President George W. Bush, asked in a press conference why Republicans in the House and Senate are increasingly defying him, proven by the fact that dozens of them joined with the Democrats this week in order to overturn his recent veto, replied:
"Quack! Furthermore -- quack, QUACK!!"
Well, no, actually, I made that up. The Leader of the Free World did not, in fact, quack like a duck. It was the product of a (gleeful) overly active imagination on my part. I apologize for such frivolity.
But quacking or not, lame-duckitude has settled over the Oval Office like the first snows of winter. Officially, lame duck status isn't supposed to start until the next president has been elected (but before the inauguration). But in modern politics, the term has expanded to mean "the point at which you have no power left in Washington, because everyone is waiting for your successor." Which fits Bush right now to a T.
Congress, in the past week, has overridden one Bush veto (only the second time they've been able to do so), and has passed another bill that Bush doesn't like with a veto-proof majority. It's amusing, because Democratic political consultants get paid a lot of money to identify "weak" Republican districts in both the House and Senate, but one could equally just list the Republicans who are now voting with Democrats in order to find the ones terrified at their re-election prospects. It'd be a whole lot cheaper.
Here's one some Republicans are going to have a hard time explaining to their constituents over Memorial Day Weekend: the Senate just passed, by a whopping 75-22 vote (which included 25 Republicans) Senator Webb's (D-VA) new "GI Bill" which gives veterans adequate money to go to college after they've served. Astoundingly, Bush has said he's going to veto it. John McCain (R-AZ) couldn't even be bothered to vote on it, as he was in California desperately trying to raise enough money to even compete against Barack Obama. Watch for this to come back up in the campaign later. Obama and McCain have already had one memorable exchange over this, which shows yet again that the media really should start paying attention to the crazy ramblings coming from McCain's mouth, since he shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
Later in the day, 35 Republicans in the Senate voted with the Democrats to overturn Bush's veto (again, for only the second time yet) on this year's Farm Bill. The vote was an astounding 82-13. The House did its part on the Farm Bill as well, with over a hundred Republicans joining in.
This was the perfect end to a week which began with Republican political consultant Ed Rollins saying on national television that he heard a "death knell" for the Republican Party. Midweek, General Petraeus sunk Republican hopes of using the Iraq provincial elections as an "October Surprise" in our own election season this year. Petraeus told Congress that the Iraqi vote would likely be delayed until at least November.
All in all, it's not a fun time to be a Republican. Just ask Bush. He just got back from a Middle East trip where he told the Israeli parliament that talking to terrorists made you Neville Chamberlain, appeasing Hitler. Days after Bush left, the Israelis announced they were going to hold direct talks with Syria. So much for Bush's influence with our allies.
Back at home, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was asked by The Hill about Bush's remaining influence in Congress, and he replied "What influence?" [This article is really worth a read if you want to see the depths of despair the Republicans currently find themselves in.]
If it quacks like a lame duck....
We have a tie this week for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.
First up is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Henry Waxman (D-CA). His tireless efforts to uncover the slime of the Bush administration have earned him this award once before, and he probably deserves "Most Impressive Democrat in this entire session of Congress" as well. This week, he forced the Pentagon to admit that it doesn't know where $15 billion (that's billion with a "b") of U.S. taxpayers' money went in Iraq. The whole story is just revolting to read. Unsurprisingly, independent contractors were feeding from this trough of money, including (of course) the notorious KBR.
The Senate is also looking into the fact that some of this money, and also some weapons, may now be in the hands of Iraqi insurgents. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) get an honorable mention this week for driving this effort on the other side of the Capitol, but Waxman wins the actual MIDOTW award for prying a 69-page report out of the Pentagon's Inspector General detailing the losses and shoddy accounting.
But Waxman will have to share his award this week with John Conyers (D-MI), who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee just issued a subpoena to Karl Rove. Rove's going to ignore it, of course, but sooner or later this is going to wind up in the Supreme Court and we're going to find out what "executive privilege" does and does not cover, and this is more ammo for that fight.
To both Waxman and Conyers, well done! You have earned the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award for your valiant efforts.
This award will have to remain anonymous, since it is being awarded to a faceless and (so far) nameless clerk. I have to say I'm just assuming it's a Democrat, too, although it could be some non-partisan bureaucrat as well.
When the House and Senate passed the Farm Bill last week, they sent it to the White House for the president to sign or veto. Bush vetoed what they sent him. But when they were about to vote on overturning this veto, it was discovered that an enrolling clerk had left out a 34-page section in what was sent to Bush. Constitutional questions were raised, but I'm certain that they'll do whatever they need to in order to make everything nice and legal.
But it shouldn't have happened in the first place. If Democrats want to run as the party of competence, they really need to double-check this kind of stuff. OK, it may have been some nameless clerk who actually made the mistake, but come on -- they knew this was going to be only the second veto overturned yet, so someone should have skimmed through the final copy before it went to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
So to that clerk, and to whoever should be responsible for checking stuff like this, you have earned the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award for your laziness.
