Some Reasons for Hope

Yesterday I was feeling a little discouraged about health care reform, but this morning there are a few things that make me believe that the Democrats , in particular, the progressives, are pushing back.

The first story that caught my eye in the New York Times this morning was about advertisers cancelling ads on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News.

ABOUT a dozen companies have withdrawn their commercials from “Glenn Beck,” the Fox News Channel program, after Glenn Beck, the person, said late last month that President Obama was a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The companies may still be advertising on Fox, but not on Glenn Beck’s shows.  A small victory. 

Then there is the still optimistic Eugene Robinson reminding us this morning what thing would have been like if Obama had lost.

We’re told the economy is on the mend, but we still see six-figure job losses every month. The health-care debate has become so polarized that even if it ends in breakthrough legislation, chances are that opponents will still be irate and supporters more exhausted than overjoyed. The deficit is gargantuan, bipartisanship is nonexistent, the prison at Guantanamo is still open, and the war in Afghanistan looks like a potential quagmire. The summer has become a bummer.

But anyone sliding into a slough of despond should keep things in perspective. Almost every day, there’s some reminder of how far we’ve come since President Obama’s inauguration — and how much worse things could be.

On Thursday, there were two such aide-mémoires. The first was a report in The Post that Dick Cheney, in his upcoming book, plans to detail his behind-closed-doors clashes with George W. Bush. The story, by Post reporter Barton Gellman — whose book “Angler” is the definitive account of how Cheney, as vice president, basically tried to rule the world — quotes a source as saying that Cheney believes Bush went all soft on him during the second term.

That was when Bush ordered a halt to the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, closed the secret overseas CIA prisons, made diplomatic overtures to hostile states such as North Korea and Iran, and generally started to behave in ways that Cheney apparently deemed entirely too reasonable.

Othere recent revelations (not by Mr. Cheney) include his wanting a pardon for Scooter Libby (and not getting it) and his campaign to build secret prisons.  If this is true, more places than the Brattleboro, Vermont need to be indicting Dick Cheney for war crimes.  And does this mean that Cheney was no longer President during the second W term? 

Robinson continues

I know that I’m not alone in wishing that Obama were moving more quickly to erase the stain that the Bush-Cheney excesses left on our national honor. I wish Guantanamo were already closed — but Obama did set a date certain for shutting the place down and pledges to follow through. I’m troubled that he hasn’t flatly rejected the concept of indefinite detention — but he at least recognizes that some kind of due process needs to be involved.

I’m most troubled by Obama’s resistance to a full-bore investigation of the Bush-Cheney transgressions. I can only hope that the president sees the error of his ways — or at least that the probe of CIA interrogation abuses that Attorney General Eric Holder might launch is allowed to follow the evidentiary trail to whatever crimes it may reveal.

We are then reminded that Sarah Palin could have replaced Dick Cheney as Vice President.

But witness Sarah Palin’s weird near-daily eruptions — about imaginary death panels and the like — and reflect on what the summer would have been like if she were serving as vice president of the United States.I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling much better about everything.

I’m seeing some signs of hope too, Gene.  I never believed that the election of Barack Obama was a magic bullet that was going to instantaeously cure all our ills, but it sure does make a difference in lots of intangible ways.  The biggest being the need to confront our continued racism.

Sign of Al

Is this press overkill or what?    This picture is from the New York Times Caucus blog.

 

A maintenance worker hung a name plate outside the new office of Al Franken on Monday in Washington.

Mark Leibovich blogs

The big fuss awaiting Al Franken on his first day on Capitol Hill was underscored by the 30-or-so reporters and photographers who gathered on the third floor of the Hart Office Building to watch a maintenance guy hang a silver- and brass-rimmed “Al Franken, Minnesota” plaque outside the incoming Democratic senator’s new office (and Norm Coleman’s old office).

Then, at precisely 10:30 a.m., the momentarily-famous maintenance guy — later identified as James Pogue, of the superintendent’s office — pulled up on a motorized wheelchair and slapped the pristine plaque on the designated space while cameras clicked. He ignored a shouted question (”What’s your name, sir?”) and carted off into the fluorescent-tinted sunlight.

Only I think it was one of those scooters that people use to get around, not a wheelchair.

Finally, Senator Al Franken

After a ballot counting process that went though all four seasons (election day was fall and it is now summer), Norm Coleman has conceded after the Minnesota Supreme Court rule unanimously in Al Franken’s favor.  He is now the winner by 312 votes.

