POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 9/22

Lessons in Disaster

Here’s a window into what the Obama administration is concerned about regarding escalating the war in Afghanistan: George Stephanopoulos reports “that many on the national security team at the White House are now reading Lessons in Disaster by Gordon Goldstein.”

The book is focused on Vietnam-era national security adviser McGeorge Bundy and argues that President Kennedy would not have escalated the war in Vietnam had he lived. After the Bay of Pigs fisaco in 1961, Kennedy was determined not to be misled by the military again.


Protecting the Insurers

In a new video for MoveOn.org, Will Ferrell and other celebrities join together to help “protect” insurance company executives from the health care reform effort in Washington, D.C.

Asks Ferrell: “So why is Obama trying to reform health care when insurance companies are doing just fine making billions of dollars in profit?”

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The Hammer Dances

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) appeared on Dancing with the Stars last night — though thankfully his first dance included no “sexy hip shaking.”

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More Bad Numbers for Paterson

Though New York Gov. David Paterson insists he’ll run again — despite “advice” from the White House to step aside — a new Siena poll finds 71% of New Yorkers want someone else.

In fact, in a Democratic gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) would crush Paterson, 66% to 20%.


Sanford’s Wife Writing a Book

The estranged wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is writing a memoir, the AP reports.

The “inspirational memoir” will come out in May 2010 and “will grapple with the universal issue of maintaining integrity and a sense of self during life’s difficult times.”

Meanwhile, CNN reports Gov. Sanford’s book deal has fallen apart.


Too Early to Predict Midterms?

After predictions by Charlie Cook and others that President Obama’s falling approval rate could mean a tough midterm election for Democrats, Thomas Holbrook looked at whether approval rates were good indicators of elections 14 months out.

His conclusion: “Taken together, these data show that presidential approval 14 months prior to midterm elections has some predictive capacity, though there is enough error in the predictions that you shouldn’t bet the farm. Approval among independents does not really add much to the predictions generated by overall approval, and the generic ballot this far out is not very useful at all.”

So while Cook is right to suggest that current conditions do not look good for Democrats, it’s still way too early to make any definitive prediction.


Clinton’s Advice on Health Care

At the policy discussion last night, former President Bill Clinton said that he believed Democrats would pass a health care reform bill “because they have to.” 

clinton-cgi.jpgDespite the “foolish hang ups” over the public option — something Clinton supports — he thought it was better to pass any bill that provided lower costs and increased coverage.

He noted that even his former adviser Paul Begala, who while in the White House argued Clinton should veto any health care bill that didn’t provide 100% universal coverage, has also softened his view. Both men now believe getting any bill passed now meant increased pressure on Congress in the future to improve it.

However, while Clinton agreed the best approach would be to get 60 votes in the Senate to bypass a filibuster, he “would absolutely” do it through the budget reconciliation process if that’s the only way. 

Clinton predicted “the minute health care reform passed, President Obama’s approval ratings would go up 10 points.” And he said they would go up 20 points next year once Americans saw that none of the bad things Republicans said would happen came true.


The Most Important Unknown Statistic

At last night’s policy discussion, former President Bill Clinton flagged a warning sign that America is losing its competitive edge in the global economy.

Said Clinton: “In the last eight years, we went from first to tenth in terms of the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds holding a bachelor’s degree. That’s the most important unknown statistic out there… We are headed into long-term economic decline if we don’t do something about it.”

Clinton noted that exploding tuition at college is driving the problem, as “higher education institutions are pricing themselves into America’s decline.” He argued that new, less-costly “delivery systems” for education were needed to reverse this trend.


More from the Clinton Tapes

David Corn gets an early copy of The Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch and notes several interesting passages, including the following:

In 1994, after Bob Woodward’s book on the budget battles of Clinton’s first year in office, The Agenda, came out, Clinton suspected that the major inside sources for Woodward were George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, and Alan Greenspan.

After the 1998 congressional elections, Clinton bemoaned the fact that Rep. Jim Bunning (R-KY) had narrowly won a Senate race in Kentucky. “He said Bunning, a former baseball player, was so mean-spirited that he repulsed even his fellow know-nothings. ‘I tried to work with him a couple times and he just sent shivers up my spine… I know you’re a baseball fan and everything, and you don’t like to hear it, but this guy is beyond the pale.'”

Read more…


Romney Flip Flops on Bank Bailout

“When government is trying to take over health care, buying car companies, bailing out banks, and giving half the White House staff the title of czar — we have every good reason to be alarmed and to speak our mind!”

— Mitt Romney, quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, at the Values Voters Summit last weekend.

“The TARP program, while not transparent and not having been used as wisely it should have been, was nevertheless necessary to keep banks from collapsing in a cascade of failures. You cannot have a free economy and free market if there is not a financial system.”

— Romney, quoted by Reuters in March 2009.


Health Care Bill Mark Up Begins

At last, the Senate Finance Committee begins marking up its health-care bill today. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) announced yesterday he would make some adjustments to his legislation by giving additional subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans. 

The Washington Post reports lawmakers “have proposed 564 amendments to Baucus’s measure, and a vote on the $774 billion plan is not expected before Friday at the earliest.”

Karen Tumulty: “One of the worst kept secrets on Capitol Hill is that “mark-ups”–the formal public sessions in which legislation is ostensibly drafted–are not where any real work gets done. Where the real deals get cut, and where the favors get traded back and forth, is in private. The mark-up itself is little more than theater, a chance for everyone to give speeches and then march toward a pre-ordained conclusion.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Roll Call that “he can’t promise passage of health care reform this year, but he believes he has helped set his Conference on a course for success.”

Said Reid: “I can’t guarantee. I think we stand a very good chance of being able to do it. I think that each step that goes by, we’re closer.”


Getting Back the 60th Vote

Leaders of the Massachusetts state Senate “expect to begin debate this morning on a bill that would let Governor Deval Patrick appoint an interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy, potentially paving the way for appointment of a new US senator later this week,” the Boston Globe reports.

“The Republican leader in the state Senate, who has twice succeeded in postponing the debate using parliamentary maneuvers, said yesterday that he is prepared to allow debate to proceed, and the Democratic Senate president said she is ready for a debate and a vote. The vote will probably take place today, but Republicans are not ruling out additional delay tactics.”


Obama on Letterman

Before President Obama arrived on stage of the Late Show with David Lettermanlast night, they had already done the top ten reasons Obama had agreed to do the show. 

Among them, “Said yes, without thinking, like Bush did with Iraq.”

Obama came armed with his own one-liners as well.

Read more…

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