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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

03 October 2008

The Vice Presidential Debate

Did you watch the Vice Presidential debate last night? Of course, you did! Did your candidate prevail? Of course, he/she did! My thoughts? Glad you asked.

The one thing I was struck by, even very early in the goings-on was the passion and intensity of the candidates. Usually these debates are dry, emotionless, drawn-out...okay let's just say it...boring! events. Not last night! It was as good a sparring match as we could have expected.

If people were expecting/hoping for Sarah Palin to stumble and fall on her face, they were undoubtedly disappointed. She came prepared and well-rehearsed. Although clearly nervous at first, she quickly warmed up to the task and relaxed. She very obviously knew her opponent and wasn't going to let him run all over her.

What can you say about Senator Joe Biden? Love him or hate him, he is a consummate politician. He's been around this block already, and last night he showed why it very easily could have been him debating McCain for the top office.

Strangely, both candidates seemed to avoid going after each other. Instead, they focused on attacking their presidential running mates. I thought it was odd; some sort of tacit and coincidental deference. Only occasionally would Gov. Palin make a point about Biden, and he left her completely alone. Most of the time Palin was hammering Obama just as Biden did McCain. There were no Bensenesque "You're no Jack Kennedy" moments - only Biden's "bridge to nowhere" joke that kind of fell flat because Gwin Ifil was cutting him off at that very moment.

What I liked a lot was Sarah Palin's folksiness. Instead of being stiff and formal, her responses were full of her, "Aw, shucks" character. She is very likeable, and really does sound like a midwest soccer mom - the Washington outsider who's coming to town to shake things up. It's a clever ploy - and you have to love it. But will it play well with the voters, especially women voters? Ah, that is the question. It's clearly what they're going for.

Joe Biden was full of passion. To me, it was immensely gratifying. He was emotional! Almost angry at times. I've always wanted to see politicians being themselves instead of just reading from a prepared script and not letting us know how they really feel. And although Biden was clearly hitting all of his party's platform points, he was doing it in a way that said he really believed in his words.

If I had one criticism, it was that Palin would often not answer the question, preferring to go off-topic. (They both did, but Palin seemed to do it more so than Biden.) Even the moderator, Gwen Ifil chided them early on for not answering the question. Palin had her agenda - points she wanted to make, and by God she was going to make them regardless of what had just been asked. I find that annoying and disrespectful to both the moderater and the viewer (meaning me).

What was funny was when Palin would bring up areas in which Biden and Obama disagree. For his part, Biden side-stepped those issues, probably regretting some of the things he said in the primaries. He and Obama do disagree on certain issues, and I don't really have a problem with that.

And where is it written in stone that a person cannot change his mind about things or revise his/her position? Why do we hold politicians accountable for bad/questionable decisions they made in the past, even if they've since changed their position? We learn, we grow, we change. That's just life.

What was disappointing was that neither candidate acknowleged that taxes are going to have to be raised, like it or not. All politicians talk about tax cuts because that's what the American public wants to hear. But friends, one way or another, no matter which candidate wins next month, taxes are going up. I think we all realize this.

I could go on and on, but I won't. To me, it was an enjoyable, spirited debate. No surprises, no bombshell moments, no clear winner, no falling on one's face. They were both personable and genial, and I could see people supporting and voting for either one. I have not been a big Biden fan over the years, but his performance last night sure impressed me. Similarly, I haven't been a Palin fan either, but she scored big points last night.

In what has been a most bizarre presidential campaign, the vice presidential debate last night was a welcome relief. It showed us two humans who are passionate about their cause and ready to pursue it. It's like they were both running for President, not the second banana slot. And in way, you have to feel sorry for both of them, especially the one who wins. Because their time in the limelight is about to come to an end.

If only the office of Vice President wasn't such a meaningless, unimportant one. I mean, really, does anyone remember even one single, solitary thing that Dan "You spell it potatoe" Quayle did?

Me neither.


Redlefty said...

I used to think the VP role was mostly meaningless too until the past several years -- Cheney has been an undeniably powerful force in Washington.

