Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 21, 2009

Second Thoughts About Mob Rule

After “choking on anger” over the AIG bonuses (which his Treasury Secretary sought to protect) and praising the House bill to take back the bonuses, the president is having second thoughts. This report tells us:

The White House has yet to publicly criticize the bonus tax proposals. But administration officials say privately they are concerned the House and Senate bills could lead to an exodus of employees or whole companies from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, as well as other government-sponsored financial rescue efforts.

You mean they might have scared the living daylights out of anyone contemplating doing business with the government? Perfectly — and unintentionally — characterizing the policy cul-de-sac in which the administration now finds itself, Robert Gibbs pronounces that “the legislation would ultimately be judged by two standards: whether the bills appropriately reflect ‘taxpayer anger and frustration,’ and whether they maintain ‘our ability to stabilize the financial system and ensure that credit flows from banks and lending institutions to families and small businesses and big businesses.'”

Sigh. Yes, those two things are incompatible. Businesses cannot operate, plan, hire, and succeed if they gauge their actions by the likelihood that they will provoke taxpayer anger and frustration. They might as well hire Frank Luntz — or buy a Ouji Board.

Frankly, whatever compromise the White House reaches on this issue is beside the point. The damage has been done and the lesson learned. If businesses take on the government as a partner, they should prepare for the worst. There is no way to anticipate how 535 members of Congress and the administration will react on any given issue and how your business will be disrupted. As one observer summed up, “You’d be crazy to let the government invest in your business.”

After “choking on anger” over the AIG bonuses (which his Treasury Secretary sought to protect) and praising the House bill to take back the bonuses, the president is having second thoughts. This report tells us:

The White House has yet to publicly criticize the bonus tax proposals. But administration officials say privately they are concerned the House and Senate bills could lead to an exodus of employees or whole companies from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, as well as other government-sponsored financial rescue efforts.

You mean they might have scared the living daylights out of anyone contemplating doing business with the government? Perfectly — and unintentionally — characterizing the policy cul-de-sac in which the administration now finds itself, Robert Gibbs pronounces that “the legislation would ultimately be judged by two standards: whether the bills appropriately reflect ‘taxpayer anger and frustration,’ and whether they maintain ‘our ability to stabilize the financial system and ensure that credit flows from banks and lending institutions to families and small businesses and big businesses.'”

Sigh. Yes, those two things are incompatible. Businesses cannot operate, plan, hire, and succeed if they gauge their actions by the likelihood that they will provoke taxpayer anger and frustration. They might as well hire Frank Luntz — or buy a Ouji Board.

Frankly, whatever compromise the White House reaches on this issue is beside the point. The damage has been done and the lesson learned. If businesses take on the government as a partner, they should prepare for the worst. There is no way to anticipate how 535 members of Congress and the administration will react on any given issue and how your business will be disrupted. As one observer summed up, “You’d be crazy to let the government invest in your business.”

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Re: He Only Laughs When It Hurts

I couldn’t agree more with J. G. Thayer about both presidential humor and Barack Obama’s apparent lack thereof.  But I would put in a good word for Gerald Ford. While no John F. Kennedy in the wit and grace department, he did get off one of the great — and self-deprecating — puns in American political history when he warned the country in 1973, after being sworn in as Nixon’s vice-president, that “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”

It is interesting, to say the least, that those noting Obama’s lack of humor and grace are not confined to the likes of Contentions. Would you believe a columnist for Vanity Fair? If Michael Wolff is beginning to realize that Barack Obama is “cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious,” then this presidency is already in trouble.

