This post first appeared on Daily Kos. Whatever happens next Tuesday, the next two years will be marked be an even more intense political struggle than the last two. The only question is whether we will suffer through complete paralysis during that time, and that question will be answered by the outcome on election day. As Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:
The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision. And if they take one or both houses of Congress, complete policy paralysis — which will mean, among other things, a cutoff of desperately needed aid to the unemployed and a freeze on further help for state and local governments — is a given. The only question is whether we’ll have political chaos as well, with Republicans’ shutting down the government at some point over the next two years. And the odds are that we will.
The only thing I'd add is that while there is certainly a political motivation to Republican obstruction, they are also motivated by a genuine (though misguided) belief that government is the reason the economy is in bad shape. True, they don't really have an explanation for the fact that job losses peaked the month before President Obama took office and that we are now finally experiencing private sector job growth, but Republicans really do believe the solution to improving the economy is doing nothing. So paralysis is their policy preference. That's why you have guys like Mike Pence, the number three House Republican, pledging that GOPers will refuse to compromise with the Obama administration or Democrats in Congress on anything. ""Look, there will be no compromise," he says. Instead of focusing on producing policy to bolster America's economic recovery, they see their mission as stopping Democrats. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," says Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. If Republicans do manage to win the House next Tuesday, they'll be in even less of a compromising mood than they are today. They won't suddenly feel the obligation to share the burden of being a governing party. Instead, they will pursue paralysis with reckless abandon, and if you think the last two years have been slow moving, you haven't seen anything yet. Outside of using executive authority to implement current law (including new laws passed over the last two years), the main challenge for Democrats is going to be providing an alternative vision to Republican do-nothingism, and President Obama is going to have to lead the way. Given the media environment and the state of campaign finance law, it won't be an easy challenge, but short of victory next Tuesday, there really isn't any other option.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. As Markos wrote earlier, in a debate yesterday Christine O'Donnell said Chris Coons was ignorant about the Constitution and challenged him to explain "where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" When Coons explained that little thing about how the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws on the establishment of religion, O'Donnell didn't believe him. "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" she asked. And it was all captured on video. Here's the key snippets (you can watch the full video here): To answer Christine O'Donnell's question about whether the separation of church and state is in the First Amendment: yes, it is. And although I know she didn't realize it, the audience wasn't laughing with her. They were laughing at her. Join the discussion in otto's recommended diary, O'Donnell "...that's in the First Amendment?".
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. As DemFromCT noted yesterday, the latest WaPo/ABC poll reflects what polls throughout the country are showing: as election day approaches, Democrats are gaining ground and Republicans are losing it. The question is: why? Two interesting numbers from the poll might tell us some of the story. First, the GOP's Pledge to America was a complete dud. 66 percent said they had never heard of it, and of those who had, more people said it would make them less likely to vote for the GOP (29 percent) than said it would make them more likely (23%). Compare that to the Contract With America which had similar awareness numbers but was a small net positive for Republicans (24 percent more likely, 21 percent less likely). Second, and probably more importantly, President Obama's numbers have improved since he started campaigning after Labor Day. That they've improved isn't exactly a surprise, but the extent of the improvement is a bit surprising. One month ago, his net approval rating was minus 6 -- 46 approve, 52 disapprove. Now it's plus 3 -- 50 approve, 47 disapprove. That's a nine-point swing in just one month. Obviously, there's no single reason why the race is getting closer, but when one out of ten voters improve their rating of President Obama, that's a really big shift, and it's no doubt part of the explanation.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. NYT's Michael Shear and Jeff Zeleny report:
President Obama will give his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a send-off Friday as Mr. Emanuel officially announces his departure from the West Wing to run for mayor of Chicago, officials familiar with the decision said. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, at his daily briefing on Thursday afternoon said that the president will give two personnel announcements on Friday morning from the East Room of the White House. Mr. Gibbs, admitting that he was being purposely “oblique,” would not confirm whether the announcements would concern Mr. Emanuel. The two officials, who declined to be named in advance of the official announcement, confirmed that Mr. Obama plans to name Pete Rouse, a senior adviser, to replace Mr. Emanuel. Mr. Rouse has been at the president’s side since Mr. Obama arrived in Washington nearly six years ago as a senator, serving as his chief of staff. Mr. Rouse will not be an interim appointment, but rather will formally take over Mr. Emanuel’s title. While Mr. Rouse has expressed reservations about holding the chief of staff job for an extended period, he has agreed to do the job – for now.
