You take Sally, and I'll take Sue ...

We have a new “Think Again” column, called “The Nth Time is Farce: Neocons Attack the NIE, Yet Again,” and it's here.

I don't understand the problem with Billy Shaheen* saying that Obama's admission of drug use might turn out to be a problem in a general election. It's true, isn't it? It might be. Is it better to pretend that it won't and then find out later that you've just elected another right-wing extremist incompetent. The fact is we have no idea about any number of issues relating to Obama's potential vulnerabilities, and while I love the guy and think he would make one of the greatest presidents ever, I would like to have those answers sooner rather than later. Of course we'll never get them, but if anyone thinks that Republicans are only going to raise these issues because Clinton did, well, that person is stupid. It's rather childish to pretend that politics doesn't involve finding out bad things about your opponent and saying them. I say let's get everything on the table and let Obama deal with it.

From The Progress Report:

Bush Vetoes Kids ... Again

For the second time in three months, President Bush yesterday vetoed bipartisan legislation that “would have expanded the State Children's Health Insurance (SCHIP) program ” by $35 billion over five years and would have boosted its enrollment to about 10 million children." It was the seventh veto of Bush's presidency and the second veto of a children's health bill. In an October press conference, Bush explained that he will continue vetoing bills simply to “ensure that I am relevant. That's one way to ensure that I'm in the process.” Similar to his last rejection of SCHIP two months ago, Bush vetoed the bill yesterday "in private." Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded, “This is indeed a sad action for him to take, because so many children in our country need access to quality health care." “In case there was any doubt that President Bush's priorities could not be farther from those of the American people, he has vetoed yet another bipartisan bill to renew the successful [State] Children's Health Insurance Program," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday, adding, “We will not rest until the President joins us.”

CONGRESS ACTS, BUSH DOES NOT: Last October, after vetoing the first version of SCHIP legislation, Bush complained that the White House had been left out of negotiations and was not “dialed in in the beginning.” “I'm surprised I hadn't been asked about SCHIP,” Bush said. But “telephone logs and e-mail messages show that Republican senators and their aides had frequently consulted White House officials as the bill took shape.” After checking their calendars, lawmakers said that they and their aides had “more than 35 meetings and telephone conversations” on the issue with the White House. While the SCHIP bill “has changed substantially,” Bush's criticism “has not, and this frustrates lawmakers like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) who said the president had been 'given some pretty bad advice' by his staff.” After the House sustained Bush's veto two months ago, Press Secretary Dana Perino celebrated it as a victory, proclaiming, “We won this round on SCHIP.”

PLAYING POLITICS: After Bush vetoed the SCHIP legislation in early October, he argued, “When it comes to SCHIP, we should be guided by a clear principle: Put poor children first.” By all accounts, SCHIP has been successful in accomplishing this mission. Since 2000, while 6.8 million people lost health coverage, “SCHIP and Medicaid ensured that the proportion of low-income children without health insurance actually declined during this period, from 20 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2005.” The second version of SCHIP that Congress passed sought to address Bush's major concern about the bill “by capping eligibility at 300 percent of the federal poverty line -- slightly more than $60,000 for a family of four.” Yet Bush trotted out the same excuse yesterday for vetoing the popular and successful health insurance program. “This bill does not put poor children first,” he said, “and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction.” The administration apparently views the confrontation over SCHIP as “making for good politics.” The New York Times reported, “The White House, convinced that Republicans lost Congressional seats last year because the public was fed up with government spending, calculates that Mr. Bush will please fiscal conservatives by drawing the line against a big expansion of the program.”

WHAT'S NEXT: Authorization for SCHIP expired on Sept. 30 and has twice been extended by continuing resolutions passed by Congress to keep the federal government operating. “But the second extension is due to expire on Dec. 14, and no one is sure what will happen next.” The fate of this critical program “remains undecided,” as lawmakers negotiate a new five-year funding package that can win Bush's approval or draw a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate. If Congress cannot win over Bush's support, leaders from both parties are expected to “pass a one-year extension of the program” with the aim of including “enough money in the measure to maintain current levels of enrollment, estimated at 6.6 million children.” While campaigning in 2004, Bush pledged, “In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs.” Now, Bush has become the one man standing between 10 million low-income children and their health insurance.

