Friday, February 13, 2009

Norm Coleman: We Need Activist Judges So I Can Win This Damn Lawsuit

When a Republican lawyer starts arguing that his case has created legal "penumbras" (yes, a direct quote) around certain laws, and that His Corrupt Highness Al Franken "would have you sit in a vacuum, strictly interpreting a statute," you know up has finally become down and liberal Jews really do control the weather.

A historical footnote: let's all remember that "penumbras" are official Republican no-noes ever since Griswold v. Connecticut, still their favorite Exhibit A in supposed judicial overreach.

15 Yards For Excessive Celebration

Seriously, the Republicans are partying over Judd Gregg backing out as though they've won a major victory. What's the big deal? It reminds me of a backup tight end wiggling his package and taunting the safety, only to have the safety point to the scoreboard where it's now 45-10.

Elderly Abuse Prevention: To Their Credit, Most Republicans Voted Yes

Being from the great state of Arizona has its perks. Our driver's licenses, thanks to a deregulation kick a few years back, don't expire until we're 65. We grow up with a natural tan. We usually have a healthy respect for the outdoors. We're in spitting distance of both California and Mexico without the high cost of living or the rampant fraud. We have the Grand Canyon.

Unfortunately, we also have Trent Franks and Jeff Flake, who joined 23 other brave souls in the House to vote against -- I kid you not -- funding an elderly abuse prevention program.
The House took up H.R. 448, the Elder Abuse Protection Act, which would establish specialized elder abuse prosecution and research programs to aid victims, and would provide training to prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel related to elder abuse prevention and protection, and establish programs to provide for emergency crisis response teams to combat elder abuse. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), passed on a 397-25 vote. [roll call 62] All members of the Nevada Congressional delegation voted in favor the measure. Our neighbors to the south may be interested to know that Congressman Flake (R-AZ) and Congressman Franks (R-AZ) were among the lonely 25 voting in opposition.
When a granny-kicker joke is actually on point, you know we've lost the battle that day.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Obama and the Stimulus Bill: A Muddled Tale

I'll have many occasions to praise Obama rather than bury him, but over at the boards we've been having a somewhat heated discussion about his handling of the stimulus bill and I felt like I should fire the first salvo here.

I think his problem was that he didn't understand at the outset that he had to sell this thing. The idea that he let the House go about its business in the awkward way that it did in order to lay some kind of groundwork for a grand final outcome in the Senate. . . I just don't buy that he controls the weather to quite that extent. He didn't get publicly involved in the slightest until very recently. Obama, like everyone, has flaws, and I think we shouldn't be blind to the fact that he's a little conceited about his own ability to get things done. The final bill will be pretty good -- Paul Krugman's pleas for much more spending notwithstanding -- but look at what he's given up for no apparent reason other than chasing the grand bipartisan compromise he's always talked about in such glowing terms:

$40 billion State Fiscal Stabilization
$16 billion School Construction
$1.25 billion project-based rental
$2.25 billion Neighborhood Stabilization (Eliminate)
$1.2 billion in Retrofiting Project 8 Housing
$7.5 billion of State Incentive Grants
$3.5 billion Higher Ed Construction (Eliminated)
$2 billion broadband
$1 billion Head Start/Early Start
$5.8 billion Health Prevention Activity
$2 billion HIT Grants
$1 billion Energy Loan Guarantees
$4.5 billion GSA
$3.5 billion Federal Bldgs Greening
$100 million FSA modernization
$50 million CSERES Research
$65 million Watershed Rehab
$30 million SD Salaries
$100 million Distance Learning
$98 million School Nutrition
$50 million aquaculture
$100 million NIST
$100 million NOAA
$100 million Law Enforcement Wireless
$50 million Detention Trustee
$25 million Marshalls Construction
$100 million FBI Construction
$300 million Federal Prisons
$300 million BYRNE Formula
$140 million BYRNE Competitive
$10 million State and Local Law Enforcement
$50 million NASA
$50 million Aeronautics
$50 million Exploration
$50 million Cross Agency Support
$200 million NSF
$100 million Science
$89 million GSA Operations
$300 million Fed Hybrid Vehicles
$50 million from DHS
$200 million TSA
$122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use
$25 million Fish and Wildlife
$55 million Historic Preservation
$20 million working capital fund
$200 million Superfund
$165 million Forest Svc Capital Improvement
$90 million State & Private Wildlife Fire Management
$75 million Smithsonian
$600 million Title I (NCLB)

There are a lot of good-sounding construction and science programs being shredded or eliminated in that list.

As I wrote on the board, I think Obama failed to anticipate the type, scope or magnitude of the Republican resistance. I don't put all the blame solely on his shoulders, but there's a difference between the best bill he could have passed and the best "bipartisan" bill he could have passed. The country is still very ready to see him take charge. Instead I think he believed all along that this would be fairly easy and that he wouldn't need to get his hands dirty. These initiatives, most of which are uncontroversially good ideas, were sacrificed on the altar of his unpreparedness and his desire to look like he's working with all sides no matter the cost. That's my read.

Yes, this bill will do plenty of good. But the way it was handled didn't inspire me. Obama looked to be content letting the thing go to Hell only to realize he had to make an appearance at the eleventh hour. I don't think he planned this all along. I think it's important to take note of how this bill went down when we're looking for clues to explain both his successes and his shortcomings in the months and even years ahead. He seems like someone who learns lessons from experience but also someone who genuinely believes his way is best even when everyone is telling him otherwise. We'll have to wait and see which tendency wins out, but that doesn't mean we should stay quiet or passive in the meantime.

Maybe, in the end, we'll all call this the useful mugging Obama needed to see what he's really up against. I just wish it hadn't taken place on such an important bill in a way that made him seem so unprepared. As even David Brooks observed in his latest column (which I won't link to), Obama had little impact on the bill's evolution as it proceeded. That's the real source of my confusion. Why did he hang back?