Thursday, December 30, 2010


“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” – Jesse Unruh

In 1995, John Boehner, in the spirit of helping the campaign treasuries of his fellow Republicans, unashamedly handed out tobacco lobbyist checks to his on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. The House of Representatives, the peoples’ house, where Henry Clay served as speaker. Those were the great brazen days of Newt Gringrich, “The Hammer” Tom DeLay, and the Contract for America.

And so it began.

The young representative from Ohio subsequently apologized for such a distasteful act – possibly without tears in his absolution. Boehner was then a sophomore member of Congress.

And as for most sophomores in high school or college, the best was yet to come.

In recent months than has been great curiosity about those tears – which were even displayed on 60 Minutes for - excuse the expression - crying out loud. He seems to turn on the faucets on cue better than Ricky Schroder ever did.

In the hard hitting (not really) 60 Minutes interview, he was weeping about his grand hope that young Americans today might also be afforded the same opportunities he had when he was a growing up – in education and job opportunities - while seeing to it, through the legislation he supports, that they will never have those opportunities. Does he cry like a baby because he knows this hypocrisy as well as we do?

But then, in researching his history, one realizes there’s indeed a baby analogy when it comes to Boehner; not the tears, but his eager “suckling on the teat” – a phrase recently made famous by Wyoming’s dour and disagreeable ex-Senator Alan Simpson.

Boehner may seem like a big orange baby, weeping on behalf of the American public, and how much he hurts for them (so he says). But he is really a cooing – and suckling – baby of those who supposedly the “tea party” (and just about everybody else) are most furious about: lobbyist pals and tone deaf “Washington insiders”. Mr. Boehner’s picture would be in the dictionary under both entries.

Boehner’s 17 years in congress has thus far been a feast of such suckling. Of course there is Big Tobacco that apparently made him their honorary paymaster. He’s also apparently one of their best customers.

But that’s just the beginning of the spoiling rotten of Boehner Baby.

There is Sallie Mae, the big student loan lender and notorious “middle man” in that industry, coughing up hundreds of thousands of dollars to Boehner’s coffers to ensure they remain middle men (but now that role has been undermined by the new “direct lending” programs; but we’ll see how long that lasts). Then there is his most notorious baby mama, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now in prison (and perhaps making room on the next cot with Boehner’s mentor Tom DeLay). Abramoff funneled thousands of dollars to Boehner’s PAC on behalf of Native American tribal gaming; Boehner’s humbly named Freedom Project PAC received over $32,000 – more than any politician in that scandal. Another scrumptious teat was bared by “for-profit” schools (like the University of Phoenix) have taken advantage of Boehner’s cooperative position on education committees in the house, coughing up over $100,000 in 2004.

Boehner has been a very good baby in exchange for all his pampering, pushing legislation in aid of his pamperers. The spoiling with results also includes over $83,000 just in golfing related gifts. Maybe that IS a real tan!

And yet, despite all the legal bribing (called campaign donations elsewhere), and quid pro quos, despite all the turmoil of the Tea Party, beginning in 2011, this guy - whose suit wouldn’t have enough room for all the paid-for NASCAR-style patches - will become Speaker of the House of Representatives with a huge majority behind him. Talk about a loaded nursery, with a constant flow of toy deliveries and mothers’ milk.

So one can assume that while there is enough milk filled breasts flying around Washington, DC, Boehner Baby will keep right on crying.

Or perhaps Boehner will stop the tears now, unless all along they have been tears of guilt. Boy, in that case, watch the floodgates open now.

And legions of Americans will join in the crying.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Glenn Beck: It's a Blunderful Life

As we cruise into the holiday season – KOST 103.5 is already playing Christmas music 24/7 and I haven’t bought my turkey yet – it’s just about time for the annual airing of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the great film starring James Stewart as the selfless small town banker George Bailey in Bedford Falls, NY who goes up against evil town miser, Lionel Barrymore’s Henry Potter. The crux of the film is a parable about Stewart giving up hope of success beyond his hometown and making the mistake of wishing to an angel that “he’d never been born”. The angel (the irrepressible Clarence) grants this wish, to show Stewart that his little life has grand value.

