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The Obama Store

I just got back from spending the last two days with family in the Washington, D.C. area. After a nice Thanksgiving dinner and some cake in honor of my mother’s birthday on Thursday, I spent most of the day today in downtown Washington.

And what did I find on the bottom level of Union Station? A store dedicated to President Obama. Yes, an Obama Store. I kid you not. Earlier this year, I saw a cart near City Hall in Philadelphia selling some Obama paraphenalia. But an entire store?

I certainly recognize the historical and social significance of Obama being elected President last year (I even canvassed and made Get Out The Vote calls for him). But this is WAY too much. I don’t recall there being Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton stores in Washington, or anywhere else for that matter. And while I wasn’t alive at the time, my parents don’t recall there being John F. Kennedy stores either.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Philly Phoughts Management wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re travelling anywhere today, have a safe trip!

Congresssman Runyan? Former Eagle running in 2010

Former Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan will retire after this season and run for Congress next year, the Associated Press Reports.

It has been rumored for a while that Runyan, 35, would challenge Democratic incumbent John Adler next year in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across Southern New Jersey from Philadelphia’s east suburbs, through the Pine Barrens region to the Jersey Shore. Runyan made the challenge official yesterday. The district is very much a swing district, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) rating of R+1. Adler narrowly won the district by 3.4% in 2008.

“I look forward to a successful end to my career on the field,” Runyan said, “and a spirited campaign against Congressman Adler in 2010.”

Runyan hasn’t played since the Eagles let him go after having surgery on his right knee following last season. He signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers yesterday, which he said would be his last NFL deal.

The Final Four in the way of public option

The political news website Talking Points Memo had a good piece last night analyzing the four Senate Democrats who are balking at supporting the public option, or even voting to bring a bill with a public option to a vote (ie, invoking cloture): Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

“These are the four Democrats threatening to filibuster a public option bill down the line. They’re also in discussions with leadership and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) regarding a compromise modeled on Snowe’s trigger. How they change the bill so significantly remains unclear (can Reid round up 60 votes to swap the provisions? Does he pull the bill off the floor and reintroduce it with a different public option?) For the time being, though, liberals are turning up the heat on these four. And to succeed, they’ll need to be well aware of what buttons to push.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a VERY tough spot here. the Dems can rip Lieberman, Jim DeMint, et al in the press or even on the Senate floor all they want. It won’t matter. If no Health Care Reform passes, the Dems are going to get their rears handed to them next year and likely in 2012 as well. The public isn’t going to care that the Republicans or Joe Lieberman wouldn’t vote for cloture. All that will matter to them is that the Democrats had the White House and large majorities in both chambers of Congress and once again proved incapable of governing and actually accomplishing things.

If Reid tries to go Tony Soprano (figuratively speaking, of course!) on those four, he risks at least three of them switching parties and no longer voting with the Dems even some of the time. Lincoln, Nelson and Landrieu would likely benefit politically from this (all three represent states that President Obama lost by at least 15 points last year).  Who knows with Lieberman?  He represents a very blue state and votes with the Democrats on social issues and even a lot of fiscal ones, but was primaried out in 2006 (he later won re-election anyway as an independent) and may still hold a grudge against the party because of that. He campaigned for John McCain last year, yet still got to keep his committee chairmanship and place in the caucus because Reid knew he’d likely need his vote to get stuff passed. Maybe Lieberman would change parties, serve out the rest of his current term and retire in 2012. Or maybe he’s just grandstanding to get attention for himself and will back down when Reid puts the gun in his face and starts to squeeze the trigger.

Reconcilliation, which doesn’t require invoking cloture (and hence only needs 50 votes plus Vice President Joe Biden), likely won’t work either. Only certain parts can be passed that way, and which ones are at the sole discretion of the Senate parliamentarian. If you think the Republicans are fighting this viciously now, just imagine how many bogus amendments they would propose to bog things down if this goes the reconcilliation route. And even if the Dems could keep 50 votes together through that entire process and get it passed, it would have to be re-approved in 2015. If the Republicans have control of the Senate by that point, Health Care Reform is dead before it’s even had a chance to take effect.

FOX News Poll: Bow-gate much ado about nothing

According to a poll conducted by FOX News (not exactly the most liberal media outlet there is), 67 percent of Americans believe it is appropriate for the President to bow to a foreign leader if that is the country’s custom. Only 26% said it is never appropriate. Even among Republicans, 53% said it was appropriate, to 40% never appropriate.

