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Posts For: March 8, 2009

What Ever Happened to Unity?

We were going to put away childish things. We were not going to engage in needless partisanship. We were done with Red America and Blue America. These were the sentiments of candidate Barack Obama. But President Obama didn’t get through his Inaugural Address without making sure the battle lines were drawn. You were warned: if you disagreed with him you’d be be labeled small-minded or cynical:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. 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.

There is no room for principled opposition. To criticize or oppose is to be a naysayer and stuck in the past.

And that attitude has intensified with each passing day. If you opposed the stimulus you wanted to “do nothing.” If you questioned the efficacy of the mortgage bailout, you were uniformed. And if you said what we all know to be true — that Obama is pushing a model of government that is more like western European social welfare states than anything that has proceeded it — you are just nuts.

So, too, are businesses and the executives who find fault with Obama’s policies.  Michael Goodwin writes:

Less than half-way through what should be a 100-day honeymoon, the Obama administration is on a war footing. Make that a class-war footing.

Sometimes the targets are critics, including two TV commentators singled out by press secretary Robert Gibbs for faulting the President’s bailout plans.

Sometimes the targets are Republicans, like conservative talker Rush Limbaugh, the focus of a plan led by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to divide the GOP and score points with the Democratic base.

But the tone of the President’s own attacks on industry and his spending and tax policies are increasingly worrying Wall Street and much of the business world. With the stock market reaching lows not seen in more than a decade, including a 20% drop since Inauguration Day, headlines like “Obama’s bear market” are suddenly routine.

And the Rush Limbaugh gambit? Newt Gingrich nails it:

It reminds me of the Nixon White House.  And I think that as long as Rahm Emanuel’s there, he’s sort of the Haldeman of this administration. . . I think what they did with the whole Rush Limbaugh thing–they can’t defend signing the 9,000 earmarks, they can’t defend an energy tax increase, they can’t defend Geithner’s failure to pay his income–his taxes, so they decide, “Let’s have a fight over Rahm Emanuel”–I mean, “over Rush Limbaugh.” It is the exact opposite of what the president promised.  The president promised to focus on large things, not small things; he promised to bring us together, not divide us.

If you were looking for less divisive times and an era in which politicians showed respect for opposing views, you might be disappointed. But if you suspected that all that talk about “unity” and “respect” was a campaign ploy to remind people of the acrimony of the Bush years, you’re not surprised a bit.

We were going to put away childish things. We were not going to engage in needless partisanship. We were done with Red America and Blue America. These were the sentiments of candidate Barack Obama. But President Obama didn’t get through his Inaugural Address without making sure the battle lines were drawn. You were warned: if you disagreed with him you’d be be labeled small-minded or cynical:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. 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.

There is no room for principled opposition. To criticize or oppose is to be a naysayer and stuck in the past.

And that attitude has intensified with each passing day. If you opposed the stimulus you wanted to “do nothing.” If you questioned the efficacy of the mortgage bailout, you were uniformed. And if you said what we all know to be true — that Obama is pushing a model of government that is more like western European social welfare states than anything that has proceeded it — you are just nuts.

So, too, are businesses and the executives who find fault with Obama’s policies.  Michael Goodwin writes:

Less than half-way through what should be a 100-day honeymoon, the Obama administration is on a war footing. Make that a class-war footing.

Sometimes the targets are critics, including two TV commentators singled out by press secretary Robert Gibbs for faulting the President’s bailout plans.

Sometimes the targets are Republicans, like conservative talker Rush Limbaugh, the focus of a plan led by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to divide the GOP and score points with the Democratic base.

But the tone of the President’s own attacks on industry and his spending and tax policies are increasingly worrying Wall Street and much of the business world. With the stock market reaching lows not seen in more than a decade, including a 20% drop since Inauguration Day, headlines like “Obama’s bear market” are suddenly routine.

And the Rush Limbaugh gambit? Newt Gingrich nails it:

It reminds me of the Nixon White House.  And I think that as long as Rahm Emanuel’s there, he’s sort of the Haldeman of this administration. . . I think what they did with the whole Rush Limbaugh thing–they can’t defend signing the 9,000 earmarks, they can’t defend an energy tax increase, they can’t defend Geithner’s failure to pay his income–his taxes, so they decide, “Let’s have a fight over Rahm Emanuel”–I mean, “over Rush Limbaugh.” It is the exact opposite of what the president promised.  The president promised to focus on large things, not small things; he promised to bring us together, not divide us.

