Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 21, 2009

How Do You Rescue a Princess in Peril?

Well, give someone credit: Caroline Kennedy is withdrawing from her senate run. Caroline Kennedy’s “candidacy” for senate became untenable. She was the butt of too many jokes, the public had lost interest, and the Republicans were licking their chops. So: how to orchestrate this? Well, she had to withdraw — for the sake of her uncle’s health. Yes, Teddy Kennedy has been quite ill for some time. But Caroline needed an out. So she goes to the bedside of her relative, the noble Governor Paterson leaks a statement saying she could have had it if she wanted it, and New York is spared. More importantly, the new President, who obviously backed her, isn’t dealt a blow. (The New York Post has the realistic version of events around which the artifice of “withdrawal” was constructed.)

And who thought up this idea of Senator Caroline in the first place? Perhaps Caroline did get the political bug or maybe a pushy relative thought the Senate should always have a Kennedy. But that was a terrible error. It was the perfect storm: putting her in utterly unfamiliar territory (the real world), sending her out to do battle with the media without a political policy idea in her head, and ignoring the obvious pattern of the undeserving “Democrats by appointment” storyline. The end was predictably disastrous.

The only part of the entire sordid episode that worked was the ending — courteous and kind. Quite fitting for the pretend princess.

Well, give someone credit: Caroline Kennedy is withdrawing from her senate run. Caroline Kennedy’s “candidacy” for senate became untenable. She was the butt of too many jokes, the public had lost interest, and the Republicans were licking their chops. So: how to orchestrate this? Well, she had to withdraw — for the sake of her uncle’s health. Yes, Teddy Kennedy has been quite ill for some time. But Caroline needed an out. So she goes to the bedside of her relative, the noble Governor Paterson leaks a statement saying she could have had it if she wanted it, and New York is spared. More importantly, the new President, who obviously backed her, isn’t dealt a blow. (The New York Post has the realistic version of events around which the artifice of “withdrawal” was constructed.)

And who thought up this idea of Senator Caroline in the first place? Perhaps Caroline did get the political bug or maybe a pushy relative thought the Senate should always have a Kennedy. But that was a terrible error. It was the perfect storm: putting her in utterly unfamiliar territory (the real world), sending her out to do battle with the media without a political policy idea in her head, and ignoring the obvious pattern of the undeserving “Democrats by appointment” storyline. The end was predictably disastrous.

The only part of the entire sordid episode that worked was the ending — courteous and kind. Quite fitting for the pretend princess.

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Geithner Not Exactly Home Free

Tim Geithner certainly came under heavy fire at his confirmation hearing for his failure to pay self-employment taxes. He made plenty of apologies and offered up the explanation that he’d used a software program to prepare his taxes. (Everyone and their cousin will have an opinion as to whether the “I don’t recall getting prompted by the software” defense is going to help or hurt.) He denies taking advantage of the statute of limitations in 2006 to avoid paying up for the tax years 2001-2002, but it still seems inexplicable that even after being audited he would not have comprehended the full extent of his liability.

Will the Senate accept his apologies — with no further concern as to how someone so sophisticated could be so clueless about his own taxes? All Democrats will most likely ride to his rescue, citing the dire state of the economy. And Republicans? Perhaps they might consider, as Senator Jim Bunning did, whether  or not Geithner’s judgments have been so indispensable to the health of the economy. And moreover, they might want to take the President’s own call for a new “era of  responsibility” more seriously than the President’s own party is. This seems an ideal way of making the point that the rules apply to all.

After all, this was a day for ethics, as President Obama explained to his staff:

However long we are keepers of the public trust we should never forget that we are here as public servants and public service is a privilege.  It’s not about advantaging yourself.  It’s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients.  It’s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization.  Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans.

The men and women in this room understand this, and that’s why you’re here.  All of you are committed to building a more responsible, more accountable government.  And part of what that means is making sure that we’re spending precious tax dollars wisely and cutting costs wherever possible.

Perhaps the Senate will take that sentiment to heart.

Tim Geithner certainly came under heavy fire at his confirmation hearing for his failure to pay self-employment taxes. He made plenty of apologies and offered up the explanation that he’d used a software program to prepare his taxes. (Everyone and their cousin will have an opinion as to whether the “I don’t recall getting prompted by the software” defense is going to help or hurt.) He denies taking advantage of the statute of limitations in 2006 to avoid paying up for the tax years 2001-2002, but it still seems inexplicable that even after being audited he would not have comprehended the full extent of his liability.

Will the Senate accept his apologies — with no further concern as to how someone so sophisticated could be so clueless about his own taxes? All Democrats will most likely ride to his rescue, citing the dire state of the economy. And Republicans? Perhaps they might consider, as Senator Jim Bunning did, whether  or not Geithner’s judgments have been so indispensable to the health of the economy. And moreover, they might want to take the President’s own call for a new “era of  responsibility” more seriously than the President’s own party is. This seems an ideal way of making the point that the rules apply to all.

After all, this was a day for ethics, as President Obama explained to his staff:

However long we are keepers of the public trust we should never forget that we are here as public servants and public service is a privilege.  It’s not about advantaging yourself.  It’s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients.  It’s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization.  Public service is, simply and absolutely, about advancing the interests of Americans.

The men and women in this room understand this, and that’s why you’re here.  All of you are committed to building a more responsible, more accountable government.  And part of what that means is making sure that we’re spending precious tax dollars wisely and cutting costs wherever possible.

Perhaps the Senate will take that sentiment to heart.

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Commentary of the Day

Noah Seton, on Peter Wehner:

President Bush’s opponents and critics are always whining about the “failure to take responsibility.” Isn’t the very act of recognizing that your previous policy is not working and changing both that policy and the personnel tasked with implementing it a form of “taking responsibility?” In particular, what President Bush demonstrated with the surge was that he still thought the outcome of Iraq – no matter how in doubt it was in January 2007 – was still his “responsibility” and that he would do everything in his power – even at extraordinary political cost – to rectify the errors that he had made. In my opinion, that is a much more tangible and instructive example of “taking responsibility” than all of the forced self-renunciations and completely hollow mea culpas that lesser public figures have engaged in.

Noah Seton, on Peter Wehner:

President Bush’s opponents and critics are always whining about the “failure to take responsibility.” Isn’t the very act of recognizing that your previous policy is not working and changing both that policy and the personnel tasked with implementing it a form of “taking responsibility?” In particular, what President Bush demonstrated with the surge was that he still thought the outcome of Iraq – no matter how in doubt it was in January 2007 – was still his “responsibility” and that he would do everything in his power – even at extraordinary political cost – to rectify the errors that he had made. In my opinion, that is a much more tangible and instructive example of “taking responsibility” than all of the forced self-renunciations and completely hollow mea culpas that lesser public figures have engaged in.

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Hold Up

Republicans have delayed the vote on Eric Holder’s confirmation as attorney general, ostensibly to investigate his perhaps unduly candid comments on waterboarding being torture. You will recall that despite great political pressure, former Attorney General Mukasey declined issuing such a definitive statement so as to avoid subjecting U.S. officials to potential prosecution.

But there is reason to look into other matters in the interim. Former prosecutor Andy McCarthy thinks Holder lied twice to Congress about his familiarity with Marc Rich, the recipient of the controversial pardon from Bill Clinton. Back in 2001 Holder said he had only “passing familiarity” with Rich when testifying before the Congressional Committee investigating the pardon. And again last week he claimed that he had essentially been ignorant about any specifics when he had weighed in on the pardon (“neutral leaning favorable”) in the waning days of the Clinton administration. But that’s apparently not true:

When Quinn first came to him in 1999, he knew exactly who Marc Rich was. For back in 1995, when Holder was the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, he had sued a company precisely because it was substantially controlled by Rich—a fact the company concealed in order to obtain lucrative government contracts.

To be clear, years before the pardon scandal convinced him it was in his interest to make like he barely knew Rich’s name, Holder had bragged to the media about how his office was cracking down on Rich, an international fugitive who had duped the government out of loads of cash. Contrary to his congressional testimony that he’d never heard of Rich before 1999, Holder had unquestionably been aware of Rich’s name and history four years earlier; in fact, it was solely because of Rich that Holder extracted a $1.2 million settlement in a federal civil action.

.    .    .

The civil complaint filed by Holder’s office exudes familiarity with Rich. It recounts that the financier and his partners operated Switzerland-based commodity trading concerns, led by Marc Rich & Company AG (MRAG). MRAG did business in New York City through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Marc Rich & Company International (MRI). Eventually, the name of MRI was changed to Clarendon Ltd. In 1981, the complaint adds, the Justice Department began investigating MRAG and Clarendon, among other Rich companies, for tax evasion. Finally, in June 1983, Rich and his partner Pincus Green left the U.S. for Switzerland because they were “facing indictment.” Thus, the complaint states, Rich and Green were “considered fugitives by the United States government.”

