May 5, 2010

"What do we know about the retirement of Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.)?"

Asks David Weigel, noting the hot political news of the day:
Why would one of the most powerful men in Congress, elected in 1968, in a district that went for the Obama-Biden ticket, bail out of reelection? Republicans point to the campaign of Sean Duffy, a telegenic (literally) district attorney who raised a lot of money, built a following among national conservatives and, according to everything I'm hearing, was giving Obey a real battle in his internal polls.

I've talked to Duffy several times and been so impressed...
Talk like that attracted the attention of conservatives who helped Duffy raise about $500,000 -- less than half as much as Obey, but for a campaign that explicitly promised to replace a power-broker who could bring money to the district with a small government conservative who would be totally disinterested in pork. You'll hear people credit the endorsements of Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty for Duffy's success, but that gets the story backward.
You may remember that we were talking about the Obey/Duffy face-off a few days ago, in the context of the problem of Republicans having a big advantage looking toward November but needing real candidates. Duffy is real. (And he was on "The Real World.")

ADDED: I was just reading Obey's bio on Wikipedia. It's surprisingly short — considering that he's been in Congress since 1969. (He replaced Melvin Laird, who became Nixon's Secretary of Defense.) Under "Controversies," there's only one item. If you're going to have exactly one controversy, it might as well be this:
On June 25, 2009, Obey got into a fight on the House floor with fellow Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California.
LOL at the dumb Wikipedia writing (which makes Obey a woman). Let's switch to the Roll Call text...

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) engaged in a shoving match on the House floor early Thursday evening that ended with Obey raising his voice and bellowing, “I’m not going to approve that earmark!”

Waters has been seeking $1 million for an employment center in her district that bears her name, but Obey has decided to ban any “monuments to me” when it comes to funding project requests this year.

The confrontation began with the two talking in each other’s faces and gesturing animatedly with their hands. Obey then attempted to walk away, but Waters kept following him. Obey then put his hand on Waters arm and shoulder, and Waters became irate.

Obey again turned away, dismissing Waters by throwing up his hands, but Waters continued to stalk him, talking to his back and making a shoving motion.

Waters followed Obey down to the well of the House, and as the confrontation — and shoves — continued, Obey turned and told her: “You are out of line.”

To which Waters retorted: “You are out of line.”

“I am not going to approve that earmark!” Obey exclaimed, then hustled away from Waters.

Waters then retreated to a group of fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but her conversation could be heard from the press gallery.

“He touched me first, he pushed me first!” she said. She then left the House floor, while Obey sat down to talk with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
"You are out of line!" "You are out of line" "He touched me first, he pushed me first!" Ha. How did I miss that story last summer? Let's see what I was blogging on June 25, 2009. There were a bunch of new Supreme Court cases to digest. Farrah Fawcett died. And then Michael Jackson died. So the Waters/Obey catfight didn't get an audience. Farrah and Michael and death beats Dave and Maxine and pseudo-shoving any day.

72 comments:

Original Mike said...

Unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. health) we know he doesn't have the courage to debate what he and his party are doing to this country. It's too bad, because I think he has a responsibilty to do so.

Alex said...

Bottom line, Republicans are too stupid for words.

MadisonMan said...

I appreciate his long service to the country and western WI, but I think he was there a little too long, so his retirement is good news for DC.

It boggles my mind that he was first elected 40+ years ago. And that he succeeded Melvin Laird (whom I thought was dead, but consulting wikipedia, apparently not!)

TosaGuy said...

Wisconsin could easily end up in November 6-2 (Baldwin, Moore) GOP in its house representation. Not saying it will happen, but its very possible.

Dems in Madison and Milwaukee don't realize that Dems in outstate WI are not as enamored with liberalism as they are.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quayle said...

Alex, let a Republican-leaning idiot help you out a bit.

Duffy said, "I haven’t seen where that’s worked." [i.e. where public spending out of a hole has worked.]

