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Saturday, August 29, 2009


our first 'headlining' gig (so to speak) ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Joe Biden was scheduled to talk about the stimulus or something today, but used the opportunity to talk about his friend instead. Off-the-cuff, unscripted, and very heartfelt:

Harold Meyerson:

He was, as he lay dying, new again. Ted Kennedy outlived the Reagan-Thatcher conservative era to which for so many years he led the opposition. He played a key role in putting Barack Obama in the White House, creating the possibility for a renaissance of American liberalism, the cause he led for the past four decades. He came to Washington one last time to vote for the kind of Keynesian stimulus that had been out of favor in the age of laissez-faire but that embodied, however imperfectly, Kennedy's belief that government had the ability and the duty to create an economy that not only mitigated capitalism's excesses but made it work for ordinary Americans.

He did not get to liberalism's promised land, of course. The universal health coverage he'd fought for throughout his career is still unrealized; his death may make it harder to realize, at least in the immediate months to come. Labor law remains unreformed, and America's 12 million undocumented immigrants still live in the shadows with no legal path to citizenship. These were all battles that Kennedy would have led; he was the go-to guy, the champion, the orator, the deal-maker for the uninsured, the undocumented, the unable-to-join-unions; the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.

More than any other American, Ted Kennedy kept liberalism's flame burning through the dark of the Reagan era. The liberals who continue his battles will need all the wit and smarts and joy and passion for justice that he brought to those fights.

Ronald Brownstein:

Kennedy became the Senate’s shrewdest assembler of bipartisan coalitions. He came to share, at a bedrock level, the belief that Lyndon Johnson articulated to biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin: “It is the politician’s task to pass legislation, not to sit around saying principled things.”

Actually, Kennedy (with the help of generations of great speechwriters like Robert Shrum) could articulate “principled things” as eloquently as anyone. What Kennedy understood is that there was no contradiction between soaring, uncompromising goals and the inevitably messier work of fashioning imperfect legislative compromises that nudged public policy a few feet down the road toward realizing those goals. Among the reams of outstanding personal reminisces of Kennedy that National Journal has collected today, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, a pretty edgy partisan himself at times, captured that quality of Kennedy’s best: “The first obligation of a U.S. senator or congressman is to legislate,” Simpson said. “It means putting an idea into writing and then amending, and then hearings, and then floor management, and conference committees, and warding off vetoes. That’s what Ted did. He was a master legislator.”

Mark Schmitt:

There are two battling story lines about the career of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy: Here at the Prospect, we recall the Lion of Liberalism, treating his 1980 convention speech as the hinge of his long career. Meanwhile, on cable news, or in the hands of Dan Balz at The Washington Post, he is the icon of bipartisan compromise, whose close working partnership with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah among others was legendary. Earlier this week, a number of Republicans including Hatch invoked a disingenuous, "if only Teddy were here" explanation for their intransigence on health reform, suggesting that all other Democrats lacked his ability to forge compromises.

My own exposure to Sen. Kennedy during the period I worked on the Hill was mostly at a distance, but I don't see those two approaches as being in any kind of conflict. I think that he was able to forge bipartisan deals because he knew his own heart so well. The deals -- such as the McCain-Kennedy partnership on immigration -- were not built around the idea of bipartisanship but on his vision of a just society, implemented through an imperfect and messy set of democratic institutions, involving a lot of people who don't agree with you.

It was a view of politics that wasn't built around any fixed conception of partisanship or how to get things done. The debate about whether to pass health care through reconciliation or through bipartisan compromise would probably seem misdirected to him. His approach to politics was evident: If you know where the country should go, every single day, every interaction with a colleague, might create a chance to get a little closer to it, and if you put your energy into every such opportunity, some of them will pay off.

During the Bush years, that approach could sometimes be turned against him. If he had known that the administration didn't intend to fund the No Child Left Behind legislation, he might not have lent his support in 2001, and his support for the Medicare prescription-drug legislation got it through the Senate, only to see his compromise completely wiped out in conference. It took him a while, as it did most liberals, to appreciate that there were no real opportunities in the Bush years, that steadfast opposition was the only honorable position. When Obama emerged as a colleague and presidential candidate, it was evident to Kennedy, though not as clear to others, that his approach to compromise and bipartisanship was similar to Kennedy's own, that it was based in the idea that if you have a clear vision of where you want to go, you can -- and should -- try to find common ground and opportunities for change with anyone you can.

