Jon Stewart Rips Right-Wingers A New One

    When Unarmed Blacks Are Killed By Cops

    No Wrongdoing With Benghazi

    Right-Wingers Fuel Racism And Paranoia

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hang It Up, Charlie

Thomas Lindaman writes:

Today's House Ethics Committee hearing about the alleged crimes of Rep. Charles Rangel took an interesting turn as Rangel walked out of the hearing, citing a desire for legal representation and objecting to the Committee denying it to him. At first, I had the reaction a lot of people did: shock and amusement.

Yet, if you really think about it, Rangel's actions today were part of a brilliant political move designed to minimize the damage to himself and the Democratic Party. At this point, I honestly do not believe Rangel ever intended to testify before the House Ethics Committee because to do so would have meant he would be under oath. Lying to Congress could be grounds for a contempt of Congress charge, which would have made things a lot tougher on Rangel. What he needed was a way for his side of the story to get an airing, but not subject himself to the possibility of lying under oath to Congress.

That's where Rangel had an ace up his sleeve, or to be more precise, two. The chair of the House Ethics Committee is Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Until Republicans fill that position in January, Lofgren is still the Chair, which means she controls how things will go. That gives Rangel at least one sympathetic ear. The other ace is Blake Chisam, the staff director and chief counsel of the House Ethics Committee. He has direct ties to...you guessed it, Zoe Lofgren. And as Rangel's primary defender before the Committee, he was the voice Rangel needed. That made Rangel bulletproof, politically speaking. He had nobody at home who would take him to task (he won reelection handily in his home District), and the likelihood of the House Ethics Committee punishing him beyond a slap on the wrist during a lame duck session of Congress was high. He really didn't need to be there, so he made a scene and walked out.

This was the best defense he could have concocted, and he played it brilliantly. It also takes a lot of heat off the Democrats because it would have been harder and harder for them to defend him if the hearing went on beyond a day or two. As it stands, the Ethics Committee should be ruling on the matter by the end of the week, thus putting the issue behind the Democrats once and for all.

He may be a dishonest scumbag, but I have to give Charles Rangel credit for such a brilliant political move.

You're probably right that Rangel never intended to testify.

As far as I am concerned if the voters of a district want to send anyone at all, they have the right; if he is bent, then it is up to them to vote him out.

In the spirit of that, the Supreme Court should be able to send a rep back to his district to stand in a special reelection. That should be the ultimate sanction, but if he wins reelection then that is that.

The only time someone should be forbidden from taking up a Congress post is if they are actually currently incarcerated. In that circumstance they should be forbidden from attending Congress till their release, but on release should be back in their seat. Of course being incarcerated should trigger a special election.

The reason ethics violations don't get you banned from Congress is that it is up to the voters of a district to decide who to send to Congress, not up to Congress to decide who it wants. If mere ethics violations (as opposed to breaking the law) were punished by expulsion every time it would have the effect of the majority (who can decide ethics rules) having too much control over membership, which in turn partially disenfranchises the voters by allowing their congressman to be done in by his political opponents rather than them.

It would devolve to the point where the majority party would bring ethics charges against any Congressman where they thought they could change the dynamics of that district enough to win the seat.

Charlie, you're 80 years old. You've been serving in the House for almost 40 years. Go home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Lindaman writes:

In the aftermath of last Tuesday's midterm elections, a new narrative has come from the Obama camp: the election results were due to bad communication from the White House to the American people. The idea is if they had communicated their successes more effectively, voters wouldn't have voted for Republicans overwhelmingly.

On the one hand, they have a point. The Obama Administration has a communication problem, one they have suffered with since Obama took the Oath of Office. On the campaign trail, the Obama team was effective in packaging a message and getting it out to the people. We may not have agreed with the message, but it cannot be denied that Obama's campaign communication team was a well-oiled machine.

Once in office, however, Obama has suffered with communication missteps, many of which can be left at the feet of former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. While the communication during the campaign was accessible to everyone, the post-campaign communication has become smug, snarky, and condescending towards anyone who holds a contrary view. Look at the Obama Administration's treatment of Fox News, for example. Whether it was the occasional off-handed remark about whether Fox News is a legitimate news network or the more ham-fisted attempts to treat Fox News as illegitimate, the Obama Administration spent a lot more time attacking a cable news network than they did in articulating a message related to their efforts. That shows a poor communication strategy designed not to trumpet their successes, but bleat out a poor tuba solo and blame it on others.

While I admit the Obama Administration's communication hasn't been as effective as it should have been, I can't completely chalk up the midterm election results to it. A huge part of any communication strategy is determining the message to send to the intended audience, while containing as well as possible any unintended messages. In the absence of the former, the latter becomes the message by default. We can argue about what the Obama Administration has done, but it means little if the source of those accomplishments isn't talking. That cedes the ground to third parties on both sides of the aisle, which can lead to a distortion of the intended message.

In this case, the message that was conveyed to the public was a disjointed mess of Leftist arrogance, partisan fear-mongering, and rampant hypocrisy. Combined with the TEA Party's rhetoric energizing people to get involved and the way the political winds tend to shift in midterm elections, it was assumed the Democrats would suffer losses. The question was how many.

Chalking up the political drubbing Obama's party received last Tuesday on a failure to communicate is appropriate, but only to an extent. If Obama wants to avoid another setback for his party (and possibly himself) in 2012, he'll need to address the communication issues within his own circle of power soon.

As expected, Republicans gained seats.  The Democrats got Health Care and Financial Reform passed by spending their 'Political Capital' on that (heck of a lot better than pointless wars). Of course there was a backlash to that in addition to the usual anti-incumbency due to Americans wanting instant gratification.
But there IS good news here.  The Democrats kept control of the Senate.  This was something Bush, Clinton, and Reagan were unable to do, which is a good reflection that people still aren't crazy about the Republicans taking total control. And Pelosi, Frank, Reid, and Boxer made it.  Wasn't the bloodbath some folks were predicting.
This will also secure Obama's second term.  Whew!
Come 2012, he'll have something to point at while the Republicans won't have much at all to point at except obstructionism and birth certificates.

And finally:

Percent of Dem member losses: Progressives 5%, Blue Dogs 45%.
Percent of Dem members returning: Progressives 95%, Blue Dogs 46%

To that, I say HOORAY!  The plurality of opinion regarding health care reform, wall street reform, and economic stimulus has not been that Democrats and the Obama administration went too far, it is that they did not go far enough. Losing House control was worth it even to get that message out.  Dems also criticize our own elected officials, instead of just blaming everything on the other guy.

It must really suck to be a Democratic Party politician. None of the fawning ignorance, blind support, and your voters/donors won't support you if you don't vote the way they want.

Obama gave people tax cuts. Obama reduced the deficit. In 2008, we on average lost 317,250 private sector jobs per month. In 2010, we gained an average of 95,888 private sector jobs per month. But people don't know this, no matter how many times they're told. 

The reason Democrats have a "communication" problem, is because the majority of people are simply stupid and/or ignorant.