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The Morning Plum

* The unemployment game of chicken continues: Drawing the battle lines on an emotionally potent issue that will be debated right though the midterm elections in states and districts across the country, the Senate is set to approve an extension of unemployment benefits today. Only a handful of Republicans are expected to support it.

Here's the framing. After today, Dems will be able to argue: We passed a measure bringing relief to millions of Americans, and almost none of those heartless Republicans voted for it. But Republicans will continue to insist: Our opposition to extending the benefits without offsetting the costs shows we stood firm against rampant Dem spending and the ballooning deficit. Both sides appear confident that the issue plays to their base.

* Republicans think their opposition will rev up rank and file Republicans by positioning them as a check on Obama's Big Government overreach.

* But, also in the above link, the White House is convinced it has the upper hand. As Rahm Emanuel put it:

"To govern is to choose, and this is a clear choice: You either support extending benefits for people who are out of work or you don't."

* The extension that's expected to pass today is a lifeline for 2.5 million Americans, but Annie Lowry explains why the bill falls short by leaving out other stimulus-spending measures that Dems had previously envisioned.

* And Ezra Klein notes that the scaled down extension "shows that the space for stimulus spending is rapidly narrowing to almost nothing even as high unemployment persists."

* Arthur Delaney takes a look at the history of efforts to extend unemployment benefits and concludes that the GOP demand for substantial cuts elsewhere to offset the extension is unprecedented.

* And the DNC is seizing on Pete Sessions's assertion that "we need to go back to the exact same agenda" with a new ad that repeats the phrase "exact same agenda" no less than seven times:

"Republican candidates should except to see this ad on a television station near them this fall," a DNC official says. "Republicans have given us an opening to tie them back to Bush and have also helped us frame this election as a choice -- between Obama and Bush."

* Important read: The White House is playing the long game on immigration, betting that Republicans are making a major miscalculation in the long run:

West Wing strategists argue that the president's call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics -- much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

Of course, now all the White House and Dems have to do is pass legislation already.

* Gallup: Dems have jumped into a six point lead in the generic ballot matchup, and the shift, which is driven by movement among independents, came as Dem debated and passed Wall Street reform.

* Delirium over at DNC headquarters as House Republicans wrestle with the momentous decision over whether to join MIchele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus.

* And also in the above link: Politico observes that Bachmann "has brought the tea party inside the Capitol." I don't think it's fully understood how successfully Bachmann has remade herself as a national figure.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  July 20, 2010; 8:27 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
Next: The public view of unemployment benefits


Morning, All:

Greg, a couple of housekeeping items. Typos: "benefist" and "Delerium".

Also, where is the Rahm quote from? The link just goes to his profile.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 20, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I would donate money to both campaigns to see both Bachmann and Palin in the GOP primary in 2012. Why else make yourself a national figure if you are not looking to run. Or are we trying to set up Speaker Bachmann? Can you picture the first GOP debate that could have Bachmann, Palin, Gingrich, Tancredo, Huckabee and a Paul (one of them is going to be there). And picture Romney and Pawlenty trying to burnish their conservative cred next to these people. The crazy could be with something like this.

Posted by: zattarra | July 20, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

The dust-up on unemployment benefits helps the Democrats NOT the Republicans because in the Fall there is going to be a battle on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The Congress will probably pass extending the Bush tax cuts for two years for the middle class but letting the tax cuts expire for the rich (they have the backing of Greenspan on this).

As a result, it will be framed that Republicans blocked unemployment benefits for the middle class because it wasn't payed for yet they want to extend tax cuts for the rich eventhough it isn't payed for. The Republicans will argue that these tax cuts stimulate the economy but the Dems can so that so do these unemployment benefits.

In the end the Democrats want to come out saying that they are FOR the middle class and the working class while Republicans are FOR special interests, Wall Street, and the rich.

Posted by: maritza1 | July 20, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

@Greg, Re: Unemployment "Framing"

Polls have consistently shown that the public at large believe extending unemployment benefits is vastly more important than the deficit. If the debate plays out the way you present it, the GOP is going to be on the losing end. That's even with the help of the media, which is in the tank for the GOP anyways.

Re: The DNC Ad

That's ANOTHER rushed and terrible ad from the DNC.

You want to make this election a "choice" election, then you have take Sessions' comments, tie them to Kyl's comments, and wrap it up with one more similar comment from the GOP...then the tagline "this is how they'd govern".

