Archive for: December, 2008

Senate Democrats Have Few Legal Options with Blago Appointment

Dec 30 2008 Published by under Featured News

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is set to appoint former state attorney general Roland Burris to the Senate seat of president elect Barack Obama. Although Senate Democrats have vowed not to seat any Blago appointee, there appears to be little that they can legally do to not seat Burris.

The problem for Senate Democrats is that Burris is not the issue. Burris meets all the qualifications laid out in Article 1 Sec. 3 Clause 3 of the Constitution, “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”
The Democrats best hope to block the appointment would be at the state level, where Sec. of State Jesse White has to certify any appointment, and he put out a statement today saying that he won’t certify Burris’s appointment.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times White said, “I have previously stated publicly I cannot cosign a document that certified any appointment by Rod Blagojevich for the vacant United States Senate seat in Illinois. Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the governor, I cannot accept the document.”

The fact is that there is nothing legally wrong with the appointment at the federal level. Blagojevich is still the governor of the state, which means that under the law, he has the power to appoint Obama’s replacement. Burris seems to have done nothing that would disqualify him from being seated.

The Senate Democratic leadership looks to be trying to block the appointment any way they can in the hope that the governor will be forced out of office, and his replacement would make the appointment. This is shaping up to be a prolonged and distracting fight that Senate Democrats really don’t need right now.

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RNC Chair Duncan Appalled by Barack the Magic Negro CD

Dec 27 2008 Published by under Featured News

Usually the holidays are a dead zone for political news, but we can thank Chip Saltsman and the racist faction of the GOP for showing us the true spirit of the season for his gifting of a political satire CD with the track Barack the Magic Negro.

RNC Chair Mike Duncan released a statement today that tried to distance himself and the party from the controversy, “The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.”

Saltsman, who served as the former chairman of Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, and is now running against Duncan and others to be the next RNC chairman, gave the gift of conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin’s CD We Hate The USA to RNC members.

Saltsman defended the CD to The Hill, “Paul Shanklin is a long-time friend, and I think that RNC members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are light-hearted political parodies.”

Here is the song:

Duncan gets it. The Republican Party is not going to rebuild itself by becoming the party of white people. The racist attitude of some Republicans on immigration cost the GOP the Hispanic vote in 2008, but there is a wing of the party that would happily embrace being the party of whites.

I disagree with Saltsman’s characterization of the song. A white man impersonating a black man talking about the hood is not light hearted political parody. It is racism. Duncan himself has been very critical of Obama, but has not touched the issue of race. I understand that Republicans are desperate to find a way to criticize Obama, but using race is not the way to do it.

This is the latest shot in a war between the two sides of the GOP. We saw the same issue play out during the 2008 presidential campaign between John McCain and many of his fellow Republicans. The GOP is divided right now between those who think the party must change, and those who believe that everything is fine.

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Bush Claims No Child Left Behind Was Civil Rights Legislation

Dec 22 2008 Published by under Featured News

George W. Bush’s resume padding reached new heights when during an interview with The Washington Times he referred to No Child Left Behind as civil rights legislation. Isn’t civil rights legislation supposed to promote equality instead of penalizing those who need help the most?

“No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a piece of civil rights legislation. And it’s going to be important for future Republican leaders to remind people that accountability in the public schools is leading toward closing an achievement gap, and that it was a Republican president who worked with both Democrats and Republicans to get it passed,” Bush said.

The fact that Bush would call NCLB civil rights legislation is a sick joke. The flaws in the program were numerous and obvious from the beginning. The biggest flaw has always been that schools will teach students the test. A standardized test is not an adequate measure of educational quality. All standardized test measure is how well students take tests.

The real motivation behind NCLB was never really to improve educational quality. It was to present the illusion of improving public education. Conservatives have always wanted to use the test results to promote school choice, and voucher programs. That is what this program is really about. The reality is that the federal government has little impact on the public education system. The decision making occurs at the local level.

Even if one believed that standardized tests were an adequate measure of school performance, what sense does it make to withhold funds from schools that tested poorly? By giving a struggling school fewer resources aren’t we making the situation worse, and creating more educational inequality? I don’t think this is the intent of civil rights legislation. I am all for educational accountability, but there are better ways to hold schools accountable without getting the federal government involved.

