Tag Archives: Open Left

That’s Some Professional Hippie Punching, Mr. Gibbs

Sam Youngman at The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Chris Bowers at Open Left:

Oy, on many levels.

If the White House really doesn’t think it has any problems among self-identified liberals or progressives, and that all the complaints are coming from a grasstop elite, it needs to look at the data again.  From 2008 to 2010, President Obama has suffered far more erosion of support among self-identified liberals than among self-identified moderates or conservatives:

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 89% self-identified liberals voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified liberals has averaged 74%. That is a decline of 15 points.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 60% of self-identified moderates voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified moderates has averaged 54%.  That is a decline of 6 points.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 20% of self-identified conservatives voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating has averaged 24% among self-identified conservatives.  That is an increase of 4 points.

So, according to Gallup, disapproval among self-identified liberals accounts for the majority of President Obama’s approval rating underperformance compared to his 2008 vote share (from the perspective that the smaller decline among moderates is partially canceled out by the small gain among conservatives).  If it were not for President Obama’s decline among liberals, there would be virtually no difference between his 2010 approval rating and 2008 voter performance.
Maybe the White House knows that its problem among self-identified liberals is not confined to the grasstops.  Maybe it is “reaching out” to liberals in this insulting manner because it figures that while it has lost more support among liberals than among any other group, those liberals are still going to vote Democratic anyway.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Spiro Agnew — sorry, Robert Gibbs — says “the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.” Well, the Obama in the White House is not representative of the Obama who organized, campaigned, raised money and ran for office, so I guess it’s a wash.

Gibbs does the only thing you can do when trying to defend a record of corporatist capitulation: triangulate against your critics as extremists. But the fact is, the positions Obama has abandoned aren’t the exclusive territory of Dennis Kucinich. Standing up to the banks and the insurance companies, reducing the political influence of corporate money, defending Social Security and ending the wars are issues that are broadly popular with the American public. That’s why Obama campaigned on them in order to pave his way to the White House.

I don’t recall Obama making campaign promises to increase the defense budget and cut Social Security benefits, order the assassination of American citizens without due process, or cut sweetheart deals with the pharmaceutical industry in exchange for political patronage. Where was the bold, inspirational speech where he vowed to give AT&T immunity for operating their own private corporate spy network, tax people’s health insurance benefits, abandon gay rights and throw a party in the rose garden for Bart Stupak’s presidential signing statement? When did he promise to re-appoint Ben Bernanke, protect the bonuses of bailed out bankers and keep shoveling money at Wall Street?

Marshall Ganz was the field organizer responsible for Obama campaign programs that motivated those progressive volunteers. During the health care debate, when it was clear Obama was abandoning his campaign rhetoric on health care, he said “If Barack had campaigned on the politics of narrow self-interest, he never would have won the nomination, let alone the election.”

Maybe Gibbs should stop and revisit some of those campaign speeches and ask himself if the guy in the oval office looks like the guy on the campaign trail. He might figure out why people are upset, and it’s not just the “professional left.” According to Gallup, Obama’s approval ratings among Hispanics was 73% in January of 2010 and is now at 54%. That’s largely over his failure to fulfill the promises he made about immigration.

Are they the “professional left” too?

Glenn Greenwald:

So, to recap:  (1) The Professional Left are totally irrelevant losers who speak for absolutely nobody, and certainly nobody in Real America who matters; but (2) they’re ruining everything for the White House!!!  And:  if you criticize the President, it’s only because you’re such a rabid extremist that you harbor a secret desire to eliminate the Pentagon — that’s how anti-American you are!  You’re such a Far Left extremist that Dennis Kucinich isn’t far enough Left for you, you subversive, drug-using hippies!  You’re so far to the Left that you want to turn the U.S. into Canada.  As David Frum put it today:  “More proof of my longtime thesis, Repub pols fear the GOP base; Dem pols hate the Dem base.”

The Democrats have been concerned about a lack of enthusiasm on the part of their base headed into the midterm elections.  These sorts of rabid, caricatured, Fox-News-copying attacks on the Left will undoubtedly help generate more enthusiasm — more loud clapping — for the Democrats.  I know I’m eager to go canvass and clap for Democrats after reading Gibbs’ noble, inspiring vision.  If it were Gibbs’ goal to be as petulant and self-pitying as possible, what could he have done differently?

Perhaps one day the White House can work itself up to express this sort of sputtering rage against the Right, or the Wall Street thieves who destroyed the American economy, or the permanent factions that control Washington.  Until then, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with White House explanations that the Real Culprits are not (of course) them, but the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything.  I’ll give credit to Gibbs for putting his name on this outburst:  these are usually the things they say anonymously and then deny afterward on the record that it’s what they think.

