Category Archives: Dems

Labor Secretary

As another follow-up to this week’s episode, here are some names being bandied about for Labor Secretary:

Labor activist Mary Beth Maxwell has emerged as a serious candidate for Secretary of Labor, Democratic and transition offiicials confirm. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Maxwell, who’d be the first openly gay cabinet secretary, is being vetted for the job, along with Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Of the three, Sebelius has the inside track and the closest relationship with Obama. Sebelius has also been mentioned as a potential pick for Secretary of Education.

Obama got some guff for choosing Janet Napolitano for DHS, from Democrats who were worried that her departure would mean one-party rule for Arizona. I disagreed, thinking that either the Democratic party is strong in Arizona or it isn’t. You can’t rely on one person’s magic powers to take care of you.

If he picks Sebelius, though, I may have to rethink that assessment. How many red-state Democratic governors does he really want to pick off?

After The Parliamentary Presidency

I’m just getting to this New York Times magazine article, “After the Imperial Presidency” (I usually only get to read the magazine after my wife’s had a week to read it and another week to do the crossword puzzle), and I found it both better and worse than I expected.

I was expecting to read about the rise of executive power in the Bush Years, which would probably have covered Gitmo, secret prisons, the Iraq War, etc., etc. And there was some of that, to be sure. But the article was actually about something else, something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, the rise of parliamentary-style democracy in America. Instead of a system where the branches of government check each other, we’re moving slowly towards a system where the branches coordinate when they’re held by the same party, and the parties oppose each other. This is a telling anecdote:

When [LBJ] was elevated to the vice presidency in 1961, he suggested to Senator Mike Mansfield, his successor as Senate majority leader, that he be permitted to continue presiding over the Democratic caucus. Mansfield initially agreed — but the rest of the caucus revolted. The vice president might be the ceremonial president of the Senate, they argued, but to empower him to attend their caucuses, let alone run them, would create a dangerous precedent.

By contrast, in recent years, you could set your watch by the arrival of Vice President Cheney’s motorcade on Capitol Hill for the Republican caucus’s weekly strategy sessions. He was at times known to bring Karl Rove with him as well. “You can imagine the amount of dissent that goes on with the two of them sitting there,” Leahy told me.

I have mixed feelings about the rise of parliamentary politics in America. In general I think it’s a bad thing, but it’s also sort of inevitable with the rise of the party system.

But what I really wanted to know, and what the article completely avoids (perhaps because it was likely written before the election), is whether or not any of that changes in an Obama administration, and why. Obama will have a relatively sizeable Democratic majority in both houses to work with. Will Joe Biden and Rahm Emmanuel show up on Capitol Hill for strategy sessions? I think the fact that Obama is filling his staff with congressional heavy-hitters (Emmanuel, Daschle, Schiliro) speaks volumes on this score. On the other hand, the Democrats are by nature more of a coalition, as the Prof once wrote, so the coordination will probably be less intense (cue Will Rogers quote).

At any rate, the dynamic between Obama and the Democratic congress will be fun to watch.

I Can No More Disown Bill Ayers Than I Can Disown The Upper-Middle Class Liberal-Elite Bubble In Which I Now Live

Maybe it’s time for Obama to give a big come-to-Jesus red state-blue state speech to explain to America the cultural milieu in Hyde Park, Chicago that allows yahoos like Bill Ayers to remain unrepentant. It could be as groundbreaking as his Philadelphia race relations explainer!

Sample opener: “I have already deplored, in unequivocal terms, the actions of Bill Ayers that he perpetrated when I was 8. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sucked up to him during my initial run for state office? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your Volvo-driving, bumper-sticker affixing neighbors, coffee shop clerks, or that ridiculously naive long-haired college-age nephew with which you strongly disagreed.”

But apparently McNasty is backing off that line of attack, perhaps to salvage his legacy in the midst of a foundering campaign, in which case he probably doesn’t deserve to win the presidency anyway . . .

