For only the fourth (or fifth, depending on how you count) time in his presidency, George W. Bush had a veto overridden by both houses of Congress this week. This is big news, since it doesn't happen very often.
The bill which Bush unsuccessfully vetoed was the same Medicare bill which was passed last week by the heroic efforts of Senator Teddy Kennedy (which won him the coveted Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, I might add). The vote in the House was 383-41, including 153 Republicans voting against Bush. In the Senate, the vote was 70-26, including 21 Republicans. This increased the margins from when it originally passed (355-59 and 69-30 respectively, with 129 Republicans in the House and 18 in the Senate).
A huge list of interested parties were in favor of the bill, from the AARP to the American Heart Association. So who was against it? Insurance companies. This was bluntly (starkly?) pointed out by Democratic California Representative Pete Snark... oh, excuse me, that's "Pete Stark" (I don't know how I could have gotten that confused), speaking to the opposition: "I understand when we have 50 groups supporting our bill and you only have one ... it gets a little annoying. But we will see if we can find one other group to support your bill. I doubt it, but we will try."
Heh heh. Good one, Pete!
Anyway, I don't really have much to say about the veto override, just wanted to shine a spotlight on Congress standing up to Bush, that's all. OK, and to print that Stark quote... I admit it.
Enough silliness. Onward to the awards.
There were actually quite a few candidates for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week again, always a good sign.
Barack Obama's campaign announced a truly impressive $52 million dollar haul last month. But just raising money isn't all that impressive, since it's really the donors who are doing the heavy lifting here. Still, the figure itself is impressive indeed and is worth a mention.
Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, held an impressive hearing yesterday on the practice of the uber-wealthy to use bank accounts in countries such as Switzerland (and others) to avoid the prying eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. He explicitly called for revoking Swiss bank UBS' license to bank in the United States. Levin was quoted by ABC News saying: "I don't think that any bank that goes to the extent that UBS has gone through to avoid doing what their agreements with the United States require them to do, should be allowed to continue to do business unless they clean up their act." More on UBS in a moment, but Senator Levin deserves an Honorable Mention here for his efforts to pursue wealthy tax cheats.
But this week's MIDOTW goes to former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. Al gave a speech, throwing down the gauntlet to achieve 100% of America's electrical generation by non-carbon sources within 10 years. References to J.F.K.'s challenge to go to the moon abounded in the press, of course.
But what's really impressive is the reaction he immediately got from both presidential candidates. Obama, of course, is a lot closer to Gore's stance than McCain, and so his praise was more enthusiastic. But while McCain did point out that he favors a lot more nuclear energy and disagreed with Gore (and also got in his standard "Dr. No" cheap shot at Obama), he did say "I've admired the Vice President on this issue," which is better than the standard Republican smear-Al-Gore-at-all-costs tactic.
Meaning that Gore is one impressive Democrat, and has become a force to be reckoned with in American politics on the subject of energy and the environment. Well done, Al!
[Warning: If you're offended by the use of racial slurs, then just skip this section altogether. You have been duly warned.]
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers almost won the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week for watering down the hearing he finally and begrudgingly is giving to Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment. While at least (this time around) Conyers is going to grant Kucinich a hearing (he has previously ignored Kucinich), it will not specifically be an "impeachment hearing." Which, as I said, is disappointing. But while refusing to call his hearing anything with the word "impeachment" in it, he just squeaked out of getting a MDDOTW by what he did name the hearing: "The Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush and possible legal responses." So we'll see whether it's just window dressing or not. The hearing is scheduled for July 25.
But the winner this week of the ignominious Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than Jesse Jackson. Now, Jesse actually made these comments more than a week ago (he got a "dis"-honorable mention here last week for doing so, as a matter of fact), the full extent of his offensiveness was not known until this week. Which, as far as I'm concerned, qualifies him.
Jackson, from the earlier reports, wanted to remove Barack Obama's "nuts." Sigh. As if that weren't bad enough, rumors began circulating that Jackson had said something worse.
Initial reports were proven to be false -- that Jackson had called Obama a "no-good half-breed nigger." This was later denied than none other than Roger Ailes, chief honcho of Fox News (where Jackson made the remarks, thinking his microphone wasn't picking them up). I have to hand it to Ailes, not normally a defender of lefties, for stopping this rumor in its tracks. But what Jackson did say was almost as bad -- that Obama was not just "talking down to black people" but also "telling niggers how to behave."
Jackson, who has been heard in the past railing against the use of this word, deserves all the condemnation he is currently getting. On top of this, we now add the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. For shame, Jesse, for shame.
[I couldn't find contact information for Jesse Jackson himself, but you might try his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 39 (7/18/08)
And so we come to the Talking Points part of the program. There was no single all-consuming issue this week to concentrate on (with the possible exception of a big GOP "elitism" tent), so we have a fairly disjointed bunch this time around. For Democrats everywhere with interviews lined up this weekend, we present this week's Talking Points:
You say "po-tay-to," I say "timetable for withdrawal"
I've written about this twice already this week (from Obama's winning political take on it, to actually examining the facts), but it deserves all the attention it can get. President Bush announced today that whatever agreement he works out with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have (and I quote): "a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals." Bush's statement went on to swear -- honest! -- that this didn't mean "an arbitrary date for withdrawal." Fortunately, nobody's buying that malarkey.
