Today’s Schedule

This morning I will be on Democratic Talk Radio again with contributor Stephen Crockett on WGPA in Bethlehem.  Following the show I have hand therapy and then will be helping a sister move.  Someone else’s foreclosure is our fortune and that’ll be keeping me busy through the weekend.  I’ll be checking in when I get a chance.

White House Press Gaggle

This is the transcript of today’s press gaggle on Air Force One en route to Missouri:

MR. GIBBS:  Fire away.

Q    So you kind of shrugged off the 100 days as a media creation, but is the President using this time to reflect or assess what he’s done and think about what he might grade himself?

MR. GIBBS:  Oh, I think so, though I’ve got to tell you, Caren, I don’t think he would — I don’t think he waits for some specific milestone in days to reflect on what he’s faced or the decisions that he’s made or what lies ahead.  I think he does that on a fairly regular basis.

Again, as I’ve said, I think he’s happy with what we have started to achieve, understanding that we have a long way to go, that the American people are more concerned with what we’re doing each and every day, not simply what we’re doing on the 100th day or the 101st.  But I can assure you he spends time each day reflecting on not just what’s happened that day, but what’s happened in a long journey.

Q    But despite your view that it’s an artificial day you are marking it with a town hall and a trip and a news conference tonight.  And what’s behind that?  Is it that you want —

MR. GIBBS:  We’re playing along with the game.  (Laughter.)

Q    You’re playing along with the game.

Q    You’re not trying to drive the game?

MR. GIBBS:  You might want to turn that around, I think the mic is — oh, you’re okay?

You know, look, you guys create the wave and we’ll try to surf it a little bit.

Q    Do you think that it’s a good time for the American people, though, to reflect on what they think of his accomplishments so far?

MR. GIBBS:  Absolutely.  I mean, I think so, but again, I think they are — my sense is that they do that on a fairly regular basis in that the problems that they see in their everyday lives — the trouble they have getting a college loan for their family, or a loan for their own small business, or a member of the family that might be out of work — probably spends more time thinking about that each and every day, not just on specific days.

I wonder what people did on the 100th day before Roosevelt’s 100th day.

Q    Well, one President died before that day.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, it was probably less of a cheery day, I guess, in that administration.

Q    What can you tell us about the briefing he received that led to today’s comments on the flu situation?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, obviously the President has been apprised of the developments related to the situation since Friday.  He continues to get regular updates, including late last night.  I think the President believed it was important to continue to underscore the seriousness of the situation and the vigilance that all of us, both in government and as individuals, have to take to ensure that the spread of H1N1 is something that can be slowed and controlled.

So the news — the test results coming back on the infant are a very, very painful reminder of what we have to do to ensure that all of us remain safe.


Q    Is there still a situation of concern, as opposed to alarm?

    MR. GIBBS:  I think so.  I mean, I think the way — I would phrase it the way the President did:  It’s a very serious situation and one that requires serious precautions.  I think that’s what he outlined today.  I think that continues to be his concern and he continues to ask questions of those that are involved in this to ensure that we’re taking every step and precaution that’s possible to ensure safety.

    Q    Robert, it’s fairly unusual for a sitting President to basically endorse a candidate in a party primary.  Can we expect President Obama to be doing more of the same in the next election cycle?

    MR. GIBBS:  I don’t think it’s at all irregular for a President to endorse an incumbent member of his own party even if it’s a new member.  I think you can go back and find a lot of examples of that.

    The President is, as I said and he said yesterday, happy to have Senator Specter as a member of the Democratic Party, thrilled to have him, support him fully.  He’s made a decision of how to best represent the people he represents in Pennsylvania and we’re happy that he did so.

    Q    Robert, to follow up on Ed’s question, it was — I think, seven minutes lapsed before the President was on the phone with Senator Specter saying he would support him in the primary  —

    MR. GIBBS:  Seven minutes after he called him, yes.

    Q    Well, could you on that point say when did he have an inkling before that — he thought it through?  How did he arrive at the decision to offer that support, and did he consider supporting maybe a candidate who had been backed by the unions?

    MR. GIBBS:  No, he supported a — he supported the, albeit new, member — incumbent member of his party.  There wasn’t any meeting about it.  The President offered his support to Senator Specter and it’s a commitment he’ll keep.

    Q    Did he decide in that seven-minute span?  I think he said no.

    MR. GIBBS:  My sense is it probably took him less than about seven seconds, so he might have had some extra time to think about other stuff.

    Q    — saw GDP down 6.1 percent today.  Where does the President see the economy right now?  Is he in the group who are optimistic and are looking at some of these trends that show that we may have turned a corner, or is he of the mind that we haven’t hit the bottom yet?

    MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think in some ways it’s hard to tell because obviously, as the President said, you get information — some numbers that are good, and some numbers that obviously aren’t so good.  The 6.1 percent demonstrates a pretty severe contraction in our economy over the course of the first three months of the year, not altogether surprising given the way the economy deteriorated particularly the very first part of the quarter and the sort of steep acceleration of that.

    But again, if you look inside the numbers, consumer spending was actually up in the first quarter for the first time in two years.  So, look, we continue to get, as the President said, some glimmers of hope — consumer confidence had a big rebound yesterday, according to the numbers; consumer spending is up, which generally is a very good economic statistic.  At the same time, we continue to see larger economic contraction.  We’re likely to see jobs lost in the hundreds of thousands for quite some time to come.  

    So whether or not we’ve hit the very bottom, I don’t know, but I know the President is focused on what he can do each and every day to ensure that we’re one day closer to that economic recovery, whether it’s financial stability — we’re getting toward the end of stress tests for the banks; we’ve got important deadlines for Chrysler and GM that are upcoming.  So I think he’s focused on ensuring that we are taking the steps necessary to fix our economy.

    Q    Concerning Chrysler, in addition to this being his 100th day, tomorrow is the deadline for the Chrysler deal with Fiat.  Have you heard anything from Fiat that you can tell us about?  And are there likely to be any announcements today?

    MR. GIBBS:  You know, I don’t know if a deal is going to be finished, or when a deal might be finished.  Obviously, we are — we believe that some strong strides — positive strides have been made over the course of the past several days in getting agreements with the union and getting agreements with debt holders.  Hurdles still remain and we — but we remain optimistic and hopeful that something in the next many hours will get done that will provide a pathway for Chrysler’s viability without continued government assistance, which is what the President hopes and seeks for both Chrysler and GM.

    Q    Any other lawmakers onboard besides Senator McCaskill?  

    MR. GIBBS:  You know, I’ve got to say, I walked right through the cabin and I didn’t check.  Let me check on that and I’ll come back.  Anything else?

    Q    She’s been taking pictures on this.  Must be for her constituents’ bulletin or something.  (Laughter.)

    MR. GIBBS:  Well, that’s probably cheaper pictures than were taken earlier in the week.  

    Q    Robert, can you do a preview of the Arnold visit?  What is the President — can you hit some of the highlights?  And also, why did he choose this particular place?

    MR. GIBBS:  Well, he’ll mention some of that in his remarks about the notion that — Missouri was one of the last stops on the campaign trail.  But it’s also, as he’ll say, good to be back in Middle America.  And I think what he’ll do in the remarks is sort of give the American people a progress report on what he’s seen in the first hundred days of his administration, but at the same time lay out what he hopes we’ll see going forward and what he’d like to see in terms of what Congress and he will deal with issue-wise, as well as what he — where he’d like to see the economy go.

    Q    Is there anything he thinks he has not done well during the first 100 days?  Are there regrets that he will express here or elsewhere, or has just expressed in some other setting?

    MR. GIBBS:  I don’t know if there’s anything specifically in the remarks, but as I said yesterday, look, I think the President — I don’t think the President believes that he would do everything the very exact same if he had it to do all over again. I mentioned yesterday and I can assure you, had he had any knowledge of the stupid idea to go take pictures of the plane in New York, I can assure you that wouldn’t have happened.

    So obviously there are mistakes you wish had been done differently.  But I think on the whole he feels good about the start that we’ve had.  But again, I’d underscore that — and we believed this throughout the campaign — it’s not about — it’s not about the day-to-day ups and downs; it’s where you’re trying to go and where you’re trying to take the country.  And I think he’ll feel — he feels comfortable being judged on the totality of that effort, understanding we’ve got a ways to go.  

All right?

    Q    Thanks.

    MR. GIBBS:  Thanks, guys.

Specter’s switch speaks volumes about the GOP

I for one am not going to be ribald or upset with snarlin’ Arlen’s decision to finally wake up and smell the java.  

I think a lot of earnest people in the GOP who were or are moderates have awakened to the fact that the GOP as it is right now, has become a defacto organization for the substantiation and protection of those who have helped to cause a lot of the economic pain, strife, and discord in this country.  Furthermore, they have come to symbolize a even greater, detached sense of polarity than they were while old GWB was in office, if that was possible.  They are desperate, filled with and ruled by and directed by some of the biggest whiny malcontents and puff-chested blowhards you’ll perhaps ever meet.  They won’t wake up and realize the truth, they have no desire for the truth that is anything resembling the truth and quite frankly are scared crapless about the truth to the point of now hawking on about how Obama is leading “witch hunts” about the terror and torture issues.  

