Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 18, 2009

CNN Invents the News

How does a cable news network produce twenty-four hours worth of programming – particularly when it runs out of excuses for covering Sarah Palin?

This past week, CNN found one answer: it invented a news item, racing celebrity man-boy Ashton Kutcher for one million “followers” on Twitter and covering this “event” as a major news story.  Then, when Kutcher narrowly won the “Twitter duel” after a mere two days, CNN scrambled to get as much mileage out of this non-development as possible.  Indeed, beyond constant references to the “feud” throughout Friday’s news programming, Kutcher was the featured guest on Larry King Live, with the softball-tosser analyzing every mundane detail of Kutcher’s “victory” as if it were a major sports championship.

CNN has tried to spin its disproportionate coverage of this “Twitter duel” as relevant to the growing importance of “new media” in breaking down barriers between celebrities and the public.  Yet this obscures the real story: namely, the amazing ease with which traditional news outlets can create “news” that is useful to their marketing purposes, and then use “new media” platforms (and other networks’ gullible coverage of the pseudo-event) to spread their advertising gimmick “virally.”  Indeed, with unnerving efficiency, CNN staged an event that put its brand-name front and center (i.e., “Kutcher vs. CNN”); hyped this as news-worthy on its network and website; recruited a famous dupe to ensure that its content was pumped throughout the blogosphere and reported in the MSM; and – in its most shameless act yet – broadcast “Kutcher supporters” wearing CNN-branded “Kutcher hands CNN its lunch in Twitter feud” t-shirts, which, naturally, are available for $15 apiece on CNN’s website!

In turn, CNN’s bold fabrication of the news suggests that “new media” isn’t necessarily “democratizing” the flow of information.  Rather, insofar as the MSM is still responsible for determining what counts as news, “new media” platforms have provided traditional media outlets with enhanced capabilities for packaging – and broadly disseminating – their own advertising campaigns as “news.”  Of course, the capitalist in me salutes the marketing folks at CNN for their ingenuity. But the (lower-case) liberal democrat in me fears a slippery slope.  Today, CNN boosted its ratings by concocting a competition with Ashton Kutcher.  Fine – but what will it cook up to generate sales for CNN t-shirts tomorrow?

How does a cable news network produce twenty-four hours worth of programming – particularly when it runs out of excuses for covering Sarah Palin?

This past week, CNN found one answer: it invented a news item, racing celebrity man-boy Ashton Kutcher for one million “followers” on Twitter and covering this “event” as a major news story.  Then, when Kutcher narrowly won the “Twitter duel” after a mere two days, CNN scrambled to get as much mileage out of this non-development as possible.  Indeed, beyond constant references to the “feud” throughout Friday’s news programming, Kutcher was the featured guest on Larry King Live, with the softball-tosser analyzing every mundane detail of Kutcher’s “victory” as if it were a major sports championship.

CNN has tried to spin its disproportionate coverage of this “Twitter duel” as relevant to the growing importance of “new media” in breaking down barriers between celebrities and the public.  Yet this obscures the real story: namely, the amazing ease with which traditional news outlets can create “news” that is useful to their marketing purposes, and then use “new media” platforms (and other networks’ gullible coverage of the pseudo-event) to spread their advertising gimmick “virally.”  Indeed, with unnerving efficiency, CNN staged an event that put its brand-name front and center (i.e., “Kutcher vs. CNN”); hyped this as news-worthy on its network and website; recruited a famous dupe to ensure that its content was pumped throughout the blogosphere and reported in the MSM; and – in its most shameless act yet – broadcast “Kutcher supporters” wearing CNN-branded “Kutcher hands CNN its lunch in Twitter feud” t-shirts, which, naturally, are available for $15 apiece on CNN’s website!

In turn, CNN’s bold fabrication of the news suggests that “new media” isn’t necessarily “democratizing” the flow of information.  Rather, insofar as the MSM is still responsible for determining what counts as news, “new media” platforms have provided traditional media outlets with enhanced capabilities for packaging – and broadly disseminating – their own advertising campaigns as “news.”  Of course, the capitalist in me salutes the marketing folks at CNN for their ingenuity. But the (lower-case) liberal democrat in me fears a slippery slope.  Today, CNN boosted its ratings by concocting a competition with Ashton Kutcher.  Fine – but what will it cook up to generate sales for CNN t-shirts tomorrow?

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Missing The Boat

Robert Reich writes:

Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s wrong. Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes, courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money, mortgage rates are dropping — consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.

[.   .   .]

If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do, which is enlarge the federal stimulus package — and do it soon. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout.

Reich’s aversion to more bank and car company bailouts is not just economically sound, it is politically astute. It is not merely tea party protesters who have had it with corporate bailouts. The public as a whole is overwhelmingly opposed to bailouts for businesses, be they banks or car companies. I’m not sure at all that Obama could get another round of bailouts through Congress.

