Robert Bennett

Ah, Watergate!

"I AM AWARE," H. R. Haldeman writes, "that I there is a cult of people in this country who collect every scrap of information about Watergate because of its many fascinating mysteries." He's more than aware: his memoir. The Ends of Power, is a seething nest of almost every conceivable scrap of Watergate conspiracy theory developed to date. The Democratic Trap Theory, the CIA Trap Theory, the Blackmail Demand Theory: you name it, H. R. Bob buys it.

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Senator Ron Wyden has an unofficial fan club and I consider myself a charter member. I joined in late 2006, right after the midterm elections, when a newly energized Wyden introduced a serious proposal for universal health care. The idea was elegant -- in many ways, a policy wonk's dream. And while it never became the template for reform, it had a catalytic effect on the debate. If not for the political conversation that Wyden's proposal started, the Affordable Care Act might not exist today.  I suspect Wyden is trying to reprise that role now, with a new proposal he unveils Thursday.

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I have often found Senator Joe Lieberman’s positions infuriating. I didn’t agree certainly with his unstinting support for the invasion of Iraq, or his support for Israel’s Likud governments, or his sanctimonious denunciation of Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances, or his endorsement of John McCain in 2008. Still, I rue Lieberman’s departure from the Senate—along with that of Kent Conrad, and the recent departures of Russ Feingold, Byron Dorgan, and Robert Bennett. Some of it has to do with sheer predictability and individuality.

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Christine O’Donnell is not someone you’d expect to be a Republican nominee for a competitive U.S. Senate contest, particularly in the staid state of Delaware, and particularly as the choice of primary voters over Congressman Mike Castle, who up until yesterday had won twelve consecutive statewide races. O’Donnell is a recent newcomer to Delaware and, since arriving, has managed to get into trouble with her student loans, her taxes, her mortgage, and her job. She also unsuccessfully sued a conservative organization for gender discrimination.

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Citizens of the Week

Good Citizen of the Week: Mo Vaughn Maurice "Mo" Vaughn had an illustrious career with the Boston Red Sox, winning an MVP title and thrilling a generation of Fenway faithful with laser shots out of the park. But he injured his knee when he tumbled down the dugout steps, while fielding a pop-up in foul territory. He was never the same and, after two lackluster seasons with the Mets, he retired. Vaughn, who idolized Jackie Robinson and wore #42 to honor him, said he wanted to give back to society after retirement. Unlike most pro athletes, he meant it.

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The most amusing spectacle of the health care debate has been watching Republicans rally with the utmost earnestness around principles that literally nobody within their party had ever considered before the health care debate. So, we've seen them rail against the use of budget reconciliation, previously a procedure they'd employed for major tax cuts, as something akin to dictatorship.

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One thing I've been wondering about the last few months is what exactly happened behind the scenes with Olympia Snowe and the health care negotiations. Today, her former health care adviser, William F. Pewen, has a New York Times op-ed. After reading it, I'm still wondering. Pewen blames Republicans for cynically opposing any reform for partisan reasons: Republicans rightly note that their role was minimized in four of the five Congressional committees charged with drafting the legislation.

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Because Congress failed to adopt a bipartisan deficit commission on its own, President Obama created one through executive order on Thursday. This comes as a disappointment to members of both parties who had endorsed the Conrad-Gregg bill: that proposal would have forced the Congress to vote on the commission’s recommendations, while the administration’s initiative does not. The failure of Conrad-Gregg was surprising as well as troubling. By last December, the bill had garnered almost three dozen cosponsors across party lines and seemed to be gaining momentum.

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My colleague Noam Scheiber has parsed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony about the power of the Federal Reserve, but Bernanke also commented in hearings yesterday about government fiscal policy; and what he had to say was, to say the least, disturbing. Echoing the charges of economic conservatives and Wall Streeters like investment banker Peter Peterson, Bernanke took aim against what these folks call “entitlements,” but which are known popularly to be social security and Medicare. Republicans can be expected to cite his comments in the current debate over the Democratic health

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Yesterday, in a straight party-line vote, the Senate voted 60-39 to approve cloture on H.R. 2847, the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. This action effectively blocks consideration of Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Robert Bennett’s (R-Utah) controversial amendment to bar implementation of the 2010 Census unless it collected data on citizenship and immigration status for each respondent. Through this move, the Senate assures that the 2010 Census will be carried out on time, within the existing budget, and with relative accuracy.

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