Tag Archives: Congress

Washington is NOT BROKEN

Old EbbittThree characters  from my novel Spin Doctor, Bob, Jack and Evan met it the backroom bar at the Old Ebbitt earlier today. The TV was tuned to the Sunday morning shows, Meet the Press, to be exact:

“…Washington is broken…”

Evan shook his head. “ This is so wrong.”

Bob put down his glass. “What are you talking about? Did they run out of bar snacks?”

Evan nodded at the TV. “No. Washington is broken. Didn’t you hear?”

“Bull…” Bob stopped himself, looked around and went on in a softer voice: “Washington is not broken. Washington is working perfectly.”

Jack leaned in. “Um. Bob. Have you been out of town? The Sequester? Hello, hello? Earth to Bob.”

Bob took a sip. “Funny. Yes, I know.” He drained the glass and waved to the bartender. “What amazes me is that nobody has read the damn Constitution. Nobody has read James Madison. Washington isn’t supposed to make fast laws. Not supposed to make policy like cars coming off the assembly line …”

Jack and Evan looked at each other. Jack lifted his beer, tasted it and eyed Bob. “Come on. We aren’t supposed to have gridlock.”

“Oh really? Why do you think we have gridlock? You know, you guys scare me sometimes. We have all these newbies that come to Washington, but you two live here. You are supposed to be pros.”

Evan and Jack stared at him in silence.

“Let me explain to you. We have the President. He thinks he has a mandate. He believes in whatever he is saying and is trying to get his way. He’s gone in three and a half years, with a little time at the end, maybe one to two years where his power will leak out like Huck Finn’s bag of cornmeal with a hole in it.’

The bartender slid a glass in front of him, he sipped, and went on: “So then, you have the House. It turns out they just got elected t00. Every one of them, in each little Podunk district. And guess what? They are already running for reelection. They don’t have time to make friends or eat lunch. The new ones are trying to learn while looking like they know everything, when they don’t actually know the difference between GSA and GAO. They don’t know who they can trust so they trust nobody. “

Another sip. Bob nodded at Evan. “And then there’s the Senate. They are there six years, so they get to know each other. Some of them even have friends who in the other party.”

Evan straightened up and faked a yawn. “Bob, thanks for the civics lesson but what the hell does this have to do with anything? How does that have to do with the Sequester?”

“Okay, don’t get me wrong, I know the Sequester sucks as a law. But it is where we are. There is no consensus. It is the job of the House to reflect their constituency and to throw themselves in front of a policy they think their folks will hate—raising taxes. The President’s job is to push his agenda. He’s doing that. And the Senate, they are supposed to be reflective and look at the big picture, the precedents, the long term effect. Most of them have been there a few years, so they should know a little history, know how things work. And if something is especially bad, they have the filibuster.”

Jack leaned in: “That’s nice Bob. You are basically saying you think gridlock is okay.”

“No I’m saying there is gridlock because there is no consensus. Nothing wrong with the system. Remember, the alternative to gridlock is to just go along with everything.”

Evan shook his head again. “What about national security? If we can’t get this resolved, I mean, I think we could have a major problem there.”

“So do I. But that isn’t because Washington is broken. It’s because of policy failures. It’s because of inept governing. There is no law we can pass that will protect against bad policy.”

“What’s the answer then,Bob?How is it going to turn out?”

“The polls tell the President he has support. Congress hears from folks back home that they better not capitulate. When those two facts change, either the President’s poll numbers or  the situation in various districts, we will get some motion. Is the economy getting better? Will the cuts really hurt? Will Obama lose credibility by claiming he has to beach aircraft carriers? Will the six Democratic Senators in Romney states who are running  in ’14 feel the love from their state? .  Hard to say.  Meanwhile, let’s get another drink.”

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Filed under Spin Doctor, White House

Hagel: Are we there yet? Or, can you teach a cat to ride a bicycle?

