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Politico is making much of Tom Daschle’s potential for nomination turbulence, and I can’t say I necessarily blame them. Between Tim Geithner’s own tax troubles, Eric Holder’s baggage from the Clinton Administration, and Bill Richardson’s abrupt retreat, I begin to see something of a worrying trend. I don’t believe Obama himself is corrupt as the people reading a lot into this would like us to believe, but it is worrying for two main reasons. First is that Obama has publicly made a big deal out of holding himself and his administration to a higher standard of ethics, a spell already broken by Daschle himself being a violation of Obama’s self-imposed restrictions on hiring lobbyists. Secondly, it calls into question the heretofore legendary Obama vetting process, which was so scrutinous that the transition went over people’s facebook pages with fine toothed combs. Which was effective in reassuring the nation that the “No Drama Obama” ethos that goverened the campaign would carry over into the administration as it sought to avoid exactly the kind of incidents that have been unfolding over the last few weeks.

Now it can be said that Holder’s problems were largely ideologically based on republicans instantly disliking anything related to the “dark age” of the Clinton presidency, and while Geithner’s back taxes weren’t a small amount (34k, which is as much as I myself make in a year on the bottom of the employment totem pole), he was hardly holding back a king’s ransom and has already paid the IRS, with interest. Even Richardson’s departure can be explained as the desire not to drag the transition/administration through a media circus surrounding his investigation, esp with Blago still unfolding at the time.  Daschle, however, is a more troubling case, as he both owes a much more substantial amount in back taxes (140K, but also paid back recently) but was also a health-industry lobbyist, constituting a direct violation of Obama’s mandate of not having any former lobbyists in the administration working in the area for which they previously lobbied.

I guess the message I’d like to send is this: the administration should (and probably has) nominated the best people for their respective jobs. No one’s going to be perfect, and the senate generally weeds out those with any truly fatal problems. But you can’t blare the trumpets and announce lofty ethics rules and then immediately turn around and apply those rules on a case by case basis and not pay a price, both politically and at the polls. The admittedly massive benefit of the doubt bestowed by the honeymoon only goes so far, and at this point the aferglow is definitely beginning to fade. I’ve said it once before but I’ll say it again: I really like Obama, but no one gets a free blow job on my watch.

At the rate this is going Hillary may end up being one of the LESS contentious high-profile nominations.

WaPo has a short blurb on the fact that Mark Warner is the richest freshman senator in the current congress, and second richest overall (behind John “Mr Ketchup” Kerry). While a casual observer might construe this as a sign of Warner being elitist and out of touch, I actually tend to see it as something of a positive, esp in light of his standing record of good governance during his term as Governor. Depending on how long he opts to remain in politics, a large personal fortune makes him a formidible incumbent without the need to rely too much on outside donors, potentially providing a bit of innoculation against dependence on special interests.

The first battle of the war for the soul of the GOP has been fought, and in a desperate bid to keep up with the democrats they pretty much elected the only black guy in the room as chairman.

Before I progress further, I would like to clarify that I in no way wish to demean Mr. Steele himself; I know little of him but I surmise that he must be a rather skilled politician being that he managed to get elected as a republican in decidedly blue Maryland (Obama margin of victory in Nov: 25 points). Plus he’s a former member of the Republican Leadership Council, which among other things sought to reduce the influence of social conservatives on the party after the thrashing they recieved in 2006. Of course this led to many in the GOP to accuse him of being too moderate to lead, which is why it’s good for them that they chose him in spite of themselves: he’s exactly what they need at a time when the GOP needs to play to the center not just in order to regain pwoer but simply to survive as a national party.

However, while I find no fault with Mr. Steele (outside the usual political differences), I have to once again question the GOP’s motives in selecting him. I see this more as a happy accident than something that was planned as the brilliant move it may end up being. Being that the GOP has always suffered from a lack of minority support compared to the democrats since the 1960s, it seems like one of the few african-american members of the party is being elevated simply as a counterbalance to Obama. It’s the political equivalent of Keeping Up With the Joneses, and the GOP seems to hope to capture some form of “Obama Magic” for themselves, or at least be able to say to black america “look at us, we care about you guys, too!”

