State of the Union 2010

One word: Eh. More words: It was a bit weird; the rhythm was herky-jerky and the audience didn’t seem to know if it wanted to applaud or not in places, and basically the whole thing felt like school play with the main character thrown off his game by no one else knowing their lines. Note this observation has nothing to do with the content, merely the presentation. But the presentation matters, and this was a little off for me.

Content-wise I liked it just fine, which isn’t surprising, since in a general sense I like most of Obama’s policies and platform; it strikes me as generally sensible politically, economically and ethically. But then it would, as I’m cut out of the same moderate-left cloth as he is (note to wingers on both sides: expressing the opinion that Obama is not in fact moderate-lefty in the current US political spectrum, but is instead whatever thing you hate the most, is an IQ test in itself. Try not to fail it). If most of what he proposed got through, I wouldn’t complain.

But Obama’s real problem is not Obama or his own policies; Obama’s real problem is that in Congress, his allies are incompetent cowards and his adversaries are smug dicks. I find it genuinely appalling a Democratic president has to prod his party members in the Senate, with a 59-seat majority, to stop acting like spooked children. The lot of them need to have a stick jammed up their ass, because it’s clear they don’t have much in the way of a spine. As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.

The gist of it is that I feel genuinely sorry for Obama that he has to be president in this political climate, with the allies and adversaries he has. He deserves better in both respects, and so do we. As noted before, despite this he’s managed to be pretty effective in his first year, something he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for, and I do imagine that in the next year he will continue to be so, despite both the Democrats and the Republicans on the hill. For all that, if I have one wish for Obama, it’s that he play harder ball than he’s been content to do so far, and that includes with his own party, not just against the Republicans. He’s from Chicago, he knows how to do it. If he wants to get his State of the Union agenda through in an election year, I suspect he’s going to have to.

110 Comments on “State of the Union 2010”

  1. First time poster here (though I’ve followed it for a little while now). All I can say is: bravo. Your hammer has become very intimately familiar with the head of this particular nail, and I can’t say I disagree with a single point of your analysis.

  2. One of the moments I found interesting during the speech was the resounding silence that followed his call for lobbying reform. You could almost hear the crickets.

  3. to qoute Slacktivist qouting a commenter:
    “The Senate needs to play some fershluggin’ hardball and pass things. They keep pretending that 60 or 59 senators is some kind of helpless minority — the important bills are stuck, nominations on hold, all of them acting as if they can’t possibly do their jobs, allowing the crazy minority to get away with unprecedented dirty tactics (e.g. the filibuster as routine for every bill). Procedural hardball, parliamentary beat-downs, rhetorical knuckle sandwiches, political head-bashing, ral consequences in response to unacceptable behavior.”

  4. I was particularly fond of the ‘That’s how budgeting works’ line when certain people laughed about delaying the Spending Freeze until 2011.

    I’m also glad he told people to stop looking at every day as Election Day, but I don’t think it’ll change a thing. No one up in Washington is willing to make the hard decisions and we’re gonna get screwed because of it. *sigh*

  5. we need to enact serious term limits on the senate. Career politicians are turning out to be way too cowardly to even pretend they believe in the policies that got them elected.

  6. I thought it was a pretty good speech with a fairly impressive laundry list of things he wants to do, but probably won’t be able to. I thought he did a little well-justified slap-downs of both parties as well as the Supreme Court.

    I was reminded, however, of my favorite scene from The Lord of the Rings, when Boromir gives a speech to his people and when he’s done Faramir says, “Nice speech. Short.” Boromir says, “Leaves more time for drinking.”

    I wish Obama had left some more time for drinking.

  7. How did the threat of a filibuster get so powerful recently? This isn’t a new rule, it has been around for ages. As I recall, it was most famously used back in the civil rights era to prevent desgregation laws.

    But it used to mean that >50% of the votes was all you needed to pass something. Now it is 60%.

    And what bothers me more is that the old school guys would actually DO the filibuster. They would get up there and talk and talk and refuse to yield the floor so that a vote could take place. But no one does that anymore either. Couldn’t the democrats at least make them stand up there for hours? Lots of congressman aren’t the youngest, healthiest guys.

    I’m not kidding – we used to make them stand up there, why don’t we do it anymore? Then maybe people wouldn’t automatically filibuster everything.

    Perhaps I am being ignorant and some procedures have changed that I’m not aware of. But if Scalzi wants to talk about ways for Democrats to discover a spine – how about that one? If Republicans want to filibuster, that is fine. Get up there and actually do it.

  8. I didn’t watch the speech—I just read the transcript this morning—but I was cheered by this line:

    To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.

    …which I think is about as close to “grow a pair” as a President on the floor of Congress can get away with saying.

  9. Matthew in Austin: IIUC the filibuster was reformed in the 1970s so that (a) it took 60 votes rather than 67 to end debate; (b) instead of actually requiring the filibustering side to stay on the floor and talk, they just have to not vote in favor of a motion for cloture, and then the Senate can move on to other business while the bill being filibustered stays hanging. Meanwhile, the side that’s not filibustering has to keep enough of its Senators on the floor so that the Senate has a quorum.

    It would be an improvement if cloture required three-fifths of the Senators present and voting, but if the Senate is going to change its rules anyway then I would rather have it eliminate the thing entirely.

  10. Opposite political opinion here. However, I do have to agree that the speech was too long, the presentation itself was awkward, and the situation he finds himself in is untenable. As much as I disagree with the politics of Democrats, in general, the only people they really have to blame for not being more effective is themselves. With a (former) supermajority in the Senate and a huge majority in the House, the year was theirs. They could have nationalized healthcare a la Canada, and Republicans would have been helpless to stop them.

    So, while I’m happy that didn’t happen, I think it’s kind of pathetic that the Democratic Party couldn’t get the agenda passed with the largest majority they’ve seen in decades. If the Republicans had been similarly ineffective under Bush (and I’m not a Bush lover) perhaps some of the economic flogging we’re experiencing wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

  11. I was again heartened by the speech. I don’t think it will prevent the Republicans from maintaining the gridlock. They got their agenda passed with a dead-even split and the Dems can’t even rename a playground with a supermajority. Unbelievable.

  12. #8 Mark “well-justified slap-downs ” of the Supreme Court? Really while Eisenhower was the last to actually mention the court in a SOTU address, he did not give them a slap down. For that you would have to go back about a hundred years (or Obama’s century remark maybe).

    And a “slap down” for a decision that was supported by both the ACLU and the NRA is not exactly something to be proud of. Judicially it is also questionable consider AG Holder’s status with SCOTUS. [Eric Holder faced away from the Supremes when Obama made his remark.]

