when you want something done right, get Teddy Kennedy to do it. It seems Kennedy has swooped in and delivered a health care planwith a public option that has the support of all 13 Democrats on the relevant Senate committee, called HELP. The cost of the bill is also way down: from $1 trillion for the previous try, to $611 billion, with 97 percent of Americans covered. Nice. It's called the Affordable Health Choices Act. Read it for yourself here. The committee members are as follows. As you'll see, the committee doesn't include any of the Democrat Refusniks. The Republican side: not so much (includes the cranky old man himself, John Sydney McCain.)
Democrats by Rank:
Edward Kennedy (MA) - Chairman Christopher Dodd (CT) Tom Harkin (IA) Barbara A. Mikulski (MD) Jeff Bingaman (NM) Patty Murray (WA) Jack Reed (RI) Bernard Sanders (I) (VT) Sherrod Brown (OH) Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA) Kay Hagan (NC) Jeff Merkley (OR)
Republicans by Rank:
Michael B. Enzi (WY) - Ranking member Judd Gregg (NH) Lamar Alexander (TN) Richard Burr (NC) Johnny Isakson (GA) John McCain (AZ) Orrin G. Hatch (UT) Lisa Murkowski (AK) Tom Coburn, M.D. (OK) Pat Roberts (KS)
The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Matthews breaks it down. Cheat sheat: The pros: his name is Kendrick Meek. The cons: his name is Kendrick Meek:
His mother's influence — along with a solidly Democratic voting record — has allowed Meek to quickly rise in Democratic ranks. His mother served on the Appropriations Committee with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called him a "star."
"He has one of the best internal barometers," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida Democrat who joined Meek on the House floor for late-night ribs at Republicans and has endorsed his Senate bid. "He really has just a good sense of what issues resonate."
An exception, though, was his vote to intervene in the legal battle over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in the middle of a national right-to-die debate.
"That's a vote I do regret," he said. "It was an intrusion on the Schiavo family."
And on the up- and downsides of name ID:
Lacking Crist's fundraising ability, Meek is crisscrossing the state to gather signatures so he can qualify to run without paying a $10,000 fee. It's also a way for the native Miamian to build name recognition in a state where polls suggest roughly half the electorate doesn't even know his name.
One reason for his anonymity: Meek has rarely faced any serious opposition. His first run for Congress in 2002 was made easy when his mother — whose name helped him easily win his first legislative race in 1994 — resigned just before the qualifying deadline. He has been re-elected easily since then.
"Rarely" is a term of art. The exact word I think the writer was looking for is "never." Which leads me to seriously question why the Democratic Party isn't welcoming the idea of an opponent, if only to give Kendrick the practice.
Rubio gets some right wing love ... is that a good thing?
Marco Rubio has at times, been considered a potential GOP star: the young, Hispanic face of the Republican Party (well, maybe the only Hispanic face of the Republican Party, since that crowd never seemed to really be feeling Mel.) Now, his Senate run has gotten an endorsement from conservative South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint, previously known mostly for his bug-eyed entreaty urging tea partying wingers to "take to the streets!!!" to stop the Obamaian "slide toward socialism." Yes, yes, that should help Marco expand his base... (ahem) ... Says Politico:
The move is not out of character for DeMint, who often finds himself at odds with GOP leaders over thorny political issues.
But DeMint has a significant grass-roots conservative following, and the fight speaks to the larger struggle over the GOP’s tent: Should it be big enough to include more moderate candidates who have a better chance of winning but stray from the party’s principles? Or should it be mainly limited to bedrock conservatives who would help the party return to its socially conservative and limited government roots?
DeMint firmly believes in the latter. A leader of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, DeMint has started a political action committee — called the Senate Conservatives Fund — designed to prop up the candidacies of Senate incumbents and wannabes who adhere to conservative principles. So far, DeMint has backed former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania (he planned to do so even before the moderate Sen. Arlen Specter became a Democrat) and the staunch conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is up for a second term in November 2010.
This cycle, DeMint plans to take a different tack with his Senate Conservatives Fund; instead of simply making donations to his preferred candidate, he plans to ask his 20,000 supporters to help raise the maximum allowable limit for the endorsed candidates — a process known as “bundling.” A person familiar with the PAC said that DeMint is expected to endorse between three and five candidates this cycle.
Is that really what Rubio wants? The name Pat Toomey is almost synonymous with "loser," associated as Toomey is, with the loser-prone Club for Growth (During the 2008 presidential campaign, Toomey even launched his very own jihad, as the then-CFG president, against that liberal squish Mike Huckabee, for the sin of once raising taxes as Arkansas governor. Commie...) So Rubio, it seems to me, has a choice: he can be the future of the GOP, or he can be the standard-bearer for the dwindling, geographically and demographically constricted far right wing past. The bundling, I'm sure he'll take. The poster boy for the Limbaugh wing part? He may want to rethink ...
Meanwhile, the Democratic party elders (outside Florida at least,) wonders: how do you stop a problem like democracy? First up: Joe Sestak, who, God bless him, is going to challenge Arlen Switcheroo in Pennsylvania:
“I understand the very short-term, expedient desire to have the insurance of a 60th vote,” Sestak said, speaking of the implications of Specter’s April party switch and why the longtime senator was so quickly embraced by the administration.
But he added of Obama: “I believe in his heart of hearts, he really wants a real Democrat to win this race, and I think he very much respects that we are pretty independent-minded in Pennsylvania and we should have a choice.”
Asked directly if a plea from Obama would make any difference, Sestak shook his head and said: “No.”
In New York, it won't be a Senate walk for the party's designated Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, either, since Carolyn Maloney seems to be very much in the race, probably with Joe Trippi as her campaign manager:
Maloney, a veteran member of Congress who represents much of New York City’s silk-stocking Upper East Side, dispatched longtime Democratic consultant and her likely chief campaign strategist Joe Trippi to state her intentions about a potential challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“She’s way past all that,” Trippi said when asked about how Maloney would respond to a request from Obama to stay out of the race. “She really believes the people of New York deserve a choice. She’s not somebody who’s going to back down.”
This should all ring very familiar to our president:
For Obama, there’s an added irony that isn’t lost on some Democrats — that the ultimate insurgent candidate is now in the incumbent-protection business.
In the case of Sestak and Maloney, Obama may be reaping what he sowed. While Hillary Clinton wasn’t an incumbent in the presidential race, she was the establishment figure who many Democratic elites rallied around early on in the primary. But the president proved that an insurgent can win and that Democratic primary voters can buck their elected leaders.
“Who do they think inspired these people to run?” asked Trippi. “They started this. They took on the established order of the party. If they had listened to the establishment, Obama wouldn’t be in the White House. It’s hard for them to argue with this when they blazed the trail.”
Amen, and Amen. Like it or not, President Obama has inspired a new thirst for the democratic process inside this country and out. Let's have at it and let the voters decide.
In case you missed it: Crist comfortably ahead in Florida, so far
The righties may not like it, but Charlie Crist still looks like a pretty good bet for Florida's GOP Senate nomination. A June 10 Quinnipiac poll finds him way ahead of Marco Rubio, and far ahead of Kendrick Meek in a general election match-up to boot. The same polls show Florida's political Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, surprisingly close of the less well known Alex Sink for governor, but the undecided in that race is a whopping 30 percent, meaning it's probably Sink who has more room to grow. The Qinnipiac poll finds that Crist's popularity is holding up, and even exceeds that of the president:
Gov. Charlie Crist swamps former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio 54 - 23 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Kendrick Meek, a Congressman from South Florida, leads the field for the Democratic Senate nomination with 18 percent, followed by two other members of Florida's congressional delegation, Corrine Brown with 12 percent and Ron Klein with 8 percent. But 57 percent of voters say they don't yet have a candidate in the race, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey.
President Barack Obama remains very popular in the state of Florida with a 58 - 35 percent job approval rating. That compares to the less than 52 percent he received in Florida last November.
Obama's job approval rating, however, trails that of Gov. Crist, whose strength across the political spectrum would make him a difficult candidate to beat in a general election for the U.S. Senate. Crist has a 62 - 28 percent job approval rating overall, including a 59 - 30 percent thumbs-up from Democrats.
"Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don't want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate. Depending on how you define the word 'many,' he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
For Meek, the big news is that no one really knows him or his current Democratic opponents (which is why he's doing that statewide petition drive.) Says Qpac:
While Meek is slightly ahead in a Democratic Senate primary, 80 percent of voters statewide, including 74 percent of Democrats, don't know enough about him to form an opinion. Brown and Klein do no better.
Meanwhile Quinnipiac finds Alex Sink slightly ahead of McCollum, 38 to 34 percent:
Sink leads 72-11 among Democrats, while McCollum leads 72-5 among Republicans and 32-27 among independents.
Eleven percent of voters said that the possibility of Sink being Florida's first female governor makes them more likely to vote for her. Eighty-one percent said it didn't matter.
The retired admiral sounds like he's in against Specter the Seat Saver. If only we had some of that independent spirit down here in Florida, where our primary has already been rendered obsolete by the boys (and girls ... hello, Karen Thurman! ... in the back rooms.) Thanks, Democratic Party. And run, Joe, run!
Footnote: I like to win as much as anybody, and as a Democrat, I'd like to see this state elect more of us. But sometimes, Democracy requires that you have to bother with the actual voters. Had that not been the case, and the voters set aside by Ed Rendell and the other party bosses (who I'm sure warned Barack Obama not to run since it wasn't his "turn,") Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee. Instead, the majority of Democrats made the decision on our own. So anyway, next August 24th, I guess I'm going fishing. ... and I HATE fishing.
And another thing: the party should be aware that a lot of Democrats I know, who aren't "yellow dog" types like yours truly, only hang on to their voter registration cards in order to vote in primaries. If Florida had open primaries, I suspect it would also have far fewer members of BOTH parties. Just something to think about up there in Tallahassee (and in Washington) while you guys are divvying up the ballot spots and doing away with the one meaningful reason to register with a political party in the first place.
You know that old saying (I think I first heard it from Bill Clinton,) that "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line?" Well... Democrats are starting to fall like Republicans. I didn't make the Jefferson Jackson dinner last night (what can I say, my A/C broke, and in Florida, that takes priority, even over politics. BTW if you need a good air conditioning guy, call me!) but I did get the news, via a text message last night, that Dan Gelber, the favorite of liberals in the U.S. Senate race, is dropping out ... er ... "stepping back" ... from the Senate race. (Alex Sink can't be thrilled that what was supposed to be a love-fest for her gubernatorial run got upstaged by Camp Kendrick...)
I'm not surprised. I've heard rumors that Gelber would probably go for weeks, though I'm not sure if it's a matter of fundraising, or ... um ... pressure (he apparently was getting it, including from the DSCC.) And as a loyal Democrat, he probably wanted to do what the party wants, which is to clear the field so the party can focus on just one candidate. Besides, Gelber was in a no-win situation. He is even less well known statewide than his opponent, and he was up against two formidable and enmeshed political machines: the Meek machine on the local level and the Clinton machine, whose obvious star power and fundraising tentacles reach deep into the Sunshine state. Gelber was struggling to raise money, and Meek has the endorsement of major unions and other prime political sources of cash. the "Kendrick Meek for Florida" campaign raised about $1.5 million through March 31st, according to his federal campaign disclosures, while Gelber had taken in just $363,000. There is a third candidate in the race, North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns. Um ... good luck with that, dude. (He had raised about $17,000 bucks as of March 31st.) Whatever the reason, Gelber is out. Meek's camp has released this statement:
“Dan Gelber is the model public servant guided by a lifelong pursuit of truth. I’d wish Dan luck in any endeavor that he pursues, but he doesn’t need luck. Dan’s intellect, dedication to justice and sense of fairness will serve him and our state well no matter his pursuit. He is a friend who puts party first and his message to Florida Democrats that we must unify around a slate of candidates is a powerful statement that I wholeheartedly embrace. Dan is a natural leader who will continue to serve our state with distinction in any capacity he chooses and our party is better off because of him.“
... which mirrors Gelber's statement that he's tired of the Democratic "circular firing squad" that normally occurs during elections. Since he hasn't been "fired at" as yet, I for one, am wondering what exactly he means. And personally, I think the "circular firing squad" during a certain Democratic presidential primary made our current president a better general election candidate. BTW Gelber even got a tweet-out from former State Senate colleague Marco Rubio.
Welcome to the new Democratic World Order. BTW this comes during the same week when Ed Rendell essentially threatened Joe Sestak that he'd get "killed" (politically, I assume) if he runs against the establishment candidate, Republican ... I mean Democrat... Arlen Specter, in the PA primary. Democracy, you've gotta love it!
I hate to mirror the ravings of RedState, but these days, the Democratic Party feels an awful lot like the GOP, which generally prefers coronations to primaries. That said, clearing the way for politicians to run for office without actually having to RUN, is already the way things often work in Black politics from what I've seen in Florida (if you can find me a Black person within 100 miles of here who would dare to oppose a sitting Black politician in South Florida publicly, I'll give you, and them, $100. $200 if it's a preacher...) Congressman Meek has never had a serious opponent since he won his mother Carrie Meek's House seat in 2002, and he has benefited from the fact that people down here are loathe to oppose Carrie Meek, whom I would have to say is the single most influential Black person in South Florida, even in retirement from politics. So it's little wonder that the rest of the party would catch on.
On a practial level, Meek had about a hundred assets that Gelber didn't. He benefits from his friendship with former president Clinton, whose wife Meek supported in the Democratic primary, even as the vast majority of Black folks, including in his district, backed Barack Obama (he was far from alone in that regard.) The payback for that support is obvious: Bill Clinton is Kendrick's most prolific and high-profile, fundraiser. It's very hard, if not impossible, to beat that. Ironically, when pressed about sticking with Hillary as it became clear she would lose the Democratic nomination, Kendrick said this:
"There's a chorus of folks saying 'Oh well, saying let's end this right now... But we're Democrats, not Republicans. We believe in Democratic primaries playing themselves out."
