The Politics of Politics

Just Like Starting Over

Because I’m a masochist, I sat through the first hour or so of the Health Care Summit held at the White House Today.

I also sat through it because (a)my mom is in the hospital and I can only imagine how much she’d need to pay if she had to pay for the care that she’s currently getting. Of course, there’s no accountability in the current system so the jokers who left her in the middle of the floor of the rehabilitation center she was in will not be punished unless we sue ’em, but at least she’s got insurance and (b)I don’t have insurance, which can be kinda tough when you are also a diabetic.

I saw exactly what I expected to see, which was a whole lot of posturing, the talking points that will be used in the 2010 Midterm Elections and a repeat of the 2008 Presidential Election.

(By the way, it ended the exact same way as last time.)

I’ve said more than once that it’s time that President Obama gave up the whole bipartisanship thing because it only works when both sides want to play. Since no one else seems to be able to get this through his thick head, I think that it’s time that Michelle had a talk with him.

But one thing I’ll hand the President is that he realized that the only way he was going to come within 100 miles of getting something done is if he kept the participants in this travishamockery focused, even if it was only for a few minutes.

As the Republicans came at him with entreaties to scrap the bill, complete with visual aides, talking points and the like, the President kept saying pretty much the same thing: “Got a better idea? Bring it! What do you like about the bill?”

He, unsurprisingly, got nowhere.

Now I know for my Republican friends, this is great. They think that we have the best health care system in the world, despite the fact that 30 million people are left out of it. They think that if you don’t have money for health care that you don’t deserve it. And whatever you do, don’t be a freelance writer or someone with a pre-existing condition that might need some financial assistance. We can’t afford to help you, we have wars and unneeded defense contracts to pay for.

Besides, if the Democrats don’t pass heath care reform, the Republicans can use it against them in 2010 and possibly get the one thing that they really want: a return to power and another chance to finish the job of turning the country into a place where the poor and the rich move even further apart.

However for the rest of us, this kinda sucks. Health care needs reforming. There are folks that are going without it. Something needs to be done now. Our economy takes a hit everytime someone has to spend money that they could have spent on something else on something related to health care.

So I personally am hoping that the Democrats realize that they have the majority in Congress and decide that they have had enough of the Republicans obstruction tactics. There’s an option that they can exercise, and it looks like they may decide to do it to get health care reform done.

It’s called reconciliation…and it means that a simple majority gets a bill passed. What’s cool about this is that it also takes some of the power away from those conservative Democrats that have decided tht the insurance companies shouldn’t have to compete with the government or anyone else to provide health insurance at reasonable rates.

What’s not so cool, at least to the Republicans, is that it takes their favorite weapon, the filibuster, out of their hands.

We’ll find out over the next few weeks how things are going to go down in terms of this bill, but it should be interesting.

If nothing else, we won’t have to put up with another travishamockery like this one again any time soon.


A Retreat that was no Retreat

As part of his “I ain’t scared of you….” tour, President Barack Obama spent Friday at the one place where he was most likely to hear “You Lie!” shouted at him at top volume.

He went to the House Republican Retreat in Baltimore, Maryland.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people trying to reach out to those with whom they disagree, even if the disagreement is as vehement as the scuffle between President Obama and the GOP has been during his first year in office.

But when my Significant Other pointed this out to me as I was trying to do some of the less academic stuff that I do on Fridays, I had only one question:

What’s the point?

It’s one thing to try and reach out to those with whom you disagree. It’s another thing entirely to put yourself in a room filled with people who would cheerfully beat you about the head and neck with a bat if they could.

But as I often say, that’s why President Obama is better than me. He hasn’t punched anybody yet.

President Obama spent a good deal of time with the House GOP members, and even too their questions. My guess is that this Congressional equivalent of the British House of Commons’ question time was supposed to be the House member’s best shot at making the Prez look like he didn’t know his head from, well, not head.

(If you want to see some television that will make you double over with laughter, I recommend Commons Question Time. It comes on every Sunday on CSPAN and will make you wish that your elected officials kept it that real with each other.)

Didn’t work.

