Friday Talking Points [141] -- Rahm's Exit Contest Winner Announced

I will begin today's column by drying a tear as we all wish Rahm Emanuel a fond farewell. Actually, I am lying. I am drying no tears for Rahm because I am crying no tears at his leaving. Chicago's loss is the White House's gain, as far as I'm concerned.

A quick review is in order here, and then we'll announce a contest winner from a long-ago-and-probably-forgotten contest in a previous Friday Talking Points article, where I opened the field of betting as to when, exactly, Rahm Emanuel would be leaving.

Way back in FTP [110], we were already more than ready to see Rahm make an exit. This was in response to the news breaking about Rahm comparing Lefties to "[sexual expletive deleted] [slur on developmentally-challenged people deleted]," as you'll all remember. Back then, I wrote (while awarding the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Rahm):

Here is my message to the White House in response, and in no uncertain terms. Democrats didn't show up in Massachusetts and Virginia and New Jersey for a reason. They are not enthusiastic about voting this year in general. This is why. When you treat the things the voters actually care deeply about like dirt, and bargain them away in cavalier fashion, then Democrats stay home on election day. And when you don't even realizing how insulting you are being towards a big constituency that helped get you elected -- much less feel like apologizing for it -- then that sound you just heard was your chances in the midterm elections being flushed down the toilet. And spinning in the bowl as well is your chance of getting your legislative agenda passed, both swirling down into the watery vortex.

I closed this segment with the following heartfelt plea:

Please, Mr. Emanuel, please, please... don't you feel it's time to "spend more time with your family," for all our sakes? You were sold to us as "Rahmbo" -- the guy who would muscle Obama's ambitious agenda through Congress. Instead, you are the first one to wave a white flag in any negotiations, and the first one to throw what Democratic voters actually want into the trash. Wouldn't it be so nice to spend a whole bunch of time with your family right about now? Please?

That was in early February of this year. Then in March, in FTP [114], I ran a contest and subtitled the article "When Will Rahm Go? Place Your Bets!" In it, I wrote:

This sort of "mistakes were made, but not by me" legacy-polishing, it should be noted, is usually done as a politician is leaving the stage. Which is enough of a reason for us to optimistically look into the future, here. So we are going to open the betting for when Rahm Emanuel will exit the White House. Or, to be more accurate, when he will announce his exit. Because we're just going to assume (for the fun of it) that if Rahmbo's already covering his tracks by attempting to cast history over-favorably toward himself, then his exit can't be all that far ahead. To be followed, as is usual, by signing a book contract worth at least seven figures. Rahm was said to be interested it running for mayor of Chicago at one point, but whatever excuse he ultimately uses, we're taking bets on the actual date Rahm announces he is leaving.

And, to open the betting, I predicted (somewhat optimistically, I must admit) that Rahm would exit "the second Friday following the signing ceremony for the health reform bills." Many readers responded to the contest, with a wide range of guesses, from the "yesterday wouldn't be soon enough" school of thought, to the "never" line of thinking. Obviously, both of these extremes proved to be wrong.

But three people got close enough to declare them winners. [Note: all winners commented on the Huffington Post when the article originally ran.] Two runners-up are hereby awarded, one each for guessing a bit too short and a bit too long. The first of these goes to "murphy80" for guessing "by the 4th of July (2010)." And the second goes to "standard," who guessed March 18, 2011. Runners-up receive exactly nothing, other than bragging rights in the comments section.

But our big winner, who is to be commended not only for his [I am assuming gender here, apologies if I guessed wrong] prediction -- but also for getting into the spirit of the whole "using quatloos to bet" thing by his use of the word "Thrall" in his entry -- as he made a two-part bet:

100 Quatloos that he's out by July.

500 Quatloos that he's out by September.

And then added some extra-snarky commentary for good measure:

Kirk was dealing with an alien world of perverse, socialpathic gamblers. Obama is dealing with something much more sinister: Washington politics.

Figuring he lost the first bet, and called the second one within one day, we're going to award a total of 400 Quatloos to... (drumroll, please)... "TakeSake"! Well done! Your quatloos are... um... in the mail, yeah, that's it... but feel free to exercise your bragging rights in the comments in the meantime.

OK, enough of this unseemly snarkiness... oh, wait, this whole column is all about unseemly snarkiness, whatever am I saying? Heh. Moving right along, then....


