Rahm’s Authorization to Use Military Force

This plan from Rahm has a number of people in a tizzy:

Mr. Emanuel, the chief of staff, said he hoped Congressional Democrats would take up the jobs bill next week. Then, in his view, Congress would move to the president’s plan to impose a fee on banks to help offset losses to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the fund used to bail out banks and automakers.

Lawmakers would next deal with a financial regulatory overhaul, and then pick up where they left off on health care. “All these things start and lead to one place: J-O-B-S,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Jonathan Cohn, Ezra, Gregg, Chris Bowers, and Digby all make very important points about Rahm’s comments. [Update: now The Shrill One piles on.] But I think they may be missing one potential aspect of Rahm’s thinking.

You see, I’ve been waiting for this for a few months.

There are two theories about how to pass difficult legislation. The operative theory with health insurance reform, thus far, had been to do it early in Obama’s term, when he had a lot of poltiical capital. That theory has been overtaken by events.

But think about how Karl Rove preferred to pass difficult legislation. Those bills didn’t have January or February signing dates. They had October signing dates. Take the Military Commissions Act, signed on October 17, 2006, just three weeks before the last mid-term election. Or the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq, signed on October 16, 2002, even less than three weeks before the prior mid-term election.

And with each of these, the timing worked in Rove’s favor. He could and did threaten that IF YOU DON’T PASS THIS BILL YOU WILL BE BRANDED AS A TERRORIST JUST IN TIME FOR ELECTION DAY!!!! And sure enough, people like Debbie Stabenow, who normally would think twice about supporting unconstitutional laws that give torturers a do-over, fell in line and passed the bill.

Rove used the urgency of the upcoming election to push Congress to pass legislation that they would soon regret.

Now, obviously, Rahm won’t be calling Raul Grijalva a terrorist because he doesn’t pass health insurance reform. But the Administration already has been saying that Congress should pass a bill, any bill. The Village punditry already accepts as true that a failure to pass health insurance reform will doom the Democratic party. So you can be sure that if health insurance reform hasn’t passed by September, you’re going to start hearing the Administration predicting sure doom on November 2 for Democrats if they don’t pass the bill BEFORE THE ELECTION OR YOU’LL BE BRANDED A LOSER!!

And that all fits into the likely timing suggested by Rahm’s comments, as laid out by Ezra:

The timetable Emanuel is laying out makes little sense. The jobs bill will take some time. Financial regulation will take much longer. Let’s be conservative and give all this four months. Is Emanuel really suggesting that he expects Congress to return to health-care reform in the summer before the election? Forgetting whether there’s political will at that point, there’s no personnel: Everyone is home campaigning.

Moreover, there’s a time limit on health-care reform. The open reconciliation instructions the Senate could use to modify the bill expire when the next budget is (there’s disagreement over the precise rule on this) considered or passed. That is to say, the open reconciliation instructions expire soon. Democrats could build new reconciliation instructions into the next budget, but that’s going to be a heavy lift. The longer this takes, the less likely it is to happen. And Emanuel just said that the administration’s preference is to let it take longer.

That is, the timetable makes little sense if you want to allow members of Congress time to campaign in August. But it makes perfect sense if you want to rush something through with no negotiations.

Now, frankly, I think Rahm (as is typical) misreads the strategy on this. If health insurance reform is not passed by September, I expect that the Village will have grown used to the Democrats’ failure on the issue, and I expect that members of Congress will prefer to face that failure, such as it is, to passing a bill that TeaBaggers have been particularly successful at demonizing. Particularly a bill sure to piss off the key component of your GOTV team.

But I do think it’s possible that this is Rahm’s intent, anyway. Rather than doing the negotiations, now, to fix the Senate bill through reconciliation, by bringing the bill up just in time for some election season fear-mongering, perhaps he hopes to avoid all negotiations. At the very least it would allow him to use his favorite negotiating tactic–abuse–rather than actually engaging in a negotiation. And it’s always possible that Rahm would prefer this approach because it’s the only route he can see to pass the Excise Tax, now that it has been discredited as smoke and mirrors.

