Tuesday, March 06, 2012

they aren't interested in goodwill

I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone of a certain decision made several months ago by the administration. In the beginning of December, the FDA decided it was sufficiently satisfied with the safety of Plan B that it would allow it to be sold over the counter.

In an unprecedented move, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, overturned that decision. It was a slap in the face to several of the president's core constituencies, but it's generally accepted that this was a decision designed to earn some goodwill from the Catholic Church and various Christian conservative groups.

I wonder how good of a trade President Obama considers that decision now, with the benefit of a mere two months' hindsight.

War, endless war!

I think it's important to remember in all of this rather sudden war fever that much of Washington's sudden fixation on it is due to a timely visit by arch warmonger Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel's 2nd most right wing party. Recall that Israel has so
lost their heads in right wing hysteria as of late that Israel's biggest left-of-center party placed fourth in the 2009 elections, after the centrists, the conservatives, and the hard right wingers.

Netanyahu really, really wants war with Iran, and he really wants a Republican president, someone sufficiently beholden to evangelical millenarian wackadoos that he'll fight whomever Netanyahu tells him to.

Netanyahu came to Washington and essentially demanded that either we pick a fight with Iran, or they will. Think about that for a moment, pondering how Netanyahu believes we'd throw our kids on that bomb to save his.

In any case, expect to see a lot more of him over the next nine months as he continues to meddle in American electoral affairs.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Olympia Snowe's (lack of) legacy

On the announcement of her retirement, Olympia Snowe is taking some flak around my preferred corner of the internet for her failure to use her substantial power as one of the few Senate centrists to any real effect.

I'm of two minds about this issue. I think it's easy to overstate the degree of leeway she really had to vote her conscious or principles or whatever on the big bills of the last 10 years. If she had voted against the Bush tax cuts, for instance, it's hard to see a scenario where the reprisals would not have come fast and hard. Can you imagine her trying to fundraise after that? She would almost certainly have been persona non grata in her party.

The recent post about Rick Santorum is apropos here: senators have to swallow their principles and take one for the team sometimes. A president's signature bill is an example of such a moment. Frankly I don't see how she could have done much more than insist on a slightly smaller budgetary apocalypse. Who throws themselves on their sword over tax cuts?

That being said, Olympia Snowe was also much more of a party apparatchik and saboteur than she's willing to admit. She negotiated in bad faith during the Affordable Care Act episode, for instance, constantly changing the terms for her vote as Obama repeatedly met her demands. Contra Yglesias and Chait, I think she was terrifically effective there at thoroughly diluting that legislation, but her way of doing it was underhanded, stringing the Democrats along and pretending like she was open to compromise when she wasn't. She's never been honest with us about her actions, which were clearly to delay, delay, delay until the midterms, when the bill could just be killed altogether.

Had Reid and Obama not eventually wised up and forced her to take a stand, that very likely would have happened, and all the terrible practices of the insurance industry would still be perpetuated upon America's poor and middle class to this day.

choosing to live in darkness

Very glad I chose not to write anything Andrew Breitbart, because this says everything I wanted to say better than I ever could have. Also I had no idea about Shirley Sherrod's family history.