Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union - The Musical!
Wizard of Oz Edition

Welcome to the 4th Annual DWSUWF coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging infant, DWSUWF despaired at finding a unique angle to add to the SOTU commentary when so many other bloggers would be walking the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. I asked Bob (and yes I do feel we are on a first name basis) in an on-line Washington Post forum whether the SOTU had any real relevance. He responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU, media and blog reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

In 2007 it was "Comedy Tonight" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 2008 it was the 1966 hit "Georgy Girl Boy". Last year, we welcomed President Obama with "Razzle Dazzle" from the musical Chicago. This year a classic - The Wizard of Oz. Particularly apropos, as one year into his presidency many are beginning to wonder about that man behind the curtain.

The game is to find blog posts, news stories and commentary that can be vaguely referenced by the lines of the song and link them to the lyrics.

I'll post the lyrics now, and then update with links to live-bloggers, references, analysis and reviews before, during and after the speech. It'll be over when I get tired of it or too drunk to type. Yes, I am easily amused.

I'll kick this edition off pre-speech by invoking relevant and resonant dialog in the scene where Dorothy discovers the wizard is not all she hoped.
Demothy: Please sir, we've done what you told us. We brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Bush of the West. We melted him
Wizard: Oh, you waterboarded him, eh? Very resourceful. ... BUT NOT SO FAST! I'll have to give the matter a little thought. Go away and come back tomorrow."
Wizard:"Tomorrow? Oh, but I want healthcare now!"
Wizard: "Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Ob. I said, 'Come back tomorrow.'
"If you were really great and powerful, you'd keep your promises."
Wizard: The Great Ob has spoken. Pay no attention to that man behind the filibuster has spoken.
Demothy: Who are you?
The Wizard: I, I, I am the Great and Powerful Wizard of Ob.
Demothy: I don't believe you.
The Wizard: I'm afraid it's true. There's no other Wizard except me.
ScareKos: You humbug.
Olber Man: Yeah.
The Wizard: Yes. That's exactly so. I'm a humbug.
Demothy: Oh, you're a very bad man!
The Wizard: Oh, no, my dear, I...I'm a very good man - I'm just a very bad President.
DWSUWF welcomes any and all suggested links, for any and all lines anywhere in the lyric (or dialog), from any who accidentally stumble across this post, at any time.

To help get you into the spirit. Music up... Raise the Curtain...

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

President Obama to freeze some spending soon. But not too much. And not too soon. Liberals outraged.

Yesterday, in a background briefing, the administration announced a three year spending freeze on portions of the budget. Since departments with the fastest growing government expenditures like Defense, VA, the State Department, Homeland Security and entitlements are excluded from the "freeze", it will have a negligible effect on the ballooning deficit. NYT:
"The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time."
Shortly after the announcement, Jared Bernstein, economist and economic adviser to Vice President Biden, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show - the media outlet that is arguably the most direct conduit to the progressive community. Mr. Bernstein proceeds to soft pedal even the very modest impact the policy would have on deficits, almost apologizing for it, and practically promising that the administration will really continue to be the big spenders that the progressives know and love. Maddow wasn't buying what Jared was selling:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

One cannot help but wonder if the administration is trying to be all things to all people, and risks representing nothing and no one.

I am sure the President will clear all of this up in the State of the Union address tomorrow.

I can't wait.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Healthcare on the ground.
Pivot to the banks.
Healthcare on the ground.*

With President Obama's propensity for continuous machine gun-like rapid fire communication, it is important to sort out which administration missives demand attention and which can be safely ignored. I take my cue from the number of politico's lined up behind the podium.

