Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 12, 2009

Re: “We did not adequately focus on these concerns.”

Well, the Geithner bank bailout roll-out was bad but Obama’s week got a whole lot worse. As Abe mentioned, Judd Gregg threw in the towel and declared: “It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me.” Well, that’s one way to put the Census power grab by the White House above the fold. And the spirit of bipartisanship seems more an idea than a practice.

A Republican on Capitol Hill expressed the widespread view that Gregg is very smart and valuable to the Republicans, but wryly commented: “I’m baffled as to how he didn’t see this coming. Who knew that going to work for a Democrat administration would mean working with Democrats to implement Democrat policies set by other Democrats.” And seeking to manipulate the Census out of the White House.

Yes, he’s going back to the Senate, apparently. He never resigned. Which come to think of it was the only smartly played move in this entire fiasco.

Well, the Geithner bank bailout roll-out was bad but Obama’s week got a whole lot worse. As Abe mentioned, Judd Gregg threw in the towel and declared: “It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me.” Well, that’s one way to put the Census power grab by the White House above the fold. And the spirit of bipartisanship seems more an idea than a practice.

A Republican on Capitol Hill expressed the widespread view that Gregg is very smart and valuable to the Republicans, but wryly commented: “I’m baffled as to how he didn’t see this coming. Who knew that going to work for a Democrat administration would mean working with Democrats to implement Democrat policies set by other Democrats.” And seeking to manipulate the Census out of the White House.

Yes, he’s going back to the Senate, apparently. He never resigned. Which come to think of it was the only smartly played move in this entire fiasco.

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“We did not adequately focus on these concerns.”

Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire, has withdrawn his nomination for Commerce Secretary. Here’s his reasoning: “[I]t has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”

The most alarming aspect of this development is not President Obama’s outsourced anti-stimulative stimulus — and it’s not even his desire to have the Census Director report to the White House. It’s that person after person engages Barack Obama on vital topics only to look back and realize that they don’t quite know what the President said. During a phone chat, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski thought Obama had promised him an Eastern European missile defense system; he was wrong. Gen. Anthony Zinni thought the administration had given him the ambassadorship to Iraq; he was wrong. Judd Gregg is only the most recent Obama interlocutor to be undone by the Audacity of Confusion.

This is bad. Does the President know where he stands on these topics at any given moment?  The American public certainly doesn’t. On Monday night, we all shut off our televisions thinking we were just promised a rescue plan from Timothy Geithner the next day; we were wrong. Wall Street is still desperately waiting for some definitive answers. Will this ever agreeable, always unhelpful haze ever lift?

Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire, has withdrawn his nomination for Commerce Secretary. Here’s his reasoning: “[I]t has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”

The most alarming aspect of this development is not President Obama’s outsourced anti-stimulative stimulus — and it’s not even his desire to have the Census Director report to the White House. It’s that person after person engages Barack Obama on vital topics only to look back and realize that they don’t quite know what the President said. During a phone chat, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski thought Obama had promised him an Eastern European missile defense system; he was wrong. Gen. Anthony Zinni thought the administration had given him the ambassadorship to Iraq; he was wrong. Judd Gregg is only the most recent Obama interlocutor to be undone by the Audacity of Confusion.

This is bad. Does the President know where he stands on these topics at any given moment?  The American public certainly doesn’t. On Monday night, we all shut off our televisions thinking we were just promised a rescue plan from Timothy Geithner the next day; we were wrong. Wall Street is still desperately waiting for some definitive answers. Will this ever agreeable, always unhelpful haze ever lift?

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Commentary of the Day

Margo, on Jennifer Rubin:

CKMcLeod, the first positive signs happened today — 1% gain in consumer spending and decrease in the rate of new unemployment claims.

Swampfox, while I agree that markets behave irrationally at times, since what human institution doesn’t, I’d also like to point out that it is quite rational to be “afraid” of things like the huge government spending bill and the speeches attacking business and promising caps on executive salaries, etc. This isn’t fear that is causing people to misperceive the real value of their assets and the future value of their enterprises, it is rational understanding that new factors might be introduced that will affect them negatively.

In other words, markets respond to Obama as an actor in the drama who plans to take measures based on his views, rather than as an observer. Insofar as his dire language suggests drastic measures of a certain kind, the market response has been quite rational.

Margo, on Jennifer Rubin:

CKMcLeod, the first positive signs happened today — 1% gain in consumer spending and decrease in the rate of new unemployment claims.

Swampfox, while I agree that markets behave irrationally at times, since what human institution doesn’t, I’d also like to point out that it is quite rational to be “afraid” of things like the huge government spending bill and the speeches attacking business and promising caps on executive salaries, etc. This isn’t fear that is causing people to misperceive the real value of their assets and the future value of their enterprises, it is rational understanding that new factors might be introduced that will affect them negatively.

In other words, markets respond to Obama as an actor in the drama who plans to take measures based on his views, rather than as an observer. Insofar as his dire language suggests drastic measures of a certain kind, the market response has been quite rational.

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Will 2010 Be 2006?

Michael Barone writes:

Astonishing news on the generic ballot question. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that Democrats are currently ahead of Republicans by only 40 percent to 39 percent. Given that this generic ballot question over the years has tended to understate Republicans’ performances in actual elections, one gathers that if the 2010 election for House seats were held today, Republicans would win or come close to winning a majority of seats—which is to say, they would gain about 40 seats. By way of comparison, they gained 52 seats when they won their majority in 1994.

While warning that this may be a temporary blip, Barone’s analysis suggests that the combination of a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress may not be good news for the latter. By unleashing their most extreme liberal impulses, they may be in danger of missing the center of the electorate — by a mile.

Some other factors are potential problems for congressional Democrats. First, Obama has banked his presidency on the stimulus “working.” (People aren’t going to be tricked, I suspect, by phantom job “savings.” If the economy isn’t growing briskly again and unemployment isn’t way down, very few will think the stimulus worked.)  The economy will eventually recover in due course, related or not to the stimulus bill, but perhaps not in time to save the congressmen who voted for it. The Democrats may claim George W. Bush “broke” the economy, but they are almost the sole owners of the stimulus and what is to follow.

