Friday, April 9, 2010

Last Call

Alan Grayson decides to go Kanye the Central Florida Republicans meeting.
House Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) upset a group of central Florida Republicans on Thursday night when he crashed their meeting and confronted them about an allegation that they had spied on a Democratic campaign group.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Grayson arrived at a Perkins restaurant where some 30 Orange County Republicans were meeting. Amid loud catcalls, he read from a flier that accused the Republicans of infiltrating Organizing for America, President Barack Obama's campaign organization, and promised more details to come on the allegation.

"I want you to know, this is how low you've all sunk to -- to the point you're spying on people," Grayson told the angry crowd. Cell phone video footage of the incident shows a number of meeting attendees demanding that Grayson apologize for crashing the meeting.

"Show some class, Grayson, apologize," a voice can be heard saying on the video.
To which Grayson said "Now I'mma let ya finish Republicans, but Barack Obama is the greatest President of all time.  OF ALL TIME!"

Then he got some N'awlins Benedict and an apple pie to go from the Perkins

No really, it totally happened.  Totally.

I do wonder what Grayson's got up his sleeve, however.  Infiltrating OFA?  That might be giving the Republicans a little too much credit.  Grayson better have the goods, but if he's bullshitting I'm going to be real disappointed in the guy.

Friday Night News Dump

Your Friday night news dump for this week:

Dawn Johnsen is withdrawing her nomination to the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel after 15 months of a Congress with at least 59 Democratic Senators in it still unable to confirm her.  Pretty clear the White House really did hang her out to dry on this one.  This happening the same day as the Justice Stevens retirement?  Not an accident.

No more smoking on Navy submarines below decks after the end of the year.  (On the other hand, the Navy has a really "aggressive" stop smoking program.)

The Dow topped 11,000 before falling back under the bell.

Kyrgyzstan's ousted president took the country's money and ran.

Charlie Crist?  Not so good in the fundraising department compared to that Marco Rubio guy.

Your SCOTUS Fight Scorecard

For all your news and analysis on Justice Stevens and his replacement, it's good to keep in mind the four sources I go to for Supreme Court news:
It's worth noting some of the more out of the box suggestions today for replacing Stevens from these sources other than front-runner Elena Kagan, and they include arguments for everyone from Hillary Clinton, Harold Koh, and Deval Patrick to Greenwald's argument that just about anyone on the list other than Kagan will work.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are already dropping hints that they will filibuster, starting with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee:
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., raised that specter today, saying that, "in truly truly extraordinary cases, I reserve the prerogative to vote no on confirmation or even to vote to deny an up-or-down vote."
However, Greg Sargent says the GOP is bluffing.
Sure, there will be lots of pressure on the GOP leadership from the activist base to obstruct Obama’s pick, no matter who it is. But my bet is that only those who are in serious Tea Party pander mode (see DeMint, Jim) will mount a serious filibuster push. There will be an “effort” to round up support for a filibuster, and then it will become clear that there isn’t enough support for it.

That isn’t to say that a sizable bloc of the GOP caucus won’t vote against Obama’s pick in the final up or down vote. They very well may do just that, as they did against Sonia Sotomayor. But it’s easier for Senators to vote No on the final vote — when passage is a foregone conclusion — than it is for them to support a genuine effort to obstruct a SCOTUS nominee on procedural grounds. I just don’t think the latter is going to happen.
We'll see about that.  I personally think the Tea Party wing of the GOP will absolutely demand that Obama's appointment to replace Stevens be stopped, and that the 41 GOP Senators better sure as hell find a way to filibuster it or that anyone who doesn't will pay dearly in the polls.

As a matter of fact, I'm betting the Tea Party will be putting GOP Senators in a rather untenable position here this summer.  The litmus test will be a justice who will be the 5th vote to repeal health care reform.  Anyone who does not say with 100% certainty that they will do so will be filibustered.  And in that public relations battle, the Tea party wing will be doing quite some damage to the already wrecked GOP brand.

This one's going to be far more interesting than the Sotomayor fight.  The stakes are an order of magnitude higher.

Shutdown Sequence, Part 2

I knew that Newt Gingrich would be making campaign commercials this year, but I didn't honestly think he'd be doing them for the Democrats.

