Browsing the blog archives for February, 2009.

Handy Dandy Vetting Guide

Politics, US Politics
Toms fancy glasses

Tom's fancy glasses

Sarahs fancy glasses

Sarah's fancy glasses

If they’re wearing fancy glasses, vet ’em thoroughly. REALLY thoroughly.

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You spin me right round, baby, like a record, baby, right round

Politics, US Politics
Image adapted from / shared by Bradley Allen under CC license

(Adapted from / shared by Bradley Allen / CC license)

Last week, Chris Bowers summarised the Republican strategy on the stimulus bill:

[T]he actual Republican strategy is not to offer an alternative, but to:

  1. Complain about one small aspect of the bill at a time, such as contraception funding, non-existent CBO reports, non-existent earmarks and, now, ACORN.
  2. Demand that, in the name of bi-partisanship, that small aspect of the stimulus be dropped.
  3. Secure meetings with Obama, in order for these complaints and demands to appear relevant to the national media.
  4. Hope that, as Digby notes, Democrats in Congress and / or liberal activists grow publicly angry with President Obama if / when he makes these concessions in order to secure more Republican votes. Thus, Republicans are fulfilling Obama’s vision (even though they oppose the stimulus) while Democrats are thwarting it (even though they are writing and supporting the stimulus).

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Quite.

The news yesterday features the latest ride on the merry-go-round:

Senate GOP leader criticizes auto provision in stimulus bill

The Senate’s top Republican criticized a key provision for automakers in an $819 billion House stimulus bill.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky., criticized a provision to give the federal government $600 million to buy more¬†fuel-efficient vehicles, calling it “wasteful spending.”

He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that the provision shouldn’t be in the stimulus bill, and ridiculed it as “$600 million to buy new cars for government workers.”

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The coup that wasn’t?

Politics, US Politics

It seemed like such a genius move: tempt a Republican Senator who was facing less than pleasant electoral prospects into accepting a Cabinet job, and in one blow gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. No wonder Republicans freaked when the name of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg was first floated for the Commerce Secretary job.

Amid liberal dissatisfaction about recent moves by Obama on the stimulus bill and Geithner’s and Daschle’s appointments, this was suddenly a move Democrats could applaud in incredulous glee. What a coup!

But now what? The Republican Senate leadership has reversed from “mounting a full-court press to keep [Gregg] in the Senate” to openly embracing his appointment. Mitch McConnell says there’s a deal, and that New Hampshire’s Democratic governor, John Lynch, will appoint a Republican in Gregg’s place. (Actually, he phrases it somewhat more cautiously as someone who “would caucus with Senate Republicans”.)

So what will the upshot be? Gregg is no Jim Jeffords, or even an Olympia Snowe. He’s a Republican for real. Check Congressional Quarterly’s comprehensive analysis of roll call voting patterns. According to its Presidential Support ranking, Gregg voted according to Bush’s preference 82% of the time in 2008 (only eight Republicans voted with Bush more often). Its Party Unity ranking shows that when a majority of Democrats faced off against a majority of Republicans, Gregg voted with the Republican majority 95% of the time. Sam Brownback was more of a dissident than Gregg. As a sour Democrat told the HuPo, Gregg is “a fiscal conservative, would likely oppose the president’s stimulus package, and has cast a “fair amount of gotcha votes” while in office.”

So at the end of this manoeuvre, will Obama have appointed a true conservative in exchange for – well, pretty much no strategical gains? Yes, I suppose a freshman Republican Senator who will have been appointed in Gregg’s place will be easier to beat in ’10 than Gregg would have been. But Gregg was himself already strongly at risk of defeat, so that’s a marginal advantage. Maybe you could argue that at least Lynch might appoint a somewhat more explicitly moderate Republican in Gregg’s place – but that seems an odd rationale for appointing the conservative guy to a Cabinet position.

Maybe, as Jason Zengerle suggests, Lynch wants to run for Senate himself in ’10, and is therefore happy to appoint a Republican ‘placeholder’, so he won’t face an incumbent in ’10. But there again the strategic plus for the Dems is marginal – US Rep. Hodes would stand a good chance too, in either case, and is more of a committed Democrat than Lynch at that. So what’s the deal?

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Still Not Used to an Articulate President

Politics, Uncategorized, US Economy, US Politics

I just watched Barack Obama’s chat with Matt Lauer before the Super Bowl. It appeared to be live — there were technical difficulties for example that presumably wouldn’t have happened in a taped segment, and some awkward camera cuts. Obama was funny, warm, and serious as called for and didn’t miss a beat when Lauer asked some gotcha-ish questions.

Nothing too deep of course — for example, Lauer asked Obama to face the camera and justify his preference for a national college football playoff to Floridians (whose Gators won the BCS Championship game). “Twenty-seven electoral votes,” Lauer kept saying. Obama smilingly found the camera and delivered his defense; “Congrats Gators, on an outstanding season. … Wouldn’t you feel better if you had beaten every team through a playoff system?”

There was more substance too, especially in terms of talking about the economy and the stimulus package. Obama made it clear that things are going to continue to get worse for several months, and then it would take a while after that before things got back “on track.” But he was full of reassurance, full of confidence that things WILL get back on track.

Throughout he was comfortable and smooth. It’s not solving the health care crisis or creating peace in the middle east, but it was still nice to see. (Right! A brain! Excellent.)

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