And so for the third act we get to see what life would be like if George hadn’t been around to touch other lives, and what destruction would have occurred in the void (Potter takes over the town and renames it Pottersville). The film, which didn’t do well when it was first released in 1946, slowly, thanks to television, became an institution – a simple, sweet if not cornball story about how the human spirit, caring for one another, and selflessness can win over evil.

Well, in the spirit of the evil Potter, guess what right wing boob is trying to appropriate this bit of beloved Americana as a some sort of bizarre Beckspin about how the Communist/Nazi/Progressive government is out to get us? Yes, him.
Glenn has selected the small town of Wilmington, Ohio, from where he will do one of his live broadcasts, as a poster town for a latter day Bedford Falls which has resisted “becoming Pottersville” by being “self-reliant” against the government “takeover”.
Needless to say, none of this has anything to do with either the story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” film or reality. But that’s not a surprise. Beck is a fascinating dichotomy: is he merely a stupid liar, or an incredibly brilliant liar?

Accurately describing reality is of little concern to Beck or apparently his bosses at Fox “News”, or his loyal minions of the underinformed, misinformed and disinformed.
First off, Beck’s claim about the town being self reliant (i.e., without some federal government support) is, of course, wrong. It has received $6 million in stimulus money – a matter of public record. Does he not know this? Does he ignore it? Does he hope nobody will look it up? Of course he relies on this last part because clearly few Fox viewers care to “look stuff up” or they wouldn’t be viewers.

So on to the second part: the movie analogy. Also wrong. Again, did he see the movie or is he just ignoring, now the facts of a movie. I think you can rent it on Netflix, Glenn, for a refresher.
The federal government had no role in any aspect of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Indeed some denizens may have gotten work or benefit via the CCC or WPA programs, and of course many of the town’s men served in World War II – notably George Bailey’s brother, Harry, who returns to Bedford Falls a hero.

A large part of “It’s a Wonderful Life” has to do with some arcane financial dealings, but basically it’s the battle between mom & pop savings and loan owner Bailey and the evil, greedy capitalist – quintessential Republican hero and modern day Scrooge Henry Potter who tries desperately either by threat or bribe to destroy the Bailey S&L. It is the one institution in town Potter doesn’t own. He has the bus lines, he has the bank, and he has a lot of real estate. He’s a one man Wal-Mart who is not regulated, and is sociopathic in his view of the town’s masses (he calls them “rabble”). All this sounds familiar – little has changed in 60 years - and I would think Beck would appreciate this Mr. Potter’s taking over hopeless liberal Bailey’s firm and indeed creating Pottersville – Republican haven! No health care, no liberal loan terms, foreclosures at the drop of a mortgage payment.

As I write this I am thinking, does Beck seriously want people to analyze “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It’s clearly a warning of what happens when the thin progressive lines against rapacious capitalists is taken down.

Bailey’s Savings and Loan is the one ray of sunshine for the folks of Bedford Falls, where they can get loans for affordable decent housing rather than one of Potter’s hovels. George is so empathetic of his customers that he even gives up his personal funds during a bank failure to keep his company afloat lest it and the people get swallowed up by Potter. He barely succeeds, thwarting Potter again.

At another point, Bailey is offered a dazzling payoff by Potter to “come work for me!” - a Faustian deal made on a daily basis in the halls of congress. It looks for a moment that Bailey is going to cave-in for the bucks – and he certainly is motivated, suffering as he does with his meager earnings and houseful of kids. But once he shakes Potter’s oily hand, he realizes Potter’s main motivation is not hiring him but scuttling the Savings and Loan. He realizes how close he has come to selling his soul. He refuses.

But eventually, events collude to defeat the do-gooder. Bailey, already in despair about not being able to leave the town and travel the world, and now facing a serious crisis thanks to his uncle’s incompetence, decides to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. (Potter in fact had stolen the money Bailey thought was missing. All’s fair in corporate takeovers!)

