With each passing day, President Barack Obama’s once bright and shining star grows dimmer and dimmerÂ as winter — and unemployment — casts its long shadow of discontent across America.Â The recent loss of 63 Democratic seats in the House of Representatives last month, shrinking the Democrats’ hold on Washington and flipping the House to new RepublicanÂ leadershipÂ in January and the stunning Wikileaks debacle, landed more body blows to the White House, which seems to be reeling from their political misfortunes.
Elected under the rubric of “change” andÂ a new politics in 2008Â that reflected theÂ “no drama Obama” rationality and insistence upon respectful political discourse (it takes two to have a conversation,) Obama soon found out just how disinterested the Grand Old Party was about respecting his mandate.Â They didn’t careÂ that he was victorious by winning withÂ 53 percentÂ of the popular vote and by garnering a whoppingÂ 365 electoral college votes.
Nor did theyÂ respect him, as they promptly set out with vengeance to show him just howÂ littleÂ regard they had for the first black president of the United States.
There was no honeymoon for Obama, just as there was none for Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to be president.
From theÂ beginningÂ of Obama’s presidency,Â the Republicans and their allies haveÂ worked assiduously to undermineÂ his credibility and have achieved significant success in casting doubt among the American publicÂ about whether he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii (even former Republican HawaiiÂ Governor Linda Lingle verified Obama was born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Women and Children’s hospital,) and have convinced a substantial number of Americans, nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they wrongly think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 percent reported in March 2009, according to a recent Pew pollÂ Â takenÂ last summer. Â The White House was so concerned about the polling results that it was forced to issue a statement reasserting that the president is a self-professed Christian.
A political maxim taught from time immemorial, that every blow landed by one’s opponent should be immediately returned, was haughtily dismissed as “old politics” (i.e. Clintonian like, thus the “old politics”) by the Obama White House, to their great detriment. Â The relentless media-pounding applied by Republican surrogates went un-returned by Obama’s “new politics,” driving down his polling numbers. Â Coupled with a protracted legislative health care reform fight that went curiously undefended by the White House during the summer of 2009, Obama miraculously pulled victory from the jaws of defeat when he signed the health care reform bill into law, only to maddeningly run away from this incredible achievement during the recent elections.
Since Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992 the Republicans have been on a hell-bent destructive path of no holds barred and scorched earth approach to governance as participants in our two-party system via their tactics of obstruction, denigration, defamation, blocking, filibustering and lying repeatedly about the aims and intentions of Democrats elected to the White House and on the Hill. Â The cumulative effect of these strategies has resulted in fewer Americans trusting government, and now in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, more and more feel that America’s best days are behind us.
In this environment with Democratic blood on the water, the president looks more naive and politically incompetent with each passing day. Â As Howard Fineman reported yesterday at the Huffington Post, he does not seem to enjoy the rough and tumble of legislative battle and continues to underestimate the Republican appetite to drive his White House into further retreat.
His lack of experience as a legislator was betrayed this week when Obama announced the White House had had a good meeting with the GOP leadership about issues they could “work together on.”Â Obama’s understanding was put into stark relief in less than 24 hours as the Republicans reflected their “good will” by informing Senator Harry Reid they would filibuster all issues, including unemployment compensation, before the Senate in the remaining days of the lame duck session, until the Bush tax cuts are extended to all Americans, regardless of income.
Official unemployment figures hover at nearly 10 percent across America and that does not include thousands of unemployed who have not worked in over two years. Â Many parts of the country have slid into depression-like circumstances: Â food pantry demands continue to rise; homeless families numbers are up; food stamp demands continue to rise and the underemployed have lost their health insurance and other benefits as demands for public assistance fall to local and state governments, who are also cash strapped as revenues have dried up. Â Many educated workers in their 50s and 60s have lost their homes, wiped out their IRAs and 401ks just to survive, believing they will never return full-time to the work force with previous levels of income and compensation.
This is the situation that faces President Obama and the Democratic Party. Â If this president is unable to persuasively address the basic needs of a battered middle class and convince them that he will lead us out of this terrible morass, he will be a one-term president and deservedly so.