So far, the reaction to Gelber's exit within the Florida netroots has ranged from pragmatic to harsh, (this diary was apparently harsh too, before it was deleted...) and Gelber will likely be a candidate for attorney general (my guess is that he was told by -- fill in the blanks as you prefer -- that he would do better to withdraw, try for A.G., thereby receive the backing of the right money people, and give the party the time and space to fight the big fish: Charlie Crist, or to drive him out of the race, too... ahem ...) so progressives will still have him to kick around. That is sound political practice from the standpoint of winning elections, and to be honest, I don't relish the idea of Democrats shredding each other during a primary. But you'd think that in a democracy, we could come up with a way to have a spirited debate, and then let rank and file Democrats pick our nominee. Hell, it worked in 2007/2008, and while it got ugly -- mostly because the Clintons made it ugly -- we wound up winning the race with a tough, tested canddate. Just my two cents.
BTW don't get too geeked up out there about the idea of Corinne Brown supposedly exploring her own run for Senate. I seriously doubt the seriousness. She and Kendrick swim in the same Black establishment political waters, and I suspect she will be swiftly talked down from that particular exploration. Besides, what would be her point of difference with Kendrick? She supported Hillary Clinton, too, so she wouldn't have that issue to use against him with Black voters. The only difference would be regional, and from what I hear, Rep. Meek has already sown up the key endorsements and money people in Rep. Brown's neck of the woods.
Meanwhile, as things get easier for Kendrick, they're getting tougher for Charlie. (On Michael Putney's show this morning, Meek mused that Charlie Crist might not even be his opponent in 2010. Not likely, but not impossible either. One can only imagine what the Clinton oppo research veterans have in store for Mr. Crist. Meek's best scenario would be to face what he has faced in the past -- a non-opponent. And I'm assuming his camp believes that non-opponent to be Marco Rubio.
UPDATE: Watch Gelber's "Stepping Back" speech, courtesy of Larry Thorsen:
UPDATE 2: The Orlando Sentinel's Jane Healy speaks my mind, though in her case, about the governor's race:
This may be good from a political fundraising perspective, saving all the money for the 2010 general election. But it hurts the voters. Without a challenge from someone within their own party, candidates get away with taking fewer stands on important issues. Voters ought to rebel and insist that the candidates answer some tough questions.
... This could be where the lack of a primary hurts most. It will be hard to tell whether the candidates have any backbone since they will automatically get money from the traditional interest groups. For Democrats, the unions and the trial lawyers are those key constituencies. For Republicans, it's the business community. At least Crist had to run in a hotly contested primary before being elected, exposing his real differences with the conservative wing of the party.
And with no real primaries, you can forget about debates for a long time. The candidates will probably be able to escape them until after Labor Day 2010, when the general-election season kicks in. Oh, well.
Here's a brief look at the Republican 40-40 club (with 2010 election info courtesy of Electoral-Vote.com and demographic data from StateMaster.com.) Specifically, take a look at where the "hope to be re-elected" stand, so far, on Judge Sotomayor. Those running for re-election or other office in 2010 are starred. The Hispanic population rank -HPR- for the states where a Senator is up for re-election are in red.)
John Barrasso (WY) - Barrasso is as doctrinaire a right winger as there ever was, but so far he has released no official statements on Sotomayor. Maybe she could win him over by toting a firearm into the hearings?
*Jim DeMint (SC) / HPR: 35 - Up for re-election in a safe seat. Has said Sotomayor's writings raise "serious questions," but that he'll withhold judgement until the hearings.
John Ensign (NV) - Says he'll work through the process, to make sure the former Yale law review editor and Princeton Summa Cum Laude has the "right intellect" to be a Supreme Court justice. Riiiight.... Someone must have pointed out how odd that sounds, because the official statement on his website is a lot more clipped.
Michael Enzi (WY) - Enzi was a "no" vote in '98. And he's from Wyoming...
Lindsey Graham (SC) - Miss Lindsey issued a sunny statement about how much he looks forward to "meeting" and questioning Judge Sotomayor. He wasn't there in '98, and his best buddy John McCain was a "no" back then, so it's hard to know which way he'll go (no pun intended.)
John Kyl (AZ) - He voted no on Sotomayor in '98, because he said he couldn't be sure she wouldn't decide cases based on "preconceived ideas." Plus, every time I see him on television, he comes across as kind of a jerk (he's already floated the idea of mounting a filibuster against Sotomayor's nomination.) I'm putting him down as a "no."
Richard Lugar (IN) - Another yes vote for Sotomayor back in '98, and someone who has been singled out as an ally by President Obama. It would be hard to imagine him voting down her nomination.
Mel Martinez (FL) - Melly Mel is retiring from the Senate, but if he ever wants to show his face in this state again, he'll vote "aye."
Mitch McConnell (KY) - He was a "no" vote in '98, and if he thinks as much of Judge Sotomayor as he does of U.S. auto workers, he's probably a "no" again this time.
*Lisa Murkowski (AK) / HPR: 42 - Up for re-election after being appointed by her dad. She's a smart pol, though, and on Sotomayor, probably the most open minded of the GOP Senators, especially given the fact that there's not a significant Hispanic population in her state. She firmly opposes any attempt to filibuster the nomination.
James Risch (ID) - Who is james Risch? No, sorry, he and Crapo say they'll think it over.
Richard Shelby (AL) - Up for re-election but considered safe. He voted no on Sotomayor in '98 but has been pretty non-committal so far this time. Let's hope he can restrain himself from demanding Sotomayor's birth certificate...
Olympia Snowe (ME) - Voted "yes" in '98. Will probably vote as Collins does, and that's probably a yes.
*David Vitter (LA) / HPR: 33 - Up for re-election in 2010. His state ranks #33 in Hispanic population and he's running against a former porn star. Still, Mr. Magic Pants would be a prime Democratic target, if only the D's could find someone to run who isn't related to Mary Landrieu. On Sotomayor, our saucy friend praises the historic nomination, and says he looks forward to giving her a "thorough review." You know ... that wouldn't sound gross coming from was someone else...
George Voinovich (OH) - Retiring after two terms. Non-committal, but so far not negative on Sotomayor.
Roger Wicker (MS) - Just got elected last year after being appointed by Haley Barbour in 2007, so not up for re-election until 2014. Still, on Sotomayor, says "treat her fairly."
For more analysis on how the Senate GOPers might vote in a futile attempt to stop Sotomayor, click here and here.
He's young, he's handsome, and by God, he's Hispanic! And so, the righties, tired of being branded a bunch of old white guys, have latched on to Marco Rubio, who has officially replaced Jeb Bush's son George P. as The Future of the Republican Party:
Suddenly, to the conservative hardcore, the instant endorsements that Crist received from ranking Senate Republicans after his announcement earlier this month is outrageous not just because it suggests a willingness to bend party orthodoxy but because in doing so, the party kneecaps a young, dashing, eloquent personality with potential to add star power -- a quantity it needs desperately as younger demographics slip from its reach.
In a column in Human Events, a website for the "conservative underground," John Gizzi describes how Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, attended a luncheon last week "in which many national conservatives voiced anger over the NRSC's blessing of moderate Gov. Charlie Crist for the Senate in Florida." Gizzi himself put Cornyn on the defensive: "I asked Cornyn why his committee would make a move like that when Crist had a primary race against conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio."
And the right wing's Rubio embrace has apparently shaken Mr. Cornyn:
One of the most powerful GOP members on Capitol Hill, Cornyn has apparently been so unnerved by the backlash that followed his committee's endorsement of Crist that he has refused to answer more questions about it, especially as bloggers call for his resignation or at least for his withdrawal of that endorsement.
Double meanwhile, George P. fights back, not content to let Marco take his spot. He's also ripping Miss Charlie and dropping major hints that he wants to be Marco Rubio, too:
I want to obtain success in my own right. I want people to look at a record of accomplishment that I’ve put together in my own right and not based on family name,” Bush said. “I haven’t achieved my personal goals. Definitely down the road I’d love to reassess but as of right now it’s not for me.”
Bill McCollum: the age of access and inclusion is upon us
Now this is ironic. One of the former Clinton impeachment harpies, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has run and lost for Senate more times than anyone this side of George H.W. Bush, now says that if he is elected the next governor of Florida, his administration will be all about ... inclusion ... (ahem). From McClatchy:
"The hallmark of a McCollum administration will be access and inclusion," he said. "This administration will be one that doesn't look at partisan labels."
Access and inclusion ...
McCollum was the sole cabinet member to vote against allowing people who have served their prison sentences to regain their right to vote, a relic of Florida's post Civil War past and the infamous "Black codes." Can we file that under "inverse access?"
He generally was regarded as a lap dog for the banking industry during his congressional years. In 1989, Public Campaign (an open government group) gave McCollum its "Golden Leash'' award for accepting $373,857 in campaign cash from the banking and financial service industries while using his position on the Banking and Financial Services Committee and the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee to promote anti-consumer credit card legislation. Here is a link on the award.
The RedState crazy train finally makes a stop in Florida
So... the guys over at RedState (when they're not desperately Googling for proof that Barack Obama is not really an American citizen, or stockpiling guns inside their moms' garages...) have launched a war ... against Republicans. Specifically, they're going to war against the Republican Senate Campaign Committee for the offense of supporting Miss Charlie for Senate. Cue the circular firing squad, in which the RedStaters attempt to ... (sorry, I started laughing and nearly choked myself...) stand up for DIVERSITY!
I’m reminded of a quote from the media a couple of months ago that conservatives could not support Charlie Crist in Florida because of his support for diversity initiatives. The reporter failed to them point out that these white Christian conservatives were supporting the Latino candidate.
Tom Slade, a former chairman of the Florida GOP, said popularity always trumps ideology, and he predicted Crist easily would win the Republican nomination.
That, he added, that might be good for the party as a whole.
“There are not enough blue-eyed, white, blond guys and girls who go to church three times on Sunday and once on Wednesday to make up a majority for the Republican Party almost anywhere,” Slade said. “If we don’t broaden the party, there won’t be much of a party left.”
Yes, so let’s broaden the party by electing a white guy instead of a Latino.
So... RedState.com is where you go to be in solidarity with Latinos? ... Ooh, and they have a Facebook page, too! These Republicans are so tech savvy! ... Except that the purpose of the Facebook page is to bankrupt the entity whose job it is to get Republicans elected to the Senate ... where currently there are only 40 Republicans ... um ...
At some point, I'm going to start thinking that wingers don't actually want to win elections. Which brings me to a great quote from Larry Wilkerson in that chilling TWN post:
... fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.
By the time we get to November 2010, there could be a dozen people running for the seat Rep. Kendrick Meek is vacating to run for Senate, locally, there will be a whole new Miami Gardens city council plus a new mayor (all but one, including Mayor Shirley Gibson, term out...) and candidates spilling into races ranging from Miami-Dade School Board (Solomon Stinson appears to finally be heading into his dotage,) the state legislature (who will fill State Sen. Fredrica Wilson's seat once she vacates it to run for Congress?) and on and on. The same is true at the state level, where the agriculture commissioner, attorney general and insurance commissioner -- in other words, the whole cabinet -- looks to be vacating their seats in order to run for some other seat.
Alex Sink, who declined to run against her friend Charlie Crist for Senate, will run for governor instead, possibly against the sitting attorney general, Bill McCollum (who Sideshow Mel Martinez once famously (and slimily) called "the new darling of homosexual extremists" when he ran against him for the Senate...) Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson, whom I always picture toting a big gun and taking out drug dealers on a dark, misty dock someplace, could jump into that race, too ... and we all know Miss Charlie is running for Senate ...
Tomorrow, barring a direct hit lightning strike or some other unforseen event, Charlie Crist will call a press conference and announce that he's running for Senate. That's no big surprise, since polls show he would be the instant favorite in a race that currently features not a single statewide name brand. What will be interesting will be to see if the popular politician with the permanent tan is ready for what comes next: the brutal beating he's going to take from both Marco Rubio on the right (for supporting Barack Obama on the stimulus package) and from the Democratic contenders, who are already slamming him as akin to a father abandoning his family during a hurricane, for quitting his job to run to Washington "when the going gets tough."
Crist has positioned himself perfectly for the win: he's still a popular figure, known statewide by his first name, and he's been ideologically malleable enough that he hasn't generated animosity where it counts: in the middle. I can tell you that among my black Democratic friends, I know several who say they will support Crist, give him money, and vote for him. None of them are Republicans, and ALL of them gave money to, supported, and voted for, Barack Obama. Crist is pals with the state NAACP president, Adora Obi Nwezi, he retains good will among black voters for supporting the right of two wrongfully convicted men, Pitts and Lee, to be compensated for their suffering, and there's that lovefest with President Obama when he thanked the governor lavishly for supporting the stim.
But that won't stop the s---storm that's coming Charlie's way. Including the fact that he's about to be outed, yet again... (wife notwithstanding, and by the way every source I have who works in Tallahassee says he's gay, too...) with the full assent of the political right, putting them, ironically, in the same tent with the Perez Hilton wing of the gay rights movement, which is going to pour money, time and energy into defeating him as payback for his opposition to gay marriage and adoption (which they see as hypocritical...) Throw in Florida resident Rush Limbaugh, who hates Charlie's kind of moderate Republican, Marco Rubio and his band of Elianeers who will torch him on Spanish-language radio to cut into his South Florida numbers, plus the right wing of the GOP, the Club for Growth wierdos and probably Jeb Bush and his "devious planning," and you begin to get the picture.
Charlie's in for a rough ride.
That said, my party would be crazy to believe he can't still win that seat. For one thing, Barack Obama won't be on the ballot this time, though he'll probably be called on to campaign for the Democratic nominee. For another, about four in ten Floridians are unafiliated with any political party, and Charlie has positioned himself as something of an Indie. The wingers may own this state by virtue of the headcount in the legislature, but Florida ain't Alabama... well much of it isn't, anyway... so the fight for the center will be fierce. ... and by fierce, I cast no aspersions on Miss Charlie or her peoples.
Meanwhile, there could be another consequence of Charlie vacating his governor's chair: open seats ... everywhere ... (which is great news for Democrats.)
The GOP's pick for ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee has a rather colorful history when it comes to race... the recollections of a former Sessions subordinate, a Black man named Thomas Figures, are particularly interesting:
Figures recalled one occasion in which the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent them instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close: "We had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them.'"