I know President Bush has very few positive accomplishments to hang his hat on, but my guess is that NCLB will be gutted or at best seriously reworked. This legacy enhancing publicity campaign is getting ridiculous. Bush has been our first non-reality based president, so it is no surprise that he would think that No Child Left Behind was civil rights legislation.

The Washington Times Interview

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Once Again, the Bush Administration Accuses the New York Times of Liberal Bias

Dec 21 2008 Published by under Featured News

While President Bush is frantically making the media rounds trying to spin a positive legacy out of whole cloth, he and his administration are continuing their war with the New York Times. This time the administration is accusing the newspaper of liberal bias because of a front page story about the causes of the mortgage crisis.

The newspaper’s story lays most of the blame for the financial crisis at the feet of the Bush administration, who they claim opposed regulation, and was asleep at the wheel while the crisis was building. In a statement Press Secretary Dana Perino played the liberal bias card, “The Times’ ‘reporting’ in this story amounted to finding selected quotes to support a story the reporters fully intended to write from the onset, while disregarding anything that didn’t fit their point of view.”

Perino defended the administration’s anti-regulatory stance, “The Times story frequently repeats a charge by the Administration’s critics: a ‘laissez faire’ attitude toward regulation. We make no apology for understanding the concept of regulatory balance. That is, regulation should be stringent enough to protect the greater public good and safety but not overly strong so that it unnecessarily inhibits innovation, creativity and productivity gains that are the sole source of increasing Americans’ standards of living.”

The administration also pulled out one of their favorite excuses. They blamed Congress and the Democrats, “The story also gives kid glove treatment to Congress. While the Administration was pushing for more transparent lending rules and strengthening oversight and supervision of Fannie and Freddie, Congress for years blocked attempts at stronger regulation and blocked reform of the Federal Housing Administration.”

The statement stuck with the party line story that the crisis begins and ends with the Democrats and Fannie and Freddie, “Democratic leaders brazenly encouraged Fannie and Freddie to loosen lending standards and instead encouraged the housing GSEs to play a larger and larger role in the housing market — even while explicitly acknowledging the rising risks. And while the story notes the political contributions of some banks to Republicans, it neglects that political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac overwhelmingly supported Democratic officials — in particular the chairmen of the banking committees.”

The press secretary wrapped up with the failures in the Times story, “There are many more reporting failures in this story — failure to consider the impact of monetary policy; ignoring the regional nature of housing markets; and ignoring the Bush Administration’s historic proposal to overhaul the nation’s regulatory system, for example. But then a review of these issues would wave complicated the reporters’ myopic point of view that only Bush Administration policies could possibly be responsible for the housing and finance crises.”

The New York Times story is far from perfect. It pretty much ignores the fact that many of the problems that came home to roost in mortgage lending began in the Clinton administration, but it was the Bush White House, and their ownership society campaign that ramped up the Clinton policies.

More does need to be written about the role of Congress, but the White House has it all wrong.
Bush did try to strengthen regulations, probably too late, but he was blocked not by Democrats, but by Senate Republicans who chose to defend their anti-regulation ideology at all costs. The White House is trying to pass blame for this problem to the Democrats, but they ignore the fact that Republicans controlled Congress, and they created the environment that allowed this crisis to occur.

The truth is that there is enough blame for all sides on this issue. Both Democrats and Republicans embraced the housing bubble, and Perino’s statement is nothing more than an attempt at legacy definition. This seems like an odd time for an administration that is on their way out the door to be complaining about the media, but the Bush administration is sensitive about their legacy, and they likely view the Times story as a personal shot at them.

New York Times Story

Perino Statement

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Cheney Blasts Biden

Dec 21 2008 Published by under Featured News

On Fox News Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney denied that he had dangerously expanded the powers of the executive branch while also criticizing Vice President Elect Joe Biden for wanting to diminish the office of the vice president.

Host Chris Wallace asked Cheney about Biden’s ideas that the vice president had too much power, and his desire to shrink the role of the vice presidency. Cheney said, “Well, I just fundamentally disagree with him. He also said that the — all the powers and responsibilities of the executive branch are laid out in Article 1 of the Constitution. Well, they’re not. Article 1 of the Constitution is the one on the legislative branch.”