If you were looking for less divisive times and an era in which politicians showed respect for opposing views, you might be disappointed. But if you suspected that all that talk about “unity” and “respect” was a campaign ploy to remind people of the acrimony of the Bush years, you’re not surprised a bit.

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Better Than Thinking About Her Husband

Maureen Dowd is fixated on Michelle Obama’s arms. No really. (The Times perhaps has a clause in its contracts with female columnists that they must appear frivolous and obsessed with politicians’ physiques.) But while meandering through the faux controversy over Michelle’s biceps she actually stumbles upon a substantive point: the president is not exactly a tower of inspirational strength. And it’s not just the “lame” DVD gift to Gordon Brown. Dowd complains:

As blue chips turn into penny stocks, Wall Street seems less like a symbol of America’s macho capitalism and more like that famous Jane Austen character Mrs. Bennet, a flibbertigibbet always anxious about getting richer and her “poor nerves.” The president tried to urge Americans to man-up and buy stocks. In a Times interview on Friday, he further advised us not to “suddenly stuff money” in our mattresses.

Wall Street is weak and jittery, rejecting the vague and laconic courtship of Timothy Geithner. G.M. is verging on bankruptcy, and A.I.G. should be. Americans are confused and fretful. President Obama admitted in his Times interview that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, even as he denied — and then called back 90 minutes later to really deny — that he’s a socialist.

It’s a mess, really. These days the president is both dismissive (your 401K is a poll) and defensive. In the latter vein, he’s not just hounding reporters to drop the notion that he’s a Western European socialist; he’s resorting to eye-rolling misrepresentations. He was just getting warmed up with his announcement that he doesn’t like big government. The latest, from his weekly radio address:

My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history.  And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable.  For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.

These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.

What about the 8000-plus earmarks in the omnibus spending bill? And the budget “cut” of $1.6 trillion achieved by not continuing the surge? Forget John F. Kennedy’s invented “missile gap” — this is an economic reality gap of unprecedented size.

And he seems to be channeling Jimmy Carter as he edges toward castigating the American people.  Politico reports:

For the first time since taking office, President Obama is suggesting that some Americans may be overreacting to the nation’s economic woes by dramatically ratcheting back their spending. ‘What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,’ Obama told The New York Times in an interview published on the Web Saturday. ‘I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.’

Well maybe he shouldn’t have used fear to drum up support for his stimulus plan. But he’s coming perilously close to calling us all a bunch of scaredy cats.

Obama seems badly misinformed about the lives of real people. He resorts to spin or outright lies rather than engage on the merits. (Why are we raising taxes and pursuing cap and trade while the economy is skidding?) He gins up the panic and then admonishes the voters not to panic. He’s unduly sensitive to criticism and yet impervious to something as fundamental as the impact of a stock market crash.

So it’s no wonder his aides are attacking a radio talk show host and Dowd is ruminating about the first lady’s arms. The rest is too painful to watch.

Maureen Dowd is fixated on Michelle Obama’s arms. No really. (The Times perhaps has a clause in its contracts with female columnists that they must appear frivolous and obsessed with politicians’ physiques.) But while meandering through the faux controversy over Michelle’s biceps she actually stumbles upon a substantive point: the president is not exactly a tower of inspirational strength. And it’s not just the “lame” DVD gift to Gordon Brown. Dowd complains:

As blue chips turn into penny stocks, Wall Street seems less like a symbol of America’s macho capitalism and more like that famous Jane Austen character Mrs. Bennet, a flibbertigibbet always anxious about getting richer and her “poor nerves.” The president tried to urge Americans to man-up and buy stocks. In a Times interview on Friday, he further advised us not to “suddenly stuff money” in our mattresses.

Wall Street is weak and jittery, rejecting the vague and laconic courtship of Timothy Geithner. G.M. is verging on bankruptcy, and A.I.G. should be. Americans are confused and fretful. President Obama admitted in his Times interview that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, even as he denied — and then called back 90 minutes later to really deny — that he’s a socialist.

It’s a mess, really. These days the president is both dismissive (your 401K is a poll) and defensive. In the latter vein, he’s not just hounding reporters to drop the notion that he’s a Western European socialist; he’s resorting to eye-rolling misrepresentations. He was just getting warmed up with his announcement that he doesn’t like big government. The latest, from his weekly radio address:

My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history.  And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable.  For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.

These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.

