Cliff DivingMaureen Dowd fist bumps Barack Obama’s Democrats:

One minute they were legislative losers, squabbling and scrambling for the off-ramps. The next they were history-makers, sharing chest bumps and goose bumps at the White House. How had the lofty president and the wily speaker suddenly steered them off Jimmy Carter Highway and onto F.D.R. Drive?

One gleeful and relieved White House aide called the bill-signing ceremony in the East Room, packed with Democratic lawmakers snapping pictures and acting like obstreperous children, “an Old Spice moment.”

“You could see it in their faces,” he said. “It was kind of like that Old Spice ad where the guy smacked himself on the cheeks and said, ‘Wow, that feels good!’ It was like they smacked themselves on the cheeks and said, ‘You are a member of Congress and now you can start doing things. Wow, that feels good!’ ”

David Axelrod agreed: “It was incredibly moving to be in that room today. This was such an emotional high that I actually saw congressmen hugging senators. People are so used to low expectations around here that the idea that you could do something big and meaningful is exhilarating.”

The Democrats held hands, held their breath and jumped over the cliff — not that it was a radical bill. And, mirabile dictu, nothing awful happened. The markets went up. The polls went up. Their confidence went up.

I think you can hear Tennessee Democrats jumping over some cliffs too these days. #clang

T/F/B: Julie Rants and Raves

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Vote for Lamar for Best HypocriteOK, so we know and have known for a while that Republicans are hypocrites. And, yes, Lamar Alexander does deserve to win the top prize in Keith’s “Hypocrisy Hall of Shame” (vote here!) for simultaneously voting “no” for the stimulus while applying to the federal government for stimulus dollars for a project that he crows would “create over 200 jobs in the first year and at least another 40 new jobs in the following years.”

So if Republicans are hypocrites, what are Democrats?

Democrats are right, of course.

We’re finding more and more evidence that Republicans – on both the state and federal level – are on the ground taking credit for all the good the stimulus dollars have done for their communities and constituents while at the same time pandering to their base with language that is strikingly opposite. (As an aside, if you don’t believe all politics is local then now would be a good time to take a second look.)

More important than the award-winning hypocrisy of the right (I mean, really, is anyone surprised?) is why Democrats aren’t on the ground talking to and engaging the constituents in their communities? Because the crazy thing is that Democrats can have one-on-one conversations or town hall meetings and take credit for the public structures that are meaningful to their constituents and that are strengthened by stimulus dollars, and then have the same conversations when they’re talking to larger groups – like the press or their brethren on the House and Senate floors – without even a trace of hypocrisy.

Why? Because their base and the people who Republicans are talking to when THEY are on the ground in their districts taking credit for creating jobs, etc. value the exact same things – good jobs, affordable health care, infrastructure development that creates good jobs. It’s a no brainer but for some reason Democrats refuse to go there. Instead, they go somewhere else to appeal to the people who would never vote for anyone with a “D” beside their name anyway.

Ironic, ain’t it?

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The Memphis Flyer gets it. When the judge “declined last week to issue the injunction sought by plaintiffs trying to force the hand of stonewalling state election authorities,” he potentially signed a death warrant for the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act – and secure and accurate elections for Tennesseans.

Without such an injunction, it seems clear that Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state Election Coordinator Mark Goins will attempt to run the clock out until January when the legislature convenes again. And the Republican majorities in both houses, fully alert now to how the game is being played, will pick up where they left off in the 2009 legislative session. That was when, on the eve of the General Assembly’s adjournment, they tried to vote a postponement of the act’s provisions until after the 2010 election cycle but narrowly failed to do so, essentially because a handful of key GOP members happened to be elsewhere on the day of the vote.

That oversight will be corrected in January, when party discipline will rule the day. The reality is that Democrats want the TVCA in effect for the 2010 election cycle and the Republicans don’t. The GOP will have the votes, and all that remains to be seen is whether the act is merely postponed or amended or quashed altogether.

Tennesseans deserve to secure and accurate elections – the kind that we can’t get now because the voting machines we use simply do not work.

The TVCA will replace the broken system we have now – where a machine votes for us under cover of a secret black box – with one in which we have a piece of paper that actually records the intent of each voter correctly – and which we can rely on for recounts and audits.

Why are they still dragging their feet?

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Benintn writing for Daily Kos adds his thoughts about Jackson Day. Many of the attendees brought to their feet by Al Gore’s rousing speech were, he writes, “mostly Southerners – many from rural communities – many “Blue Dogs.” What does that mean? It means Tennesseans should stop spreading the prevailing myth of Southern domination by the Republican party:

We have a 5-4 majority of Democrats in Congress and a Democratic governor. (And while Gov. Phil Bredesen is hardly a radical, he is someone who has a lifelong connection to the Democratic Party and who understands the need for good government and effective leadership.)

Gore made two simple points: We have a moral obligation to provide care for the least of these, and it makes good business sense for us to manage our economy effectively.