The President instead used the question and answer session to call for bipartisanship, call the House Members out on some of their half-truths and overtly political rhetoric, and to generally make the GOP folks look like they were a little directionally confused on the whole head, not head thing.

I’m glad to see that while President Obama hasn’t completely abandoned bipartisanship, he’s decided to mix some of that Eliot Ness with a little more Jimmy Malone.

And I’m also glad to see that the GOP is cooperating with him in his efforts to make televised presidential speeches more entertaining.

The WuTang Era

We have a lot of debates in this country about who or what is considered a person under the law.

The Supreme Court usually ends up settling these debates. Because of Roe v. Wade, we know that a fetus is considered a person once the mother is three months pregnant. The Court has also let us know that corporations are people too, something I don’t understand because corporations are inanimate objects. The day that Bank of America or Independence Blue Cross walks up to me and asks me if I want to go out for a cup of coffee is the day I’ll consider them people.

Today, the folks at the Supreme Court handed the corporations even more personhood than they’ve ever had before. By a 5-4 vote, the Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission to allow corporations to throw as much money as they want to at the political process in the name of free speech.

In other words, we are about to enter what I’d like to call the WuTang Era of Politics where “Cash rules everything around me, CREAM get the money, dolla, dolla bill y’all!”

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, unions and corporations can break out their fatter-than-the-average person’s-wallets anytime during the federal election cycle and try to influence things in their favor instead of, well, folks like me who are unemployed graduate students who don’t have health insurance.

As anyone who knows me knows, I believe that the First Amendment came down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai. I believe that free speech is sacrosanct. I may think that what you’re saying is silly, outrageous, or just plain wrong, but I’ll kick the ass of anyone who tries to keep you from saying it. The First Amendment not only protects speech we like, it protects speech we don’t.

But while a lot of folks are trying to use my respect for the First Amendment to try and get me to think that this decision is okay, it’s not working.

First of all, corporations have been able to shout to high heaven through their money for years now. If you want proof of that, you need only look at the whole health care debate. If corporations weren’t already speaking loudly and proudly at the expense of those of us who are actual people, we’d be celebrating the 16th anniversary of national health care.

Why give entities that have more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes the right to control our country?

Secondly, has anyone thought about what this is going to do in terms of the candidates themselves? Since money talks, are our elected officials going to listen to the people who actually take a few moments to vote or to the corporations who have given them big bucks to run?

I think that I know the answer to that, and it ain’t good.

So what happens next?

Being an optimist and all, my hope is that Americans will look at this and say, “Hell to the no!”

But Americans have broken my heart before.

The Chicago Way

Back when Kevin Costner had a viable career as an Oscar-winning actor, (something that the younger readers of this blog probably won’t remember, but that’s okay) he starred in a movie called “The Untouchables”.

In this film, which was set in Chicago, Costner portrayed Eliot Ness, the Treasury department agent who brought down notorious mobster Al Capone, portrayed by Robert DeNiro.

Among the other members of the cast was Sean Connery, who portrayed one of Ness’s agents, Jimmy Malone. As a Chicago native, Malone tried to explain to Ness, a dude so straight he made Boy Scouts look like bank robbers, what he’d have to do to bring Capone down. Click on this clip because Connery says it better than I can write it:

I thought about this scene last night as the news came down that Republican State Sen. Scott Brown had defeated the Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election in Massachusetts to fill Senate term of the late Ted Kennedy.

If the conduct of Republicans and their anti-health care reform cheerleaders was any indication, it’s time for President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress (something that everyone in the Fourth Estate who isn’t Rachel Maddow seems to have forgotten) to realize something that most of us, especially those of us who don’t have access to health care, have already realized.

(A) the Republicans aren’t interested in compromise, they’re interested in power. They got used to the eight years they spent doing such things as starting wars, giving their rich buddies (and the private contracting agencies they own) big tax cuts and contracts and torturing the foreign prisoners they arrested on evidence they can’t bring into American courts. It’s the kind of power that’s hard to give up.

So, (b)They’re not trying to work with you. Even if every consitutent they have says “I don’t have health care. Can you please vote for reform?” the Republicans in Congress aren’t going to support it because, wait for it, not passing health care reform moves you one step closer to being a lame duck.

So while I understand that it is your nature to offer the Olive branch, it’s time, Mr. President, for you to consider doing things The Chicago Way.

The Republicans think that by getting a faux populist, truck-driving Playgirl Model elected in Massachusetts, they’ve put health care reform in the hospital. It’s time that you put them and their ideas in the morgue.

Now how do you do this, President Obama?

Well, for one thing it’s time that you stopped playing nice.

If you hear Republicans in Congress lying through their damned teeth regarding health care reform, call them on it. Don’t back down. I know that you’re not real fond of getting your Angry Black Man on, but it’s time you did. Nice isn’t going to cut it now.

Also, use your resources. Get on your Facebook page and talk directly to your friends. Use the bully pulpit that is the State of the Union Address. Take the “I know you need health care reform so get on your Congressman’s nerves” tour and talk directly to the American people. You’re better at it than your opponents and they know it. They’re counting on you to be too nice to do it. Prove them wrong.

A year ago today I was among the thousands of folks who froze their tails off to see you make history, President Obama.

If you don’t want to BE history in three years, you need to be less Eliot Ness, and more Jimmy Malone.

It’s time for the Chicago Way.

I wonder if Sarah Palin has the same idea

I thought that Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter was going to have a hard time getting reelected because of some of the decisions he’s made, such as trying to shut down a bunch of city libraries and closing some city firehouses.

But Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, might be the only elected official with a more uphill climb to his reelection if he makes a decision he’s threatened to make regarding the recently passed $789 billion federal stimulus package.

According to WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, Jindal may not take the $4 billion that Louisiana has been alloted through the stimulus package. His reasons: there may be too many strings attached. I wonder if he’ll announce his intentions as part of the response he’s supposed to give to President Barack Obama’s address tp Congress next Tuesday.

(I also wonder if Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the current frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination is saying “Geez, what a dumb ass! I’m taking the money. I at least want to have a shot in 2012.)

Now I’m guessing that Jindal will say he’s not playing partisan politics here. I’m guessing he’ll say that he’s just doing what he thinks is right for his state because he doesn’t want to begin a program with the stimulus that might not be sustainable for the state otherwise. I’m guessing that he’s not thinking of refusing this money so that he can say that the 50,000 jobs that the White House says will be created in Louisiana thanks to the stimulus don’t materialize, thus smoothing his path, ever so slightly, to the presidency in 2012.

But no matter what his reasoning is, Jindal is being totally irresponsible in my humble opinion.

Why? Because he’s the governor of Louisiana.

You remember what happened there a few years back don’t you? Hurricane Katrina? Lots of rain? Broken levees? New Orleans turned into a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gulf of Mexico? Lots and lots of drowned and starving folks due to a combination of governmental stupidity and plain old indifference? Anderson Cooper of CNN showing us that he’s more than just a great mound of hair and bright blue eyes?

Well, even if Jindal doesn’t remember Katrina, I’m pretty sure folks in New Orleans do, mostly because in some places, most notably the Lower Ninth Ward, it never completely went away. That’s why Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans, has already said that any money Jindal refuses, he’ll take.

But even if Katrina had never happened, Louisiana doesn’t have enough of a margin for error for Jindal to refuse $4 million. It’s one of the poorest states in the union and folks are pretty hard up there.

I get politics. Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. Most people get into politics because they want to help out their fellow man and find a way to do more for their community.

If someone can tell me where refusing money for your state because you want to make a blatantly partisan point represents the art of the possible, I’d sure like to know.

Somehow, I see a recall election in this man’s future.

Or, at least I should.

Wow! That was fast!

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I knew that Michael Steele was going to catch a little hell from the folks that he now presides over as chair of the Republican National Committee. I even knew that much of that hell would come from within.

I just didn’t think that it would take a grand total of two days for the White Supremacist element to rear it’s ugly head. And I do mean ugly here. Whomever gave David Duke that plastic surgery should be taken to jail for fraud!