Simple repetition isn't going to cut it. You need to create a meme...and this sort of ad just makes it look like you could only find one instance of the GOP wanting to follow the same policies as before.

They need to argue that it's a TREND.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 20, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Also, wasn't there a comment from Robert Gibbs that they are going to have to go through the unemployment debate again for a possible extension in November. Unemployment extensions are popular - most Americans are more compassionate than Congressional Republicans - this is going to be a very big debate in October/November with a choice at the ballot box right there. one party will be arguing for $33 billion in unpaid benefits for helping unemployed people get $150-300 a week to live on. Another party will be arguing for $700 billion in unpaid benefits for the wealthiest people in America. When the majority of the public actually pays attention to a midterm election (the month before an election) and decides if they are going to vote and how this is going to be a huge part of the message war.

Posted by: zattarra | July 20, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

They need to argue that it's a TREND.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 20, 2010 8:45 AM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | July 20, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

No unemployment? Thank the republicans! For the rest of you -When the economy stalls again - you can thank the republicans too. The republican’s weren’t worried about the deficit when that big insurance company and their friends the Wall Street execs were giving themselves bonuses with taxpayer money!!! Next election – let Congress feel the sting of the unemployment lines!!! No more raping and pillaging the middle class!!! – How many years have you paid taxes? 30? 40? Your government bails out bankers and Wall Street execs using your tax dollars – but unemployment is allowed to expire? What happened to "by the people" or "for the people"? Or are the big campaign contributors the only "people" who count to congress? They are playing games AGAIN FOR THE THIRD TIME while you are wondering how to feed your kids? Figure it out! Malfeasance – Failure of a public official to perform their duties!!! Next Election MAKE YOURSELF MATTER BY VOTING!!! 10% unemployment carries 10% of the vote! Use it!! Fire them all next election or recall every Congress member NOW for Malfeasance – Failure of a public official to perform their duties!!! Next Election - Lets get people elected who actually represent all the People- this current congress represents only special interest groups!

Posted by: agh1 | July 20, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Republicans want to pay for their tax cuts for tycoons with your Social Security.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | July 20, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"Republicans think their opposition will rev up rank and file Republicans by positioning them as a check on Obama's Big Government overreach."

Anyone want to take the bet that there aren't a fair number of long-term unemployed folks among the Republican rank and file? I wonder how many will turn down those checks on principle?

Posted by: CalD | July 20, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse


"The former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller today delivered a withering assessment of the case for war against Iraq.

Manningham-Buller said the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was low and that the US-led invasion in 2003 had done more harm than good.

...Manningham-Buller was damning about the impact of the invasion on Iraq, saying the toppling of Saddam had allowed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida to move in. "Arguably, we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad," she added."

Posted by: bernielatham | July 20, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

The collapse of complex societies/institutions...

For those who bother to read this piece, and who then go on to consider what possibilities or probabilities wait on the other side of the inevitable 'simplification', I wish you a fine day.

Posted by: bernielatham | July 20, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

@zattarra: that scenario for Republican debates would be political porn for Dems!

Posted by: OKeefePup | July 20, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Gallup: Dems have jumped into a six point lead in the generic ballot matchup, and the shift, which is driven by movement among independents, came as Dem debated and passed Wall Street reform.

The Gallup poll has shown Republicans this far ahead a couple of times this year, only to see them come crashing back to earth in the next one -- earth in this cases being a deadlocked race at ~46%. I'll believe this one when I see 3 more just like it.

The generic ballot seems to be of pretty dubious predictive value anyway until such time as one side or the other pulls pretty far ahead and stays there. It's certainly not uncommon to see either side coming in 5 points ahead in midsummer generic ballot tests and still lose seats in congress (I went back and checked the other day). And it's often not even within single digits of predicting the makeup of the next congress, which is the thing one would think it properly should be telling you. But gerrymandering pretty much guarantees it's pretty worthless for that as well.

Posted by: CalD | July 20, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"Ex-MI5 Spy Chief: No Link Between Hussein, 9/11

July 20, 2010

British and U.S. intelligence had no credible evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States before the 2003 Iraq invasion, the ex-head of Britain's domestic spy agency told the country's inquiry into the war Tuesday.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, director of the MI5 between 2002 and 2007, said that nothing to connect the attacks to Baghdad was discovered ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ex-spy chief also said the war caused allies to lose focus on the al-Qaida threat in Afghanistan, emboldened Osama bin Laden and led to the radicalization of a generation of homegrown British extremists.