According to the New York Times

Mr. Coleman’s announcement followed a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday in Mr. Franken’s favor. There, the case had centered, in part, around whether some absentee ballots had been wrongly excluded and standards had been inconsistent, as Mr. Coleman contended.

But in their 5-0 ruling, the court found that Mr. Coleman had failed to prove that “the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion.”

Franken represents vote 60 for the Democratic Caucus.  According to TPM

Franken said that the country faces many challenges in the economy and world affairs. “So even though Franni and I are thrilled and honored by the faith that Minnesotans have placed in me, I’m also humbled,” he said, “not just by the closeness of this election, but also by the enormity of the responsibilities that come with this office.”

He also said that much has been talked about, that he’ll be the 60th Democratic Senator. “The way I see it, I’m not going to wash[ington] to be the 60th democratic senator. I’m going to washington to be the second senator from minnesota, and that’s how I’m going to do this job,” he said, to the applause of his supporters.

So, Is Michael Steele Certifiable?

A week or so ago there was his comment about Republicans and how they wear their caps all different ways trying to show how diverse the party is, I think.   This happened on MSBC’s Morning Joe.

Then he said this about President Obama’s description of what he would look for in a Supreme Court nominee,

Crazy nonsense, empathetic,” said Steele. “I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness.”

Here is the link from Talking Points Memo so you can hear Mr. Steele for yourself.

And finally here is what he said about the Minnesota Senate race, also from TPM.

I know what you’re all thinking. You’re thinking that if the Minnesota Supreme Court next month determines that Al Franken should be seated, the national Republican Party will graciously accept their decision, and Norm Colemen will offer up a kind and thoughtful concession speech.

“[N]o, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it’s going to get bumped to the next level,” said RNC chairman Michael Steele.

Somewhat implicit in that last sentence is the assumption that Coleman will ultimately lose. And implicit in that implication is the idea that the Republicans are doing this to keep another Democrat out of the Senate for as long as possible, and depriving Minnesotans of dual representation in the process.

Assuming the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with Franken, the question of whether to seat him, even if provisionally, will fall to Gov. Tim Pawlenty–a presidential hopeful who, as we’ve noted before, will face tons of pressure from his party not to certify the victory at all. If this is any indication, the GOP is already turning up the heat.

Can you imagine what Steele would be saying if the sides were reversed and Al Franken was refusing to concede?  Probably something not printable.

Mr. Robinson Wins the Pulitzer

Washington Post editor and columnist, Eugene Robinson, has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his columns about the 2008 election. 

One of his best was A Special Brand of Patriotism from July 4, 2008.  It begins

Anyone who took U.S. history in high school ought to know that one of the five men killed in the Boston Massacre, the atrocity that helped ignite the American Revolution, was a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks. The question the history books rarely consider is: Why?

Think about it for a moment. For well over a century, British colonists in North America had practiced a particularly cruel brand of slavery, a system of bondage intended not just to exploit the labor of Africans but to crush their spirit as well. Backs were whipped and broken, families systematically separated, traditions erased, ancient languages silenced. Yet a black man — to many, nothing more than a piece of property — chose to stand and die with the patriots of Boston.

Barack Obama had been criticized for failure to wear a flag lapel pin.

It is not common, in my experience, for sitting U.S. senators to be questioned on their love of country — to be grilled about a flag pin, for example, or critiqued on the posture they assume when the national anthem is played. For an American who attains such high office, patriotism is generally assumed.

It seems that some people don’t want to give Obama the benefit of that assumption, however, and I have to wonder whether that’s because he’s black. And then I have to wonder why.

Three Tuskegee Airmen -- from left, Charles McGee of Bethesda, Howard Baugh of Petersburg, Va., and Roscoe Brown Jr. of New York City -- stand for the national anthem at a memorial ceremony in Grapevine, Tex., in 2007.

What’s unpatriotic is pretending that the past never happened. What’s unpatriotic is failing to acknowledge that we’ve struggled with race for nearly 400 years. What’s unpatriotic is relegating “black history” to the month of February when, really, it’s American history, without which this nation could never be what it is today.

My father, Harold I. Robinson, served in the Army during World War II and has lived to witness this transformative moment of possibility. My father-in-law, the late Edward R. Collins, was a sailor who saw action in the South Pacific; he rests at Arlington National Cemetery. I have no patience with anyone who thinks that patriots don’t have brown skin.