Michael, Michael, Michael

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First of all, I love the Rachel Maddow Show. She’s as snarky as Keith Olbermann without also being a blowhard (which, although I’m also an Olbermann fan, he is a blowhard.)

Secondly, check out this video. It talks about the election of Michael Steele, the former Lieutenant Gov. of Maryland, as the new chair of the Republican National Committee.

(I’m guessing that the RNC is a lot like America these days: so fucked up that they figured it wouldn’t hurt to let a black guy run it for awhile.)

As part of this video, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political science professor from Princeton, talks about why Steele got the nod from the GOP. Apparently, this isn’t an attempt to bring blacks into the party….it’s an attempt to take steal some of President Barack Obama’s coalition building activity. She likened it to going to Krypton to get the Kryptonite needed to defeat Superman.

Apparently, according to Harris-Lacewell, the selection of Steele was more about getting the “lily white” tag taken off of the party and giving it a sheen of inclusiveness.

Yeah, okay. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

But I know that Steele is going to have his work cut out for him…..and most of the issues are going to come from those whom he’s been chosen to lead.

There are no people of color in the Senate or the House from the Republican Party. The the only people of color this party seems to attract are people who either don’t know what they’re doing (former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez) or are easily ignorable (former Secy. of State Colin Powell, although I don’t see how you ignore a Four Star General).

Steele almost lost the race to a guy who sent the CD “Barack the Magic Negro” to friends as a Christmas present. And, a new survey of Republicans says they would rather have Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as their leader.

Can someone say “window dressing”? Sure you can.

Once upon a time, I knew a lady whose job it was to bring more people of color into the Republican Party. This was during the time that Strom Thurmond roamed the earth and Trent Lott said that his segregationist theories were the way the country should have gone.

I asked her if she ever felt like telling the members of her party that did this kind of thing “Will you shut the fuck up!? You’re making my job impossible!”

She admitted she did. I predict that Steele will utter that particular sentence at some member of the RNC before his tenure ends.

Now the “N” word race really begins: Who will hear it first? Steele or Obama?

The General and Rush Limbaugh

Unless you were in a cave somewhere Sunday, you know that Gen. Colin Powell, President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of State and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed Barack Obama for president.

He did it on “Meet the Press” during an interview with Tom Brokaw. His reasons included John McCain’s temperment in the early days of the financial crisis (that whole “I’m gonna suspend my campaign to go fix the economy and avoid the first Presidential debate” thing), his willingness to negative in the extreme (he singled out the obsession with William Ayers and the “Obama is a secret Muslim thing”) and his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate as the reasons he threw his support behind Obama.

“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain as I have this morning,” Powell said. “I truly believe that at this point in America’s history we need a president who will not just continue … basically the policies we have followed in recent years. We need a president with transformational qualities. For that reason, I will be voting for Barack Obama.”

(I’m noticing that most of the conservatives that have thrown their support to Obama have done so partially because of the choice of Palin. Obama has even raised $150 million from people who want her nowhere near the Red Button. Now maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to think that her presence on the ticket isn’t having the effect the McCain campaign was hoping it would have. Your VP choice is supposed to help YOU win, not the other guy.)

McCain, with whom Powell has been friends for more than 20 years, took it well. He said that the two just “had a disagreement.”

But the right-wing partisans who gin up vitriol for a reason saw Powell’s endorsement as one of those “How dare he decide to side with someone other than us?! That ungrateful darky!” moments.

Pat Buchanan, for instance, had me cracking up with his pronouncement that Powell had “betrayed” McCain by “making this announcement as he was taking on water. He didn’t have to do that to a fellow Republican.

But my personal favorite came from Rush Limbaugh. (Have I ever mentioned that I can’t drive while listening to this guy and that my twin brother listens to him every day? Now do you see why I don’t live at home?)

Now if he wanted to endorse Obama because they’re both black, Powell could have done that during the Democratic National Convention. Powell says that he was waiting to see how things shook out in terms of the VP choice and a few other things before making a pick. But that didn’t stop Limbaugh from hitting us with the bit of know-nothingness for which he’s famous.

