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The Morning Plum: Obama on the offensive

* Can President Obama use the bully pulpit to persuade the public that Republicans, not Democrats, are to blame for government dysfunction in the face of struggling recovery, most visibly symbolized by the failure to extend unemployment benefits for millions of ailing Americans?

This morning, he's going to try: He will aggressively hammer Republicans in a Rose Garden statement today focused on GOP opposition to extending benefits, contrasting this with GOP willingness to extend tax cuts for the rich. A White House official emails the game plan:

The President will tell the stories of Americans in need of the extension and he will have strong words for Republicans who have previously supported unemployment extensions under Republican Presidents but refuse to offer relief to middle class families today. And he will point out that they are calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while telling working families that we can't afford to help them when they need it most.

* But who says Republicans are the Party of No? Mitch McConnell says Republicans would be happy to help Obama pass an agenda that Republicans agree with.

* Shocker of the day: Senator Olympia Snowe says we should slow down before implementing the Dems' measure to restrict corporate money's influence over our elections.

* Will Dems lose the Senate? It's not out of the question: Here's a useful overview of the emerging map.

* Don't miss the Post's new investigation into the post 9/11 national security buildup, "Top Secret America," a reminder of the sort of deep and ambitious reporting that we need traditional news orgs to keep doing.

* Paul Krugman adds his voice to those (this blog included) predicting that Dem losses this fall will be blamed on alleged liberal overreach, rather than on the economy.

* I hope somebody in Washington listens to E.J. Dionne's clear explanation that voters don't care whether politicians are "centrist."

* Dana Milbank goes there, suggesting that Tea Party comparisons of Obama and Hitler are the "logical expression of a message supported by conservative thought leaders and propagated by high-level Republican politicians."

* Former Bush officials endorse the stimulus! Karl Rove's group is now running ads attacking Harry Reid for failing to pull in more stimulus dollars to Nevada.

* Good read: The Las Vegas Sun takes an eye-opening look at Sharron Angle's religious views, including her belief that religion should plan an expansive role in government, and concludes her views parallel the "Christian Reconstructionists."

* And: Nevada jounalist Jon Ralston says that thanks to Reid's overwheliming barrage of negative ads, Angle may already be burnt toast.

* CNN's Political Ticker swipes my reporting on the Vitter-Maddow mess with no credit. CNN also falsely reports that Maddow has not responded to Vitter, when in fact she has.

* And Dems are hoping Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus will put Republicans in a very awkward spot.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  July 19, 2010; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Financial reform , House GOPers , Morning Plum , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans , Tea Party  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Happy Hour Roundup: Vitter apologizes to Maddow
Next: GOP promises return to Bush agenda?


Morning, All:

From Krugman's column:

"The best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis. Obviously, he didn’t do that. Maybe he couldn’t have passed an adequate-sized plan, but the fact is that he didn’t even try. True, senior economic officials reportedly downplayed the need for a really big effort, in effect overruling their staff; but it’s also clear that political advisers believed that a smaller package would get more friendly headlines, and that the administration would look better if it won its first big Congressional test. In short, it looks as if the administration itself was taken in by the pundit delusion, focusing on how its policies would play in the news rather than on their actual impact on the economy. Republicans, by the way, seem less susceptible to this delusion. Since Mr. Obama took office, they have engaged in relentless obstruction, obviously unworried about how their actions would look or be reported. And it’s working: by blocking Democratic efforts to alleviate the economy’s woes, the G.O.P. is helping its chances of a big victory in November."

Rahm and the Professionals strike again.

"What I expect, instead, if and when the midterms go badly, is that the usual suspects will say that it was because Mr. Obama was too liberal — when his real mistake was doing too little to create jobs."

And then the Democrats panic and move Right and get destroyed in 2012 when nobody on the Left bothers to participate. Rahm and the Professionals strike YET again.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

From Dionne:

What we've been saying here for months:

"As long as the political center is measured as the halfway point between Republicans such as Sen. Jon Kyl, who don't think they have to pay for big tax cuts for the rich, and a moderate progressivism of Obama's sort, the entire national discussion will be tilted toward conservatives: Far right plus center-left equals center-right."