What about the 8000-plus earmarks in the omnibus spending bill? And the budget “cut” of $1.6 trillion achieved by not continuing the surge? Forget John F. Kennedy’s invented “missile gap” — this is an economic reality gap of unprecedented size.

And he seems to be channeling Jimmy Carter as he edges toward castigating the American people.  Politico reports:

For the first time since taking office, President Obama is suggesting that some Americans may be overreacting to the nation’s economic woes by dramatically ratcheting back their spending. ‘What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,’ Obama told The New York Times in an interview published on the Web Saturday. ‘I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.’

Well maybe he shouldn’t have used fear to drum up support for his stimulus plan. But he’s coming perilously close to calling us all a bunch of scaredy cats.

Obama seems badly misinformed about the lives of real people. He resorts to spin or outright lies rather than engage on the merits. (Why are we raising taxes and pursuing cap and trade while the economy is skidding?) He gins up the panic and then admonishes the voters not to panic. He’s unduly sensitive to criticism and yet impervious to something as fundamental as the impact of a stock market crash.

So it’s no wonder his aides are attacking a radio talk show host and Dowd is ruminating about the first lady’s arms. The rest is too painful to watch.

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The “Good Fellow” Is Gone

The resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad is further evidence that the new American administration will not be able to advanceme the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” “Fayad’s resignation on Saturday was received with a sigh of relief by many Hamas and Fatah officials,” writes The Jerusalam Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh. But there is no relief for those Europeans, Americans and – yes – Israelis who’re trying to improve conditions for the Palestinians and advance the bottom-up process of “building Palestinians institutions.” For all those external players, Fayad was the go-to guy – the manifestation of possible change in the Palestinian Authority.

While the U.S. is publicly stating that Israel and the PA should continue their talks in the absence of Fayad, officials familiar with the Palestinian government understand that this will become much trickier in the coming months: “Fayyad, who is considered the Palestinian Authority official who is closest to the Americans, is the only one who the American government trusts and is ready to transfer funds through.”

This was true when the Bush administration was in power, and is still true today. Fayad is also the Palestinian official with whom “special envoy” Tony Blair dealt most extensively. Note that in almost every relevant public statement from Washington over the last couple of years, Fayad’s name was specifically mentioned alongside that of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. “[O]ur hope is that President Abbas and that Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad, who is a good fellow, will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction,” President Bush said in July of 2007. With the “good fellow” opting out it’s not clear how international aid money will be channeled to the PA as promised last week. (One possible solution: Fayad will return to his role as Finance Minister. This would be a bitter pill for Hamas to swallow).

Thus, while the Palestinian partner is becoming less promising and more complicated to deal with, it seems that the administration is pulling out of the bag the only available trick: pressuring Israel on the settlement issue:

Israel is under increased pressure from the United States over settlement construction. In the past month, since Barack Obama was sworn in as U.S. president, Israel has received four official complaints from members of the new administration regarding various issues linked to West Bank settlements.

A senior government official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that the complaints represent a gradual increase in American pressure vis-a-vis settlement activity. “This is going to be one of the main issues that the Obama administration will be dealing with in the coming weeks and months,” the official said. “It is not going to be easy to argue with them.”

This pressure from the Obama team was to be expected but, with the resignation of Fayad, its futility will be even more evident than usual. Those who expect the freezing of settlement activities to make peace more probable should prepare for disappointment. Since peace is not in the cards as a short-term cause, Obama may want settlement activities halted in hopes of not derailing future agreements. That would be long-term future — when a new Fayad is found.

The resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad is further evidence that the new American administration will not be able to advanceme the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” “Fayad’s resignation on Saturday was received with a sigh of relief by many Hamas and Fatah officials,” writes The Jerusalam Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh. But there is no relief for those Europeans, Americans and – yes – Israelis who’re trying to improve conditions for the Palestinians and advance the bottom-up process of “building Palestinians institutions.” For all those external players, Fayad was the go-to guy – the manifestation of possible change in the Palestinian Authority.

While the U.S. is publicly stating that Israel and the PA should continue their talks in the absence of Fayad, officials familiar with the Palestinian government understand that this will become much trickier in the coming months: “Fayyad, who is considered the Palestinian Authority official who is closest to the Americans, is the only one who the American government trusts and is ready to transfer funds through.”

