It's déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Senate goes on recess, and the sitting President of the United States makes a shitload of recess appointments from Camp David. Then he sneaks into Afghanistan for a surprise visit.
However, before March of 2010, none of the above followed on the heels of the most historic pieces of legislation in 45 years, and perhaps the biggest political triumph since Truman defeated Dewey.
Finally it's happening. Obama's goin' Bush.
We've been begging him to do it till our knees got bloody. Well, at least mine did. Please Mr. President. You won the election. Sizably. Fair and square. Despite Diebold and Frank Luntz. Despite Reverend Wright and Bill Ayres. And without aid of any Supreme Court justices. You were who we have been waiting for for eight desperate years - and longer. And not just an alternative guy with a "D" after your name, which believe me would have been just as acceptable, but beyond everyone's wildest dreams: a rock star who could fill stadiums worldwide with fans not just enjoying the music, but the words of hope.
The sigh of relief could be heard around the world, almost literally - like when you turn on Skype.
Yes you entered into a mess of financial meltdown, war and torture. You acted quickly and effectively. But then one word put things in a tizzy.
For six of the eight Bush years, the Republicans held the two houses of Congress with the thinnest of majorities. But like Bush, they ruled not as if they won by meager margins in a divided country, but as if they won ALL the votes. They'd just as soon have the Democrats go home, and they might as well have. You want to filibuster? Really, liberal pussies? Just try it and watch something nuclear happen. Snap! And how about a couple massive tax cuts to go along with two wars we're not gonna pay for. Deficit?
Nobody cares about deficits. Snap! Oh, got a problem with our neo fascist candidate for ambassador to the UN who hates the UN? Recess appointment, anyone? SNAP! The Democrats squawked a little, and the Republicans laughed. Or they said "9/11" a lot. And the Dems backed down. Yes there was "bipartisanship" - usually it meant some Republican co- sponsoring a bill with Joe Lieberman.
But in 2008 things changed drastically, about as drastically as possible, in fact. The first black person was elected president, and the Democrats amassed huge majorities in both houses of congress.
If the Bush years were Sean Hannity's wet dream, this had to be his nightmare. Yet, the Republicans seemed to be unaware that their own wanton adventures got them into this predicament. Or maybe they just didn't have any choice; after all, their constituents who sent them to Washington insisted on being represented lest they get angry.
And you don't want to make constituents like Exxon, Wellpoint or GE angry.
So the GOP instead decided to rule "as if" - "as if" 40 members in the Senate represented a sort of "super minority", since by establishing an eternal filibuster. 60 became a threshold in the otherwise "majority rules" body. A threshold not just for controversial topics. EVERYTHING.
And while progressives knew just by the mere presence of Joe Lieberman, the "60 votes" was never filibuster proof, the Republicans knew this all too well, but they were, true to form, using it as a scare tactic: Democrats ruling congress, possible Kenyan black man in the White House = recipe for socialist terrorist disaster of Hitlerian proportions.
Then came January 19, 2010. Dateline Massachusetts, in a special election, Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate fill the seat held for nearly 50 years by Edward M. Kennedy. Massafreakingchusetts, the bluest of the blue states, the ONE state that voted for McGovern in 1972, you broke our hearts just when we needed you most.
OK now up was down, day is night, dogs and cats sleeping together...
And to drive the irony stake even further into the heart - for his entire career, he was Kennedy champion of health care reform - the very health care reform Brown promised to help defeat as soon as he got his earlier-than-usual swear in (accommodated by the accommodating Harry Reid).
So now they had it, their 41-vote SUPER DUPER minority. Snap! So naturally, hyper heated right wing media declared in the Massachusetts Miracle, proof that health care was dead, that Obama was dead, that Democrats were dead, that Olbermann was dead, that every enemy alive was dead, and that there was musing about Scott Brown's national intentions for 2012; Hmmm, a great white hope not named Palin?
Was this really a trend? (Yes, Virginia and New Jersey went down in flames just two months before - they too, of course, were, according to not just Fox News, but the reliable "liberal media" idiots like Chris Matthews, Candy Crowley and Chuck Todd, referenda on health care, on Obama, on Bill Ayres, on Sarah Palin, on FDR... anything but John Corzine failures as governor, and the Democratic candidate in Virginia running AWAY from Obama's policies). And even Brown himself barely let it be known in the campaign that he was a Republican. But still, did people really want to give power back to the guys who messed things up so intolerably?
Liberal Democrats across the land, of course, were devastated but not surprised. Indeed they were almost felt like saying "Uh, huh, got what you deserved!" They're playing hardball, and you're still clinging to that word.
Virginia goes. And New Jersey. Now Massachusetts fires away. But instead it's "Thank you sir I'll have another."
So all that the liberals were drooling for with the momentous election of Obama, and this phat congressional majority was slipping away, much of it self inflicted, by the Baucus bumbling, and Obama's apparent lack of fire and leadership. Obama pinned the success and very existence of his administration on health care reform, and so did the Republicans ("Make this his Waterloo," said Jim DeMint). When would we ever have this perfect storm" again? We had a majority, but it STILL wasn't enough. Again, Republicans knew all this too well, and calculated the Democrats, and their young, inexperienced leader, were too soft - or just as much on the take as they were - to do anything that required big brass Bush balls.