The columnists are finally waking up. How about the White House and the Democratic Party?

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I like the idea of Obama going after the GOP but we'll see how aggressive and sustained it really is. But this deserves comment:

"A White House official emails the game plan"

Why do the Democrats telegraph every punch? Once they've done that it makes inevitable stories that the Democrats are acting for political purposes. Seems dumb to me. Don't pre-announce it. Just do it.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Bernie, here's what I knew last night. This is a letter from Thad Allen to BP at 9:00 pm on Sunday. I'm still looking for confirmed news this morning but I heard they're keeping the well shut in for now. I think today will be a decision making day.

Dear Mr. Dudley,

"My letter to you on July 16, 2010 extended the Well Integrity Test period contingent upon the completion of seismic surveys, robust monitoring for indications of leakage, and acoustic testing by the NOAA vessel PISCES in the immediate vicinity of the well head. Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period. As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 19, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The problem is its hard to get people who dont follow the news or politics carefully to understand how you can have a President and big majorities in Congress from one party and still not be able to pass your agenda. Its especially true when for eight years Dems hsrdly blocked anything when Republicans didnt have majorities as big.

Whats worse is. By pushing bipartisanship the first year then letting one or two Republicans water down all the legislation and th White House endorsing that, a lot of folks wont think its that big of a deal if Republicans take back Congress.

A message that would resonate and that should be employed is that for the legislation thats been passed so far most of it is good but not as good as it should be because we had to weaken for those fewvotes. For every Republican that wins in October the people are looking at either worse legislation that wont adrdress any problems or no legislation at all at a time of high unemployment and when we are trying to end two wars.

But that means the White House has to acknowlwdge that everything isnt peaches and cream, particularly with the stimulus. I just dont know if they are willing to be honest enough for people to understand the gravity of the mid terms.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | July 19, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I just found Allen's statement from this morning. Looks like they'll continue with well shut in and monitoring any leeks if there actually are any. Lots of crazy doomsday scenarios floating around but they're not worth mentioning.

DATE: July 19, 2010 05:41:20 CST

Statement by National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen:

"Yesterday I sent BP a letter stating that there were a number of unanswered questions about the monitoring systems they committed to as a condition of the US government extending the well integrity test. Last night a conference call between the federal science team and BP representatives was convened to discuss some specific issues, including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well. During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.

Ongoing monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team.

I authorized BP to continue the integrity test for another 24 hours and I restated our firm position that this test will only continue if they continue to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation. At any moment, we have the ability to return to the safe containment of the oil on the surface until the time the relief well is completed and the well is permanently killed."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 19, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

@Ims...thanks, that' my latest as well.

Related question to any phyics dudes or dudettes kicking about... as regards measurements of oil flow into the Gulf (with the consequences for BP's liability) it would seem to me that if one knows the diameter of a fluid-carrying conduit and if one knows the pressure exerted by that fluid (which they seem to be monitoring quite precisely) then one ought to be able to calculate with accuracy the amount of fluid passing through the conduit when it is open. Do I have this right or no?

Posted by: bernielatham | July 19, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Ims - thanks on update

Posted by: bernielatham | July 19, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse


"Will Dems lose the Senate?"

I'm shocked that the Wall Street Journal would do a story about the GOP taking over the Senate...and that there is gambling going on in this establishment!

But really, let's take a look at 538's latest Senate outlook:

You'll notice that the GOP has about the same probability, according to Nate's model, of taking over the Senate as the Dems have of retaking a 60 seat supermajority. Assuming Crist caucuses with the Dems, which seems ever more likley - it's a 12% chance the GOP gets the majority and a 10% chance the Dems get a supermajority.

