In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As we've been reporting, earlier today, New York Times business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin appeared on MSNBC and seemed to question the entire idea of unionization. "Name a successful unionized company. Think. You're going to go to [commercial] break before you come up with one."

Last week, Sorkin moderated a forum, hosted by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg, which included, among others, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

During the discussion, the Welch trotted out roughly the same that Sorkin brought on to Morning Joe against Stiglitz "[G]ive me a highly successful, unionized American industry," he demanded.

Here's the entirety of the exchange:

WELCH: Joe, do you think that if we trace back things like this, they're going to give us a more competitive America to compete in the global world? Now, do we - should be retained good wages? Should we have benefits? Should we have enlightened management to take care of workers? Absolutely.

But should we get all organized again and get all these work rules and have General Motors and U.S. Steel and the airlines and all these businesses - give me a highly successful, unionized American industry.

STIGLITZ: Well, I do think that - that workers who are treated better or more productive.

WELCH: I agree.

STIGLITZ: Now - now, one of the things that has induced a lot of companies to treat the workers well is the fear of unions coming in. So it has been an incentive device that has, I think, encouraged better treatment of the workers at by some of the non-union firms.Well, I do think that - that workers who are treated better or more productive.


More on the answer to Welch's (and now Sorkin's) question in a moment. Funny how that line made it from the lips of the former chairman and CEO of GE on to a GE-owned cable network. I'm sure Welch is extremely proud.

Late update: You can read Sorkin's apology here.

New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin went on MSNBC this morning and set off the entire labor movement.

"Name a successful unionized company. Think. You're going to go to [commercial] break before you come up with one. And that's the problem," he said before a room full of unionized NBC employees.

Unions are aghast. "Sorkin and the Morning Joe crew just showed their complete failure to understand how unions contribute to the success of the American economy by blindly assuming that unionized companies haven't been profitable in the last year," said James Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in a statement to TPMDC.

Off the top of my head I can give you several Teamster-represented companies who continue to thrive, despite the economic downturn, but there are thousands more: UPS, Eight O'Clock Coffee, Coca-Cola Enterprises, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. The Morning Joe team really should be embarrassed for showing their lack of knowledge on the subject.


And that's just on the record.

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Check out the latest pearl of wisdom from The Weekly Standard's single most cartoonish neocon blogger, Michael Goldfarb, wondering whether President Obama might be concealing a secret knowledge of the Arabic language -- and the Koran!

Goldfarb focuses on Obama using the Arabic world "Shukran" ("Thank you") when he was received by the King of Saudi Arabia:

Obama has said before that he speaks "barely passable Spanish" and "a smattering of Swahili," as well as some Bahasa from his youth in Indonesia. But Obama has at other times denied speaking a foreign language, saying in July of last year, "I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing!"

...

It seems there is some legitimate confusion on just what languages Obama speaks, and as far as Arabic, the only real hint has came from Nick Kristof, who heard Obama recite the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic and with a "first-rate accent" back in 2007. With even the White House now smearing Obama as a Muslim, one wonders if the president hasn't been concealing some greater fluency with the language of the Koran.


Look out, Michael -- as Spencer Ackerman has pointed out, General Petraeus has used Arabic phrases, too! And Petraeus is against torture! The Muslim secret agents are everywhere...

Rush Limbaugh has now reacted to the widely-reported "retraction" by Newt Gingrich of his having called Sonia Sotomayor a racist -- and he's going to keep on calling her a racist by himself:



Limbaugh appears not to have read Gingrich's new Web post with the alleged retraction, but he nevertheless has a lot to say about it based on press reports. "Well I have my own theory about what Newt's doing, but since I'm not doing it, I'm not gonna comment," Limbaugh said. "I'm not retracting it. Nobody's refuted it!"

Limbaugh should probably read Newt's actual post, in which case he'll be pleasantly surprised to find that...Newt hasn't actually recanted it! Gingrich has simply tricked that pesky liberal media into thinking he has, while at the same time repeating his message that Sotomayor makes her legal decisions based on race.

At last night's general election kickoff rally for Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ), which I was able to attend due to the good fortune of it being in my hometown, Corzine laid out a clear message he'll be taking into the general election: That he has a strong progressive record that he's proud to run on, that you can count on him as an ally of the very popular President Obama -- and perhaps as the most crucial element, that you simply can't vote Republican, the party of George W. Bush.

Corzine was introduced by none other than Vice President Joe Biden, who praised Corzine as a man who understands the economy, and directly advised Obama and Biden during the transition period, on how to craft the stimulus bill. "And everyone knows," Biden said at one point, "that your state, your state Senate, your state Assembly, your Governor, have inherited a mess left behind by the last administration in Washington, DC."

Corzine's Republican opponent -- who had not yet been determined at that hour, as votes were being counted in the primary, but was widely expected to win -- is former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. The Democrats will therefore go after Christie using not just the unpopular Republican brand in general, but the Bush brand in particular, since Christie was an appointee of the Bush Administration. It's a strategy that would be inviting for a Dem in any state, but especially in this deep-blue bastion.

"They've got a secret plan. They won't tell you whose taxes they plan to cut," Corzine said during his own speech -- then ad-libbed this line that deviated from the prepared remarks: "They'll check with George Bush about that." So while George W. Bush is out of office, Dems plan to still have him to kick around.

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We've spent a lot of time on this site examining the handful of conservative activists leading the fight against Sonia Sotomayor. It's almost a full time job. Intentionally or otherwise, though, that group of folks has recruited MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan to do much of their bidding. Herewith, a montage of Buchanan's tireless campaign in defense of downtrodden white male Supreme Court hopefuls:



That video comes courtesy of Media Matters.

As I noted earlier today, Buchanan often saves his most controversial polemics for readers of the conservative magazine Human Events, which runs his column twice a week. Yesterday, in that column, he accused Sotomayor of practicing "tribal justice."

The GOP seems to be consolidating around a message of contrition for calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist, recognizing just how politically self-defeating it's been -- even if the retractions aren't exactly genuine.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke to CNN's Dana Bash, who asked him about the alleged walk-back by Newt Gingrich:



"I'm very glad he backed off. I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did," said Sessions. "I think that will help - help us. I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nation faces and that the court faces. And there's some disagreements about that."

The thing is, as I've pointed out, Gingrich is very clearly not backing off, if one simply reads his new post beyond the first few paragraphs. Instead, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth by saying he shouldn't have called Sotomayor a racist -- and then haranguing her for making decisions based on race, and repeating this refrain: "You Read, You Decide."

In April, my colleague Zack Roth described Pat Buchanan as Washington's "crazy political uncle"--the guy who the establishment indulges, and even enjoys, despite a oeuvre that runs the gamut from aspersions on "New York Jewish money" to a rousing defense of the South Carolinian wise men who raised a confederate flag over the state capitol.

In order to get away with it though, his enablers have to overlook much of the work he does in the extremely right wing magazine Human Events. That's where "crazy Uncle Pat" often turns nasty.

"In her world," Buchanan wrote yesterday of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, "equal justice takes a back seat to tribal justice."

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The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that an interesting name has popped up among the people being speculated about as Republican candidates for governor of Minnesota, now that incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty isn't running again: Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman -- the man who is still litigating his defeat against Al Franken in the photo-finish 2008 Senate race.

David Strom, a senior fellow at the state's conservative Minnesota Free Market Institute think tank, seemed to take the idea seriously and said that running for governor could be an "attractive prospect" for Coleman. If Norm Coleman had not come out ahead on the first [vote tally] ... I think the political fallout would have been quite significant," said Strom -- but since Coleman had at some point been seen as the likely winner, he could potentially be able to salvage the situation.

If this sounds absurd, consider just how many phases this man has had in his political life. In college, he was a left-wing campus radical. He went on to become a liberal Democratic politician -- then became a Republican, and lost the 1998 gubernatorial race to a pro-wrestler. He came back in 2002, by getting elected to the Senate over Walter Mondale after the death of Paul Wellstone. And if his lawsuit against the Senate election results proves nothing else, it shows just how persistent he has always been.

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The group Keystone Progress will have it's eye on Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA). Today, the online progressive network launched Specter Scorecard, with two key purposes. One is forward looking: "We'll keep you informed about key upcoming votes where Sen. Specter's vote will be vital to the success of the progressive position. We'll give you accurate information about the issue and we'll provide you with the opportunity to take action to help persuade Arlen to do the right thing."

And the other, a bit retrospective "We'll let you know how Sen. Specter has voted on important progressive issues since he made the switch. We'll display his 'progressive batting average' and keep it updated when he takes votes on those issues." Right now, based on his vote for the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius and his vote against the 2010 budget, Specter's batting .500.

"We decided to create this page because on almost every issue we are working on at the federal level, Senator Specter was a key vote," said Michael Morrill, the Executive Director of Keystone Progress. "We thought it would be fun and informative to put all of the issues in one place."

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