Here’s my promise: … When we win control of the House and Senate this fall, Stage One of the end of Obamaism will be a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any of the radical efforts. […]
Once upon a time, I used to be Speaker of the House and I actually understand the legislative process. And the truth is, under our Constitution, the Congress doesn’t have to pass the money. If EPA gets not budget, it can’t enforce cap-and-trade. […]
So Stage One of Obamaism being gone is to simply win this fall and not fund it for two years. Stage Two is…to ensure Obama joins Jimmy Carter in the tradition of one-party presidents (sic). And, that in that context, that we be prepared to commit that a Republican President and a Republican Congress in February and March of 2013 will repeal every radical bill passed by this machine.
You do that, Newt.  Refuse to fund a dime for the EPA, for Heath and Human Services, for anything else you don't like, and shut the government down for two years until you get a President that will sign that repeal legislation.

You do that Newt, putting millions out of work possibly in the middle of a recession.  You take federal funds away from cash-strapped states across the board.  You become the ultimate Party of No, just like you tried to get rid of Clinton.  That worked out well, didn't it?

At this point I'd like to see the Village ask every incumbent Republican and primary candidate out there "If the Republicans take power in 2011, will you shut down the federal government like Newt Gingrich wants?"  Go ahead.  Put them on the spot.

Folks, there's no "replace" in "repeal and replace".  The Republicans are bereft of ideas, bankrupt of solutions, and out of people willing to solve problems.  The core issues that affect Americans on a daily basis don't matter to these guys.  All they want to do, all they want to run on, is shut down the government and repeal everything the Obama administration has done.  Virtually all of it.  What's the solution to the problems the Dems were trying to address with legislation?  It doesn't matter...repeal!  Shutdown!  That will show them!

I'm thinking Newt hasn't thought this plan out very well, but then's Newt Gingrich.  Does he know he's putting the Republican leadership in an untenable situation? I don't think he cares, frankly.  It's scorched earth politics.

And that's what's in store for America should the Republicans get back in power.  Count on it.  The only platform plank they have is Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Well Howdy, Folks

Welcome Memeorandum, AOL News, and Crooks & Liars readers!  Bit of an honor to be linked by the big dogs in the last 24.  There's more where that came from, of course.

Kick the tires, have a look around, and as always, let me know what's on your mind.

The Race To Replace Justice Stevens Begins

It's official:  Justice John Paul Stevens will be retiring from the US Supreme Court this summer, giving President Obama his second opportunity to choose a nominee to the high court.
Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed "well in advance of the commencement of the court's next term."

The timing of Stevens' announcement leaves ample time for the White House to settle on a successor and for Senate Democrats, who control a 59-vote majority, to conduct confirmation hearings and a vote before the court's next term begins in October. Republicans have not ruled out an attempt to delay confirmation.

His announcement had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.
This will be the real fight this summer.  As I've hinted at before, Elena Kagan, the current Solicitor General of the United States, is the current front-runner if there is one.  We'll see who Obama puts up, and we'll see just how far the Republicans are willing to go on being the Party of No.  Getting Sonia Sotomayor confirmed was one of the highlights of the Obama presidency so far.

The Numbers Crunch Back

A lot of sturm und drang is evident about the generic ballot numbers for November's election, that is how many people would vote for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican in November when given a choice. Normally the Dems have a slight lead on this because Republicans traditionally come in at the last moment, and that the generic ballot question has traditionally been asked by Gallup, which asks likely voters rather than registered ones.

The most recent Generic Ballot has the two parties tied at 46%. That's not good news for the Democrats, as Nate Silver notes.

So, for example, if the House popular vote were exactly tied, we'd expect the Democrats to lose "only" 30 seats on average, which would be enough for them to retain majority control. It would take about a 2.5 point loss in the popular vote for them to be as likely as not to lose control of the chamber. So Democrats probably do have a bit of a cushion: this is the good news for them.

