At long last, the new math is born: How strange has our political system become? Consider this much-discussed part of Obamas state of the union address. For our money, the second part of this passage cancels out the first:
OBAMA: I know it's an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. 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.
And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a super-majority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well.
Alas! That largest majority in decades is an illusion if we now need a super-majority to do any business. The Dems hold 59 votes in the Senate. But 59 votes is like the old 49, if we need 60 to function.
How strange is our countrys new math? Consider what happened on Tuesday, when the Senate voted on a proposal to establish a bipartisan commission to make recommendations on future deficit reduction.
Last Sunday, the APs Andrew Taylor explained how the commission would work. Note the new math it involved:
TAYLOR (1/24/10): President Barack Obama on Saturday endorsed a bipartisan plan to name a special task force charged with coming up with a plan to curb the spiraling budget deficit, though the idea has lots of opposition from both his allies and rivals on Capitol Hill.
The bipartisan 18-member panel backed by Obama would study the issue for much of the year and, if 14 members agree, report a deficit reduction blueprint after the November elections that would be voted on before the new Congress convenes next year. The 14 would have to include at least half of the panel's Republicans, a big obstacle.
The commission couldnt make anything happen unless 14 out of 18 members agreed! For the record, that means that this new commission would need a super-majority of 78 percent!
In the current political environment, can anyone imagine 14 members, out of 18, reaching such an agreement? But despite the apparent implausibility, the proposal stirred great opposition.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted. The new math ruled again:
In this vote, the Senate was trying to establish a panel which would require a 78 percent super-majority. But the Senate failed to establish this commission. Fifty-three senators voted for the proposal. But so what? The proposal lost because it needed 60 votes!
Lets review, and drink in the irony: The Senate, which requires a 60 percent super-majority, had been trying to break its ongoing logjam by establishing a new commissiona commission which would require a 78 percent super-majority! But alas! The 78 percent solution will never occur, because the Senate couldnt manage to drum up 60 percent!
Do Democrats have the largest majority in decades? In a sense, but not as such! For decades, screeds have been launched against the new math. At long last, the new math is born.
Matthews and the birthers: Why is your country the joke of the world? Consider Chris Matthews discussion, on Tuesdays Hardball, with former congressman J. D. Hayworth. Hayworth is challenging John McCain in Arizonas GOP senate primary.
In the course of his interview, Matthews raised the question of Barack Obamas citizenship. Matthews frequently raises this topic, using it as a way to identify political crackpots. (After trashing Big Dems for years, Matthews has switched sides, tracking the change in political orientation at the corporation which owns him.) But speaking of crackpots, could anyone possibly be as dumbas clueless, as unprepared, asdaftas Matthews himself is?
Given the salary this numb-nut is paid, is anyone a bigger crackpot?
Here is the segment in which Matthews discussed this topic with Hayworth. Do you see a problem with Matthews performance? Warning: Matthews has conducted this sort of discussion before (link below):
MATTHEWS (1/26/10): Are you as far right as the birthers? Are you one of those who believes that the president should have to prove that hes a citizen of the United States and not an illegal immigrant? Are you that far right?
HAYWORTH: Well, gosh, we all had to bring our birth certificates to show we were who we said we were and we were the age we said we were to play football in youth sports. Shouldn't we know exactly that anyone who wants to run for public office is a natural-born citizen of the United States and is who they say they are? But let me pause and make another point, Chris, because
MATTHEWS: Do you think there's a question out there
HAYWORTH: I've read some of the
MATTHEWS: No, I'm reading your letter that says the president should go back and get his birth certificate from the governor of Hawaii. You dated this November 6, 2009. I'm just asking, do you stand by this letter?
HAYWORTH: Yeah. No, I
MATTHEWS: Should the governor of Hawaii produce evidence that the president is one of us, an American? Do you think that's a worthy pastime for the governor of Hawaii right now? Should she do it?
HAYWORTH: No, look, I think it's important for all of us to be I'm just saying the president should come forward with the information, that's all. Why must we depend on the governor of Hawaii?
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let me ask you about former Governor Palin.
Matthews raised this topic himself, as he often does. As always, he overstated by dumbly framing this as a claim that Obama may be an illegal immigrant. But note the larger absurdity of Matthews pathetic performance.
As always, Matthews showed no sign of knowing that Obama already has prove[n] that hes a citizen of the United States. He showed no sign of understanding that the president already has come forward with the information. Matthews asked if the governor of Hawaii should produce evidence that the president is one of us, an American? He showed no sign of knowing that Hawaiis health director, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, has already made at least two formal statements about this very matter. (To see USA Todays treatment of Fukinos second declaration, in July 2009, feel free: Just click this.)
Matthews constantly raises this question as a way to smoke out the crackpots. But when he does so, a strange thing occurs: The crackpots in question (in this case, Hayworth) get to restate their claims or offer their implications without encountering factual push-back from this most hapless of humans. His owners pay Matthews $5 million per year. But hes too lazy to acquaint himself with the simple facts of this case, or hes simply unwilling to embarrass a fixer like Hayworth.
Matthews raised this topic himself. He teased the topic before Hayworth came on; he discussed it later in the program with a pundit panel. But he never stated the elementary facts: Obama already has produced his birth certificate. The state of Hawaii already has vouched for this fact.