Based on this metric, Thursday's briefing deserved our attention. This was a 10-bagger. Ten - count them - ten administration and congressional luminaries lined up like so many potted plants serving as backdrop to the presidential announcement. There you have Paul Volcker, Bill Donaldson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Christine Rohmer, Peter Orszag, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and somebody else I don't recognize. The occasion was President Obama's announcement of the latest refinement to the administration "Financial Reform" initiative:
"It's for these reasons that I'm proposing a simple and common-sense reform, which we're calling the "Volcker Rule" -- after this tall guy behind me. Banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest, or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers. If financial firms want to trade for profit, that's something they're free to do. Indeed, doing so –- responsibly –- is a good thing for the markets and the economy. But these firms should not be allowed to run these hedge funds and private equities funds while running a bank backed by the American people."
He cautioned financial industry lobbyists to not fight his "common sense reforms ... if these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have." The remarks came one week after he announced "we want our money back, and we're going to get it. And that's why I'm proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms..." and one day before hitting the road for an Ohio Townhall where he promised to "never stop fighting to protect you from the kind of deceptive practices we've seen from some in the financial sector". Clearly, the predicted presidential populist pivot against the banks is well underway.

Coincidentally (or not), all this bank bashing takes place in the context of a stunning rejection from the Massachusetts electorate, and equally breathtaking Democratic party retreat on the health care reform bill.

Wall Street reacted badly, falling in anticipation of the President’s speech, sliding further while he was speaking, and continuing to drop after he finished. This was possibly the worst Wall Street reaction to an administration initiative since Tim Geithner announced the plan to save Wall Street almost one year ago. Then, Tim Geithner was standing next to Obama as financial reform was introduced and later when the details were fleshed out over the summer. There is less certainty where he and Larry Summers stand now. At least in their role as potted plants, they appear to have moved closer to the exit than the president.

Whether financial reform is more politics than policy, or optics over substance, or whether it goes the way of health care reform, will be dependent on Congress and the bills being shaped in Chris Dodd's Senate and Barney Frank's House committees. It cannot be encouraging to reform proponents that Barney Frank went directly from his role as stage prop to an interview on CNBC where he soft pedaled the reforms announced minutes before.

Wall Street professionals were understandably confused:

I have not seen Rick Santelli quite this exercised since he inadvertently inspired the Tea Party movement last spring.

Let’s wrap this up with a quick Financial Reform Bill status check: The President is on the stump, giving speeches, sitting for interviews, and conducting town-halls in a media blitz supporting this major reform initiative. He campaigned on this reform and his administration has promoted several iterations of the bill since taking office. In the meantime, Democrats in the House and Senate are crafting reform bills that are inconsistent (if not incompatible) with each other and with the President’s promises.

No one knows what version, if any, will pass.

I think I have seen this movie before.

Although I don't watch American Idol, I am given to understand from a usually reliable source who does, that everyone will instantly understand this reference to a recent pop culture phenomena. For any who may be as culturally illiterate as myself, the source of the title is a "song" from this audition on American Idol. I first heard Brett Favre's locker room rendition. In an effort to be culturally relevant I thought I'd add a verse in honor of the presidential pivot.
Healthcare on the Ground*
(with apologies to Larry Platt)

Healthcare on the ground.
Healthcare on the ground.
Lookin' like a fool with healthcare on the ground.

Brown in the Senate,
Pivot to the banks,
Healthcare on the ground.

Call yourself a populist,
lookin' opportunist,
Talkin' banks down,
with healthcare on the ground.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The future of news and commentary:
Taiwanese animation & Hitler recaptioning

The time is fast approaching when all news and commentary will be delivered as either a Hitler bunker scene re-captioning, or a Taiwanese animation. This week's top stories:

The Late Night Talk Show Kerfuffle

Scott Brown Wins Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate Seat

One of these formats is adequate for anything that happens.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Tuesday Massachusetts Miscellany [UPDATED]

Is there a better political story than the Brown/Coakley special election in Massachusetts? This is a much more exciting contest than either of the playoff games on Sunday. The latest (and last) Public Policy Poll has Brown up by 5 points, the Merriam River Group has him up by 9.7% and a Massachusetts bellweather city poll has him up by 15 points. This live graph is a composite of all polls:

While those crossed hockey sticks are pretty compelling, the outcome remains uncertain. Nate Silver explains why...
"It's certainly tempting to take the Ockham's Razor argument for Brown -- "look at the trendlines, duuuude!" -- which has become the conventional wisdom even if nobody is saying it. And it's perhaps just as tempting to play the role of the contrarian, sort of buy the rumor and sell the news, and insist that Coakley will leg it out. But for the time being -- and subject to change based on last-minute polling -- I'm not comfortable with any characterization of this race other than too close to call."
... then expands on the risks of trendspotting here. Charlie Cook, like Nate Silver still calls it a toss-up, but unlike Nate, is leaning to Brown. Regardless of whether you agree or trust their political leanings, these are smart analysts. I suspect they are right and this will be a very close race. After all, this is still Massachusetts.

The simple reality is this: Boston is a Democratic party machine city, and Massachusetts is a Democratic state. A political machine is designed to manufacture votes. I am not talking about anything illegal, I am just talking about basic old style, precinct by precinct footwork, “walking around money”, busloads of voters rounded up and driven to the polls, preachers in the pulpits delivering the flock, etc. No matter how large the enthusiasm gap in a campaign, nothing can get out the vote more effectively than an army of foot soldiers on the ground manning a well oiled political machine. The question in Massachusetts is whether the machine was ready to go, or if they can crank it up fast enough now that they know they have a problem. OTOH, if the foot soldiers decide to change teams or desert their posts, the machine does not work as well. Another question is whether Libertarian candidate Joseph Kennedy will siphon a couple of percentage points from Brown (or Coakley). This election cannot be predicted and will likely be a nail biter. Maybe even Al Franken close and settled in the courts.

The last big effort to turn back the Scott Brown tide was in evidence all weekend. It had two tracks, a high road, and a low road.

On the high road, President Obama arrived to headline a rally of Democratic Party luminaries stumping for Martha Coakley. Among them, Representative Patrick Kennedy, who explained that, a vote for Scott Brown is really a vote for George W. Bush, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino who denounced the "dot coms" that are pouring money into Browns campaign. Scott Brown held a competing event, billed the "Peoples Rally" where he drew as big a crowd as the president, favoring local heroes like Curt Schilling and Doug Flutie over Republican pols. His comments from the rally here.

On the low road, the Massachusetts Democratic Party distributed a glossy mass mailer falsely claiming that Scott Brown wants hospitals to turn away rape victims. It was denounced by liberals and conservatives alike and may prompt a defamation lawsuit. Closer to the norm of electioneering partisan nonsense, a 2008 you tube clip with Brown questioning whether Obama's mother was married was widely distributed across the left-o-sphere. The intent was apparently to link Brown to birthers. The charge itself was quite a reach, and didn't stick, but not for lack of trying. Even a Nobel Prize winning economist chose to cheapen his New York Times column, using it as a platform for distributing this pure partisan hackery.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner concludes that the electorate's preference for divided and balanced government is one of "Two factors will decide Massachusetts Senate race":"
"After all the speeches, politicking, and attack ads, there are just two issues that will determine the winner of the Massachusetts Senate seat in Tuesday's special election. The first is health care and the second is one-party government. And in Massachusetts, neither issue works exactly as outsiders might think -- and right now both are working in favor of Republican Scott Brown... And for the independent voters who will play a critical role in Tuesday's election, Massachusetts' one-party rule mirrors the one-party rule in today's Washington, where national Democrats are deciding important issues among themselves without even the pretense of including Republicans... Given the uniqueness of Massachusetts politics, voters' feelings about the top two issues in this election -- health care and one-party rule -- seem unlikely to be affected much by outside appeals, whether they be from President Obama, former President Clinton, or former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who campaigned for Brown on Friday. What do those outsiders have to add to the public's understanding of how the issues play out in Massachusetts? State voters have their own distinctive perspective, and that is what will guide their decision on Tuesday."
HOPE floats. I am getting a tingly feeling in my leg.


Nate Silver throws in the towel – 538 Model Posits Brown as 3:1 Favorite.

The post-mortems, cries, lamentations, and rending of garments begin. Even while the "corpse" is still breathing.

UPDATE: 19-January-2010

This is what I'm tracking: The prediction market showed Brown with an 80% probability of winning early, dropping to 60% (a big bet on Coakley?) now rising again back over 80%. If you buy into the notion that a robust prediction market with real people betting real money is the best poll, this looks like a done deal.

For fun, I am also following Professor Jacobson's Live Tuesday comment feed at Legal Insurrection and Stacy McCain at The Other McCain - just to revel in the excitement and energy.

I hope this political wave makes it to the left coast. Time for Babs to go.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Scott Brown in Massachusetts: Hope or Delusion?

UPDATED: 15-Jan-10
graphic created using

Can Republican Scott Brown really win the senate seat in Massachusetts on January 19? I didn't think so, until I saw this clip from his debate with Martha Coakley.

David Gergen served up a softball and Scott Brown knocked it out of the park.
"It's not Ted Kennedy's seat. It's not the Democrat's seat. It's the people's seat."
This clip is getting a lot of play around the intertubes and MSM. If Brown wins, this may be the moment that put him over the top. In the 24 hours after the debate, over a million dollars flowed into his campaign coffers. The Democratic party establishment took note and sent out a call for cavalry. Of course Big Union is riding to the rescue. But in the meantime, while Coakley was hobnobbing with lobbyists and measuring the drapes in Washington D.C., Brown was on the ground campaigning in Massachusetts.

The tight polls say it is possible, and the distinct odor of desperation is emanating from an increasingly shrill Coakley campaign, but I still cannot believe that Massachusetts would elect a Republican to finish Ted Kennedy's term in the Senate. It seems as unlikely as unseating my Representative Nancy Pelosi or Senator Barbara Boxer in the upcoming mid-terms. Just not a good bet.

Comments by a Massachusetts resident on a Donklephant post sum up my view on the race. Like NY Congressional District 23, the Democrats may get a scare, but on election night Martha Coakley will prevail. All this national attention and tightening polls should serve to motivate the rank and file Democrats to get out the vote. Excitement about their candidate being heretofore the very thing that is missing from the Democratic campaign. Scott Brown gave them the gift of panic excitement.

That said, Scott Brown is doing some very smart things. Challenging Massachusetts voters to rethink the notion that this senate seat is an entitlement of the Democratic Party was exactly the right thing to do. In addition, he is soft pedaling the commitment required by voters, noting there are only three years left in the term. Saying in effect - Just try it out for while. If you don't like it you don't have to buy. Very smart salesmanship - first deal with the objection, then make it easy to sign on the dotted line.

It will still be a miracle if he pulls it off, but if he does I'll have to change my prediction for 2010. Who knows? If the GOP can pick up this seat, four more seem reasonable, and if Joe Lieberman gets tired of his abusive relationship with the Democrats, well, that means a new majority in the Senate in 2011.

Dare I even dream the impossible dream? Replacing Barbara Boxer with Carly Fiorina?

If Brown can win in Massachusetts, anything can happen.

We might even restore divided government in 2011.


UPDATE: 15 -Jan-10
As the polls tightened, with some showing Brown ahead, President Obama mailed in a message of support for Martha Coakley (literally - this is not a TV ad, but was delivered to potential supporters via e-mail):

I think he also "mailed it in" figuratively. I find it odd that he would deliver such a lackluster pitch invoking the “Change” mantra as if the last year never happened. I can understand that pitch if this was directed purely to the hard core Obamites for whom (like “Loyal Bushies”) this is purely an exercise in blind partisan loyalty. They are going to vote for Coakley regardless. But this election will turn on the votes of the independents and moderates that put Obama in office.

Does he really have so little respect for Massachusetts voters that he thinks he can just repeat the same empty campaign slogans of a year ago? I mean – we now know what “change” means. It means two massive blowout omnibus spending bills with a combined 14,000 earmarks. It means a trillion dollar “stimulus” bill that didn’t stimulate anything, was written by the House of Representatives and was predominantly a vehicle to funnel money to Democratic districts. It means a trillion dollar Health Care “reform” bill that was written by big pharma, big insurance, and big union lobbyists and does not go into full effect until 2019 when it still will not cover 28 million Americans. It means a massive escalation of the War in Afghanistan. I guess if that is the kind of “change” Massachusetts wants, they should vote for a rubber stamp like Coakley.