All of them, according to Figures, meant civil rights cases generally. As he explained at one point: "[T]he statement, the manner in which it was delivered, the impression on his face, the manner in which his face blushed, I believe it represented a hostility to investigating and pursuing those types of matters."
Figures said that Sessions had called him "boy" on a number of occasions, and had cautioned him to be careful what he said to "white folks. "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks,'" Figures testified. "Had Mr. Sessions merely urged me to be careful what I said to 'folks,' that admonition would have been quite reasonable. But that was not the language that he used."
In response to these allegations, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) asked him if he'd ever objected to this behavior. Senator "Did you ever say anything to them? Did you ever say, knock it off, or quit it?"
Figures admitted he hadn't: "Senator, I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I would be fired. I always felt that my position was very tentative around Mr. Sessions."
No love for Charlie: Marco socks the gov en los cojones
It's Tan vs. Pretty in the Florida Republican race for U.S. Senate. Starting for the Tan team: Charlie "Tooootally Straight Guy" Crist. For Pretty: genetically blessed, bilingual right winger Marco Rubio.
Charlie Crist is the front runner in the race for Sideshow Mel's Senate seat according to all the polls, and he isn't even in the race yet. But that hasn't stopped both the Democrats, and the Club for Growth wing of the Republican Party from kicking him in the can.
First the DSCC launched a TV ad against the guvnah, accusing him of abandoning the state in its time of need by ... not ... declaring that he's running for Senate... an ad clearly meant to send Crist a message in advance, that the Democratic Party is willing to go to war against even an Obama-friendly GOP governor, who has supported the president when it counted, in order to get that seat.
Charlie (center) and Marco (left) in happier looking times
Now, a pair of Democratic strategists have outed Rubio for doing the old Spanish-language double take -- saying one thing about Charlie in English and another en Espanol (hey, don't we often accuse terror-luvin' Arabs of doing that?) Generation Miami reports:
Two Marco Rubios announced their intention to run for Senate today. One Marco Rubio spoke in English and said his campaign will be “based on ideas” and isn’t “against anyone or anything.” The other was a Spanish-speaking Marco Rubio that accused President Obama on Univision of wanting to implement “American socialism here in the United States.” This wouldn’t be the first time you see this linguistic dichotomy. In May of last year, Rubio told former Herald reporter, Rui Ferreira, that Obama was a socialist.
And now for the juciest bit of all: the possibility that Jeb Bush, the miserable, but astonishingly, still sought after former governor (who has no love for Charlie,) could jump into the race on the side of the current GOP underdog, Rubio. Question: if Jeb jumps in and puts his money, name and rep on the line for Marco and Charlie still wins, does that mean that there IS still a moderate wing of the Republican Party, but it, like the crazy right wing part, is located only in the South...? Or does it just mean that the GOP really is dead as a doornail?
According to The Hill, step one for Marco is to Obamatize Crist:
Rubio has already begun trying to bring Crist’s numbers down, and he’s getting a big assist from Democrats wary of Crist’s bipartisan appeal in the general election.
For his part, Rubio has been indirectly hitting Crist for not offering an alternative to the Democrats — a nod to the stimulus — and repeatedly referring to him as “famous” — a line of attack similar to a Democratic tactic that has portrayed Crist as a golden boy lacking substance or results.
Um... doesn't his bipartisan appeal make him MORE electable, rather than less? Purity over electability strikes again...
And now for a blind item: behind the scenes, could someone or other be trying to talk Charlie into abandoning a Senate run, re-upping for governor, and reaping his blessings when Bill Nelson retires? (If I'm Charlie, I read the polls and I don't take that deal, but that's just me...) The cross-partisan plot thickens...
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?
It's been more than four decades since Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania, earned the nickname "Specter the Defector." With his decision this week to leave the Republican Party, he confirmed that it is indeed an accurate description of his political character.
I was a kid reporter for the New York Times back in 1965, when Specter's flip-flopping first attracted attention, and the report I filed recounts the circumstances that led to his unflattering nickname.
Specter, then a Democrat, had been an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and he harbored an ambition to run against his lackluster boss, James Crumlish. The Democratic bosses of Philadelphia were not encouraging Specter because, as one of them told me, "We don't want another young Tom Dewey," the reform-minded New York prosecutor who launched himself into the governorship and two presidential nominations by sending a string of prominent officeholders of both parties off to jail.
So Specter, with the encouragement of such prominent Pennsylvania Republicans as Sen. Hugh Scott and Gov. William Scranton, said he would run against Crumlish on the GOP ticket. To hedge his bets, and to help himself gain Democratic votes, he waited until he won the race to change his party registration.
Specter is hardly the only politician willing to do anything to stay in, or to accumulate more, power. But as Broder says, it's all good as long as the Dems know what kind of "team player" they're regaining:
But much as Specter's decision reflects an increasingly serious weakness in the Republican Party, there is no escaping the fact that it is also an opportunistic move by one of the most opportunistic politicians of modern times.
The one consistency in the history of Arlen Specter has been his willingness to do whatever will best protect and advance the career of Arlen Specter.
Harry Reid, who's not shown himself to be the strongest cat in the kennel, should be forewarned. Watch this guy. Meanwhile, top Senate Dems, who know him well, tell Specter in advance: hands off our seniority.
Charlie Crist isn't even officially running for Senate yet (okay, yeah, we all know that lady he's married to ain't staying in Tallahassee, so he's running...) but the DSCC is already attacking him for allegedly bailing on the state when times get tough. Peep the ad (HT to Politico):
More than half (57%) of Florida voters say it is at least somewhat likely they would vote for Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in the state's United States Senate race in 2010. That figure includes 23% who say they are Very Likely to do so.
Michael Steele whines: he didn't even call me! ... and the now two-time loser RNC chair (after his Limbaugh agonistes and that NY-20 debacle) adds that Specter's mama didn't raise him right... (note to Steele: it's not that Specter doesn't respect you, it's that ... well ... no one does.)
The Club For Greed Growth, whose out-going president Pat Toomey is in large part responsible for this mess, is at first speechless, then downright miserable:
“Senator Specter has confirmed what we already knew – he’s a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts, and less economic freedom. Thanks to him, Democrats will now be able to steamroll their big government agenda through the Senate. ..."
If the Democrats do succeed in pushing through national health insurance, they really should set aside a little extra money to erect a statue to Pat Toomey. They couldn’t have done it without him!
Pat Toomey is of course the former president of the Club for Growth who planned to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Polls showed Toomey well ahead – not because he is so hugely popular in the state, but because the Pennsylvania GOP has shriveled to a small, ideologically intense core. Toomey now looks likely to gain the nomination he has sought – and then to be crushed by Specter or some other Democrat next November.
The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) a fellow moderate, didn’t seem surprised. On the national level, she says, “you haven’t certainly heard warm encouraging words of how they [Republicans] view moderates. Either you are with us or against us.”
“Ultimately we’re heading to having the smallest political tent in history they way things are unfolding,” Snowe said. “We should have learned from the 2006 election, which I was a party of. I happened to win with 74% of the vote in a blue collar state but no one asked me how did you do it. Seems to me that would have been the first question that would have come from the Republican party to find out so we could avoid further losses.”
“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”
“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.
Look, of course Specter made the switch to save his political hide. What 79-year-old do YOU know who'd want to wade back into this particular job market? Politicians exist for one reason only: re-election. And they'll do just about anything to see it done. Specter played realpolitik, and so did the Dems who wooed him. Get over it, GOPers. You've got Specter, we're still stuck with Lieberman.
Meanwhile, the WaPo's Dan Balz is among the many members of the press who are still trying to shake the GOP awake (and put an end to all that useless "RINO hunting...") Good luck with that. As former New York Gov. Pataki intimated to CQPolitics, with a few rolls of the eyeballs, you can't help a party that doesn't WANT to be helped. Case in point: RedStaters are already warning the Republican Senate Campaign Committee not to even THINK about backing the most viable GOPer probably in PA: Tom Ridge. It's purify all the way, baby. All the way to oblivion.
The WaPo culls more GOPer reaction here, including a Newt missive and a full statement from Sen. Snowe.
Housekeeping: BTW, kudos to The Fix's Chris Cillizza for breaking the story. I linked originally to a different iteration of the story, but the scoop was his.
"I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania," Specter said in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."
... Specter was being challenged by conservative former Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey, who seized on that vote and others that favored Obama's spending priorities.
... Toomey came within 17,124 votes -- out of more than 1 million cast -- of defeating Specter in the 2004 primary.
The move couldn't come at a more important time. Including Al Franken, Specter's move gives Dems the magic number in the Senate. Now, let's see if Steele can get a right winger elected in Pennsylv... oh, never mind. Happy 60!
But he also calls for a "revolution" to save the GOP from the right wing kooks who seem bent on "purifying the party" (and losing elections.) BTW, this is the second party switch for Specter, who was a Democrat through the JFK era, before he found it more electorally convenient to become a Republican. Just sayin' ...
Let me start out by saying that I don't have a dog in the Florida U.S. Senate fight. But do you ever get the idea the Miami Herald is, shall we say, a bit cynical about a certain second-generation politician running for the job? From today's paper:
For Senate race, Kendrick Meek is raising big money from out of state
At a recent campaign rally, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami branded his U.S. Senate bid a ''grassroots campaign,'' boasting of more than 1,000 donors in Florida.
''The more Floridians that we have who are stakeholders in this campaign sends a message, a message that we're here to do business on behalf of working people,'' he told about 100 supporters in the parking lot of a small Hallandale Beach diner.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state corporate interests and Washington lobbyists also have helped Meek -- the only Florida Democrat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee -- emerge as a fundraising powerhouse with nearly $1.5 million in donations. Democratic party officials say he appears to have raised more than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate nationwide.
''When you are in a leadership position like he is, you do develop relationships with people all over the country,'' said Ana Cruz, a senior advisor to the campaign. ``It's a testament to the number of people who believe in him in and outside of the state.''
Cruz notes that Meek received support from more than 800 Florida donors who gave less than $200 each. ''Those are dollars from working-class folks from all over,'' she said.
Since he began his campaign in mid-January, Meek accepted $293,000 from political action committees representing law firms, drug companies, payday lenders and other businesses. PAC donations also came from Democratic Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina and Xavier Becerra of California. In total, 44 percent of Meek's money came from outside Florida.
In contrast, 10 percent of the money raised by Meek's leading Democratic rival, state Sen. Dan Gelber, came from other states. He received $9,500 from political action committees.
Stipulating that we are talking about an off-year election, but just 100 supporters? By Obama rally standards what's that, about 2 people? Another bite:
His campaign calculated that he raised nearly $17,000 a day in the first three months of the year. His total even surpassed Democratic incumbents like Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
At the Hallandale Beach rally on Monday, Meek suggested his aggressive approach takes its cue from the president's record-setting campaign -- though Barack Obama did not accept money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.
Much of that power fundraising is coming from Kendrick palling around with Bill Clinton (they are sharing another "Thelma and Louise" moment at the upcoming commencement at FAMU, and Clinton has been hitting the streets for Kendrick since day one, as have Big Bill's major Florida fundraisers.) And they left out the fact that taking cues from Obama is ironic given the fact that had Meek had his way, Obama would be Hillary Clinton's secretary of state, rather than the other way around ...
A review of Meek's campaign report due at the FEC on Wednesday found he spent more than $200,000 on cell phones, catering, a website, plane tickets and consulting. He paid more than $14,000 for a private jet to fly former President Bill Clinton to Florida for a fundraiser.
Meek's expenses also included $428 on a ''campaign dinner'' at the Biltmore Hotel, $177 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Washington and $149 at Houston's in Miami. ''Some of these are strategy sessions and some are cultivating donor relationships,'' Cruz said.
One of the Democratic congressman's biggest donors is the political arm of Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens-based security company that retains his mother and wife as lobbyists. Wackenhut gave Meek the maximum donations of $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election. Miami-Dade County has accused Wackenhut of overbilling; the company denies any wrongdoing.
Meek -- who would be Florida's first black senator if elected -- also received big donations from former officers of the Congressional Black Caucus and Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. Individual donors can give a maximum of $2,400 for the primary and another $2,400 for the general election.
Cue the Dan Gelber email campaign ... though so far, they've been as quiet as a mouse.
WASHINGTON — The House and Senate approved budgets of about $3.5 trillion for the government on Thursday with no Republican support, a sign of deep partisan tensions likely to color Congressional efforts to enact major policy initiatives sought by President Obama.
On the heels of House approval of its spending plan for 2010, the Senate voted 55 to 43 shortly before midnight to adopt a similar budget after a day spent laboring over politically tinged amendments that did little to change a fiscal blueprint generally in keeping with Mr. Obama’s ambitious agenda.
Democrats said the two budgets, which will have to be reconciled after a two-week Congressional recess, cleared the way for health care, energy and education overhauls pushed by the new president. The Democrats said the budgets reversed what they portrayed as the failed economic approach of the Bush administration and Republican-led Congresses.
The House version passed 233-196, with 20 House Dems voting no, along with all the Republicans. Two Senate Dems opposed their version (Evan Bayh (IN) and Ben Nelson (NE)...) which went through on a straight up or down vote. Lieberman, still on his best behavior, voted with the majority of Dems.
Dennis Kucinich voted "no" in the House, because the bill includes funding for what he sees as an expansion of the wars.
Said Kucinich: This budget is a statement of principles for the upcoming year, and I cannot accept it in its entirety. I will not vote for a budget that ties military spending to the operational funding of our government. This year, the budget includes $130 billion for war funding. The Washington Post reports today another 10,000 troops may be sent to Afghanistan, bringing our total number of troops there to as much as 78,000 by 2010 –- a more than 100% increase from today's troop levels. This budget is a plan that authorizes the expansion of the war. I simply cannot endorse a budget or a plan that sends more of our brave men and women to Afghanistan, a conflict which has the potential to become this generation's Vietnam."
What's interesting is that after all the sturm and drang, the budget whizzed through in the dead of night. Quietly, while Michelle and Barack were off courting the Queen. But Obama got pretty much everything he wanted, and it's hard to imagine the reconciliation version being much different than what he proposed.
