On the second episode of the new season of “Saturday Night Live,” Fred Armisen played President Obama giving a wry address about his inability to accomplish the key pillars of his agenda. In the blunt sketch, Armisen jokes about taking “four months to pick out a dog” and suggests his primary accomplishments have been to kill a fly on camera and bring a black professor and a white police officer together.
“When you look at my record, it’s very clear what I’ve done so far, and that is . . . nothing. Nada. Almost one year and nothing to show for it.” The fake Obama walks through a checklist of his campaign promises — closing Guantanamo Bay, withdrawing from Iraq, passing health care reform — and admits that he hasn’t made progress on any of them.
Video: “Saturday Night Live,” Oct. 3, 2009
Now it’s Harry Reid’s turn to take a crack at health care reform. And it’s unclear if that’s a good thing — or not — for Democrats, especially those on and off Capitol Hill who yearn for a public insurance option.
With Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) finishing up his finance committee’s version of the health care bill, Reid, the Senate majority leader, will have the Herculean task of merging the Baucus-built bill with legislation passed earlier by the Senate health committee. The two measures differ on numerous points, including the public option. The health committee legislation includes one; the finance committee package does not. The health committee measure also has more generous subsidies for workers who will have to purchase insurance. (Baucus voted against two versions of a public option, claiming he supported it as policy but opposed it politically because he figures a bill with a public option cannot win the 60 votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster.)
For his part, Reid’s been playing ping-pong — with himself — on the public option. Early last week, he said that putting off a decision on a public option for a few years was a “pretty doggone good idea.” Then days later, he declared, “We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president’s desk.” Hours after making that statement, he revised his position once again, with his office stating that he would only guarantee to “include a mechanism to keep insurers honest, create competition and keep costs down.” A public option would do that. But a handful of conservative Dems have claimed that non-profit (but non-governmental) health insurance co-ops could also achieve those ends — a position easily challenged because no one yet has a clear idea how these co-ops would operate.
Jay Rockefeller has waited a long time for this moment. Since 1964, to be exact. So he was unabashedly emotional as the Senate Finance Committee neared completion of its work on health reform. “I feel the way I feel and I am who I am,” the West Virginia Democrat said at the end of a teary, post-midnight monologue about his work as a VISTA volunteer 45 years ago.
Who is he and how does he feel? The great-grandson and namesake of America’s first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller IV is a 6-foot-6, 72-year-old Harvard graduate who studied Japanese in Tokyo and Chinese at Yale. He’s also a longtime advocate of health care for children and the poor – and, as Congress moves toward its moment of truth on health care, perhaps the most earnest, dogged Senate champion of a nationwide public health insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies.
The new session of the Supreme Court of the United States opens Monday with a slate of important cases looming — and a novelty that some worry is more than a historical curiosity: namely, with the addition of the newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, six of the nine justices on the high court will be…Roman Catholics.
John Grisham, where are you? Do we need to call Dan Brown? Or has this issue already moved well beyond the realm of popular fiction? Some would say so.
The five Catholic justices that Sotomayor joins — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts — already represented a historic high, and now Catholics will comprise two-thirds of the bench. This is well out of proportion to the 24 percent or so of the general American population that is Catholic. The question is, does it matter?
In a column penned after Sotomayor’s nomination, Joyce Appleby, a distinguished historian emerita from UCLA, argued that because the Catholic Church has taken strong stands on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty, “it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues.” Her suggestion is that they ought to recuse themselves from such cases.
“Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain,” Appleby wrote in the Tallahassee Democrat. “Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?”
I wasn’t really sure we could top last week’s list of disclosures about celebrities and politicians. To recap: David Letterman is a philanderer. John Edwards is an (alleged) serial philanderer. And if there were any remaining doubts, Roman Polanksi really is a child rapist. But here’s one secret I’m quite certain none of us saw coming: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is . . . wait for it . . . Jewish.
Why did you change your mind about abortion? That’s right, I’m talking to you. Or to some of you, at least.
Last week, David Gibson gave the Politics Daily overview to new polling results released by the Pew Forum about abortion. Some of the results were unsurprising: Positions are hardening on both sides since last year’s elections, and the Democrats’ new control of the White House and Congress seemed to be energizing the most fervent of those opposed to abortion.
In a fierce and tightly coordinated onslaught, insurgents attacked a pair of remote American outposts, killing eight U.S. troops in an area of the country soon slated to be largely abandoned by Western forces, military officials said today.
The raid in Nuristan province near the Pakistan border, which took place Saturday at dawn, was one of the deadliest attacks on American forces in the course of the war, now entering its ninth year. At least two members of the Afghan security forces were killed as well, Western military officials said.
The Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force blamed “tribal militia.” However, there is often a blurry line between so-called “local Taliban” and insurgents who are commanded from outside the area.