Archive for June, 2010


I was completely obsessed with the Sotomayor hearings last summer.  I couldn’t watch them live, but the Interwebs were very amiable.  Late in the evening, I’d start downloading the C-Span files, watching them carefully hour after hour. I caught up on my days off.  I watched (mostly online) every moment except for the last half of the 4th day.  And I took in the commentary.  And the news snippets.  And the online discussions at forums I lurk and talk at.

Obsessed.

Now, a year later, Elena Kagan… not so much.

Part of it’s that I’m quite busy.  Part of it is that there haven’t been so many media moments leading up to the hearings. Still…

There’s a piece of the original puzzle – why was I so obsessed with the Sotomayor hearings? – that is directly related to why this time around, I’m not mesmerized.

Last time, it was still early not just in the Obama administration, but in the emerging Republican position as a minority party.  The Sotomayor hearings obsessed me because the conservative members were, via the questions posed in those hearings, laying out their point of view.  So were Democrats, but it seemed to me that the Dems were displaying the same philosophies and approaches as usual, while the Republican members were digging in.  Taking hardline versions of conservative views.  Posing questions to, in actuality, make statements in favor of their own viewpoints.

Like Lindsay Graham, on my tv right now, a re-airing of the segment where Kagan makes a much needed joke about being where most Jews would be on Christmas Day, in a Chinese Restaurant.  Graham playing this weird game: Not really asking questions, not really (at times) even letting Kagan answer him, interrupting her again and again to pontificate, phrasing his questions as “do you agree with…” leading to a veeeerrrrry long statement, which any normal person could both agree with and disagree with, given it’s various parts and nuances and phrasings.

“Do you agree…” implies a yes or no answer.  Smart woman: she refuses, most of the time, to get sucked into giving yes and no answers.

And after laying out a long winded lecture/question, after backing Kagan into a corner, acting like he’s going to attack whatever answer she gives, Graham wraps it up with, “That’s right, that’s why we agree, blah blah blah.”

Games.

But I digress.  A bit.

My point, my reason for writing this, is to note that this time around, I already know all the talking points the GOP are going to use, all the ways in which they ignore fact and history, all the weird versions of their world view, where success for Americans is bad for the country, where growth is a liberal plot, where protection of our lands, our children, our neighborhoods, our representative democracy, is some massive socialist scheme engineered by the left.

I’ve already heard it, already seen the way the Democratically controlled Congress lets them blather on and then gets the work done (in the case of Supreme Court Justice hearings) or not (in the case of jobs, economy, environment, energy and nearly everything useful about the government)

Gawd.

So far so good on Kagan.  Same ol’ same ol’ when it comes to the GOP.

I’ll probably look for highlights around the web, but my sense is, barring secret associations with Really Scary People And/Or Ideas, Elena Kagan will be confirmed as our newest Supreme Court Justice.  Nothing to see, move along, move along…

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* deep sigh *

Peter Orszag, the most adorable economist ever.Peter Orszag, the most adorable economist EVAH *insert sparkly stars and hearts here* is stepping down from his post at the OMB.

This makes me haz the proverbial sad.

* sigh, again*

On the other hand, though not so adorable, the Very Smart Paul Krugman (whom I always enjoy hearing from) has been proffered up as a replacement.  Hmmmm.  Lessons the sting a bit.

 

Not necessarily connected directly to the exit of Mr. Orszag, or that potential of Mr. Krugman, but I’d like to give a tip o’ the hat to another Smart Guy on the Economic scene, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who can clearly kick some ass when required:

 

… if only…

Not that it’s a scandal.  I don’t really care if the president says “ass” once in a while.  Still, the attention on it (from the right and Obama’s detractors), and the reaction to the attention (by the media) has been pretty interesting to watch.  I haven’t even watched the actual interview by Matt Lauer (NBC’s Today Show, June 8, 2010).  Still… the story was every where for a few days.  It’ll probably crop up here and there for a while.

One thing I’ve only seen mentioned once, though, is the question that led to Obama’s infamous “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick” statement.  That singular mention was in this Steve Benen post, from Washington Monthly:

But it’s probably worth noting the context of the exchange, because the president’s choice of words was a direct reflection of the question. Here’s the Q&A:

LAUER: Critics are now talking about your style, which is the first time I’ve heard that in a long time. They’re saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn’t the time for cool, calm and collected. This is not the time to meet with experts and advisers; this is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and — I never thought I’d say this to a president — but kick some butt. And I don’t mean it to be funny.

OBAMA: No, and I understand. And here’s what — I’m going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media’s run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.

The “whose ass to kick” line wasn’t just some scripted attempt to sound tough. Lauer pushed the notion that the president shouldn’t meet with experts; he should “kick some butt.” Obama responded that he meets with people who know what they’re talking about so he’d know “whose ass to kick.”

It’s probably not true in every circle of society, but at least in several, “ass” and “butt” are pretty interchangeable words, and Lauer did set a tone, which the President matched.  Appropriately, I think.  But there are the folks getting hot under the collar about this stuff, and mainly because they aren’t bothering to find out what sparked Obama’s choice of words.  To my mind, it makes a difference.

And, ironically, I might add, many of the hot-under-the-collar-President’s-don’t-talk-that-way folks are the same ones who seemed to want more emotion from the Prez.  Weird.  Sometimes… well, most of the time, I just don’t understand these people.

So, enough on that.  Till it comes up again.  And it will.

* sigh *

Okay, from the gut:

First off, Obama is not the King.  He can’t just wave a scepter and demand some sealing was and Fix Things.  It doesn’t work that way (see: Constitution of the United States; balance of power).  Note: this applies to several U.S. and/or world crisis, not just the current environmental crisis precipitated by BP’s criminal mishandling of their oil operation.

Second, who gives a crap about whether the Prez is “emoting.”  I don’t care.  Seriously.  If anything, I’m relieved.  I confess, I liked Clinton (Mr.) a lot, but I could have done without a few moments of him Feeling Our Pain.  Obama is a breath of fresh, clear-headed air.  I voted (hired?) the guy to be a good administrator, delegator, and spokes-person-on-the-World-Stage.  I prefer, in fact deeply prefer, that he emote relatively little.

Third, give the guy a break.  Financial crisis. Two Wars. Crashing Economy.  Health Care aka Gordian knot. Repair respect on the World Stage. Etc, etc. etc, as the King of Siam would say.  Not to imply that, ya know, Obama’s a King.  Sometimes I wish, but he’s not…  And if his administration’s response to this latest disaster, and even Obama’s own response, are not to everyone’s exacting demands, well, what did you expect?  Perfection? Really?

I think the guy’s done a fair job, given the challenges.

Keep it up, Mr. Prez.  Your doin’ a damn sight better than that dude before you.

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