Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Waxman takes over Energy and Commerce

In a 137-122 secret vote, the Democratic Caucus followed the recommendation of their steering committee to replace John Dingell with Henry Waxman as chairman of the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Dingell, who represents Michigan’s 15th district and is a staunch ally of Detroit’s automobile manufacturers as well as sportsmen’s groups and pro-gun organizations, held the endorsement of many Blue Dog Democrats to keep the chair.  Waxman, as part of a more progressive wing of the Democratic party long frustrated by environmental obstructionism in both parties, is expected to use the broad jurisdiction of the committee to pursue more aggressive oversight and reform in a variety of areas in a manner more in line with the agenda of President-elect Barack Obama.

Dingell has been either Chairman or Ranking Member of the committee since 1981.  As chairmanships are usually determined by seniority, Waxman’s coup over a man who will become the longest serving Representative in the history of the House this February is quite uncommon.

Senior Democrats were stunned by the Waxman victory, which seemingly dealt a blow to the party’s long-held principle of seniority. “It’s just been buried,” Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said of seniority.

Dingell has in the past consistently opposed efforts to tighten environmental controls affecting Detroit, especially fuel economy and emissions standards.  This attitude has earned him the ire of more liberal Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who, although remaining officially neutral during Waxman’s campaign to win the chair, clearly favored her fellow Californian for the post.

He has often clashed publicly with Pelosi, who made an end-run around Dingell last year by creating a temporary committee chaired by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a close Pelosi ally, to oversee global warming issues.

Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s public neutrality in the race, Rangel accused her of tacitly supporting Waxman because her closest allies in the House ran his campaign and she did not intervene to stop Waxman, a home-state colleague, from running a campaign that exposed ideological fissures among Democrats.

“I assume that not playing a role is playing a role,” Rangel said.

The committee is likely to play a role immediately, helping to negotiate the terms and concessions of the big 3 bailout.  Dingell is married to the executive director for public affairs at General Motors and would have very probably called for a no-strings-attached package, while Waxman is likely to negotiate far tougher terms and hold management accountable for their failures.

Energy and Commerce is extremely influential on matters that affect the US economy, and so will play a more even important role than usual in the 111th Congress.  It’s encouraging for it to have a progressive leader who will fully support Obama’s legislative goals to enact real change for our country.

Guardian: Clinton to Accept Secretary of State Post

According to the sometimes dubious Guardian, Hillary Clinton will accept Barack Obama’s offer to become the United States’ 67th Secretary of State.  The article’s extremely light on details, but if this is true we’ll see more information emerge pretty quickly.

Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration, the Guardian has learned.

Obama’s advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton’s foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Photos From the Victory Rally

I thought I’d share a few of the pictures I took in Grant Park on Tuesday night. I didn’t have tickets to see the actual speech, and the photos are kind of embarrassingly poor but it was exciting nonetheless. The level of energy present was amazing. It was a fantastic celebration well worth attending, even if we were more than a block from the speech itself 🙁


Images below the jump.

Sixty in the Senate — Not Over Yet! (UPDATED: MERKLEY PULLS AHEAD)

(Update: CNN now puts Merkley ahead by 10,000 votes with about 80% of precincts reporting.  The Oregonian calls the race, although AP, burned once before in MN, holds off.  That’s one down and three to go.)

I’m sure I’m not the only one that was extremely disappointed with the lackluster Senate results yesterday.  For the time being it seems that the most likely result is a lower than expected 56 seats for the Democratic caucus.  It’s a respectable majority, but keep in mind that the GOP used a record 104 filibusters in the 110th congress, and there’s no reason to believe their further marginalization in the 111th will make them more compliant.  Sure, we’ll pick off enough few moderates to get things done, but not without serious watering down of most bills.  Large scale reforms of the kind Obama was elected to implement like universal health care don’t stand a chance.

But all hope is not lost, as there are still four seats that are not officially decided.  Two of them won’t be for a month at least.  If Democrats somehow sweep all of them, we can still hope against hope to hit that magic number.  Each seat  seems to favor the republican to be sure, but we stand a reasonable chance of picking off at least one.  

As of this morning convicted felon Ted Stevens looks to have pulled off an extremely improbable (Nate Silver’s final projection was 0%.) re-election by about 3,300 votes, but it turns out that thousands of ballots cast early haven’t been counted yet — turnout is impossibly low.  I trust the Palin administration about as far as I can throw it, and after her prior abuses of power, I’m afraid this election might already have been stolen.  I also don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that Palin would to appoint herself to the Senate after Stevens is kicked out.  She couldn’t be much worse than old ‘tubes’, but I was really hoping to have seen the last of her until she announces her candidacy for 2012.  (Update: thanks to chrisblask for pointing out this post from Mudflats with more info on the remaining votes.  It also makes the claim that the AK Supreme court has ruled that the governor can’t appoint a replacement senator.  So the question seems to be: will Begich pull it off or do we have a special election coming up?)

Associated Press called the Minnesota race for Republican Norm Coleman, then retracted the call after deciding that the razor thin 572-vote spread is small enough to be affected by the mandatory recount.  Despite some early boasting by Minnesota officials of their ability to perform a very speedy recount, it now appears that it will take a month or more.  Plenty of time to make sure there weren’t any irregularities, not to mention check into that questionable $75,000 contribution.