As a matter of fact, Holder was apparently aware not only of the charges against Rich but also the fugitive’s brazen obstruction of justice, a detail that has gotten little recent attention. As the complaint states: “In 1982, subpoenas for the production of documents were served on [MRAG and MRI] in New York, NY. MRAG failed to produce documents in accordance with its subpoena and consequently paid $21 million in contempt fines between 1983 and 1984.” That $21 million was a consequence of a $50,000-per-day assessment imposed by a judge when Rich refused to surrender various documents demanded by a federal grand jury. Rich had begun paying the fines only after prosecutors, acting on a tip, stopped a plane en route to Europe—where Rich was evading arrest—just as it was about to take off from Kennedy airport in New York. On board were two steamer trunks loaded with documents the subpoenas had sought.

At the very least Holder should be called back for another round of questioning to explain precisely why he claimed to be ignorant of Rich’s past misdeeds. And while they are at it, the Senators might engage in a more focused line of questioning asking what he meant by his comments that he took no “affirmative” action to help Rich get his pardon. Did he not converse and email with Rich’s attorney, provide counsel, and give his “neutral leaning favorable” recommendation?

If Holder was not candid on two occasions with Congress he simply can’t be confirmed. If nothing else, he hasn’t mastered the key lesson for any prosecutor to function effectively in Washington: the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

Oh, and let’s not overlook the wonderful contribution of Sen. Pat Leahy who has obstructed every Republican effort to subpoena relevant witnesses and gather more evidence. On Day Two of the post-racial presidency Leahy crudely plays the race card. It is times like this that make you miss Vice President Cheney.

Republicans have delayed the vote on Eric Holder’s confirmation as attorney general, ostensibly to investigate his perhaps unduly candid comments on waterboarding being torture. You will recall that despite great political pressure, former Attorney General Mukasey declined issuing such a definitive statement so as to avoid subjecting U.S. officials to potential prosecution.

But there is reason to look into other matters in the interim. Former prosecutor Andy McCarthy thinks Holder lied twice to Congress about his familiarity with Marc Rich, the recipient of the controversial pardon from Bill Clinton. Back in 2001 Holder said he had only “passing familiarity” with Rich when testifying before the Congressional Committee investigating the pardon. And again last week he claimed that he had essentially been ignorant about any specifics when he had weighed in on the pardon (“neutral leaning favorable”) in the waning days of the Clinton administration. But that’s apparently not true:

When Quinn first came to him in 1999, he knew exactly who Marc Rich was. For back in 1995, when Holder was the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, he had sued a company precisely because it was substantially controlled by Rich—a fact the company concealed in order to obtain lucrative government contracts.

To be clear, years before the pardon scandal convinced him it was in his interest to make like he barely knew Rich’s name, Holder had bragged to the media about how his office was cracking down on Rich, an international fugitive who had duped the government out of loads of cash. Contrary to his congressional testimony that he’d never heard of Rich before 1999, Holder had unquestionably been aware of Rich’s name and history four years earlier; in fact, it was solely because of Rich that Holder extracted a $1.2 million settlement in a federal civil action.

.    .    .

The civil complaint filed by Holder’s office exudes familiarity with Rich. It recounts that the financier and his partners operated Switzerland-based commodity trading concerns, led by Marc Rich & Company AG (MRAG). MRAG did business in New York City through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Marc Rich & Company International (MRI). Eventually, the name of MRI was changed to Clarendon Ltd. In 1981, the complaint adds, the Justice Department began investigating MRAG and Clarendon, among other Rich companies, for tax evasion. Finally, in June 1983, Rich and his partner Pincus Green left the U.S. for Switzerland because they were “facing indictment.” Thus, the complaint states, Rich and Green were “considered fugitives by the United States government.”

As a matter of fact, Holder was apparently aware not only of the charges against Rich but also the fugitive’s brazen obstruction of justice, a detail that has gotten little recent attention. As the complaint states: “In 1982, subpoenas for the production of documents were served on [MRAG and MRI] in New York, NY. MRAG failed to produce documents in accordance with its subpoena and consequently paid $21 million in contempt fines between 1983 and 1984.” That $21 million was a consequence of a $50,000-per-day assessment imposed by a judge when Rich refused to surrender various documents demanded by a federal grand jury. Rich had begun paying the fines only after prosecutors, acting on a tip, stopped a plane en route to Europe—where Rich was evading arrest—just as it was about to take off from Kennedy airport in New York. On board were two steamer trunks loaded with documents the subpoenas had sought.

At the very least Holder should be called back for another round of questioning to explain precisely why he claimed to be ignorant of Rich’s past misdeeds. And while they are at it, the Senators might engage in a more focused line of questioning asking what he meant by his comments that he took no “affirmative” action to help Rich get his pardon. Did he not converse and email with Rich’s attorney, provide counsel, and give his “neutral leaning favorable” recommendation?

If Holder was not candid on two occasions with Congress he simply can’t be confirmed. If nothing else, he hasn’t mastered the key lesson for any prosecutor to function effectively in Washington: the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

Oh, and let’s not overlook the wonderful contribution of Sen. Pat Leahy who has obstructed every Republican effort to subpoena relevant witnesses and gather more evidence. On Day Two of the post-racial presidency Leahy crudely plays the race card. It is times like this that make you miss Vice President Cheney.

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Seeger’s Stalinism

One hates to dampen the feelings of national euphoria that have taken hold over the past few days, but there’s one moment from the week’s festivities that still sticks in my craw: the worshipful attention heaped upon Pete Seeger, icon of American folk music and lapsed Stalinist.

Seeger was a prominent campaigner in the struggle for African-American civil rights, and his legacy there ought be applauded. But racial equality was not the only cause to which Seeger committed himself. International communism, and in particular its Stalinist variant, was an equal, if not more, significant cause in Seeger’s public life. He was “Stalin’s songbird,” as David Boaz describes, writing about how Seeger zigged and zagged, with the rest of American communists in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in blind obedience to orders from Moscow. Seeger’s vaunted opposition to American “militarism” has persuaded him to oppose U.S. military intervention wherever and whenever it has occurred, including, for instance, the mission to displace the Taliban.

Fresh off his participation in Sunday’s “We Are One” concert comes a campaign, endorsed by the likes of CodePinker Medea Benjamin, Bonnie Raitt, and Cindy Sheehan to pressure the Nobel Prize Committee to bestow its award for Peace upon Seeger. I came across this effort on the Nation magazine’s “Act Now!” blog, late of endorsing such other worthy causes such as a website that publishes the results of chemical tests on children’s toys and a letter writing campaign “to major toy marketers urging them to target parents, not children, with their millions of dollars in advertising lucre.”

“Seeger has been an inimitable ambassador for peace, social justice and the best kind of patriotism over the course of a remarkable lifetime,” the magazine’s associate publisher Peter Rothberg gushes. One can understand how the folks over at the Nation would consider membership in the Communist Party and subsequent fellow-traveling with a variety of anti-American despots “the best kind of patriotism,” given that publication’s role in trying to redefine “patriotism” so as to include knee-jerk anti-Americanism and support for illiberal thugs and tyrants spanning the past century and up to the present day. Genuine patriotism, however, the kind felt by non-Nation-reading Americans, infers nothing more complicated than a love of one’s country and its fundamental values of liberty and individual rights, something that’s hard to glean in the pages of the Nation. Reminiscent of the way in which the old Left perverted language during the Cold War, the activist Peter Dreier writes on the Huffington Post that Seeger is “the world’s preeminent troubadour for peace and justice.” Like Seeger and communists before him, Dreier uses the words “peace and justice” to obscure the Soviet Union’s real agenda: slavery and murder.

Unsurprisingly, Seeger’s fellow-traveling appears nowhere in the recent encomia written in his honor (much attention has been given to his being blacklisted, without explaining why). As Ron Radosh, the great historian of American communism and a former banjo student of Seeger, recounted two years ago:

In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.” Another song, to the tune of “Cripple Creek” and the sound of Mr. Seeger’s galloping banjo, said, “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called “Hey Zhankoye,” which helped spread the fiction that Stalin’s USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn’t Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

A few months after this article was written, Seeger wrote a letter to Radosh, in which he acknowledged, “I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in [the] USSR.” Gee, ya think?

In that letter Seeger attached the lyrics for a song he had dashed off limply denouncing Stalin. So over 50 years after Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” detailing Stalin’s crimes, Seeger finally came around to realizing that Uncle Joe was not the benevolent man about whom he rhapsodized. But however welcome his belated acknowledgment (and a private letter to an individual is hardly the most honest way by which one repents for decades of public support for totalitarianism) of Stalin’s various and sundry monstrosities may be, Seeger has never sufficiently recounted or apologized for his support of the Soviet Union. To be sure, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the likes of Yasser Arafat and Jimmy Carter, men whose contributions to the cause of “peace” were nonexistent, and Pete Seeger would fit well within this rogue’s gallery. And admitting, however late, that one’s earlier political passions were mistaken is better than no acknowledgment at all. But whatever importance one may wish to attribute to his long overdue reckonings about Joseph Stalin, Seeger was for most of his life a conscious supporter of a global conspiracy to destroy free society. It may be difficult to comprehend this given the man’s warm and fuzzy exterior, but Pete Seeger is not, and never has been, a sincere proponent of “peace.”

