Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 9, 2009

Now We Have to Ask: What’s Wrong with Blair?

Ben Smith details Admiral Dennis Blair’s “outreach” attempts to try to convince members of  Congress that Chas Freeman isn’t so bad after all. It is not surprising that his pleas are falling on deaf ears. What is astounding is that Blair has now jettisoned the Obama administration’s cover and, with it, a great deal of Blair’s own credibility. No longer can the administration say, “We didn’t vet him.” No, this is the person the administration and Blair specifically are determined to fight for.

At this point one wonders why sanity has not prevailed. Marty Peretz contends:

There are many outraged Democratic congressional figures, outraged at least as much by Freeman’s ideological and strategic sympathy for “People’s China” as by his solidarity with the Saudis and rank hostility to Israel. The outrage is surely there, however. President Obama would be better off acting now than when it will look like an embarrassing defeat for him.

If there are “many outraged Democratic congressional figures,” where are they? And why have they not prevailed upon the administration to reverse course? That should be one interesting Senate Armed Services Committee hearing tomorrow.

Ben Smith details Admiral Dennis Blair’s “outreach” attempts to try to convince members of  Congress that Chas Freeman isn’t so bad after all. It is not surprising that his pleas are falling on deaf ears. What is astounding is that Blair has now jettisoned the Obama administration’s cover and, with it, a great deal of Blair’s own credibility. No longer can the administration say, “We didn’t vet him.” No, this is the person the administration and Blair specifically are determined to fight for.

At this point one wonders why sanity has not prevailed. Marty Peretz contends:

There are many outraged Democratic congressional figures, outraged at least as much by Freeman’s ideological and strategic sympathy for “People’s China” as by his solidarity with the Saudis and rank hostility to Israel. The outrage is surely there, however. President Obama would be better off acting now than when it will look like an embarrassing defeat for him.

If there are “many outraged Democratic congressional figures,” where are they? And why have they not prevailed upon the administration to reverse course? That should be one interesting Senate Armed Services Committee hearing tomorrow.

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The New Republic Is Saved

One of the threats of the possible pending bankruptcy of the Canadian media conglomerate CanWest was the folding of the New Republic, the 95 year-old magazine it purchased a few years ago. Today it was announced that a group of investors, among them Laurence Grafstein and the magazine’s guiding light for the past 35 years, Martin Peretz, has purchased TNR. This is very good news for everyone who believes in the future of the serious magazine. It is to be hoped that Larry and Marty will work hard to restore it to its finest days.

One of the threats of the possible pending bankruptcy of the Canadian media conglomerate CanWest was the folding of the New Republic, the 95 year-old magazine it purchased a few years ago. Today it was announced that a group of investors, among them Laurence Grafstein and the magazine’s guiding light for the past 35 years, Martin Peretz, has purchased TNR. This is very good news for everyone who believes in the future of the serious magazine. It is to be hoped that Larry and Marty will work hard to restore it to its finest days.

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Commentary of the Day

Dave, on Michael J. Totten:

I’d rather be friends with a political opposite in Britain than *anyone else* in the world.

They *are* our oldest allies. And unless Obama wants to go back to some antebellum policy of no entangling alliances, we need them most of all.

I mean, how stupid are these guys? Do they think the reason why France & Germany didn’t join us in Iraq is because we weren’t nice to them– or that Britain joined us because we *were* nice to them?

Countries– nations– have interests. Some transient, but many enduring. The U.S. and Britain have enduring interests together.

Amateur hour.

Dave, on Michael J. Totten:

I’d rather be friends with a political opposite in Britain than *anyone else* in the world.

They *are* our oldest allies. And unless Obama wants to go back to some antebellum policy of no entangling alliances, we need them most of all.

I mean, how stupid are these guys? Do they think the reason why France & Germany didn’t join us in Iraq is because we weren’t nice to them– or that Britain joined us because we *were* nice to them?

Countries– nations– have interests. Some transient, but many enduring. The U.S. and Britain have enduring interests together.

Amateur hour.

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How Long?

Jake Tapper appears to be one of the few (only?) mainstream reporters keeping current on the Chas Freeman story. You would think it would be hard to ignore the growing tidal wave of protest and controversy. The latest is a letter signed by the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee taking issue with the appointment. And one wonders how the civil libertarians on the left who are apologizing for Freeman and smearing his critics will respond to this from Huffington Post:

One new development, revealed here for the first time, which is likely to further damage Freeman’s already battered standing is that the former ambassador advocated creating a national identity system in the US as a part of the war on terror. During a 9/11 Commission interview, Freeman remarked that of three major changes the US government should make to effectively combat terror, one was that “the United States should implement a national identity system, so we better know who is who.”

This all raises several questions. First, how long can the rest of the mainstream media hold out without reporting on an embarrassing debacle for the Obama administration? This is the John Edwards story on steroids — a virtual conspiracy of silence with little if any journalistic justification. And here the issue is really important — the appointment of a key intelligence official who is alleged to harbor serious conflicts of interest and extreme views. I have made inquiry at two prominent, national newspapers about the lack of coverage and have received one “I’ll pass it on” from the ombudsman and only an automated response acknowledging receipt from the other. I wonder how mortified they’ll be if the story comes and goes, causing greater public controversy and embarrassment for the administration with nary a report from them.

Second, where are the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. Does Diane Feinstein think Freeman is an acceptable pick? It is interesting to note how lacking in — what’s the word? ah yes — “oversight” the government is now that Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party. Imagine if George W. Bush had nominated someone whose earnings depended on the largess of the House of Saud or who advocated crushing Chinese dissidents — indeed faster than the Chinese government.

And finally, one has to wonder what’s going through the minds of the president and his top team. Is the Freeman choice the sort of “unpoliticized” advice they are looking for? One suspects eventually they will retreat. In the meantime, they have alienated former supporters who took their campaign promises seriously, put the Congressional Democrats in a tough spot and revealed themselves either to be horrendous vetters or lacking sound judgment. Or perhaps, if they prolong this, both.

Jake Tapper appears to be one of the few (only?) mainstream reporters keeping current on the Chas Freeman story. You would think it would be hard to ignore the growing tidal wave of protest and controversy. The latest is a letter signed by the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee taking issue with the appointment. And one wonders how the civil libertarians on the left who are apologizing for Freeman and smearing his critics will respond to this from Huffington Post:

One new development, revealed here for the first time, which is likely to further damage Freeman’s already battered standing is that the former ambassador advocated creating a national identity system in the US as a part of the war on terror. During a 9/11 Commission interview, Freeman remarked that of three major changes the US government should make to effectively combat terror, one was that “the United States should implement a national identity system, so we better know who is who.”

This all raises several questions. First, how long can the rest of the mainstream media hold out without reporting on an embarrassing debacle for the Obama administration? This is the John Edwards story on steroids — a virtual conspiracy of silence with little if any journalistic justification. And here the issue is really important — the appointment of a key intelligence official who is alleged to harbor serious conflicts of interest and extreme views. I have made inquiry at two prominent, national newspapers about the lack of coverage and have received one “I’ll pass it on” from the ombudsman and only an automated response acknowledging receipt from the other. I wonder how mortified they’ll be if the story comes and goes, causing greater public controversy and embarrassment for the administration with nary a report from them.

Second, where are the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. Does Diane Feinstein think Freeman is an acceptable pick? It is interesting to note how lacking in — what’s the word? ah yes — “oversight” the government is now that Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party. Imagine if George W. Bush had nominated someone whose earnings depended on the largess of the House of Saud or who advocated crushing Chinese dissidents — indeed faster than the Chinese government.

