Last Night’s Speech: Obama Succeeds Where Conservatives Failed (UPDATED X3)

OBAMA

In order to kill health care reform, conservatives spent August waging a corporate-sponsored astroturf campaign of harassment and intimidation. They protested, they demonstrated, they called Obama Hitler and they went to Congressional town halls and shouted down women in wheelchairs.

Despite all of the spittle-flecked sound and fury, though, Gallup found that public opinion on health care reform is unchanged from where it was before the August Congressional recess:

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Confirm her because she deserves it.

by EmmaGold

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is, in all likelihood, going to be confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice this week.

Republicans are announcing their support, including one member of the GOP leadership. The NRA has come out against her, but no one really cares.

And yet, all of the confirmation talk has been about side issues. They talk about whether her confirmation will affect Hispanic votes. They harp on her “wise Latina” comment. They focus on one case – Ricci vs. DeStefano – to the exclusion of the hundreds of cases she’s seen in her 17 years as a federal judge.

Seriously, Senators (and members of the press). Listen to the New York Times:

…she clearly belongs on the court. Judge Sotomayor’s distinguished career includes service on federal district and appeals courts, private law practice and prosecutorial experience. At the hearings, she showed an impressive command of the law… There is no need for political calculations. Senators should support her because she is eminently qualified.

Common Sense and Fighter Jets

By EmmaGold

The Senate killed the F-22 fighter jet yesterday– voting 58-40 (in a bipartisan vote, too) to halt production on the planes. We already have 187 of them, and they cost billions of dollars to manufacture. Back in April, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for production to be stopped, and he recently pointed out that “two very different presidents, two different secretaries of defense, two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the current Air Force secretary and chief of staff” agreed with him. Why, then, was this such a big deal?

Opponents to the cuts claimed that “the F-22 is needed because only it can shoot down enemy cruise missiles fired at U.S. cities.” But no such attack has even been threatened since the Cold War ended, and Time Magazine tells us that “No F-22s have flown over Afghanistan or Iraq.” They’re just not useful in today’s wars.

We know the real reason some Senators fought so hard to keep these planes alive. The planes are manufactured in 46 states, and it was Senators from those states most involved in the manufacturing process– Connecticut, Georgia– who led the charge to save them.

Yes, it is important to keep manufacturing jobs. But that’s not what our defense budget is for. Gates tells us:

The grim reality is that with regard to the budget we have entered a zero-sum game. Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity – whether for more F-22s or anything else – is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable.”

For a change, common sense prevailed in the Senate. Think they can keep it up?

So how are those health care bills?

By EmmaGold

I am by no means a health care or health insurance expert. I am merely a person who sometimes has health needs, who has worried about health insurance when unemployed or working short-term or part-time positions, and who believes that health care should be considered a fundamental right.

That said, here is what I hoped for in health care reform:

•  An option, public or otherwise*, that would enable anybody to get health insurance at an affordable cost, regardless of pre-existing conditions, which would cover preventative care, normal health needs, and prevent people from going bankrupt or dying in the event of life-threatening illness or accidents.

That’s pretty much it, although I’d also like to see the health insurance industry prevented from continuing some of it’s more scurrilous actions, like “rescission” (aka, coming up with lame excuses to deny people coverage once they’ve gotten sick, see this LA Times story for more details).

Now we’ve gotten two drafts of health care bills coming out of Congress, one from the the House Democrats, and one from the Senate health, education, labor, and pensions committee (expect a bunch more- the Senate finance committee, and eventually some House committees, will probably be producing their own). Although I doubt the final bill will look anything like these, I’d like to see how well they do by my fairly lenient standards.

I will admit that I have not read the full bills. The House Dems’ one is over 1000 pages long, and the Senate HELP bill hasn’t been released in full. Instead, I’m using section by section summaries of the bills which can be found here [House Dems, PDF] and here [Senate HELP, PDF] . Also, Timothy Noah, at Slate.com, gives pretty good rundowns of the bills here and here . Read More

Culture Of Corruption: John Ensign’s Hush Money

It looks like Republican Sen. John Ensign didn’t just have an extramarital affair with a married campaign staffer–he also paid her a substantial amount of hush money:

Sen. John Ensign’s attorney acknowledged Thursday that the Nevada Republican’s parents paid nearly $100,000 to the family of his mistress around the time she and her husband left his staff in April 2008.

Paul Coggins, Ensign’s attorney, said in a statement that the senator gave Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton and their two children gifts worth $96,000 and that “each gift was limited to $12,000.”

[…]

His disclosure comes as the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the Justice Department to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing of Ensign reportedly giving Cindy Hampton more than $25,000 in a severance package. The group says that under federal law, failing to report contributions of more than $25,000 can result in five years in jail.

[Emphasis mine]

I would be surprised if this hush money payout didn’t land Sen. Ensign before the Senate Ethics Committee–this is at least a serious breach of the public trust, if not a violation of public disclosure and accountability laws.

Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin, John Ensign–it looks like the GOP is continuing their long, slow collapse. At this rate, there won’t be anyone left to run for President in 2012.

Carolyn Maloney Will Primary Kirsten Gillibrand

PRIME

Even more big primary news today–NY Rep. Carolyn Maloney will mount a primary challenge against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed by the very unpopular Governor Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton:

An adviser to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) confirmed Wednesday that the congresswoman will enter the state’s Senate primary against appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Paul Blank, who works with Democratic consultant Joe Trippi’s firm, said Maloney is officially in the race. Blank is set to serve as a top adviser for her Senate campaign.

“Congresswoman Maloney has made her decision,” Blank said. “She believes times are too tough and our challenges too important for politics as usual.

He added: “Congresswoman Maloney is putting together a campaign team and will make her announcement in two weeks.”

[…]

It might not matter, though, as the GOP doesn’t appear close to landing a big-name candidate. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said in recent days that he is leaning against running now that he has landed a spot on the House Intelligence Committee. Former Gov. George Pataki (R) is also weighing a run but is not expected to make a bid. A new Marist poll, coincidentally released Wednesday, showed Maloney leading Gillibrand within the margin of error, 38-37. Gillibrand is still unknown to about one-third of voters.

[Emphasis mine]

Maloney’s strength isn’t surprising–she was widely rumored to be eying a Senate run in 2000 before Clinton stepped in, and the district she represents is more populous than Gillibrand’s upstate district was; she has also been serving in Congress since 1993 (as opposed to Gillibrand, who took her seat in 2007).

I don’t have strong opinions on either Gillibrand or Maloney, but considering the GOP’s recruiting failure I don’t see how a primary will hurt–putting pressure on our elected officials to represent their people better is never a bad thing.

BREAKING: Gov. Sanford Admits Affair (UPDATED)

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R) admitted just now during a press conference that he recently traveled to Argentina and engaged in an extramarital affair.

Gov. Sanford will resign as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, elevating current Vice Chairman Haley Barbour (MS) to the Chairmanship.

Sanford is currently serving his second term as Governor; he will leave office due to term limits in early 2011. Widely-rumored to be a potential 2012 Presidential candidate, today’s news will likely end Mark Sanford’s political career.

UPDATE: Remember, Gov. Sanford’s announcement comes just 8 days after Sen. John Ensign–another formerly-rumored 2012 Presidential candidate–admitted to having an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer.

At this rate, are there going to be any Republicans left to run for President in 2012?