This was in response to President Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan last week and the resulting furor. Conservatives have complained about this and Obama’s other greetings when meeting foreign leaders, complaining that he conveys American weakness.

Me? I think that whole issue – not just this case – is much ado about nothing. There are plenty of things worth criticizing President Obama about, but this is not one of them. This is nothing more than the neoconservative meme that Obama is “Anti-American” and the belief in their interpretation of American Exceptionalism (not the original one laid out by Alexis de Tocqueville) – that America and Americans can and must be able to do whatever they want and get whatever they want, and that all other countries are subservient.

I for one think American Exceptionalism is a very short-sighted belief. The United States should not expect, let alone demand, the rest of the world to acquiesce to its whims and desires. There is only one world, and it has to work for all 6 billion-plus humans out there, not just the 300 million in the United States. The same goes for every other country in the world.

And just in case anyone has forgotten, we have far bigger problems to deal with than how President Obama should be greeting foreign leaders. Unemployment is over 10%, a figure that, since late October, includes yours truly. We’re in the middle of two outrageously expensive wars, one of which we shouldn’t have been in to begin with and the other of which President Obama can’t decide how to finish. Health care needs reforming, and President Obama won’t take the lead on one of the cornerstones of his campaign.

How the President greets foreign leaders is not high on my list of things to bitch about.

Reid announces Senate healthcare reform bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his chamber’s version of Healthcare Reform yesterday. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s version will guarantee health insurance coverage for 94% of Americans and cost $849 billion over 10 years, which will ultimately reduce the budget deficit by $127 billion.

“We’re proud of these figures,” Reid told reporters. “Not only do we make [health insurance] affordable for every American, we certainly do it in a fiscally responsible way.”

As expected, the Senate version includes a public option with an opt-out clause, persumably allowing Democrats from more pro-Republican constituencies the cover of voting for the bill, or at least for cloture, while claiming that the bill will give states the option to not participate if they so choose. The Senate version, like the House version, prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

Now the tough part begins for Harry Reid. He has to make sure he has 60 votes on board to invoke cloture and get the bill to the floor for a vote. If he does and it passes, the Senate and House versions will have to be combined in conference committee, after which both chambers will have to pass the final version. So while Sen. Reid deserves praise for getting healthcare reform this far in the Senate, there is still a ways to go.

 

 

Why Palin gets piled-on

I haven’t posted in a while. And with Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue coming out this week, there is certainly plenty for political pundits to analyze and discuss.

Via one of my fellow bloggers, I read a column by Andrew Malcolm in the Los Angeles Times that ponders the question of why Sarah Palin inspires so much hatred on the part of her opponents. Is it simply her beliefs themselves? Is it sheer snobishness? Do her opponents, especially her female opponents, somehow feel threatened by her?

Those probably have something to do with it. But I think most of the issue is not Sarah Palin’s beliefs themselves, but the way she conveys them. The Sarah Palin we’ve seen since John McCain tabbed her to be his running mate 15 months ago, the one some of whose fans have tabbed “the female Ronald Reagan,” has been very Un-Reagan-like in her style.

Simply put, she’s been a divider, not a uniter.

Much like Nancy Pelosi and (to an extent) Hillary Clinton on the left, Sarah Palin is very in-your-face with her beliefs and values, in many ways demonizing those who don’t march in lockstep with her. This attitude gets under her opponents’ skin, so when she has a moment of vulnerability (the Couric interview, etc.), they’re more than happy to exploit it.

Reagan espoused his values in a more genteel, welcoming way. Reagan understood that everybody wasn’t going to agree with him on every part of his ideology. But he based his message on a few key non-divisive issues that unified Americans of many persuasions. That’s how he won over the Reagan Democrats (of course, Jimmy Carter being the worst President of the last 60 years helped his cause).

Sarah Palin, however, went on the campaign trail last year talking about “Real Americans” and questioning people’s patriotism and belief in their country’s values. The implication was that anyone who didn’t believe in her brand of conservatism was somehow less of an American. Maybe that wasn’t her intent. But between her campaign style and some of the words that she said and some of the things that happened at her rallies, that’s how it came across. And while it fired up her party’s base, it equally galvanized her opponent’s base against her.

I don’t recall Reagan inspiring that kind of divisiveness. I don’t recall him questioning Jimmy Carter’s patriotism or accusing Walter Mondale of palling around with terrorists. The closest I can recall Reagan coming to that was his “Welfare Queen” remark during his failed 1976 primary campaign. Reagan unified.

