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The Morning Plum

* With tomorrow shaping up as a huge day in politics, the political classes are gearing up to interpret the long-term significance of the results. If Joe Sestak prevails and Blanche Lincoln is forced into a runoff, brace yourselves for a dull roar of commentary about how both parties are undergoing equivalent ideological purges.

* E.J. Dionne skewers this false equivalence in advance.

* Evan McMorris-Santoro has a useful overview of the final closing arguments of Sestak and Arlen Specter.

* It's now at the point where Specter appears to be buying drinks for prospective voters to win them over:

Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: "Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar."

* And: Specter now appears to be claiming that if he'd stayed a Republican, he'd have been reelected easily, proving that his switch was motivated by pure principle.

* Another storyline to watch this week: Liberal Senators will continue keeping up the pressure on Dems to toughen up financial reg reform.

* Still another storyline to watch this week: Senate Dems will repeatedly push legislation to lift the liabililty cap on oil companies for disasters like the Gulf spill, challenging Republicans to side with Big Oil.

* A new AP poll finds Dems have edged ahead in the generic Congressional matchup, though it remains awfully tight.

* Mitch McConnell road-tests the next argument against Elena Kagan: She's in favor of banning books.

* Turns out, however, that the truth is just a bit more nuanced than that.

* Here's another way that Kagan resembles the man who nominated her: She, too, has a tendency to de-emphasize race.

* Michael Barone keeps up the right's assault on Eric Holder's refusal to discuss terrorism in a dumbed-down, mind-numblingly simplistic way.

* Why is someone who unabashedly believes that Obama represents as great a threat to America as the Nazis and Soviets did regularly granted a platform by the major networks?

* And here's the random thought of the day: I'm thinking of starting a Web site that's entirely devoted to news about Sarah Palin, since posts about her every move and utterance, no matter how trivial or irrelevant, unfailingly generate the most clicks and comments.

Kind of like a Drudge Report but with links only to stories about Palin, complete with a blog attempting to analyze and explain everything she says and does. Thoughts, anyone?

And what else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  May 17, 2010; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Climate change , Financial reform , Morning Plum , Political media , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , Supreme Court  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Specter hits Sestak for favoring ... gun control
Next: White House bracing for Arlen Specter loss?


I actually think a Sarah Palin blog would get huge traffic.

Posted by: maritza1 | May 17, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

maritza -- I was only half kidding. :)

Posted by: sargegreg | May 17, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

" E.J. Dionne skewers this false equivalence in advance."

Dionne, echoing the Village view that there is no Serious Left in this country, labels the Halter and Sestak insurgencies as largely anti-incumbent manifestations. While there is assuredly a great deal of anti-incumbent sentiment, that alone means little other than that Americans are dissatisfied. Which is obvious. The important question is what we are dissatisfied with and what we want done. Here, Dionne fails. Forty years of the GOP's Anti-government Conservatism has led us to this turmoil. Though it is still somewhat inchoate, I think many Americans recognize this deep down. It will remain unarticulated until the Democrats articulate it. And that is what the Sestak and Halter candidacies are about, asserting finally that the Republicans are wrong, that the Democrats' program is the proper course, and that DINO's and Republicrats are not helping resurrect liberalism of the Democratic Party. To that extent, then, Dionne is wrong as he contends that there is no "purity" testing going on within the Democratic Party. But Dionne is nonetheless correct that it is a false equivalency to assert that the Teabaggers' GOP takeover is the same as the Liberal resurgence in the Democratic Party. To understand, one must think a bit differently. The fundamental problem is that in our two-party political system the MSM assumes that the two parties present the outside bounds of reasonable policy positions. That is why Centrists -- those compromising and splitting the difference -- will likely arrive at the most reasonable position, i.e., mid-way between the extremes. But that entire analysis is based on the assumption that each party truly does present a reasonable position, albeit to the Left or Right, respectively. The reason that analysis fails now is that the GOP has become so extreme that it no longer provides a reliable Right border. Likewise, since the 60s the Democrats have moved further and further Right as well in a desperate effort to maintain political viability at a time that Conservatism was ascendant. The net result is that the entire political system is grossly overweighted to the Right. What is happening now is that the Democrats are re-claiming their place as the Liberal Progressive Party. As the Dems assume their correct position on the Left border of American politics, "Centrists" like Lincoln and DINO's like Specter should be rejected. Incidentally, even if the Dems fully arrive, the GOP has already careened into Right Wing insanity, which means ... listen up, Villagers ... splitting the difference between Dems and GOPers will still NOT yield an acceptable result.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 17, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne, I agree with you that Dionne partly failed in the sense that he underplayed the degree to which the Halter and Sestak challenges ARE driven by the left. But overall it's worthwhile that he skewered part of the emerging Village meme.