Second, there is a growing, endemic ethics problem among Democrats, which is at least as troublesome as the problems bedeviling the Republicans in 2006. The list of suspects is growing — Dodd, Rangel, Moran, and Murtha, to name just a few. Add in the Obama administration’s tax cheats and Blago and it does not add up to a pretty picture.

Finally, according to Rasmussen, Republicans are making progress on the issues. On which party was best able to handle the economy Republicans trailed Democrats by fifteen points, then twelve and then nine (last month). This month the gap is only five. Last month, Republican’s trailed Democrats on taxes by two points, but now are up three.

The combination of a major policy issue (in 2006 it was the Iraq war; in 2010 it will be the economy) coupled with a sense that the party in power is making out like bandits, usually doesn’t bode well for incumbents. Twenty months is a lifetime in politics, and things may actually get worse for the Democrats before they get better.

Michael Barone writes:

Astonishing news on the generic ballot question. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that Democrats are currently ahead of Republicans by only 40 percent to 39 percent. Given that this generic ballot question over the years has tended to understate Republicans’ performances in actual elections, one gathers that if the 2010 election for House seats were held today, Republicans would win or come close to winning a majority of seats—which is to say, they would gain about 40 seats. By way of comparison, they gained 52 seats when they won their majority in 1994.

While warning that this may be a temporary blip, Barone’s analysis suggests that the combination of a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress may not be good news for the latter. By unleashing their most extreme liberal impulses, they may be in danger of missing the center of the electorate — by a mile.

Some other factors are potential problems for congressional Democrats. First, Obama has banked his presidency on the stimulus “working.” (People aren’t going to be tricked, I suspect, by phantom job “savings.” If the economy isn’t growing briskly again and unemployment isn’t way down, very few will think the stimulus worked.)  The economy will eventually recover in due course, related or not to the stimulus bill, but perhaps not in time to save the congressmen who voted for it. The Democrats may claim George W. Bush “broke” the economy, but they are almost the sole owners of the stimulus and what is to follow.

Second, there is a growing, endemic ethics problem among Democrats, which is at least as troublesome as the problems bedeviling the Republicans in 2006. The list of suspects is growing — Dodd, Rangel, Moran, and Murtha, to name just a few. Add in the Obama administration’s tax cheats and Blago and it does not add up to a pretty picture.

Finally, according to Rasmussen, Republicans are making progress on the issues. On which party was best able to handle the economy Republicans trailed Democrats by fifteen points, then twelve and then nine (last month). This month the gap is only five. Last month, Republican’s trailed Democrats on taxes by two points, but now are up three.

The combination of a major policy issue (in 2006 it was the Iraq war; in 2010 it will be the economy) coupled with a sense that the party in power is making out like bandits, usually doesn’t bode well for incumbents. Twenty months is a lifetime in politics, and things may actually get worse for the Democrats before they get better.

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Lincoln and the Stimulus

There is a long tradition of appropriating the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the service of causes and ideas which have nothing to do with the 16th president. Given the historic nature of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, it was understandable that the name of Lincoln would be taken in vain rather often as the 44th president took office. But as we celebrate today the 200th anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth, this lamentable trend of conscripting Lincoln’s memory into the service of Obama continues.

Air America’s Laura Flanders writes on the Nation’s website that opposition to Obama’s stimulus boondoggle is akin to spitting on the Gettysburg Address, which she claims is more or less what all conservatives really think. Flanders believes conservatives don’t like all that talk about government being “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Of course, the opposite is true today since it is modern American liberalism that has specialized in elites attempting to impose their ideological prejudices on the voters.

She writes: “But the notion that government has a responsibility to serve the common good — by stimulus spending if necessary — is exactly what has conservatives freaked.”

Actually, conservatives believe, like Lincoln, that the common good requires government to take action to protect the republic. This is why they supported — and still support — federal measures to fight terrorists that had liberals “freaked” for the past eight years.

Elsewhere at the Nation, historian Eric Foner weighs in with a lengthier treatise on the anniversary, not all of which is without merit. He concludes by quoting Lincoln’s second inaugural which rightly saw the Civil War to be a divine judgment upon America for the sin of slavery. But for Foner, the heavy price in blood and treasure exacted by that war was not enough to expiate America’s guilt. Instead, Foner implies in concluding his piece, Obama must push a radical agenda that will continue the march to “equality.”

But Lincoln would have been appalled at the idea that the right of every man and woman to equality before the law should be twisted into the sort of statist vision of America that Foner and the Nation want. As Foner noted, Lincoln opposed slavery primarily because he saw it as a form of theft. The principal form of mass theft currently practiced is via endless government confiscation of the income of its citizens, a practice that will be expanded by the return to “big government” heralded by the Obama stimulus.

But instead of this pointless back-and-forth in which Lincoln’s corpse is dragged out of the tomb and required to do service on behalf of 21st century partisan battles, let us instead return to the final words of that second inaugural, which still resonate today in an America that (whether Obama and the liberals like it or not) finds itself locked in a war, not against pro-slavery secessionists, but against totalitarian Islamists:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln! May all Americans continue to be worthy of the legacy of freedom that you have left us.

There is a long tradition of appropriating the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the service of causes and ideas which have nothing to do with the 16th president. Given the historic nature of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, it was understandable that the name of Lincoln would be taken in vain rather often as the 44th president took office. But as we celebrate today the 200th anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth, this lamentable trend of conscripting Lincoln’s memory into the service of Obama continues.

Air America’s Laura Flanders writes on the Nation’s website that opposition to Obama’s stimulus boondoggle is akin to spitting on the Gettysburg Address, which she claims is more or less what all conservatives really think. Flanders believes conservatives don’t like all that talk about government being “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Of course, the opposite is true today since it is modern American liberalism that has specialized in elites attempting to impose their ideological prejudices on the voters.

She writes: “But the notion that government has a responsibility to serve the common good — by stimulus spending if necessary — is exactly what has conservatives freaked.”

