ABC This Week with Lil' George: Cheney? Dick Cheney? Has He Been In The News?
In case any of you might have harbored the hopeful thought that George Stephanopoulis might cover the astonishing news that according to Mr. Cheney, (and he should know, shouldn't he?), his Vice-Presidency is not an "entity" within the Executive branch, and even if you only harbored an iota of an iota therein, no, wrong again; I don't even think the name "Cheney" passed the lips of anyone this week on This week.
Perhaps you were thinking of the questions you could have thrown at Senator Kennedy or Senator Sessions on this latest example of the imperial Presidency? Well, for heaven's sake, that's why George gets to be on the telly every week...and you don't.
Or perhaps you expected that Incurious George would stick with immigration and Iraq for his guest interviews, but that surely the roundtable would spend some time on the story, especially since the Washington Post today published the first of a four part series on Cheney's secretive ways.
Perhaps I'm being unfair; perhaps the roundtable was taped on Friday, so that all the principals, which included, besides George Will and Lil' George, Fareed Zacaria, Torie Clarke, and Jake Tapper, could get to their summer homes, at the shore, lakeside, on the island. Come to think of it, don't you often have the feeling that the show could be taped at any point during the week and shown on Sunday, for all the difference it would make in what gets covered and what gets said?
No wonder the beltway 500 are so enamored of consensus building; it's how they do journalism.
And is there any better spokesman for consensus than Lil' George? Not bloody likely.
Okay, now to what did get said.
Billed as a "liberal lion," Senator Kennedy played the part extremely well this morning. He defended his sponsorship of the comprehensive immigration package that is set for a revival in the Senate as "tough, fair, and practical."
Kennedy insisted that the bill will pass. No, it's not amnesty, but what it does is allow 12 million plus human beings who are here already, to come out of the shadows. Kennedy claimed that Democrats have strong support for the bill from important constituent groups, like Hispanics, liberal churches, labor, and he also emphasized that the bill dealt with the concerns of those Americans who see porous borders and worry about national security.
In the face of George's litany of increasing negatives, like a drop in support according to polls, defection of someone like Senator Menendez of New Jersey, Kennedy was relentlessly positive and optimistic. When George insisted on returning again and again to the lack of support among those core Democratic supporters, the liberal lion provided a small civics lesson.
The bill is a compromise he reminded George, it is not the same bill that Democrats would have written if they only needed Democratic support to pass it. This is what being a legislator is all about, getting things done.
Kennedy is convinced the bill has more pluses than minuses. He believes that Bush's desire to pass a comprehensive bill is a unique opportunity to get something done on immigration.
It was clear that what moves him the most in all this is the opportunity to bring those 12 million illegals into the mainstream with a road, albeit and difficult one, to citizenship built in. That and what he calls the "preserve the dream" portion of the bill, which allows the children of illegals who weren't born here, but have lived here for years and been schooled here not to be deported.
On the other hand, when asked specifically about one of the pending amendments, the one which will be put forward by Senator Hutchinson of Texas, Kennedy hurriedly said he didn't support it and then moved on. I had the feeling he was saying something like "yes, there are conditions under which I couldn't support this bill, but now is not the time for me to specify that, better to put pressure on Republicans who want a bill to join Democrats in defeating an amendment like that.
Okay, I'm putting words in Kennedy's mouth, but that is the way you get the bill you want in the Senate.
Kennedy reminded his critics that the struggle for civil rights involved multiple battles, not all of which were won immediately. "But you have to keep battling." He offered the possibility of improving aspects of the bill in the future. As for cooperating with Bush, Stephanopoulis brought up the medicare prescription benefit and "no child left behind" as instances when Kennedy's willingness to compromise didn't work out. Kennedy set the record straight; he never supported the President's version of the prescription benefit, Democrats had their own version, and "no child" proved disappointing because of the administration’s failure to fund it.
I should say that my blogmate, Lambert, thinks Kennedy is making a mistake here, because you can't compromise with those who recognize rightness only in themselves. And another of my blogmates felt even worse about it.
I'm ambivalent myself; I don't like this bill much, but then I'm a genuine extremist when it comes to immigration, especially from south.
Maybe because I’m from Southern California, I welcome it. I've never met an illegal I didn't like. Okay, some bad people make it across, but as long as you have such a long border with a whole continent where live people who want to work, but for whatever reasons simply can't find the means to survive in their own country, the only means we have to stop their flow into our country are beyond disgusting - like a thousand foot wall. So I hope the bill goes down in a way that can't be laid at the door of Democrats.
What Kennedy did superbly, when George mentioned the historically low approval rating for congress, was to counter the negative gloss the beltway best have been trying to put on the workings of the new Democratic congress. Democrats are moving forward, they're getting funding for Head Start renewed, on their way to passing the Education Reform Act which will do something about the way student loans have been mismanaged, at great cost to the individual student, have passed a raise in the minimum wage, and as to the issue of Democrat's handling of Iraq, disappointment about by the Democratic base George stressed as one of the reasons for congress' declining approval rating, Kennedy pointed out that Democrats had passed legislation with a timeline for troop withdrawal; it was the President who vetoed it.
