Bipartisan Schmartisan

So the stimulus package has passed, as the sun rises on this beautiful Saturday morning.  It wouldn’t have, without the help of Arlen Specter, Olympia Snow, and Susan Collins – courageous, centrist Republicans in a sea of dissembling, disingenuous, faux bipartisan doofusses mouthing old platitudes and marching in lockstep.  Why?  Putting politics first, it seems to me.  Meanwhile Obama’s forgiveness of Joe Lieberman seems to have reaped rewards … at least on this go ’round.  And the GOP is working hard to make Judd Gregg a hero – as opposed to a confused dude who woke up one morning and found himself in a Talking Heads song!

Talking Heads Lyrics

Of course the question is whether the bill has been gutted in ways that will make it less effective as a stimulus.  I was bummed to see some of the changes – but getting it through (and in the face of childish  Republican stonewalling, no less) was the main thing – flawed or not.  Maddow did a great piece last night on the silliness of the GOP arguments against the plan – and how they actually got sillier as time went on.  The GOP’s contribution to our political discourse has slipped a wee bit since the days of their self proclaimed founder Mr. Lincoln.

And is it not crazy-making how the GOP is suddenly so fixed on the deficit and on not making our children pay for things that we’re legislating?  Jon Stewart had a great go ’round with John Sununu the Younger on Thursday night on that subject. Watch Jon kick John’s butt … nice!

The GOP is behaving as if history started with the Obama election … and their behavior and decisions from November 3, 2008 back simply didn’t happen.  That kind of thinking absolutely drives me wild!  (Having grown up in an alcoholic family – it’s also very familiar.  What happened yesterday didn’t happen, right?  Right!)  Finally (at least on this subject) here’s a wonderful piece by Bob Cesca, describing the “new” Republican voice.  How much more deeply into the underbrush can they go?  Stay tuned – Obama seems to be driving them wild.

Here is the transcript of Paul Hodes’ appearance on Maddow Thursday night.  (Oh, and here’s the link to the video …)  Also – check out the next video (after the commercial break – Maddow on Obama and Lincoln.  Cool!

MADDOW: A little breaking news for you tonight in our nation‘s melodramatic telenovella bipartisan, the breakup or they are just not that into you. Late this afternoon, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, President Obama‘s pick to be commerce secretary, abruptly dropped out. I would not describe Senator Gregg as a popular choice for commerce secretary, but still, Gregg‘s decision to withdraw was a surprise. The timing seeming especially ungracious coming as the president has been sort of savoring his victory on the stimulus plan and as he prepared for his big Lincoln‘s bicentennial speech tonight.

So, there must be a reason for this, right? A sudden something, a scandal perhaps, something that just came up, something big and newsy and dramatic, right? Right? No. Not at all, apparently. The news flash that required this announcement today was that Republican Senator Judd Gregg just doesn‘t agree with President Obama on basic economics-all of a sudden.

In a statement, Senator Gregg said, quote, “I have found on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census, there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”

That much we knew before you got offered the job, big guy. Democratic president is facing financial crisis, conservative Republican commerce secretary. From the beginning, everyone knew the “functioning from a different set of views” thing was going to be an issue. What seems weird here is the assertion that the stimulus is among their differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JUDD GREGG, ® NEW HAMPSHIRE: Actually, I have been supportive of a very robust stimulus package from day one. I think this economy has to have a major stimulus initiative because as the only person has got-the only group that‘s got liquidity around here is the federal government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama is about to receive just about exactly what he asked for a month ago on the stimulus. So, now, all of a sudden, Judd Gregg doesn‘t like the idea of what he asked for?

At a news conference tonight, Senator Gregg tried again to explain why he is backing out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGG: The bottom line is this is simply a bridge too far from me. The president asked me to do it. I said yes. That was my mistake, not his. Maybe it was his. But it was my mistake obviously to say yes because it wasn‘t my personality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It wasn‘t my personality? You‘ve just realized? I‘m sorry to say this, but bottom line-Mr. President, you are in a nonreciprocal relationship here. Sir, it is not you. It is totally them.

And how did the White House respond to the “Dear John letter” from Senator Gregg? They said, quote, “Senator Gregg reached out to the president and offered his name for secretary of commerce.” In other words, he asked for the job, we didn‘t ask him. Sorry.

Continuing: “He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the president‘s agenda. We regret that he has had-that he has had a change of heart.”

Just before giving his speech tonight in Springfield, Illinois, honoring Abraham Lincoln‘s 200th birthday, President Obama credited Senator Gregg for searching his heart in this matter. Now, Senator Gregg says his decision has nothing to do with vetting, which may be true. To his credit, he did not say he needed to spend more time with his family.

But he also did make some news in his backing out today. He said that

he will probably not run for re-election as a U.S. senator for the state of

New Hampshire. As recently as November, he had said that he would run for

re-election.

One of the men who says he will run for Judd Gregg‘s Senate seat is Congressman Paul Hodes, who is a Democrat from New Hampshire.

Congressman Hodes, thank you for your time tonight.

REP. PAUL HODES, (D) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Glad to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: You have already said that you will run for this Senate seat in 2010. What is your reaction to this surprise withdrawal today?

HODES: Well, it‘s certainly surprising. And, you know, I‘m really disappointed.

First, I‘m disappointed for the people of New Hampshire who have been through a real rollercoaster, when we really need to be focusing on jobs. The governor of New Hampshire announced that he will have to cut 300 state workers; that‘s 2 percent of our state‘s workforce. And I think the people of New Hampshire expect their elected officials to be focusing on fixing things.