Also, looking at the races themselves, he still has PA as "lean Republican". I think the movement in the polls so far, along with the turnout machine for Dems in PA, really mean that this is at worst a "toss up". A few more polls are needed before his model catches up, but I think it will happen.

I also think if this next month is anything like this last one, we'll see Nevada move into "lean Dem" territory.

Not to mention KY, which is still "lean GOP", which I think, again if next month is like last month, could move into "toss up". (I also think that McConnell has to support Paul, but won't be heartbroken if he loses)

Also keep in mind that right now Rass is still flooding the zone with GOP friendly numbers. Rass ranks high on his accuracy list, because he's good at bringing his polls into line about a month out from the actual election dates. So while Nate can correct somewhat for the Rass house lean, there's likely a little bit of sway left to pump up the numbers.

Lastly, Nate addes quite a bit weight to "registered voter" polls (4 points to GOP off the top, 7 points if poll is of adults). While this certainly could be the case because of the enthusiam gap, I'm not sure it will be that large come election day. If it pulls back a point or two, or three, it changes the dynamics by 1-2 seats. In a fight for the majority, that's a big shift.

ps - I'm happy you're getting weekends off (though I agree a weekend empty/open thread about halfway through Sat. would be helpful). I hope that means that you get to stay and play with us in the comments more!

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 19, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I like how on the Sunday shows yesterday Cornyn and company were defending Bush, and saying he was getting more popular, yet no one thought to ask him how many Republicans in close races will be having Bush campaign for them.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | July 19, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

@sg "I just dont know if they are willing to be honest enough for people to understand the gravity of the mid terms."

I agree with all you've written above except the suggestion that more 'honesty' re the structural impediments is the direction to take. It would be if people (generally) were very much better informed and if people responded to rational argument in the way we would hope.

Take, for example, the success of the right in forwarding the notion that taxes constitute an assault on individual liberty. That's not a rational argument but rather an emotional appeal (highways, bridges, sewers etc don't fall from heaven).

I think the Dems need to make such emotional appeals the center of what they now communicate (without lying or forwarding empirically false ideas). So, to my way of thinking, this differentiation that Greg says will be underlined by Obama again today (GOP chooses to extend tax cuts to the ultra-rich while at the same time refusing to help those in dire need) is exactly the right way to go.

And...have a nice day all.

Posted by: bernielatham | July 19, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

so you all want some kind of Saturday open thread? How do you envision that working?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 19, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Re: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Based on what I've read, they expected the pressure to be near 9,000 but it is only about 6,700. This means either that their are leaks that raise questions about the integrity of the well itself, which is what Allen seems most worried about. Or that so much oil has already leaked that the pressure has dropped due to the smaller amount of oil in the reservoir. Since the pressure is about 1/3 lower than anticipated that would mean that at least 200,000,000 gallons of oil have already leaked. But there must be a great deal of concern about structural integrity for the Coast Guard to be seriously considering removing the cap.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse


Title: Weekend Open Thread
Body: What's happening?

...and that's it. We can fill the comments pretty quickly, as you know. :-D

Oh, and I think a lot of people missed some big news on the Sharron Angle interview on Face to Face.

I was re-watching it, and it appeared that Angle issued support for allowing people to go back to work and still continue to recieve unemployment benefits in some fashion.

Watch the 2nd segment...and she says more than once that people shouldn't have to choose between unemployement benefits and working. A couple times she implies that we should allow people to go back to work, but still continue to give them some sort of unemployement benefits.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 19, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Balance the budget by raising the highest marginal tax rate back to historical norms of 80%.

Here is a summary of rates since the federal income tax was instituted in 1913. Notice the correlation between the two most serious financial crises in U.S. history and the dramatically-lowered high-income tax rates that preceded those crises. Coincidence? I think not.

1913 7%

1917 67%

1922 58%

1924 46%

1925 25%

1932 63%

1936 79%

1941 81%

1944 94%

1946 91%

1952 92%

1954 91%

1964 77%

1967 70%

1982 50%

1987 38.5%

1988 28%

1991 31%

1993 39.6%

2001 39.1%

2002 38.6%

2003 35%

Why is no one talking about this?

