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Politics (2007-2008)

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Blue Sky Mining.

“One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), said: ‘The American people wanted change in our energy and climate policy. And this is the change that the people are overwhelmingly asking for.’ He called it ‘the most important energy and environment bill in the history of our country.‘” After much wrangling and a half-hearted GOP attempt at filibuster (which is only a prerogative of the Senate), the House passes the Waxman-Markey climate bill, 219-212. (Eight Republicans voted for it, 44 Dems opposed.) The “cap-and-trade” bill “would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.” [Key provisions.]

There is some concern that the bill has been watered down too much out of political necessity: “While the bill’s targets may seem dramatic, they are in fact less than what the science tells us is required to avoid catastrophic warming. The 2020 target in particular is far too weak and quite easy and cheap for the country to meet with efficiency, conservation, renewables and fuel-switching from coal to natural gas.

Still, environmentalists remain hopeful. “It is worth noting that the original Clean Air Act — first passed in 1963 — also didn’t do enough and was subsequently strengthened many times.” And, while the bill — which (sigh) gives away 85% of the new emission allowances (the heart of the “cap-and-trade” market hopefully soon to emerge) to interested parties — looks to “set off a lobbying feeding frenzy,” groups like the NRDC seem to agree that “[t]his is the best bill that can actually get through committee.”

Of course, now the bill has to get through the Senate, where the usual lions lie in wait. “”Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he declared flatly, ‘because we’ll kill it in the Senate anyway.'” And even some Dems are fatalistic about its prospects. “Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voted against the measure that he says will die in the Senate. ‘A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law,’ Taylor told The Hill after the gavel came down.” Looks like Sen. Reid has his work cut out for him.

Hulk Free to Smash Again.

Mr. Holder said in a statement that ‘I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial.'” Hmmm. Why does Clay Davis come to mind? After discovering that agents at Justice and the FBI tried to frame a guilty man, as it were, Attorney General Eric Holder drops the prosecution of 85-year-old former Senator Ted Stevens. “The collapse of the Stevens case was a profound embarrassment for the Justice Department, and it raised troubling issues about the integrity of the actions of prosecutors who wield enormous power over people they investigate.” Uh, ok…but why aren’t we seeing this judicious, otherwise laudable commitment to fair play when it comes to state secrets and victims of extraordinary rendition?

At any rate, as official Washington rushes to embrace Stevens once more, let’s keep the big picture in mind: “[E]ven leaving criminal wrongdoing aside, no one disputes that Stevens accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of home renovations and gifts (remember that massage chair?) from a supporter who had a slew of business interests that Stevens was in a position to affect as a powerful federal lawmaker and appropriator. That’s what we call ‘corrupt’. As Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington put it, according to The Hill’s paraphrase: ‘Holder’s decision in no way should be viewed as a vindication of Stevens but rather as an indictment of the Justice Department’s inability to do one of its most important jobs.‘” True, that.

Morning in America.

Well, y’all, we made it. After eight long, damaging years, we’ve finally passed through the tunnel of Dubya. And in ten hours or so, we can finally begin the real work of restoring our nation and its place in the world.

It’s a good day for a change.

Obama: Give Peace a Chance.

“‘I’m here tonight to say a few words about an American hero I have come to know very well and admire very much — Sen. John McCain. And then, according to the rules agreed to by both parties, John will have approximately 30 seconds to make a rebuttal.'” Now here’s a prez worth hugging…On the eve of his inauguration, Sen. Obama publicly makes nice with his former adversary, John McCain.

And, apparently it’s not just for show: According to the NYT, the president-elect has been trying to forge a bond with McCain (and his No. 2, Lindsey Graham) since soon after the election. “Mr. Obama arrived for their Chicago meeting on Nov. 16 with several well-researched proposals to collaborate on involving some of Mr. McCain’s favorite causes, including a commission to cut ‘corporate welfare,’ curbing waste in military procurement and an overhaul of immigration rules.