As I watch health reform foundering once again, threatened by Democrats as much as by Republicans, it reminds me again that that spirit is shockingly hard to find in the U.S. Congress. I'd often look at senators, and especially long-serving staffers, and want to shake them by the lapels and demand to know, "Why are you here? Is the purpose of your life to get re-elected as easily as possible, or to help your boss get re-elected?" Health care has been left in the hands of people who could not answer that question.

The reason that Ted Kennedy might have been able to bring people together on health care and other reforms is precisely because of, not despite, the fact that he was a passionate liberal who knew exactly why he was where he was.

Bob Shrum gives the back story on his greatest speech, and it's coda given at the most recent Convention (Great stuff!)'s the Speech itself (audio and text)

Matt Yglesias:

Its closing line is, I think, crucially important: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

I’m never able to express myself nearly that well, but what I take Kennedy to be doing here is trying to offer an alternative to the boom-bust mentality that I think often overtakes American progressives. There’s a tendency to get extremely wound up with optimism about the imminent dawn of sudden and radical change for the better, and then intensely bitter, cynical, and depressed when that fails to materialize. The reality, however, is that change is hard. That’s not an excuse for the people who stand in its way, it’s the reality. But if you respond to the difficulty of making things better by giving up or getting frustrated, then it only gets harder.

Building a better country and a world is work—hard work—and it’s work that goes on. And on. And on.

Ted is also remembered for giving the eulogy at Bobby's funeral, quoting his brother at length:

Ezra Klein:

That speech is Ted Kennedy's voice speaking Robert Kennedy's words. It is one man echoing another. And it was Robert Kennedy, in turn, channeling so many more before him. In that, it is a fitting encapsulation of his life. Ted Kennedy was part of a tradition. A tradition that fought for social justice and equality, for decency and dignity, for peace between nations and for security within households. It did not begin with Ted Kennedy, and it does not end with him. The man may be irreplaceable. But the work can be carried on.

Edward Kenndy, 1932-2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

wild things

Here's an excerpt from Dave Eggers novelization

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

totally confused

two very different narratives about the health care debate seem to be forming...

either the public option was always more of a bargaining chip than a real possibility, and despite reflexive liberal fixation on the issue the WH is willing to risk alienating its base... (more)

OR it's a vital component of reform that Obama's willing to go to the mat for by using the reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster.


I have no idea if there's anything to this or if it's just more cable chatter, but here's hoping it's real.

I will say it fits the pattern of his campaign... the rope-a-dope strategy of waiting until the press has gotten bored with the attacks and seems ready for a twist in the script, before launching a counter-offensive.

But the bigger point is that health care is likely to be the most important thing Obama will be judged on at the end of his term... Just passing whatever Republicans will sign on to might provide a short term boost, but ultimately it would be held against him. Sure it would likely help a lot more people get insurance and do some good, but ballooning costs could easily become a political albatross.

for the initiative to be a success it must be fiscally prudent, and that means bringing down costs, and outside of massive regulation of the health care industry (which would be incredibly inefficient anyway) a public option is the only sure way to do that.

If Obama rams this through it will certainly be controversial, at least at first. but I think this is one of those issues worth laying it on the line for. It's the right thing to do, and people are going to like it once they have it. and at the point they will be all the more impressed that Obama and the Dems had the guts to stake their reputations on it, even without any bipartisan 'cover.'

This is called having the courage of one's convictions.

NYT here

Sunday, August 16, 2009

the crazy tree blooms eternal

Rick Perlstein puts the current hysteria into larger context:

In the early 1950s, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as "20 years of treason" and accused the men who led the fight against fascism of deliberately surrendering the free world to communism. Mainline Protestants published a new translation of the Bible in the 1950s that properly rendered the Greek as connoting a more ambiguous theological status for the Virgin Mary; right-wingers attributed that to, yes, the hand of Soviet agents. And Vice President Richard Nixon claimed that the new Republicans arriving in the White House "found in the files a blueprint for socializing America."

