That didn’t take long. Arlen Specter’s first two votes as a new Democratic senator were against top priorities of his adopted party and President Barack Obama. Specter left the Republican Party after figuring out he couldn’t win the GOP primary in Pennsylvania when he’s up for re-election next year. Still, he warned Obama and his new comrades he would continue to be independent-minded. And how! First he voted against the Democrat/Obama budget resolution, then he voted against a provision called “cram-down” that would let bankruptcy judges re-write terms of existing home mortgage agreements. Welcome to the party, Arlen!
One of the wonders of Washington is how moderate-to-liberal politicians get elected to the Senate from some of America’s reddest states. Take Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad from North Dakota.
George W. Bush won the state with 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2004. Last year, a tough year for Republicans, John McCain won with 53 percent, still a fairly comfortable margin. That’s a pretty red state to be electing senators who voted the liberal position 68 percent of the time (Dorgan) and nearly 65 percent of the time (Conrad) in 2008, according to the National Journal.
Conrad, especially, is a Houdini when it comes to some sleight of hand with the home folks. This week he was the decisive vote in a House-Senate conference to let the Senate pass major health-care legislation under “reconciliation” rules — with 51 votes instead of the 60 usually required on controversial bills. This, although Conrad says he’s opposed to using reconciliation that way. And, despite an image as a “skin-flint deficit hawk,” as a Wall Street Journal editorial described him, Conrad as Budget Committee chairman shepherded President Barack Obama’s $3.5 trillion spending plan to passage.
Then again, Conrad’s next election’s still more than a year away. Plenty of time to convince North Dakotans not to believe what they see.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement that he will run for re-election next year as a Democrat, abandoning the Republican label he has borne since he first won election to the Senate in 1980, immediately got people in Washington talking about a filibuster-proof Democratic majority. Specter and Al Franken, the odds-on favorite to win Minnesota’s disputed Senate race, would give Democrats 60 votes — enough to prevent the GOP from procedurally blocking legislation.
On paper, anyway. Yet Specter warned he will not be a reliable 60th vote for Democrats. In fact, the party switch looks like a pragmatic move by a veteran pol who knew his chances of winning a Republican primary in Pennsylvania were “bleak.” Specter had to make the move or likely see his Senate career ended next year by former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, because Pennsylvania has a “sore loser” law that bars someone who loses a primary election from running in the general election as an independent.
So, instead of being a headache for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who often worried the Pennsylvanian would stray on key votes, Specter becomes Majority Leader Harry Reid’s concern. It’s a real one. Specter said he won’t change his views on key issues because he changed parties. He cited his opposition to “card check” legislation coveted by Democrats as an example.
For years Specter was viewed with suspicion by Republicans because of his moderate-to-liberal positions. He was called a “RINO” — Republican in name only. Now Democrats may well be exasperated by his independence. If so, maybe they’ll refer to Arlen Specter as a “DINO” — Democrat in name only.
An Ardmore mother will find her bank account about $3,000 lighter because her high school-age daughter kept missing school. Here’s hoping parents will get the message prosecutor Craig Ladd was aiming for. “Parents have several responsibilities when it comes to their children,” Ladd told The Daily Ardmoreite. “One responsibility that gets overlooked by some parents is making their children attend school, and we take school attendance very seriously. This case is good example of just how costly that failed responsibility can be.” Indeed. Schools have cracked down on truancy in recent years, knowing that students don’t learn if they’re not in school and because attendance rates now factor into the state’s school rating system. The ideal solution has students back in class before the case hits the court system. But when that doesn’t work, parents shouldn’t be surprised if they find themselves in front of a judge.
Members of Congress who think they’d like to see former Bush administration officials prosecuted for authorizing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terror-war suspects might want to do some re-thinking.
The Washington Times reports between 2002 and 2006 the CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans more than 30 times about the controversial methods. Those briefed included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., former chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Republicans included another former Intelligence Committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, currently the top GOP member on the House Intelligence Committee.
Hoekstra isn’t among those clamoring for a witch hunt, and he has sent a letter to the CIA asking for a full list of lawmakers who were briefed about the interrogation techniques — procedures President Barack Obama’s own director of National Intelligence says produced “high value information” about al-Qaida. Congress could have ended such interrogation tactics by withdrawing funding but didn’t.
