The Big Question: Most memorable, important political event of '09?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's Question:

What's the most memorable, important, or crucial political moment of 2009?


Peter Edelman, professor of Law at Georgetown University, said:

The most crucial political moment of 2009 was the Senate vote on the health bill.   That the Democrats could get 60 votes was a huge accomplishment.  That no Republican would join is an enormous indictment of that side of the aisle.  The bill is far from all that many of us think is needed.  But it is a significant start and that is truly historic. 


Hal Lewis, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:

When the Democrats achieved their goal of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and could now rule by edict. That includes spending the national treasury (to which they now have the key) to pay off the people who got them there.


Brad Delong, professor of Economics at the UC Berkley, said:

It has to be the three anti-filibuster health care votes in the senate the week before Christmas...

Think of it: Harry Reid comes up with what is Mitt Romney's health care reform plan--what Romney proposed and pushed through in Massachusetts when governor, only moved to steps to the right with less government involvement in health care service delivery and with large future Medicare cuts incorporated into the bill.

Barack Obama throws his weight behind the bill. Rahm Emmanuel gets out the rubber hose and the blackjack and uses it on every single liberal who says: "But this is a Republican health care reform plan! This is Mitt Romney's plan! Where is the Democratic plan!"

And yet something more conservative than Mitt Romney's health care reform plan cannot attract a single Republican vote.

And then the usual suspects--David Broder and company--accuse Obama of insufficient bipartisanship.

It was truly an astonishing moment...


Anthony Sisneros, professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield, said:

The nomination of  Sonia Sotomayor for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice rates as the most important moment of 2009.  However, this moment did not substitute for the promise to reform immigration reform.

John Zogby, founder, president and CEO of Zogby International, said:

No doubt, the Inauguration of an African-American president. He is the First Global Citizen to be elected.


Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist, said:

Most memorable moment - obviously President Obama's Inaguration. Second, Arlen Spector's defection - which solidified the Republican Party's slide into right wing hysteria.

Peter Navarro, professor of Economics and Public Policy at U.C. Irvine, said:

The most crucial political moment of 2009 was the failure – twice – of Treasury Secretary Geithner and President Obama to brand China a currency manipulator.  There will be no long-term economic recovery without a revitalization of our manufacturing base and there will be no manufacturing base without trade reform with China.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said:

In the long term, the Open Government Initiative will have the greatest impact, along with the related accountability/transparency effort.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

The Congressional joke on AIG bonuses was the most memorable moment. The overwhelming majority of the members of the House voted to stop the AIG bonuses back in March, when it was revealed that the crew that wrecked the huge insurer (now on taxpayer life-support) was about to get more than $300 million in bonuses for their work. President Obama also denounced the bonuses as an outrage.

But, the boys and girls in Congress quickly forgot their anger and the bonuses went through as scheduled. Now, the AIG kingpin is getting close to $10 million a year in pay and bonuses, with many of the underlings not far behind. The heads of Fannie and Freddie are pulling down $6 million a year.

So, the story is that everyone in a position of political power is absolutely outraged at the pay of the people in the financial institutions that wrecked the economy and had to run to the government hat in hand to survive. Unfortunately, none of the people in a position of power are smart enough to think of a way to stop these bloated salaries.


Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, said:

For me, the most memorable event of 2009 was President Obama's Cairo speech. In it the president apologized for our national role across the globe and promised to be sensitive to the concerns of Arab states. That apology set in motion a view that the U.S. had been wrong in pursing its foreign policy goals. It seemingly presaged a period in which the U.S. would withdraw from international commitments, and the speech apparently overlooked the fact that terrorism emerged from an interpretation of the Koran. As I see it, this speech overturned decades of foreign policy positions embraced by both parties. The president seemed intent on ushering in a new stance, but one, as I think about it, that will ultimately be destabilizing and dangerous.


Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

I would rate the Senate's passage of health care reform legislation as the single most significant political development of 2009.  It has been clear from the outset that the Senate was going to be the key hurdle for health care reform because of the need to get 60 votes to defeat a GOP filibuster.  Although some hurdles remain in reconciling the House and Senate versions of the legislation, now that a major health care reform bill has passed the Senate it is almost certain that President Obama will sign legislation into law early in 2010.  By expanding and protecting access to health care for millions of Americans, this law will promises to produce the most important change in social policy in this country since the Great Society.  It also promises to set the stage for a deeply divisive midterm election campaign and, beyond that, a stark choice between President Obama and a strongly conservative Republican nominee in 2012.

It appears that the health care debate has accelerated the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party, a development that holds grave dangers for the GOP in light of the ongoing transformation of the U.S. electorate.  By 2012, African-Americans, Latinos, and other nonwhites could comprise close to 30% of the electorate yet the GOP appears to be doubling down on white conservatives with its "just say no" agenda.


Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Two events: The outpouring of support for Obama began a turning to the negative when he spontaneously came to support his Cambridge professor friend over a Boston cop last summer, choosing Harvard Yard over Fenway Park. It was like one of those little psychological tests and Obama picked the wrong card. Then the rising of a third party – the Conservative Party – to second party of influence in the NY 23 race in the fall. The century will awaken between those two dates; receding from the first and ascending from the second.