Of course I’m sure no few political junkies from across the ideological spectrum are slavering at the thought of what this could portend for 2012: If both Steele and Palin were to run for the GOP nomination it could result in another Clash of the Titans on the scale of the Obama/Clinton slugout. Whether the results would be good or bad for the GOP depends, as so many other things do, on where Obama and the Democrats stand in the polls at that point.

In the meantime though, the battle has been won, but the GOPocalypse is far from over…

In a previous blarg post I mentioned that the failure of the democrats to take the senate seat in Georgia from Saxby Chambliss’ cold, wicked grasp basically doomed their hopes of reaching the “filibusterproof” magic 60 seats. I’ve also joined certain other corners of the blogosphere in speculating that Obama would pick a republican senator as a way to show bipartisanship while allowing the (presumably) democratic governor of the state in question to appoint a successor and pad out the majority. Jay Newtown-Small over at Swampland is now helping drive the story that such a scenario may be at hand, with Judd Gregg (R-NH) rumored to be under consideration as Richardson’s replacement at Commerce. For this lovely scenario to unfold though, several things have to happen:

Minnesota Must Fall: Despite the Minnesota state board of elections basically certifying Al Franken as the winner by a hair-splitting majority, for him to be able to take his seat Norm Coleman has to stop suing him. Until the legal trench warfare is concluded, we’ve basically only got 99 senators and the dems still can’t form voltron.

John Lynch Must Obey His Masters: Apparantly as I was typing this out the story has broken on Politico that Gregg himself has actually confirmed he’s in the mix for commerce. The GOP, not being as stupid as some of us wish they were, has realized shenanigans are afoot and has resorted to such measures as begging Gregg not to accept and begging democratic New Hapmshire governor John Lynch to appoint a republican as his successor. As satisfying as the desperation dripping off John Cornyn’s brow is, New Hampshire is still a remarkably purple state, esp for new england, and thus may not necessarily dance to the same tune as Pelosi and Reid since he figures his voters might actually punish him for lurching too far left (it’s worth noting New Hampshire “only” went for Obama by 9 points, his narrowest victory in the entire Northeast).

A Divinty Must Intervene:  I’m going to keep pounding away at this until it sinks in: the magic 60 is a false yardstick. For it work ALL the democrats must vote as one, which is exceedingly unlikely given how their newfound power has already begun exposing hairline fractures within the caucus, most notably with the Blue Dogs, as well as the fracture formed between Nancy Pelosi and pretty much everyone else. Furthermore it assumes the democrats couldn’t peel off even one or two moderate republicans, and I must say if even Olympia Snowe won’t cross over for a given bill it speaks volumes for it’s viability to begin with. The only times politicians come together in united votes like that typically involve large body counts, in which case the GOP isn’t likely to present much opposition to begin with. In fact the republicans managed to take a few democratic heads whilst breaking Obama’s legendary jedi mind trick. Plus the GOP’s about to have problems of its own, as their opposition to the stimulus, while symbolically successful in likely signaling the beginning of the end of Obama’s honeymoon (at least on the Hill), now means the force of Obama’s still very much functional grassroots organization will be turned upon them.

In sum, a perfect storm of factors has to come together for the magic 60 to even kind of work, and the most unlikely one is Harry Reid actually keeping his caucus in one peice.

 

-We’re All In This Together

The latest chapter of Blago’s three-ring circus is unfolding now, as the Illinois state senate votes unanimously to have him impeached, and therefore sacked. Lt. Gov Pat Quinn is being sworn in as I blarg.

Of course this being the most fantastic political meltdown since the late stages of the McCain campaign, I can assure you that the saga of Blago is far from over.

According to CNN, it’s official.  By a vote of 94-22 no less, with only two republicans (Jim DeMint [SC] and David Vitter [LA]) voting against.

It actually wasn’t even supposed to happen this early; as the article states John Cornyn (R-TX) wanted more time to go over possible complications arising from Bill Clinton’s foundation, but a voice vote was forced by none other than John McCain, apprantly reminding both the nation and himself that is in fact a moderate. Which makes it hard to see this as a machiavellian move designed to avoid oversight, though I wouldn’t mind it. Judging by the existing arrangement (clinton foundation donor list is released to the admin, he doesn’t make any foreign policy speeches/trips without the admin’s consent) will probably be enough to make sure Hillary is clean upon entry.

As many of you may already know, I joined what can only be adequately described as a horde on the national mall yesterday to bear witness to a moment of history. Of course in my case I and two friends of mine (one of which was KeMiRo of Saint Superman semi-fame) didn’t so much witness history as strain to hear it from loudspeakers over the sounds of police sirens, because the DCPD is like that -_-. On the plus side the comraderie was good, the journey not as arduous as it might have been, and we can at least say that We Were There.

But for now my brain is continuing the process of reconstituing itself from it’s previous state that resembled something like pudding even as my legs continue to feel the consequences of standing/walking for about 5 straight hours. And as Obama’s vast, Vast, VAST work (vast) begins, so too does my own task of combing the blogosphere and picking out the most interesting nits continues. He’s something of a sampler tray:

  • Even as I’m aware of the extent to which Joe Klein almost fetishizes Obama, the fact cannot be denied that the man knows how to write an excellent article. As can be expected at this point, it does ring with some unnecessary-but-understandble anti-bush triumphalism (specifically a dig at cheney’s wheelchair bound status during the swearing-in), but the article’s basic message is still very nice, and can be distilled thusly:

 Reagan’s movement was called a revolution, but this may be more than that — the beginning of a whole new era of Obama-inspired and Obama-led citizen involvement. During the transition, the Obama website called for supporters to hold community meetings to discuss their health-care priorities. A staggering 10,000 meetings purportedly were held; 5,000 sent written reports — more paper! — to the transition office. This is a new kind of politics, with the potential to be the most powerful citizen army in U.S. history. If so, it will more likely be a force for civility — for “boring” things like good governance, for new ideas about how to control the cost of entitlements (which Obama pointedly mentioned in his speech) — rather than a rabble spamming the offices of recalcitrant Republicans.

 

  • Not that I wish to downplay the importance of Obama to black america, but lest we all forget the man is still half white. And so biracial america stakes its claim to its peice of the moment. This is one of the reasons I think Obama has been so well recieved: who better to lead a nation that’s a crazyass mishmash of everything and everyone than a man who’s own genetics and upbringing are a crazyass mishmash of everything and everyone. Being biracial myself its something of a comfort knowing that I too can claim a part of saying “he’s one of us, and he got to the top.”

 

  • Meanwhile, in contrast to the near-masturbatory tone of some of the articles topping RealClearPolitics, Politico counsels that some healthy skepticism is in order. It won’t placate liberal wonks who accuse Politico of being nothing more than a veiled conservative tool, but it is necessary to rememeber that, as refreshing and necessary as Obama’s candidacy/presidency is, he is but a man. Even more shockingly to some who know me is that I actually agree with this sentiment. The campaign had its rough patches, and as well run as the transition was even it could’nt avoid a few speedbumps *coff*blagorichardsongeithner*coff*. I don’t (nor should anyone else) beleive that he’s going to wave a magic wand and suddenly our problems will vanish, and if the size of the coming stimulus package is any indication things may well get worse before they get better. But I do beleive he’ll do everything he can to make things better, and hopefully that will be enough to to get us back onto our feet and going forward once again. And in the end, that’s really all we can expect of ANY president, including the one who was quite literally booed out of the capital yesterday.

PS: Please stop yelling Arianna Huffington, I can hear you just fine. I swear to god if your headlines get any bigger they’re going to physically crack my montior.

In a recent interview with Forbes, former GOP presidential contender and possible 2012 combatant Mike Huckabee essentially says that Sarah Palin’s interview troubles were her own fault.
In fairness, he also decries the sexism she is to have faced from the media (which is not something I necessarily see but can’t categorically deny all the same), but this can largely be seen as an opening shot for the 2012 race, if not the still ongoing GOP grand reformation. In either case, I simply enjoy watching the right eat itself, and not just because it serves as an excellent distraction from the Democrats’ own internecine strife.

The Porn Industry, in this case in the form of Hustler and Girls Gone Wild,asks for a government bailout.

On a related note: is it just me or does Larry Flynt look skeezier and skeezier with each passing year?

WaPo Reports that CNN Medical Correspondant Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been offered Surgeon General.

While Dr. Gupta is actually a real doctor, and a neurosurgeon at that, I think this marks a new point of the Obama administration edging closer to pop culture. Making the face of medicine on CNN the new face of medicine for the US government is one hell of a good PR move. I also wonder in the back of my mind whether this is a reward or a punishment for CNN.