  1. scribe says:

    You have to factor in one more aspect of Rahm’s strategy, though he’s never come out and enunciated it: he hates big Democratic majoities and favors narrow ones, because narrow majorities empower his Blue Dogs to demand and get the corporate-friendly legislation they want. So, pissing off the GOTV teams and base with a crappy bill, such that they stay home, depress Dem turnout and lose some winnable seats, actually plays into his strategy. And, of course, the Blue Dogs can always slide across the aisle to really punch the DFHs, if that’s desireable.

    So, he’s gonna demand a crappy bill, get a depressed turnout, get narrow and Blue-Dog dependent majorities (or even a minority – both ready-made excuses for doing nothing real), and see if that gets him what he wants.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced we will see no improvements in the middle or working classes’ situations from this administration. Rather – and I think the Bernanke reappointment exemplifies this – we are being led by the nose by the Chinese and the Saudis, though the USG cannot admit it. Remember the current-day version of the “triangular trade” which someone posited as being the model we’re operating under? The Saudis (and OPEC) sell us oil, which we turn into suburban sprawl and consumption, which consumption is supplied by Chinese factories [not for nothing did Bushie tell us to keep shopping post 9/11], and we supply soldiers to keep order in the oil lands and the Chinese and Saudis facilitate this by buying our debt. Reappointing an inflation-fighter like Bernanke does one thing well – protect the rentiers and the value of their investment in US debt, primus inter pares the Chinese and close behind them the OPEC folks.

    Any improvement in the living and wage standards of the US middle and working classes would have to be paid for by retaking the manufacturing jobs from China and reinstating them here in the US, something which would both send the Chinese into a conniption, or by inflating the US currency, making US debt worth less in absolute terms and thereby lessening the dead weight that debt lays upon the US economy, with similar results. [Back at the time of the Bush tax cuts, I had occasion to discuss them cordially with a senior I-banker at a major firm, a social acquaintance. I told him the only way those tax cuts were going to work out in any decent way was to inflate our way out of it. In response, I got a dirty look that said I was right, too. 8 years later, I still stand by that analysis.] A US tax increase on the rich, beyond being political poison for Dems (assuming the basest level of propaganda competence among Rethugs), likely would not raise enough money to make a dent in things.

    OTOH, passing HCR which would diminish the living standards of the working and middle classes – EW’s repeated analyses which have shown pretty convincingly they would have to pay for coverage they could not afford to use – might cut consumption at the margins (because we won’t have any money left to spend on anything) but would not make a serious dent in the amount of debt we’d still have to continue to float (if for no other reason than to pay for our soldiers or to roll over the old debt). What Rahm’s lamprey-style HCR (parastically sucking the life force from the working and middle classes and giving nothing in return) would definitely do, though, is continue getting the US working and middle classes used to the idea of being poor, having no future, and that their kids will be worse off than they were. Paradoxically (as we’ve seen every time Kansas votes against their own economic or social self-interest) that declining standard of living will translate into people clinging more tightly to the inanities which made them poorer in the first place.

    • scribe says:

      I note having said this:

      You have to factor in one more aspect of Rahm’s strategy, though he’s never come out and enunciated it: he hates big Democratic majorities and favors narrow ones, because narrow majorities empower his Blue Dogs to demand and get the corporate-friendly legislation they want. So, pissing off the GOTV teams and base with a crappy bill, such that they stay home, depress Dem turnout and lose some winnable seats, actually plays into his strategy. And, of course, the Blue Dogs can always slide across the aisle to really punch the DFHs, if that’s desireable.

      The cure, then, is to pull all GOTV support the base* might give to Blue Dogs. A Blue Dog is as useless as a Republican and worse overall, since at least the Republicans aren’t in the Democratic caucus, don’t take up Democratic committee seats and chairs and don’t go on TV spouting Republican dogma over a Democratc label. The base has to take up a “What have you done for me lately” attitude – which they did in Mass. – and if the answer is “not much”, then sit. That is what Obama is going after in the last weeks’ offensive – some pretty speeches to win back the girlfriend he brought to the dance and who got tired of his chasing the Republicans’ skirts, turned, and left. You want me back? Give me what I want. Now. Or else. Pretty words – which is what we’ve gotten – don’t cut it.