Like you I actually watched the entire 90 minutes and was stunned I could stay with it that long. There was definitely an intensity there that is usually lacking in these things.

And thank God neither of them "bombed". Good grief, this is a debate between people who are supposed to be ready to fill the Pres slot if necessary... the least they can do is speak coherently! Holy crap, how low have our standards gotten!

Anonymous said...

I only watched clips online. I'm not an undecided voter so I'm biased. The clip I'll remember most is when Biden choked up talking about how he understood the worries of a parent wondering if their child is going to be okay. I think how he overcame the tragedy of losing half of his family from a car accident is almost equally as powerful as being a POW. Palin's response was pure class-less. Instead of empathizing with the guy she simply spouted of another canned *mavericks* line.

Matthew said...

I admit I wanted to see Sarah Palin screw up big time. She did well, but that's not saying much, considering she almost never answered the questions that were asked of her. When she did, they were such grammatical disasters she made Dubya look like a member of Mensa.

The VP should play a secondary role, ideally. But they're also intended to take over should something happen to the president. And John McCain is, frankly, too old. The risk that Palin could end up running things is too high. She would be the single worst thing to happen to the United States -- which is saying a lot because I used to think that about Dubya until Palin came along. I sincerely hope Americans don't fall for that "folksy" charm this time, because she won't be able to wink herself out of the financial crisis or a "nucular" war.

Anonymous said...

Not answering *The Question* has become the standard practice in nearly every interview of a politician or their committee I watch these days. And most of those doing the interviewing will let it slide when they are in the tank for that candidate or their committee member. Palin is being honest about not answering, however time will tell whether that strategy works because no one else does it that way. My guess it will work against her as there are too many who will find it unacceptable that the candidate openly chooses not to answer. They'd prefer the question be answered even if it means listening to that candidate throw a bunch of BS, lies, or incorrect *facts*... that's acceptable.

I think we need to clean Congress' clock next election.


Bob Barbanes said...

At least Biden attempted to answer the questions. Palin annnounced from the get-go that she was going to speak directly to the American people, and that's just what she did. Gwin Ifil was largely irrelevant to the proceedings and, in my opinion did a very poor job as moderator. I wish it had been Bob Schieffer. Schieffer would've kicked ass.

Palin's folksiness may be endearing and atypical, but I wonder if it's really winning her any converts. (It didn't work for Ross Perot.) The more I think about it, the more I see her "down home charm" has been heightened and polished to the point of contrivance. But is it any worse than Mr. Smooth-Talking Politician, Joe Biden? Time will tell.

And yes Matthew, WHY cannot people pronounce the word nuclear? It makes them come off as uneducated. Every time I hear it I think, "You idiot."

When push comes to shove, this election is going to hinge whether Americans will really, truly be able to vote for a black man for president. It's that simple. A lot of people *say* that "McCain is too old," or "Sarah Palin is a disaster," but when it comes time to make the committment...well...that's another story. Or it's going to be.

For Obama to beat McCain, he's going to have to have a commanding lead in the polls. One columnist suggested that Obama is toast unless he has at least a 4% lead. I'm inclined to agree.

Yes, Palin is a lightweight who has blown her experience all out of proportion.

But so has Barack Obama.

Real Republican governors, like Mitt Romney must be rolling their eyes and going, "Good God, is this the best we could do?"

Anonymous said...

Bob wrote: this election is going to hinge whether Americans will really, truly be able to vote for a black man for president.

That's my take as well. I read another pilot blogger online and while I respect his career/service to our country I profoundly disagree with his political ideology. But Obama's *otherness* is the elephant in the room. I don't believe the blogger is racist. He just experienced a different side of America that's all. But to cling to his ideology on the hopes that having another *folksy* candidate similar to Bush carry out his agenda is crazy. It's time for change.

