Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Talk, talk, talk

By Carol Gee

President Barack Obama will talk to a joint session of Congress tonight. In the process he will be talking to his cabinet, the diplomatic corps, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Supreme Court and to the nation, as well. It will not be a formal State of the Union address, according to CQ Politics. And it has not been but a few hours since the President interacted with Congress. Yesterday was the financial responsibility summit at the White House, attended by about a hundred members of the House and Senate. Senator Burris, however, stayed in Chicago until today. He is not having a good week.

How Senator Ronald Burris blew it was by talking -- at the Illinois governor's impeachment trial and then to the press, over and over. Things do not look good for the embattled appointee. Majority Leader Harry Reid's loaned staffer quit the Burris office over the weekend, and the two leaders in the senate expect the Ethics Committee to make quick work of his case.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) also got into a bit of trouble recently by apparently talking out of turn on television. The story, from Politico.com (2/24/09), had the nasty headline, "Yap trap: Pols talk, markets dive." To quote:

It was a perfectly reasonable question, and on the surface it seemed like a perfectly reasonable answer. But when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd went on Bloomberg TV Friday and mused about the possibility of bank nationalization, panicked investors sent the Dow plummeting a hundred points in the next hour.

Pundit Craig Crawford, one of my favorite news channel talkers, has the fix, however, in his great funny CQ blog post " 'Nationalizing' Banks Needs Word Play." To quote:

The joke in economic circles is to call it "pre-privatization." Feds need a phrase that connotes a short-lived take over, even if it isn't.

More talking out of turn? "Did blabbermouth Feinstein spill secrets?" was the very unkind way the Washington Times (2/16/09) put it. What do you think? To quote:

Sen. Diane Feinstein's recent comment regarding the secret location of the launch sites for Predator hunter/killer drones — “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.”

Sen. Feinstein's defense for discussing this highly sensitive information, that she was only repeating what she read in the papers, is greatly unconvincing.

It is true that the Washington Post first reported Predators operating out of bases in Pakistan,
and the senator's flak catcher Philip J. LaVelle says that this report was what she was referring to. But there is a difference between making an allegation in a local paper and having the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirm it. After all, her remark was “as I understand it,” not “according to the papers.”

You will inevitable talk a lot when you are a leading legislator in Washington. As the above incidents indicate, your words will not always meet with success. One of the most obscure ways of talking for Senators, the filibuster, is a technique for holding the floor so that the Senate cannot proceed with action. Steve Benin, one of my favorite bloggers, via Memeorandum says it is time to reform the filibuster.

Because of the Democratic majority, I believe that this may be just the time to do that. But the Republican minority would probably fight it, tooth and nail, just as they did the economic stimulus package. Steny Hoyer, House majority Leader says, "We'll try again" to create an atmosphere of bipartisanship. And President Obama will continue to lead by his examples of reaching out to the other party. It was a good try that did not succeed except with three Republican Senators, however.

Passing the package was a tough negotiating process handled by several very skillful White House staffers, namely Rahm Emanuel and a name you do not know, Phil Schiliro. The story of this is by Jonathan Martin from Politico.com: "Big White House role for low profile Schiliro" (2/22/09). I recommend this very fine profile of President Obama's chief legislative liason, Phil Schiliro. Schiliro, who joined the campaign in July as the congressional liaison, is most known as the former chief aid to Senator Henry Waxman of California.

The last thing I want to talk about is messaging with only 140 characters at Twitter -- "The 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers," according to Politico's Patrick Gavin, include Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with former senators Barack Obama and Al Gore and former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich. I am not a member. I talk too much. I would never be able to confine myself to 140 characters.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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