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Posted by on Mar 5, 2010 in Politics | 16 comments

On the Horns of the Democratic Dilemma

President Obama seems to have teed up the Democrats this week, and once again the Republicans are looking to hit one out of the park. Were this story found in a Nero Wolfe mystery we might have called it, “A Muddle of Mathesons.” The question which we, as observers, are left to wrestle with is, was it a case of blatant nepotism and bribery or simply astoundingly tone-deaf idiocy?

In case you missed it, the story in question is two-fold. Part one consists of President Obama appointing Utah jurist Scott Matheson to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nothing unusual there. The President has to make these appointments all the time, and by all accounts I’ve seen, Scott is highly qualified and has been on the short list for a while.

Part two of our tale involves the President (also yesterday) calling a dozen or so wavering House members in for a chat about health care reform. Again, no big surprise there. The health care reform battle is in real trouble for the Democrats and Obama is scrambling for every bit of support he can find. Again, this is perfectly normal and Obama is within his rights to do so.

The story leaps from there straight into Bizzaro World, however, when we discover that one of the House members invited in for the cozy chat was Utah Congressman Jim Matheson. And no, the name is no coincidence. The Congressman is Scott Matheson’s brother. And these two events took place only a few hours apart. Now tell me… what’s the first thing that leaped to mind when you read that?

Of course, when asked, all parties concerned declared that any suspicions about some sort of quid pro quo being in the air were just silly. The always enjoyable Steve Benen, an unabashed Obama cheerleader, was quick to point out the obvious reason why there was no sort of a deal going on. Because they said so! Weren’t you listening?

Rep. Matheson’s spokesperson called the question “patently ridiculous.” A White House official called the question “absurd.” …

Is there any evidence — anything at all — to suggest the Matheson nomination is related in any way to getting his brother’s vote on health care? No. There’s literally nothing.

And of course, Steve is correct. If this were some sort of shady deal, both the President and Congressman Matheson would have had to complete and file a copy of Federal Form 2010-EYE-KAN-BE-BRIBED. No such form was submitted, so clearly you’re all a bunch of suspicious nanny nanny boo-boos.

But seriously, the sad part of this story is that there may actually not be anything going on under the covers here. But in some ways, that’s almost worse than a back room deal being struck. After the cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, we’ve grown somewhat accustomed to the Democrats slinging around cash and favors to find votes for their health care scheme. But No-Drama Obama was supposed to be – if nothing else – a consumate politician with the instincts required to win these sorts of battles. Could he not see what the optics of this would be? As my radio partner, The Lady Logician points out, it’s all about the timing.

In light of Ben “the Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson and Mary “Louisiana Purchase” Landrieu, the electorate is not going to see this as a qualified candidate getting a well deserved appointment. They are going to see this in the worst light possible – that this is an overt attempt to bribe Jim Matheson to vote for this bill. Whether he realizes it or not, President Obama just threw Jim Matheson under the bus. For whether he votes for Obama Care or not, the perception of impropriety is already there. Nothing Congressman Matheson says or does will remove the taint.

I’d go one step further than that. Obama may have just ensured that he lost another vote on health care. How can Matheson possibly vote for it now? He would be virtually taking out a political advertisement stating that his vote was up for sale. If this wasn’t a votes for favors scandal – and it likely wasn’t given the judge’s credentials – it was one of the stupidest political moves seen in a season already chock full of ham handed wowzers.

Much like the Lady Logician, I rarely find myself nodding my head in agreement with Michelle Malkin, but I have to say she’s spot on here.

Is the White House so fantastically blind and tone-deaf that it failed to detect the blood-red flags and blaring alarm bells that Scott Matheson’s judicial nomination would raise coming on the very day President Obama is wooing his brother, Jim?

It would have been so easy to either leave Scott’s appointment on the back burner until later in the year or simply not invite Jim to the meeting. Either one would have turned this into a non-story. And yet the administration couldn’t see this coming. It’s stunning, really. But not in a good way.

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  • Cindy Whitehair

    Jazz – just a minor correction. Scott Matheson Jr is not currently a sitting jurist. He is a legal scholar though (along the lines of Sam Alito before he got his first judicial appointment to the Court of Appeals).

    “He would be virtually taking out a political advertisement stating that his vote was up for sale.”

    Congressman Matheson’s detractors on the left would argue that he already does sell his vote to lobbyists on a daily basis. This is part of the conundrum that Rep. Matheson now finds himself in…..


    • JSpencer

      along the lines of Sam Alito

      Now there’s a low standard to invoke.

    • Hence why I didn’t say “sitting.” But given his former position as a U.S. Attorney, as well as a professor, he meets the definition(s) of “Jurist” which includes, “a legal scholar versed in civil law or the law of nations.”

  • Schadenfreude_lives

    Of course nothing untoward is going on. These are Democrats!

    Didn’t you get the memo? Only Republicans are corrupt.

    • JSpencer

      The GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on corruption, I think we all know that. The dems are just a little less sociopathic. 😉

  • New Cat

    Another good article Jazz and another good reason for me to continue to read this blog.