When I first blogged about the Hagel nomination weeks ago, I flagged it as upcoming drama. Now, some of you might be wondering if this movie is ever going to end. I have been working on my next book, Potomac Lights, and this nomination is very distracting. I asked one my characters, Bob Carson, what he thought of the nomination, and as is typical of Bob, mincing no words, he said it was a terrible idea because you “can’t teach a cat to ride a bicycle.” I think he is trying to say that apart from politics and feelings about Israel, Hagel doesn’t seem to have the managerial experience or the temperament to run a huge and complicated agency focused on our safety, with millions of lives at stake.

Bob is a minor character, so you don’t have to take him seriously. But if you like to read about Washington politics with no particular political leaning, you might check out my novel Spin Doctor.

This is not my cat.

This is not my cat.

I digress. Here are some developments since my last post:

Fifteen Senators have written Obama, asking him to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. Since they are all Republican Senators, this is as likely to impact the White  House as would the certain knowledge that it is snowing somewhere in Alaska.

Bob Woodward reported last Sunday that some Democratic Senators have called the White House to ask if they are going to withdraw Hagel. And the White House swears they won’t. Of course, that’s what they all say, right up until they withdraw it.

B’nai B’rith , a liberal leaning “global voice of the Jewish Community” published a statement voicing serious concerns about Hagel.

What we don’t know is whether any Democrat has called  the White House and told them they are not getting their vote. Unless some Democrats break rank, he’s going to be confirmed.

A few days ago,  Sen. Richard Shelby announced he would support the nomination, saying “  He’s probably as good as we’re going to get.” In other words, any choice by this administration is going to preside over the dismantling of Defense and gouging of the DOD Budget. Does it really matter whether it is done in an orderly way? Good question.

That’s bound to be the conclusion of a lot of Senators who might not be thrilled with the nomination. Reality is, there is only so much the minority can do. They have done a very good job of slowing it down and calling attention to it.

Now it is up to the Democrats. They will have to consider if they really want to win this one, whether they will be prepared to take responsibility, to pay the price of having a Hagel at the helm if we face a national defense crisis in the next four years.

They may have another cloture vote this week. It sounds like  they may get enough votes to confirm.

And if he is confirmed, we will soon find out if a cat can ride a bicycle.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Senate, White House

Why did they move up the Hagel Cloture vote?

I’ve scanned several articles to get an idea why they moved up the Hagel cloture vote to this afternoon instead of Friday. So far, I didn’t find the answer, I will make a guess. It appears the Republicans and Democrats have finally found something to agree on: Take Friday off and Leave Town.

OH, no no no, you say. They will be in Session tomorrow.

Yes, but will there be votes? I don’t think so.

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Filed under Senate, White House

The Plot thickens: Cloture vote on Friday?

Harry Reid has called the hand of the Republicans, moved for a cloture vote Friday. A vote for cloture isn’t a vote on the nomination—“an up or down vote”–it’s a vote on whether they should   vote on the nomination.

So Reid is trying to force a vote. But really, what is going on?

The Republicans are messing with Hagel and the White House. Sen. McCain says he won’t support a filibuster, now he’s not so sure. Same thing with Hatch and probably several others. Hagel is stonewalling on providing some financial info and other answers, so they are making him wait. Just to squirt a little gasoline on the fire, a few days ago, Dick Cheney laid out his stark view  that Hagel was chosen so that Obama would “have a Republican that he can use to take the heat for what he plans to do to the Department of Defense.” Ouch. So the GOP is not going to play along, but is going to try to showcase what they will say is the destruction of our national defense.

For Hagel, it has to be humiliating.  Only two votes from your own party? Those who know you best turn their back?

If  Hagel can’t get sixty votes–cloture– on Friday, surely the White House  will have to withdraw the nomination.

If he gets the sixty, he will be confirmed, of course, but he will be missing a chunk out of his hind quarters.

Still time to vote in my poll!

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Filed under Senate, White House

Harry’s Math Problem OR, Why Harry Reid might lose a little sleep this time around

Seems like every day we read breathless articles about angst and remorse in the Republican party, and how civil war may be about to break out. Will they lose the House in the next election? Will they kill each other over immigration? Is Boehner out?  Is Karl Rove a traitor? Is the Tea Party over/leaving the party/imploding? Is this what is really going on?