Posted by: sargegreg | May 17, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

In other words, the nation will regain its political equilibrium only after BOTH the Democrats and GOP move Left. For that to happen, the Dems must rid themselves of the Republicrats like Lincon, Landrieu and Ben Nelson. And the GOp must reject the Teabagger extremism that intends to shift that party even further Right. If the Dems excise the Republicrats and become a true Progressive Party and if the GOP finally rejects Teabaggerism then each party will have assumed its proper role of setting the Left and Right boundaries on reasonable policy positions. Only at that point will Centrism become what is always assumed to be.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 17, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Greg: Yes, Dionne is correct to attack that most facile of Village tenets: false equivalency. But he falls short by not digging a bit deeper.

Good Day, All.


Posted by: wbgonne | May 17, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Thank-you wbgonne, very nice analysis. I'm so tired of liberal or progressive being characterized as the crazy left of the party. We are the traditional voice of the Democratic Party and we have been relegated to the weeds for a long time. If the Tea Party wants to pull the Repubs further to the right as they are trying to do in Maine, so be it, that has absolutely nothing to do with us. Dionne got that right, it is not equivalent.

Trying to re-establish a coalition of left of center Dems is a tough job but someone needs to do it and I for one am glad to see the voters in PA and AR taking on the challenge.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 17, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"First they came for the Jews; then they came for the Gypsies" Glenn Beck

Now the TeaBaggers have discovered that Mitch McConnell is a Jewish Gypsy!!!

Posted by: Liam-still | May 17, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Too much is being made from too little.
Lincoln and Specter represent a whopping 2% of the Senate, hardly enough to begin to make large implications from statistical analysis.

They also represent two completely different situations.

Lincoln not only torpedoed HCR...she was one of the largest reasons we have no P.O....she did this NOT WITH A VOTE AGAINST THE LEGISLATION...BUT WITH A VOTE TO JOIN REPUBLICANS IN A PROCEDURAL MOVE TO FILIBUSTER. I was fine with Blanche voting her her wealthy insurance company benefactor's conscience...but to join the R's in a procedural move to filibuster the single most important Dem piece of legislation in this session is beyond the pale. Hopefully Blanche is watching her career circle the drain...either in a loss to Halter or to the R in the general election.
I'm tired of explaining to co workers why the Dems can't pass their most important legislation with a "SUPPOSED" commanding majority. Lincoln, Nelson and LIEbermann distort the reality of the Senate.

Specter simply needs to GO!!! For a variety of reasons. He is a freaking REPUBLICAN!!! Remember how he handled himself with Anita Hill? Yes he made a brave choice on the stimulus but he'd probably already decided by then that his political survival depended on moving to the Dems. Specter is the worst kind of opportunist! He is too old, and alas his health too fragile. We retire the military, airline pilots, athletes, Corporate CEO's before they reach some cases 60...why should we allow dinosaurs like Specter and Byrd and before them the disgraceful Strom Thurmond turn the Senate into a nursing home. These people do not have the class or couth to step down when they should...hopefully Sestak gives Arlen the shove out the door he needs.

2% of the Senate..and only one of them, Lincoln is getting removed because of idealogy.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 17, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I think a blog focused solely on Sarah Palin is an excellent idea. However, I would have serious concerns about the effect such an effort would have on the author's sanity.

But we do need a serious examination of the Thrilla from Wasilla, instead of the vapid coverage we currently have.

Posted by: CTVoter | May 17, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"maritza -- I was only half kidding. :)"

Well Greg, if you're half-kidding, then I guess you're half-serious?

Of all the republicans comparing Obama to NaziSoviet commiefascists, I'm surprised to hear it from Gingrich. As despicable as he is, he usually doesn't go quite that far. But the Palins, Becks, and Limbaughs have gone so far to the right, I think Gingrich feels the need to join them in order to retain his legitimacy from teabaggers, who already find him too centrist.