Elizabeth Warren was in the news in two minor stories this week which deserve at least a mention. Warren's replacement as the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel will be current Senator Ted Kaufman. Kaufman is the guy who was appointed seat-warmer for Joe Biden's Senate seat, on the condition that he wouldn't run for it this year. But he's been a surprisingly strong voice for average Americans in the Senate ever since -- perhaps because he didn't have to worry about an upcoming election, who knows? Anyway, Kaufman replacing Warren is good news indeed, if he keeps the fire in the belly he's shown for the past couple of years.

Warren herself made the news as well, by speaking to a group of bankers. Now, this speaking gig was set up before her appointment to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was announced, but rather than cancel she took the opportunity to speak to the folks she's going to be regulating, and offered them an olive branch of sorts, by telling them to discount the caricature of her that her opponents painted, in an effort to calm the waters a bit.

But the real Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Barbara Lee, for the legislation they've just introduced.

In a story with a remarkable amount of spin, the end of federal dollars going to abstinence-only teen sex ed was gloriously announced. Except that, when you look at the fine print, it really isn't the end of federal funds going for these worthless programs, Salon reports. These abstinence-only programs were a darling of the Right under President George W. Bush, despite being proven over and over again that they were absolutely worthless when measured scientifically. But science wasn't Bush's strong suit, to say the least, and the faith-based programs were given millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars. I should point out that I'm using "faith-based" here not to suggest any religious connotation, but because you had to just "have faith" that the programs were worth funding -- because every single piece of solid research showed that they had absolutely no effect on teens' behavior.

Which leads us to Lautenberg and Lee, who announced this week that they were introducing the "Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act" to finally end this enormous waste of money. Both for doing so and for the sledgehammer-esque title of their legislation, Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee are both hereby awarded a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. This is how Democrats are supposed to act in Congress, all others should take note.

[Congratulate Senator Frank Lautenberg on his Senate contact page, and Representative Barbara Lee on her House contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts. And contact your own representatives and tell them to support this bill, as well!]


I'm going to give the White House a break this week, solely because to do otherwise would be to diminish the "...and there was much rejoicing" nature of the announcement that we won't have Rahm Emanuel to kick around any more.

But seriously, guys, do you really think five weeks before an election is the best time to pick up that well-worn stick and bash Democratic voters once again? Those of a cynical nature are saying that President Obama's and Vice President Biden's remarks early in the week about the "whining" from the Left are merely setting up a finger-pointing exercise for the aftermath of the midterm election -- the White House shifting blame, in other words, beforehand.

But I choose to think of it as Rahm's swansong, myself. Because if ever a political tactic seemed to have Rahm's fingerprints all over it, this was indeed it. All the White House really accomplished was to come off as being fairly whiny themselves, if truth be told.

But, again, we're all just so happy about the prospect of the White House being a Rahm-free zone that we're giving them a break this week.

Instead, we are giving the unquestioned champion of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week category one more MDDOTW award to add to his already-extensive collection. In other words, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has just won his nineteenth MDDOTW award.

Reid just set a horrendous precedent in the Senate. He struck a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the subject of Obama nominees to Senate-confirmable positions. What Reid got out of the deal: 54 of the 164 nominees currently awaiting a vote in the Senate got confirmed. What McConnell got out of the deal: Reid's promise to officially keep the Senate "in session" until after the election. This is a dodge where every few days a Senator "presides" over a mostly-empty chamber, and gavels the Senate open for a few minutes. As I said, to get around the definition of a "recess," this will happen every few days.

What it really means is that President Obama won't be able to "recess appoint" any of those other 110 nominees in the meantime. Yes, you heard that right, Harry Reid will be taking away the power of the president to break the Senate logjam.

This isn't an unprecedented thing, I should point out. The Senate has played this game before -- but always by a Senate majority from the other party as the president (Democrats successfully blocked Bush from recess appointments this way a few years ago). But, as far as I know, this is the first time it will happen when the same party controls both the Senate and the White House.

Now, it can be argued that getting the 54 nominees confirmed was progress of a sort. Which is, on the face of it, true. But Reid has allowed McConnell to escalate the situation to a power struggle between the branches that really didn't need to happen. If Reid hadn't cut this deal, Obama could very easily have appointed those 54 -- or, indeed, all 164 -- nominees, and then made it a honking big political issue in the election. Now, Obama doesn't even have the choice to take this route.

Thanks a lot, Harry.

