Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
After interminable months of campaigning, debates, and roller-coaster polling, the first official vote of the 2012 presidential race is in -- and boy, is it a doozy. Ames straw poll winner Michele Bachmann placed second-to-last, while former juggernaut Rick Perry performed so badly he's canceled upcoming events and is said to be on the verge of dropping out. Meanwhile, perennial laughingstock Rick Santorum, consolidating the support hemorrhaging from Perry, Bachmann, and an ad-blitzed Newt Gingrich, rocketed past the youth- and independent-backed Ron Paul and, with 99% of the vote counted, is separated from Mitt Romney by four votes out of ~120,000 -- by far the closest result in caucus history. As the shaken field contemplates the path ahead through Romney firewall New Hampshire, conservative South Carolina, Florida, Super Tuesday, and beyond, President Obama staged a quiet redux of his own dramatic caucus win four years ago, a dry run for the looming general election. And as for powerhouse Buddy Roemer? Don't worry -- his team is ready to do battle with evil.
After weeks of fake primaries, fraudulent mailers, special interest moneybombs, and last-minute attempts at voter suppression, Wisconsinites went to the polls yesterday in an unprecedented round of six recall elections targeted mainly at Republican state senators for their support of Governor Scott Walker's controversial union-busting agenda. Five of the six races were called by Tuesday evening, with Democrats taking two of the three they'd need to regain control of the state senate. The lone holdout? A dead heat between incumbent Alberta Darling and challenger Sandy Pasch in District 8 -- the very same district that saw suspicious vote-counting by conservative Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus unexpectedly tip the balance towards Walker ally David Prosser late in the crucial state supreme court race this past April. The protracted count and late-night shift toward Darling coupled with Nickolaus's questionable history soon prompted Democratic officials to make accusations of fraud (later retracted). Control of the senate now lies in the defense of two Democratic seats up for recall next week and the possible wooing of GOP Senator Dale Schultz, the only Republican to vote against Walker's bill. Walker himself will be eligible for recall next spring. [more inside]
Conservatives on why the GOP should lose in 2006. Let's quit while we're behind by Christopher Buckley • Bring on Pelosi by Bruce Bartlett • And we thought Clinton had no self-control by Joe Scarborough • Give divided government a chance by William A. Niskanen • Restrain this White House by Bruce Fein • Idéologie has taken over by Jeffrey Hart • The show must not go on by Richard A. Viguerie
NewsFilter: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the chapel, teh gay menace strikes again. The GOP-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee backs the Constitutional amendment to prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages. In a fractious hearing, Republican chairman Arlen Specter shouted "Good riddance!" when Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) walked out. Laura Bush recently advised her party's candidates not to campaign on this issue and to handle it with "great sensitivity." Maybe next time.
Are you a Republican candidate for Senate facing a tough election and having trouble getting endorsements from your own party? It's time to take in an all-American baseball game with the Commander-in-Chief, target teh gay menace, and amend the US Constitution so American voters don't have to see any more of this over their morning corn flakes. "I think this will save him," Burress said of DeWine. "I think this move right here, regardless of the reason, will send him back to Washington." Of course, it's not just a GOP thing.
Intrigues at the White House: Andrew Card, Bush's longtime chief of staff -- the guy who briefly interrupted the President's reading of The Pet Goat one rough morning in 2001 and took heat for the Katrina and Dubai debacles -- is out, replaced by budget director "Yosh" Bolten, the one-time founder of a club called "Bikers for Bush." Meanwhile, is Rove rolling over for Patrick Fitzgerald, and if so, what's the angle?
"Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans." Invoking "high crimes and misdemeanors," Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold introduces a motion to censure [PDF link] President Bush for his controversial, legally dubious NSA wiretapping program. Feingold declares: "The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law." Republican leader Frist retorts: "It's a crazy political move" that sends a "terrible" signal to Iran. Democratic bloggers say: Call your senator. [More legal fallout from the NSA program recently discussed here.]
Newsfilter: Secret arrests, secret renditions, secret interrogations in secret jails, and now, secret rulings from US federal judges. More fallout from the Bush administration's NSA domestic-spying program [recently discussed here].
Then: Q - Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, how much money do you think the Department of Defense would need to pay for a war with Iraq? Rumsfeld - Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question. And now: The estimated cost to US taxpayers of the Iraq war to date is $250 billion and rising, or $100,000 per minute. Total cost of the Bush doctrine of spreading "democracy" since September 11th -- half a trillion dollars, or nearly the cost of the 13 years of the Vietnam War, adjusted for inflation. What else could we have done with that kind of money? Also see here.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald says emails relevant to the Valerie Plame leak investigation have gone missing from the White House. "In an adundance of caution," Fitzgerald wrote [PDF] to "Scooter" Libby's lawyers on January 23, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Might this help explain why Alberto Gonzales -- now the Attorney General, and lately so busy mustering arguments to assert that Bush's NSA domestic-spying program is "legal" -- waited 12 hours before instructing White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the leak investigation after telling Andrew Card about it? Shades of the late, great yoga instructor, Rose Mary Woods. [More on Plame here.]
Bush administration tries to silence NASA's chief climate expert James Hansen from granting interviews about global warming. Meanwhile, a new study by Australian researchers confirms that global sea levels are rising, and may make island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives uninhabitable by the end of the century. [via RawStory]
Shades of Stalin's pre-Photoshop erasing of Trotsky from history: Joanne Amos admits to Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall that her GOP-friendly company, Reflections Photography, scrubbed images of President Bush with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff from both their online archive and CD record of official events. [Photos previously discussed here.]
[TotalitarianismFilter] Don't be asking your college librarian for a copy of that Little Red Book to do a class assignment, or your parents might get a visit from the good folks at the Department of Homeland Security. More evidence that the Bush administration cannot restrain itself when granted enhanced surveillance powers.
Bush in the Bubble. Newsweek's analysis of the man who is possibly "the most isolated president in modern history."