Bob Schwartz

Tag: Harry Reid

Still Waiting for 21st Century American Politics

Pelosi McConnell Reid Boehner

We are still waiting for the emergence of 21st century politics in America.

The first part of this may seem simplistic and overgeneralized. The second part may seem silly. But this is about politics, so what can you expect?

1

Many Republicans seem to be stuck at some point in the 19th century—not just Robber Barons and the Gilded Age, but certainly that. Many Democrats seem to be stuck with some version of 20th century progressivism—not a bad thing, by any means, but constructed in a different world under different circumstances.

2

Forget the bourbon and beer political summits. The President, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, John Boehner, and Nancy Pelosi should take advantage of D.C.’s new legalized marijuana and share the peace pipe. The scripts would fall away, they would be channeling some different higher power. (Question: Which of these, besides Obama, has actually smoked pot before? Answer: All of them, even if it was just a puff, even if it was just a dare, even if they didn’t inhale.)

Music and food might be issues. Not knowing their individual tastes, and if the point is to get to a better and more creative, communal, and enlightening space, Bob Marley could do the trick. Shoulders swaying, spirits lifting, to the heavenly prayer of One Love.

Food? Whatever’s in the fridge.

3

As I said, simplistic, overgeneralized, and silly. But if politics keeps trying to recreate some ideal of a bygone era, country, or world, two centuries ago, one century ago, fifty years ago, it won’t work. Yes, of course there are timeless values that deserve our allegiance. But these are always set in temporal realities. Being current means more than just being “relevant” or using the latest technologies to drive your message home or appealing to ascendant populations. It means that however much you love the way it was, just inhale, exhale, and breathe the air of 2014, 2016, and beyond. Because, politicians, it’s not your parents’ air—it’s not even yours.

The Most Significant Shutdown Front Pages

El Diario

Republicans should pay close attention to the front pages of America’s newspapers this morning, the first day of the government shutdown prompted by their obsessive opposition to Obamacare.

Most papers carry some version of “shutdown” or “gridlock,” with photos of John Boehner and Harry Reid, or John Boehner and Barack Obama (it’s all about John Boehner).

But the big story on two front pages is the opening of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. These two papers just happen to be two of the largest Spanish-language dailies—El Diario in New York (above) and La Opinion in Los Angeles (below).

La Opinion

Why is this significant for Republicans? Because they claim (but in their heart of hearts still may not believe) that here in the second decade of the 21st century, they can’t become an American national party without broad Latino support. That is true, but the fact is that a large part of that constituency is uninsured and is deeply interested in the benefits of Obamacare. This is reflected in those front pages. But the Republicans are sworn enemies of Obamacare, so committed that they are willing to put people out of work to do it. How can the Republicans be a party attractive to Latinos under that circumstance?

The answer is that they can’t. It is a circle Republicans cannot square. And no matter how much lip service they pay to underserved populations, everything they do says something else. Actions, like front pages, speak louder than words.

Who Killed the Assault Weapons Ban?

Hoover Tactical Firearms
A ban on assault weapons is dead, at least for this session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Democratic gun bill moving forward will not include it.

The political math is that 60 votes are needed to pass a bill in this new and not improved super-majority Senate voting, and there weren’t enough Democrats, let alone Republicans, to make passage possible. The political reality is fear. There are Democratic Senators who believe that a vote for anything that looks like a gun ban, however reasonable and popular, would cause them grief or worse back home and in the voting booth.

We had a ban on assault weapons for ten years, signed by Bill Clinton, allowed to expire under George W. Bush in 2004, and never revived. It was far from perfect or comprehensive, but at least it represented recognition that as a modern civilization, there are things we try not to do or allow to be done. This isn’t heaven, but we can make it a little less hell.

An earlier post mentioned that we have not seen, and as a matter of decency (we are civilized people, aren’t we?) will not see, the photos of the dead children at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. Since then, though, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing at which a vivid word image was painted by a first responder. Maybe not a thousand words, but we got the picture.

Harry Reid could tell us, name by name, which Democratic Senators did not want to have a vote on this so they wouldn’t have to be accountable. They wanted to avoid the double-edged sword, cut once politically by supporters and voters who believe that any banned weapon is one too many, then cut again by those who can’t understand why military weapons are needed by the hunter or the psychopath next door. By Adam Lanza’s mother and, in the end, by Adam Lanza.

Maybe we are asking the wrong questions of our politicians. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking whether they believe in a ban on assault weapons, or in the possibility that such a ban might reduce the number of gun deaths by even a little, and might reduce the brutality of an already brutal world.

Maybe we should be asking our politicians whether they believe in ghosts. The kind of ghosts who visit all of us, in the moments before sleep, in sleep itself. Ghosts of things done or not done. For Senators, ghosts of bills passed, unpassed, and too many times, never voted on at all. Ghosts that aren’t abstract, but that take stark, all too real form. Ghosts that look like mangled, barely recognizable angels, just wanting somebody to speak—and vote—for them.

Holiday from Politics or Holiday with Politics?

Harry Reid Kathy Griffin
Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.

New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a politics-free zone. Actually, we assume that, but can’t be entirely sure, because it honestly never came up before.

We needed the break. So what was Congress doing on our New Year’s Eve broadcasts?

Was it maddening to have Sen. Harry Reid et al competing with Ryan Seacrest, Carson Daly, and a bunch of pop stars lip-syncing their hits to preposterously overexcited audiences? Not really. Watching Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN was a complete antidote.  After six years of their improbable New Year’s Eve partnership, they are one of the great unscripted couples in television history.

Theirs is an unforced chemistry, an obviously loving friendship that viewers get to watch. Kathy is professionally outrageous, determined to say and do anything, the more embarrassing the better. Anderson is famously private, so Kathy aggressively pokes around his peccadilloes, making him demur, squirm, giggle and half-heartedly try to uphold CNN network standards.

Among this year’s highlights was a surprise visit by Psy, who understood little English, so that when Kathy congratulated his success by saying he had “money coming out of his butt,” he graciously replied, “That means so much coming from you.” But nothing beat Kathy’s relentless attempts to go down on Anderson, a sequence prompted by CNN’s report about the custom in Eastport, Maine of “kissing the big sardine” on New Year’s Eve.

Comments indicate that some found this, and much of what Kathy does to/with Anderson, to be crude, vulgar, distasteful, pointless, etc. It is edgy, but also good-natured and even sweet. Watching Anderson, one of the most respected journalists in America, protecting his private parts from her advances is just funny—especially when he made it clear that it was not something he was interested in.

Apparently those objecting to distasteful and pointless on New Year’s Eve were not aware of what was going on in Washington that night. Thank God for Anderson and Kathy. They were way more fun.