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Posts Tagged “Republicans”

As the health care reform debate enters what appears to be the home stretch (albeit not for the first time), what Washington is offering us (the citizenry) boils down to a choice between bad and worse. The legislation now under consideration, both the Senate bill and the slight variation on same presented as “Obama’s bill,” is the end result of a process that has methodically stripped away almost everything that made this reform effort worth undertaking in the first place. They’ve thrown out the baby and kept the bathwater.

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Sen. Max Baucus (D-Insurance Industry)

(And thank heaven for that.)

So Sen. Max Baucus’s Finance Committee has finally released a health care “reform” bill, months after every other committee charged with the task. (Or a “Chairman’s Mark” version of one, at least—i.e., something actually readable by laymen [pdf]).

The predictable result? It’s awful. Any Democrat who would vote for a bill that looks like this has absolutely no political sense whatsoever, much less policy sense, and should be drummed out of office on general principle.

Fortunately, most of them seem to realize that.

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obamahcspeech3So, where did I leave off?

…That’s right, there was a speech Wednesday night. A pretty significant one, in fact, for reasons I described at some length.

What of it, then?

I can’t deny that it was a very, very good speech. Rhetorically powerful. And yet, what it says about the direction of health care policy, and thus about Obama and the Democratic Party itself… still remains substantially up in the air.

(Even as every pundit who can string three words together attempts to read the tea leaves and tell us otherwise.)

I’ll try to avoid that kind of divination. But opinions? Analysis? I have those.

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One could go on at literally exhaustive length about the ins and outs of the current “health care debate” in Washington, but I’ll try to avoid that. The media and the blogosphere have provided a constant play-by-play in terms of both substantive policy and, even more, political strategy. (Jonathan Chait at TNR has been particularly diligent. Meanwhile, much of the MSM seems content merely ringing premature death-knells for reform.) Me, I’ll just try to provide a few observations from a mile-high view.

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The GOP Senators questioning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor must have a truly remarkable tolerance for making themselves look like condescending, hypocritical jackasses in public.

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Where did we leave off? 

I was writing about the difficulty of finding something meaningful to say in the wake of all the full-time, professional political bloggers out there. Too often I feel like I’m just offering a synthesis of what others have said, rather than any new insight.

Perhaps I’m holding myself to an arbitrarily high standard. Posting seems easier on political discussion forums, where I can just spout off some quick impressions of the issue of the day without necessarily worrying about providing proper background and context for everything, and where the ebb and flow of responses from other posters guides the structure and flow of the discussion, rather than having to organize it entirely on my own. Nonetheless, I ramble on… 

Thus:  I was also writing about the political environment in which the Obama administration operates, and the political pressures that have led the president to make some decisions that are very disappointing in the eyes of civil libertarians, and indeed of concerned citizens in general. Which, in the wake of events this past week relating to the disposition of prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere, leads us to the perplexing questions:

Why has Barack Obama backtracked so quickly from so many of the progressive policy expectations of his supporters?

and, moreover,

WHY does the mass media keep treating Dick Cheney as a credible public figure?

One of these questions may seem deeply relevant, the other facile… but the answers are connected at a deep level.

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My recent posts on Star Trek brought me more readers than anything else I’ve written in months, but unfortunately I don’t have anything new to say about that right now.

My posts about politics, by contrast, usually draw markedly less traffic than the ones about pop culture. Nevertheless, I enjoy the topic, and certainly don’t intend to stop writing about it.

The problem with writing about politics, however, is perhaps the same one that leaves my readership diminished:  there’s already so much other good political analysis out there in the blogosphere. The conventional wisdom found in the corporate media punditocracy, especially on television, is seldom worth the attention of thinking people, of course… but while it’s easy enough to ignore David Broder or Chris Matthews, David Brooks or Joe Klein, there’s a lot of genuinely sharp, insightful political commentary being done online these days. It often seems that by the time I’ve informed myself sufficiently about some new development to form an opinion, Glenn Greenwald or Jane Hamsher or Digby or any of a dozen others has already said everything I could, in pithier style and with better documentation.

(And then there are the folks spouting off from the other side, whose arguments are seldom as thorough but frequently much more infuriating. They too make demands on one’s time. Or, as one of my favorite cartoons puts it…) ->>

So it’s hard to keep on top of breaking news… but looking back later to consolidate information and analysis isn’t necessarily easier (think “drinking from a fire hose”), and still leaves me wondering whether such reflections really offer any fresh insight.

Here’s a For Instance. For several weeks now, I’ve been meaning to write about the subject of the OLC torture memos, and the furor both before and after their release, in light of how it reflects on the Obama administration’s lamentable hesitancy to repudiate some of the worst excesses of the previous administration. Let’s review.

Way back on March 3, things were looking good. On the very same day it was revealed that the CIA, back in 2005, had deliberately destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes in violation of a court order… we also learned that Attorney General Eric Holder had not only formally denounced waterboarding but also released nine previously secret Bush-era memos, in which John Yoo and other OLC apparatchiks asserted remarkable expansions of executive power, such as (e.g.) that the president’s “power to suspend treaties is wholly discretionary,” and that the Fourth Amendment (prohibiting search and seizure without probable cause) does not apply to domestic military operations. 

The ACLU (which had filed FOIA requests on both the videotapes and the memos) hailed the release, but insisted that for a full accounting of the previous administration’s excesses, “dozens” of other even more incendiary memos still needed to be released. And less than three weeks later, it appeared that at least some of them would be forthcoming, as on March 21 Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball reported that

Over objections from the U.S. intelligence community, the White House is moving to declassify—and publicly release—three internal memos [from 2005] that will lay out, for the first time, details of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration…

And that’s when the shit really hit the fan.

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Dick Cheney’s been all over the mass media lately, defending the past administration’s record on torture in interviews on Sunday talk shows like “Face the Nation” and on Fox News, and in speeches at friendly venues like the American Enterprise Institute. When media outlets aren’t talking to him they’re talking about him, in numerous “think pieces” in the written press and today on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

From the point of view of the Democratic party, of course, you could hardly ask for a better spokesperson for the opposition. He’s even less lovable than Rush Limbaugh. Short of enlisting Darth Vader, the GOP couldn’t find a better way to push its public approval numbers down toward the single digits.

But much of the public discussion seems to be focused around the question of whether it’s “appropriate” for a former Vice President to be so outspoken in criticizing the current administration. And that question fundamentally misunderstands what’s actually going on here.

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My immediate reaction yesterday when I heard the news report that Sen. Arlen Specter had changed his party affiliation from (R) to (D):  a shouted “Yes!” and a fist pump. 

Beyond that, almost everything has already been said in the media whirlwind of the last 24 hours, but I thought I’d share a little personal perspective anyway.

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Personal anecdote time here. Unemployment is much in the news these days. And as I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’ve been on the job market for a while now, looking for full-time work in the nonprofit sector. I try not to dwell on it. I did a little tallying-up today, though, and determined that since last Labor Day—not quite eight months, just before I started this blog and (coincidentally) the economic meltdown began in earnest—I have applied for 78 different jobs. Out of that, I’ve had a grand total of seven interviews. And no offers.

Anyone who’s lucky enough not to have been on the market recently simply has no idea how competitive it is out there. Not long ago I interviewed for a management position at a prison reform organization. The Board members I spoke with were effusive about what a great candidate I was—both before and after they rejected me. I lost out on that one to a Pulitzer-winning former editor from a major Chicago newspaper, someone who had led investigative series covering the prison system… but who had recently been laid off, and was accepting a substantial salary decrease to work at this nonprofit organization.

That’s what it’s like these days.

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