This was true when the Bush administration was in power, and is still true today. Fayad is also the Palestinian official with whom “special envoy” Tony Blair dealt most extensively. Note that in almost every relevant public statement from Washington over the last couple of years, Fayad’s name was specifically mentioned alongside that of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. “[O]ur hope is that President Abbas and that Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad, who is a good fellow, will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction,” President Bush said in July of 2007. With the “good fellow” opting out it’s not clear how international aid money will be channeled to the PA as promised last week. (One possible solution: Fayad will return to his role as Finance Minister. This would be a bitter pill for Hamas to swallow).

Thus, while the Palestinian partner is becoming less promising and more complicated to deal with, it seems that the administration is pulling out of the bag the only available trick: pressuring Israel on the settlement issue:

Israel is under increased pressure from the United States over settlement construction. In the past month, since Barack Obama was sworn in as U.S. president, Israel has received four official complaints from members of the new administration regarding various issues linked to West Bank settlements.

A senior government official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that the complaints represent a gradual increase in American pressure vis-a-vis settlement activity. “This is going to be one of the main issues that the Obama administration will be dealing with in the coming weeks and months,” the official said. “It is not going to be easy to argue with them.”

This pressure from the Obama team was to be expected but, with the resignation of Fayad, its futility will be even more evident than usual. Those who expect the freezing of settlement activities to make peace more probable should prepare for disappointment. Since peace is not in the cards as a short-term cause, Obama may want settlement activities halted in hopes of not derailing future agreements. That would be long-term future — when a new Fayad is found.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nina Easton writes: “President Obama’s ‘new era of responsibility’ has already drawn criticism as a magician’s math act: Add a trillion-dollar universal health care plan to a trillion-dollar (including interest) stimulus package to another quarter-trillion for bank bailouts to 7% average increases in domestic agency spending and — voila! –the federal deficit drops by half in four years.” The trick, she says, is getting Democrats to vote for this hooey.

Put CBS on the Robert Gibbs target list. Its reporter doesn’t like the mortgage bailout either.

And Peter Nicholas reports that this is going to be tricky: “President Obama is facing misgivings about his policy agenda from inside his own party, with prominent Democrats objecting to parts of his taxation and spending plans and questioning the White House push to do so much so fast. .  . Complicating matters, Obama is asking the political system in Washington to absorb a slew of legislation and policy shifts rivaling what President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forward 76 years ago. Going all-in, in poker terms, puts a strain on a legislative system accustomed to a more incremental approach.”

Chris Dodd isn’t the only powerful Democrat with friends at mortgage companies. “As mortgage foreclosure rates hit record highs, one small group of homeowners remains relatively immune to the pressures confronting millions of other Americans: those at the highest levels of the Obama administration. At least seven top officials—as well as the president himself—have reaped the benefits of mortgage deals ranging from discounted rates to reduced and subsidized mortgages to free housing, largely due to their stature or as perks of previous employment.” Life is good I suppose when taxes are optional and mortgage deals fall into your lap.
Obama’s approval ratings begin to slip in Newsweek and Rasmussen polls. A blip? Or evidence people are waking up to the impact of Obama’s words and actions on their 401K balances?

Karl Rove brings things down to earth: “It’s too soon to say whether Obama will end his first term more like Clinton or Carter, but one thing is clear: Obama may have won the widest electoral victory since 1988, but six weeks into his presidency, his approval rating is average, rather than extraordinary.”

Peter Robinson nails it: “The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right.” Perhaps the former are blinded by style and imprisoned by their own cultural snobbery, while the latter have gotten good at spotting the phonies who are selling them a bill of goods.

Chas Freeman’s son plays the Israel Lobby card: “His appointment is being challenged these days by a small cabal of folks that believe first and foremost in the importance of allegiance to Israel as a core U.S. priority.” Pretty clever getting all those Chinese dissidents to object, huh?

Boy was Jeffrey Goldberg right: “I get the sense that some of Freeman’s defenders want to see him in government not because he’s a professional contrarian but precisely because he’s viscerally anti-Israel.”

And as much as Andrew Sullivan would like to curry favor with his netroot friends, he unwittingly reveals just what an ignoramus Freeman is.

Marty Peretz sums up: “I believe that the Freeman appointment is the most disastrous one Obama has made. It is both unprofessional and cruel.” Yes, Freeman is the Chinese government’s “patsy,” and the candidate whom Peretz vouched for and lauded is now “putting this man at the center of our intelligence apparatus.” Unless, after letting this drag out needlessly for over a week, Obama retreats and shoves Freeman under the bus. What are we to make of the president’s judgment?