Christine Gregoire, A Tragedy in Two Acts

Obama’s up 10 points in Washington State, but Gregoire’s running dead even with Rossi, 48-48. Eli Sanders asks:

What’s that about?

Now, I may be an unfrozen caveman lawyer, but what I do know is that the Guv stopped governing a couple of years ago, afraid that if she actually did anything, Rossi might use it to run against her this fall. I elaborated on this back in January:

The deluded thinking seems to be that Rossi and the state GOP will look at one another and say, “well boys, there’s nothing to run on this year, so we might as well pack up our bags and hand this one to the Democrats.”

But of course, in reality, the GOP will do no such thing. The more ground that Gregoire/Chopp concede, the more Rossi will advance, pushing the whole state agenda farther to the right, despite the fact that Democrats control both houses AND the governorship! To call this infuriating would be an understatment.

It didn’t have to be this way. When she was first elected, Gregoire took her puny 127-vote victory and, Bush-style, turned it into a mandate. Even David Broder was impressed. But then she got quiet, running to the center and otherwise abdicating leadership on a whole host of issues (Viaduct, anyone? Sin taxes? Kowtowing to Eyman??). Now all she can do is hang on to Obama’s coattails for dear life and pray for another squeaker. It’s tragic, really.

This puts someone like me in a dilemma. I don’t want to reward this behavior. But if I don’t vote for the Governor, and she loses, then the message that our spineless Democratic caucus will take away is that they need to run further to the right to try and win independents and retake the state. But that’s absurd, as Al Gore, John Kerry, Maria Cantwell, and Patty Murray have shown (and as Barack Obama will show next month). Real Democrats win in Washington every time if they just act like real Democrats.

The Governor’s very smart. Why this is lost on her is… well, it’s lost on me.

Someone Apparently Needs a Remedial Course

Jaw-dropping hurricane of House leadership not getting it, as dday points out over at Digby’s place. From the NY Times article:

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats have scrapped plans for another vote on expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, thus sparing Republicans from a politically difficult vote just weeks before elections this fall.

Before the summer recess, Democrats had vowed repeatedly to force another vote on the popular program. But Democrats say they have shifted course, after concluding that President Bush would not sign their legislation and that they could not override his likely veto.

Sometimes it feels like being led by a pack of ferocious, ravenous kittens.

It’s Always The Last Place You Look

It’s obvious that the GOP found The Nasty right where they left it. What’s less clear is what the effect Palin’s speech will be. My sense is that the McCain campaign designed it to shore up the core of a party in serious danger of fracturing. If the delegates in the venue are any indication, she succeeded in that.

With respect to the wider campaign, almost all of the attacks were old ones, and they didn’t really stick before, so I’ll be curious to see if there are any further reaching effects.

Finally, if McCain follows this with a reprise of his infamous Green Screen performance from a few weeks ago, the campaign dynamic might turn into a weird Obama versus Palin contest, with McCain as figurehead.

What If They Threw A Convention and No One Came?

I woke up this morning to the thought — it may have been in a dream — that no one will watch the GOP convention.

We know this election is a referendum on Obama. Voters are deciding if they like him. If they don’t, the safe pick is the crusty old white dude. So obviously people will watch the Dem convention, which will benefit from an exciting candidate, a dynamic history-making acceptance speech, potential Clinton drama, and general excitement about turning the page on the Bush years.

But non one really wants to watch the McCain speech, because it doesn’t really matter what McCain says. He’s just the alternative if Obama proves unpalatable. Plus, dozens of Republican candidates — including Liddy Dole and others — are staying away from the convention on the advice of the GOP, so as not to hurt their re-election prospects by getting accidentally photographed next to Cheney.

Finally, Bush and Cheney are giving their speeches on Monday, which is Labor Day, when everyone will be out of town. And now I see that McCain’s closing night speech will be given on the night of the NFL season opener.

Do they publish the ratings for the conventions? Because I have a feeling that almost everyone watching the proceedings in Minneapolis will be on the GOP payroll in one way or another.