And finally, one has to wonder what’s going through the minds of the president and his top team. Is the Freeman choice the sort of “unpoliticized” advice they are looking for? One suspects eventually they will retreat. In the meantime, they have alienated former supporters who took their campaign promises seriously, put the Congressional Democrats in a tough spot and revealed themselves either to be horrendous vetters or lacking sound judgment. Or perhaps, if they prolong this, both.

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Anti-Israel Tennis Prejudice Backfires

Tennis has been in the news lately for the way Israeli players were excluded by Arab tournament hosts. But this week the tables were turned on the Israel-haters.

This past weekend Israel played Sweden in the Davis Cup — the international tournament in which teams of the best male players from each country compete — with the match held in Malmo, Sweden. The Israelis were underdogs against the more powerful Swedes, especially considering the latter had the home court advantage. That edge, however, was nullified thanks to the prejudice against Israel on the part of the host country. The Swedish tennis authorities had the match played with only 300 special invitees in attendance, rather than in a packed stadium full of partisan Swedish supporters as one might have expected.

The reason was that the Swedes caved in to threats from anti-Israel groups who were protesting the appearance of representatives of the Jewish State. While tennis is one of the few sports in which decorum is required of the spectators, Davis Cup competitions are usually the exception to that rule. Home crowds often provide inspiration to their own team and while intimidating their opponents. But not this time. The antiseptic atmosphere of the draw vitiated any advantage that the Swedes might have had from playing at home. The result: a startling upset with Israel winning the draw 3-2.

This victory puts the Israelis into the Davis Cup quarter-finals for only the second time in history (the other time they got this far was 1987). They are scheduled to play Russia in July. The Russians have some of the best players in the world and will be the overwhelming favorites. But win or lose, there will be no funny business in the next round about spectators or invitations: the match will be played in Israel!

Tennis has been in the news lately for the way Israeli players were excluded by Arab tournament hosts. But this week the tables were turned on the Israel-haters.

This past weekend Israel played Sweden in the Davis Cup — the international tournament in which teams of the best male players from each country compete — with the match held in Malmo, Sweden. The Israelis were underdogs against the more powerful Swedes, especially considering the latter had the home court advantage. That edge, however, was nullified thanks to the prejudice against Israel on the part of the host country. The Swedish tennis authorities had the match played with only 300 special invitees in attendance, rather than in a packed stadium full of partisan Swedish supporters as one might have expected.

The reason was that the Swedes caved in to threats from anti-Israel groups who were protesting the appearance of representatives of the Jewish State. While tennis is one of the few sports in which decorum is required of the spectators, Davis Cup competitions are usually the exception to that rule. Home crowds often provide inspiration to their own team and while intimidating their opponents. But not this time. The antiseptic atmosphere of the draw vitiated any advantage that the Swedes might have had from playing at home. The result: a startling upset with Israel winning the draw 3-2.

This victory puts the Israelis into the Davis Cup quarter-finals for only the second time in history (the other time they got this far was 1987). They are scheduled to play Russia in July. The Russians have some of the best players in the world and will be the overwhelming favorites. But win or lose, there will be no funny business in the next round about spectators or invitations: the match will be played in Israel!

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Blinding Us with Science

Abe Greenwald quotes President Obama as saying this morning that science “is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

But as Peter Wehner points out today, the distinguished economic columnist Robert Samuelson accuses the president, in his proposed budget, precisely of distorting and concealing economic data to serve a political agenda and making economic decisions based on ideology, not facts.

So I guess economics isn’t a science, at least in Washington, D.C.

Abe Greenwald quotes President Obama as saying this morning that science “is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

But as Peter Wehner points out today, the distinguished economic columnist Robert Samuelson accuses the president, in his proposed budget, precisely of distorting and concealing economic data to serve a political agenda and making economic decisions based on ideology, not facts.

So I guess economics isn’t a science, at least in Washington, D.C.

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But then How Are We to Recover?

Yuval Levin aptly summarizes what is becoming a daring game of bait-and-switch by the Obama team:

The budget offers an audacious array of technocratic initiatives aimed at transforming the relationship between Americans and their government and moving the country in the direction of European social democracy. It sets the stage for a vastly expanded federal role in the health insurance market–as one “option” among many to begin with, but with the help of price controls and the power to set rules of entry guaranteed to soon be the reigning, if not the only, option. It puts the federal government in command of a complex scheme of carbon-emission taxes and credits. It opens the way for a significantly increased federal role in education (including higher education).

These programs are not directed at the economic emergency, but are instead unrelated, enormous policy initiatives.

As Levin points out, not only do these measures not address the economic recovery — they make that recovery more difficult. He concludes: “This combination of counter-productive action and baffling inaction only unnerves investors and is deeply anti-stimulative.”

Now all of this raises an interesting question: just how does the Obama administration think an economic recovery is going to come about? It’s possible, I suppose, they believe the hocus-pocus Keynesian stimulus plan will do the trick. But most of that spending either isn’t stimulative or is to be spent years from now. Maybe they think the problem will be solved once the banking crisis is resolved. But then Tim Geithner seems light-years from a credible, reassuring plan. Maybe they think the economy will just get better on its own. That would be remarkably similar to the thinking of their opponents who supposedly want to “do nothing.”

And while Paul Krugman’s complaint is the polar opposite of conservatives’ complaint– namely, that Obama is doing too little — his vision isn’t that far off from that of conservatives:

It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

In some sense, then, critics both from the Right and Left agree the stimulus was a wasted effort and there isn’t much else in the agenda to promote recovery. Even Obama supporter Warren Buffet seems concerned that the administration’s  message has been “muddled” and has only induced more fear among consumers and investors. And he’s not thrilled about using the crisis to “try and ram through a whole bunch of things.”

It is curious indeed to have a single crisis this enormous, one which was in large part responsible for the candidate’s victory, and have such a lackadaisical attitude toward solving it. You would think every policy move, every “summit,” and the budget itself — which is a blueprint for the administration’s agenda — would focus on that singular mission: economic recovery. The fact that the administration is running off in a dozen different directions suggests they have either not the inclination or the know-how to address the most critical issue of our time.

No wonder the markets are in a funk.

Yuval Levin aptly summarizes what is becoming a daring game of bait-and-switch by the Obama team:

The budget offers an audacious array of technocratic initiatives aimed at transforming the relationship between Americans and their government and moving the country in the direction of European social democracy. It sets the stage for a vastly expanded federal role in the health insurance market–as one “option” among many to begin with, but with the help of price controls and the power to set rules of entry guaranteed to soon be the reigning, if not the only, option. It puts the federal government in command of a complex scheme of carbon-emission taxes and credits. It opens the way for a significantly increased federal role in education (including higher education).

These programs are not directed at the economic emergency, but are instead unrelated, enormous policy initiatives.

As Levin points out, not only do these measures not address the economic recovery — they make that recovery more difficult. He concludes: “This combination of counter-productive action and baffling inaction only unnerves investors and is deeply anti-stimulative.”

Now all of this raises an interesting question: just how does the Obama administration think an economic recovery is going to come about? It’s possible, I suppose, they believe the hocus-pocus Keynesian stimulus plan will do the trick. But most of that spending either isn’t stimulative or is to be spent years from now. Maybe they think the problem will be solved once the banking crisis is resolved. But then Tim Geithner seems light-years from a credible, reassuring plan. Maybe they think the economy will just get better on its own. That would be remarkably similar to the thinking of their opponents who supposedly want to “do nothing.”

And while Paul Krugman’s complaint is the polar opposite of conservatives’ complaint– namely, that Obama is doing too little — his vision isn’t that far off from that of conservatives:

It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

In some sense, then, critics both from the Right and Left agree the stimulus was a wasted effort and there isn’t much else in the agenda to promote recovery. Even Obama supporter Warren Buffet seems concerned that the administration’s  message has been “muddled” and has only induced more fear among consumers and investors. And he’s not thrilled about using the crisis to “try and ram through a whole bunch of things.”

It is curious indeed to have a single crisis this enormous, one which was in large part responsible for the candidate’s victory, and have such a lackadaisical attitude toward solving it. You would think every policy move, every “summit,” and the budget itself — which is a blueprint for the administration’s agenda — would focus on that singular mission: economic recovery. The fact that the administration is running off in a dozen different directions suggests they have either not the inclination or the know-how to address the most critical issue of our time.

No wonder the markets are in a funk.

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Pot, Kettle, and All That

In a New York Times article about CNBC, the authors write:

The network’s journalists have been encouraged to speak their minds, making the line between reporter and commentator almost indistinguishable at times.

You don’t say.

In a New York Times article about CNBC, the authors write:

The network’s journalists have been encouraged to speak their minds, making the line between reporter and commentator almost indistinguishable at times.

You don’t say.

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Chris Dodd Corruption Watch: Chapter Two

The reputation of Connecticut’s senior United States Senator took a hit last year in the wake of revelations about a sweetheart mortgage the one-time presidential candidate and former chair of the Democratic National Committee had received.

In Sunday’s Hartford Courant, columnist Kevin Rennie (a former Republican state legislator) unravels the tale of how the senator got a pardon in 2001 for Edward R. Downe, a former partner in a real estate deal who had been convicted of securities fraud. But the story runs much deeper than Dodd trying to get his friend’s conviction voided.

It seems that Downe owned a Washington condo with Dodd in the 1980s, when the former was involved in securities fraud. Dodd apparently lived in the place, which took a big financial burden off of the senator, who has never been a rich man. Another partner of Downe’s, William “Bucky” Kessinger, had another deal with Dodd involving lucrative waterfront property on Inishnee, an island on scenic Bertaghboy Bay in County Galway. Dodd has declared the property’s worth on his Senate disclosure forms as being $250,000, but it appears the property may be worth several times that amount. The implication is that this was yet another sweetheart deal in which the senator was sold the property at far below the market price.

Though Dodd has played and will, no doubt, continue to play a major role in the inquisitions Congress conducts examining various financial scandals that have devastated the U.S. economy, he seems to have more than enough going on in his own life that is worth investigating.

The reputation of Connecticut’s senior United States Senator took a hit last year in the wake of revelations about a sweetheart mortgage the one-time presidential candidate and former chair of the Democratic National Committee had received.

In Sunday’s Hartford Courant, columnist Kevin Rennie (a former Republican state legislator) unravels the tale of how the senator got a pardon in 2001 for Edward R. Downe, a former partner in a real estate deal who had been convicted of securities fraud. But the story runs much deeper than Dodd trying to get his friend’s conviction voided.

It seems that Downe owned a Washington condo with Dodd in the 1980s, when the former was involved in securities fraud. Dodd apparently lived in the place, which took a big financial burden off of the senator, who has never been a rich man. Another partner of Downe’s, William “Bucky” Kessinger, had another deal with Dodd involving lucrative waterfront property on Inishnee, an island on scenic Bertaghboy Bay in County Galway. Dodd has declared the property’s worth on his Senate disclosure forms as being $250,000, but it appears the property may be worth several times that amount. The implication is that this was yet another sweetheart deal in which the senator was sold the property at far below the market price.

Though Dodd has played and will, no doubt, continue to play a major role in the inquisitions Congress conducts examining various financial scandals that have devastated the U.S. economy, he seems to have more than enough going on in his own life that is worth investigating.

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The Stem Sell

Today brought us a new installment of the Anti-Bush Executive Order Sign and Clap show. Like its predecessors, today’s episode was characterized by our dour president getting off a dig at the previous president, the mechanically enthusiastic applause of onlookers, and the evasion of tough executive decisions.

Here’s the dig:

Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

The issue at hand is stem cell research, and in case accuracy on George W. Bush’s record matters to anyone at this point, let it be known that Bush never prohibited open scientific inquiry, and never engaged in “manipulation or coercion” of data. He never “distorted or concealed” scientific information to serve an ideology. He didn’t even “ban” federally funded embryonic stem cell research; he prohibited federal funding for research if the “cell derivation” process was initiated after August 9, 2001. And how funny it is to be scolded on the importance of unfettered scientific inquiry from the man who says of climate change, “The science is beyond dispute.”

Here’s the evasion:

While lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on federally financed human embryonic stem cell research, President Obama intends to avoid the thorniest question in the debate: whether taxpayer dollars should be used to experiment on embryos themselves, two senior administration officials said Sunday.

The officials, who provided details of the announcement Mr. Obama will make Monday at the White House, said the president would leave it to Congress to determine whether the long-standing legislative ban on federal financing for human embryo experiments should also be overturned.

Not only that, the executive order itself is, like the one on rendition, a call for a review period that leaves the door open for complete revision.

Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order. The Secretary, through NIH, shall review and update such guidance periodically, as appropriate.

Never mind all that. Just consult this Reuters report if you want to know what to take away. There’s a helpful bullet-point list at the top:

* Obama underscores support for “scientific integrity”

* Obama promises “strict guidelines” for stem cell support

* Scientists, supporters praise decision

* Religious conservatives unhappy

Anti-Bush, pro-nothing. Sold.

Today brought us a new installment of the Anti-Bush Executive Order Sign and Clap show. Like its predecessors, today’s episode was characterized by our dour president getting off a dig at the previous president, the mechanically enthusiastic applause of onlookers, and the evasion of tough executive decisions.

Here’s the dig:

Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

The issue at hand is stem cell research, and in case accuracy on George W. Bush’s record matters to anyone at this point, let it be known that Bush never prohibited open scientific inquiry, and never engaged in “manipulation or coercion” of data. He never “distorted or concealed” scientific information to serve an ideology. He didn’t even “ban” federally funded embryonic stem cell research; he prohibited federal funding for research if the “cell derivation” process was initiated after August 9, 2001. And how funny it is to be scolded on the importance of unfettered scientific inquiry from the man who says of climate change, “The science is beyond dispute.”

Here’s the evasion:

While lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on federally financed human embryonic stem cell research, President Obama intends to avoid the thorniest question in the debate: whether taxpayer dollars should be used to experiment on embryos themselves, two senior administration officials said Sunday.

The officials, who provided details of the announcement Mr. Obama will make Monday at the White House, said the president would leave it to Congress to determine whether the long-standing legislative ban on federal financing for human embryo experiments should also be overturned.

Not only that, the executive order itself is, like the one on rendition, a call for a review period that leaves the door open for complete revision.

Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order. The Secretary, through NIH, shall review and update such guidance periodically, as appropriate.

Never mind all that. Just consult this Reuters report if you want to know what to take away. There’s a helpful bullet-point list at the top:

* Obama underscores support for “scientific integrity”

* Obama promises “strict guidelines” for stem cell support

* Scientists, supporters praise decision

* Religious conservatives unhappy

Anti-Bush, pro-nothing. Sold.

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Get Her a Guide

The Employee Free Choice Act’s advocates seem to have devised a strategy for misleading the public and press both about what the Act intends to do and what current law provides. Unions go so far as to claim the EFCA won’t abolish secret-ballot elections when the plain wording of the bill concedes that there shall be no election if authorization cards come from more than 50% of the employees in the bargaining unit.

