Quote of the Day

“I screwed up.”

Barack Obama in an interview with Brian Williams regarding the nomination of Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services. This admission is especially notable in demonstrating the difference between President Obama and disgraced former President George W. Bush, who never admitted to any of his many mistakes during his eight years in office.

Tremendous Participation for Blogroll Amnesty Day

Today is the official Blogroll Amnesty Day, with this year’s celebration extended over the past four days. Here’s a listing of the blogs which have participated:

Jon Swift
Blue Gal
skippy the bush kangaroo
Reconstitution 2.0
Mahatma X Files
Peace Arena
Just an Earth-Bound Misfit
Simply Left Behind
Outta the Cornfield
Mock Paper Scissors
Vagabond Scholar
Blue Herald
Drinking Liberally in New Milford
Virtuous Skeptic
Cheyanne’s Campsite
A Blog Around the Clock
Tangled Up in Blue Guy
The Hackenblog
WTF Is It Now?
Ornery Bastard
Moue Magazine
distributorcap ny
Talking Dog
Welcome Back to Pottersville
Rip Coco
Comrade PhysioProf
Mike the Mad Biologist
Chuck for…
The BoBo Files
William K. Wolfrum
From Pine View Farm
That’s Why
Clark’s Picks
The Aristocrats
Life’s Journey
Just My Little Piece of the World
Kiko’s House
That’s Right Nate
Slobber and Spittle
Upper Left
Saying Nothing Charmingly
Carolina Naturally
NYC Educator
Barking Rabbits
Bark Bark Woof Woof
I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!
Third Estate Sunday Review
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Thorne’s World
Madam Miaow Says…
Right Wing Wiz Kid
The Great Endarkenment
Brilliant at Breakfast
At Home with Books
Graphic Truth
Zen Yenta
Stop the Press!
Brass and Ivory
Capitol Annex
Liberal Values
Miriam’s Ideas
Watergate Summer
Steve Audio
Rubber Hose
Greg Laden
Pushing Rope
Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Pajama Pundit
Media Bloodhound
Some of Nothing
Liberty Street
Tin, Steel and Rust
Crooks & Liars
Onyx Lynx
Diary of a Heretic
Southern Fried Science
Lost in the Ozone
Phil Nugent Experience
Liberal Journal
Meta Watershed
When Will I Use This?
Divided We Stand, United We Fall
Scribble City Journal
Zaius Nation
Oooh, Hecky Nawl; That Guhl is Raw
Bifurcate in the Road
Left in Alabama
Buzz Twang
The Moderate Voice
Thinking Outside
Independent Bloggers Alliance
Muddy Mo
Vast Variety
JM Bell
The Modern Left
Alyson Love
Almost Diamonds
Knight and Stars
Asian Conservatives
MS Maze
My Saturday Evening Post
The Flying Trilobite
Evil Mommy
The Impolitic
True Blue Texan
Drifting Through the Grift
The Quaker Agitator
Blogroll Amnesty Day Blog
Democratic Daily
Howard Empowered People
Ken Levine
Redlady’s Reading Room
Social Seppuku
Evolving Complexity
That’s Why
Naked Opinions
Miss Cellania
The Reaction
Today’s Sermonette
League of Ordinary Gentleman
Dinosaur Trader
Chawed Rosin
By Neddie Jingo
Johnny Pez
Republic of T
Sma’ Talk Wi’ T
Rob Singleton
American Street
The Garlic
Political Byline
Heresy Today
Evolving Complexity
Inverse Square
NuVision for a New Day
Sma’ Talk Wi’ T
Utah Savage
Apple of Doubt

Senate Republicans Back 98% of Stimulus Bill

I remain an agnostic as to whether the stimulus bill will actually solve our economic problems, distrusting partisans on either side who are convinced either that it will or will not work. There is simply no way to prove either claim, but the Republican House does give a greater appearance of partisanship in their lock step opposition. Republican Senators have also voiced objection, and from their opposition one might think that the Republicans consider the majority of the proposed spending to be wasteful.

The Republicans have released a long list of items in the Senate stimulus bill which they consider wasteful. I’m sure that there are counter arguments in defense of some of these, and most likely the Republicans are right about others. Steve Benen has totaled the items that the Republicans object to and finds that they only object to 2% of the spending. This sounds like a remarkable amount of agreement.

If the items on their list are all that is stopping the Republicans from complete agreement with the stimulus bill, it should be very easy to reach a compromise. Considering the severity of our economic problems, if the Republicans agree with 98% of what the Democrats propose it is hard to imagine any reason for them to vote against the plan, especially if the Democrats grant some concessions on the disputed 2%.

A Republican at HHS?

At present there are three Republicans confirmed or being considered for Obama’s cabinet and now there is speculation that a Republican might be chosen to replace Tom Daschle at Health and Human Services. Marc Ambinder and Karen Tumulty suggest Mitt Romney.

Romney’s name came up because of the attempts at developing a universal health care plan in Massachusetts, but problems with the plan might make his name less attractive. Having a Republican involved in promoting Obama’s health care plan might provide some political cover. Far right Republicans would still object, but more moderate Republicans (if there are any left) and independents might be less likely to see a plan with Republican involvement as an over-extension of government.

Besides the problems with Massachusetts’ plan, Romney’s opposition to abortion rights could be a serious problem (assuming he doesn’t flip back to his earlier pro-choice views). His views on abortion and contraception could create problems at HHS, even if Romney was the right person to oversee expansion of health care coverage.

