Category Archives: Editorial

Hallelujah! by Paul Begala

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by Paul Begala

Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala

HP~I have been working for Democratic and progressive causes for 29 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than today. When David Obey swung that gavel — the same gavel used to hammer home Medicare — and struck it on that historic rostrum, it made a joyful noise unto the Lord. And I for one said Hallelujah.

There is no doubt the sweeping changes enacted today will create unforeseen problems — that is the nature of reform. The one law Congress can never overturn is the Law of Unintended Consequences. But that’s why our Founders challenged us to “form a more perfect Union,” because true perfection is not possible this side of heaven. Instead, we work to improve, to make progress, to renew.

The merits of the health care law have been debated ad nauseum. I will not revisit them here. Rather, I want to take a moment to salute the raw courage of the women and men who made this possible.

Primus inter pares must be Nancy Pelosi. The House Speaker, so vilified by the right, so caricatured by the press, has etched her name in marble. She has accomplished what no other Speaker could — not Uncle Joe Cannon, not Mister Sam Rayburn, not Tip or Newt nor any of her predecessors. Health care reform was dead after Scott Brown’s remarkable Senate victory in Massachusetts. But Speaker Pelosi would not let it die. The greatest single reason this bill will become law is because of the sheer force of will, the remarkable political skill, and the legislative mastery of Nancy Pelosi. If there were a Mt. Rushmore for House Speakers, her pleasant grin and steely eyes would be on it.

Harry Reid, too, worked wonders. In order to overcome a Republican filibuster, Reid had to bat 1.000 — corral all 58 Senate Democrats and two Independents. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called the job “herding cats.” Harry Reid, through quiet consultation, respectful negotiation and rare grit pulled off a Christmas miracle, mustering 60 votes for health care reform on Christmas Eve.

Pelosi and Reid did all this in the teeth of naysayers and cheap-shot artists who were counseling caution and urging capitulation.

The so-called “Dean” of the Washington press corps, David Broder, told Politico that Reid was not in the same class as revered leaders like Mike Mansfield. “Maybe I have an idealized view of what a Senate leader ought to be,” he said. “But I’ve seen the Senate when a leader could lift it to those heights…I wish it had that kind of leadership now.”

In a sense, Broder’s right. In 1968, Mansfield presided over a majority of 68 Democrats — 68. And Senate Republicans included such giants of bipartisanship as Everett McKinley Dirksen, who played a crucial role in passing the Civil Rights Act. And yet even Mansfield could not pass universal health care. With just 58 senators of his party, Reid did what Mansfield could not do with 68 — and he did it with a GOP dominated by implacable obstructionists who have used the filibuster more in two years than the GOP of Mansfield era did in decades.

To be sure, this is an enormous, historic victory for Pres. Obama. He refused to trim his sails, refused to cut and run, refused to cave in to the timid souls of the commentariat and the hatemongers of the kook right. His cool courage, his dogged determination, his fearless focus are now the stuff of history.

One cannot see this history unfold and not think of those who paved the way. John Dingell, the valiant congressman from Michigan, has been fighting for national health care for 54 years — and his father before him sponsored national health care legislation in 1935. Speaker Pelosi and her Democrats stand tall today because they stand on the shoulders of Dingell and other giants.

In the Senate, Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats stand on the shoulders of Ted Kennedy. Teddy fought for national health care when Reagan was saying government would screw up a one-car parade. His energy, passion and compassion inspired several generations of Democrats.

And, of course, my old boss Bill Clinton. He was 50 minutes late for the Gridiron Dinner the night before the historic vote. For his tardiness he was privately and bitterly excoriated by a very famous journalist, but this time Clinton was necessarily detained: President Obama had him on the phone, asking for help on a last list of wavering Democrats. Clinton, of course, was happy to help. He, too, shed blood and political capital in the cause of health care reform. He confidently told the media elite: “I am proud to stick up for this President and his Administration. Let me tell you something: they are going to pass health care reform, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe not in my lifetime or Dick Cheney’s, but, hopefully, by Easter.” Pres. Obama, too, stands on the shoulders of Clinton, two Roosevelts, Truman and Carter, Kennedy and Johnson.

But amidst all this history there is still politics. Let’s be realistic: Both history and the economy dictate Democratic losses in November. But passing health care will, I am sure, help mitigate the losses. First because the bill does real good for real people right away: a $500 down payment on the Donut Hole for seniors’ medication, the right to carry your adult children on your health insurance until they turn 27, an end to annual caps and lifetime limits, an end to rescissions, a high-risk pool for those too young for Medicare and too middle-class for Medicaid. Second, the only way to disprove the false charges from the Republicans is to actually live under the new law. There will be no death panels. There is no government takeover.

