Local Democrat Makes The Daily Show Cut

I was watching The Daily Show last night and I was shocked to see my friend and frequent commenter on this blog, Jim Hight, on the second segment:

I texted Jim immediately and he said he didn’t think they would use his interview, done at the Democratic National Convention (Jim is chairman of the Newton County Democratic Central Committee).  But there he was, representing defiant Democrats in Southwest Missouri very well by saying about the right-wing media:

I don’t like Rush Limp Balls, Fox Noise, anything…

That’s my Jimmy!

Bubba’s Revenge

He looked great. He sounded great. And with a smile on his face he stuck a dagger in the heart of that monster we know as Tea Party Republicanism.

Bill Clinton’s speech was extraordinary and had to be seen to be fully appreciated. As Steve Schmidt, who essentially ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, said:

I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that. We don’t. It would be great if we did. Just an amazing performance.

Anyone who lived through the wounded Clinton presidency—some of those wounds self-inflicted—who watched Republicans try to destroy him through slander and impeachment, had to marvel at this early part of Wednesday night’s speech:

Now, there’s something I’ve noticed lately. You probably have too. And it’s this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.

If there ever was a Democratic president who was hated with the same ridiculous hatred that characterizes Republican opposition to President Obama, it was Bill Clinton. I mean, Republicans seriously suggested that Clinton had someone murdered for God’s sake, and a fundamentalist creep and popular Republican preacher named Jerry Falwell heavily promoted a film alleging other murderous crimes.

Yet in that one remarkable sentence—”I actually never learned to hate them“— Clinton managed to put himself up above all their hate and by extension lifted Mr. Obama above it too.

Early in the speech, Clinton cited his history of cooperating with Republicans, like Reagan and both Bushes, to get things done, and then he pulled out his Clintonian dagger and began stabbing at the cause of our political ills:

Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict?

Because nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.

And every one of us — every one of us and every one of them—we’re compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes, knowing we’re never going to be right all the time and hoping we’re right more than twice a day.

Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way. They think government is always the enemy, they’re always right, and compromise is weakness. Just in the last couple of elections, they defeated two distinguished Republican senators because they dared to cooperate with Democrats on issues important to the future of the country, even national security.

They beat a Republican congressman with almost a hundred percent voting record on every conservative score, because he said he realized he did not have to hate the president to disagree with him. Boy, that was a nonstarter, and they threw him out.

And after that dagger hit its Tea Party target, he wiggled it around with this appeal to independent voters:

One of the main reasons we ought to re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to constructive cooperation.

Still committed.” After all the hate thrown his way, Mr. Obama is still willing to work with Republicans who are willing to work with him. Clinton said that President Obama “tried to work with congressional Republicans on health care, debt reduction, and new jobs,” but “that didn’t work out so well.” Why? The other side’s “number one priority was not to put America back to work; it was to put the president out of work.”

David Corn remarked that no one can “merge passion and policy” like the “master” Bill Clinton. In a mere 48 minutes he managed to tell Americans, in plain language and with great detail, why Barack Obama’s first term was remarkably productive, why folks should give him another one, and, knife in hand, why Republicans are offering nothing new:

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple — pretty snappy. It went something like this: We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.

He continued:

…they want to the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place. They want to cut taxes for high- income Americans, even more than President Bush did. They want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts. They want to actually increase defense spending over a decade $2 trillion more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend it on. And they want to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor children.

And later he twisted the knife even more:

We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down.

He attacked Republicans for their poor “arithmetic“; their past and future deficits; their additional “$5 trillion in tax cuts heavily weighted to upper-income people“; their lack of budget specificity; their lies about Medicare cuts and welfare to work waivers; their desire to repeal “ObamaCare”; their voter suppression efforts; and, most important because it is most neglected, he attacked them for their proposed Medicaid cuts:

Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. (Laughter.) And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this. They also want to block-grant Medicaid, and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years.

Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. Lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors — (applause) — who are eligible for Medicaid.

(Cheers, applause.) It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including — (cheers, applause) — a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions. (Applause.) And honestly, let’s think about it, if that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do.

How often have you heard the Romney-Ryan Medicaid cuts even discussed, let alone discussed in such personal terms?

Clinton raved about Obama’s “recovery program,” which “saved or created millions of jobs” and “cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people.” He noted the 29 months of job creation and the 4 1/2 million private sector jobs produced and couldn’t help twisting the dagger again:

We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs.

He touted the “500,000 manufacturing jobs” created since the recovery began and praised the “auto industry restructuring” which “saved more than a million jobs.” And he added:

There are now 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than on the day the companies were restructured.

And another knife twist:

…we all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. (Boos.) So here’s another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? (Cheers.) Here, here’s another job score: Obama, 250,000; Romney, zero.

Clinton also praised Obama for something I haven’t often heard Obama take credit for himself:

Now, the agreement the administration made with the management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage, that was a good deal too. It will cut your gas prices in half, your gas bill. No matter what the price is, if you double the mileage of your car, your bill will be half what it would have been. It will make us more energy independent. It will cut greenhouse gas emissions. And according to several analyses, over the next 20 years, it’ll bring us another half a million good new jobs into the American economy.

He extolled the President’s energy policies. He lauded his education policies—particularly the student loan overhaul, which “means no one will ever have to drop out of college again for fear they can’t repay their debt,” and,

it means that if someone wants to take a job with a modest income, a teacher, a police officer, if they want to be a small-town doctor in a little rural area, they won’t have to turn those jobs down because they don’t pay enough to repay they debt. Their debt obligation will be determined by their salary. This will change the future for young America.

Wow. Why haven’t we heard much about that before now?

Clinton took on Republicans on health care reform, defending ObamaCare robustly. He talked about the billion-dollar-plus in refunds to individuals and businesses because insurance companies didn’t spend enough on health care after taking our premiums. He talked about how the law is pressuring insurance companies to “lower their rates” to comply with the law’s health care spending requirement.

He talked about the “3 million young people between 19 and 25” getting insurance on their parents’ policies and the “millions of seniors” receiving preventive care and “millions of new customers” for insurance companies, many of those customers “middle-class people with pre-existing conditions who never could get insurance before.”

He also mentioned something I didn’t know:

Now, finally, listen to this. For the last two years — after going up at three times the rate of inflation for a decade, for the last two years health care costs have been under 4 percent in both years for the first time in 50 years.

Why haven’t I heard that?

With the audience fully and energetically his, Clinton ended with a plea to vote and re-elect President Obama, which began this way:

Look, I love our country so much. And I know we’re coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come back. (Cheers.) People have predicted our demise ever since George Washington was criticized for being a mediocre surveyor with a bad set of wooden false teeth. (Laughter.) And so far, every single person that’s bet against America has lost money because we always come back. (Cheers, applause.) We come through every fire a little stronger and a little better.

And we do it because in the end we decide to champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor — the cause of forming a more perfect union.

Ah. That is the Democratic Party’s raison d’etre, its reason for being. I have never heard a contemporary Republican emphasize “the cause of forming a more perfect union.” Rather than working on a better national union these days, they are trying like hell to disturb what unity we have.

Finally, I want to end with something Bill Clinton said early on in his speech that illustrates, I think, the morality and practicality of continuing to find ways to perfect our union:

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty, and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

It will be the realization of this Democratic vision, a vision of equality and empowerment, of combating discrimination, poverty, and ignorance, that will not only bring new wealth to all, but it will bring us closer together as a people, that elusive cause the Founders championed.

(Getty Images)

Democrats

I love Democrats.

Oh, there is plenty to lament over the long history of the Democratic Party. It hasn’t always been a party of inclusion, of hope, of promise for all.

But on Tuesday night it was my party, a party I could believe in, a party I could be proud to lock arms with, no matter the outcome in November.