Obama's no fluke. He's aware of the issues that face us today and offers practical solutions to solve them. But I know if elected all he would be able to do is stop the bleeding. I will not be electing Obama because he's just like me. I will be electing Obama because he *understands* me. His meteoric rise to the top cannot be explained away by his celebrity status. The guy is an elite candidate. He's a ruthless politician. He's no messiah but I bet he's our best shot at making health care and college affordable.

Bob said...

Thanks, Bob, for a thoughful post here. I'm squarely in the McCain-Palin camp but I am a big Biden fan. What I appreciate about the debate was how courteous and kind he was to Palin without being patronizing. If you noticed, the two of them seemed to have a great converation with each other for a couple of minutes when their families came onstage. They both have a real sense of genuineness about them.

I know Sarah Palin has her weaknesses. But I love the fact that a 44-year-old woman, a wife and mother and someone who appears to have come from a modest background, can compete on the presidential ticket. To me, it's one of the things that makes our country great. We don't have royalty; we have real PEOPLE, elected by REAL PEOPLE. And to me, she's as real as it gets. She's not perfect and I know Katie Couric and her ilk could do a much better job, but she's a helluva competitor in my book.

And I love that an African-American man can get his party's nomination. I don't agree with him on much of anything, but he's a classy guy and I would love to have dinner or a beer with him. I think we could be good friends.

I thought the VP debate was great until NBC started telling me what I really heard. I'm so blessed to have them lead and guide me and keep me from going astray.

Anonymous said...

Find something else other than making health care and college affordable to convince yourself that Obama is the right guy, Rodolfo. Nothing personal, but health care is WAY too complex for anyone (Hillary tried and many others) to solve and college will only become affordable when we, Americans, find another way to pursue a career. I don't see any change in the annual increases of college tuition anytime soon no matter who gets in, unless college applications decline. I'm currently putting 2 kids thru college and have another in the wings.

These topics are the emotional *heart tugging* that Obama has mastered at giving people in the form of *HOPE*. Anyone with half a brain who has no problem lying and some CHARISMA in the US right now could make a lot of people excited suggesting they could fix these 2 problems. WILL - NEVER - HAPPEN!

And as far as his rise... it helps to have 95% of celebrities and
80+% of TV and print media in the tank for you.

I'm voting McCain, but wished Condi Rice ran instead.


Anonymous said...

Kman-There's many reasons for voting for an Obama-Biden ticket. On the surface they're simply the far superior ticket. PERIOD.

The economic mess is not the fault of one man. But it is the fault of a failed ideology. Reaganomics probably served its purpose during the eighties but it sure as hell don't work now. Things change. That's the constant in life and society must change in order to survive. We need fresh ideas and a new vision. Is that a gamble? Maybe so. But McCain and his vision doesn't instill any confidence in me that he's leading the party of new ideas. The GOP message seems old and tired and the notion that we can continue on this same path and expect a different result is absurd.

Look even a conservative writer like Charles Krauthammer finally realized Obama's first rate intelligence and first rate temperament. He and others felt that his four and half years in the limelight was a fluke and refused to acknowledge his brilliance until now. Perhaps they were compelled to admit it after realizing what a reckless choice Sarah Palin was. Palin's only job was to stay credible for three months and from the looks of it she seems to be the reason that their ticket is sagging.

I'm sure Mrs. Palin is a wonderful mom. But it's a stretch for someone to say she understands the financial markets, Islam, science, Constitutional law, health care, etc. Grave issues that need to be addressed immediately by the next administration. A wink wink here and clever retort simply won't do.

The sad reality of our politics is that we are having a debate whether a hockey mom is qualified to be the President of these United States. It's crazy man.

If Obama loses it won't be because of some gaffe he made or some flaky association. This election is a referendum on the People. Good descent people like you Kman. Obama needs your vote. You may not believe he can *fix* our health care crisis but I fundamentally believe his plan is ten times better than what your guy is offering.

Anonymous said...

Raising taxes has been done before and, well... do I need to explain?

If I'm in a helicopter cruising to my destination, correct me if I'm wrong, Bob, but I think one important thing to be confident about reaching my destination is that my engine isn't going to cut out. I believe the working class people of our country are the engine, however the wealthy business owners are the fuel.

