TOBACCO: It was an important day for anti-smoking advocates today, as the House signed off on a final version of the bill putting tobacco under the regulation of the FDA. The bill has been in the pipeline, in one form or another, for a decade. It has passed the House and Senate at various times, but was always held up by White House opposition or procedural delay. Some lawmakers, like Senator Ted Kennedy and Reps. Waxman and Dingell have been trying to get this done for a long time, and have spent their careers trying to fight the powerful tobacco lobby. Today, they can claim victory. For those of you who are smokers out there, the bill will make sure that you see every ingredient of a cigarette when you buy a package. There will also be a ban on flavored cigarettes, which have been used subliminally to attract children.
The debate in the House today was highly entertaining. Because opposition to the bill was so small, and the House always affords equal debate time to both sides, the same crazy Republican representatives were up blasting the bill for two hours. One of the opponents was Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, who claimed, among other things, that tobacco is not harmful if it is not smoked, that the bill violates the constitution, and that the bill constitutes prohibition. Oh yeah, because alcohol is regulated by the FDA, we're not allowed to drink. I don't think Buyer knows what he's talking about.
As for the vote, it was even close. The House agreed to the Senate version of the bill by a vote of 307-97. 90 of the 97 no votes came from the Republicans. The 7 Democrats to vote against the bill (I haven't looked yet but I'll bet you they're from North Carolina...)
Ok, 3 of them are.
The bill heads to President Obama's desk for his signature, which should happen next week.
On a separate note, House and Senate leaders have agreed on a final version of the war funding bill. It will come to the floor of both chambers next week. I expect it to pass pretty narrowly in both chambers, due to Republican objections to IMF spending.
IRAN: A mostly quiet day today at the White House, but the big political event today is happening a world away. Iran has voted on whether to reelect President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or to go with the more moderate Hossein Moussavi. The tangible results of the election are of somewhat questionable importance. Both candidates are supportive of Iran's nuclear program, for one. Also, real power in Iran still resides with senior clerics, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The election does carry significant symbolic importance, however. Ahmedinejad is an enemy of the west, and his fiery rhetoric and holocaust denial makes him one of the world's most hated leaders. Coming off the results last week in Lebanon, where a pro-western government was surprisingly reelected, today's election in Iran is the ultimate test as to whether Obama's outreach to the Muslim world is working.
Early results show Ahmedinejad in the lead. Although, I'm not sure whether I trust the vote count coming from the state-run media (let alone ANY vote count.) For what it's worth, both candidates have claimed victory. I'm curious to see whether President Obama comments on the election, especially if Ahmedinejad wins. Will he continue to reach out to Iran even if it chooses to reelect a man who genuinely hates the United States? We shall see.
BIG PICTURE CORNER: We won't be able to do "comment of the week" this week, because people have been negligent. So we're going to give you a Big Picture Corner instead. The Big Picture was as puzzled as I was about Senator Chuck Grassley's non-sensical "tweets" last weekend, which made me think it was actually written by his pre-pubescent granddaughter. The Big Picture articulately summed up his objections:
And speaking of the "tweets", Chuck Grassley's tweeting is almost the perfect storm of things I hate.
1) people criticizing Obama
2) people criticizing Obama for absurdly trivial, demagogic things
3) people leveling personal attacks against Obama
4) old white elite anti-progress Republican U.S. Senators
5) self-righteous self-importance ("I am not a nail!")
6) opposition to Obama's health care reform
7) old people jumping headfirst into new technology with no sense of shame
8) Twitter itself: the idea that it's socially acceptable and even "cool" for people to just pop off with any random thought in their head and accounting for the mundane details of their life
9) If people are going to do it, I like it a lot more when it's at least face-to-face talking, not through impersonal technology
10) Twitter "grammar" makes me incredibly angry. I hate the abbreviations, the nonexistent sentence structure. It's destroying the ability of people to articulately communicate.
That's it for tonight. We'll see you tomorrow!