But the angel Clarence comes to his rescue. Trying to earn his wings, the angel comes up with a scheme to show Bailey what life would be life if he had never been born. Well of course, the immediate result is that everybody in the town, theretofore sweet and friendly, are bitter and unhappy. Indeed without Bailey’s help or guidance, the entire town has been gobbled up by Potter to become the Republican bastion of Pottersville: the non-nanny state, where one is self-reliant or dies. Instead of nice homes, people live in Potters’ dumps and the main source of income seems to be bars and strip clubs.

Bedford Falls’ fate, in Bailey’s nightmare, is truly a sweet Beckian wet dream, is it not? Pottersville, fka Bedford Falls, has simply evolved via the natural order of the free market. Far from a “government takeover”; if anything, the transformation to Pottersville is a result of little or no government intervention.

When Bailey has seen enough, he begs to be “born” again, and face his problems. But what he discovers is, of course, the magic of the movie – the grateful people he touched come together, and save him from ruin and, by extension, save their town from ruin. There is genuine affection for one another, especially in crisis. And there is a common threat – the evil of Potter’s runaway and unfeeling greed – and that has been averted. For now. Bailey’s Savings & Loan remains a slender thread.

That is the lesson, and the joy, of the film. People do not want harsh taskmasters depriving them of comforts, and punishing their misfortunes. But the Becks of the world would have us believe the “free market” is sacred, Potter doesn’t need “government regulations”, he needs a big fat tax cut.

We also realize that it’s not just Bailey’s life that touches others – each of our lives touches others, too. Perhaps ours is the only helping hand extended at any given time. If it wasn’t there, what would have happened? The angel, indeed representing what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”, doesn’t just show Bailey to think about what is important in life, but all of us.

Glenn Beck’s and his network’s thrust is for the Potters of the world to be glorified and unfettered, not “held back”, worrying about their tax rate. And generally the thin line between us and Pottersville is not George Bailey, but the federal government, which Beck/Fox consistently demonize. One again, Beck has it backward, but, unfortunately for his lied-to fans, that is by insidious design.

Certainly we could conjecture about the reverse of the “Wonderful Life” lesson: What would the world be like if Glenn Beck had not been born?

Now that is a real Merry Christmas fantasy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


