Friday, February 15, 2008

Remind me again...Why do I read the Washington Post?

Matt reads Peter Slevin's and Shailagh Murray's piece, obstensibly on Obama's economic plan, entitled Obama's Economic Plan is a Pitch to the Working Class.

Sen. Barack Obama offered a detailed prescription for the ailing U.S. economy Wednesday, answering skeptics who contend he has not matched his inspirational talk with a mastery of policy and targeting voters in crucial primaries in Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas.

Up until the comma, we're doing well here. We learn that Obama offered a detailed plan. But after the comma, we don't learn any of the details. The next six grafs are all about the political context -- Obama's momentum, the looming primaries, Obama's need to expand his appeal to working class voters. In graf eight, John McCain accuses Obama of offering "platitudes." In grafs nine and ten, Obama fires back accusing McCain of flip-flopping on taxes. In graf eleven, Clinton echoes McCain's attacks. In graf twelve, the fact that Obama delivered a speech on the economy gets re-iterated. In graf thirteen, we learn that Obama says he'll pay for the plan by ending the war in Iraq and rolling back tax cuts. In graf fourteen, the Clinton campaign quotes a McCain advisor as calling the plan "plagiarism." Finally, in the fifteenth graf of an article about Obama's economic plan we get something resembling a description of the content of the plan.


David Broder's "Bipartisanship"

I pointed this out yesterday in comments at No More Mister Nice Blog, but it bears highlighting here again for the simple fact of how Broder both categorized the urgency of approving the recently passed economic stimulus bill with how unsightfully The Dean depicted the bill's obstacles in the U.S. Senate.

After depicting the stimulus legislation as desperately needed to relieve the "staggering economy", Broder pens this 'graph:

Bypassing the usual committee process, she [Pelosi] and Boehner negotiated the legislation with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and quickly got it passed on the floor. The Senate Finance Committee wrote its own version and, when that failed by one vote to win the 60 needed for passage, Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly accepted the suggestion of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the most vital parts of the revised plan be added to the House bill by amendment. That was done 91 to 6.

I wish Broder had given some explanation as to why the Senate legislation "needed" 60 votes to pass, before the wonderful, full of love gift of bipartisanship was bestowed on the process, particularly since as Broder noted, the economy is simply "staggering" and desperately needs relief. I have in fact emailed Broder that very question.

In case Broder writes back, and for you dear reader, here is such an explanation for the 60 vote requirement:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans on Wednesday narrowly blocked a Democratic-backed economic stimulus plan valued at about $157 billion that would have provided benefits for the long-term unemployed and expanded proposed tax rebates to include retirees and disabled veterans.

The legislation, aimed at averting a U.S. recession, was offered as an alternative to a bill backed by President George W. Bush that passed the House of Representatives last week. The $146 billion House measure would give individuals a one-time $600 payment and couples $1,200 plus $300 per child.

Backers fell one short of the needed 60 in the 100-member chamber, although the final count was 58-41 when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched to no in a procedural move that allows him to bring up the bill again.

It was not immediately clear what the sharply divided Senate would do next. It could vote on the House-passed bill or other amendments to expand the economic stimulus legislation.

Most Senate Republicans opposed the expansion of jobless benefits, although many favor adding to the House package cash payments to senior citizens and disabled veterans.

So, the Senate bill actually passed by a pretty large margin, 58-41, but Senate Republicans "blocked" the legislation by keeping the "yes" votes below 60. Which again brings us to the question of why 60 votes are "needed" in the 100-member chamber. Well, while the article helpfully points out that it was in fact Senate Republicans who "blocked" passage of the bill--something Broder failed to note--this act of blocking has historically been referred to as "filibustering", a procedure that has been invoked a record number of times this Congressional session but which has gone strangely unremarked upon by our village media, which in prior Congressional sessions, when Republican executives have occupied the White House and Republicans controlled Congress, did do all in their power to point out that if anything the President wanted didn't get rubber-stamped by the House of People's Deputies, Democratic "obstructionists" relying on that very bad and anitiquidated procedure known as the really evil filibuster were to blame. Since Democrats have controlled Congress, however, the terms "filibuster" and "obstructionist" have dropped from the village media lexicon.

Clinton and Obama Both Solid on Bankruptcy "Reform"

In today's NYT, I read this:

Mrs. Clinton has been also criticizing Mr. Obama with populist language, saying she would “take on” insurers and credit card companies and “go after” drug companies. She portrayed Mr. Obama as untested on the battlefield against special interests.

This made me wonder what Clinton's position had been on the infamous bankruptcy "reform" legislation that passed the Senate in 2005. My recollection was that she had voted the wrong way on at least one of the many important amendments or crucial procedural votes that led to the bill's passing, mostly intact and without safeguards for vulnerable populations (those bankrupted by medical emergencies, for example).