“Joe’s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can’t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature and which provides for the executive. So I think — I write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don’t take it seriously. And if he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that’s obviously his call,” Cheney said.

The Vice President continued, “I think that President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president. And apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I’ve had during my time.”

What a classless answer by Cheney. He could have taken the high road and disagreed with Biden on the limits of vice presidential power, but he could not resist taking the cheap shot, and mocking the incoming vice president.

The biggest dig at Biden wasn’t making fun of misstatement on the Constitution during the VP debate. The real shot was the notion that Biden wants to diminish the office of the vice presidency. Here is what Biden said he thought the vice president’s role should be during the debate, “And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.”

Here is what Biden said to raise Cheney’s ire, “The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.”

What Biden wants to do is return the vice presidency to its traditional role. Biden doesn’t believe in the unlimited authority of the executive branch. What Cheney called a consequential role, others have defined as unconstitutional. I think that most Americans are looking forward to the end of the reign of secrecy that has defined the Bush/Cheney years. No more secret policies, no more secret spying on American citizens, and no more secret prisons and torture. In one month it all ends, and a new era begins.

Transcript of Cheney on FNS

Transcript of the VP Debate

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Biden: The Economy Is Worse Than We Thought It Was

Dec 21 2008 Published by under Featured News

Vice President Elect Joe Biden was on ABC’s This Week program today, where he talked about the state of the economy, the incoming administration’s goals for the economic stimulus package, and their long term investment in a new power grid for wind and solar.

Biden said that their economy recovery package is designed to do two things, “One stem the hemorrhaging of the loss of jobs and begin to create new jobs, at the same time we provide continued liquidity for the financial markets. The piece we have been pushing for, Barack and I during the campaign, as you recall is that we need an economic recovery package back in September, October, November.”
Host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that during the campaign Obama called for a $150-$200 billion package, but now the word is that the package might cost $700 billion.

He asked Biden what they have learned. Biden answered, “What we have learned that the economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in. It is this is a spiraling effect, and what you are seeing now, every economist I have spoken to, from well known economists on the right, conservative economists, to economists on the left and everyone in between says the scope of this package has to be bold it has to be big, but here is how we look at it, anything we put in this economic recovery plan has to be designed to create jobs, stimulate the economy quickly, get jobs moving quickly, and it has to be something that has a long range impact on our economic health.”

Biden used the example of investing in a new smart power grid that could transport wind and solar energy. The vice president elect said that a new grid could create tens of thousands of good paying jobs while at the same time impact the nation’s long term energy future.

He also discussed the difference between creating jobs that add to budget deficit, and job creation that will help lower the budget deficit. He cited the popular cause of converting medical records to an electronic format. Biden said that it will cost money now, but the economy will get back 3-4 times the initial costs.

It is nice to see that the Obama administration has a long term economic plan for how they want to spend a potential new stimulus package. Unlike the $700 billion that has been earmarked for the financial sector, I think this package will be popular with the American people. It is critical that the package provides long term benefits to our economy, not just short term job creation. I think that the U.S. economy is still teetering, and without aggressive action, it could lapse into long term recession.

Watch the full interview

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Video: Blagojevich Vows He Will Be Vindicated

Dec 19 2008 Published by under Featured News

In the biggest show of political bravado I’ve seen in a long time, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich read a statement today that not only showed him to be defiant, but also promising to beat the federal corruption charges brought against him.

Here is the video:

My favorite part of Blago’s statement has to be when he accuses the charges against him as being a political lynch mob, “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I did nothing wrong. I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.” It looks like the people of Illinois are going to have to drag him out of his seat.

The promise to fight is a common tactic. Essentially is a move from the defensive position to the offensive. Every recent politician caught up in a scandal has promised to fight. The interesting thing is the governor’s mention of a day in court. If anyone still has any doubt that he plans to fight this out, those doubts should have been erased today. I think he is going to try to leverage his eventual resignation as part of a plea deal.

