Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last Call

My AP iPhone app is telling me Scott Brown is already being declared the winner after less than 90 minutes.  CNN concurs, giving Brown a 52-47 lead with 75% of the vote counted and several areas partial to Brown still left to count.

Elections have consequences, as I've said many a time before.  This particular one will have far-reaching ones for both parties.

[UPDATE 10:02 PM]  Coakley has conceded.  Brown has won.  So...is there a silver lining at all?

The Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate.  They can no longer claim the Democrats have uncontested rule.  They now have the power to block every piece of legislation before the Senate if all 41 Republicans vote no.

If Democrats give up on health care now, it's over for them.  They are done.  If they stick to their guns and make the Republicans oppose everything, including any measures to fix the economy, then they can rightfully claim "We can't fix the economy when the Party of No blocks everything."

Right now that's the only hope America has between now and 2012.  If the Dems fold here, then this country is done.  If the Dems stay strong, there's a chance.

The GOP got what it wished for, the ability to block the Democrats from passing any legislation whatsoever.  Now they are bound by their own extremist wing to do so.

It was an ugly loss.  But it now puts the blame on the GOP.  If all they do is block Obama's agenda and offer nothing in return, the Dems have a slim hope.

Joey Joey Panic

Nobody could have predicted Joe F'ckin Lieberman would bail on Obamacare again, etc.
A victory for Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown in Massachusetts would send a message that voters are "really skeptical about this healthcare bill," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday.

Lieberman ultimately voted for that legislation, after weeks of negotiations between his camp and the Democrats with whom he caucuses.

But the senator told Fox News' Neil Cavuto Tuesday afternoon that a defeat today of one of the bill's strong supporters -- Democratic candidate Martha Coakley -- would still "be a very loud message from Massachusetts.

"Well, it's pretty clear that, if Scott Brown doesn't win, it's certainly going to be close, and that in itself is newsworthy," Lieberman said. "And I think the message is -- from the voters of Massachusetts -- that people are anxious about the future and they're unhappy about what's happening in Washington."

"They're anxious about the economy, the continued high unemployment," he continued. "They don't like all the partisanship and deal-making here in Washington. And they're really skeptical about this health care bill."
Hey Democrats For Brown, keep telling yourselves the message Democrats like Lieberman will take away from a Brown win is "We need a more progressive health care bill."

[UPDATE 8:24 PM] Polls are closed in Mass, and hey look, Evan F'ckin Bayh is also making noises like he's out even before the race is called.
“ The only we are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates,” Bayh said. “Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country -- that’s not going to work too well.
You knucklehead firebaggers get it yet? You think we're going to get a more progressive bill, or Democratic Party, or country, if Brown wins?

The Speed Of A Viper

The Village has now declared that Brown will win because he looks like a real American, unlike Martha Coakley (who isn't one because she's a woman) or you know, unlike that President Obama guy.

And this is MSNBC.

Screw you.

Y'all Can't Honestly Be That Stupid In The White House

Steve Benen documents the atrocities.
This notion, which I suspect we're about to hear a whole lot of, strikes me as wildly misguided.
The narrower majority will force more White House engagement with Republicans, which could actually help restore a bit of the post-partisan image that was a fundamental ingredient of his appeal to voters.
"Now everything that gets done in the Senate will have the imprimatur of bipartisanship," another administration official said. "The benefits of that will accrue to the president and the Democratic Senate. It adds to the pressure on Republicans to participate in the process in a meaningful way, which so far they have refused to do."
This is great idea, isn't it? All the White House and Democratic congressional leaders have to do is continue to work on their policy agenda, while reaching out in good faith to earn support from congressional Republicans. Bills will start passing with bipartisan support; the public will be impressed; David Broder will start dancing in front of the Washington Post building; a season of goodwill and comity will bloom on Capitol Hill; and Lucy really will let Charlie Brown kick the ball.

Or maybe not.
Who is this administration official?   Are there really people who are this naive and this moronic in the Obama administration?  Have you people been paying attention to the universal Republican opposition to every single piece of  legislation Obama has introduced?

