RED SKY IN THE MORNING - SAILOR TAKE WARNING
Yesterday morning, I happened to wake up to make the early morning run to the bathroom at Just The Right Moment - the light outside the bedroom window facing east was such a bright red it looked like the sky was on fire. The sun’s rays were hitting the clouds overhead at just the right angle for just the right instant to get the effect. In a bit over a minute, it was over.
I was immediately reminded of an old nautical saying that probably stretches back to the first ships plying their trade across the Mediterranean thousands of years ago.
“Red sky in the morning - sailor take warning. Red sky at night - sailor’s delight.”
“Red sky in the morning - sailor take warning.”
Right now I think that is good advice for we Democrats because I am coming to believe we are very close to the Democratic Party doing that which it does best: snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Vichy Democrats are sneaking out of their hiding places.
The change in leadership that happened in the House - going from the magnificent Nancy Pelosi to Hakeem Jeffries, and the change in leadership about to happen in the White House - going from Ron Klain, perhaps the most experienced and astute Democratic White House Chief of Staff to Jeff Zients, a man with no experience of a political campaign, whose only government experience was a short term in the Obama Administration and a criticized turn as the White House Covid-19 policy coordinator, following a stint as a surrender monkey in the Obama Administration, has the hair on the back of my neck standing up.
Last week, Hakeem Jeffries inserted himself into New York State Democratic politics, when he pressured local New York City Democrats who oppose the conservative judge Governor Hochul wants to impose on the State’s highest court, telling them to drop the fight and cooperate with Hochul. This happened with the New York Democrats having the clear experience of what happens when a governor appoints that kind of judge to rule on political matters following the electoral disaster this past November which was the result of rulings by conservative judges appointed by Cuomo.
Jeffries had no reason to do that, other than he has an unfortunate tendency to enjoy “sticking it” to the progressive wing of the New York Democratic Party whenever he gets the chance.
That was an unforced error.
It was the kind of stupidity that Nancy Pelosi would never have done. It is, unfortunately, evidence that her successor is a “lesser politician.”
Right now, a “lesser politician” is exactly what is not needed in Democratic leadership over the next two crucially-important years leading up to the electoral campaign of 2024.
There’s another “unforced error” going on that we’ve now been watching for most of the month: the tale of the President and his 20 year collection of classified documents.
Yes, what Biden did is completely unlike the crimes committed by his predecessor, and the way he and the White House staff are handling it is the way it’s supposed to be done. The American people are right to say - as they do in the latest Quinnipiac poll - that there is no comparison between the two events.
However, sticking with the facts is seldom the way politics works. And even when you do, there are conclusions that can be drawn that don’t work well for your side.
Having once had a job in the Navy that involved handling sensitive, classified information, I’m well aware of the requirements and the rules to do so successfully. They’re really quite simple and boil down to Don’t Be An Absent-Minded Meathead.
Finding out that the latest bunch of documents discovered at the president’s home in Delaware in a 13 hour search may date back to his time in the Senate, i.e., over 15 years ago, is dismaying.
What kind of nonchalance, what kind of absent-mindedness, what kind of forgetting the rules, what kind of entitlement to do those things, does it take to do that???
This is a completely different question from dealing with a president who wanted “cool keepsakes” as Trump has most recently defended his egregious actions. We all know Trump hasn’t got the brains to pour piss out of a boot, as the old saying goes. According to John Kelly in the new book “Donald Trump vs The United States of America,” he was “uneducated, uneducable, ignorant, and resistant to advice.”
Biden is supposed to be the opposite of that.
And yet, 15-odd years ago - after a 30+ year career in the Senate! - he takes sensitive government documents home and forgets about them? Leaves some of them to be found in boxes in his garage?
Pay attention: most definitely this is NOT a case of “bothsiderism.”
It is, however, a reminder to me that twice - in 1988 and then again in 2008 - I decided that Biden was “not the guy” I would vote for for president.
Due to unforced errors on his part.
It also tells me that the reason for the run of success these past two years has been a President with close to 50 years’ experience in politics and political office, bringing his instincts and lessons hard-learned, to collaboration with a Chief of Staff who is the canniest, most experienced, most politically-adept, most disciplined, Democratic Chief of Staff anyone can ever remember holding that position. It took that kind of institutional knowledge and political instinct on the part of both of them to accomplish what was done. And most particularly, it took a Chief of Staff with Klain’s reputation to rein in that part of Joe Biden that is “not the guy” to run for President.
And now that’s being traded for a new Chief of Staff who is the opposite of Klain, just when what is needed is More Klain.
Here’s some history many may not know, but one really hopes that Joe Biden learned his lesson the hard way from this:
Back in 2011, when the Obama Administration negotiated and got the infamous fiscal cliff deal that led to a permanent extension of the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts and an automatic formula of more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts that only ended in 2021, Harry Reid was hanging tough. Democrats held the stronger hand because the Bush tax cuts were expiring. Not reaching a deal would have brought in massive tax increases for the wealthy. Reid wanted to go over the cliff, tie it around the GOP’s neck, then negotiate a new tax plan.
But the inexperienced Obama sent Joe Biden to negotiate a deal with his old colleague Mitch McConnell behind Reid’s back. Biden and the Democrats got rolled so bad that Reid threw the White House’s proposed list of concessions into his office fireplace. When it looked like it would happen again in 2013, Reid insisted that Obama keep Biden out of the negotiations; ultimately this led to a government shutdown and lowering of the country’s credit rating, but the result was a deal with no giveaways to Republicans.
At the time, proposed Klain replacement Jeff Zients was acting OMB chief, then he then became head of Obama's National Economic Council. After Biden was sidelined as White House negotiator following the disastrous fiscal cliff deal, Zients took over. In an April 2013 press conference, he went on and on about how many cuts the administration had agreed to impose, saying: "Democrats and Republicans have worked together to cut the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion."
The deal was made at a time of slow economic and job growth, and the unnecessarily-imposed austerity made it worse, which was how Trump was able to claim the economy was “done for” in the 2016 campaign.
So let’s remember that Biden has a history of needlessly capitulating to Republicans in budget negotiations. And his new chief of staff, Jeff Zients, has demonstrated he is even worse.
The Nation posted an article today about Zients’ background. The title is “A Disaster in the Making.”
The article begins with the story of Elliot Malin, who donated a kidney to save his distant cousin Scott Kline, who was in end-stage renal failure. Although third cousins, the two men were close and Malin was happy to make the sacrifice. Unfortunately, his spirit of altruism found an opposing spirit of rapacity in the private health care company responsible for taking the kidney. The law is that living kidney donors will not be charged for their surgery. However, NorthStar Anesthesia sent Malin a bill for $13,064. NorthStar threatened to unleash a collection agency to get the money, which would have wrecked Malin’s credit. It took a call from ProPublica, which was reporting the story, to get NorthStar to acknowledge that Malin should never have been charged.
It gets worse.
NorthStar has a history of surprise medical billing. In a 2022 interview, Adam Spiegel, NorthStar’s CEO, complained that “the biggest challenge to securing anesthesia reimbursement in 2023 is the impact of the No Surprises Act. The act has tilted the scales in contract negotiations in favor of payers, making it difficult to predict future payment amounts and driving a trend of lower reimbursements in a period of increased costs of doing anesthesia.”
And then it gets really bad.
Since 2018, NorthStar has been owned by the Cranemere Group, an investment firm that bought NorthStar despite its notorious history of looting through unfair billing.
Wanna guess who the CEO who made that decision was?
The president of Cranemere Group starting in 2017 was Jeffrey Zients, whose only experience of public service since the Obama screwup was joining the Biden administration in December 2020, where he served a brief and controversial term as Covid czar that lasted a whole four months, with his resignation made in April 2021. When he was 35, Fortune estimated his net worth at $149 million.
A year of surrender under Obama and four months of public administration, and a lifetime career in vulture capitalism.
The possibility that the new chief of staff could be someone so closely tied to corporate predation should worry Democrats. It has the potential to be a political disaster.
The White House chief of staff is arguably the most important non-elected position in Washington. The chief of staff is both agenda setter and gatekeeper for the president. Fucking moron Rahm Emanuel, who served in that position during the first two years of the Obama administration, inflicted massive damage - arguably the Democrats are in the position they’re in today in terms of congressional representation due to his total fuckup of the 2010 elections.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, a nonprofit that monitors political appointments, said when Klain’s departure was announced, “Ron Klain was far from a movement progressive, but he sought out strong lines of communication with most branches of the progressive movement. Klain didn’t punch hippies even when he was choosing the path halfway between progressives and neoliberals. But most importantly, he seemed to embrace the idea that action was preferred to inaction and that progressives had roughly the right idea for the direction the administration and party ought to be taking. Considering that neither Bernie nor Warren was the nominee, the Biden administration has been a pleasant surprise. I believe Klain is more responsible for that than any other individual.”
