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Saturday, January 31, 2009

"We're Smarter Than That"

by digby

I've had a number of Claire McCaskill's constituents write to me today to complain about my comment yesterday that I don't care for her because she's something of a Blue Dog. I'm told that she is better than the Republican she replaced, which is certainly true, and I acknowledge the realities of Missouri politics which probably require a more conservative Democrat than I personally prefer.

But this is why I'm not crazy about her. She has a Liebermanesque tendency to validate GOP rhetoric (and consequently, GOP policy) and I don't think that ever works out for Democrats:

I think that there have been some mistakes made. From my perspective there have been mistakes made on the stimulus bill. There has been such a starvation diet for some of these programs that the appropriators got a little over anxious in the House. They probably did some things they shouldn't have...

We do need to look at the safety net side of the stimulus bill that can get into the economy quickly. But we can't right every wrong in terms of programs we support in the stimulus bill. And the other thing is, whether it is the National Endowment of the Arts or some of the STD funding or contraceptive funding, all we did was just tee up ammunition for the other side to tear this thing down. And I would like to think we are smarter than that. I'm hopeful on the Senate side we will be smarter than that.

We will pull some of this stuff out that is not stimulative and we will have safety net in there that will get into the economy quickly, because that is what these tax breaks do, and the unemployment insurance benefits and the food stamps. People need them and they'll spend it, and it will go into the economy quickly. But I think we have to remain very focused on how we are creating jobs in this thing. And I am hoping we will find that middle ground.

The problem with her statement is that it validates the idea that "stimulus" has this very narrow meaning that Republicans want it to have. And that is very, very bad. This bill is not called "the stimulus bill." It's called the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" and that's because we have a much, much bigger problem on our hands than a little recession that needs a quick "jolt." By accepting the republican definition of what the bill is supposed to do, they have backed themselves into a corner and turned the kind of worthy spending she characterizes as "over anxious" into frivolous, unnecessary spending, that will never be authorized.

And the notion that if only the Democrats had left out contraception and the NEA that the Republicans wouldn't have found something else is naive at best. Orrin Hatch was complaining about money for higher education yesterday. They can find a way to call any government spending pork or entitlements. Once you start worrying about what they will find to complain about you are paralyzed.

If Obama has cast McCaskill to be the centrist Democrat to kiss the moderate Republicans' rings and bring them over, she could have done it without using their talking points. It's a bad habit of Democrats and I'm very sorry to see them continuing the tradition.

It's very unlikely that any of these programs will ever be put back into legislation after this (particularly with the PayGo fetish back) and that's just shameful. Indeed, I would look for a swift "bipartisan" call to pull in our belts, enact entitlment reform and practice "fiscal responsibility" the minute the watered down, probably far less effective, plan is passed. (As I wrote earlier, I think the administration probably believes that they will get the most "jolt" by the psychological impact of passing the tax cuts and infrastructure spending. We'd all better hope that happens, and quickly.)

Meanwhile, people who need help preventing unwanted pregnancies during this steep downturn are just going to be out of luck and I can't think of a more vital need. It's disgusting, particularly when you consider this, which doesn't surprise me, but makes me want to puke nonetheless:

Apparently, the target group most in need of some good old fashioned sex ed can be found among the male members of the Democratic Party and among the talking heads in the media.

A number of Congressmen attending a House Caucus meeting on the economic package earlier this week reportedly could not stop snickering when the words “stimulus” and “family planning” were used in the same sentence, and continued to tee-hee their way through a presentation by female colleagues until asked to stop.

“They acted like they were in junior high,” reported a participant in the meeting. “It made me realize that not only did they not understand this issue, but that they are uncomfortable even talking about it."

Rather than chastising their male colleagues further, the women members and staffers involved in the meeting took this as a serious learning experience.

It should be a lesson for all of us.

“These issues are second nature to the majority of women in Congress,” said one Congressional staffer speaking off the record, “so when we talk to women members or their staffers about the connection between family planning and women’s economic security, they don’t need an explanation. They just get it.”

"Many of the men, however, do not," the staffer continued, "It is clear we need to educate them. If they don't understand the issues, they won't be able to defend them effectively."

I'm sorry, there is no excuse for this bullshit. These are adults and they are Democrats, who are voted into office by a huge majority of women, (although sometimes I have to wonder why we bother.) Fine, so family planning is funny stuff to the Beavis and Buttheads in the Democratic caucus. I just feel compelled to note once again that there is now DNA testing and strong laws about child support, so if you play you pay fellas. It's no joke. (For a great anatomy of the "contraception" hissy, read this post. It lays it all out in chronological form.)

And while it makes me very angry on the merits, the biggest problem with all this isn't the poor women who will have to deal with unwanted pregnancy, it's that the Democrats have clearly and unambiguously signaled that they are still deer in the headlights when a hissy fit hits.The Republicans are very relieved, I'm sure. They know just how to hit that sweet spot and they'll keep doing it over and over again until the whole country believes that the Democrats caused the crisis and want to solve it by surrendering to terrorists and forcing people to have abortions. At the very least they will continue to think that it's logical to solve this crisis by cutting taxes for the wealthy and cutting government spending.

Instead of treating this as a teachable moment, with Democrats showing the American people how conservative economics have caused their problems, some of them are out there reinforcing all the tired old conservative bromides and forcing self-destructive compromises just so they can pretend that this program has bipartisan support --- which it clearly doesn't. It's depressing.

Bending over backwards to please Republicans on policy has never worked for Democrats in the past and I'm frankly a little bit gobsmacked that some of them think it will work now, of all times. But hey, their motto is, " if it's broke, don't fix it" so here we are.

Update: As always, give 'm an inch, and they'll stage a filibuster.

Grassley’s promise of a filibuster is surprising given the fact that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly said that Republicans “would not filibuster against the stimulus package.” He remarked earlier this month, “I don’t think this measure’s going to have any problem getting over 60 votes.”

But now, as Grassley indicated last night, McConnell may not be able to keep his word as conservative opposition to the package grows.

Despite the fact that the Senate version of the recovery package is already loaded up with a significant number of provisions sought by conservative Republicans and the pro-business lobby, a number of senators are working with Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to coordinate opposition to the package, and as CNS News reports today, “a filibuster is a possible part of that plan“:

“I think its going to take 60 votes to pass the bill,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told CNSNews.com, indicating the likelihood of a filibuster.

“Whatever we can do, whether offering amendments, whether voting against the bill because it could not be amended, or whatever parliamentary possibilities are in front of us we will explore because this isn’t about playing the game,” Sen. Kyl told CNSNews.com when asked whether he would filibuster the bill or encourage his colleagues to do so. […]

“I would be a part of it,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said when CNSNews.com asked him if he personally would participate in a filibuster.

So, assuming that the Democrats would always have some Blue Dog DLC types in the senate like Ben Nelson, who are defacto Republicans, how many senators do they need to have to have a working majority that will fulfill a clear mandate as they got last November? 70?

Orrin Hatch chuckled evilly yesterday, and said "I don't agree with that," when it was mentioned that Obama didn't need Republicans to pass legislation and he was probably right. The way they aregoing, they'll have a bunch of Democrats helping them filibuster.


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