"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Saturday, March 28, 2009

DCCC Dancing Circles Around Tedisco

Underdog Democratic candidate Scott Murphy has surged ahead in the NY-20 special election to replace now-Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, threatening GOP hopes of reversing the Democrats' electoral momentum. Solidifying their hold on a once rock-ribbed Republican district will deny the GOP the "we're on the rebound" talking point so desperately needed to revive party morale and motivate donors. It could also be the death knell for Michael Steele as RNC Chair.

The DCCC has been successful in attaching the "Just Another Albany Politician" label to the the Republican candidate Jim Tedisco:

Regardless as to the outcome of the election, political chatterers inside the Beltway will chatter about the "national implications" of this race. A Democratic victory will be proclaimed a validation of President Obama's first two months in office and a repudiation of the Party of No on their home turf. A Republican win of any size will be trumpeted by the noise machine as the exact opposite - and will fuel the media's desire for a compelling narrative about a nation unsure of it's new leadership and direction.

After viewing the DCCC ads, I would caution Democrats in particular about reading too much into a Murphy victory. The winning message (if Murphy does indeed win on Tuesday) seems to be one of a "throw the bums out!" anti-incumbent populist anger.

If this is the case, there may be reason to worry for officeholders of both parties come 2010.

No Laughing Matter

When the President spends forty minutes discussing the critical issues facing the nation during an interview with 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft, how does the media spend the next news cycle focusing on his "laughter"?

Media Matters has the answer:

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Neocons' New Lair

Thought the neocons were defeated once and for all in the Republicans' 2008 electoral defeat?

After highjacking America's foreign policy, launching preemptive and unecessary wars helping to bankrupt the global economy, you would be forgiven for thinking the Bill Kristols and Robert Kagan's would slink off into the dustbin of history. But you would be wrong.

They have found a new home. And it's called the Foreign Policy Initiative.

The organisation’s mission statement argues that the "United States remains the world’s indispensable nation," and warns that "strategic overreach is not the problem and retrenchment is not the solution" to Washington's current financial and strategic woes. It calls for "continued engagement - diplomatic, economic, and military - in the world and rejection of policies that would lead us down the path to isolationism."

The mission statement opens by listing a familiar litany of threats to the U.S., including "rogue states," "failed states," "autocracies" and "terrorism", but gives pride of place to the "challenges" posed by "rising and resurgent powers," of which only China and Russia are named.

Their prominence may reflect the influence of Kagan, who has argued in recent years that the 21st century will be dominated by a struggle between the forces of democracy (led by the U.S.) and autocracy (led by China and Russia).

A foreign policy dominated by fear and motivated by conflict? Perhaps this is out of step in the first months of an Obama Administration, but these characters know the current climate is unlikely to last for long. They may have retreated, but they've hardly surrendered.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Losing the Argument on Taxes

Despite widespread agreement among economists that tax cuts are the least stimulative option in the government's arsenal to stimulate an economy in recession, Rasmussen tells us "More Voters Than Ever Say Tax Cuts Help the Economy." Sixty-three percent believe cuts are helpful to the economy while 51% believe tax increases would be detrimental to the economy.

I realize these numbers are from Rasmussen, so I'm skeptical of putting too much weight in their importance, but progressives still have a huge task in front of us to educate Americans about tax policy if the Obama Administration is going to have the leeway to advance it's ambitious reform agenda.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

With Friends Like These...

Who needs enemies?

Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

Displeased with the former vice-president's recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he's hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.

Here's to hoping Dubya's Rasputin doesn't find the directions back to his infamous "undisclosed location" any time soon. The power vacuum at the top of the Republican Party is one of the new president's greatest advantages.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is That the Best the Press Can Do?

I tuned in to watch President Obama's second prime time press conference curious to see how he plans to push his budget proposal through a reluctant Congress, respond to the ongoing AIG bonus scandal and the upcoming G20 Summit. Instead, I was numbed by the performance of the representatives of the Fourth Estate. Honestly, the man gets better questions at town hall meetings populated by average Americans.

