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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Senator Quicksilver and the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008

Also last Tuesday was my guest-post at HughHewitt.com regarding Sen. Barack Obama's latest big legislative triumph (except it's actually pretty puny).


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

On the morning before the third presidential debate, October 14th, I wrote here that I wished moderator Bob Schieffer would ask Sen. Barack Obama a serious question about his utter inability, during almost four years as a U.S. Senator, to see enacted into law any major piece of legislation that he had actually drafted and for which he had been the principal sponsor (as opposed to co-sponsoring bills that other senators had written and introduced). Of course, Schieffer didn't ask anything remotely close to this question, and nor will any of the other old-media reporters now covering Sen. Obama on a daily basis.

The absence of such an accomplishment on Sen. Obama's part, I wrote, is particularly stunning given that during the last two years, his own party has controlled both the House and Senate, and he's either been among his party's two most likely nominees for the presidency or its certain nominee. Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi haven't even bothered to much engage in the pretense that he's an effective legislator — precisely because they know better, and they instead expect him to compliantly sign whatever they send up Pennsylvania Avenue starting in January 2009.

I noted in my post, however, that in addition to managing the passage of a relatively minor 2006 bill to provide financial relief and promote stability in the Congo, Sen. Obama — after being tweaked on the subject before 30 million people by Gov. Palin in her nomination acceptance speech at the GOP convention — had finally managed to write and pass in late September another minor bill, originally known as the "Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2007," but now known as the "Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008."

Like almost everything else for which Sen. Obama has claimed credit since coming to the U.S. Senate, this bill too was passed without so much as a single dissenting vote in either chamber of Congress. And sure enough, on the very night of the debate, President Bush signed it into law, making it Public Law No. 110-414.

I'm not saying this was a bad bill, or a frivolous bill; to the contrary, it appears to be a modest but useful effort to address a particular environmental problem (although one wonders whether careless mercury buyers and users abroad won't just find alternate sources on the world market). Sen. Obama's Senate website has a nice press release, which notes that the bill was supported by "the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Council of the States, American Chemistry Council, the National Mining Association, and the Chlorine Institute," so it doesn't appear that Sen. Obama had to stand up to entrenched corporate interests to get this bill passed.

But you can draw your own conclusions as to just how cosmically insignificant Obama's legislative accomplishment is from the fact that — despite the mainstream media's infatuation with Obama and its desire to portray him as competent for the presidency — this new law has been virtually ignored. From the day it passed the Senate (September 26th), through the day it passed the House (September 29th), through the day President Bush signed it into law (October 14th), though today, according to my advanced search request on Google News using the term "mercury export ban," neither the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC/NBC News, nor even Reuters has bothered to mention it. A story from the Environmental News Service did manage to get picked up for republication by the local NBC affiliate in Chicago, and the Associated Press issued a report that was picked up by a small handful of newspapers, the most prominent among them the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Perhaps it's occurred to them that by reporting on this new law, they actually only highlight just how pathetic Sen. Obama's total legislative record is. (That certainly has occurred to me.)

Turning to plain old Google as an alternative means for judging the significance of this legislation at least indirectly, the phrase "Mercury Export Ban Act" (in quotation marks) returns, as of this moment, 2290 results. By comparison, however, "McCain-Feingold," to pick just one of Sen. McCain's major pieces of legislation, returns about 364,000 results.

While it's true that much of the legislation with Sen. McCain's name and fingerprints on it has been controversial — indeed, to the point of causing much gnashing of teeth amongst the members of his own party — no one can deny that John McCain has been a workhorse in the U.S. Senate, including during years when the GOP didn't control the Senate, House, and/or presidency. Sen. Obama, by contrast, is the very definition of a show-horse, when he's bothered to show up at all. (Both candidates have understandably missed many recent votes while campaigning for president, but in Sen. McCain's case, that doesn't amount to half of his total Senate career, as it does with Sen. Obama.)

I still think Sen. McCain scored an even more accurate hit with his Freudian slip in the third debate, when he called Sen. Obama "Senator Government."

But elemental mercury, of course, was known in classical times as "quicksilver." "Senator Quicksilver" has a nice ring to it too, and seems awfully apt for describing a candidate who's noted for his silver tongue but who's hard to pin down, and who, if elected, will very likely become toxic to the national economy.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 06:48 PM in 2008 Election, Congress, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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