Is it going to work? Who knows. This is still Massachusetts. I guess you could call this a hint of an indication of a possible emerging groundswell of lukewarm support for Coakley among Massachusetts Democrats. The only poll that matters is on Tuesday. We'll find out then.

Word is, the president is going “all-in” and will be campaigning for Coakley in Massachusetts on Sunday. We’ll soon see if he can still play a winning hand.

Continued on next post.

x-posted at Donklephant

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Carnival of Divided Government
Triginta Quinque
Special Broken Resolutions Edition

Welcome to the 35th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The Special Broken New Year Resolution Edition.

Broken Promises

Only ten days into the 'Tens, and DWSUWF has already broken two, maybe three, maybe ten resolutions. This Carnival was promised as a special New Years Day Edition January 1, then as a Special Hangover Edition on January 2. Yeah... well... that just wasn't going to happen. We also privately resolved to post every day for the first few weeks of the year, just to see if we could find some blogging discipline in the new decade. Yeah... that didn't happen either. So we are up to at least three broken resolutions, or depending on how we count them - ten.

Small comfort, but whatever the number, we are still doing better than the Obama administration. As noted administration critic Nancy Pelosi quipped when referring to President Obama: "There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail". Indeed, Madame Speaker, there was.

She was responding to a question about just one of the things that candidate Obama was for then, specifically - transparent health care negotiations televised on c-span, which... he is apparently not for now. This is par for the health care reform course, since Obama also claimed to not have campaigned on the public option, except he did, and he was completely against taxing health care plans, until he was for it.

But that is just health care reform. Candidate Obama promised "Sunshine before Signing", saying he "would not sign any nonemergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days." He kept that promise until... well... never. The sunshine on his very first bill, the Fair Pay Act, was obscured by the clouds of political expediency. It passed on January 27, 2009, was signed on January 29, 2009, and only then posted on the web. Similar cloudy politics kept the sun away from the S-Chip bill, the Credit Card Bill of Rights, and of course, the stimulus bill.

Then there was the promise "...absolutely, we need earmark reform. And when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely." Now, to be fair, he may not have broken that promise. Sure, he signed an Omnibus spending bill in March with around 9,000 earmarks, and then he signed another one in December with 5,000 more, but, I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt on this promise. He probably did review each earmark line by line and we can rest assured that each was money well spent.

Politfact is also keeping score, counting 11 promises broken outright, with 91 more generously described as stalled or compromised. According to the Washington Independent, we have yet more broken promises waiting in the wings, but we must moved on. If we tried to list them all, we'd never get around to the...

Carnival of Divided Government

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government Triginta Quinque (XXXV), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

First up - Andy Barr writing in Politico, references a George Washington University poll and notes "Republican candidates lead in poll":
"A wide majority, 68 percent, of those polled in the George Washington survey said they disapprove of how Congress has handled its job. But voters are split on whether they would prefer a divided government – with Republicans controlling Congress and President Barack Obama in the White House – or a unified government. Forty-one percent said they preferred a divided government, while 38 percent would choose a united one."
Hmmm. We have work to do and miles to go before we sleep.

Kevin Hassett reminds us of what is at stake in his Minneapolis Star Tribune blog and Bloomberg column "U.S. Spend-a-thon Risk Slide Into Greek Tragedy":
"The world economy shuddered last week as a rating company downgrade of Greek debt set off fears of default. Investors decided to beware of Greeks bearing bonds, and markets stumbled... If the current Greek budget outlook proves to be accurate, then its deficit over this year and next will average a whopping 10.9 percent of gross domestic product. Small wonder that investors headed for the exits. A deficit that high could easily turn into a fiasco. As bad as that picture is, it’s worse in the U.S. Our deficit this year, according to the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, will be 11.2 percent of gross domestic product... Last week’s House budget vote suggests that the current spending trend will continue. If so, there are two likely endgames. The first is a takeover of at least one branch of Congress by Republicans. Divided government created a political dynamic that delivered budget sanity when Clinton was president, and it might do so again. Given the failure of both Republicans and Democrats to govern sensibly as the dominant party, divided government may be our only hope. In the second scenario, Democrats continue to rule as they currently are. Anyone who wants to understand better where that will lead should call up the Greeks."