The vast majority of Americans will continue to have the health care they like — but the biggest difference is the insurance company will no longer be able to cancel it as they can now. Failure on health care would have depressed the Democratic vote and disgusted independents, who would have concluded Democrats can’t run the government.

Let the Republicans campaign on repealing this. Why not campaign on repealing Medicare, too? They called that socialized medicine. Why aren’t Scott Brown or Mitt Romney calling for repeal of the Massachusetts health care law (upon which this bill is based)?

Nothing succeeds like success. Or, as George S. Patton said to the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army in 1944: “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Today the Republicans are losers, and the Democrats — and every American who worries about getting sick and getting dumped by their insurance company — are the winners.

Paul Begala is a political commentator providing insight “from the left” on CNN’s programs including Inside Politics.

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Thrown Under the Bus Again: The GOP Made a Pact with the Devil

Posted by LibbyShaw

The Republican Party threw the American people under a high speed train fast tracked straight to hell.

Again.

Predictably Republicans made a pact with yet another devil. This time the GOP sold its and our souls, too, to the hottest and most irresponsible devil in hell.

Let me introduce the banking devil for whom we emptied our U.S. Treasury in an extraordinary effort to save the American economy.

Tragically the Bush Administration and its rubber stamping Republicans in Congress failed to set up any rules, enforcement mechanisms, proposals for accountability, transparency or pay back benchmarks before it allowed the devil to empty our national piggy bank. Sure, guys, just back up your 18 wheeler big mother trucks to the U.S. Treasury and we will help y’all load the bags of taxpayer cash.

Clearly the GOP is totally on board with the banker devil run lawless casinos on Wall St. The devil is gambling with our money that includes our savings accounts, investment portfolios, retirement savings and bail out taxpayer dollars. The GOP also gave its blessing to a continuation of the banks extensive abusive consumer practices. Usury level interests rates and fees anyone? Worse, the GOP obviously does not have a problem with the obscene Wall St. bonuses, earned on the backs of our savings accounts, portfolio investments, not to mention again, the sucker U.S. taxpayer bucks, thank you.

I guess the sold-out Republicans are also supportive of the banks refusal to lend money to small businesses and consumers because it is more profitable for banks to gamble with our money instead.

Hell, at least we know for certain that the Republicans are completely on board with obstructing our nation’s economic recovery. If small businesses cannot get jump started with an influx of cash, it cannot do business. It cannot meet its inventory needs nor can it make payroll. If mortgages cannot be re-negotiated, bankrupted homeowners cannot hold on to their homes. Consumers cannot purchase new homes or cars if we cannot borrow money, either. Nor can we improve or make substantial repairs to our homes if the banks won’t lend home equity funding.

Republicans don’t care. They simply do not care about the people.

Yesterday Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) informed the Huffington Post that the GOP signed a political pact with the banks to kill off regulatory reform measures.

The allegation of a quid pro quo was based on an email that Durbin received last spring after his amendment to allow judges to modify mortgages for homeowners who enter bankruptcy was defeated on the Senate floor. During a discussion to promote publicly-financed elections on Friday, the Illinois Democrat relayed that, shortly after the defeat of his “cram-down” amendment, a “banker friend” forwarded him the note from Tanya Wheeless, president & CEO of Arizona Bankers Association.

I have contacted the market presidents for each of the three banks (Chase, Wells and Bank of America) and explained that in my humble opinion it’s a big mistake to cut a deal with Durbin and alienate our (in Arizona) Senator,” Wheeless’s email reads. “I also told them that I thought this would drive a wedge in our industry. [Senator Jon] Kyl has pointedly told them not to make a deal with Durbin and then come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring or systemic risk regulation.”

Repeat:

…Come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring or systemic risk regulation.

The smoking gun email is included in the link above.

According to Senator Durbin:

The email, he added, “is a total smoking gun as far as I’m concerned. It tells the whole story and it is in writing as to what is happening behind the scenes… So when people say I don’t know if we should have public financing because that is my tax dollars, I can tell them that their resources, whether tax dollars or personal wealth, are being impacted every day by decisions being made by the special interest groups.”

Special interest groups obviously own most if not all of the GOP and 12 lousy Democrats. Earth to Democrats, having a D behind your name means you are supposed to vote as a Democrat, not as a pimped out Republican, sell-out Republican lite or an anti-democracy, reactionary teabagger. Nor are you supposed to cave into to the greed infested fat cats.

