Saturday, January 29, 2011

The slightly out of place (on reflection) Fireside Chat for January 29, 2011 (VIDEO)

By the way, this was done the Wednesday before in Wisconsin, before all hell broke loose in Egypt:

The President discusses his visit to a company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and how it exemplified his agenda for America to “win the future” spelled out in the State of the Union Address.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The YouTube Interview with President Obama (VIDEO)

Your questions (well, a good handful, not all 300 million Americans) answered by the President.

The President's speech at Families USA (VIDEO)

Egypt is certainly on the minds of friends and loved ones around the world. It is most certainly the most important news story out there right now.

But the fight goes on...still.

From the Hill:

In his most vigorous defense of the healthcare law since Republicans took control of the House, Obama fired back Friday at GOP claims that the law deprives essential care for seniors and balloons the deficit.

“You may have heard once or twice this is a job-crushing, granny-threatening, budget-busting monstrosity,” Obama said to pro-reform advocates at the Families USA annual conference in Washington. “That just doesn’t match up to the reality.”

Obama’s fired-up rhetoric comes just days after the president offered a more muted defense of the healthcare reform law in the State of the Union address.

The president was firm Friday and used the home-field advantage of a pro-healthcare reform crowd to bolster his defense of the law, which House Republicans voted to repeal only a week ago.

Obama fought back against GOP claims that the bill won’t reduce healthcare costs and would hurt the nation’s seniors while expanding the deficit.

With House Republicans using committee hearings this week to pose the reform law as bad for business, Obama touched on a report from a large business advocacy group that said the law would reduce premiums for workers.

“That’s money that business can use to grow to invest or hire. … That’s money workers won’t have to see vanish from paychecks or bonuses. That’s good for all of us,” he said.

“And I can report that granny is safe,” he added, hitting back at GOP claims that the administration wants to ration expensive care for the elderly.

Steve Benen:

As a rule, consultants tell officials not to repeat the wording of a rhetorical attack, because it only helps lend credence to the criticism, but I'm glad Obama put it this way this morning. The president is, in effect, openly mocking Republicans for transparently ridiculous talking points that are fundamentally dishonest.

And since they deserve to be mocked, this was an entirely appropriate line to take. Instead of getting angry, there's something to be said for a "can you believe these guys?" kind of approach.

President Obama's statement on Egypt (VIDEO)

Ezra. Ever more pessimistic.

I couldn't find a place to snip and cut "Did the Senate just lose the future?" without losing its meaning (a testament to the writer). the last sentence was the killer for me:

The pity of the deal that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell struck on rules reform is that this was a really good moment for Senate reform. The usual danger with this kind of project is that it'll end up being a power grab directed at passing some discrete pieces of legislation, as when Bill Frist tried to free judicial nominees from the filibuster, rather than an overhaul dedicated to making the institution work better. But with one party controlling the House and another controlling the Senate, there was no way that a more majoritarian Senate could start ramming all sorts of legislation into law. For the next two years -- and probably some time after that -- Barack Obama will not sign anything that John Boehner hasn't already approved. Both Republicans and Democrats had the luxury of contemplating the Senate's workings without giving either party a major advantage in passing new legislation.

Instead, the Senate decided that its current procedures are good enough. There's something slightly terrifying about that. Accepting a dysfunctional legislature is, as James Fallows and others have argued, one way to lose the future. Our problems -- debt, health-care costs, infrastructure, education, etc. -- are on autopilot. Our solutions are not. Obama can give as many speeches as he wants. If we don't have a political system capable of acting on our challenges, we don't have a political system capable of overcoming them.

I've never been a huge fan of 'the constitutional option. My oft-expressed preference was for both parties to recognize that the Senate is broken and requires fairly fundamental reforms. One way to do that would be to phase in the reforms over six years, ensuring that no one knew who would benefit from the more majoritarian institution first. Another would've been to do it now, when divided government would undermine any advantage that Democrats might gain from the new rules, and thus might have given both parties space to participate in the process with more of a long-range perspective.

Instead, both parties decided to back off. There were hard decisions to be made, and they agreed not to make them. They chose the parochial comforts of what they were used to, and what would advantage each of them personally, to the discomfort and sacrifice that creating a more workable legislative process would require.

When I speak publicly, I always get variants of the same question: We've got so many problems to solve. Can we solve them? And the answer I always give is the same: Yes. in most cases, we already know what to do. The question is simply whether we'll do it. And I'm a lot less confident about that.