If this is the best group of reporters we can assemble for a White House press conference, it's obvious why Americans are as ill-informed as we are. How do I get my press pass? I'm confident I can ask a more productive question than the one Anne Compton asked.

Did anyone else get the feeling the President was getting a little annoyed with the inane questions? Shouldn't he expect college-level inquiries? Instead, he's got junior high heathers pushing GOP talking points about embryonic stem cells and charitable tax deductions for the wealthy.

I admit putting the press in their place - "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak" -makes me feel good, but wow, he bruised some fragile egos in the room. Public smack downs of people who have cameras, mics and twenty four hours of television airtime to fill may not be a smart strategy.

One thing I wish the President would say is, "Yeah, the Republicans seem to have a short term memory problem. But, you know what? So does the press." I understand why he can't, but just wish he could. Their role in helping Republicans push the Bush presidency into our collective memory hole is yet another example of journalistic malpractice right up there with their cheerleading our way into the invasion of Iraq.

The New Teflon President?

Americans are outraged at greedy financiers. Congresscritters are indignant. They're passing ill-advised, hastily prepared legislation. Sensing chum in the water, the pundits are circling around the Obama presidency like ravenous sharks.

And yet, the public is NOT taking it's anger out on Obama.

Holding a City Hostage

Apparently, overturning the District's handgun control laws last summer wasn't enough to appease House Republicans' NRA masters. The Republicans are extracting a heavy price from DC residents, dividing citizens and politicians.

As they inch closer to achieving their decades-long campaign for a vote in the House, the Party of No (along with some Dems who are entangled by the NRA's bipartisan tentacles) is demanding the city further water down its gun laws in exchange for supporting its passage:

The gun amendment would repeal many of the District's gun control laws -- including the registration of firearms -- and sharply limit its ability to impose new ones.

Having spent most of my adult life as a District resident, I am willing to swallow the poison pill compromise in order to get representation in Congress. Whether or not the bill will pass Constitutional muster is another question, but it will serve to illustrate the inequality that is life in the nation's capital.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Muse, Spring Has Sprung!

Browsing through this week’s news clippings, a few thoughts on a Sunday morning:

Anyone else out there going to be planting their inaugural vegetable garden this year? Gotta love

Ditto Barney Frank, the first congress critter for whom I ever voted. Turns out he possesses
supernatural powers over hapless Republicans.

More from the circular firing squad once known as the Republican Party:

· When the Governator - the leader who makes Californians wish for the
good old days of Gray Davis and rolling brownouts (the definition of Epic Fail in the Golden State - is one of the few Republicans making sense on the stimulus, you know the GOP is DOA.
· Sometimes this Bush Legacy effort is sad. Other times, its tragic.
This is simply laughable.
· When will Michael Steele realize he should simply
shut his mouth? Here's to hoping he never does. Long live Chairman Mike!
· As Republicans decry Obama's "lurch to the left," has
Rahm emerged as the new Rove?

From the "Well, duh!" File:
· Former Bush official admits
abstinence only doesn't work.

In the “The FUBAR File” or, Just a Few More Things on Barack's Plate:
· Is the Afghan war about to become
a regional conflagration?
· While it may not go the way of the Italian lira and Greek drachma, the days of the Almighty Dollar
are coming to an end.

Just wondering, have we reached a tipping point in
our nation's war on drugs?

More on our planet in crisis:

· The power of multinational lobbyists is coopting the democratic will of the people resulting in governmental inaction when all science points to the urgency of the moment. NASA climatologist James Hansen argues for
civil disobedience as perhaps the only hope in preventing climaticide.
· Are we a generation away from
global water wars?
· Could Manhattan be
underwater by the end of the century?
Ending on a positive note, giving credit when credit is due:

Despite Congress' ham-handed efforts to rein in rogue financiers (and the stampeding to pass legislation to tax bonuses that should've never been paid out), sometimes they do things right.
Promoting national service is one of them.