Obama plans to screw with the fuel by hammering them with more taxes.


Bob said...

Agree with a lot of your comments, Kman. I've put one through college, one is there now and one more is on his way.

Redlefty said...

kman, I'm curious how you see us turning around the current $500 billion per year deficit the government has without increasing taxes. Yeah, I know McCain says he'll cut spending and pork. Like they did with the bailout... oops. He supported it even though it had tons of pork in the final form that passed.

We're going to have to increase taxes, and try to miraculously find some places to cut spending (the war is the fastest possibility, but it'll take more). Next year more than 10% of our entire gov't budget will go to pay interest on the national debt. It's killing us.

The fix is going to suck. It's going to hurt. Regardless of who's in the White House.

Fiscally, I'm more Republican than Democrat. Intelectually, I respect Obama's competence yet respect McCain's record (before he was a pres candidate). Ideologically, I'm terrified of having a Democrat in the White House while they already have a congressional majority. I was also terrified with the Republicans had it all, and rightly so, history shows.

I like checks and balances, which means normally I'd vote for a Republican right now. But Palin? Sheesh... this is gonna be a tough one in November.

Both candidates blew it on the bailout, in my opinion. Is there a door #3?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, I'm not about to put myself through all of the angst you're going through deciding, Redlefty. They're all full of it. And you're right about McCain and the bailout. However, imagine if he voted no. Media field day! We'd hear more about his *no* vote than his OK'ing the pork.

My simple mind says, yeah, taxes will probably go up. However, I'd rather go with the guy who says they won't, he will have more pressure on him when the time comes to increase taxes and maybe he'll sweat a little more when he does it. The other guy's coming right out and saying he's increasing taxes which when he clobbers us he can say, well, I told you I was gonna do this, after all it's the patriotic thing for Americans to do.

Bob, my condolences. :D
Every year tuition goes up a few grand and I get a letter from the college prez bragging how they kept tuition increases down compared to their competitors. Whoopee!


Bob said...

Michael, I urge you to follow your gut about checks and balances and vote for McCain. I am probably a bit of an optimist but I think Sarah Palin can rise to the occasion. At least the Republicans have their inexperienced candidate in second position.

Anonymous said...

Sorry sir this whole idea that Senator Obama is inexperienced is absurd. Please stop denying his twenty year history of public service.

Nonproliferation: the poster child for issues that people ought to care about, but don't. Here Obama has teamed up with Richard Lugar (R-IN). How did this happen? Here's the Washington Monthly:

"By most accounts, Obama and Lugar's working relationship began with nukes. On the campaign trail in 2004, Obama spoke passionately about the dangers of loose nukes and the legacy of the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation program, a framework created by a 1991 law to provide the former Soviet republics assistance in securing and deactivating nuclear weapons. Lugar took note, as “nonproliferation” is about as common a campaign sound-bite for aspiring senators as “exchange-rate policy” or “export-import bank oversight.”"

The way to a wonk's heart: campaign on securing Russian loose nukes. -- In any case, in addition to working on nuclear non-proliferation, Obama and Lugar co-sponsored legislation expanding the Nunn-Lugar framework (which basically allows the US to fund the destruction or securing of nuclear weapons in other countries) to deal with conventional arms. From an op-ed Obama and Lugar wrote on their legislation:

"These vast numbers of unused conventional weapons, particularly shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that can hit civilian airliners, pose a major security risk to America and democracies everywhere. That's why we have introduced legislation to seek out and destroy surplus and unguarded stocks of conventional arms in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Our bill would launch a major nonproliferation initiative by addressing the growing threat from unsecured conventional weapons and by bolstering a key line of defense against weapons of mass destruction. Modeled after the successful Nunn-Lugar program to dismantle former Soviet nuclear weapons, the Lugar-Obama bill would seek to build cooperative relationships with willing countries.

