Yesterday, the US Senate voted on S. 782, a bill to reauthorize and fund the Economic Development Administration. The EDA has been around for forty years and commands a paltry $300 million budget, but S. 782 died in a 49-51 vote due to what The Hill calls “100 mostly nongermane amendments offered by Republicans and Democrats.” What was supposed to be an innocuous or even benign “jobs bill”—and those scare quotes should be taken as extremely frightened—sunk under an accumulation of proposed additions, including amendments to suspend Obamacare, repeal last year’s financial regulatory reforms, block the Department of the Interior from declaring the prairie chicken an endangered species, and abolish the Economic Development Administration. Jim DeMint proposed that last one, and I don’t imagine he did it with a straight face. After much debate and a speech about the importance of Rhode Island’s Gaspee Days, S. 782 died a lugubrious death. It was a hard outcome for the bill’s sponsor, Barbara Boxer (D–CA,) who just that morning opined that “this is a moment we can show we do what we say we are going to do. I am hopeful this bill doesn’t die today.”
That, dear friends, is US Representative Anthony Weiner (D–NY, net worth $108k) laying it in there like an old pro—okay, like a gifted amateur—at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner. The CCD is to the White House Correspondents Dinner as Congress is to the White House, which is to say as Larry Wilmore is to Stephen Colbert.* And yet Weiner rose to the occasion, delivering a series of remarks re: his own name even better than that one—at one point he pleaded with John Boehner, “Come on, brother, I’m not Anthony Way-ner”—mocking CNN’s declining ratings, and gradually isolating Rand Paul until Weiner was examining his every response like Don Rickles. He also showed a picture of himself looking eerily like Horschach from Welcome Back, Kotter. In short, he was funny—which when you think about it is kind of surprising, considering that Weiner is a rising star in possibly the least funny political organization in American history.
Democratic Senate hopeful Alvin Greene suffered a heartbreaking upset yesterday in South Carolina, losing to Republican Jim DeMint by the narrowest of 34-point margins. Across the country—as one New York Times writer described it, the “wide battleground that stretched from Alaska to Maine,” which I think means Canada—Greene’s surprise loss prefigured Republican gains, including a 60-seat pickup in the House of Representatives. “We’ve come to take our government back,” newly-elected Senator Rand Paul told his victory party. “They say that the U.S. Senate is the world’s most deliberative body. I’m going to ask them to deliberate on this: The American people are unhappy with what’s going on in Washington.” Mr. Paul then shouted an obscenity after an aide told him where the Senate is located.
In a simpler world, this post could begin with, “There’s no denying the popularity of the Tea Party,” but even that aspect of the movement is up for denial. Even after several high-profile primary victories, the size of the Tea Party—composed of disparate groups with neither national hierarchy nor local registration—joins the movement’s platform, origins and political impact in the realm of conjecture. The Tea Part isn’t even a party. It is either a grassroots uprising of constitutionally-minded Americans or a series of puppet shows by Republican flacks or a fringe movement exaggerated by a desperate media or some combination of the three, and no one will really know until the midterm elections, if then. Meanwhile, we have analysis. As with any inquiry into the totally unquantifiable, that analysis has taken on an element of the aesthetic.
Recently, Britt Hume took material form to go on Fox News Sunday and imply that the BP oil spill was not really a big deal. “There’s a good question today if you are standing on the Gulf,” the former anchor said, “and that is, where is the oil?” In addition to baffling Juan Williams in an extremely amusing fashion, Hume seemed to be arguing that media reports of thousands of gallons of crude forming an oil slick larger than Delaware were somehow exaggerated. “The ocean absorbs a lot,” he kept saying, after pointing out that the largest source of oil in the ocean is “natural seepage from the ocean floor.” That’s true, in the same sense that the largest source of cocaine in our daily lives comes from residue on dollar bills. That doesn’t stop the plume from damaging our synapses/making us spend hours talking about what cable television will be like in the future, though.