Manningham-Buller said those pushing the case for war in the United States gave undue prominence to scraps of inconclusive intelligence on possible links between Iraq and the 2001 attacks, singling out the then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"There was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA," she told the inquiry. "It was not a judgment that found favor with some parts of the American machine."

She suggested the dispute led Rumsfeld to disregard CIA intelligence in favor of work produced by his own department.

"It is why Donald Rumsfeld started an alternative intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment," said Manningham-Buller, who was a frequent visitor to the U.S. as MI5 chief. "To my mind, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and I have never seen anything to make me change my mind."

Manningham-Buller, who is now a member of the House of Lords, said that the focus of Britain and the U.S. on Iraq had also had far reaching consequences for the mission to tackle global terrorism.

"By focusing on Iraq we reduced the focus on the al-Qaida threat in Afghanistan. I think that was a long-term, major and strategic problem," Manningham-Buller told the panel.

She acknowledged the Iraq war vastly increased the terrorism threat to Britain — with her officers battling to handle a torrent of terrorism plots launched by homegrown radicals in the wake of the 2003 invasion.


Since Sarah, The Grizzly Shakespeare considers a Muslim center near the twin towers site to be a provocation;

Then what is having our VP swearing in foreign born Troops to become US Citizens, in one of Saddam's old buildings, and then having the VP brag about having done so? How must that strike the people of Iraq, who had their country invaded by the US, based on a pack of lies?

Shouldn't A Christian Shakespearean Grizzly Refudiate that?!

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks wbgonne...the link to the Rahm quote is in the item just above it...

...and hey Liam, how goes it?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 20, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"Polls have consistently shown that the public at large believe extending unemployment benefits is vastly more important than the deficit."

I knew somebody would point this out, and if they didn't I would've. Thanks BBQ! :)

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

CBS News Poll. July 9-12, 2010

"What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"

Economy/Jobs 38 ***
War/Iraq/Afghanistan 7
Health care 6
Oil spill in Gulf 5
Budget deficit/Debt 5 ***
Immigration 4
Other 31
Unsure 4

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. June 29-30, 2010

"Which ONE of the following do you think is most important for the president to be working on right now?"

Economy and jobs 32 ***
Gulf oil spill 14
Deficit/govt spending 12 ***
Health care 6
Iraq and Afghanistan 6
Immigration 4
Terrorism and natl security 4
Taxes 1
All (vol.) 20
None/Other (vol.) 1
Unsure 1

Other polls have it about the same with the economy/jobs far and away the #1 issue, usually about DOUBLE the importance to voters of deficit/govt spending.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I don't think anyone linked this tpm piece about the right wing's freakout about Muslim Mosques. We're having one practically in my backyard here in CA.

"The Ground Zero site -- more precisely, a plot of land two blocks away from the site where the World Trade Center once stood -- has been the subject of right-wing fear mongering for months now.

At best, you have criticisms like the one from the Washington Times editorial page back in May, which called an approval of the plan to build the 13-story cultural center an example of the "overweening and unnecessary deference to Muslims" that characterized America's "effort to memorialize 9/11."

At worst, you have the overt bigotry of Sarah Palin's tweeted call for "peaceful Muslims" (that'd be 'the good ones,' for those scoring at home) to oppose the community center in New York, a move she suggested would show compassion towards those in the "heartland" for whom the idea of a building full of American Muslims doing two things the Constitution guarantees them the right to do -- assembling and worshiping -- is a " the heart."

Posted by: lmsinca | July 20, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

There is another point that the Democrats seem to be missing.

The Republicans in congress need to prove their bona fides to the conservatives in America.

Mr Sargent and other omniscient liberals should harken back to the 06 elections and the mood of the Republican voters then. We were already ticked at the spending and failure to adhere to conservative principles. Especially about spending. Pork was a problem, even then.

yesterday NRO ran an essay titled "Don't Trust the GOP". The Democrats simply provided the Republicans with an opportunity to show fiscal probity and at the same time differentiate themselves from the congressional Democrats.

Ultimately the Democrats will find a way to rationalize spending money we don't have, as the folks here are doing even as I write this.

