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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

February 3, 2006 PERMALINK
Time To Focus On Mr. Speaker
(posted Feb. 3 2 AM ET)

What was the winning argument from John Boehner, the “self-proclaimed reform candidate,” in the race House Majority Leader?

"Yes, I am cozy with lobbyists, but I have never done anything unethical."

Washington smells cleaner already.

Leading conservatives were claiming this represents a “clear ... repudiation of Tom DeLay” and that “this is bad news for the Democrats” because “it's unlikely they will be able to demonize Boehner overnight” – a view echoed by The New Republic.

Perhaps this makes sense to Beltway types (as they are acutely aware that Boehner and DeLay don’t like each other), but not to LiberalOasis.

For one thing, Boehner is not getting “clean break with the past” coverage.

The Associated Press reported Boehner “brings lobbying baggage of his own” and USA Today noted that he’s “cool to the most sweeping proposals for limiting lobbyists' influence.”

For another, there’s no reason to assume that demonizing Boehner is the key to Dem victory in November.

Sure, Dems wanted to counterspin the outcome of the Majority Leader election, and prevent GOPers from getting undeserved “reform” praise.

But the Majority Leader is the #2 position in the House, not the leadership position that typically gets the most press.

Tom DeLay was an atypical Majority Leader, choosing to remain in the #2 slot in an attempt to keep the spotlight off of his sleazy tactics.

Which worked for a long time. Dems had a terrible time making DeLay a household name, despite DeLay’s obnoxiousness.

Only the indictment pushed DeLay over the edge.

With DeLay out of the leadership, a more traditional focus on the Speaker, the actual leader of the House, is likely to return.

Granted, Dennis Hastert is not a spotlight hog like Newt Gingrich was, so he may be able to continue his low-key posture.

But Hastert is certainly part of the “culture of corruption.”

Jack Abramoff used to throw fundraisers for Hastert, and Hastert did a favor for an Abramoff client a few days after one.

(Since Hastert “crippled” the House Ethics Committee, no one expects this to be investigated.)

DeLay engineered his rise to speaker (some say Abramoff helped too, in his special way) and Hastert tried to repay him by changing the rules to allow indicted leaders keep their posts.

That move backfired, and the rule was changed back, but Hastert has continued to stand by the tainted DeLay.

With DeLay out of the leadership, there are no more illusions that Hastert is a mere puppet, and there is no more need to struggle with focusing on a #2.

Hastert runs the show in the House. It’s time to treat him that way.

February 1, 2006 PERMALINK
Ducking Another Fight or Just Going Under The Radar?
(posted Feb. 1 1 AM ET)

Dubya’s State Of The Union speech was so forgettable (he even forgot Mars!) it’s not worth the effort to tick off the various lies, distortions, misrepresentations and empty promises.

But being forgettable may have been intentional.

Last year, the SOTU was intended to be the kick-off for his campaign to privatize Social Security.

Instead, it was effectively a call to arms for us to defeat the plan. Which we did.

He had gone into that SOTU with confidence and momentum following the presidential election, and went after the biggest game possible – the heart of our government’s compact with its retirees and future retirees.

And he got beat. He wasted considerable political capital, and began his downward spiral in the polls.

Yesterday, on the domestic front, he was chastened. At least on the surface.

There was no signature initiative, no full frontal assault on any liberal pillar of government.

The question then remains:

Is that because he’s looking to quietly advance the right-wing anti-government agenda with incremental proposals – such as his brief mention of expanded Health Savings Accounts -- that could sneak in under the radar?

Or is it because Bush has no serious domestic agenda beyond right-wing judges (where he’s winning) and more tax cuts (where he’s stalled because of a few deficit-conscious GOPers)?

At minimum, we must be prepared for under the radar activity.

Not necessarily to block such proposals.

The principle should be to filibuster anything that would cause permanent damage.

For anything that can be fixed by regaining control of Congress, the goal should be to shine a bright light on it, so the public knows what their GOP Congress is up to.

Dems are already doing a halfway-decent job connecting the “culture of corruption” to items that have already passed – the prescription drug boondoggle and the giveaways to the oil companies.

If the GOP wants to add that to list, let ‘em. And call them on it.

January 31, 2006 PERMALINK
Back To Square One
(posted Jan. 31 1 AM ET)

The Alito debacle is over, but the battle for the Supreme Court is not.