Why would the GOP ever decide to do anything other than block this legislation when you knuckleheads are falling for the trap and are actually buying the GOP line that your legislation is not bi-partisan enough?  If this is real, then Obama and the Dems were doomed from the beginning.

What Ezra Said

Ezra Klein on the big picture:
Democrats should pass health-care reform because it's the right thing to do. They should pass health-care reform because between 18,000 and 45,000 people die each year because they don't have health-care insurance, and this bill will save many of those lives. They should pass health-care reform because it will prevent countless medical bankruptcies and an enormous amount of needless chronic pain and infirmity. They should pass it because it will take important steps towards cost control. They should pass health-care reform, as my friend Chris Hayes says, because it's important for the American people to see their government doing more than starting wars and bailing out banks. They should pass health-care reform because it's the right thing to do, both for the millions of people whom it will directly affect and for the country as a whole.

The fact that this argument is being made by a blogger rather than a congressional leader, however, is exactly the problem. This legislation, like all legislation, is the product of an unending series of compromises and a long and tough political fight. The bill's natural allies have made painful concessions that have sapped their enthusiasm, and its natural opponents have had a long time to learn to hate it. But for all the concessions, the bill is not that different, in effect or in construction, than it was at the beginning. The problem is that the bill's supporters seem to have forgotten why they were doing this in the first place. And if they can't remember the bill's virtues, who will remind the country?
President Obama actually.  But then again, he's been making the same compromises, and there are those who see him as suspect and selling out.  The opponents of health care reform have made passing something actually worse than passing nothing to large swaths of the left and the right. 

Curious About George

Word from The Hill this morning that retiring Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich may be open to being vote number 60 on health care should Scott Brown win.
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) will talk deficits and debt when he meets with President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

The retiring Ohio senator will meet with the president in the Oval Office this morning, which sparked some concern from conservatives that the senator, who's previously broken with his party on some issues, might be subject to entreaties on healthcare.

"Senator Voinovich’s statement after his last vote against the partisan health care reform bill speaks for itself and his stance has not changed," Voinovich spokesman Garrette Silverman said.
It's a bloody long shot, but then again, these are interesting times.  We'll see how it goes. Voinovich clearly wants something right now, and Obama does as well.

Welcome To The Village, Alan

As Digby points out, Alan Wolfe of the WaPo reviews Game Change and discovers the real story is our broken Village media.
For all that, however, "Game Change" inadvertently confirms just how many of our top political journalists really are Villagers, even if, in the case of these two, they live in New York. (Washington -- and especially Georgetown -- is the small town the bloggers have in mind.) For one thing, Heilemann and Halperin write about the campaign as if they were not active participants in shaping it. At one particularly inane moment during the debates, for instance, Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself being grilled over whether illegal immigrants ought to have New York driver's licenses. Compared with terrorism or the coming economic catastrophe, this was not the most burning question. The media focus on this kind of issue is precisely what the liberal bloggers gripe about; surely, they insist, our politics does not have to be this trivial.

Heilemann and Halperin's response? "The press always wants a race. The press always loves conflict." This highlights a problem in the authors' perspective. If they consider themselves part of this press that wants to create a race through their reporting, at the expense of examining the issues, then they share responsibility for trivializing campaigns.

Heilemann and Halperin also purvey a lot of material in stenographic fashion, which only feeds into the complaints of their critics. Joe Biden tells them that he really did not want to be vice president, and they write that down, as if Biden actually was content just to ride Amtrak back and forth to Delaware as a senator. In the authors' account, Biden was not the only one reluctantly drawn into national service: Hillary Clinton worried about her daughter, both Obamas were concerned about Sasha and Malia, and Cindy McCain hated the limelight.
Wolfe ends with the following, which is about as close to an apology to bloggers like Digby and John Cole and Atrios as you're going to get:
I read the bloggers and, while I admire their energy and commitment, I often find their near-hysteria off-putting. When they write about the Villagers, I detect, if not jealousy, then smugness, as if they believe they could do a better job than the journalists who take home the big bucks. As someone who grew up reading great political reporting, even the kind that produced the classic campaign books of previous years, I wish that all those who scoff about insular and un-self-critical Villagers would be proven wrong. It is too bad that Heilemann and Halperin have proved them, by and large, right.
You're welcome.  And you're right.  There are bloggers who can do a better job and have been doing a better job on a daily basis and have been for years.  You might want to give them some credit once in a while. The triviality and banality of our political discourse is how the Village controls and shapes the narrative, and it's still going on today.  Witness today's special election in Massachusetts.  It was never about lack of the public option or policy or anything substantive.  It was about curling irons, a truck with 200,000 miles on it, and Curt Shilling.  Most importantly, it was about shaping the narrative that Obama and the Democrats had already lost the race even if the voters declared they won, and doing so weeks before the actual election.

