Month: April 2013

"Who are we here to represent?"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The single most useless man in America

I know that some of you are looking at the caption under this picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and thinking “Wow! Our Mad (political) Scientist is being kind of mean here.”

Actually, the fact that I didn’t go any further than calling him useless was my being nice. If I said what I really felt about Sen. Reid, then you could call me mean. In fact, you could feasibly ask me if I kissed my late Mother with that mouth….

But let me explain why I think that Sen. Harry Reid is about as useful as a tub of jello…and why I think I may have insulted jello by saying that.

Sen. Harry Reid is the single most useless man in America because he had a public mandate to get something done about a very important issue concerning Americans and even with a majority in his house of Congress, he managed to get rolled by a special interest group.

Granted, the National Rifle Association is not your average interest group. It’s a big group with lots of supporters, some of whom supported what it was you were assigned to do. But when you allow folks like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to keep you from restoring something to the Senate that it had before you took over—the concept of majority rule—you deserve a heaping helping of my contempt.

I’ll explain.

While many of us were missing Soledad O’Brien as we watched CNN prove through its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that it’s better to be last and right than first and wrong, Congress was debating a bipartisan bill that if passed would expand universal background checks to cover gun show and internet purchases, but not purchases made between relatives.

(This had the potential of bringing a Conga line of adult adoptees into Family Courts across the nation to take advantage of this loophole, but I don’t think that anyone thought about that when they put this together.)

The compromise was brokered by two guys who had A ratings from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. This bit of Democratic (Manchin) and Republican (Toomey) partnership was designed to help the bill get one step closer to President Barack Obama’s desk and make families who had lost loved ones in mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut and to urban street violence in Chicago feel like their loved ones deaths had counted for something.

In fact, I thought that the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut would put background checks over the hump. Now let’s keep it real here: When 21 white kids get shot by an assault rifle-wielding nut job in their elementary school, that tends to lead to something getting done. I’m not being racist here, something that I need to say because some white person will swear that what I just said was racist, but ask yourself: were we having a conversation about gun control or background checks when the kids being slaughtered on the streets were Black and Latino and the streets they were being slaughtered on were city streets? No. But when it’s an issue to White, suburban families, politicians generally run over themselves to be the first to solve the problem.

Hell, to make sure that something came out of this, the NRA was even invited to the table by Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Manchin and Toomey to put in its two cents.

But while the NRA was at the table, it was also whispering in the ears of the Senators it supports, telling them to vote no on the bill.

And they listened. By a vote of 54-46, the bill strengthening background checks was defeated.

The NRA, of course, was happy. Thanks to their efforts, the Second Amendment stands to take over the rest of the Constitution. As the document’s Third Rail, you’re not supposed to even think about, well, keeping some people and a firearm from ever getting together because gun-rights folks will have a full-on, paranoid freak-out if you even look like you’re going to put the words commonsense, gun, and legislation into the same sentence.

They swear that asking for such things as making sure that you’re not allowing a murderer or a person prone to domestic violence through a background check is a slippery slope that will lead to nationwide gun registration, the government confiscating all of the guns from so-called “law abiding” gun owners, and the inevitable black helicopters of the New World Order coming to call..

(I often wonder if these folks realize that their tendency to have a full-on paranoid freak-out whenever someone puts common sense, guns, and legislation in the same sentence is probably the biggest reason why some of us want to see more gun control, not less.)
But President Obama, Vice President Biden and a group of parents including some from Sandy Hook and victims of gun violence like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left her dream job in public service after being shot in the head during a “Meet Your Representative” gathering, were less than amused with the Senate because of this. A member of one of the Sandy Hook families shouted “Shame on You!” in the Senate Chambers.

“Joe, I’m gonna need you to go and get Harry for me after this…”

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden afterward, Obama, well, let the Senate have it. Calling it “a shameful day for Washington”, a town that’s had so many of them it’s hard to keep count, Obama asked out loud what many citizens were thinking after the vote.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?”

Well, let’s see. They’re not representing the families of the murdered. In fact, some members of Congress said that bringing them into the conversation was the equivalent of “emotional blackmail.”

They weren’t representing those folks who say that closing the gun show and Internet gun sales loopholes makes sense.

And they weren’t representing those who believe that America is awash in guns and large ammunition clips designed to do nothing but kill.

The next thing that the Senate did, pass an amendment punishing states that publish information about gun owners, tells you who they represent.

The Senate, and by extension Congress, represents the NRA.

Thus, they will heretofore be known as “The NRA-Controlled Congress.”

Which goes back to my friend Sen. Reid.