One hates to dampen the feelings of national euphoria that have taken hold over the past few days, but there’s one moment from the week’s festivities that still sticks in my craw: the worshipful attention heaped upon Pete Seeger, icon of American folk music and lapsed Stalinist.

Seeger was a prominent campaigner in the struggle for African-American civil rights, and his legacy there ought be applauded. But racial equality was not the only cause to which Seeger committed himself. International communism, and in particular its Stalinist variant, was an equal, if not more, significant cause in Seeger’s public life. He was “Stalin’s songbird,” as David Boaz describes, writing about how Seeger zigged and zagged, with the rest of American communists in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in blind obedience to orders from Moscow. Seeger’s vaunted opposition to American “militarism” has persuaded him to oppose U.S. military intervention wherever and whenever it has occurred, including, for instance, the mission to displace the Taliban.

Fresh off his participation in Sunday’s “We Are One” concert comes a campaign, endorsed by the likes of CodePinker Medea Benjamin, Bonnie Raitt, and Cindy Sheehan to pressure the Nobel Prize Committee to bestow its award for Peace upon Seeger. I came across this effort on the Nation magazine’s “Act Now!” blog, late of endorsing such other worthy causes such as a website that publishes the results of chemical tests on children’s toys and a letter writing campaign “to major toy marketers urging them to target parents, not children, with their millions of dollars in advertising lucre.”

“Seeger has been an inimitable ambassador for peace, social justice and the best kind of patriotism over the course of a remarkable lifetime,” the magazine’s associate publisher Peter Rothberg gushes. One can understand how the folks over at the Nation would consider membership in the Communist Party and subsequent fellow-traveling with a variety of anti-American despots “the best kind of patriotism,” given that publication’s role in trying to redefine “patriotism” so as to include knee-jerk anti-Americanism and support for illiberal thugs and tyrants spanning the past century and up to the present day. Genuine patriotism, however, the kind felt by non-Nation-reading Americans, infers nothing more complicated than a love of one’s country and its fundamental values of liberty and individual rights, something that’s hard to glean in the pages of the Nation. Reminiscent of the way in which the old Left perverted language during the Cold War, the activist Peter Dreier writes on the Huffington Post that Seeger is “the world’s preeminent troubadour for peace and justice.” Like Seeger and communists before him, Dreier uses the words “peace and justice” to obscure the Soviet Union’s real agenda: slavery and murder.

Unsurprisingly, Seeger’s fellow-traveling appears nowhere in the recent encomia written in his honor (much attention has been given to his being blacklisted, without explaining why). As Ron Radosh, the great historian of American communism and a former banjo student of Seeger, recounted two years ago:

In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.” Another song, to the tune of “Cripple Creek” and the sound of Mr. Seeger’s galloping banjo, said, “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called “Hey Zhankoye,” which helped spread the fiction that Stalin’s USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn’t Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

A few months after this article was written, Seeger wrote a letter to Radosh, in which he acknowledged, “I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in [the] USSR.” Gee, ya think?

In that letter Seeger attached the lyrics for a song he had dashed off limply denouncing Stalin. So over 50 years after Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” detailing Stalin’s crimes, Seeger finally came around to realizing that Uncle Joe was not the benevolent man about whom he rhapsodized. But however welcome his belated acknowledgment (and a private letter to an individual is hardly the most honest way by which one repents for decades of public support for totalitarianism) of Stalin’s various and sundry monstrosities may be, Seeger has never sufficiently recounted or apologized for his support of the Soviet Union. To be sure, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the likes of Yasser Arafat and Jimmy Carter, men whose contributions to the cause of “peace” were nonexistent, and Pete Seeger would fit well within this rogue’s gallery. And admitting, however late, that one’s earlier political passions were mistaken is better than no acknowledgment at all. But whatever importance one may wish to attribute to his long overdue reckonings about Joseph Stalin, Seeger was for most of his life a conscious supporter of a global conspiracy to destroy free society. It may be difficult to comprehend this given the man’s warm and fuzzy exterior, but Pete Seeger is not, and never has been, a sincere proponent of “peace.”

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Nowhere Are There Even Bridges

House Democrats did not do a very good job of incorporating conservative ideas into the stimulus plan. The tax cuts are insignificant and there is not much defense spending. But it turns out they did a perfectly awful job of encapsulating the President’s ideas. The Washington Post reports:

Less than half the money dedicated to highways, school construction and other infrastructure projects in a massive economic stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats is likely to be spent within the next two years, according to congressional budget analysts, meaning most of the spending would come too late to lift the nation out of recession.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office found that only about $136 billion of the $355 billion that House leaders want to allocate to infrastructure and other so-called discretionary programs would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010. The rest would come in future years, long after the CBO and other economists predict the recession will have ended.

This is precisely why these things never manage to provide any actual stimulus medicine. (You may recall that Obama economic adviser Christina Romer has written about the same phenomenon.) Republicans are making just this point:

But the CBO analysis appears to confirm the complaints of many Republicans and other critics, who have long argued that spending money on highway construction and other infrastructure projects is ineffective at quickly jolting a sluggish economy. The report was distributed to reporters yesterday by aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

The report also suggests that the House measure would violate Obama’s rules for the stimulus package; Obama aides have said they want the bulk of the spending to occur before 2011. Obama has pledged that the measure would save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next two years.

There seems to be room for improvement even if we accept the Obama administration’s policy premises. We shouldn’t be surprised that the bill so wildly misses the mark, because the House did what Congress usually does — larded up a spending bill with the sort of items that provide little long term, or even short term, economic relief. If President Obama is serious about achieving his own goals he’ll have something to say about that.

In retrospect it seems unfortunate that President Obama let the House run wild, filling the bill with items that don’t fulfill his own vision. Was this just a rookie error? We’ll soon find out.

House Democrats did not do a very good job of incorporating conservative ideas into the stimulus plan. The tax cuts are insignificant and there is not much defense spending. But it turns out they did a perfectly awful job of encapsulating the President’s ideas. The Washington Post reports:

Less than half the money dedicated to highways, school construction and other infrastructure projects in a massive economic stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats is likely to be spent within the next two years, according to congressional budget analysts, meaning most of the spending would come too late to lift the nation out of recession.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office found that only about $136 billion of the $355 billion that House leaders want to allocate to infrastructure and other so-called discretionary programs would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010. The rest would come in future years, long after the CBO and other economists predict the recession will have ended.

This is precisely why these things never manage to provide any actual stimulus medicine. (You may recall that Obama economic adviser Christina Romer has written about the same phenomenon.) Republicans are making just this point:

But the CBO analysis appears to confirm the complaints of many Republicans and other critics, who have long argued that spending money on highway construction and other infrastructure projects is ineffective at quickly jolting a sluggish economy. The report was distributed to reporters yesterday by aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

The report also suggests that the House measure would violate Obama’s rules for the stimulus package; Obama aides have said they want the bulk of the spending to occur before 2011. Obama has pledged that the measure would save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next two years.

There seems to be room for improvement even if we accept the Obama administration’s policy premises. We shouldn’t be surprised that the bill so wildly misses the mark, because the House did what Congress usually does — larded up a spending bill with the sort of items that provide little long term, or even short term, economic relief. If President Obama is serious about achieving his own goals he’ll have something to say about that.

In retrospect it seems unfortunate that President Obama let the House run wild, filling the bill with items that don’t fulfill his own vision. Was this just a rookie error? We’ll soon find out.

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Systemic Banking Crisis

Yesterday the Dow Jones industrial average shed a little more than four percent and ended under the 8,000 mark, the biggest decline on an Inauguration Day in the index’s 124-year history.  The S&P 500 posted a 5.3 percent fall.  Asian and Europe markets today followed suit as investors around the world began to realize the extent of the weakness of European and American banks.

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist, thinks American financial institutions are carrying $3.6 trillion in credit losses.  Of that amount, half belongs to banks and broker dealers.  “If that’s true, it means the U.S. banking system is effectively insolvent because it starts with a capital of $1.4 trillion,” he noted.  “This is a systemic banking crisis.”

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has yet to figure out how to deal with what could be the complete failure of the American banking system.  There are many proposals on the table – Roubini predicts nationalization and many suggest the creation of a “bad” or “aggregator” bank for toxic assets – but the magnitude of the problem makes fashioning any solution difficult.  There are, however, valuable lessons from past crises, domestic and foreign.

The first lesson is that a series of partial bailouts don’t work.  Why?  Because, when bankers suspect that more help is on the way, they don’t have the incentive to change imprudent practices.  So the next bailout should be the last one.

Second, government attempts to merge weak institutions into strong ones in times of crisis just create more weak ones.  Bank of America’s absorption of Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo’s takeover of Wachovia – both arranged under government pressure – has now created problems for the survivors.  This tactic may work in normal times when one institution flounders, but it can bring down the whole system when, as has been the case for the past half year, the dislocations are systemic.

So what should we do?  It’s time to accelerate the liquidation of the weakest institutions and make sure the survivors are not so large that they become “too big to fail.”  This solution could take years to implement, but, given the severity of the downturn, there are no promising shortcuts.  In any event, it will take even longer for the rest of the economy to absorb overcapacity, a precondition to general recovery.

The remedies can no longer be piecemeal.  And the time for more fumbling in the dark is over.  We probably have only one more chance to get the financial system right.

Yesterday the Dow Jones industrial average shed a little more than four percent and ended under the 8,000 mark, the biggest decline on an Inauguration Day in the index’s 124-year history.  The S&P 500 posted a 5.3 percent fall.  Asian and Europe markets today followed suit as investors around the world began to realize the extent of the weakness of European and American banks.

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist, thinks American financial institutions are carrying $3.6 trillion in credit losses.  Of that amount, half belongs to banks and broker dealers.  “If that’s true, it means the U.S. banking system is effectively insolvent because it starts with a capital of $1.4 trillion,” he noted.  “This is a systemic banking crisis.”

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has yet to figure out how to deal with what could be the complete failure of the American banking system.  There are many proposals on the table – Roubini predicts nationalization and many suggest the creation of a “bad” or “aggregator” bank for toxic assets – but the magnitude of the problem makes fashioning any solution difficult.  There are, however, valuable lessons from past crises, domestic and foreign.

The first lesson is that a series of partial bailouts don’t work.  Why?  Because, when bankers suspect that more help is on the way, they don’t have the incentive to change imprudent practices.  So the next bailout should be the last one.

Second, government attempts to merge weak institutions into strong ones in times of crisis just create more weak ones.  Bank of America’s absorption of Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo’s takeover of Wachovia – both arranged under government pressure – has now created problems for the survivors.  This tactic may work in normal times when one institution flounders, but it can bring down the whole system when, as has been the case for the past half year, the dislocations are systemic.

So what should we do?  It’s time to accelerate the liquidation of the weakest institutions and make sure the survivors are not so large that they become “too big to fail.”  This solution could take years to implement, but, given the severity of the downturn, there are no promising shortcuts.  In any event, it will take even longer for the rest of the economy to absorb overcapacity, a precondition to general recovery.

The remedies can no longer be piecemeal.  And the time for more fumbling in the dark is over.  We probably have only one more chance to get the financial system right.

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Something To Be Learned

This touching account of George W. Bush’s trip home captures the core essence of the former President, which had utterly escaped the media. He was in good spirits as he left for Texas: praising his successor and his former staff (even those who obviously failed him at times.) The MSM and liberals never really understood who George W. Bush was. They insisted he was not just “dumb” but Nixonian — evil, devious, and manipulative. Hardly.

He made his share of errors and was, by any account, an extraordinarily bad manager (ironic for a CEO). But he was almost devoid of the grudge carrying and nastiness which characterized a good many of his opponents. You might recall his naming the Department of Justice building for Sen. Ted Kennedy’s brother Robert. Smart, albeit unsuccessful, personal politics, but it showed a measure of grace. Again and again he refused to rise to the bait of his opponents. And his own transition will be the model for future presidents. Yet the media myth persists.

In politics, grace is not merely exhibited by rhetorical appeals to cast aside past conventional arguments. Generosity in politics is demonstrated by public acknowledgment not simply of the generic existence of your predecessor, but in an appreciation of many of his policies that will need to be carried on, and in gratefulness for him having taken the heat for hard calls from which his successors will benefit. There is a lot to be learned from the personal side of former President Bush even as one recognizes his intellectual limitations and political failings.

This touching account of George W. Bush’s trip home captures the core essence of the former President, which had utterly escaped the media. He was in good spirits as he left for Texas: praising his successor and his former staff (even those who obviously failed him at times.) The MSM and liberals never really understood who George W. Bush was. They insisted he was not just “dumb” but Nixonian — evil, devious, and manipulative. Hardly.

He made his share of errors and was, by any account, an extraordinarily bad manager (ironic for a CEO). But he was almost devoid of the grudge carrying and nastiness which characterized a good many of his opponents. You might recall his naming the Department of Justice building for Sen. Ted Kennedy’s brother Robert. Smart, albeit unsuccessful, personal politics, but it showed a measure of grace. Again and again he refused to rise to the bait of his opponents. And his own transition will be the model for future presidents. Yet the media myth persists.

In politics, grace is not merely exhibited by rhetorical appeals to cast aside past conventional arguments. Generosity in politics is demonstrated by public acknowledgment not simply of the generic existence of your predecessor, but in an appreciation of many of his policies that will need to be carried on, and in gratefulness for him having taken the heat for hard calls from which his successors will benefit. There is a lot to be learned from the personal side of former President Bush even as one recognizes his intellectual limitations and political failings.

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Here We Go Again

Just days after Israel completed its withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip under the banner of a cease-fire, Hamas is hard at work making sure it can resume its terror as soon as possible, as Abe noted yesterday. According to one report, as many as ten mortars and rockets were fired at Israel yesterday, in addition to two separate shooting attacks on IDF troops the day before. And according to today’s Jerusalem Post, smuggling through the tunnels has resumed.

At this rate, Israel will be hard pressed to hold its fire for long, at least on a small scale. Meanwhile, international reconstruction efforts are being held up until parties can find a way to rebuild Gaza without rebuilding Hamas. With Israelis focused increasingly on the upcoming election, we should not expect a major breakthrough, nor a serious renewal of hostilities — something that would prove to Israeli voters that the ceasefire was a mistake.

What a mess.

Just days after Israel completed its withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip under the banner of a cease-fire, Hamas is hard at work making sure it can resume its terror as soon as possible, as Abe noted yesterday. According to one report, as many as ten mortars and rockets were fired at Israel yesterday, in addition to two separate shooting attacks on IDF troops the day before. And according to today’s Jerusalem Post, smuggling through the tunnels has resumed.

At this rate, Israel will be hard pressed to hold its fire for long, at least on a small scale. Meanwhile, international reconstruction efforts are being held up until parties can find a way to rebuild Gaza without rebuilding Hamas. With Israelis focused increasingly on the upcoming election, we should not expect a major breakthrough, nor a serious renewal of hostilities — something that would prove to Israeli voters that the ceasefire was a mistake.

What a mess.

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The Erratic Andrew Sullivan

In response to my piece yesterday on President Bush, Andrew Sullivan posts this:

Peter Wehner praises his old boss:

George W. Bush’s unpopularity created the context for what I believe was easily his most impressive act as President: his advocacy of the surge despite the enormous opposition to it. People forget what many of us in the White House at the time never will: the across-the-board resistance – from all Democrats, most Republicans, the entire foreign policy establishment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President’s own commanding general in Iraq, and the overwhelming majority of Americans – to the surge. There was the very real sense that this plan might be strangled in its crib.

We will find out at some point if this really was in our long-term interest. What we do know is that this meme will be insisted on by those who still refuse to take responsibility for the worst foreign policy decision in modern times. But the last eight years were all about the refusal to take responsibility. Why would we believe these people would change now?

Let’s untangle some of this. For one thing, my statement about the surge being George W. Bush’s most impressive act as President is, I think, almost indisputably true, and in fact Sullivan does not dispute it. Second, Sullivan holds out the possibility that the surge really was in our “long-term interest” – even as he states the Iraq war was “the worst foreign policy decision in modern times.” Of course, if Iraq continues on its present course and becomes a peaceful, self-governing nation that is an ally of the United States and which gave rise to the Sunni uprising against al Qaeda, it will not only vindicate the surge but the war itself. Third, I have repeatedly stated, both in print and on television, that I thought the early years of the Iraq war were terribly mismanaged and that this mismanagement was our responsibility. Indeed, in the piece Sullivan is responding to, I wrote about “serious missteps along the way – failures in judgment, personnel, execution, communication, and persuasion. In Iraq especially, we were much too slow in recognizing the nature of the conflict and adjusting to it.”

Beyond all that, though, Iraq is probably not an area Andrew wants to venture into. I say that because anyone who wants to take the time to review the public record will find that Sullivan was a fire-breathing advocate for what he now calls “the worst foreign policy decision in modern times.” Indeed, in 2002 Andrew would get riled up when he feared Bush and Cheney might pull back from war with Iraq — a move which Sullivan said would be an irresponsible breach of trust. Here, for example, is Andrew on January 14, 2003:

No surprise that Hans Blix wants more time; that January 27 is now seen as the “beginning” of the arms inspection; or that other countries are quite happy to see the process drawn out indefinitely. This was always the danger of the U.N. route. The administration, as is its wont, seems to be saying almost nothing about its plans, which worries people like me. We can only hope that its a way to out-psyche Saddam. But it’s beginning to look like Saddam is out-psyching Bush. The question will therefore soon arise: can we wait until the autumn? My own view is that this would be a disaster. There is absolutely no guarantee that any weapons of mass destruction will be found by Blix’s merry men by then; and the long summer and fall will be a golden opportunity for other rogue states to take advantage of the U.S.’s preoccupation in the Gulf. Those who oppose the war now will oppose it then. And there will be further opportunities for terrorist attacks on the West. Moreover, nothing would galvanize our enemies more than to see how timorous Washington is when dealing with a murderous dictator who has violated the terms of the 1991 truce and continues to thumb his nose at the world. Our perceived weakness toward Saddam has already emboldened the North Koreans (whom it appears we are now willing to appease as well). It will embolden others – from the meddlesome French to the American left. What Bush is in danger of drifting into is Clintonism – dragged along by events, rather than determining them, acquiescing in evil rather than confronting it, and coming ever so close to appearing easily knocked off course. That hasn’t happened yet. But the danger signs are there. Saddam was right. Time is on his side. As we wait and wait for a conclusion we cannot even know will come, the anti-war lobby in this country will gain strength; and the remarkable success we have so far enjoyed in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack will merely serve to lull Americans into another false sense of security. I’m not panicking – yet. But a question keeps nagging: Are we at war or not? If we are, when on earth are we going to get serious? [emphasis added]

It is not an overstatement to say that I know of no one who was more pro-war than Andrew Sullivan.  (For more on Sullivan’s full-throated push for war, go here.)

Then the war got difficult, and Andrew lost his nerve. He believed Iraq was irredeemably lost, and he eventually added his voice to those opposing the surge. As Andrew put it on January 11, 2007,

I’ve argued that withdrawal to Kurdistan, allowing the Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq to reach their own settlement through a real civil war with a real outcome, is something we need to think through. It may be less damaging to our interests than the surge. Its most important aspect is the way it changes the narrative of the war from Osama’s “Islam vs the West” to “Islam vs itself”. I think that’s a strategic game-changer that may redound to our long-term advantage. It requires a United States prepared to let go of trying to control the region and stabilize it. I fear the president is unable to even think in such terms.

Thank goodness for that.

To recapitulate, then: If Andrew Sullivan had his way, America would have gone to war with Iraq, we would have subsequently fled and lost, and in doing so we would have handed al Qaeda and Iran historic victories and condemned Iraq to mass death and possibly genocide. All of which means Andrew is not in a very strong position to instruct anyone on Iraq. Indeed, he is in one of the weakest positions possible. Compounding things is that Andrew, swept up in the theme of personal responsibility, blames everyone but himself for his past positions.

It is amusing to see Sullivan’s utter enchantment with Barack Obama. His feelings are as intense for Obama as they once were for – you guessed it – George W. Bush. Sullivan can be counted on as a passionate defender of people and causes – until he becomes a passionate critic of them. His dramatically shifting positions over the years have a pin-ball quality to them: erratic, head-snapping, and at times vertigo-inducing.

In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Season,” Thomas More says this to Roper:

Listen, Roper. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman; now you’re a passionate – Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.

Some of us would settle for Andrew Sullivan’s head to simply stop turning. If it ever does, there’s no telling which direction he will be facing.

In response to my piece yesterday on President Bush, Andrew Sullivan posts this:

Peter Wehner praises his old boss:

George W. Bush’s unpopularity created the context for what I believe was easily his most impressive act as President: his advocacy of the surge despite the enormous opposition to it. People forget what many of us in the White House at the time never will: the across-the-board resistance – from all Democrats, most Republicans, the entire foreign policy establishment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President’s own commanding general in Iraq, and the overwhelming majority of Americans – to the surge. There was the very real sense that this plan might be strangled in its crib.

We will find out at some point if this really was in our long-term interest. What we do know is that this meme will be insisted on by those who still refuse to take responsibility for the worst foreign policy decision in modern times. But the last eight years were all about the refusal to take responsibility. Why would we believe these people would change now?

Let’s untangle some of this. For one thing, my statement about the surge being George W. Bush’s most impressive act as President is, I think, almost indisputably true, and in fact Sullivan does not dispute it. Second, Sullivan holds out the possibility that the surge really was in our “long-term interest” – even as he states the Iraq war was “the worst foreign policy decision in modern times.” Of course, if Iraq continues on its present course and becomes a peaceful, self-governing nation that is an ally of the United States and which gave rise to the Sunni uprising against al Qaeda, it will not only vindicate the surge but the war itself. Third, I have repeatedly stated, both in print and on television, that I thought the early years of the Iraq war were terribly mismanaged and that this mismanagement was our responsibility. Indeed, in the piece Sullivan is responding to, I wrote about “serious missteps along the way – failures in judgment, personnel, execution, communication, and persuasion. In Iraq especially, we were much too slow in recognizing the nature of the conflict and adjusting to it.”

Beyond all that, though, Iraq is probably not an area Andrew wants to venture into. I say that because anyone who wants to take the time to review the public record will find that Sullivan was a fire-breathing advocate for what he now calls “the worst foreign policy decision in modern times.” Indeed, in 2002 Andrew would get riled up when he feared Bush and Cheney might pull back from war with Iraq — a move which Sullivan said would be an irresponsible breach of trust. Here, for example, is Andrew on January 14, 2003:

No surprise that Hans Blix wants more time; that January 27 is now seen as the “beginning” of the arms inspection; or that other countries are quite happy to see the process drawn out indefinitely. This was always the danger of the U.N. route. The administration, as is its wont, seems to be saying almost nothing about its plans, which worries people like me. We can only hope that its a way to out-psyche Saddam. But it’s beginning to look like Saddam is out-psyching Bush. The question will therefore soon arise: can we wait until the autumn? My own view is that this would be a disaster. There is absolutely no guarantee that any weapons of mass destruction will be found by Blix’s merry men by then; and the long summer and fall will be a golden opportunity for other rogue states to take advantage of the U.S.’s preoccupation in the Gulf. Those who oppose the war now will oppose it then. And there will be further opportunities for terrorist attacks on the West. Moreover, nothing would galvanize our enemies more than to see how timorous Washington is when dealing with a murderous dictator who has violated the terms of the 1991 truce and continues to thumb his nose at the world. Our perceived weakness toward Saddam has already emboldened the North Koreans (whom it appears we are now willing to appease as well). It will embolden others – from the meddlesome French to the American left. What Bush is in danger of drifting into is Clintonism – dragged along by events, rather than determining them, acquiescing in evil rather than confronting it, and coming ever so close to appearing easily knocked off course. That hasn’t happened yet. But the danger signs are there. Saddam was right. Time is on his side. As we wait and wait for a conclusion we cannot even know will come, the anti-war lobby in this country will gain strength; and the remarkable success we have so far enjoyed in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack will merely serve to lull Americans into another false sense of security. I’m not panicking – yet. But a question keeps nagging: Are we at war or not? If we are, when on earth are we going to get serious? [emphasis added]

It is not an overstatement to say that I know of no one who was more pro-war than Andrew Sullivan.  (For more on Sullivan’s full-throated push for war, go here.)

Then the war got difficult, and Andrew lost his nerve. He believed Iraq was irredeemably lost, and he eventually added his voice to those opposing the surge. As Andrew put it on January 11, 2007,

I’ve argued that withdrawal to Kurdistan, allowing the Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq to reach their own settlement through a real civil war with a real outcome, is something we need to think through. It may be less damaging to our interests than the surge. Its most important aspect is the way it changes the narrative of the war from Osama’s “Islam vs the West” to “Islam vs itself”. I think that’s a strategic game-changer that may redound to our long-term advantage. It requires a United States prepared to let go of trying to control the region and stabilize it. I fear the president is unable to even think in such terms.

Thank goodness for that.

To recapitulate, then: If Andrew Sullivan had his way, America would have gone to war with Iraq, we would have subsequently fled and lost, and in doing so we would have handed al Qaeda and Iran historic victories and condemned Iraq to mass death and possibly genocide. All of which means Andrew is not in a very strong position to instruct anyone on Iraq. Indeed, he is in one of the weakest positions possible. Compounding things is that Andrew, swept up in the theme of personal responsibility, blames everyone but himself for his past positions.

It is amusing to see Sullivan’s utter enchantment with Barack Obama. His feelings are as intense for Obama as they once were for – you guessed it – George W. Bush. Sullivan can be counted on as a passionate defender of people and causes – until he becomes a passionate critic of them. His dramatically shifting positions over the years have a pin-ball quality to them: erratic, head-snapping, and at times vertigo-inducing.

