Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chuck Grassley: 50 years of nothing, now evil as Hell

Charles Grassley has been a fixture in Iowa politics for over 50 years. First elected to the Iowa House in 1958, he later became a congressman and was elected to the Senate in 1980. Growing up in Iowa, he never bothered me much. He was too moderate and bland to trouble about.

He's always been conservative, but on the other hand, he's refused to associate with the tax-slashing libertarians of his party. He even used to appear in pro-labor union tv commercials. But I guess the biggest reason why it was hard to get upset about Grassley was that he never used to actually do anything. For example, in 1992, Grassley's Democratic opponent Jean LLoyd-Jones pointed out at a political rally I attended that during his first 12 years in the Senate, Grassley never proposed a single piece of legislation. Poor Jean, she only garnered 27% of the vote against Grassley even though Clinton beat Bush by a comfortable margin in Iowa that year. Well, Iowa has never elected a woman to Congress and maybe it never will.

But now it's 2009, and the old friendly and nonthreatening Grassley is gone. Meet the new Grassley: vicious, dishonest and totally uncaring about the health care crisis in America.

Let's review Senator Grassley's contributions to the health-care compromise that he has supposedly been working on in the Senate for the last four weeks. As of early August, the Senate Finance Committee was the only one of the five committees of jurisdiction to have not completed its work on health care legislation. Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana then announced that a "Gang of Six" Democrats and Republicans would draft a compromise proposal, and that the proposal could be expected to be dramatically different from President Obama's proposal. The Baucus plan would instead drop employer mandates and replace public option insurance with health care co-ops. In reality, the health care co-op idea is unworkable, but let's put that aside for the time being and get back to the Grassley record.

The first sign that something was very wrong came when Grassley appeared to get on board with the "deathers," people who falsely believe that that end-of-life counseling provisions in the House health care bill amount to government sponsored euthanasia. In response to a question about the provision, Grassley said people were right to fear that the government would "pull the plug on grandma." More recently, he's reversed course, admitting that there are no "death panels" in the bill. And who does he blame for his own dishonest and alarming statements? Why, left-wingers of course. Grassley recently told MSNBC that death panel talk is, "nothing more than a distortion coming from far-left with bringing up these end-of-life concerns."

So, now that the Gang of Six has had a month to talk, have they come up with the compromise they promised? Hardly. Grassley nows says that the soaring federal budget deficit "puts a stake in the heart" of the health care reform package. According to Grassley, major concessions will now have to be made for him to support any bill. And even if he gets everything he wants, he still won't vote for the bill unless a majority of the Republican caucus agrees to vote for it.

Grassley and fellow Gang of Six member Mike Enzi of Wyoming have used the pretense of negotiating a compromise to pursue the goal of stopping health care reform by any means necessary. Here, finally, we see something like honesty from these two.

Senator Grassley: "If I had not been at the table, there would have been a bill through the committee the week of June 22, and it would have been through the Senate by now because there’s sixty Democrats."

Senator Enzi: "If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care."

Finally, I'd like to point out that that Grassley's recent observations on health care problems in America have, well, let's say they've left something to be desired. He recently suggested, that those who want quality health care should do what he did, "go work for the Federal government." He's also ardently against public option because it will effectively work the same as Medicare, which "hasn't been a good experiment" in "government price setting." In reality recent studies indicate that Medicare actually works better than private insurance, giving enrollees, "greater access to care, fewer problems with medical bills, and greater satisfaction with their health plans and the quality of care they receive."

Senator Grassley, I used to think you were a pretty decent guy. I kind of suspected that you were going off the deep end when you belittled the health care crisis in America by suggesting that the government is not capable of running a cafeteria: "Us Senators have to think in terms of a government run insurance plan. We just had to turn the Senate dining room over to a private enterprise because it was losing so much money when the Senate was running it. So you got to be careful about government run programs." For the record, I used to eat in that cafeteria when I was an intern for Senator Tom Harkin. The reason why it loses money is because it charges far below costs so that Senators and their staffs can eat cheap. Now, like blogger Iowavoter from, I'm afraid Senator Grassley that you have lost your mind. Please consider retirement. Thank you.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Obama's birth, and the dumbest conspiracy theory on Earth

Have a look a President Obama's birth certificate. It's been verified by Hawai'i's Registar of Vital Statistics and by the state's Health Director as well. Need more evidence? Both Honolulu newspapers published Obama's birth announcement in 1961. A family friend of the Obamas who was living in Hawai'i in 1961 recently talked about her memories of Barack Obama's birth.

Unfortunately, some irrational people are still not convinced. Alan Keyes and Pat Boone for example. Or Congressman Roy Blunt. Or the majority of Republicans.


That's right, according to a poll, 28% of Republicans do not believe that Obama was not born in the United States, and another 30% are "not sure."

Am I surprised? No, I guess not. After all, these are the same people who've rejected the conclusive empirical evidence that the earth is billions of years old, and that mammals evolved from more primitive species. Heck, the same dailykos poll that asked about the birth certificate also found that only 24% of Republicans believe that America and Africa were once part of the same continent.

The relationship between the Republican leadership and the "birthers" is a complicated and stormy one. Congressman Mike Castle, one of the nicest people in the Republican Party, was trying to have a friendly talk with some senior citizens recently when he was interrupted by a birther who went a tirade in which she screamed at him for several minutes while waving her own birth certificate. But what's a sane Republican to do? After all, as the polls demonstrate, these people are not a minority fringe, they're the majority of the Republican faithful.

Furthermore, as much as the Republican leadership might claim that they'd like to put the issue to rest, in principle they like what the birthers are doing. As Ofari Hutchinson of recently noted,

"Republicans have a nice little con game going with the birthers. Here's GOP Chairman Michael Steele speaking recently. "The birthers are an unnecessary distraction." Steele blasted the birthers for giving the Democrats a brush to paint the GOP as a bunch of conspiracy driven wackos. Steele admonished the birthers to get over it and hit Obama hard on health care, the economy, the deficit; in other words to pound him on the issues that count. The problem with this is that it took Steele months to finally purse his lips to gingerly rap the birthers, and even then he delivered his criticism in a statement.

In fact, the last thing that Steele and other GOP top cats want is for them to go away. The more the media slams them, the more Democrats lampoon them, and the more respected GOP luminaries denounce them, this serves only to stir more internet chatter and right wing talk show gab that Obama may not be a true blue American."

One last observation. Republican Congressman Eric Cantor has come up with some great spin on the development of the birther movement. According to Cantor, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy! I kid you not. His office has released a statement saying that Cantor, "finds it ironic that those most eager to talk about the President’s citizenship are in fact some of his biggest cheerleaders–whether it’s Chris Matthews or others on MSNBC, the Huffington Post, or camera toting liberal bloggers chasing people through the streets of Washington."

Of course if that's what Congressman Cantor believes, then he and I actually have something in common: we both believe that the majority of Republican voters can be easily duped by a lot of nonsense.

Update 08/05/09:

US News and World Report has jumped on the "it's a left-wing media conspiracy" bandwagon.

"(S)ome conservatives argue that the media's interest in the "Birther" movement is biased and partisan, an effort to paint Republicans as nutty."

No additional effort is needed to paint Republicans as nutty, they're already doing a fine job of that all by themselves.