In the aftermath of the midterm elections, Obama has not demonstrated he is up to the task. Â He needs to roll up his sleeves and get engaged in this political fight for the country and his presidency.Â We are waiting, but time is running out on Barack Obama and his once believed great promise.
The New Civil Rights Movement
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Far-Right Republicans Kill GOP Bill to Keep Government Running in ‘Embarrassing Failure’ for McCarthy: Report
With a shutdown less than 36 hours away, far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon voted against their party’s own legislation to kept the federal government running. Democrats opposed the content of the bill and voted against it. Just 21 far-right members of the GOP conference were able to effectively force what appears to be an all but inevitable shutdown at midnight on Saturday.
“HARDLINE HOUSE RS take down stopgap funding bill. 21 GOP no votes. 232-198,” reported Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman just before 2 PM Friday.
NBC News reported that a “band of conservative rebels on Friday revolted and blocked House Republicans’ short-term funding bill to keep the government open, delivering a political blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and likely cementing the chances of a painful government shutdown that is less than 48 hours away.”
“Twenty-one rebels, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a conservative bomb-thrower and a top Donald Trump ally, voted Friday afternoon to scuttle the 30-day funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, leaving Republicans without a game plan to avert a shutdown. The vote failed,” NBC added. “The embarrassing failure of the GOP measure once again highlights the dilemma for McCarthy as his hard-liners strongly oppose a short-term bill even if it includes conservative priorities. It leaves Congress on a path to a shutdown, with no apparent offramp to avoiding it — or to quickly reopen the government.”
A bipartisan group of at least 75 U.S. Senators has passed two bills this week that would keep the government running. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
‘Wannabe Dictator’: Milley Appears to Slam Trump After Ex-President Suggested He Should Be Executed
General Mark Milley, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military advisor to the President, during his retirement speech Friday appeared to deliver strong criticism of former President Donald Trump, who appointed him to that post but since has waged war against him.
“Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, not just because it is the exact sort that incites violence against public officials,” professor of global politics and political scientist Brian Klass wrote at The Atlantic after Trump’s most recent attack on the Chairman, “but also because it shows just how numb the country has grown toward threats more typical of broken, authoritarian regimes.”
Trump had written, “if the Fake News reporting is correct,” General Milley “was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”
Milley was acting within his duties in a White House approved conversation, according to Klass.
On Friday, Milley appeared to blast Trump.
“We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant, or dictator. We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley declared. “We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
“Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Guardian and Coast Guardsmen, each of us, emits our very life to protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price to a country.”
Vanity Fair on Thursday reported General Milley “said he has taken security precautions to protect himself and his family after Donald Trump all but called for his execution last week.”
Watch Milley’s remarks below or at this link.
🚨🚨🚨Wow, outgoing CJS Chair Milley hits Trump at retirement ceremony: “We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator …we take an oath to the Constitution … and we’re willing to die to protect it”. pic.twitter.com/AH2eQObge4
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) September 29, 2023
Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?
The passing of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who served the people of California since 1970 in numerous roles, first at the local level, then as a Senator and Chair of powerful Committees, raises many questions about the future, including: What will Republicans, and especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, do? Will Democrats be able to replace her on the Senate’s powerful Judiciary Committee and Rules Committee?
Senator Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary Committee for much of this year has been in the news, largely due to her ill health. Some have said the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee prevented her from resigning.
There are more Republicans in the Senate (49) than Democrats (48, until Feinstein’s passing), but the three independents who generally vote with Democrats gave them a 51 vote “majority,” with the Senate President, Vice President Kamala Harris, casting the tie-breaking vote 31 times, as of July. Her 31st tie-breaking vote is matched only by one other Vice President, who also cast a total of 31 tie-breaking votes.
What happens now?