Fortunately, Senate Democrats have not given up. New cram down legislation is likely making a come back.

An amendment allowing judges to modify mortgages on primary residences for homeowners in bankruptcy will finally find a home as part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173).
The amendment, which is being offered by Representatives Conyers (D, MI), Turner (R, OH), Lofgren (D, CA), Marshall (D, GA), Cohen (D, TN), Miller (D, NC), Nadler (D, NY), Delahunt (D, MA) and Waters (D, CA), is potentially the best news homeowners and our economy have had in quite some time.

The amendment is essentially the same as H.R. 1106, a bill passed by the House on March 5, 2009, by a vote of 234-191, but subsequently defeated in the Senate by a vote of 51-45. The measure needed 60 votes to pass over Republican objections, and 12 Democrats succumbed to pressure from the banking lobby and voted nay.

Check out Senator Durbin’s searing indictment of bankers on the Senate floor:

One other argument that I think takes the cake: “Senator, you understand the moral hazard here. People have to be held responsible for their wrongdoing. If you make a mistake, darn it, you’ve gotta pay the price. That’s what America is all about.” Really, Mr. Banker on Wall Street? That’s what America is all about? What price did Wall Street pay for their miserable decisions creating rotten portfolios, destroying the credit of America and its businesses? Oh, they paid a pretty heavy price. Hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money sent to them to bail them out, to put them back in business, even to fund executive bonuses for those guilty of mismanaging. Moral hazard, huh? How can they argue that with a straight face? […]

We want America to be strong, but if it’s going to be strong, you should be respectful, Mr. Banker, of the people who live in the communities where your banks are located. You should be respectful of those families who are doing their best to make ends meet in the toughest recession that they’ve ever seen. You should be respectful of the people that you want to sign up for checking accounts and savings accounts, and make sure that they have decent neighborhoods to live in. Show a little loyalty to this great nation instead of just your bottom line when it comes to profitability. Take a little consideration of what it takes to make America strong…

I’ll offer this Durbin amendment as I did last year. When I offered it last year, they said, “Not a big problem, only two million foreclosures coming up.” They were wrong. It turned out to be eight million. And if the bankers prevail today, and we can’t get something through conference committee to deal with this issue, I’ll be back. I’m not going to quit on this […] At some point, the Senators in this chamber will decide, the bankers shouldn’t write the agenda in the United States Senate.

Bankers and their enabling Republican lawmakers are oblivious to the notion of moral hazard. Since the Reagan Administration, the Republican Party has been on a crusade to insulate the banks and the corporate sector from its own risk taking. Those big government loathing, tax paying hater Republicans stuck the entire fat cat enabling mess on the backs of the American people.

At least the folks in Illinois can count on their lawmakers like Dick Durbin to step up. Unfortunately for those of us in Texas, however, we have no such luck.

We are tragically saddled with cartoon like characters and carnival barkers. The three below are just a few examples.

Senator Cornyn claims in one sentence that Senate Democrats want to kill private health insurance companies. In the next he says Senate Democrats intend to hand over $450. billion to to private insurance companies. Talk about double speak and stupid talk.

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Senator Hutchison tells serial lies about health care reform and uses the usual GOP scare tactics. Ohmigod! Health care reform would be disastrous for the American people. Not. What we have now is horribly disastrous for 47 million uninsured Americans.

And then there is this.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet our distinguished governor.

The Party of No says no to everything that would help the people whether it is with extending unemployment benefits, banking regulation and fairness practices, jobs, health care reform and the economy. Today,in his speech at the Brookings Institute, President Obama told us precisely where Republicans stand on everything.

Hat tips to Jed Lewison over at Daily Kos for providing the video clip of President Obama’s talk below.

It is about time, Mr. President. Your words are long overdue.

In a sober tone, President Obama portrayed the Republican Party as opportunistic, obstructionist, and deeply hypocritical, accusing them of both having created the economic crisis we face today and having done nothing to help solve it. He also slammed their hypocritical attacks on government spending, reminding them that they are the ones who created the deficit, and that the recovery act represents just a small portion of it.

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Texas, more than a few really rather drop dead and serious kick ass changes are long overdue.

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It’s a Helluva State by Cynthia Nixon

Op-ed by Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon and her girlfriend, Christine Marinoni

HP/Cynthia Nixon—My girlfriend and I want to get married. Only thing is: it’s not legal in NY State, where we live. So we started doing everything we could think of to reverse that. Including going up to Albany this past spring with two of our politico friends to speak to some Senators — Democratic and Republican — who were on the fence on the issue.