Actually, conservatives believe, like Lincoln, that the common good requires government to take action to protect the republic. This is why they supported — and still support — federal measures to fight terrorists that had liberals “freaked” for the past eight years.

Elsewhere at the Nation, historian Eric Foner weighs in with a lengthier treatise on the anniversary, not all of which is without merit. He concludes by quoting Lincoln’s second inaugural which rightly saw the Civil War to be a divine judgment upon America for the sin of slavery. But for Foner, the heavy price in blood and treasure exacted by that war was not enough to expiate America’s guilt. Instead, Foner implies in concluding his piece, Obama must push a radical agenda that will continue the march to “equality.”

But Lincoln would have been appalled at the idea that the right of every man and woman to equality before the law should be twisted into the sort of statist vision of America that Foner and the Nation want. As Foner noted, Lincoln opposed slavery primarily because he saw it as a form of theft. The principal form of mass theft currently practiced is via endless government confiscation of the income of its citizens, a practice that will be expanded by the return to “big government” heralded by the Obama stimulus.

But instead of this pointless back-and-forth in which Lincoln’s corpse is dragged out of the tomb and required to do service on behalf of 21st century partisan battles, let us instead return to the final words of that second inaugural, which still resonate today in an America that (whether Obama and the liberals like it or not) finds itself locked in a war, not against pro-slavery secessionists, but against totalitarian Islamists:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln! May all Americans continue to be worthy of the legacy of freedom that you have left us.

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Iran’s Bomb Is Real

It’s now official: you can chuck the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program in the dustbin. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Obama has spoken, and said, unambiguously, that Iran is developing “a nuclear weapon.” The French agree. From a report released by the French National Assembly in late December 2008:  “At the end of ten months of work, [the commission of inquiry] has acquired some certainties, notably the conviction that Iran’s nuclear program pursues military objectives.”

Future historians will have a field day with those hapless intelligence experts who drafted the NIE in such a way as to wipe out any residual credibility of a U.S. military strike against Iran in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, thereby also undermining sanctions efforts by the rest of the international community — especially if it turns out that the NIE helped push Iranian scientists to the finish line this year.

It’s now official: you can chuck the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program in the dustbin. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Obama has spoken, and said, unambiguously, that Iran is developing “a nuclear weapon.” The French agree. From a report released by the French National Assembly in late December 2008:  “At the end of ten months of work, [the commission of inquiry] has acquired some certainties, notably the conviction that Iran’s nuclear program pursues military objectives.”

Future historians will have a field day with those hapless intelligence experts who drafted the NIE in such a way as to wipe out any residual credibility of a U.S. military strike against Iran in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, thereby also undermining sanctions efforts by the rest of the international community — especially if it turns out that the NIE helped push Iranian scientists to the finish line this year.

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Warning to Obama: No Green Light for a Third Intifada

Though Israelis still haven’t figured out who exactly won their parliamentary elections, the rest of the world isn’t waiting for the dust to settle before weighing in on the results.

At Time magazine, correspondent Tony Karon isn’t content with merely lamenting Israeli voters’ rejection of the failed policies of their left-wing parties — that being the theme of a piece published yesterday in Time, headlined “Israel’s Election Dashes Hope for Peace.” The fallacious assumption behind the story is that there was credible hope for peace, given the fact that Palestinians have opted for leaders and policies that made rejection of peace the centerpiece of their culture. The collapse of the Israeli left was engineered by the Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution at Camp David in July 2000, which was followed by Yasser Arafat’s decision to resort to a terrorist offensive known popularly as the second intifada. Rather than taking the Israelis’ “yes” for an answer, Arafat responded with war. The intifada eroded the political appeal of those Israeli parties linked to the Oslo process. The election’s result was the culmination of this erosion of trust in the Israeli Left.

This is an important fact to remember, especially since Karon predicts that the Palestinians’ next move will be to try to play the same card now. According to Karon, the “moderate” Palestinians of Fatah are envious of Hamas’s success in using terrorist missile attacks to force Israel into dealing with it. He believes they think more bloodshed will prompt President Obama to force Israel to its knees”

“Jump starting” an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, then, or simply preventing a further deterioration of the situation, will demand a massive effort and some new thinking on the part of the Obama administration. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, progress would, in fact, require a readiness by Obama to do something no U.S. administration since that of President George H. W. Bush has done: throw Washington’s weight behind positions at odds with those of the Israeli government. And few Palestinians are betting on Obama turning up the heat on Israel. Instead, they’re more likely to try and do so themselves.

It is therefore imperative that Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell disabuse the Palestinians of any illusions about America’s willingness to take down the Jewish State. The administration must make it crystal clear to Fatah as well as to Hamas, that a new terrorist offensive will bring them no diplomatic dividends. For all their talk of promoting peace, if Obama, Mitchell, and Secretary of State Clinton fail to warn the Palestinians that such a tactic will fail, then they will have to bear some of the responsibility for the deaths that will follow.

Though Israelis still haven’t figured out who exactly won their parliamentary elections, the rest of the world isn’t waiting for the dust to settle before weighing in on the results.

At Time magazine, correspondent Tony Karon isn’t content with merely lamenting Israeli voters’ rejection of the failed policies of their left-wing parties — that being the theme of a piece published yesterday in Time, headlined “Israel’s Election Dashes Hope for Peace.” The fallacious assumption behind the story is that there was credible hope for peace, given the fact that Palestinians have opted for leaders and policies that made rejection of peace the centerpiece of their culture. The collapse of the Israeli left was engineered by the Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution at Camp David in July 2000, which was followed by Yasser Arafat’s decision to resort to a terrorist offensive known popularly as the second intifada. Rather than taking the Israelis’ “yes” for an answer, Arafat responded with war. The intifada eroded the political appeal of those Israeli parties linked to the Oslo process. The election’s result was the culmination of this erosion of trust in the Israeli Left.