Again on Sunday we saw flimflammery of the highest order. As the Huffington Post reported, Claire McCaskill was on This Week, acknowledging that perhaps the pro-card check forces didn’t have 60 votes to end a filibuster. Then she uncorked a doozy:

I would say that I think it would be fair that we have a secret ballot for the decertification of unions. Right now, businesses can go with the card check. There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union. But there is a requirement of that for people to be able to organize. And to me that seems unfair. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let’s get people on a level playing field … Until they do that I’m not sure they have a lot of room to complain.

This is simply a lie. The procedure under current law for the decertification of a union is identical to the procedure for a certification. If 30% of more of the bargaining union employees want to decertify a union, they can file a petition and have an election. The NLRB has a handy guide explaining this:

The Act also contains a provision whereby employees or someone acting on their behalf can file a petition seeking an election to determine if the employees wish to retain the individual or labor organization currently acting as their bargaining representative, whether the representative has been certified or voluntarily recognized by the employer. This is called a decertification election.

[. .  .]

Regarding the showing of interest, it is the policy to require that a petitioner requesting an election for either certification of representatives or decertification show that at least 30 percent of the employees favor an election. The Act also requires that a petition for a union-security deauthorization election be filed by 30 percent or more of the employees in the unit covered by the agreement for the NLRB to conduct an election for that purpose. The showing of interest must be exclusively by employees who are in the appropriate bargaining unit in which an election is sought.

It is the EFCA which seeks an imbalance of rules: card check for certification and secret ballot for decertification. Perhaps McCaskill is ignorant of the law and is not intentionally trying to mislead the public. But if this is what passes for argument by the EFCA proponents, you have a sense as to how weak their position is. Truth be told, it is hard to defend taking away the secret ballot. Even Obama booster Warren Buffet can’t bring himself to conceal his distaste for nixing the secret ballot.

Nevertheless, McCaskill’s argument that we should have a level playing field in the workplace is a compelling one. And it is one more reason for senators to vote against the EFCA.

The Employee Free Choice Act’s advocates seem to have devised a strategy for misleading the public and press both about what the Act intends to do and what current law provides. Unions go so far as to claim the EFCA won’t abolish secret-ballot elections when the plain wording of the bill concedes that there shall be no election if authorization cards come from more than 50% of the employees in the bargaining unit.

Again on Sunday we saw flimflammery of the highest order. As the Huffington Post reported, Claire McCaskill was on This Week, acknowledging that perhaps the pro-card check forces didn’t have 60 votes to end a filibuster. Then she uncorked a doozy:

I would say that I think it would be fair that we have a secret ballot for the decertification of unions. Right now, businesses can go with the card check. There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union. But there is a requirement of that for people to be able to organize. And to me that seems unfair. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Let’s get people on a level playing field … Until they do that I’m not sure they have a lot of room to complain.

This is simply a lie. The procedure under current law for the decertification of a union is identical to the procedure for a certification. If 30% of more of the bargaining union employees want to decertify a union, they can file a petition and have an election. The NLRB has a handy guide explaining this:

The Act also contains a provision whereby employees or someone acting on their behalf can file a petition seeking an election to determine if the employees wish to retain the individual or labor organization currently acting as their bargaining representative, whether the representative has been certified or voluntarily recognized by the employer. This is called a decertification election.

[. .  .]

Regarding the showing of interest, it is the policy to require that a petitioner requesting an election for either certification of representatives or decertification show that at least 30 percent of the employees favor an election. The Act also requires that a petition for a union-security deauthorization election be filed by 30 percent or more of the employees in the unit covered by the agreement for the NLRB to conduct an election for that purpose. The showing of interest must be exclusively by employees who are in the appropriate bargaining unit in which an election is sought.

It is the EFCA which seeks an imbalance of rules: card check for certification and secret ballot for decertification. Perhaps McCaskill is ignorant of the law and is not intentionally trying to mislead the public. But if this is what passes for argument by the EFCA proponents, you have a sense as to how weak their position is. Truth be told, it is hard to defend taking away the secret ballot. Even Obama booster Warren Buffet can’t bring himself to conceal his distaste for nixing the secret ballot.

Nevertheless, McCaskill’s argument that we should have a level playing field in the workplace is a compelling one. And it is one more reason for senators to vote against the EFCA.

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Goodbye Fayyad, Hello Hamas

Salam Fayyad, the Harvard-educated Palestinian Prime Minister is apparently on the way out in Ramallah. Fayyad’s departure effectively sinks Americans’ and Israelis’ hopes of the P.A. heading toward peace and reform, especially since it comes in the context of further efforts to reconcile Hamas with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority.

Almost alone amid all Palestinian politicians, Fayyad was seen as incorruptible, and genuinely interested in developing the Palestinian economy and creating the infrastructure of a rational state. Just about everybody else involved with the 15-year-old P.A. has treated it as an opportunity for theft as well as a platform to promote hatred of Israel and to prepare the Palestinian people for conflict with the Jewish State.

Fayyad never had much of a chance to succeed because he was not actively associated with any of the terror organizations that make up the foundation of Palestinian politics. Palestinian politicians and groups have historically achieved popularity by killing Jews; not by building infrastructure or safeguarding finances.

His exit ought to have an impact on the discussion in the United States about sending $900 million to the Palestinians to aid the rebuilding of Gaza. With Fayyad gone, there is very little chance of the money helping common people rather than going into the hands of terror enablers: e.g. the United Nations Relief Works Agency or the pockets of Palestinian “leaders.”

The argument for spiking the Obama stimulus package for Palestinians just got a lot stronger.

Salam Fayyad, the Harvard-educated Palestinian Prime Minister is apparently on the way out in Ramallah. Fayyad’s departure effectively sinks Americans’ and Israelis’ hopes of the P.A. heading toward peace and reform, especially since it comes in the context of further efforts to reconcile Hamas with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority.

Almost alone amid all Palestinian politicians, Fayyad was seen as incorruptible, and genuinely interested in developing the Palestinian economy and creating the infrastructure of a rational state. Just about everybody else involved with the 15-year-old P.A. has treated it as an opportunity for theft as well as a platform to promote hatred of Israel and to prepare the Palestinian people for conflict with the Jewish State.

Fayyad never had much of a chance to succeed because he was not actively associated with any of the terror organizations that make up the foundation of Palestinian politics. Palestinian politicians and groups have historically achieved popularity by killing Jews; not by building infrastructure or safeguarding finances.

His exit ought to have an impact on the discussion in the United States about sending $900 million to the Palestinians to aid the rebuilding of Gaza. With Fayyad gone, there is very little chance of the money helping common people rather than going into the hands of terror enablers: e.g. the United Nations Relief Works Agency or the pockets of Palestinian “leaders.”

The argument for spiking the Obama stimulus package for Palestinians just got a lot stronger.

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Some Americans Can’t Pretend

Robert Samuelson is one of the most influential economic columnists in America, and for good reason: he’s informed, intelligent, and measured. That’s why his column today is significant. In Samuelson’s words:

Obama is a great pretender. He repeatedly says he’s doing things that he isn’t, trusting his powerful rhetoric to obscure the difference. He has made “responsibility” a personal theme; the budget’s cover line is “A New Era of Responsibility.” He says the budget begins “making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline.” It doesn’t.

This column should be read in conjunction with this article on Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner where we learn

Of the 15 key Treasury Department positions that require Senate confirmation, only one has been filled… Geithner, who started work in late January, has no deputy secretary, no under secretaries for international affairs and no deputy under secretaries.

This is stunning, especially when you consider that we are facing one of the two most serious economic crises in our lifetime.