Wednesday’s No vote on same sex marriage was supremely disappointing on a personal as well as a political level. Guess Christine and I can kiss that Waldorf Astoria wedding… Brooklyn Botanical Gardens wedding… Montauk Beach wedding — you fill in the blank — goodbye. But we have two things today we didn’t have yesterday.

The first thing we have is clarity about who’s with us and who’s against us. And we’ll remember those yays and nays for next November and for Novembers to come. And there will be consequences.

The second thing is a new ally. Her name is Ruth Hassell-Thompson. She is a Senator from the Bronx and Mt Vernon and she is fierce.

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester)

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-NY)

Our gang of four met with her last spring and she explained to us in depth, over a long and respectful meeting why she thought she was going to vote no on gay marriage. Senator Hassell-Thompson is deeply religious. She felt strongly that marriage always has been and always should be the union between a man and a woman.

But she is a careful, thoughtful person and you could see her weighing the issue again and again in her mind. And in her considering she stumbled across something in her personal experience that began to change her perspective.

She spoke about how her mother had been a deacon in their church at a time when previously only men had been deacons. And how controversial that had been. And how vehemently many people opposed her mother’s appointment. And how none of those opposed could give any explanation for why her mother becoming a deacon was wrong, just that it was. Because it was new. Because it was shocking. Because it was an idea that took people a little time to get used to.

On Wednesday Ruth Hassell-Thompson voted yes.

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US Envoy Jon Huntsman Criticizes Coverage of Obama China Visit

Posted by Audiegrl

AP/Christopher Bodeen—Washington’s ambassador to Beijing hit out Friday at negative U.S. media coverage of President Barack Obama’s visit to China, saying it failed to take into account important progress on many issues.

Although producing no breakthroughs on key issues, Obama’s first state visit to the Asian giant that ended Wednesday was heralded by both sides as a success.

The trip was the top news story in China, drawing strong interest from the Chinese public who, surveys suggest, are largely positive in their view of the American president.

However, much of the U.S. media coverage was strongly negative, accusing Obama of failing to gain concessions on key issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and climate change, as well as being weak on human rights.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the reports missed the fact that the visit had yielded important progress on cooperation in areas such as clean energy, military-to-military exchanges and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

I attended all those meetings that President Obama had with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao,” Huntsman said, referring to the Chinese president and premier.

I’ve got to say some of the reporting I saw afterward was off the mark. I saw sweeping comments about things that apparently weren’t talked about, when they were discussed in great detail in the meetings,” he said.

Huntsman made the comments during a question-and-answer session with Chinese and American students attending an international relations program at elite Peking University.

He said criticism about limited Chinese exposure for Obama’s remarks at a town hall-style meeting with students in Shanghai failed to consider the ubiquity of the Internet and blogging in China, where 350 million people use the Web.

Go check some time and see how messages bounce around from Web site to Web site and blogger to blogger for a very long period of time and you’ll get a sense of what the communication revolution is all about,” Huntsman said.

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***UPDATED***Rachel Maddow Show Guest, Frank Schaeffer Discuss the Latest In Thinly-Veiled Evangelical Christian Obama Death Threats

HP—Apparently, the latest thing in “Debasing The Institutions You Pretend To Hold Dear In Order To Suggest That President Barack Obama Should Be Murdered Without Actually Coming Right Out And Saying So” goes by a shorter name: Psalm 109:8.

And Psalm 109:8 is just straight up memetastic, appearing on bumper stickers and T-shirts, all of which carry the benign sounding message, “Pray For Obama.” But, as Gawker’s John Cook points out, this is just one more in a “long line of cheekily coded Obama death threats.” The verse in question reads: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” That leads fairly naturally into the Psalm 109:9, “May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” You know, in case you miss the point.

Rachel Maddow took up this issue last night, inviting Patience With God author and Huffington Post blogger Frank Schaeffer to explain whether or not the citation of this Biblical text “means something less threatening to people hearing this in a Biblical context.”

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***UPDATE I From The Rachel Maddow*** Show

Statement by CafePress to TRMS
Regarding the appropriateness of Psalm 109:8 products

“Cafepress looks at content on a case by case basis, and makes decisions about what content is permissible based on our content usage policy.

Anti-presidential gear has been a mainstay at Cafepress since we were founded in 1999 and has become a key component of political discourse. Our site has become a cultural barometer of public opinion and as such designs often come into question. In managing our content we are trying to protect self expression, while making sure we are not advocating violence.