      *And that means you, too, unions. Until you get your EFCA, there’s no resaon to lift a finger for a Blue Dog, period.

    • sagesse says:

      I think there are policies – those that are shaping the fate of western public lands – where the interests of the Chinese and Saudis are shaping destructive environmental policies. There are an unprecedented number of new gas pipeline corridors being built all over the place. The question is why do we need all these new pipelines (and many of the new transmission and other corridors everywhere as well)? The most reasonable explanation to me seems that we are gearing up to export gas or other energy – in LNG form. Pipelines connecting with other pipelines, heading to the coast.

      Recall what happened with the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest on Forst Service lands in the 1980s to early 1990s. The old growth was clearcut for a song – or a loss to the American public whose lands the logs were taken from – and exported to Japan. The logs were sunk in the salt water of Tokyo harbor. So then the Japanese could later sell the lumber at a much higher price.

      Now think of this in energy terms. Why are we frantically ripping up the East Coast Marcellus shale, and now – having drilled to death sage-grouse habitats in Wyoming – ramping up OG destruction of Colorado (cheered on by Colorado Dems) at such a frantic pace?

      This is one of the only things we have left to potentially export anymore. It seems to me to be in the interest of the Chinese and Saudis to have us further deplete our Oil and Gas Reserves now. China gets cheaper fuel. The Saudis get to be the last drill rig standing … And there is a mega-renewables side to this, too.

  2. emptywheel says:

    Health insurance reform would definitely improve the quality of life of the poor–with either expanded Medicaid or subsidies at levels that experts say are affordable, the reform would get them affordable insurance.

    It’s the middle class where–for a number but not all–the mandate would require the spending of much of their disposal income. Some of them would and may be paying now, and if the costs go down (they will for most indiv buyers) they will be better off.

    But not well off. They still won’t be able to “afford” care.

  3. knowbuddhau says:

    Yes, scribe, excellent point, esp. your conclusion. I have family in Kansas. They’ll just shut down, refuse to argue, refuse to speak, saying, “That’s just the way it is,” or “I don’t want to argue with you,” perfectly conflating debate with treasonous blasphemy and personal betrayal.

    That’s the power of myths over facts in the minds of electorates. John Oliver’s bit, Fright Club, perfectly dramatizes this point.

    [T]he images not only of poetry and love but also of religion and patriotism, when effective, are apprehended with actual physical responses: tears, sighs, interior aches, spontaneous groans, cries, bursts of laughter, wrath, and impulsive deeds. Human experience and human art, that is to say, have succeeded in creating for the human species an environment of sign stimuli that release physical responses and direct them to ends no less effectively than do the signs of nature the instincts of the beasts….


    [This is] the first axiom of all creative art–whether it be in poetry, music, dance, architecture, painting, or sculpture–which is, namely, that art is not, like science, a logic of references but a release from reference and rendition of immediate experience: a presentation of forms, images, or ideas in such a way that they will communicate, not primarily a thought or even a feeling, but an

    impact. [Emphasis added. Joseph Campbell. Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, pp.40-42. New York: Penguin.]

    By now, I’m betting, that very real psychophysiological power of myth has been weaponized. Pols who use it as such have no intention of “winning hearts and minds,” they intend to bulldoze and rebuild in their own image.

    • scribe says:

      Myth has always been weaponized. It is only now – in large part because of the pervasive media environment and better education* – that we have achieved sufficient [self-]awareness to recognize myth as it suffuses society. Previously, the vast majority of people were to myth as fish were to water – immersed in it and pretty much inseparable from it.

      I suspect, if an honest history is ever written, that those writers will credit agnosticism and atheism, perhaps more than anything else, for being responsible for awakening more people to how myth was and is used, and alowing them to advance beyond being bound up in myth and repeating with their lives the same old stories, generation after generation.

