Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Reading

Lotsa Luck — Carl Hiaasen has some bad news for Florida’s new governor.

”Today is the end of politics as usual in Tallahassee.”

So said Gov.-elect Rick Scott in his victory speech, confirming a severe disconnection from reality.

He won’t change Tallahassee, but Tallahassee will change him.

Nobody who knows Florida believes that last Tuesday’s vote marks the end of politics as usual. It’s just another chapter of politics as always.

The Republicans have controlled the state Senate for 18 years, the state House for 14 years and the governor’s mansion for over a decade. The election changes absolutely nothing.

After his hairbreadth victory, Scott sunnily declared: ”Florida is open for business.”

Is he kidding? Florida has always been open for business. Ask any lobbyist.

Developers, insurance companies, utilities, Big Sugar – for special interests with gobs of money to spread around, we’re the most accommodating state in the union.

It’s no accident that the national housing bubble burst here first, or that we’re racking up top numbers in bank failures, mortgage frauds and, of course, foreclosures. They don’t call us the ”Ponzi state” for nothing.

The GOP-held Legislature couldn’t be more accessible or easily bought, and Scott will be expected to hop aboard the train.

Running for office as a political outsider was a good campaign strategy this year. Trying to govern as an outsider is a whole different story.

Scott is one of those people who always thinks he’s the smartest one in the room, but he will soon be educated otherwise.

More below the fold.

Frank Rich on how Barack Obama can get his mojo back.

Obama has a huge opening here — should he take it. He could call the Republicans’ bluff by forcing them to fill in their own blanks. He could start by offering them what they want, the full Bush tax cuts, in exchange for a single caveat: G.O.P. leaders would be required to stand before a big Glenn Beck-style chalkboard — on C-Span, or, for that matter, Fox News — and list, with dollar amounts, exactly which budget cuts would pay for them. Once they hit the first trillion — or even $100 billion — step back and let the “adult conversation” begin!

Better still, the president should open this bargaining session to the full spectrum of his opposition. As he said at his forlorn news conference on Wednesday, he is ready to consider policy ideas “whoever proposes them.” So why not cut to the chase and invite Congressional Tea Party heavyweights like Jim DeMint, Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann to the White House along with the official G.O.P. leadership? They will offer the specifics that Boehner and McConnell are too shy to divulge.

DeMint published a book last year detailing his view that Social Security be privatized to slow America’s descent into socialism. Paul can elaborate on his ideas for reducing defense spending and cutting back on drug law enforcement. Bachmann will explain her plans for weaning Americans off Medicare.

Maybe some of the big Tea Party ideas will be as popular as the Tea Partiers claim them to be. We won’t know until Congress tries to enact them. Nor will we know Obama’s true measure until he provides a coherent alternative of his own about how he intends to put Americans back to work and keep them in their homes. If he has such a plan, few, if any, Americans have any idea what it is.

To do this, he’ll have to break out of the White House bubble he lamented again last week. He can no longer limit interactions with actual working Americans to photo ops on factory floors or outsource them to a “Middle Class Task Force” led by Joe Biden. He must move beyond his Ivy League-Wall Street comfort zone to overhaul his economic team. If George Bush could announce Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement the day after his 2006 midterm thumping, why is the naming of Lawrence Summers’s much-needed successor receding into eternity?

The Politics of Weeping — Can John Boehner lead with a tear in his eye?

A presumptive new speaker of the House; so much to consider. Where will John Boehner stand on energy policy? Will he be able to manage Michele Bachmann? And how often will he weep?

Much hay has been made over Mr. Boehner, the Republican from Ohio, and his macho persona — those Camel cigarettes, baritone voice and scrappy upbringing that included running cases of beer in his father’s bar. But Mr. Boehner has another side, in the form of quivering lip and wet lashes, one that that comes out at times of heightened public emotions.

There was the sob heard around the world on election night, as Mr. Boehner addressed supporters once it was clear that Republicans would take back the House. “I’ve spent my whole life chasing the American dream,” he said, beginning to cry. He swallowed and tried again. But describing all the bad jobs he had once had just led to near sobbing when he got to the line, “I poured my heart and soul into running a small business.”

While that may have been the first time many Americans saw Mr. Boehner cry, his friends, staff members and reporters who have tracked his moves were bracing for it. Mr. Boehner has been known to cry during a floor speech, as during a 2007 debate over a military spending bill, when he listed American priorities. That same year, while meeting with reporters, Mr. Boehner dabbed at his eyes as Representative Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican, spoke about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Earlier this year, Mr. Boehner wept when presented with the Henry J. Hyde Defender of Life Award by Americans United for Life, talking about Mr. Hyde (out came the hankie) and his own family. “I have 11 brothers and sisters,” he continued. “I know it wasn’t convenient for my mom to have 12 of us, but I’m sure glad they’re all here.”

He cries at his annual golf tournament, talking about the good old days with his buddies. He weeps when he watches a child give the Pledge of Allegiance at the annual dinner benefiting Catholic schools in his district. “He gets pretty choked up these days,” said a childhood friend, Jerry Vanden Eynden, though it was not a hallmark of his childhood.

Doonesbury — talking to the hand.