I don’t see how this causes any problems for Obama, but every time he asked about it, that is time he is not devoting towards his economic agenda. I don’t believe that this is a big deal for Obama, but it is a problem for the open Senate seat. At this rate it could be months before Obama’s old seat is filled. That would seem to be the bigger problem that the Democrats face if this matter is dragged out. The end result of this case is likely to be that Blagojevich ends up out of office and probably in prison. Hopefully this leads to real reform in Illinois, so that they finally clean up the state political system.

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Bush’s Bible Shocker – Where do Religious Conservatives Go from Here?

Dec 17 2008 Published by under Featured News

“Brothers! Oh, brothers! We have all gathered here, to preserve our hallowed culture and heritage! We aim to pull evil up by the root, before it chokes out the flower of our culture and heritage! … All those smart-ass folks say we come descended from monkeys! That’s not my culture and heritage. Is it yours?”
– Homer Stokes, from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Religious conservatives are the one piece of the remaining patchwork of the conservative coalition that has remained generally supportive of President Bush. This past week President Bush expressed doubts about the literal nature of the creation account (to be more accurate we should say creation accounts) in Genesis. Bush went on to note that not every event reported in the bible literally happened. At some level I am pleased by these declarations by Bush as my day job is that of a theologian. I am not impressed with literal interpretations of scripture as they seem to ignore context, history, culture and any other mitigating factor that can impact the communication of meaning or intent. I am not sure how well thought out Bush’s reflections are, but they seem to be more nuanced than what he presented on the campaign trail in 2000 and 2004.

Bush’s speechwriters would litter his stump speeches with verses from popular Evangelical hymns. This was a Trojan horse approach to the religion question. Bush did not have to get red faced and start thumping a Bible to let conservative Christian voters know he was their candidate. Voters of other religious persuasions were not off put because not having heard the hymns they simply thought of these lines as flowery rhetoric. With no more elections to worry about, Bush has let down his guard and let some of his true beliefs be known. This leaves Christian conservatives betrayed by the candidate who did the most to mobilize and unify their votes. After all W. was in charge of mobilizing Christian conservatives for his father’s 1988 campaign before cashing in those long cultivated alliances in 2000 and 2004.

The after effect of Bush’s subterfuge of appearing to be a literalist is as of now unknown. It could lead a lot of religious conservatives to distance themselves from politics. The rationale might be that political solutions are temporary and always incomplete due to the need to compromise and that the solutions such believers seek are of a more complete and eternal nature. It could lead to a splintering of the Evangelical vote. This has happened before as Catholics used to be a fairly reliable portion of the New Deal coalition. Abortion politics and the rising incomes of Catholics further and further removed from immigrant beginnings has rendered the notion of a Catholic bloc in U.S. politics to be obsolete. Maybe some Evangelicals will find that the marriage between their beliefs and laissez-faire economics to be a bad match.

Some combination of splintering of Evangelical votes and a loss of interest in politics seems to me to be a plausible long term outcome for a voting group that had just learned to fully flex its muscles in the 1990’s. In the near term, I think the memory of power and the desire for reclaiming that influence will be too strong to see serious splintering or rising political apathy. Barack Obama may even be a figure that galvanizes their cause by being objectionable to their brand of Christianity. After all Obama is known to attend Church, Reverend Wright’s brand of Christianity seems to reject the easy alliance of Christianity and patriotism that many Evangelicals take for granted.

Obama saw to it that people of faith were not frozen out of the proceedings at the Democratic convention, but he did so by promoting religious pluralism. Anything but exclusivist Christianity is anathema to most religious conservatives. Therefore, Obama may promote a counter narrative to their narrative of faith and opponents with rival conceptions of the role of faith in the public square are likely to raise more ire than a mere secularist opponents who propose differences be addressed by a thin layer of tolerance.

Assuming Obama’s competing notions regarding faith and civic life galvanizes at least one more serious stand by religious conservatives, a champion or two will need to be raised up to carry the message to the people. Someone will need to speak for the Homer Stokes’ wing of the GOP. Former Governor Mike Huckabee would seem to be a good choice as he has been governor, has a nice personal story, is a good communicator, was a Baptists minister, has creationist credentials, and is working on reuniting economic and religious conservatives. Aww sHuckabee has one problem. He lacks star power.