Since the beginning of the year, the stock market has lost almost 25 percent of its value; people’s life savings, built up over decades, are being wiped out in a matter of weeks. The economic predicament we are in certainly isn’t all Obama’s fault; it has a complicated genesis (related in considerable measure to flawed policies pursued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, policies which Obama himself supported). But it is reasonable for the citizenry to expect that he would have a plan to make things better, or at least stabilize the situation; and certainly that he wouldn’t take steps to make things worse. Unfortunately the verdict right now — early, but no longer all that early in the Obama presidency — is that his actions have accelerated rather than arrested our economic slide.

The lack of confidence we are witnessing in Wall Street is beginning to spread to the country more broadly (the distinction between Wall Street and Main Street, which was always exaggerated, is now slimmer than ever, given how many Americans have money in the stock market). These are precarious days for our country and the world, and right now our President looks to be over-matched by events. He needs to right the ship of state, and soon.

Robert Samuelson is one of the most influential economic columnists in America, and for good reason: he’s informed, intelligent, and measured. That’s why his column today is significant. In Samuelson’s words:

Obama is a great pretender. He repeatedly says he’s doing things that he isn’t, trusting his powerful rhetoric to obscure the difference. He has made “responsibility” a personal theme; the budget’s cover line is “A New Era of Responsibility.” He says the budget begins “making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline.” It doesn’t.

This column should be read in conjunction with this article on Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner where we learn

Of the 15 key Treasury Department positions that require Senate confirmation, only one has been filled… Geithner, who started work in late January, has no deputy secretary, no under secretaries for international affairs and no deputy under secretaries.

This is stunning, especially when you consider that we are facing one of the two most serious economic crises in our lifetime.

Since the beginning of the year, the stock market has lost almost 25 percent of its value; people’s life savings, built up over decades, are being wiped out in a matter of weeks. The economic predicament we are in certainly isn’t all Obama’s fault; it has a complicated genesis (related in considerable measure to flawed policies pursued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, policies which Obama himself supported). But it is reasonable for the citizenry to expect that he would have a plan to make things better, or at least stabilize the situation; and certainly that he wouldn’t take steps to make things worse. Unfortunately the verdict right now — early, but no longer all that early in the Obama presidency — is that his actions have accelerated rather than arrested our economic slide.

The lack of confidence we are witnessing in Wall Street is beginning to spread to the country more broadly (the distinction between Wall Street and Main Street, which was always exaggerated, is now slimmer than ever, given how many Americans have money in the stock market). These are precarious days for our country and the world, and right now our President looks to be over-matched by events. He needs to right the ship of state, and soon.

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Who’s the Hypocrite? The Times Filibuster Flip-flops

This morning the New York Times editorial page weighs in again on the question of Senate filibusters. Times editors are, as you might expect, appalled by the prospect that the Republican minority may try to use the arcane rules of the Senate to block some of President Obama’s liberal court nominees. More than that, they accuse the Republicans of being hypocrites because only a few years ago when they were in the majority, they deplored Democratic judicial filibusters.

That’s true, as far as it goes. Some Republicans have changed their tune about filibusters now that they are the ones in the minority. But they are not the only hypocrites here and maybe not even the biggest ones.

That honor would go to the Times‘ editorial page itself. You see, the one element of the filibuster flip-flops story that the editorial fails to mention is the newspaper’s own changing position. Back on Jan. 1, 1995, the Times editorialized on the question, and in a piece titled “Time to Retire the Filibuster” wrote that the tactic should be eliminated since it was the “tool of the sore loser.” But ten years later when a Democrat was no longer president, the Times changed its mind.

On March 6, 2005, when a Democratic minority tried to thwart the judicial nominees of a Republican president with a Republican majority in the Senate, the paper was all for a filibuster. It even chided Republicans who were trying to eliminate the tactic by saying it wasn’t very conservative of them to try and destroy this time-honored practice.

This editorial titled “Senate on the Brink” was followed by another on March 29, 2005, called “Walking in the Opposition’s Shoes,” in which they admitted their position on filibusters had changed. Their answer to the chorus of critics who called them out on this point: So what?

At least that last piece was honest enough to acknowledge that their editorial page’s positions had shifted with the fortunes of the Democratic Party. But today’s piece, in which they again flipped on filibusters, was all bile and no perspective. As far as the Times‘ editorial page is concerned the only hypocrites on the issue are the ones who disagree with them. The only thing that is consistent about the paper’s stands in 1995, 2005, and now again in 2009 is that they think filibusters should only be employed by Democrats against Republicans. Never underestimate their editorial page’s ability to try and cloak pure partisanship with the veneer of principle, even when the principles change along with the party in power in Washington.

This morning the New York Times editorial page weighs in again on the question of Senate filibusters. Times editors are, as you might expect, appalled by the prospect that the Republican minority may try to use the arcane rules of the Senate to block some of President Obama’s liberal court nominees. More than that, they accuse the Republicans of being hypocrites because only a few years ago when they were in the majority, they deplored Democratic judicial filibusters.

That’s true, as far as it goes. Some Republicans have changed their tune about filibusters now that they are the ones in the minority. But they are not the only hypocrites here and maybe not even the biggest ones.

That honor would go to the Times‘ editorial page itself. You see, the one element of the filibuster flip-flops story that the editorial fails to mention is the newspaper’s own changing position. Back on Jan. 1, 1995, the Times editorialized on the question, and in a piece titled “Time to Retire the Filibuster” wrote that the tactic should be eliminated since it was the “tool of the sore loser.” But ten years later when a Democrat was no longer president, the Times changed its mind.

On March 6, 2005, when a Democratic minority tried to thwart the judicial nominees of a Republican president with a Republican majority in the Senate, the paper was all for a filibuster. It even chided Republicans who were trying to eliminate the tactic by saying it wasn’t very conservative of them to try and destroy this time-honored practice.

This editorial titled “Senate on the Brink” was followed by another on March 29, 2005, called “Walking in the Opposition’s Shoes,” in which they admitted their position on filibusters had changed. Their answer to the chorus of critics who called them out on this point: So what?

At least that last piece was honest enough to acknowledge that their editorial page’s positions had shifted with the fortunes of the Democratic Party. But today’s piece, in which they again flipped on filibusters, was all bile and no perspective. As far as the Times‘ editorial page is concerned the only hypocrites on the issue are the ones who disagree with them. The only thing that is consistent about the paper’s stands in 1995, 2005, and now again in 2009 is that they think filibusters should only be employed by Democrats against Republicans. Never underestimate their editorial page’s ability to try and cloak pure partisanship with the veneer of principle, even when the principles change along with the party in power in Washington.

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Do They Know How to Get Anything Done?

This bit of interesting analysis suggests a major shortcoming in the Obama administration:

For a president set on changing the way Washington works, Barack Obama has depended upon current or former members of Congress for initial cabinet appointments more than any elected president since at least the 1950s.

During a time of economic crisis, Obama also has no former company chief executive officer or cabinet member or nominee with significant private business experience.

Although three nominees have dropped out, Obama originally attempted to fill six of 15 cabinet positions with former or current members of Congress. That 40% is higher than any elected president going back to at least Dwight Eisenhower, said presidential scholar Charles Jones.

And of course the president lacks any significant executive experience (outside of Bill Ayer’s educational foundation).

All the talk of “diversity” in the administration overshadowed any concern for finding people with prominent executive experience or people who were successful in private-sector businesses. Now, an MBA and an executive history is no guarantee of excellent management skills, as more than one president has shown. But by the same token, there is something to be said for experience when it comes to setting priorities, hiring and firing key personnel, implementing a crisis management plan, and dealing with the scrutiny that goes along with being the executive in charge — rather than one of many legislators.

If the Obama team seems to have a tin ear for how its rhetoric impacts business people, or appears to be trying out too many things at once, perhaps it is because someone decided that the “best and the brightest” didn’t include anyone who ever met a payroll or held responsibility for creating a manageable agenda.

This bit of interesting analysis suggests a major shortcoming in the Obama administration:

For a president set on changing the way Washington works, Barack Obama has depended upon current or former members of Congress for initial cabinet appointments more than any elected president since at least the 1950s.

During a time of economic crisis, Obama also has no former company chief executive officer or cabinet member or nominee with significant private business experience.

Although three nominees have dropped out, Obama originally attempted to fill six of 15 cabinet positions with former or current members of Congress. That 40% is higher than any elected president going back to at least Dwight Eisenhower, said presidential scholar Charles Jones.

And of course the president lacks any significant executive experience (outside of Bill Ayer’s educational foundation).

All the talk of “diversity” in the administration overshadowed any concern for finding people with prominent executive experience or people who were successful in private-sector businesses. Now, an MBA and an executive history is no guarantee of excellent management skills, as more than one president has shown. But by the same token, there is something to be said for experience when it comes to setting priorities, hiring and firing key personnel, implementing a crisis management plan, and dealing with the scrutiny that goes along with being the executive in charge — rather than one of many legislators.

If the Obama team seems to have a tin ear for how its rhetoric impacts business people, or appears to be trying out too many things at once, perhaps it is because someone decided that the “best and the brightest” didn’t include anyone who ever met a payroll or held responsibility for creating a manageable agenda.

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Bush Did More than Talk About It

As Robert Kagan sees it, Barack Obama’s foreign policy so far is nearly identical to George W. Bush’s. Vigorous engagement with China was a hallmark of the Bush years. So too was the ever “hopeful” but static back-and-forth with Pyongyang on nuclear development — a policy Hillary Clinton has continued. Obama’s sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan is simply a holdover plan from the Bush administration, as is Obama’s commitment to the parameters of our status of forces agreement with Iraq.

Kagan points out that Obama is even following Bush’s example in allowing a gulf to form between rhetoric and policy when it comes to democracy promotion. With all due respect to Kagan, I think he’s being a little unfair to the last president. It’s true; the end of George W. Bush’s second term saw a more meager White House “freedom agenda” than the first, while the language of democracy promotion never ceased. But it’s hard to name a president since Ronald Reagan who did more for the promotion of democracy in foreign lands. Bush liberated tens of millions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and changed the dominant debate in the entire Muslim world to tyranny vs. democracy. The ineffectiveness of Bush’s second term was due in large part to the domestic and international animus incurred by his bold first term.

Moving backward from Bush: While Bill Clinton was right to nourish Russian reform in various ways, hindsight shows he did not make the most of this post-Cold War opportunity. There was nothing left in place to check the rise of a Vladimir Putin or to set a clear path for balancing NATO obligations against keeping Russia on course. Clinton had an outsized faith in the power of free markets to do the work of democratic reform. It’s a faith that guided his China policy as well. He expanded trade with China, but while that country has become more economically dynamic in the intervening years, its human rights progress has been pitiful and its democratic reform minuscule. Just today we read that the chairman of the National People’s Congress, Wu Bangguo, declared China to be on the “path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” adding that “the Western model of a legal system cannot be copied mechanically in establishing our own.” George H. W. Bush, also a proponent of opening global markets, had no specific freedom agenda to speak of. After meeting our international obligation to rid Kuwait of Saddam Hussein, Bush 41 let Kurds and Iraqi Shiites (and, to a less fatal extent, millions of Iraqi Sunnis) continue to suffer under the brutal Baathist regime.

If Barack Obama manages to liberate a fraction of the number of people who now have George W. Bush to thank for their freedom, he will have made himself and his nation proud.

As Robert Kagan sees it, Barack Obama’s foreign policy so far is nearly identical to George W. Bush’s. Vigorous engagement with China was a hallmark of the Bush years. So too was the ever “hopeful” but static back-and-forth with Pyongyang on nuclear development — a policy Hillary Clinton has continued. Obama’s sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan is simply a holdover plan from the Bush administration, as is Obama’s commitment to the parameters of our status of forces agreement with Iraq.

Kagan points out that Obama is even following Bush’s example in allowing a gulf to form between rhetoric and policy when it comes to democracy promotion. With all due respect to Kagan, I think he’s being a little unfair to the last president. It’s true; the end of George W. Bush’s second term saw a more meager White House “freedom agenda” than the first, while the language of democracy promotion never ceased. But it’s hard to name a president since Ronald Reagan who did more for the promotion of democracy in foreign lands. Bush liberated tens of millions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and changed the dominant debate in the entire Muslim world to tyranny vs. democracy. The ineffectiveness of Bush’s second term was due in large part to the domestic and international animus incurred by his bold first term.

Moving backward from Bush: While Bill Clinton was right to nourish Russian reform in various ways, hindsight shows he did not make the most of this post-Cold War opportunity. There was nothing left in place to check the rise of a Vladimir Putin or to set a clear path for balancing NATO obligations against keeping Russia on course. Clinton had an outsized faith in the power of free markets to do the work of democratic reform. It’s a faith that guided his China policy as well. He expanded trade with China, but while that country has become more economically dynamic in the intervening years, its human rights progress has been pitiful and its democratic reform minuscule. Just today we read that the chairman of the National People’s Congress, Wu Bangguo, declared China to be on the “path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” adding that “the Western model of a legal system cannot be copied mechanically in establishing our own.” George H. W. Bush, also a proponent of opening global markets, had no specific freedom agenda to speak of. After meeting our international obligation to rid Kuwait of Saddam Hussein, Bush 41 let Kurds and Iraqi Shiites (and, to a less fatal extent, millions of Iraqi Sunnis) continue to suffer under the brutal Baathist regime.

If Barack Obama manages to liberate a fraction of the number of people who now have George W. Bush to thank for their freedom, he will have made himself and his nation proud.

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He Really Does Like Big Government

The Washington Post editors are not pleased with the president’s dodge on the omnibus spending bill, a monstrous $410B spend-a-thon with over 8500 earmarks. They declare that “his asserted stance that this is, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, ‘last year’s business,’ borders on irresponsible. This may be last year’s business, but Mr. Obama is this year’s president.” Ouch…

And they rightfully note that the real crime here may not be the earmarks but the “significant jump in domestic spending that is built into the annual baseline.” And that penchant for spending doesn’t stop in the omnibus spending bill for this year:

The rise in spending reflects the pent-up demand of Democrats unable to get their budget priorities past a Republican Congress or signed by a Republican president. This category of spending has been squeezed; according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, discretionary spending outside of defense and homeland security has increased an average of just 1.3 percent annually, adjusting for inflation, since 2001. Nonetheless, increases of this size cannot continue; it’s worrisome that the president’s proposed budget for 2010 appears to envision another increase in excess of 6 percent in this category.

But in that statistic we find the reason that neither Congress nor the president have much interest in rocking the boat. Aside from once again deferring to Nancy Pelosi, it is hard — after the stimulus and the budget bills — to escape the conclusion that Obama likes all the spending and has no interest in curbing the size of government.

So if the Post is hoping for a newfound concern for fiscal discipline, I think it is on a fool’s errand. This administration, to a far greater degree than the last one, is happy to see that spending baseline go higher and higher. It’s not the unfortunate price of doing business with Congress — it is in fact the Obama team’s goal.

