Saturday, January 9, 2010

That Self-Fulfilling Stupidity Again

Chris Bowers at Open Left crunches the numbers on the latest MA Senate poll from PPP, finding Brown ahead 48-47.
PPP has just released their poll of the Massachusetts Senate race.  Republican Scott Brown actually leads Democrat Martha Coakley by one point among likely voters:

Brown: 48%
Coakley: 47%

Earlier in the week, Rasmussen found Coakley ahead 50%-41%.

Additionally, there are rumors of two other polls to be released tomorrow.  From the National Review Online:
A reader in Massachusetts  that I trust sends along word that each of the Boston papers will have a poll of the Senate race out this weekend. The Globe's poll, he hears, will have Coakley up by 15 percentage points. The Herald poll, he hears, will have it much closer-Coakley ahead by 7 percentage points among all voters, Coakley ahead by only 1 percentage point among likely voters.
Let's assume for the moment that both of these polls exist, and that the spreads reported here are accurate. That would mean four polls on the campaign over the past week showing margins of:

Coakley +15
Coakley +9
Coakley +1
Brown +1

That comes to a simple mean of 6.0% for Coakley.  That is much closer than it should be, but still actually a pretty solid lead for a polling average.  The odds of a Scott Brown win are still only 4.2%, pending further polling.
In other words, calm is needed.  But it also means that turnout is needed too, and the Dems have about a week to figure out how to get folks out there for Coakley, or the GOP will have 41 votes in the Senate and will filibuster everything, period.  Game over.

Hopefully this is the spark to get the Dems moving.  Oh...and it now 100% assures a Coakley win will be "ACORN stole the election!"

And Speaking Of Harry Reid And Being In Trouble...

Summing up the entire wingnut reaction to Harry Reid's unfortunate statement recorded in Game Change is pretty easy:  "By Liberal logic, Harry Reid should resign as Senate Majority Leader."

You know what?  For once, they're right.  As a matter of fact like John Cole and TS over at Instaputz, I think Harry there should not only resign from the Dem leadership, he should also announce his retirement just as soon as the Nevada Democratic Party figures out who needs to run for his seat.

The fact is the Wingers would be doing the Dems a huge favor if they helped pressure him into going.  I've been saying the Dems need a new leader in the Senate for months now, and frankly, he's going to lose his re-election bid anyhow.

I remember that Zandardad thought very highly of Reid back in 2006, being a pro-life Democrat who had gravitas and respect on the Hill.  That was then.  Now?  Reid's gotta go.

Oh, and the fact that I've been basically described as "Light-skinned...with no Negro dialect" (in not those exact terms mind you, but pretty damn close) isn't raising the odds of me feeling any sympathy for the guy, either.

Sorry, Harry.  Do the party a favor and hang it up.

Carterizing The Wound, Part 2

John Cole coined the "Black Jimmy Carter" meme some time ago, and it's now starting to get some real Village traction here as we come up on the Already Failed Obama Presidency, Year Two.  Today's contestant, Jackie Calmes of the NY Times with the headline:

Obama Tries to Turn Focus to Jobs, if Other Events Allow 

If "other events allow". Obama doesn't even have control over his own destiny, his own Presidency, his own country, nothing.  He's just fecklessly rolling on the storm-tossed waves now.
The employment situation is only the most visible of the economic policy challenges that Mr. Obama faces.
His push to overhaul financial regulation is bogged down on Capitol Hill. The housing market is still weak and his programs to help homeowners have had little impact. The Federal Reserve is under pressure from inflation hawks to begin tightening policy, while deficit hawks are demanding that government spending be restrained — even as some economists say more stimulus is needed to avert prolonged economic sluggishness or even another recession.

But the measures by which voters are most likely to judge his success are the unemployment rate and the pace of job creation. So after an inaugural year in which Mr. Obama was absorbed in the overhaul of the health care insurance system and by a prolonged internal debate over a military buildup in Afghanistan, the White House has been trying to orchestrate a shift to showcase Mr. Obama as concerned and focused on doing everything within his power to create jobs.

But the employment report for December, which showed further job losses instead of the hoped-for gains, suggested that time might be running out for Democrats to show significant progress before voters start making up their minds — say, by summer.

Meanwhile, the world keeps intruding as Mr. Obama tries to execute his promised pivot.
Besides, the Republicans run the country, didn't you know?
“It’s time,” said Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, that Mr. Obama “finally do what he should have been doing over the past year — put his full and undivided attention on fixing our economy.”