Their bad news is that the House popular vote (a tabulation of the actual votes all around the country) and the generic ballot (an abstraction in the form of a poll) are not the same thing -- and the difference usually tends to work to Democrats' detriment. Although analysts debate the precise magnitude of the difference, on average the generic ballot has overestimated the Democrats' performance in the popular vote by 3.4 points since 1992. If the pattern holds, that means that a 2.3-point deficit in generic ballot polls would translate to a 5.7 point deficit in the popular vote -- which works out to a loss of 51 seats, according to our regression model.
That's...not good news. Even a few percentage points in the generic ballot swings the model from a 20-30 seat loss to a 50+ seat loss. And it gets even worse over on the worst-case scenario end: Rasmussen polls.

And what if, for example, the Rasmussen case comes into being? Rasmussen has the Democrats losing the generic ballot by 9 points (and has had similar numbers for awhile). A 9-point loss in the House popular vote would translate into a projected 65-seat loss for Democrats. Or, if we adjust the Rasmussen poll to account for the fact that the Democrats' performance in the popular vote tends to lag the generic ballot, it works out to a 12.4-point loss in the popular vote, which implies a loss of 79 seats!

The point is not necessarily that these are the most likely scenarios -- we certainly ought not to formulate a judgment based on Rasmussen polls alone, as the jury is still out on whether the substantial house effect they've displayed this cycle is a feature or a bug. But these sorts of scenarios are frankly on the table. If Democrats were to lose 50, 60, 70 or even more House seats, it would not totally shock me. Nor would it shock me if they merely lost 15, or 20. But their downside case could be very far down.
80 seats would basically give the GOP the same margin in the House the Democrats have now. It would basically be a catastrophe. I really don't understand how the Dems could have fallen that far, that fast. It would be unprecedented, if not record-setting.

I don't see how America would be ready to give back the country to the Republicans and overwhelmingly so, given them an even larger margin than they had in 1994, in just two years after the disaster that was the Bush administration. But that's the danger of the "enthusiasm gap" and the inherent danger to Democrats right now. Nate is right when he says this scenario is plausible and on the table.

So how do Democrats prevent this, rather than having this turn into another Martha Coakley scenario writ large? The clear path, as I've been saying for some time now, is to close the enthusiasm gap and give Democratic voters a reason to turn out in numbers to vote for Democratic candidates. Running towards the center is not going to close the gap. Ask Bart Stupak how that works out for you.

The conventional wisdom is that tacking to the right will attract more moderates in the middle, and that Democrats in the base will continue to turn out at the same rate no matter how far to the right a Democrat is just to keep a Republican out of the seat. It's what the Democrats tried in Congress after 1994, and it failed miserably. What happens is that Democrats no longer see a difference between the two parties on most issues, the issues themselves are pushed further to the right as a result, and progressives on the left simply stay home.

But this also highlights the dangers of that latter demotivation. If your response to your belief that the Democrats are not progressive enough on issues and your intent is to withhold your vote this November, keep in mind that is exactly what the Republicans and especially the Tea Party wing of the GOP is counting on you to do.

Greek Fire, Part 9

With reports that a Greek bailout by the IMF/EU is imminent and the bid on Greek bond debt at, well, Greek tragedy levels, it looks like this little play is coming to a close.
“The recent market action means that an external intervention may be unavoidable and could happen very soon as the situation is untenable,” UBS economists including Stephane Deo wrote in a note to investors late yesterday. “We think an intervention over the weekend is a distinct possibility.”

The premium investors demand to buy Greek 10-year bonds instead of German bunds jumped to 442 basis points yesterday, the highest since the introduction of the euro. Greece will need to seek emergency funding to make bond payments and cover debt refinancing of more than 20 billion euros ($27 billion) in the next two months, the UBS report said.

Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said today he’s still not planning to seek emergency financing from European Union allies. The spread on Greek 10-year debt narrowed to 409 basis points. 
409 basis points, which is basically the international equivalent of having a credit score of "Have you talked to Louie the Mouse lately?  I hear he can help people in...your...situation."   Greece isn't going to be able to sell enough bonds to buy a case of ouzo, much less save their economy.  That mystical, unquenchable weapon of antiquity has resurfaced as the burning of the country's economy to the ground, with a deal as early as this weekend in the works.

Tyler Durden's right, this game is over.  Greece is done.  It's just a matter of what the details will be in order to facilitate the bailout.  We'll be learning that soon.  Possibly as early as this weekend.

Stay tuned.

