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The Morning Plum

* Question of the week: Joe Barton's apology to BP dominated the Sunday shows, and all signs are that Dems will continue using it to build a broader case against the GOP.

So has the Barton mess given Dems the pivot point they need to enter a period of sustained momentum, or was it a mere temporary breather from deep and intractable political difficulties heading into the fall?

* Dems have their work cut out for them this week as they move forward on energy reform and campaign finance legislation, both of which are in doubt because of internal Dem divisions.

* But it's also clear that Republicans are divided and uncertain about how to press the case against Obama and even over whether they need a new agenda of their own.

* And the Gulf spill continues to expose GOP divisions between Tea Partyers who think the boot on BP's neck is un-American and more pragmatic Republicans who realize that defending BP at all costs isn't shrewd politics.

* Also: Conservative bloggers inexplicably continue hammering the idea that the $20 billion escrow fund was a "shakedown," which has to be driving more sober-minded GOP strategists batty.

* And higher profile conservative commentators also seem likely to keep up the "BP as victim of Obama's thuggery" meme.

* If this type of talk on the right is all about goosing the GOP base and ensuring they remain enthusiastic about voting this year, then it certainly seems to be working.

* Head-spinner of the day: Ross Douthat says Obama has racked up more liberal successes than Lyndon Johnson -- then concludes that liberal disappointment with Obama for not doing still more shows that liberalism is on the ropes and "running out of time."

* Douthat does make a good point, though, about the mistaken belief among some liberals that the president has the power to move members of Congress around like pawns.

* What else to watch this week: Joe Lieberman says it's premature to give up on energy reform with carbon limits because there's more Senate support for it than meets the eye.

* And: Rahm Emanuel yesterday found a minute to mention carbon. What will Obama say to Senators about this in their meeting about energy reform on Wednesday?

* Breaking: Sarah Palin called Rahm a liar on Twitter.

* Is the White House postponing the decision where to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed until after the November elections?

* And E.J. Dionne gets it right: The Dems' political travails don't mean they shouldn't be trying to pass an ambitious agenda; it means they need to win the argument about it.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  June 21, 2010; 8:18 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Climate change , Foreign policy and national security , House GOPers , Political media , Senate Dems , Tea Party  
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Next: Darrell Issa: If GOP wins House, corporate America can breathe easy -- UPDATED

Comments

So has the Barton mess given Dems the pivot point they need to enter a period of sustained momentum, or was it a mere temporary breather from deep and intractable political difficulties heading into the fall?
=================================

At least when it comes to the man-made disaster in the Gulf, it should be clear that Republicans are responsible for a drilling regime in which a B.P. feels like it can get away with irresponsible decisions.

http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/how-dick-cheney-and-tom-delay-caused-gulf-o

=>One of the worst elements of what has come to be known as the “Dick Cheney energy bill” had a direct role in eliminating the kind of regulatory oversight that may have prevented the blowout of BP’s Mississippi Canyon 252 well on April 20 of this year. Section 390 of the legislation dramatically expanded the circumstance under which drilling operations could forego environmental reviews and be approved almost immediately under so-called “categorical exclusions” from the National Environmental Policy Act.<=
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | June 21, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Re Douthat... I posted this on last night's thread but as it is relevant here, I'll paste.

Douthat's strawman...

"...[liberalism is guilty of] the worship of presidential power: the belief that any problem, any crisis, can be swiftly solved by a strong government, and particularly a strong executive." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/21/opinion/21douthat-1.html?hp

We've seen ScottC toss this one out regularly as well. Of course, nobody actually thinks or argues this.

But take a look at the prior administration, it's explicit zest for a powerful executive run out of Cheney's office and it's presumption (or claim) that anti-American sentiment leading to terrorism could actually be "swiftly solved by a strong government".

Sometimes, Douthat does some good thinking. This isn't an example.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

With threats of thousands of job losses, $10/gal gasoline, and a decline in revenue, we are constantly bombarded with leaving the corporations alone. Below is a video of the consequences of de-regulation and the gutting of safety requirements in the oil industry.