Congratulations, Mr. Robinson.

Al Wins the Vote

The three judges counting the votes have declared Al Franken ahead by 312 votes.  The Washington Post  reports

A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman, who had already announced plans to appeal the decision.

Coleman has 10 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Once the petition is filed, it could further delay the seating of Minnesota’s second senator for weeks.

After a statewide recount and seven-week trial, Franken stands 312 votes ahead. He gained more votes from the election challenge than Coleman, the candidate who brought the legal action.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately,” the judges wrote. “There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures.”

So now Coleman can appeal, but there appear to be some potential problems looming there.  TPM reported ealier today that one of the judges on the Minnesota Supreme Court contributed to the Coleman campaign.

In the years before he was appointed to the state bench, Christopher Dietzen was a private attorney and occasional Republican donor, including a check for $250 to Coleman in December 2001, and another $250 for the current cycle in January 2004. The Hill also points out Dietzen served as a campaign counsel for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, during the 2002 open-seat race.

A spokesman for the state Supreme Court told TPM that no information is available about any possible recusal. Since there hasn’t been an actual ruling in the trial, much less the filing of an appeal, we don’t know and cannot predict what would happen.

The contributions were made before appointment which may make a difference.  In addition Eric Kleefeld, the author of the story points out

The question here is the degree to which Dietzen’s pre-judicial activities might impact the legitimacy of the proceedings. For my own part, having watched all the legal arguments in this election, I haven’t noticed any severe or obvious political bias on Dietzen’s part — he has sometimes ruled against Franken, and sometimes ruled against Coleman. And he’s pitched tough questions at both sides.

The whole Minnesota Senate election gets curiouser and curiouser.

Election updates

Remember Minnesota where poor Amy Klobachar is trying to fill the the shoes of two Senators?  The election may be coming to a close – finally.  While Norm Coleman is going to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court it doesn’t seem likely that they will overturn the results of the panel of judges that has been overseeing things.  At this point, Al Franken’s lead is 312 votes. 

This from Franken’s lawyer on April 7

At post-court press conference, lead Franken attorney Marc Elias commented that the election contest is essentially over, with Al Franken the winner after the court had 351 previously-rejected ballots counted, which boosted Franken’s lead from 225 votes to 312.

“Today is a very important step, as we now know the outcome of the election contest,” said Elias, “and that is the same outcome as the recount, which is that Al Franken has more votes than Norm Coleman.”

When asked whether he expected Coleman to appeal, Elias said: “That’s a question at this point for former Sen. Coleman. I guess I would say the same thing about his appeal as I said about his case: That the U.S. court system is a wonderful thing, as it’s open to people with non-meritorious claims.”

It really is time for Norm Coleman to hang it up.

 

 

 

 

 

In Illinois, there was no surpise in the 5th Congressional District.  Michael Quigley, a Democrat, replaced Rahm Emanuel, another Democrat.

The other close election is in New York State’s 20th Congressional District.  Politico’s Scorecard  reports as of today

According to the latest unofficial combined machine and paper results released this afternoon, Democrat Scott Murphy has a 35-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco in New York’s 20th District.

The following counties have finished counting their domestic absentee ballots: Delaware, Essex, Greene, Otsego, and Rensselaer counties. No numbers have been reported to the state from Saratoga and Washington counties

The interesting thing about this is comparing the counties left to be counted and Nate Silver’s analysis.  Washington County is heavily Democratic while Saratoga is Republican.  Saratoga, however, had fewer absentee ballots.

One thing that seems fairly clear is that there tend to be a relatively higher proportion of absentee ballots returned in counties where Murphy performed well on election night. For example, Columbia County, where Murphy won 56.3 percent of the of the vote last week, accounted for 9.8 percent of ballots on election night, but accounts for 15.3 percent of absentees. Conversely, Saratoga County, which is a Tedisco stronghold, represented 36 percent of ballots on election night but only 27.2 percent of absentees:

If I simply apportion the absentee ballots based on the distribution of the election day vote in each county, I show Murphy gaining a net of 173 ballots during the absentee counting phase. In addition, as Michael Barone has noted, although a plurality of the absentee ballot returns are Republican, they are somewhat less Republican than registration in the district as a whole.

If Murphy hangs on, it looks like a trifecta for the Dems.  Two holds and one gain.