If you boneheads at the GOP hadn’t mad such a royal stink about Clinton, over what was arguably small potatoes, when it came to corrupted behavior, then maybe I’d feel some sense of recoil about the investigation Obama is launching into what was far more of an ugly scene and far more hidden from public view and we are learning with good reason why.  

I know Specter is no angel and I can understand why so many are up in arms about the switch and what it means for the upcoming elections, but realistically, the Democrats have little to blame but themselves for putting the leaders they have into positions to make the moves they have and to give them nearly unbridled power and authority and tacit or implied agreement by the lack of actual words or actions to the contrary.  

This is also why I resound my earlier points of why it is bad to have political parties and a party system of electing officials with closed primaries or for that matter primaries at all, and my deeper point about the label or brand being determined by those who are actually embracing it, espousing it, and how they carry themselves while under a banner or label.  

If you’re still unclear on this one, see my rant about the detachment of the GOP from reality.  In that case, we have a bunch of vocal people with really questionable views and methods of approach driving the brand or label into the sewers of society but they think they’re doing a wonderful job and that we should all want to go down the pipe with them, because it will make them feel and look better.  

No, I am not upset at the Arlen move.  I hope that Al Franken does get seated soon and that Olympia Snowe does also wake up to the fact that she’s on a hi-jacked party plane headed for disaster and it is time to jump or crash with the rest of them.  

What can you expect when your pilot is Rush Limbaugh, your co-pilot is Michael Steele, your flight engineer is Bobby Jindal and your head flight attendant is Sarah Palin.  

They are on the flight to nowhere.  Arlen, thanks for waking up before it was too late to get off the plane/bus.  

Arlen Specter’s Impact on Al Franken

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.} Before Arlen Specter’s Party switch announcement yesterday, the Senate’s Democratic caucus stood at 58 members.  Senator-elect Al Franken represented Democrats’ 59th vote toward cloture, still short of reliably ending Republican filibusters.  But now, with Specter joining the Democratic caucus, Senator-elect Franken represents the big 6-0, which is why Republicans will redouble their efforts to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating – and why we in the netroots must redouble our efforts to send obstructionist Republicans a message and also provide them with adequate disincentive from delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further.

Since the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort started just a couple weeks ago, about $40,000 has been raised to remind the Republicans funding Norm Coleman’s endless appeals that, for every single day that they delay the implementation of the will of Minnesota voters, progressive voters will raise money to use against these Republicans on Election Day 2010.

Your support will strengthen that message!

Norm Coleman and his fellow Republicans recently scored a success in further delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating, as the trial schedule adopted by the state Supreme Court for Coleman’s appeal is such that oral arguments before the Court won’t begin until June 1st, over a month from now.  Further, although Minnesota election policy dictates that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty must prepare and sign Senator-elect Franken’s election certificate once the state Supreme Court hands down its decision, Pawlenty has hemmed and hawed as to whether he would follow state election policy accordingly.

With a D next to Arlen Specter’s name, Republicans will go full force to block Senator-elect Franken’s seating.  Please join us in eliminating Republicans’ incentive to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further by taking part in the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort.  At right is video of the segment on MSNBC’s Hardball highlighting the effort.

100 Days

Today marks the first 100 days of the Obama Administration.  I give him a “B” grade.  The President is off to a good start though there have been a few fumbles.  On the plus side he has already fulfilled some major promises.  The stimulus bill isn’t sufficient for the job however and had too many tax cuts.  He has broken promises on Don’t Ask, don’t tell and lobbysists.  Of course I criticized him extensively during the campaign for that because I knew it was a pipe dream.

His greatest failures have been on health care and his economic team.  His decisions there are continuations of Republican themes.  Larry Summers and Tim Geithner were horrible choices and we’re seeing the continued failure of putting such economists in charge.  Obama’s health care policy is another corporate sellout to the insurance industry and will do little in the realm of real, long lasting reform.  It is a band aid for a cancer.

Where the president is doing quite well is foreign policy, energy and education.  He has transofrmed America’s image and reversed the policy of shoot first ask questions later.  The return of diplomacy is refreshing.

Democrats Pardoning Specter For Horrific Votes

Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party is already blinding many Dems to his horrific George W. Bush voting record.  Scores of people who protested the war in Iraq, torture, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the shredding of the Bill of Rights and the other innumerable crimes and offenses of the Bush Administration are already lining up to pardon Snarlin’ Arlen and re-elect him to the Senate.

