‘Carrying our bags’

I don’t know if you’ve seen the report that Teddy Kennedy made his final decision to support Obama after Clinton told Kennedy that Obama was someone who “a couple of years ago, would have been carrying our bags.”

When I heard that, I knew right away what Clinton meant. Because every campaign is filled with, and every politician is surrounded by, bright, ambitious young men who will do anything to get ahead, including serving as gofers. Yes, they do indeed carry politicians’ bags. I know that type of person well.

And what makes the racial spin on the story even less credible is that it would have been completely counterproductive. You really believe Bill Clinton, trying to persuade Teddy Kennedy to endorse Hillary, was actually whining to the liberal lion of the Senate that Barack Obama should still be a Pullman porter? Nah, not buying it. Clinton is known for his gaffes, but not this kind of gaffe. Nope.

Clinton on debt: Republicans built that

Bill Clinton, a man who’s rarely met a Third Way policy he didn’t embrace, gave a speech to the Arkansas delegation last night in which he put the blame for the deficit at the feet of the Republicans. But his solution to the debt? The very popular Catfood Commission:

But perhaps the main point of Clinton’s speech was putting the blame for the national debt squarely at the GOP’s doorstep.

He pointed to the giant national debt clock that Republicans had at their convention, saying, “You see that debt clock?”

“They built it!” shouted a man in the audience.

“Yeah, they built it. They built it,” replied Clinton, to loud cheers and laughs from the audience.

Clinton also criticized Republicans for going after former President George H.W. Bush when he tried to reduce the national debt and told the crowd that President Obama is not responsible for most of the national debt:

When the first President Bush really sucked it up and decided to do something about it by signing a bill the Democratic Congress passed to pay for things as you go along, and to have spending cuts and very modest tax increases, they made him apologize for it at the Republican convention. You remember that? At the time I was happy, because it helped me get elected. But it was sad because he did the right thing, and they made him apologize for it.

Then, I served for eight years, and we kept bringing the deficit down. We had four surplus budgets in a row. Then what happened? We put them [Republicans] back in — or the Supreme Court did — and they got rid of pay as you go, they [passed] the tax cuts and spent lots of money. … We had a projected surplus of $5.7 trillion and turned it into a projected debt of $5.8 trillion over the next 10 years. We would have been out of debt by next year or the year after next. …

The rules that we followed then that we should normally follow, do not apply now. The reason President Obama did that stimulus is, when interest rates are zero, and there is no private activity, if the government does not step in to put people to work and to help people get through the day, they won’t make it.

So his contribution to that big ol’ debt clock that you saw is the $800 billion stimulus. All those other trillions and trillions of dollars? He had nothing to do with that.

The solution, said Clinton, was to pass the recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles debt commission and “pass a 10-year plan to reduce the debt, starting the year after growth has clearly returned.”

He added that it was impossible to balance a budget without the presence of economic growth, adequate revenues and spending controls — all of which do not currently exist.

Oh, come on, Charlie Brown

‘See? Here’s a signed document!’

This is both puzzling and upsetting. Does President Obama really believe this? The silver lining, I guess, is that the Republican leadership may refuse to pass the Catfood Commission plan just to spite him:

President Obama promises in a major new interview that Americans weary of partisan gridlock that Washington will be much more compromise-friendly if he wins a second term in the White House.

In an interview with the Associated Press published Saturday, Obama says Republicans hell-bent on shutting down his agenda will be more willing to play ball if he’s re-elected.

Dear sweet Jesus. What is wrong with this man? How many times does he have to try to kick the football before he understands what Lucy is doing?

He said two changes — the facts that “the American people will have voted,” and that Republicans will no longer need to be focused on beating him — could lead to better conditions for deal-making.If Republicans are willing, Obama said, “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.

He doesn’t have to. We already know he wants to cut Medicare and Social Security.

Obama painted a picture of the GOP that’s very different from the party in control of the House today. On the campaign trail, Obama has made Republican intransigence a central theme,especially after House Budget Committee leader Paul Ryan joined Mitt Romney’s ticket.

The president does not cast his opponents as the type of Republicans who are willing to compromise. On issues from abortion to taxes, Obama told the AP Romney has taken “extreme positions” that voters must assume will be part of his legislative agenda. The interview was conducted Thursday, one day before Romney made a birth certificate joke on the campaign trail, a move Obama’s campaign said shows Romney has “embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them.”

Obama told the AP Romney owns the positions he’s espoused, even if he personally doesn’t agree with them.“I can’t speak to Gov. Romney’s motivations,” he said. “What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he’s talked about.”

There is major cognitive dissonance here. He sees Romney (and thus, the Republican party) as extreme — but not if he’s reelected. So he doesn’t think the Republicans will be posturing for the midterms? Oy. This is really disturbing stuff.

Andrea Mitchell demands Simpson-Bowles

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And Sen. Dick Durbin promises she’ll get it. Dear God, Andrea Mitchell is just as obnoxious as Sally Quinn at her worst. “How are we going to pay for all that?” she chides. And she’s hounding Dick Durbin about why, why, WHY isn’t this stubborn president cutting all that wasteful spending and pushing Simpson-Bowles to make her and her husband’s friends on Wall Street happy.

Notice how Durbin hastens to assure her that Obama didn’t embrace it because it would have hardened the Republican opposition, and that the Simpson-Bowles report (the Catfood Commission report) has been and will continue to be the template the president will follow. Oh, goody:

Like the Republicans, Democrats cherry-pick. Pelosi, for example, says she is all for Simpson-Bowles, except for that pesky Social Security part.

That “part” would be the Simpson-Bowles proposals to increase the retirement age over the next 50 years from 66 to 69 and the age for early retirement from 62 to 64. This would result, under Social Security formulas, in a 7 percent reduction in benefits for every year the full retirement age is increased, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. At the same time, elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Liberals quail, as well, at the way Simpson-Bowles would cap federal revenue and spending at 21 percent of gross domestic product and limit the rate of growth of federal health care costs for the poor, the elderly, children, veterans and military families, to the growth of GDP plus 1 percent.

So if the rate of for-profit healthcare increases outstrips GDP plus one percent, doesn’t that leave us with… a voucher system?

Various Democratic interest groups shudder at the proposals to freeze pay for federal workers, slice military and civilian pensions, cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, end congressional earmarks, reform the tort system, cut the corporate tax rate, and adopt a “territorial” tax system for multinational firms in which most or all of overseas profits would not be subject to U.S. corporate income tax.

That kind of shared pain, of course, is what gives Simpson-Bowles such potential as a “framework” or “template.” Everyone has some skin in the game.

Simpson-Bowles lets us “know what the options are,” says Boehner. “All we have to do is have real leadership and courage.”

Personally, I’d rather President Obama state that he will veto the real budget buster: the Bush tax cuts. But that’s just me.


Two protesters at energy panel:

Two people protesting corporate greed were arrested on Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention after disrupting a National Journal panel on energy.

The protesters, who said they were with the effort Take the Money Out, started shouting statements denouncing corporate greed during the panel and poured a fizzy, green-colored liquid over the floor. They also opened a banner that read “Corporate cash nukes this election” while facing the audience of about 50 people.

After resisting for several moments, the two protesters, Pete Tridish and Paul Davis, were escorted out by security personnel and arrested. Because no one knew what the substance was, police called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure that it wasn’t toxic. The protesters told National Journal after being arrested that the green substance was a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring.

Neither protester nor anyone at the event was injured. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who spoke after the first panel, was not present when the protesters interrupted the event.

According to the Twitter feed of Take the Money Out, activists with the same effort also disrupted and got arrested at another energy event the same morning at which Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was speaking.
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