Now, dear Alex, let me ask you: where has it worked? Did it "work" here, and if so, how? What exactly did our massive stimulus public spending do for us that was beneficial, and by how much?

Then Duffy's second point - which you missed completely: if it did work - if public spending actually helped an economy - why wouldn't that be the economic policy of every country even in good times?

Duffy is simply point out that it isn't the economic policy of countries to spend their way to prosperity because it doesn't work, as Germany and the EU's grief over Greece most recently demonstrates.

So, let's get your answers on these two points and we'll see which viewpoint is too stupid for words.

MadisonMan said...

There've been just 3 representatives for Wisconsin's 7th district since 1939!! Wow!

sunsong said...

I'm certainly in a "throw the bums out mood". I loved Scott Brown's quip - this is not _____'s seat - this is the people's seat.

In Utah, where I live, Bob Bennett is probably not even going got make the primary cut this Saturday (Bennett is a republican). There are just too many congress critters who have been there too long - and yeah, it's a risk to hire a newbie, - but my view is that it would be hard for them to be worse than the bunch we have now.

The arrogance, corruption, lack of responsibility is hurting the country, imo.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Alex, if public spending brought economic success, the Soviet Union would have won the Cold War.

Obey's internal polling was showing that he is behind Duffy, with little chance of winning the election. Obey bailed rather than fight.

garage mahal said...

we know he doesn't have the courage to debate what he and his party are doing to this country.

I want my country back! To when it was losing 750k jobs per month and the DOW was at 6k. Those were good times

Michael Hasenstab said...

@TosaGuy - Think what's going to happen in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly races in the 7th Congressional District with all those voters voting for Duffy. If Walker wins the gubernatorial race, WI could be a red state.

veni vidi vici said...

The voters, having broken the spell and declaring through polling data that they will no longer Obey him, have prompted his egress from the field.


wv: "slyhoota" -- A selectively bashful female nudist.

SteveR said...

Regardless of party affliation, 21 terms is way too much. Even without borderline or absolute criminal conduct, there's just too much power and money in a congressman of that longevity. Also tends to highligt how reflexively people vote.

Big Mike said...

David Obey is a significant retirement. I think Pelosi's party is in deep trouble.

As it should be. Whatever Monty, garage, and FLS believe, the Democrat majority in Congress fundamentally gave a great, one-fingered salute to the American middle class with their lack of attention to job creation and their foolish, internally self-contradictory, utterly dysfunctional, healthcare bill (no one sane calls it a "reform").

It's called "sowing the wind." The rest of the quotation is here.

AJ Lynch said...

1- He wants to get out of town before the guillotines arrive?

2- He knows it's no fun being a member of the minority party in the House?

ricpic said...

...Sean Duffy, a telegenic (literally) district attorney....

Why the modifier "literally?" It's completely redundant, as telegenic by definition means attractive on TV.

Original Mike said...

Garage, I want people who enact policy to stand up and defend that policy in free elections.

garage mahal said...

So nobody can ever retire?

AC245 said...

I want my country back! To when it was losing 750k jobs per month and the DOW was at 6k. Those were good times

Four years ago, the Democrats took over control of both the House and Senate. Two years ago they added the White House.

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don't agree, if you don't think that this course that we've been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have."

Original Mike said...

Like I said. If it's his health or whatever, I understand. If he's quitting because he thinks he's going to lose, he's shirking his responsibility. I have no respect for that.

Off to a meeting.

edutcher said...

Obey is one the biggest arguments for term limits you can find. He's recycled (and channeled) Harry Hopkins (just like garage and Alex) for forty years and to Hell with where it takes the country so long as he stays in DC.

Alex' argument for public spending lists every country that's a financial basket case today, including Red China.

garage mahal said...

So nobody can ever retire?

That's been a reality since Willie.

Lem said...
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Lem said...

So nobody can ever retire?