One part of our initiative would strengthen and energize the U.S. program against unsecured lightweight antiaircraft missiles and other conventional weapons, a program that has for years been woefully underfunded. There may be as many as 750,000 missiles, known formally as man-portable air defense systems, in arsenals worldwide. The State Department estimates that more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by such weapons since the 1970s. Three years ago terrorists fired missiles at -- and missed -- a jetliner full of Israeli tourists taking off from Mombasa, Kenya. In 2003 a civilian cargo plane taking off from Baghdad was struck but landed safely.

Loose stocks of small arms and other weapons also help fuel civil wars in Africa and elsewhere and, as we have seen repeatedly, provide ammunition for those who attack peacekeepers and aid workers seeking to stabilize and rebuild war-torn societies. The Lugar-Obama measure would also seek to get rid of artillery shells like those used in the improvised roadside bombs that have proved so deadly to U.S. forces in Iraq.

Some foreign governments have already sought U.S. help in eliminating their stocks of lightweight antiaircraft missiles and millions of tons of excess weapons and ammunition. But low budgets and insufficient leadership have hampered destruction. Our legislation would require the administration to develop a response commensurate with the threat, consolidating scattered programs at the State Department into a single Office of Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction. It also calls for a fivefold increase in spending in this area, to $25 million -- a relatively modest sum that would offer large benefits to U.S. security.

The other part of the legislation would strengthen the ability of America's friends and allies to detect and intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction or material that could be used in a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon. Stopping weapons of mass destruction in transit is an important complement to our first line of defense, the Nunn-Lugar program, which aims to eliminate weapons of mass destruction at their source."

Dealing with unsecured stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons, stocks that might fall into anyone's hands, be sold on the black market, and end up being used against our troops or our citizens, or fueling civil wars that tear countries apart -- it seems to me that this is an excellent thing to spend one's time on.

Avian flu: Obama was one of the first Senators to speak out on avian flu, back in the spring of 2005, when it was a quintessentially wonky issue, not the subject of breathless news reports. There's a list of Democratic efforts on avian flu here; Obama shows up early and often. He has sponsored legislation, including what I think is the first bill dedicated to pandemic flu preparedness. It's a good bill, providing not just for vaccine research and antiviral stockpiles, but for the kinds of state and local planning and preparedness that will be crucial if a pandemic occurs. (I was also very interested to note that it requires the Secretary of HHS to contract with the Institute of Medicine for a study of "the legal, ethical, and social implications of, with respect to pandemic influenza". This is actually very important, and not everyone would have thought of it.)

He has also spoken out consistently on this topic, beginning long before it was hot. Here, for instance, is another op-ed by Obama and Lugar:

"We recommend that this administration work with Congress, public health officials, the pharmaceutical industry, foreign governments and international organizations to create a permanent framework for curtailing the spread of future infectious diseases.

Among the parts of that framework could be these:

Increasing international disease surveillance, response capacity and public education and coordination, especially in Southeast Asia.

Stockpiling enough antiviral doses to cover high-risk populations and essential workers.

Ensuring that, here at home, Health and Human Services and state governments put in place plans that address issues of surveillance, medical care, drug and vaccine distribution, communication, protection of the work force and maintenance of core public functions in case of a pandemic.

Accelerating research into avian flu vaccines and antiviral drugs.

Establishing incentives to encourage nations to report flu outbreaks quickly and fully."

This is very good policy, especially the parts about increasing surveillance and response capacity here and abroad. (Effect Measure approves too.)

Regulating Genetic Testing: It was while I was reading about this issue that I first thought: gosh, Barack Obama seems to turn up whenever I am reading about some insanely wonky yet important issue. And this one is not just off the radar; it and the radar are in different universes. Anyways:

You might be surprised to learn that there is very little quality control over genetic testing. I was. If I offer some genetic test, I can basically say what I like about what it will reveal, so long as I avoid violating the laws against fraud. And if you think about how easy it would be to avoid those laws just by talking about, say, a test for some gene that has been found to be slightly associated with increased IQ, you can see how many deceptive (but not legally fraudulent) claims this allows.