When John F. Kennedy entered the White House, his proposals to anchor America's nuclear defense in intercontinental ballistic missiles -- instead of long-range bombers -- and form closer ties with Eastern Bloc outliers such as Yugoslavia were taken as evidence that the young president was secretly disarming the United States. Thousands of delegates from 90 cities packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, a 1961 version of today's tea parties; a keynote speaker turned to the master of ceremonies after his introduction and remarked as the audience roared: "Tom Anderson here has turned moderate! All he wants to do is impeach [Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl] Warren. I'm for hanging him!"

Before the "black helicopters" of the 1990s, there were right-wingers claiming access to secret documents from the 1920s proving that the entire concept of a "civil rights movement" had been hatched in the Soviet Union; when the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was introduced, one frequently read in the South that it would "enslave" whites. And back before there were Bolsheviks to blame, paranoids didn't lack for subversives -- anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists even had their own powerful political party in the 1840s and '50s.

The instigation is always the familiar litany: expansion of the commonweal to empower new communities, accommodation to internationalism, the heightened influence of cosmopolitans and the persecution complex of conservatives who can't stand losing an argument. My personal favorite? The federal government expanded mental health services in the Kennedy era, and one bill provided for a new facility in Alaska. One of the most widely listened-to right-wing radio programs in the country, hosted by a former FBI agent, had millions of Americans believing it was being built to intern political dissidents, just like in the Soviet Union.

So, crazier then, or crazier now? Actually, the similarities across decades are uncanny. When Adlai Stevenson spoke at a 1963 United Nations Day observance in Dallas, the Indignation forces thronged the hall, sweating and furious, shrieking down the speaker for the television cameras. Then, when Stevenson was walked to his limousine, a grimacing and wild-eyed lady thwacked him with a picket sign. Stevenson was baffled. "What's the matter, madam?" he asked. "What can I do for you?" The woman responded with self-righteous fury: "Well, if you don't know I can't help you."

The various elements -- the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won't hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension -- sound as fresh as yesterday's news. (Internment camps for conservatives? That's the latest theory of tea party favorite Michael Savage.)

The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror -- powerful elites -- find reason to stoke and exploit that fear. And even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism: something provincials fear as an outside elite intent on forcing different values down their throats.

That provides an opening for vultures such as Richard Nixon, who, the Watergate investigation discovered, had his aides make sure that seed blossomed for his own purposes. "To the Editor . . . Who in the hell elected these people to stand up and read off their insults to the President of the United States?" read one proposed "grass-roots" letter manufactured by the White House. "When will you people realize that he was elected President and he is entitled to the respect of that office no matter what you people think of him?" went another.

Liberals are right to be vigilant about manufactured outrage, and particularly about how the mainstream media can too easily become that outrage's entry into the political debate. For the tactic represented by those fake Nixon letters was a long-term success. Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people's voices means they should treat Obama's creation of "death panels" as just another justiciable political claim. If 1963 were 2009, the woman who assaulted Adlai Stevenson would be getting time on cable news to explain herself. That, not the paranoia itself, makes our present moment uniquely disturbing.

It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to "debunk" claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president's program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn't adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of "conservative claims" to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as "extremist" -- out of bounds.

The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora. Only now, it's being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills -- the one hysterics turned into the "death panel" canard -- is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of "complaints over the provision."

Good thing our leaders weren't so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill -- because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.

vladimir_kush.jpg Crazy tree. image by bdreiwaintt

Saturday, August 8, 2009

summertime rolls

well the dog days of summer have turned out to be action packed after all, at least from a political perspective... and obviously this blog has not been serving its readers well (neither of you!), but I'm going to jump in now and post some videos for your viewing pleasure.

The lunatic fringe has surfaced this summer, so let's survey the insanity...

the "brat pack" takes on a whole new meaning:

this guy pretty much shreds the wackos to pieces (brutal!):

and Maddow did pretty well herself:

CNN even got in on the hypocrisy spotting game for a bit:

in more upbeat news, we have a new supreme court justice... Congrats Sonia! Here's her swearing in:

from the Obama archives:

a neat vid on the what happens to letters received by the White House:

new RS cover:


an amusing segment on Hillary's trip to Africa:

finally, no video for this one, but I really enjoyed this post on foreign policy doctrine as illustrated by a rap feud. (and more)

ok, I won't leave you hangin':

it's oh so serious...