LIKE STEINBRENNER v. MARTIN: Robert Gibbs's Kinsley gaffe about the potential for Republicans to take over the House was an inadvertent and significant political error.
But the resulting conflagration was not primarily about what Gibbs said.
Indeed, the White House and Speaker Pelosi's office are putting out word tonight that there was NO mention of Robert Gibbs during the Speaker's meeting with President Obama today. And Gibbs made sure to pivot right back to the Republican record.
Tensions between the White House and the House have ebbed and flowed, but they've existed ever since the stimulus package ... ever since the House took a tough vote on energy legislation that the Senate didn't reciprocate ... ever since the House put the public option on the line, only to see it taken off the line. The perception that the White House protects the Senate and takes the House for granted is real.
Gibbs has apologized for his mistake; the White House has tried to tamp
down the angry words, knowing that public discussion of the kerfluffle
makes it harmful where it had just been hurtful. A memo describing the
scope of the White House fundraising activities seems to have done
little but open the anger vent even wider.
The main reason for Nancy Pelosi's behind-the-scenes thundering at a White House leg affairs staffer is legit: the DCCC and her candidates need big donors and small donors to pony up money to defend their seats. Conceding the possibility of a takeover could cost the committees and candidates millions of dollars. And it will no doubt help Republicans raise a significant amount of money. When Karl Rove stuck to the nostrum that Republicans would definitely
keep the House in 2006, it wasn't because he was stupid: it was because
he knew that the White House has a formidable signaling capacity to
donors and activist facilitators.
feel they've had the momentum the last four weeks ... with consequent malaprops from Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. John
Boehner. They were away for a week and worked their butts off back home, and
then Gibbs said what he did and that's what greeted them in Washington.
In the end, this is a Washington problem and compared to most Congress-President relationships, this one is quite strong. But feelings are raw, members' hides are raw, and those raw hides are on the line.
BTW: everyone in the House loves Vice President Biden. He's been their champion, money wise.
PENN PAL: Brian Goldsmith notes that the White House's message for the midterms, "forward not back" -- repeated ad nauseum since the Sunday shows -- seems to come from an unlikely source. Mark Penn suggested it in Politico and originally wrote it in 2005 on behalf of another embattled progressive party, British Labour, which then cruised to a win.
.CONDOM: Little noticed but quite important today: the Domain Name Service, the roots of the Internet, is now fully sheathed by a protective layer of digital authentication. What this means: it is now harder to damage the guts of the Net. For a year, the Department of Commerce has been working with the IT industry to get this done, and it's done.
NEXT WEEK'S TIME: Michael Crowley wrote the cover story on the
stalled economy. With the stimulus package soon to run out
and poor jobs numbers continuing and elections approaching, the
Obama administration is facing a difficult balancing act -- to spend or not spend?
REID TOO MUCH?: It was quite interesting to note what Sen. Harry Reid did not mention in his preview of the
Senate calendar for the remainder of the summer -- START ratification. The administration is still holding to the public line that it would like to see a
final Senate vote by the end of the summer, but with the treaty not yet out of committee and Senate floor time at a bare minimum, that is looking less and less
likely. This may have to be held over to September. There are whispers of a potential deal between Democrats and Republicans, but I'm only picking up whispers.
GOP & GAYS: Joshua Green's column tomorrow notices the spate of Republican judges who are advancing the cause of gay marriage:
[T]he Republican pedigrees of the judges moving gay marriage toward legality [is] all the more striking, particularly in how it contrasts with conservative outcries about judicial activism. But more than that, it's a gauge of how far from the mainstream modern conservative jurists have drifted.
Read more tomorrow.
BUSINESS BEAT: Daniel Indiviglio tells us that RealtyTrac will tomorrow release its
foreclosure data for June. Levels have remained high this year, but appear to be
improving a little over the past few months. The next few days will provide a
double-dose of inflation data. The government provides producer price level
tomorrow and the consumer price index on Friday. The Senate Banking Committee will
hold hearings on Thursday to begin to consider President Obama's three nominees
for new Federal Reserve governors. They include Janet Yellen, Peter Diamond, and
Sarah Bloom Raskin.
Jobs are the top message priority for Republicans, too, but they've been dog-whistling to their base on the "broken promise" on abortion in health care.
-- Cloture on Wall Street reform in the Senate is at 11:00 am EST tomorrow.
-- Attention teachers' unions: Arne Duncan will speak tomorrow to the board of the folks who give you the AP tests in Washington on raising high school performance standards and levels. He'll be at the Marriott Wardman Park at 4:50 pm.
