Thursday, September 3, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: 'Buy American' Stimulus $ Controversy, Mass. Senate Seat Contest & Sawyer Gets ABC Anchor Desk

'Buy American' Stimulus Money Controversy

The Boston Globe ran a disturbing page one story about how some of the $787 billion in federal stimulus money, which was supposed to be used to put Americans back to work and help keep American companies stay afloat, is being spent on products made in other countries. The Globe reported:

"As local governments race to spend stimulus money, many are seeking exemptions from the law's 'Buy American' restrictions, which were intended to prevent taxpayer money from ending up on foreign pockets. The administration has granted waivers for goods as varied as steel for public housing projects, high-speed Internet equipment, and Auburn's (Maine) manhole covers, which have heavy-duty hinges to help withstand the town's heavy truck traffic.

The Obama administration could not provide a list or amount of waivers granted -- which potentially could total billions of dollars -- and Vice President Joe Biden's office, which has responsibility for overseeing the stimulus, did not respond to requests for comment."

However when I read this line, "the EPA issued a blanket exemption for foreign-made components last month as long as they do not amount to more than 5 percent of a stimulus project's cost," I had to wonder exactly how much money we're talking about being spent on foreign made goods. Granted, President Obama and Congress sold this stimulus package as a Put-America-Back-to-Work program, but have apparently, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of distributing the funds, administration officials have quietly decided to alter the program's dictates after the fact, making it a Put-America-Back-to-Work-Except-If-Some-Entities-Using-Federal-Money-Really-Want-Foreign-Products.

In order to figure out just how big of a deal this really is, we need to know exactly how much is being spent on non-American goods and whether there's any truth to what "critics" of the "Buy American" clause in the stimulus plan say, that "the waivers reflect the reality that the United States no longer makes many basic goods, and that in a global economy many products are assembled in several countries, rendering the rules unenforceable."

Mass. Senate Seat Contest Gains At Least One Contender

Now that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy has been laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, candidates to serve out the remaining couple of years of his term are starting to come out of the woodwork. Kennedy's nephew, former U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy is expected to announce within the next day or two whether he'll pick up the political baton on behalf of his family and run.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has said she's in, regardless of whether any Kennedy family member enters the race. (If she won, she'd be the first female senator from Massachusetts.) Others who are toying with running include former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling (who, if Politico is right might have trouble running on the GOP ticket), former Mass. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.

This has the makings of an exciting Senate race, something Massachusetts hasn't had in some time.

Sawyer Gets ABC Anchor Desk

To learn that, come January, two out of three of the anchors for the Big Three network newscasts will be women was very heartening to me. I'm so looking forward to the day when seeing and regarding a woman as an authoritative network news anchor is no longer a question to be debated or discussed, but simply a given. Women anchor the cable network newscasts all the time, all day long, so why should a woman anchoring a network newscast be any different (other than the small fact that the network news audience skews older than for the cable news networks and may be more uncomfortable with a female anchor)?

When Katie Couric assumed the helm of the CBS Evening News, her initial reviews were mired in sexist language and were sometimes patronizing, as people mused and mocked her clothing, her body and her make-up. She was skewered and verbally flogged. Before Couric, Elizabeth Vargas had been chosen to be the co-anchor of the ABC World News along with Bob Woodruff. That lasted about six months or so before Woodruff was seriously injured while covering the Iraq War and Vargas decided to move over to ABC's weekly news magazine 20/20 after learning she was pregnant with her second child and that the World News schedule wouldn't work for her. Decades ago, Barbara Walters and Connie Chung struggled as co-anchors on network broadcasts, gigs that didn't last long. Will the anchoring experience be different for Sawyer?

Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather joined the crew of Morning Joe to discuss women as network news anchors. See the first part of their chat here:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

However my glee over Sawyer's ascension was tempered once I started to read some of the details and reactions to Sawyer's selection, details like the quote from ABC president David Westin who told the New York Times, "This was not a result I wanted." Details like the rumors that outgoing ABC anchor Charlie Gibson is "livid" that Sawyer was tapped as his replacement.

Then there are the photos people have been running of Sawyer when she was a young beauty queen, long before she was hired to work in the Nixon White House and before she became a household name. Where, I ask you, are the high school and teenaged photos of male news anchors so that we can see "how far" they've come? Did we see photos of a young, awkward Brian Williams when he became the anchor of the NBC Nightly News? Or of Gibson when he took over from Vargas and Woodruff? Or is this kind of hey-don't-take-her-so-seriously shtick just reserved for female anchors like Couric and Sawyer?

And what was with U.S. News & World Report's Bonnie Erbe who, instead of celebrating, derided the whole development, calling network newscasts a "pink collar ghetto" because now women are the majority of anchors? Erbe wrote:

"That Charlie Gibson is leaving his post as anchor of World News Tonight and Diane Sawyer is replacing him may be emblematic of the declining power of the network evening newscasts . . . First Katie, now Diane. It should be an historic moment for female newscasters, who now outnumber men by 2 to 1 on the three major commercial broadcast networks. Instead, it feels like an after-thought. Funny, I never thought I'd live to see the day when the network newscasts became a pink collar ghetto. But with Rachel Maddow now almost as prominent than Katie Couric and Bill O'Reilly much more frequently in the news than Charlie Gibson, it's fair to say that day has arrived."

Sometimes it seems like women just can't win.

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