With that out of the way, it's on to the Friday Talking Points of the week.
Volume 33 (5/23/08)
It's Memorial Day -- support the veterans!
The timing on this one is just perfect. Just after 22 Senate Republicans voted against giving veterans educational benefits, we head into the Memorial Day weekend. All the politicians will be heading back to their home districts, so now is the time to hammer them with their vote. Barack Obama especially, because if there was ever an issue tailor-made to win over those "working class whites," respect for the military is at the top of the list.
"I think it is disgraceful that Republicans talk a good line about 'supporting vets' but when it comes down to paying for vets' education -- on the day before the Memorial Day weekend -- 22 of them in the Senate voted to stiff America's proud veterans. Democrats wrote this bill, Democrats pushed it through, Democrats voted for it. It's shameful that some Republicans didn't. I guess all that talk about 'supporting the troops' is just that -- talk. We need more Democrats in the Senate next year so that we can truly support the troops, instead of ignoring them when they come home."
Second veto override
This one will cause Republicans to sweat.
"The House and the Senate just overrode the second Bush veto, on the Farm Bill we just passed. As more and more Republicans realistically weigh their chances for getting re-elected this November, we are likely to see this sort of thing happen more frequently than twice in seven years. Republicans in both the House and Senate realized that their leadership is telling them to obstruct everything the Democrats try to get done, but that eventually they have to answer to their constituents back home at the ballot box. Of course, if voters elect more Democrats this fall, we won't have to worry quite so much over the only thing the Republican Party has to offer America -- endless obstructionism. If you want to see Congress get some things done, it's time to vote these obstructionist Republicans out of office."
The Pentagon lost $15 billion in Iraq?
This one's easy, too, since nobody can defend wasting taxpayers' money. Especially not when it's obvious who is responsible.
"The Pentagon just announced it has no idea what happened to $15 billion in Iraq. It's a good thing Democrats are looking into this abuse, since the Republicans completely ignored it while they were in charge of Congress. We need to get to the bottom of this, and hold some people accountable for this shameful waste of money. Harry Truman was right, when he called such war profiteering by its proper name -- 'treason.'"
So I guess Israel is now officially an "appeaser"
The reverberations from Bush's Knesset speech just keep on spreading. Bush is of the opinion that talking to Syria or Iran is completely out of the question, and nothing can be achieved by doing so. He forcefully made his point, invoking Nazis and Hitler to do so (in front of an audience of Jews, who are especially sensitive to such specious comparisons). Days later, Israel announced it was going to start talks with Syria.
"Funny, I didn't hear President Bush denounce the state of Israel for some Neville Chamberlain-like 'appeasement' after they announced they are going to begin talking to the Syrian government. Since he has not done so, it is obvious that his real intent in his remarks in the Knesset were to bash Barack Obama, inserting the upcoming American political season into a speech to a foreign government. His silence on Israel's action speaks volumes. I guess you're only an 'appeaser' if you're a Democrat running for an American office, huh?"
Ap-pease-ment (noun) -- Iran/Contra
Since President Bush is having so much trouble understanding what does and what does not constitute "appeasement," perhaps he needs an example from the past.
"George Bush decries talking to Iran as 'appeasement,' which is interesting. Just talking to an enemy isn't the definition of 'appeasement,' but giving in to them in negotiations and doing secret deals with our enemies to further their goals is appeasement. Now, let's see... is there an example from Iran and America's recent past that fits that definition? Perhaps selling them weapons and spare parts after they took Americans hostage? I seem to recall that happening on a Republican's watch. Bush might want to ask his daddy about what happened when he was Ronald Reagan's Vice President with regards to 'appeasing' Iran. Maybe George H.W. Bush can help define the term for his son, with particular attention paid to Iran."
Shocked -- shocked! -- to find lobbyists in my campaign!
I've kept away from the campaign trail this week, but I just can't resist this one. Although it's tempting to ask the mainstream media why they made the Reverend Wright story a three-ring circus for weeks but when McCain throws two preachers under his bus they barely mention it. But there's a better (more damaging) thing to hit McCain with this week: lobbyists.
"John McCain has said over and over again that he fights lobbyists in Washington and thinks lobbyists are a problem. I guess he's gotten over his distaste for lobbyists, since his entire campaign organization seems to be made up of lobbyists or former lobbyists. I guess the 'Straight Talk Express' should actually be called the 'Lobbyists Tell Me What To Say Express,' eh? Or maybe the 'Lobbyist Appeasement Express.'"
Reagan aides see Obama in new light.
Speaking of Reagan...
I've been saying since February that Republicans looking for the spirit of Ronald Reagan need look no further than Barack Obama. It seems now that some top aides to Reagan are coming around to this point of view, in light of the "talk or don't talk" debate on American diplomacy between Obama and John McCain.
"Even top aides to Ronald Reagan are closer to Barack Obama's view of how American diplomacy should work than to John McCain's. That's a pretty strong recommendation from some pretty heavyweight Republicans. Maybe they should be talking to McCain about the effectiveness of talking to our enemies."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com