In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Season,” Thomas More says this to Roper:

Listen, Roper. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman; now you’re a passionate – Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.

Some of us would settle for Andrew Sullivan’s head to simply stop turning. If it ever does, there’s no telling which direction he will be facing.

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Reality Is the Antedote to Media Worship

Juan Williams makes a poignant plea for us to evaluate President Obama on his own merits:

It is neither overweening emotion nor partisanship to see [Dr. Martin Luther] King’s moral universe bending toward justice in the act of the first non-white man taking the oath of the presidency. But now that this moment has arrived, there is a question: How shall we judge our new leader?

If his presidency is to represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone else — fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism — then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.

Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist.

This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.

And he aims squarely at his media colleagues:

During the Democrats’ primaries and caucuses, candidate Obama often got affectionate if not fawning treatment from the American media. Editors, news anchors, columnists and commentators, both white and black but especially those on the political left, too often acted as if they were in a hurry to claim their role in history as supporters of the first black president.

For example, Mr. Obama was forced to give a speech on race as a result of revelations that he’d long attended a church led by a demagogue. It was an ordinary speech. At best it was successful at minimizing a political problem. Yet some in the media equated it to the Gettysburg Address.

The importance of a proud, adversarial press speaking truth about a powerful politician and offering impartial accounts of his actions was frequently and embarrassingly lost. When Mr. Obama’s opponents, such as the Clintons, challenged his lack of experience, or pointed out that he was not in the U.S. Senate when he expressed early opposition to the war in Iraq, they were depicted as petty.

Williams is on firm ethical ground here, but one wonders whether his admonition will be heeded. Not only do racial sensitivity and racial symbolism prevent the media from fairly and critically reporting on President Obama, but he is, in some sense, one of them. He is the idealized version of the people who populate the press — urban, sophisticated, well read, articulate, and liberal. He is not merely a President for the ages but also their guy.

Is there a remedy? Well, reality has a way of creeping in. The economy will either improve or it won’t. President Obama will either control and focus the multiple voices in his administration and prevent too many cooks from spoiling the soup (or deadlocking the administration) or he won’t. And he will either continue George W. Bush’s record of post-9-11 U.S. safety and post-surge progress, or he won’t. Those events can only be spun so much. But unemployment rates, Dow Jones averages, al Qaeda terrorists and even Congress don’t much care whether he is the embodiment of the mainstream media’s hopes and dreams.

In the end, what matters most is what the President does — and what results he achieves. The MSM has to get around to reporting what everyone else knows to be the case sooner or later (as they did on Iraq). It just takes them longer than most to catch up to reality.

Juan Williams makes a poignant plea for us to evaluate President Obama on his own merits:

It is neither overweening emotion nor partisanship to see [Dr. Martin Luther] King’s moral universe bending toward justice in the act of the first non-white man taking the oath of the presidency. But now that this moment has arrived, there is a question: How shall we judge our new leader?

If his presidency is to represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone else — fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism — then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.

Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist.

This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.

And he aims squarely at his media colleagues:

During the Democrats’ primaries and caucuses, candidate Obama often got affectionate if not fawning treatment from the American media. Editors, news anchors, columnists and commentators, both white and black but especially those on the political left, too often acted as if they were in a hurry to claim their role in history as supporters of the first black president.

For example, Mr. Obama was forced to give a speech on race as a result of revelations that he’d long attended a church led by a demagogue. It was an ordinary speech. At best it was successful at minimizing a political problem. Yet some in the media equated it to the Gettysburg Address.

The importance of a proud, adversarial press speaking truth about a powerful politician and offering impartial accounts of his actions was frequently and embarrassingly lost. When Mr. Obama’s opponents, such as the Clintons, challenged his lack of experience, or pointed out that he was not in the U.S. Senate when he expressed early opposition to the war in Iraq, they were depicted as petty.

Williams is on firm ethical ground here, but one wonders whether his admonition will be heeded. Not only do racial sensitivity and racial symbolism prevent the media from fairly and critically reporting on President Obama, but he is, in some sense, one of them. He is the idealized version of the people who populate the press — urban, sophisticated, well read, articulate, and liberal. He is not merely a President for the ages but also their guy.

Is there a remedy? Well, reality has a way of creeping in. The economy will either improve or it won’t. President Obama will either control and focus the multiple voices in his administration and prevent too many cooks from spoiling the soup (or deadlocking the administration) or he won’t. And he will either continue George W. Bush’s record of post-9-11 U.S. safety and post-surge progress, or he won’t. Those events can only be spun so much. But unemployment rates, Dow Jones averages, al Qaeda terrorists and even Congress don’t much care whether he is the embodiment of the mainstream media’s hopes and dreams.

In the end, what matters most is what the President does — and what results he achieves. The MSM has to get around to reporting what everyone else knows to be the case sooner or later (as they did on Iraq). It just takes them longer than most to catch up to reality.

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Divine Intervention?

Timothy Geithner has just taken the oath and is testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. But most Americans won’t see it-not even those glued to cable news.  Both CNN and Fox have chosen instead to broadcast the National Prayer Service in Washington.  Apparently Americans haven’t gotten enough pomp and ceremony over the last four days and need complete coverage of this last minute-by-minute celebration to feel complete.In his opening statement, Geithner addressed what he called “careless mistakes” in failing to pay the taxes he owed and took “full responsibility. It’s a little better than “I dunno,” but not much. But the lack of media attention suggests he’ll get away with it.

Timothy Geithner has just taken the oath and is testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. But most Americans won’t see it-not even those glued to cable news.  Both CNN and Fox have chosen instead to broadcast the National Prayer Service in Washington.  Apparently Americans haven’t gotten enough pomp and ceremony over the last four days and need complete coverage of this last minute-by-minute celebration to feel complete.In his opening statement, Geithner addressed what he called “careless mistakes” in failing to pay the taxes he owed and took “full responsibility. It’s a little better than “I dunno,” but not much. But the lack of media attention suggests he’ll get away with it.

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Free Republicans

Well, the party’s over. The last phase of the process is complete. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have taken their oaths of office. (Albeit in Obama’s case, in a mangled pas de deux with Chief Justice Roberts and Obama both comically botching the Constitutionally-prescribed words — one hopes they met in private later and repeated it properly, if only to shut up the inevitable “he never took the oath, so he’s not the president!” nuts.)

And the Republicans, like drunks coming off a record bender, have to be looking around woozily and asking “did anyone get the license plate of that biodiesel-burning truck?”

The last two elections have not been kind to the Republicans. In 2006, the American people handed both Houses of Congress over to the Democrats. And last November, Democrats not only increased their majority position to near-total power, but they took the presidency and vice-presidency as well. And as far as the third branch goes, any vacancies in the Supreme Court will be filled by that Democratic president, with the advice and consent of the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Republicans are thoroughly confirmed in the role of the minority party — they are virtually powerless in the House and can barely sustain a filibuster in the Senate, to say nothing of the mere 22 Republican governors currently holding office.

So here are the Republicans, bleary-eyed and battered, looking around and wondering what happened.  Once the headache eases, they will have to ask themselves the inevitable question: what the heck do we do now?

The Republicans haven’t been this powerless since 1976 — if not 1964. They’ve fallen, and they can’t seem to get up. They’ve lost the power they held so long, and have to deal with it.

As the song goes, however, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” The Republicans haven’t quite fallen off the edge of the earth, but they are definitely in the “Here There Be Dragons” part of the map.

So this is the perfect time to gamble. To take long shots. To run risks. To rediscover the principles that they hold most dear, and to take stands based on those principles.

There are a lot of Republicans who have felt shut out of the party for a long while. Some of them were so disaffected that they cast their votes for Democrats this last time, as a rejection of the Republican leadership and a repudiation of the course they chose. They need to be invited back into the fold, and given the opportunity to speak and act freely. It’s time to try not just something new, but anything new — a method I like to call “shotgun problem solving”: try several solutions all at once and see if any of them work.

And it wouldn’t hurt to keep Andy Levy’s advice in mind, too, if they actually want to regain relevancy.

The  Democrats, for good or ill, now hold all the cards. They have been given the reins of power by the American people, and that isn’t going to change for at least the next two years. That is the harsh reality that the Republicans have to face, the fact that they need to deal with.

So choose your fights carefully, Republicans, but also have fun. Feel free to spread your wings, as the Democrats are charged with the final say on many decisions that could go terribly wrong.

Don’t let that ever escape anyone’s attention — yours, theirs, or the American people’s.

Well, the party’s over. The last phase of the process is complete. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have taken their oaths of office. (Albeit in Obama’s case, in a mangled pas de deux with Chief Justice Roberts and Obama both comically botching the Constitutionally-prescribed words — one hopes they met in private later and repeated it properly, if only to shut up the inevitable “he never took the oath, so he’s not the president!” nuts.)

And the Republicans, like drunks coming off a record bender, have to be looking around woozily and asking “did anyone get the license plate of that biodiesel-burning truck?”

The last two elections have not been kind to the Republicans. In 2006, the American people handed both Houses of Congress over to the Democrats. And last November, Democrats not only increased their majority position to near-total power, but they took the presidency and vice-presidency as well. And as far as the third branch goes, any vacancies in the Supreme Court will be filled by that Democratic president, with the advice and consent of the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Republicans are thoroughly confirmed in the role of the minority party — they are virtually powerless in the House and can barely sustain a filibuster in the Senate, to say nothing of the mere 22 Republican governors currently holding office.

So here are the Republicans, bleary-eyed and battered, looking around and wondering what happened.  Once the headache eases, they will have to ask themselves the inevitable question: what the heck do we do now?

The Republicans haven’t been this powerless since 1976 — if not 1964. They’ve fallen, and they can’t seem to get up. They’ve lost the power they held so long, and have to deal with it.

As the song goes, however, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” The Republicans haven’t quite fallen off the edge of the earth, but they are definitely in the “Here There Be Dragons” part of the map.

So this is the perfect time to gamble. To take long shots. To run risks. To rediscover the principles that they hold most dear, and to take stands based on those principles.

There are a lot of Republicans who have felt shut out of the party for a long while. Some of them were so disaffected that they cast their votes for Democrats this last time, as a rejection of the Republican leadership and a repudiation of the course they chose. They need to be invited back into the fold, and given the opportunity to speak and act freely. It’s time to try not just something new, but anything new — a method I like to call “shotgun problem solving”: try several solutions all at once and see if any of them work.

And it wouldn’t hurt to keep Andy Levy’s advice in mind, too, if they actually want to regain relevancy.

The  Democrats, for good or ill, now hold all the cards. They have been given the reins of power by the American people, and that isn’t going to change for at least the next two years. That is the harsh reality that the Republicans have to face, the fact that they need to deal with.

So choose your fights carefully, Republicans, but also have fun. Feel free to spread your wings, as the Democrats are charged with the final say on many decisions that could go terribly wrong.

Don’t let that ever escape anyone’s attention — yours, theirs, or the American people’s.

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What “Hard Truths?”

David Ignatius thought the Inaugural Speech was a call to hear “hard truths.” He sums up:

It was a plain speech, like those of early American presidents, better savored in the reading than in the listening. The new president didn’t pull out the rhetorical stops; he didn’t try to score points. He just told the truth — including the hard parts — about where the country is and where it needs to go. He could not have said it more clearly:

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

But the line about “stale political arguments” doesn’t have much to do with hard truths. It has to do with preempting or debunking his political opponents. Because, as we know, the liberals’ stale political arguments — from Nancy’s Pelosi’s taxing the rich to President Obama’s dismissal of his predecessor’s “expediency” in the war on terror — are all the rage.

What are those hard truths, and what would they look like? They might include telling the UAW we aren’t subsidizing a failing industry. It might involve leveling with voters that free trade is a necessity, not a great evil, if we are to recover from the recession and not make it worse. A hard truth might be that many of the national security policies and structures put in place by his predecessor are working quite well. Another hard truth may be that the House stimulus plan is a grab-bag of spending goodies, which doesn’t include much infrastructure spending. And still another hard truth would be that a large number of forces are staying in Iraq for quite a long time — for some very good reasons. There are many such hard truths, none of which we’ve heard so far and certainly none at the inauguration.

The New York Times, of all places, has some insightful analyses from a selection of presidential speechwriters. None is more perceptive than this from a former Carter speechwriter:

So what was the over-arching theme of President Obama’s address? What was its inexorable force of argument that would drive us to accept even what we might previously have opposed? Above all, what does it mean in specific, concrete, unmistakable action?

Like so much about the astonishingly gifted, directed, disciplined and composed Barack Obama — we don’t know. And my honest reaction listening to his inaugural address is that he doesn’t know either.

Whether history comes to regard President Obama’s remarks today as a great speech will depend upon how it comes to regard his presidency. And that will now, for the first time in his career, depend more on the actions he takes than the words he speaks.

Today he seized the capital. Tomorrow we will begin to learn from his actions how he chooses to use power, and how power will use him. Only then will we know what his words meant today. And who our 44th president really is.

Perhaps those hard truths will come when President Obama figures out exactly what he — not the multitudes — think about the hard issues of the day. Once he knows that and figures things out by choosing and doing, he’ll be in a better position to tell the rest of us. He just hasn’t done it yet.

David Ignatius thought the Inaugural Speech was a call to hear “hard truths.” He sums up:

It was a plain speech, like those of early American presidents, better savored in the reading than in the listening. The new president didn’t pull out the rhetorical stops; he didn’t try to score points. He just told the truth — including the hard parts — about where the country is and where it needs to go. He could not have said it more clearly:

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

But the line about “stale political arguments” doesn’t have much to do with hard truths. It has to do with preempting or debunking his political opponents. Because, as we know, the liberals’ stale political arguments — from Nancy’s Pelosi’s taxing the rich to President Obama’s dismissal of his predecessor’s “expediency” in the war on terror — are all the rage.

What are those hard truths, and what would they look like? They might include telling the UAW we aren’t subsidizing a failing industry. It might involve leveling with voters that free trade is a necessity, not a great evil, if we are to recover from the recession and not make it worse. A hard truth might be that many of the national security policies and structures put in place by his predecessor are working quite well. Another hard truth may be that the House stimulus plan is a grab-bag of spending goodies, which doesn’t include much infrastructure spending. And still another hard truth would be that a large number of forces are staying in Iraq for quite a long time — for some very good reasons. There are many such hard truths, none of which we’ve heard so far and certainly none at the inauguration.

The New York Times, of all places, has some insightful analyses from a selection of presidential speechwriters. None is more perceptive than this from a former Carter speechwriter:

So what was the over-arching theme of President Obama’s address? What was its inexorable force of argument that would drive us to accept even what we might previously have opposed? Above all, what does it mean in specific, concrete, unmistakable action?

Like so much about the astonishingly gifted, directed, disciplined and composed Barack Obama — we don’t know. And my honest reaction listening to his inaugural address is that he doesn’t know either.

Whether history comes to regard President Obama’s remarks today as a great speech will depend upon how it comes to regard his presidency. And that will now, for the first time in his career, depend more on the actions he takes than the words he speaks.

Today he seized the capital. Tomorrow we will begin to learn from his actions how he chooses to use power, and how power will use him. Only then will we know what his words meant today. And who our 44th president really is.

Perhaps those hard truths will come when President Obama figures out exactly what he — not the multitudes — think about the hard issues of the day. Once he knows that and figures things out by choosing and doing, he’ll be in a better position to tell the rest of us. He just hasn’t done it yet.

Read Less

Is “Unacceptable” Now Merely “Troubling”?

The new White House website is up, and one can “Read the President’s entire agenda” with a single click.

Under “Foreign Policy,” there are sub-headings covering different issues, most with multiple bullet-points.  Here is the entire entry for Iran:

Diplomacy: Barack Obama supports tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to use the power of American diplomacy to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel. Obama and Biden will offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. In carrying out this diplomacy, we will coordinate closely with our allies and proceed with careful preparation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

There is no second bullet point.  Weren’t some other “options” supposed to still be on the table in case Iran continues its “troubling behavior” after “tough and direct diplomacy”?

The new White House website is up, and one can “Read the President’s entire agenda” with a single click.

Under “Foreign Policy,” there are sub-headings covering different issues, most with multiple bullet-points.  Here is the entire entry for Iran:

Diplomacy: Barack Obama supports tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to use the power of American diplomacy to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel. Obama and Biden will offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. In carrying out this diplomacy, we will coordinate closely with our allies and proceed with careful preparation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

There is no second bullet point.  Weren’t some other “options” supposed to still be on the table in case Iran continues its “troubling behavior” after “tough and direct diplomacy”?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Bret Stephens on Gaza: “Bottom line: Israel has scored an impressive tactical victory. But it has missed the strategic opportunity to rid itself of the menace on its doorstep. In the Middle East, opportunities don’t always knock twice.” I’m not sure it isn’t a game changer– much depends on the reaction of the EU and the U.S., whether Egypt’s conduct has been altered and Iran has learned any lesson.

Nancy Pelosi was staking out “turf” by going on national TV over the weekend to disagree with the new President on the prosecution of Bush administration officials and the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, but she “isn’t looking to pick a fight” and insists she’s committed to the President’s “broad agenda.” Uh huh. The test of his success, it is becoming more evident each day, will be the degree to which he can ignore or run right over her turf.

At David Frum’s NewMajority website, Rudy Giuliani tracks the decline of Republicans in suburbs and in large chunks of the west, east, and midwest (everywhere really).

Meanwhile Douglas Holtz-Eakin  — who couldn’t come up with an economic vision for John McCain’s campaign — criticizes George W. Bush for not having one.

