Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Big Picture Fills in For the Strike

The Big Picture generously offered to pinch-hit for the Strike, who received an excellent birthday present from Lady Strike to attend the Giants-Nationals game featuring Giants ace Tim Lincecum. Unfortunately shoddy defense and relief pitching resulted in a terrible 10-6 loss to baseball's worst team. But it was a very busy day in politics, so let's get to it, and with so much to cover I am forced to restrain my natural long-windedness.

GM: By far the biggest news in the country - even as the elite Washington crowd already turns its attention elsewhere - is the bankruptcy of General Motors, so we start there. It has been heartwrenching reading the tales of woe in the communities whose backbone was the strong union jobs that the United Auto Workers won after decades of struggle in the late 1930s. For environmental and social reasons cars aren't the ideal end products of a manufacturing base, but it is profoundly disturbing to see such a clear indication of the end of an era that provided security, prosperity, and opportunity for the broad mass of Americans to a degree unequaled in human history, the great triumph of democratic capitalism. The contrast of the end of solid manufacturing as the core of our economy with the phony, scheming economy of finance is jarring. It reminds me of a great line from my favorite show (and the President's!) "The Wire", as a character looks out at the ruined docks, which had once provided a secure middle-class life and the American dream but were now bleak and infested with gangsterism: "We used to make shit in this country. Now we just stick our hands in the other guy's pocket."

Michael Moore, who rose to his status as spokesman for my brand of social democratic politics with his chronicling of this deeply unfortunate transition in his hometown of Flint, had an interesting take. He says "good riddance" to the pathetic corporate management of GM, and welcomes the opportunity to have public ownership of the means of production, to steer the plants and technology and skilled workers of GM toward national priorities, just as they did during World War II. The 18-year-old radical purist in me is thrilled by this. But the 23-year-old Big Picture recognizes that, as the Strike said yesterday, this nationalization is fraught with danger because turning around GM, in this economy, is setting up a remarkable degree of difficulty for proving the efficacy of social democratic policy, and could backfire. Read David Brooks' sobering column on the inherent difficulties. Like Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the banks, GM is an albatross around Obama's neck - he needs the problems to go away so he can focus on his major priorities, the issues where he has clear plans, a sound strategy, and popular support.

HEALTH CARE POW-WOW: Speaking of top priorities, Obama met with key Democratic Senators to rally them to pass health care reform with as much speed as possible, saying that "we can't afford to put this off" as "between now and the August recess is the make or break period". Barack Obama doesn't use those kind of words lightly. As soon as he returns from his overseas trip, it is time for Obama to launch into full "educator and persuader in chief" mode. Every TV viewer and newspaper reader should find it impossible to avoid Obama arguing for health care over the next two months. He has been very careful up to now to avoid the perception of arrogant bullying that dogged Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993-94, making sure to let Congress come up with plans on their own, but now is time to weigh in, and do it with a vengeance. This is why you pick your battles and accrue political capital. Paul Krugman has long warned that you don't have the stomach to potentially sacrifice your popularity in order for the all-out, Presidency-on-the-line struggle that true health care reform will become. Prove him wrong, Mr. President.

SOTOMAYOR: The hopefully future Justice traveled to Capitol Hill today and met with leading Democratic and Republican Senators, telling them that she used a poor choice of words in her "wise Latina" remarks (side note: Sotomayor actually said that, because elite white men on the Court had allowed racial segregation and patriarchy, she hoped that she as a Latina would bring a better perspective - which obviously makes her a racist). The meetings seemed to go smoothly - even "former" racist Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions said he had "fun", whatever that means coming from him. Perhaps the onetime KKK apologist bonded with the "wise Latina" over her affiliation with the "Hispanic KKK", La Raza! Anyway, a Gallup poll showed that she has a healthy 54% approval rating, higher than Alito's, slightly below Roberts'. As we predicted, the right-wing attacks aren't working, and should backfire horribly down the road.

ANTI-CHOICE TERRORISM: The shocking but sadly not surprising assassination of women's health provider George Tiller continues to reverberate, especially as journalists dig deeper and realize that A) demogogues like Bill O'Reilly have blood on their hands for inciting this terrorism by repeatedly calling Tiller "baby killer" and saying "If I could put my hands on him" on national television night after night and B) these terrorist acts are really working in their campaign of intimidation through terror, making it increasingly difficult for women to have freedom of choice, especially women facing severe health problems who live in conservative areas and lack financial means. What's most disturbing of all is that George Tiller was acting legally. There is nothing more threatening to the very fabric of democracy than when extremists use terrorism to achieve what they could not through democratic means. It has brought down countless democracies in the past century.

OBAMA'S TRIP ABROAD: On a more hopeful note, Barack Obama is currently airborne on his way to Saudi Arabia, where he was apparently forced to make a stop to appease the Saudi Royal Family. I eagerly anticipate his trip to Egypt and the speech he will make there - this speech will be so difficult to finesse that I would cringe if anyone else was giving it, but this is precisely where Obama shines. We will have full coverage in the coming days of what will hopefully be a milestone in the positive transformation of America's global image.

That's all for tonight. Hopefully the Giants can use the pain of this humiliating defeat as a motivator, as Randy Johnson prepares to go for his 300th win tomorrow.

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