An author asked me to contemplate on that one. Here is what I sent him:
I produced many television comedies, and often we were a slave to the laughter of the audience. If they weren't laughing, something wasn't funny, so therefore the story wasn't working right somehow (or at least particular lines). And invariably the network executives, who generally had more respect for drama themselves, would feel emboldened enough to say "you call this funny". I am not sure if the reverse is true. Do they watch a rehearsal of say Gray's Anatomy and say "You call this sad?"
The question is much like "why aren't writers taken as seriously as directors"? It's all perception - as to whose job seems more difficult, more crucial, more important in human story telling. And the premise itself is a matter of definition. If the Academy Awards are a standard, then, yes, it appears dramas are given more respect, more gravitas. Who was more respected as a film maker and performer than Charlie Chaplin, for example; he is inarguably the king of film comedy, yet much of his glory comes as much from eating his shoes in the Klondike than his impeccable slapstick.
A psychologist once told me comedy can be defined as "manic denial" - we laugh at the big rich guy slipping on a banana peel as if to deny that authority, power, wealth, arrogance, whatever, and so therefore the embarrassing fall levels the playing field. And we laugh - worldwide (slapstick - pratfalls, torn pants, pies in the face - is no doubt the international comedy language). So when people say comedy generally lacks profundity, they are dead wrong and deserve a poke in the eye by Moe Howard.
Comedy by its nature seems "light" and "easy" in that it seems as if it merely has to mock convention or the human condition. Many things that have brought us to tears, and anger, in real life, are hysterical when we see them re-enacted by characters on TV, especially in comedies dealing with husband and wife relationships, dating relationships, child rearing... or dealing with ones boss or co-workers.
So the trick about this question (or the "mislead" as we say in the business) is similar to how questions on a poll are asked. Many people when asked their most memorable films or TV shows or moments therein may well be split 50-50 on comedy and drama. No one forgets the heartiest laughs - even within the most dramatic films Goodfellas, and Deliverance come to mind) because constant dread is not possible in entertainment. The "light" moments do that just that... lighten things up between murders or tears and emotional turmoil. Or tension and suspense that would otherwise be unbearable; notice how witty Bond is... and there was plenty to laugh at in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
I think again the answer to why drama is taken more seriously than comedy goes back to perception, and the fact that comic tastes are a very "niche" things. The fact is, any professional will tell you that it is far more difficult to write comedy, especially on a wide basis (since comic tastes differ far more than tastes for drama; films like Casablanca, are probably more universally liked than say a Jerry Lewis film or the brilliantly literate British dark comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets). And any actor or director will tell you that performing and directing comedy are far more difficult that straight drama any day. Indeed some of the finest actors did some of the finest comedy.
Perhaps your question, in the end, is really a faulty one, because "drama" and "comedy" could not be more different elements. People respect comedy as much or more than drama if they really thought about it, but while people can be uniform on what's a great drama - or what they are supposed to think is a great drama - comedy is highly personal, differing almost literally from person to person. Why is broccoli taken more seriously than m&ms? Well, you're supposed to, I guess. And "m&m's" is a dumb name, will make you fat and rot your teeth - however they delightfully comforting in sweet chocolatude.
But we can't live in a broccoli world, so perhaps m&ms are, in many ways, more crucial. But some people are allergic to chocolate. That's why there are thousands of candies, but pretty much one broccoli - or okay, you can mix it up with a carrot or a cauliflower.
The short answer is who the hell knows?

Sunday, May 16, 2010


God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, the oil next time

It is somehow fitting that, five years after his infamous mishandling of duties as head of FEMA during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, Michael “Brownie” Brown, of all people, would re-appear to offer up his much sought after expertise on the horrific BP Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe - which, of course, is threatening the very same area that Katrina and the failed levees ravaged. Taking to the air with Rove- style talking points, Brown was back in his comfortable role as Republican lapdog, eagerly doing their lapping this time to shill for the beleaguered oil industry.

The same Brownie. Brownie, the face of Bush incompetency, of Bush sociopathy, of Bush cronyism: perfect storm meeting perfect storm in 2005.

Katrina, or something like it, was in many ways a predictable event. But so is the BP oil geyser (“spill” is too nice a word) that now threatens our very existence. One doesn’t need a Mayan doomsday calendar to see the march to the brink… just a good old American one:

Deregulation… the selection of 2000… 9/11… wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… the economic collapse of ’08 - a string of deadly dominoes began to fall in October 1980 – when Bush 41 managed to make a deal with the Iranian mullahs to hold on to the U.S. hostages till after the November election, assuring the defeat of environmentalist Jimmy Carter and the election of anti tree hugger Ronald Reagan.

But back to what may be the Final Domino.

Now a radio talk show host in Colorado (also fitting), Brown declared that the Obama administration was somehow deliberately letting the BP oil disaster fester to prove that off-shore drilling is a bad thing, lest folks believe their lyin’ eyes… i.e., the thesis being that Obama is cynically taking advantage of a disaster for political gain!

Outrageous, appalling, cynical!

Why, that would be like accusing the Bush administration of making political hay of Katrina by casting blame on “state and local” officials (read: Democrats). Outrageous, appalling, cynical.

And, as it turns out, demonstrably effective: witness Governor Bobby Jindal, Republican.

So in the spirit of not letting any national calamity go to waste, the Republicans and their media mouthpieces have doggedly tried to hang the spill baby spill around the current President’s neck: Obama’s Katrina? read the graphics beneath the Fox “news” propagandists.

But then again, let us not be quick to eye roll. Perhaps calling this event “Obama’s Katrina” is a heartening realization on the part of Fox and the Republicans that the original Katrina was utterly bungled by Bush and Brownie.