I couldn’t agree more with J. G. Thayer about both presidential humor and Barack Obama’s apparent lack thereof.  But I would put in a good word for Gerald Ford. While no John F. Kennedy in the wit and grace department, he did get off one of the great — and self-deprecating — puns in American political history when he warned the country in 1973, after being sworn in as Nixon’s vice-president, that “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”

It is interesting, to say the least, that those noting Obama’s lack of humor and grace are not confined to the likes of Contentions. Would you believe a columnist for Vanity Fair? If Michael Wolff is beginning to realize that Barack Obama is “cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious,” then this presidency is already in trouble.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Big Labor’s fan club in the blogosphere had been hawking some sort of business community “compromise” on card check. A crack in the anti-card check line of defense! Er. . . not quite. Yes a grand total of three firms — Costco, Whole Foods and Starbucks has gotten together. (The last two are largely non-union firms. Whole Foods in the past has not exactly extended open arms to unions.) But all the business lobbying groups shot down any idea of a “deal.” More to the point, it turns out that the “compromise” means keeping the secret ballot and dumping mandatory arbitration.

The Washington Post reports: “The alternative legislation backed by the companies would tighten some organizing rules in favor of workers while keeping the secret ballot and leaving out mandatory arbitration.” They don’t say what those organizing rules are. (A labor lawyer has been peddling a variation on the card check scheme but these companies seem to be defending the secret ballot for all workers.) It must come as a disappointment that the best they could get out of major Democratic donor Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is a repudiation of the two main planks of Big Labor’s bill. Doesn’t anyone in the business community support stripping workers of secret ballots and putting their fate in the hands of government-appointed arbitrators? I guess not.

One additional note: Management attorney Jay Krupin is quoted in the AP story above in conjunction with coverage of a potential compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). I contacted him directly and he explained, “The 70/50/30 compromise [secret ballot is avoided if 70% of employees sign cards, there is an option for the union to hold an election if it gets authorization from only 50% and secret ballot elections are required if the obtains only 30%] was a prediction I made as to where EFCA may end up. I do not endorse, advocate, or support EFCA or any changes in the federal labor laws.” He does not represent any of the three companies supposedly mulling a compromise. And as for mandatory arbitration, he says, “The mandatory arbitration proposal is an extremely troubling provision . . . It is virtually unworkable in a business context.”

Big Labor’s fan club in the blogosphere had been hawking some sort of business community “compromise” on card check. A crack in the anti-card check line of defense! Er. . . not quite. Yes a grand total of three firms — Costco, Whole Foods and Starbucks has gotten together. (The last two are largely non-union firms. Whole Foods in the past has not exactly extended open arms to unions.) But all the business lobbying groups shot down any idea of a “deal.” More to the point, it turns out that the “compromise” means keeping the secret ballot and dumping mandatory arbitration.

The Washington Post reports: “The alternative legislation backed by the companies would tighten some organizing rules in favor of workers while keeping the secret ballot and leaving out mandatory arbitration.” They don’t say what those organizing rules are. (A labor lawyer has been peddling a variation on the card check scheme but these companies seem to be defending the secret ballot for all workers.) It must come as a disappointment that the best they could get out of major Democratic donor Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is a repudiation of the two main planks of Big Labor’s bill. Doesn’t anyone in the business community support stripping workers of secret ballots and putting their fate in the hands of government-appointed arbitrators? I guess not.

One additional note: Management attorney Jay Krupin is quoted in the AP story above in conjunction with coverage of a potential compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). I contacted him directly and he explained, “The 70/50/30 compromise [secret ballot is avoided if 70% of employees sign cards, there is an option for the union to hold an election if it gets authorization from only 50% and secret ballot elections are required if the obtains only 30%] was a prediction I made as to where EFCA may end up. I do not endorse, advocate, or support EFCA or any changes in the federal labor laws.” He does not represent any of the three companies supposedly mulling a compromise. And as for mandatory arbitration, he says, “The mandatory arbitration proposal is an extremely troubling provision . . . It is virtually unworkable in a business context.”

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Time for a New Strategy

In praising President Obama’s video message to Iran, Joe Klein wrote, “The Iran message–already being criticized by neolithic conservatives–is part of a strategy: make it clear that we’re willing to be reasonable, that our goal isn’t regime change (hence, the reference to Iran as the “Islamic Republic”), that the ball is in the Supreme Leader’s court.”

Here’s what the Supreme leader did with the ball:

“Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged,” [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei said.

Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted “Death to America.”