This is an important fact to remember, especially since Karon predicts that the Palestinians’ next move will be to try to play the same card now. According to Karon, the “moderate” Palestinians of Fatah are envious of Hamas’s success in using terrorist missile attacks to force Israel into dealing with it. He believes they think more bloodshed will prompt President Obama to force Israel to its knees”

“Jump starting” an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, then, or simply preventing a further deterioration of the situation, will demand a massive effort and some new thinking on the part of the Obama administration. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, progress would, in fact, require a readiness by Obama to do something no U.S. administration since that of President George H. W. Bush has done: throw Washington’s weight behind positions at odds with those of the Israeli government. And few Palestinians are betting on Obama turning up the heat on Israel. Instead, they’re more likely to try and do so themselves.

It is therefore imperative that Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell disabuse the Palestinians of any illusions about America’s willingness to take down the Jewish State. The administration must make it crystal clear to Fatah as well as to Hamas, that a new terrorist offensive will bring them no diplomatic dividends. For all their talk of promoting peace, if Obama, Mitchell, and Secretary of State Clinton fail to warn the Palestinians that such a tactic will fail, then they will have to bear some of the responsibility for the deaths that will follow.

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No Leverage on China?

Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported that America’s 2008 trade deficit with China hit a record $266.3 billion.  That’s up four percent from 2007′s whopping deficit, also a record.

Virtually every American pundit says an ailing United States has little leverage over a rising China.  That, in short, is wrong.  For one thing, China’s economy is extraordinarily dependent on exports: a staggering 38 percent of its economic output is derived from sales abroad.  Moreover, Beijing’s bulging surpluses have been built on numerous violations of its World Trade Organization commitments and predatory currency practices.  The Chinese, therefore, are extraordinarily dependent on Washington’s lax enforcement attitude.

Saying we have little influence over Beijing — China’s many friends love to repeat this mantra — is essentially unilateral disarmament on our part.  We have the weapons — figuratively speaking, of course — to get the Chinese to do the right thing.  It’s just that we have persuaded ourselves not to use them.

We want Beijing to, among other things, stop supporting genocide in Darfur, stop transferring nuclear weapons technology to Iran, and stop supplying rockets and other instruments of death to terrorists in the Middle East and Central Asia.  And yesterday, the Commerce Department just gave the Obama administration 266.3 billion reasons why we can do something about all these irresponsible acts-as well as a few others.

Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported that America’s 2008 trade deficit with China hit a record $266.3 billion.  That’s up four percent from 2007′s whopping deficit, also a record.

Virtually every American pundit says an ailing United States has little leverage over a rising China.  That, in short, is wrong.  For one thing, China’s economy is extraordinarily dependent on exports: a staggering 38 percent of its economic output is derived from sales abroad.  Moreover, Beijing’s bulging surpluses have been built on numerous violations of its World Trade Organization commitments and predatory currency practices.  The Chinese, therefore, are extraordinarily dependent on Washington’s lax enforcement attitude.

Saying we have little influence over Beijing — China’s many friends love to repeat this mantra — is essentially unilateral disarmament on our part.  We have the weapons — figuratively speaking, of course — to get the Chinese to do the right thing.  It’s just that we have persuaded ourselves not to use them.

We want Beijing to, among other things, stop supporting genocide in Darfur, stop transferring nuclear weapons technology to Iran, and stop supplying rockets and other instruments of death to terrorists in the Middle East and Central Asia.  And yesterday, the Commerce Department just gave the Obama administration 266.3 billion reasons why we can do something about all these irresponsible acts-as well as a few others.

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What Happened to the Jobs?

Did we lose 500,000 jobs yesterday? No, that’s not a Nancy Pelosi slip-of-the-tongue. We learn from this report:

Both Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders lowered their work-creation expectation Wednesday. They had originally said their goal was to create, or save, four million jobs. Last night, they cut that to 3.5 million.

Now liberals would say that was a result of the spending ”cuts” made by the  congressional deal-makers in the stimulus deal. If they had only kept more of the House spending trinkets that number might still be 4 million.  But let’s get real.

First, the plan was going to “save” 2 million jobs; then 3; next 4; now 3.5. But we are really in make-believe territory. There is no way, obviously, of calculating what might have been or what jobs would have been created without the stimulus, or frankly, by an alternative plan of action. What if the stimulus plan had included a corporate tax holiday, a capital gains and payroll tax cut and some short-term defense spending? Might we have “saved” 5 million jobs? If so, the actual plan we are following is a net loser of potential jobs. You can thus see the intellectual silliness of trying to calculate “saved” jobs.

But the lowering of expectations is more indicative of a political calculation than an economic one. The economy isn’t going to get better anytime soon, especially with Tim Geithner in slow-motion on a bank bailout plan. So better to let everyone know, albeit with phony numbers, not to expect very much anytime soon. We’ll see how patient voters are.

Did we lose 500,000 jobs yesterday? No, that’s not a Nancy Pelosi slip-of-the-tongue. We learn from this report:

Both Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders lowered their work-creation expectation Wednesday. They had originally said their goal was to create, or save, four million jobs. Last night, they cut that to 3.5 million.

Now liberals would say that was a result of the spending ”cuts” made by the  congressional deal-makers in the stimulus deal. If they had only kept more of the House spending trinkets that number might still be 4 million.  But let’s get real.

First, the plan was going to “save” 2 million jobs; then 3; next 4; now 3.5. But we are really in make-believe territory. There is no way, obviously, of calculating what might have been or what jobs would have been created without the stimulus, or frankly, by an alternative plan of action. What if the stimulus plan had included a corporate tax holiday, a capital gains and payroll tax cut and some short-term defense spending? Might we have “saved” 5 million jobs? If so, the actual plan we are following is a net loser of potential jobs. You can thus see the intellectual silliness of trying to calculate “saved” jobs.

But the lowering of expectations is more indicative of a political calculation than an economic one. The economy isn’t going to get better anytime soon, especially with Tim Geithner in slow-motion on a bank bailout plan. So better to let everyone know, albeit with phony numbers, not to expect very much anytime soon. We’ll see how patient voters are.

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Money Well Spent

During the last presidential campaign, Big Labor vowed to do all it could to get a Democrat elected. The Service Employees International Union alone raised almost $32 million dollars in pursuit of that goal (through a variety of tactics, at least one of which was flagrantly illegal).