    I suspect more of those same five justices will not attend next year’s SOTU either.

  13. Thanks Seth, that explains alot!

    How about a follow up question – what is required to enact procedural changes in the Senate, such as eliminating the filibuster?

  14. Nicely said.

    What passes for the current bunch of Republicans is making me miss Nixon & Reagan.

    The current bunch are machine hacks of the worst caliber who have no agenda besides grubbing pork.

    Granted that this could be said of most of the Congress, but these guys aren’t even pretending anymore.

    Shine perishing republic.

  15. I liked the idea about high speed rail. It will help in the migration out of Detroit into Chicago. I’m sure Chicagonians are loving this idea.

  16. Meh. The whole thing smelled of standard Washington politics. Lots of words and no real action. Please note that I include republicans into that “standard Washington politics”. I am an equal opportunity cynic.

    I would have been far happier if he had come out and said “hi, our country is really in trouble and nothing is improving. Here are five things we are going to work on this year. It’s going to be rough and we’re going to need to sacrifice but let’s do it together” or something along those lines. The man has an incredible gift for oratory. I wish he would use it more and really inspire us. Although I suppose that’s almost impossible with today’s politics.

    Anyway, back to work with me.

  17. @#7 Ben: we have term limits, its called voting the bastards out. Term limits are a lazy way of participating. They mean that you don’t have to turn out and actually vote. Rather than term limits, I would like to see real campaign reform so that it is impossible to spend your way into office.

    As for the rest of it, I loved that he spanked SCOTUS and the Joint Chiefs right there on the floor in front of them. Watching the military boys look like they swallowed something yucky when he mentioned ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was hysterical.

    He took people to task, and that needs to happen. The Dems – both elected and the DNC – spend way too much time battling the minutia and running from the real problems, and the majority of the folks who are work a day party members let them.

  18. Yep, the President needed to slap hands or spank everyone in the room for something, and did. He’s not above pulling out his own polite version of the loving mallet of correction. Being President after all does mean he has to hold to some manner of dignity.

    Good speech. I was disappointed our elected officials held so tight to party lines and could not see past their own personal agendas that what was being presented is for good for the country. I’m tired of these fools and their what’s in it for me politics.

    Painful to watch. It was like an electric fence ran down the center of the room.

  19. I find it disturbing that so many onhte let who question every move the government makes under a Republican suddenly think the goivernment can do no wrong under a Democrat. It’s still the same power-grabbing bureaucracy underneath. With all that’s gone on, can anyone believe that Congressmen and bureaucrats are smarter and better able to mange our lives for us? Have any of them proved to be acting on our behalf, or “for our own good”?

    It’s also disturbing that though no government official, including the President, has explained the details of the health bill, essentially saying, “Trust Us, even though we havent read it, either”, and then wonders why fewer and fewer taxpayers support it.

    I read the transcript, little said that hasn’t been said before, and before that.

    When does President Obama “own it”? How much longer can he blame the past administration, and how much longer will his supporters give him a pass?

  20. ben

    allowing the crazy minority to get away with unprecedented dirty tactics

    And the electorate is voting in more of that crazy minority.

    In Massachusetts.

    And New Jersey.

    Go figure.

    Things I heard in last nights speech that I liked:

    But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.) It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.

    I’m looking forward to seeing this implemented.

    So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. (Applause.) I’m also proposing a new small business tax credit
    -– one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. (Applause.) While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

    I’m excited about this too.

    This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do.

    Sounds good to me.

    Perhaps next year he’ll be able to report that he’s made progress on these things.

    But I’m not optimistic.

  21. John,

    In general I kind of agree with you. I doubt we’ll ever agree as to Obama’s policies – but that’s half the reason I come here so frequently. It’s nice to read comments on politics opposite mine from someone who tries mighty hard to make sure they make sense. Is the current GOP a bunch of nihilists? Absolutely. But I’m growing more and more convinced that the Democrats in congress are nihilists too. And, regardless of whether I might want Obama’s policies or not, I can’t help but feel sorry for a guy who has to kick his own party in the nuts with the full knowledge that they are too cowardly to take the hint.

  22. Seth- that’s so frustrating. I was under the impression that the point of requiring 60 votes to end debate was to ensure that honest discussion of important issues occurs, and that this noble purpose had been corrupted over the years.

    Apparently no one even pretends that it serves any higher purpose than allowing politicians to throw temper tantrums. Ugh.

  23. His speech was pretty spot-on about Congress. The GOP needs to stop requiring cloture votes for every damned thing the Democrats try to pass, especially when those things go on to pass with a massive margin. The Democrats need to buck up and get their heads in the game.

  24. Rob @ 22: The text of both the House and Senate versions of the health care reform bill are all over the internet. There are numerous website that explain the details of the bills. I’m sorry your news sources are failing you, but you can always try Google. Nobody is hiding the details of the bill from you. You just need to actually look up the information.

  25. I think Seth is wrong, the filibuster as used in Congress dates back much further:

    Note that the supportes of party in power usually seek to get rid of the filibuster when their agendas are frustrated by the minority’s use of the filibuster.

    It’s a two-edged sword, or a useful tool, depending on your perspective.

    I also find it disturbing that many misunderstand the meaning of “Separation of Powers” or the idea of “Checks and Balances”.

  26. Keri, what things passed with a massive margin in the Senate after Republicans forced cloture vote? Anything?

    Also, why the sudden interest in getting rid of the filibuster. When the GOP made the suggestion in 2006 (remember the discussion of the nuclear option?), the Democrats threw a conniption fit and talked about how the GOP was ready to throw the democracy simply to pass their agenda. How is it any different when the Democrats talk now about doing away with the filibuster?

    Honestly, I think the filibuster served a necessary purpose here on the healthcare bill. It forced the Democrats to do one of two things–1) what they promised, open (televised) debate and voting in a transparent Congress, or 2) (the route they ultimately took) shady after-midnight backroom deals which amounted to vote buying for Senators Landrieu (known colloquially as the Louisiana Purchase) and Nelson (the Nebraska Compromise).

  27. Err, Obama is a moderate-righty in the current U.S. political spectrum. He’s to the right of the average American on a wide variety of issues, including but not limited to wars, taxation of the rich, bailouts for the rich, government privacy invasions, government violations of due process, healthcare (polls show the public wants true universal healthcare, not subsidies for insurance companies), and frankly just about every other issue.

    There is literally not one issue where Obama has come to office and acted more liberally than he promised during his campaign. But there are dozens of issues where he has come to office and acted more conservatively than he promised he would. Part of that is the people he hired, and part of that is himself.

