Monthly Archives: April 2009

Open thread 4/26


GOP has no worries about Kansas Senate seat

elephant4As part of a grim assessment of the GOP’s prospects in the 36 Senate races in 2010, CQ Politics described the spot being vacated by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., as “the only open-seat race in which the Republicans have a clear early advantage.” That’s because two GOP powerhouses, Reps. Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays, are competing for it, and no Democrat has expressed interest. CQ Politics went on: “Kansas maintains its traditional status as a Republican stronghold where McCain easily outran Obama and where no Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race since 1932.”

States’ budget woes like a bad horror movie

scaredKansas budget problems don’t look quite as scary when compared with those of many other states. Cumulatively, states are having to resolve a multiyear budget gap exceeding $281 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ new report on state budgets. “The fiscal situation facing states is like a bad horror movie,” said Corina Eckl, director of NCSL’s fiscal program and author of the report. “The details get more gruesome, and the story never seems to end.”

So they said

jenkinslynn7“Boeing got its start in a barn; Chrysler in a garage. If we create opportunities, the economy will grow. If we built (the economy) from the top down, we would be dealing in rubles.” — Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, talking at Kansas City Kansas Community College

“If Nancy Pelosi had her way, she’d confiscate your guns.” — Rep. Lynn Jenkins (in photo), R-Topeka, speaking in Iola

“We are continuing to pour money into a leaky ship, and it’s still listing,” — Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., on the bank bailouts

“Inside work, no heavy lifting.” — Then-Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., on why he agreed to run for vice president in 1976 (as recalled in a recent New York Times piece on Washington wit)

Late-night laughs

“President Obama’s been reaching out to Iran, reaching out to Cuba, reaching out to Latin America. The only place he can’t seem to be able to reach out to? Texas.” — Jay Leno

“Barack Obama will appear shirtless in a magazine this month. I think many Americans will identify with him — most have lost their shirts.” — Craig Ferguson

“Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will appear together on stage in Toronto for a two-hour friendly debate. Each side gets to pick a topic, so the first hour will be centered on the international banking crisis. The second hour will be dedicated to NASCAR trivia.” — Jimmy Fallon

“The Justice Department says they want to make an example of this Somali pirate guy. And I thought, really? In terms of making an example, I don’t think you can do much better than shooting the other three guys in the head.” — David Letterman

“Even Dick Cheney was into Earth Day. Did you see what he said today? He called for the use of only recycled water when waterboarding prisoners.” — Leno

Why are liberals angry?

cursingDana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote about the angry comments from both liberals and conservatives he gets about his columns — with each side claiming that he is in the tank for the other side. Though he can understand why the far right is angry, given recent election results, Milbank isn’t sure why many on the left also are angry. Reasons suggested by readers include that the left is frustrated that Barack Obama is more of a centrist than they thought, that they feel obligated to fight because of how the right is treating Obama, and that those on the left are “sore winners.”

Open thread 4/25


Pro-con on whether human activity affects global warming

CORRECTION Arctic MeltMany people have the impression that there is significant scientific disagreement about global climate change. It’s time to lay that misapprehension to rest. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities, and most of the “observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” Major changes are taking place in the Arctic, affecting both human and nonhuman communities, as predicted by climate models. We need to stop repeating nonsense about the uncertainty of global warming and start talking seriously about the right approach to address it. — Naomi Oreskes, the Washington Post

More than 650 scientists from around the world dispute the claims made by the United Nations and former Vice President Al Gore about global warming, saying that science does not support that climate change is a man-made phenomenon, according to a posting on the Senate environmental committee’s press blog. I’ve found that you’ve really got to pay close attention to how people talk about global warming or climate change. Most scientists agree that climate change indeed is occurring — they just differ on the reason why it is occurring. As for myself, I’m no scientist (or a Nobel Prize-winning former vice president), but I think that if you’re trying to find out why things are heating up, the sun would be a good place to start, especially since there’s plenty of scientific data showing that the Earth has been running hot and cold for thousands of years. — Carleton Bryant,

Did McCain never stand a chance?