Nate Silver:

Lord knows I’ve had my share of disagreements with the “professional left”, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs derisively referred to them in a rant to The Hill this morning. And I tend to endorse Jonathan Cohn’s view that Obama has had a reasonably accomplished first year-and-a-half in office that perhaps has been taken for granted by some liberals.

But if there is a gulf between what Obama has accomplished and the amount of credit that some liberals are willing to give him for it, it just became much wider today with Gibbs statements like “those people ought to be drug tested” and “they wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president”.

One problem that Obama is having — and not just on the left, although it might be most acute there — is the dissonance between the grand, poetic narratives of the campaign trail and the prosaic and transactional day-to-day grind of governance. To some extent, this is intrinsic to the nature of the respective activities. Still, for the 70 million who voted for Obama, there was a sense that — after a difficult eight years for a country challenged by two wars, two recessions, Hurricane Katrina, and the worst act of terrorism in history — things might finally start to be different. That change had come. That progress was happening. That politics were becoming more elevated. A black man had just received 365 electoral votes, for crying out loud!

The euphoric feeling among liberals in the days between the election and the inauguration seems so quaint now — like something that happened decades ago — but it was very tangible at the time. Conservatives, for their part, were willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, with his approval and favoability ratings sometimes soaring into the 70s: such a post-election “bounce” had once been commonplace in the days of Eisenhower and Kennedy, but had rarely been seen in the post-Watergate era.

But Obama was never really able to capitalize on that momentum. Perhaps, in the face of the headwinds of an ever-deepening jobs crisis (far worse than his advisors had anticipated) and unrepentant Republican obstructionism (a canny, even ballsy strategy in retrospect), there was no way he really could have.

Nevertheless, I suspect that for most liberals, any real sense of progress has now been lost. Yes, the left got a good-but-not-great health care bill, a good-but-not-great stimulus package, a good-but-not-great financial reform plan: these are a formidable bounty, and Obama and the Democratic Congress worked hard for them. But they now read as a basically par-for-the-course result from a time when all the stars were aligned for the Democrats — rather than anything predictive of a new direction, or of a more progressive future. In contrast, as should become emphatically clear on November 2nd, the reversion to the mean has been incredibly swift.

What liberals haven’t had, in other words, is very many opportunities to feel good about themselves, or to feel good about the future. While the White House has achieved several wins, they have never been elegant or emphatic, instead coming amidst the small-ball banality of cloture vote after cloture vote, of compromise after compromise.

Greg Sargent:

Robert Gibbs, under fire for his attack on the “professional left,” sends over a statement walking it back, conceding it was “inartful,” and clarifying that the views he expressed frustration about are not widely held:

I watch too much cable, I admit. Day after day it gets frustrating. Yesterday I watched as someone called legislation to prevent teacher layoffs a bailout — but I know that’s not a view held by many, nor were the views I was frustrated about.

So what I may have said inartfully, let me say this way — since coming to office in January 2009, this White House and Congress have worked tirelessly to put our country back on the right path. Most importantly, to dig our way out of a huge recession and build an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle class more secure. Some are frustrated that the change we want hasn’t come fast enough for many Americans. That we all understand.

But in 17 months, we have seen Wall Street reform, historic health care reform, fair pay for women, a recovery act that pulled us back from a depression and got our economy moving again, record investments in clean energy that are creating jobs, student loan reforms so families can afford college, a weapons system canceled that the Pentagon didn’t want, reset our relationship with the world and negotiated a nuclear weapons treaty that gets us closer to a world without fear of these weapons, just to name a few. And at the end of this month, 90,000 troops will have left Iraq and our combat mission will come to an end.

Even so, we will continue to work each day on the promises and commitments that the President made traveling all over this country for two years and produce the change we know is possible.

In November, America will get to choose between going back to the failed policies that got us into this mess, or moving forward with the policies that are leading us out.

So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies, and instead work together to make sure everyone knows what is at stake because we’ve come too far to turn back now.

Atrios:

Joking aside, I know Gibbs’ hissy fit didn’t happen because he stays up late at night petrified wondering who might be the next wanker of the day. But, generally, DC Dems hate The Left even when, as below, it’s The Left that’s spending time and money to exert the pressure to pass their stated agenda.

Digby:

What with all the hoopla over Robert Gibbs’ comments today it pays to simply remember that everyone in Washington hates liberals. It’s a fact of life and until something happens to change the dynamic in which Democratic politicians are afraid to even mutter the words liberal, much less boldly and persuasively make a case for liberalism, I expect this will be the case. (The irony, of course, is that the liberals who do so have been proven right on the politics and the substance far more often than those who bet with the conservatives.)

Kevin Drum says that Democrats do this because only 20% of the country identifies as liberal so they are making a play for the center. I think he’s right that they think this way, but one could easily make the case that they’d do better by demonizing the 30% that calls themselves conservatives instead of their own voters. The center, by definition, doesn’t identify with them any more than the liberals, right?

There is also a case to be made that the Democratic establishment should be concerned about enthusiasm — that the activist base needs to be handled with a little bit more respect because they are the ones who knock on doors and make the calls. There’s something to that, of course, particularly in the mid-terms which depend so heavily on getting the base out.

But what’s dangerously myopic about going ballistic as Gibbs did in his statements is that just 10 years ago we had a little event in which only a tiny portion of the base went with a third party bid from the left — and the consequences were catastrophic. Democrats, of all people, should remember that every vote matters.

It’s embarrassing to have David Frum point out the obvious — that the Republicans fear their base and the Democrats hate theirs, but it has been so since I was a kid — a long time ago. At some point they are going to realize that their demanding activist base is the way it is and that they need to figure out a way to deal with it rather than rail against it. You cannot browbeat people into loving you and you can’t argue them into being enthusiastic. Certainly characterizing them in cartoon terms by saying “they want to eliminate the Pentagon”, they are on drugs and — worst of all — suggesting they are not part of America — isn’t going to get you there.

On the other hand, if they just want to use them as doormat as a way to appeal to “the center” then they take their chances that their activists won’t turn out to volunteer — or worse. Sometimes all it takes to lose is a quixotic third party bid, 535 disputed votes in Florida and Antonin Scalia. Why would they ask for that kind of trouble?

Ezra Klein:

I understand why the White House is frustrated by the criticism from the “professional left” and feels progressives should focus on all the progressive things the administration has done rather than all the things it hasn’t been able to do or interested in doing. What I don’t understand is why Robert Gibbs would voice that frustration to the press. His comments just turn this into a “story,” giving the very professional lefties whose criticism is rankling the White House another high-profile opportunity to criticize the White House.

Baffling. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that this is largely a Beltway phenomenon: According to Gallup, Obama is at 81 percent among self-described Democrats and 76 percent among self-described liberals. His problem is that he’s at 38 percent among self-described independents and 55 percent among self-described moderates. Now, this might tell you less than meets the eye: Maybe independents would like Obama better if he’d followed the professional left’s advice and really hammered the banks or sped up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Sam Stein at The Huffington Post

Paul Krugman

Brad DeLong

Jordan Fabian at The Hill

Naked Capitalism

UPDATE #2: Jane Hamsher and Matt Welch at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Political Figures

The Favorite Math Whiz Of The Blogosphere Moves On Up

Brian Stelter at NYT:

The New York Times said Thursday that it would begin hosting the popular blog FiveThirtyEight and make its founder, Nate Silver, a regular contributor to the newspaper and the Sunday magazine.

Beth Rooney for the New York Times Nate Silver

Mr. Silver, a statistical wizard, became a media star during the last presidential election season for his political projections based on dissections of polling data. He retains all rights to FiveThirtyEight and will continue to run it himself, but “under the banner and auspices of NYTimes.com,” The Times said in a news release.

The arrangement is similar to one The Times struck with the authors of the blog Freakonomics in 2007. The Freakonomics blog appears in the Opinion section of NYTimes.com. FiveThirtyEight content will be incorporated in the politics section of NYTimes.com.

Along with his contributions to the newspaper and The Times Magazine, Mr. Silver will also work with the journalists and software developers who create interactive graphics for NYTimes.com.

“Nate won considerable recognition during the 2008 presidential campaign for his timely and prescient reports on the electoral races and on public opinion,” Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “We look forward to his unique perspectives on statistics, covering a wide swath of issues relating to politics, culture and sports.”

Before making a name for himself with political calculations, Mr. Silver’s specialty was baseball statistics. In 2002 he sold a predictive system he had built, called Pecota, to Baseball Prospectus. He was a managing partner at Baseball Prospectus until he stepped down in March 2009.

Nate Silver:

There are two particular reasons why we felt the Times was the best home for FiveThirtyEight. On the one hand, I very much see what we are doing as a type of journalism, in the sense that it consists of doing original research on a timely basis to help inform the public discourse. Thus, the Times’ unflinching commitment to quality journalism makes for a natural fit, and I expect that the relationship will evolve in exciting ways as FiveThirtyEight is incorporated into a “traditional” newsroom setting. On the other hand, the terrific work of their graphic and interactive journalists was a major draw. The new blog should look and feel great, and should be substantially more robust and feature-rich than the simple, one-page design that we have now.

I’d like to thank my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight, and my attorney, Steve Sheppard, to say nothing of the countless friends and family members whose patience I tested as the discussions were ongoing. There are also a number of people to thank at the Times, first and foremost Jim Roberts, but also Gerald Marzorati, Bill Keller, Megan Liberman, and Brian Ernst, among others. This all happened somewhat serendipitously, growing out of a conversation that I had with Gerald when I ran into him on a Amtrak platform in Boston ten weeks ago.

Although we have not settled on an exact date, the partnership will most likely launch officially in about 9 or 10 weeks — that is, in very early August. Until that time, I will be posting on a reduced schedule, as I focus on facilitating the transition and on bringing my book project substantially toward completion. Our other writers will continue to post as normal during this interim period.

Ben Smith at Politico:

There’s no doubt that Silver raised the level of sophistication in the conversation about polling last cycle, and he’s a great addition for the paper.

But the Stelter story, and Times release, remind me of my recent piece on how The Washington Post wandered into its role as a hub of liberal blogs either by accident or through a kind of willful blindness: The story, and announcement, appear to contain no mention of Silver’s politics, which are fairly central to his online identity, and the words “liberal” and “progressive” appear nowhere in the Times’s announcement.

That strikes me as odd. Silver, like the Post’s bloggers, is one of a new group of journalists who aim to replace the studied neutrality old MSM types like me practice with an openness about their political views. He examined his own in an item defining himself as a “rational progressive” and wrote elsewhere that he’s not registered to a political party but supported Barack Obama in 2008.

I’m not sure why the Times would avoid saying that they’ve hired a respected online liberal voice, rather than just some kind of numbers guru with a “unique perspective.”

UPDATE: Stelter says it was an “unintentional omission,” and he quickly remedied it with the sentences, “Mr. Silver said on his Web site in 2008 that he was a supporter of President Obama. ‘I vote for Democratic candidates the majority of the time (though by no means always),’ he wrote at the time.” The press release remains unchanged.

Greg Sargent:

I don’t know why The Times neglected to advertise Silver’s liberalism. But this goes to a larger point: The fear big news orgs have of letting fact-based and ideologically-motivated journalism mix and mingle wth one another. Silver is not easy to categorize — he is saturated in factual information, but he has clear ideological leanings, and more to the point, advertises them. And beyond Silver, fear of letting ideology taint the act of fact-gathering is widespread in old-guard media precincts.

Even Ben’s bosses at Politico, who have fully embraced a Web-based journalism model, still adhere scrupulously to the old-school “non-ideological” approach to gathering and purveying information.

So it’s worth restating the premise of this new model, at least when it’s practiced at its best: It’s possible to care about what happens in politics — you can prefer one outcome to another — while simultaneously doing fact-based journalism that’s fair, professional, and has integrity.

Some will disagree with that. But the fact that traditional news orgs are hiring more and more people in this vein represents, on some level, a quiet capitulation to this model.

Indeed, news orgs are adjusting to an uncomfortable reality: More and more readers want to get political news from sources that don’t disguise their sympathies, rather than through more traditionally “objective” filters that too often place a premium on fake even-handedness at the expense of taking a stand on what’s right and true.

And congrats to Nate.

Taegan Goddard (via Andrew Sullivan):

What’s most interesting about Nate’s deal with the New York Times (to me, at least) is that he was not really “hired.” Instead, it’s a license deal where he continues to own and control the content and everything reverts back to him if he doesn’t renew. It’s the same deal you cut with Atlantic Media and I cut with CQ-Roll Call.

From a business sense, this is very different than the Washington Post hiring Ezra Klein and Dave Weigel. It could be a new model for bloggers that mimics television production.

Ezra Klein:

But is it? If I left The Washington Post tomorrow, I couldn’t take my archives with me. But then, I wouldn’t want to take my archives with me. I don’t need everything I’ve ever written following me around forevermore. What protects me is that if I leave, I still control the Ezra Klein brand, and all of its rights revert back to me. That’s not because it’s written into my deal. It’s because I’m Ezra Klein and my picture is on the banner. It would be really weird for someone not named Ezra Klein to be writing in this space.

That situation is different for a titled blog. If the New York Times bought the rights to FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate might walk and the Times might replace him. But you can’t do that when you’re dealing with someone’s actual name. That’s one of the reasons, actually, that I’ve resisted giving my blog a title. So long as it’s under my name, I control it. If it’s primarily known by another name, I don’t. Lawyers can take a lot of things from you, but as Marlo Stanfield said, your name is your name.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

And, in movings-up in the world: everyone’s favorite statistician, Nate Silver, has been scooped up by the NYT (sort of). NYTimes.com will start hosting Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, in much the same way it hosts the Freakonomics blog. Nate Silver will also become “a regular contributor to the newspaper and the Sunday magazine,” hopefully writing purely in code.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers at Open Left

Kevin Drum

Al Giordano

UPDATE #2: Matthew Yglesias

Andrew Sullivan

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Filed under New Media

D.A.D.T. D.E.A.D.?

Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

The Advocate has learned that concurrent meetings took place Monday morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill that could help clear the way for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to be attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill later this week.

LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the staff of House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.

A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the White House meeting. “Our understanding is that Congress is determined to act this week and we are learning more about their proposal now,” said the aide.

A Democratic leadership aide called the development “promising” but said discussions were ongoing. The House Democratic leadership is expected to meet to discuss the proposal later this afternoon.

Ed O’Keefe and Michael Shear at The Washington Post:

President Obama has signed on to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department that is likely to clear the way for repeal of the 17-year-old ban on the military’s policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

Under the compromise, worked out in a series of meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill, lawmakers will proceed to repeal the Clinton-era policy in the next several days, but the repeal will not go into effect until a Pentagon study about how to implement it is completed.

In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a repeal, the White House wrote that “such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions.” (See the full letter below.)

Gay rights advocates hailed the White House decision as a “dramatic breaktrhough” that they predicted would dismantle the policy once and for all.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to vote Thursday on adding a repeal to the defense authorization bill. Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) favors a repeal, but at least six senators on the panel are considered undecided. The House may also vote on a similar measure this week by Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.). House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) declined to include Murphy’s bill in passing the House version of the defense spending measure last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal. Congressional aides said it’s unclear whether Murphy has the votes necessary to pass his bill.

Any repeal would take effect only after President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen review the Pentagon study and certify that the new law can be implemented without a negative impact on military readiness, recruitment and retention, according to the sources.

Dale Carpenter:

The repeal is limited in one sense. It does not ban discimination against gays in the militery. It returns the status quo ante DADT in 1993 when the president had sole authority to set military personnel policies on gays. The difference is that now the president has promised to reverse the old policy after a study is issued in December on how to implement the change.

In theory, the next president could reassert the ban. But that’s very unlikely to happen once gays are serving openly. Liberalization of anti-gay public policy tends to be governed by one-way ratchet. Plus, the experience in other countries has been that allowing service by openly gay personnel presents no real problems for recruitment, retention, or discipline, and controversy about it quickly subsides.

Joe My God:

While some see lots of holes in the compromise, most LGBT and progressive groups are responding favorably.

The Palm Center:

“The President’s statement today keeps his promise to lift the ban by establishing the terms on which ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be dismantled,” stated Aaron Belkin, Palm Center Director. “For the past seventeen years, every expert who has studied this policy has emphasized that dismantling it would require leadership. Leadership is what the President showed today.”Servicemembers United:

“This announcement from the White House today is long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful as we enter a critical phase of the battle to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “We have been making the case to White House staff for more than a year now that delayed implementation is realistic, politically viable, and the only way to get the defense community on board with repeal, and we are glad to see the community and now the administration and defense leadership finally rally around this option.”Human Rights Campaign:

“We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s announcement paves the path to fulfill the President’s call to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation.” “Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon’s hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Solmonese. “A solution has emerged: Congress needs to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ now.”Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted. If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months. This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”The full language of the DADT repeal legislation can be found at AmericaBlog Gay.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Advocacy groups appear to be pleased with the agreement, though one could obviously see pitfalls. A Pentagon ruled by those with a different ideological perspective could overturn the new open service policy, if they have the authority to do so. But this would be arguably less likely (or at least as likely) than a future Republican Congress, which would probably waste no time attempting to ban openly gay service. Once the new policy is in place, new restrictions become a harder sell.

All of this is apparently predicated on getting the necessary votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee (Three of these five swing votes – Robert Byrd, Bill Nelson, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Scott Brown – would be necessary for passage). If that is handled, then the House would adopt similar language, probably through an amendment to the defense authorization bill which the House Armed Services Committee completed work on last week. Once repeal is embedded in the defense authorization bill, it would take 60 votes in the Senate to remove it, and opponents don’t have that.

It’s puzzling that it took this long for a deal like this to be struck. This is basically what Carl Levin has been offering for months – repeal with a delayed implementation. Perhaps the White House realized the damage they would incur if they did not push repeal after announcing it with great fanfare in the State of the Union address.