No, wait. Damn. Doubtless, there’s videotape showing they thought Bush did a fabulous job in Katrina, a heckuva job if you will… so therefore is the moniker “Obama’s Katrina” actually a compliment? Nah, that’s wrong. Cue the eye rolls.

Anyway, the panicky Republicans, doing the bidding of their panicky oil partners, hastened to get out in front of this – terrified that not only would their “drill baby drill” mantra be used against them, in, say, a million campaign ads, but, more upsetting, that the drill baby drilling would, indeed, be stopped.

And so the event was downplayed in a let’s not throw the baby out with the oily bath water fashion. “Many say we over-reacted after 3 Mile Island,” said William Kristol, ever the ludicrous. “There hasn’t been a new nuclear reactor built since then. We can’t give up just because of one little accident.” That’s like some gung ho Japanese general saying we can’t surrender just because of one little atom bomb. “Hey,” added William. “I’m a drill baby drill guy,” as usual blind to the situation. Global warming denier George Will, in perhaps an attempt to put the accident in perspective, pointed out Massachusetts birds were in more danger of getting entangled in wind turbines along the coast than a little oil sloppage. And Rush Limbaugh, drilling deeper than BP for some spin, declared the spill was no biggee, that the ocean heals itself – don’t get crazed by Gore brainwashed seagull hugging liberal anti oil pro terrorist pussies.

And then there’s Halliburton, joining Brownie on stage once again.

Yes Halliburton was at the bottom of this oil rig accident. Literally. I don’t know the finer details, but evidently their job was to do some cementing a mile down in the ocean at the site where the precious fluid is extracted. And fail-safe measures failed. 11 men died in the explosion. And that is just the beginning of the human harvest. These 11 are certainly not the first unfortunates Halliburton incompetency, corner-cutting and graft have killed in their storied history. Now they’ve gone big time. Now they may have helped start a brand new string of events leading to the destruction of an entire ecosystem. Some call in Earth.

Halliburton, the self same company once run by Dick Cheney in his evil pre-evil Vice President days, the same company doing illegal business with Iraq (yeah, under Hussein) and bribing Nigerian oil officials for contracts, the same Halliburton that benefited from bidless contracts in Iraq and came up short about a bill, electrocuting American servicemen with shoddy plumbing work sub contracted to sub contractors.

Remember the falling dominoes? From 1981 to 1993, Reagan and Bush 41 served 12 longgggg years in the White House, de-regulating the oil industry willy nilly, busting unions, enacting Reaganomics by whacking taxes on the wealthy, killing the environment with such protectors as Interior Secretary James Watt (remember him?)… but most importantly, appointing members of the Supreme Court who might sound familiar: O’Connor. Rehnquist. Scalia. Kennedy. Thomas. The five of the infamous 5-4 Supreme Court vote of December 2000 that installed underachieving oilman George Bush, instead of environmentalist Al Gore, to the Presidency. But not only Bush strode into the White House, but so did former congressman, Defense Secretary and Halliburton honcho Dick Cheney. Oilmen were bunking in the White House. Bad ones.

Cheney in 2001, while ignoring the threat of Al Qaeda, held a Top Secret confab of energy moguls to craft American energy policy. And a lot of that had to do with de-regulating environmental protections… essentially letting the oil explorers, and service companies such as Halliburton, to “self regulate”, and buying congressmen like so many trinkets for their charm bracelet to ensure no principled do gooders prevail.

Dominoes falling, from 9/11 to Afghanistan to Iraq to warrantless wiretaps, to spill after spill after spill to “drill baby drill”… right up until April 20, 2010 – the date of the BP disaster, the worst ecological disaster in the history of mankind. And now we have millions of gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, with no end in sight.

