Saturday, January 17, 2009

Change You Can Believe In, Volume XXX

Remember the last election cycle? A lot of Senate challengers, particularly Democrats, were quite adamant about opposing the bailout, including our good friend Al Franken. Perhaps the most adamant was Oregonian Jeff Merkley, who unseated Republican Gordon Smith at least in part because of Smith's support of the bailout.

Now that Merkley and his fellow freshmen colleagues have vanquished the rapacious Republicans and are now doing the people's business in Washington, it looks a little different, apparently. Mary Katherine Ham noticed:

Of seven newly minted freshman Democratic senators, six voted for releasing the second half of the $700 billion TARP funds in what is being considered Obama's first major test of strength on the Hill. This would be rather uncontroversial had not five of them, to some degree or another, campaigned against the original, unpopular bailout bill to win their seats.

MKH has the goods at the link, including an especially amusing look back at an ad that Merkley ran during the campaign. You know, this sort of thing might just make people a little suspicious about campaign promises. Ham's conclusion is priceless:

If you're wondering how hard Obama had to work to flip these principled votes, don't trust the lede on the Politico story, which says Obama "threw himself into the fight." As the story later notes, "Obama worked the phones with close to a dozen calls."

It's reminiscent of the first time the bailout came up for a tough vote and the Washington Post reported that Obama was really diving into the fight, but didn't place a single phone call to the Hill. His charm is just that powerful, I guess.

It would appear so. Read the whole thing.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark,
once again this week, we find ourselves largely agreeing with one another on a notable issue. Opposing this bailout (handout?) definitely has advocates on both sides of the aisle, and you can definitely count me among those who have opposed this from the start. And, to what I understand to be your larger point, that of caling BS on a group of newly elected Democratic Senators, I second that notion. The actions of these newly minted Senators strongly suggest that they lack principles and that they may well turn out to be the worst type of politicians: The say one thing to get elected, and do another once they're safely ensconced in their seats. And I can't help but note that these guys are setting new records for the speed of their hypocrisy, even by Washington standards.

But in the sake of fairness, lets also note these names: Bayh, Bennett, Bond, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Collins, Ensign, Graham, Grassley, Hutchinson, Isakson, Lincoln, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Nelson, Specter and Thune. This is the list of the 19 Senators who switched from being pro-bailout to anti-bailout. I think it's only fair to question their motives as well. I suppose they could make the case that they voted for the bailout the first time, then against it the second time because they were appaled by the lack of oversight and accountability regarding where and how the money was distributed. I would like to believe that is what happened with these 19 flip-floppers, but I can't help but notice that the vast majority of the pro-bailout/anti-bailout Senators have an (R) after their names. So, was it alright when a Republican President was going to oversee the distribution, but not when a Dem will be? What gives there? It appears that hypocrisy exists on both sides of the aisle on this issue.

At this point, it appears to be a done deal. Bailout/Phase II is a reality, yet nobody still knows quite where the money is going. We only know that the same banks that appropriated Phase I and used it to pay bonuses to executives and buy other banks is getting more money. I just hope to God that the new Administration has a coherent plan for tracking where the money went, and for applying pressure to the recipients to use the money as intended. But seeing that the new Congress couldn't even muster the nerve to demand these few simple requirements, I can't say I am confident that this will happen, As you noted earlier in the week, BOHICA!

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

I agree with you on the 19 who are bailing out on the bailout now. It's fair to question their motives as well. We gotta keep on eye on all these folks.

Best,
Mark