    Obama’s politics are basically identical to Ronald Reagan (Reagan supported a universal healthcare-lite as Governor of California…). It’s sad that the Republicans have gone off the deep end in the intervening years but the center of the American public has not changed substantially in those years.

    And for those who don’t understand why the Democrats have trouble passing good legislation, the answer is simple: half the Democrats are conservatives. It’s not a liberal party in the slightest. Go on, check out how few members there are that are willing to call themselves progressives:

    Yep, 83 out of 256 Democrats in the House call themselves progressives. Something like 20 of 59 Democratic Senators. So the actual makeup of the U.S. Congress could be viewed like:

    20% liberal
    20% mushy
    60% conservative

    Now is it clear why liberal ideas have trouble passing into law?

  28. I suspect that Obama holds with the Rachel Maddow school of hardball, which is to make fun of your opponents. I mean, the guy looked right at Boehner and said, “I thought you’d applaud tax cuts,” while Boehner sat there looking pissed.

    Even in Chicago, kneecapping politicans is frowned upon, so Obama’s options are limited to getting all Olbermannish or Reaganish. Reagan had a pretty good run as President, while Olbermann is just a TV talker.

  29. Canadian:

    “Err, Obama is a moderate-righty in the current U.S. political spectrum.”

    Err, no. Err, really not at all. Err, also I find additions like “err” and “um” to the beginning of written sentences when one wishes to register disagreement generally a bit silly. Err.

  30. I’m Canadian and was wondering that the heck is the point in a “state of the union” address when everyone knows what’s going on and those who don’t probably don’t care?

    I caught bits and pieces of it hard not to because it was on almost every (nope wait I think it was every) American channel I watch and I loved Joe Biden’s facial expressions during it… he is almost like a clown so expressive!!

  31. I agree, I have worked with left-wing environmental groups, and they much a much stronger leader to enforce discipline and set direction. If you don’t rule with an iron fist, you will achieve nothing in a democratic congress. The last democrat who did this really really well, was lyndon johnson. he knew where all the scandals lay on the left side of the aisle, and if some democrat threatened not to vote for civil rights, he called them into the oval office and handed them their head on a platter. And, they voted with Johnson.

    P.S. so far, imho, Obama is george bush where it matters (unfortunately), and a democrat where it doesn’t matter. what i hate the most is his “eat my cake before i’ve done my homework” policy of liberalizing all sorts of government policies, without closing Guantanimo, getting a healthcare bill, helping the middle class (to any great extent), or anything else of substance !!

  32. Heh, I pointed out a number of issues where Obama is provably right of the average American, backed up by polling, and Mr. Scalzi came forth and thoroughly refuted my argument with a firm “no, he isn’t, la-la-la I’m putting my fingers in my ears”.

    Good show, Mr. Scalzi, you’ve definitely got the better of that argument. I bow to your superior wisdom and knowledge on the subject.

  33. Well, Penny, it’s required by the constitution: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”.

    You Canadians have much the same thing in the Speech from the Throne; it’s actually written by the PM, who is your executive, and outlines the sitting government’s legislative programme.

  34. Canadian may not have been right about Obama being moderate right, but the Democrats in the Senate are certainly not progressives. That’s why I find comments like ‘grow a spine’ pointless. It isn’t about growing a spine, when a substantial subset of your caucus does not /want/ a progressive agenda to succeed. Some of these guys wouldn’t even have passed as moderate Republicans back in the day.

    Say what you will about them, the Republicans in the Senate and the House are far more monolithic in their behavior which, in large part, explains their ability to stifle the Democratic agenda.

  35. I agree, you should use “Arr” instead. It’s much more forceful. Also, would it kill you to throw in a “Shiver me timbars!” once in awhile Canadian?

  36. @34: It’s actually a Constitutional obligation of the President of the United States to report to Congress, from time to time, on the State of the Union. For most of history, there was an annual letter and Joint Sessions were instead used for particularly important events (following Pearl Harbor, among others). And while Nixon and Carter and others gave televised addresses, Reagan really honed this into the spectacle it is today.

  37. Penny – its in the Constitution so he kind of has to:

    Article II, Section 3: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

    And by Canadian/UK/Aussie/NZ standards, the Dems are further right than the Tories/Tories/Liberals/National, and the Republicans aren’t even on the page. *shrug* I’ve stopped trying to make comparisons cos the metrics are completely different – its impossible to pass Health Care Reform with a supermajority. Trying to remove the health system present in every other western country would get the relevant government voted out in a landslide.

    Obama’s gotta work with what he’s got, and I don’t think many of us foreigners really quite grasp just how different US political culture is. All I’ll say is that I’m glad its not my job!

  38. Canadian, I think John’s point was that, while Obama may be to the right of the average Canadian, he is NOT to the right of the average American. He is slightly left of center for the average American. I once thought he was a rabid lefty, based on his policy statements before being elected Senator. But based on his voting record in the Senate and his performance as President (as a former US Navy officer, I actually applaud his handling of Afghanistan and agree that he’s been more effective in that theater than Bush was even in his wet dreams), he’s far more Clintonian center-left than Kucinich radical left.

  39. Canadian:

    “Mr. Scalzi, you’ve definitely got the better of that argument.”

    Inasmuch as I wasted no time on an assertion that is obviously and manifestly wrong, yes. Yes, I did.

    That said, what I did was not the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears. It was the equivalent of saying “this person is making a dumb assertion and I don’t want to spend my time with it.” It’s a small yet subtle distinction.

    Which should not be construed to say that others might not find it profitable to engage you, for your own elucidation, as they have. I encourage you to chat with them on the subject.

  40. Canadian, are you in Canada? I watch and listen to Candian TV and radio, and have noticed that there is talk of Obama being more conservative than I would normally think. Is it a cultural thing, because I don’t get a gestalt for him being in the middle-right. It’s really hard to tell sometimes because of subjective filtering.

  41. “He deserves better in both respects, and so do we.” WRONG! We elected them so we deserve them and what ever they do to us.
    Which brings me to the whole Obama for change thing. Unless we chuck most of congress out things are not going to change. A landslide victory for the president isn’t a mandate. A mandate would be three quarters of the encumbents in the unemployment lines with the ten percent or more of Americans.

  42. @35 A fellow I used to work with (here in the US) regularly opined that one of the many advantages of being Canadian was that a Canadian Conservative was rather to the left of the US Democratic Party.

  43. Rembrandt:

    “We elected them so we deserve them and what ever they do to us.”

    Well, no. We each voted for up to three of them (representative plus two senators), and there’s a good chance the person we voted for was not elected. So while I may deserve one of my current senators based on my vote, I may still wish the other 534 members of Congress were better. And I do.

  44. …”incompetent cowards and his adversaries are smug dicks”

    Hit the nail on the head with that one. He did do some slapping last night. The best one was for the Supreme Court. They totally messed up on that ruling and they damn well know it. I wonder what the breakdown on votes there was for that.

    This is why my husband is quitting the other party. Yes, we are a union of multiple political parties in our family. He’s really frustrated with the Republicans not having any plan whatsoever. Saying no to everything isn’t a plan.

    Overall, I thought it was a good speech.

  45. So I went and had a look at the history of the filibuster in the US, and I have to say: (a) it isn’t at all what I thought it was, not anymore; (b) its use has skyrocketed in recent years, to the point where there is a really good case to be made that it is being abused; and (c) as currently used, it has, in fact, become a risk-free gambit for the minority party to use to stop anything at all, any time they want, without having to do anything other than say that they are filibustering.

    Before reading that, I thought the filibuster was a good thing to have available, because I thought that those using it had to have the strength of their convictions to make it work. Now that I see that they don’t, I’m inclined to think it is a bit of procedural nonsense that should probably be eliminated. It really has effectively made it so that the Senate needs a 60+ vote to do practically anything other than passing budgets.

  46. Cameron #30: HR 3548, the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 passed 98-0, and yet the Republicans forced a cloture vote before allowing it to be passed.

    Why would the GOP force a cloture vote on a bill they ended up voting for unanimously?

    Obstructionism, that’s why.

  47. Tim Eisele #50: Yes, the filibuster has morphed into this monster abuse. It needs to go. Our legislation isn’t supposed to have to get 60 votes to pass anything. And like I said earlier, the GOP is using the filibuster/cloture power to obstruct bills they end up unanimously supporting. It’s ridiculous. It’s hard enough for Congress to get stuff done.

  48. Keri# 52: Okay. Hadn’t heard of that one. That’s still one example. You make it sound as though it is a common occurrence. But after your example, I looked for the last ten minutes and couldn’t find a single other example. And the one you provided has other reasons, such as the Democrats steam-rolled the bill through the House without so much as a single debate on any measure in the bill.

    Incidentally, do you realize how absurd you sound? With a 60 vote supermajority, one that could have voted for cloture at any point, they still managed to fail.

    Again, I point to the Bush administration and the GOP threat to do away with filibusters because of how the Democrats were abusing it (and they were, for sure, abusing the filibuster, using it on judicial nominees for the first time ever) and the Democrat response was nothing short of a giant conniption fit. Is it not, even slightly, hypocritical?

  49. The entire country is focusing it’s attention this morning on President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. I have nothing original to add to the discussion other than my view that it seems the prez is trying to jump start his faltering administration. A lot of “the experts” are at the moment dismissing this White House as dead in the water. If they had any concept of history they would know better. Many presidents in the past got off to a bad start. If George W. Bush were judged only on his first year in office, he would today be remembered as one of the worst Chiefs Executive in American history….

    Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Let me try again….

    Jack Kennedy had a fairly shaky start in his first year (Remember the Bay of Pigs?) and yet he turned out to be pretty good at the job. A year from will find us at the half way point of Obama’s first (I hope) term. Let’s see what happens between now and then. NOTE TO LIBERALS: To abandon all faithin this president now would not only be foolish, it would be a half-step away from insanity. Chill!

    Tom Degan

  50. @ Cameron #54

    “the Democrats were abusing it (and they were, for sure, abusing the filibuster, using it on judicial nominees for the first time ever)”

    The Republicans sure like that tactic (filibustering nominees) now.

  51. I’m not saying I agree with it. I’m just noting that it happened. They’re all hypocrites. That’s how they became elected officials in the first place.

  52. When one contends the GOP minority is nihilist in rejecting Obamacare then a fortiori one must be in full support of:

    (a) 1000+ page bills being voted on within hours of being presented to the House membership;

    (b) setting arbitrary deadlines to pass measures before even rank-and-file members had a chance to read the proposals (the Reid amendments in the Senate) – this on a program that would not commence by 2014 but had to be voted on in the Senate before Christmas 2009;

    (c) secret committee meetings;

    (d) use of public monies to buy votes from wavering (or avaricious) Senators;

    If that is what passes for “moderate-lefty” civics then I’ll take a helping of “nihilism” every time, thank you very much. I remain giddy that All the President’s Men plan to campaign on this in the fall, however. That will be entertaining! I earnestly hope each of you moderate-lefty donates to candidates like Creigh Deeds and Martha Coakley at the full limit (not to mention evil foreign corporate titans like, umm, George Soros … oh never mind).

    Whinging about the Party of “no” reminds me of my 6 year old telling me I “never” let him do anything. Whah. You’re right. I do say no a lot. Grow up.

    Confidential to Obamabots — the Prez *knows* he’s faking most of this. Do you? Natch.

  53. (a) 1000+ page bills being voted on within hours of being presented to the House membership;

    (b) setting arbitrary deadlines to pass measures before even rank-and-file members had a chance to read the proposals (the Reid amendments in the Senate) – this on a program that would not commence by 2014 but had to be voted on in the Senate before Christmas 2009;

    (c) secret committee meetings;

    (d) use of public monies to buy votes from wavering (or avaricious) Senators;

    Dude, you really have no idea how our government actually works (and has worked for, oh, how about forever?), do you? A Republican bemoaning the above is the equivalent of Captain Renault in “Casblanca” being shocked (shocked!) by the gambling at Rick’s Café.

  54. Soylent @#59

    a) Pray tell, what 1000 page bill got signed into law hours after it’s presentation? Please note I stressed signed into law because it’s a valid point. Votes happen all the time at Congress including votes for consideration of a 1000 page bill. It’s not unusual. If it wasn’t signed into law, then the system still works.

    b) It’s called a Congressional schedule. And seeing that the health care bill has been worked on for about a year, can we agree that at this point nothing new is under the sun?

    c) If it were secret, how do you know about it? /snark

    d) (citation needed)

    The rest of your comment reads like boilerplate GOP line, which I find amusing as apparently you’ve not met a GOP position you did not like. Even more tickling that you assume that people with liberal ideas are children and probably need a good spanking. I applaud your efforts to win on the strength of your party’s ideas!

  55. The gist of it is that I feel genuinely sorry for Obama that he has to be president in this political climate, with the allies and adversaries he has.