It turns out to have been a solid investment. Barack Obama won the presidency, and so far his labor policy is pretty much what they wished for: unions yes, workers no.

The president has issued four pro-union Executive Orders. The first three were all signed simultaneously:

· One require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.

· Another reverses a Bush administration order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit their financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.

· Another prevents federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.

Now Obama has signed his fourth Executive Order relating to unions, and it essentially requires that all federal construction projects be performed by union workers. It doesn’t actually demand it, but that’s the practical upshot of the whole thing. And that’s not all. Obama has quietly made his position on one of Big Labor’s major causes clear:

The Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act” is currently before Congress. Among its many provisions is the odious “card check” rule. This would allow unions seeking to organize a work force to bypass the tedious (and risky) secret ballot vote. Instead, they only need a majority of the workers to sign declarations that they favor unions. Under current rules, those pledges trigger an election, where the workers can express their true opinions freely, without any fear of intimidation or retaliation from either their employer or the union.

Obama has not made any specific comment on the proposed law, but it’s not hard to guess where his sympathies lie. His Labor Secretary nominee, Hilda Solis, was not only one of the prime sponsors of the Act in the House, but also served as Treasurer of American Rights At Work, a pro-labor organization that has lobbied hard for its passage. Our labor secretary designate believes so strongly in the Act, she actually paid people to lobby her (and her colleagues) on its behalf.

There’s an old, cynical saw that defines an honest politician as one “who, once bought, stays bought.”

Big Labor paid a lot to get Barack Obama elected. And with the economy in its current state, it’s rare to find such a profitable investment.

During the last presidential campaign, Big Labor vowed to do all it could to get a Democrat elected. The Service Employees International Union alone raised almost $32 million dollars in pursuit of that goal (through a variety of tactics, at least one of which was flagrantly illegal).

It turns out to have been a solid investment. Barack Obama won the presidency, and so far his labor policy is pretty much what they wished for: unions yes, workers no.

The president has issued four pro-union Executive Orders. The first three were all signed simultaneously:

· One require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.

· Another reverses a Bush administration order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit their financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.

· Another prevents federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.

Now Obama has signed his fourth Executive Order relating to unions, and it essentially requires that all federal construction projects be performed by union workers. It doesn’t actually demand it, but that’s the practical upshot of the whole thing. And that’s not all. Obama has quietly made his position on one of Big Labor’s major causes clear:

The Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act” is currently before Congress. Among its many provisions is the odious “card check” rule. This would allow unions seeking to organize a work force to bypass the tedious (and risky) secret ballot vote. Instead, they only need a majority of the workers to sign declarations that they favor unions. Under current rules, those pledges trigger an election, where the workers can express their true opinions freely, without any fear of intimidation or retaliation from either their employer or the union.

Obama has not made any specific comment on the proposed law, but it’s not hard to guess where his sympathies lie. His Labor Secretary nominee, Hilda Solis, was not only one of the prime sponsors of the Act in the House, but also served as Treasurer of American Rights At Work, a pro-labor organization that has lobbied hard for its passage. Our labor secretary designate believes so strongly in the Act, she actually paid people to lobby her (and her colleagues) on its behalf.

There’s an old, cynical saw that defines an honest politician as one “who, once bought, stays bought.”

Big Labor paid a lot to get Barack Obama elected. And with the economy in its current state, it’s rare to find such a profitable investment.

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You Guys Are Freaking Us Out

It is a scary time to be in Washington. If you doubt it, check out the president’s language. As George Will reminds us:

The president, convinced that the only thing America has to fear is an insufficiency of fear, has warned that “disaster” and “catastrophe” are the certain alternatives to swift passage of the stimulus legislation.

Then there is Tim Geithner. Day Two of his bank bailout roll-out non-plan went as poorly as Day One, as he took to muttering and deflecting, never providing a detail or hint as to what he really has in mind. He kept repeating how complicated everything is. Well, yes, the Treasury Department is that way. I have to agree with Gail Collins who observes:

Everybody who watched Geithner explain how he was going to rescue the banking system thought he sounded like a callow youth. Where’s gravitas when you need it? Time to bring on Paul Volcker (81).

One can only hope this was some kind of practical joke from Larry Summers, gone awry. (“Yeah, and when they ask for details, just tell ‘em I don’t have any!’”)

This is an odd way indeed to combat a recession. Usually, the president and treasury secretary in an economic crisis try to project calm, certainty, and a sense of command. The Obama administration approach is something new indeed. Perhaps it is some Zen-like exercise to “be the panic; own the fear!” Whatever they are doing they should knock it off. They’re going to scare the living daylights out of markets, consumers, and businesses.

It is a scary time to be in Washington. If you doubt it, check out the president’s language. As George Will reminds us:

The president, convinced that the only thing America has to fear is an insufficiency of fear, has warned that “disaster” and “catastrophe” are the certain alternatives to swift passage of the stimulus legislation.

Then there is Tim Geithner. Day Two of his bank bailout roll-out non-plan went as poorly as Day One, as he took to muttering and deflecting, never providing a detail or hint as to what he really has in mind. He kept repeating how complicated everything is. Well, yes, the Treasury Department is that way. I have to agree with Gail Collins who observes:

Everybody who watched Geithner explain how he was going to rescue the banking system thought he sounded like a callow youth. Where’s gravitas when you need it? Time to bring on Paul Volcker (81).

One can only hope this was some kind of practical joke from Larry Summers, gone awry. (“Yeah, and when they ask for details, just tell ‘em I don’t have any!’”)

This is an odd way indeed to combat a recession. Usually, the president and treasury secretary in an economic crisis try to project calm, certainty, and a sense of command. The Obama administration approach is something new indeed. Perhaps it is some Zen-like exercise to “be the panic; own the fear!” Whatever they are doing they should knock it off. They’re going to scare the living daylights out of markets, consumers, and businesses.

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The Israeli Election and Iran

David Sanger, writing in the New York Times, suggests there is “a new dynamic afoot, one that seems likely to become even more complicated” once the Israeli election is settled:

If the government that emerges is even more determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary, Mr. Obama may find himself trying to negotiate with one of America’s most determined adversaries while restraining one of its closest allies.