And I‘m disappointed for the president who reached out, as he said he would in the campaign, to build a new kind of bipartisan politics and has had this happen to him on the night before what will be a-I think, a real victory with a jobs and recovery program that is designed to put people back to work, to create jobs and as a down payment on the new infrastructure we need to build a working economy for the 21st century.

MADDOW: The president has been overt about the fact that he wants to act in a bipartisan manner. He wants to have Republicans involved in his cabinet. Despite that expressed desire by the president, it is possible that Gregg right? That it would have been a bad ideological match, that he is too conservative especially on matters that the commerce secretary touches, he‘s too conservative to fit well with President Obama‘s agenda?

HODES: Well, you know, it‘s certainly true that it‘s always difficult to bridge philosophical gaps-as you were talking about before I came on, that seemed to have been discussed in the run up to the announcement that he was appointing Judd Gregg, and I‘m sure that the president hoped that bringing Senator Gregg in would help him reach out to the business community and show folks that he really is committed to bridging the gap and bringing us to a new era to work together in the interests of America.

So, there were things to be gained. But apparently, it was just not to be.

MADDOW: When you run for this Senate seat, will you run against Judd Gregg‘s record or will you run, or will you run-I mean, obviously, you are going to run on your own record, but do you think that Judd Gregg has been a good senator?

HODES: You know, when I ran in 2006 and was elected, I ran because we needed change in this country. When I ran again in 2008 and supported President Obama, I ran because we needed a new direction and change.

New Hampshire deserves a senator who puts people first, who understands that we need to create jobs in this country. We need to save people‘s homes. We need to create opportunities with new kinds of educational opportunities.

We have a lot of work to do. I‘m running for the future of New Hampshire and the future of this country. I‘m not running against anybody.

MADDOW: Do you think that the Republicans have the wrong idea about how to fix the economy?

HODES: Well, I think we‘ve already seen where the Republicans have brought us. They have been the architects of a failed economy. It‘s time we got to work to turn things around. That‘s why I‘m so excited about working with President Obama on the jobs and recovery program that I expect to pass tomorrow to create jobs and help struggling middle class families and help the folks in New Hampshire who want jobs, they want homes, they want opportunity and we are going to give it to them.

MADDOW: On the issue of bipartisanship, as we all try to figure out what the new Washington is like in the Obama era, we do hear this repeated insistence from the White House that they are not giving up on the bipartisanship. But what it looks like when we watch the back-and-forth in Washington is that the president is reaching out again and again and again, and the Republicans are saying no. And sometimes it happened in the form of a unanimous vote by all Republicans against the stimulus bill in the House and sometimes it happens by Republicans nominated for cabinet positions rather ungraciously backing out at the last minute without a great explanation and embarrassing the president.

Is the fight over bipartisanship just a fight about understanding that Democrats and Republicans think about it in different ways?

HODES: Well, what I think is important is, that we have a president who spoke again and again during his campaign of his deep desire to bring the American people together. And that‘s in large part what I think the American people responded to. They want to see us working together, with different ideas and different philosophies, but doing the hard work of dealing with those different ideas and different philosophies and then coming to a consensus. That‘s what eventually happened on this jobs and recovery package.

I don‘t think the president is through with bipartisanship. I‘m not certainly through with bipartisanship. It‘s important to make the effort. I have good relations with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I value their ideas, and in the end, we‘ve got to keep on working at it to serve the American people and serve them well.

MADDOW: New Hampshire Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes, thank you so much for your time, sir.

HODES: Glad to be with you.

And finally, this lovely morning, here is the women’s b-ball schedule for today … and tomorrow … (Pitt-UConn at 2PM tomorrow … hmmmm)! 😉

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Texas Tech at Nebraska 1:00 Fox Sports Net
Georgetown at Providence 1:00 Big East Sports Network
Missouri State at Indiana State 1:00 Missouri Cable Sports Network
Cal Berkeley at Stanford 1:00 Fox Sports Net
Evansville at Drake 2:00 ESPNU
Seton Hall at South Florida 6:00 BHSN
Cal Berkeley at Stanford 10:00 Fox Sports Net

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Northwestern at Ohio State 10:00am Big Ten Network
Illinois at Purdue 12:00 ESPN2
Georgia at Vanderbilt 12:00 ESPN2
Rutgers at Maryland 12:00 ESPN2
Marist at Hartford 12:00 ESPN2
Florida at LSU 12:00 Fox Sports Net
Dayton at Xavier 12:00 CBS College Sports
West Virginia at Marquette 1:00 ESPNU
Oklahoma State at Kansas State 1:00 Fox Sports Net
Georgia Tech at North Carolina 2:00 Fox/Comcast /NE Sports Net
Arizona at Southern California 2:00 Fox Sports Net
Pitt at UConn 2:00 ESPN2
Virginia at NC State 2:00 ESPN2
Southern Miss at Marshall 2:00 ESPN2
Texas at Iowa State 2:00 ESPN2
San Diego State at Wyoming 3:00 The Mtn.
Minnesota at Michigan 4:00 Big Ten Network

A wee bit of baseball news – as Ryan Howard reports early to spring training for the WORLD CHAMPION Philadelphia Phillies.  He’s lost some pounds and gained some bucks … can’t wait to get underway!!

Oh yeah – and happy Valentine’s Day!

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