At the same time, he and other Republican leaders suggest that Democrats are doing too much in the way of government intervention in the economy. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said in a statement that “unless Washington gets out of the way” Americans will not be able to get out of “this mess.”

The fact is that juggling issues is just part of being president. Unlike a candidate for the job, a president is more buffeted by events and less able to stay “on message.”

The challenge for Mr. Obama, then, is to find ways to telegraph his concerns about the economy while also looking like he has done something about it.

His chief contribution — the $787 billion stimulus package — became law nearly a year ago; recent extensions and pending proposals building on the package will bring it to about $1 trillion in tax cuts and spending. While economists generally agree it has helped avert even greater job losses, Republicans seize on the continued high unemployment rate to argue that the plan has been a costly failure.
It's hysterical.  Obama is being criticized both for not doing enough and for doing too much at the same time in the same article in consecutive paragraphs.  Not only does Calmes accept this idiocy as normal, but then calmly explains to the reader exactly why that is normal for Beltway logic.

Either way you see, Obama is the Black Jimmy Carter.  If the Dems keep both chambers in Congress...the Republicans still run Washington.

Student Council Elections '08

Advance buzz on the book Game Change, which is shaping up to be 2008's version of Primary Colors (only for both political parties), shows just how truly f'cked up the Race To Replace Dubya was.

Hillary, Rudy, Johnny Volcano and Moose Lady, Barry O and even Harry Reid get smacked around in the book (for which Reid has already apologized for his remarks about Candidate Obama), but the major losers have got to be John and Elizabeth Edwards.
I don't want to give away the whole book... but I would be remiss if I did not point to the chapters about the unbelievably dysfunctional husband and wife team of John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Not only, it turns out, did many senior Edwards staffer suspect that John was having an affair, several confronted John Edwards about it, and came away believing the rumors.  At least three campaign aides resigned because of their knowledge of the affair well before the national media picked up on those early National Enquirer stories.

And John and Elizabeth (who the book says was known to Edwards insiders as "abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman") fought, in front of staffers, about the affair. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a such a state of fury, deliberately tears her blouse in the parking lot of a Raleigh airport terminal, "exposing herself. 'Look at me," she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground." (That's page 142.)   (This was in October, by the way, well before the media took the reports of the Hunter affair seriously.)
Ouch.  Just a reminder that every national politician is at least somewhat flawed...and even more somewhat bugnuts crazy.

An excerpt of the book is up at New York Mag's site.

Speaking Ill Of A Dead Man (Walking)

As I was saying yesterday, a really, really good sign that you're in trouble inside the Beltway is not that people are calling for you to get fired, but that people are actively discussing who your replacement will be.  That applies to Michael Steele over at the RNC certainly, but that definitely applies to Obama's Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner as well.

Just as this week revealed how much trouble Steele is in, the bigger story may be the new information this week about how much trouble Timmy is in.
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) said he plans to hold a hearing on the AIG bailouts sometime in January and plans to ask Sec. Timothy Geithner to testify about why the New York Federal Reserve told AIG to hide massive payments to banks, according to a published report.

"More than one year after the first federal bailout of AIG, the American people continue to question where their tax dollars were really sent when the government rescued this company," Towns said in a statement, The Washington Post reported. "I continue to believe that a comprehensive review of the rise and fall of AIG and the involvement of counterparties can provide a useful vehicle to understanding how inadequate regulations, cheap money, risky business deals, and in some instances, corruption led to the current economic crisis."

In the aftermath of its near collapse, AIG was told by the New York Federal Reserve to keep off the books its planned over-payments to other banks that had agreed to purchase its toxic assets, most notably Goldman Sachs. The move was revealed in a series of e-mails unearthed by Congressional investigators working for the Troubled Asset Relief Program inspector general.

"After the firm was given a taxpayer-funded backstop, one of its most controversial acts was to repay banks at 100 cents on the dollar for what was by that point nearly worthless insurance the banks had bought from AIG, known as credit-default swaps," The Huffington Post noted. "A brutal report issued in November by a government watchdog disclosed that AIG had actually been trying to negotiate better terms with the banks until - guess what? -- the New York Fed stepped in. The report held Geithner personally responsible, and led to renewed questions about his fitness for the job."

Those questions were echoed by MSNBC's liberal host Ed Schultz, who wondered aloud on Thursday night whether the scandal would be "the end" of Geithner.

