave the troops broke. Check.