Saturday, February 27, 2010


I love these sorts of columns. By which I mean, I'd rather go skinny dipping in a bath of scalding hot razor blades than read these columns. In the end, they all boil down to the same the thing. The President is failing! And if he wants to stop failing, he'll do exactly what I want!

First off, I'd tell Nick Cohen, the article's author, to bite me. Maybe we'll back the U.K. in this new Falkland's mess (which I am keeping an eye on), and maybe we won't. I hate to sound all Republican here, but the U.S. will do what's in the U.S.'s interests. Last time I checked, y'all didn't need our help the last time this island of sheep herders cropped up as a foreign policy dilemma...

The Fireside chat for February 27, 2010 (VIDEO)

The President takes a moment to congratulate our Olympic athletes. Discussing the unity and pride Americans feel in cheering them on, the President relates that sentiment to his own desire for bipartisanship in Washington. He praises the recent bipartisan meeting and talks about moving forward on health reform.

Is Krugman's wife making him angrier???

And I mean that in the most absolute, literal, literary way...

Now, I likes me some Krugman. He tends to piss me off now and again, as I wrote back in January:

I've said it before. Krugman is a typical professor (y'know, aside from the New York Times column, New York Times blog, regular appearances on MSNBC, know, the whole...Nobel Laureate thing) in that he's got a universe of knowledge in his head, and sometimes doesn't react well when people don't understand what the hell he's talking about. (Bondad clearly does). This frustration tends to show up in his writing. He also has a tendency, when really, really mad, to ignore political realities and go into "just get it DONE" mode (which Dr. Krugman is kinda in now).

Wow, have I quoted me before? I don't remember.

It looks like I was wrong. Maybe, at least according to the recent New Yorker profile on him. It looks like it was really his wife making him, well, angrier...

If he is writing his column, he will start it on the morning of the day it’s due, and, if the spirit is with him, he will be done soon after lunch. When he has a draft, he gives it to Wells to edit. Early on, she edited a lot—she had, they felt, a better sense than he did of how to communicate economics to the layperson. (She is also an economist—they met when she was a postdoc at M.I.T. and he was teaching there.) But he’s much better at that now, and these days she focusses on making him less dry, less abstract, angrier.

Recently, he gave her a draft of an article he’d done for Rolling Stone. He had written, “As Obama tries to deal with the crisis, he will get no help from Republican leaders,” and after this she inserted the sentence “Worse yet, he’ll get obstruction and lies.” Where he had written that the stimulus bill would at best “mitigate the slump, not cure it,” she crossed out that phrase and substituted “somewhat soften the economic hardship that we face for the next few years.” Here and there, she suggested things for him to add. “This would be a good place to flesh out the vehement objections from the G.O.P. and bankers to nationalization,” she wrote on page 9. “Show us all their huffing and puffing before you dismiss it as nonsense in the following graf.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Slavery wasn't so bad...

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), today:

In an interview with blogger Mike Stark, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) appeared to say that African-Americans are worse off today because of legalized abortion, than they were compared to slavery.

"It seems like humanity is very gifted at hiding from something that's obviously true. I mean in this country we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say, 'Well how blind were they, what was the matter with them, you know, I can't believe, I mean four million, this is incredible,'" said Franks. "And we're right. We're right, we should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America's soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more black children, far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today, than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."

He liveth again (George Wallace edition)...

Jonathan Rauch, a Libertarian/Conservative makes the argument that Sarah Palin isn't the political reincarnation of Barry Goldwater (as numbnuts George Will suggested), but actually the political reincarnation of George Wallace...

Episode V: The Eisenhower Wing Strikes Back!

I can't claim prescience on this, since I've been reading in other news outlets and other blogs (Kos) that this might happen. But when Crist decided to start doubling down on the Stimulus, the tea leaves were there to be read.

And now, two quote-unquote independent sources claim it's about to happen.