Moreover -- and more seriously -- there is very little oversight of the quality of labs that do tests -- that is, whether or not they tend to get the right answers when they do those tests. There is a law (passed in response to evidence that significant numbers of people were getting incorrect results on pap smears) that requires what's called proficiency testing for labs. But though the law requires that the government develop special proficiency tests for labs that do work requiring special kinds of knowledge, and though genetic testing plainly fits that bill, the government has not developed any proficiency tests for genetic testing labs.

This is serious, and bad. Suppose you are mistakenly informed that you are a carrier for some horrible disease: you might decide never to have kids. Suppose you have a fetus tested and you are told that it has, say, Downs' syndrome: you might abort. To do these things as the result of a lab error would be horrible.

Not nearly as horrible as the results of some false negatives, though. Consider this case (from a very good report on the topic):

"A Florida couple both tested negative for the genetic mutation that causes Tay-Sachs, a fatal childhood disease. Two copies of the mutation are required to cause the disease. The couple learned that the test results were incorrect for both parents when their son began exhibiting symptoms of Tay-Sachs shortly after birth. He died eight years later"

Tay-Sachs is an unbelievably horrible disease:

"Infants with Tay-Sachs disease appear to develop normally for the first few months of life. Then, as nerve cells become distended with fatty material, a relentless deterioration of mental and physical abilities occurs. The child becomes blind, deaf, and unable to swallow. Muscles begin to atrophy and paralysis sets in. Other neurological symptoms include dementia, seizures, and an increased startle reflex to noise. (...)

Even with the best of care, children with Tay-Sachs disease usually die by age 4, from recurring infection."

So imagine this: you know that you and your spouse are at risk for carrying this disease. You both get tested; neither is a carrier. You give birth to an apparently healthy child. But after a few months, the child you love stops developing normally, and it turns out that both your test and your spouses were misinterpreted, or screwed up, or whatever, and as a result your child is going to die a horrible death by the age of four. Oops!

In your copious free time, you can think of more cases in which screwing up a genetic test would be disastrous. After you get through with the cases involving children and inherited diseases, consider the effects of misreading a genetic test and informing a man that he is not the father of his child when in fact he is. The possibilities are endless.

You can probably guess who has introduced legislation that addresses this problem. The people who wrote the initial report (note: I know them; they're very good) think it's good. So do I.

Reducing medical malpractice suits the right way: Contrary to popular belief, medical malpractice claims do not do much to drive up health care costs. Still, medical malpractice litigation is a problem. Tort reform would address this problem at the expense of people who have been the victims of real, serious medical malpractice, who would lose their right to sue, or have it curtailed. If you read the medical literature, however, it turns out that there's a much better way to minimize malpractice suits, namely: apologizing. Strange to say, it turns out that people are a lot less likely to sue when doctors and hospitals admit their mistakes up front, compensate the patients involved fairly, and generally treat people with respect. It certainly would have helped in this case:

"A Sanford mother says she will never be able to hold her newborn because an Orlando hospital performed a life-altering surgery and, she claims, the hospital refuses to explain why they left her as a multiple amputee.

The woman filed a complaint against Orlando Regional Healthcare Systems, she said, because they won't tell her exactly what happened. The hospital maintains the woman wants to know information that would violate other patients' rights."

I'd want to know what happened too, if someone cut off all my arms and legs. And in a case like this, if it was malpractice, limiting the damages a person can collect doesn't seem like the right answer, somehow.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton teamed up to introduce legislation aimed at helping hospitals to develop programs for disclosure of medical errors. (They describe it in this NEJM article.) Again, I think it's good policy: this really is what the evidence suggests is the best way to reduce malpractice claims, and it does it without curtailing the rights of people who have already been injured through no fault of their own. Moreover, when people feel free to discuss their errors, they are much more likely to figure out ways to avoid repeating them. (The legislation provides support for this.) And that's the best way of all to deal with malpractice claims: by addressing the causes of medical malpractice itself.