If you do retire - it generally means you are no longer safe

LarsPorsena said...

"..It boggles my mind that he was first elected 40+ years ago. And that he succeeded Melvin Laird (whom I thought was dead, but consulting wikipedia, apparently not!)"

Holy Cow!! I thought Laird was 65 years old 40 years ago! My mind is boggled too.

AllenS said...

If you follow the second link, you'll see this:

AllenS said...
I'm in the Seventh District. I just sent Duffy $25 through Paypal.

As the old saying goes, if you've lost AllenS...

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Garage reminds me of the Iraqi spokesman during the war who had the job of denying that American troops were in the country despite the fact that they were at the gates of Baghdad. You knew that even he didn't believe his own propaganda but you had to admire his dedication.

Scott said...

I think AJ has it spot on....a lot of the Dems aren't looking forward to being in the minority party come next January (especially since I would wager that the GOP has some serious pay-back in mind for some of them), and have decided to get out while they are still on top....

Good riddance

Calypso Facto said...

As the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Obey OWNED the blame for Washington's out of control spending. And when he was the face of the healthcare reform vote on CSPAN, you could almost see him gritting his teeth and thinking "I'm SO screwed...."

alan markus said...

Melvin Laird was born in 1922, so if he is alive, he will be 88 this year. He was elected to House of Representatives in 1952 (the year I was born), at the age of 30. He was elected to State of WI State Senate at the age of 23. So yes, he does seem "ancient" considering that his political career started 65 years ago.

garage mahal said...

I think AJ has it spot on....a lot of the Dems aren't looking forward to being in the minority party come next January

More Republicans are retiring this year than Democrats. It's fun to pretend things are the way they are because you want them to be, isn't it. And what fun is the majority anyway? If you're in the House, you passed hundreds of bills that are sitting in Senate, doing nothing.

AllenS said...

Well, that statement from gm just ruined all the fun. Why, I thought Obey not running was a big deal, but I guess not.

ricpic said...

That's going to be the line for 2010, garage? "What fun is the majority anyway?" Plus, all your darling Dems will get a chance to spend time with the wife and kiddies...har har har.

garage mahal said...

And if they don't take control after all this, it will be a disaster for Republicans.

AJ Lynch said...

I think the name of the game for the next SUCCESSFUL majority party is to repeal laws not make new ones.

The country needs to slim down in many more ways than the one you see on a scale.

wv = nosheven

edutcher said...

Anent garage, the Demos retiring are the significant ones. Some of the Rs are Assistant Democrats seeing the writing on the wall and getting out in the same manner as Obey.

It's a lose-lose for the Left because a good many of their enablers aren't going to be around to reach across the aisle to their friends in the Democrat Party

Scott said...

Garage,

edutcher beat me to it...but if you look at WHO is retiring, as opposed to raw numbers, the GOP is losing some weak sisters and a few individuals with real health issues, while the Dems are losing some of their 'better' people. When people like Obey start looking for the exits in the middle of a big campaign where control of the House is at stake, it is time to wonder about their motives.

As for being in the majority not being any fun, you and your compatriots will soon have lots of time to enjoy yourselves...

Drew said...

Obey's news conference was typical Obey imperiousness: "I won that district 21 times! Do you really think I wouldn't have won it again?"

He took a few potshots at Duffy without mentioning him by name. But Obey has been AWOL in the 7th district for quite some time. Won't even hold town hall meetings. Holds "telephone town hall meetings" but then spends them shouting at his constituents.

Good riddance.

junyo said...

Just in case no one's paying attention, gm is attempting to set up a "if the GOP doesn't sweep both houses then it's a disaster" goalpost moving meme. Please help him.

Drew said...

In Washington, Obey is considered the third most powerful member of Congress, right behind Reid and Pelosi. A lot of Dems seem to be suddenly entering into retirement this year, but Obey's retirement is the proverbial "canary in a coal mine." The only thing more significant would be if we'd heard Pelosi was retiring.