Zandar Versus The Stupak

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak is hanging it up.
CNN and other news outlets are reporting that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who lead a group of pro-life Democrats in demanding certain abortion restrictions surrounding the health care reform bill, will announce today that he is retiring from the House.

Stupak secured a deal from the White House for President Obama to sign an executive order reaffirming that the health care reform law would not include federal funding for abortion. Stupak had threatened to veto the bill, along with what he said were a dozen of his colleagues.

He has drawn the ire of pro-choice Democrats and anti-health care conservatives for his role in the debate. One Tea Party group lead by Republican operatives, the Tea Party Express, had planned a rally against him this weekend. 
If there's anyone who personified the old adage "When you walk down the middle of the road you're eventually going to get run over"  it's Stupak.  His Stupak amendment maneuver only antagonized the Democratic base, and his eventual relenting on the final HCR vote only earned him the enmity of the entire Republican base as well.  He tried to be the face of the Blue Dogs, and instead became the poster boy for political hypocrisy.

Can't say I'm sorry to see him go.  Not sure who will run on the Dem side for his seat, but if Stupak's got designs on running for Governor of Michigan, I don't think he's going to do very well there either.

Bye bye, Bart.

Threatening To Blow Sky High

The big story this morning is this Sari Horwitz/Ben Pershing piece in the WaPo detailing the tripling of threats against members of Congress in 2010.

The lawmakers reported 42 threats in the first three months of this year, compared with 15 in last three months of 2009, said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer, who had information about threats involving both chambers.

"The incidents ranged from very vulgar to serious threats, including death threats," Gainer said. "The ability to carry them out is another question and part of an investigation to determine what, if any, appropriate steps to take."

Nearly all of the recent threats appear to come from opponents of the health-care overhaul, said Gainer, who also served four years as chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. And, he said, there have been "significantly more" threats against House members than against senators.

The threats, which have led to at least three arrests, have not abated since President Obama signed the measure into law March 23. The Capitol Police have contacted the FBI about such threats even more often since the law was signed, said Lindsay Godwin, an FBI spokeswoman. 
No, not all the threats are based on health care reform, and not 100% of the threats were aimed at Democrats.  But a great many of the threats involve both.  This is starting to get out of hand, and the winger response is nothing more than "Well, if Democrats hadn't passed this bill, they wouldn't have gotten these people so angry."  In other words, not only are the threats justified in the eyes of some Republicans like Newt Gingrich, but the Democrats are to blame for them.

There's something wrong with that, frankly.  Nothing justifies it.  Saying the Democrats are "responsible" for these threats only encourages more threats.  And Gingrich supposedly wants to be President again?

Good luck with that.  He should be praying daily that nobody actually gets hurt over this.  But frankly, I fear that day will be coming soon given the sheer number of threats against the government these days and the lascivious manner in which some on the right are egging these lunatics on.

Sometimes You Have To Tell The Moose Lady To Get Off Your Lawn

President Obama hit back at Sarah Palin yesterday over her bizarre attack over the President's new nuclear policy.
President Barack Obama on Thursday made clear he was not going to take advice from Republican Sarah Palin when it comes to decisions about the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, has not been shy about criticizing Obama's policies and this week weighed in on his revamped nuclear strategy, saying it was like a child in a playground who says 'punch me in the face, I'm not going to retaliate.'

"I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.

Pressed further on Republican criticism that his strategy restricts the use of nuclear weapons too much, Obama added: "What I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin."
Which is exactly what he should have said.  Sarah Palin keeps running around with her "I'm an everyday American hockey mom" persona.  The downside of that sales pitch is that it stresses just how unqualified Sarah Palin is outside of being an everyday American hockey mom.

The notion that Sarah Palin has anything worthwhile to add to this particular debate, much less calling out the President, Defense Secretary Gates, and Adm. Mullen of the Joint Chiefs on this, is ludicrous.  What I want to know is why ABC News is bothering to ask the President at all what he thinks of the opinion of a failed half-term governor whose experience as a chief executive resulted directly in her quitting.  She gets to have her opinion like anybody else in America...but in what universe is that opinion important enough to care about?

Good for Obama dismissing Palin out of hand.  It's a trend I'd like to see continued.


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