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The Morning Plum: Byrd and the Senate

* R.I.P., Robert Byrd. Don't miss The Post's fascinating and comprehensive obituary.

* Question o' the day: With the most prominent public officials set to offer paeans to Byrd today, some of the eulogizing will undoubtedly focus on Byrd's staunch opposition to the Iraq War and strong criticism of Bush's attacks on the Constitution.

But how many Dems will pause to remember the really important thing about Byrd's denunciation of Bush's adventures: That it came at a moment when Bush's swaggering popularity had so many other high-profile Democrats toppling like dominoes?

* As Byrd's passing reminds us, the Senate is a stage for outsized, deeply ambitious figures who aspire daily to places in our history textbooks, and this will be on display today with the kickoff of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings.

* With her confirmation all but assured, Senators will be using the hearings for a variety of other purposes: To raise their own profiles; to steer the political conversation in a direction of their choosing; to get an airing for pet issues; and to tend to their party's base for broader political purposes.

* To wit: Two Senators to watch this week are Sheldon Whitehouse and Al Franken, who plan to use the hearings to push the conversation away from social issues and to showcase a new liberal populism by pressing Kagan on her beliefs about the rights of citizens to challenge corporate power.

* Also: Let's hope Democratic Senators use the hearings to answer the many other questions that still remain about what she believes, rather than to merely smooth passage for her.

* Meanwhile, Republicans will use these hearings to goose the base with various attack lines designed to paint her as a liberal ideologue.

* And along these lines, they're still pretending they may filibuster her.

* But: The bottom line is that GOP Senators are still groping for an effective line of attack, which brings us back to the key point: These hearings aren't about whether Kagan will be confirmed. It's about what Senators can get from the proceedings.

* Krugman says the D-word.

* And Sarah Palin tries her hand at flashing a bit of outrage at BP. No word on how this squares with her command to followers to read an article comparing the BP escrow fund to Nazism.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  June 28, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Political media , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , Supreme Court  
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Next: A little message to Jeffrey Goldberg's anonymous Post sources


Good morning.

With only two choices on the menu (again), NRO goes with "uncooked slug" and passes on the "spicey rattlesnake".

But it tastes so very very bad.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to hear about Sen. Byrd, he lived a long and eventful life.

Here is Krugman's conclusion for those who don't like to click on "the shrill one".

"So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again."

Posted by: lmsinca | June 28, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

If this fellow is even minimally coherent in speech, the Palin folks will be considering him as entourage member.

When all you've got is symbolism, the more the better.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

When it comes to the MIC mindset, no one does it better than my very own Senator Feinstein. Jeeze, could she be more transparent and foolish. Benen's take:

"When President Obama explained this week why he was relieving Gen. Stanley McChrystal of command in Afghanistan, the president said the conduct represented in the Rolling Stone piece "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." He added that democracy depends on "respect for civilian control" over the "chain of command."

It was a good reminder about a bedrock principle of our system of government. Someone might want to remind Dianne Feinstein."

Posted by: lmsinca | June 28, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Yet more bad news:

"US Senator Scott Brown, who only months ago was a little-known figure even within the tiny band of Republicans in the state Senate, not only catapulted to national stature with his upset US Senate victory, but is today the most popular officeholder in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Globe poll."

And a plurality of DEMOCRATS approve of Brown, too. Good grief.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Ims - Krugman, DeLong, Volker in his recent piece in NYRB and Steiglitz in an earlier one... my optimism is fading.

It's not just the prospect of widespread suffering though that alone is depressing as hell. Add in the turmoil and displacements that will arise from global warming, the facilitated monitoring of citizens through modern electronics, the rise of huge international privatized police/military corporations plus a few other modern factors and the dystopian abyss looms closer than I want.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I know Bernie, and then I watch the word salad of Palin, a little over 5 minutes of torture, and I figure we just have to keep fighting. I am worried though about the economy and the unemployed. Maybe it just feels worse out here, my county of residence is over 14% and we're seeing a lot of our services disappear. So far everyone in my immediate family is doing okay, but we have many friends and friends of friends suffering.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 28, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

@wb - "And a plurality of DEMOCRATS approve of Brown, too. Good grief."