There's a problem with that.  It didn't end because Campaign '08 did.  Your Villager buddies are still out there doing everything you're so frustrated at, Alan.  They're actually worse now, all but declaring Obama a lame duck with three years left in his term and that it doesn't matter.

Admission of the problem is the first step, as they say.  But it's not Heilimann and Halperin proving the bloggers are right about the Village, it's the entire Village.  Keep that in mind.

Looking Forwards Not Backwards

I don't think the President is going to be able to ignore this one from the Washington Post about unfinished Bush business in the FBI.
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions.

E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats.

A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests, bureau officials confirmed.

The records seen by The Post do not reveal the identities of the people whose phone call records were gathered, but FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations.

FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said in an interview Monday that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.

"We should have stopped those requests from being made that way," she said. The after-the-fact approvals were a "good-hearted but not well-thought-out" solution to put phone carriers at ease, she said. In true emergencies, Caproni said, agents always had the legal right to get phone records, and lawyers have now concluded there was no need for the after-the-fact approval process. "What this turned out to be was a self-inflicted wound," she said.

Caproni said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III did not know about the problems until late 2006 or early 2007, after the inspector general's probe began.
I call bullshit.  Mueller has been FBI director since 2001.  He knew everything.  If he knew everything, he deserves to be fired.  If he didn't know, he still deserves to be fired.  This was illegal across the board and still is.  He's gone, no questions asked.  There's no way he gets another ten-year term as FBI chief this year.  As BooMan says, he should be fired now.

Marcy Wheeler has more on the nuts and bolts of the problem.
Call me crazy, but since we know the FBI and NSA were illegally wiretapping organizations like al-Haramain in 2004, you have to wonder whether this was an attempt to clean up poison fruit from earlier, even more illegal surveillance.
But Obama refuses to do anything about this.  On this he is wrong, and I will freely call him on it.  Eric Holder as well.

State Of The Disunion

President Obama is expected to give his State of the Union speech on Jan 27th, signaling that his health care reform plan will not be done until next month at the earliest, but the budget will be submitted on Feb 1.
Obama's plan to deliver the speech next week almost guarantees that he will not be able to tout reform's passage in time for his prime time address to the nation. And it would mark yet another missed Democratic deadline on the road to health care reform.

Democratic efforts to pass reform could be complicated further if Republican Massachusetts Senate candidate Scott Brown wins tomorrow's special election to the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy last summer.

Nervous Democrats have already begun considering contingency plans should Brown win and deny them the 60-vote Democratic majority they have relied on to pass reform. Those plans include asking the House to approve the Senate bill without any changes so that it could be sent immediately to Obama's desk. Democrats could then tweak the legislation during the budget process, which only requires 51 Senate votes.

By law, the president must deliver the budget to Congress by Feb. 1. If reform is not finished before the budget is released, experts expect the administration will include top line estimates, such as how much reform reduces the deficit and cuts from Medicare and Medicaid spending, but not much other detail.
It's going to be a rough speech regardless.  No matter what happens in Massachusetts today, the Village has already declared the Obama presidency all but over and will be publicly questioning everything in the speech and the accompanying budget a few days later.  Obama will likely be attacked from the left as well.  Some of those attacks will be valid.  Some will not.

The entire country is frustrated as hell.  I hope the President sees that.


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