We initially pulled the Psalm 109:8 content from our products today because broader media dialog indicated that these designs potentially suggested violence towards the president. Based on current public discourse and further review of the actual content, we have determined that it is fair political commentary and we are in the process of reinstating this merchandise. As with all of our content, these designs will continue to be reviewed and if at any time their meaning is construed as advocating violence we will revisit our decision.
—Amy Maniatis, CafePress VP of Marketing

If you would like to contact CafePress, see below:

CafePress Email
CafePress Phone # 1-877-809-1659. International customers, please call 1-402-517-4480.

***UPDATE II From Thinkprogress.org***

Yesterday, Cafe Press announced that it was again reversing itself and removing all the merchandise in response to strong public pressure:

The public debate started with questioning if the design was simply intended to be criticism of the President or something much worse. The discourse was surprisingly civil online, given the heated nature of the topic. Given that, and the positions of groups like the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League, we decided to let the dialogue play out publicly before making a final decision.

Last night we posted a poll on our blog, read through the emails we’ve received and weighed the nature of the calls we’ve received on the topic. In the process we also learned that many of the original designers of the Psalm 109:8 designs had already decided to remove them on their own.

General consensus has proven that the design does point to a broader interpretation of the Psalm and thus has been deemed inappropriate for sale at CafePress.

The results of the Cafe Press poll were 76 percent calling the slogan “overly inflammatory and inappropriate” and 22 percent saying it was fair.

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Opinion: Why the Greg Craig debacle matters

posted by Ogenec

A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man. Most significant, these doubters now find themselves with a new reluctance to defend Obama at a phase of his presidency when he needs defenders more urgently than ever.

By ELIZABETH DREW

President Barack Obama is returning from his trek to Asia Thursday to a capital that is a considerably more dangerous place for him than when he departed.

While he was abroad, there was a palpable sense at home of something gone wrong

A critical mass of influential people who once held big hopes for his presidency began to wonder whether they had misjudged the man. Most significant, these doubters now find themselves with a new reluctance to defend Obama at a phase of his presidency when he needs defenders more urgently than ever.

This is the price Obama has paid with his complicity and most likely his active participation, in the shabbiest episode of his presidency: The firing by leaks of White House counsel Gregory Craig, a well-respected Washington veteran and influential early supporter of Obama.

The people who are most aghast by the handling of the Craig departure can’t be dismissed by the White House as Republican partisans, or still-embittered Hillary Clinton supporters. They are not naïve activists who don’t understand that the exercise of power can be a rough business and that trade-offs and personal disappointments are inevitable. Instead, they are people, either in politics or close observers, who once held an unromantically high opinion of Obama. They were important to his rise, and are likely more important to the success or failure of his presidency than Obama or his distressingly insular and small-minded West Wing team appreciate.

The Craig embarrassment gives these people a new reason – not the first or only reason – to conclude that he wasn’t the person of integrity and even classiness they had thought, and, more fundamentally, that his ability to move people and actually lead a fractured and troubled country (the reason many preferred him over Hillary Clinton) is not what had been promised in the campaign.

Craig’s ouster did not occur in a vacuum. It served as a focal point to concerns that have been building for months that Obama wasn’t pressing for all that might be possible within the existing political constraints (all that one could ask of a president); that his presidential voice hadn’t fulfilled the hopes raised by his campaign voice (which had also taken him a while to find); that he hadn’t created a movement, as he had raised expectations that he would; that would be there to back him up and help him fulfill his promises.

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A world of change in 287 days

It’s been a year since a healthy majority of American voters elected Barack Obama to change the world. Which is precisely what he’s doing.

posted by betsmeier

By Eugene Robinson

Like many people who desperately want to see the country take a more progressive course, I quibble and quarrel with some of President Obama’s actions. I wish he’d been tougher on Wall Street, quicker to close Guantanamo, more willing to investigate Bush-era excesses, bolder in seeking truly universal health care. I wish he could summon more of the rhetorical magic that spoke so compellingly to the better angels of our nature.

But he’s a president, not a Hollywood action hero. Most of my frustration is really with the process of getting anything done in Washington, which is not something Obama can unilaterally change, nimbly circumvent or blithely ignore. One thing the new administration clearly did not anticipate was that Republicans in Congress would be so consistently and unanimously obstructionist — or that Democrats would have to be introduced to the alien concept of party discipline. It took the White House too long to realize that bipartisanship is a tango and that there’s no point in dancing alone.
Step back for a moment, though, and look at Obama’s record.

Cont’d Here:

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