Here’s something else to think about. Something that might bother Harry Reid even more than deciding  how to vote on the assault rifle ban.

Harry Reid

Harry has a math problem.  Don’t worry. Keep reading. It’s just arithmetic.

There are 45 Republicans in the Senate. They need 6 more to control the world’s greatest deliberative body.  In  2014, there are 20 Democrats and 13 Republicans up for reelection.  In other words, the Democrats have a lot to lose. 

The Republican in the tightest race last time was Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, and he won 53% of the vote. I’m sure it is possible some of the Republicans will have a tough time. 

But let’s look at the Democrats. Seven of the states  with Senate seats up in ’14 were won by Romney in 2012, most by a large margin:

Baucus, Max (D-MT)

Begich, Mark (D-AK)

Hagan, Kay R. (D-NC)

Johnson, Tim (D-SD)

Landrieu, Mary L. (D-LA)

Pryor, Mark L. (D-AR)

Rockefeller, John D., IV (D-WV-Retiring)

Granted some of these  individual senators may be very popular at home, but what if they are pushed to vote on major issues out of step with their states?

Here’s a word problem for Harry: What happens in Montana, where Obama got 41.8% when they are reminded  their Senator is a Democrat? Will they be happy if they find out he is the one  pushing the Obama tax agenda as Chairman of the Finance Committee, that he was instrumental in passing Obamacare?

If seven seats aren’t enough to get you thinking, consider retirements and toss-ups. The rest of the 2014 class of Democratic Senators:

Coons, Christopher A. (D-DE)

Durbin, Richard J. (D-IL)

Franken, Al (D-MN)

Harkin, Tom (D-IA- Retiring)

Kerry, John F. (D-MA)

Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ)

Levin, Carl (D-MI)

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR)

Reed, Jack (D-RI)

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)

Udall, Mark (D-CO)

Udall, Tom (D-NM)

Warner, Mark R. (D-VA)

Levin and Durbin haven’t announced for reelection. Harkin and Rockefeller are retiring. John Kerry’s seat is open. Al Franken won 42% of the vote last time. And Michigan has a Republican governor.

Shaheen won a tight race.  Both Udalls and Warner won easily, but their states were in the toss-up column in 2012 until election day.

And when did Delaware become solidly blue? (Since they haven’t had a strong candidate run for a Senate seat since Bill Roth). New  Jersey is usually a safe seat for Democrats, but what if there are two seats open?

Of course, the same thing could have been said of the 2012 election. The Republicans had a huge advantage going in, but managed to lose what should have been some easy seats. But in an off-year election,  in the second term of a President…anything can happen.

When you drill down on the details–do the math–things will need to go very, very smoothly in the next 18 months for Harry Reid to sleep well on election night.

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Fiscal Cliff: How do you like your Sausage?

Will we get a deal by January 1st?

Anyone who has spent five minutes in Washington knows you can’t produce  sausage that fast. Three weeks to produce billions of dollars in budget cuts and tax increases? Come on. Get serious!

Obama and Boehner

The “Fiscal Cliff” bill will be massive. Changes in the tax code are never simple. Cuts in the budget are changes in legislation. The page count will likely run in the thousands. Any chance that will get done in three weeks? Ha! Three months would be a stretch-and that assumes there is a deal.

So the most they will come up with in the next few days is a broad outline: A few big ticket items and a lot of unspecified taxes and spending cuts. And that will be called a deal. Next year will be the real food fight.

So what do you think? Will they get it done? In time?

Please vote in my poll in the left column or leave me a comment!

