Thursday, November 09, 2006

the congress is changing | does it matter why?

On Wednesday morning Ted Swartz wrote...

Ok, Jim---the change has been made. It's still early in VA, but it appears Allen is out; isn't that what this election has been about---getting "them" out. I do wonder if the reasons go deep enough, but does it matter?

I think it does matter how deep the reasons go.

I don't think this election was about getting them out. I think it was about opening the government back up – getting us back in.

All the new Congress has to do is insist on including members of the minority in committee meetings and it will do better than the ones that came before. Think of it . . . over the last six years Republicans routinely excluded Democrats – duly elected by the people of the United States – from committee meetings. I would join the chorus of those screaming bloody murder if Democrats committed that kind of abuse of power.

I expect a whole lot more in the way of good faith from the new Congress. A whole lot more.

Wednesday, Garrison Keillor ended his column with this:
You meet congressmen in private and they're perfectly thoughtful and well-spoken people, nothing like the raging idiots they impersonate in campaign ads, and you think, maybe Congress needs more privacy. Send them off on unchaperoned trips to see the world firsthand. More closed-door caucuses where they can say what they think without worrying that one stray phrase may kill them.

Or maybe Congress simply needed more Democrats. We are a civil bunch, owing to our contentious upbringings. With a smart, well-spoken woman for speaker instead of that lumbering mumbling galoot who covered for the Current Occupant, perhaps the sauce will thicken and life will get more interesting. Maybe they'll do something good. It's possible.
— Garrison Keillor, Living on Hope,, 11.08.06

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

political capital | part two

The day after the 2004 election a reporter asked President Bush, "Do you feel more free, sir?" Mr Bush replied: "Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

Something about that line bothered me.

At first I thought it was just that his tone struck me as arrogant. But I think the problem runs deeper. I think what troubled me most was his intent to spend his capital. Not that anyone around the trailer park comes to me for economic insight but I don't think capital is meant to be spent; I think capital is to be invested to generate income and other useful outcomes. Individuals, companies, nations and cultures that live off their capital eventually wake up broke.

I think that's what this President did. I never thought the 2004 elections were as significant an infusion of capital as Mr Bush believed they were. But whatever the case, he employed bullying and fear to spend himself and us into the hole in Iraq, in foreign policy, in the dissolution of the constitutional balance of powers and - literally - in the US budget.

So President Bush is left with too few allies in the Congress, too few allies in international politics, too little progress on the things he said mattered. "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital," he said, "and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

Indeed, it is his style.

For the sake of argument let's say the new Congress possesses political capital. If that's the case, I think we need to insist that they invest it wisely in constitutionally mandated oversite, in making peace, in crossing political lines to draft, conference and pass sound legislation for the good of the nation and the world. Doing that will increase the income we need to live on and enhance the capital we rely on to build the future.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

we know what to do

My friend Al called last week to say, "OK, no more blogging for you until after the election. You're taking this too personally. God help us if the Democrats don't take control of Congress."

I laughed and said, "God help us either way, Al. One way or another, we have a big mess to clean to clean up."

And so we do.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

political capital | part one

In Turnabout and the New Congress I wrote:
There has to be a Demcratic majority before anything changes substantively. Which means getting out the vote come hell or high water to put people in the House and Senate who will initiate oversite hearings in earnest. I can imagine the Current Occupant standing before a stacked house on November 8 saying something like, "The American people have retained a Republican majority in the Congress; I have some political capital now and I intend to spend it." In which case, God help us all - and I really mean that.

Today the editors of the New York Times write:
This election is indeed about George W. Bush - and the Congressional majority’s insistence on protecting him from the consequences of his mistakes and misdeeds. Mr. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 and proceeded to govern as if he had an enormous mandate. After he actually beat his opponent in 2004, he announced he now had real political capital and intended to spend it. We have seen the results. It is frightening to contemplate the new excesses he could concoct if he woke up next Wednesday and found that his party had maintained its hold on the House and Senate.

Talking with friends at the National Youth Workers Convention the last few days I was surprised when some of them seemed taken aback by descriptions of negligence and willfull failure in this Congress.