The other complicating factor here is that Robert Gates has recommended a veto of this defense bill for totally different reasons. He feels that it consists of too many unwanted military spending projects. It’s unclear how the President would handle the delicate topic of vetoing a bill with a major gay rights initiative and explaining that there were different reasons for the veto.

Allah Pundit:

Any guesses as to why the left is eager to do this now instead of waiting until December for the Pentagon to finish its review?

The impetus for the meetings is a push in Congress, which passed the measure under President Bill Clinton, to add a repeal of the policy to the upcoming defense authorization bill.

Repeal “had been on a slow track awaiting completion of a Pentagon study at the end of this year,” reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. “Gay rights proponents and their Democratic allies on Capitol Hill and in the White House have decided it’s now or not for a very long time since the elections this fall are expected to bring in a more conservative, more Republican Congress.”

The only thing that might stop it at this point is if Carl Levin can’t get 15 votes to attach the repeal to the appropriations bill. CBS says he’s a vote or two short, but several committee members on the fence. And who are those members? On the GOP side, you’ve got Graham, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins, any or all of whom should be ripe for the picking. (McCain, the committee ranking member, will surely vote no to keep Hayworth at bay.) I’m fascinated to see how many Republican votes are going to pop for this in the general floor vote, especially since Gates and Mike Mullen have endorsed repeal and doubly especially since it’s unclear how much tea partiers will care about a social issue as hot-button as this.

A group of military officers from U.S. ally nations told the Brookings Institute last week that they had no trouble integrating gays openly into their armed forces. Expect that talking point to figure prominently if this blows up in a couple of days. Exit question: Is it time?

Marc Ambinder

James Joyner:

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.   While homosexuality has been normalized enough that we have a president, SECDEF, Joint Chiefs chairman, and probably a majority in Congress willing to go on the record to support gays serving in the military — something that decidedly wasn’t the case when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 — it’s still a hot button issue in much of the country.   Referenda to ban gay marriage, for example, seem almost always to pass easily.

Will Republicans mount a filibuster on this issue?   I doubt it.   And it’s going to be very difficult to mount a credible argument opposing lifting the ban once the Pentagon certifies — which it almost certainly will — that doing so will not harm morale or be prejudicial to good order and discipline in the military.

Andrew Sullivan:

My major fear up to now has been that the repeal could get lost legislatively if the GOP made big gains in the House and Senate this fall, as is historically almost certain. This compromise removes the basis for that fear, while allowing the military and the defense secretary to manage the transition to ensure a smooth ride. I hope it works. If it does, it really will be a feather in the cap of Jim Messina, the good folks at SLDN and Servicemembers United, and the Obama administration. It will also redound to the credit of those who did not give up on this, who refused to concede that this was not a civil rights question of the first order, and to the countless servicemembers, past and future, who put their lives and careers on the line for this change.

It’s been a long two decades. So long one almost feels numb at exactly the moment one should feel exhilarated. But that’s probably how all such breakthroughs feel, when they eventually happen. For the first time in American history, gay people will be deemed fully worthy of the highest call of patriotism – to risk one’s life for the defense of one’s country.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Boston Globe reports that Senator Scott Brown will vote against a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on Thursday:

“I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military,” Brown said in a statement provided to the Globe.

Brown, who is also a lieutentant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, said he came to his decision after hearing the views of multiple officers and enlisted personnel.

“For some time now, I have been seeking the opinions and recommendations of service chiefs, commanders in the field, and, most importantly, our junior soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines,” he said in the statement. “I believe we have a responsibility to the men and women of our armed forces to be thorough in our consideration of this issue and take their opinions seriously.”

But the AP reports that Senator Susan Collins will vote in favor of repeal.

There are 28 senators on the Armed Services Committee (16 Democrats and 14 Republicans). So, if Collins supports repeal and all other Republicans oppose it (which seems likely), the Democrats can afford two “no” votes and and still pass it out of committee with 15 votes.

Jim Webb, Ben Nelson, and Robert Byrd seem like potential Democratic “no” votes, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all works out on Thursday.

Kevin Drum:

This is actually not much of a compromise. It’s basically a complete win the DADT repeal forces, since implementation always would have taken some time no matter when repeal was passed. Pelosi and Reid already support repeal, and now, with Obama’s active support, the chances of getting it through Congress are excellent. Adam Weinstein has more here.

So if things go the way I think they’ll go, by later this year Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will have passed a historic stimulus bill, the Lily Ledbetter Act, healthcare reform, college loan reform, financial reform, repeal of DADT, and Obama will have withdrawn from Iraq.1 Not bad for 18 months of work. And who knows? There’s even a chance that Obama’s Afghanistan escalation will work. If it does, what president since LBJ will have accomplished more in his first term?