      * As good an explanation as any for the elites’ sponsorhip of fundamentalism and the consequent attacks on education. I recall my seventh-grade social studies book, published by one of the big textbook firms, had an extensive section on advertising generally and political campaigns specfically. It explained the bandwagon approach, the positive and negative approaches, and much more. I kind of think those got the heave-ho years ago – don’t want to teach the kids too much….

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    This plan from Rahm Obama has a number of people in a tizzy

    Fixed it for ya!

    Boxturtle (Rahm = Sock puppet. Obama = Hand)

  5. charley2u says:

    It keeps coming down to the following explanation: Democrats can’t get their agenda through Congress because they lack tactical imagination. The idea is never explored that perhaps their actions are deliberate.

    The problem is variously described as one where Blue Dogs stand in the way of reform, or Republicans obstruct reform, or lobbyists hijack reform. These are unsatisfactory explanations, in my opinion.

    You need to come up with some new ones.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      The idea is never explored that perhaps their actions are deliberate.

      What blog you been reading?!? We’ve been following the money on HCR around here from day one.

      Boxturtle (Support of true HCR is inversely proportional to the amount of Pharma & Insurance money received)

      • charley2u says:

        This isn’t about health insurance lobby money. Washington itself is controlled by an interest who was frightened by the Dem sweep – interests which control both parties and have stifled any attempts at any reform, right or left.

        What happened to the term limits proposal from the right? Notice how even this proposal from the right suddenly disappeared

        If you think this is about the effects some paltry campaign donations on congress-men and -women who regularly decide on trillion dollar appropriations – I can only say that is far-fetched. You are being fed a story.

        Someone wants Washington so tied up and paralyzed that any proposal for reform, right or left, will never see the light of day.

        • Leen says:

          “Someone wants Washington so tied up and paralyzed that any proposal for reform, right or left, will never see the light of day”

          Sure looks like the case. In a HCR maze. With those uninsured, underinsured losing in the process

        • PJEvans says:

          If you think this is about the effects some paltry campaign donations on congress-men and -women who regularly decide on trillion dollar appropriations – I can only say that is far-fetched.

          If you think those donations from major industries are paltry, you haven’t spent enough time here, and you certainly need to look at ‘opensecrets’.
          We’re talking fairly large amounts of money: some congresscritters are getting seven-figure sums from insurance and pharma. Those trillion-dollar budgets are subject to leverage, after all, and we-the-voters don’t have that much.

  6. TarheelDem says:

    Yep, you can’t get all hopey before Rahm sends out another mixed message. And now Orrin Hatch has threatened war in the Senate if the Senate uses reconciliation. And Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh are saying the effort is on “life support”.

    And the budget resolution from last year that authorized reconciliation is about to expire.

    Gotta kill the bill so the House Progressive’s fingerprints are on it. Never wanted to reform health care in the first place.

    • MarkH says:

      If we had gotten the reform through by early Fall last year, then everything would’ve been fine. But, it took longer when there were slow-downs by Repubs and outright sit-outs by Blue Dogs, then when it was on track and (according to Sen. Harkin) done, but the MA race gave Repubs 41. That puts Dems in a pinch, but it also has brought us around to thinking about the schedule for this year and suddenly there’s the thought of using the completion of HCR at just the right time for Dem campaign benefit. If we had completed last fall the public wouldn’t be looking at a new Law in summer. If we complete it by the end of February or early March, then it’s new and exciting.

      But, there’s a time limit on reconciliation.

      So, Dems have to pass JOBS and then HCR before they consider a new budget. They can probably work on HCR quietly out of the public eye to get it ready. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a JOBS bill signing and HCR signing nearly together.

      Yes, we can!

      Still, since it has taken so long the completion of HCR will now be on the radar screen of the public just when campaigning begins in earnest. That’s not all bad.