So far, we have failed to find a way to stop right-wing nominees in today’s landscape: Republican Senate majority, shoddy mainstream media, evasive and dishonest nominees.

Part of the solution is to have a long-term strategy to articulate the dangers of the conservative judicial activist movement.

How the crony corporatists want a judiciary that won’t hold irresponsible companies accountable when they harm individuals and communities.

How the fringe fundamentalists want a judiciary that will impose their values onto everyone else’s personal moral decisions.

We must begin making that critique now, so when the next nominee comes down the pike, he or she can be understood in that context by the public and the media.

And we must flesh out that critique by calling attention to conservative opinions in the Roberts Court (remember, with Anthony Kennedy as a potential swing, the Right does not fully control the Court yet.)

We have to be able to show the damaging direction the Court is going in, if we are to have any hope of preventing the Right from owning the Court for the next several decades.

This may be tricky. Roberts will be crafty. The game is often to quietly chip away at our rights instead loudly stripping them.

We will likely have to amplify smaller rulings, as well as dissents, in order to sound the alarm for what lies in store.

Once the threat is well understood, it will be easier for us to argue that nominees that are evasive or lack public records should be disqualified for lifetime appointments – instead of foolishly praying that nominees will trip up during their hearings.

For past thoughts on how to frame the debate, see this April '05 LiberalOasis post.

January 30, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Jan. 30 1 AM ET)

Last week’s disappointing performance by Senator Barack Obama on NBC’s Meet The Press unfortunately was not an aberration. We got a repeat performance yesterday.

On ABC’s This Week, he was asked if he would support the Alito filibuster attempt led by Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. His response:

I will be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito in fact is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values...

...In particular, during times of war, we need a court that is independent, and is going to provide some check on the executive branch. And he has not shown himself willing to do that, repeatedly.

I will say this though.

I think that the Democrats have to do a much better job in making their case on these issues.

These last minute efforts using procedural maneuvers inside the Beltway, I think, has been the wrong way of going about it.

Oh, so “the Democrats” are the problem. Because they weren’t “making their case.”

Newsflash to Obama: You. Are. A. Democrat.

And you weren’t exactly shouting from the mountaintops making a case against Alito.

You refused to join the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus when they annnounced opposition to Alito in December, preferring to say at the time your mind wasn’t made up yet.

Just last week, you couldn’t even be bothered to mention Alito when you appeared on Sunday’s highest-rated talk show.

You say last minute procedural maneuvers are what’s wrong with the party, yet you didn’t want to make up your mind until the last minute.

Furthermore, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Obama if reports that he privately argued against a filibuster were true. Obama tellingly only said he doesn’t talk publicly about what he says privately.

Obama is not alone in the “I Don’t Like Alito But I Really Don’t Like Filibusters Even Though I’m Glad We Still Have The Option to Filibuster And I Will Vote For A Filibuster So No One Can Say I Didn’t Oppose Alito By The Way I Think Democrats Are Too Political” camp.

Sen. Joe Biden said on CNN’s Late Edition:

No, I did not call for a filibuster [but] I will vote one time ... to continue debate.

But the truth of the matter is, I think this is done...

...it's a matter of giving people an opportunity to go another day and to support my position -- it's consistent with my position, saying he should not be on the bench.

But I think it's not the wisest approach to take in terms of deciding to try to do this.

Both Obama’s and Biden’s gritted teeth remarks are a clear sign of displeasure and grumbling, from within the Dem caucus, directed at Kerry for forcing Dems to vote for or against a filibuster.

Granted, Kerry’s move was a totally empty, selfish grandstand.

He, like most Democrats, didn’t push hard to stop Alito in the weeks leading up to this week’s vote, and didn’t create the conditions for a successful filibuster.

And he only called for a filibuster after it was mathematically impossible to secure enough votes for a filibuster.

Therefore, this was not a sincere attempt to block Alito, but an attempt to endear himself to the grassroots, who are livid that other Dems are letting Alito skate.

But Kerry should still be thanked for forcing this vote and exposing who we can rely on to go to the mat, and who we can’t.

We are getting to see who really has principles and political savvy, and who is trying to pawn off timidity as political savvy.

If Kerry and others who are actually committed to this filibuster want to come out on top of this whole disaster, they should do all they can to flood the airwaves today, get beyond to political jockeying and, yes, “make the case.”