Yes, Bush -- that guy. We knew Bush, in some ways, had it right: his approach, was a simple one (well d'uh, nothing complex about him): "I won - well, OK, I stole, but anyway, let's not quibble, I'm here, I'm the President, I'm the decider, this is what the American people want me to do so I'm doing it." And he had Tom DeLay and Bill Frist bringin' down the hammers.
The Republicans strategy was to delay until they and Frank Luntz could convince enough tea baggers and independents that another "change" was needed - presumably back to them. Was it possible people were buying this? And now they had they had Scott 41.
Well, one thing about Scott 41, Lieberman 59 didn't mean as much as Lieberman 60; same goes for Landrieu, Lincoln and the irrepressible Nelsons.
But ironically, it was Scott Brown's very election that pushed the Democrats to action. Obama was indeed playing chess, not checkers. But the tension was about to kill us all. We started hearing rumblings not long after the invincible Scott 41 took oath of office.
And, ever the chess player, Obama let them do it to themselves. Suckered into the open health care summit, the Talking Points could not be pried from the Republicans' cold white hands: let's start over, they kept saying, with a clean sheet of paper. One guy must've known this was sounding silly, so he tried to mix it up with "let's shake the etcha-sketch". But there was a key moment in the whole charade. When Mitch McConnell complained about the Democrats taking up an unfair share of time, Obama copped to it: "That's my fault. I talked longer, but then, I get to do that - I'm the President". YES! SNAP!
The Dems were going reconciliation in the Senate to get the health care finale passed. Snap!
In the House, a few Democrats had to be rustled for the vote. Dennis Kucinich was neutralized. Snap! Bart Stupak, trying a to make abortion illegal in a back door fashion, was neutralized (he did get famous, but so did his membership in The Family, and so was unfortunate happenstance that he is Michael Moore's congressman). Snap!
But, really, as usual, the Republicans did it to themselves.
And it's all about tea.
The tea baggers had finally encroached on, and engulfed, the mainstream of the Grand Old Party. As John McCain cringed the other day in Arizona, the running mate he made famous, Sarah Palin was re-filling her 15 minutes of fame card. (McCain cannot stop making the same deal with the devil he made that put her on the ticket in the first place) She gave her "ich bin ein Tea Partyer" spiel... dragging the desperate old maverick along with her. He made no mention of his promise of no cooperation with the Democrats for the rest of the year - perhaps because he had already fulfilled that promise in the first part of the year. Michael Steele, the head of the Republican Party, welcomed the tea partyers. John Boehner and Eric Cantor turned a blind eye to the specter of fanatical supporters spitting and heckling congressmen as they entered the Capitol, and threw bricks through the office windows of other Democrats. Karl Rove said the Democrats were exacerbating the atmosphere of violence by reporting on it all the time.
But by this time, Obama was back out on the campaign trail, and on television. Hey, we thought. We're going to do this! Be with us, or be on the wrong side of history. Because we are going to do this, Bush-style.
It was Waterloo all right officially on March 24, 2010. So DeMint had it sort of right. Except Obama was Wellington, and the Republicans were Napoleon. BOOM! There it is! Obama checkmated DeMint's very flawed Waterloo Offense.
With that amazing victory by Obama and the Democrats, things got a little brighter in the world, and certainly in the progressive world. No, there was not a public option, and a few things would not materialize for several years (but after all, Teddy Roosevelt first advanced this notion in 1912 so this is speedy stuff). But not only was the camel's nose under the tent, the beast was licking the breakfast dishes and spray-painting on the walls. It exists, so it can be tweaked.
The Republicans continued their delay tactics to the end, but they flopped. Even Coburn's "Viagra amendment" went flaccid - ironic, because the Republicans were displaying a definite air of impotence.
Waterloo II was rapidly becoming the least of their problems. After all, as with the stimulus packaged they opposed in lockstep, no doubt they will tout health care reforms in their districts with props.
No, the Republicans have two other battles, which are existential. First, they have welded themselves to the tea people and they realize now this is a very scary-azz genie that cannot be put back into the teapot. In the bargain, moderate Republicans, if there were any left, have been marginalized. They got a taste of it with New York 23.
And the other front is an energized Democratic Party, led by a victorious Obama who now is doing what they dared him to do.
He's goin' Bush.
The Republicans know what that means, and they know how that goes. As always, the bullies overplayed their hand and now they cannot depend on the Dems, or Obama, to pussy out on things.
Flush from an undeniably huge political (and humanitarian) victory, he is now making recess appointments - not of candidates who are horrific, like John Bolton who would never have passed muster, but who have been merely held up by Republicans because they can. Recess appointments - Bush-style. Music to my ears!
I'm waiting for Obama's first signing statement. Suh-NAP!
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Reprinted with permission from the Valley Democrats United newsletter, Margie Murray, Editor, where the article first appeared.