It's all here.

Do you know what happened to modern liberalism? Tom Brokaw does: Those kids, with their sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, spoiled it. Which is why he's interviewing James Taylor (that is not a misprint) and Jon Stewart (who was what, six in 1968?) to better understand the era's rebellious spirit, and relying on the sophisticated historical analysis of Pat Buchanan to explain the Silent Majority. No, really, he is.

Alternative Universe Quote of the Day: What if Marty Peretz had been born a Muslim?

Marty Peretz, 7/5/05:

What vision of a good society do the ideologists of Israel proffer to their boosters all over the world? Really nothing, except another miserable state like the others in the Jew Middle East. The new fellow travelers lack even the feeble extenuations of the old ones.

Posted by M. Duss


I was at an ASCAP ceremony yesterday where John Mellencamp received the “Champion Award” from my friend Marilyn Bergman. He sang three songs, and Marilyn told the audience that she was pretty certain that it would be announced that John would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today. So I whipped out the BB and wrote my man, Boehlert, “Your boy is going to be in HOF. Got something for AC?” Here's what I got back.

Eric Boehlert writes:

I try to shy away from the so-and-so-must-be-smiling-down-from-heaven genre of tribute, so after hearing the news that John Mellencamp will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I'll just say that Timothy White would have been pleased. White was John's good friend and former editor of Billboard magazine (and my old boss) who died in the office elevator on his way back from lunch in 2002.

White was among the first big-time music journalists to acknowledge that Mellencamp was more than a pop singer, and that the performer was making lasting contributions to both rock music and to America. This at a time when most of music's media elite remained dismissive of the singer's prodigious career. (In the late 1980s, he was selling as many records as Madonna and Whitney Houston). White, however, championed Mellencamp every chance he got.

When White died unexpectedly at the age of 50, Mellencamp lost his most vocal industry supporter, which is one of the reasons I think it took so long for Mellencamp to finally get the HOF nod. The public might not understand the process, but it can be vitally important for artists to have agents working on their behalf, both behind the scenes and out front, helping to shape the public perception of an artist.

That's just the way HOF operates. I remember the story White once told me when he was involved in the nomination committee for the HOF and Bob Marley's name came up for consideration. This was relatively early on in the HOF's life, when they were dealing only with the true rock legends. The details are a bit hazy, but if I remember correctly, White, who wrote the definite Marley bio, said there had been some reluctance in terms of other HOF committee members to put Marley's name forward for consideration. In response, White gave an impassioned speech on Marley's behalf and actually threatened to quit the committee if Marley's name was not put up as a potential nominee. That's the kind of advocate that's sometimes needed for the HOF.

Since White's death, Mellencamp, whose stubborn German roots show through every chance they get, has pretty much been flying solo within the industry. He ended his long-running relationship with Sony Music, so he no longer has that machine behind him, and now makes one-off's for Universal Music. But I think slowly in recent years, people have come to appreciate Mellencamp's contributions, as White did, both in and out of the studio. In fact, the singer was just nominated for another Grammy (Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance category for “Our Country” ) and his new album, produced by the incomparable T-Bone Burnett, is set for release in 2008.

Knowing the talents of both Mellencamp and Burnett, it's very possible the new album could be one of the singer's best. And tell me this, how many HOF inductees are still at the top of their game come introduction night?

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Fred Leonhardt

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

What makes you think Bush ever stopped drinking? From Graydon Carter's Editor's Letter in the January Vanity Fair: “In The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair, and the Intoxication of Power, Owen [Lord Owen, former British foreign secretary] recalls the time in 2002 when the commander in chief collapsed while sitting on a sofa watching a football game. (Official cause: he'd choked on a pretzel.) The presidential head hit a table on the way to the floor, he suffered an abrasion on the left side of his face, and a blood sample was rushed to Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore. Owen says he was told by a British doctor who had visited Johns Hopkins that lab technicians there found that the blood contained significant amounts of alcohol -- this in the body of a man who claims he hasn't had a drop in more than 20 years.”

Name: John

Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ

Regarding Ms. Perino and the current administration: Sadly, if you're ignorant of history, you won't recognize when you're repeating it.

*Full disclosure: I was recently represented by Shaheen's law firm, though not by Shaheen himself.