Does President Biden’s historic pace of appointing judges – more than the last three presidents at this point in their tenure, end, at least until 2025? As of July, President Biden has nominated and had confirmed more Black women judges (13) than all other U.S. President combined, and placed on the federal bench 44 Black judges in total. Does than also grind to a halt? He has placed on the federal bench at least 27 Hispanic judges. Earlier this year President Biden nominated two more Hispanic women judges. UC Santa Barbara’s The American Presidency Project noted, “if both are confirmed, President Biden will have confirmed more Latina circuit judges than any President in history.” It also noted, Biden “has nominated 27 AA and NHPI individuals to federal judgeships and 20 have been confirmed. This includes six AA and NHPI circuit court judges.”
And what happens if a U.S. Supreme Court Justice dies or retires?
In April, PBS NewsHour reported, “Republicans blocked a Democratic request to temporarily replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, leaving Democrats with few options for moving some of President Joe Biden’s stalled judicial nominees.”
“South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to a resolution offered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have allowed another senator to take Feinstein’s place on the panel while the Democrat recuperates from a case of shingles. Republicans have argued that Democrats only want a stand-in to push through the most partisan judges, noting that many of Biden’s nominees have bipartisan support and can move to the Senate floor for a vote.”
Minority Leader McConnell also made clear his objections at the time.
“’Let’s be clear,’ said McConnell in remarks on the Senate floor. ‘Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees.'”
Given McConnell’s history, including refusing to even allow then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to get a confirmation hearing, much less an up-or-down vote, it might seem unlikely he will allow Senator Feinstein to be replaced on any Committee.
But, NewsHour’s April reporting may now give Democrats some hope.
“If Feinstein were to resign immediately, the process would be much easier for Democrats, since California Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint a replacement. The Senate regularly approves committee assignments for new senators after their predecessors have resigned or died. But a temporary replacement due to illness is a rare, if not unprecedented, request.”
Sen. Feinstein also served on several powerful Committees, including Intelligence, Appropriations, and especially the Rules Committee.
Will Republicans allow Senator Feinstein’s replacement to serve on Judiciary, and the other Committees as well?
California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom “must now appoint someone to the U.S. Senate ahead of next year’s election. He has long said he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein did not finish her term, but he recently specified on ‘Meet the Press’ that he would do so as an ‘interim appointment,'” The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. “Only one of the top three candidates to replace Feinstein, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, is a Black woman. Polls have shown Lee trailing two opponents, Reps. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.”
“Republicans have said they would block Democrats from replacing Feinstein on the committee, which must approve President Biden’s judicial nominees,” The Chronicle added. “Newsom has said that without her, Democrats — losing their committee majority — might not be able to get any more federal judges through Congress this term.”
“’I have to remind my friends and progressive colleagues,’ Newsom told reporters last month, ‘if she does resign and the governor, I guess me, appoints someone, we may not get another federal judge out of the Judiciary Committee.’”
Some experts disagree with “conventional wisdom.”
“The claim that Republicans can and will block DiFi’s [Senator Feinstein’s] replacement on the Senate Judiciary Committee was pulled out of thin air by Democrats seeking a pretext to defend her refusal to retire. It is almost certainly false, and it’s irresponsible to promote this claim as a certainty,” Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about the courts and the law, said Friday.
“Democrats confirmed nearly 100 Biden judges with an evenly divided SJC [Senate Judiciary Committee],” Stern adds. “It just takes somewhat longer.”
Politico on Friday reported, “Democrats will need 60 votes to appoint a senator to fill Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary panel, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of filling Democrats’ majority on the panel, assuming they move to do so before someone is appointed to the California Senate seat.”
“Senators are typically assigned to committees by unanimous consent, but such orders are subject to debate and can be filibustered. Republican senators could slow, or stop, Democrats from filling the Judiciary roster,” Politico added. “The panel, under Democratic control, has been advancing scores of judicial nominations that Republicans object to. Leaving the panel short one Democratic vote would hamper the majority’s steady confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominees.”
Back in June, amid clamor from some progressives for Sen. Feinstein to step down, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warned, “The fact is simple: if Senator Feinstein resigns, Mitch McConnell gets to decide whether Democrats have a Senate Judiciary majority.”
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