Posted by: SDJeff | May 17, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I disagree. We do not need a serious examination of Palin. We need her to thrive. It would be the best thing that could happen for Democrats in 2012, if Palin were the Republican nominee.

Palin For President.


You Betcha!

Posted by: Liam-still | May 17, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

@Greg Re Palin. From a commercial standpoint you are probably on to something.
It seems the polarizing Palin does draw attention, and I confess I'm as guilty as the next person.

But I've begun to realize that paying any attention to Palin is the same as checking out a car crash, gawking as you drive by the carnage. You know it's tacky and tasteless but you can't seem to avert your eyes. And every now and then you are punished for that transgression when you see some horribly mangled person and the rest of your day is ruined by such a horrid sight.

I can't remember the days I've had ruined by the realization that our country has so many morons who support such an obvious disgrace to our nation. She is indeed our national embarrassment as well as our national fear. In the back of everybody's mind is the fear that our country may contain enough idiots to actually elect this person. I generally check out a Sarah story to be titillated just as I view a car crash...and often times I feel sick to my stomach after indulging such a lurid fascination.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 17, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

When I think Palin Blog I think:

50% The Onion, 50% Perez Hilton

On a slightly more serious note, what's the deal with a possible run-off in Arkansas? What is the threshold for forcing one, anyone know off-hand? Just curious.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Ethan, if Blanche stays below 50% there's a runoff. She's currently stuck in hifh 40s.

Posted by: sargegreg | May 17, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Political Wire has a good summary of links re: financial reform:

Taegan also picks up this note at First Read that there was no "final visit" by Obama for Specter:

"It's worth noting, by the way, that the Specter campaign was indeed hoping for a last-minute visit by the president to help fire up base voters. It didn't happen. And to add insult to injury, the president is traveling tomorrow, on Election Day, and he's literally FLYING OVER Pennsylvania to stump in Youngstown, OH, a town JUST ACROSS the border."

That's hardball for ya. Well played by Obama imho. I may be connecting the dots a bit too much but imho Obama's minimalistic support of Specter is one of the first visible signs of Clinton-like political triangulation since he's been in office.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Liam, you're channeling my husband. He got that exact t-shirt made (except he left out the dates)--our interesting little sociological experiment is when he wears it to Costco. When we go on Saturdays, he gets lots of people stopping him to tell him how right he is. When we go on Sundays he gets lots of laughs.

Not that I'm going to draw any sweeping conclusions about the population in Costco on those two days. . . :-)

Posted by: Michigoose | May 17, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

There's already a network dedicated to every thing that dimwit says or does.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | May 17, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Ethan The threshold is that if no single candidate gets at least 50% there is a runoff. Currently while Lincoln is still well ahead of Halter she is below that 50% threshold. For some reason the political pundits believe if it goes to runoff Halter will win. Seeing as he trails by about 10% I'm not certain why that is the CW unless it's because he has momentum.

BTW Ethan have you read about our guy Kendrick Meek?

As U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek championed a proposed biopharmaceutical complex for Liberty City in 2003, his Miami chief of staff received $13,000 from the project's developer to help the aide buy a house, newly released police records show.

The developer, Dennis Stackhouse, is now awaiting trial, accused of stealing nearly $1 million from the failed Poinciana Park project that was supposed to revitalize the blighted Liberty City community. Nothing was ever built.

It seems we're really stuck in Florida.
Perhaps Charlie Crist is our next Senator.
Again anybody but Marco!!!!

Our Gubernatorial campaign also sucks. Alex Sink is a bright lady who has run a horrible campaign. She recently fired all of her top staff so perhaps there is time for her to recover.

On the R side Scumbag McCollum has been "outed" for paying $120,000 to the gay dude who was running around with his "" hooker. Same Gay dude testified for McCollum in Florida against the right of Gays to adopt. McCollum is sinking faster than BP credibility.

But another total arsehole Rick Scott who made his millions screwing sick people as the founder of Columbia Hospital Corp.