It is safe for Democrats to say it now: Steny Hoyer says George W. Bush kept us safe. It would have been nice if President Obama said it too.

Mickey Kaus: “Conservatives I’ve met  in D.C. so far have been near-ebullient, not downcast or bitter. Why? a) They know how unhappy they’d be now if McCain had won; b) Obama has not fulfilled their worst fears, or even second-to-worst fears; c) now they can be an honest, straight-up opposition.” Some are a bit nervous, but that’s about right.

A fair take on The Speech from TNR: “The bleak circumstances make a full-throated celebration all the more important–people need a little uplift and escapism at a time like this, maybe a little something to aspire to. In the same way, down-and-out people are even more starved for lyricism and inspiration–at least when they tune into a symbolic event like an inaugural. Obama should have given it to them and saved the wonkery for his state of the union.”

Howard Fineman wasn’t exactly wowed: “The conventional wisdom is that Obama has risen on the strength of speeches, and it is true that he has given some memorable ones—especially the one he gave to the Democratic convention in 2004. But sometimes the words he utters mean less than the tableau he creates. Was that true today? Perhaps. I was expecting more soaring emotion than I heard. On economic and domestic policy, Obama warned repeatedly of ‘crisis’ and the need to confront ‘unpleasant choices.’ His language was spare, and his vision of the hard work and sacrifice—from the pioneers and slaves to our warrior heroes—was inspiring, but in a sobering way. Eschewing poetry or Lincoln, Obama resorted to old movies for lines. The ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off’ language was from a surprisingly pedestrian source: a 1936 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie called ‘Swing Time.'”

Speechwriter Michael Gerson gives his take: “To be sure, Obama has a presence and confidence that completely filled America’s main rhetorical stage — extraordinary for a man who just six years ago was giving floor speeches in the Illinois legislature. His arguments were sophisticated and politically ambitious. But the speech itself was — amazingly, inexplicably — uneven in its quality. ” But he liked the substance and thought it sounded conservative.

Ross Douthat explains the whiplash nature of the speech: “But time and again, Obama pivoted from this theme to the sort of begin-the-world-anew rhetoric that we’ve come to expect from all our presidents, liberal and conservative alike – promising that hard choices are really false choices, that pragmatism can overcome partisanship, that there’s no technological hurdle that Science can’t leap, and that all those nameless ‘cynics’ who worry about hubris, overreach and decline don’t understand that in the brave new age of Obama, their pessimistic instincts ‘no longer apply.'”

Jay Nordlinger notes what I think was the speech’s greatest failing: its lack of graciousness. “I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush — the barest minimum: ‘I thank him for his service,’ or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.” After the large and small acts of graciousness extended to him, it reflected poorly on him not to respond in kind.

The blow by blow on the flubbed oath. The Chief Justice led him astray and he followed. The lesson? Smart, credentialed people can get things really wrong.

Sen. John Cornyn’s delay of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation struck me as classless. If only one Republican voted “no” in committee why put off the inevitable for a day? If the ethical concerns are so great, where is all the opposition from Cornyn’s own party?

I thought initially it was yellow, and then decided it was gold. Others say “chartreuse.” It was lovely.

The markets had a very bad day. A grim reminder of where we are. Larry Kudlow goes through the remains of the day — and slams the Inauguration speech. He wasn’t bought by a few lamb chops with the President!

Newt Gingrich, who has been touting bipartisan cooperation, says Republicans should oppose Tim Geithner.

And there is reason to, as long as the Obama team is playing hide the ball. “Obama aides and Treasury officials didn’t respond to requests for more financial information about Geithner, but without greater disclosure, some observers see possible future problems. ‘The Obama administration has its first test of its open doors policy,’ said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. ‘Serious mistakes have been found in Geithner’s tax filings. Will the administration come clean to reassure Americans that everything else is in order? The risk here is that the Obama administration, only hours old, could be tainted by the stain of hypocrisy, claiming to be open, but practicing the same old game of secrecy.'”

Bret Stephens on Gaza: “Bottom line: Israel has scored an impressive tactical victory. But it has missed the strategic opportunity to rid itself of the menace on its doorstep. In the Middle East, opportunities don’t always knock twice.” I’m not sure it isn’t a game changer– much depends on the reaction of the EU and the U.S., whether Egypt’s conduct has been altered and Iran has learned any lesson.

Nancy Pelosi was staking out “turf” by going on national TV over the weekend to disagree with the new President on the prosecution of Bush administration officials and the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, but she “isn’t looking to pick a fight” and insists she’s committed to the President’s “broad agenda.” Uh huh. The test of his success, it is becoming more evident each day, will be the degree to which he can ignore or run right over her turf.

At David Frum’s NewMajority website, Rudy Giuliani tracks the decline of Republicans in suburbs and in large chunks of the west, east, and midwest (everywhere really).

Meanwhile Douglas Holtz-Eakin  — who couldn’t come up with an economic vision for John McCain’s campaign — criticizes George W. Bush for not having one.

It is safe for Democrats to say it now: Steny Hoyer says George W. Bush kept us safe. It would have been nice if President Obama said it too.

Mickey Kaus: “Conservatives I’ve met  in D.C. so far have been near-ebullient, not downcast or bitter. Why? a) They know how unhappy they’d be now if McCain had won; b) Obama has not fulfilled their worst fears, or even second-to-worst fears; c) now they can be an honest, straight-up opposition.” Some are a bit nervous, but that’s about right.

A fair take on The Speech from TNR: “The bleak circumstances make a full-throated celebration all the more important–people need a little uplift and escapism at a time like this, maybe a little something to aspire to. In the same way, down-and-out people are even more starved for lyricism and inspiration–at least when they tune into a symbolic event like an inaugural. Obama should have given it to them and saved the wonkery for his state of the union.”

Howard Fineman wasn’t exactly wowed: “The conventional wisdom is that Obama has risen on the strength of speeches, and it is true that he has given some memorable ones—especially the one he gave to the Democratic convention in 2004. But sometimes the words he utters mean less than the tableau he creates. Was that true today? Perhaps. I was expecting more soaring emotion than I heard. On economic and domestic policy, Obama warned repeatedly of ‘crisis’ and the need to confront ‘unpleasant choices.’ His language was spare, and his vision of the hard work and sacrifice—from the pioneers and slaves to our warrior heroes—was inspiring, but in a sobering way. Eschewing poetry or Lincoln, Obama resorted to old movies for lines. The ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off’ language was from a surprisingly pedestrian source: a 1936 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie called ‘Swing Time.'”

Speechwriter Michael Gerson gives his take: “To be sure, Obama has a presence and confidence that completely filled America’s main rhetorical stage — extraordinary for a man who just six years ago was giving floor speeches in the Illinois legislature. His arguments were sophisticated and politically ambitious. But the speech itself was — amazingly, inexplicably — uneven in its quality. ” But he liked the substance and thought it sounded conservative.

Ross Douthat explains the whiplash nature of the speech: “But time and again, Obama pivoted from this theme to the sort of begin-the-world-anew rhetoric that we’ve come to expect from all our presidents, liberal and conservative alike – promising that hard choices are really false choices, that pragmatism can overcome partisanship, that there’s no technological hurdle that Science can’t leap, and that all those nameless ‘cynics’ who worry about hubris, overreach and decline don’t understand that in the brave new age of Obama, their pessimistic instincts ‘no longer apply.'”

Jay Nordlinger notes what I think was the speech’s greatest failing: its lack of graciousness. “I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush — the barest minimum: ‘I thank him for his service,’ or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.” After the large and small acts of graciousness extended to him, it reflected poorly on him not to respond in kind.

The blow by blow on the flubbed oath. The Chief Justice led him astray and he followed. The lesson? Smart, credentialed people can get things really wrong.

Sen. John Cornyn’s delay of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation struck me as classless. If only one Republican voted “no” in committee why put off the inevitable for a day? If the ethical concerns are so great, where is all the opposition from Cornyn’s own party?

I thought initially it was yellow, and then decided it was gold. Others say “chartreuse.” It was lovely.

The markets had a very bad day. A grim reminder of where we are. Larry Kudlow goes through the remains of the day — and slams the Inauguration speech. He wasn’t bought by a few lamb chops with the President!

Newt Gingrich, who has been touting bipartisan cooperation, says Republicans should oppose Tim Geithner.

And there is reason to, as long as the Obama team is playing hide the ball. “Obama aides and Treasury officials didn’t respond to requests for more financial information about Geithner, but without greater disclosure, some observers see possible future problems. ‘The Obama administration has its first test of its open doors policy,’ said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. ‘Serious mistakes have been found in Geithner’s tax filings. Will the administration come clean to reassure Americans that everything else is in order? The risk here is that the Obama administration, only hours old, could be tainted by the stain of hypocrisy, claiming to be open, but practicing the same old game of secrecy.'”

Read Less




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