Many like the idea of a governor running HHS  both due to the administrative skills needed for such a massive bureaucracy and due to the experience governors have with Medicaid. Medicare is a totally different beast than Medicaid, perhaps making governors somewhat less qualified than proponents of appointing a governor believe.

Jonathan Cohn suggests some governors and does point out that the more socially liberal Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a far better choice. Cohn fears Arnold would be “too toxic on the left” but I’d find him far preferable to Romney. Besides, Arnold has shown himself to be one of the more rational (and less toxic) Republicans still holding office.

Good News or Hopeful Thinking?

NPR’s Morning Edition today reported that senior U.S. officials are optimistic about the possibility of a “complete al-Qaida defeat” following air strikes along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border.

Hopefully this is true, but there is also a strong possibility that the al Qaeda leaders have merely gone underground in response to the attacks:

“In the past 7 1/2 years, al-Qaida’s obituary has been written any number of times,” says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. “We have to be hesitant in assessing the long-term impact of this kind of damage done to al-Qaida.”

Hoffman and other al-Qaida analysts note that the network has demonstrated many times over its ability to endure attacks and adapt to new pressures.

Chances for success against al Qaeda would have been far greater if George Bush, who recently left the White House in disgrace, had not used the 9/11 attack as an excuse to attack Iraq as opposed to concentrating U.S. forces on destroying al Qaeda. Among  Bush’s many missteps, he allowed bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora after he was surrounded by U.S. troops.

Obama has indicated that he plans to continue the attacks on al Qaeda. Fortunately, unlike Bill Clinton, Obama does not have a Republican-controlled Congress which is interfering with attempts to destroy the terrorist organization.

The New Republican Economic Adviser–Joe the Plumber

Obama is not perfect. He has made some mistakes in some of his early appointees. No matter how bad any of his choices have been, at least Democrats can say that Obama has not done anything as inane as asking for economic advice from Joe the Plumber as the Conservative Working Group has done.

Joe might not be a real plumber, but conservatives must think he is some sort of Renaissance man. He’s gone from fake plumber to fake war correspondent to fake economic adviser. I guess that would also make him a fake Renaissance man.

Daschle Withdraws Nomination

Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. This comes as no surprise following both the ethical questions as well as expectations from Obama’s supporters that we see the types of changes in the way business is conducted in Washington which were promised.

Daschle was also given a West Wing office and his position as health-reform czar was considered to be more influential than his position in the cabinet. The initial report does not comment on this position, but presumably the withdrawing of the nomination also means that Daschle will not be the health-reform czar.

Will Daschle now emerge with a higher paying job as a lobbyist when any health reform legislation goes before Congress?

Update: From Daschle’s statement:

“If 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction,” Daschle said. “Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction.”

“I will not be the architect of America’s health system reform, but I remain one of its more fervent supporters,” he said.

This appears to confirm my assumption above that he would not be kept on as a White House adviser with the withdrawing of his  nomination at HHS.

If You Can’t Kill a Department, Why Not Head It?

Obama seems to want another Republican in his cabinet to improve the appearance of bipartisanship, but perhaps he should have chosen a Republican who supports the department he was chosen to lead.  CQ Politics reports Obama’s choice for Secretary of Commerce, Judd Gregg, voted to eliminate the Commerce Department before he agreed to head it:

Gregg’s 1995 votes were cast for the fiscal 1996 budget resolution, a nonbinding blueprint that outlined the GOP’s fiscal priorities after Republicans won full control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The Senate version of the controversial measure envisioned spending cuts of more than $960 billion, almost half of it from Medicare and Medicaid. Democratic efforts to amend it were uniformly rebuked by a united GOP majority on the Budget Committee.

Ultimately, the Commerce Department survived, and Gregg has since shown more interest than most of his Republican colleagues in funding some of its agencies, particularly the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Gregg also fought President Bill Clinton’s efforts to increase funding for the Commerce Department to administer the 2000 census. Indeed, Gregg’s commitment to basic functions of the department has been questioned at times.

“He was generally pretty harsh on them and not really interested in their programs, especially the commerce side of things,” said a Democratic appropriations aide.

The aide also called Gregg “really smart and hard-working” and said he would work well within Obama’s Cabinet.

It is not unprecedented for a lawmaker who supported abolishing a Cabinet department to take its helm. In 2001, the recently defeated Sen. Spencer Abraham, R‑Mich., was confirmed to run the Energy Department even though he had once cosponsored legislation to eliminate it.

A deal was made to keep Gregg’s Senate seat in Republican hands before Gregg agreed to give up his seat.

Holding To High Ethical Standards Regardless of Party

Reaction to the recent revelations about Tom Daschle’s tax problems and apparent conflict of interest in receiving income from the health care industry has received criticism in the liberal blogosphere.  The New York Times has now called for withdrawing Daschle’s nomination, concluding:

Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry. We don’t know that his industry ties would influence his judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform. Mr. Daschle could clear the atmosphere by withdrawing his name.

While the ethics questions raised by Dachle, along with the nominations of Geithner and Richardson (whose nomination was withdrawn) are minor compared to the virtually  institutionalized corruption and disregard for the rule of law seen under the Republicans, it is still striking how the reaction differs. During the Bush years it was common for conservative bloggers and media to back the Republicans, often trying to assist them in covering up any wrong doing. In contrast, when there have been ethical questions raised by nominees of a Democratic president, the response of liberal bloggers and the media has been to attempt to hold them to a higher standard than we have seen from government in the past.

The Obama administration cannot expect blind support from the left as Bush often received by the right (except for when they criticized him for not being consevative enough). This might not be exactly what Obama had in mind when he spoke of a post-partisan era, but this is what is expected by many of those who voted for Obama.