In addition to serving as Obama's chief of staff in the Senate, Rouse was chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He's worked in the West Wing since Obama's inauguration as a special adviser to the President and was co-chair of the transition team. On a sort of a funny side note, @SarahPalinUSA (a Twitter-based cyborg rumored to be plotting a Presidential bid) tweeted some anger in Rouse's direction earlier this week:
Alaska media slept on the job for how many years re: Obama senior advisor Pete Rouse's claim to be AK resident and "local" voter? For shame.
Of course, as is the case with many things Twittered (and otherwise uttered) by the former half-term Governor (and complete nitwit), Alaska media actually has done a solid job reporting on Rouse, who moved to Alaska in 1978 -- 17 years before Joe "Kansas Farm Subsidy" Miller. Indeed, thanks to the Anchorage Daily News, perhaps the most amusing trivia tidbit of all about Rouse is that his office is located between Rahm's and Axelrod's, which as the ADN points out is where Josh Lyman sat in television's version of the West Wing. Of course, on the TV show Lyman had to elect Matt Santos before becoming Chief of Staff, so Rouse is ahead of schedule in that department.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos.
How bankrupt is the GOP idea machine? So bankrupt that even though they are challenging the governing party during worst economy since the Great Depression, the only way they think they can win is by telling a bunch of lies. FactCheck.org:
FactChecking ‘The Pledge’: Republicans' "Pledge to America" falls short on some of its facts.
As FactCheck.org reports:
  1. Even though in 2010 private sector employment has grown by 763,000 jobs and public sector employment has shrunk, Republicans falsely claim the exact opposite, saying private sector payrolls have shrunk while public sector employment has grown.
  1. Even though jobless claims are down eight percent from the trough of the recession and continue to drop, Republicans falsely say they continue to soar.
  1. Even though their claim is completely without factual basis, Republicans falsely claim that the IRS is hiring an army of 16,500 IRS agents to investigate Americans.
  1. Republicans claim the stimulus bill cost 25% more than it really did, rounding the real number of roughly $800 billion to "$1 trillion" presumably because it sounds better.
  1. Even though much of tax benefits under the GOP's proposal to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would go to businesses making $50 million per year, Republicans claim that President Obama's tax plan (which would allow those tax cuts to expire) would raise taxes on small mom-n-pop businesses.
It occurs to me that it's a bit amusing that for all the criticism that some conservatives have leveled at the GOP's pledge, none of them seem to have a problem with the fact that it is not reality-based. So to those right-wingers who are attacking the pledge for all the wrong reasons, might I suggest that old saying: "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't cast stones." You can read FactCheck.org's full report here.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. TPM's Brian Beutler reports that in the wake of the Senate's self-immolation on tax cuts, House Democrats are also lighting themselves on fire:
The Senate's decision not to address the Bush tax cuts until after the election is the strongest indication yet that the game is over. ... And with House Democratic leaders still insisting that they will follow the Senate's lead, it seems more and more likely that they too will drop the tax cut issue for now. Pelosi's effort to wrangle her caucus into voting on middle-income tax cuts before the election appears not have dislodged conservative and politically vulnerable Democrats who either wanted to extend all the Bush tax cuts, including for high-income earners, or to avoid any kind of risky vote s close to the elections.
Don't worry though, because it's all the Senate's fault:
"There is unanimity in the caucus around what Jim Clyburn has just said," said Dem conference chair John Larson. "The anxiety comes from what our erstwhile colleagues across the building will do in the United States Senate." House Ways and Means Committee chairman Sander Levin agreed with Larson -- the House will wait for the Senate: "I don't think there's a change in that." Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- a close ally of Pelosi's -- likewise couldn't say whether the House would do anything at all about tax cuts before members head back to their districts next week.
Actually, what's tanking Democrats -- and good policy -- are Blue Dogs and conservadems who think that punting on actual decisions and blurring the distinction between Democrats and Republicans is good political strategy. They're less than six weeks away from finding out just how wrong they are about that. These conservative members of the Democratic caucus are taking a winning issue that the White House, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid have gift-wrapped for them, and they are throwing it away before even opening it up. They are the problem here. And in the House apparently their leader has a name, and that name is Steny.
A split has opened between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) over whether to hold a vote before the midterm elections on extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. In closed-door leadership meetings this week, Pelosi has pushed for the House to act on the middle-income tax cuts before lawmakers bolt Washington for the campaign trail, while Hoyer wants the House to wait for the Senate to act first, according to Democratic aides.
If Democrats do end up losing the House, it's possible Speaker Pelosi will step aside rather than become Minority Leader. If that happens, Steny Hoyer will be looking to become leader of House Democrats. And as we can see by the way the tax cut debate is playing out, that would be a disaster.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. Washington Post (emphasis mine):
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday backtracked from remarks he made Sunday suggesting he would support extending the Bush tax cuts only for households with incomes below $250,000 a year, as President Obama has proposed. At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Boehner repeatedly emphasized that he would support only legislation that kept in place all of the tax cuts. He sidestepped questions about how he and Republicans would vote if Democrats insisted on pushing through a measure that ends the tax cut on household incomes of more than $250,000 a year. Tax cuts for all incomes that passed in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush are due to expire at the end of this year. "I want to extend all of the current tax cuts," Boehner said. "I want the speaker [Nancy Pelosi] to allow a fair and open debate on our two-point plan."