Now, what does this mean? Simply put, I don't know. Crist is popular in Florida. He should win the General. He just can't win the Primary.

Another question is what do Democrats do? If Democrats hang together neither Marco Rubio (who has his own problems) nor Crist is going to Foggy Bottom, because they'll split the Republican vote. In fact, Crist's only sure way to victory is to run as a Democrat, but would the Democrats have him?

This seems to be like the New York 23rd, this is more about not getting "Scozzafava-ed", as opposed to making Crist the junior Senator from Florida.

More as it comes...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Charlie Crist (VIDEO)

I'm not sayin'... (which means I have no proof of this whatsoever), but between his staffers starting to abandon him, and yesterday's pronouncement that he doesn't regret supporting the Stimulus in the least, one has to wonder what's going on.

Either he's about to abandon his campaign...or he's switching parties.


Lefty bloggers, such as myself, have long distrusted Associated Press, particularly in their D.C. Political coverage. The fact that Ron Fournier is the Washington Bureau Chief is No. 1 on our list of complaints.

So when AP ran this headline, I wasn't the least bit surprised:

Hoyer: Comprehensive health bill may be no go


This after Pelosi saying, that we can do this, after the House Whip says, we'll get more votes for this than the original, suddenly Steny is the one acting squeamish??

Apparently, not so:

Hoyer [Spokesperson] Stephanie Lundberg (SPOX for future reference) insists his remarks were taken out of context, and that he spent more time expressing hope for comprehensive reform:

"Majority Leader Hoyer spoke at great length about why a comprehensive approach is the best way to affect the health insurance reforms the American people want versus incremental steps. He made clear that remains the goal."

It’s still a matter of when...

There’s been a lot of Public Option stuff out there today. Basically, it boils down to this: while Democrats (including the White House) remain overall supportive of the Public Option (Glenn Greenwald's caterwauling aside), they’re not going to fight for it now. (Key word being: now).

If you want a better barometer of where the Public Option stands, ask after Thursday. If the GOP comes to the Summit (as expected), and the effort at Bipartisanship attracts approximately zero GOP votes for Health Care Reform (as expected), then what is going to keep Democrats from passing something with a Public Option in it?

Probably procedure. Even now, no one is sure that a Public Option can pass via Reconciliation since its still subject to the Byrd Rule. (I just finished reading True Compass, and there was a moment where Senator Kennedy asked Senator Byrd to waive his rule for Health Care Reform, and he refused. The point being: Byrd can just waive his rule and that’s it??)

Thus, Governor-Doctor Dean’s point from last night, that a Public Option might take the shape of a Medicare Buy-In, which he likes better anyway:

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Brian Beutler (calling it like I saw it a couple days ago):

The public option has been alive, then dead, then alive, then dead so many times now it's enough to make your head spin. Right now it's somewhere in between--an undead public option, still beloved by a large majority of Democrats, but, for now, lacking the political leadership needed to usher it through the legislative process.

Ezra Klein:

It would be fair, at this point, to ask why Democrats would have a problem if they attempted to pass the public option. The public option is popular policy, it's good policy, and it energizes the base. The problem is that it's not popular policy with the handful of conservative House and Senate votes that you need to push this bill over the finish line.

Caucus politics present another dilemma: The public option died due to the opposition of Nelson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Lieberman and a handful of other conservative -- and vulnerable -- Democrats. Reid cut a deal with them, and they signed onto the final product. For many, that was a big political risk. The price was letting them say they killed the public option. Bringing it back to the bill will mean they voted for a bill that ended up including something they'd promised their constituents they'd killed. Cross them on this and you've lost their trust -- and thus their votes -- in the future.

This is assuming that any of these guys are back after November. (Not sure I'd miss any of them).

Ezra also takes a moment to rip the White House for its messaging. Again . Yawn.