Gov. Ed Rendell and President Barack Obama are leading the charge much to their shame.  How could you campaign against everything President Bush did then embrace one of his chief enablers?  Sen. Specter was actually quite a reliable vote for W.  Everything from military tribunals, the denial of due process rights, destroying the separation of powers, in all of this Sen. Specter was there with his strong support for Bush.  He was a pivotal figure in the politicization of the Department of Justice and inserted the provision enabling AG Gonzales to fire prosecutors.

But now Democrats are suddenly blinded to this by one simple act:  Arlen Specter changed his Party affiliation.  Wow, it doesn’t take much to brainwash Democrats does it?  Talk is that Gov. Rendell has, once again, promised to clear the primary field of challengers as he did in 2006.  Isn’t it time for Ed Rendell to simply go away and allow the people of Pennsylvania to select their Senators?

Joe Torsella’s days as a candidate are numbered and numbered in single digits.  His campaign was supported with Rendell money and that will now evaporate.  Ed Rendell has been dictating for too long now and today is the day Pennsylvania Democrats finally need to restore democracy to their Party.  Reject Rendell, Specter, torture, wars of choice and the underming of our rights and reject this imposition upon your choices.  I will vote Green again if Arlen Specter is the only Democrat allowed to run.  Do NOT take away our rights as citizens tor un for office or vote for whom WE choose.  Gov. Rendell has no right to choose who can run and who cannot.

Specter Deserves A Democratic Primary Opponent

by Stephen Crockett

Most Pennsylvania Democrats are Democrats for good reasons. It is not because they like the letter “D’ more than the letter “R”. They are Democrats because they support the Democratic approach on a wide array of issues more than they support the Republican policy positions on those issues.

While I welcome Specter to the Democratic Party, I am not convinced that he holds mainstream Democratic values. His record and stated policy positions remain largely Republican.

Specter has made himself a major obstacle to passing the Employee Free Choice Act. He supported almost all the Bush agenda for 8 years. Without Specter, we probably would not have Alito and Roberts on the Supreme Court.

Specter has not protected American jobs leaving the country because of unfair “free” trade deals. He has done almost nothing to help get us out of Iraq. He has opposed government provided universal healthcare. He has opposed the vast majority of Democratic policy positions during his long political career.

Pennsylvania Democrats should have a real Democrat running as the 2010 Democratic Senate candidate. Specter is an honorable man but hardly the best choice to represent mainstream Pennsylvania Democratic values in the 2010 Senate race.

It is highly unlikely that the winner of the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Primary will lose the general election. Pennsylvania Democrats do not have to compromise their values to take this Senate seat and should not be pressured into making such a bad choice.

Pennsylvania politics has shifted dramatically in a Democratic direction. Fielding a Democratic candidate holding a majority of policy positions that are Republican Right in nature would in my opinion be a betrayal of all those Pennsylvania Democrats yearning for real change. Specter with his current policy positions cannot deliver the change those voters desire.

Organized labor and the progressive community in Pennsylvania are very strong and growing. Specter offers almost nothing to either group. Local Democratic activists are not fans of Arlen Specter. The core of the Democratic coalition in Pennsylvania deserves to have a mainstream Democratic Senate candidate who reflects their values and supports their policy positions on at least 80 to 90% of the issues. Complete political purity is not required but Specter currently fails the minimum test.

Specter needs to change his positions on a wide array of issues before he is given a clear field in the Democratic Primary. He needs to move toward the center in a major way. No candidate opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, supporting right-wing federal judges or job-destroying “free trade” deals and the like should go unopposed in any Democratic primary election.

Pennsylvania largely reflects the general values of America. While a candidate with Specter’s policy positions would be a big improvement over Senators like Corker and Alexander of Tennessee, Shelby and Sessions of Alabama or Vitter of Louisiana, he is not really at the center of the American political spectrum on a vast majority of issues. Specter is close enough to the center to shift his positions on enough issues to win a Democratic primary but has not indicated any willingness to do so!

Working class and middle class Pennsylvanians deserve a Senate candidate with values and policy positions that fully embrace the changes promised by the Obama Presidency. Nobody including the Senate Democratic leadership, the Democratic National Committee or even President Obama should attempt to keep Pennsylvania Democrats from having a choice in the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary that fully reflects Democratic values. Senator Specter should have the opportunity to compete but the field should not be cleared of major league Democratic competitors.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party would be seriously harmed by any attempt to limit the field of Democratic Senate competitors in 2010. Union activists and progressives deserve an opportunity to field serious candidates who fully reflect their views. Specter does not currently fill that need although he can do so if he so desires by merely changing his policy positions.

Specter was definitely going to lose the Republican Senate Primary in 2010. It was in his interest to switch to the Democratic Party. However, adding a “D” after your name on a ballot does not make you a mainstream Democrat.

If Specter wants to win a Senate seat from Pennsylvania as a Democrat, he needs to become a mainstream Democrat. He is highly unlikely to do so without a strong Democratic Primary opponent. Certainly, Specter can be beaten in the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary by any serious challenger holding “real” mainstream Democratic values.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic He can be reached by email at or by phone at 443-907-2367.

Democratic Talk Radio airs Thursday mornings on WGPA SUNNY 1100AM in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The mailing address for Democratic Talk Radio is: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702.


Specter to Change Parties

Sen. Arlen Specter is set to change his registration and become a member of the Democratic Party.  This is significant news because it may mean passage of the EFCA.  At least I hope Democrats held out for that concession.  The Republican Senator was a Democrat in his younger days before switching to the GOP.  He has always been very independently minded and I doubt that will change.

My days as a prognosticator are over since I predicted he’d either remain a Republican or retire.  Switching Parties is a desperation move and it’s amazing what Senators will do (Joe Lieberman anyone???) to keep their seats.  

This raises quite a few questions:  did Democrats promise he wouldn’t have a primary challenge and, if so, what does Joe Torsella do with all the cash he raised from Gov. Rendell, Peter Buttonweiser and the other PA Dem Party heavyweights?  How about the campaign being put together by Josh Shapiro and the obvious ambitions of Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and others rumored to be thinking about the race?  Will Specter’s absence bring a moderate challenger to Pat Toomey and Peg Luksik?

Specter gives Democrats their 60th vote once sore loser Norm Coleman is forced to concede in Minnesota.  Of course Arlen Specter is anything but a reliable vote for either party.  His lack of support for the Employee Free Choice Act could mean organized labor uniting against another Democrat in a primary.  This move doesn’t make sense for Specter unless he has agreed to support EFCA.

Update:  Rep. Josh Shapiro, according to PoliticsPA,say he will not run for the U.S. Senate.  Congressman Jason Altmire released this statement:

“Senator Arlen Specter has been a courageous and independent leader throughout his career. Today’s announcement is one more example of Senator Specter’s determination to do what he thinks is right for the people of Pennsylvania.

“Regardless of party affiliation, I have worked with Senator Specter in the past to strengthen our economy and help Pennsylvania families, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future.”

GM to Become Specific

General Motors will shed several of its brands and concentrate on Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.  Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer and Saab will either be sold or shut down.  More than 21,000 jobs will be lost through the reorganization of the failing automaker.  Instead of being General, GM will now be Specific Motors.  The UAW and federal government will own about 80% of the corporation and bondholders will be forced to swap their debt obligations for what could be worthless stock.

People invest in bonds for steady income and security.  Bonds are not very risky if the investor intends to hold them until maturity.  A bond is a debt obligation, that is the issuer borrows your money for a set period of time, usually 30 years.  You get a fixed rate of interest every year on your investment then your original investment paid back.  Say I bought a GM 30 year bond for $10,000 at a rate of 5%.  Every year GM pays me 5% of my ten grand in interest.  After thirty years they repay me my $10.000.  That’s how bonds work.

Now though GM is converting their bonds to stock, a far more volatile investment and the bondholders have no say in the matter.  This isn’t fair to the bondholders but their alternative is to have GM go bankrupt and lose all of their money.  Anyone holding past stock in GM is losing their entire investment if the company goes under.  The new owners of GM are the workers, retirees and taxpayers.  How this may tilt the competitive field could be interesting.  Ford elected not to accept any government loans and is healthier than GM and Chrysler because of better management.  With the government owning GM will they buy any Ford products?  Does Ford get screwed by doing a better job of running their company?  Interesting questions.

About 40% of GM’s dealerships will disappear and, with them, thousands of jobs.  GM had far too many dealerships (as do Ford and Chrysler) and they aren’t profitable enough due to the fierce competition for sales and service.  I don’t feel sorry for those business persons who built those expensive, garish, huge Hummer franchises or the Saturn copy cats.  Saturn was never more than a Chevy with a plastic body.

GM had too much duplication through its brand ing and consumers saw no or little difference among Chevy, Olds, Pontiac and Buick.  Other than grills and tail lights, for far too many years it was all the same garbage.  GM designed and built garbage for the public and refused to responsibly approach the market.  Shedding these brands could result in a leaner, meaner, more responsive company.