    Up to a point, John. I don’t think Obama was ever naive about the reality of at least trying to clean up a train-wreck — even if some of his supporters were.

  56. All these allegations about the secret machinations of the democratic party are a bit silly at this point.

    When the actual negotiation takes place behind a closed door and then the terms of the deal are publicly released this does not make it a secret.

    The democrats failure to get health reform passed in the previous year has been twelve months of open commentary about a slow moving flailing process with the mistakes, machinations and horse trading of both parties making wide spread news based on their own press releases about said machinations and horse trading.

    Calling it secret is just silliness.

  57. Every statement from the GOP says, at some point, that Obama and Democrats have to include the GOP if they ant to “listen to the American people.”

    Because, apparently, the people who voted in the democrats were not, in fact, American. This should be obvious from the fact that they did not vote for the GOP, the only party who does “listen to Americans.”

    I liked the GOP better in the 80’s, when they actually tried to do things, instead of just trying to “frame the conversation.”

  58. Other Bill #65: Except that the deals were done after midnight (when Republicans were are home and couldn’t object) through what amounts to vote-buying, and a bill that was rushed through Congress without the public airing that was promised.

    Now, is it really that different from the way it’s always worked? No. But what exactly did Obama (and the Democrats in Congress themselves!) promise? That’s right–transparency, public airing (48 hours) before a vote, television coverage, and an open procedure. Not just the results, which of course are not secret, but the actual procedure used to get the results.

    Look, he campaigned on cleaning up Washington, opening the process for Americans to see, transparency in all operations, and public airings of documents and meetings. And instead Washington is just as full of lobbyists, Americans got to see nothing, there’s been no transparency apart from what muckraking bloggers have managed to force into the open, and the documents were aired less than eight hours before a vote.

    For someone who campaigned on change, it seems like it’s the same shit, different President.

  59. Hi Cameron. I don’t think I sound absurd at all. The Democrats shouldn’t have to muster up 60 votes every time they want to pass a bill through a committee. Our legislation is actually NOT supposed to work that way. Our legislation was set up so votes could pass with a simply majority. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, both parties have gotten filibuster-happy, probably because they no longer have to actually have the fortitude to, you know, actually filibuster.

    The GOP is definitely playing games right now. They are the party of No. They’re not doing what’s right for Americans, they’re doing what’s right for their party. Since the Democrats took over Congress, the GOP has invoked cloture 96 times, and we’re only one month into 2010. In the two years prior to that, it was only invoked 46 times by the Democrats. Let me rephrase that so it’s even more clear.

    In the 24 months of the 110th Congress, the Democrats invoked cloture 46 times. In the 13 months of the 111th Congress, the Republicans have invoked cloture 96 times. That’s more than double the prior Congress, and we’re only a little over halfway through this one.

  60. Sorry, I meant to provide the link to the cloture numbers:

    And in digging around I found another bill that the GOP forced a filibuster on that ended up passing by a wide, bi-partisan margin: HR 3183, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010, which passed 79-17. There’s also the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, which passed 80-19. And that’s just from scanning the motions from the 111th Congress. I’m not even having to dig around for this stuff.

  61. If the Democrats want to be able to pass things on a simple majority, they can start by inviting Republicans to actually participate, rather than holding closed door meetings, muscling them out of committees, and otherwise preventing any input at all in the bill drafting. (Note, throwing a bone to Olympia Snowe does not count as “consulting Republicans.”)

    Since the Democrats had control of both the 110th and 111th Congress, they couldn’t really invoke cloture. So your comparison fails based on that alone.

    The legislation was set up so that the Senate would also solicit input from all parties, work jointly to draft a legislation that would actually draw bipartisan support, and then debate the merits of the bill and offer amendments to change what they feel need to be changed. By shutting out the opposition party from any input, holding committee meetings without invitations to minority members of the committee, and rushing bills to a vote without any public debate, Democrats have failed to live up to their half of the procedure.

    As a final note, Senators and Congressmen and women are supposed to vote the way their constituents want them to vote. That’s the whole idea of a representative democracy.

  62. The link you provided does not support the numbers you put out, either. To wit – 110th Senate invoked cloture 61 times in 2 years. So far the 111th has invoked it 35 times. They’re on pace to go over the 61 of the previous Congress, but only by a margin of 9, not 50, as you said above.

  63. Cameronon:
    If the Democrats want to be able to pass things on a simple majority, they can start by inviting Republicans to actually participate, rather than holding closed door meetings, muscling them out of committees, and otherwise preventing any input at all in the bill drafting. (Note, throwing a bone to Olympia Snowe does not count as “consulting Republicans.”)

    Well, that works both ways Cameronon. I’ve seen very little evidence that the Congressional Republicans have any genuine interest in “actually participating” with the Demon Democrats and their closet Muslim Marxist overlord. As I’ve said elsewhere, if the current Tea Bagged iteration of the GOP gets no respect, perhaps they should try earning it.

  64. Cameron @70:

    It used to be that the minority party would present an actual bill during the committee meetings which of course would go through a number of compromise committees. I can’t remember anything coming from the other side of the aisle for awhile. Sit back and criticize seems to be the plan here.

    The health bill has been debated for nearly a year…are you saying that this bill advanced through all of the committees in both the House and the Senate without a single Republican in the room? If the bill hasn’t been signed into law, I’m not sure I’m seeing the problem here seeing that so far, nothing has been “rammed through Congress”.

    Also, nitpicky point, but we’re not a democracy, but a Republic. Our elected officials have nothing binding them to enact our will. If that were the case, universal health care would have been a done deal seeing that a vast majority of Americans support the idea.

  65. Cameron, the Democrats added tax cuts to the “spendulous” bill, and then received absolutely no GOP support on it. The Democrats have modified heavily the healthcare bill, attempting to appease GOp concerns and garner their support. First, the public health insurance plan was changed so states could vote on whether or not they would participate. Then it was cut out. Then we wrote in passages to prevent federal money from funding abortion. Throw on top of that the fact that the healthcare bill will cut the deficit, which the Right still says isn’t in the bill.

    And I apologize about the incorrect labels. I added the 110th and the 111th, and combined 108 and 109 and failed to label them properly.

    110C+111C=96 clotures invoked over 13 months. 108C+109C=46 clotures invoked over 24 months.

    The GOP has invoked twice as many clotures as the Democrats in just over half the time.