"ONLY WHEN THE CONSEQUENCES OF ALLOWING
WORKERS TO BE INJURED OR KILLED ON THE JOB
ARE SEVERE ENOUGH WILL COMPANIES TAKE
SERIOUS ACTION TO CHANGE THEIR
SAFETY CULTURE."

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/6/20/877854/-An-Expendable-American-Worker-Video-We-Should-All-See-

Posted by: lmsinca | June 21, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

In EJ's column this morning, he writes...

"What's remarkable is the extent to which the Tea Party movement has displaced the religious right as the dominant voice of conservative militancy."

It is remarkable. But understandable too.

First, they are intersecting sets as various polling results have shown. But more importantly, I think, is the marketing strategy that has assiduously created/fostered the TP movement. If rebranding was necessary (and it was) then a new face (not associated with Bush) had to be put on opposition to liberal governance. Secondly, the economic collapse was and is going to have predictable consequences re citizen mood and ideas heading towards an equally predictable 'kick the bums out' mindset. Smart Republican strategists understood this dynamic (if I did, they did).

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

New polling out on the Senate race in Florida:

Crist In The Driver's Seat In FL-SEN

The poll, fielded by New York PR firm Cherry Communications, shows Crist with 42% of the vote, Rubio with 31% and Meek with 14%. The poll was conducted June 9-13 among 607 likely voters and has a margin of error of 4%.

Past polling since Crist left the GOP primary fight to run as an independent have shown him running close to Rubio. Meek has consistently run a distant third. The TPM Poll Average for the race shows Crist with 38.2% of the vote, Rubio with 33.7% and Meek with 14.5%

Over the weekend, the St. Petersburg Times labeled Rubio the Florida political "Loser of the Week":

"In the same week that a Florida chamber poll showed Charlie Crist leading Rubio by 11 points in the Senate race, we learn that a bank started foreclosure proceedings on Rubio's Tallahassee home. We already knew Mr. Fiscal Conservative had reported nearly a million dollars in debt in 2008 and improperly double-billed the GOP and taxpayers for travel expenses. This is the fiscal discipline he'll bring to Washington?"

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 21, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if anyone linked to or read Krugman's piece yesterday, but he explains both our long term deficit and short term spending problems very well. Now is not the time to abandon the unemployed or short change stimulus spending.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/21/opinion/21krugman.html?ref=opinion

Posted by: lmsinca | June 21, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

A nostalgic look back pre 1981, can you say Reagan? Astonishing that we all let this happen and that they'd like to do it again.

"Sometimes it can be so obvious where a problem comes from, but very hard to change it. The anti-government, pro-corporate-rule Reagan Revolution screwed a lot of things up for regular people and for the country. Some of this disaster we saw happening at the time and some of it has taken 30 years to become clear. But for all the damage done these "conservative" policies greatly enriched a few entrenched interests, who use their wealth and power to keep things the way they are. And the rest of us, hit so hard by the changes, don't have the resources to fight the wealth and power."

http://www.alternet.org/story/147262/6_shocking_ways_conservatives_helped_cause_the_economic_destruction_of_america/

Posted by: lmsinca | June 21, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I really must draw attention to Kristol's piece this morning in the Weekly Standard. It's one of his best ever and that takes some doing. We know it's going to be a dilly right from the title, "SMALL PEOPLE RULE!"

First off, Bill reveals that he is one of the "small people" unloved, uncared for, unnoticed, unrepresented in the corridors of power.

"But at least they [the Big People] care about us."

Who are those oppressing and grasping-power-to-bosom Big People who don't care about you and me and little Bill?

"... Messrs. Obama, Svanberg, Hayward, Waxman, and Barton..."

So, how screwed is Barton? And no need to bring up Bill's other mixed-emotional statements on Hayward and BP because there's this that follows:

"More important, they’re incompetent. Who wouldn’t prefer to be governed by the first 500 (small) people in the phone book than by the big people currently in charge?"