AJ Lynch said...

Fossils should be on a shelf in a museum.

James said...

Russ Feingold must be really worried. He spent the winter touring Wisconsin and arguing with voters over the health care bill. I went to his meeting in Racine and I've rarely ever been so disgusted.

Now he's facing a fired up Republican party and plenty of candidates lining up to run against him.

garage mahal said...

As for being in the majority not being any fun, you and your compatriots will soon have lots of time to enjoy yourselves...

I highly doubt it, but who knows. You're predicting 40+ swing in the House?

Original Mike said...

More Republicans are retiring this year than Democrats.

Good riddance to the lot of them. I have no love for the Republican incumbants.

mariner said...

sunsong:

There are just too many congress critters who have been there too long - and yeah, it's a risk to hire a newbie, ...

Yes, but if we all hired newbies ...

In the Navy there's a saying, "Seniority among ensigns is like virginity among whores -- there isn't any."

Joe said...


highly doubt it, but who knows. You're predicting 40+ swing in the House?


Dood/doodette the question is becoming more and more how many seats the Democrats will lose, or how large the Republican MAJORITY will be?

You keep telling yourself this isn't 1994...and someone who was politically aware in 1994, I can tell you, the "smart money" didn't see 1994 coming either.

In 1994 no one, expected the D's to lose control, they expectd a "hung House" with large numbers of Republicans, yes, but very few talking heads foresaw Speaker GINGRICH.

MadisonMan said...

Now he's facing a fired up Republican party and plenty of candidates lining up to run against him.

But are they good candidates? That's the real question. I'm not sure I see anyone great, although I am enamored of Leinenkugel. Love the beer.

garage mahal said...

Dood/doodette the question is becoming more and more how many seats the Democrats will lose, or how large the Republican MAJORITY will be?

Ok, so I got you down for at least a 40+ swing. Bold. I like it.

Scott M said...

I highly doubt it, but who knows. You're predicting 40+ swing in the House?

...and cue the narrative that we're going to hear right before the elections and (most likely) during the exit polling and as the actual results start to sink in. If the GOP doesn't take over both houses, it will be a disaster for them.

Set the bar to the nth degree and laugh at the opponents when the don't make it. The down side is that if the buzzsaw occurs (as coined by our President) again, such sophism will simply make the DNC look worse than it does now.

Slick Willie was forced to a moderate second term, bolstered by an economic boom neither he nor the GOP had much do with. As much as I dislike the man, I give him credit for being able to govern that way.

I hold no hopes that President Obama can do likewise given a GOP-controlled Congress. I was one of those that was willing to give the guy a chance after it became clear he was going to win. Lord knows I didn't vote him or McCain. But given what he's done thus far, I don't know that the guy has a moderate bone in his body.

Scott said...

Garage,

40+ is bold? You really need to get out of the echo chamber more often. 40+ is rapidly becoming the consensus bet, and it might easily be 50+

Now, I am not going to sign off on the folks who are hyperventilating at 70+, but it is possible. Extremely unlikely, but possible...

But as for 40+, less than that would be a bold prediction...

Cheer up though, you still have the Senate...for now...

garage mahal said...

Set the bar to the nth degree and laugh at the opponents when the don't make it.?

You're the one claiming they will regain the majority. Not me. I think what you want is all the reward and none of the risk. You're right about one thing though, I will be laughing if Repubs don't gain control of the House after hearing all the smack from the Right.

Scott M said...

You're the one claiming they will regain the majority. Not me.

Please point to a comment that I made claiming that they will take the majority. If you can't please make sure that helmet you're mom makes you wear when you're not strapped into bed is on tightly.

Ken Begg said...

More Republicans are retiring this year than Democrats. It's fun to pretend things are the way they are because you want them to be, isn't it.