It is strange to suggest that a complicating factor is replacing an Israeli government “determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary” with a new government “even more determined” to do so.  The suggestion reflects an implicit view that the principal U.S. goal is talking to Iran, and that Israel thus needs to be restrained from acting as long as talks are proceeding.

But “talks” are a tactic, not a goal.  If the goal is the end of Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the goal is materially assisted by a new Israeli government “even more determined” to end it before it is too late.  Unambiguous U.S. support for such a government, rather than attempts at “restraining” it, would send a message to Iran that there is an effective time limit for the “carrots,” and that the consequences for rejecting them go beyond another set of ineffectual UN sanctions.

Virtually, the only chance for successful talks with Iran lies in convincing it the carrots will not be available for long, and that there is a credible threat of consequences beyond a rhetorical “option,” always on the table but never likely to leave it.  If Iran believes the U.S. will restrain Israel as long as talks proceed, the talks will proceed until the nuclear program succeeds, after which Iran will reasonably suspect that the carrots offered will get even bigger.

David Sanger, writing in the New York Times, suggests there is “a new dynamic afoot, one that seems likely to become even more complicated” once the Israeli election is settled:

If the government that emerges is even more determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary, Mr. Obama may find himself trying to negotiate with one of America’s most determined adversaries while restraining one of its closest allies.

It is strange to suggest that a complicating factor is replacing an Israeli government “determined to end the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary” with a new government “even more determined” to do so.  The suggestion reflects an implicit view that the principal U.S. goal is talking to Iran, and that Israel thus needs to be restrained from acting as long as talks are proceeding.

But “talks” are a tactic, not a goal.  If the goal is the end of Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the goal is materially assisted by a new Israeli government “even more determined” to end it before it is too late.  Unambiguous U.S. support for such a government, rather than attempts at “restraining” it, would send a message to Iran that there is an effective time limit for the “carrots,” and that the consequences for rejecting them go beyond another set of ineffectual UN sanctions.

Virtually, the only chance for successful talks with Iran lies in convincing it the carrots will not be available for long, and that there is a credible threat of consequences beyond a rhetorical “option,” always on the table but never likely to leave it.  If Iran believes the U.S. will restrain Israel as long as talks proceed, the talks will proceed until the nuclear program succeeds, after which Iran will reasonably suspect that the carrots offered will get even bigger.

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How Green Was My Valley

When the recent horrific wildfires swept through portions of Australia, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless, many were quick to say that the fires were a consequence of climate change.

This should have come as no surprise. To climate change advocates, everything is evidence that their theory is correct and nothing will disprove it.

Well, as more details emerge, those who suffered most from the fires are finding something else to blame: overzealous environmental advocates and their policies.

One man who lost his mother and brother in the fires lambasted the city council that imposed “green” policies:

“We’ve lost two people in my family because you d**kheads won’t cut trees down,” he said.”We wanted trees cut down on the side of the road … and you can’t even cut the grass for God’s sake.”

It’s almost a law of nature: whenever man tries to regulate nature for nature’s benefit, we almost inevitably make it worse. When we simply ignore nature and let things develop, well, naturally, nature takes care of itself quite nicely.
Fire is an important factor in the life of forests and wild lands. It scours away the old, making room for the new. Indeed, after the massive, devastating fires that wracked Yellowstone National Park in 1988, the forests bounced back healthier than ever, faster than anyone predicted.

In Australia, well-meaning busybodies sought to strike a balance between man and nature, hoping to minimize man’s effect on nature by integrating the two, keeping large swaths of nature to mingle with man.

And then fire wreaked havoc on man and nature indiscriminately. Along with old-growth trees, brush, and understory, the fire also purged the land of homes, cars, and people.

One wonders if the Australian public officials who pushed for their “green” policies have calculated the carbon footprint of the burned-up homes, cars, and people who paid the price for their meddling.

When the recent horrific wildfires swept through portions of Australia, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless, many were quick to say that the fires were a consequence of climate change.

This should have come as no surprise. To climate change advocates, everything is evidence that their theory is correct and nothing will disprove it.

Well, as more details emerge, those who suffered most from the fires are finding something else to blame: overzealous environmental advocates and their policies.

One man who lost his mother and brother in the fires lambasted the city council that imposed “green” policies:

“We’ve lost two people in my family because you d**kheads won’t cut trees down,” he said.”We wanted trees cut down on the side of the road … and you can’t even cut the grass for God’s sake.”

It’s almost a law of nature: whenever man tries to regulate nature for nature’s benefit, we almost inevitably make it worse. When we simply ignore nature and let things develop, well, naturally, nature takes care of itself quite nicely.
Fire is an important factor in the life of forests and wild lands. It scours away the old, making room for the new. Indeed, after the massive, devastating fires that wracked Yellowstone National Park in 1988, the forests bounced back healthier than ever, faster than anyone predicted.

In Australia, well-meaning busybodies sought to strike a balance between man and nature, hoping to minimize man’s effect on nature by integrating the two, keeping large swaths of nature to mingle with man.

And then fire wreaked havoc on man and nature indiscriminately. Along with old-growth trees, brush, and understory, the fire also purged the land of homes, cars, and people.

One wonders if the Australian public officials who pushed for their “green” policies have calculated the carbon footprint of the burned-up homes, cars, and people who paid the price for their meddling.

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We’ll All Have to Live With It

So what’s wrong with the stimulus? Just about everything. But three considerations top the list.

First, the Keynesians did a darn poor job of constructing a stimulus bill. The Wall Street Journal editors point out:

The original economic theory behind this bill was to spend the money quickly to create jobs fast. But even the most talented spenders on Capitol Hill couldn’t find enough projects to fund in such a rush. So they spread out the largesse over several years — long after everyone hopes the recession is over. Some of these “timely” stimulus payments won’t hit the economy until after the 2016 Olympics.

