Thursday, March 05, 2009

Spending Bill Delayed, Pundit Hand Wringing Over Health Care, Sanjay Gupta Won't Be Surgeon General, Mexico Is Dangerous, And A Prop 8 Update

Hi everybody. The BREAKING NEWS seems to have settled back in and on tonight's chyron we learn that the spending bill the Obama administration thought was going to pass with little problem...well, not so much. It's last year's business, but this year's money and as Dana Bash tells us, the bill raises spending by eight percent and contains 8,000 earmarks. It seems some of our Congresscritters have decided to use it to showcase their fiscal conservativeness by acting all oppositiony--nevermind that they're the ones that stuck all the earmarks in it in the first place (yeah, I'm looking at you too, Republicans).

Also, it would have been nice if Dana would have made clear that the earmarks and the cost of the bill are not related. They could strip out every one of the 8,000 pet projects and it would still be a bill that contains an eight percent spending raise. For Obama's part, he's trying to distance himself from the issue since earmarks are now such a dirty word. Personally, I don't think they're as huge a deal as everyone makes them out to be. But they make for great grandstanding, huh?

Moving on now to a Joe Johns piece that takes a look at health care, specifically Obama's plan to tackle the crisis now. Today our prez hosted himself a health care summit and we got to see it all. Transparency, baby! Unfortunately for us, the majority of this piece is pretty much an exercise in concern trolling. Still. Obama wants to fix the economy AND fix health care? At the same time?! There'll be chaos, I tell you. Chaos! *Sigh* I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot of this. The fact of the matter is that health care is very much connected to our economy. You cannot fix one without tackling the other.

For discussion of this, we're joined by David Walker, David Gergen, and Pamela Gentry, though I won't be mentioning her since she says nothing of note. Sorry Pamela. My beef is with the boys. I love me some Gerg for his rationality, but he is nothing if not an establishment beltway pundit and that often makes him just flat out wrong. Remember when he was just so sure that the Iraq Study Group's recommendations were going to be the beginning of the end of the war, when it was completely clear to the rest of us that the administration would dismiss anything they had to say?

And remember when he just recently had convinced himself that the public would have some warmth and affection for the last prez when he left office? Yeah, wrong and wronger. This has nothing to do with his intelligence, but rather is related to how a beltway pundit of his stripe thinks. He is Mr. Status Quo, so naturally he believes Obama is doing too much by trying to take on health care right now when the economy is in crisis--nevermind that the two are interconnected.

A few of the Gerg's worries are the markets (which I'll get to later) and the fact that Treasury doesn't have all his staff. I don't know what's up with Treasury, but it's the GOP that are holding up confirmation of Obama's economic advisers. The Gerg tells us (referring to the economy), "They have to stop the bleeding. Once the patient stops bleeding, then they can perform surgery that's necessary, too."

This, obviously, is easily refuted with another patient-related metaphor, as done by Ezra Klein: "If a patient has cancer and heart disease, her doctor doesn't have the luxury of treating only one or the other." David Walker agrees with the Gerg and Pamela, well, hardly says anything. Once again, holy biased panel, Batman! Wouldn't it have been nice to hear an intelligent debate between the Gerg and someone who believes we need to move on this right now?

Anyway, the Gerg then tells us, "My entire experience is that the White House is a very small place. You only have a few players, and you cannot do too many things at once and do them well." That tells me nothing about what's going on in this White House. Honestly, I've always loved the Gerg for the simple fact that he is an intelligent sane person in TeeVee land, where that kind of thing is a rare commodity. I've really never cared one iota about his beltway experience. He then goes on to do some mild Santelli channeling: "There is a sense in the business community that the administration is picking up this sort of populist anti-business chant, and business is feeling increasingly alienated." Aw, business is feeling alienated? You mean the same morons that got us into this mess? Pardon me if I don't cry for them.

Anderson Cooper next brings up the stock market and there's crisis of confidence talk. Anyone who thinks we should be looking at the stock market's day-to-day fluctuations as the main indicator of how we're doing seriously needs to watch last night's Daily Show. As pointed out, the Dow is 30 stocks. I realize that many people have lost tons of money (I know some of them), which is particularly brutal for those nearing on retirement, but let's have some perspective. In fact, let us take a trip back to life under the last administration--don't worry, just temporary.