      The one uncertainty just now is whether reconciliation rules (and whatnot) allow us to put the Public Option into the ‘Senate HCR Amendments’ bill. If we can it’s a big win for obstinate persistence.

      I think we can make lemonade from lemons.

  7. Leen says:

    “Or the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq, signed on October 16, 2002, even less than three weeks before the prior mid-term election.”

    I was in complete shock by the timing, pressure and the willingness of our Reps to go along with this. While Former IAEA nuclear weapons inspector Scott Ritter, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Former President Jimmy Carter, El Baradei, Hans Blix, etc etc questioned the validity of the intelligence. Hell I even heard Robert McNamara on NPR question the intelligence. I kept calling into national radio programs asking how can a soccer mom in southeastern Ohio hear one expert after the next questioning the sources of the intelligence (pack of lies) and our Reps just rolling to the Bush administrations push to invade Iraq. I kept asking why not at the very least delay this decision until after the mid term election. I was in shock that most of them rolled over.

    We pushed our then Congressman Strickland hard to vote against the resolution. We pushed hard and were successful at influencing his vote against the war resolution.

    From one anti invasion march after another in the fall of 2002 in Washington, Feb of 2003 in New York (marched with WWII Vets and many other Vets, along with my friends Bev and John Titus who lost their stewardess daughter on one of the flights that were used as weapons in the towers. 9/11 families against the invasion of Iraq led that march) Millions marched worldwide against that invasion. Our Reps rolled over.

    When El Baradei came out in early March of 2003 and clearly stated the Niger documents were forgeries and bad ones at that. I thought o.k. this race to an invasion will halt. But no El baradei’s announcement made page 15 of most newspapers including the Judy “I was fucking right” Millers New York Times.

    Granted Americans need to be thinking about getting health care for all. But as we think about health care Iraqi’s deal with hundreds of thousands, dead, injured and millions dead. Fucking crazy times…

  8. realitymatters says:


    Gagging order on David Kelly records could be lifted

    Lord Hutton has responded to reports that a 70-year gagging order he imposed on records and photos relating to the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly could be challenged by stating that the documents could be revealed to doctors.

    In a U-turn, Hutton said the information could be released to five doctors who are seeking to reopen the inquest into Kelly’s death.

    “I requested that the postmortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years as I was concerned that the publication of that report would cause [Kelly’s] daughters and his wife further and unnecessary distress,” Hutton said.

    “I consider that the disclosure of the report to doctors and their legal advisers for the purposes of legal proceedings would not undermine the protection which I wished to give.”

    Hutton’s ruling was not made public at the time. Lawyers said they were unsure of the legal basis for his decision to keep the material secret and to choose a period of 70 years.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      “I requested that the postmortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years as I was concerned that the publication of that report would cause [Kelly’s] daughters and his wife the British government in general and Tony Blair in particular further and unnecessary distress,” Hutton said

      Another quality fix!

      Boxturtle (If there is a God, every Bible within 10km of that statement should have exploded)

  9. MadDog says:

    Tangentially on topic, via The Hill:

    Grassley, Enzi ask key WH healthcare consultant to disclose ties

    Senate Republicans this week are demanding information from one of the White House’s top healthcare consultants, out of concern his work with the Department of Health and Human Services last year tainted the objectivity of his previous congressional testimony.

    The controversy centers around Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Jonathan Gruber, an academic frequently cited in stories as supporting Democrats’ healthcare plans…

    The actual text of the long Grassley-Enzi letter is over at Senator Grassley’s site here.

      • MadDog says:

        Tis Saturday when many find a reason to relax away from their keyboards, and I didn’t want to disturb via email any weekend plans EW had, so I thought a short comment with it would suffice…for now. *g*

        I also sent it via the FDL Tipline so that Jane & Co. get notified as well.

      • qweryous says:

        “Maybe EW is being read by Republican staffers?”

        That seems rather likely and that may explain some of the more recent comments here lately ;).

    • qweryous says:

      The questions are rather detailed.

      IF (emphasize IF) they are answered, it will be interesting to see what the answers are.