  66. Obama has himself to blame for at least part of the health care bill’s problems: he did not get out in front and say, even generally, what the bill needed to have. He left it to Congress and got a dog’s breakfast. After that, he could not even correct Congress because the moderate/conservative Dems had actually taken a position on the bill. If he had been proactive, he could have said “This is what I want,” and any Dem who did not support it would have to deal with not having the President’s back when he asked for support. Instead the President let each one make their own individual stand and it was a lot harder for them to come down from there. If the health care bill was not important enough for Obama to expend political capital or Obama did not know exactly what bill he wanted, then he should have left the matter alone until he was ready.

  67. Cameron, you seem very concerned about how the GOP is being (supposedly) locked out of the legislative process. Perhaps it’s karma, or perhaps it’s sweet, sweet justice.

    The link below goes to a 147-page documenting the abuses of the Republican 108th Congress. It’s an eye-opener. I dare you to read it.

  68. Keri @ 74 — check your math again. 110 + 111 Congress is Jan 2007 – Jan 2010 = 37 months. 108 + 109 Congress is Jan 2003 – Jan 2007 = 48 months.

  69. Keri @ 76 — if you are trying to make the point that the Dems in Congress are being bipartisan and conciliatory, linking to a report whose first line is “In the 108th Congress, House Republicans became the most arrogant, unethical and corrupt majority in modern Congressional history” is probably not the most convincing way to support that argument. Or maybe I’m misreading it.

  70. Same problem everywhere…

    Politican has become just another job; A job you do everything to keep once you have it.
    As a matter of fact that is to do nothing. Don’t piss anyone off and you get to keep on earning lots a money for doing nothing.
    The voters just don’t count anymore in that equation.

    Goverment BY the people, FOR the people, HA HA…

    Obamas “announcement” that he rather wants to be a good one term president is the right way to go, but he better make that term count.
    Get shit passed and let the next lobby-controlled-shills revoke it.
    He shouldn’t care and just do what is right.
    Obama: If you need to, wear a damn Nike shirt.

  71. Cameron @ 67 –

    The midnight dealings that I remember were covered live on national news networks. If one party elects to go home for the night with work still to be done, tha still doesn’t make it a secret.

    Also, nothing about the health care bill has been rushed through congress. We’d have a passed bill signed into law if that were the case. It’s taken a year for it to even get to the point where the house and senate each have something passed. There’s a couple more steps yet to go.

    Votes bought? Sure. More of the same, also true. But rushed in the secret of the night? Not even a little. Based primarily on the fact that there’s still been no bl signed into law.

  72. Bill, Doh. Double fail on my part. Can I just say it’s been a long, crappy day at my drone job, working for a soulless corporate giant? Sigh.

    And I’m mostly trying to show Cameron that, while I think the Democrats could be doing a better job, the GOP are masters of locking out the minority party. Speck, beam, etc.

  73. Keri@76:
    Cameron, you seem very concerned about how the GOP is being (supposedly) locked out of the legislative process. Perhaps it’s karma, or perhaps it’s sweet, sweet justice.

    Yeah, because it’s always sweet watching alleged adult legislators acting like pre-schoolers.

  74. Craig, you’re right. I’d much rather our Congress acted like the adults they’re supposed to be. I’d rather they be more concerned about the Americans they represent than themselves or their parties. I’m not happy with the Democrats in Congress right now, but that is absolutely dwarfed by the anger I feel towards the GOP. They got us into this mess, and they won’t help the Democrats clean it up. Why? Because making the Democrats look good apparently makes the GOP look bad, and they can’t have that. Not even if it means hurting their voters.

  75. Obama’s real problem is that in Congress, his allies are incompetent cowards and his adversaries are smug dicks.

    YES. THIS.

  76. RE 62.

    a. Where did I mention anything about it being signed? Your point is tautology. If you think it’s no big deal that critical bills 1000+ bills are set for votes in the House mere hours after they’ve been printed, then you’re taking a position that President Obama thought was indefensible (at least during the campaign) when he was all about sunshine ‘n stuff.

    b. Again, more tautology. Can we agree you’re defending an indefensible process that has turned most Americans against the Bill? That was my point. I do ever so earnestly hope your candidates run on it in November, however. For some reason, though, I don’t think they will. Hmmmm.

    c. Snark. How clever. Sunshine-smunshine … how darkly cynical all you hopey-changey types have become in a short year. Why its almost like Christmas is early, or Gitmo is closed, or somethin’ …

    d. Citation needed. How droll. It’s all just a big game on the moderate left. Even Evan Byah thinks its all delightfully ‘hah hah.’ Not to mention Martha Coakley! Moderate lefties are so funny. What’s a $100 million among friends, Senator Nelson? Or $300 million Mary L? Here’s a shout-out to you!

    The rest of your post is ad hominem flame. You don’t know me but you got me all figured out, hmmm? Yawn. Great. You win.

    It’s ok,though. I didn’t expect much better. And I promise I will be there to dry your little eyes in November. Good luck.

    RE 60 … you must be so right. I mean, after all, that’s exactly how debate and stuff went down during the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind and Social Security Reform … the really big bills most similar to Obamacare. Right? Ummm … except, they didn’t go down like that.
    Not even the Recovery Act went down like that.

    Its indefensible. Everyone knows that. But it’s charming to see you try. And I’m glad you’re all about the status quo (even though it isn’t, but you can pretend it is — that’s great) … because the Status Quo was what swept Barack Obama into power, right? The status quo was what Speaker Pelosi promised in 06, right?. Never let a good crisis go to waste, right? Even a good manufactured crisis. Yummy!

    Lefty-moderate is so awesomely awesome. I am totally won over by your argument!

    Like your friend Tim Boerger, good luck with this in November, Sib. Let me know how it works out for ya.

  77. I would have been more impressed with Obama if he actually had the balls to say: “Look here’s what we’re going to do and we need to raise taxes on everyone to do it. The government is here to help and we’re all in this together so everyone will pay their share.” I’m sure I would disagree with most everything that followed but at least it would be fiscally responsible. Instead he rattles off a list of tax cuts and new programs. Apparently it’s been a while since he’s had to manage his family’s budget as, generally, spending more money than you make is a bad idea (I guess we really are hurting in basic math education). You’d think the last eight years would have taught us that but here we are.

  78. Adam @ 87: “Apparently it’s been a while since he’s had to manage his family’s budget as, generally, spending more money than you make is a bad idea (I guess we really are hurting in basic math education).”

    Not really. Unless you happen to be fabulously rich, how else would you manage to buy a home or car? Everyone I know takes out a loan, which is all about spending more money than you make.

  79. #23 Ben: What’s wrong with term limits? We might get some new ideas if we were forced to trade in the old ones from time to time.

