Washington Post: "The Senate map for 2012 looks treacherous for Democrats. They will be defending 23 seats, including those of the two independents who caucus with them, many in conservative or swing states. Republicans hold only 10 that will be on the ballot."
I wonder if the Republicans will get really intransigent and try to block WHOEVER Obama names to the Supreme Court just on general principles. If they do, it'll be interesting if the Dems exercise the "nuclear option" they despised so much when the GOP threatened it. I'd love to see a nuclear option, period.
The filibuster is the biggest blight on American "democracy." And it makes me sick when Senators, including liberal Democrats, wax sentimental about how it is "what makes the Senate unique" and that it has historically made the Senate what it is. Yeah, right - maybe that's true, but nothing to be proud of - the basic role the filibuster played in American history was to ensure a period of 90 years when no civil rights laws were passed, despite the desperate need for them. The sooner the filibuster goes, the better.
And Evan Bayh, with due respect, is WRONG when he says that without the filibuster, we'd "have two Houses of Representatives." The Senate is fundamentally different because Senators represent States, and their constituencies aren't population based. They also aren't subject to gerrymandering, which means they tend not to be one-party, so that Senators have to appeal to independents and voters from the other party.
Besides, part of the point of having 2 houses was simply to have 2 - it doesn't really matter who takes the 2nd look at a law, so long as someone does. But I don't hold my breath. I was reading books when I was 13 ("Citadel" was the title of 1) of how the entrenched institutional conservatism of the Senate was the chief roadblock to meaningful progressive reform in the USA.
And I expect my great-grandchildren will be reading similar books 90 years from now. Funny that the British have had more luck reforming the House of Lords than we're ever likely to have reforming the Senate.
Despite negative public misperceptions, the 111th Congress is on its way to becoming the most productive since the historic 89th Congress of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society 11965-67, according to analyst Norm Ornstein, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Johnson. Click.
Obama has also reinvigorated America's regulatory apparatus -- agencies and commissions created during the progressive era to protect the public. Analyst John Judis calls this a Quiet Revolution.
The loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown leads me to recall a couple of blog posts I wrote way back in 2004 when the shoe was on the other foot. I quoted "Sam Rayburn's Law of Presidential Governance," which he declared after Franklin Roosevelt's landslide victory in 1936: "When you get too big a majority, you're immediately in trouble." I wrote then:
That rule certainly applied to 1964 and 1972, when Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon let their election victories go to their heads, leading to arrogance of power, a Vietnam quagmire and coverup of mistakes by Johnson and Watergate scandal coverup by Nixon and ultimately, his resignation. Arguably, it also happened after the 1984 election, when Ronald Reagan inspired Oliver North and crew to break federal law to aid the Nicaraguan contras.
I warned then that the Republicans, who had just elected George W. Bush to a second term and given him a 55-45 GOP majority in the Senate, were in danger of over-reaching. And indeed they did. The Democrats came roaring back in 2006 and 2008. Now the question is whether the Democrats have over-reached, with their (until now) 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, on issues like health care and overall government spending, while unemployment has not yet started to drop.
Back in 2004, I wrote that "over-reaching is typical pattern by the political party that controls both the White House and Congress." It's an instructive piece well-worth reading.
The jury is still out on the question of whether the Democrats have over-reached. We won't know the public's verdict until results from the 2010 mid-term elections come in. If history is a judge, they won't be able to sustain their 60-vote Senate majority. But they ought to be able to keep their majorities (now huge) in both houses of Congress. Omens from the special election in true blue Massachusetts are a warning sign of a potentially harsher verdict from the voters to come in November.
In anticipation of writing an article about the book, I obtained it a day after publication. What I enjoyed most was the portrait of a well-rounded man: a surprisingly good painter, a passionate if not always on-key singer, a lover of poetry, sailor extraordinaire who found spiritual renewal and sustenance from the sea. I would say that Ted Kennedy, given the gift of years, may prove to be the best of the Kennedy brothers.
Fame is so fleeting. A 20-year-old asks, "Is Senator Kennedy related to the President Kennedy?" My 12-year-old is, of course, unfamiliar with the story of the Kennedys, or specifically of Ted, who ameliorated his brothers' inspiring but relatively brief and tragic lives at the pinnacle of American political power by his half-century of public service. Ted was the chief architect of thousands of bills, hundreds of which became law.
Together, the family's collective contribution over four generations as mayor of Boston, members of the House and Senate, as ambassadors to England and Ireland, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as founder of the Special Olympics, as President, as Attorney General, as diplomats, journalists, attorneys and advocates on the world stage, and as authors (of such bestsellers as "Why England Slept," "Profiles in Courage," "The Enemy Within," and "Thirteen Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis") over an 80-year-and-counting period is remarkable, and comparable to that other great American family dynasty, the Adams.
"John Kennedy inspired America, Robert Kennedy challenged America, and Ted Kennedy changed America," is how Ted's colleague Chris Dodd put it.
To know the family's history is to know an important part of American history. That's why I asked my son to watch this CBS News documentary, "The Last Brother" -- essential viewing for anyone who wants to have some grasp of modern American history and politics. Teddy was at the center of American politics for 50 years.
Not only is Ted's story an inspiring one of perseverence through unthinkable tragedy after unthinkable tragedy, it is a story of personal redemption, and a story of how the youngest of four brothers through five decades in public life, through steady, reliable, impassioned public service ameliorated the terrible impact of his brothers' early deaths. And in anecdote after anecdote, it became clear just how "other centered" Senator Kennedy became, in the small gestures of kindness toward so many people when the cameras weren't on and nobody was looking.