      Of course both Senators have previously requested information on this matter, not aware if they have received that which was requested by:

      Senator Enzi on Jan 11,2010 with a respond by date of Jan 19, 2010 LINK

      And by Senator Grassley on Jan 12, 2010 with a respond by date of Feb 5, 2010 LINK

      Senators Grassley and Enzi are asking some pointed questions of Dr. Gruber ( and by extension those who employed/used him and his work).

      Fortunately the forward looking and progressive administration that replaced the previous administration has been careful to not misstep, nor to make such an error that the substance of the changes proposed may be in any way attacked by those opponents that oppose the proposed changes.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        It is hard to get a manpig to understand something when his livingfeeding depends upon his not understanding it.

  10. prostratedragon says:

    OT: I just might have to read Henry Paulson’s memoir when it comes out:

    In Paulson’s memoir, he also claims that “Alistair Darling, the UK chancellor, blocked a rescue takeover of Lehman Brothers by Barclays Bank when he refused to support special treatment by UK regulators,” Financial Times noted. He had allegedly been under pressure by New York Federal Reserve chief Timothy Geithner to waive the requirement of a shareholder vote to approve an accelerated merger between the two firms. Darling refused “without a hint of apology in his voice,” Paulson claims.

    My emphasis. Just might want to see whether my measure function for the man needs to be bounded.

  11. Mary says:

    @22 – that will be worth watching

    OT – but from that place where Congress did authorize the use of military force, this piece from AP, via huffpo


    Summarizing –

    Thurday US forces shot and killed an Iman (with his son in the car to watch his father die)

    Friday – an interpreter kills two US troops before being killed.

    Saturday NATO troops open fire on a cab and kill two, wounding one.

    Also Saturday, a joint NATO/Afghan force calls in an airstrike on other Afghan forces killing 4 – the Afghan Defence Ministry refers to the 4 dead as martyrs and says it wants to bring those responsible to justice (taking its cue from Pete King, that apparently means disappearing them someplace and then drugging and assaulting and torturing them for years before pronouncing a non-trial sentence on them /s)

    I’m going to have a large amount of wine when I get back in from the barn.

    • bobschacht says:

      Please don’t fry too many of your brain cells with the wine– all your smarts are needed here and wherever else you are putting your expert knowledge to good use. But I certainly sympathize with the sentiment.

      FWIW, I just finished watching Schindler’s List, finally, for the first time. It seems that redemption may be possible even for evil fascist bastards. Life is complex.

      Bob in AZ

    • Leen says:

      Mary/All go take a listen to Jeremy Scahill’s latest report on the Youngest Victim of Blackwater (that we know of) over at Democracy now

      EXCLUSIVE…Blackwater’s Youngest Victim: Father of 9 Year-Old Killed in Nisour Square Gives Most Detailed Account of Massacre to Date

      Today a Democracy Now! exclusive report from Jeremy Scahill about a nine year old boy, shot in the head and killed by Blackwater in the infamous Nisour Squre massacre. His father, who is suing the private military contractor, provides the most detailed eyewitness account of the massacre to date. Scahill has conducted an in-depth investigation of the massacre and of nine-year old Ali Kinani’s death. He files an exclusive report with Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films.[includes rush transcript]

      Wondering how we can help support the father in his quest for justice?

  12. freepatriot says:

    off topic, but important, damn it

    where is the pro bowl trash talk ???

    Y’all know how much I love and respect college athletics

    I was hopin for the chance to slag some guys at the senior bowl

    sort of a “goin away” party

    I been channelin my inner “Eric Cartman” lately

    you’re breakin my balls here …

    you bastards, you killed Kenny

  13. archiebird says:

    Jane has already said theres 51 Senators to pass HCR with a public option. Pelosi said she could get it passed in the House if the Senate made modifications. My prediction is, by October, the Administration will have some of the moderate Repubs on board with HCR. That way, theres a sense of urgency to pass any old garbage legislation labeled health care, and they can pass an even crappier bill. Thats what the administration wants.