Second, government spending is unlikely to go down anytime soon. (If you doubt how hard it is to remove government add-ons, take a look at the Department of Education and Public Broadcasting — they are now untouchable.) We are setting a new trajectory for spending, one that will take an ever greater share of the economy to sustain. And there is, after all, a rather strong correlation between countries with a large share of GDP devoted to the government and low growth. (Logically, the money is going someplace other than productive economic activity.)

Third, the result of this will be an historically high level of debt in the next few years — perhaps 13.5% of the economy. The editors caution:

The new spending means new federal debt in the trillions of dollars over the next few years, which will test the limits of America’s credit-worthiness. To the extent that taxes rise to pay for it all, the U.S. will become less desirable as a destination for the world’s capital. Perhaps the Federal Reserve will try to inflate away this growing debt, but the world’s bond vigilantes will get a vote on that.

That’s not a very comforting picture. And we haven’t even looked at the banking crisis. It may be small solace for Republicans to say they didn’t vote for this. The reality is that we will all have to live with the consequences – for years to come.

So what’s wrong with the stimulus? Just about everything. But three considerations top the list.

First, the Keynesians did a darn poor job of constructing a stimulus bill. The Wall Street Journal editors point out:

The original economic theory behind this bill was to spend the money quickly to create jobs fast. But even the most talented spenders on Capitol Hill couldn’t find enough projects to fund in such a rush. So they spread out the largesse over several years — long after everyone hopes the recession is over. Some of these “timely” stimulus payments won’t hit the economy until after the 2016 Olympics.

Second, government spending is unlikely to go down anytime soon. (If you doubt how hard it is to remove government add-ons, take a look at the Department of Education and Public Broadcasting — they are now untouchable.) We are setting a new trajectory for spending, one that will take an ever greater share of the economy to sustain. And there is, after all, a rather strong correlation between countries with a large share of GDP devoted to the government and low growth. (Logically, the money is going someplace other than productive economic activity.)

Third, the result of this will be an historically high level of debt in the next few years — perhaps 13.5% of the economy. The editors caution:

The new spending means new federal debt in the trillions of dollars over the next few years, which will test the limits of America’s credit-worthiness. To the extent that taxes rise to pay for it all, the U.S. will become less desirable as a destination for the world’s capital. Perhaps the Federal Reserve will try to inflate away this growing debt, but the world’s bond vigilantes will get a vote on that.

That’s not a very comforting picture. And we haven’t even looked at the banking crisis. It may be small solace for Republicans to say they didn’t vote for this. The reality is that we will all have to live with the consequences – for years to come.

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Three Pointers on the Israel Election

Here’s some advice for all those following the twists and turns of the Israeli election:

1.    Don’t underestimate the will of the voters. What they want – and public opinion polls will prove it very soon – is some kind of unity government. The Likud Party and Binyamin Netanyahu will have to pay a heavy price to get Kadima in, and Netanyahu is willing to do it. The pressure on Kadima to join will be significant. True, politically it might be better for Kadima to wait for the collapse of a right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu. But it will not be good for the country, and Livni has vowed, just two days ago, in her “victory” speech, to put country first, party second.
2.    Don’t buy the smiling faces of Netanyahu and the leaders of right wing parties that he is now courting. Sitting with them in a coalition — in which they will have the final say — is Netanyahu’s worst nightmare. He thinks some of them are real nut cases, and knows that they will surely bring about his demise. And by the way, it’s not Lieberman who worries him the most — it’s the National Union, a party so far to the right that serious people, even within Likud, think it would be much better for the new coalition to find a way to avoid their partnership. It’s not Lieberman holding the key, and it’s not President Shimon Peres, and it’s not Netanyahu. Livni lost the prime ministership, but she’s the one holding the key to the next government.
3.    Avoid the news from Israel for a couple of days. If history teaches us anything, it’s that the first days of coalition building are a waste of time. Everything is spin, manipulation and positioning. The news-junky gets a lot of information with zero relevance. My advice: read a good book, go out to dinner, spend time with your family, and come back to the news cycle in a week or so. You’ll be saving a lot of valuable time.

Here’s some advice for all those following the twists and turns of the Israeli election:

1.    Don’t underestimate the will of the voters. What they want – and public opinion polls will prove it very soon – is some kind of unity government. The Likud Party and Binyamin Netanyahu will have to pay a heavy price to get Kadima in, and Netanyahu is willing to do it. The pressure on Kadima to join will be significant. True, politically it might be better for Kadima to wait for the collapse of a right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu. But it will not be good for the country, and Livni has vowed, just two days ago, in her “victory” speech, to put country first, party second.
2.    Don’t buy the smiling faces of Netanyahu and the leaders of right wing parties that he is now courting. Sitting with them in a coalition — in which they will have the final say — is Netanyahu’s worst nightmare. He thinks some of them are real nut cases, and knows that they will surely bring about his demise. And by the way, it’s not Lieberman who worries him the most — it’s the National Union, a party so far to the right that serious people, even within Likud, think it would be much better for the new coalition to find a way to avoid their partnership. It’s not Lieberman holding the key, and it’s not President Shimon Peres, and it’s not Netanyahu. Livni lost the prime ministership, but she’s the one holding the key to the next government.
3.    Avoid the news from Israel for a couple of days. If history teaches us anything, it’s that the first days of coalition building are a waste of time. Everything is spin, manipulation and positioning. The news-junky gets a lot of information with zero relevance. My advice: read a good book, go out to dinner, spend time with your family, and come back to the news cycle in a week or so. You’ll be saving a lot of valuable time.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Do the Demcoratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia know where they are? This take from a recent Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner suggests they need a GPS: “If someone was dropped by parachute into the convention hall, they might have at times thought they were at a Democratic dinner in heavily unionized Michigan, not Virginia, a right-to-work state. . . Their message ran somewhat counter to the state party’s reputation for being pro-business and socially moderate.”