mccain7John McCain’s former campaign chief has loosened his lips about what sank his man’s presidential candidacy. Appearing with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in Delaware Thursday, McCain chief strategist Steve Schmidt said the McCain campaign was “the strategic equivalent of throwing a football through a tire at 50 yards.”
He also said: “We were running a campaign under extra difficult circumstances — the state of the Republican party, the president’s unpopularity, the economy — a lot of issues that were not John McCain’s fault but were John McCain’s problem in this race. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall I knew pretty much right away that . . . from an electoral strategy perspective, the campaign was finished.”
On the subject on why McCain didn’t go with his first choice for a running mate, former Democratic running mate Joe Lieberman, Schmidt said: “It was communicated back to us very clearly from within the party that not only was Sen. Lieberman not acceptable, but any pro-choice nominee was not acceptable, (and) it would lead to a floor fight at the convention with an alternate nominee for vice president put into play.”

Lucas likens Cheney to the emperor, not Darth Vader

cheneyemperor“Star Wars” creator George Lucas objects to liberals likening Dick Cheney to Darth Vader. He told columnist Maureen Dowd that Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who was turned to the dark side by an older politician and became Darth Vader. “George Bush is Darth Vader,” he said. “Cheney is the emperor.” Lucas added: “You know, Darth Vader is really a kid from the desert planet near Crawford, and the true evil of the universe is the emperor who pulls all the strings.”

Open thread 4/24


Bigger fights than Sebelius ahead?

abortionanti2Social conservatives’ last-ditch effort to keep Kathleen Sebelius from becoming secretary of Health and Human Services hasn’t been entirely about her, according to the president of pro-choice group NARAL. Nancy Keenan told Politico: “The attacks by the right wing are, quite frankly, a dress rehearsal for the big dance, which is the Supreme Court vacancies. They are testing their tactics.”

Peterjohn squeezes the Charmin budget

peterjohn2If we had warned during the fall campaign that, as a Sedgwick County commissioner, anti-tax crusader Karl Peterjohn would second-guess staff recommendations on purchases of toilet paper and paper towels, we might have been accused of hyperbole. But there Peterjohn was Wednesday, engaging Iris Baker, county purchasing director, in a discussion of toilet paper-purchasing criteria in which Baker spoke of considerations such as “per-sheet cost,” absorbency, durability and “excessive scrap.” Ultimately, Peterjohn joined his colleagues in approving the expenditure.

Different presidents, same thought

Bush Obama“I wake up every day thinking about how to keep the American people safe.” — President Obama, Tuesday in the Oval Office

“I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America.” — President Bush, Sept. 30, 2004

Get on with Sebelius vote

Sebelius HHSSenate Republicans have put procedural roadblocks in the way of a confirmation vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had sought today on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services. Now there’s talk of the vote going into next week, and of 60 votes being needed to overcome a GOP filibuster, according to the Washington Post. The nomination’s problems have been well-publicized, including Sebelius’ underpaid taxes and underreported campaign contributions from Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. But many of the Kansans of both parties who elected Sebelius to statewide office four times may have trouble recognizing their cautious, middle-of-the-road governor in the portrait painted nationally of an abortion- and socialism-loving tax cheat. Can’t Sebelius supporters Bob Dole, Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback save this nomination from partisan savagery and get it over the finish line?

Moran versus Tiahrt could be tight

moran-tiahrtA new SurveyUSA poll co-sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, confirmed the conventional wisdom about next year’s GOP primaries for governor and U.S. Senate. In the gubernatorial primary, Sen. Sam Brownback (64 percent) doesn’t face much of a threat for now from Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh (17 percent). And the epic battle between Reps. Jerry Moran (39 percent) and Todd Tiahrt (35 percent) to take over Brownback’s Senate seat could be a photo finish. Still, one of the few gaps between them in the survey of likely GOP primary voters favors Moran: In northeast Kansas, which will be key in deciding between the congressmen from western and south-central Kansas, Moran leads Tiahrt 43 to 20 percent.