A faint hope, but hope nevertheless.

Bruce McQuain at QandO understands the solution, but fears that the Republican Party establishment does not, as explicated in his survey of "The National Political Scene":
"Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012."
I am even less optimisitic than McQ. The GOP has just dug too deep a hole to crawl back out in one election cycle. It would take an extraordinary shift for the GOP to regain a majority in either house in 2010. But if Republicans make up ground in 2010 as seems likely, it is a foregone conclusion that they will at least retake the Senate and possibility the House in 2012. In that case, I would just as soon see the Republicans lose the White House. Divided Government is always better than Single Party Rule, regardless of whether it is the Democrats or the Republicans. And there is nothing that serves as a better reminder to Republican legislators of core principles, than a Democratic President.

Either Anne, Dave, Mick or Mark is blogging at Anetreptic and offering some common sense analysis of the 2010 election in the post "Dodd, Dorgan To Spend More Time With Family":
"Any electoral calculus at this point is as meaningless as all the chatter we saw a few months ago about how Democrats were going to pick up additional Senate seats from retiring Republicans, but at very least, the Democrats can kiss their super-majority goodbye. The House on the other hand is looking like it could very well pass back into Republicans hands. Ah! Divided government. My favorite."
Mine too. But, like many, Anne/Dave/Mick/Mark may be underestimating the extraordinary difficulty of flipping a majority in the House. With representatives enjoying over a 95% re-election rate in most years, it takes a tsunami to flip the House. Why? Gerrymandering is a major factor, combined with the tendency of voters to like their own representative, no matter how much they despise Congress. Counter-intuitively, it is easier to flip a majority in the Senate than the House, despite only 1/3 of the Senate being up for re-election every cycle. This is evidenced by the 100 Year Rule - Since we started directly electing Senators over 100 years ago, no House of Representatives has ever flipped a majority, without it happening first or simultaneously in the Senate. It could happen as it did in 2006, but I just don't see that kind of groundswell in 2010. Although, if AJ Strata is right, this Public Policy Poll may be an early tsunami warning.

Kelly Curran, writing in the Jeffersonville Evening News & Tribune, has a similar take on the GOP prospects in "A Retirement Party?":
"If government that governs the least governs best, which sounds very likely, and the branches of government are supposed to check each other, we are best served with divided government. That is, if there is a Democrat in the White House, another party should at least be in control of one house of Congress. If the Republicans just let it happen, Congress is theirs in 2010. Unless they screw up."
By "screwing up", Kelly means GOP establishment driving libertarian factions from the party with ideological purity tests. It is sort of the same concern as McQ, but sideways and inside out.

The Commissioner of The Bipartisan Rules links David Boaz' Cato post on filibuster hypocrisy (a topic on which DWSUWF has also recently opined), then outlines "The Case for the Filibuster":
"The bottom line is this: The filibuster is as American an institution as the Senate itself. Our republic -- miraculously, liberal Democrats and ultra-conservative Republicans would argue -- has survived more than two centuries of the filibuster. While the filibuster is not in the text of the Constitution, its legislative history demonstrates that its principle is equally as old. Read the Federalist Papers. Read the text of the actual Constitution. The American system is one of divided government -- federalism, three branches of government, a bicameral federal legislature and yes, the 200-year-old filibuster -- putting a premium on the rights of the political minority."
It should not seen that hard to understand, yet ignorance of the history and intent of the founders and architects of our Constitution is epidemic. James Madison's deep insight into the reality of human nature in government, and his explanation of the need to pit ambition against ambition in a government comprised of men who are not angels as explicated in Federalist #51, should be required reading for all Americans. My favorite phrase to describe our Constitution and government was coined by historian Joseph Ellis - "The enshrinement of argument". When Congress serves as a partisan lapdog to the Executive, as it did under the first six years of the Bush administration and as it is doing now, our government is not working as it was designed.

