Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Pelosi’

NYT: Pelosi Needs to Step Down

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The New York Times Editorial Board on Pelosi’s move to become House Minority Leader

Republicans Celebrate Pelosi’s Return

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Perhaps the only thing more demoralizing than this week’s midterm loss of Congress is Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she will seek the Minority Leader’s position. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Pelosi would be the first Majority Leader since Sam Rayburn in 1948 to accept a demotion to Minority Leader.

Let me be clear. Nancy Pelosi has been a remarkably effective speaker in terms of getting things done. I wrote previously that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have done more in two years than most presidents do in two terms, and it’s worth noting that even more would have been accomplished if the bills that passed by Nancy Pelosi’s House would have passed the Senate.

But despite legislative success, Pelosi has often been an inarticulate spokesperson for Democratic causes and, as a female San Francisco liberal, she has been a lighning rod for the opposition party, not unlike both Newt Gingrich in the late 1990′s and Tom Delay in the last decade.  Her term as Speaker ended with a historic defeat propelled by the fact that many of the candidates won by effectively nationalizing the elections and running against the Speaker. 

A few months ago, I wrote about the irony of 2010, which is that losing the House and Senate might be a better outcome for Barack Obama’s electoral fortunes (if not his legislative ones), by allowing him to draw distinctions between himself and the Republicans. I still believe that this is true, but it is undoubtedly less true now that Harry Reid kept his position as Senate Majority Leader and the effect of electing more Democrats could be the return of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

There has been much discussion about the center of gravity shifting in the party with the defeat of many of the conservative Blue dogs and the survival of more liberal Democrats in safe districts that tend to support Pelosi, but this isn’t about ideology. It’s a raw political calculation. The next Minority Leader can be liberal or moderate, but I think it’s clear that the Democrats have a better chance at electing Democrats and regaining power with someone other than Nancy Pelosi leading the party.

It’s time for Pelosi to step down and welcome a new generation of leadership to protect the gains of the last two years and  build a new foundation for electoral success in the future. Early indications are that this won’t happen, but there’s still time for a competent challenger to emerge.

Revisiting the Democrats’ Record

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Here’s Rachel Maddow on the accomplishments of the Democrats in the past two years.

It may be cold comfort at this point, but Americans will be seeing the benefits of the legislation of the past two years for a long time.

Maddow points out how Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats decided to use the political capital that they built up over the two election cycles. Equal pay for women,  a children’s health care expansion, ending subsidies to corporate banks for college loans, a major national service program expansion, the largest investments in energy and education in the country’s history, health care for 30 million more Americans, regulation (however tepid) of the banks to mitigate the possibility of another financial crisis, significant increases in assistance for veterans… I’m sure I missed something.

There will be significant debate about this for years. Would it have been better to go for incremental change and try to hold on to power for another election cycle? Maybe. Was it not the effort and the goals, but the specific deals that were cut that decreased the popularity of the legislation?  Yes, I think so.

But one thing is certain: you can criticise Nancy Pelosi for a lot of things, but it’s hard to say that she’s been ineffective as a Speaker of the House when it comes to getting things done. In two years, the conservatives’ unholy triumvirate of Obama, Pelosi and Reid accomplished more than most teams accomplish in two presidential terms.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that they got all of this done despite the fact that the Republican party as a whole decided that they would rather see the three of them fail than to resolve the issues that have been plaguing us as a country for years.

New Polls Mixed Bag for Democrats

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Two new polls indicate that the narrative of the unavoidable tsunami for Democrats may be exaggerated.

Both the New York Times and Politico have polls released today that show some nuance that isn’t picked up in the “Democrats are doomed” coverage.

In the New York Times poll, 55% of people  say that they think their own Representative should be replaced, an extraordinarily high number since, in most years, people often say that Congress should change, but still want to re-elect their own representatives.  That’s a very ominous number for the Democratic party, which holds a 70 plus majority in the House. Still, in a pattern that is becoming common,  the poll found that voters disapprove of Congressional Republican’s performance (73%) more than Congressional Democrats’ (63%). Their generic ballot shows Republicans with a 2% lead, but a significant number of voters still undecided. 

Meanwhile, Politico’s poll provides a regional take on the races. While they find likely voters evenly split between the parties, they break this split up by region, showing that Democrats hold a 5 point advantage in the Midwest and Northeast, a 20 point advantage in the West, but (most ominously) a 24% disadvantage in the Mountain West, which has been seen as a significant area of future for growth for the party.

Politico also details the enthusiasm gap, with 95% of usual Republican voters saying that the intended to vote as opposed to 87% of usual Democratic voters saying they intend to vote.

That last stat is perhaps the most revealing. Republicans hate the Democrats with a passion and are can’t wait to toss them out. Democrats, meanwhile, don’t like the Republicans, but they’re not thrilled with the Democrats either. In an indication of the difference in profile between Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, Pelosi’s approval disaproval numbers are 31/52. Boehner’s meanwhile are 16/21, with a majority either not knowing who he is or not having an opinion one  way or the other about him.

The bottom line from these two polls? This thing isn’t over yet, but if the Democrats can’t figure out a way to motivate their base, it will be soon.