John McCain's spending freeze went down in flames, as did the GOP Fudge-it. Go figure. But Republicans, by voting universally against the budget, have placed all of the consequences of it, good or not, in the hands of the party in power. It's one heck of a roll of the dice, and most likely, not a smart one. Remember Clinton's 93 budget? No GOPers voted for that one, either, and the party is still trying to convince Americans that Clinton's roaring economy was something they did. But in their delusions, Congressional Republicans see these votes, along with public anger over bailouts, as a way to take back the House.
By the way, it wouldn't be Congress if they didn't tuck in something for the rich, and here it is:
Among the amendments that won Senate approval was a bipartisan proposal that would raise the estate tax exemption by $1.5 million, to a total of $5 million, and reduce the tax’s maximum rate by 10 percentage points, to 35 percent.
I mean, we wouldn't want Biff not to be able to give his little Muffy's his all...
Meek's campaign says: when you think Kendrick, think Barack.
If he (and many other Black pols) had gotten his way, Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. But politics is about the future, not the past, and Kendrick Meek's future has a whooooole lotta Barack in it.
Meek, who I hear plans to raise $25 million or more for his Senate run, already has Obama's deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, who parked in South Florida for the final stretch of the campaign, on the payroll. Combine that with the Clinton fundraising machine in Miami and beyond (including Timbaland neighbor Chris Korge,) and longtime union friends like SEIU (who surprise! have endorsed him already) and Meek just might pull off that $25 mil and run away with the primary (recent polling here and here). But this campaign solicitation with Hildebrand's name on it might make some die-hard Obamaniacs chuckle:
I was fortunate to spend the final weeks of Barack Obama's campaign in Florida. The experience is one I won't forget -- the inspiration I felt from voters there was unique. My time in the state also gave me the chance to meet great leaders who worked tirelessly to help elect our President.
One leader in particular stood out, and that is Congressman Kendrick Meek. [Emphasis added] He inspired me. His commitment and dedication to helping Barack Obama win the presidency made a real difference. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kendrick for all that he did to help win those 27 critical electoral votes.
The Florida victory was long overdue -- you all know it better than I do. The results of the November 4 elections give Floridians the chance to capitalize on the momentum it provided. So when Kendrick decided to run for the U.S. Senate and make the bold move to get out there early, I asked myself, "Where do I sign up?" ...
... and can they afford my fee!? (spoiler alert: "yes they can.") Okay, maybe that's too cynical. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible, and its possible that Obama supporters no longer care who supported whom during the primary. In fact, most people probably don't. And by Obamatizing his campaign, Kendrick hopes to capitalize on the excitement of the 2008 campaign, particularly among black voters, which is smart. He's also hitting up Obama donors early, the better to raise that $25 mil. Smart times two. And he's going big early to get his name recognition up. Smart move number three.
Still, the idea that Meek was the bestest of all the pro-Obama leaders will likely come as a surprise to Robert Wexler, who was the first politician to endorse Obama in Florida, or to State Sen. Fredrica Wilson (now running for Meek's House seat) who worked tirelessly for Obama dating back to 2007, when she pointedly asked me in August of that year during an interview, how any Black elected official could fail to support an intelligent, qualified candidate like Obama; or to State Sen. Dan Gelber, Meek's main primary opponent at the moment (unless Pam Iorio or Ron Klein get in,) who also endorsed Obama during the primary, and whose campaign manager, Steve Schale, ran the Florida for Obama campaign, or to Manny Diaz or Miami Gardens Mayor Shirly Gibson or all the other pols who stumped for Obama for like, ever.
Then again, it's possible that nobody remembers or cares about any of that stuff, either.
Claire McCaskill is brilliant. She's funny, direct, and takes no nonsense. On Friday, she called out the Republican leadership and other Senators who were screaming bloody murder about non-existent earmarks in the economic recovery bill, while bellying up to the bar for prodigious quantities of earmarks in the omnibus spending bill. Today, she wiped the floor with Richard Shelby and Senate Republicans on earmarks yet again. Watch:
McCaskill then threw in a smart jab at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its hypocritical deands for a secret ballog on union organizing, while it has exactly the opposite view on secret ballots for decertifying a union (Transcript). The exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another issue that's going to come up before the end of this year -- and we only have a couple of minutes left -- Mr. Donohue, you're going to spend about $10 million, I've read, to try to defeat this Employee Free Choice Act, which would give union -- unions the ability to organize at a plant if they could a majority of the people at the plant to sign up.
And, Senator McCaskill, let me bring you in on this. Is there anything you can say, you believe, right now, that'll convince Mr. Donohue to back off that? And do you have the votes to get this done this year?
MCCASKILL: I'm not sure that we have the votes, and I have no hope of backing Mr. Donohue off. I would say that I think it would be fair that we have a secret ballot for decertification of unions. Right now, businesses can go with a card check.
There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union, but there is a requirement of -- of that for people to be able to organize. And to me, that seems unfair. Let's -- let's -- what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let's put people on a level playing field and have both businesses have to have a secret ballot to decertify. Until they do that, I'm not sure they've got a lot of room to complaint.
And she said it with a smile. Love her! And BTW she and Bayh looked and sounded great together. Could be a ticket in eight years assuming Biden retires after two terms as veep...
Let's see if we have it right: Burris had zero contact with any of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's cronies about his interest in the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama—unless you count that conversation with former chief of staff Lon Monk, and, on further reflection, the ones with insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma and, oh yeah, the governor's brother and fundraising chief, Robert Blagojevich. But Burris didn't raise a single dollar for the now ex-governor as a result of those contacts because that could be construed as a quid pro quo and besides, everyone he asked refused to donate.
“If I had done the things I’ve been accused of, I’d be too embarrassed to stand up here,” Burris said.
"Stop the rush to judgment. You know the real Roland. I have done nothing wrong and I have absolutely nothing to hide," he told the City Club of Chicago, a gathering of civic leaders, politicians and businesspeople.
Burris said he would cooperate "in any way I can" with a perjury review by the Sangamon County state's attorney into his sworn testimony as well as the preliminary investigation opened by the Senate Ethics Committee.
"I welcome the scrutiny," Burris said.
But he also made a point of saying he won't cooperate with the media, saying their scrutiny has not been fair. And then he invoked the classic political response in announcing he would no longer take reporters' questions.
Crist names Fla. NAACP leader minority adviser The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Charlie Crist has named Florida NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze as his special adviser on minority affairs.
Crist announced the creation of the position and appointment at a civil rights round-table discussion Thursday. It coincided with the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and President Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.
Crist said the appointment formalized a long-standing reliance on Nweze for advice on such issues as minority participation in state government and programs including equal access to education, health care and housing.
Yeah. He's running for Senate. Sorry, but Charlie didn't marry a lady just to stay around in Tallahassee, and moves like this scream "cross-over appeal..."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) looms hugely over his state’s open Senate race, holding 2-to-1 leads over all Democrats interested in the race, according to a new Strategic Vision poll.
The poll finds the popular governor, who will wait until after Florida’s legislative session to make his plans known, leading Democratic Reps. Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek by 34 points each.
He leads state Sen. Dan Gelber 58 percent to 27, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio 57 percent to 29.
The independent poll, set to be released Thursday, was conducted by a GOP-leaning firm.
The Meek people will probably dismiss the poll as a GOP leaner, but the reality is, Gallup is a GOP leaning poll, and so is Mason-Dixon. Even if Strategic is off by 10 points, it's a tough poll to swallow. More details:
The poll shows Klein would lead a primary between the four of them, but with only 12 percent of the vote and with 66 percent of primary voters undecided. None of the four has a sizable statewide profile.
In a GOP primary with four other candidates, Crist is at 54 percent, while Rep. Connie Mack is at 16 percent.
Mack, who could benefit from having the same name as his father, a two-term senator, leads a Crist-less primary, taking 21 percent. Rep. Vern Buchanan takes second, with 11 percent, while former state House Speakers Allan Bense and Marco Rubio are at 8 and 5 percent, respectively.
Mack leads all four Democrats in head-to-head general election match-ups, while Buchanan, Bense and Rubio are all neck-and-neck with the Democrats.
“Buchanan and Rubio have problems despite being in the news a lot recently,” Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson said. “Buchanan could, with money, buy name ID, but would need to attack Mack. Bense could be a sleeper.”
Among the Democrats, Iorio and Klein run best in the general election.
In almost every race without Crist, though, about half of those polled are undecided.
Johnson said Iorio looks strong for the general election but could have trouble in the primary.
“Meek has a ceiling of support of about 25 percent, and it’s hard to see him winning the primary,” Johnson said. “Klein and Gelber have the most potential but could cross each other out.”
That's what you call an uh-oh... Here are the numbers:
1. Whom would you support for the Democratic nomination for United Senate, if the choices were Dan Gelber, Pam Iorio, Kendrick Meek, and Ron Klein? Ron Klein 12% Kendrick Meek 10% Pam Iorio 8% Dan Gelber 4% Undecided 66%
2. Whom would you support for the Republican nomination for United States Senate, if the choices were Alan Bense, Vern Buchanan, Charlie Crist, Connie Mack IV, and Marco Rubio? Charlie Crist 54% Connie Mack IV 16% Vern Buchanan 10% Alan Bense 7% Marco Rubio 4% Undecided 9%
3. Whom would you support for the Republican nomination for United States Senate, if the choices were Alan Bense, Vern Buchanan, Connie Mack IV, and Marco Rubio? Connie Mack IV 21% Vern Buchanan 11% Alan Bense 8% Marco Rubio 5% Undecided 55%
4. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Ron Klein, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 58% Ron Klein 24% Undecided 18%
5. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Kendrick Meek, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 60% Kendrick Meek 26% Undecided 14%
6. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Pam Iorio, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 57% Pam Iorio 29% Undecided 14%
7. If the election for United States Senate were held today and the choices were Charlie Crist, the Republican and Dan Gelber, the Democrat, for whom would you vote? Charlie Crist 58% Dan Gelber 27% Undecided 15%
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.
A banner ad right atop the Huffpo endorses Dan Gelber as the "progressive choice"(according to the folks at Down With Tyranny, anyway...) for Florida's soon-to-be-open Senate seat:
With all the ugliness and sleaze surrounding the appointments of new senators in Illinois and New York, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Delaware and Colorado, it's refreshing to see Florida cranking up for a good old fashioned election-- you know, where voters decide who the senator should be. In the afterglow of McCain's loss in the Sunshine State (plus the loss of two GOP congressional incumbents, a state legislature that is turning less and less red every year, and some sketchy-looking polls) conservative Republican incumbent Mel Martinez decided to retire in 2010.
The first choices among party Insiders-- Jeb Bush for Repugs and Alex Sink for Democrats-- have passed on the opportunity. That leaves the race wide open for both party primaries. This morning the hopes of Florida progressives was answered when state Senator Dan Gelber tossed his hat into the ring.
Dan isn't well-known outside of Florida but he is far better known in his state than most local legislators. That's because until November-- when he was elected to the state Senate-- he was the Democratic Minority Leader of the state House. And a very outspoken one at that. Before that he worked as a federal prosecutor, mostly on corruption and civil rights cases. He worked in the U.S. Senate as the staff director of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under Sam Nunn (D-GA).
It's very true that Gelber isn't that well known, and that Meek will have the advantage of Steve Hildebrand's turnout machine (which he used on behalf of Barack Obama in the recent election.) It remains to be seen if the Meek people can turn the Obama excitement into excitement for them. (Personally, I rather doubt that the Obama phenomenon can be recreated for anybody but Barack, but I'll wait and see how they roll it out. BTW check out the comments at the bottom of the DWT post. Brutal...) As for Gelber, he seems like a longshot to me, but then again, in a wide open race, a progressive candidate will have a shot. Another disadvantage though, he will be up against two major political machines: the Meek machine, and the Clinton machine. The former president was in town last week raising $300k for Kendrick. And the campaign, according to sources, hopes to raise more than $25 million for the run. Can Gelber match that with the help of the left end of the blogosphere? We shall see.
Dear Harry: Don't be a wuss. Make the bastards filibuster
If Republicans, led by the eyebrowless Mitch McConnell plan to try and derail the economic stimulus bill in the Senate to try and stick the Democrats up for more Bushian tax cuts for the rich, here's an idea, Harry: make them filibuster it, the old fashioned way. In other words, no wimpy cloture vote. If they want to filibuster, make the bastards stand in the well of the Senate for as many hours as they're willing to talk. Just like their Democratic forebears did in efforts to stop civil rights legislation in the 1960s (before they all jumped ship and became Republicans.)
John Kerry did an outstanding job this morning on "Meet the Press," knocking down David Gregory's absurd "stipulation" that no one knows whether tax cuts or government spending make for superior stimulus (Kerry said "I won't stipulate to that at all," then pointed out that we've had eight years of Bush tax cuts plus neglect of our infrastructure and look what we've got to show for it...) and he slapped down Kay Bailey Hutchinson's talking points about the stimulus bill needing to incorporate Republican tax cut philosophy. Said Kerry: "we are not duty bound to accept something with which we fundamentally disagree." He added that when it comes to bipartisanship, President Obama has met with the GOP caucus, while he said he couldn't recall in eight years, President Bush meeting with Democrats on the Hill.
Waiting for the transcript to post.
Meanwhile, Gregory was true to form, quoting of all people, the right wing Heritage Foundation, for his facts on the deficit.
A pay freeze for administration members earning over $100,000 a year and strict rules on lobbying, both before and after serving his White House.
Phone calls to top Middle Eastern leaders, and a nod to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Mideast envoy. Mitchell did great things during the Clinton administration for peace in Northern Ireland, but he has special qualifications for this job, too, as Mother Jones points out:
At first glance, Mitchell may not seem the most obvious choice for the Middle East envoy job. Others have far more experience in the region, and Mitchell's success in Northern Ireland does not necessarily translate to the intractable conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. But what you may not know is that Mitchell is himself of Lebanese ancestry; his father, John Kilroy, was an Irishman adopted by a Lebanese family, and his mother was a Lebanese Maronite Christian.