Those misdeeds are a matter of public record. Please read The Times editorial (concise) or scan my posts in this space over the last couple of months (rambling).

And if you agree with these calls for change in the US Congress, meet me at the polls.

And please, no champagne for anyone until the ballots are certified. In fact this may be a year when a strong cup of coffee will be the better beverage; there's a lot of work to do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

John Kerry's mea culpa

After yesterday's post about people who can't tell jokes (President Bush, Senator Kerry) my friend Bobbie directed me to Andrew Foster Altschu's Huffington Post piece: Great Apology, Senator Kerry - Now Do It Again... and Again.

Mr Altschu commends the Senator for his apology then writes:

Now here's the thing: You should keep apologizing. You did it on Imus - now do it on Air America. And Larry King. And Keith Olberman. And Leno. And You Tube. Anywhere. The media will give this another two or three days of attention if you (or the right-wingers) are keeping it alive - so go out there and apologize to everyone who will listen. Tell them how sorry you are that people misunderstood your attempt to point out what a feckless, incompetent, uneducated, dishonest crook this President is. Go out and remind them, again, that none of these warmongers ever put on a uniform, that the President himself went AWOL (in Alabama, no less!) but still feels no remorse about sending 3,000 Americans to their death in a war that he lied to get us into. Go out and tell anyone who will listen that you made a mistake, a mistake that may have hurt some feelings, but that unlike the mistakes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. it hasn't killed any Americans or made our country less safe or destroyed another country or dramatically increased terrorism in the Middle East. Tell them sure, you wish you hadn't said it, and then ask whether Bush wishes he hadn't gone into Iraq, wishes he hadn't declared "Mission Accomplished," wishes he'd kept enough troops in Tora Bora, wishes he hadn't taken his eye off Bin Laden, wishes he hadn't been asleep at the wheel for the past five years, wishes he'd fired Rumsfeld before so many American lives were lost. Make it a challenge: I can admit when I'm wrong, Mr. President - can you?

Believe it or not, you've got the upper hand, Senator. There are six days to go, and every moment the focus is on Iraq the Republicans lose another seat in Congress. So don't stop. Keep apologizing. Keep talking about it. Use the media attention to keep saying the things that need to be said. If Republicans want to keep bashing you for a couple more days and giving you a platform from which to remind the country of this administration's mistakes, crimes, and betrayals, and how the Republican Congress has rubber-stamped it every step of the way, you know what your answer should be: Bring It On.

Yes. This is about accountability. If you want a really stiff belt of that controlled substance, send the kiddies to bed and read Keith Olbermann's special comment last night on this whole sordid mess.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

what have we learned: some people can't tell a joke

This week we've learned that no one who ran for President of the United States in 2004 can tell a joke.

First Mr Bush botched a despicable lie in the form of a joke. Though the joke lies in shards on the campaign stump, the lie remains.

Then Mr Kerry of Massachusetts butchered an ad hominem quip at the President's expense which allowed a momentary loss of focus on two very important issues:

1. This President is stuck in Iraq and us with him and almost everyone who was looking saw it coming (though more than a few of us weren't looking, so...)

2. People with a demonstrated inability to tell jokes should refrain from doing attempting to do so. I'd be willing to bet people close to the President and Senator could have told them this decades ago. Individuals who persist in trying to be funny long after it's clear they are not may be stubborn and intemperate in other ways as well; this is just a theory.

Mr Clinton could (and can) tell a joke. Mr Gore appears to have recaptured a latent capacity to make funny. Mr Lieberman, in my opinion, can tell a joke the way most sound engineers can play musical instruments - they understand the physics but no one downloads their singles.

Senator McCain tells an OK joke from time to time. Not a headliner but a pleasant opening act. Senator Obama can definitely tell a joke. He may prove to be as good on his feet as the best of them.

Meanwhile, I call on Mr Bush and Mr Kerry to cease and desist. Mr Bush's funniest moments have had nothing to do with joke-telling bless his heart. And Mr Kerry is much clearer (though certainly no funnier) when he remains serious, as when in 1971 he asked Congress, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"