Tag Archives: current-events

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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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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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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Hagel Drama: What happens next?

If you like drama in politics, the real kind, not the kind we see on TV, watch what happens next on the Hagel nomination.

Yesterday, the Democrats on the Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to report the Hagel nomination to the floor of the Senate. Harry Reid has already promised to take it up in a big hurry-maybe even today.

Unless those damn Republicans show a shocking lack of respect for Precedent and filibuster the nomination.  And instead of the nice, polite Senate courtesies, Reid has apparently said that those opposing the nomination will need to be present on the floor to object. Then he will file a cloture petition, which will essentially start a countdown to the vote. If  Hagel can’t get 60 votes for cloture, his nomination is effectively killed.

Of course, there is a good chance they can dig up five Republicans to back the  President. We know they have two, but we don’t know who the other three might be just yet. Some Republicans may back Hagel because they will decide if Hagel is withdrawn, the next one might be even worse.

Politico has a caption: “Even if Hagel cracks the 60-vote threshold, the GOP will have sent a message.” The Hill has two stories: One that says some GOP  senators will filibuster and the other saying Harry Reid predicts they won’t. The Washington Post snarks that Sen Lindsay Graham is just trying to shine up his conservative credentials by opposing Hagel. The other Republicans are just plain partisan, of course.

What should have been a fig leaf of bipartisanship, a pretense of a strong defense advocate because everyone knows Republicans are strong on defense—has fooled no one. Whether Hagel is qualified, whether he will eagerly facilitate the reining in of the department, these are all substantive arguments to be made or refuted. The weak qualifications, questionable judgment, the blind partisan support of the President—we’ve seen it all before. It’s called politics.

If he is confirmed, Hagel will be damaged goods, unlikely to manage DoD or be its advocate. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the administration. Quite the contrary. However,  just as the President now owns the economy, he will own defense policy.  He has chosen a weak nominee, and chosen to keep him. The international implications and the impact on our safety will be on him.

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Hagel Nomination in Trouble?

A rare consensus seems to have formed in Washington: Chuck Hagel was not good in his hearing. Not even a little good. Most of the press reports characterize the questioning as partisan, with Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post snarking that the Republican anger was rooted in Hagel’s abandonment of the GOP. But still, the pundits were not impressed.

So what happens next?

Hagel has promised to provide more information to the committee on his finances and his speeches. Chairman Levin said they wanted to move the nomination next week. That won’t give much time for analysis of the information, of course. Right now, Hagel still has the votes-He only needs a majority and he has roughly 56, including Sen. Cochran. Sen. Graham extracted a promise to hold a hearing on Benghazi before the vote. Who knows what will shake loose in those discussions. Also, if enough time passes, and enough microphones are in place, it is quite possible more Hagel gaffes will take place.  Although the greater likelihood is that he will be gagged, bound, encased in amber, perhaps hidden at the Smithsonian until after the vote, unseen and unheard.

The only question is, if the Republicans try to block the nomination, does he have 60 votes to stop them. And if it comes to that, does the administration want to take on that fight?  Waste political capital on someone who had interviews with Al Jazeera, alienates key donors, who seems inept and, who would be viewed by the world as having weak support in the Congress? How exactly will they spin that? Will he be their token White Male?

At the end of the day, again, the Democrats have the votes. We don’t know if the Republicans will have the stomach for the fight, or whether their calculus will be to let the President have his people and let him be accountable for the consequences.

Given his performance in the hearing, more than anything else, that should alarm the Democrats.

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