Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Daily Strike-6/30/09-Finally Franken

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Before you read this, scroll down and read The Big Picture's entry below. He makes a very important point. Now, to the day in politics.

FRANKEN: No more excuses, Democrats. Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court, in a 5-0 ruling, declared Al Franken the winner of the contested Minnesota Senate election. The ruling said that the trial court was correct in certifying the Democrat's 312 vote post-recount victory. An hour or so after the ruling, former Republican Senator Norm Coleman conceded, clearing the path for Franken to be sworn in when the Senate returns next week. This will give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate, to accompany its overwhelming House majority and progressive President. In theory, Democrats now control all levers of power in Washington. But, we should mention several caveats. First, any one Senator can nullify the filibuster-proof majority on a given issue. Remember, we still have to deal with people like ex-Republican Arlen Specter, McCain buddy Joe Lieberman and Nebraska's proud centrist Ben Nelson. Even if we do get everybody on board, we still need every Senator to be present and voting in order to get to the magic 60 without Republican support. This will be difficult because of health issues surrounding Senators Kennedy (MA) and Byrd (WV) (who came out of the hospital today after 6 weeks.). Despite these caveats, Franken's seating means that the Democrats have no more excuses for inaction. As Ezra Klein pointed out today, we may never have an opportunity like this again, and the Big Picture reminds us that getting strong progressive legislation will be the best way to make these majorities enduring.

A couple more points on Franken:

One thing I haven't thought about much is that Franken might end up being a debate asset for Senate Democrats. Even though Franken is sometimes written off because he was a comedian, he has a knack for making other people feel two feet small. Perhaps he can help put down Republican and centrist Democratic opposition to President Obama's proposals, and shift policy debates to the left.

Also, let's remember how far we've come. Three years ago today, Republicans held 55 Senate seats, 232 House seats, and the White House. Since then, they've lost 15 seats in the Senate, 54 in the House, and of course, the Presidency.

IRAQ: Remember that war in Iraq? It seems like we haven't heard anything about it for awhile. It's hard to believe consdering that it dominated the news from 2003 to 2007. Today, the United States military handed over control of Iraqi cities to the Iraqi military, per last year's Status of Forces Agreement. The turnover was accompanied by some violence, including a bombing that killed 4 American GIs. But considering where Iraq was two years ago, it's a pretty big deal. American troops will remain stationed outside the cities as advisors, and they will still be patrolling more rural areas. A dark chapter in American history is slowly coming to an end. The turnaround in Iraq can be attributed to a number of sources: a change in civilian and military leadership, the Sunni awakening, and the infamous troop surge. I was a major opponent of the troop surge, thinking that it was doubling down on a failed policy. While it may have been a tactical victory that allows us to start a painfully slow withdrawal, we have to remember that it still caused the death of over a thousand American troops.

Hopefully violence doesn't increase now that American troops have moved out of the cities. It is now the responsibility of the Iraqi government to ensure stability.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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