I expected this from the right, I mean, their favorite darky has gone and gotten uppity and endorsed one of his own.

But what I saw from the left was kind of disappointing, too. Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News took this moment to slam Powell for the War in Iraq and his appearance before the UN to make the case for war.

Was I happy with Powell then? No. I believe that when he sat down at the microphones at the UN, he took all of his credibility and threw it into the East River.

But as an Army brat, I get where Powell was coming from. Powell is a military man and as a military man, you don’t question orders, you follow them. He was following orders and it cost him. I don’t get down on him for that. He is probably down enough on himself because of it. No one likes to see dead soldiers less than one who commands them.

Powell says that he won’t rub the endorsement in by campaigning for Obama, but his endorsement was probably enough to make military folks and independents consider following his lead.

Should be interesting…

Before Denver, The Shaolin…

Okay, I want to see a show of hands from everyone who’s surprised that Hillary Clinton managed to get her name entered into the presidential nomination roll call at the Democratic National Convention.

Now I’d like to see a show of hands from those who believe that in the end, she’ll do the party unity thing, step aside, give Barack Obama her delegates, and go gently into that good night.

If you raised your hand either time, the weed known as “Pineapple Express” really exists, you have some, and you really need to share because it’s obviously such good shit that it causes hallucinations.

As I said in an earlier post, the main reason that I wanted a credential for the Democratic National Convention was because I wanted to see who threw the first chair when it came time to do the delegate roll call.

Hopefully, the Pepsi Center’s chairs are all nailed down, otherwise someone’s gonna get hurt.

Apparently a deal was struck between the Obama and Clinton campaigns to let her and her delegates have their moment in the sun. Obama says it’ll help bring party unity to let everyone vent and have their say.

I dig what you’re saying, dude. If you get all of the bad feelings out in the open, you have a better shot of solving the problems and getting everyone to join hands and sing kumbaya by the time you all leave on the Friday morning after the convention, thus giving you a shot at a unified effort in the fall.

But what you’re thinking only works if you’re dealing with folks who are at all logical or solution based in their thinking, which in this case you’re not.

You’re dealing with a group of people who steadfastly believe that (a) You stole the nomination from their candidate who they believe deserves it; (b) If they call you a “sexist” loudly enough, they can pick off some of your superdelegates, thus giving their candidate the nod and (c) Are willing to as someone said to me recently, throw the country off the cliff to ensure that in four years their candidate can come riding in on a white horse to save the day.

In other words, Senator, you’re not dealing with people who are going to bother to listen to reason. You’re dealing with people who are bringing their machetes to Denver to do what the Rev. Jesse Jackson only wished he could.

So since you’ve put yourself in this position, my hope is that you have some WuTang Clan on your IPOD Senator, and that this particular song is among your selections. I think that the Wu in this case is giving you the best advice that you’ll receive all convention:

But you know something, I’m still trying to figure out why DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Obama, and everyone else is bending over so far backward to placate Hillary Clinton and her supporters. If you bend any further back, there’s going to be some back surgery needed to fix all of the vertebra being broken here.

I can understand that you don’t want anyone to feel left out, and I remember attending more than a few gatherings after last May’s mayoral primary here in Philly where folks who really didn’t like each other tried to get together and do what they thought was best for the city.

But the line between making folks feel welcome and placating them to the point of spoiling them rotten is a thin one and it’s so close to being crossed now that it’s ridiculous. This latest concession, at least in my opinion, should be the last. The time has come for someone to tell these folks that their tantrums will no longer be tolerated and that if they persist in acting like children, they’ll be put in time out like bad children are these days.

Or, if I can put it more bluntly, it’s time to come out of the damned playpen and start acting like adults. Rolling around on the floor and stomping your feet stopped being cute when you were 5.

Besides, I still say that if the roles were reversed and it were Obama’s supporters causing all of this ruckus, they wouldn’t be getting indulged at the level that Clinton’s supporters have been.

I’ll be live from Denver starting August 24. You can keep up with the craziness here and at a few other places that I’ll list before I go.