More than that, Mitchell had a brief, albeit unsuccessful, run as Middle East envoy during President Bill Clinton's last-minute attempt to broker peace there before he left office. The so-called "Mitchell Commission" studied the conflict in detail for several months before releasing a report in April 2001 to the newly inaugurated Bush administration.
As with his work in Northern Ireland, Mitchell suggested in the 2001 report (available here) that no peace could come to the Middle East until both sides stopped the violence and steeled themselves for difficult negotiations. Beyond that, though, he affected a more balanced approach to the peace process, calling not only for the Palestinians to renounce terrorism, but for the Israelis to cease using economic blockades against the Palestinians and to halt the construction of new settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Putting a Lebanese-American at the forefront of policy, along with the well known and widely trusted Secretary of State Clinton, is a great look, and Obama seems to be signaling that he will be as tough on settlement building as Bush was soft on it.
Meanwhile, on the newly de-tourested Capitol Hill:
Hillary is approved, and then greeted as a liberator by a weary Foggy Bottom, which made little attempt to show their relief that the new administration has arrived. BTW the two GOPers who voted against Hillary in the Senate were Jim DeMint (R, SC) and David Vitter (R, Whore House.) Geithner is approved, tax issues and all.
Eric Holder is held up by Bush lackeys on the Senate Judiciary Committee who are apparently seeking assurances that there will be no torture prosecutions emanating from the Obama Justice Department. (Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top torture investigator says the body doesn't really need the United States to act on the matter. They can move against top Bushies themselves, and Manfred Nowak, the U.N. "Special Raporteur on Toture," has at least two defendants in mind ...) Said Mr. Nowak:
“Judicially speaking, the United States has a clear obligation” to bring proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld. […] He noted Washington had ratified the UN convention on torture which required “all means, particularly penal law” to be used to bring proceedings against those violating it.
“We have all these documents that are now publicly available that prove that these methods of interrogation were intentionally ordered by Rumsfeld,” against detainees at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Nowak said.
Cheney should of course be added to the list, along with Bush and Don Rumsfeld, particularly since he has openly admitted to authorizing the torture of U.S. detainees.
BTW, check out the new Whitehouse.gov. It mirrors the previous Obama campaign and transition sites. Nice.
The Senate just says yes to giving Team Obama the second half of the TARP fund. The vote was 52-42, and it's counter-intuitive, but a "no" vote meant yes, give him the dough. (Lieberman Watch Update: Traitor Joe voted, as he should, with the Dems.) Meanwhile, the price tag for the economic stimulus bill tops $825 billion.
Now that he's married to a girl, Charlie Crist is being sought out for all KINDS of good stuff! The latest: the GOP is so starved for talent in the wake of the Jeb Bush withdrawal, some in the party are wooing Miss Charlie to run for Sideshow Mel's soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. From The Hill:
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) on Wednesday said efforts are ongoing to persuade Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) to run for his state’s open Senate seat.
“We’re going to continue to visit. It’s very early in the game, but recruitment is important and the ability to be competitive on the financial front is very important too. We’re working on both of those fronts,” Cornyn told The Hill.
Few Florida politicians can match Crist’s popularity and fundraising potential. The governor, a centrist who was elected in 2006, has denied any interest in running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R), but Cornyn, who has spoken to the governor about the race, suggested Crist may be open to persuasion.
Cornyn said he's also talked to Marco Rubio, and Florida's Senatorial Don Quixote, Bill "Kookoo" McCollum. Still to be seen: whether Kendrick Meek's Washington friends, including his newly minted campaign guru, Steve Hildebrand, can talk Alex Sink out of making a run on the D side. Of course, if she doesn't run, and Meek rolls over smaller fries like Dan Gelber, that will make it 12 consecutive years of his political life without an actual opponent or difficult race. Not exactly a good thing if you're about to take on a desperate Republican Party for seat #60 in the Senate...
Meek expected to jump into the Senate race tomorrow
Just got a press release. Kendrick Meek is holding a press conference tomorrow morning to make an announcement regarding the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sideshow Mel Martinez. Does anybody know what's on Alex Sink's public schedule tomorrow...? I have calls out to a couple of sources to find out if I should burn the gas to be at the presser...
"I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA Director," she said.
A top aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushes hard for Caroline to be the next junior Senator from New York, and that's ruffling feathers among the non-upper crust (rather than just among Clintonistas, like before...) leading one assemblyman to state:
Rory I. Lancman, a state assemblyman, said that there was “a growing concern that high public office is being reserved for a better class of people — people who can buy into it like Michael Bloomberg or people who can come into it through their celebrity like Caroline Kennedy.”
Egads. And of course, up to now, in the 240 or so years of formal American existence, politics has been strictly reserved for the common man...
So what's their beef, as our current, class-cutting commander in chief might ask? They Hillaryites are angry that Caroline and her uncle Ted supported Hillary's new boss, Barack Obama, during the primary (but please, don't call it a jihad...) Make sense? No? Me neither.
After all, I think it was Barack Obama who just gave Hillary the second biggest prize of the election season (sorry Joe Biden)... namely, a nomination to be Secretary of State. Not exactly the boobie prize. And Hillary has shown her full (cough) and unwavering support for Obama since giving up the ghost on becoming president herself. So what gives, guttersnipes?
Could it be that if Caroline is named to the Senate, she is sure to win the seat outright by a landslide in two years, and then two more? Could it be the fear that the magic of Camelot, housed in both the Legislative and Executive branches (following the knighting of Obama by much of the Kennedy clan, let alone JFK's speechwriter...) could yet eclipse the magic of Clintalot, even with Bubba ensconced in his Harlem digs, or puttering around upstate, or back-slapping foreign friends at the U.N.? It could very well be so.
But is she qualified? That's today's debate in the New York Times (where one particularly snippy Dem compares Caroline to J.Lo. How rude...) Well, let's see ... Arkansas first lady ... U.S. first lady ... standing by your cheating hubby ... famous name, univesally known to voters ... Senator. Yep! She's as qualified as the last person to hold the job! Hell, what qualifications have their ever been to be a political leader, besides age? We have members of Congress who used to be on "The Love Boat," for god sakes, and the governor of California is The Terminator! (And trust me, if they changed that little Constitutional rule, "Come with me if you want to live" could very well become the oath of office on a distant January 20th.) This is America, Hillbots. Anybody famous can be elected to any office! ... Unless, of course, they're running against Barack Obama.
So suck it up, folks. Caroline should get the job, if only to reinvigorate not just New York politics, but American politics, which she would do, as a Senate ally of the main guy charged with the job, our incoming president. Senator Kennedy from New York. Get used to it, all over again.
Jesse Jackson Jr. just completed a press conference in which he emphatically defended himself against the taint of Blago's corruption, saying he believed, and still believes, that he would be the most qualified and best candidate for the U.S. Senate based on his record, including 13 years in the House of Representatives, and he said that at no time did he engage in "pay to play" politics with Blago. A couple of key lines:
JJ said he:
Met with Gov. Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday, and presented my qualifications and my record. ... The media saw me enter Gov. Blagojevich's office. ... The media saw me exit the governor's office.
He added that he did not send an emissary with the explicit or implicit message to Blago that he would fundraise for the governor in exchange for an appointment. Said Jax:
I had no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initate or authorize anyone to promise Gov. Blagojevich anything on my behalf
It was clear from the presentation that Jr. is still very much stalking that Senate seat, and that he hopes to cleanse himself enough to get Obama to not stand in his way. He still wants it, baby.
The parlor game begins. And whoever this guy is, he's in big trouble, because apparently he was willing to play ball with Blago on some monetary love in exchange for Obama's Senate Seat.
Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a President elect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.
In other words -- if Blago doesn't get what he wanted, then he'd stiff the PEOTUS by appointing someone he didn't like -- Senate Candidate 5.
Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator."
On November 7, while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is "financially" hurting, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the "financial security" of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich "politically viable." Blagojevich stated, "I want to make money," adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges.
So who are the anonymous candidates? ABC News IDs "Senate Candidate #1" as Obama pal Valerie Jarret:
The Senate candidate whom Blago at one point thought that President-elect Obama seemed most likely to be supporting -- friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, who later took herself out of the running and will be a White House Senior Adviser -- is discussed, as "Senate Candidate 1."
Jarrett referred ABC News to the Obama Transition Team for comment; they did not have one.
Ultimately, it appears that neither PEBO nor Jarrett were willing to discuss any of Blago's various notions of how he could sell them the seat. Talking to his chief of staff on November 11, Blago said he knew PEBO wanted Jarrett to get the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them."
Which leaves the burning question of who is "Senate Candidate #5"?
Marc Ambinder speculates that it's Jesse Jackson Junior, given the timing of a meeting he had with Blago. But that doesn't seem right to me, since it's also clear from the complaint that Blago believed Obama was opposed to Candidate 5. I can't think of any reason why Obama would oppose Jesse Junior moving over to the Senate. As I reported for the print mag early this year, Obama's relationship with Jesse Senior may be fraught, but he's actually fairly close to Jesse Junior. And, presumably, their relationship grew stronger over the course of the campaign, during which Jesse Junior did yeoman's work for Obama, the least of which was slapping down his dad when he did something against Obama's interests.
The Smoking Gun, meanwhile, says that Candidate 5 is Emil Jones. Obama's relationship with Jones (who, btw, is a sworn enemy of Jesse Junior's) is much, much more complex. Yes, Obama famously cultivated Jones as his political godfather in the State Senate, but that's always seemed like one of those relationships that Obama was happy to leave behind in Springfield. Given some of the baggage that comes with Jones's old-school, machine ways--a number of his family members are on the public payroll, and he's worked hard to make sure his son inherits his legislative seat--I could see how Obama might not want Jones in Washington. What's more, Brad Plumer calls my attention to this post from the Capitol Fax blog, which points out that Jones was mentioned by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed a few days after Blago discussed leaking Candidate 5's name, and that Jones has a huge war chest, so it wouldn't be hard for him to come up with $500k.
Interesting theory, and ont that, like the whole Rev. Wright mess, would be awkward for Obama, though no threat to him legally or in the end, politically, since Obama has done the man no favors and clearly, from the Blago tapes, doesnt' want this person in the Senate. Ben Smith of Politico adds more clues:
Here's what we know. Candidate 5 is:
-"publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat" - not who Blagojevich thought Obama wanted - not someone with whom, by November 10, Blagojevich had a "long, productive discussion" - someone with fundraising wherewithal who could produce something "tangible up front" - someone Blago was "getting a lot of pressure" not to appoint - someone with whom Blago had "a prior bad experience...not keeping his word"
The complaint also says that on November 10, Blagojevich told an advisor to leak to the Sun-Times's Michael Sneed that Blagojevich "is seriously considering Senate Candidate 5 for the open Senate seat" and that the advisor agreed to call the Sun-Times to leak the story, apparently false, that Blagojevich end of the conversation Advisor A agreed to call the Sun Times columnist to leak the story had a “long, productive discussion” with Candidate 5.
Is Rod Blagojevich the most arrogant politician in America, or just the dumbest? This was the Felonious Mr. Blag yesterday at the Republic Windows and Doors protest, daring the media, and purportedly, prosecutors, to wiretap him:
Meanwhile, Blag says that despite the evidence on tape, and his jailbird status, he will not resign:
"He didn't do anything wrong," attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters after Blagojevich was arraigned. "A lot of this is just politics."
Blagojevich should be in the office Wednesday, Sorosky added.
So, reporters asked, he does not intend to resign?
"Not that I know of, no," said Sorosky, who added that the governor was "surprised" by the day's events.
The Illinois governor was taken into custody this morning in a widening "pay to play" scandal that now includes the appointment of Barack Obama's successor in the Senate. From the Tribune (which we hope survives the bankruptcy, along with the Cubs...):
The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor's North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.
Blagojevich was taken into custody hours after the Tribune reported that the investigation into allegations of pay-to-play politics within his administration had been expanded to include his pending choice of a Senate replacement for Obama. The Democratic governor has said he expects to make a decision on the state's next senator in weeks.
Sources told the Tribune that investigators intensified their investigation into Blagojevich amid concerns that the process of choosing a new senator could be tainted. The actions by federal authorities came a day before Blagojevich's 52nd birthday.
The Tribune previously disclosed that federal investigators had recordings of Blagojevich. Those recordings were aided by the cooperation of longtime Blagojevich confidant and former congressional chief of staff John Wyma.
On Monday, Blagojevich said he has done nothing wrong in his stewardship of the state and challenged critics to record him because his discussions were "always lawful."
The governor's chief of staff, John Harris, was also arrested. More:
Updated at 9:17 a.m.: Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year's end.
Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged.
The complaint repeatedly references conversations secretly recorded by federal authorities.
The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, (expletive) 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.
Questions, including about the secret taping of the governor, will be many... And what does this mean for Jesse Jackson Jr. and the other contenders for Obama's seat? Tick tock...
From Jack Welch on the overly solicitous "Morning Joe" this morning, to Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah a few minutes ago during the automakers hearing, the consensus on the right is that to save the American auto manufacturing industry, step one is to break the United Auto Workers Union. Step two: break American workers and force them to accept the model set up by Japanese automakers who operate in "right to work" (read: "right to pay you crappy wages") states in the American South. That model involves highly automated plants staffed by fewer, low skill, modestly educated workers, who make nearly half what GM, Chrysler and Ford workers, who are more skilled, and operate more technical machinery, earn per year. And no, it's not $70 an hour. That's a read herring. It's more like $28 on average, $14-15/hour to start.
Welch's latest Business Week column is out, in which he proposes that the U.S. automakers be shuttled into bankruptcy, with the federal government assuming stewardship of the various warranties offered on their cars. That way, Welch told his drooling, sycophantic audience on the set of "Morning Joe," the Big Three can finally rid themselves of the UAW, break their union contracts, and void the contracts they currently hold with suppliers. The beauty of Welch's idea is that it crushes middle class wages, and kills off the suppliers, too, forcing U.S. manufacturers to seek parts overseas, where workers make the preferred wage: subsistence. And of course, Welch also proposes the favored strategy of the "free marketeers": consolidation:
Talk about a fresh start. For more than a decade, U.S. carmakers have chipped away incrementally at massive legacy costs. But reorganization would open the doors to meaningful structural change through the renegotiation of contracts with creditors, dealers, and unions. And it would offer better odds of paying back taxpayers.