But now, in the two crucial years before a likely rematch to finally send Donald Trump through the gates of hell to the place he’s belonged since the day he was born, an election so important that if he wins - with MAGA now knowing what to do to destroy the government beginning the afternoon of January 20, 2025, and already organized to do it - the agenda setter and gatekeeper for Joe Biden will be a guy with absolutely no experience whatsoever of political campaigns, who fucked up both government appointments he ever had.
In 2022, Daniel Boguslaw and Max Moran, both attached to the Revolving Door Project, wrote about Zients for The American Prospect. They noted:
“Over the span of two decades, the health care companies that Zients controlled, invested in, and helped oversee were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. They have also been accused of surprise-billing practices and even medical malpractice. Taken together, an examination of the companies that made Zients rich paints a picture of a man who seized on medical providers as a way to capitalize on the suffering of sick Americans. The business model Zients’s firms follow seems to be smash and grab—while also being prepared to pay the occasional fine if patients and governments object.”
That this guy - who sounds a helluva lot more like Rick Scott than he does even Joe Manchin - is considered a “Democrat” amazes me.
Biden faces only limited legislative possibilities between now and the election. Preparing for that crucial event,he needs to attain populist bona fides against DeSantis and Trump by unleashing the executive branch against the corporate criminals. But the most promising targets for Executive Branch scrutiny are industries Zients has gotten rich from, including private equity, health care, and Big Tech. What kind of advice do you think he would give Biden? How does Biden present himself as the champion of working Americans when his chief of staff is a scumbag whose companies are renowned for preying on Americans in moments of medical emergency?
Talk about an unforced error.
It’s not like there aren’t at least ten possible candidates for Chief of Staff who are at least half as qualified as Klain, making then 1,000 times more qualified than this putz. Eric Levitz of New York magazine said “Zients seems like a real step down from Klain.”
And then of course there are the Professional Surrender Monkeys that Democrats have to put up with.
Like the ever-reliable Joe Manchin, who went on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday and declared it a “mistake” for President Biden not to negotiate with House Republicans over the debt ceiling:
“This is a — this is a democracy that we have. We have a two-party system. And we should be able to talk and find out where our differences are. And if they are irreconcilable, then you have to move on from there and let the people make their decisions.”
I have never been able to figure out if he was born blind from all the hillbilly inbreeding, or if he just loves being a fucking moron.
Not to be outdone, New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer went on “Fox News Sunday” and said “I’m optimistic they will sit down, as this White House always has, and that’s why we were able to accomplish so much in a bipartisan way last Congress. It takes constructive conversation. There’s things that are reasonable on the table, and there are things that are unreasonable.”
At least Gottheimer said “Gutting Social Security and Medicare is unreasonable.” Manchin said the cuts proposed by Republicans are “not going to happen. Take that off the board right now and look at ways that we have wasteful spending that we can be held accountable and responsible.”
Even Donald Trump tweeted a “truth”: “Republicans must not cut one penny from Social Security and Medicare.”
Then, going back to the unforced error of keeping government documents for 15+ years, we have Dick Durbin, who embarrassed himself on “Face the Nation” when he said President Biden is “diminished” by the situation. “At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.” Joe Manchin was worse, saying Biden “should have a lot of regrets” and questioning whether we know whether Biden’s or Trump’s actions are more egregious.
For this go-round, Biden is president and can’t be sidelined. So far, he has talked a good game, saying that he won't negotiate. That remains to be seen.
He’s surrounded by the typical Democrats who run the white flag of surrender up the pole and then say “Let’s negotiate.”
Red sky in the morning - sailor take warning.
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I am astounded to read about the new WH Chief of Staff. Just another amoral guy out for a few more quick millions. The dems rarely hold the line. Thanks for all the insight TC. But it brings zero comfort.
Does anyone else wonder how many former Senators & Vice Presidents have classified documents in their boxes of "stuff" from their time in D.C.?