The Irony of 2010

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Last week, Robert Gibbs set off a firestorm when he said what everyone already knows on Meet the Press: the Democrats could lose the House his year. This set off howls of protest from House members who feel that they have put their careers on the line for President Obama and that he has not shown the same level of commitment to them.

Meanwhile, prognosticators are reading the tea leaves for signs of how the electorate will respond in 2010 and whether this election will resemble the wave elections of 1994 and 1996 or the smaller, but significant, losses of the Reagan Republicans in 1982.

The irony of this all is that a favorable outcome for their respective Congressional parties may be a liability for the both President Obama and Republican presidential candidates in 2012.

Let’s stipulate up front that the loss of the House would be a clear setback for Obama and would put his agenda going forward in peril. Losing the House could also have long term implications for Democrats, since incumbency brings inherent advantages (such as a re-election rate that hovers in the 96% range) and having power in the present significantly increases a party’s chance of having power in the future.

For Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have been extremely helpful in pushing forward his agenda. Although he is not reaping the benefits in the polls, he has been remarkably successful at enacting policy. In less than two years, he has passed a budget that sets new priorities for the country, as well as the trifecta of a stimulus plan, health care reform and financial reform. A (much watered down) energy bill is on deck. The House of Representatives has been a key part of this effort, moving first on all four issues and providing a liberal push as counterweight to the slow moving, inherently conservative Senate. To lose control of the House would be a dramatic blow to Obama’s ability to enact new programs going forward.

On the Republican side, there is probably no one as reviled as Nancy Pelosi. The Republican faithful would like nothing more than to take Pelosi and Reid out of power and hand the Democrats a historic defeat.

But any careful observer can see that that taking or keeping control of the House may not in the best long term interests of Obama or of the Republican hopefuls in 2012.

For Obama, a Republican House would provide a useful foil for him in making his 2010 case for re-election, just as Newt Gingrich was for Bill Clinton. With the defeat of most moderate Republicans over the past five years, the party now consists of mostly hard line libertarians, extreme social conservatives and a gang of formerly independent statesmen who have been so cowed by the Tea Party that they act just like the Rand Paul wing of the party. In recent polling, only 32% of Americans believed that the Democrats in Congress could be trusted to make the right decisions. The only group who polled lower were the Republicans at 26%. The entire key to the 2010 elections (and by extension the 2012 elections) will be to make the contest a choice of two competing ideologies instead of a referendum on Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

For Republican presidential candidates, the situation is equally clear. Running in 2012 against Pelosi, Reid and Obama would be a much easier campaign to frame than one in which Republicans had any measure of control or claim to responsibility for the situation.

In addition, there is plenty of evidence that Congressional Republicans are not quite ready for prime time. Every other time John Boehner opens his mouth he says something that shows how out of touch he is. For the past two years, their policy has been based on one thing: saying no to everything proposed by Obama, Pelosi and Reid. They complain incessantly about Democratic proposals, but didn’t have anything particularly serious to offer on the major issues of the day (health care, financial regulation, energy). They regularly bemoan deficit projections, but the closest thing they have to a plan is conservative wunderkind Paul Ryan’s Roadmap, a serious plan to balance the budget to be sure, but one that relies on privatizing both Social Security and Medicare, as well as raising taxes on the middle class while slashing them for those with higher incomes (all policies that have found very little support among the American people) At last count, Ryan’s Roadmap was endorsed by nine Congressmen.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that, beginning next year, the focus of the country will most likely be on developing a long term deficit reduction plan. As discussed here before, the bi-partisan Simpson/Bowles Budget Deficit Reduction Commission will release its findings at the end of the year. In it will be a plan to cut deficits to $550 billion by 2015.  This plan should shift the conversation significantly. While their will be a debate on the specific plan, the report should make clear that the current path is unsustainable, that taxes and revenues need to increase and that budgets will need to be cut. This will be an opportunity for Obama to move to the center, provide a plan to decrease the projected long term deficits and refashion himself into the pragmatic candidate that he ran as in 2008.

If the Democrats do maintain control, it will be an opportunity for them to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility that they have lost over the past two years and do it in a way that preserves Democratic priorities. But this process will be difficult to enact because of the fractious nature of the Democratic party, what will surely be smaller margins in the House and the complete lack of a credible partner in the Republicans.

On the other hand, if the Republicans take the House this year they will be forced to provide their own alternate plan to balance the budget. Given American’s historical aversion to sacrifice and the slim menu of choices available, this plan is likely to be unpopular and Obama can take advantage of the contrast to frame a choice between two competing visions of the country. If Republicans try to compromise and implement some real austerity programs with Obama’s support, this could be win-win for both parties, but it will make it much more difficult for Republicans to argue that Obama is a dangerous socialist. If, on the other hand, there is a long lasting standoff, Obama will be able to turn up the heat with the bully pulpit, returning to the stump to campaign against the vision of the party in power.

In the meantime, the fight for the House goes on and you can expect to see Obama and the Republican presidential hopefuls giving it their all.

But don’t be surprised if there are a few people in the White House (or in the Romney campaign) who don’t shed too many tears if their side loses.