This isnt the first time Matthews has conducted such a discussion. (To see him flounder and flail with Tom DeLay, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/22/09). In a rational world, no one in Matthews high position could be so cosmically clueless. But as long-time Matthews watchers, well offer our expert opinion: Most likely, he simply doesnt know the facts of this case. Most likely, he has been too lazy (and too daft) to gather the basic facts.
Your country is the joke of the world. Matthews is one prime reason. For reasons the corporation understands, he is paid $5 million per year. But the basic concepts of facts and information play almost no role on his program.
The corporation keeps this big nut on. Will anyone with a loud megaphone in the big mainstream press ever stand up and ask why? Or do they just want to play Hardball themselves? Is that why this big nut hangs on?
SEXY LOVES PEPSI (permalink): Were not big Tom Friedman fans around here, but his Wednesday headline made a sane request. Adults Only, Please, it implored. Friedman began with an observation about the ongoing conduct of two of our daft elites:
FRIEDMAN (1/27/10): Maybe its just me, but Ive found the last few weeks in American politics particularly unnerving. Our economy is still very fragile, yet you would never know that by the way the political class is acting. Were like a patient that just got out of intensive care and is sitting up in bed for the first time when, suddenly, all the doctors and nurses at bedside start bickering. One of them throws a stethoscope across the room; someone else threatens to unplug all the monitors unless the hospital bills are paid by noon; and all the while the patient is thinking: Are you people crazy? I am just starting to recover. Do you realize how easily I could relapse? Arent there any adults here?
Sometimes you wonder: Are we home alone? Obviously, the political and financial elites to whom we give authority often act on the basis of personal interests. But we still have a long way to go to get out of the mess we are in, and if our elites do not behave with a greater sense of the common good we could find our economy doing a double dip with a back flip.
Friedman begged for adult conduct from our political and financial elites. As is standard in the press corps, he didnt mention his own journalistic elite, which was clowning in typical ways right across the page from his column.
Across the page from Friedmans column, Maureen Dowd was holding court in standard manner. Bringing Sexy Back, her own headline said. As always, her column was daft from the word go. Soon, though, Dowd was drawing this inane comparison between Obama and Scott Brown:
DOWD (1/27/10): Even some in the Obama White House secretly wonder if the wonder from Wrentham, Mass., is The One. Could he be a more authentic version of their guy, who also swept in as a long-shot outsider only 14 months ago?
Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughters laundry when she gets too busy.)
Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.
Would Friedman consider that to be adult work? According to Dowd, Obama likes organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. Brown, by contrast, truly love Pepsi, and may therefore be more authentic. Before she reached this inane point, she had of course churned this:
DOWD: Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brownknown in the British press as the former nude centrefoldwho has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.
Dowd very much wanted to discuss that nude shot. So of course! She laid it off on the Brits!
The headline here is hers alone: Bringing Sexy Back.
The relentless inanity of Dowds work is of course a thing for the ages. But as we read that passage about Brown and Pepsi and Obama and beer, we couldnt help remembering how many times our reigning idiots, like Dowd, have played the what-does-he-drink- and-is-he-therefore-authentic card.
This inanity goes back many years:
In 2008, there was a terrible problem when Obama asked for orange juice instead of beer in a bar.
Related: In 2004, there was a problem when Kerry asked for the wrong type of cheese on his Philly cheesesteak.
In 1988, there was a problem when Candidate Bush the elder asked for coffee at a New Hampshire truck stop. Dowd herself helped invent the claim that he had requested just a splash, thereby showing himself to be an elitist. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/23/07.)
In 1988, there was another problem when Candidate Gore asked for a Perrier in Atlanta. For Michael Kramer at U. S. News, this tone-deaf behavior recalled a much earlier problem involving Candidate Shriver:
KRAMER (2/29/88): On the stump, you see, Al Gore is not his father's equal. Senator Albert Gore, Sr., a legendary liberal populist was a famous back-slapper. Boy Gore, with his never mussed hair and always pressed blue suit, seems even preppier than George Bush. He may be from Tennessee, but he is of Harvard. In Atlanta several weeks ago, a group of supporters at a cocktail reception shook their heads when Gore asked for a Perriera tone-deaf order reminiscent of the time in 1972 when, with the TV lights on in a Pittsburgh bar, Sargent Shriver blew the chance to commune with the blue collars gathered to meet him by requesting a Courvoisier. (In both instances, by the way, the bartenders' reaction was identical: Don't got it.)
To all intents and purposes, the Kramers and Dowds have been insane for decades. For decades, they have been standing about in groups, clucking sadly and shaking their heads about the lack of authenticity involved in the candidates drink choices.
Your nation cant survive this elite. On Wednesday, Friedman wisely asked for adults only, and he savaged two elites, the political and the financial. But as is required by Hard Pundit Law, he didnt mention the child-like behavior of his own journalistic elite. And sure enough! Across the page, the idiot Dowd was clucking and cooing and vamping. Before too long, we reached her main idea. Before too long, we got to read about the way Sexy Loves Pepsi.
Her headline: Bringing Sexy Back. Our question: Can your nation survive?
Also the suits: Note this too from Kramers excerpt. For decades, these scripted idiots criticized Gore for wearing blue suits. (In this case, for wearing always pressed blue suits.) In 1999, they began to screech and wail about earth tones when one of his suits was brown.
In this way, George Bush reached the White House (click here). Can your nation survive?