If Sarah Palin or any other Republican wants to win next year or in 2012, they need to run the type of campaign that Reagan did, and that Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell did this year. Espouse conservative principles, but do so based on the issues of the day in your constituency. Present a clear alternative to your opponent, but don’t be a jerk about it. And don’t focus simply on pandering to your base with culture war rhetoric. Reagan, Christie and McDonnell didn’t win because of their stances on abortion, gay marriage and gun rights.

This is how Sarah Palin took down Frank Murkowski and the Republican establishment in Alaska to become Governor in 2006. It’s how she had approval ratings of close to 90% before McCain came calling. And it’s what she’ll have to get back to if she’s going to have any chance of overcoming her very sudden and clumsy resignation this past summer and having a political future.

UH OH! No funds in budget for Christie transition

christie

In a radio interview this morning, New Jersey Governor-Elect Chris Christie said there are no transition funds for his incoming administration.

No money for hiring of new staffers. No money to update signs, publications and stationary. No money to do the things that have to be done when one administration leaves and another enters.

 “Interestingly, the state didn’t fund the transition,” Christie said in the interview. “They didn’t put any money in the budget for a transition so we need to talk about making sure that we get that squared away.”

Christie defeated incumbent Jon Corzine 49.1% to 44.6%  in the November 3 general election, becoming the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey since 1997. He takes office in mid-January.

SEPTA STRIKE ENDS

The mass transit system in Philadelphia is rolling again!

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA and Transit Workers Union Local 234 came to a tentative contract agreement early this morning, ending the week-long strike that shut down Philadelphia city buses, trolleys and the Broad Street and Market/Frankford Subway lines.

Union and SEPTA officials announced the deal at 12:45 a.m. this morning at a news conference outside the Center City office of Governor Ed Rendell, the Inquirer reported. The first buses began rolling again around 4 a.m.

According to the Inquirer:

The five-year contract also calls for a 2.5 percent raise in the second year, and a 3 percent raise in each of the final three years. It increases workers’ contributions to the pension fund from the current 2 percent to 3 percent, and increases the maximum pension to $30,000 a year from the current $27,000 a year.

The deal will reportedly be formally voted on by union members within the next two weeks.

Health care reform: Don’t pop the champagne corks yet

President Obama, Democrats and health care reform supporters are giddy today over the House passing its version of reform late last night. It is certainly a big step in the right direction – a bigger one than any administration and Congress has taken since Lyndon Johnson created Medicare in the 1960s.

But I would caution those supporters to not get too giddy. Because there are still several mountains left to climb before this is a done deal.

The next one is in the Senate, which has yet to pass its own version. On paper, this shouldn’t be a problem – the Dems and those caucusing with them control 60 seats and have the Vice President – more than enough to get a simple majority. In practice, however, it’s not nearly that simple.

Senate debate rules require 60 votes to “invoke cloture,” or stop debate and bring a bill to an up-or-down vote. So Majority Leader Harry Reid actually needs 60 votes to get this done. And there are a number of Democratic caucus members who represent conservative constituencies (or are just in the pockets of the insurance companies) who will be a tough sell to get on board with a public option – one of the most critical parts of any real healthcare reform, in my opinion. This group includes Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Evan Bayh (Indiana) and Joe Lieberman (Connecticut). Lincoln and Bayh are both up for re-election next year. But Lieberman could be an even bigger fly in the ointment – he represents a rather liberal state (which went for Obama by 20 points last year) and votes with the Dems on most social issues. But he voted for the Iraq War and campaigned for Republican John McCain against Obama last year, even speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Reid could get around cloture rules by trying to pass the Senate’s version through budget reconcilliation, where he would need only 50 votes plus Vice President Biden. But this move would require the spending authorization to be renewed after 5 years. If the Republicans were to regain control of the Senate by that point, you know what would happen then.

The bill has already been delayed in the Senate and now may not even get passed this year, breaking President Obama’s second deadline. And if the debate goes into next year, moderate and conservative Democrats who are up for re-election in otherwise Republican districts or states are going to be even more reluctant to get on board.

Even if the Senate passes its version, it will have to be merged with the House version in conference committee. Both chambers will then have to pass the final combined version before President Obama can sign it. Same rules and obstacles will still apply.

So be happy with this step forward. But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.