    Yeah, I feel the same way about my doctor. Hey, man, you’ve been a doctor for 15 years. It’s time to let some new guys in to do some doctoring. Also – can you believe the guy who repairs my car has been in business for 20 years? Sheesh, it’s time for him to go.

    Experience matters (unless you believe that being a good policitian is easy, and I don’t).

    Plus, if you have term limits then the most experienced people on Capitol Hill will be the lobbyists, and that would be bad.

  80. @cyan I think most people would agree that quitting your job that pays $80,000/year for a job that pays $20,000/year while upgrading to a $300,000 house is probably not going to work out well. This is, of course, assuming you can even get someone to loan you more money under those circumstances. Usually people can’t take out loans perpetually and neither can countries. Eventually other countries, like China, will simply stop loaning us money.

  81. @Adam: I am merely pointing out that there are very common instances where spending more money than you make is not a bad idea. A few years ago, even the example that you site would not necessarily be a bad idea if that person intended to flip the house in question. Sure, the current economic climate sucks rotten eggs, but it does not suddenly make all large expenditures inherently wrong.

  82. Not an original idea I know but it would make a lot of sense to have the same two-term limit the Presidents have to accept apply to Congress too. There are far too many hidebound old pricks stuck in the pudding and fresh blood would be a particularly good thing in that particular institution.

  83. @cyan At least when a person flipping houses makes a bad investment, he and perhaps a small circle of people around him are the only ones that suffer. And when I take on too much debt I pay the consequences. When the government takes on too much debt it has the luxury of simply taking more of my money (up to a point).

    Frankly I would prefer it if the government mandated that every dollar of spending had to be accounted for by a dollar of tax revenue. If we want the government to do something, we should be expected to pay for it rather than expecting our kids to pay for it.

  84. “There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats.”

    This. Holy crap, THIS. I really wouldn’t mind the GOP if they actually had a platform, and a conscience, and did something for the country rather than spend all their time and energy in stopping anything from ever being done. Since when does a political party stand for just playground bullying and giving each other high fives for impeding forward momentum and the chance to actually do good? If they could get over their egos and get back to the job of representing their constituents, then I would be very much okay with backing their causes. I can’t even fathom that now.

    And yes, the Dems need some coffee and a kick to the head, since being indecisive and not sticking to their guns is not helping matters.

    Maybe we do need a stronger 3rd party in here soon…

  85. Funny how quickly that ‘fresh blood’ congeals. Anyone remember the Contract with America and all the brand-new Republicans who quickly discovered that maybe they didn’t want to shake things up after all? Or George “I Was Just Kidding About That Term Limits Thing” Nethercutt?

    What gets useless fossils out of Congress is voters electing somebody else. We have met the enemy, &c.

  86. #90: “Eventually other countries, like China, will simply stop loaning us money.”

    Actually no, they’re not going to stop loaning us money. They make quite a lot from loaning us money, even if it doesn’t all get paid back. They sell the debt back and forth between them and swap currencies. If China goes under, then we’re in trouble, but so far China has managed to avoid it (in part by using methods with its populace that would make Americans blanche,) and is still the largest growing economy, followed by India, which is also not going to stop loaning us money. Not to mention that countries can simply “forgive” large sums of debt in order to keep doing business with each other.

    The loans between countries are not just like loans an individual gets from banks. The debt of a country is not just like an individual’s debt. Tax revenue is not the same as a salary. The government does not operate like a household. Large as it is, the deficit is not our biggest problem. China certainly isn’t. The biggest problem is the collapse of our own domestic infrastructure. Namely, that American-based conglomerates and businesses used the recession as an excuse to dump large numbers of workers (while continuing to move even more jobs overseas,) while at the same time the financial industry refused to lend credit to basic businesses (while continuing derivative betting,) requiring the government to step into the breach.

    If the government does not keep lending to the populace and trying to jumpstart jobs, the education system, small business lending, and repairs to basic systems like roads (construction,) and hospitals (healthcare,) then we have a country that cannot develop or recover, and cannot take advantage of the economic possibilities of green industry and cannot buy consumer goods sold to us by China. And China is a lot more worried about that than they are about loaning the U.S. money.

  87. @ Adam: I understand the point you’re trying to make, and based on a very broad and superficial view, I would tend to agree with you. But I also know that my debt to income ratio is something like 6.25:1, if I consider my mortgage as my only debt, and the cost of carrying that debt alone amounts to 41% of my gross income (i.e. payments towards interest only).

    I, too, would prefer that our government spending was done in such a way that was much more easily recognizable as prudent and well considered. But I’m not about to take the time to learn the sort of complex accounting needed to understand what all is involved, nor work my way through the thousands of pages of the entire national budget. Because that is what is required to truly know that every dollar of spending is accounted for by every dollar of tax revenue, and know/feel comfortable with the expenditures that, like a home mortgage, will reap benefits beyond the lifetime of the original expense stream.

    By and large, people who by homes are signing on for a 30-year mortgage, and don’t even blink because that’s the way it is. That’s THIRTY YEARS of debt. The governing administrations in this country don’t get that kind of time.

  88. Ben #7 & 23:
    Alan #89:
    Mythago #97:

    Don’t put very much hope on term limits. California put term limits into effect 20 years ago, and it sure hasn’t been a rousing success. In fact, the legislature seems to work even more poorly now than it did then.

    Cameron #67:

    I find it very hard to believe that anyone believed that a Chicago politician would bring reform to Washington. Really, did anyone really believe that? I have to admit that I never lived in the Chicago area, but isn’t it the case that if you polled a reasonable sample of people in the U.S. asking “What word do you think of when I say “Chicago politics?” the top results would be far from flattering? (Not that other regions would get much better results, but I think that isn’t relevant to this point.)


    At the risk of being called a nihilist, a defeatist, or something similar, I admit to having no idea how to solve the collection of problems the U.S. faces. And I’m nearly certain that there isn’t anyone, anywhere on Earth who does, either. The so-called economics experts are divided into three or more mutually-contradictory camps, each with their Nobel prize-winning leaders. How is anyone supposed to make a rational decision about what policies to follow?

    My feeling about it, and I admit it is only a feeling, is that we have a problem of scaling. That is, our population, our corporations, our governments, have grown well beyond the size that the ways we know how to manage them are valid. Sort of like trying to use Newtonian physics to guide your attempts to control objects moving at speeds near that of light.

    But even if that is a correct assessment (and good luck getting a working majority to agree with it), it doesn’t tell us how to proceed from here. At least I can’t imagine how to scale those things back to a manageable size without causing catastrophes in doing so.

    I have no conclusion. I don’t want to give up, but I don’t know what to do that has any rational basis.