In many cases I'll bet that's the same thing; they are RINO Republicans retiring because they don't want to lose the nomination to the new fiscal conservatives the Tea Party is helping to usher in, or RINO Republicans who, like retiring Democrats, don't want to be in governance if they are denied being able to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on whatever the hell they feel like.

Big Mike said...

Well, regardless of whether garage is engaging in moving the goal post (his second-favorite sport, after strawman building), I'll go on record as saying that I see a fifty seat pickup in the House come November, and it could be even better than that. I see a nine seat pickup in the Senate, leaving the Dems even more beholden to Joe Lieberman than ever before. (And won't he just love that?)

That's with the caveat that six months is a long time in politics. Anything can happen, including Democrats waking up and trying to up the good of the country ahead of their partisan politics.

Original Mike said...

That's with the caveat that six months is a long time in politics. Anything can happen, including Democrats waking up and trying to up the good of the country ahead of their partisan politics.

I think you've just demonstrated that it's not true that anything can happen.

Big Mike said...

@Original, there's a finite nonzero probability. Things like this is why we mathematicians inventing epsilon-delta proofs.

garage mahal said...

Anything can happen, including Democrats waking up and trying to up the good of the country ahead of their partisan politics.

Well, Reid might lose to someone who thinks we can overhaul our health care system by bartering with chickens. Anything is possible.

edutcher said...

Drew said...

In Washington, Obey is considered the third most powerful member of Congress, right behind Reid and Pelosi. A lot of Dems seem to be suddenly entering into retirement this year, but Obey's retirement is the proverbial "canary in a coal mine." The only thing more significant would be if we'd heard Pelosi was retiring.

Funny you should say that. Pelosi Galore was saying something about what she'd do if she weren't Speaker. It raised a couple of flags, although it would take a miracle (or cataclysm) to blast her loose, but, given the mess in the Gulf plus the seeming inevitability of one of the jihadis finally getting it right, she may be looking at playing the percentages.

As a great American once observed, "One never knows, do one?"

sunsong said...

Yes, but if we all hired newbies ...

In the Navy there's a saying, "Seniority among ensigns is like virginity among whores -- there isn't any."


LOL - well - let's all hire newbies then...

Big Mike said...

Well, Reid might lose to someone who thinks we can overhaul our health care system by bartering with chickens.

Well, assuming that happens, doesn't it say a lot about (1) the popularity of Obamacare and (2) the popularity of Reid in his own state?

I seem to recall one of the left-of-center prognosticators who is a regular commenter on this blog and who predicted that the once people came to understand what was actually in the Healthcare bill, it would be a plus for the Democrats. You wouldn't happen to know who was pushing that line at the rest of us, do you, garage?

Funny how the more we learn about what's inside that gigantic, internally-contradictory, concretion, the less the people of this country like it.

Michael Hasenstab said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Hasenstab said...

@ James. Ron Johnson is in the game against Russ Feingold.

Announcement pending.

Drew said...

Anyone know if Reid and Pelosi are still at 11% and 8% approval ratings?

garage mahal said...

Funny how the more we learn about what's inside that gigantic, internally-contradictory, concretion, the less the people of this country like it.

Then why isn't every Republican running on repealing the whole bill? It should be getting easier as more and more people learn to hate it, right? Of course not, it's total bullshit, always was.

Boehner is already trying to take credit for parts of it. What a fucking douche.

Mark said...

Hey, anyone on the wrong side of Maxine Waters is, by default, on my side of Maxine Waters.

My theory on why he's leaving? The general jackassery did no in fact diminish under the post-partisan President. And seriously, 40 years in a job is probably enough when all your peers are assholes.

Pogo said...

Yep, having the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, 40 years under his belt, just a year after a major party sweep in a national election, suddenly pull out of the race just 7 months before the mid-terms is entirely meaningless, and no reflection on the national mood.

Completely believable.

Mark said...

Then why isn't every Republican running on repealing the whole bill?

