This week as the nation we face some, and I would say the biggest challenges of our short history, and what we get in Washington is political circus. Of course it is grist for the media bozos who love this stuff over substantial issues. Why is that you ask when we are facing some of the biggest choices we are going to have to make? Because opinion in these soap operas masquerades as journalism and does not require the discipline of doing your homework. A prime example was in the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial pages where they claimed that the Secretary of the Senate had grounds to send Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris packing because his appointment letter wasn’t signed by the Illinois Secretary of State. There are two problems with this statement, first of which is that the Secretary of State has no approval authority, just a requirement to sign the appointment letter. The second is that Rule 2 of the Standing Rules of the Senate is only a recommended procedure. At least if you are going to give us an opinion, have it based on reality. But here are the other related follies that are distracting us from our real business:
- Harry Reid is an idiot – Harry Reid is George Bush in Democratic clothing. By that I mean he is not a deep strategic thinker. Any fool could have figured out that his promise to not seat any appointment of Governor Blagojevich would put him in a box with no way out. The fallacy of this stand is detailed in my blog, “The Rule of Law”, but let me just reiterate that if the Senate gets in the business of nitpicking duly appointed or elected officials from the states, we are going to go down a political road that won’t be pretty. Even Diane Feinstein figured this out. Harry has made other stands that he has later had to retract and he just makes the Democrats look stupid and weak. In the meantime they will finally roll over and look stupid once again. If I were Burris, I would not agree to the “not run in 2010” compromise. I have no horse in this race, but the Senate needs to stay out of the State’s business. Illinois has already shown how capable they are of making fools of themselves.
- Diane Feinstein is a prima donna – That is probably an unfair characterization since most Senators having become use to their exercise of power are prima donnas. I have been somewhat prejudiced against her since she supported the Patriot Act and said she would support a Constitutional amendment banning flag burning, a true assault on free speech. But her being miffed about President-Elect Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta to lead the CIA since she wasn’t consulted, was true pouting. Reminds me of Robert Reich’s description of his confirmation process for Secretary of Labor. He had studied all the issues and was ready in his confirmation hearings to show he had a command of all the issues. That is when he figured out what the process was really about, genuflecting to power in the Senate. I like Rachel Maddow’s opinion of this pick: Obama doesn’t want anyone tainted with Bush administration policies, whether that be torture or violations of our constitutional rights. Diane Feinstein and her pick for that position, Jane Harmon, may have gone along with the flow a little too much and stood by while our Constitution was trashed. Time for some new blood.
- In Minnesota, what is the issue? – In Minnesota, Al Franken was certified the winner, but Republican Norm Coleman filed suit. This one is a no-brainer. While this is being contested, the Senate cannot seat Franken because Republicans with their filibuster friend will refuse to seat him. What I would like to know is what is the real basis of Norm Coleman’s suit. More to the point are the votes Norm Coleman is contesting likely to give him the seat? Oh excuse me that would take real investigative reporting requiring work and opinions are so much easier. I don’t fault Norm Coleman for filing suit in an election that close, I would just like to find out if he is being prudent or not.
- Super majorities are being badly abused – The contested elections above all have one thing in common, power. The Democrats can no longer get the 60 Demos to prevent a filibuster (Thank you Georgia and the backwards South, if you people had your way we would be a theocracy), but they can get close (59). This is critical to moving the country forward and enacting Obama’s agenda without too much obstructionism from the Republicans. But the 60 vote super majority rule in the Senate makes it sound like the Democrats didn’t win in November and gives the Republicans way too much power to thwart change. We face the same problem here in California where it takes two-thirds of the State Senate to pass a budget making a handful of ideological Republicans in charge of our ship of state. I am sorry, but this is just stupid. Change is hard and in the organizations I have worked in (large federal bureaucratic organizations) you are never going to get a super majority to agree to anything. So let’s get real. If you want to make a fundamental change in rights, that should take a super majority. For all other issues, simply majority rules. Otherwise, when the people speak in election, it is then thwarted by these stupid rules. If you want to see how counter productive this is, just watch California go broke.
- Caroline Kennedy – Maureen Dowd wrote a great column Wednesday in the New York times (Sweet on Caroline), and made a similar point that I did in my blog on 12/15, “Three Things to Pay Attention To” (also addresses the Blagojevich issue), which is that if you are judging Caroline on her ability to be a politician, ability to slap backs, say sound bytes, and be disingenuous, then she is unqualified. But if you want someone who is genuine, has not compromised her values, then it might just be a breath of fresh air in the Senate.
Won’t it be nice when we are done with these sideshows and start a real discussion about what sort of economic stimulus will move us forward and build our future? I’ll give you a hint: Tax cuts are a waste of our money. Care to debate it?