Is it too “neolithic” to say Obama’s strategy isn’t working? Or to suggest that our president might spend his time more effectively than in trying to persuade an apocalyptic theocrat that we’re “reasonable”?

People like Klein have tended to view Obama’s foreign policy moves in a vacuum. The president’s goodwill gestures are praised as a return to sanity and equanimity — but the rebuffs go unnoticed or are absorbed into the “Bush really blew it” chorus. Obama’s Al Arabiya interview was groundbreaking — never mind that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded with a litany of American “crimes.” Hillary Clinton’s Russian reset button established a new tone in U.S.-Russia relations — except in Russia, where Putin and Medvedev are still helping Iran with nuclear power and threatening America over our NATO obligations. Hillary’s letting Beijing off the hook for human rights abuses signaled a cool-headed willingness to cooperate with China — yet the Chinese Foreign Minister came to Washington a week later and told us to stop “meddling” in Chinese affairs, while Beijing is broadcasting doubts about investing in the U.S.

As each of Obama’s nice-guy efforts fails internationally while succeeding domestically, a cumulative impression is setting in around the globe. In Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and beyond, leaders are getting confirmation that not only is the new American president willing to indulge bad actors, but that the American public is thrilled about it. This is a strange and dangerous way to “restore America’s image.”

In praising President Obama’s video message to Iran, Joe Klein wrote, “The Iran message–already being criticized by neolithic conservatives–is part of a strategy: make it clear that we’re willing to be reasonable, that our goal isn’t regime change (hence, the reference to Iran as the “Islamic Republic”), that the ball is in the Supreme Leader’s court.”

Here’s what the Supreme leader did with the ball:

“Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged,” [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei said.

Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted “Death to America.”

Is it too “neolithic” to say Obama’s strategy isn’t working? Or to suggest that our president might spend his time more effectively than in trying to persuade an apocalyptic theocrat that we’re “reasonable”?

People like Klein have tended to view Obama’s foreign policy moves in a vacuum. The president’s goodwill gestures are praised as a return to sanity and equanimity — but the rebuffs go unnoticed or are absorbed into the “Bush really blew it” chorus. Obama’s Al Arabiya interview was groundbreaking — never mind that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded with a litany of American “crimes.” Hillary Clinton’s Russian reset button established a new tone in U.S.-Russia relations — except in Russia, where Putin and Medvedev are still helping Iran with nuclear power and threatening America over our NATO obligations. Hillary’s letting Beijing off the hook for human rights abuses signaled a cool-headed willingness to cooperate with China — yet the Chinese Foreign Minister came to Washington a week later and told us to stop “meddling” in Chinese affairs, while Beijing is broadcasting doubts about investing in the U.S.

As each of Obama’s nice-guy efforts fails internationally while succeeding domestically, a cumulative impression is setting in around the globe. In Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and beyond, leaders are getting confirmation that not only is the new American president willing to indulge bad actors, but that the American public is thrilled about it. This is a strange and dangerous way to “restore America’s image.”

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You Thought Capitalism Was Rough

Even the New York Times has figured it out. Well, at least one columnist. Joe Nocera writes:

By week’s end, I was more depressed about the financial crisis than I’ve been since last September. Back then, the issue was the disintegration of the financial system, as the Lehman bankruptcy set off a terrible chain reaction. Now I’m worried that the political response is making the crisis worse. The Obama administration appears to have lost its grip on Congress, while the Treasury Department always seems caught off guard by bad news.

And Congress, with its howls of rage, its chaotic, episodic reaction to the crisis, and its shameless playing to the crowds, is out of control. This week, the body politic ran off the rails.

There are times when anger is cathartic. There are other times when anger makes a bad situation worse. “We need to stop committing economic arson,” Bert Ely, a banking consultant, said to me this week. That is what Congress committed: economic arson.

How is the political reaction to the crisis making it worse? Let us count the ways.