That’ll preach – even in Tennessee.

Republicans in Tennessee have tried to play the Reagan game for too long now. As my state representative, Mike Turner, said earlier this year, “Republicans run for office complaining about how corrupt and ineffective the government is, and then they get into office and prove it.” The GOP strategy is simple – get members of our democracy to forget that we are the government, and make government into some scary “THEY”. (Then give big handouts to your corporate donors to make sure that you can buy more votes and fool more people.)

We might be rednecks, but we’re not stupid. Tennesseans don’t want to be talked down to, and they don’t want to be taken for granted. But our state still leans blue – and we want courageous leadership, not centrist waffling.

We also want clear, consistent messaging and Vice President Gore helped us with that as well:

But let me tell you one thing that really impressed me about the service today. They had a passage that had been written by Senator Kennedy about his religious faith. And he said that the center of his Christian faith was the Gospel of Matthew. And many of you know the famous passage that begins in chapter 25 where Jesus says to the gathering that, “You gave me food when I was hungry. You gave me water when I was thirsty. And when I was sick, you cared for me.” And they said, “Lord, Master, when did we do these things?” And he said, “When you did these things for the least among us, you did it for me.”

[Applause]

And let me tell you, we hear a lot of talk about liberal and conservative, and left and right, but let me tell you – ladies and gentlemen, when there are tens of millions of people – IN OUR COUNTRY – who cannot afford or get access to healthcare, WE HAVE A MORAL DUTY TO PASS HEALTHCARE REFORM. And we need to pass it this year.

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Yesterday I spoke with Bob Moser, the author of Blue Dixie: Awakening the South’s Democratic Majority who made the case that Tennessee is not a deep shade of red but rather a pretty aubergine. He also gave Tennessee’s progressives clues on how we can awaken the state’s inner blue.

This morning, we take the conversation one step further and speak with two Tennessee Democrats who are in the trenches and working to implement some of the strategies outlined in Moser’s book.

Guests include Maria Brewer, chairperson of the Sumner County Democratic Party and Jordan Huffman, Vice-Chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party and the Vice President of the Tennessee Federation of College Democrats.

Also joining the show today will be Eric Boehlert of Media Matters for America, to talk about Almost-One-Term-Governor Sarah Palin and her “No Mas” moment.

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Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate, incisively addresses a fundamental question I ask repeatedly: What the hell does “victory” constitute in Iraq? He discovers that the goalposts have moved repeatedly throughout the war. Most frustratingly, he concludes that in their current position, the goalposts are so far down the field as to make winning essentially impossible.

Republican hawks, like the neoconservative establishment that swarms like vultures in the upper echelons of the Bush administration, probably are drooling at McCain’s hints at 100 years of occupation and permanent military bases. There is a strain of foreign policy enthusiasts that equates our military with our democracy overseas. This idea should concern all Americans.

But Bush’s war should especially concern Democrats. Frustrated anti-war types who think we’re not withdrawing quickly enough should get ready for an infinite Indian summer. Obama’s “judgment” about going into Iraq might have been courageous and sound, but his track record in the Senate reveals just how unstable the ground in “on the ground” really is. And though Clinton reassures us that, as president, she never would’ve taken us into Iraq, she did, in fact, with her vote, do just that. And she, too, with subsequent votes, has had difficulty backing away from the fire that her 9/11 patriotic pyromania caused her to help spark.

Because the Bush administration has been so undefining, so abstract, about its vision for what it is on the ground that would allow us to consider reducing and ultimately removing our military presence from Iraq, Democrats and paleoconservative Republicans are going to find the hawkish mouthpieces in as much of an uproar as the conservative judicial establishment was when Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. These are the same people who cry out in patriotic pain when our military spending doesn’t increase fast enough to overtake our WWII levels and pushes us to outspending every other country in the world on defense combined.

Ultimately, I think Obama’s vision of engaging the world and returning to non-cowboy diplomacy with a rich diplomatic establishment could be the most refreshing restart of the 21st century for America. Using the State Department rather than the Department of Defense for strengthening democracies around the world would return us to a position of advocating our values without doing it at gunpoint. And while he does this, he’s actually going to go after terrorists, which would be a nice change of pace. Remember Osama bin Laden?

But even Obama is going to have to stare down the post-Cheney neoconservative bullies with tremendous courage. The Rush Limbaughs and Bill Kristols and Sean Hannitys of the world have tasted blood, and like sharks, they love it and are ready to frenzy. For these men, violence and aggression are so much the means that one is left to wonder whether they are also the end.

For those who, like me, would prefer to dismantle the military industrial complex (without sacrificing our national security) to honor Eisenhower, I present a short listing of resources worth a look as we pursue alternative pathways to peace:

Unfortunately, the anti-war movement always seems to draw from anti-establishment crowds (ANSWER, anyone?) that have no interest in ever engaging with mainstream Americans. If you know of any other credible organizations that specifically advocate forcefully for a reduction in our defense spending, please let me know.

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