Before Sen. Reid became Senate Majority Leader, you could pass most things in the Senate with a simple majority vote. There were some things that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster and end debate, but most things were majority rules.

But, as they are wont to do, the Republicans began abusing the filibuster rule. Now just about anything of any consequence requires a 60-vote cushion to even be discussed. Since Sen. Reid can’t always count on his majority to hold, certain things end up either not passing or twisting in the wind.

Sen. Reid promised that in a second Obama Administration term, he’d reform the filibuster rules so that majority would rule when it could, and 60 votes would go back to being the gold standard, not the “we’re gonna use it to obstruct” standard. 

But instead of true reform, he caved in to McConnell and didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.

Thus, you can have a majority of the Senate want to see something pass, and instead have it fail.

And with that, Sen. Harry Reid becomes more useless than jello.

My hope is that this defeat makes President Obama do something that he was kind enough not to do during his first term… decide that it might be time for a vote of “no confidence” for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. 

Because if he doesn’t what happened yesterday is going to be the rule, and not the exception…

And, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Real. Clear. Politics.

Does this look like the place for politics?

If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I love politics and all things politics.

But while politics is my favorite contact sport, I also know that there are places, things and events that politics just should not touch. I don’t like the fact that we have elected school boards. I think that things like health care should have no political contact.

And so should things like natural disasters, bombings and other things that cause mass carnage. Will someone try and make political hay of these things eventually? Yes. But should that hay be made within days of their occurrence? No. In fact, Hell No!

I bring this up in light of some of the things that have shown up on my Facebook timeline, my Twitter feed, and other social media spots regarding Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. While I understand that for some of us every day is Politics Day, when it comes to this incident and making political hay right now, I think that Susan from Sesame Street says it best…

From the moment that my I-Phone started going off with alerts about the bombing to the moment that the television set in my dentist’s office switched from the Katie Couric Show, a show that illustrates just how little the host has grown as an interviewer since her Today Show days, to coverage of the bombing, I hoped that we would have a few days, maybe a week, before the personal switched to the political.

Folks didn’t even wait for President Barack Obama to address the nation before they got started.

My fellow travelers at Salon, Mediaite and Gawker were kind enough to compile the best of the worst responses to the tragedy. Here are some samples:

For starters, let’s go with Fox News contributor Erik Rush, who has probably figured out that nothing goes away on the Internet, even when you delete it: 

“Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” 

When asked if he was already blaming Muslims for this despite the investigation being in it infancy, Rush responded  “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

Not to be outdone, Alex Jones, maintainer of the blog InfoWars, tried to say that the bombing was an inside job designed to lead to the “TSA groping you at sporting events soon…”, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney asserted that it was actually a Boston PD bomb squad drill gone horribly awry, and we’re not even going to get into Bill O’Reilly’s Nazi comparison or the fact that people are trying to make a buck off of this in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise.

After seeing this kind of stuff all day, I took to my Facebook page and put up the following:

While most everyone has shown restraint and not politicized the Boston Marathon attacks, there have been some folks that can’t help themselves showing their behinds on my timeline.
For them, I have this:
Stop it. Stop it now. Now isn’t the time.

I got a response from one of my friends on the right who said that now was exactly the time because, and I quote, “the country’s lack of leadership has been exposed. Harshly.”

Now, I could have said the same thing on Sept. 11, 2001 when the man who was president at the time was sitting in a Florida classroom reading the book My Pet Goat and looking right stupid, but I didn’t. That wasn’t the time. Thousands were dead. Hundreds were injured. People were mourning. People were in pain. If it’s between politics and people, my usually acerbic wit takes a backseat to my “Do you need a hug?” impulse.

So this was my response:

People are mourning. Folks have literally run their last fucking marathon because their legs have been blown off.
And you think that it’s time for us to start thinking about 2014?! Really?!
If someone had tried to politicize Sept. 11 when it happened, my status would be exactly the same. I may not have agreed with the folks running my government, but when it’s between people and politics, people are gonna win every time with me.
So I repeat…
This. Is. Not. The. Time.

What I’m starting to notice is that when there’s a tragedy like this, the toxicity of our politics really shines through. We’ve become so ready to search for scalps, come up with hackneyed theories and look for an “other” to blame at times like these, that little things like facts tend to fall by the wayside…just ask the New York Post, which had 12 people dead (it was actually only three) and an Arab man arrested. (He wasn’t.)

Unfortunately, compassion takes a backseat too. 

So, while I understand that some of you can’t help yourselves, ask yourself what you’d say to this person if you saw….

Or better yet, his Mom….