Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Daily Strike-2/8/09-Talk Shows and X-Factors

Good Sunday evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Before I continue, I must encourage all of you to read Sister Strike's debut entry below on midnight regulations. She is a great writer and the topic is fascinating. Onto the day in politics...

SUNDAY TALK SHOWS: There were some interesting tidbits on the morning talk shows. Larry Summers, the chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers was pushing hard for the stimulus on Fox News Sunday. He made overtures to congressional Democrats by telling them that the House and Senate versions were 90 percent identical. One thing Summers and others in the administration are surely fearing is that House and Senate negotiators will be so protective of their own bills that coming up with a compromise could get boggled down. This would not serve the interest of Congressional Democrats, who are not exactly the most popular people out there. It would also hamper Obama's effort to sign a stimulus bill by this upcoming President's Day weekend.

Summers also chastised, lightly, Republican critics by saying that it wouldn't make a lot of sense to take economic policy wisdom from the stewards of the last eight years. (Ahem, New Deal-denier Mitch McConnell).

The other notable Sunday talk show guest was Senator John McCain, who is seeming more like 2008 candidate McCain, than honorable maverick McCain these days. McCain again complained about the process, saying that this bill is in no way bipartisan and does not represent change.

The other talk shows were made up of partisan noise. I could barely tolerate Representatives Mike Pence and Barney Frank and Senators Claire McCaskill and John Ensign bickering about the stimulus on Meet the Press. Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama also warned that the stimulus will lead the country down a socialist track and will lead to disaster. One absurd claim made by Republican Senator Ensign of Nevada was that we don't need to give monetary aid to states, because state budgets are "bloated." Please say that to state employees going on furloughs in California, and to 43 other states that are facing major budget shortfalls.

THE X-FACTORS: It's easy for Republicans to mock stimulus proponents when they're liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank. But it's a lot harder when they are some of your closest allies. I'm particularly interested in two cases. The first is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress. He was on CNN's State of the Union today offering a pretty impassioned plea for passage of the stimulus and talked about the projects that would be administered through his department. LaHood has long been a favorite among Democrats for having a genuine bipartisan streak, but his support helps make the bill seem less purely partisan.

The other interesting development is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, not exactly the best friend to many Democrats, has wholeheartedly endorsed the bill. It has even decide to "score" the bill in its annual ratings of members of Congress. The way this works is that the chamber, like many other interest groups, will phone members of Congress and tell them that they are being evaluated on the vote they are about to take. If a Republican Senator votes against the stimulus, therefore, they will not get their 100% ranking from the Chamber of Commerce. I'm not fan of big business, but it helps to have them on our side in this fight. Apparently, their endorsement helped convince the wavering Republican Senator Arlen Specter to support the bill.

MOVING VIDEO: For those of you who want to be deeply moved, CNN has posted a video of a former Ku Klux Klan member apologizing to Georgia Representative John Lewis for beating him during a peaceful Civil Rights demonstration in the 1960s. The guy seemed very genuine in repentance, and I marvel at John Lewis' ability to forgive.

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