Model looks and excellent PR management (let's get a pick-up truck for you and by the way, speak only what we advise).

When you have a society where many have been inundated for a good portion of their lifetimes with FAR more advertising than with the study of civics or history, it probably ought not to surprise us that candidates are imagined and chosen for the wrong set of reasons.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

"my optimism is fading"

Me too. Obama's team was far too timid. When FDR was elected during the Great Depression, he tried anything and everything, he steamrolled Congress, got what he wanted, and the American people loved him for it. SOme of those programs worked, some failed, but the people saw action. Americans hate impotence and expect things to happen. Americans will forgive mistakes more readily than paralysis. Team Obama squandered all the momentum from the election. Now they have to fight tooth-and-nail for every ant hill and it isn't easy and it sure isn't pretty.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Ims- Tough in Oregon too. Not sure if I mentioned it here, but our boutique is in the Nob Hill section of Portland which is the main place where tourists have come to find funky. When we arrived three years ago, our inquiries found that we'd have to wait two years for a lease to come open. No longer. In the last year and a half, fully one third of the shops on the street have gone under. As I am a completely unethical owner who refuses to pay more than slave wages to myself, I can manage. So far.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

wb - Yet, on the other hand, do we see a national leader anywhere in the western world presently who is pushing harder (relative term of course) for a break from the Hayekian model?

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

And we still have Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 28, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I highly recommend this elucidation of reporting as truth-telling vs reporting as unconscious propaganda functionary...

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

wb--That's a bit of a rosy gloss on the public reaction to Roosevelt. Yes, plenty of people saw him as a savior and he was elected four times. But there was a significant portion of the country who considered the New Deal programs as overreaching socialism and absolutely hated Roosevelt. The fact that we have the 22nd Amendment, which means our presidents can serve only two terms now (and a possible trunk part of another), is a direct result of the number of people who reacted negatively or cautiously to the Roosevelt presidency. And I think it's fair to say that a lot of the current hatred and suspicion of big government from the right is a direct descendant of animus toward Roosevelt and his administration.

Posted by: AllButCertain | June 28, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Bernie, Greenwald is great on that topic. I was especially enamored of his plug for me in his post yesterday re the Weigel mess. :)

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 28, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Obama's head and heart are in the right places but he and his team have let the GOP bluff them into folding far too many times. Politically-speaking, the Dems are at best fighting the GOP to a draw and more likely the Dems are losing. Under the circumstances, I consider that political malpractice of the first order. At the risk of raising ire, I'd also add that the political debacle has been exacerbated by those of the Far Left who have attacked Obama every time he attempts to exercise executive power, labeling him Bush II and such nonsense, which has further eroded Obama's strength and played right into the GOP's hands. It must be clear by now that what we needed (and need) from Obama is MORE executive authority not less. Congress is essentially dysfunctional and the press is a profit-shilling shell. Only the President has the power to set the agenda, move public opinion and get things done. But in a misguided over-reaction to Bush's excesses, the Far Left has attempted to make Obama pay for Bush's sins by denying him his legitimate and necessary power. Combined with the GOP deftly playing an empty hand and Obama's natural conservatism, the opportunity has largely been squandered. And Democratic strength continues to erode: Brown's popularity in MA, Byrd's death, the looming mid-terms, etc. Settling for incrementalism at a time of crisis and desperation. A centennial opportunity wasted.

Or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.


Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

@Greg - Very funny. I too have found that I'm particularly fond of people who are fond of me.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

AllButCertain: FDR"s decline in popularity came AFTER most of the New Deal had been enacted. He understood how important it was to strike while the iron was hot. He was a masterful politician above all, on par with Bill Clinton. But FDR recognized the bottom line was getting the structural reforms in place was the key. ANd that's what he did while he had the power. Eventually FDR over-reached (not to mention that the Depression continued) and his power and popularity declined until the War rescued the economy and FDR himself. My point is simply this: Get it while you can and don't assume that opportunities will last.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

One final point: Obama and the Dems made the gross miscalculation that Americans wanted bi-partisanship over decisive action.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

@wb - All the points you make are valid in this conversation. Simple answers and easy solutions are seductive but I've been seduced lots and it loses its appeal.

I am, by the way (and I'd welcome financial investment from yourself or others here) presently working on designs for a bed which has only one side. Let me know.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"working on designs for a bed which has only one side"

Just make sure it's the good side.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Have a fine day, all.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 28, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"I am, by the way (and I'd welcome financial investment from yourself or others here) presently working on designs for a bed which has only one side. Let me know."

Too late Bernie, it's called the couch.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 28, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Missed this earlier:

"it's fair to say that a lot of the current hatred and suspicion of big government from the right is a direct descendant of animus toward Roosevelt and his administration"

No doubt. But, to put a fine point on it, so what? The programs got enacted. The country was forever changed for the better. That's the goal. Popularity is just a tool. And an ephemeral one at that.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

wb--The country was pretty much hanging by a thread when FDR took office and that gave him more chance to experiment and a Congress that was panicked enough to go along with most of what he tried early on. What he did was admirable and a lot of it was successful and, as you say, left some important structural changes that have endured. But I don't think it's possible to place the Roosevelt template over the Obama administration and find clarity about all that Obama should or shouldn't have done.

And, as you say, there have been two different political temperaments at work. (And I assume you're not suggesting that the Clinton political aptitude yielded the sweeping changes that Roosevelt's did.)

Posted by: AllButCertain | June 28, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

* Haley Barbour Prioritizes Winning Elections Over Governing Mississippi *

Johnson at Think Progress points out Barbour’s solution:

"""The system for responding to a major oil spill depends on coordination between the federal government, the responsible oil company, and the state government. Out of the 6,000 National Guard troops President Obama has authorized for response in Mississippi, Haley Barbour has mobilized only 58. However, he has declared today to be a Day of Prayer “to remember the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”"""

Surely prayer and 58 National Guard troops will solve all of the oil gusher related problems in Mississippi. President Obama authorized 6000 National Guard troops for Mississippi and entire sectors of the MS economy are suffering. Barbour’s thoughts on this?

"""“The most important thing right now is the 2010 elections,” Barbour said. “We can’t wait until 2012 to take back our country.”"""

Good to see another Republican with his priorities straight.

58 National Guard.


More on that:

* Gulf Coast Governors Leaving National Guard Idle *

CBS News has learned that in addition to Louisiana's 1,053 troops of 6,000, Alabama has deployed 432 troops of 3,000 available. Even fewer have been deployed in Florida - 97 troops out of 2,500 - and Mississippi - 58 troops out of 6,000.

Those figures prompted President Obama to weigh in.

"I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible," Mr. Obama said.

It's believed officials in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi and are reluctant to use more troops because their presence could hurt tourism.

National Guard troops may hurt... TOURISM.

Oily beaches, much better.

Republicans are too stupid for words.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 28, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"I assume you're not suggesting that the Clinton political aptitude yielded the sweeping changes that Roosevelt's did."

Not within a million miles. In my view, Clinton's presidency was a net negative for the country and for the Democratic Party. I realize that the FDR template is imperfect but it's the closest I know. In all events. my essential point is that Obama has been far too timid. Obama let the GOP define him as a Far Leftist even as he hewed to the middle and compromised without reciprocation. That, IMO, is political ineptitude.

Once again, however, I probably should have slept in one of those All Good Beds that Bernie is designing.

Have a good one!

Posted by: wbgonne | June 28, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The SCOTUS rulings today on guns and cigarettes makes me think, again, that many people in our country are mentally ill.

This is yet another bad day for the United States of America thanks to the Republican Party and Right Wing corporatists. Makes me sick.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 28, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

All, my response to Jeffrey Goldberg:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 28, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

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