Saturday, October 24, 2009

George Will Puffs and Puffs

George Will has a bad puff piece on Michelle Bachmann in the Washington Post. I imagine Will's trying to get back in the good graces of the right after "going soft" on Afghanistan. But Will can't do feature writing to save his life and the whole thing falls flat.

I especially like it when Will refers to Bachmann as a "burr in the side" of the left. Who's Will kidding. Bachmann's great for the left and everybody on the left knows it. A quick comparison with Ann Coulter wmakes the point. Like Ann Coulter, Bachmann says a lot of sensational and offensive things that make the Republicans look bad. But Bachmann's not smart enough or knowledgeable enough to make liberals uncomfortable in the way Coulter used to. That makes Bachmann the perfect foil for the progressive media and TPM and HuffPost cover Bachmann with the same manic obsessiveness as the tabs cover Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The left can't imagine a world without Michelle Bachmann any more than the right can get along without Bill Ayers. After all, who can really be sure that Michelle Bachmann didn't write Palin's Going Rogue? I'm not.

George Will's pretty useless as a writer, but he would be less useless if he understood that the left has a big stake in Michelle Bachmann as well as the right.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Health Reform Has Crossed the Crossroads

There's so many stories coming out about health reform that the relentless spinning is making everybody's head spin. My own sense continues to be that the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats are going to pass health reform legislation with a public option this year. I don't know whether Arlen Specter is right in claiming that there are 60 votes to bring a public option plan to a vote if the GOP throws up a filibuster. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was. I also don't know if it's going to be a straight public option, a public option with a mechanism allowing red states to opt out, or a public option with a trigger to go in effect if the health insurance companies continue to conduct their business in a predatory manner. Today's flavor is a public option with an opt out for the benefit of moderate and conservative Democrats who want to hide behind the idea of "choice." However, momentum can shift quickly and I think there's a slightly better chance that the final legislation will contain a straight public option.

My own preference is that the public option be adopted as national legislation. The weakness of the "opt out" is that the states likely to take it are states like Texas and South Carolina that have large minority populations and even larger white populations determined to screw minorities as much as possible. Allowing these states to opt out of the pulbic option is monumentally unfair to large group of working poor among the Hispanic and African-American population. It's unfair to the working white people who can't afford health insurance as well. The politics of a nullification state like South Carolina might militate against accepting a public option, but that doesn't mean that the higher numbers of working poor people in these states should not get the same benefits as people in a wealthy state like Connecticut or Illinois.

But if the public option with opt out is adopted, I believe that it would be politically beneficial to the Democrats. The reason for this is that the acceptance or rejection of the public option would be a powerful wedge dividing the Republicans. This could be seen with the fate of the stimulus package in South Carolina and Alaska. Teaparty governors like Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin wanted to reject stimulus money but this led to howls of outrage among orthodox Republicans in state legislators who wanted the money and were willing to fight their governors over the issue. Health reform is even more unpopular with the teaparty folks and the conflicts among Republicans over opting out would be even nastier. As the fight over Dede Scozzafava in New York's 23rd District shows, the teaparty faction is determined to eliminate moderates from the Republican Party. If a public option "opt out" passes, the teaparty folks are going to start going after "sissy conservatives" as well.

Teaparty activism is part of the dynamic among the Democrats as well. That sound everyone hears in Washington these days is Democratic backbones snapping into place. No one would know this from reading the "progressive media" which over-dramatizes every twist and turn from potential "turncoats" like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu. But the Democratic and membership in the Senate and House have responded to the Teaparty Movement by tuning out the right-wing. Ben Nelson desperately wants to vote for something Olympia Snowe can support, but Snowe and Susan Collins have become practically the only Republicans on the Democratic radar. When Republican senators like Charles Grassley started going along with the "death panel" lie, the Democrats began to ignore them. People like Nelson and Kent Conrad still have loyalties to the insurance companies, but the Republicans haven't given them anything credible to consider and Democrats in general have closed ranks with the intent of negotiating something among themselves.