And there you have the neoconservative/Platonic notion of ideal leadership - random choices from a phone directory. Sure, Bill. Now, let's tie up your piece and we'd better mention the 60's...

"We’ve seen over the last few years the failures of big finance and big government. We’re witnessing a well-deserved collapse of big media and the ossification of academia. The establishment hasn’t been this discredited since the mid-1960s."

"Big finance" is something Bill has grumbled about forever. I remember this. In his array of guilty biggitude things here, he's skipped here, though unintentional I'm sure, big corporations and big business but any minute now he'll update the piece with a note apologizing.

There's really nothing this character will not stoop to.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/small-people-rule

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

@Ims - lovely correspondence between your Alternet quote and Kristol's piece.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Bernie says:

"We've seen ScottC toss this one out regularly as well. Of course, nobody actually thinks or argues this."

Except, of course, liberals like Bernie. For goodness sakes, "progressive" politics is practically defined by its desire to apply government force as the solution to problems it perceives. This is precisely why people like Obama seek public office rather than going out and actually producing something that solves a problem.

"But take a look at the prior administration, it's explicit zest for a powerful executive run out of Cheney's office and it's presumption (or claim) that anti-American sentiment leading to terrorism could actually be "swiftly solved by a strong government"."

Yes, this presumption or claim (which is it?) that terrorism could be "swiftly solved" was quite evident in the Bush administration, which is why it termed its efforts against terrorism as, er, "the long war", lading critics to claim that he was preparing the nation for perpetual war. D'oh!

Posted by: ScottC3 | June 21, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

When Republicans Ruled:

They Kneecapped The Government,

And now they keep complaining about how slowly it moves.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

ScottC said: "Except, of course, liberals like Bernie. For goodness sakes, "progressive" politics is practically defined by its desire to apply government force as the solution to problems it perceives."

Of course, Douthat has framed his statement (as you consistently have done) as an absolute (go back and read it).

Progressive politics, as we see it in the US or Canada or Australia or New Zealand or Japan or Belgium or the Netherlands or Switzerland or South Africa or Israel or France or Britain...you get the drift... holds varying notions depending on various factors but it does generally hold that a peoples' government and the institutions of it (the courts, say, police or fire departments or worker-safety regs or regs on the financial sector or on off-shore deep water oil drilling) have made the nations of the world, including ours, safer and better. You may, of course, disagree. Those sunny afternoons out on the bleachers watching thieves drawn and quartered were darned exciting family outings, after all.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

My "Question of the Week" re: Barton would be this:

Have Democrats finally developed the political killer instinct that the GOP has used so effectively over the past 3 decades against them?

The answer to that question will be whether the Dems not only pivot to make the broader case against the GOP (which is good), but if they also keep up pressure to have Barton pulled from his ranking position on the Energy Committee.

Dems could EASILY make the case that Mitch McConnell is full of it when he says he disagrees with Barton, because he let Barton keep his ranking position. Multiple Republicans have called for Barton to be removed...which even makes it bipartisan. Dems should be reminding the media that while the GOP leadership continues to "claim" they don't agree in front of the press, we've seen no change in opinion of the Republican Study Group (who used the same "shakedown" rhetoric), and Barton still kept his cushy position.

If the Dems keep hammering it, there's no doubt in my mind that Barton could still lose his position on the committee. To do so would be a strong political win for the Dems, showing they can really come down on individual members of the GOP.

This might make GOPers think twice before they let loose their craziest of rhetoric.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | June 21, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The time may soon come for Democrats to throw in their lot with Charlie Crist, and make him feel welcome to caucus with the Senate Democrats.

The Democrat's nominee has no chance of winning, but he just could capture enough moderate votes, to keep Crist from winning.

Having Rubio take the seat, would be the worst of all possible outcome for Democrats.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I see that Shelby has joined the chorus of Republicans referring to Barton's "I beseechingly apologize" statement of Republican policy/values (the Republican Study Committee, as we know, tossed out their own 'shakedown' policy statement earlier) as "dumb" or "stupid" or (Kristol's steroid version) "remarkably dumb".

But I have to say that Shelby's comments put him in a different category from most of the others. By "dumb" he doesn't mean what Kristol means - bad PR for the party. He actually appears to give a damn. Rather sad comment on the state of the conservative movement and the GOP that actual concern for citizens and the environment becomes notable in their ranks.http://thinkprogress.org/2010/06/20/shelby-on-bp/

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Bernie - That billy boy's government 'of' small people seems to dovetail with that twit from tundras' meme of 'common sense' politics. Wonder why that twit doesn't twitter about that meme any more.

Posted by: amkeew | June 21, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

There is no such thing as "The Tea Party", and yet MSM keeps writing about it, as if it were a separate political party, from The Republican Party.

Just because Bank Robbers don masks, that does change who they really are.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

BBQ: "Have Democrats finally developed the political killer instinct that the GOP has used so effectively over the past 3 decades against them?"

Well, the jury is still out, but there is hope. The Hill has an interesting post up this morning about Dem efforts to label the Reublican Study Committee the "BP 114."

(The RSC, as you recall, released that statement on the eve of Tony Hayward's congressional testimony decrying the Chicago gangsta-ness of the escrow agreement.)

From The Hill blog:
Democrats have gone to great lengths to portray RSC members' views as in lockstep with Barton's sentiments.

"While a Republicans criticized Barton once he became a PR problem, not a single member disagreed with the RSC attack on the accountability fund which happened the day before Barton's comments," noted DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan.

To that end, the DNC sent out emails to the districts of the 114 members of the committee, which included tools allowing recipients to easily call local radio stations and express opinions on the members. The DNC also started running Google ads redirecting users who search for members of the committee to a Democratic-hosted page criticizing RSC members for their views on the oil spill."
"

More here: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/104317-dems-mout-effort-to-label-members-of-gop-study-commitee-as-the-bp-114

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 21, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Can someone tell me what is accomplished by Barton's loss of leadership position on the Energy subcommittee? A short-term victory for the left, yes, as he's stripped of a position of power, but I'm not sure this isn't also a loss of a symbol of what the GOP really stands for on energy policy: shilling for big oil and corporate influence in gov't.

The GOP will get a pass by scapegoating him if he loses his spot. It'll be easier for them to separate themselves from the truth of their whole party.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 21, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Chamber of Commerce is, of course, fighting the Disclose Act
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/the_chamber_battles_the_disclo.html#comments

The NRA versus GOP coalition here is really quite interesting (follow David's links)

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Shelby is playing homestate politics. "All politics is local." Tip O'Neill

Unlike Barton, who just represents a congressional district, Shelby has to represent an entire state, and he knows that the coastal population of his state are also going to take a big hit from the BP oil spill catastrophe.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

@ amkeew - I think you've made a keen observation. Bill and Palin have been connected at the hip for a couple of years and their propaganda/marketing similarities aren't random.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

sue, thanks for that. Good to see the Dems getting out and highlighting the hypocrisy of the GOP having it both ways with BP.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 21, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

@Liam - Understood. But I confess that my cynicism isn't so deep that I find it impossible to spot actual humanity over on the other side. It's suffering battered-wife syndome, to be sure, but it's there.

@sue - that BP 114 is a wonderful touch.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

BG,

I think the Democrats should not be pushing for to have Joe Barton lose his committee spot.

I would rather have him stay on in that position.

His face would keep reminding people of how much Republicans are in bed with Big Oil.

Joe Barton did such a good job of rescuing Tony Hayward, and off cleaning the oil spill off of him, that Tony was able to migrate non stop to the Isle of Wight.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

All, check this out, Darrell Issa pledged that if GOP takes back House, corporate America will be able to breathe easier:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/06/darrell_issa_if_gop_wins_house.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 21, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

What would it take, one wonders? From Benen:

"Host David Gregory specifically asked, "[W]hat's worse, the moratorium or the effects of this spill on the region?" Barbour replied, "Well, the moratorium. The skill -- the spill's a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a, is a terrible thing that's not only bad for the region, it's bad for America.""

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse


@Liam - Understood. But I confess that my cynicism isn't so deep that I find it impossible to spot actual humanity over on the other side. It's suffering battered-wife syndome, to be sure, but it's there.

@sue - that BP 114 is a wonderful touch.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 21, 2010 10:45 AM

...................

Bernie,

When the Detroit automakers were in big trouble, Shelby wanted to let them go under. He did not want them to get the loans that saved all those jobs.

Of course, some foreign car makers have established non union plants in his state, and the domestic makers have not.

If coastal Alabama was not threatened by the spill, Shelby would be defending BP, just as much as Barton did.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 21, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Li eral Democrats have always promoted a functionally limitless POWER of the President and government in general to solve problems. But they promote a very narrowed scope of Presidential AUTHORITY -- when a Republican is President.

Now that Obama is in office, they see no constraints on presidential authority.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 21, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

@suekzoo1

What they are doing is good, but like I said, the key will be if they start going after the credibility of the GOP leadership in their repudiation of the remarks. That's when they will HAVE to dump him over the side.

@BGinCHI

"Can someone tell me what is accomplished by Barton's loss of leadership position on the Energy subcommittee?"

The political rewards are 2 fold:

First, it sends a powerful message that the Dems are ABLE to do it. The next time a ranking Republican on a committee gives their opening statement, you better believe that they will be more careful about what they say. And in a different way than they will from just the embarrassment Barton feels now. The GOP is amazingly good at closing ranks to protect their own. While a Republican may know they will take some heat from Dems because of over-the-top rhetoric, they also know that they are pretty well protected by their own caucus - this is especially true of those in leadership/ranking positions. If Dems can break through that inherent protection, it would help a great deal at clamping down on "teh crazy".

Second, there are those in the GOP caucus who actually agree with Barton. They DO see the escrow as a slush fund, or a shakedown. Right now, they can chalk up the leadership repudiating his comments as merely political cya. If there are true repurcussions to saying aloud what a large portion of the caucus actually believes, we could see the rift and tensions between the GOP leadership and the GOP foot soldiers grow even larger.

It's not a magic bullet or anything...but it's a good step forward. Policy-wise, no it doesn't do a whole lot. But if the more extreme members of the GOP are forced to sit down and shut up, then they have less influence over the GOP on the whole, which is still a good thing. I don't really advocate for single-party rule, but that's predicated on having more than one SERIOUS political party in this country...right now, unfortunately, we don't.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | June 21, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Bernie, (deliberately?) missing the point:

"And there you have the neoconservative/Platonic notion of ideal leadership - random choices from a phone directory. "

Uh, no. In fact, quite the opposite. Kristol's point - that our current leadership is so bad that even random choices from the phone book would be better - relies for its effectiveness on the notion that random choices from phone directory is not at all an ideal notion of leadership. Even that horrible way of choosing a leader, he is saying, would produce better leadership than what we have.

Posted by: ScottC3 | June 21, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

BBQ, I think we just disagree on tactics here.

I'd like to see Barton shooting off his mouth with the biggest platform he can get so that the VOTERS (not in TX, perhaps, but in the rest of thinking America) will get a clue and keep the Dem majority.

I don't want to win short-term DC battles; I want to win majorities.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 21, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Moder liberalism/progressivism is a statist ideology that has nothing to do with the movement of western societies away from medieval and ancient authoritarianism or barbarism.

It is rooted in the same authoritarian impulses, merely substituting mobocracy, tecnocracy, and kleptocracy for monarchy or oligarchy.

As for the popular caricature of supposed Straussian-Platonic conservatism, Obama will not soon be surpassed as an elitist who brazenly lies to the public. A professor of mine used to refer to the "dirty hands problematic" of polictics (horrible coinage); dirty hands are no deterrent to the Obamacrats. Any means necessary is their only MO.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 21, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

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