It is quite possible that incompetence and unregulated oilmen may have sealed our doom- at long last. Even the Mayans must be surprised; they probably figured we would all end because of angry gods loosing lightning bolts… when really it may ironically be the result of our obsession with a by-product of the mouldering remains of Earth’s last great tenants: the dinosaurs. These beasts were wiped out by a mysterious calamity 65 million years ago. We can only speculate on what happened. Paleontologists may debate the intelligence of dinosaurs, but their demise was almost certainly not self imposed.

In a bittersweet bit of justice, or irony, now we see Jindal - the beneficiary of that “state and local” demonization post Katrina – desperately flying around in his helicopter, observing with horror the slick which has grown from the size of Rhode Island to the size of Delaware to the size of Maryland, probably to the size of Texas eventually (again, fitting), creeping like The Blob ever closer to the precious wetlands that defends New Orleans from hurricanes, and harbors precious natural resources. Livelihoods and lives are threatened. Now Jindal is beseeching the U.S. government for help, the help he scoffed at in his famous State of the Union response / coming out party.

And by contrast, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, another piece of presumed Presidential timber, is using the patented George W. Bush “down play it” approach: “That oil spill is just a little sheen on the water. Happens all the time! Come to Mississippi and go shopping!” Texas Governor Perry writes it off as “an act of God”, I suppose beating Pat Robertson to the punch, and certainly giving Halliburton and British Petroleum an out -- but probably not with guys in congress like Henry Waxman. Or guys in the White House like Barack Obama.

There will come a time when the ecology cannot oblige human malfeasance, when the earth will take no more. This may be that time. The Gulf of Mexico, its resident fish and human neighbors on shore must battle the effects, short and long term, of a veritable ocean of oil. The latest and perhaps last domino in the string that began in October 1980, Domino Doom, may have fallen.

Never mind the Mayans and 2012. We might not make it that far.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


By the vaunted BBC on April 1st, 1957. Straight report, read by noted BBC TV newsman, talked about the spaghetti trees of Switzerland. See the original TV broadcast, and the aftermath here.


