Friday, August 21, 2009

 

A Bridge Too Far

There's a definite poignancy to Sen. Ted Kennedy's letter to MA Gov. Deval Patrick and state legislative leadersurging a change in state law to allow Patrick to appoint an immediate successor should the cancer-stricken Kennedy either give up his seat or die in office. The current law, passed in 2004, leaves the seat open pending a special election which cannot take place any later than 145 days after the seat has become vacant.

The letter is written with a tone of awareness of mortality -- and the realization that in the curren political environment, every vote will be critical on healht-care.

Only problem is that, with all respect to the ill Senate legend, this is the rawest form of partisan politics -- even for him. He supported the 2004 change -- which was precisely designed by the Democratic-heavy state legislature to prevent then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, from having the ability to fill a possible vacant seat if John Kerry had won the presidency that year. In other words, had the pre-2004 law been in place, Kennedy's letter wouldn't have been necessary. Patrick would have been able to appoint a successor at any time. Indeed, it's arguable that Kennedy might have already stepped down given his grave condition.

But now, the circumstances have changed: Kennedy realizes that -- despite the day-to-day problems of Obama's health-care proposal -- this is the best chance ever to make his life-long ambition, a national health-care insurance, a reality. He can't stand the irony that his absence -- or the absence of another Democratic vote -- might prevent that from occurring. So, he's trying to get a law he supported overturned.

What makes this even more unseemly is that it harkens back to how Kennedy first got the seat. When John F. Kennedy won the White House in 1962, little brother Ted wasn't yet of the Constitution-mandated age of 30 to be able to be appointed the seat. And so, the Kennedys turned to family friend Benjamin Smith to keep the seat warm until Ted could run for it in 1962.

The same dynamics are in play again -- Kennedy is recommending that whoever is picked for the seat not run for it permanently. While that gives a veneer of "non-parttisanship" to the selection process, it actually would obviously benefit any other politicians with large campaign war-chests or great name-recognition -- of which there are plenty of both in Massachusetts. Ted's nephew, former Rep. Joe, as a likely heir to the seat that has been in Kennedy control

Sorry, but Sen. Kennedy shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways -- just to benefit his own policy or political preferences. The current law should remain in place and the political chips should fall where they may.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

 

Totally Shocking!!!

Some of the post-9/11 color-coded terror alerts might have been, politically-motivated!?!?
Who could have ever thought that might be the case?

Uh, anyone who noticed that the whole terror-alert thing seemed to just fade away from the beginning of 2005 and onward.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 

Nothing Like The Rielle Thing's Baby

Who needs either reality television or soap operas when the actual lives of America's politicians have more intrigue, lies and deception than anything appearing on the boob tube?

This week's location is North Carolina, not South, which has pre-occupied observers of romantic liaisons for most of the summer: John Edwards -- former senator and former presidential candidate (did that really happen -- or was that on an alternate Earth) -- submitted to a DNA test and is indeed the father of his mistress Rielle Hunter's baby. And, now it seems that Edwards is planning on bringing Hunter and child a bit closer to home.

At one time, the fact that this information came out in The National Enquirer would have meant that it should be ignored as silly, salacious gossip. Problem is, the Enquirer has been accurate about every aspect of the John Edwards story from Day One. They had the affair, the name of the woman, the details on Edwards' cover story. Edwards has been proven not just a cheat and a liar, but a serial liar at that.

Even the "Nightline" interview he gave last year which was designed to "clear the air" has now turned out to be a pack of lies.

But this poses the question: What does Elizabeth Edwards do? The Enquirer says that she's packing her bags and moving out. That would be hardly surprising given how she has been repeatedly publicly humiliated (some would say that she allowed herself to be). If she does, she would become the second Southern political wife in less than a month to walk out on her unfaithful coulda-been-a-contender husband. Jenny Sanford finally packed up and moved out of the governor's mansion two weeks ago, leaving angst-ridden Mark to figure out whether he wanted to connect more fully with his "soulmate" -- possibly in the mansion.

If Elizabeth does follow Jenny, this would be a rather shocking cultural moment in American politics. While divorces occur among politicians, it's rather rare for them to occur with public admissions and denunciations of infidelity. The Rudy Giuliani-Donna Hanover break-up nearly a decade ago was the exception that proved the rule. If cheating is discovered, the wife will more often than not stick it out with the husband (18 months after one of the most embarrassing public admissions ever, Eliot and Silda Spitzer are still together).

Perhaps political wives have reached a point when they realize being partners in a relationship means that they can walk away. Elizabeth Edwards was an impressive lawyer in her own right. Jenny Sanford was an investment banker -- and came from serious means as well. Even with four boys, she doesn't have to worry financially about a future without Mark Sanford by her side. For Elizabeth her incurable cancer makes the decision more difficult because of her two young children. But, after a while, she must be thinking what sort of lesson is she teaching those same children if she sends the signal that there is no consequence for the sort of behavior that their father has perpetrated on the family.

That's the point Jenny Sanford made in her statement after her husband announced his affair. Maybe Elizabeth should read that statement -- as she heads to the door.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

 

RIP Robert Novak

Always love your country — but never trust your government!