As much as the Republican Party has done to attack Hollywood and the idea of celebrity, it is obvious that they tend to go for larger than life types in politics. The party of Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Fred Thompson can hardly be said to be celebrity averse. This holds unless the Terminator movies, Sonny and Cher, True Lies, Bedtime for Bonzo., In the Line of Fire, Knute Rockne All American, and Law and Order are exempt from the influence of Hollywood. GOP candidates often need a larger than life celebrity persona to be successful. This leaves Governor Sarah Palin as a second possible standard bearer for the Homer Stokes’ wing of the party. She has religious conservative credentials. Can anyone honestly not imagine her echoing Stokes’ role in O Brother, Where Art Thou? by asking “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?” during a stump speech?

Palin faces her own set of obstacles in trying to lay claim to this wing of the party even if Senator Saxby Chambliss praised her impact above all in his Georgia senate run-off victory. Joe the Plumber’s recent ringing endorsement will not erase the Evangelical-Pentecostal divide. Many Evangelicals are uncomfortable with the tongue speaking style of worship associated with Pentecostal Christians. Palin has roots in the Pentecostal movement. Lipstick and expensive clothes are supposed to run against the grain of the Christian counter-culture. Some conservative Christians believe women should not be in leadership roles. These three factors could undermine any attempt for Sarah Palin to take the reigns of voters jilted by W.’s public proclamation against the biological literalism of the first 3 chapters of Genesis.

Undoubtedly at least a few more politicians will throw their hat in the ring. The problem is that unless a broad coalition promoting conservative ideals is formed, the GOP and religious conservatives are in trouble. Demographically the nation is changing and if people from various subcultures feel alienated by the GOP they will not vote in their favor. If wealthy people always vote Republican then California and New England would be in play in national elections. The fact is state’s with high per capita incomes are predictably democratic precisely because the cultures on each coast are too pluralistic to make Christian conservatism a viable option even if it might entail a tax break or two. If the GOP wants to make more than cosmetic inroads in the House and Senate and recapture the White House any time soon, it has to find a way to keep Evangelicals on board while jettisoning as much exclusivist and sectarian rhetoric that alienates suburban and urban citizens. This is no easy task.

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Poll: 83% Say Obama Transition is going About/Better than Expected

Dec 17 2008 Published by under Featured News

A new Marist College poll released today of registered voters found that a whopping 83% said that president elect Barack Obama is doing either about or better than expected. The poll also found that voters think Obama will move the country in the right direction, and they approve of his choice of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State.

Sixty three percent of voters said that the Obama’s transition is on the right track. Eight six percent of Democrats approve of the direction of the transition, while only 36% of Republicans approve. So far, Independents are sticking with Obama as 61% approve of the transition. Only 10% of registered voters disapprove of the direction of the transition. Only 4% of those surveyed said that Obama is faring worse than they expected. Seventy six percent of Republicans and 81% of Independents said that Obama is doing about or better than expected.

The partisan divide comes into play when the question was asked about the direction which Obama is taking the direction in. Overall, 55% of voters think Obama is taking the nation in a direction that will change the country for the better, 10% think it is a change for the worse, 24% said no change at all, and 11% were not sure. Eighty three percent of Democrats and 54% of Independents think that Obama is changing the country for the better, but only 19% of Republicans feel the same way. Only 22% of Republicans think that Obama will change the country for the worse, most Republicans, 43%, think that Obama won’t change the country at all.

The most controversial choice that Obama has made for his cabinet is Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. However, 65% of respondents said that they approved of the choice of Clinton. As is to be expected, Democrats approved of Clinton by more than a 2-1 margin over Republicans (85%-40%). Sixty eight percent of Independents approved of Clinton at State. More than anything this poll demonstrates how eager people are for change, and the big expectations that Obama and his administration are facing.

The one element of this poll that did surprise was that the partisan gap on most of the questions wasn’t larger. I think that Obama has made inroads with moderate Republicans. His cabinet selections have demonstrated that he does not plan to govern from the left. Although it might disappoint many liberals, it looks like Obama will be governing from the middle. This is where I think that he has to govern from. The nation isn’t liberal, so Obama needs to lead from a position that reflects the national political mood.

Full poll results

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