Sunday, January 11, 2009

Will This Election Ever Be Over? Plus -- Chinks in the Obama Armor

Minnesota 2008
It seems the election of 2008 has extended into 2009. The Al Franken - Norm Coleman race seems to never end. But, it appears the result is now inevitable from my standpoint. After an exhaustive statewide recount, Al Franken has been certified the winner by a mere 225 votes. There are still legal challenges to come. They center around 2 claims by Norm Coleman:
(1) That 130 Votes Were Double-Counted in the Recount
The basis for this claim is as follows: In Minnesota, when a ballot is damaged to the point that the scanning machine cannot read it, a photo copy is taken and scanned. The photo copy and the original are then supposed to be kept together so that in the event of a hand recount, they are not counted twice. Evidentally, in 130 cases, this did not happen in the recount as 130 photocopies could not be matched to their originals.

This is a legitimate complaint but Coleman's problems are:
a. There is no way to know whether the originals were double-counted or destroyed
b. We don't know who these allegedly double-counted votes voted for (certainly they did not vote 100% for 1 candidate)
c. Even if you give assume that they were ALL double-counts and ALL voted for Franken (which would be a little ridiculous), Franken still leads by 95 votes.

(2) That not all the improperly rejected absentee ballots on election day were discovered by the counties
The Coleman campaign now claims there are 654 additional improperly rejected ballots that were not discovered in the post-election assessment of absentee ballots.

This is a pretty laughable position since Norm Coleman fought, in court, from counting ANY of the improperly rejected ballots. He has now done a complete 180 and wants to count more.

Bottom line -- Al Franken will be the Senator from Minnesota. He won't be seated likely for a few more weeks while Coleman exhausts his legal challenges, but this one is over.

I'm not sure if this is good for Democrats. Franken is a highly divise figure and his over-the-top rhetoric will likely make him a national punching bag in the next 3 election cycles. But it is 1 more Democratic vote.

This makes the likely make-up of the Senate 57 Democrats, 2 Independents (Socialist Bernie Sanders and Independent Joe Lieberman) and 41 Republicans. Just shy of a fillibuster-proof majority.

The Burris Affair
Illinois continues to be a mess. The Senate has refused to seate Burris on the basis that his credentials were not signed by the Secretary of State in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court has now ruled that such a signature is not necessary.

Harry Reid, after initially saying that the senate would not seat Burris is softening his position. More wish-washy crap from one of the worst leaders of the Senate in my lifetime.

The bottom line is the Senate should and probably ultimately will seat Burris.

Yes, Blagojevich should have resigned. No, he should not have made the appointment. But he is still the governor of Illinois and has not been convicted of any crime or removed from office (although he has now been impeached by an overwhelming vote from the State House.) As such, he has the legal right to make the appointment, whether Reid and the Senate Democrats like it or not. This is a basic constitutional issue and the Democrats should honor it, no matter how onerous the circumstances.

New York Senate
The Democratic Party may have found its Sarah Palin. Caroline Kennedy has been on her media tour and let me say that I find her inarticulate, not particularly well versed on the issues and frankly, not all that intelligent. It looks like she may get the nod from David Patterson, but I am still hopeful he will pick somebody who is more qualified like Andrew Cuomo. Ironically, David Patterson would be the perfect person for the post, and had the Spitzer scandal not broken, he may well have gotten the nod, but his dance card is now full for the next few years. Let's hope he does the right thing.

Chinks in the Obama Armor

Boy -- that didn't take long. The honeymoon is over. Obama has taken a lot of heat the past few weeks.

There was the Rick Warren controversy.

Then Bill Richardson withdrew from the Commerce role, embroiled in pay to play allegations.

Now it looks like Senate Republicans are going to put a lot of heat on the Holder nomination at justice.

Obama is also taking flack for naming Panetta for the CIA and for the rumor that Sanjay Gupta will be named Surgeon General.

Finally, congress is now starting to hedge on the stimulus package timing.

As far as the appointments go, I have no idea whether Richardson did anything wrong or not, but certainly it was the right move to remove himself from consideration amidst the controversy.

Holder will ultimately get the job. The Mark Rich pardon is kind of a ridiculous issue to raise -- the Presidential power of pardon is absolute and blaming an Undersecretary at Justice for a Clinton pardon is sort of absurd. Besides, Holder has been forthcoming and stated he wished he'd handle it differently. The GOP will make a point by putting on some heat at the hearings, but his nomination will get 70 votes in the end.

The Panetta pick is an interesting one. It IS a fairly political pick for a traditionally non-political agency. It will also ultimately get approved, but I do wish Obama had named someone less controversial.

Sanjay Gupta is a great pick for Surgeon General. The notion that he is unqualified is absurd. He is a medical doctor who has spent years of his life communicating to American publica about health issues. Isn't that the definition of the best possible job qualifications for Surgeon General?

Finally -- the stimulus package. Here is our inept congressional leadership again. We will get a stimulus package. But, because congress is still a shiftless, self-intereted body, it's going to be laden with local pork projects just to get it to pass. I don't like it, but I don't see an alternative.

The economy is in really bad shape right now. Unemployment has risen from 4.8% in February to 7.2% in December, the highest rate since the 90-91 recession and is projected to climb further in the next 3 months, possibly reaching double digits. Action is required, and if we have to hold our noses for a few bee-hive museums and little league fields, so be it.

With an estimated $1 trillion in new spending and tax cuts, the defecit may ballon the $2 trillion next year, it's highest level on a percentage of GDP basis since World War II. This is not good, but we have to live with it in the short-term. When the economy is grounded, Obama must address this. He can let the Bush tax cuts expire on upper-income brackets and that will help, but more will be needed, especially with rising entitlement costs. He will either have to deeply cut federal discretionary spending or look to things like new gas taxes (which would not be a bad idea for a number of reasons including national security/energy independence) and increased income and payroll taxes to close the gap. Getting out of Iraq will also save substantial amounts of money.

Thanks for all your tax cuts, George Bush. The only problem is that you spent us into bankruptcy and as a result, we will likely be paying higher taxes for the next 20 years. Anyone miss that Clinton surplus?

No comments: