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Friday, February 05, 2010

Al Franken Beats David Axelrod with an Ashtray

Al FrankenIf you watched Jon Stewart's The Daily Show take on blogospheric sensationalism last night, you might find yourself taking a Politico headline with a grain of salt. After all, Stewart showed headlines that -- if taken literally -- would make himself and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow violent hotheads at best and serial killers at worst. Making a slam dunk sort of logical argument becomes "destroying" or "eviscerating" or "bitch slapping," when the arguments in question are just calm reasoning.

So, after seeing more solid reasoning on the unreasonable nature of blog headlines, you might be a little leery of "Al Franken lays into David Axelrod over health care bill."

Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats.

Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.

The sources said Franken was the most outspoken senator in the meeting, which followed President Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats at the Newseum on Wednesday. But they also said the Minnesotan wasn’t the only angry Democrat in the room.

The other "angry Democrat in the room" was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders -- who isn't actually a Democrat, he's an Independent (an honest-to-god Socialist, actually). But he caucuses with the Democrats, so close enough, really. To find out that little bit of well-guarded info, you have to go to Sam Stein at the Huffington Post.

"My message is that the current strategy is failing and we have to stop being on the defensive," Sanders' told Stein in a statement. "We also need to realize we're not going to get 60 votes for anything, so we have to look at a very broad, omnibus-like reconciliation bill -- including health care and jobs -- that will pass the Senate with 51 votes."

So how true is the "Franken lays into Axelrod" part of the story? As it turns out, very. On his twitter page, Franken himself links to Stein's article, which pretty much tells the same story as Politico's.

Of course, Sanders and Franken are right here. The Obama administration started off seeking bipartisanship on healthcare reform. Then they continued to pursue it after it had become clear to everyone else that there was no such thing in Washington. And they're still talking about it. Here's the thing; you can't change Washington without changing the modus operandi of the Republican Party. And they don't want to change. You tried, it didn't work, move on.

In continuing to try to change how Washington works, what's happening is that Washington isn't working at all. Republican obstructionism has reached absurd levels, with a record number of filibusters last year. According to US News' Robert Schlesinger, filibusters have gone "from 8 percent -- pretty infrequently -- to 70 percent, or rule of the day."

This is a story that the Obama administration and Democrats need to get out more; while they're trying to bail out the economy, to bail out workers, to bail out families, Republicans keep throwing cinderblocks in the boat. Government can't possibly work this way, yet this is what's happening as we try to recover from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

And let's be clear, healthcare reform is part of the solution to our economic problems. Healthcare costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US and the costs of insuring workers makes US companies less competitive with foreign rivals who operate under more efficient healthcare systems.

So, if Franken got hot with Axelrod (and I've heard him get hot on his radio show, I know he's capable of it), then it's because Axelrod and the rest of the Obama administration deserves it. What can be said to the Republicans can also be said to them -- there may be a time to do this sort of thing, but it is most definitely not now. If Republican obstructionism has shut down government at this most crucial moment, then so has the administration's snipe hunt for reason among Republicans. This is so obviously not working.

They may find it distasteful, it may go against the bipartisan grain of the White House, but the president's got to find the keys to the steamroller. Democrats have the second largest majority in the Senate in more than thirty years. It's time to use that to roll over Republicans. I want to see the headline, "Democrats Shatter Republican Obstruction."

And I don't want that to be hyperbolic.


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