Welcome to Edited For Clarity
I’m Leo Soderman
We’ve got a whole lot of stuff to talk about this week, so let’s get right to the news.
On Thursday, the valves on a new sealing cap were closed, and the oil from BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico stopped flowing for the first time since April 20th.
The cap is being tested to see if the well can sustain pressure. If the pressure in the well remains high, then the well below the sea bed is in good shape. If pressure drops, it means there is a leak somewhere below the sea bed, and may present problems when the relief well is used to kill the well. The test is expected to last about 48 hours.
While oil flow is currently stopped, there are still lines connected to collection ships on the surface, and these lines will be opened up prior to the relief well completion to lessen the pressure on the well as the bore is breached.
This is the best news we’ve heard from the Gulf to date. But even if the flow has been stopped, the clean-up will take years.
Former Vice-President Dick Cheney released a statement this week saying he underwent heart surgery to have an impeller pump implanted. The pump is used to keep blood flow moving when the heart is failing. A unique side effect of this is that Cheney will no longer have a pulse. The pump keeps the blood flowing constantly, instead of the pulsing of the heart.
This fact could be the setup of a whole raft of jokes, but you won’t hear them here. Medical experts have explained that the installation of a pump really is a last resort measure. The heart is damaged to the point that it can no longer function. Short of a transplant, there is no other solution to keep the former Vice-President alive. There’s no joke that makes that reality any less serious.
Remember the crash test dummy commercials in the 80′s and 90′s to get you to buckle up? Well, for their valiant work, they’ve been given a home at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Vince and Larry, as the dummies are named, were part of a public service campaign designed to raise awareness of seat belt safety since 1985. The campaign ran through 1998, and the duo became familiar icons for safety.
The Senate passed Wall St, reform this week, on a largely partisan vote. Three Republican senators joined Democrats in passing the finance reform package, intended to put regulations in place to prevent another meltdown in the financial industry. It also enacts strong consumer protections designed to curb what has been perceived as excesses in terms of fees and charges that are racked up against consumers by banks. The legislation is slated to go to the President’s desk and is expected to be signed quickly into law.
The administration has been on a bit of a roll, getting more major legislation passed during this session of Congress than has been passed in decades. Heathcare reform, financial reform, economic stimulus – that’s a pretty full plate for most administrations in four years. This administration has accomplished all of it in 18 months.
But Democrats are facing a potentially hostile electorate this election season, and a fairly confused electorate. Only 46% of Americans give the President a positive rating in terms of handling the economy. And that’s a low number.
But that’s not the whole picture. When asked about whether they thought Democrats, could handle the economy, that number drops into the 30s, and when asked about Republicans, the number drops even further, into the 20s. What this shows is an electorate that just doesn’t trust the folks in Washington
Republicans are already measuring the drapes in Congressional offices, with public exclamations of impending victory. But are they right? It’s hard to tell. While there has definitely been some momentum, recent stumbles by Republicans have been eating into that mo. From Joe Barton’s apology to BP, to Michael Steele’s revisionist version of the war in Afghanistan, a number of gaffes have been stumbling blocks. Adding to the issues for the Republicans are the Tea Party folks. As a rule, they tend to be farther right than the majority of the Republican party, and a few Tea Party favorites made it through the primaries.
A prime example is Sharron Angle in Nevada. Harry Reid was facing near certain defeat in Nevada before the primaries. But with the selection of Angle, a Tea Party favorite, his reelection chances are rising and he currently leads. Why? Angle’s views are now in the spotlight, and her extreme right views on a number of issues are turning off even staunch Republicans. A similar situation is playing out with Rand Paul. His gaffes the night after he was nominated, talking about his views on the Civil Rights Act got him “sequestered”, with party leaders pulling him out of the limelight so he doesn’t continue to ruin his chances.
Unfortunately for both of these candidates, video lives on. There they are, recorded in all their glory, espousing views that the average conservative can’t support. And thse types of stumbling blocks may be what stops the Republicans.
But it will be a battle for the Democrats. What they will need to do, if they want to keep control of Congress, will be to tie Republicans not only to the extremes of the Tea Party faves, but to their recent actions, or lack thereof, in terms of legislation. For example, Republicans did their best to stop Wall St. reform measures, even vowing to repeal them in the fall – despite the overwhelming majority of Americans who are frustrated with the finance industry and their pay packages and bonuses. If Democrats can tie Republicans to Wall St., Republicans will have to spend a great deal of time just undoing that connection.
Democrats can also pile on by reminding voters how the GOP has been apologizing to BP. Not only Barton, but many Republicans have tried to come to BP’s rescue. Again, if Democrats can continue to tie Republicans to big oil, as well as Wall St., the issue becomes which party is further in the pockets of big business.
Add to this the racist tones that many in the Tea Party have been taking, and you have a recipe for beating conservatives at the polls.
But it won’t be easy. While healthcare reform is gaining popularity (over 60% say they don’t want it repealed), the furor over the heathcare debate will be played up again to gain voters. Immigration reform will also be used against Democrats. There is a wave of anger over perceived faults of the federal government when it comes to immigration, and this will be used as a wedge as well.
In the end, if the Democrats want a chance at winning, they’ll have to do something they’re not used to – get tough. Democrats like to appeal to reason, to logic. Unfortunately, they’re facing opponents who care less for the facts, and more for the win. I’m not saying that Democrats should be dishonest by any stretch. I am saying, they can’t pull any punches. If they want to win, they’ll need to be throwing haymakers, not jabs.
We’ll be right back.