February 05, 2009
The Emerging Republican Majority
Let me offer my two-bits in the debate between Noam Scheiber and Jon Chait over what the Republicans are trying to accomplish by holding up Obama’s stimulus bill and what could happen if they are successful in significantly diluting it. I don’t have an answer to question number one, except that I imagine that Republican Senators are acting from a variety of motives--from the narrowly partisan (compare the House Republicans this year or the Senate Republicans in 1993) to the foolishly ideological.
Wow, you all thought I was shrill.
For more proof of how the left would react to the appointment of Phil Bredesen to run the Department of Health and Human Services, here's Dr. SteveB, the health care blogger over at DailyKos: This choice would represent a complete betrayal by Obama of what he ran on in so many ways. Bredesen would be a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible choice. Sort of like putting Summers in charge of economic policy or Gregg in charge of Commerce. But worse.
Jon Chait and I were debating this at our editorial meeting this morning. Jon says the GOP's dream is to derail the stimulus plan, which would devastate the economy and destroy Obama's presidency. I say that'd be pretty self-defeating. Everyone knows Obama inherited an economic mess, and that Obama and the Democrats badly want to pass a stimulus. If the stimulus dies, the GOP will almost certainly get blamed.
On Wednesday, President Obama signed into a law an extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Congress had passed a similar measure last year, when the program--first created during the Clinton Administration, with bipartisan support--was up for renewal. But President Bush and his conservative allies refused to go along, saying it was "government-run health care." The bill's supporters, which included not just the Democrats but many Republicans as well, couldn't quite muster the votes to overcome the veto.
February 04, 2009
Last year, a new Middle East lobby called J Street was formed to push American Jewish opinion in a more conciliatory direction. "What we're responding to," wrote J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami last year, "is that for too long there's been an alliance between the neo-cons, the radical right ofthe Christian Zionist movement and the far-right portions of the Jewish community that has really locked up what it means to be pro-Israel." Israel's supporters do have a distressing tendency to define their position in maximalist terms.
Earlier this month, Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher--last seen serving as the third wheel on John McCain and Sarah Palin's increasingly disastrous blind date--traded in his toilet jack for a handheld microphone and traveled to the Middle East to become a foreign correspondent covering the Israel-Hamas war for the conservative website Pajamas Media. Alas, he wasn't terribly impressed with his new colleagues. "I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting," Wurzelbacher said in the Israeli city of Sderot, where he was, from all appearances, reporting. "You know, war is hell.
Israel suffered 13 deaths in the Gaza war. But we won’t know the full extent of the wound the nation has suffered until February 10, when elections are held. If current polls are to be believed, an extremist right-wing party stands to make historic gains. That outcome will demonstrate just how deep the psychic wound from the conflict truly runs; just how far the latest violence has radicalized the Israeli public; and just how big a problem all this will be for Israel’s long-term security.The party in question is Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu (or “Israel is our Home”) Party.
District of Corruption
So Damn Much Money is the title of Bob Kaiser’s penetrating book on the explosion of lobbying and corruption in Washington over the past quarter century. Kaiser is right, and so is Barack Obama in his attempt to attenuate the corrosive links between lobbying and government--even with the hiccup created by Tom Daschle’s withdrawal. In over 39 years in Washington, I have seen the city transformed from a sterile national capital akin to Canberra or Brasilia into a social, cultural, culinary, and economic metropolis that can (almost) compete with London and Paris.
Do More On Education In The Stimulus
Thanks to the hefty sum--roughly $140 billion--slated for education funding in the federal stimulus package, heated debate over education reform has hit the news yet again. Although they welcome the attention being paid to the nation's schools, many reformers, who favor hard-line measures like performance pay, high-stakes testing, and charter school funding, are rightly arguing that there should be more conditions encouraging broad, innovative changes attached to the stimulus funds.