Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 4, 2009

Uh-Oh, He Lost Dowd

I admit it — I was looking forward to reading Maureen Dowd. Would she go into “Wall Street is worse, so get over it” mode? Or would she turn on the hapless President? She starts off with the latter:

It took Daschle’s resignation to shake the president out of his arrogant attitude that his charmed circle doesn’t have to abide by the lofty standards he lectured the rest of us about for two years. .  .

Mr. Obama’s errors on the helter-skelter stimulus package were also self-induced. He should put down those Lincoln books and order “Dave” from Netflix.

When Kevin Kline becomes an accidental president, he summons his personal accountant, Murray Blum, to the White House to cut millions in silly programs out of the federal budget so he can give money to the homeless.

And then she channels John McCain — or CATO:

“Mr. Obama should have taken a red pencil to the $819 billion stimulus bill and slashed all the provisions that looked like caricatures of Democratic drunken-sailor spending.

As Senator Kit Bond, a Republican, put it, there were so many good targets that he felt “like a mosquito in a nudist colony.” He was especially worried about the provision requiring the steel and iron for infrastructure construction to be American-made, and by the time the chastened president talked to Chris Wallace on Fox Tuesday, he agreed that “we can’t send a protectionist message.”

Alas, she can’t resist — and takes a detour into Wall Street bashing. But let’s not move on so quickly.

Have we reached the perfect political consensus? If Dowd and conservative blogs can agree, maybe Congress can. It goes like this: dump the tax cheats (Larry Kudlow says that means you, Mr. Geithner), forget the ethics waivers, avoid protectionism (I guess we’re not renegotiating NAFTA after all), and cut out all the junky spending from the stimulus.

One of the many TV anchors on the White House PR blitz should have thought to ask whether President Obama has been a spectator at his own presidency — watching as Pelosi makes off with his bipartisan stimulus bill and waiting for the Gray Lady to chase Daschle out.  Nevertheless, he did bring about some bipartisan consensus. Unfortunately for the President, the consensus is that most of what he’s done in the first two weeks should be redone.

So rather than “Dave” we need “Groundhog Day” — and the chance to see whether he can get it right if we start all over again.

I admit it — I was looking forward to reading Maureen Dowd. Would she go into “Wall Street is worse, so get over it” mode? Or would she turn on the hapless President? She starts off with the latter:

It took Daschle’s resignation to shake the president out of his arrogant attitude that his charmed circle doesn’t have to abide by the lofty standards he lectured the rest of us about for two years. .  .

Mr. Obama’s errors on the helter-skelter stimulus package were also self-induced. He should put down those Lincoln books and order “Dave” from Netflix.

When Kevin Kline becomes an accidental president, he summons his personal accountant, Murray Blum, to the White House to cut millions in silly programs out of the federal budget so he can give money to the homeless.

And then she channels John McCain — or CATO:

“Mr. Obama should have taken a red pencil to the $819 billion stimulus bill and slashed all the provisions that looked like caricatures of Democratic drunken-sailor spending.

As Senator Kit Bond, a Republican, put it, there were so many good targets that he felt “like a mosquito in a nudist colony.” He was especially worried about the provision requiring the steel and iron for infrastructure construction to be American-made, and by the time the chastened president talked to Chris Wallace on Fox Tuesday, he agreed that “we can’t send a protectionist message.”

Alas, she can’t resist — and takes a detour into Wall Street bashing. But let’s not move on so quickly.

Have we reached the perfect political consensus? If Dowd and conservative blogs can agree, maybe Congress can. It goes like this: dump the tax cheats (Larry Kudlow says that means you, Mr. Geithner), forget the ethics waivers, avoid protectionism (I guess we’re not renegotiating NAFTA after all), and cut out all the junky spending from the stimulus.

One of the many TV anchors on the White House PR blitz should have thought to ask whether President Obama has been a spectator at his own presidency — watching as Pelosi makes off with his bipartisan stimulus bill and waiting for the Gray Lady to chase Daschle out.  Nevertheless, he did bring about some bipartisan consensus. Unfortunately for the President, the consensus is that most of what he’s done in the first two weeks should be redone.

So rather than “Dave” we need “Groundhog Day” — and the chance to see whether he can get it right if we start all over again.

Read Less

If the Arabs Prefer Fatah . .

At a meeting in Abu Dhabi, Arab leaders made it abundantly clear who the sole representative of the Palestinian people is: PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah dominated PLO. So why is there so much insistence among Western diplomats and pundits alike on turning Hamas into a legitimate interlocutor? Granted, the PLO has not exactly delivered the goods in nearly two decades of “peace process,” but who’s to argue that Hamas would do better? Clearly, Arab leaders do not think so. Why should we undermine their efforts to sideline the Islamist organization that is a threat to their stability, and therefore, to our (Western) interests in the region?

At a meeting in Abu Dhabi, Arab leaders made it abundantly clear who the sole representative of the Palestinian people is: PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah dominated PLO. So why is there so much insistence among Western diplomats and pundits alike on turning Hamas into a legitimate interlocutor? Granted, the PLO has not exactly delivered the goods in nearly two decades of “peace process,” but who’s to argue that Hamas would do better? Clearly, Arab leaders do not think so. Why should we undermine their efforts to sideline the Islamist organization that is a threat to their stability, and therefore, to our (Western) interests in the region?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

In the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary all that money isn’t helping Terry McAuliffe run away with the nomination — he’s tied with an ex-state legislator and his unfavorable rating (23%) is close to his favorable (30%) rating.