While it'd be fun to come up with a talking point to use (this one is pretty easy to frame, I have to admit), I will turn Talking Point Numero Uno over to none other than Senator Joe Biden. He released a statement which I reproduce here in full:
"I welcome today's announcement that the President has reversed course and dropped his adamant opposition to a timeline for redeployment of American troops from Iraq. He also has acknowledged the need to transition from a combat mission to one that focuses on training and counter-terrorism. The Bush Administration is finally facing reality. They are now engaging directly with Iran and recognizing the need for more forces in Afghanistan while scaling down our force commitment in Iraq.
"The President should begin a responsible redeployment of our combat forces from Iraq so that we can meet the many other challenges we face around the world, starting with taking the fight to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the people who actually attacked us on 9-11."
Want gas prices down? Talk to Iran.
Let's review. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announces the United States is going to sit down at a table with Iran for the first time. Oil prices fall more than ten percent (more than $16 a barrel) in the next few days. Think these two events might be... I don't know... related somehow? This connection needs to be made by Democrats to link the two -- gas prices and Iran -- inextricably together. Strongly. And quickly.
"The minute the story got out about America at long last trying some diplomacy towards Iran, oil prices fell ten percent. There's a good reason for this. A lot of the price per barrel America has been paying for oil is the risk involved in Bush's saber-rattling towards Iran. When that danger premium on the price is seen to recede, then the price itself recedes. I guess President Bush is finally coming around to Barack Obama's way of thinking. Too bad it took this long, and we're paying so much now at the pump for Bush's intransigence."
Gas tax holiday on holiday
John McCain is really trying to get a lot of mileage (so to speak) out of his proposed "gas tax holiday." First, he called for it to take effect all summer long. Now, he's calling for it to possibly be extended. There's only one thing wrong with this picture (other than the fact that it won't work to reduce prices at the pump) -- John McCain hasn't spent one day in the Senate since he started proposing this scheme -- he's missed over 75 votes in a row.
"It's interesting to me that Senator John McCain is proposing a 'gas tax holiday' which he originally wanted to take effect at the beginning of the summer. The reason it's interesting is that since then, John McCain hasn't managed to make it to a single Senate vote. Leadership requires your presence, Senator McCain. If a gas tax holiday was so important to you, why didn't you return to the Senate and make it a reality? Or is this just a cheap campaign gimmick meant to fool voters?"
Bush redefining The Pill as abortion
The Bush White House, is leading the charge in yet another foray of religious beliefs trying to trump actual science. The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to redefine the word "abortion" to include contraception. This would have far-reaching consequences for how the federal government deals with contraception and organizations who distribute contraception. It sounds like a joke, in other words, but in reality it is no laughing matter.
Nancy Pelosi showed other Democrats how to react to this, in a strong statement which I cannot improve upon:
If the Administration goes through with this draft proposal, it will launch a dangerous assault on women's health.
The majority of Americans oppose this out-of-touch position that redefines contraception as abortion and represents a sustained pattern of the Bush Administration to reject medical and sound science in favor of a misguided ideology that has no place in our government.
I urge the President to reject this policy and join with Democrats to focus on preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion through increasing access to family planning services and access to affordable birth control.
I'm sure the troops won't mind
Back in May, President Bush made an odd statement that he had given up golf for the duration of the war, because: "I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal." But now Bush will reportedly "greet the foursomes" at a golf fundraiser for John McCain.
"President Bush said a few months ago, and I quote, playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signals. I guess that standard doesn't apply to wealthy fundraising events for John McCain, where you can pay five thousand dollars to have your foursome greeted by President Bush. I guess he should have told the troops 'playing golf during a war sends the wrong signals, unless you're a wealthy Republican donor,' as it would have been more accurate."
Phil Gramm -- the gift that keeps on giving
Phil Gramm is still apparently buddy-buddy with John McCain. I know this because none other than Bob Novak says so.
This is good news for Barack Obama (amusingly enough, Novak's column is entitled "New Electoral College Analysis: Obama 273, McCain 265").
Because not only can Gramm be counted on to continue uttering elitist nonsense about the economy, he was also vice chairman of UBS bank. Remember UBS? The one about to get its banking license revoked?
This one just writes itself.
"I'm astonished that John McCain has kept Phil Gramm as his key economic advisor. After his comments about America being a 'nation of whiners' and that the recession is all in our heads, we learned last week that the Swiss bank which employed Mr. Gramm as vice-chairman is probably guilty of wholesale defrauding of the IRS of tax moneys -- by helping the wealthiest of the wealthy in America hide their assets in Swiss banks. Is this really the man John McCain wants giving him advice on the American economy? More to the point, is this really who American voters want giving economic advice to our next president?"
Let them eat cake
Cindy McCain gave an interview to CNN last week. In it, she again revealed her notions of average Americans. Now, while she is (to be fair) a licensed pilot, still, the attitude expressed is astonishing. Maybe, if there's no bread aboard, they could serve cake on the private plane, perhaps?
"The wife of the Republican candidate for president against expressed her elitist disdain for the average people of her state. Cindy McCain, who stands to reap who knows how much money from the Anheuser-Busch buyout, said in an interview recently, quote, the only way to get around the state is by small private plane, unquote. Must be nice for her, although I would be willing to be that most Arizonans can't afford the luxury of ditching the family car for a private plane. As I said, the elitism shown by her statement is just breathtaking. How many private planes do the McCains actually own? And why has no one asked them this question yet?"
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Cross-posted at Democratic Underground