Scott was ousted by the company's board of directors in the midst of the nation's biggest health care fraud scandal in which the company ultimately plead guilty to the nation's then largest Medicaid and Medicare fraud and paid a record fine of $1.7 billion dollars

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 17, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Gotcha, thx Greg. Nice to see ya again, tho I did check PL from time to time while on vacay :)

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Should have pointed out Rick Scott is the R who is rapidly gaining on McCollom in the Florida Gubernatorial race.

Scott is LITERALLY a crook! Rubio is a crook! Now Meek? WTF is wrong here in Florida? Perhaps we've been drinking to much tar/oil filled water.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 17, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

RUK, I saw that about Meek. I think it's a political hit job. It's a 3-year-old story that just happens to come out now? Fishy. He addresses the controversy here:

The FL Gov GOP primary, yeah, every bit as insane as the GOP Senate primary! McCollum pays Rentboy Reker for fraudulent anti-gay testimony and Rick Scott is the health care fraudster personified. The scope of the insanity of the FL GOP is literally unbelievable.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Some good news c/o NYT:

*G.M. Posts Its First Profit in 3 Years as Sales Rise 40 Percent*

General Motors said Monday it earned $865 million in the first quarter, its first profit since 2007, after last year's government-sponsored bankruptcy allowed the carmaker to wipe away many of its longstanding burdens.

G.M. said revenue was up 40 percent, to $31.5 billion, and it had positive cash flow of $1 billion.

The results show that G.M. is on track to become a public company again as soon as the fourth quarter, allowing the government to recover more of the billions of dollars it spent preventing G.M.'s collapse.

The company earned $1.2 billion before interest and taxes in North America, the region where G.M. had sustained most of its losses in recent years. In the fourth quarter, G.M. lost $3.4 billion in North America.


G.M. intends to have a public stock offering as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. Federal officials now project the Treasury will recover most of the money given to G.M. and argue that any loss that results was less costly than the damage that a collapse of the company would have inflicted on the country’s economy.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the prospects of Halter in a run-off, there is a third Dem in the race who is siphoning off a few votes and chances are those may go to Halter in a run-off. That's my understanding anyway.

Below is a pretty good read on where we stand now re the spill and why much of the oil is below the surface and doing a different kind of damage. There's also speculation about what the currents will do with it.

"Marine scientists fear that two powerful Gulf currents will carry the oil to other reefs. The eastward flowing loop current could spread it about 450 miles to the Florida Keys, while the Louisiana coastal current could move the oil as far west as central Texas."

"The depth of the gushing leaks and the use of more than 560,000 gallons of chemicals to disperse the oil, including unprecedented injections deep in the sea, have helped keep the crude beneath the sea surface. Marine scientists say diffusing and sinking the oil helps protect the surface species and the Gulf Coast shoreline but increases the chance of harming deep-sea reefs, which are seen as bellwethers for sea health."

"At first we had a lot of concern about surface animals like turtles, whales and dolphins," said Paul Montagna, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi who studies Gulf reefs. "Now we're concerned about everything."

Posted by: lmsinca | May 17, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I normally don't link to political cartoons but this one is too close to the truth of things to ignore...

Posted by: bernielatham | May 17, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

All, more signs Specter is going down:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 17, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Ethan, welcome back.

lms, thanks for the catch on the run-off; I didn't think about a third Dem and what that might mean after. My guess is that if Halter gets her to the run-off he'll be able to get greater attention and beat her there.

Greg, the Palin site would be good for hits but bad for your soul. Though at least you'd have the satisfaction of knowing Bill Kristol would read you every day.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 17, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Thx BG :)

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 17, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Re: All Things Palin Website.

I was just saying to myself the other day, “Self, the web would be SO much better if there were EVEN MORE Sarah Palin coverage. That and porn, bogus degrees, and online gambling. I can’t seem to find ANY of those things on the web.”

Greg, please tell me that you were kidding, or drunk, or you fell and hit your head. We are INUNDATED with trivial coverage of Palin and her views on every conceivable "who-the-hell-cares?" issue.

