By placing a "blanket hold" on President Barack Obama's nominees for federal positions, Shelby attempted one of the most noxious political stunts in modern American history. When he removed the hold, Shelby essentially admitted the tactic had been a brazen attempt to coerce the White House into sending billions of dollars of earmarked funds to Alabama--that the holds had nothing to do with qualifications of the nominees.
As a progressive living in Birmingham, I get tired of our conservative "leaders" taking actions that put a black mark on a state that actually has quite a few nice qualities. We jumped on Shelby's case here and here--and we are pleased to report that others, from near and far, have joined the fray.
Birmingham-based Glynn Wilson, writing at truthout.org, says Shelby long has been a puppet for defense contractors:
Shelby has been trying to get a new FBI crime lab opened in Alabama, and he has been trying for months to strong arm the Air Force into reversing a legitimate bid of $35 billion as part of a $100 billion contract granted to Boeing to build refueling tankers for the military. Shelby wanted the contract to go to Northrop Grumman/EADs, a company which has given heavily to finance his campaigns and would have assembled the tankers in his home state.
According to Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for Center for Responsive Politics, campaign finance research indicated that Shelby has a close relationship with the defense industry, to put it mildly.
"During the past 20 years, the defense aerospace, defense electronics and miscellaneous defense industries all rank among his top 15 campaign donors by industry," Levinthal said. "Together, employees and political action committees associated with these industries have contributed more than $1.2 million to Sen. Shelby."
Shelby also has been a steadfast friend to the financial-services sector and other corporate interests. Writes Wilson:
According to files publicly available at OpenSecrets.Org, Shelby is backed by not only the military-industrial complex, but also by the big banks, which benefit from Shelby's support for deregulation on the powerful Senate Banking Committee. He is also heavily supported by power companies, coal companies, telecommunication giants such as AT&T and the big insurance companies which obtained billions of dollars in government bailout money under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, says Shelby's antics are symbolic of a government that has grown dysfunctional:
The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.
That, however, is not likely to happen, Krugman writes:
Don't hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don't even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents' obstructionism.
It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of "silliness." Yep, that will really resonate with voters.
Keith Olbermann, of MSNBC, notes that Shelby is a world-class hypocrite. Shelby decried obstructionist tactics when a Republican, George W. Bush, was in the White House. But now that a Democrat resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Shelby is leading the obstructionist charge. Says Olbermann:
The senator who is deliberately keeping American intelligence understaffed so he can get $35 billion to go to a foreign company from whose teat he sucks is . . . Richard Shelby, of Alabama.
Ganging up on Richard Shelby, it turns out, is great sport. And we are proud to be in some fine company.