Glendon Brown, blogging at OneUtah is in the midst of a multi-part dissertation on "Divided Government, the Uniqueness of the Sixth Party System (Part one)":
"A favorite claim of pundits, which has made its way into the public awarness as an accepted political truism, is the claim that the government works best when it is divided – that the elected branches are controlled by different parties. The experience of the last few years seems to reinforce the claim – the notion that the disasters of the Bush era would not have happened if government had been divided, a Democratic Congress would have restrained the President’s war-making and forced him to not ignore Katrina, the coming economic storm and so on. By contrast, the 1990s saw a divided government, budget surpluses and the longest peacetime economic expansion in history. Examining the divided government thesis requires two separate efforts – first placing it in historical context and second examining the argument and its assumptions."
I've read through Glendon's piece, and am still not completely clear on what he is calling the "Sixth Party System". If understand it correctly, it is a chronological label for the sixth distinct political party configuration since the founding of our country. I am not sure I am buying into his historical interpretation, but look forward to reading more from Glendon as he fleshes his thesis out. Beyond that, I have a few other quibbles. The case for supporting divided government is built on more than "favorite claim of pundits". Historians, legal scholars, and economists have documented these benefits of Divided Government vs. Single Party Rule:
* Restrained growth of spending.
* Better oversight.
* Less corruption.
* Less likelihood of war.
* More carefully considered major legislation.
* Greater fiscal responsibility.
* Reinforced Checks and Balances between the branches.
Whether you consider divided government to be better government depends on whether you agree the items in this list represent "better" government. DWSUWF does.

Kyle Wingfield contributing to the Atlanta Journal Constitution blogs, arrives at the startling conclusion that the "Economy will determine 2010's political losers":
"The past 20 years have seen voters put a different party in the White House in 1992, punish Democratic overreach in 1994, re-elect Bill Clinton in 1996; put a different party in the White House in 2000, re-elect George Bush in 2004, punish GOP fecklessness in 2006; put a different party in the White House in 2008. At some point, voters will conclude that their pendulumism doesn’t discipline either party. Their short-term response, in D.C. and perhaps under Atlanta’s Gold Dome, may be a lunge toward divided government."
While it is true that "pendulism" careening from single party Republican rule to single party Democratic rule, does not "discipline either party", the parties will and do discipline each other - just so long as neither has all the keys.

Kevin Ecker at True North first quotes Ann Althouse...
"People just don't want this bill. I think the big mistake was skipping the step of winning public support for a particular plan. It wasn't enough that people believed there was a problem. People needed to believe the solution wasn't worse than the problem. We were supposed to look away and trust them. The trust was never won, never earned. It's been a horrific mess, and it just looks messier and messier as time wears on. Obama kept his distance, which looks pretty smart now. Easy to see why the congressional Democrats are pissed at him now. Good! I like divided government."
... then quotes Sun Tzu while analyzing administration mistakes on the Health Care bill in his post "Instead of tripping on the grenade, he should have tossed it.":
"By showing a willingness to get in there and mix it up, the whole debate might have taken on a cooperative feeling to it. Instead by letting very uncharismatic, and already unpopular, Democratic leaders take the forefront, this bill was forced to be ramrodded via all sorts of backdoor and horribly partisan measures."
An excellent lesson in how real, open, and partisan debate in a divided government would have resulted in a better bill with greater acceptance from the governed. It could hardly have done worse. Oh - and BTW, I would be a great deal more receptive to Ms. Althouse's declarations of affection for divided government, if she had not voted against divided government.