Not just why Alito is bad for the nation, but how Alito is not the end of the right-wing mission to hand over our formerly independent judiciary to the crony corporatists, fringe fundamentalists, and one power-hungry president.

Obama is right that Democrats did not make the case.

The case against a Supreme Court nominee, and in turn, the larger case against a conservative judiciary, will always be a complicated one – because it’s a multi-issue campaign that is hard to distill into lay person’s language.

It cannot be won with a last-minute spasm of activity.

It requires much forethought and heavy lifting.

It requires steady engagement with the public, before, during and after a nomination.

If Kerry wants to lead that fight, fine.

But keep leading it after Tuesday.

If Obama wants to lead that fight, fine.

But start leading. Stop being an Obamacrat, and start being a Democrat.

QUICK HIT

Other Sunday Show Analyses

Arianna Huffington’s weekly Russert Watch notes that increasing blog pressure on Tim Russert is beginning to have an positive impact on his questioning.

Crooks and Liars chimes in: “Bill Frist joined Tim Russert on MTP this morning and looked like a deer caught in the headlights for most of the show.”

Think Progress flags GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel's comment that Bush “Can’t Unilaterally Decide That A 1978 Law Is Out of Date And…Violate The Law,” and also that more GOPers are pressing Bush to come clean on his contacts with Jack Abramoff.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The Left Coaster: "Wampum Blog has a series of posts, starting here, then here, here, and here, detailing the even bigger crimes underlaying the Abramoff Indian Tribe scandal. Now that there's documentary support that not only didn't he give any money to Democrats, but that he reduced the amounts that his clients traditionally gave to Democrats while vastly increasing what his clients gave to goppers, we can fully realize his duplicity and shameless cunning."

Weekly Radio Address: Bush announces plans for "4th Amendment Zones"

firedoglake: "Arianna Huffington's relentless efforts to slog through the tedious hours of pompous beltway bloviating and the ridiculous kabukis played out on Press the Meat from week to week have finally paid off. Tim Russert whips around this morning and snaps like a toy poodle who's just been peed on by a Great Dane. What happened to the benign Sunday morning patriarch we look to for wisdom and truthiness?"

Crooks and Liars: Matthews Speaks for the Latinos of the world! (more at Open Letter To Chris Matthews)

Abu Aardvark: "For America, I think it's extremely important right now to handle this right: honor the will of the people ... Give Hamas the chance to prove its intentions. Don't get too upset about the inevitable bursts of objectionable rhetoric by excited victors - test deeds, not early words. Above all, don't give the Islamist hardliners the winning argument they crave about American hypocrisy."

Head Heeb: "[Hamas] will have to choose what to do with its power: whether to accept the Oslo framework and move toward negotiations with Israel, or whether to lay Oslo to rest and potentially declare unilateral independence. Before the election, some Hamas leaders were suggesting that the party might avoid confronting the issue head-on by taking the social welfare ministries and letting Abbas handle diplomacy, but this will be harder to do as a majority party ... I'm not sure that even the Hamas leadership counted on getting this far, so the party itself may not know which alternative it will choose."

Open Letter To Chris Matthews: "We are asking companies to refrain from advertising on Matthews' MSNBC TV show 'Hardball' until he publicly apologizes and promises to stop his right-wing bias."

The Talking Dog: " I had the privilege of speaking with Joshua Colangelo Bryan ... counsel to three currently detained inmates of the American detention facility at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ... Three of Mr. Colangelo Bryan's clients have previously been released ... The remaining three are in less than ideal condition"

Public Campaign releases its own campaign ads for the House Majority Leader candidates

The Sideshow: "the knives the administration has been sticking into government employment practices [is something] we should all worry about ... the new rules aren't just about making it easier to fire incompetent civil servants; they're meant to make it easier to fire good civil servants who don't kowtow to corrupt political officials."

Daou Report: "What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? ... the 'neutral' media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines."

TomDispatch: "in the Palestinian elections into which the United States has just poured $2 million ('more than what any Palestinian party will have spent by election day') in support of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas looks poised to score impressive gains that should allow it for the first time to enter a government that the Bush administration has evidently already assured the Israelis it will not recognize or deal with. So much for the Bush crusade for democracy in the region."

**************

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