The Morning: March 11, 2011

On the President and the mythical “center” – No one ever seems to listen to Robert Reich anymore.  That seems stupid, because he’s often right.  In this case he is spot on about how the search for and drift the center may work for President Obama like it did for President Clinton.  Even the stock market seems to be realizing (1.9% drop yesterday) that a jobless recovery is not sustainable.  Republicans are working on a budget at a Federal level that will slow the recovery and states are being forced to cut vital programs, which will extend the pain for most Americans.

The center is the reason that the President hasn’t spoken on the events in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan even though he pledged to stand with workers as a candidate.  The center is the reason that the President compromised before he has to.  It’s the reason he cut LIHEAP, CSBG, and CDBG before the Republican budget proposal was released.  The center is why he brought on Bill Daley and why were only going to see President Obama taking a lead on things that no one can criticize, like his focus on bullying this week.  The center is why the Republicans are controlling the messaging.

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The Quake in Japan and the attempted “Americanization” of global events – Wow.  The quake is devastating.  Cable news coverage has been decent.  As the day has gone on it has turned more and more to personal stories of the quake.  This is to be expected as seismologists can be a bit dry and the only new news at this point is the rescue effort and body count.

What has been fascinating, and a little exasperating, about quake coverage and reporting about the uprising in the Middle East is the attempt to “Americanize” the story by focusing on the impact of Twitter and Facebook.  Twitter and Facebook were used as tools to organize, at first, in Tunisia and Egypt.  Then the internet went down and the streets filled with protesters.  With no internet there was no social media; but every other report mentioned the power of Facebook and Twitter, which was ancillary at best at that point.

The same thing is happening with the quake.  People in Japan have been updating on Twitter, but that’s not the story.  Still, it has warranted minutes of coverage on both MSNBC and CNN.  MSNBC let its audience know which celebrities sent “sympathy tweets” about the quake.  It seems to be based on an unfortunate belief that we won’t pay attention to something unless we can somehow relate to it.

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Well, this worked out for Governor Walker – News coverage has shifted to the quake and the potentially illegal maneuvers in Wisconsin are out of the news cycle for a bit.  Governor Walker and his ilk in government are going to continue push dramatic changes until they can’t.  That means 2012 at the earliest.  They can do this because they won massive majorities in November.  They can do this because liberals and Democrats didn’t show up when it counted.  They can make Democrats climb through a window to attend a debate because we couldn’t pull it together.

But it can also work for the rest of us – The protesters across the midwest are inspiring.  It is stirring to see hundreds of thousands of people speaking truth to power and fighting to protect what little political power they have.  This is important.  What is more important is holding on to this feeling and this action.  The protests mean nothing if it can’t be translated into victory in 2012.  If Democrats and liberals can’t capture this zeitgeist, then we deserve whatever nation we get.  Wisconsin has shown us that we have to care all the time, not just when a candidate makes soaring speeches.  It’s time to support the workers now and lay the groundwork to win in 2012.

Shutdown – It might not be avoidable.  Which might actually be a good thing.  We can’t continue to pass two-week measures that cut a little here and snip a little there.  It’s irresponsible and will allow the GOP to achieve their goals on a week by week basis.  A showdown over the budget, with President Obama leading the way and speaking about the need to close loopholes and raise revenue, in addition to making responsible cuts.  If the President leads here, he may keep the momentum of Wisconsin rolling.

Oil – The President just announced (in a 12:30 press conference) that he is willing to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  It seems premature.  Yes, gas is rising (I just paid 3.79 per gallon this morning) but are we at this emergency point yet? Tapping the reserve seems to directly contradict what the rest of President Obama’s remarks have been about, which is reducing demand.  High prices will reduce demand.

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