All the pointless posturing and increasing partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere make it crystal clear that the most important goal for the two major parties (besides raking in money and electing their chosen candidates, of course) is making points against one another. That has become far more important than actually fixing any of the country’s problems.
There have always been cyclical splits within the two main parties, and especially now within the GOP as the Tea Party types splinter away from the more moderate wing and are poised to cause heartburn as we get closer to the 2014 elections. No doubt some members of Congress up for reelection are deciding how to vote while keeping an eagle eye over on the right.
The Democrats aren’t as prone to splintering right now since their guy is occupying the White House and they still have a single-digit majority in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives is another story, where Republicans have a 33-member majority over the Dems and have passed plenty of time-wasting legislation mainly for political points. One example is voting 46 times to overturn or defund the Affordable Care Act, which they know won’t make it through the Senate.
When the U.S. political spectrum has been violently yanked to the right, it leaves the more moderate to liberal folks out in the cold. Just ask former Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who’s trying to bring some rationality to the proceedings but is looking like an iconoclastic party-hopper in the process.
The former Republican recently stepped up to run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Max Baucus. While he’s doing that, he’s also making some strong public statements about the electoral process and how much the Democratic Party machine here and in D.C. wants him out of the race.
According to a Nov. 12 article on Politico.com, Bohlinger recounted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called to ask him to drop out of the race in favor of the chosen one, current Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh. Bohlinger reportedly told Reid that, regardless of sentiments back East, there would be a Democratic primary in Montana, adding, “And it will be the people of Montana that choose the next Democratic senatorial candidate.”
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, while asserting that he will remain neutral in the U.S. Senate primary, has said some nice things about his former running mate. He recently told the National Journal that, while he knows Walsh will win the overall money race, he would donate to both Bohlinger’s and Walsh’s campaigns.
“Don’t listen to the bulls— you hear in Washington, D.C.,” Schweitzer said. “If the [primary] election were held today, John Bohlinger would win 2-to-1 over John Walsh. He’s not going to raise the money Walsh is because D.C. has selected Walsh as their candidate. ... But the election isn’t right now, it’s next year, and the Democratic Senate machine in Washington, D.C., has their sights set on John Walsh, so he’ll have a lot more money than John Bohlinger.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee really wants to keep the seat Baucus has been warming for the past 35 years in the blue column. Rumor has it the DSCC dispatched a campaign operative to Montana to help Walsh get his campaign in gear, and Walsh has also hired several former staffers from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s re-election campaign to help him out.
Here’s how DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil recently characterized the situation: “Democrats are well positioned to hold the Montana Senate seat. John Walsh’s unique personal story of courageously serving his country and his state contract sharply with Steve Daines’ status as a Washington insider tarnished with the sagging GOP brand who has always put himself before his fellow citizens by profiting off the federal government while in the private sector or recklessly voting to shut down the government.”
Predictably, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not impressed. According to Politico.com, the committee calls Walsh a flawed and beatable candidate and remains confident that freshman U.S. Rep. Daines, R-Mont., can make the step up to the Senate.
“Democrats are trying to distract from their extremely unpopular and vulnerable incumbents with phony enthusiasm for long-shot candidates like John Walsh and Natalie Tennant,” said NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen.
Meanwhile, Bohlinger is continuing to lob verbal grenades. His latest volley is courtesy of what looks like a homemade video posted to YouTube.com, in which he decries the prevalence of “dark money” groups influencing Montana and national politics and touts the economic leadership of the Schweitzer administration. He managed to invoke the former governor’s name at least three times in the approximately three-minute video.
Current Gov. Steve Bullock, along with U.S. Sens. Baucus and Tester, have all endorsed Walsh. A humorous comment followed recent news of Bullock’s endorsement, noting that if Walsh is elected to the Senate, Montana’s two members would be sporting the only two crewcuts there.
One area where the Dems are in predictable disarray is the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Crafting and passage of this law were manipulated to avoid having a single-payer system, which would have made more sense financially and every other way if Congress truly wanted to provide basic coverage for all.
But, sorry to say, what most members of Congress wanted to do was look like they were doing something about the problem while placating insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, the medical establishment and anybody else who’s been raking in zillions off our so-called healthcare system for years on end.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., knows all about it. After all, he was instrumental in crafting and then shepherding this pathetic Band-Aid deal into reality. Even now, despite all the inherent problems, plus the SNAFUs in the program rollout, he’s defending the law and says there’s nothing he wants more than for it to succeed.
At the recent hearing in which Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was called on the carpet to explain the dysfunctional Healthcare.gov website, Baucus reminded attendees he had warned that the rollout had better go well or implementation of the ACA would be derailed. Early on, he had predicted a “huge train wreck” if the administration messed up the debut of the complex new law.
“I want to do what I can to help you make it work, but it’s a two-way street,” he reportedly told Sebelius at the Nov. 6 hearing. “You’ve got to tell us what’s going on — candidly, fully — so we don’t wake up at the end of November and lo and behold, still nothing yet.”
Last week, President Obama announced that Americans whose health insurance coverage was canceled because of ACA could keep their plans for one more year if they wish. He had previously promised that nobody would have to give up an insurance plan they liked because of the new law.
One can only hope that things with ACA get so screwed up that Congress is forced to go back and adopt a single-payer health-care plan as it should have done in the first place. Such systems work pretty well in a lot of other countries, and we deserve to have the same thing here.
Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine that regularly reports on Edward Snowden’s leaked documents, is now stating that the British intelligence agency GCHQ has been tracking any foreign diplomats and government officials who stay at 350 luxury hotels around the world.
GCHQ is part of the British government and characterizes itself as a secret “intelligence and security organization, working to keep Britain safe and secure in the challenging environment of modern communications.” This newly revealed program, called “Royal Concierge,” will soon be extended to cover car rentals, according to Der Spiegel.
“Today, the four biggest banks are 30 percent larger than they were five years ago. And the five largest banks now hold more than half of the total banking assets in the country. Who would have thought five years ago, after we witnessed firsthand the dangers of an overly concentrated financial system, that the ‘too big to fail’ problem would only have gotten worse?” - U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a Nov. 12 speech on the future of financial reform.