1Except for the pesky “residual force,” of course. Still, once the combat forces are gone, it’s hard to see a scenario in which they’re ever sent back in.

UPDATE: John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Igor Volsky at Think Progress

Adam Bink at Open Left

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Filed under LGBT, Military Issues

Blanche Depended On The Kindness Of Grassley

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

What’s happening with financial reform right now is unlike anything that’s happened since I’ve been following American politics. Look at the fundamentals of the issue. This is a matter where a massive industry — one that accounts for close to half of all corporate profits — is adamantly opposed to new regulation. The merits of the issue are so mind-numbingly complex that even economists and policy wonks sound distinctly fuzzy on the details. Throw in a Republican Party that had pursued, with evident political success, a policy of total obstruction. I’d tell you this was a formula either for defeat or a toothless reform.

And yet a substantial reform now appears close to inevitable. It’s not a toothless reform — a set of derivative regulations more hawkish than anybody could have dreamed possible a couple weeks ago just passed through the Agriculture Committee. It’s one of those strange moments when the normal laws of politics have been suspended.

Ezra Klein:

Blanche Lincoln’s extremely aggressive derivatives proposal passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee today. The expectation was that it would win on a party-line vote. And it did — almost. But Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley surprised observers by joining the Democrats to vote for the legislation.

To get a sense of why this was a surprise, recall that Judd Gregg had scorned the proposal as “about as far left as you could get on the issue of derivatives.” That Grassley, who’s up for reelection in 2010, decided to cross over for this is the best evidence I’ve yet seen that financial regulation is going to pass.

// Kevin Drum:

Like I said yesterday, originally I didn’t take Lincoln’s proposal seriously. It seemed like it was just a stalking horse, a way for her to look tough and get some good hometown headlines even while knowing that it would quickly get watered down. And that might still happen, of course. Her derivatives language still has to survive a merger with the Banking Committee bill, a vote on the Senate floor, and then the conference report. The odds of coming through all that unscathed are pretty remote.

But….you never know. Republicans are obviously feeling some heat on this, and it’s not as though anyone outside of Wall Street has any sympathy for the derivatives industry. For now, this remains a possible bright spot on the financial reform horizon.

Matthew Yglesias:

Frankly, I don’t think her language should get through unscathed as some of the stuff (spinning off swap desks, etc.) really has nothing to do with the main point of this section of the bill which is to get derivatives centrally cleared and traded on exchanges. The real point of this vote is that three weeks ago people were talking about Dodd’s language getting watered down by the Agriculture Committee but thanks to some focus on the issue and Bill Halter’s primary campaign that didn’t happen. So what went down today is very good news.

Chris Bowers at Open Left:

Senate Democrats have just weakened Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives language within the overall Wall Street reform legislative package.

As chair of the Agriculture Committee, Lincoln had jurisdiction over the derivatives language aspect of the bill (I know it seems weird, but that is the committee with jurisdiction).  In terms of the sheer money involved, derivatives are practically the entire bill.  In 2008, the derivatives market was worth $81 trillion, which is about 30-40% larger than the GDP of the entire world.

Lincoln’s language on derivatives will be combined with the rest of the bill in the manager’s amendment once it is on the floor.  Unfortunately, it seems that Senate Democrats, led in this instance by Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Bob Casey (PA) and Debbie Stabenow (MI), thought that Blanche Lincoln, that paragon of liberalism, went too far.  So, several exceptions to Lincoln’s derivatives language were inserted during the committee mark-up process:

Subscription-only Congress Daily discussed the Gillibrand exemptions last night.  While this article is written in the conditional, and Gillibrand did not actually offer the amendment, she still succeeded in forcing some these changes into the bill:

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln’s stance against Wall Street reflected in her derivatives bill has drawn the protest of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whose state is home to the large banks that dominate the over-the-counter trading market. Gillibrand is attempting to scale back a provision in Lincoln’s bill, which will be marked up today, requiring large commercial banks to spin off their highly profitable swaps desk. The Lincoln measure will be merged with Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd’s regulatory revamp package, which is likely to be on the floor next week. Gillibrand has sponsored an amendment that would put up roadblocks to Lincoln’s language prohibiting banks from receiving FDIC deposit insurance or accessing the Federal Reserve discount window if they trade in swaps or securities-based swaps. The bill would effectively force JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America to spin off their swaps desks, which bring in billions of dollars in revenue annually. All except Bank of America are headquartered in New York, though its Merrill Lynch investment banking subsidiary is housed in the city.