For allowing himself to be used as McConnell's puppet, Harry Reid is hereby awarded this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact Senator Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Volume 141 (10/1/10)

Normally, this is where I offer up advice to Democrats on how to speak about the issues of the week. This week, I was looking forward to cataloguing the recent congressional votes which would help Democrats out on the campaign trail.

But, funny thing, they didn't give me much of anything to work with. Democrats punted on pretty much everything of any importance -- except a bill to keep the government running because not a single appropriations bill has yet been passed (the federal budget is supposed to be in place by today, which is the start of a new fiscal year on the federal calendar).

Ending Bush tax cuts on millionaires and billionaires? After the election, they tell us. Contentious votes which show which side of things Republicans are standing on -- on all kinds of issues -- and what Democrats are tenaciously fighting for? Nope, none of that. Maybe in the lame duck session, they tell us. Passing even one budget bill? Nah, not going to happen.


Which leads me to strongly urge anyone within easy travelling distance of Washington D.C. to show up for tomorrow's One Nation Working Together march and rally by a group of people angry about the economy from the Left. Of course, this rally will not get the extensive media coverage previous rallies have this year, because the words "Tea Party" are not connected with it, and on general principles because it comes from the Left (so much for the "liberal media" myth, eh?). But media indifference is no excuse -- get out there tomorrow and make your voices heard!

Maybe some Democrats will even listen, who knows?

In the same vein, and in lieu of our regular talking points, I'd like to offer up instead today an open letter to the man who will soon replace Rahm Emanuel. Just to start things off on a good foot, as it were.


To incoming White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse:

Mr. Rouse, I write to you in an effort to bridge a gap which has grown very deep in the past two years. I speak of the gap between some of the most fervent of the Democratic base of voters and the Obama White House. Or, if you prefer, the gap between the "professional Left" and the White House.

This gap, to be blunt, did not need to exist. Perhaps it would exist now in any case, due to the White House's actions, but it would not be as wide nor as deep as it is currently without the attitude the previous holder of your job showed towards a large number of people who got Barack Obama elected. I write to you today in an effort to heal this rift, because by exhibiting a little diplomacy on your part, much of the bad feelings we've become so used to can hopefully be avoided in the future.

To begin with, please do not continue the previous White House policy of insulting, belittling, and disparaging your supporters in a callous and offhanded way, pretty much every chance that arises. Calling into question our intelligence, our motives, and even whether we're on drugs or not is simply not a good way to reach out. Even without the gratuitous profanity, I might add.

A little outreach goes a long way with most everyone. The "whining" from the Left (as the White House has been calling it) would be a lot less loud and frequent if we felt our concerns were at least being listened to by the Obama administration. We do not overestimate our leverage, I might add -- we know we're not going to get everything we ask for on the schedule we would like to see. All we are really asking for is the "seat at the table" that Obama seemed to promise during his campaign. We want to be heard, in other words, even if in practical terms it does not show any immediate result.

Given the nature of politics today, and the Congress we'll have to work with, we realize that we're going to have to compromise on any number of things in order to advance an agenda even incrementally. But we feel if our voices are being heard in the mix, perhaps the White House and Democratic congressional leaders won't be so quick to bargain away our priorities, often getting nothing at all in return. Instead of immediately caving on strong politically-powerful positions, perhaps with a show of outside support we can help both President Obama and folks like Harry Reid strengthen their position before the debate even begins. Up until now, this has been the point where our concerns and ideas have been discarded without any consideration whatsoever -- which is exactly why the "enthusiasm gap" exists today. Democratic voters see their votes being taken for granted, and then when it comes time to legislate, the most popular ideas among those voters is thrown under a bus. Why would anyone expect us to be enthused after such treatment? Would you be?

We know we're not going to get everything we ask for, in other words, but it would be nice to occasionally get something we asked for, instead of a perpetual cold shoulder.

What it all boils down to is that we would like to see President Obama fight. That's really our only demand. We don't even care, at this point, what he gets out there and fights for. Pick an issue, any issue. And then stake out a position, and start issuing veto threats, if that's what it takes. Let Congress know which parts of the idea the White House requires in the bill, and then stand up for and defend your positions.

That's really all we're asking for. Oh, and please stop the sewer of profanity and personal attacks, too. That would be a big step in the right direction, I have to admit.

Over time, the memory of Rahm Emanuel will fade, and by then hopefully we can start working together, instead of taking potshots at each other from afar.

Thank you for listening, and good luck in your new job.


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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground