View Full Version : Senate Shark Jump Announced

13 Feb 10,, 00:17
Senate Shark Jump Announced
Josh Marshall | February 5, 2010, 1:12AM
Senate Shark Jump Announced | Talking Points Memo (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/02/senate_shark_jump_announced.php)
You've seen the reports that Sen. Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama has taken the perhaps unprecedented step of placing holds on ALL of President Obama's nominees until he gets the money for a couple of big earmarked pork barrel projects he feels entitled to back in his home state.

It's an eye-popper no doubt, with gallons more audacity than Obama ever could have hoped for. But I wonder if this story might not end up amounting to much more than the sum of its parts because it brings together three or four of the issues roiling American politics today in a bundle of smack-you-in-the-face arrogance that's too much to ignore.

For Republicans and the Tea Party set you've got pork-barrel spending and earmarks, two catchwords that are frequently abused and used to paint with too broad a brush but in this case seem pretty fairly to describe a senior senator's power to wrestle tens of billions of federal dollars back into his home state.

For Democrats, there's the outrage at archaic Senate obstructionism which has rapidly escalated from annoying to outrageous to pure comedy with a mind-numbing speed. It's the heart of the story about the demise of Health Care Reform, the slow death of so many unobjectionable nominees and much else.

In this case, we're not dealing with a stand on partisanship or ideology or simple political shiv play which I guess can each be respected in their own place. This is more like just a stick up. Gimme my money and I'll give you your Senate back! Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber, Shelby is shutting down the president's ability to appoint anyone to anything until he gets his way. In a sense Shelby's gambit is little different from what countless other senators of both parties have done in the past, using the senate rules to get the White House's attention to pry some money free from the federal government. But the scale is unheard and the moment is different. The only mystery about this one is which is more outrageous -- Shelby's hold or the fact that the rest of the senators of both parties allow it.

Perhaps, like so many other times, this will be today's outrage that is the new normal by tomorrow. But this are volatile times. And I wonder if this isn't the live wire in the gasoline.

13 Feb 10,, 00:17
Updated February 11, 2010
Don't Screw It Up, Republicans

By Jamie Weinstein

- FOXNews.com

Right now it appears that 2010 will be a Republican year but let's proceed with caution. There's still time for the GOP to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2010.

FOXNews.com - Don't Screw It Up, Republicans (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/02/11/jamie-weinstein-republicans-conservatives-democrats-midterm-elections-november/)

Scott Brown’s victory in the special Senate election in Massachusetts demonstrated that 2010 could be a very good year for Republicans electorally. But, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby’s recent Senate shenanigans and the undercurrents of birtherism at the Tea Party convention in Nashville last weekend demonstrate how Republicans can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory should they follow the wrong path.

Last week, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama placed a blanket hold on each and every one of President Obama’s nominees currently before the Senate for confirmation because the Alabama Senator sought to raise attention to the lack of support for key pork barrel projects in his state. The Shelby Stick-Up could have potentially ended up being the Republican version of the Louisiana Purchase and Cornhusker Kickback that have recently helped sink the Democratic brand. Fortunately for Republicans, Shelby decided to release his holds on most of Obama's nominees after only a few days, thus preventing public outrage from fomenting.
Nonetheless, Shelby’s unprincipled obstructionism is instructive on how Republicans should not act if they wish to regain power.

"I guess if you needed one example of what’s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn’t get his earmarks," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, echoing a line of attack against Republicans that Shelby’s actions opened up.

Regardless of the fact that Shelby lifted most of his holds, Republicans in the Senate must speak up and denounce the Alabama Senator’s political maneuver lest the entire party suffer because of the actions of one disgraceful Senator.

But it isn’t just Richard Shelby’s shenanigans that endanger the Republican brand going into November. The birtherism that raised its ugly head at last weekend’s Tea Party convention in Nashville is also potentially disastrous.

At its essence, the Tea Party movement represents a grassroots uprising against growing government control and unsustainable spending in Washington. This is an important message and the Tea Party movement deserves much praise for bringing it to the forefront of the national debate.

But if this righteous rage becomes tied to insane conspiracy theories like the birther conspiracy that suggests President Obama was really born in Kenya and is therefore ineligible to be president, then the important fiscal message of the Tea Partiers will be too easily marginalized. And though the Tea Party movement does not promote itself as an appendage of the Republican Party, the movement is nevertheless associated with it. So if the Tea Party movement comes to be seen as a welcome home for birthers, the Republican Party will be implicated. This can only be bad for the GOP going into November’s midterm elections.

To be sure, there are cranks in every political party and it was inevitable that some cranks would attach themselves to the Tea Party movement. But by giving Joseph Farah, a key promoter of the birther conspiracy, a prime speaking spot at the Tea Party convention in Nashville, the Tea Party movement, at least symbolically, gave legitimacy to lunacy.

Farah and his online magazine WorldNetDaily.com have been promoting birtherism from the very beginning of the conspiracy. But instead of coming right out and saying that he believes Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore an illegitimate president, Farah insidiously frames his birtherism as merely a legitimate question the president has yet to answer: Where is Obama’s birth certificate?

“You don’t even understand the fundamental tenets of what journalism is about, Andrew. It’s not about proving things. It’s about asking questions and seeking truth,” Farah reportedly said to Breitbart.com’s Andrew Breitbart in a confrontation between the two men after Farah’s speech.
The proof that Obama was born in this country is overwhelming to anyone who can read. Farah is either a fool or propounds birtherism intentionally to paint Obama as an illegitimate foreigner even though he knows the conspiracy is without merit. Either way, it is wrong and corrosive to the conservative movement. By providing a birther like Farah a platform, the Tea Party convention may have been an agent in its own delegitimization—and tainted the conservative revolution it seeks to promote in 2010.

At the moment, 2010 still looks like it will be a Republican year. There is even an outside shot that Republicans could take back one or both Houses of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. But the coming 2010 Republican wave is not inevitable. It can still be halted. The Shelby Stick-Up and the birtherism of the Tea Party convention in their separate ways provide a blueprint for Republicans on how to fail spectacularly this fall.

We can only hope that Republicans will avoid this calamity by focusing on the very meaningful policy differences between their party and their Democratic opponents. Backing unprincipled obstructionism and promoting loony conspiracy theories will only lead to disaster.

Jamie is a columnist for The North Star National. He can be reached through his blog,JamieWeinstein.com.