As I've been arguing, the best way for Democrats to retain the initiative here is to schedule two votes: one for the Obama tax cuts for the middle-class and the other for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That way, nobody can hold either tax cut hostage. Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi began the process of rallying her caucus to vote on the tax cut proposals, delivering an impassioned argument for enacting President Obama's middle-class tax relief proposal. Pollster Stan Greenberg presented survey research from Democracy Corps that shows Democrats will make big electoral gains by sticking to the tax proposal that President Obama has supported since the early days of his presidential campaign. Meanwhile, even as GOP House Leader Boehner scrambled to recant his position from Sunday, Republicans in the Senate were divided over how to proceed. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a new $4 trillion tax cut package including not just Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy but also estate tax reductions for multimillionaires. That package would drive up interest on the national debt by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade and require an additional $3.9 trillion in borrowing. But not all Republican senators are on board with McConnell's hardline position in favor of tax relief for the wealthy. Ohio's retiring GOP Senator, George Voinovich, said he might oppose extending the tax cuts for the wealthy contained in McConnell's plan, reminding reporters that he opposed Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy when they were first proposed nearly one decade ago. Adding to the intrigue: a growing number of Republican Senators are proposing a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, showing that even Republicans aren't willing to fall on their swords to defend extending tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Bottom line: everything here points the Democrats being in a very, very strong position, politically speaking, and as long as they stand their ground and keep up the pressure on the GOP, they will come out on top in this battle.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. Incumbent Representative John Fleming (R-LA) frames the November election in terms that only a proud member of the American Taliban could support:
LA GOPer: November A Choice Between An Atheist Society And A Christian Nation Appearing before the Republican Women of Bossier with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) cast the November elections as a choice between godlessness and Christianity. He also called bipartisanship impossible. "We have two competing world views here and there is no way that we can reach across the aisle -- one is going to have to win," Fleming said.
We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society, an atheist society. Or we're going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we're going to have to win that battle, we're going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.
It is precisely this sort of freakshow that Markos is talking about in his new book, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right. The big difference -- as he argues -- is that the American Taliban do not have the same sort of control over this country as their radical brethren do in fundamentalist nations. But that doesn't mean they aren't pursuing it, and John Fleming is a perfect example of just how serious they are about their goals.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney basically wrote the blueprint for health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama this past March. Now, as a likely contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2012, he's leading the field, according to the most recent Clarus Group survey conducted last month. Romney gets 26% of the GOP vote compared to 21% for Mike Huckabee. Newt Gingrich is at 14% and Sarah Palin as at 12%. The cognitive dissonance is deafening: GOPers have declared the health insurance mandate public enemy number one, but more of them support the guy who helped make them become reality than any other candidate. Sure, Romney now tries to pretend he hates the mandate, but he passed into law as governor, embraced it during the 2008 primary campaign, and he wouldn't be able to walk away from it in 2012. In March, the DNC put together this highlight reel of Mitt Romney explaining -- in 2008 -- why he supports a health insurance mandate: Pretty damn impossible for him to walk away from that, eh? I still believe Romney's support for mandates will ultimately cost him the nomination, but if he somehow gets the nod, it would be hilarious indeed given his full-throated endorsement of the GOP's most-hated aspect of health care reform.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos.
Mark Sanford deserves some props -- for breaking his word. Well, it's not exactly breaking his word that he deserves credit for. It's the fact that in reversing his pledge to reject stimulus funding, Sanford is, as Alex Seitz-Wald notes, securing jobless benefits for more than 17,000 out-of-work South Carolinians. NYT:
The federal Department of Labor announced Tuesday that South Carolina had officially cleared its approval process and that the stimulus money was being released immediately. The reversal by Mr. Sanford attracted virtually no notice, but it made South Carolina the 33rd state in the country to expand jobless benefits to qualify for its full share of stimulus money under the program, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal advocacy group.
Of course, while it is true that Sanford is now making the right decision, it's worth noting that he's only doing it after his infamous hike to Argentina, which effectively killed his political career. So this isn't exactly a profile in courage. But it does show that even conservative Republicans, freed of the need to pander to GOP's wingnut base, actually believe the stimulus can do some good. It's too bad more of them weren't willing to make that case in early 2009. If they had been, it might have been possible to get a bigger stimulus through Congress.