See, back then the stock market actually wasn't so bad, yet poll after poll showed Americans believed the economy to be in bad shape. The administration was flummoxed. All their data told them things were good. What they didn't realize was, except for the fat cats partying on Wall Street, everyone else was struggling with getting by amidst dwindling wages and rising costs--the most notable of those costs being health care. This is the reason that while the business community grumbles, the American people are firmly behind Obama. He gets it. Guess which one of these groups has the Gerg's ear?

Moving on now to the news that Sanjay Gupta does not wish to be Top Doc. He's withdrawing his name from consideration for Surgeon General. The internets spent some time this evening speculating as to why that might be, but now we get to find out for sure because here's Sanjay. It seems he has baby number three on the way any day now (aw, congrats!) and he knows that the job will keep him away from his family a good portion of the time. Not to mention he would have to give up performing surgery, which would essentially mean the end of his career as a surgeon because you can't just start up again after not being in the operating room for four years.

Anderson brings up the financial aspect and Sanjay assures us he was willing to take a lesser salary. I pretty much believe him on that because hey, the guy works for a county hospital and my understanding is that those pay less. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, with that out of the way, they talk health care and here's the take-away quote from Sanjay: "The health care system seems to work well for a certain segment of the population and doesn't work at all for others." Pretty much. I'd wager a guess that that's why we're seeing well-covered pundits urging caution or even arguing against reform, while the majority of Americans are standing firmly behind the president.

Transitioning now to a Gary Tuchman piece in which our intrepid reporter goes Spring breaking in Mexico. Woo! Okay, yeah, not so much. It turns out that these days in Mexico you can lose your head. And no, I ain't talking about doing too many body shots and then dancing on a table. It seems that Rosarito Beach, Mexico, is a happening tourist destination...and a really hopping spot for drug cartels. Roughly 200 people have been killed there and in nearby cities over the past six months--some by beheading. As you might imagine, it's sorta dampened down the party spirit. Travel warnings have been issued and it sounds like a lot of people are heeding them.

The police situation in Rosarito is crazy. The mayor says they lost about 75 cops last year because they were either killed or fired for working with the cartels. Gary talks to once cop who is a little thing and she's all of 20-years-old. I'm worried about this cop. After Gary's piece, he joins us live from Mexico and points out that the club he's standing in front of is the most popular in town and is usually full of about a thousand people. Tonight? Not a one. Wow. That's telling. This Mexico cartel story isn't going away any time soon.

Next up, we have a Dan Simon piece on the fight going down in California's supreme court over Prop 8. In one corner, we have Americans who just want to live their lives and have the same rights as everyone else. In the other corner, we have Ken Starr--yes, that Ken Starr--who wants to take those rights away. Pretty much the whole thing can be summed up with Dan's voice over: "So the fundamental question confronting the California supreme court is can the will of the majority take away rights from a minority? A ruling is expected within 90 days."

For discussion of this, we're joined by Tony Perkins and talk show host Michelangelo Signorile. As much as I decry when the guests get all yelly, I was secretly hoping for some sparks here, but they were on their best behavior. Oh wells. There's lots of legal talk and unfortunately it's not looking good for those who support gay marriage. So ridiculous. Anyway, Tony gives us the usual spiel that Americans support traditional marriage, while Michelangelo inevitably brings up Loving v. Virginia, which concerned the ban on interracial marriage.

Tony thinks that's completely different. "You had people who had all the characteristics for marriage, male and female, being arbitrarily prevented from marriage because of color," he tells us. Characteristics for marriage? Like their bits and pieces? Ugh, I can't believe we as a society are still debating this. Gay marriage is coming, people. It's time to start living up to that "all created equal" thing.

We then move on to a Randi Kaye piece on Chris Brown's felony charges for beating Rihanna. We're read part of the affidavit, which is pretty disturbing and surely not necessary. Also not necessary is showing us the picture that was leaked to TMZ of her beat up face. Poor girl. Yet she's gone back to him, so...there you go. *sigh* Props to 360 for not bringing on some "expert" to explain why she took him back.

Finally tonight we have a piece from Erica Hill on how Obama is already going gray. This, of course, leads to requisite mocking of our own Silver Fox. Then we have a clip of Michael Jackson because he is weird and we like to gawk. Oh, and also because he's 50 now. This leads Anderson to do his best Sally O'Mally impression. "I'm 50!" I imagine half the viewers are thinking he just lost his damn mind, but I got the reference immediately. Whatever happened to Molly Shannon, anyway? Whatev, we end with a clip of Tony Harris giving us his best Jackson. Oh my. The show was a little better. We'll see what happens tomorrow.


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