As much as I personally at "the Club" (aka the Senate) I understand the Founder's intentions. The House is and remains the House of the people, where their passions are recognized, and Legislation passed in accordance with those passions.

Problem is the people are flakes. They tent to jerk the Country too hard one way or the other, and the consequences of such flakiness can be rather dramatic.  WE WANT HEALTH CARE!!!  JUST NOT FOR THOSE PEOPLE!!  WE WANT GOVERNMENT SERVICES!!  JUST DON'T TAX US FOR IT!!!  And of course KEEP YOUR GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE!!!

 Thus, we have the Senate, the saucer that cools (or kills) the drink. It's function is to prevent the leftward-rightward shifts the people want to put the country through are milder, less severe.

Get me a better quality person...and I'll get you a better Senate.

In the end, Ezra notes that we're more worried about what we'll lose rather than what we'll gain, and the Senate is no different.

So why did Senate Democrats agree, in principle, that simple majorities can't change the Senate's rules, and even exceedingly modest changes to the filibuster are out-of-bounds? Easy: They're a simple majority now, but someday soon, they'll be a simple minority. When that happens, they want to be able to mount constant filibusters as well.

To borrow David Brooks's schtick for a minute, there's an easy behavioral explanation for this preference: Loss aversion. Study after study shows that human beings fear the consequences of loss much more than they value the benefits of gains. And so too in the Senate, where the two parties think about the rules in terms of "what happens when I lose" rather than "what happens when I win?"

But if you really think you've got a great agenda and that the voters would agree, that would imply a fantastic upside to rules that allow you to make good on your campaign promises: Either the American people would get to judge you on all the great stuff you want to do, as opposed to all the great stuff you got stopped from doing, or they'd get to judge the other party on all the awful stuff they did, and which you could then reverse with a simple majority vote. That's a coherent theory of the way accountability encourages good ideas and wise governance in American politics. A world in which you can't enact your ideas or govern effectively and so the voters end up thinking you as feckless as the folks across the aisle isn't. That's a world in which the rules of the Senate, and not the policies of the parties, drive outcomes, and thus drive elections. That's a world where voters never know whose ideas are best because neither side can ever enact their agendas. But that's the world the Senate apparently prefers to inhabit.

The point about the Democrats soon (possibly) being in the minority is a point I made yesterday. The only problem I have with this analysis is one of simple human psychology and mathematics.

We're human beings living in the world, living with other human beings. Most of the time, we as individuals we want things (events, items, etc.) and most times, we don't get them (i.e., we don't "win"). And the same time, we tend to forget that other individuals want things as well, and they're not getting them either. You put the two of them in collision and you get a great big stew of people not getting what they want colliding into other people not getting what they want...

...yet somehow we all muddle through.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. Think about that. (--Nuke LaLoosh)

Ezra made it sound like these results are not normal, when they're anything but.

It's also called Democracy.

In the end, Senate Reform for me, isn't about making better rules. The rules are fine. It's the Senators willingness to game them that has broken the system down. It doesn't take a genius to filibuster something, but it does take a particular corruption of the soul to abuse the filibuster the way it has been abused, to use it more times than at any point in History.

One type of person says: Hey, we lost the election. There are more of them than there are of us. These guys what Health Care Reform. Let's see which of our ideas we can get in there to make it more palatable for our side.

The other type of person says: So what if we lost the election. I don't care if there are more of them than there are of us. They don't get their way, period. Let's burn Health Care Reform down, even if we have to take the whole country with us!

Who do you think we've had to deal with in the Senate these last two years?

Get me a better quality of person in the Senate (and I'm not just talking replacing only Conservatives or Republicans believe it or not), get me people more interested in the country than in ideology (...or the club), and I'll get you a better Senate.

I'm sure Professor Dad has a better, more elegant, and mathematical explanation for all this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where a Liberal (that'd be me) argues that losing the Filibuster would have been bad, bad, bad...

Ezra banged out this little 'graph, with a twinge of disappointment in his writer's voice:

A few moments ago, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the Senate to announce a five-point agreement on rules reform. But the five-points weren't, well, the point. The real agreement was on the process by which rules can be reformed.

"As part of this compromise," Reid said, "we've agreed that I won't force a majority vote to fundamentally change the Senate -- that is the so-called ‘constitutional option’ -- and he [McConnell] won't in the future." In other words, Reid and McConnell have agreed that the Senate's rules cannot -- or at least should not -- be decided by a simple majority. That was what the constitutional option was about, and that's what Reid explicitly rejected in his speech. Why? "Both McConnell and Reid feared what would happen if they were in the minority," explains a Reid aide.

Okay, the big, big thing is the fact that Give 'Em Hell Harry got McConnell to agree to not hold a similar filibuster vote in the future. Why?  Because given the number of Democratic Senate Seats up for grabs in the 2012 election, its quite possible that we're going to lose the Senate as we're re-electing Barack Obama (yes, I'm still way confident that's going to happen). Should we lose the Senate (the number of Democratic Seats up outweighs Teabaggers by 2 to 1) you, me and every other Liberal out there is going to fall so in love with the Filibuster, it's gonna make your head spin like Linda Blair.

Now, if you want to question whether or not Reid can trust McConnell to keep his word, have at it. (Ultimately, to because Senate decorum is more important to these guys than anything else, I actually believe McConnell will keep his word). But as far as the long game, Harry Reid surrendered our ability to get some stuff done in 2011 to keep our ability to hold back a Teabagger Apocalypse in 2013.

Good job, Harry.  Though, I'm betting the Professional Left doesn't see it that way for two more years.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The everlasting value of Mark Penn's advice...

Mark Penn hated the speech.  Couldn't have been all bad, right?

Begala loved it.  He was the one Hillarylander I trusted even back in 2008, though he got on my nerve.  Still, that's a damn good sign to me.

The (Enchanced) State of the Union Speech. January 25, 2010 (VIDEO)

Randi Rhodes once said that to really take in the speech, it was important to watch it on C-SPAN, where there is no commentary on it afterwards by the Pundit class. Separating the speech from the Punditocracy really informs your own opinion about the speech, but in a good way.

That being said, I missed the speech last night. I came in just in time to watch the MSNBC crew going over it (mostly in glowing terms). Then I watched the speech. It was enough separation to let me judge it on its own terms. That being said, I liked the speech. I don't think I flipped over it as much as the Pundit class, but I liked it.

My favorite part, early on, was the moment when he reminded the new House GOP: "By the have to actually govern now, not just say no to everything."

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can. And I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all -– for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

I'm afraid the lack of specificity is a symptom of how uncertain our times still remain, and, of course, the fact that we got a Republican Congress (thanks stay-at-homers!) and the President doesn't want to show all his cards. After all, drawing a line in the sand, and having to renegotiate that line doesn't exactly win him any friends in the Depressed Left.

Anyway, in deference to the White Houses' ideas (and the fact that any State of the Union isn't the most...cinematic of creations), I have decided to use the White House's "Enchanced" Video, showing all their fancy charts and graphs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

David Shuster speculates (probably pretty damn accurately) what happened to Keith Olbermann

This is from a Transcript of David Shuster's appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. Remember, David was fired by MSNBC for taping a pilot for CNN (when his MSNBC was about to expire, and it wasn't going to be renewed). David's gag order has been lifted just as Keith's is going to into effect, so judge for yourself:

KURTZ: Let me turn to David Shuster.

SHUSTER: I'm not sure if I can accept your assertions of what was going on at NBC, but in any case --

KURTZ: But you worked there a long time.


KURTZ: You had a good relationship with Olbermann. You filled in for him periodically on "Countdown."

What about this constant friction? I described it as a war between him and top executives at NBC and MSNBC.

SHUSTER: Well, look, I mean, everybody knew that with the new sort of Comcast coming in to take over from General Electric, that the reporting structure within MSNBC was going to be different. Until Comcast comes in, you have Phil Griffin, who very much was a Keith Olbermann protector, reporting directly to Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC News.

Under the new arrangement, Steve Capus, from NBC News, he will essentially be right above Phil Griffin. And so NBC News is going to have much more of an influence over what happens on MSNBC. And I think Keith anticipated, perhaps justifiably so, that his wings might be clipped, that some of the special commentaries that he would be making, that there would be much more sort of deference that would have to be paid to NBC News' standards and judgments.

And I think Keith felt that he built this franchise for eight years, it was highly successful. He treasured his independence, and he treasured the fans, the 250,000 who signed the petitions back in November, demanding that he put right back on the show.