It’s déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Senate goes on recess, and the sitting President of the United States makes a shitload of recess appointments from Camp David. Then he sneaks into Afghanistan for a surprise visit.
However, before March of 2010, none of the above followed on the heels of the most historic pieces of legislation in 45 years, and perhaps the biggest political triumph since Truman defeated Dewey.
Finally it’s happening. Obama’s goin’ Bush.
We’ve been begging him to do it till our knees got bloody. Well, at least mine did. Please Mr. President. You won the election. Sizably. Fair and square. Despite Diebold and Frank Luntz. Despite Reverend Wright and Bill Ayres. And without aid of any Supreme Court justices. You were who we have been waiting for for eight desperate years – and longer. And not just an alternative guy with a “D” after your name, which believe me would have been just as acceptable, but beyond everyone’s wildest dreams: a rock star who could fill stadiums worldwide with fans not just enjoying the music, but the words of hope.
The sigh of relief could be heard around the world, almost literally – like when you turn on Skype.
Yes you entered into a mess of financial meltdown, war and torture. You acted quickly and effectively. But then one word put things in a tizzy.
For six of the eight Bush years, the Republicans held the two houses of congresses with the thinnest of majorities. But like Bush, they ruled not as if they won by meager margins in a divided country, but as if they won ALL the votes. They’d just as soon have the Democrats go home, and they might as well have. You want to filibuster? Really, liberal pussies? Just try it and watch something nuclear happen. Snap! And how about a couple massive tax cuts to go along with two wars we’re not gonna pay for. Deficit? Nobody cares about deficits. Snap! Oh, got a problem with our neo fascist candidate for ambassador to the UN who hates the UN? Recess appointment, anyone? SNAP! The Democrats squawked a little, and the Republicans laughed. Or they said “9/11” a lot. And the Dems backed down. Yes there was “bipartisanship” – usually it meant some Republican co sponsoring a bill with Joe Lieberman.
But in 2008 things changed drastically, about as drastically as possible, in fact. The first black person was elected president, and the Democrats amassed huge majorities in both houses of congress.
If the Bush years were Sean Hannity’s wet dream, this had to be his nightmare. Yet, the Republicans seemed to be unaware that their own wanton adventures got
them into this predicament. Or maybe they just didn’t have any choice; after all, their constituents who sent them to Washington insisted on being represented lest they get angry.
And you don’t want to make constituents like Exxon, Wellpoint or GE angry.
So the GOP instead decided to rule “as if” - “as if” 40 members in the Senate represented a sort of “super minority”, since by establishing an eternal filibuster. 60 became a threshold in the otherwise “majority rules” body. A threshold not just for controversial topics. EVERYTHING.
And while progressives knew just by the mere presence of Joe Lieberman, the “60 votes” was never filibuster proof, the Republicans knew this all too well, but they were, true to form, using it as a scare tactic: Democrats ruling congress, possible Kenyan black man in the White House = recipe for socialist terrorist disaster of Hitlerian proportions.
Then came January 19, 2010. Dateline Massachusetts, in a special election, Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate fill the seat held for nearly 50 years by Edward M. Kennedy. Massafreakingchusetts, the bluest of the blue states, the ONE state that voted for McGovern in 1972, you broke our hearts just when we needed you most.
OK now up was down, day is night, dogs and cats sleeping together…
And to drive the irony stake even further into the heart – for his entire career, he was Kennedy champion of health care reform – the very health care reform Brown promised to help defeat as soon as he got his earlier-than-usual swear in (accommodated by the accommodating Harry Reid).
So now they had it, their 41-vote SUPER DUPER minority. Snap! So naturally, hyper heated right wing media declared in the Massachusetts Miracle, proof that health care was dead, that Obama was dead, that Democrats were dead, that Olbermann was dead, that every enemy alive was dead, and that there was musing about Scott Brown’s national intentions for 2012; Hmmm, a great white hope not named Palin?
Was this really a trend? (Yes, Virginia and New Jersey went down in flames just two months before – they too, of course, were, according to not just Fox News, but the reliable “liberal media” idiots like Chris Matthews, Candy Crowley and Chuck Todd, referenda on health care, on Obama, on Bill Ayres, on Sarah Palin, on FDR… anything but John Corzine failures as governor, and the Democratic candidate in Virginia running AWAY from Obama’s policies). And even Brown himself barely let it be known in the campaign that he was a Republican. But still, did people really want to give power back to the guys who messed things up so intolerably?
Liberal Democrats across the land, of course, were devastated but not surprised. Indeed they were almost felt like saying “Uh, huh, got what you deserved!” They’re playing hardball, and you’re still clinging to that word.
Virginia goes. And New Jersey. Now Massachusetts fires away. But instead it’s “Thank you sir I’ll have another.”