Hey, rapprochement is good, bipartisanship is good. And working Senators McCain and Graham (and, I’d presume Maine’s moderates, Snowe and Collins) is simply smart politics. Still, when push inevitably comes to shove on Iraq, health care, and a host of other issues, hopefully the president-elect will remember to dance with who brung him.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

“I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better, or, you know, mistakes I made. Clearly putting a ‘Mission Accomplished’ on a aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless, it conveyed a different message. Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake. I’ve thought long and hard about Katrina — you know, could I have done something differently…”

After eight long years, the end is in sight, and the Idiot Wind is at long last subsiding. For the 43rd president of these United States, George Dubya Bush, gave his final press conference today, during which he finally conceded that “there have been disappointments.” Why, yes, yes, there have. Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don’t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were — things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way.” Um, yeah.

At any rate, don’t worry: I’m sure we’ll be getting one last round of 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 before closing time, when Dubya delivers his “farewell address” on Thursday. One can only hope that it turns out to be Eisenhoweresque, and not one more final, futile attempt to rewrite the history books. But I’m not keeping my fingers crossed.

Kabul by the Horns.

“The good news is that, seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks and nearly three years after the resumption of full-scale war with the Taliban, we are finally beginning to formulate a strategy — and we have officers in place who think strategically. As history shows, however, smart generals and shrewd strategists don’t necessarily yield victory — especially in Afghanistan.”

As the incoming administration correctly looks to reprioritize Afghanistan, Fred Kaplan summarizes the current situation in our “other” war, and the potential pitfalls ahead. “[T]here is a paradox: More U.S. troops are needed to provide security to the Afghan people; but these troops may, at the same time, fuel the insurgency — which will require more troops, and on the cycle goes.

The Man of the Hour.

So, can you guess who TIME’s Person of the Year for 2008 turned out to be?

Not a huge surprise of course. Regardless, in honor of the occasion, and since now seems as good a time as any to fire up the 2008-in-retrospect train, below are some of the longer GitM essays on President-elect Obama over the past year and change. (And if you’re really a glutton for punishment, and want to relive all the debate coverage or somesuch, there’s always the election 2008 archives.)

  • Progressivism, a Born Loser?, “Progressivism Continued” — November 2007. Wherein the case is made that [a] Obama is more progressive than he is liberal and that [b], contra friend and colleague David Greenberg, that’s exactly what America needs right now.
  • IA-Day | GitM for Obama” — January 2008. An overview of the Democratic field as it stood the morning of the Iowa caucus, and an endorsement of Barack Obama.
  • The Future Begins Now,” “Iowa By the Numbers” — January 2008. On Senator Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses.
  • Barack Obama and the Generation Gap” — January 2008 — A plea to Baby Boom voters, borrowing heavily from my man Bob Dylan, to get behind Sen. Obama.
  • Greenberg: Missing the Thread” — January 2008. Arguing, again with friend David Greenberg, that there is much more to Obama’s candidacy than just the “Great White Hope.”
  • The Great Need of the Hour” — January 2008. An excerpt from then-Senator Obama’s MLK day speech.
  • Yes, We Can,” “Oh Carolina!” — January 2008. Excerpts from Sen. Obama’s speech, and parsing Obama’s victory, in my home state of South Carolina.
  • A President Like My Father,” It is Time Now for Barack Obama” — January 2008. Excerpts from Caroline and Ted Kennedy’s respective endorsements of the Senator.
  • “Empty Suit…with a Stovepipe Hat” — January 2008. The Tribune‘s Eric Zorn makes the Lincoln v. Seward comparison explicit.
  • Lakoff on the Dem Divide” — January 2008. Linguist and political theorist George Lakoff endorses Obama.
  • Showtime | Barack Obama for President” — February 2008. A round-up of Obama endorsements, and primary news thus far, on Super Tuesday.
  • We’re Going the Distance” — February 2008. Parsing the Super Tuesday results.
  • Obama Endorses La Follette” — February 2008. In Wisconsin, Obama rhetorically tips his hat to the progressives of yesteryear.
  • Dodd Comes Forward” — February 2008. Senator Chris Dodd becomes the first former primary opponent to endorse Obama.
  • We are Hope Despite the Times” — March 2008. Michael Stipe endorses Obama.
  • Stepping Back for the Big Picture” — March 2008. On the state of the race during the six-week Pennsylvania lull.
  • A More Perfect Union” — March 2008. On Senator Obama’s “Race in America” speech.
  • Our Five Year Mission” — May 2008. Barack Obama and others respond to the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
  • So Happy Together… | It’s On.” — May 2008. The McCain-Obama general election unofficially begins.
  • The Lesson of the Ring” — June 2008. Some closing thoughts on the seemingly never-ending 2008 Democratic primary.
  • The Nominee” — June 2008. Excerpt from Sen. Obama’s nomination-clinching victory speech.
  • The Bygones are Bygones” — June 2008. Senators Obama and Clinton make peace.
  • Obama: Don’t Tread on Me” — June 2008. Thought on and excerpts from Sen. Obama’s “patriotism” speech in Independence, MO.
  • Wir sind alle Berliners” — July 2008. On Sen. Obama’s summer world tour and speech in Berlin.
  • That’s Me in the Corner…” — August 2008. On Sen. Obama’s visit to Chesapeake, VA, which I attended.
  • The Ticket” — August 2008. Sen. Obama chooses Joe Biden as his running mate.
  • Wow,” “Obama: The Main Event” — August 2008. Reflections on my visit to Denver, and Sen. Obama’s nomination speech.
  • Astride the Mad Elephant” — October 2008. On the sad turn taken by the McCain campaign.
  • Barack Obama for President” — November 2008. The closing argument for Sen Obama, on election day.
  • 44,” “Thoughts after the Quake” — November 2008. Early reflections on the election of Barack Obama.
    Phew, what a long, strange trip it’s been! Of course, in all the important ways, we’re only just getting started.

  • The Situational Ethicists.

    [Obama] should have, right from the beginning, been more forthcoming.” Uh…what? Former White House consigliere Karl Rove, he of the missing e-mails and the congressional contempt citation, takes it upon himself to lecture the incoming Obama administration on issues of transparency vis a vis the Blagojevich situation, which is a bit like listening to Dirty Harry tsk-tsk someone for not following standard police procedure. I’m sorry, Karl, but you don’t have much credibility when it comes to the “forthcoming” department. Not. at. all.

    The larger story here, of course, is the Republican attempt to ascribe nefarious deeds to the Obama team when it’s patently clear, from the transcripts and otherwise, that the incoming administration’s hands are clean in the Blagojevich matter. We’ve seen this movie several times before during the Clinton era, when conservatives, abetted by the lazy groupthink tendencies of certain scandal-hungry media outlets, conspired to create full-blown, prolonged investigations out of Whitewater and the like. Let’s hope we’re all a little bit wiser to the origins of such manufactured controversies nowadays.

    To Our Health. | On Daschle.

    “‘Some may ask how at this moment of economic challenge we can afford to invest in reforming our healthcare system…I ask, how can we afford not to?” At the announcement of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as HHS Secretary yesterday, President-elect Obama makes clear health care reform is still very much on the table despite the economic downturn, and is working with Congress to bolster health care provisions in the current stimulus package. “‘It’s hard to overstate the urgency of this work…It’s not something that we can sort of put off because we’re in an emergency,’ he said. ‘This is part of the emergency.’

    Among others, Senate health czar of sorts Ted Kennedy has applauded the Daschle pick. (Apparently, some of Daschle’s positions on health care reform are causing consternation in some corners. They sound alright by me.) “Exceptional challenges call for exceptional leaders, and Tom is an ideal choice to meet the urgent challenge of health reform. His integrity, intelligence, experience and commitment to the American people have won him friends and admirers on both sides of the aisle.

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