Archive for January, 2010

Obama can’t change Washington. Can anyone?

WASHINGTON – Hope and change, allow me to introduce you to money and lobbyists. Compromise and bi-partisanship, come meet ideological purity. Now, let’s see if we can get some work done.

With his rousing State of the Union speech, President Obama almost had me persuaded, once again, that he can change a political culture that is self-indulgent, hyper-partisan and steeped in monied special interests. He was, by turns, funny and contrite, firm and mature, using his bully pulpit to urge Congress to abandon a “perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headline about the other side — a belief that if you lose, I win.”

Though the president has had a tough first year — a year of Republican obstructionism, bi-partisan pettiness and legislative sausage-making — his powerful commitment to keep on trying to overcome gridlock restored my idealism. For a moment or two.

Then, I remembered that there were lobbyists and professional pollsters and …

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Economy gets its groove back?

In the fourth quarter of 2009, the economy grew at its fastest clip in six years. Not exactly “Happy Days are Here Again,” but better than it was. From WaPo:

The U.S. economy roared ahead in the final months of 2009, growing at its fastest rate in six years, as corporate America stopped slashing its inventories and again started to invest for the future.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, rose at a 5.7 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That is the highest pace of growth since 2003, and it constitutes strong proof that the recession reached its end earlier in 2009. It was also a surprisingly positive result, well above the 4.6 percent rate of GDP growth forecasters had expected.

But there remained reason to doubt how strong the economic recovery will be in 2010. The biggest component of the GDP growth was a steep drop in the pace at which businesses were cutting back on their inventories. Firms …

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Johnny (McCain), we hardly knew ye

Talk about change we can’t believe in! John McCain is changing his political views faster than Beyonce changes her wardrobe.

As recently as 2006, he was for “pay-go” — pay-as-you-go, the legislative rule that requires Congress to pay for any new program it proposes. But, with Democrats in control of the White House and Congress, and with Rush Limbaugh and tea-partiers in charge of the GOP, McCain has changed his mind.

Four Republican senators who opposed the measure on Thursday voted for nearly an identical measure in 2006.

That list includes Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both moderates from Maine, George Voinovich, the retiring Senator from Ohio, and John McCain, the party’s standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential elections. . .
Democrats, naturally, have cried foul at Republicans who demand devotion to fiscal discipline while opposing provisions that would achieve just that. Among the evidence they point to is another GOP policy reversal that occurred this past …

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NYC mayor: No terror trial here

Another setback for the Obama administration: Unexpectedly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised objections to the Justice Department’s plan to try accused 9/11 terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed at a federal courthouse just blocks from where the World Trade Center stood. Bloomberg’s objections have nothing to do with concerns about trying KSM in a civilian court.

He says that the massive security would block traffic and harm businesses in an already-buy part of downtown Manhattan: the Wall Street corridor.

The dispute over a trial location, touched off when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York complained of costs and disruption, threatened to reopen the divisive question of how those accused of plotting the murder of more than 3,000 Americans should be brought to justice.

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial …

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GOP considers compromise?

According to The Hill, Republican strategists are thinking about whether to take President Obama up on his offer of bi-partisanship. Some say, yes, let’s try. Others say, no, don’t.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has told colleagues and reporters that the GOP cannot simply be the “party of no,” but must work with Democrats to offer solutions to the nation’s problems.

Graham said that most of his colleagues agree, but he acknowledged “there are a few people who just want to say, ‘We’re not going to do anything this year.’ ”

Republican pollster Whit Ayres said Republican lawmakers could boost the GOP’s low ratings in generic ballot polls, which are below 50 percent, by working on legislative solutions. But he warned against supporting proposals that would expand government’s role significantly.

“They need to provide alternative solutions that are consistent with their principles, but that doesn’t mean crawling into bed with the liberals,” he said.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), among …

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Obama takes on GOP tactics

Bob McDonnell’s boilerplate response couldn’t match Obama’s passion and strong delivery in his State of the Union speech. Over at Politics Daily, Walter Shapiro called it “Republican elevator music – conservative clichés delivered in a soothing voice.” McDonnell had nothing to say about Obama’s rebuke of GOP tactics of obstruction, name-calling and fear-mongering.

Since his speech was written before Obama delivered his, that’s to be expected. Here’s the question: How will Republicans in Congress respond to Obama’s criticism?  Obama was the grown-up in the room, calling on Republicans and Democrats alike to get a grip and solve some problems? Are they ready now to start acting like grown-ups and contribute answers to the nation’s problems? Or will they continue to vote ‘no” on everything Obama proposes?

So far, that tactic isn’t endearing them to the public. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama much more popular than Congress, and Democrats slightly more popular …

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Did stardom blind ACORN foe to right and wrong?

Overnight success can be heady and difficult to deal with – as any number of entertainers and athletes have discovered. James O’Keefe may — and I stress “may” — have discovered the same thing. O’Keefe was an instant sensation in conservative circles after he conducted a sting on ACORN offices; he made a video showing ACORN staffers giving him advice on how to conduct a prostitution ring.

Now, O’Keefe and three other young men have been arrested and charged with attempting to bug the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat. As a Southern Democrat — a member of an endangered species – Landrieu has been targeted by Republicans, though she was re-elected in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote.  Perhaps O’Keefe wanted to bring down an even bigger target by embarrassing Landrieu or leaking her political strategy. (Suffice it to say that all four are presumed innocent at this point.)

James O’Keefe was among four men who created a ruse to enter the lawmaker’s …

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Courage to change the classroom

WASHINGTON — In 2003, former Gov. Roy Barnes won a Profile in Courage award for his campaign to replace a divisive Georgia state flag, which was born in defiance to de-segregation, with a new banner. But fighting for a new flag wasn’t the most courageous thing Barnes did during his single term as governor. His bravest act was standing up to school teachers.

For his crusade to end “tenure” for public school teachers, Barnes was ridden out of town on a rail. If teachers were traditionally a Democratic voting bloc, they deserted Barnes en masse during his re-election campaign and helped to sweep a little-known Sonny Perdue into office.

But Barnes isn’t giving up his plans to reform education in Georgia. “I’m still a big believer in performance bonuses and teacher accountability,” he said in a telephone interview.

Barnes has a bit of an edge in pushing that idea in his current campaign for governor: it’s gained currency. Historically, teachers’ unions have railed against merit pay …

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The political suicide of Harold Ford Jr.

I used to be a fan of Harold Ford Jr. When he was a Congressman from Tennessee, I respected his work ethic, his smarts, his ambition. And I admired his audacity in seeking the Senate from Tennessee — a high hurdle for any Democrat, but especially one who is black.

But he’s making a fool of himself as he tries out for a New York Senate race; he looks like an elitist, opportunistic flip-flopper — a caricature of his former self. As a conservative Democrat, he held positions with which I disagreed. But I gave him credit for at least believing in those positions.

I’m not only deeply disappointed. I’m embarrassed for him. He’s already been widely derided for an unfortunate interview he gave to The New York Times earlier this month in which he hit all the wrong notes: He allowed as to how he’s seen all of the city’s five boroughs by helicopter, with wealthy acquaintances; he admitted that he doesn’t take the subway much because he’s chauffeured to NBC’s headquarters for his talking …

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Dems are no profiles in courage

They’re more like rats jumping off a sinking ship. Scott Brown’s upset win in Massachusetts has them leaping into retirement.

The latest Democrat to announce retirement, rather than face the possibility of losing his re-election bid, is Congressman Marion Berry of Arkansas. Even more surprising than the announcement was the parting shot he took at Obama, portraying the prez as a politician really high on himself.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was …

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