    If this were some sort of shady deal, both the President and Congressman Matheson would have had to complete and file a copy of Federal Form 2010-EYE-KAN-BE-BRIBED. No such form was submitted, so clearly you’re all a bunch of suspicious nanny nanny boo-boos.”

    Thanks for the humor it calmed me down a little, and I needed that today. I had me Blackthorn stick all ready to whack some idiots.

  • DLS

    Have fun, Dim-Dim-Dimmies. [chuckle] So many of them are compromised. All year they’ve misread the election results and lunged left, and totally bound themselves with health care “reform.” Even now they are trying to force through bad, excessive legislation, so desperate they’re relying on underhanded abuse of a formal procedure (which even members of their own party are saying is the wrong thing to do — they can do it, just as with welfare reform, but not for something non-budgetary that’s mammoth in its scope as well as blatantly partisan, that is so bad it’s even needed bribes of some Democrats to make it this far, already). The reconciliation stunt is lowly but even is almost relegated to a non-issue compared to the nature of the legislation, what this means for the Dems’ future prospects in November, and what it means for other resumed wrongful excess legislation and what this, too, means for November prospects.

    What we’re seeing now among some Dems is renewed concern about November as well as about the nature of the legislation being tried to be rammed through to cure the Dems’ desperation. Stupak and people like him are far from the only Dems being whipsawed (or impaled on dilemma horns) about this.

    You’ve made your predicament entirely on your own, from your own misdeeds, Dems. Work it out now.

  • dduck12

    A simple coincidence, they wouldn’t be that stupid. Which they are not, just misguided sometimes.

    • Schadenfreude_lives

      A simple coincidence, they wouldn’t be that stupid.

      Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity – Hanlon’s razor

      • dduck12

        Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity – Hanlon’s razor

        “You can observe a lot just by watching.” -Yogi

  • Rambie

    Oh Jazz, I know you’re better than this and can vet your sources more thoroughly.

    As a Utah resident this hits close to home and even Orin Hatch said this is NON-political and has been in the works for months: “Hatch said he knew Scott Matheson was going to be the nominee more than a month ago and disputes any idea that Obama was trying to get a vote for the nomination.” “I can assure you [of] that,” Hatch said. “I don’t think Jim would change because of it anyway.”

    Remember what state we’re talking about here Jazz, Utah. If the state was any more red it’d be outside the visual spectrum. The local joke here is, a Democrat from Utah is a moderate Republican in any other state. It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true.

    The Matheson family has been well known to most any Utahan that pays any attention to politics for decades. Their father, Scott Matheson Sr, was the Governor of Utah in the late 70’s The Mathesons are not -and have never been- far left liberals from father to sons. Their father (previous Utah Gov) was a downwinder and as such, his sons have fought to keep that from occurring to other families. That is the only thing that the local far-right ever criticizes them about.

  • DLS

    “Orin Hatch”

    Poor Orrin Hatch — I heard him on the radio today having to shrug off being the object of Rachel Maddow’s latest illogical mini-tantrum, calling him a liar because apparently he’s critical of the bad health care “reform” legislation and constitutes a threat to the kids getting their candy quickly.

    • Rambie

      Don’t you worry about “poor” Orin DLS, he maybe older but he’s still plenty feisty!

      Orin Hatch is my senator. He and I don’t see eye-to-eye too often, we’ve talked via letters and phone calls (only talked to him once but talk to his staff mostly), but I still respect him because he seems to stand by his convictions.

  • orsonbuggeigh

    Great. Just. Great. We have had almost two years of being told how wonderfully competent the candidate, now President is because he is a Harvard Law graduate, and a great intellectual to boot. We’ve been told at length that the nation could expect efficient, transparent government because Mr. Obama is a Harvard graduate. Unlike the previous president, who has been categorized by the Democratic Party faithful as slightly above moronic, and barely able to tie his own shoes. Or the Democratic partisans who claimed that Sara Palin was incompetent and unqualified to be President because she wasn’t a Harvard graduate, but went to several places before graduating from the University of Idaho (Idaho!!).

    OK, so will all you members of the Democratic faithful explain to me how this great intellectual could turn out to be so clueless? It’s not like this is the first time. Roland Burris, Cap and Trade, Health Care Reform that the public says it doesn’t want, and White House press events that the press are not invited to attend – and now the apparent pay for play for judges. Swell. He went to Harvard. And he is clueless about providing clean, efficient, transparent government.

  • elrod

    The straw men here are amazing. Is the argument here that appointing Matheson might look like part of a corrupt deal and so it was a bad idea – even though even Utah Republicans recognize there was nothing wrong? This is a case of conservatives believing their own propaganda about “Chicago-style politics”. If there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong.

    The problem with the Cornhusker Kickback was that there was something actually wrong with it. Presumably our journalistic class is not too lazy to actually investigate this sort of thing. If Obama did, in fact, offer a judgeship in exchange for a yea vote on health care then this would be a case of both corruption and incompetence. But lacking any such evidence, this is little more than baseless whining from the right.

  • shannonlee

    Wow…This is so see through that it might as well be invisible. We are seeing the last throws of the Rep HCR insurgency. We have reached the point of no shame….straight from the FOX news propoganda machine.

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