"If there's anybody out there who's still harboring any doubt that the fix is in, I mean that most of this government has become a government of the bankers, by the bankers and for the bankers, this story has got to put an end to that and it's also got to put an end to Tim Geithner," Huffington editor Roy Sekoff opined to Schultz.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the embattled Treasury secretary on Friday, telling reporters that Geithner had recused himself from the AIG negotiations and "wasn't party to the decision" to have AIG hide its payments.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said Friday that he is "troubled" by reports of the NY Fed's actions and plans to hold a hearing on the matter, according to Politico.
That's a big-ass list of people who seem to think Timmy's headed for circular file cabinet, and Gibbs is not exactly defending Timmy there.  I predicted Timmy would be gone by 2010.  I was wrong...but it's looking like I may have been only wrong about the when part...and not by much, either.  Two separate House committees are looking to hold hearings on this about possibly withholding damning info from oversight...not a good sign at all if it's your own administration's party doing it during an election year.  Also, note that the Senate Banking Committee is laying low on this one.  That makes sense if the chair of that committee, Chris Dodd, is in line for the job.

I'm strongly leaning towards believing Mr. Geithner's days are quite numbered.  They're going to want this done fast.  And enough Republicans have come out against Geithner (and Bernanke for that matter) that this will probably happen soon.

Assuming The Position

I understand that exploring the possibility of what happens if Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts is useful from a pragmatic standpoint of being prepared.  But it also completely buys into the meme that Brown can and will win just days before the election, and that he will be "The One Who Stops Obamacare" as a populist theme that the GOP wants to push is being pushed.

In other words, this is starting to look like an exercise in self-fulfilling stupidity.  The GOP absolutely wants to shape this so that if Brown wins, it's a massive victory because now they can stop the "massively unpopular health care reform effort".  If Brown loses, the GOP still wins, because they can take their pick from a number of lies:  that Dems and ACORN stole the election, that Coakley's election victory somehow represents the "will of the people" being denied ("people" in this case being Republicans), that Coakley is anti-feminist, that Coakley is a loser, etc...

All this kvetching on the Dem side is exactly what the GOP wants to see.  At least one famous Democrat in the Nutmeg State has their head on straight and is doing what needs to be done here.

Have a SCOTUS New Year

The Supreme Court's expeditied decision of campaign finance reform may come as early as next week, just in time to possibly radically reshape the 2010 primaries and elections that follow.
But it is an old case that is puzzling court observers and consuming the political world: a pending decision on whether restrictions on corporate and labor union spending on political campaigns violate the First Amendment. It arose from a less significant question about whether a conservative group's financing of and distribution plans for a documentary -- "Hillary: The Movie," a scathing account of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential pursuit -- violated the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

The court heard oral arguments on the original question in March 2009, but adjourned in June without a decision. Instead, the justices said they would consider the larger question of whether it is constitutional to ban corporations and labor unions from drawing funds from their general treasuries to support or oppose candidates.

Congress for decades has outlawed such expenditures, and 22 states have similar bans. Both sides agree that a ruling saying such restrictions are unconstitutional would mean a sea change in the way political campaigns are funded.

The court's decision to hear the larger question in September, in advance of its regular term, was seen as a possible attempt to expedite the ruling before the midterm primary season. But not much time is left; Illinois will hold elections on Feb. 2.

At the September arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the more conservative justices indicated deep skepticism about the constitutionality of the bans on corporate spending. But because of the circumspect court's private deliberations, it is hard to speculate about the cause for delay -- except that the justices are deeply divided.

One possibility is that a broad decision declaring the restrictions unconstitutional has drawn lengthy dissents from those in the minority, who have no incentive for rushing the ruling. But equally possible is a failure to find a majority for such clear guidance and a multitude of competing opinions in which a narrow majority agrees only on the outcome in this specific case.

The ruling could come by Tuesday.
In other words, if the SCOTUS strikes down the decades-old ban on corporations and labor unions directly funding candidates,  there would literally be nothing stopping big business from directly dropping millions on candidates it wanted to see elected.  Nothing stopping insurance companies, energy companies, banks, etc. from literally buying elections.

And depending on how far the ruling goes, it may remove any or all campaign finance reform laws as unconstitutional abridgment of free speech.  Whoever has the most money, wins.  It was mostly true before.  It will become ironclad as soon as Tuesday.

Worth thinking about.


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