We’re Sorry BP

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A running theme of my writing for the past month or so had been what I call the obvious Democratic strategy of drawing distinctions between themselves and Republicans. To that end, Congressman Joe Barton’s statement last week played right into their hands. 

Thanks to the deal President Obama inked with BP last week, the victims of the BP oil spill won’t have to go through what people whose businesses were ruined by the Exxon Valdez spill did: 20 years of litigation that ended with the Republican Supreme Court slashing the amount of compensation paid to them.

To most people, this would seem to be an unalloyed positive development. But not to many Republicans.

At a hearing that was meant to grill BP’s CEO Tony Hayward on the causes and remedies for the oil spill, Congressman Joe Barton spoke of  a “tragedy of the first proportion.”

Okay, so far so good. Anyone looking at the oil washing up on Gulf Coast shores could agree with that.

Except that Barton wasn’t referring to the spill itself, but rather to the settlement that BP had agreed to under pressure from the White House. He wrapped up his remarks by saying to BP’s CEO:

“I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize.”

Well who cares what some Oil Patch Republican who is the largest recipient of oil money in the Congress says? Why is it relevant? Well, it’s relevant because this douchebag is the Ranking Republican on the Energy Committee. If the Republicans succeed in kicking out Nancy Pelosi, this guy will be the head of the committee that any legislation that involves energy needs to come out of.

In case anyone thought that he was an outlier, the “Republican Study Committee,” an organization whose membership includes 2/3 of the Republicans in the House, released a statement earlier in the day that called the pressure put on BP to create this fund “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

Surprise! Rush Limbaugh was reading from the same playbook. He called the escrow account a “slush fund” and said that the money would probably be given to “ACORN type people or union activists.”

Michele Bachman (in the running for Dumbest member of Congress) called the fund to pay victims a “redistribution-of-wealth fund” and said:

“If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Well fair enough, BP shouldn’t have to pay for illegitimate claims, but it makes you wonder about these people’s mindsets when they’re more worried about illegitimate claims than about the destruction of the ecosystem and the economy of the entire Gulf Coast for a period of years

But it’s all par for the course for Republicans. These people look at birds drowning in oil on our shores and shrug their shoulders, then they watch President Obama convince BP to voluntarily give up $5 billion a year for 4 years to compensate victims and call it “a tragedy of the first proportion.”

Like Tea Party Darling Rand Paul said (in an echo of Donald Rumsfeld), “accidents happen.”

Yeah, accidents happen when you work in an industry that has lax regulations and even more lax enforcement; accidents happen when you lead your competitors by a margin of 760 to 8, 2 or 1 on “egregious, willful” safety violations; and accidents happen when you’re behind on drilling a well and you encourage your employees to take shortcuts to save the company money.

Not to be outdone by Ron Paul in his defense of allowing corporations to abuse their power without the check of government, Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate in Nevada not only favors making Nevada the sole repository of nuclear waste in the country, but wants to abolish the Department of Energy, which regulates the storage of nuclear waste.

What could possibly go wrong?

If these guys have their way, the coastal waters of America would look like the coast of Nigeria, where some have estimated that they have endured the equivalant of the Exxon Valdeez oil spill every year for 50 years.

Like I said, there’s something to be said for drawing distinctions and the Republicans did a pretty good job at that this week. Americans would do well to think about this when they go to the ballot box this November. They might not like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, but would they rather have a guy who thinks we all owe BP an apology running the committee that sets the regulations for them? Would they rather have a guy who says that it’s un-American to hold BP accountable for their toxic oil spill? Would they rather replace Harry Reid with a woman who thinks, in the wake of the largest environmental history, that the EPA is unconstitutional?

The distinctions are out there. They’re just waiting for someone to make them. As Frank Rich wrote in this weeks NY Times:

While the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a trying juncture for Obama, it also provides him with a nearly unparalleled opening to make his and government’s case. The spill’s sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons. If this president can speak lucidly of race to America, he can certainly explain how the antigovernment crusaders are often the paid toadies of bad actors like BP. Such big corporations are only too glad to replace big government with governance of their own, by their own, and for their own profit — while the “small people” are left to eat cake at their tea parties.

Rahm Emmanuel has long been  pilloried by the Right for his statement that you should ”never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, this debate is long overdue. If the BP Oil Spill and the Casino-Capitalism-enabled Great Recession don’t provoke that debate, then the Democrats’ prospects for this years elections are even dimmer than originally expected. And we as a country will have succeeded in doing exactly that.

Where’s the Tea Party When We Need Them?

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Great article by Peter Beinart about the Tea Party’s (and the Right in general’s) MIA status on the Arizona immigration law.

I personally think that the changes made over the weekend now make the law just troubling instead of borderline fascist. But if you just spent the past two years incessantly complaining that President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are “taking away our freedom” and creating a Nazi-like police state, you would think that you might be concerned about a law that allows the police to detain law abiding residents and keep them in custody until they can prove that they’re American citizens.

Not an issue for the Tea Partier’s I guess because they’re 95% white people who vote Republican and aren’t in danger of being detained.