Those are some of the wonkier things he's done. (There are others: introducing legislation to make it illegal for tax preparers to sell personal information, for instance, and legislation on chemical plant security and lead paint.) He has done other things that are more high-profile, including:

* His "health care for hybrids" bill

* An Energy Security Bill

* Various bills on relief for Hurricane Katrina, including aid for kids and a ban on no-bid contracts by FEMA

* A public database of all federal spending and contracts

* Trying to raise CAFE standards

* Veterans' health care

* Making certain kinds of voter intimidation illegal

* A lobbying reform bill (with Tom Coburn), which would do all sorts of good things, notably including one of my perennial favorites, requiring that bills be made available to members of Congress at least 72 hours before they have to vote on them.

* And a proposal to revamp ethics oversight, replacing the present ethics Committee with a bipartisan commission of retired judges and members of Congress, and allowing any citizen to report ethics violations. This would have fixed one of the huge problems with the present system, namely: that the members have to police themselves.

The latest charge is this:

"Sen. Obama has never taken on his leaders of his party on a single issue."

Oh, really?

"art of the Senate's ethics reform bill deals with earmarks -- lawmakers' often abused practice of inserting items in legislation to direct funds to special interests (a la Duke Cunningham). According to current rules, lawmakers can attach earmarks anonymously, a state of affairs inviting abuse. Reform efforts have sought to change that. Republicans and good government types have criticized Reid's version of earmark reform legislation, which is weaker than the version passed by House Democrats, saying that it doesn't go near far enough in terms of disclosure.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered an amendment today that mirrored the tougher legislation passed by House Democrats.

According to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, Reid's version, if it had been applied to earmarks as part of legislation passed last year, would have disclosed the sponsor of only approximately 500 earmarks. DeMint's amendment would have forced sponsors to be known of roughly 12,000. (...)

But Democrats sought to block DeMint's amendment, with an effort led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). They failed, due mostly to nine Democrats, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and freshmen Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jim Webb (D-VA), who crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)."

And guess what? It worked. CQ (quoted by TPMMuckraker):

"After losing a critical floor vote Thursday and scrambling in vain to reverse the decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., found the spirit of bipartisan compromise more to his liking Friday morning.

Reid offered an olive branch to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., agreeing to embrace his amendment to a pending ethics and lobbying overhaul (S 1) with some modifications. DeMint’s amendment, which Democratic leaders tried but failed to kill on Thursday, would expand the definition of member earmarks that would be subject to new disclosure rules."

More generally: Obama was the Senate's point person for ethics reform. Ethics reform is never a particularly good way to endear yourself to your colleagues, since working for it consists in large part of trying to convince them to give up various goodies. For some of the ethics reform debate, Obama had the Senate leadership behind him. But he was working for stronger legislation than they wanted. Sometimes he won, as in the case just described. Sometimes he lost: he was pushing for an independent commission to oversee Congressional ethics cases, and lost.

But the idea that he never took on his party's leadership is just wrong.

Bob-Sorry for taking up so much space and I appreciate you blog.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to credit the above. It's from Obsidian Wings.

Anonymous said...

"Strange to say, it turns out that people are a lot less likely to sue when doctors and hospitals admit their mistakes up front, compensate the patients involved fairly, and generally treat people with respect."

*treat people with respect*

Does Obama consider infants who survive a botched abortion as people?


Anonymous said...

kman-I'm sure he does but he can answer that for himself. Now you and and I will NEVER agree on abortion so I don't wish to rehash this old and tired fight.

But BAIPA is different. Yes it is true the Senator meticulously scrutinized (as every politician should)the original Illinois proposal and voted against it. It did not have the provisions in place to protect women and hospital workers. Did this bill have to pass immediately? Were there literally hundreds of thousands of botched procedures happening across the country? No. in my view the original bill was written the way it was to render Roe v Wade illegal. The Federal Bill that was passed was the right one and Senator Obama supported it. The legal protections he wanted on it were finally agreed to and end of story. In the long run both the Federal and Illinois state BAIPA protects everyone.

These accusations are smears. Just like Ayers and the invocation of his middle name.