Once in Chapter 11, a merger would further galvanize real change. Three companies are too cumbersome to unite, and Ford has a two-tiered, family-owned structure, so we'll leave them out of this for now and propose GM and Chrysler join forces. Such a merger could create $15 billion in synergies from reduced capacity and overhead, money that could lower production costs and boost R&D spending. Granted, GM and Chrysler could lose share during the transition, but a merged entity would still end up with more than a quarter of the U.S. market.
Bennett, who pushed hard (video) for the passage of the Wall Street bailout and who brags about it on his website,, just sent my jaw dropping by proposing during the hearing, by proposing that instead of giving loans to the Big Three, the government give still more money to the banks, since after all, they are the ones to whom most of the automakers' debt is owed, and in his words, they "won't bee too happy" with the notion of switching out their debt holdings for equity in the companies. Wow. So the answer is: give more money to the very banks who brought us to the brink of economic collapse, since they, unlike the grunts in Detroit, are white collar, highly paid money changers.
The fat hobbit ... er ... Jeb Bush ... is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate, now that Sideshow Mel has bowed out. Sure, his big brother torched the country (and can't even take responsibility for it) and probably ruined any chance of Jeb fulfilling his lifelong dream of being president (a dream George did not share, by most accounts) but Jeb must figure he can still have a national future, despite the family name. Could he win? Sure. Jeb was a not incompetent governor, if a really evil one. And he probably retains enough popularity in northern Florida, and even in his stomping ground, Miami-Dade, to pull it off. Says Politico:
Martinez announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2010. Asked whether he was interested in running for the seat then, Bush told Politico by email Tuesday night: “I am considering it.”
A source close to Bush said he'll be thoughtful and methodical about the decision-making process. He will consider the impact a race would have on his family and his business and whether or not the U.S. Senate is the best forum from which to continue his advocacy for the issues on which he’s focused, such as education, immigration, and GOP solutions to health care reform.
Translation: private school vouchers, privatization and doing whatever it takes to buy the Hispanic vote (a bit of trivia: Jeb's wife, Columba, is Mexican.)
Unlike his brother, Jeb, who formed a think tank after losing his first gubernatorial race to Lawton Chiles in 1994, and then signed on to the Project for a New American Century, is a policy wonk, and unlike his brothers, is not a dummy. His smarts, and frankly, his deviousness, are pretty well known in and out of GOP circles. He even has some allies in the black community, including Urban League of Greater Miami president T. Willard Fair, although his allies don't have broad Af-Am support themselves. Still, Jeb is not without ideas:
In an interview with Politico immediately after November’s election, the former governor said the Republican Party should take four primary steps to regain favor with voters: show no tolerance for corruption, practice what it preaches about limiting the scope of government (“There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican”), stand for working families and small business, and embrace reform.
Bush said conservatives should “do the math of the new demographics of the United States,” explaining that the Republican Party “can’t be anti-Hispanic, anti-young person, anti many things and be surprised when we don’t win elections.”
And more importantly, the Florida GOP probably really wants him to run. The only other "star" they've got down here is Marco Rubio, the young, handsome, Cuban-American out-going House speaker, who is also considering a run. But if Jebbie gets in, he and most of the other wannabes, perhaps even Florida's own Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, would likely step aside.
It's official. The race for Florida's second Senate seat in 2010 is ON. From WaPo's Chris Cillizza:
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez (R) has decided against seeking a second term, a decision he will formalize shortly in the Sunshine State, according to an informed party source.
Martinez's decision was based on a desire for more free time and a less scheduled life, said the source. The first term senator also was an almost certain Democratic target in two years time although those familiar with Martinez's political prospects insisted his strengths in South Florida, coupled with his political base along the I-4 corridor, made his path to reelection possible.
Martinez's retirement ensures a competitive and costly open seat race in Florida. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, widely seen as Democrats' strongest potential candidate, has apparently decided that she would not run but may well reconsider that decision given Martinez's expected announcement today. Democratic Reps. Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek as well as state Sen. Dan Gelber are likely to consider the open seat race.
On the Republican side, there may well be a push to recruit former Gov. Jeb Bush into the contest although that seems like a long shot. State Attorney General Bill McCollum will almost certainly be mentioned as will state Senate President Jeff Atwater and former state House speaker Marco Rubio. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack also may consider a run.
Why do you think Rep. Meek suddenly discovered his long lost love for Barack Obama in the closing weeks of the campaign ... rather, his love for "just voting..."
The Florida Democratic Party chair, Karen Thurman, had this to say:
"With Sen. Mel Martinez's announcement today that he will not seek re-election, I would like to thank him for his service to Florida and the nation, as well as wish him all the best in retirement.
"Martinez's announcement ensures that Florida will be a central battleground in the 2010 election. Over the past three years, Democrats have made major gains in Florida winning three of the six statewide elections. We look forward to a strong Democrat winning this Senate seat to help implement President-elect Barack Obama vision of change and join Sen. Bill Nelson in representing Florida in the tradition of Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles."
Begich was declared the winner in Alaska’s Senate race after he “widened his lead to 3,724 votes in Tuesday's count of absentee and questioned ballots. The lead is insurmountable, as the only votes left to count are approximately 2,500 ballots from overseas,” the Anchorage Daily News reports. “Stevens could ask for a recount but his campaign would have to pay for it. The state pays if the margin is within .5 percent of the total votes cast. But Begich leads by just over 1 percent with more than 315,000 votes cast in the race.”
What's going on up there above the lower 48?
Anyhoo, a win is a win, and the Dems now have 58 votes (theoretically) to play with in the next session, including, of course, the new Senate Majority Leader, Joe Lieberman.
*Note: The two vacant / undecided seats are currently open, but they will likely be filled by the beginning of this Congress:
One Illinois seat is vacant: President-elect Barack Obama (D) resigned during the 110th Congress. This seat will be filled by a replacement appointed by a Democratic governor and will therefore likely be Democratic.
Finally, Delaware does not yet have a vacancy but VP-elect Joe Biden (D) will resign on/before January 20, 2009. This seat will be filled by a replacement appointed by a Democratic governor and will therefore likely be Democratic.
Who knew? Benedict Arnold was from Connecticut, too!
Courtesy of an astute commentator at the Hartford Courant, this tantalizing bit of historic irony:
Does anyone ask what the perception is of Connecticut voters by the rest of the country, given the behavior of the two persons representing us in the U.S. Senate? One uses his office to line his own pockets and the other has no loyalty to his party. A traitor and a cheater are the kind of people Connecticut has elected to the Senate. But why should anybody be surprised: Benedict Arnold was from Connecticut.
Thanks, "injunjoe" ... now, as to Benedict Lieber... Arnold...
On 19 June, as he was still too lame for field service, Washington put him in command of Philadelphia, which the British had just evacuated. The Tory sentiment in that city was strong, and had been strengthened by disgust at the alliance with France, a feeling which Arnold seems to have shared. He soon became engaged to a Tory lady, Margaret, daughter of Edward Shippen, afterward chief justice of Pennsylvania. She was celebrated for her beauty, wit, and nobility of character. During the next two years Arnold associated much with the Tories, and his views of public affairs were no doubt influenced by this association. He lived extravagantly, and became involved in debt. He got into quarrels with many persons, especially with Joseph Reed, president of the executive council of the state. These troubles wrought upon him until he made up his mind to resign his commission, obtain a grant of land in central New York, settle it with some of his old soldiers, and end his days in rural seclusion. His request was favorably entertained by the New York legislature, but a long list of charges now brought against him by Reed drove the scheme from his mind.
The charges were investigated by a committee of congress, and on all those that affected his integrity he was acquitted. Two charges -- first, of having once in a hurry granted a pass in which some due forms were overlooked, and, secondly, of having once used some public wagons, which were standing idle, for saving private property in danger from the enemy--were proved against him; but the committee thought these things too trivial to notice, and recommended an unqualified verdict of acquittal. Arnold then, considering himself vindicated, resigned his command of Philadelphia. But as Reed now represented that further evidence was forthcoming, congress referred the matter to another committee, which shirked the responsibility through fear of offending Pennsylvania, and handed the affair over to a court-martial. Arnold clamored for a speedy trial, but Reed succeeded in delaying it several months under pretence of collecting evidence. On 26 Jan., 1780, the court-martial rendered its verdict, which agreed in every particular with that of the committee of congress; but for the two trivial charges proved against Arnold, it was decided that he should receive a reprimand from the commander-in-chief. Washington, who considered Arnold the victim of persecution, couched the reprimand in such terms as to convert it into eulogy, and soon afterward offered Arnold the highest command under himself in the northern army for the next campaign. But Arnold in an evil hour had allowed himself to be persuaded into the course that has blackened his name forever.
By May of 1779, Arnold had begun bargaining with the British. Why would a man commit treason against his country, especially one who had fought so valiantly? We can only speculate. He was certainly angry and hurt over the many slights he received over the years. He probably felt unappreciated by his country and those he fought with, even sacrificing his own leg for the cause. His pride was most likely the biggest piece of his life that was damaged — humiliation was always an affront Arnold could never take. Money, of course, played a big part. He was offered in excess of 10,000 pounds and a commission in the British military.
At the time, Arnold's wife was considered an innocent in the matter, however, new research leads us to believe that the young woman played an important part in knowing what was going on and aiding her husband's endeavors. The occupation of Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-1778 was an exciting one for the young woman. Parties, routs, and balls were all aspects of the social scene with numerous British officers and Tory sympathizers. Peggy had made some friends among them.
The bounty Arnold offered the British was West Point. He began correspondence with Major John Andre by a circuitous route. Andre had been friends with Peggy Shippen Arnold during the Philadelphia occupation. Andre was an adjutant general and intelligence chief of Sir Henry Clinton. Washington offered Arnold the position of left wing of the army, in the meantime, which earlier in Arnold's career would have been a coup. He used his crippled leg as an excuse and was given West Point instead.
Andre was the courier between Arnold and Clinton regarding the closing of the deal. With his ship forced back by American troops, Andre was sent on foot back to British lines with a pass from Arnold as well as documents for Clinton in his sock. He was captured and placed into American custody when the documents were found. Arnold heard of his capture and was able to make his escape...to the same ship, the Vulture, which Andre had arrived on. Andre was put on trial, and met his death as a spy. Arnold defected to the British and received substantial remuneration for his defection. These included pay, land in Canada, pensions for himself, his wife and his children (five surviving from Peggy and three from his first marriage to Margaret) and a military commission as a British Provincial brigadier general.
The British provided handsomely for Arnold, but never completely trusted him. He was never given an important military command. They moved to London where he found no job, some admiration and even some contempt. He moved his family to Canada where he reentered the shipping business. The Tories there disliked him and had no use for him, and eventually he returned his family to London. When the fighting began between France and England, he tried again for military service, but to no avail. His shipping ventures eventually failed and he died in 1801, virtually unknown, his wife joining him in death three years later.
Joe Lieberman also ditched his first wife, also collaborated with the enemy, also tangled with a guy named "Reed" and was scrutinized by a Congress that failed to nail him, and also is from Connecticut. Could London be far behind?
55 Democratic Senators slipped into a private room in the Dirksen Office Building in Washington to decide the fate of Joseph Lieberman today; 42 of them voted to tuck in their tails and accede to his blackmail. We don't know the roll call, but I think we can figure it out, starting with the three "compromise" crafters:
Ken Salazar (CO), Chris Dodd (CT) and Thomas Carper (Del) who had previously said Lieberman should "pay the consequences" (I guess he changed his mind)
Dick Durbin and John Kerry, about whom TPM reports:
John Kerry and Obama-ally Dick Durbin were among four Democratic Senators in today's closed-door Dem caucus meeting who supported for keeping Joe Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security committee, a Democratic aide who was briefed on the meeting by a Senator who was there tells us.
The aide also offered these details from the meeting: Thirteen Senators voted against a resolution to condemn Lieberman but to allow him to keep the chairmanship. We don't know the full list yet, and will update when we know more.
Two Senators spoke out in favor of removing him: Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.
Among the Senators who supported Lieberman keeping the chairmanship, according to the source: Kerry, Durbin, Ben Cardin, and Tom Udall.
Democratic Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) spoke in favor of Lieberman, as did Sen.-elects Tom Udall (N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.), according to a senior Democratic aide. Speaking against Lieberman were Sens. Bernie Sanders (I) and Patrick Leahy (D), both of Vermont, who had said Lieberman should lose his chairmanship.
Add, per previous reporting, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.
Two members of Connecticut's Democratic state central committee, Audrey Blondin and Myrna Watanabe, say they still plan to ask Connecticut's top Democrats to consider a resolution repudiating Lieberman for publicly backing McCain. It would also ask him to resign from the party.
A meeting of state Democrats is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Check out this post-cave press conference today, and note how 1) Lieberman defies Harry Reid's statement to the reporters that Lieberman will not be speaking, 2) Lieberman emphasizes that he will be the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee and the Armed Services subcommittee, while minimizing any sense that he was "chastened" during the meeting, and 3) the Senators evacuate the premises shortly after Lieberman pushes forward and begins speaking. Oh, and another thing: guess what the first thing Joe plans to do when the 111th Congress convenes, or more importantly, who he plans to do it with? Here's a hint: it has to do with the committee he supposedly relinquished, not as punishment, but "to make room for new members who want to be on the committee," and it involves the guy he just nearly divorced the Democrats for a second time over. Watch:
Lieberman obviously feels not a whit of contrition. He knows who's in charge, and it's not Harry Reid.
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.
Just when you stopped fretting that Democrats were p***ies, the Senate leadership strikes again. Word on the street is that Joe "The Traitor" Lieberman will keep his Homeland Security committee chairmanship in that secret ballot tomorrow, sending the unmistakable message to future turncoats that it's okay to buck not just Harry Reid, but the party itself, trash the party's nominee, and behave like the lowest form of right wing knife thrower, because after the election, all will be forgiven, if you threaten to walk. Great job, guys. So what slap on the wrist do the quizzling Dems have in mind?