The only aspect of Palin that needs more national coverage is to debunk the Palin mythology and the endless string of lies that trail behind her. Start with a more critical look at the circumstances surrounding the improbable birth of Trig Palin. There appears to be a small mountain of evidence that casts doubt upon the “facts” as supplied by Palin. There is ample photo evidence - from Palin herself - that there are at least two different children that have been passed off as Trig Palin. Doubt the doubters? Google “Trig Palin ruffled ears” and the first link is:

Palin appears to have engineered a massive con on the entire nation and thrust herself into the hearts of conservatives by pushing the fictional meme she bravely gave birth to a baby with Down Syndrome - against the wishes of liberals who wanted her to have an abortion. The trouble is, virtually every official “fact” concerning the pregnancy, the delivery, and the actual identity of Trig do not add up. Andrew Sullivan is one of the few national figures to have even broached this subject. The first child presented as Trig Palin clearly had a malformation of the helix - ruffled ears - and four or five months later Trig had no such condition. This is no trivial matter. The entire meteoric rise of Sarah Palin into the national conservative spotlight was predicated upon this myth of a self sacrificing mom who refused to abort a pregnancy, even though she knew the child would be born with Down Syndrome.

The Immoral Minority is my favorite burr-under-Sarah-Palin’s-saddle website. It is one of several Alaskan blogs that dissects every move by Palin. Many of the Alaskan blogs have been doing so long before Palin showed up on the national political radar.

The Mudflats and Shannyn Moore have also been stalwart Palin debunkers. They regularly call out Palin on her lies, which are legion. Yet, the big boys and girls in the MSM largely tend to overlook the work of the Alaskan bloggers. I’m not sure why the MSM gives Palin so much latitude to pedal her ridiculous fiction, especially when the Alaskan bloggers have been right so often.

If you think we need more Sarah Palin coverage, then do some real journalism and shed some light on the mythology upon which her popularity rests. Everything about this woman is based upon lies. We don’t need more People Magazine coverage of Palin.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 17, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Excellent idea, Greg. Clearing the Plum Line of Sarah Palin would make my daily read more pleasant.

Posted by: Jerseycoa | May 17, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Palin allegedly made 12 mil last year. She is simply making money off her now "Brand Name," which has a lot to do with sex appeal. The news media, by keeping her Brand in the news, just enables this money-making venture to continue. She just teases enough about possibly "running" for office to keep her Brand viable. She is a smart entrepreneur. So, the "media" should realize that all their doing is enabling this enterprise. It has nothing to do with future public service on her part.

Posted by: dozas | May 17, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

About the Sarah Palin're an idiot!

Posted by: BuddyEidson | May 17, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I think if we ignore Palin, she may go away...

Posted by: soapm | May 17, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I thought this post was unusually full of laugh lines and ideological self-abuse -- EJ's tortuous if dutiful bag-carrying for the dems, Benen's sophomoric avoidance of substance in favor of sneering and presumption, Greg's own dismissal of the recogniztion that we are under attack by Islamic radicals as dumbed down and mind-numbingly simplistic.

All that was silly enough. Then I read (part of) Gassy the Clown's post.

There is no describing that level of depravity of thinking. It borders on psychotic.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 17, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Gasman says "The trouble is, virtually every official “fact” concerning the pregnancy, the delivery, and the actual identity of Trig do not add up. Andrew Sullivan is one of the few national figures to have even broached this subject. The first child presented as Trig Palin clearly had a malformation of the helix - ruffled ears - and four or five months later Trig had no such condition. This is no trivial matter. The entire meteoric rise of Sarah Palin into the national conservative spotlight was predicated upon this myth of a self sacrificing mom who refused to abort a pregnancy, even though she knew the child would be born with Down Syndrome."

You could engrave what you and Andrew Sullivan know about Down Syndrome on the head of a pin and still have room for the Lord's Prayer (and War and Peace).

Stop insulting people with Down Syndrome and Trig Palin in particular. I'm a liberal, I voted for Obama and when I Google "Down Syndrome" (as I often do because we have a daughter with DS), I come up with your baloney.

Posted by: ness2 | May 17, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Subtitle for your Palin website:

Everything is Obama's fault, and the media sucks except for Fox News.

Posted by: Beeliever | May 17, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Yet, as a professed "liberal" you seem to be very adamant in defending Sarah Palin, easily the biggest liar in the media today. What did I say that was offensive to those with Down Syndrome or their families? I merely stated that Palin is a manipulative liar who uses a Down Syndrome child as a hand prop. If you were really concerned about being an advocate for Down Syndrome children and families you should be expressing outrage at Palin's gratuitous exploitation of Trig.

I am willing to bet that you won't.

Posted by: Gasman1 | May 17, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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