Democrats are united in insisting on a timetable for withdrawal/redeployment; it took many years, too many, Kennedy reminded all of us, to end the war in Vietnam, and he mentioned the Contra war, which took multiple efforts to close down. Then Kennedy not only reminded everyone that he voted against the war authorization, but he also labeled it the best Senate vote he ever cast. He also pointed to the irony that every Republican presidential candidate has backed the President's handling of the war in Iraq. As for which of the Democratic nominees Kennedy will back, he would say only that he knows all of them, could support any of them with pride, and what he'll be looking for, as a way of deciding who should be the candidate, is the ability to inspire
Jeff Sessions is a Republican Senator from Alabama; you all know that but I mention it here because it struck me, watching him this morning, how much he shares with those legendary Democratic Southern Senators who caused such embarrassment to the party which become, finally, in Johnson's administration, the party of civil rights.
Oh Sessions is much slicker than a John Stennis of a John Sparkman, but the disconnect from any other human being who is unlike you that racism encourages in its practitioners is what I always feel Sessions is all about.
Of course he's against this compromise immigration bill, but only because it won't work. And yes, of course it's amnesty. And no, the fact that we're talking about primarily Hispanics has nothing to do with his opposition.
Who knows, maybe he believes what he's saying.
What's got other Republicans, like Lindsey Graham and Trent Lott all riled up, and George quoted them profusely, is that all this racist bashing of Hispanic immigrants as 'illegals' and as people who have come here just to break our laws is probably going to cost Republicans the votes of Americans of Hispanic descent for decades to come. But Sessions welcomes the intervention of talk radio and the rightwing blogs. If Republicans lose Hispanics, so be it.
I think the most profoundly meaningful moment came at the beginning of the interview, when George showed a tape of Bush at a fund-raiser last week, specifically to raise campaign funds for Sessions, and to the tune of a million bucks apparently raised in one night. Are our elections fucked up or what?
So Bush and Sessions are still pals, it's just that the president is wrong on this bill. Sessions insisted on exactly the opposite of everything Kennedy said. The bill won't work, it's impractical, it does nothing to stem immigration in the future, it rewards law-breaking, and it doesn't get us the kind of immigrants we need, those with skills, who merit being allowed to immigrate. Oh, you've heard it all before. Sessions is for a guest worker program, but not one that ever allows a path to permanent residence here, not unless the persons has those special gifts. That such a worker might meet an American citizen and fall in love, or want to marry, have a child while here simply doesn't cross Sessions mind. Such workers are to be seen strictly as useful tools.
When asked how he is going to block the bill, Sessions made clear that it would be aggressively and using every instrument at his disposal to slow down the process, so that opposition can build, which, I suppose means a filibuster; wonder if Lieberman is going to get all upset if Republicans do go that way. Or David Broder?
George asked Sessions about Iraq, and his warning a while back that there had to improvement on the ground for Bush to keep Republicans behind the war. This was fun to watch, except not, if you thought about the rising casualty rate. Sessions is going to be very interested in Petraeus's report in September. Sessions wouldn't be pinned down on what troop levels should be at any point in the future, and he made clear he's not talking about a time table, God forbid. But there's got to be progress, and there seems to be, as we move aggressively in areas of Iraq we haven't before.
My impression - Sessions is really worried about Republican electoral chances in 2008 if we're still in Iraq in the same numbers as now. But he has no way to keep that from happening, not as long as he sticks with Bush. Petraeus is already signally he'll be able to report "progress," and Bush has never signaled anything other than that he intends to hand over an unsolvable mess to the next president.
What never gets discussed in these interviews - what is the cost of staying there and doing the same thing over and over? The assumption which the SCLM seems to accept fully is that there is no actual cost, other than some dead and wounded soldiers, so why not hang on to see if we can score something Republicans can call victory. Democrats need to do a better job articulating exactly what those costs are.
The roundtable was utterly without interest, except to the extent that it demonstrated the insular, limited mindset of the SCLM.
Are voters restless for a third way - which Bloomberg could represent? That's how George S began. George Will was having none of it. There is no such longing, and Bloomberg won’t run because he’ll see there’s no way he can win. Fareed and Torie Clarke agreed that there was some longing out there to find a way out of the partisanship of the two parties. Jack Tapper thought there was such a longing, but hey, everybody, Bloomberg's positions are those of a liberal Democrat, a point Tapper came back to several times, the significance being that a liberal Democrat, in particular, couldn't be mainstream. On the other hand, the Bloomberg issues Tapper listed as the Democratic agenda, gun control, the environment, , are hardly the essentials of what concerns the Democratic base. No talk of the assault on the constitution, no talk of what Bloomberg's foreign policy would be like, but man, were they all impressed with the "brilliance" of the last several days of PR for Bloomberg.
Masterful that, changing his party allegiance.
The only people I saw today who are yearning for a third way were the ones sitting around that table.
Hillary and Bill's spoof of the Soprano's last episode was discussed; George Will thought it amusing, Jake Tapper odd, Fareed thought the sheer competence of her campaign would put her in the winner's column, and then Torie Clarke stated that the only thing that could get in the way of Hillary winning the nomination, or the Presidency, I imagine she meant, was if there was another national security incident. I assume she meant something big, like 9/11. Then people would be forced to ask themselves if they really believe Hillary is who they would want in that chair in the Oval Office?
So a woman can't be trusted to handle a crises?
Is this THE Republican fantasy? That Hillary is nominated, and then between the convention and the election, there is another terrorist incident within our borders, and whichever he-man the Republicans have nominated becomes a sure winner?
I see it rather differently; such an attack would assure a Democrat takes the White House and Democrats increase their margins in the House and the Senate. But then I think they can do that even without another 9/11.