Because a lot of Republicans in Congress are assholes.

This isn't about teams, garage. My (default) side's poo stinks too.

wv: "putpoo" - I am not making this up.

shana said...

garage mahal said:

Well, Reid might lose to someone who thinks we can overhaul our health care system by bartering with chickens.


I see this talking point all the time now; it must've been on Rachel Maddow last week or something. It is true that in rural economies, professionals used to barter their services for goods. Haven't you ever read To Kill a Mockingbird, garage? What are they teaching the kids in school these days?

Drew said...

I still use a barter system from time to time with friends who also own businesses.

Original Mike said...

More Republicans are retiring this year than Democrats. It's fun to pretend things are the way they are because you want them to be, isn't it.

I don't do predictions (I'm not smart enough), but I heard this interesting claim this morning. GOP needs 41 seats in the House. 20 are considered in the bag. And of the 35 seats considered too close to call, 34 currently belong to Dems.

And what fun is the majority anyway? If you're in the House, you passed hundreds of bills that are sitting in Senate, doing nothing.

Just as long as the bills passed by the Senate are sitting in the House.

Der Hahn said...

As to the number of seats the Dems might lose, IIRC twenty or so is the average loss for the party of the President in the mid-term election of his first term. If that's average then forty is definitely out of the question.

As to the quality of GOP candidates, I'd draw an analogy to the Dem Presidental Primary in 1992. The big name Dems (Cuomo in particualar) wound up sitting out because GHWB was so high in the polls at the time they were making their decision to run. Any good candidate is likely to already have a paying gig, and is not going to make a run for an office as a sacrafical lamb.

The way the Dems are running for the exits right and left is a good indication that the GOP is getting good candidates, and will get more.

dick said...

I am wondering if so many of the Dems who are in trouble are retiring rather than lose and also that they are trying to pass legislation that the country is against because it fits the political will of the "progressives" and they won't have to defend their vote if it fails - and it will. Look at the legislation that is being proposed by Dodd for example and the stuff that Obey and his pals are proposing. Cynical but I would not put it past that crew.

Oberon said...

Having worked for Dave, I can tell you that we're losing a great statesman. I can also tell you that the Waters "controversy" is nothing comparing to the time Dave came to blows with "Hot Tub" Tom Delay on the House Floor. There isn't good video of it, but this is when it happened: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/80223-1 at 103 minutes. I'll keep that forever, because Dave went flying out of the office after seeing Delay lie (repeatedly) on the floor (C-SPAN is always on in the office). When we saw what Dave was doing... magic.

Anyway, Dave retired based on 3 things: First, he's tired. Secondly, they passed health care reform (it's why he went to Congress, as any of his friends will tell you - and though the reform is far from perfect, he was there to get it over the hump. The next generation will tweak it). Third, it isn't worth the effort anymore unless he's chairing Appropriations. He does not want to be there when the dems lose the House. As there is a pretty good shot at that happening this term, he might as well retire to the lake.

OK, one more reason, though I think this, alone, wouldn't have made a difference: John and Charlie passing away, within a week. Two good friends and former Appropriation Members. It was sad, but Dave didn't get caught up in it, or his own mortality. Just a cherry on the sundae.

I haven't read the thread, but for anyone who thinks Dave wouldn't have won in November is fooling themselves. His competitor got tons of cash from the Wis Dental Assoc. (actually, the members) because of the pending new dental school in Marshfield (long story, but MFLD Clinic is solving the dental crisis in Wis and the WDA doesn't like it - go figure). Dave supports a $5 mil earmark for the school (the state is putting up $10 mil and MFLD is getting the other $10 from private donors). It's a hot issue but the money going to the Real World Candidate doesn't reflect AT ALL the sentiment in the district (the money coming to him was from statewide dentists, giving the max, not from actual district voters). Anyway, I'm late to the game but thought I'd educate in case anyone cares...