Jonathan Chait (after ripping the hell out of Glenn Greenwald, and deservedly so):

Health care reform is still hanging on for dear life in the House. The dynamic is that the Democrats are going to lose some votes from pro-life members who insist on Bart Stupak's language. They need to make up the votes by persuading Blue Dog and other centrist Democrats who voted no for the original bill to vote yes this time. Many of those centrists said at the time of their original vote that they preferred the Senate bill and opposed the public option. Restoring the public option, aside form sucking up a lot of time by introducing another big fight, would greatly complicate this already-complicated task.

That's why Jay Rockefeller opposes adding the public option to the bill at this point. Rockefeller is the author of the public option. So it seems like the fear that reopening this debate will sink the whole bill really is the reason for the administration's reluctance. Or maybe Rockefeller's in on the pretense, too.

I still think it'll pass the house.

Brian Beutler, again:

A few things are perfectly clear: The White House isn't helping in this effort at all. And some Democrats, both among the rank and file, and in leadership, are nervous about the push. But the popularity of the provision, both among Democratic members and the voting public have thus far provided enough of a counterweight to keep the public option an open question.

I still think it’s a matter of timing, Brian.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For those of you worried about the House...

...and count me among them, there's this from the Hill.

The House will pass a new healthcare reform bill with a larger majority than it did on its first bill, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Monday.

The Whip, as in the guy who counts heads for the Democratic Caucus.

Brothaman's talkin' like he's got the votes...

It's widely known that a number of House Democrats were allowed to vote against the bill, for political cover in November, even though they told Nancy Pelosi they were willing to vote for the bill. Nancy gave them a pass as a favor.

Now, it's time to collect.

The President's Town Hall in Henderson, Nevada of Feb. 20, 2010 (VIDEO)

President Obama announces $1.5 billion in funding to help homeowners in states hardest hit by the housing crisis in a town hall meeting at Green Valley High School in Henderson, NV.

Leave it to the tone deaf white guys II (Racist Toy Edition)

Yet another endearing image from the CPAC Convention:

I wish I could say I was surprised by this. But when people like this tell you who they are, listen to them.

For the record, I pulled this from Wonkette. Wonkette was one of the targets of Jonathan Chait's misplaced ire last week.

Well, Wonkette took a shot at him today:

Here, Jonathan Chait, add this to your files.

Jonathan Chait chimes in as well...

Wow. Like Ezra, Jonathan Chait also rips into Dana Milbank, throwing Charlie Cook (rightly) under the bus as well.

Keep in mind that to argue that Obama should not have attempted health care reform at all is different than arguing that Democrats should abandon it now, having already paid nearly all the cost. The latter is like arguing that a homeowner who's hired a contractor to remodel his kitchen, paid out 90% of the sum, and had his old kitchen taken out but the new one not yet installed, should fire the contractor mid-job and just eat the cost and go on without a working kitchen. The former is more like saying that if they had to do it all over again they would have kept the old kitchen. The latter view is simple insane. The former view has at least some plausible logic.

Still, I find it unpersuasive. For one thing, Cook and Milbank simply assume that health care reform is dead. I don't. Democrats may be freaked out and at daggers drawn, but they still have the votes and the incentive to pass a comprehensive bill. I've been holding the odds of passage at just over 50-50 for about a month now and I'm not budging yet. The near-universal assumption in the media that reform is dead is based much more on optics and the general tendency of pundits to project that the most recent trends will continue unabated than any deeper consideration of the fundamentals.

Second, you have to compare pursuing health care with an alternate strategy. What else could Obama have done? Cook says they should have focused more on jobs. But he offers no suggestion of what meaningful legislation could have passed after the stimulus, which exhausted Congress's willingness to spend any money on job creation. The current fiasco of a jobs bill, with the two parties bickering over symbolic legislation, suggests how little substantive progress was there for the taking.