The Washington Post editors are not pleased with the president’s dodge on the omnibus spending bill, a monstrous $410B spend-a-thon with over 8500 earmarks. They declare that “his asserted stance that this is, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, ‘last year’s business,’ borders on irresponsible. This may be last year’s business, but Mr. Obama is this year’s president.” Ouch…

And they rightfully note that the real crime here may not be the earmarks but the “significant jump in domestic spending that is built into the annual baseline.” And that penchant for spending doesn’t stop in the omnibus spending bill for this year:

The rise in spending reflects the pent-up demand of Democrats unable to get their budget priorities past a Republican Congress or signed by a Republican president. This category of spending has been squeezed; according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, discretionary spending outside of defense and homeland security has increased an average of just 1.3 percent annually, adjusting for inflation, since 2001. Nonetheless, increases of this size cannot continue; it’s worrisome that the president’s proposed budget for 2010 appears to envision another increase in excess of 6 percent in this category.

But in that statistic we find the reason that neither Congress nor the president have much interest in rocking the boat. Aside from once again deferring to Nancy Pelosi, it is hard — after the stimulus and the budget bills — to escape the conclusion that Obama likes all the spending and has no interest in curbing the size of government.

So if the Post is hoping for a newfound concern for fiscal discipline, I think it is on a fool’s errand. This administration, to a far greater degree than the last one, is happy to see that spending baseline go higher and higher. It’s not the unfortunate price of doing business with Congress — it is in fact the Obama team’s goal.

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How’d That Work Out?

I think we’re reaching consensus that the Rush Limbaugh gambit backfired on the White House. Mara Liasson – hardly a Republican cheerleader –comments on the White House’s Limbaugh antics:

Look, I think the White House was acting like it was in a campaign. . . I think they took it a little too far. You had Robert Gibbs by the end of the week saying he agreed that this was counterproductive, because he lobbed a couple of the hand grenades himself from the podium in the White House briefing. Look, there are serious, serious issues that the president has to be dealing with, and the White House chief of staff, and everybody else there, other than kind of fomenting a big argument about whether a talk show — radio talk show host leads the Republican Party.

And while OpinionWeek can always find a reason to bash Republicans, the gambit is, I think, effective only with the same sort of voter who clings to that publication — those immune to all coverage that departs from White House spin. Meanwhile the White House press secretary is in retreat, MSM publications are pleading for this to stop, and Republicans are delighted for once to be occupying the high ground.

Perhaps if we were not in such dire times, or if the administration seemed to have a handle on the real policy challenges facing it, the maneuver would not have struck people as such a wildly inappropriate stunt. Coupled with moves like grabbing control of the Census, this simply confirms that the Chicago Way is pathetically alive and well in D.C.

I think we’re reaching consensus that the Rush Limbaugh gambit backfired on the White House. Mara Liasson – hardly a Republican cheerleader –comments on the White House’s Limbaugh antics:

Look, I think the White House was acting like it was in a campaign. . . I think they took it a little too far. You had Robert Gibbs by the end of the week saying he agreed that this was counterproductive, because he lobbed a couple of the hand grenades himself from the podium in the White House briefing. Look, there are serious, serious issues that the president has to be dealing with, and the White House chief of staff, and everybody else there, other than kind of fomenting a big argument about whether a talk show — radio talk show host leads the Republican Party.

And while OpinionWeek can always find a reason to bash Republicans, the gambit is, I think, effective only with the same sort of voter who clings to that publication — those immune to all coverage that departs from White House spin. Meanwhile the White House press secretary is in retreat, MSM publications are pleading for this to stop, and Republicans are delighted for once to be occupying the high ground.

Perhaps if we were not in such dire times, or if the administration seemed to have a handle on the real policy challenges facing it, the maneuver would not have struck people as such a wildly inappropriate stunt. Coupled with moves like grabbing control of the Census, this simply confirms that the Chicago Way is pathetically alive and well in D.C.

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The U.S. Needs a Reset Button for Britain

While President Barack Obama tries to improve U.S. relations with rogue states like Syria and Iran, he might want to ensure ties with our closest ally aren’t strained in the meantime. Damascus and Tehran will remain hostile as long as they’re ruled by Bashar Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei, but Britain has long been a reliable friend no matter who is in charge. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged a strong personal friendship despite their ideological differences, yet President Obama is off to an embarrassing start with his Downing Street counterpart.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown felt half snubbed on his visit to the U.S. a few days ago when he didn’t receive the customary press conference and dinner. According to London’s Daily Telegraph, the Obama administration says the president was too tired.

Presidents and prime ministers from all countries are exhausted most of the time. An excuse like that wouldn’t wash if President Manny Mori of Micronesia were blown off. I doubt very much that Prime Minister Brown was slighted on purpose, but an unnamed State Department official quoted in the Telegraph wants the British to believe the cool welcome is all they should have expected.

“There’s nothing special about Britain,” he reportedly said. “You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

The same as Somalia, Turkmenistan, and North Korea? Good grief. Great Britain is the mother country of the United States of America. School children know it. At least they knew it when I was a child. The “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. is so well-established it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned. It’s not a Bush administration policy that’s up for review. It has existed longer than Barack Obama has been alive.

Rudeness, unfortunately, isn’t the end of it.

Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

Somebody needs to be fired. Even the head of Burundi deserves something nicer than what he could get for a dollar at a bootleg store in the market. It hasn’t been that long since Democratic Party support staff assisted the White House when foreign heads of state came to visit. Plenty of people in Washington know how this works. Surely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows a few of her husband’s former staffers who can find a replacement.

Barack Obama campaigned as the worldly and sophisticated diplomacy candidate after President George W. Bush was castigated for “alienating” our allies. I wasn’t happy about strained ties between the U.S., France, and Germany during the Bush administration’s first term, but those relationships were repaired when the congenitally anti-American French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. Chirac and Schroeder weren’t just opposed to American policies, which of course was their right. They campaigned on anti-American platforms. (Imagine an American candidate for president bashing the French on the stump.) President Bush had his work cut out for him with those two, and it said something about who was mostly at fault when voters in France and Germany corrected the problem before he left office.

I’m sure President Obama is tired. How could he not be? The job is exhausting. Just look at the “before” and “after” photos of recent American presidents. There’s no fault or foul there, but we shouldn’t hear about it. We shouldn’t read about it, especially not during the first 100 days. This diplomatic faux pas reflects badly on all of us, and it’s a bit disconcerting. If President Obama is too tired to properly meet with the British prime minister during a time of relative peace, what should we expect if he meets with, say, the Russian president during war time?

While President Barack Obama tries to improve U.S. relations with rogue states like Syria and Iran, he might want to ensure ties with our closest ally aren’t strained in the meantime. Damascus and Tehran will remain hostile as long as they’re ruled by Bashar Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei, but Britain has long been a reliable friend no matter who is in charge. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged a strong personal friendship despite their ideological differences, yet President Obama is off to an embarrassing start with his Downing Street counterpart.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown felt half snubbed on his visit to the U.S. a few days ago when he didn’t receive the customary press conference and dinner. According to London’s Daily Telegraph, the Obama administration says the president was too tired.

Presidents and prime ministers from all countries are exhausted most of the time. An excuse like that wouldn’t wash if President Manny Mori of Micronesia were blown off. I doubt very much that Prime Minister Brown was slighted on purpose, but an unnamed State Department official quoted in the Telegraph wants the British to believe the cool welcome is all they should have expected.

“There’s nothing special about Britain,” he reportedly said. “You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

The same as Somalia, Turkmenistan, and North Korea? Good grief. Great Britain is the mother country of the United States of America. School children know it. At least they knew it when I was a child. The “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. is so well-established it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned. It’s not a Bush administration policy that’s up for review. It has existed longer than Barack Obama has been alive.

Rudeness, unfortunately, isn’t the end of it.

Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

Somebody needs to be fired. Even the head of Burundi deserves something nicer than what he could get for a dollar at a bootleg store in the market. It hasn’t been that long since Democratic Party support staff assisted the White House when foreign heads of state came to visit. Plenty of people in Washington know how this works. Surely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows a few of her husband’s former staffers who can find a replacement.

