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Politics | jonmower.com

Politics

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That Was Then and This Is Now

History does not record that Samuel Adams charged a fee for addressing the rally at the Old South Meeting House on Nov. 29, 1773, at which he rallied the Sons of Liberty to resist the British, leading to the Boston Tea Party. But that was then and this is now.

Garrison Keillor - link

Negotiation

Has Karl Rove forgotten about the 3 months Max Baucus spent negotiating the Senate health care bill with Enzi, Grassley, and Snowe in the Gang of 6 or is he just lying about it? (link)

Mr. Obama's problems remain reality rather than optics. Over the past year, he hemmed himself in by leaving it to Democratic congressional leaders to draft his health-care reform and other items of his agenda and by not pressing those leaders to negotiate with Republicans.

It's not that they didn't negotiate...on the health care bill, on the stimulus...They negotiated and compromised on the size of the stimulus, on the details of health care reform.  They just didn't get any Republican votes for it.  This is an unfortunate trend of compromising without getting anything in return or not even bothering to bargain (link).

Teleprompter Derangement Syndrome

Oh ye of the teleprompter derangement syndrome.  You who love to ridicule the president for his reliance on teleprompters...implying that it means he's not really much of a speaker...or doesn't really believe what he says...or that he's not actually all that bright...or whatever it is that you think makes it worthy of ridicule.  First of all, go back and read Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson's article from last March about Obama and his teleprompter (link).  It's not as if Gerson doesn't write some rich stuff (a Bush speechwriter criticizing a president for not sufficiently owning up to his mistakes? please!: link), but I thought he was right on with his analysis back in March and still do.  An excerpt:

This derision is based on the belief that the teleprompter exaggerates the gap between image and reality -- that it involves a kind of deception. It is true that there is often a distinction between a president on and off his script. With a teleprompter, Obama can be ambitiously eloquent; without it, he tends to be soberly professorial. Ronald Reagan with a script was masterful; during news conferences he caused much wincing and cringing. It is the rare politician, such as Tony Blair, who speaks off the cuff in beautifully crafted paragraphs.

But it is a mistake to argue that the uncrafted is somehow more authentic. Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use "rhetoric" as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing -- expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order -- is essential to governing. For this reason, the greatest leaders have taken great pains with rhetoric. Lincoln continually edited and revised his speeches. Churchill practiced to the point of memorization. Such leaders would not have been improved by being "unplugged." When it comes to rhetoric, winging it is often shoddy and self-indulgent -- practiced by politicians who hear Mozart in their own voices while others perceive random cymbals and kazoos. Leaders who prefer to speak from the top of their heads are not more authentic, they are often more shallow -- not more "real," but more undisciplined.

Now watch the video below.  Obama spoke at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore today and then spent over an hour in a Q&A session with the House Republicans.  You'll notice that teleprompter technology has come a long way since Obama took office.  These days they are apparently invisible and able to respond to impromptu questions within seconds with knowledge and insight.

Oh no he didn't.  That must have been a fluke (just like the BA from Columbia and graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law were).   I know he didn't just show (again) that he's able to talk intelligently and extensively about policy with or without a teleprompter.  Anyway, here is the speech that preceded the Q&A:

Stewart Skewers Olbermann and Colbert Discusses Adolf Carter

Here are a couple videos from last night...First, Stewart laments what Olbermann has become:

Then, Colbert discusses how Obama is apparently "Adolf Carter": somehow "both an iron-fisted autocrat and a laughably incompetent waffler":

Bypassing Conference

The Democratic leadership in Congress is making plans to bypass the conference process for working out a compromise between the health care reform bills that passed the House and Senate.  From Jonathan Cohn (link):

According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps--not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate--that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December.

In terms of the optics, this is bad.  It confirms the GOP talking-point that reforms the people don’t want are being crafted in secret and rammed through Congress.  For example, in the words of a spokesman for John Boehner (link):

“Something as critical as the Democrats’ health care bill, with its Medicare cuts and tax hikes, shouldn’t be slapped together in a shady backroom deal. Skipping a real, open Conference shuts out the American people and breaks one of President Obama’s signature campaign promises. It would be a disgrace — to the Democratic Leaders if they do it, and to every Democratic Member who lets them.”

On the other hand, when it comes to health care reform the Republicans have only a strategy of saying “No” (Republicans voted against the House version 176 to 1;  Republicans voted against the Senate version 39 to 0).  Contrary to the talking point that the Democrats have ignored Republicans in shaping the bills and are rushing reform, the original timelines were much delayed while the Gang of 6 (link) worked deliberately on a bipartisan bill.  Even the Republican participation in those negotiations was questionable (e.g., Grassley: link and link).  Even after significantly influencing the Senate bill, none of Republican members of the Gang of 6 voted for it.  Even after reform bills had passed both houses of Congress, the GOP Senate leadership was still vowing to keep fighting (link).  Given these realities, it seems like the Republicans have already said “No” to reform.  Why indulge the Republicans’ plans to further obstruct?

Apparently, bypassing conference isn’t especially unusual (link):

Hill aides say it often happens with major or contentious pieces of legislation (though not apparently in this current Congress). "This is what we normally do," said one Hill aide, "it is pretty standard."

But it’s certainly nothing like what Obama promised during the campaign (link):

I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.

As a bonus, here’s a plot (link) of life expectancy vs. health care spending for various countries (with the size of the circle proportional to the number of doctor visits per person):

healthscatter2

Maddow on Politicizing Abdulmutallab’s Attack

In this embedded video segment Maddow examines the Republican response to the Christmas Bomber.

Examples:

  • Criticizing allowing Abdulmutallab to “lawyer up” even though “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were treated the same under Cheney
  • Criticizing how long it took Obama to comment despite the fact that Bush waited much longer before commenting about Richard Reid

From Another Classic Letter to the Editor

An excerpt from a letter to the editor in today's Midland Daily News:

Ultimately I would say this (and I have said this to law enforcement officials and politicians alike): do you really think that once gay marriage is the law in every state, once the border has been opened to anyone and everyone who wants to come here, once boom boxes and loud motorcycles and gangster rap music are ubiquitous across the land — do you really think this country will be a better place to live?

link

Previous installments in this series:

Stewart Skewers Fox News' Gay Rights March Coverage

Fans of Fox News have a pretty low view of the mainstream media due to its perceived liberal bias in promoting stories that to them seem irrelevant while ignoring others that seem to them to be highly newsworthy.  To me it seems kind of strange for people who gets their news mainly from Fox News to complain about biased media outlets.  If you're so offended by media bias, why in the world would you consume media from another outlet that is demonstrably as biased or even more so (but biased to the right)?  The clip below from Jon Stewart illustrates this point beautifully by showing how Fox News devoted intense coverage to the Tea Party gathering in D.C. while mocking the other networks for giving it little attention despite its significant size...and then proceeded to ignore last weekend's D.C.gay rights march of comparable size.

As I mentioned before (link), I think Nicholas Kristof was right on target when he wrote:

..there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.

I think organizations like Media Matters for America, NewsBusters, and NewsHounds are useful, and I'm glad they do what they do...but I wish the average Joe would either give Fox News as much scorn for its bias as he does the New York Times or one of the other TV networks...or give it a rest about media bias.

Keillor on Obama's Nobel

Some conservative pundit suggested that the president should've declined the prize, but it is not gracious to reject a compliment, one should accept it with becoming modesty, as Mr. Obama did, that's what your mother brought you up to do. The prize isn't about you, it's about Peace, or Literature, or Homecoming, or Champion Hog, or Male Vocalist of the Year, so walk up there and smile for the cameras, say thank you and sit down.

link

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