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I do not like this Tad Allen guy. I have not liked him from the start of the spill. I think he is in over his head.

What the hell difference would it make by removing the new cap, that has stopped the flow, so far, just because there might be some seepage, further down. We all saw what happened when the previous cap was removed.

Allen is hinting that if there is some seepage further down, that he might have to take the cap off, and and let far more spill into the gulf, unchecked. That is the most stupid thing I have ever heard off.

If there is seepage further down, wouldn't that prove that the entire pipeline was never structurally strong enough, when installed?

If Tad Allen wants to alleviate some of the pressure, instead of removing the cap, he should have BP open up some of the valves which are blocking the four lines up to the surface ships, where the oil can be captured.

What happens to all those older well lines into the sea bed. Recall that BP's failure to maintain a proper pipelines anti-corrosion treatment regime, caused massive ruptures and spills above ground, in Alaska. How the hell do the oil companies prevent corrosion in deep water pipelines, since they are not even able to shut down the oil flow from them?

Posted by: Liam-still | July 19, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Peaceful Morons, please Refudiate Shakespeare Grizzly.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 19, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

All, did NRCC chair Pete Sessions really promise a return to the Bush agenda?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 19, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Here is the link for the tax rate info:

Posted by: wbgonne | July 19, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse


Notice also that the marginal tax rate was cut just before the HW Bush ressesion that Clinton started his first term with as well.

It's pretty obvious, when the wealth gap increases our economy on the whole gets hurt. I'm not sure the high-income rate needs to be up around 80%, as times have changed since the 1940's...but moving it to the 50-60% range would give us extra revenue while allowing us to see how the economy reacts.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 19, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"Paul Krugman adds his voice to those (this blog included) predicting that Dem losses this fall will be blamed on alleged liberal overreach, rather than on the economy."

Of course Krugman himself is among the most prominent voices out there constantly alleging that Democrats are *under-reaching* on pretty much everything. So I guess everything just sucks.

I don't actually take it as a given though, that Democratic losses are likely to be as bad as all that this year. It strikes me that our esteemed punditry are basing some mighty sweeping assumptions on what have historically proven to be some pretty shaky metrics, while ignoring other leading indicators that may be telling a different story.

I spent a good part of the day on Saturday pulling together polling data from past congressional elections and I could not at this moment rule out the possibility this one *could* turn out to be about a wash. I also can't help remembering that at this point in 1998, all disagreement in the Village also centered on how many seats Republicans were going to gain.

Posted by: CalD | July 19, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Most Americans know Republicans Want to Extend the unemployment benefits, they're Only asking that Democrats do it in a Fiscally-responsible manner.
Obama needs to get off the soapbox and do his job. Cut the waste and fraud in the government's budget (this was one of his campaign promises), there's plenty of money there.
Obama's not fooling anyone anymore.

Posted by: ohioan | July 19, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Wobegonne: No one paid those high marginal tax rates. The tax code was riddled with loopholes and accountants devised ever-more-cynical tax avoidance schemes. That was what the 1986 reform (and the AMT) was supposed to stop.

But it is true that the Kennedy tax cuts were stimiulative because of 90% top rates, and the Reagan tax cuts were initially because 70% top rates. But that no longer works, and tax cuts for the rich are now just redistribuitionist--to the top .5%.

On Christian Reconstructionists, I'd highly recommend Max Blumenthal's extensively researched book "Republican Gommorah--Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party." It is a real eye-opener on just who these people like Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer, Howard Ahmanson, Rev Dobson et al really are and what they are like. Must be out in paperback by now. It's also entertaining if you like black humor.

Posted by: Mimikatz | July 19, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"Can President Obama use the bully pulpit to persuade the public that Republicans, not Democrats, are to blame for government dysfunction in the face of struggling recovery"

answer= NO!

Posted by: JBfromFL | July 19, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

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