Nina Easton writes: “President Obama’s ‘new era of responsibility’ has already drawn criticism as a magician’s math act: Add a trillion-dollar universal health care plan to a trillion-dollar (including interest) stimulus package to another quarter-trillion for bank bailouts to 7% average increases in domestic agency spending and — voila! –the federal deficit drops by half in four years.” The trick, she says, is getting Democrats to vote for this hooey.

Put CBS on the Robert Gibbs target list. Its reporter doesn’t like the mortgage bailout either.

And Peter Nicholas reports that this is going to be tricky: “President Obama is facing misgivings about his policy agenda from inside his own party, with prominent Democrats objecting to parts of his taxation and spending plans and questioning the White House push to do so much so fast. .  . Complicating matters, Obama is asking the political system in Washington to absorb a slew of legislation and policy shifts rivaling what President Franklin D. Roosevelt put forward 76 years ago. Going all-in, in poker terms, puts a strain on a legislative system accustomed to a more incremental approach.”

Chris Dodd isn’t the only powerful Democrat with friends at mortgage companies. “As mortgage foreclosure rates hit record highs, one small group of homeowners remains relatively immune to the pressures confronting millions of other Americans: those at the highest levels of the Obama administration. At least seven top officials—as well as the president himself—have reaped the benefits of mortgage deals ranging from discounted rates to reduced and subsidized mortgages to free housing, largely due to their stature or as perks of previous employment.” Life is good I suppose when taxes are optional and mortgage deals fall into your lap.
Obama’s approval ratings begin to slip in Newsweek and Rasmussen polls. A blip? Or evidence people are waking up to the impact of Obama’s words and actions on their 401K balances?

Karl Rove brings things down to earth: “It’s too soon to say whether Obama will end his first term more like Clinton or Carter, but one thing is clear: Obama may have won the widest electoral victory since 1988, but six weeks into his presidency, his approval rating is average, rather than extraordinary.”

Peter Robinson nails it: “The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right.” Perhaps the former are blinded by style and imprisoned by their own cultural snobbery, while the latter have gotten good at spotting the phonies who are selling them a bill of goods.

Chas Freeman’s son plays the Israel Lobby card: “His appointment is being challenged these days by a small cabal of folks that believe first and foremost in the importance of allegiance to Israel as a core U.S. priority.” Pretty clever getting all those Chinese dissidents to object, huh?

Boy was Jeffrey Goldberg right: “I get the sense that some of Freeman’s defenders want to see him in government not because he’s a professional contrarian but precisely because he’s viscerally anti-Israel.”

And as much as Andrew Sullivan would like to curry favor with his netroot friends, he unwittingly reveals just what an ignoramus Freeman is.

Marty Peretz sums up: “I believe that the Freeman appointment is the most disastrous one Obama has made. It is both unprofessional and cruel.” Yes, Freeman is the Chinese government’s “patsy,” and the candidate whom Peretz vouched for and lauded is now “putting this man at the center of our intelligence apparatus.” Unless, after letting this drag out needlessly for over a week, Obama retreats and shoves Freeman under the bus. What are we to make of the president’s judgment?

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Unbelievable, Isn’t It?

The Washington Post editors notice that the economy is a mess and getting worse. And they sound miffed:

And yet for the past several days, Washington has been consumed by the point-scoring possibilities of a flap over commentator Rush Limbaugh. It is almost unbelievable that grown men and women in government, of either party, are spending time and energy on this. The whole world is watching, counting on Washington for leadership. The president and lawmakers of both parties must provide it.

Let’s put aside the naked hypocrisy for a moment and ignore the number of stories the Post ran on this subject, (and on page one no less). The editors use a passive voice — “Washington has been consumed” — which deserves further scrutiny.  Wasn’t it Obama’s political hit men who cooked up the scheme to Limbaugh-ize the GOP? Wasn’t it Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel who egged on reporters? It is not the Republicans who are claiming Limbaugh should be crowned head of the party. To the contrary the GOP’s elected leaders have been imploring the media to get back to the economy, the grotesque omnibus spending bill, and, frankly, the president’s cluelessness about the market crash.

So if they had wanted to be accurate, the editors should have written:

And yet for the past several days, the Obama administration has been consumed by the point-scoring possibilities of a flap over commentator Rush Limbaugh. It is almost unbelievable that grown men and women in government, are spending time and energy on this. The whole world is watching, counting on Washington for leadership. The president and lawmakers of both parties must provide it.