I loved the night, full of speeches, from the Cincinnati firefighter, who turned from a Republican to a Democrat because of anti-union action by his state’s Republicans;

to Harry Reid, who still refuses to give up on Romney’s secret tax returns;

to former President Jimmy Carter, who Democrats are not ashamed of, unlike the convenient Republican allergy to George W. Bush;

to Joe Kennedy III, who is running to replace the venerable liberal Barney Frank;

to Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq and is now, not ironically, running for Congress in Illinois;

to Stacey Lihn, fighting to keep her emotions in check as she spoke of her daughter Zoe, who has congenital heart disease and whose vulnerability is why ObamaCare is not a political liability but a reason to celebrate because it provides such families with “security and relief“;

to Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, who told the truth about Romney by saying that, “to him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet,” and that he “has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.” He quoted the Bible, saying,

the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.

Strickland said that President Obama “stands up for average working people” and “now, by God, we will stand up for him.” He said the President is an “economic patriot,” and the differences between him and Mitt Romney are such that we can’t “sit this one out.”

I loved Kathleen Sebelius extoling the virtues of “ObamaCare,” which she called a “badge of honor,” adding accurately that such laws “reflect the best of our values.”

I loved Lilly Ledbetter who celebrated the first bill President Obama signed into law, one named after her and that, “because of his leadership, women who faced pay discrimination like I did will now get their day in court.”

I was exceedingly impressed by the rousing speech delivered by the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who followed Romney in that job. He attacked Republican philosophy, but admonished his own party:

If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe.

Backbones, I believe, were stiffened.

I enjoyed meeting future Democratic star Julián Castro, whose orphaned grandmother from Mexico with a fourth-grade education came to America and worked hard, raising a daughter who would be the first in her family to graduate from college, the daughter in turn raising two sons, one now the mayor of San Antonio and the other on his way to Congress this fall.

Then there was Michelle Obama.

Earlier in the day my 17-year-old son had asked me what were the essential differences between Republicans and Democrats. Mrs. Obama began to explain those differences with this:

Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

Yes! That’s it. “Give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” That’s who we are as Democrats.

But that’s not all of it.

I couldn’t explain the ultimate difference between Democrats and Republicans better than Michelle Obama did in this passage from the finest speech, from beginning to end, I have ever heard given at a political convention:

He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work. Because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.

He’s the same man who, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew.

That’s the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering their questions about issues in the news, and strategizing about middle school friendships.

That’s the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him.

The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care. From the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities.

I see the concern in his eyes and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle, it’s not right. We’ve got to keep working to fix this. We’ve got so much more to do.”

Ah. There it is: “Michelle, it’s not right.”

Democrats make that value judgment. They’re not afraid to do so. They see something wrong in society and declare “it’s not right,” often, “it’s not right!  And then they go about the hard job of fixing it. Republicans see things that aren’t right and say, “That’s the way it is.”

And that’s the biggest difference between the parties, between the philosophies that guide them.

I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are,” Mrs. Obama said. And she added that when a president is making the hard decisions that American presidents have to make,

as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.

What could be truer than that?

And Barack Obama’s values, his vision, the stuff that makes him who he is, should give us confidence that, even if we disagree with him at times, even if we wonder why he is so reluctant to openly and defiantly call out his political opponents, we can still, as far as it is humanly prudent to do so, trust him.

Call It “ClaireCare” If You Want, McCaskill Should Say

I will take Claire McCaskill at her word that she is not skipping the Democratic National Convention because she is afraid to cavort with Mr. Obamacare himself and other Democrats who don’t enjoy overwhelming popularity here in Missouri.

She told Morning Joe:

I’ve never gone when I’ve had a contested race. You’ve got to say to people at home, which is more important: Going to a place with a bunch of party honchos and having cocktail parties, or being at home talking to them? So this has never been a hard call for me. Everybody is trying to make this a big deal and narrative. It’s just stupid.