Logically, if there’s going to be criminal liability for Bush Justice Department lawyers who wrote the interrogation memos, people in Congress who knew about the program that resulted from those memos likely would have some liability as well. We’ll have to see whether that point cools enthusiasm for an interrogation inquisition going forward.
The White House is ordering a haircut. Not for President Barack Obama. For the Executive Branch departments.
Obama convened his Cabinet Monday and ordered department heads to trim their budgets by a combined $100 million over the next 90 days. He says the reductions will help overcome a “confidence gap” among Americans about the use of their tax dollars.
Obviously, Obama is looking at a different gap, a far smaller gap, than the one that sent thousands of Americans to Tax Day tea parties last week, protesting Washington’s spending ways. How small? The cut Obama ordered amounts to .000028 percent of his $3.5 trillion budget.
“We have a deficit, a confidence gap, when it comes to the American people,” Obama said. “And we’ve got to earn their trust.”
Even if it’s only .000028 percent at a time.
It’s good the Maersk Alabama episode ended well for Capt. Richard Phillips, with U.S. Navy snipers taking out three Somali pirates who were holding him after an attack on his container ship last week. The affair produced a national discussion, including some pretty clever posts over at the Exurban League blog, which originates in the Phoenix area.
The best was a spoof of what the Obama administration might produce in the way of a counter-pirate strategy: an appeal to the “moderate pirate community.” Mimicking President Barack Obama’s style, the blog produced a fake presidential pirate statement: “I have instructed Vice President Joe Biden to create a cabinet-level Czar of Pirate Outreach and Buccaneer Interrelation. In addition, June 1-7 has been designated Pirate Awareness Week, during which all federal buildings will fly the Jolly Roger and sponsor sensitivity training.”
After Phillips’ rescue Sunday, a follow-up pirate post suggests Obama deal with any future menace by enlisting the ideal counter-force: Vikings. “President Obama should immediately build a small fleet of wooden longboats capable of sustained littoral operations,” the blog says. “Supply routes are unnecessary since the Vikings simply raid unprotected coastal areas for supplies. And, powered by wind and oar, this truly green-water fleet should easily pass muster with the EPA and most environmental NGOs.”
Pretty good stuff.
The Obama administration has been careful not to use the word “terrorists” to refer to the Somali pirates who attacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship and held its captain last week. Certainly, what these pirates do on the high seas is terrorizing. There’s probably not a ship’s crew in that part of the world that isn’t worried about meeting the same fate as the Maersk Alabama.
Still, the administration, which has stopped calling the global fight against al-Qaida and associated groups the “war on terror,” was careful not to call the pirates terrorists. The distinction probably is made with the pirates’ primary motivation, which is booty or ransom. A number of news reports depict the pirates as young men who’ve turned to kidnapping and extortion as a way to make money.
As such, the Obama administration considers them criminals first and last and soon may announce strategies to deal with them as such. Perhaps the first case will involve the pirate who was aboard a U.S. destroyer negotiating Sunday when Navy snipers picked off three of his cohorts as they menaced Capt. Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama’s skipper.
You can certainly go the legal/criminal route. But with it come U.S. courtroom procedures, rules of evidence, defense lawyers and appeals, which certainly is the long and winding road to justice. Then again, there’s Guantanamo …
Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question among some people, apparently with little better to do, after video and photos emerged from the recent G-20 summit in London depicting President Barack Obama bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during their meeting there.
Take a look at this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WlqW6UCeaY) and see if it doesn’t look like the president suddenly turned into Sir Walter Raleigh as he approached the robe-clad king.
The White House was in denial mode. “It wasn’t a bow,” an Obama aide told Politico. “He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah.” Yeah, right.
The trouble, of course, is that American presidents historically don’t bow. Not to kings, emperors, potentates or pooh-bahs. They just don’t. It has something to do with the Revolution and throwing off the British monarchy.
So, depending on your point of view, Obama’s a gracious, humble guy in the presence of bluebloods — or he’s done some serious harm to the stature of the office he holds. We bow to the judgment of our readers.
Tensions are high over a school deregulation bill. Is it too much to expect top education officials to keep the debate in the adult realm? Last week, some members of the state education board weren’t shy in expressing their displeasure. One exchange had a board member saying supporters of Senate Bill 834 were drinking “Republican whiskey.” Really? That nonsense is on top of the fear tactics the Oklahoma Education Association and some other opponents are employing. All involved should just stick to the truth. Doing so would still leave plenty of room for sincere debate.