    The situation reminds me of the case of the elderly father of one of my acquaintances. The old man was in very poor health, being treated for I don’t know how many serious conditions, and he was rapidly going downhill. My acquaintance moved his father from the somewhat backwater town where he had been living to an area with top-rated hospitals. The new doctors decided that they should stop giving the guy any medications at all, give his body a while to detoxify (watching over him very carefully all the while), then assess his problems and begin treating those that seemed to need to be treated.

    I don’t know how risky that approach was. My guess is that the risk was high. But his story turned out well. After a period of lots of problems, the new doctors found a set of treatments that returned the old man to rather good health, considering his history and age. He lived for many more years with little medical problems.

    But, given what I said above about the dueling experts, I don’t believe we have a team of new doctors to whom we can turn over treatment of the U.S. There are still lots of mysteries about how the human body works and how to treat its problems, but our best doctors do know a lot of things that work, and what conditions they are good for. We don’t have the equivalent for the ails of the U.S.

    So what should a rational person do?

  89. Now, I’m not by any means supporting the current “no” for anything fake strategy the Republicans are using, but it is supposed to take a long time for congress to do anything. The system was designed this way because human beings have always been idiots and slowing down the process is generally helpful.

    With that being said it is getting a little ridiculous.

    One of the previous posters made a good point that part of the reason the Democrats struggle to vote as one party is that a lot of them are conservative. I tend to agree, as the Blue Dog Democrats seem to represent what are supposed to be the “core” principles of the Republican party.

    From my point of view Blue Dog Democrats are really Republicans who saw the rising tide of crazy in the Republican party and left.

  90. @ K Dick

    I completely disagree. There are a lot of easy solutions we ignored or never did.

    Example 1: SEC authorized the banks to go from 12 to 1leverage ratio (borrowed money to actual money on hand) to 33 to 1 and higher. This is almost unheard of throughout banking history.

    Example 2: In 1998 Brooksley Born, chairwoman of Commodity Futures Trading Commission, tried to save us with sound logic (Frontline has a great show on this) and was literally shouted down by Rubin, Greenspan, and others.

    Example 3: Glass-Steagall act, instituted in 1933, was desinged to prevent Wall Street stupidity from seriously damaging the real economy. This bill was partially repealed in the 80’s and then completely done away with at the end of the 90’s.

    In all 3 instances there was sound reasoning behind the right decision and religious fervor behind the wrong decisions. A better explanation would be facts vs. ideology/greed.

    The information was right there, but no one cared as the decision makers were idealogues and/or connected to Wall Street.

  91. Not to derail the intelligent discussion of the speech, but was anyone else surprised by how many of the people in Congress look like trolls? They sort’ve sank into their seats like gelatinous piles…

  92. @cyan The Congressional Budget Office estimates the amount of spending, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the tax revenues coming in. Let’s start by getting those numbers closer to each other. It’s their job to get into those details. That’s what we pay them for.

  93. Oh, hey — we’re back to “How are we gonna fix this?” Cool!

    Couple of ideas:
    1) Publicly-funded elections. If you can get enough signatures to get on the ballot, you get funded. No contributions. No “war-chest” — spend it now or loose it, cause it ain’t your money and you don’t get to keep it. (Special this-time-only exception: Incumbents who chose not to run, get to keep what they have. G’bye, now!)

    2) If you can’t vote, you don’t get to make political ads. Yes, Bill Gates, Oprah, Larry Ellison, et al. can. It’s their personal money. Spend it on rovers for Jupiter, if they want. Olbermann & O’Reilly can say whatever they want. Their job is to be entertainingly political. (Yeah, those jobs’ll proliferate — and become dilute.) Some guy that PETA gave money to, to purchase ads? OK, but he’s going to have one helluva tax bill. Goldman, Sachs? Corporations can’t vote, remember?

    3) Based on Michigan’s Legislature, term-limits are not a good idea. As someone wrote above, the most-experienced lawmakers in Lansing are the Lobbyists. Besides, they won’t be necessary. POTUS should get to run for as many consecutive terms as she wants, to.

    None of this, though, addresses what I consider the central problem of a Republic: It’s really tough to get re-elected on a platform of “I didn’t break anything!” Which is why the Founders made it so difficult to change anything. They knew our Reps. would be under enormous pressure to monkey with stuff. We, the voters, will have to get used to the idea that not everything needs to be fixed.

  94. I like your books; I’ve bought and read them all, given them to my teens, recommended them to my friends.

    I disagree with your statement that Obama is “moderate-lefty in the current US political spectrum.” You attribute moderation to Obama that is mere pragmatism, a function of his recognition that he can’t get enacted the more radical changes that he’s previously endorsed throughout his career. That makes him a partially failed far leftie, not a moderate leftie.

    So which version of me is stupid, Mr. Scalzi? The one who likes your books, or the one who disagrees with your prescriptive IQ test (which depends, in turn, on acquiescence with your politics)?

    And when you engage in such juvenile attacks on the intelligence of the people who disagree with your political conclusions, how long do you expect to be able to do that without it eventually affecting your sales? I’m perfectly happy to buy books written by those who have different politics than mine, less so to buy them from those who can’t be even minimally respectful in expressing their own political views.

  95. Beldar:

    “And when you engage in such juvenile attacks on the intelligence of the people who disagree with your political conclusions, how long do you expect to be able to do that without it eventually affecting your sales?”

    1. Dude, are you new here or something? I’ve been doing this sort of thing here for over a decade. This isn’t exactly new behavior. The choicest bits of this sort of thing, in fact, have been made into a book, which has won awards and is selling very nicely indeed, thanks for asking. And all the while the fiction is chugging along at a perfectly fine clip, and has been since I started writing it. So the answer to your question, I suppose, is that it already does affect my sales: it provides a net gain.

    2. As I expect you are new, please read the site disclaimer. It should clear up many things.

    3. If in fact you can’t get over the idea that I don’t actually care that sometimes what I write here might hurt your feelings in some way or another, by all means stop buying my books and reading my words. I celebrate your choice.

  96. In terms of the presentation, the State of the Union speeches have only gotten more absurd with each year. It’s like, “Oh, dear God! It’s been more than twenty seconds since we all stood and applauded! Quick, find a breaking point and do the wave!” These speeches have no teeth anymore. Someone should impose the same policy used on large graduation ceremonies: please save your applause for the very end. Couldn’t they at least impose a limit on the ovations, perhaps no more than five times. It just gets ridiculous. This annoyed me when Bush gave his State of the Union speeches, too. My opinion isn’t any different now that Obama has had his first.

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