-- Why do the Young Republicans like the Liaison hotel so much? That's where they always hold their conferences. Anyway, sorry. Distracted. They'll hear tomorrow from Minority Leader (or, if you're Bill Galston, the next Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, who will speak "about the Democrat agenda and Republican efforts to counter it with the
kind of straightforward, common-sense approach Americans are looking for from Washington."
-- Shane Harris on the one Russian spy who might actually have learned valuable stuff about valuable stuff.
Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city's publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city's police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.
The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today's riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
In Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died shortly after being taken into police custody, an investigation may uncover homicidal misconduct by law enforcement, as happened in the North Charleston, South Carolina, killing of Walter Scott. Or the facts may confound the darkest suspicions of protestors, as when the Department of Justice released its report on the killing of Michael Brown.
What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked.
Does Adam Sandler have an expiration date? Does his particular brand of slapstick—humor that's infused with a wan self-deprecation, that manages to be simultaneously silly and sociopathic, that once found Sandler punching Bob Barker in the face while informing him that "the price is wrong, bitch"—hold up? Is Sandler's own price now, finally, wrong?
Recent events would suggest yes. Late last week, in the course of filming Sandler's newest project, the made-for-Netflix Western spoof The Ridiculous 6, a Native-American cultural advisor and several performers and extras walked off the set in protest. (Sample characters: Beaver Breath, No Bra, Sits-on-Face. Sample line: "Say honey: how about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?") As Allison Young, a Navajo actress who quit after being asked to do a scene "requiring her to fall down drunk, surrounded by jeering white men who rouse her by dousing her with more alcohol" told the Indian Country Media Network, “We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”
On Monday afternoon the funeral for Freddie Gray took place in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died last week from spinal injuries suffered while in Baltimore Police custody. After the funeral, against the wishes of the Gray family, some peaceful demonstrations took place, but other protests became violent, devolving into chaotic clashes.
In a recent dispatch from Ferguson, Missouri, Jelani Cobb noted that President Obama's responses to "unpunished racial injustices" constitute "a genre unto themselves." Monday night, when Barack Obama stood before the nation to interpret the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he offered a particularly tame specimen. The elements of "the genre" were all on display—an unmitigated optimism, an urge for calm, a fantastic faith in American institutions, aneven-handedness exercised to a fault. But if all the limbs of the construct were accounted for, the soul of the thing was not.
There was none of the spontaneous annoyance at the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and little of the sheer pain exhibited in the line, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." The deft hand Obama employed in explaining to Americans why the acquittal of George Zimmerman so rankled had gone arthritic. This was a perfunctory execution of "the genre," offered with all the energy of a man ticking items off a to-do list.
Police say that intentionally banging a suspect around in the back of a van isn't common practice. But the range of slang terms to describe the practice suggests it's more common that anyone would hope—and a roster of cases show that Freddie Gray is hardly the first person whose serious injuries allegedly occurred while in police transit. Citizens have accused police of using aggressive driving to rough suspects up for decades in jurisdictions across the country. Though experts don't think it's a widespread practice, rough rides have injured many people, frayed relationships, and cost taxpayers, including Baltimore's, millions of dollars in damages.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard on Monday night, "to address the growing violence and unrest in Baltimore City." Later Monday night, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that a week-long curfew would be imposed on the city. Maryland State Police said they would request an additional 5,000 officers from the mid-Atlantic region to restore order.
Earlier in the day, police clashed with demonstrators during protests over the death of a young black man in police custody. Video footage showed a handful of protesters and bystanders throwing rocks and bottles at police officers in full riot gear, who responded with pepper spray and tear gas. City officials said at a press conference on Monday night that 15 officers had been injured and two were hospitalized, including one officer who was reportedly “unresponsive,” although further details about his or her condition were not immediately available. "Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs," Rawlings-Blake told reporters.
“People skills” are almost always assumed to be a good thing. Search employment ads and you will find them listed as a qualification for a startling array of jobs, including Applebee’s host, weight-loss specialist, CEO, shoe salesperson, and (no joke) animal-care coordinator. The notion that people smarts might help you succeed got a boost a quarter century ago, when the phrase emotional intelligence, or EI, entered the mainstream. Coined in a 1990 study, the term was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book . Since then, scores of researchers have shown how being in touch with feelings—both your own and other people’s—gives you an edge: compared with people who have average EI, those with high EI do better at work, have fewer health problems,and report greater life satisfaction.
Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom.
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.