He notes the pitchfork crowd in Congress is destroying AIG’s value and distracting from more central concerns. On the bonuses themselves his view is:

Even on Wall Street this week, I didn’t hear anyone condoning the A.I.G. bonuses. They should never have been granted, and Mr. Liddy should have been tougher about renegotiating them. (A rich irony here is that any nonfinancial company in A.I.G.’s straits would be in bankruptcy, and contracts would have to be renegotiated. The fact that the government is afraid to force A.I.G. into bankruptcy, despite its crippled state, is the main reason Mr. Liddy felt he couldn’t try to redo the contracts.)

So where does this lead us? Nocera doesn’t quite say, other than that he’d like Congress to stop grandstanding. Good luck with that.

The free market has gotten its share of criticism lately. And yes, bubbles happen (especially when fueled by monetary policy gone wild), and investors and managers make mistakes. But, as Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker says: “When the market economy is compared to alternatives, nothing is better at raising productivity, reducing poverty, improving health and integrating the people of the world.” Moreover,  markets correct, albeit sometimes painfully.

What correction is there for Congress and a White House run amok? Ultimately just the good sense of the voters who can adjust course at the next election. I’m sure they’ll have put down the torches by 2010.

Even the New York Times has figured it out. Well, at least one columnist. Joe Nocera writes:

By week’s end, I was more depressed about the financial crisis than I’ve been since last September. Back then, the issue was the disintegration of the financial system, as the Lehman bankruptcy set off a terrible chain reaction. Now I’m worried that the political response is making the crisis worse. The Obama administration appears to have lost its grip on Congress, while the Treasury Department always seems caught off guard by bad news.

And Congress, with its howls of rage, its chaotic, episodic reaction to the crisis, and its shameless playing to the crowds, is out of control. This week, the body politic ran off the rails.

There are times when anger is cathartic. There are other times when anger makes a bad situation worse. “We need to stop committing economic arson,” Bert Ely, a banking consultant, said to me this week. That is what Congress committed: economic arson.

How is the political reaction to the crisis making it worse? Let us count the ways.

He notes the pitchfork crowd in Congress is destroying AIG’s value and distracting from more central concerns. On the bonuses themselves his view is:

Even on Wall Street this week, I didn’t hear anyone condoning the A.I.G. bonuses. They should never have been granted, and Mr. Liddy should have been tougher about renegotiating them. (A rich irony here is that any nonfinancial company in A.I.G.’s straits would be in bankruptcy, and contracts would have to be renegotiated. The fact that the government is afraid to force A.I.G. into bankruptcy, despite its crippled state, is the main reason Mr. Liddy felt he couldn’t try to redo the contracts.)

So where does this lead us? Nocera doesn’t quite say, other than that he’d like Congress to stop grandstanding. Good luck with that.

The free market has gotten its share of criticism lately. And yes, bubbles happen (especially when fueled by monetary policy gone wild), and investors and managers make mistakes. But, as Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker says: “When the market economy is compared to alternatives, nothing is better at raising productivity, reducing poverty, improving health and integrating the people of the world.” Moreover,  markets correct, albeit sometimes painfully.

What correction is there for Congress and a White House run amok? Ultimately just the good sense of the voters who can adjust course at the next election. I’m sure they’ll have put down the torches by 2010.

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He Only Laughs When It Hurts

Humor is a tricky thing. Political humor, especially when practiced by a politician, doubly so. Poking fun at someone is a superb way of undercutting them, but if not done skillfully it makes the jokester seem like a bully.

One of the keys to pulling a joke off is to choose the target very carefully. Ideally, it should be someone of equal or greater stature than the jokester. Picking on those poorer, weaker, less successful, less accomplished, tends to come across as mean-spirited.

That makes it very tough for presidents. There are very few people of similar stature whom they can mock. Many just opt for self-deprecating humor. And it works — remarkably well.

Both Presidents Bush were quite good at poking fun at themselves. Bill Clinton was also good, with flashes of brilliance, in that field. Ronald Reagan was the undisputed master of the art. Part of that, though, might have been the lack of comparison — prior to him, the last respectable practitioner was Jack Kennedy (remember him introducing himself as “the man who accompanied Mrs. Kennedy to Paris?”), and 17 years is a heck of a dry spell.