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Filed under 2012 Election

Romney Campaign Strategy REVEALED by Jack Abbott

Looking at the race with a novelist’s eye has a certain advantage:  I can make things up. I’m going to share something I found in a stack of Jack Abbott’s papers. Jack is the main character and voice of Spin Doctor. Apparently, he just can’t stop spinning. I had no idea he was involved with the Romney campaign, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he has been trying to advise the Obama campaign, too. Will they listen to him?  Take a look at his plan:

Game Plan for Victory

Like a horse race, you have been pacing Obama, drawing close in the polls, staying on his heels, and even nosing ahead sometimes. Now you are rounding the far end of the track, preparing for the homestretch, but not quite there. You don’t have to break out, but you have to gather strength. Don’t waste this time and don’t lose momentum. Here’s what you need to do: 

Get Boehner to do something with the House

I don’t have to tell you how much the American people hate Congress. If the House can’t get their act together—get on the same page with you— they are going to drag you down. So get Boehner to hammer the Democrats on key issues over the next few weeks. See if you can draw blood from the Democrats in tight races on these key issues:
Week of July 9th  —  Health care votes

Week of July 16th  —  Defense spending

Week of July 23rd  — Regulatory reform
Week of July 30th —  Tax reform

And please, not just the usual boring talking heads and men screaming at each other on the House floor. We need visuals, some story, and some drama. A dog and pony show. Whatever. Get creative and make it compelling.

Foreign policy cred:  On July 24, head out to the VFW convention in Reno, NV. Friendly audience, perfect venue. Get some visuals with those guys. Advance should be able to put together a lunch or maybe drop by their “health fair” to show your compassionate side and your concern for protecting their benefits. Then, a serious, scathing speech. I don’t care what you say, but figure out a way to look mad and like a statesman at the same time.


Follow that up with a foreign trip. Yes, of course you can drop by the Olympics. Great way to remind everyone how you saved our Olympic ass a few years ago.  I know some of your folks are going to say, ‘Jack are you nuts? Leave the country in the heat of the campaign?’ Trust me, the people you will need in November are turning off the campaign in early August.  

Here’s what I have in mind. Think Michael Deaver. “Morning in America” visuals: Romney shaking hands with heads of state (Please, no bowing). You may be able to dominate the news, mainly because the press will watch you like a great blue heron looking for softshells, hoping you screw up and say something embarrassing. Instead, you will look like a statesman who can go toe to toe with world leaders. Plus we can use the footage for fall spots.

So shake a few hands in London, then pop over to Israel, hang out with Bibi, Shimon Peres, opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) and some Palestinian officials. Have a meeting, a conference on Mideast policy or whatever. Maybe even a fundraiser, to show the depth of your support.Then, if you can get a meeting with Merkel, the only grownup left on the continent, go to Germany. After that, on to— as Rumsfeld would say— New Europe. Specifically, Poland—so you can figuratively moon Putin out of the back window of the plane.

Come back home for more debate prep, to get ready for the convention and the VP announcement. Once you get past the convention, you won’t have much time to cram.  And it isn’t like Obama is going to change his positions or tactics before the debates. Work on your likability.  

I know you have dogs, but consider adopting kittens. Remember, we know you are a nice guy, but a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll work up something separately on likability.

Naming the VP—timing is everything!
Wait until after the end of the Olympics, August 12th. There will be nothing but dead air in the space between the Olympics and the convention. No news—unless you make some.  So, announce the VP on August 13th or 14th. This will give Rubio two weeks to prepare for the speech of 

his lifetime at the convention.Okay, I’m not going to beat you up over this again. You already know he has led in the NovelPolitics blog’s poll. Of course, I don’t know if you found something on him. And there are a lot of great choices. But, just think of the visuals of Rubio debating Biden. If you want to pick someone else, I can’t stop you. Regardless, you will dominate the news cycle for at least three or four days. Maybe the full two weeks. It’s all about planning—as long as Egypt doesn’t decide to dismantle the pyramids, or Iran doesn’t misbehave. Not to give them any ideas.  
That takes you up to the convention. After that, how about another bus trip? Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio?  I’ll get that part to you in a few weeks.
On reading this, I have to apologize. I don’t think Jack came up with this plan at all. It looks like he pulled it out of various news stories and blogs, and it is the actual plan of the Romney campaign.

Unless. . .

No, that’s just not possible. . .  is it?

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Filed under 2012 Election, campaign tactics