Because yesterday's column was a wee bit un-holiday-spirit-ish, I offer up my thanks today. I am thankful for the web. I am thankful that I can sit in front of a machine and have at my fingertips perhaps not the sum of human knowledge, but a pretty close approximation (the closest the race has ever seen since, perhaps, the library at Alexandria).
Archive of Articles for November, 2013
But having said all of that, and barring any unforeseen gigantic issues on the horizon, we can at least look at what both parties have to play around with in the campaign. One side in particular is already telegraphing what will occupy the center stage of their campaign platform. It's not even really "guesswork" to state now that Republicans will be placing Obamacare at the center of their efforts. Figuring out the Democratic strategy is a bit harder, though.
Millions of Americans will travel home for Thanksgiving this year, and millions of the same Americans will get into heated political discussions at some point during the festivities. Most of these political discussions will wind up convincing nobody, because the whole point of them is (at heart) to casually ridicule other members of your family -- you could just as easily tease each other about who you went to the prom with or some other event from your past. The net result is the same. Liberals will travel to heartland towns and be called tree-hugging bleeding hearts (or worse) and conservatives will travel to cosmopolitan settings and be called heartless hicks and hayseeds (or worse), and everyone will then happily decamp to the living room to watch football.
This was a big week in the political world, so we've got a lot to get through before we get to the big, explosive "nuclear option" story. In fact, it was even a big week just for political anniversaries. Fifty years ago this week, an event of no little importance happened. I speak, of course, tomorrow's 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who by the BBC.
Today was a momentous day in the United States Senate, as filibuster rules were changed in the first major way since the 1970s. I'm not going to write about the direct fallout of this extraordinary action, since I did so yesterday and plan on doing so tomorrow as well. Instead, I'd like to take today to point out a (so far) little-noticed secondary consequence of Harry Reid's historic vote. Because if the early reports are correct in stating that confirmations will be filibuster-free not just for "non-Supreme Court" judicial nominees but also for high-ranking executive branch nominees, then it clears the path for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to tender her resignation.
Specifically, "going nuclear" means a vote in the Senate to change the rules by which the chamber operates under. This doesn't seem all that controversial at first, but the reason it is seen as such a drastic measure is that the vote would be a straight majority vote -- 51 votes would win (or even 50, with Joe Biden casting a tie-breaker). Traditionally, the Senate has only changed its rules by supermajority votes, or on the first day of their session (which won't happen again until January of 2015).
In one of their stunning (but regular) "up is down" leaps of illogic, the Republican Party is charging President Obama with "court-packing." In reality, they're just miffed that a Democrat is going to exercise his constitutional authority to appoint judges in the regular order of things. To call such actions "court-packing" is nothing short of laughable, to be blunt. In fact, the only hinkey business afoot is coming from Republicans themselves on the issue.
The parlor game of which I speak could be called "match the scandal." The rules are simple: pick a scandal from days gone by and make a comparison to the current scandal unfolding in the news. This time around, the question appears to be: "What can be easily likened to the Obamacare website rollout disaster?" The favored answer so far seems to be: "It's Obama's Katrina!" But I don't think you need to look back even that far -- I think Obama's own previous experience gives a much more useful metaphor for pundits to casually bat around while waiting for the announcement from the White House that the website is (mostly) fixed. Because, to me at least, the last two months are reminiscent of nothing more than watching the seemingly-endless gusher of oil erupt from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, after the Deepwater Horizons drilling rig exploded and caused the BP oil spill.
Let's see, what happened last week?
President Obama held a rather extraordinary press conference today, to defend his embattled Obamacare website rollout and announce an administrative fix to the larger Obamacare program of people who have had their insurance cancelled. The big unanswered question after the presser was done: will it be enough?