Senators and aides said yesterday that Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) would present a plan at a caucus meeting that would strip Lieberman of a low-profile subcommittee chairmanship, possibly one on global warming issues. But Lieberman would retain the gavel of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"There are going to be options," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairman of the Democratic steering committee that oversees the selection of chairmen.
Stabenow declined to comment on what those options would be but said that Dodd and Salazar have spent the past week talking to other Democrats about their plan and suggested that they could avoid a showdown that might send Lieberman across the aisle to caucus with Republicans.
"There's a reasonable way to provide accountability" on Lieberman without stricter punishment, Stabenow said. But she predicted a "spirited debate" because some senators have advocated revoking Lieberman's chairmanship regardless of the consequences.
Spirited. Right. Kos has it right. They should just junk the secret ballot and openly vote to give Lieberman Harry Reid's job. At least he's shown that he's ruthless enough to do it. Still, Kos does reprint one kernel of hope in the Roll Call version of the story:
... sources said the proposal could change based on what Lieberman says to the Conference and how Senators react to both his explanation for his actions and the proposal itself.
The saddest part of this entire charade is that the Senate leadership doesn't even have the stones to put themselves and their colleagues on the record, in public. By allowing Senators to slink into a private room and issue a slap on the wrist to a man who stands in opposition to core principles of the Democratic Party, particularly on Iraq, and who called the in-coming president "dangerous," a creature of Hamas, and a man who causes Lieberman to "fear" for the country, makes a mockery of the upper house. And the idea that they are hiding behind Barack Obama, who merely said he'd like to see Lieberman remain in the caucus -- something that is entirely up to Joe -- and not that he wants him to remain as Homeland Security committee chair, is nothing short of pathetic.
My vote: boycott the DSCC. Don't give a dime to the committee, or to any sitting Democratic Senator unless you are certain they vote against Lieberman tomorrow, and when they run for re-election, vote for whoever runs against the bastards (Bill Nelson included.) Or if they don't have a challenger, draft one.
Just as a reminder, let's have a listen to Joe Lieberman's analysis of what should be done. You'll note here that he takes nothing back, and ends his comment with a not-so-veiled threat to exercise his "options"...
I would expect him to be just as smug tomorrow morning ... and win. Previous:
If I had to sum up what I hope Senate Democrats' operating principle would be, that would be it. To my way of thinking, John McCain ran a dispicable campaign, allowing himself to become a captive of the very right wingers he used to despise, and handing his reputation over to the same Bushites and neocons who proved, via Collin Powell, what they thought of lofty reputations. His pick of Sarah Palin (or his agreement with the pick) proved that he really was oblivious to what most Americans were concerned about, or that he had started listening to too much right wing talk radio.
That said, John McCain was, after all, a Republican running against a Democrat for president. A certain amount of dirty pool isn't unexpected. More importantly, McCain could be an important partner for the Obama administration going forward, if he can manage to put aside his personal disdain for the incoming president, and his bitterness over the election, and return to his "gang of 14" roots. McCain could provide, and deliver, key votes from the few remaining moderate Republicans (like Miss Lindsey Graham) on everything from immigration to healthcare. Democrats should try to put aside his awful, gutter campaign, and embrace him once again.
Joe Lieberman is another matter.
Lieberman's betrayal of his supposed party and future president were so total, and so slimy, he should face swift and merciless retribution. He went beyond just endorsing his friend, McCain, to become a right wing hatchet man. His desperation to pursue the Iraq war until the end of time is so total, that the difference between him and your average neocon is immaterial. (Before McCain, his previous hug-buddy was none other than George W. Bush.) And his endorsement of Sarah Palin, a completely unserious choice whose elevation as vice president would surely have jeopardize both the standing and the stability of the country, was unforgivable. He ought to have known better, and should now be ridden out of the Democratic caucus on a rail, and if he chooses to caucus with the GOP, so be it. I'd like to see him try to get re-elected in Connecticut in four years if he starts voting the way he warbled during the election. Oh, and the GOP is going to repay his whoring by running a strong candidate against him in 2012. Happy holidays, Joe!
There's also a pragmatic reason for punishing Lieberman, at the least, by taking away his gavel on the Homeland Security committee, and to prevent him to ascending the throne at Armes Services: okay two. One is that Lieberman could very well use his position to try and force Obama to cleve to the neocon line on national security matters, including Iraq, or to undermine him in other ways. The other is that Harry Reid, who doesn't enjoy universal respect out here in Demland, needs to establish both his authority, and the precedent that if a Democrat strays that far out of bounds, there are consequences. Otherwise, what's to stop other conservative Dems from doing as Joe did, in 2012, or even to campaign against Democratic Senators two years from now? Hell, what's to stop JOE from doing so???
The full Democratic caucus will vote on whether Joe Lieberman is allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee at its caucus meeting next week, a leadership aide confirms to us.
Previously, Reid's office had held this possibility out but hadn't made a final decision on whether to throw Lieberman's fate to the full Dem caucus for a vote.
In the wake of Obama's statement today that he doesn't hold any "grudges" against Lieberman and his decision not to take a position on whether Lieberman keeps his chairmanship, I emailed a leadership aide to ask whether the vote would definitely go forward. His response:
"Yes -- this is a decision that will be made by the caucus next week. Absent a stunning series of events there will be a vote next week in the caucus on whether to strip Senator Lieberman of the chairmanship."
That would appear to make it official.
Meanwhile, the reporting of Sergeant, the Huffpo and others suggests Joe is losing support in the caucus, and he may only hold on to the six Democratic members of the gang of 14. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft (who has personal familiarity with Harry Reid's office,) offers a handy guide to the whip count.
Now would be a good time to call your Senator. Here in Florida, it looks like Bill Nelson, one of several conservative Senate Dems, is in the tank for Lieberman. Not a good look, but he's only one vote. Contact him here:
Washington, D.C. Office United States Senate 716 Senate Hart Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Phone: 202-224-5274 Fax: 202-228-2183
Or you can email him here. Or find your own Senator here. If you do call or email, be respectful. You catch more flies with honey, and all that...
I don't mind being wrong (well, very slightly wrong... I had it at 349 with NC as a maybe...)
AP has called North Carolina for Barack Obama. He's now at 364 electoral votes to McCain's 162, and he becomes the first Democrat to win the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. (Indiana and Virginia went Democrat for the first time since 1964.) That means that Obama grabbed a total (Missouri is still counting votes) of eight states that GWB won in 2004: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, spreading the map in a way no Democrat has in more than a generation.
The Dems also pick up a sixth Senate seat, as Gordon Smith concedes to Jeff Merkley in Oregon. He seemed like a good guy, but that's the kind of year we're having. The party has also picked up 22 House seats (my predictions had been 9 or 10 in the Senate and 28 in the House) with four races (in Alaska, California, Maryland and Ohio) still too close to call.
Meanwhile, the Huffpo and Matthew Yglesias point to a New York Times map that shows that only 22 percent of counties voted more Republican this year than in 2004, and almost all of those counties are located in Appalachia -- it's the only place where McCain improved upon Bush.
Barack Obama got 40% or more of the vote in every state West of the Mississippi, including Montana in the Great Northwest, which he damned near won, the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska, with the exception being the "iron GOP triangle) of Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, where he was in the 30s (though it was a healthy-ish 36% in Idaho.) He even got 43% in Texas (where the Hispanic population is making the state bluer every day, on the Western and Southern sides.) The GOP firewall is now pretty much confined to Appalachia, which is losing population, and losing influence, fast. They will have to find a way to appeal to suburban and urban whites, Hispanics, Asians and Black folk sometimes soon, or they're doomed. Long-term doomed.
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."
Ok, I'm going all-in on the predictions. I'm more conservative on this than some, and am calling it as follows:
Obama - 349 McCain - 189
... an electoral landslide by any measure. I give Barack the following pick-ups from Bush 2004:
Virginia Florida Colorado New Mexico Iowa Ohio Indiana Nevada
... and I say he holds New Hampshire for a solid Northeast.
I'm not so sure about Georgia and North Carolina, although if Obama pulls those off, he's at 379, and if he manages to grab Missouri, he's at an astounding 390. One of the volunteers on the campaign in Miami is married to a former Indiana congressman, so her inside take is that Indiana is very winnable. I agree. Missouri is too, I think, based on the primary turnout for Obama and Hillary, but I'm being conservative, as I said. And my prediction is based on two, I think insurmountable factors in Obama's favor: superior voter registration numbers for the Dems, and exceptional early vote turnout, particularly among black voters.
Make your own electoral map here. Get more electoral math here.
As for the House and Senate, I'm going to guess that the Democrats will pick up 10 Senate seats (9 I'm certain of, Georgia is a maybe...):
Alaska - Begich wins, the other guy's a felon.
Colorado - Udall #1 wins
Maine - I like Susan Collins, but she loses
North Carolina - Bye-bye, Liddy Dole! And take that "godless" ad with you!
Minnesota - The Frankin era begins... (and he makes a return visit to "SNL")
New Hampshire - Bye, Sununu, I hear you're a good guy, but this is just that kind of year...
New Mexico - Udall number two, wins
Oregon - Gordon Smith, another decent guy, goes down
Virginia - Mark Warner. Need I say more?
Georgia - I know, I know, but with black turnout? It can happen.
More fun with the congressional match-ups here. See all the races here.
As for the House, I'll go with a nice round number of 28 seats, including pick-ups in Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Washington State, to name a few.
Among John McCain's many problems (and perhaps an under-reported reason why he was so ineffective at moving the bailout bill along when he swooped into the Capitol "like Mighty Mouse" last week) ... is his personality, which according to Washington reporters and even his present and former Senate colleagues, falls somewhere between Norma Desmond and Attila the Hun. McCain's McNastiness was on display again yesterday, when he shooed away a Politico reporter following his vote for the pork ... I mean "rescue" bill ... and also, apparently, inside the Senate chamber. Per CQ Politics, when the two made their joint appearance on the Senate floor, it was Obama who made the first move:
As the two shared the Senate floor tonight for the first time since they won their party nominations, Obama stood chatting with Democrats on his side of the aisle, and McCain stood on the Republican side of the aisle.
So Obama crossed over into enemy territory.
He walked over to where McCain was chatting with Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida and Independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. And he stretched out his arm and offered his hand to McCain.
McCain shook it, but with a “go away” look that no one could miss. He tried his best not to even look at Obama.
Finally, with a tight smile, McCain managed a greeting: “Good to see you.”
Obama got the message. He shook hands with Martinez and Lieberman — both of whom greeted him more warmly — and quickly beat a retreat back to the Democratic side.
Message to Obama: I hate you. Recall that McCain delivered the same performance in last week's debate, and in his testy performance before the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, and on, and on, and on.
McCain likes to own his nastiness, and often brags that he hasn't been elected Miss Congeniality int he Senate. The problem with that is, Americans don't like to elect assholes, and McCain isn't helping himself by acting like one. More important, his central claim -- that he is a consensus builder who can "reach across the aisle" and heal this country's ills through the force of his personality, is starkly at odds with the reality of his history of being a miserable jerk. How does he propose to get an even more solidly Democratic Congress to work with him should he become president, when the only two people he seems to get along with in his current job are Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham (whom McCain regularly belittles)?
Calling himself "the Sheriff" and promising to publicly ridicule members of Congress and "make them famous" for their pork barrel spending, sound more like threats than outreach, meaning that as president, McCain would be fighting like a cat in a paper bag with Congress, rather than working harmoniously with it. Will McCain, who has a history of pissing off his own caucus even more than the Democrats, build consensus like this?
"F--- you," he shouted at Texas Sen. John Cornyn last year.
"Only an a------ would put together a budget like this," he told the former Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, in 1999.
"I'm calling you a f------ jerk!" he once retorted to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
With Cornyn, he smoothed things over quickly. The two argued during a meeting on immigration legislation; Cornyn complained that McCain seemed to parachute in during the final stages of negotiations. "F--- you. I know more about this than anyone else in the room," McCain reportedly shouted.
The Honorable Barack Obama United States Senate SH-713 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Obama:
I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again.
What John McCain is promising Americans is more contention, more drama (his campaign is like a circus freak show) and more rancor, even as he's paying lip service to offering more bipartisanship and consensus. Besides, if he wins, isn't one of the Senators he'd have to reach across the aisle and work with named Barack Obama?
Meanwhile, far, far away in the land down under, we're getting a taste of what the world might look like under a McCain presidency. In short: it will look a lot like the world under a George Bush presidency. Not only is McCain being dismissed by the Aussie press -- Rupert Murdoch controlled though it is -- scroll down to the comments under this post and you get the idea that the citizens of the world won't like or respect us any more under McCain than they do under Dubya.
Just for fun, Melissa McEwan has compiled Senator McNasty's greatest hits.
Stuffed into the 451- page bill are more than $1.7 billion worth of targeted tax breaks to be doled out for a sty full of eyebrow-raising purposes over the next decade.
The special provisions include tax breaks for:
* Manufacturers of kids' wooden arrows - $6 million.
* Puerto Rican and Virgin Is- lands rum producers - $192 million.
* Wool research.
* Auto-racing tracks - $128 million.
* Corporations operating in American Samoa - $33 million.
* Small- to medium-budget film and television productions - $10 million.
Another measure inserted into the bill appears to be a bald-faced bid aimed at winning the support of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who voted against the original version when it went down in flames in the House on Monday.
That provision - a $223 million package of tax benefits for fishermen and others whose livelihoods suffered as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill - has been the subject of fervent lobbying by Alaska's congressional delegation.
Lots of the breaks and set-asides are designed for "rural communities." Here's just a few from the Library of Congress summary of the bill:
The Senate passes the "economic rescue bill" by a wide margin, after loading it with good old fashioned gimmes (corporate and AMT tax cuts, rural school funding, raising the FDIC limit to $250,000, mental health parity and all the lard that makes John McCain's head spin, but which are the way business gets done in "Warshington." ... am I the only one who finds it ironic that the way to woo conservative Republicans is to give them more pork?) ... and they do it on the day Obama heads back to the Senate and gives a speech in the well. Poor McCain. He wasn't even involved, other than to vote for the package, too. The Senators are gratuitously thanking each other now. The House tries again on Friday. With the goodies packed in for them, they should approve.
... The Senate bill would raise Federal Deposit Insurance limits to $250,000 from $100,000, as called for presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain only hours earlier.
... The Senate measure will graft the bailout language to a tax bill it approved last week, on a 93-2 vote. It includes: a provision to prevent more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers from feeling the bite of the alternative minimum tax, $8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana and some $78 billion in renewable energy incentives and extensions of expiring tax breaks.
In a compromise worked out with Republicans, the bill does not pay for the AMT and disaster provisions but does have revenue offsets for part of the energy and extension measures.
That wasn't enough earlier this year for the House, which insisted that there be complete offsets for the energy and extension part of the package.
The Senate version also may include a measure to require health plans for 51 or more employees to give equal treatment to mental health or addiction if they cover such illnesses. The House and Senate have passed similar mental health parity measures, but none has gone to Bush for his signature.
So its cookies and cream all around! And if Obama and Biden back it, Nancy P will be backed into a wee little corner. This as Pelosi and Harry Reid take the extraordinary step of attempting to come to the rescue of President Bush (a man no one trusts, in or out of his party...)
Other bailout news: two Yale professors say: why not just pay off all the delinquent mortgages? The Financial Times has more global doom and gloom. Meanwhile, in the WaPo, CFR conservative Michael Gerson excoriates Nancy Pelosi for her now infamous "mean-girl" speech, and then says this about House Republicans:
... whatever their provocations, pressures and justifications, House Republicans once again revealed the souls of backbenchers -- spouting their ideological purity from atop the ruins of the financial system. The temporary government purchase of bad mortgage debt is not equivalent to the liquidation of the kulaks. Serious conservative thinkers such as Ryan and Cantor, who chose to work within the legislative process, got many of the improvements they sought. But most House Republicans with ideological objections had nothing better to propose and no intention to try. They chose allegiance to abstract principles over practical reality. It is the political philosophy of Samson: Bring down the entire temple to make a political point. In this case, the president, their own congressional leadership, their own presidential candidate and the world economy are now wounded and struggling amid the rubble. I suppose the point is made. But it is a reminder of why Republicans are no longer trusted as the congressional majority.
Tonight on the floor of the Senate, Chris Dodd delivered a genuinely wonderful speech on civil liberties, capping his long battle against the FISA "reforms" tossed to the Senate by the House, at the behest of the Bush administration. Below is a transcript (which took a lot of pausing the TiVo. Hopefully, somebody else whose willing to admit to watching C-SPAN will post the video on Youtube.)
Dodd began by quoting the Church Committee, which investigated civil liberties abuses by the Nixon administration:
"Listen to their words of three decades ago ... and I quote: "The view that the traditional American principles of justice and fair play have no place in our struggle against the enemies of freedom, that view created the Nixonian secrecy of the 1970s." And the Church Committee wrote those words in part, as a rebuke to our predecessors in this chamber, who for years allowed secrecy, and executive abuses to slide. But today those words take on new meaning. Today, they rebuke us in a way. Today they shame us for our lack of faith that we cannot at the same time keep our country safe, and our Constitution whole.
As I said before, when the 21st century version of the Church Committee convenes to investigate the abuses of the past years, how will we be judged? When it reads through the records of our debates, not "if" Mr. President, but "when," what will they find? When the president asked us to repudiate the Geneva Conventions, and strip away the right of habeas corpus, how did we respond? How was our Congress? What did we say about that? When stories about secret prisons, outsourced torture, became impossible to deny, what did that Congress do, in 2008, and 2007? And in June of 2008, when were were asked to put corporations explicitly outside the law, and accept at face value the argument that some are literally too rich to be sued, how did that Congress, how did that Senate vote on that matter? All of these questions are coming for us, Mr. President, all of that and more. And in the quiet of his or her conscience, each Senator knows what the answers are. Remember, this is about than a few telephone calls, a few companies or a few lawsuits. If the supporters of retroactive immunity keep this argument a technical argument, then they will win. The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men. that question never goes away, as long there are free societies, generations and leaders who are struggling mightily to answer, and each generation must assert an answer for itself. just because our founders answered it correctl, doesn't mean we are bound by their choice. In that, as with all decisions, we are entirely free, the burden falls not on history, but on us, on each one of us. the 100 of us iwho serve n this remarkable chamber.
But we can take council. We can listen to those who came before us, who made the right choices, even when our nation's very survival was at risk. They knew that the rule of law was far more rooted in our character, than any one man's lawlessness. And from the beginning, they advised us to fight that lawlessness, whenever we found it. At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison said, and I quote him, "the means of defense against foreign danger, historically, have become the instruments of tyranny at home." He also said, and I quote, 'I beleve that there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by tose in power, than by violent and sudden usuprtions," end of quote. As long as we are temporary custodians of the Constitution, as we are, we have a duty to guard against those gradual, and silent encroachments. And that's exactly what these are; gradual and silent encroachments. ..."
Dodd went on to say that the founders can warn and council, but "they cannot act for us," and called upon his colleagues to provide the answer "to them, and to generatons to come."
The FISA/telecom immunity debate going on right now in the U.S. Senate is in many ways a classic Democrat-Republican argument. On one side, you have a vigorous defense of corporations (in this case, the phone companies who complied with the Bush administration's requests to pass along the private communications of Americans) by Republicans, and a repudiation of "trial lawyers" who would damage their businesses and ruin their profits with "excessive lawsuits." On the other, Democrats defend the trial system, arguing that people's right to sue should be preserved. Of course, there's more to it than that. As Sen. Chris Dodd is very effectively arguing right now, there is also the issue of standing up to the Bush administration (at last,) and "standing up for the rule of law," and for the premise that no man, no president, and no company is above it, versus the continuing Republican push to emasculate the courts,and so to make the executive branch practically untouchable, even if it breaks the law (so long as the executive is a Republican.) But underlying the arguments, are those age-old tensions between the two parties and two of their leading interest groups: corporations for the GOP and attorneys for the Dems.
That said, Sen. Barack Obama could, in my opinion, vigorously oppose, even fillibuster, the FISA bill so long as it contains immunity for the telecoms, with very little downside. The most obvious downside would be that right wing groups would accuse him of caving to Moveon.org, which apparently doesn't understand the concept of letting the candidate control the message (hence, that baby ad, and the present FISA demands.) Obama could make a very strong argument beyond the civil liberties issues, which sadly, many Americans are willing to look past in the quest for security. He could argue, very simply, that "in securing America, the Congress of the United States should not be in the business of protecting big business from ordinary Americans."
If accused of trying to weaken national security by taking away the incentive for "good, patriotic corporations" to help the government monitor "the terrorists," he could simply reply, "I don't think the Republican Party, which misdirected us into a war with Iraq, and which can't seem to locate Osama bin Laden even with wiretaps on every phone and email account in America and abroad, is in a position to lecture me."
If accused again, he could simply state that "besides, my goal is to do what's right for good, patriotic Americans. Republicans have been helping out the corporatioons long enough."
Or as Chris Dodd just put it, "the world is not going to collapse, the sky is not gonna fall, if a few companies have to explain to their customers why they vacuumed up their personal information."
Dodd could have been one hell of a communications guy.
UPDATE: Chris Dodd may have just made some news. It sounded like he just said he would fillibuster the FISA bill tomorrow, or prevent other legislation, on housing, from coming to the floor.
If and when the vote happens, you've got to wonder whether close proximity to the telecom industry will affect individual Senators' votes. And guess who is, by far, the leading recipient of telecom industry money? According to OpenSecrets.org, it's John McCain. (Logically, since they were the presidential front runners, McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama form the top three, with Obama lagging well behind the other two...) Dodd is showing some courage tonight, given that he also makes the top 20 (rounding it out at number 20.)
Top 20 Senators (donatons from telephone utilities) Rank Candidate Amount
1 McCain, John (R) $332,795 2 Clinton, Hillary (D) $223,092 3 Obama, Barack (D) $185,898 4 Rockefeller, Jay (D-WV) $48,000 5 Stevens, Ted (R-AK) $33,450 6 Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $31,100 7 Pryor, Mark (D-AR) $29,950 8 Collins, Susan M (R-ME) $29,850 9 Baucus, Max (D-MT) $28,000 10 Lautenberg, Frank R (D-NJ) $23,800 11 Sununu, John E (R-NH) $22,600 12 Durbin, Dick (D-IL) $20,850 13 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $18,750 14 Wicker, Roger (R-MS) $18,000 15 Smith, Gordon H (R-OR) $16,750 16 Brownback, Sam (R-KS) $14,200 17 Landrieu, Mary L (D-LA) $13,750 18 Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $13,250 18 Dorgan, Byron L (D-ND) $13,250 20 Dodd, Christopher J (D-CT) $13,000
John McCain erupts over G.I. Billhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
John McCain is a hot head. Most people know that. His reaction today to Barack Obama's criticism of his failure to support the G.I. Bill which passed the Senate today can only be described in two words: ape shit. Observe:
"And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did," the Arizona senator said in a harshly worded statement issued Thursday.
McCain lashed out at Obama's personal history despite Obama's repeated praise of McCain's military service. As Obama said Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa: "We face an opponent, John McCain, who arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago as a Vietnam War hero, and earned an admirable reputation for straight talk and occasional independence from his party."
In fact, that's just a snippet of what was actually an eight-paragraph screed, which is posted on McCain's web-site. A few snippets:
"It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim. ...
And later, after a curious segway reminding voters that he was very much alive during World War II ... there's this:
""Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election."
It will be interesting to see how the old man's bitter demands for respect from the haughty young ... whippersnapper ... yeah, let's go with that ... will go over on Main Street.
Meanwhile, it's helpful to remember that this is the same John McCain who has stood with George W. Bush, who ducked his National Guard service by going AWOL during the Vietnam War, with Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney, with Joe "More Wars ... but I never served" Lieberman and other chickenhawks time and again as he helped them push the useless war in Iraq, and who stands with the GOP firestarters who slam congressional Democrats -- many more of whom HAVE served their country versus elected Republicans -- as unpatriotic for not me-tooing GWB on the war.
It's also the same John McCain who has, unconscionably, refused to support a G.I. Bill with the kinds of benefits afforded to people like him when he left military service, because in his view, it's too expensive, and might woo servicemen out of repeated tours in Iraq. Too expense? Shouldn't it be that nothing is too expensive for those who have sacrificed so much and received so little in return? Too expensive? When we're draining our treasury to help the Iraqis buy cheap oil and use our soldiers as their policemen? Too expensive? For who, John? You seem prepared to spend every penny of American treasure for Iraq, but not for your fellow soldiers...?
Worse, the response from McCain, whether from him or approved by him, is so over-the-top, so enraged, that it calls into question McCain's mental fitness to serve as commander in chief.
Barack Obama flew back to Washington this morning to cast his "aye" vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed today as part of a $165 billion war funding bill that was, against the president's wishes, married to a domestic spending package. (Score one for Jim Webb and IAVA...)
Says the WaPo:
... The 75-22 vote surprised even the measure's advocates and showed clearly the impact of the looming November election on Republican unity. Senate Republicans who face reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by other Republicans who quickly jumped on board.
It was a clear rebuke to Bush, who has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic spending to his $108 billion request to fund the war. The White House opposed the expanded G.I. Bill, concerned that the price tag was too high and the generous benefits could entice soldiers and Marines to leave the overburdened military rather than reenlist.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was in Ft. Bragg, N.C. with Bush, said of the vote: "There's a long way to go in this process, and fortunately it takes two houses of Congress to send a bill to the president. Our position hasn't changed: This is the wrong way to consider domestic spending, and Congress should not go down this path."
The Senate measure extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, funds levee construction around New Orleans and guarantees that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive education benefits equal to the tuition of the most expensive state universities.
It provides additional funds for the Food and Drug Administration, the 2010 Census, federal prisons, local law enforcement agencies, heating assistance for the poor and many other domestic priorities. It also blocks the administration from implementing regulations that would limit access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Although parts of the amendment have always enjoyed bipartisan support, the measure has taken on the weight of the presidential campaign in recent weeks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, opposed the domestic spending and advocated a slimmed-down version of the G.I. Bill, adopting the administration's argument that the original version -- authored by Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) -- would deplete the military.
In so doing, McCain went against virtually every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to the more partisan VoteVets.org.
McCain did not interrupt his campaign schedule to vote today, but his Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), did.
"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," Obama said. "But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."
So who were the 22 Senators who voted against the bill? My money's on Traitor Joe and Miss Lindsey being in that number. Let's take a look-see:
Well I'll be damned! Lieberman surprised me this time, although his favorite little warmonger didn't even bother to show up and vote. Way to show that courage, McCain... And with the other AZ Republican Senator voting down veteran's benefits (the vote you'd have to assume McCain would have cast, had he had the cojones to show up), you've got to wonder what Arizona's veterans and active duty troops think of their present leadership. Could it be time to revive the question, Senator, "when and why did you sell your soul?"
"Tell us how fabulous you are! And isn't Iraq pretty?"
That's pretty much my summary of the Republican and Lieberman testimony on the Senate Armed Services Committee as General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before it today (the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, featuring Senators Biden and Obama, is taking their crack at Petraeus at 2:30.)
On a more serious not, I wonder if these geezers ever get tired of being wet-pantied lackeys of the Bush administration? Jason and I were just talking last night, about the fact that in America's history, Senators and Congressmen were often larger than life figures -- the speaker of the House was often as well known to the public as the president. In recent times, think of giants like Tip O'Neil, and the more distant past, Senators like Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. Now, Senators are little more than high-nosed partisan hacks, especially on the GOP side (think Henry Hyde or Newt Gingrich), or miniature men who are little more than the president's butlers, eager to fritter away their Constitutional prerogatives and suborn themselves to the "unitary executive" (think Denny Hastert -- whose name we literally couldn't recall last night...) It's almost laughable to say that the Congress, in its present construction, is a co-equal branch of government. Poor Robert Byrd with that little Constitution in his pocket is probably rolling around in his grave -- and he's still alive! [Photo at left: anti-slavery crusading Senator Charles Sumner]
Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
Related (and more uplifting): the Senate's "famous nine" (don't look for John Cornyn or Lindsey Graham to ever make this one...)