A college hate crime by a student political party! Why isn’t this front page news in every major paper? Ah, it’s the college Democrats this time — defacing crosses. Lovely.

Bill McGurn dares the Democratic Congress to define and outlaw torture now that there is a President who would sign such a bill. But whoops: “That, of course, would mean a vote that would force lawmakers to face up to the real-life consequences of their actions — and submit those actions to the judgment of the American people. And as Mr. Obama is learning, the one thing that frightens Congress more than al Qaeda is accountability.” And it might remove the “huge back door” by which the President has empowered a task force to come up with exceptions to his executive order.

Isn’t there a way to spin the Daschle debacle as something other than a defeat? No, Ben. But the Obama team must certainly appreciate the can-do spirit.

And doesn’t it sound worse, if Robert Gibbs is to be believed, that the White House was just fine pursuing the nomination? Makes it sound like the President didn’t learn a thing from Geithner, Richardson, etc. Michael Ledeen agrees.

Why were Washington insiders so surprised yesterday at Daschle’s retreat? Robert Reich says: “Maybe official Washington, much like most of Wall Street, is still not quite getting it.” Ya’ think?

The President’s heartfelt comments are telling: “Ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington from the bottom up. I don’t want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards: one for powerful people and one for ordinary people paying their taxes.” But he and the Democrats in the Senate were set on moving forward when the New York Times op-ed helped changed Daschle’s mind? Sounds like two standards were just fine with a lot of people.

No wonder he’s fudging on his no-smoking pledge. I’d smoke too if I had two weeks like his.

Steven Pearlstein: “Obama’s first mistake was to hand the keys of the transition office over to a crew made up almost exclusively of Washington insiders who — surprise! — have largely succeeded in restoring to power their friends from the Clinton administration. Worse still, he has fallen for the tired old Washington ‘wisdom’ that the only way to get anything done is to concentrate even more power in an ever larger White House full of czars and councils and chiefs of staff who ostensibly are there to ‘coordinate’ policy but invariably wind up making it, sapping the departments and agencies of whatever importance and energy and creativity they have left. ” I think Karl Rove said the same thing weeks ago.

I saw this headline — “And the Award for Worst Nominations Goes to. . .” — and thought , well Daschle and Geithner, of course. But it was about the Oscars.

Do you believe in miracles? Norm Coleman might — he gets to consider 4800 more discarded ballots. But were his lawyers smart enough to pick the right ones?

In the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary all that money isn’t helping Terry McAuliffe run away with the nomination — he’s tied with an ex-state legislator and his unfavorable rating (23%) is close to his favorable (30%) rating.

A college hate crime by a student political party! Why isn’t this front page news in every major paper? Ah, it’s the college Democrats this time — defacing crosses. Lovely.

Bill McGurn dares the Democratic Congress to define and outlaw torture now that there is a President who would sign such a bill. But whoops: “That, of course, would mean a vote that would force lawmakers to face up to the real-life consequences of their actions — and submit those actions to the judgment of the American people. And as Mr. Obama is learning, the one thing that frightens Congress more than al Qaeda is accountability.” And it might remove the “huge back door” by which the President has empowered a task force to come up with exceptions to his executive order.

Isn’t there a way to spin the Daschle debacle as something other than a defeat? No, Ben. But the Obama team must certainly appreciate the can-do spirit.

And doesn’t it sound worse, if Robert Gibbs is to be believed, that the White House was just fine pursuing the nomination? Makes it sound like the President didn’t learn a thing from Geithner, Richardson, etc. Michael Ledeen agrees.

Why were Washington insiders so surprised yesterday at Daschle’s retreat? Robert Reich says: “Maybe official Washington, much like most of Wall Street, is still not quite getting it.” Ya’ think?

The President’s heartfelt comments are telling: “Ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington from the bottom up. I don’t want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards: one for powerful people and one for ordinary people paying their taxes.” But he and the Democrats in the Senate were set on moving forward when the New York Times op-ed helped changed Daschle’s mind? Sounds like two standards were just fine with a lot of people.

No wonder he’s fudging on his no-smoking pledge. I’d smoke too if I had two weeks like his.

Steven Pearlstein: “Obama’s first mistake was to hand the keys of the transition office over to a crew made up almost exclusively of Washington insiders who — surprise! — have largely succeeded in restoring to power their friends from the Clinton administration. Worse still, he has fallen for the tired old Washington ‘wisdom’ that the only way to get anything done is to concentrate even more power in an ever larger White House full of czars and councils and chiefs of staff who ostensibly are there to ‘coordinate’ policy but invariably wind up making it, sapping the departments and agencies of whatever importance and energy and creativity they have left. ” I think Karl Rove said the same thing weeks ago.

I saw this headline — “And the Award for Worst Nominations Goes to. . .” — and thought , well Daschle and Geithner, of course. But it was about the Oscars.

Do you believe in miracles? Norm Coleman might — he gets to consider 4800 more discarded ballots. But were his lawyers smart enough to pick the right ones?

Read Less




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