All of the chatter about McCaskill’s reasons for not going to North Carolina later this summer, along with the  expectation that the Supremes will rule on the Affordable Care Act tomorrow, has me wondering just why it is that here in Missouri, as elsewhere, the concept of “ObamaCare” is relatively unpopular, even while its constituent parts are not. My conclusion is that such dissonance is attributable to a failure to properly—and constantly—educate an inattentive public.

Which, of course, made me wonder, for instance, what Ms. McCaskill has said about the ACA and how she has tried to educate Missourians on the virtues of the law.

Well, she did make an effort to do so in March, sort of. Here is how TPM began a story about it:

Grilled about her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told a home state radio interviewer that the law’s core structure is “exactly” like the House GOP Medicare privatization plan that conservatives support and liberals detest.

Hmm. That’s not exactly a good way of selling ObamaCare to liberals, now is it? She went on:

“The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It’s not the government,” she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. “It’s exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare.”

“It’s subsidized by the government — premium subsidies — which is exactly, this is the irony,” continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. “You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it’s terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don’t have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it’s terrible.”

Her point here is, of course, unassailable. There is a lot of Republican hypocrisy associated with the debate over health care reform, particularly since almost the entire scheme that is now called ObamaCare is made up of ideas that once were dreamed up in the minds of right-wingers.

But that doesn’t let Claire off the hook, in terms of her responsibility to educate folks about the law. I looked on her campaign website and I found the following under “Healthcare“:

Claire has fought for expanded health insurance for all Missourians, from children to seniors. In her first term, Claire helped protect children with pre-existing conditions from being refused insurance and saved seniors from paying too much for prescription drugs by helping to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Claire strongly believes that affordable health care is necessary in a successful economy and will continue to fight to make sure all Missourians have access to it, while also fighting to ensure those who chose not to be insured don’t pass along their medical costs to other Missourians.

This paragraph constitutes a summary of the details that follow on the page, but what we see here is essentially an explanation of the Affordable Care Act, of ObamaCare, but without the name attached. Now, while it is understandable that she would want to stay away from terms that Republicans and their moneyed funders have tainted via their propaganda campaign against “ObamaCare” and the ACA, what McCaskill is doing is essentially furthering the public’s misunderstanding of what is the health care reform law that goes by those names.

I can’t help but wonder what public opinion about the ACA might be today, if folks like McCaskill would not only consistently tout the parts of the law that people like, but aggressively defend the idea behind the one part they don’t like, the dreaded mandate.

Something like the following would be in order, coming from the moderate Missouri Democrat who voted for the ACA and who gets constantly attacked for doing so:

You’re damned right I voted for ObamaCare. And I’m proud of that vote. Hell, I wish they’d call it ClaireCare, so proud I am to have voted for it.

You know why?

Because it helps protect Missourians with pre-existing conditions from getting screwed by insurance companies;

Because it protects Missourians who get sick from getting booted off the insurance they had before they got sick;

Because it provides insurance for Missourians who can’t afford it and who would otherwise go without it and get sick and die or who would end up in an emergency room with a horrible and horribly expensive disease that we’d all end up paying for;

Because it allows about 40,000 Missouri kids to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26;

Because it has already “saved 111,815 Missouri seniors on Medicare an average of $627 per person on their prescription drugs by closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole‘” (quote from her website);

And because it has already “provided 431,945 Missouri women with free mammograms, bone density scans, and cervical cancer screenings with no co-pay” (quote from her website);

As I said, you’re damned right I voted for what you derisively try to call “ObamaCare,” and I couldn’t be prouder. Tell me, my critics, which one of the above “becauses” would you like to repeal? Huh?

And I’m even proud of the fact that I voted for the hated mandate because it was at least an attempt to get folks to stop gaming the system and help pay their own way. Aren’t you tired of some people trying to get something for nothing?

Any bleeping questions?

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