Their hope has to be that Americans will fall for the emotional appeal of bread and circuses without worrying about the real dangers of debt, taxation and over spending.

If indeed the electorate returns the spendthrifts to congress then we really will have the government we deserve.

And when the republic ultimately falters and fails, we'll have only ourselves to blame.

As Machievelli said, sustaning a republic over a long period is impossible because there are a thousand ways to fail.

How sad for us.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | July 20, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

To the GOP, emergency spending for unemployed Americans

= "bread and circuses"

That says it all.

Actually, that doesn't say it all.

What says it all is that they are calling emergency spending for unemployed Americans "bread and circuses" but this is the SAME GOP that added over $5 TRILLION to the debt and over $1 TRILLION to the deficit in the last 10 years.

"bread and circuses" indeed.

The GOP idea of governing is:

1) Lie to America.

2) Pray that Americans are stupid enough to fall for their lies.

3) Take advantage of the American economy and bleed the government to death if they get power.

Americans clearly aren't listening to the GOP message. They want the federal government, Congress, and the POTUS to focus on restoring the economy. And right now that means stopping the damage by helping the millions of unemployed.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Reality Check:

Clinton Budget Surplus:

Turned Into:

Bush/Cheney massive Budget Deficits, and a War Of Choice, Unpaid For, and kept out of the Budget Process.

Current Senate and House Republican Leadership had their fingerprints all over that, so putting them back in charge, would be like letting the Arsonists take over the Fire Fighting Dept.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

CBO (Douglas W. Elmendorf):

Extending additional unemployment benefits would directly help those who would otherwise exhaust their unemployment benefits between March and December of this year. Households receiving unemployment benefits tend to spend the additional benefits quickly, making this option both timely and cost-effective in spurring economic activity and employment. A variant of this option would extend assistance with paying health insurance premiums, which would allow some recipients to maintain health insurance coverage they would otherwise have dropped. This variant would result in increased demand for health care services, and it would increase the income available to purchase other goods and services for recipients who would have purchased insurance even without this special assistance. Both policy options could dampen people’s efforts to look for work, although that concern is less of a factor when employment opportunities are expected to be limited for some time.

CBO estimates that those policies would raise output cumulatively between 2010 and 2015 by $0.70 to $1.90 per dollar of total budgetary cost. CBO also estimates that the policies would add 8 to 19 cumulative years of full-time-equivalent employment in 2010 and 2011 per million dollars of total budgetary cost.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 20, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

...and hey Liam, how goes it?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 20, 2010 10:02 AM


Hey Greg,

Doing well. Still able to sit up and take nourishment, and marvel at the splendor of each

Posted by: Liam-still | July 20, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

All, here's why Republicans say they aren't worried about the standoff over unemployment benefits:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 20, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I totally love that Pete Sessions ad! Love it! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT.....

Posted by: SDJeff | July 20, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Check out CNN's coverage this morning of the black USDA employee who resigned over her alleged discrimination against a white farmer.

It seems there's been a gross miscarriage of justice--the NAACP and
the Dept. of Agriculture bought the Fox/Beibart slant and condemned
Shirley Sherrod without knowing the full story. She did not
discriminate against a white farmer while working for the USDA, and
yet she has resigned over it. She was describing thoughts she had in
the mid-1980's, before she worked for the USDA, but she did not act on
those thoughts. Instead she did everything she could for the farmer,
and his widow has now come forward to verify this and give Sherrod her heart-felt

I think Sherrod needs to sue the USDA. The Tea Party/Fox
is trying to make the case that blacks discriminate against whites and
apparently the NAACP and USDA fell for it. The CNN interview with Sherrod telling her side of the story is really riveting. The Atlanta Journal has the latest on the story too:

Posted by: jandmward | July 20, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Unemployment in my state, Michigan, is 13.2%. The Michigan republican representatives in Congress have done their part in obstructing the President and Democrats.

We also have more than our share of republican right-wing kabobs and pseudo-Christians, many, many of them have no jobs and with the lose of much of the industry here, have no prospects.

You can be sure that they haven't, nor will, turn down unemployment benefits based on principle. They trash the lib'ruls but they will still have that hand out for that unemployment check. And not even acknowledge who fought to get it to them.

One sad thing here is that there is little to no reporting in the local newspapers about how the obstruction by the republican politicians in Congress have impacted the unemployed in this State.

No obvious concern.

Posted by: Sammy2 | July 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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