Jim Babka at Downsize DC, an organization that has taken on the Sisyphean task of um... downsizing DC, posted his "Annual Report for 2009":
"The best you and I can hope for in the immediate future is that the Democrats will lose control of Congress, resulting in divided government. Things were better in the 90s when one party controlled the White House, and the other controlled Congress. But while divided government is better than one-party rule, it's still not good enough."
Right. Not good enough, but one hell of a lot better than the situation right now. To point out the obvious, we don't have divided government right now, and there is a pretty poor likelihood of getting even to that state before 2012. So, while I think you guys are doing god's work taking on Leviathan, and I'll probably even send you a few bucks, perhaps - in 2010 - you should think about moving the re-election of divided government to the front burner. It is sure not a gimme, every additional voice could help, and it is the one thing that could be accomplished in 2010 that would make a real difference. The aphorism that a journey of a thousand miles starts with single step is one you should seriously ponder right now.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Madeleine Begun Kane poetically presenting "Dressing Down The President" posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness:
"Dear Obama, your job is to lead.
You have failed. So has Senator Reid.
Seems you’d sign any swill
Labeled “health reform bill,”
And then brag that we’ve got what we need.

Yes, you’ve tragic’ly blown your great chance.
So spare us the song and the dance.
Though many will swear
You’ve done much for our care,
I am sorry — the prez has no pants.."
Despite politics at considerable divergence from our own, Madeleine is a DWSUWF favorite, and has made numerous appearances as the CODGOV off-topic pick. We keep hoping these links will inspire her to compose a Divided Government limerick someday.

With that, we''ll wrap up this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Although we intend to pick up the Carnival pace in this election year, DWSUWF will be out of the country for most of April. So look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government triginta sedecim (XXXVI)- Special Ides of March Edition on or about 03-15-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Truth in Blogging

Last week's White House Blog post by Dan Pfeiffer was notable for the brutal unvarnished honesty of its title:
The Same Old Washington Blame Game
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on December 30, 2009 at 03:34 PM EST
I am just not accustomed to this kind of refreshing candor coming from a Communication Director for this or, for that matter, any administration. After all, the job of a Communication Director is "spin" - to frame everything in the most positive light for the President and the administration. But there it is... Pfeiffer delivers on the promise of the title "The Same Old Washington Blame Game" with much more of the same old Washington blame game in the body of the post.

In the first paragraph, Pfeiffer writes "too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay...". In the rest of the post he points fingers and makes political hay:
"..for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States."

"Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country."

"The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible..."
Kudos to Dan Pfeiffer. No telling where this kind of honesty might lead. If Congress followed his example and gave honest titles to its legislative efforts, the stimulus bill might have been named: "Bring Home the Bacon to Democratic Districts Porkfest"; the Cash for Clunkers program would be titled "We Will Borrow Money From China To Be Repaid by Your Children And Give It To You So You Can Buy a Car Now Act"; and the health care reform bill that recently passed the Senate would be known as "A Giant Legislative Hairball That No One Understands Except the Big Pharma and Health Care Insurance Lobbyists that Wrote It" bill.

I can only hope this trend will continue. Perhaps other political bloggers will be inspired to be more candid about their blog posts. Perhaps even DWSUWF should follow Dan's lead and replace this post title with "A Smarmy, Cynical, Sarcastic And Unfunny Take On The White House Blog".

Hat Tip - Kate at Small Dead Animals

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy new year, good riddance to the Aughts, and best wishes for the Dividist Decade to come.

Here my appreciative extended family models their favorite holiday gift. The picture encompasses a wide range of political and religious affiliations, including half a dozen Christian denominations, two or three Judaic disciplines, secular humanists, animists, agnostics and a Druid. Among them you'll political liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and a Whig. See if you can spot the Driud Whig, the Ron Paul gold standard conspiracist and the kool-aid drinking Obama apologist.

Dividist® apparel makes a thoughtful gift for any occasion, but will be particularly appreciated during the decade to come.

As we reflect on the decade just passed, and look forward to the decade and election years ahead, a friendly reminder: Seven of the last ten years have been under Single Party Rule in Washington D.C.

One question... How did that work out for you?

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.