If you think conservatives are being tough on Tim Geithner, this is from a college professor and Obama fan: “Yes, I think Geithner did blow it. First, his demeanor is all wrong. He has a habit of looking up when his head is pointed down, which gives him the look of being either a graduate student who doesn’t know the answer to a question or a guy who has stolen something and now is being asked about it. Second, the timing of his speech was wrong.  . . Third, Geithner should hire somebody–maybe David Gergen–to teach him something about the politics of this moment–that decisions about Wall Street have another more powerful audience–the American public that is enraged about this situation and wants a quick, clearly outlined fix to the problem . . . .Otherwise, soon, Obama is going to be tainted by the Bush economic collapse and be hobbled by it for the rest of his life.” The rest of his life? Well a few years, maybe.

Arlen Specter is getting lots of attention — and potential primary challengers.

If his poll numbers don’t improve he’ll have even more. “Pennsylvania voters are sharply divided over whether Sen. Arlen Specter should be reelected next year, with Republicans almost as negative as Democrats, probably because the GOP Senator is one of only three from the party supporting President Barack Obama’s Stimulus Package.” Probably?

Jake Tapper explains that the role of journalism is not to “make the presidency work.” You guys at MSNBC listening? (What is remarkable is that there aren’t more mainstream journalists like Tapper. Really, is it that hard to ask difficult questions and stay up on the details?)

One of Obama’s favorite props, er, companies, Caterpillar it seems has a bunch of tax havens. Unlike Geithner, however, it appears Caterpillar was abiding by the law.

Here’s a candidate  to replace Robert Gibbs — he’s a much more effective presidential spinner.

Russ Feingold has his work cut out for him trying to pass a Constitutional amendment barring governors from filling vacant senate seats. “‘Some are not comfortable with it because they were appointed,’ Feingold said.” Oh, that. (Maybe that renowned Constitutional scholar Caroline Kennedy, you know, could testify, you know?)

So much for transparency and bipartisanship – the Democrats decided to compromise (with themselves) in secret.

Megan McArdle comes right out and and says it: Maxine Waters is nuts. “Her questions to the bankers are so bizarre that they don’t know what to do.  Ken Lewis looks like a deer in the headlights as Waters asks her about offshore loss mitigation efforts.  He can’t even figure out what she’s talking about, and neither can I.  She also asks the bankers, few of whom are in the credit card business, how many of them have cut credit limits to people on the basis of where they shop.  It’s like watching your crazy aunt challenge your boyfriend to prove that fairies aren’t real.”

Like scorpions in a bottle, Reid and Pelosi engaged in a last-minute duel over the stimulus. “It is not clear who won …” Well, not the taxpayers, certainly.

The Fix asks if bipartisanship is “dead.” Certainly. Civility is not bipartisanship. Come to think of it, falsely claiming your opponents don’t want to do anything about the recession isn’t even civil. Or true.

Remember when moderate Republicans used to inveigh against deficits? “If nothing else good comes from this exercise, at least Senators Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter should be laughed out of town if they ever fret about a budget deficit again.”

Do the Demcoratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia know where they are? This take from a recent Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner suggests they need a GPS: “If someone was dropped by parachute into the convention hall, they might have at times thought they were at a Democratic dinner in heavily unionized Michigan, not Virginia, a right-to-work state. . . Their message ran somewhat counter to the state party’s reputation for being pro-business and socially moderate.”

If you think conservatives are being tough on Tim Geithner, this is from a college professor and Obama fan: “Yes, I think Geithner did blow it. First, his demeanor is all wrong. He has a habit of looking up when his head is pointed down, which gives him the look of being either a graduate student who doesn’t know the answer to a question or a guy who has stolen something and now is being asked about it. Second, the timing of his speech was wrong.  . . Third, Geithner should hire somebody–maybe David Gergen–to teach him something about the politics of this moment–that decisions about Wall Street have another more powerful audience–the American public that is enraged about this situation and wants a quick, clearly outlined fix to the problem . . . .Otherwise, soon, Obama is going to be tainted by the Bush economic collapse and be hobbled by it for the rest of his life.” The rest of his life? Well a few years, maybe.

Arlen Specter is getting lots of attention — and potential primary challengers.

If his poll numbers don’t improve he’ll have even more. “Pennsylvania voters are sharply divided over whether Sen. Arlen Specter should be reelected next year, with Republicans almost as negative as Democrats, probably because the GOP Senator is one of only three from the party supporting President Barack Obama’s Stimulus Package.” Probably?

Jake Tapper explains that the role of journalism is not to “make the presidency work.” You guys at MSNBC listening? (What is remarkable is that there aren’t more mainstream journalists like Tapper. Really, is it that hard to ask difficult questions and stay up on the details?)

One of Obama’s favorite props, er, companies, Caterpillar it seems has a bunch of tax havens. Unlike Geithner, however, it appears Caterpillar was abiding by the law.

Here’s a candidate  to replace Robert Gibbs — he’s a much more effective presidential spinner.

Russ Feingold has his work cut out for him trying to pass a Constitutional amendment barring governors from filling vacant senate seats. “‘Some are not comfortable with it because they were appointed,’ Feingold said.” Oh, that. (Maybe that renowned Constitutional scholar Caroline Kennedy, you know, could testify, you know?)

So much for transparency and bipartisanship – the Democrats decided to compromise (with themselves) in secret.

Megan McArdle comes right out and and says it: Maxine Waters is nuts. “Her questions to the bankers are so bizarre that they don’t know what to do.  Ken Lewis looks like a deer in the headlights as Waters asks her about offshore loss mitigation efforts.  He can’t even figure out what she’s talking about, and neither can I.  She also asks the bankers, few of whom are in the credit card business, how many of them have cut credit limits to people on the basis of where they shop.  It’s like watching your crazy aunt challenge your boyfriend to prove that fairies aren’t real.”

Like scorpions in a bottle, Reid and Pelosi engaged in a last-minute duel over the stimulus. “It is not clear who won …” Well, not the taxpayers, certainly.

The Fix asks if bipartisanship is “dead.” Certainly. Civility is not bipartisanship. Come to think of it, falsely claiming your opponents don’t want to do anything about the recession isn’t even civil. Or true.

Remember when moderate Republicans used to inveigh against deficits? “If nothing else good comes from this exercise, at least Senators Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter should be laughed out of town if they ever fret about a budget deficit again.”

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