But in reviewing the votes on Senate bill 256, it looks like Clinton was pretty solid on bankruptcy "reform"; She wasn't present on March 10 when the bill passed 74-25 (Obama voted Nay), but she did vote against cloture on the bill, the cloture vote being a vote to discontinue debate and break the filibuster, and she voted in favor of the various Democratic amendments offered by Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy, and others that would have mitigated the bill's harshness on certain categories of debtors. Obama voted favorably on all counts.

A review of the bill's voting history also reveals how different things were three years ago. I have a hard time imagining bankruptcy "reform" would have passed at all given the housing crash and mortgage crisis today, never mind the ridiculously high vote margin the bill achieved three years ago.

Update: Barbara Ehrenreich writes that Hillary Clinton voted for bankruptcy "reform" in 2001. I'd have to look it up to know what sort of bill it was, but it must not have been adequate enough to suit MBNA and the other credit card overlords who ordered their Congressional munchskins to come back and do it again four years later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What John Cole Said

Turned the the tv back on, and CNN is now broadcasting the post-Clemens interrogation interview with the lawyers. I simply am stunned that our Congress, who has rolled over and played dead and abdicated every opportunity for meaningful oversight of this administration, actually is making a stink about Roger Clemons and steroid use and the NFL tapes.

Stunned. I really don’t know what else to say. The day after rolling over and giving the administration precisely what they wanted, congressmen come out with puffed up chests, red-faced, screaming at a pitcher about whether or not someone shot him in the ass with steroids.

This has been another edition of What John Cole Said.

It's Still Only February

While it's been a lot of fun listening to all the pundits wax profusely over the fact that at least one political party has not for certain chosen its presumptive nominee, it's also worth pointing out that, even with all the elections we've had and the states that have voted, it's still only February. February 14, in fact.

For the historically challenged, these primary thingies used to go on for many months. And that ingenius invention known as Super Tuesday? It was born on March 9, 1988.

And as recently as the last presidential election cycle in 2004, I voted in the Maryland primary on March 2. This year I cast my Maryland vote on February 12.

So while the participation and competitiveness has been great and all, all the handwringing about when the nomination will be decided and whether the Democrats risk a civil war within their ranks if they don't confirm a choice soon is a bit ridiculous.

We Used To Do This, Too

That someone could be executed for this is obviously deeply troubling and capable of stirring the deepest sense of outrage and injustice, it is also true that our Puritan ancestors did this stuff, too; you know, back when America was really a "Christian nation". And we should recognize that there are those among us who want to return to those days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Democracy in Action

Chris Bowers has provided a valuable service here by tallying up the range of possible primary/caucus votes and delegate counts (collectively=votes) for Obama and Clinton.

Obama leads in all five, with the spread being about 800,000 votes (the most favorable Obama count) to 100,000 votes (the most favorable Clinton count).

In a nutshell, this has obviously been a very competitive and very closely fought contest.

The media villagers have gotten used to one or two state virtual primary/caucus coronations; but there is not anything necessarily unusual or undesirable about the process so far this year. Let the debate continue and let the people vote.


I wonder where the religious right is on this?

We could use some moral outrage whenever our "Christian nation's values voters" are done using it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Downers for America

Kos had about the same reaction to McCain's speech as I did:

So they cut from Obama to McCain talking about scary boogeymen under our beds.
Ouch for McCain.

Update: And look at all the people behind McCain -- old white dour people.

But look over there! Scary terrorists! Aaaaargh! Run for your lives!

That's what passes for "maverick" these days, huh?

Update II: Nice choice of words. "Cruel". "Harsh". His whole speech is a downer. Seriously, the contrast between Obama and McCain couldn't be starker.

250,000 / 226,000

In Virginia.

Obama margin over Hillary Clinton 250,000 votes
McCain total vote statewide 226,000 votes

This is with 94% of the vote in.

In. Virginia.

Obama beats Clinton by 250,000 votes, a vote margin larger than John McCain's total vote count in the whole friggin Commonwealth.

In. Virginia.

Town Halls and Media Bus Aisles -- Bantering with the people and the press

As I've noted previously, I think this is a pretty valid critique of the Obama campaign.

However, I don't think it is completely true that Obama has not taken questions from voters at particular events. Being on the campaign's email list, I received a video clip of Obama appearing to participate in just such a forum and answering a question--this one in particular being one in which the candidate was asked to justify his candidacy relative to Hillary Clinton's.

I can't say how regular this is. And I can't verify the degree to which this forum or question was staged or not.

Nonetheless, it would seem Obama would need to develop more of an accessible campaign if he gets the nomination.