So all that the liberals were drooling for with the momentous election of Obama, and this phat congressional majority was slipping away, much of it self inflicted, by the Baucus bumbling, and Obama’s apparent lack of fire and leadership. Obama pinned the success and very existence of his administration on health care reform, and so did the Republicans (“Make this his Waterloo,” said Jim DeMint). When would we ever have this perfect storm” again? We had a majority, but it STILL wasn’t enough. Again, Republicans knew all this too well, and calculated the Democrats, and their young, inexperienced leader, were too soft – or just as much on the take as they were – to do anything that required big brass Bush balls.
Yes Bush, that guy. We knew Bush, in some ways, had it right: his approach, was a simple one (well d’uh, nothing complex about him): “I won - well, OK, I stole, but anyway, let’s not quibble, I’m here, I’m the President, I’m the decider, this is what the American people want me to do so I’m doing it.” And he had Tom DeLay and Bill Frist bringin' down the hammers.
The Republicans strategy was to delay until they and Frank Luntz could convince enough tea baggers and independents that another “change” was needed – presumably back to them. Was it possible people were buying this? And now they had they had Scott 41.
Well, one thing about Scott 41, Lieberman 59 didn’t mean as much as Lieberman 60; same goes for Landrieu, Lincoln and the irrepressible Nelsons.
But ironically, it was Scott Brown’s every election that pushed the Democrats to action. Obama was indeed playing chess, not checkers. But the tension was about to kill us all.
We started hearing rumblings not long after the invincible Scott 41 took oath of office.
And, ever the chess player, Obama let them do it to themselves. Suckered into the open health care summit, the Talking Points could not be pried from the Republicans’ cold white hands: let’s start over, they kept saying, with a clean sheet of paper. One guy must’ve known this was sounding silly, so he tried to mix it up with “let’s shake the etcha-sketch”. But there was a key moment in the whole charade. When Mitch McConnell complained about the Democrats taking up an unfair share of time, Obama copped to it: “That’s my fault. I talked longer, but then, I get to do that – I’m the President”. YES! SNAP!
The Dems were going reconciliation in the Senate to get the health care finale passed. Snap!
In the House, a few Democrats had to be rustled for the vote. Dennis Kucinich was neutralized. Snap! Bart Stupak, trying a to make abortion illegal in a back door fashion, was neutralized (he did get famous, but so did his membership in The Family, and so was unfortunate happenstance that he is Michael Moore’s congressman). Snap!
But, really, as usual, the Republicans did it to themselves.
And it’s all about tea.
The tea baggers had finally encroached on, and engulfed, the mainstream of the Grand Old Party. As John McCain cringed the other day in Arizona, the running mate he made famous, Sarah Palin was re-filling her 15 minutes of fame card. (McCain cannot stop making the same deal with the devil he made that put her on the ticket in the first place) She gave her “ich bin ein Tea Partyer” spiel… dragging the desperate old maverick along with her. He made no mention of his promise of no cooperation with the Democrats for the rest of the year – perhaps because he had already fulfilled that promise in the first part of the year. Michael Steele, the head of the Republican Party, welcomed the tea partyers. John Boehner and Eric Cantor turned a blind eye to the specter of fanatical supporters spitting and heckling congressmen as they entered the Capitol, and threw bricks through the office windows of other Democrats. Karl Rove said the Democrats were exacerbating the atmosphere of violence by reporting on it all the time.
But by this time, Obama was back out on the campaign trail, and on television. Hey, we thought. We’re going to do this! Be with us, or be on the wrong side of history. Because we are going to do this, Bush-style.
It was Waterloo all right officially on March 24, 2010. So DeMint had it sort of right. Except Obama was Wellington, and the Republicans were Napoleon. BOOM! There it is! Obama checkmated DeMint’s very flawed Waterloo Offense.
With that amazing victory by Obama and the Democrats, things got a little brighter in the world, and certainly in the progressive world. No, there was not a public option, and a few things would not materialize for several years (but after all, Teddy Roosevelt first advanced this notion in 1912 so this is speedy stuff). But not only was the camel’s nose under the tent, the beast was licking the breakfast dishes and spray-painting on the walls. It exists, so it can be tweaked.
The Republicans continued their delay tactics to the end, but they flopped. Even Coburn’s “Viagra amendment” went flaccid - ironic, because the Republicans were displaying a definite air of impotence.
Waterloo II was rapidly becoming the least of their problems. After all, as with the stimulus packaged they opposed in lockstep, no doubt they will tout health care reforms in their districts with props.
No, the Republicans have two other battles, which are existential. First, they have welded themselves to the tea people and they realize now this is a very scary-azz genie that cannot be put back into the teapot. In the bargain, moderate Republicans, if there were any left, have been marginalized. They got a taste of it with New York 23.
And the other front is an energized Democratic Party, led by a victorious Obama who now doing what they dared him to do.
He’s goin’ Bush.
The Republicans know what that means, and they know how that goes. As always, the bullies overplayed their hand and now they cannot depend on the Dems, or Obama, to pussy out on things.
Flush from an undeniably huge political (and humanitarian) victory, he is now making recess appointments – not of candidates who are horrific, like John Bolton who would never have passed muster, but who have been merely held up by Republicans because they can. Recess appointments – Bush-style. Music to my ears!
I’m waiting for Obama’s first signing statement. Suh-NAP!