The amendment would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to undertake a study on banks that had swap operations as to whether they pose a risk to the FDIC system and the impact of barring them from offering such services. The CFTC would then propose rules based on the findings, which would have to be approved on a two-third vote by a panel representing the Fed, Treasury, the SEC, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

And it wasn’t just Gillibrand.  Bob Casey secured permanent exemptions for pension funds that deal in derivatives.  Debbie Stabenow of Michigan pulled some corporate home-state pork by securing exemption for Ford Motor Finance and other highly leveraged financial subsidiaries of manufacturing and homebuilding firms.

When it comes to placating home-state interests, many Democratic Senators can be hard right-wingers.  That Gillibrand, Stabenow and Casey moved to the right of Blanche friggin’ Lincoln, and successfully poked holes in her derivatives language, is a good example of this.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

I don’t know why people are talking about the Lincoln bill like it just got signed by the President. All accounts show that the President, or at least the Treasury Secretary, doesn’t even support it, and now Dodd is trying to claim territorial control. This is the exact opposite of how it played out in the House of Representatives, where Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson significantly weakened the derivatives legislation that came out of Barney Frank’s FinReg bill. But in both cases, it appears the stronger language will get dropped.

The fact that Dodd claimed not to have seen Lincoln’s bill is disingenuous and a bit insulting.

Ultimately, we should fear and not look hopefully at the presumptive deal between both parties on FinReg, which is designed to get 70 or 80 votes. There’s no guarantee such a bill would be anything that the banks couldn’t live with. The far better policy would include not just the strong derivative trading rules but The Safe Banking Act of 2010, which would put strict size and leverage caps on financial firms. That’s a bill worth fighting for.

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Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending, The Crisis

How Much Tweets Can The GOP Tweet If The GOP Can Tweet Tweet

twitter1

Lydia DePillis in Slate:

David All, of the eponymous conservative media consulting group, tried to persuade a less-than-capacity crowd that Twitter was the future. “That’s the thing that we need to embrace and evangelize every single day,” he said. “We have a massive opportunity to grow the pie of conservatism because of the quickness of Twitter and because everyone is jumping on board.”

When he asked who was on Twitter, about half those assembled raised their hands. Only a couple—including Charlie Smith—used the #crnc tag. One member piped up skeptically: “What is Twitter? I don’t get it, I use it kind of begrudgingly.”

Peter Suderman:

Here’s why Twitter is a dangerous medium for Republicans in their current state: Right now, the GOP has a dearth of both leadership and ideas. It spent the last decade (at least) refining its ability to deliver talking points and focus-grouped soundbites, learning how to win elections (for a time), but basically ignoring what are arguably the two most important features of politics: policy and governing — leaving us with a GOP effective at neither management nor innovation. The more-or-less centralized message machine became the only tool in the party’s playbook, but eventually it became clear that that machine, refined as it was, had nothing to talk about.

These days, with the party floundering, it needs to focus a lot less on selling ideas and a lot more on the ideas themselves. The party has developed a sales force — and given it nothing to sell.

And Twitter, for all its speed and usefulness — I’m on it pretty much all day long — is most effective as a way to pitch, package, and spread news and ideas. It’s not a very good tool for actually developing new ideas, or arguing why tweaked versions of old stand-bys are still relevant. (If you’ve ever seen an extended argument play out on Twitter, you know how silly it is.)

Julian Sanchez:

I can think of a use of Twitter that might be more helpful at this stage, though I’m not sure there are Republicans using it this way.  What might be helpful is that you can see how tweets or links propagate—I just discovered the invaluable backtweets, which makes it possible to trackback shortened links—and detect issues where there’s unexpected common ground or surprising salience. In other words, Twitter currently is most likely to be useful as a massive data set—a friend who works there tells me they jokingly call it “The Great Brain Machine”—more than a propaganda tool.

Paul Rosenberg at Open Left:

Old habits die hard, I guess. The Republicans had a good long run snarling at everyone and everything in sight. It’s pitch perfect for talk radio or cable TV.  But it’s not 1994 or even 2001 anymore.  And Twitter is not Faux News.  You don’t impress or intimidate anyone when you strike a belligerent pose on Twitter for no good reason whatsoever, except that you’re a one-trick pony and that’s your trick; you just come across as a petulant twit.  Which, of course, you are.

UPDATE: John Dickerson takes the opposite approach in Slate:

Regardless of your political views, this kind of behavior should be encouraged. Press secretaries and strategists from both parties have been conspiring to hide the true views of their political clients for years now. So anything that allows politicians to give full expression to the id is to the good. It injects unpredictability, randomness, and texture (or txtur as Grsly wd type it) into our politics.

UPDATE #2: TPM’s Eric Kleefeld has a list of what they’re calling the Top 7 Conservative New Media FAILS So Far This Year

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Filed under Conservative Movement, New Media