That’s plainly what is going on. Obama’s bear market, the embarrassing budget, spend-a-thons, and the beginnings of Red state senators’ defections from the Obama agenda are not what the Obama administration wants people to think about. So they cooked up what even the Post concludes is  a juvenile and “counterproductive” (Gibbs words) plot. (The Post’s own Jackson Diehl has it exactly right.)

In the era of responsibility, we should be clear about who is responsible for this one. It does the Post’s readers no good to mask the White House’s culpability here.  And, yes, it is “unbelievable” that this is what the White House is spending its energy on.

The Washington Post editors notice that the economy is a mess and getting worse. And they sound miffed:

And yet for the past several days, Washington has been consumed by the point-scoring possibilities of a flap over commentator Rush Limbaugh. It is almost unbelievable that grown men and women in government, of either party, are spending time and energy on this. The whole world is watching, counting on Washington for leadership. The president and lawmakers of both parties must provide it.

Let’s put aside the naked hypocrisy for a moment and ignore the number of stories the Post ran on this subject, (and on page one no less). The editors use a passive voice — “Washington has been consumed” — which deserves further scrutiny.  Wasn’t it Obama’s political hit men who cooked up the scheme to Limbaugh-ize the GOP? Wasn’t it Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel who egged on reporters? It is not the Republicans who are claiming Limbaugh should be crowned head of the party. To the contrary the GOP’s elected leaders have been imploring the media to get back to the economy, the grotesque omnibus spending bill, and, frankly, the president’s cluelessness about the market crash.

So if they had wanted to be accurate, the editors should have written:

And yet for the past several days, the Obama administration has been consumed by the point-scoring possibilities of a flap over commentator Rush Limbaugh. It is almost unbelievable that grown men and women in government, are spending time and energy on this. The whole world is watching, counting on Washington for leadership. The president and lawmakers of both parties must provide it.

That’s plainly what is going on. Obama’s bear market, the embarrassing budget, spend-a-thons, and the beginnings of Red state senators’ defections from the Obama agenda are not what the Obama administration wants people to think about. So they cooked up what even the Post concludes is  a juvenile and “counterproductive” (Gibbs words) plot. (The Post’s own Jackson Diehl has it exactly right.)

In the era of responsibility, we should be clear about who is responsible for this one. It does the Post’s readers no good to mask the White House’s culpability here.  And, yes, it is “unbelievable” that this is what the White House is spending its energy on.

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Taliban Outreach?

The online headline on the New York Times’s interview with President Obama is: “Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of the Taliban.” Reading that, I thought, “Uh-oh. He’s looking for a short-cut where none exists. Doesn’t he realize that before you can have successful negotiations you have to make more military progress so that the insurgents realize they can’t achieve their objectives at gunpoint?”

But looking at the actual transcript, I became less concerned. In the first place, the subject of negotiating with the Taliban wasn’t introduced by the president but by the Times reporters. Here is how Obama responded:

I don’t want to pre-judge the review that’s currently taking place. If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region. But the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex. You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, so figuring all that out is going to be a much more of a challenge.

That hardly sounds like a president hell-bent on negotiating with our enemies in Afghanistan. Rather it sounds as if he is acceding to General Petraeus’s nuanced understanding that there are some “reconcilable” insurgents who can be won over while others, the “irreconcilables,” have to be caught or killed. Both elements of our strategy will be much easier to execute with more forces on the ground, starting with the 17,000 reinforcements the president has already approved.

The online headline on the New York Times’s interview with President Obama is: “Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of the Taliban.” Reading that, I thought, “Uh-oh. He’s looking for a short-cut where none exists. Doesn’t he realize that before you can have successful negotiations you have to make more military progress so that the insurgents realize they can’t achieve their objectives at gunpoint?”

But looking at the actual transcript, I became less concerned. In the first place, the subject of negotiating with the Taliban wasn’t introduced by the president but by the Times reporters. Here is how Obama responded:

I don’t want to pre-judge the review that’s currently taking place. If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and the Pakistani region. But the situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex. You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, so figuring all that out is going to be a much more of a challenge.

That hardly sounds like a president hell-bent on negotiating with our enemies in Afghanistan. Rather it sounds as if he is acceding to General Petraeus’s nuanced understanding that there are some “reconcilable” insurgents who can be won over while others, the “irreconcilables,” have to be caught or killed. Both elements of our strategy will be much easier to execute with more forces on the ground, starting with the 17,000 reinforcements the president has already approved.

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