Georgia incumbent Saxby Chambliss dropped below 50% ever so slightly while the last votes were being counted, triggering a runoff election to take place in December.  His Democratic opponent Jim Martin lost by about the number of votes third party candidate Allan Buckley received, although as a Libertarian, a majority of his votes will likely go to the Republican in the runoff.  It will be tough to turn out GA voters in December without Obama’s substantial coattails, but we can expect democrats to pour massive resources into this race.  We essentially have a second chance here in a race that we can now concentrate on exclusively, with the potential for president-elect Obama to play a role in the campaign.  According to TPM, volunteers are already flocking south for what promises to be a spirited contest if nothing else.

Finally, Oregon is still up in the air, with turnout improbably low compared to 2004, a margin of about 7,000 when 30% of votes haven’t been counted yet, many of which are in heavily democratic precincts.  This was another seat heavily leaning blue, so it’s surprising that Smith is the favorite at the moment.

The more seats we have the more we can get done.  Americans may favor divided government, but Obama was elected in a landslide because Americans want real change, not a bunch of wishy-washy compromise bills that take weeks to hash out.  This election is far from over.  There’s not all that much we can do about the races, other than donate to the Democratic party to help it with potential court costs and GOTV ground operations in Georgia.  A filibuster-proof majority is just within our reach, and our arms have been growing steadily longer in recent years.  The 111th congress is poised to be one of the most progressive in years, but a 60 vote majority is our best opportunity to make truly historic sweeping changes.  

Watch these races like your country depends on them.

Shotgun Weddings and the Politics of Desperation

We know that John McCain is perfectly willing to use the economic crisis to advance his political interests, but is he willing to use a 17-year old girl?

In a campaign lurching from cynical tactic to frenzied ploy as fast as John McCain’s, it’s difficult to guess what tomorrow’s political news holds. The senator has now fully committed himself to the kinds of reckless, desperate tactics that have given pause to even steadfast conservatives. How a presidential candidate conducts his campaign is a good indicator of how he will govern his country when in office, and in the conduct of his campaign in the past month we’ve been given a perfect illustration of why John McCain is the worst possible thing for America at the moment.

When a campaign tries to tilt the pinball machine as often as possible, there’s almost no point in trying to guess what strategy will come next. So far these maneuvers almost seem to have been chosen more for unpredictability than political prudence. Not many of us would have guessed that McCain would try to cancel the first debate, and all indications are that it was a risky gambit that did not pay off. The frantic accusations that the New York Times is “not even a journalistic organization” might play well with the GOP base, but I suspect don’t even pass the laugh test among the critical undecided voters McCain is trying to court. He and Palin are rapidly becoming a laughingstock and for once, the media is doing its job, calling out their lies and refusing to defer to the usual false balance that is the central linchpin of the Rovian media strategy. The referees have finally realized that they are being worked, and they don’t like it.

The London Times is reporting on what I think has a very good potential to be the next bizarre twist in this story: A high-profile storybook wedding between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston.

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one – the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”


Johnston was greeted with a handshake and friendly slap on the back by McCain in St Paul, Minnesota, and treated as a member of the family during the Republican national convention when he appeared on stage after Palin’s speech.

The ice-hockey player wrote on his MySpace page he was a “f****** redneck” and stated, “I don’t want kids.” But a McCain insider predicted he would marry Bristol whenever his future mother-in-law wanted. “It’s a shotgun wedding. She kills things,” the source joked.

The scariest ad you’ll see this week

…and it’s been put out by the Obama campaign.  Who says democrats can’t use fear to their advantage?  This really sends a shiver down my spine.  This is directed exclusively at inactive or undecided democrats, and I honestly think it stands a good chance of startling a few people off the fence:

(bonus: maybe it will fool some older conservatives into thinking that McCain already won and they don’t have to vote)

McCain Suspends Campaign, Debate Likely Postponed

New York Times:

Senator John McCain said Wednesday that he would temporarily suspend his presidential campaign on Thursday to return to Washington to deal with the financial crisis and the $700 billion bailout package now before Congress.

Mr. McCain said he told Senator Barack Obama that he was asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to postpone the debate scheduled for Friday night.

“I am calling on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself,” he said. “It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.”

‘McCain Suspends Campaign’ is a headline you don’t expect to see every day.  Looks like Obama has to tread lightly here; he can’t let his opponent gain the upper hand on statesmanship.  On the up side, the foreign policy debate is one that Obama can afford to hold off on for the time being.

Market manipulation at Intrade?

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has an interesting post about why Intrade’s futures prices have barely reflected the major upswing in Obama’s polling over the last week.  After the GOP convention, when McCain passed Obama in the polls for the first time, bettors priced McCain as high as 54% midday on Sep 13, a really scary number.  But when the polls began to move back Obama’s way last week, prices were sluggish to respond, and still have only got Obama at 52, which given the electoral math, is almost certainly undervalued.  Most other betting sites currently price Obama above 60%, while 538 itself puts him above 70%.  For markets to be this far out of sync is bizarre:

This is the equivalent of the Giants being 3-point favorites at the Bellagio Sportsbook, and 7-point favorites at the Mirage down the block. Those things just don’t happen in efficient, sufficiently liquid markets, because they create arbitrage opportunities: you’d lay $10,000 on the Giants at the Bellagio and $10,000 on their opponents at the Mirage. Any time the Giants win by fewer than 3 points or more than 7 points, you lose nothing, since your two bets cancel out. But any time they win by fewer than 7 points but more than 3, you win both bets, and take home $20,000 (less the casino’s vigorish) for absolutely no risk. Pretty good deal, right? That’s exactly what’s happening with these futures contracts.