That should not be misunderstood. I certainly am not advocating civil disobedience, [much] less insurrection or rebellion. What I am advocating is to not expect too much from government and be wary of [it's] power, even the power of a democratic government in a free country.

Ours is one of the mildest, most benevolent governments in the world. But it too has the power to take your wealth and forfeit your life. ... A government that can give you everything can take everything away.
” - Robert Novak (1931-2009)


(Hat tip to the Suntimes.com for the quote)

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Monday, August 17, 2009

 

A "Prince" Neither Feared Nor Loved?

Longtime Thots observer ERA e-mails a question that's been bothering me of late as well:
"Why is the President of the United States not feared on Capitol Hill or anywhere? The guy won a national election by the largest margin by a Democrat in 50 years. Yet, whatever deadline Obama sets, whatever particular 'legislation' he asks for, Pelosi, Waxman, the Blue Dogs, Conrad & Senate Democrats all respond the same: You will take what we give you and like it. What's up with that? Does Obama enjoy being loved more than feared? For a supposed educated man, has he not read Machavelli?

. . . . And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. . .. .

. . ..Returning to the question of being loved or feared, I sum up by saying, that since his being loved depends upon his subjects, while his being feared depends upon himself, a wise Prince should build on what is his own, and not on what rests with others. Only, as I have said, he must do his utmost to escape hatred. -- Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), The Prince.

"Even George W. Bush had a good six years of being feared before becoming irrelevant with Congress, and Bush won by much slimmer margins than Obama. Yes, all of the six years there was a GOP Congress, but there is a Democratic Congress for Obama. FDR and LBJ impossed THEIR wills on Democrat majorites as newly elected presidents. Why is Obama letting Reid and Pelosi yank him around?"
It's arguably even worse than that: Bush actually had a Democratic Senate for more than a year and a half, but still got his measures through. Even after the Jim Jeffords switch caused the Senate to flip to the Democrats in the late spring of '01, the Democrats approved Ted Olson as Bush's solicitor general -- the same Ted Olson who won Bush v. Gore in front of the Supreme Court. A forceful Republican White House pushed through a new president's priorities -- in much the same fashion he wanted them in the first place.

This Democratic White House has instead chosen to defer to the Democratic Congress. Ironically, the White House staff was -- according to a New York Times Magazine piece earlier this summer -- constructed precisely to give the White House more of a say in how policies were crafted coming out of the legislative side of Capitol Hill:

The first senator elected directly to the Oval Office since 1960, Obama has an entirely different theory of how to exercise presidential power, and he has consciously designed his administration to avoid Clinton’s fate. After winning the office with the same kind of outsider appeal as his predecessors, he has quietly but methodically assembled the most Congress-centric administration in modern history. Obama’s White House is run by Rahm Emanuel, a former House leader who was generally considered to be on a fast track to the speakership before he resigned to become chief of staff, and it is teeming with aides plucked from the senior ranks of both chambers. Obama seems to think that the dysfunction in Washington isn’t only about the heightened enmity between the parties; it’s also about the longstanding mistrust between the two branches of government that stare each other down from twin peaks on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

And so, from Obama’s perspective, passing a health care plan this fall isn’t primarily a question of whether to include an “individual mandate” requiring every American to have insurance or how fully to regulate providers or even how to hit back against “Harry and Louise”–type attack ads, although his aides spend time contemplating all of those things. It’s more about navigating the dueling personalities and complex agendas within his own party’s Congress. Rather than laying out an intricate plan and then trying to sell it on the Hill, as Clinton did, Obama’s strategy seems to be exactly the opposite — to sell himself to Congress first and worry about the details later. As Emanuel likes to tell his West Wing staff: “The only nonnegotiable principle here is success. Everything else is negotiable.”

Alas, for Democrats, any "success" coming out of the Congress at this point is going to look like something akin to "failure." And, despite Obama's aforementioned plan to assemble a Congress-friendly staff, the result is becoming perilously close to the fate suffered by Obama's Democratic predecessors, Carter and Clinton -- as The New Republic's Jonathan Chait predicted in the spring:

The contours of failure are now clearly visible. In Obama's case, as with his predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate. At a time when the country desperately needs a coherent response to the array of challenges it faces, the congressional arm of the Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege. Obama has made mistakes, as did his predecessors. Yet the constant recurrence of legislative squabbling and drift suggests a deeper problem than any characterological or tactical failures by these presidents: a congressional party that is congenitally unable to govern.

But, the question of governance is a double-edged sword. Yes, the "congressional party" can't seem to govern -- but why can't the executive part of the Democratic Party manage to demand allegiance either? As Maxine Waters noted a couple weeks back, a good portion of the Blue Dog Democrats in the House owe their seats to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who recruited them when he was the head of the Democratic Congressional Committee.

Emanuel was brought in as a White House enforcer. Is he the problem -- or does it ultimately come down to his boss, again, the man who seemingly would prefer to be loved rather than feared. Given his eroding poll numbers, it's starting to look like he's going to end up being neither.

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