POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 2/14 – 2/16

February 15, 2009

If this is ‘getting screwed’…

Sen. Lindsey Graham says about the Stimulus Bill: “If  I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country’s screwed.” So what does that make jamming $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for Haliburton-types down the public’s throat and 20 of 28 years of the trickle-down economy trickling precious few dregs down the legs of the wealthy to everyone else?

Can’t blame the senator for his lack of perspective (even though his dramatics in flailing around the stimulus bill on the Senate floor last week ought to get him an Oscar bid). His party wants to emulate terrorists. Nice.

Look, of course you can disagree philosophically on economic approaches — I may not agree with Sen. McCain, for example (and he was disappointingly playing by the Lindsey Graham-Eric Cantor playbook last week), but he’s certainly entitled to advocate for his party’s economic approach.

But calling a new President’s initiative, less than a month into his presidency, a stinker — in the words of Rep. Eric Cantor — and getting screwed — in the words of Graham — strikes me as especially classless(check out that previous link for a story about a video from Cantor’s office; this is from the employees of a sitting U.S. Representative and the minority Whip, no matter how much he’s trying to distance himself from it. And regarding Rep. Cantor’s love of Newt Gingrich — How long before Rep. Cantor shuts down the government because he’s forced to sit in the back of a plane?).

It seems to me the GOP is taking advantage of the new President’s efforts to extend to extend a hand to an opponent’s clenched fist by responding with a mugging and then crying foul when the privilge is refused.

It’s sort of like trying to make peace with the class bully in middle school, and then getting punched in the face in response to your offer — with the bully next running to the principal’s office to claim it was all your fault (and you getting sent to detention because the bully got his story out first).

Of course, if that’s the definition of bipartisanship according to the GOP, then I suppose I have to agree with Sen. Graham after all.

Burris Makes Another Statement

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) “trying to save his sinking Senate career, delivered a brief statement Monday morning where he argued he answered questions about the contacts he had with former Gov. Blagojevich team leading up to his appointment,”Lynn Sweet reports.

Unlike the fiasco yesterday, Burris did not take any questions.

First Read says the new Burris revelations may be enough to: “(1) Seriously hurt Burris’ chances of surviving primary challenges from strong Democratic challengers like Lisa Madigan, Jan Schakowsky, Jesse Jackson Jr. or others, and (2) Embolden those Democrats and give them prime oppo ammo.”

Republicans hope the controversy allows them to win the Senate seat in 2010.

More Like Gandhi

Hendrik Hertzberg has a great piece on President Obama’s use bipartisanship as a political weapon:

“Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if — or especially if — the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball.”

A Party Fractured

CQ Politics: “Many of the right’s grass-roots activists say the current political landscape offers little for them to get excited about. The GOP has no leader who’s clearly capable of restoring the magical Reagan alliance of fiscal and social conservatives that fueled the party’s strength for the better part of three decades.”

Senators Give Maine Influence

Washington Post: “If the state, with just over 1.3 million residents, were a metropolitan area, it wouldn’t be among the country’s 25 biggest. It accounts for just seven-tenths of 1 percent of the votes in the presidential electoral college and four-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. population. But the new math of Obama-era politics gives Maine influence out of proportion to its size.”

The reason: Democrats need to woo Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to pass legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Quote of the Day

“Look, once a decision was made by the Republican leadership to have a party-line vote — a decision that I think occurred before I met with them — then I’m not sure that there was a whole host of things that we were going to do that was going to make a difference.”

— President Obama, in an interview with Clarence Page, on “bipartisanship” in passing the economic stimulus bill. 

February 15, 2009

Burris Defends Himself at Press Conference

In a very combative news conference,  Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) said “he didn’t have any inappropriate contact with allies of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich about his desire for Illinois’ Senate seat, and he defended his evolving explanation of what happened as an effort to make sure all the information comes out,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Burris’s attorney “repeatedly stepped in to try to answer questions as reporters insisted the senator take the microphone.”

Politico notes Illinois Republicans “are calling on Burris to resign; he’s facing a possible perjury investigation in his home state; and his Senate colleagues may face new pressure to launch an Ethics Committee probe to determine whether he should be expelled from the body.”

Video of the press conference is available.

Quote of the Day

“I talk to Newt on a regular basis because he was in the position that we are in: in the extreme minority.”

— Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), quoted by the New York Times, on how House Republicans are following the Gingrich model of being in the minority.

SNL Spoofs House Republicans

Saturday Night Live showed House GOP leaders debating how not to get involved in the economic recovery plan and when to begin impeachment of President Obama. In the end, they decide to “take down” the Obama girls because it’s “political gold.”

Historians Rank the Presidents

C-SPAN released the results of its second Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, in which 65 presidential historians ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House.

Key findings: Abraham Lincoln received top billing among the historians, George Washington placed second, while spots three through five were held by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order.

Of the more recent presidents, George W. Bush ranked 36, Bill Clinton was at 15, Ronald Reagan was 10, George H.W. Bush was 18 and Jimmy Carter was 25.

Building Consensus for Deficit Reduction

A White House aide tells Ron Brownstein to look for the President Obama “to convene his fiscal responsibility summit — an effort to build consensus for long-term deficit reduction — on the day before his economic speech to Congress on February 24.” 

Later that week, OMB director Peter Orszag will unveil the framework of Obama’s first budget which is also expected to include the administration’s approach to health care reform.

February 14, 2009

Dispatches from the War Room

In the Trenches with Five Extraordinary LeadersThis looks like a must read book: Dispatches from the War Room: In the Trenches with Five Extraordinary Leaders by Stan Greenberg.

“As a hired gun strategist, Greenberg — a seasoned pollster and political consultant — has seen it all. In his memoir, he recounts his work with President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and South African president Nelson Mandela. Through his experiences aiding the leaders in pushing their visions for better and clearer domestic and international policies, Greenberg offers an insightful examination of leadership, democracy, and the bridge between candidate and constituency.”

The National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein is hosting a book party for Greenberg tonight in Washington, D.C.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I am an eternal optimist [but] that doesn’t mean I’m a sap. So my goal is to assume the best but prepare for a whole range of different possibilities in terms of how Congress reacts.”

— President Obama, in an interview with the National Journal.

Blagojevich Solicited Money from Burris

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) “for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel,” the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Burris “acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.”

However, in the affidavit, Burris said he refused to contribute to Blagojevich or to assist in fundraising for him.

Is the Stimulus Bill Like Iraq?

An interesting argument from former Bush speechwriter David Frum

“After 9/11, President Bush (supported by me, among others) argued that the right way to respond to a terrorist attack from Afghanistan was by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. We offered a complicated explanation for this roundabout response, and for a time the public accepted it. But as the war went wrong, and failed to deliver the promised results, our plan’s credibility collapsed.”

“Now the Democrats have placed themselves in a similar situation. They are offering an indirect answer to an immediate question.”

Quote of the Day

“It’s eerie — I read the news from the Beltway, and there’s this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me.”

— Pollster Ann Seltzer, quoted by Politico, on how President Obama is still very popular around the country despite the chatter among political insiders in Washington, D.C.

Coleman Dealt Big Setback in Senate Recount Trial

Dealing “a blow but not a knockout” to Norm Coleman’s (R) hopes, “the judges in the U.S. Senate election trial on Friday tossed out most of the 19 categories of rejected absentee ballots they were considering for a second look,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

“On its face, the ruling looked to be a victory for Al Franken (D), whose lawyers had urged the judges to turn down 17 of the 19 categories and said Friday that they had very nearly done it.”

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