Monthly Archives: February 2010

Winning the Millennials


By John Feehery 

Andrew Kohut of the Pew Charitable Trust released an interesting snapshot of America’s youngest voters. 

 Calling it “A Portrait of the Millennial as a Young Adult”, Kohut says that voters from ages 18 to 29 are “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.  Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.”

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Fixing the Filibuster Rule

By Robert Walker

Legislation recently has been introduced to change the way the United States Senate conducts its business. That legislation calls for ending the use of the filibuster in Senate deliberations. I agree that the filibuster rule should be changed. I do not agree that the right change is to end its use. Instead, I would argue that the requirements for stopping a filibuster should be made more stringent.
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Is Government Really Broken?



If you want to see broken government, consider the fall of the constitutional Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar: “Fortune turned against us and brought confusion to all we did. Greed destroyed honor, honesty and every other virtue, and taught men to be arrogant and cruel, to neglect the gods. Ambition made men false. Rome changed: A government which had once surpassed all others in justice and excellence now became cruel and unbearable.” So said the historian Sallust at the time.

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Zugzwang: Democrats’ Dilemma


I first encountered the word Zugzwang in a 1985 New York Times Magazine column by the late William Safire.  It’s a chess term that means “compelled to move, but imperiled by doing so.” The word’s political implications are profound.

For the past 25 years, I’ve regularly witnessed the repercussions of that hard-to-pronounce term.  During the 1990s, my friend Arne Christenson (who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) and I would lament some thorny political problem faced by Republicans or Democrats and how being “compelled to move” would cause unavoidable collateral political damage.  Arne would just shake his head and say, “Zugzwang.”  We both knew exactly what he meant.
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Court Campaign Decision a Whopper



Many immediately proclaimed last week’s Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision as a huge win for business “special interests.”  But those quick draw reactions are based more on ideology and political rhetoric than hard facts.  While this latest change in the campaign finance landscape creates new options for both business and labor, it’s unclear if and how either side will use these new opportunities.

The Citizens United case overturns a variety of campaign finance laws enacted over the past century.  For example, it nullifies part of a century-old statute known as the Tillman Act (1907), which barred corporations from using treasury funds to engage in the political process.  It also vitiated similar prohibitions imposed on unions after World War II.  Moreover, the decision invalidates part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) that prohibited certain types of ads within 60 days of a general election and 30 days from a primary. Bottom line: Both corporations and labor unions may now use their general treasury funds to pay for unlimited independent expenditures, including advertisements, for or against candidates at any time.

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Be Wary of Partnerships

 By John Feehery

The president and his team have a new strategy in dealing with congressional Republicans. 

Mr. Obama went to Baltimore last Friday and took more than an hour of his schedule to thrust and parry with the abused House Republican minority.

And then yesterday morning, David Axelrod, the president’s top strategist, went on “Meet the Press” right before House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and continued the administration’s efforts to promote the new theme: The House Republicans share responsibility for the White House failures.

Some have likened the Baltimore conference meeting to a marriage therapy session. Like a counseling session, it had a lot of bickering, some fundamental disagreements in strategy, but overall, a commitment to work together.

But Republicans and the president are not married. They aren’t even dating. As a matter of fact, truth be told, they don’t even like each other that much. 

For the president to make the assertion that we are all in this together is complete nonsense. Yes, in a general way, we all want the country to prosper and we want jobs to come back and we want to beat the terrorists and all that stuff. 

But Republicans disagree fundamentally with where the president wants to take this country. They don’t want the government to act as a great wealth redistributor. They don’t want the government to dictate and control the healthcare marketplace. They don’t want a stimulus package that creates hundreds of thousands of government jobs while creating few jobs in the private sector. They don’t want to add a trillion dollars more in debt in unnecessary spending. 

So, if the president can’t get that agenda through the House and the Senate, that is completely fine with congressional Republicans. 

The president says that he has incorporated some of their ideas into his proposals. That is fine. But adding a few really nice deck chairs wasn’t going to make the Titanic sail any better, and vaguely promising to expand exports to Colombia and South Korea isn’t going to make the president’s agenda any more palatable for most of this center-right country. 

House Republicans, by the way, don’t run the House. Senate Republicans, by the way, don’t run the Senate. And the fact of the matter is that the president has overwhelming majorities in both bodies, a fact he himself acknowledged in the State of the Union address. If the Democrats weren’t so incompetent and weren’t so out of touch with their constituents, they should have easily completed much of their agenda by now.

Blaming Republicans for this startling lack of production is laughable. Complaining that Republicans aren’t helping to pass an agenda that they fundamentally disagree with is intellectually dishonest. 

Some Republicans may be uncomfortable with the “do nothing” label, but when it comes to the Obama agenda, they should wear that label proudly. Yes, they should be promoting “better solutions” at every opportunity. That doesn’t mean that anyone will take those alternatives seriously until they retake the House (and the Senate, hopefully). But it is always better to say, “No, but,” than it is “No, just no,” especially when it comes to issues that the American people care about. 

The GOP needs to be wary of a clever White House strategy of prematurely linking the fortunes of Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans. When Mr. Boehner becomes Speaker, he will have to work with Mr. Obama, because that is how our Constitution works. But right now, he should continue to do what he is doing: stopping, to the best of his ability, Mr. Obama when he takes the country in the wrong direction.