The teaparty movement has bee successful in generating grass-roots conservative opposition to health reform, but disgust over tea-party rhetoric among the Democrats has solidified support for large-scale health reform and guaranteed that the public option is going to be passed in some form. America owes the teabaggers a big thank you. As a result of revulsion over the teaparty movement, health reform has "crossed the crossroads" and is on its way to approval.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ann Coulter on Obama/Fox

Something is wrong with Ann Coulter. Today, she has an op-ed on the Obama/Fox controversy entitled "The Grating Communicator." But there's hardly anything about Obama in the piece and the overall effect is so flat she might as well serve it as a pancake. As a writer, Coulter's been so far off her game that she hasn't had any impact on the health care debate at all.

I guess this is the point where a leftist like myself should be gloating over Coulter's prospective decline and fall. But I think I'll pass on that particular temptation and try to look on her more as a human being.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"We are the Sultans"

Maybe the godawful Washington Redskins would have better karma if they finally changed their racist nickname. I like the "Washington Sultans." Not only does "Sultans" have a nice Ottoman ring to it, but the team song is so-o-o obvious.

Take it away Mark Knopfler. "We are the Sultans/We are the Sultans of Swing."

A Few Words on the Obama Feud with Fox

I'm glad to see the White House punching at Fox. Most importantly, they're right. Fox News is a joke as a news organization. Why can't the White House say it just as much as HuffPost? Doesn't the Obama administration have freedom of speech?

The second thing is that it's important for the White House to not be a day in, day out punching bag for the conservative movement. Obama has always shown that he's capable of effective counter-punching and that's what he's doing now, some nasty counter-punching against Fox News. Good for Obama.

The New York Times wants the Obama administration to be above tangling with the "cable shouters:"

Tactics aside, something more fundamental is at risk. Even the president’s most avid critics admit he exudes a certain cool confidence. The public impression of him is that if anyone were to, say, talk trash on the basketball court with Mr. Obama, he would not find much space for rent in Mr. Obama’s head. ...

People who work in political communications have pointed out that it is a principle of
power dynamics to “punch up “ — that is, to take on bigger foes, not smaller ones. A blog on the White House Web site that uses a “truth-o-meter” against a particular cable news network would not seem to qualify. As it is, Reality Check sounds a bit like the blog of some unemployed guy living in his parents’ basement, not an official communiqué from Pennsylvania Avenue.

The American presidency was conceived as a corrective to the royals, but trading punches with cable shouters seems a bit too common. Perhaps it’s time to restore a little imperiousness to the relationship.

As usual, the NY Times has their heads up their butts. The Times itself is losing ground to the guys and women blogging from "their parents basements." Why shouldn't the Obama administration get in on the action before they start losing ground?

By attacking Fox News, the Obama administration has signaled that it's willing to mix it up in its efforts to get health reform and cap and trade passed.

That's as good as news can get right now.

On another note. Personally, I like what Fox is doing in the sense that Fox has blazing a trail as a television network of political opposition. Unlike the other networks, Fox is an independent entity that is not beholden to the government for stories. When networks with more liberal political agendas start following Fox's example, the world will be a better place.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Worries About Glenn Beck

Thinking about Glenn Beck, I'm worried that he's going to start running out of Obama/Nazi analogies. What's he going to do then? How is Glenn Beck going to bring the truth of the Obama administration to the American public if he can't compare Obama to Hitler and Goebbels? Beck can't allow the well to run dry.

But there's hope America.

First, Glenn Beck should start using images of himself being tortured.

Here's a couple of examples.

There's waterboarding: "these attacks on Fox News make me f -e-e-l like I'm being thrown into the water . . . and it's getting into my lungs . . . and I'm coughing uncontrollably."

Having his testicles sliced open like a former terrorism suspect: "these thugs from Chicago want to make it impossible for someone like me to be a man anymore. There, they're slicing open my testicles and the pain is excruciating. But I'm willing to go through this in order to show the world what Barack Obama . . . is . . . doing . . . to . . . America."

More torture and animal rights comparisons tomorrow.