A dry spell consisting of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. Of those four, only Ford even tried — and the results were less than stellar.

In the yucks department, President Obama seems to be in the mold of those four men. There was only one instance I can recall when he tried self-deprecating humor — at the Al Smith Dinner last year. And while he was pretty good (“Where are my pillars?”), John McCain — accomplished at self-deprecation — blew him out of the water.

That one night aside, Obama instead tends to target the weaker for his jibes. His poke at the Special Olympics last week is but the latest example. And it speaks poorly of his sense of compassion.

Shortly after the election, Obama was asked if he’d spoken with any former presidents. His answer?

…in terms of speaking to former presidents, I have spoken to all of them, that are still living, obviously, president Clinton… hey, I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances…

Who was the target of his joke? An elderly widow.The best part is, it wasn’t even factually correct. Nancy Reagan’s flirtation with the supernatural was with astrologers. It was Hillary Clinton who spoke of conversing with the dead — she mentioned her “chats” with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Obama, simply put, isn’t that funny. When he first appeared on Saturday Night Live, he was in a skit set at a costume party — dressed as himself. When he met “Bill and Hillary Clinton,” who were in costume, he explained that unlike some others, he has “nothing to hide.” To the extent that this is true, it means he doesn’t have much material.

A good sense of humor is essential in high-stress positions, and there can’t be a more stressful job than President of the United States.

Presidents who can laugh — especially at themselves — tend to be more successful at the job, and come out of the Oval Office a bit healthier. Those that don’t tend to get eaten alive — and we all end up paying the price for that.

Humor is a tricky thing. Political humor, especially when practiced by a politician, doubly so. Poking fun at someone is a superb way of undercutting them, but if not done skillfully it makes the jokester seem like a bully.

One of the keys to pulling a joke off is to choose the target very carefully. Ideally, it should be someone of equal or greater stature than the jokester. Picking on those poorer, weaker, less successful, less accomplished, tends to come across as mean-spirited.

That makes it very tough for presidents. There are very few people of similar stature whom they can mock. Many just opt for self-deprecating humor. And it works — remarkably well.

Both Presidents Bush were quite good at poking fun at themselves. Bill Clinton was also good, with flashes of brilliance, in that field. Ronald Reagan was the undisputed master of the art. Part of that, though, might have been the lack of comparison — prior to him, the last respectable practitioner was Jack Kennedy (remember him introducing himself as “the man who accompanied Mrs. Kennedy to Paris?”), and 17 years is a heck of a dry spell.

A dry spell consisting of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. Of those four, only Ford even tried — and the results were less than stellar.

In the yucks department, President Obama seems to be in the mold of those four men. There was only one instance I can recall when he tried self-deprecating humor — at the Al Smith Dinner last year. And while he was pretty good (“Where are my pillars?”), John McCain — accomplished at self-deprecation — blew him out of the water.

That one night aside, Obama instead tends to target the weaker for his jibes. His poke at the Special Olympics last week is but the latest example. And it speaks poorly of his sense of compassion.

Shortly after the election, Obama was asked if he’d spoken with any former presidents. His answer?

…in terms of speaking to former presidents, I have spoken to all of them, that are still living, obviously, president Clinton… hey, I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances…

Who was the target of his joke? An elderly widow.The best part is, it wasn’t even factually correct. Nancy Reagan’s flirtation with the supernatural was with astrologers. It was Hillary Clinton who spoke of conversing with the dead — she mentioned her “chats” with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Obama, simply put, isn’t that funny. When he first appeared on Saturday Night Live, he was in a skit set at a costume party — dressed as himself. When he met “Bill and Hillary Clinton,” who were in costume, he explained that unlike some others, he has “nothing to hide.” To the extent that this is true, it means he doesn’t have much material.

A good sense of humor is essential in high-stress positions, and there can’t be a more stressful job than President of the United States.