Now Kennedy, as was said of Abraham Lincoln, "belongs to the ages." Joel Achenbach adds: "Visitors (to Arlington Cemetary in Washington, where all three Kennedy brothers are buried) will know that these Kennedys really mattered to us. But as they pass into history, it will be harder and harder to remember just how much they charmed us, how much they inspired us and how much they broke our hearts."
The Kennedys are so great at memorializing their fallen and dedicating their memory to causes larger than one individual. Kennedy's work will go on through his political action committe, TedKennedy.org and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Study of the United States Senate (EMKInstitute.org). His memories and observations of the political process have been recorded and preserved in an oral history project through the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. He also has an autobiography coming out called "True Compass."
Overwhelming Senate passage of legislation giving DC residents a voting representative in the U.S. House of Representatives reminds me of the long history of the struggle for DC Voting Rights. It was, or should have been, an integral part of the civil rights movement, because of the historic disenfranchisement of African Americans in the district.
The most appalling chapter in that history was in the 1930s and 1940s when Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi was the de facto "mayor of Washington," as the head of the Senate's District of Columbia Committee. He ruled the city like a autocratic plantation overseer. Bilbo was perhaps the very WORST senator in American history: an unspeakable ignoramus bigot. He once called Claire Booth Luce a "nigger lover," repeatedly praised Adolph Hitler, had ties to Nazi sympathizers in the U.S. and declared that whites were "justified in going to any extreme to keep the nigger from voting." For years he blocked anti-lynching laws. (Source)
In his fascinating book, Washington Goes to War, journalist David Brinkley described the awful Bilbo and his rule over Washington. He wrote:
Bilbo seemed to hate everyone: communists, Jews, union leaders, union members, anyone who could, by any definition, be called a foreigner, and above all, of course, blacks. And Bilbo never hesitated to make his hatreds known.
Video: Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, describes the evolution of his relationship with Senator Edward Kennedy. For years, they did not like each other. They were rivals -- Byrd defeated Kennedy for a Senate leadership position in 1971. But over time, they have grown to be friends. "He has become one of my all-time favorites," Byrd said in the interview above, praising Kennedy in particular for being one of 23 senators to vote against authorizing the war in Iraq. Below, Senator Byrd, 90, reacts to news of Senator Kennedy's brain tumor.
My initial reaction to the news that Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor is -- how sad. What a tragic end to the Kennedy "era." The family has been prominent in national politics since Joseph P. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt first became allies in the 1920s. ""Only the Adams family in the earliest days of the republic had the
kind of stature, respect and impact on public life as the Kennedys," former Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen told Robert Kaiser of The Washington Post.
One way to look at this news is that life sure has been unfair to that family. Fans were hoping that Ted Kennedy would live a very long life, out serve Bobby Byrd (14 years his senior) in the Senate to become the longest serving member
of Congress, finally win passage of career-long goals such as national health insurance, and become the greatest or most influential U.S. Senator in history. That would be a triumphant end to the story of the Kennedy brothers in national politics, since the lives of his brothers were so tragically cut short.
I suppose that's still possible, if by some miracle Kennedy beats this diagnosis the way that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and other brain tumor survivors have done. Two of his children and his ex-wife are cancer survivors, so he has personal examples of family members who have battled cancer and won.
Another way to look at this news is that Ted Kennedy has had a longer than average
life, a very privileged life, and given the risks he took, at 76 he was lucky to be alive and living on borrowed time. Genetics may play a role in this malady -- his father suffered a stroke at the age of 73, lost all power of speech, and remained confined to a wheelchair until his death at age 81.
Ted Kennedy's adult life has been defined by surviving tragedy after tragedy, some the result of family hubris. A lesser man might well have been broken, drowning himself in alcohol and bitterness.
There are sure to be many media retrospectives on his life and career, comparable to those afforded presidents. If his health holds enough for him to return to public life -- people with malignant brain tumors generally have an outside chance of surviving five years -- there will be the public desire, not just in Massachusetts but in Washington and in progressive circles around the nation, to see him and touch him, and to pay respects once last time, to a living political legend.
There is the likelihood, as with all things Kennedy, of media glare and hype to the point of hysteria, of enlarging his life and historical importance beyond reason, and creating a backlash designed to deflate him and his family in general. Beware of stories that portray him as a saint or demon, painting him with an ideological brush as either the heroic father of modern liberalism or as a prime symbol of what is wrong with this country. At least initially, the voices of those who hate what he stands for will, one hopes, be muted out of respect and good taste.
In this environment, it may be impossible to fairly take Kennedy's full measure. He's working on a memoir, for which he received an $8 million advance, which is scheduled to be released in 2010, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's election to the presidency. That timetable may now be accelerated.
Led by Democrats, Congress will support legislation to increase the minimum wage and
make college tuition tax deductible.
Led by Democrats, Congress will be more skeptical of trade agreements
that incoming freshman Heath Shuler says have led to a 78 percent loss in textile industry jobs in
Democrats will be more interested in stimulating rural economies hit hardest by the loss of manufacturing and agricultural jobs.
Democrats will be more interested in addressing the growing inequality in income, whereby the the middle class is increasingly at risk.
Democrats will be more interested in addressing health care
access, but they won't be able to do much until they get a Democratic
When the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) comes
up for renewal in 2007, Democrats will try to increase access for the
eight million children who currently do not have health insurance
Democrats will cede ground to Republicans on gun control. As the
Democrats who won election to the Senate and House tended to be against
gun control legislation, Democrats won't bring the issue up.