Barack Obama campaigned as the worldly and sophisticated diplomacy candidate after President George W. Bush was castigated for “alienating” our allies. I wasn’t happy about strained ties between the U.S., France, and Germany during the Bush administration’s first term, but those relationships were repaired when the congenitally anti-American French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. Chirac and Schroeder weren’t just opposed to American policies, which of course was their right. They campaigned on anti-American platforms. (Imagine an American candidate for president bashing the French on the stump.) President Bush had his work cut out for him with those two, and it said something about who was mostly at fault when voters in France and Germany corrected the problem before he left office.

I’m sure President Obama is tired. How could he not be? The job is exhausting. Just look at the “before” and “after” photos of recent American presidents. There’s no fault or foul there, but we shouldn’t hear about it. We shouldn’t read about it, especially not during the first 100 days. This diplomatic faux pas reflects badly on all of us, and it’s a bit disconcerting. If President Obama is too tired to properly meet with the British prime minister during a time of relative peace, what should we expect if he meets with, say, the Russian president during war time?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

How can we soak the rich if they are already being soaked? Gregory Mankiw explains: “In 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available, a household in the bottom quintile paid 4.3 percent of its income in federal taxes and one in the second-lowest quintile paid 9.9 percent. A household in the top 1 percent of income distribution paid 31.2 percent of its income in taxes.”

Robert J. Samuelson: “Obama is a great pretender. He repeatedly says he’s doing things that he isn’t, trusting his powerful rhetoric to obscure the difference. He has made ‘responsibility’ a personal theme; the budget’s cover line is ‘A New Era of Responsibility.’ He says the budget begins ‘making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline.’ It doesn’t.”

On Chas Freeman, Jack Kelly wonders whether “the Freeman nomination may be a more accurate reflection of the president’s innermost feelings than the assurances he gave to Mr. [Marty] Peretz and Mr. [Jeffrey] Goldberg during the campaign.” Let’s hope it’s just a sign of utterly imcompetent vetting. Although the longer the administration hangs on the harder it is to claim this is some terrible “mistake.”

Once again, according to Rasmussen, “Investor confidence has fallen to a new all-time low as expectations of future economic performance continue to decline.”

Obama doesn’t embrace Eric Holder’s “cowards” remark on race.

Newt Gingrich on the reaction of business people and investors to the Obama administration: “I would suggest that the Obama tax increases, both the energy tax increase in his budget and the war against everybody earning over $250,000 are, in some ways, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of this cycle.  You have a vice president who says, ‘Put them in the brig,’ that’s a direct quote, talking about CEOs.  You have a senator from Missouri who describes them as ‘idiots,’ OK.  Now, let’s say you have money.  Let’s say you’re successful and you look at this administration.  Do you really want to risk your money?  Or do you want to, in fact, put it in a mattress?”

And Gingrich again on the budget: “This is a radical budget.  This budget has a $1300 per family tax increase for energy, which means electricity, it means heating oil, it means gasoline.  That will be massively unpopular.  And then to try to do that in the middle of a recession–they haven’t decided if their number one job is get economic growth, or their number one job is redistribute America.”

Lindsay Graham echoes a similar theme: “The budget is a radical, reckless exercise that’s scaring the hell out of everybody who is watching this country’s financial situation.  It triples the national publicly-held debt between now and 2019.  It has an assumption that we’re going to grow next year at 3.2 percent GDP when we’re not.  So this whole idea of these policies have one thing in common:  just print more money.  I think the president has quite frankly, in his budget, told us a lot about who he is and what he believes, and it’s scary.”

Bill Kristol is equally disdainful: “There’s a reality out there in the world and in the economy and in the country, and the idea that the president and his chief of staff and their defenders are obsessing about polls is really pathetic.”

That White House summit turned out to be remarkably ineffective even as a staged display of unity. Two unions have already bugged out of the healthcare coalition.

Cat’s out of the bag: the anti-secret ballot forces don’t have enough votes to pass card check legislation in the Senate. This is a perfect storm for Republicans: not enough votes to pass atrocious legislation but Democrats talking about it and making life difficult for Red state senators. And, as Mickey Kaus points out, it just makes Big Labor look like a paper tiger.

How happy do you think Virginia Republicans will view a headline in the Washington Post announcing unions’ attempt to buy clout in a right-to-work state?

How can we soak the rich if they are already being soaked? Gregory Mankiw explains: “In 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available, a household in the bottom quintile paid 4.3 percent of its income in federal taxes and one in the second-lowest quintile paid 9.9 percent. A household in the top 1 percent of income distribution paid 31.2 percent of its income in taxes.”

Robert J. Samuelson: “Obama is a great pretender. He repeatedly says he’s doing things that he isn’t, trusting his powerful rhetoric to obscure the difference. He has made ‘responsibility’ a personal theme; the budget’s cover line is ‘A New Era of Responsibility.’ He says the budget begins ‘making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline.’ It doesn’t.”

On Chas Freeman, Jack Kelly wonders whether “the Freeman nomination may be a more accurate reflection of the president’s innermost feelings than the assurances he gave to Mr. [Marty] Peretz and Mr. [Jeffrey] Goldberg during the campaign.” Let’s hope it’s just a sign of utterly imcompetent vetting. Although the longer the administration hangs on the harder it is to claim this is some terrible “mistake.”

Once again, according to Rasmussen, “Investor confidence has fallen to a new all-time low as expectations of future economic performance continue to decline.”

Obama doesn’t embrace Eric Holder’s “cowards” remark on race.

Newt Gingrich on the reaction of business people and investors to the Obama administration: “I would suggest that the Obama tax increases, both the energy tax increase in his budget and the war against everybody earning over $250,000 are, in some ways, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of this cycle.  You have a vice president who says, ‘Put them in the brig,’ that’s a direct quote, talking about CEOs.  You have a senator from Missouri who describes them as ‘idiots,’ OK.  Now, let’s say you have money.  Let’s say you’re successful and you look at this administration.  Do you really want to risk your money?  Or do you want to, in fact, put it in a mattress?”

And Gingrich again on the budget: “This is a radical budget.  This budget has a $1300 per family tax increase for energy, which means electricity, it means heating oil, it means gasoline.  That will be massively unpopular.  And then to try to do that in the middle of a recession–they haven’t decided if their number one job is get economic growth, or their number one job is redistribute America.”

Lindsay Graham echoes a similar theme: “The budget is a radical, reckless exercise that’s scaring the hell out of everybody who is watching this country’s financial situation.  It triples the national publicly-held debt between now and 2019.  It has an assumption that we’re going to grow next year at 3.2 percent GDP when we’re not.  So this whole idea of these policies have one thing in common:  just print more money.  I think the president has quite frankly, in his budget, told us a lot about who he is and what he believes, and it’s scary.”

Bill Kristol is equally disdainful: “There’s a reality out there in the world and in the economy and in the country, and the idea that the president and his chief of staff and their defenders are obsessing about polls is really pathetic.”

That White House summit turned out to be remarkably ineffective even as a staged display of unity. Two unions have already bugged out of the healthcare coalition.

Cat’s out of the bag: the anti-secret ballot forces don’t have enough votes to pass card check legislation in the Senate. This is a perfect storm for Republicans: not enough votes to pass atrocious legislation but Democrats talking about it and making life difficult for Red state senators. And, as Mickey Kaus points out, it just makes Big Labor look like a paper tiger.

How happy do you think Virginia Republicans will view a headline in the Washington Post announcing unions’ attempt to buy clout in a right-to-work state?

Read Less




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