Presidents who can laugh — especially at themselves — tend to be more successful at the job, and come out of the Oval Office a bit healthier. Those that don’t tend to get eaten alive — and we all end up paying the price for that.

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Time for the Saucer

The Obama administration has been making noise about using the budget reconciliation process, rather than the normal legislative process, to ram through health care and cap-and-trade legislation. The former requires only 51 votes for passage of legislation, while the latter is subject to the filibuster (and thereby requires 60 votes).

Sen. Robert Byrd goes ballistic on the opinion page of the Washington Post:

The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation — a process intended for deficit reduction — to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role. Reconciliation, with its tight time limits, excludes debate and shuts down amendments. Essentially it says “take it or leave it” to the citizens who sent us here to solve problems, and it prevents members from representing their constituents’ interests. Everyone likes to win, and the Obama administration, of course, wants victories. But tactics that ignore the means in pursuit of the ends are wrong when the outcome affects Americans’ health and economic security.

Ouch. So the question remains whether the administration will pursue both or either of these items using reconcilliation and risk a legislative meltdown. With news that the administration’s budget and deficit numbers are not as advertised, I suspect there will be greater resistance both from Republicans as well as Red state Democrats to letting the president jam through enormously expensive pieces of legislation without the luxury of time and the backstop of a filibuster. After all, didn’t they all get burned in the “hurry-up-in-secret” approach to the stimulus plan?

Once again, the Framers had it right. If ever there was a time to “pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it,” it is now.

The Obama administration has been making noise about using the budget reconciliation process, rather than the normal legislative process, to ram through health care and cap-and-trade legislation. The former requires only 51 votes for passage of legislation, while the latter is subject to the filibuster (and thereby requires 60 votes).

Sen. Robert Byrd goes ballistic on the opinion page of the Washington Post:

The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation — a process intended for deficit reduction — to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role. Reconciliation, with its tight time limits, excludes debate and shuts down amendments. Essentially it says “take it or leave it” to the citizens who sent us here to solve problems, and it prevents members from representing their constituents’ interests. Everyone likes to win, and the Obama administration, of course, wants victories. But tactics that ignore the means in pursuit of the ends are wrong when the outcome affects Americans’ health and economic security.

Ouch. So the question remains whether the administration will pursue both or either of these items using reconcilliation and risk a legislative meltdown. With news that the administration’s budget and deficit numbers are not as advertised, I suspect there will be greater resistance both from Republicans as well as Red state Democrats to letting the president jam through enormously expensive pieces of legislation without the luxury of time and the backstop of a filibuster. After all, didn’t they all get burned in the “hurry-up-in-secret” approach to the stimulus plan?

Once again, the Framers had it right. If ever there was a time to “pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it,” it is now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank not so gently mocks gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s bombastic style of politics. But did he bury the lede? McAuliffe, describing his working-man tour around Virginia, says he worked as a busboy and bartender — oh, and “I’ve been an African American barber.” What? Good thing for McAuliffe that Milbank does not work for a paper exquisitely sensitive to supposed racial jibes by Virginia politicians.

And in the tone deaf department, Obama’s 129 score isn’t close to medal-winning level in the Special Olympics.

And don’t blame the teleprompter, he (it) says. (Anyone who says it’s hard to mock Obama isn’t reading TOTUS’s blog.)

Sorry, Jake Tapper, you can’t win the comedy gold award every day. Chip Reid (with assistance from the rest of the frustrated press corps) gets it for Friday. The scene is rather Scott McClellan-like.

The latest in the NY-20 race: “Democrat Scott Murphy may have gotten himself in a bit of a political pickle in a radio interview with New York Post columnist Fred Dicker. In the interview, Murphy said he was opposed to the death penalty, even for terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks.”

The Republican candidate unsurprisingly making a big deal of this.

Senators responding to an ABC News telephone poll didn’t quite voice the same “complete confidence” in Tim Geithner as the president. And as for those who say “Well the president trusts him,” don’t they owe their constituents their own independent judgment?