Milbank, meanwhile, suggests a health care bill expanding coverage for kids and young adults. That's something. But it's a mistake to consider that a half-measure on the road to eventual comprehensive reform. The problems of the health insurance system -- spiraling costs and a dysfunctional individual market -- are enormous and interconnected. Children's health insurance is related to that issue in that it pertains to health care, but it represents zero progress toward alleviating the pathologies of the system. It's like saying that, instead of trying to kick the heroin habit that's destroying your life, you'll instead switch from brand-name Tylenol to the generic stuff. They're both a kind of fix to a "drug problem," but that's the extent of the connection.

Third, you have to consider the political cost of inaction. Obama won his election by a wide margin running on a plan to reform the health care system. Simply abandoning that promise at the outset surely would have cost him some support from his allies, both in Congress and among the voters.

Ultimately, I don't think you can answer the question of whether it made sense to undertake health care reform until we know whether or not it passes. If it does pass, it was a good idea. (Obama didn't have any other major realistic uses for his political capital, which was bound to diminish in the face of rising unemployment.) If it fails, it was a bad idea. Still, what strikes me most about the retrospective advice being proffered to Obama is its sheer amorality. Politicians do need to look after their popular standing, but that's not all they need to do. The broken health care system represents a massive economic and moral crisis. It's hard to imagine a Democratic president winning a clear-cut election victory and bringing in the largest Congressional majorities since Lyndon Johnson and not trying to fix the problem. The purpose of winning elections is to solve problems like health care. There's something strange about advice that presumes it's appropriate to value the preservation of popularity above all else.

Erza rips Dana Milbank...

Ezra and I are on waaay better terms this week:

Like Dana, I'm an Emanuel apologist. The chief of staff's job is to run a tight White House, and Emanuel's job also seems to be to oversee legislative tactics, and the fact of the matter is that this White House has gotten health-care reform nearer to passage than any White House in history. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's approval rating remains at 51 percent. This is no catastrophe. And it's been very, very close to a historic success -- both for the administration and the American people.

Obama attempted a big health-care reform bill because, well, we have a big health-care problem in this country. What Dana is saying here is that the president made a mistake by trying to solve the problem -- or at least a lot of the problem -- rather than taking an easier route that would not have solved the problem. That seems like an odd definition of the word "mistake." Particularly given how close the bill came to passage, and how close the bill remains to passage.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I think everyone knows how this is going to end...

Laurence O'Donnell has been speculating that despite the filibuster-proof Reconciliation Process that Democrats apparently will use to go ahead and finish up Health Care Reform (including possibly, passing a Public Option), there are a number of procedural hurdles that still will require 60 votes, and thus can be filibustered. I think a ruling from the Senate Parliamentarian will handle this.

(The WingNut Emperor, Sen. Jim DeMented (R-S.C.) is also under the impression that they can offer an infinite number of amendments to bog the process down, but there's a fix for that, too.)

(And yes, I did just link to a (shiver) Politico Story where Laurence O'Donnell pronounced Reform "dead"...back on Feb. 1st. I could smack on Laurence, but nothing's been signed yet. That being said, his prediction is looking a little bad at this point.)

At the same time, Senate Minority Leader (and aiming to stay that way) Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sure isn't acting like he can act on O'Donnell's notion.

"There'll be a lot of Democrats who will vote against it," McConnell said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" about the controversial budget reconciliation process. "Whether there will be 11 Democrats who will vote against it is not clear."

Putting it simply, if McConnell thought Laurence's 60 vote notion would work, I think he'd be threatening to use it on the Sunday Talk Shows, countering Harry's promise to use reconciliation. He's not. So I think Mitch knows this is going to end...

Then again, Laurence O'Donnell speculated that Mitch actually wants Health Care Reform to pass so he can hang it around the Democrats neck. So maybe Mitch isn't going to fight this too hard.

Either way, remember what I said about Politicians generally telling you the truth, even if its hyper-parsed and specific.

Harry Reid today say they'll have this wrapped up in 60 days.

Translation: they'll have this wrapped up in 60 days.