Slate: The Coalition of the Swilling Gabfest
Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.
Updated Friday, July 31, 2009, at 6:47 PM
Get your free 14-day trial membership of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's recommendation comes from listener Gretel Uptegrove, who suggests The Blood of Flowers, written by Anita Amirrezvaniand narrated by Shoreh Aghdashloo. (She played Ben Kingsley's wife in The House of Sand and Fog.) Gretel says that Aghdashloo's "voice is like honey and just amazing to listen to."
Emily Bazelon, Christopher Beam, and John Dickerson talk politics. This week: Judge Sotomayor makes it through a week of hearings, health care moves toward front and center, and Dick Cheney is back in the news.
Sonia Sotomayor started and concluded her testimony in front of the Senate judiciary committee this week, with senators predicting a vote on her nomination in early August. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wrote that the testimony was a missed opportunity for both parties, and others agree that the "advise and consent" process as it exists is a waste of time. That Judge Sotomayor failed to elucidate a strong liberal judicial philosophy generated satisfaction among conservatives. Whether Sotomayor's temperate performance makes a more traditional liberal nomination less likely for future vacancies is up for debate. What the whole exercise did make clear is that Sotomayor is not the dread "judicial activist" but rather a moderate, as even Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn acknowledged. At this point, the question is mostly how many votes Sotomayor will receive; the Intrade prediction markets think at least 75.
The Senate health, education, labor, and pensions committee passed its health care reform bill out of conference. Progress was slower in the House, however, as conservative Democrats raised contradictory concerns about the cost of the bill and the cost-cutting measures in the bill. President Obama is pushing to have a bill completed before the August recess, but various senators and outside observers have opined that reform is moving too quickly. And even when there was good news for the president's push, such as the American Medical Association's unexpected endorsement of reform schemes including public options, bad news followed: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office announced that it does not expect federal savings from the Democratic bills currently circulating in Congress. Because President Obama has staked much of his long-term fiscal strategy on reining in health care spending ("bending the curve," as John discussed in his exchange with Office of Management and Budget head Peter Orszag), failure puts the rest of his agenda and the nation's fiscal security at risk.
CIA chief Leon Panetta disclosed a secret CIA assassination program about which Congress was never briefed. Reports suggest that former Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA to withhold the existence of the program from the members of Congress whom it is required by law to brief about covert actions. Though the existence of the program is now public, Shane Harris wrote an article for Slate describing the weighty outstanding questions that are stirring Washington. These revelations may vindicate Nancy Pelosi, who claimed that the CIA lies to Congress (or at least withholds information it needs to provide).
Emily chatters about the Gabfest drinking game that was created and sent in by listener Guy Boo. It identifies frequent phrases and verbal tics of the Gabbers as cues for drinking and will undoubtedly make listening to the Gabfest more intoxicating. You can find the rules of the game on our Facebook page.
Chris chatters about Infinite Summer, a global bibliophilic challenge to read David Foster Wallace's epically long Infinite Jest. Participants are blogging the book as the reading proceeds, providing the type of reading community that most listeners probably haven't had since college. If you started reading at the beginning of the summer, you had to knock off only about 75 pages a week; with about one-third of the summer gone now, the pace has climbed to about 110 pages weekly.
John chatters about the woefully short paid maternity leave provided to employees of the U.S. federal government. Federal employees receive only one week paid leave, much less than is provided in some peer nations. (John mentions that Germany provides three months paid leave.)
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter.
John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his series on the presidency and his series on risk. Follow him on Twitter.