Many people have commented, “Can you imagine what the media would have done if George Bush had made a joke about the Special Olympics?” Well, I honestly can’t imagine he ever would have said it. A reminder. (For a man vilified as unsophisticated and mocked for his “Bushisms” he did exhibit exceptional personal kindness. Remember this one?)

On the AIG bonus tax bill: “Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire blasted the House bill, saying ‘it’s a bill of attainder, it’s blatantly unconstitutional, it sets a precedent just if it even gets to the Senate of pettiness that’s hard to equal.'” (Actually I’m sure that pettiness can be matched or exceeded in the future.) “‘It’s everybody grab their pitchforks,’  Gregg added.” As you can see, Gregg never would have fit into this administration.

Well, it’s not like he called it “witch huntery.”

If you think conservative critics have been tough, read what Eleanor Clift has to say: “President Obama likes to remind voters that he inherited a mess, and that’s true, but this one is of his own making. And until he comes up with a satisfactory explanation of who did what when, and why, his credibility will suffer. . . .This week’s fiasco with AIG should serve as a warning to Obama that good will is not unlimited and that the people serving him can bring him down.”

Paul Krugman blames Obama and Geithner for the mess.

If anyone cares about the Constitution anymore, here is a useful summary of the pro and con arguments on whether the AIG bonus grab is a bill of attainder.

RNC Chair Michael Steele, troubles and all, outraised the DNC last month by almost $2M.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank not so gently mocks gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s bombastic style of politics. But did he bury the lede? McAuliffe, describing his working-man tour around Virginia, says he worked as a busboy and bartender — oh, and “I’ve been an African American barber.” What? Good thing for McAuliffe that Milbank does not work for a paper exquisitely sensitive to supposed racial jibes by Virginia politicians.

And in the tone deaf department, Obama’s 129 score isn’t close to medal-winning level in the Special Olympics.

And don’t blame the teleprompter, he (it) says. (Anyone who says it’s hard to mock Obama isn’t reading TOTUS’s blog.)

Sorry, Jake Tapper, you can’t win the comedy gold award every day. Chip Reid (with assistance from the rest of the frustrated press corps) gets it for Friday. The scene is rather Scott McClellan-like.

The latest in the NY-20 race: “Democrat Scott Murphy may have gotten himself in a bit of a political pickle in a radio interview with New York Post columnist Fred Dicker. In the interview, Murphy said he was opposed to the death penalty, even for terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks.”

The Republican candidate unsurprisingly making a big deal of this.

Senators responding to an ABC News telephone poll didn’t quite voice the same “complete confidence” in Tim Geithner as the president. And as for those who say “Well the president trusts him,” don’t they owe their constituents their own independent judgment?

Many people have commented, “Can you imagine what the media would have done if George Bush had made a joke about the Special Olympics?” Well, I honestly can’t imagine he ever would have said it. A reminder. (For a man vilified as unsophisticated and mocked for his “Bushisms” he did exhibit exceptional personal kindness. Remember this one?)

On the AIG bonus tax bill: “Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire blasted the House bill, saying ‘it’s a bill of attainder, it’s blatantly unconstitutional, it sets a precedent just if it even gets to the Senate of pettiness that’s hard to equal.'” (Actually I’m sure that pettiness can be matched or exceeded in the future.) “‘It’s everybody grab their pitchforks,’  Gregg added.” As you can see, Gregg never would have fit into this administration.

Well, it’s not like he called it “witch huntery.”

If you think conservative critics have been tough, read what Eleanor Clift has to say: “President Obama likes to remind voters that he inherited a mess, and that’s true, but this one is of his own making. And until he comes up with a satisfactory explanation of who did what when, and why, his credibility will suffer. . . .This week’s fiasco with AIG should serve as a warning to Obama that good will is not unlimited and that the people serving him can bring him down.”

Paul Krugman blames Obama and Geithner for the mess.

If anyone cares about the Constitution anymore, here is a useful summary of the pro and con arguments on whether the AIG bonus grab is a bill of attainder.

RNC Chair Michael Steele, troubles and all, outraised the DNC last month by almost $2M.

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