Open thread 4/23


Torture prosecutions up to Justice Department

President Obama was correct to back off a statement by his chief of staff that his administration would not prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized the torture of suspected terrorists. Obama does not have the authority to unilaterally declare that the Justice Department would take no action on possible crimes. That doesn’t mean that Bush officials will or should be prosecuted. But the Justice Department should make that decision based on the facts of the individual cases, not on the desire of Obama to focus on the future instead of the past.

Flint Hills through Left Coast eyes

flinthillsThe Los Angeles Times’ travel staff included Kansas’ Flint Hills in a feature highlighting “underrated places of the world,” paying tribute to their “undulating carpets of green” and advising readers to find a safe place to stop along U.S. 56: “It is here, on a perfect spring day or a crisp autumn afternoon, that you know you have found the heart and soul of bluestem grass country. You will hear nothing but the pure strain of a meadowlark’s song or the sweep of the wind through the grass. You are alone in the quiet. It’s such a non-L.A. moment that you may wish it could last forever.” Fortunately, Kansans get to enjoy that bliss whenever they like.

At least Prejean and Perez brought attention to Miss USA pageant

Miss USAWho would have thought that the Miss USA pageant could become a political battleground? But since Miss California contestant Carrie Prejean expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage during Sunday night’s pageant, there has been heated debate about her comments. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who asked the question about whether more states should allow gay marriage, has been blasting Prejean. Others, such as commentator Roland Martin, have defended Prejean for being honest about her beliefs. Prejean sticks by her answer, which she thinks cost her the crown. “It’s not about being politically correct. For me, it’s about being biblically correct,” she said in an interview this week.
I didn’t watch the pageant, and I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it — even when it was held in Wichita. Is gay marriage a normal type of question for contestants? I thought they just talked about world peace and ending hunger.

Obama needs some drama

obamahandsbyface10Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who just won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, wants to see some drama out of President Obama. “Theatricality is one of the weapons in any leader’s arsenal, and a well-timed glower or growl can have more impact than a sheaf of position papers,” Robinson wrote. For example, Obama could have been less gracious around Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at a weekend summit. When Obama spoke after Ortega’s 50-minute speech criticizing the United States, Robinson said, Obama “should have prefaced his promising call for an ‘equal partnership’ with other countries in the hemisphere with some strong pushback against those who would rather relive the insults of the past than move forward.”

Open thread 4/22


Bipartisanship uneven in Senate

brownbackobama2Neither of Kansas’ senators made the Hill newspaper’s lists of most and least partisan members of the U.S. Senate, but the bipartisan efforts of Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts were mentioned by some Democratic colleagues. Those Democrats who spoke favorably of dealings with Brownback were Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Udall of Colorado. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., included Roberts among a GOP quartet of “good-natured” senators.
Brownback told the newspaper that he misses the late liberal Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. — “one of the funniest guys I’ve worked with.” Brownback said, “He was just passionate. We’d call each other names for a little while, and then we’d go work with each other.”
The Hill’s survey found that Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, were prized by their colleagues as most bipartisan. The least bipartisan? Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Jim Bunning, R-Ky. One Republican explained that Leahy and Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Dodd of Connecticut “like to wield their positions.” One less diplomatic Democrat characterized Bunning and Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina as “a bunch of 4-year-olds.”

Bono on value and values in foreign aid

bono“So much of the discussion today is about value, not values,” U2 lead singer Bono wrote in a New York Times commentary about foreign aid and Easter. “Aid well spent can be an example of both, values and value for money. Providing AIDS medication to just under 4 million people, putting in place modest measures to improve maternal health, eradicating killer pests like malaria and rotoviruses — all these provide a leg up on the climb to self-sufficiency, all these can help us make friends in a world quick to enmity. It’s not alms, it’s investment. It’s not charity, it’s justice.”

Sebelius one step away from Cabinet

Obama HHSDespite eight votes against her — and GOP concerns over her underreported campaign contributions from George Tiller — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius won the approval of the Senate Finance Committee today to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services. That bodes well for her confirmation vote in the full Senate. It’s past time the Obama administration had a health czar. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson should start warming up.