Video of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mt., criticizing Republicans for opposing health care legislation is creating some ripples in Washington. A link on the Drudge Report to a five-minute clip from Baucus’ Dec. 23 floor speech asks whether the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee was a little tipsy: “Drunk With Power? Top Dem Slurs on Senate Floor.” You can’t tell that for sure from the video itself. Baucus repeats himself a number of times and isn’t always coherent, but then he was never going to be confused with Daniel Webster anyway. Not surprisingly, the senator’s office adamantly denied their man was under any influence — other than anger with the GOP for not going along with the Democrats on health care.
Ever been stuck aboard a delayed commercial flight? Cramped quarters, stale air and, of course, the inevitable screaming baby. The Obama administration has felt your pain and on Monday ordered airlines to let people get off planes delayed on the ground after three hours. Consumer advocates called it a Christmas miracle, although the new regulation won’t go into effect for 120 days. Airline officials said the regs would result in more canceled flights and inconvenience for travelers, but it’s a trade off most travelers would gladly accept.
Rhetorical silliness in Washington knows no bounds. Senate Democrats claimed Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, had a death wish for 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia last weekend. Byrd is wheelchair bound, and Democrats scheduled a key health care vote at 1 a.m. Monday. Without Byrd, Democrats would be one vote short of moving the legislation along toward final passage.
From the Senate floor Sunday afternoon, Coburn suggested Americans pray that “somebody can’t make the vote tonight.” Democrats said it amounted to petitioning for Byrd’s demise. It’s absurd, of course. Washington had just been blanketed with a foot and a half to two feet of snow, making travel next to impossible. One snowbound Democrat and the tables would be turned. Maybe the Almighty was trying to tell Democrats something about their vote.
In any event, Democrats said Coburn’s remark crossed a line — a line Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes wasn’t so clear earlier when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., compared Republicans to the Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs in the South and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution. Now that’s some industrial-strength rhetoric!
Indications of the age in which we live. A congressional committee has a hearing scheduled this week to get to the bottom of a question of intense public concern: How did Tareq and Michaele Salahi get into last week’s White House state dinner for the prime minister of India without a formal invitation? Really! The economy’s in the dumper, federal spending is out of control, Iran is close to building a nuclear bomb and the House Homeland Security Committee is pinned down by a couple of party crashers. Maybe we should say “alleged” party crashers, because the Salahis maintain they didn’t pull a Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson deal to get into the White House shindig. Was there a security breach of epic proportions? Did the Salahis schmooze their way in and if so, who was schmoozed? Why was Vice President Joe Biden grinning from ear to ear when he posed for a party pic with Michaele? Looks like we’ll have to tune into the hearing to find out.