But what about another stimulus? To some degree this is the same problem. Pass out more checks? People will save and pay down their debt rather than head for the malls. Create more government jobs programs? That’ll take many more months if not years to get through the system. Perhaps when all else fails some payroll tax cuts and other inducements for employers to hire and retain people would be in order.

The bottom line: the first stimulus was a waste. A trillion dollars (with interest) of pork and ineffective spending that has limited our options and the public’s willingness for more of the same. Reich is right that the bailouts are misguided, but having passed a junky stimulus, the Obama administration will, I suspect, have to live with the meager results. There is, after all, just so much debt we can off load on to the world bond market.

Robert Reich writes:

Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s wrong. Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes, courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money, mortgage rates are dropping — consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.

[.   .   .]

If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do, which is enlarge the federal stimulus package — and do it soon. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout.

Reich’s aversion to more bank and car company bailouts is not just economically sound, it is politically astute. It is not merely tea party protesters who have had it with corporate bailouts. The public as a whole is overwhelmingly opposed to bailouts for businesses, be they banks or car companies. I’m not sure at all that Obama could get another round of bailouts through Congress.

But what about another stimulus? To some degree this is the same problem. Pass out more checks? People will save and pay down their debt rather than head for the malls. Create more government jobs programs? That’ll take many more months if not years to get through the system. Perhaps when all else fails some payroll tax cuts and other inducements for employers to hire and retain people would be in order.

The bottom line: the first stimulus was a waste. A trillion dollars (with interest) of pork and ineffective spending that has limited our options and the public’s willingness for more of the same. Reich is right that the bailouts are misguided, but having passed a junky stimulus, the Obama administration will, I suspect, have to live with the meager results. There is, after all, just so much debt we can off load on to the world bond market.

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Evidence to the Contrary

Critics of the Bush administration are doing handsprings over the release of detailed memos that outline the interrogation techniques used by the CIA on captured terrorist suspects. We now know about such techniques as “dietary manipulation,” “attention grasp,” “walling,” “facial hold,” “facial slap,” “cramped confinement,” “wall standing,” “stress positions,” “sleep deprivation,” “insects placed in confinement box,” and the infamous “waterboarding.” This is the anti-Bush crowd’s Holy Grail, the virtual confession of horrific misdeeds. BUSH LIED!!!!! BUSH TORTURED!!!!! and all the rest.

But between the evidence and the conclusion lies a great gap that critics cheerfully leap over: do these techniques constitute “torture?”

Oh, absolutely, they’re unpleasant. I wouldn’t want to undergo any of them. But do they constitute “torture?”

The problem with leaping to that conclusion is that while “torture” is an ancient word with many associations and definitions, only one really matters in this context: United States law. And the law seems pretty clear: no, they do not constitute “torture.”

One of the key elements of the law is the word “intent,” and intent is a terribly difficult thing to prove. One often has to infer intent from circumstantial evidence, and in this case there is a great deal of that showing the interrogators desperately wanted to remain within the letter of the law:

• They repeatedly sought out legal advice from the Justice Department on interpreting the laws.

• They had medically-trained personnel on hand who could veto or end any interrogation techniques that they thought ran the risk of causing serious injury or lasting harm.

• They thoroughly documented their techniques, including how they considered them legal under the letter of the law.

    These are the actions of people trying to meet the demands of their superiors while obeying the letter of the law.

    For millennia human beings have been finding new and inventive and horrific ways to inflict pain and suffering on each other. Genuine torturers would look at the techniques plied by our CIA against these terrorist suspects and laugh in derision.

    If there were violations of U.S. laws regarding torture the documents released this week don’t show it at all. On the contrary, they add to the evidence that the U.S. interrogators acted responsibly.

    Critics of the Bush administration are doing handsprings over the release of detailed memos that outline the interrogation techniques used by the CIA on captured terrorist suspects. We now know about such techniques as “dietary manipulation,” “attention grasp,” “walling,” “facial hold,” “facial slap,” “cramped confinement,” “wall standing,” “stress positions,” “sleep deprivation,” “insects placed in confinement box,” and the infamous “waterboarding.” This is the anti-Bush crowd’s Holy Grail, the virtual confession of horrific misdeeds. BUSH LIED!!!!! BUSH TORTURED!!!!! and all the rest.

    But between the evidence and the conclusion lies a great gap that critics cheerfully leap over: do these techniques constitute “torture?”

    Oh, absolutely, they’re unpleasant. I wouldn’t want to undergo any of them. But do they constitute “torture?”

    The problem with leaping to that conclusion is that while “torture” is an ancient word with many associations and definitions, only one really matters in this context: United States law. And the law seems pretty clear: no, they do not constitute “torture.”

    One of the key elements of the law is the word “intent,” and intent is a terribly difficult thing to prove. One often has to infer intent from circumstantial evidence, and in this case there is a great deal of that showing the interrogators desperately wanted to remain within the letter of the law:

    • They repeatedly sought out legal advice from the Justice Department on interpreting the laws.

    • They had medically-trained personnel on hand who could veto or end any interrogation techniques that they thought ran the risk of causing serious injury or lasting harm.

    • They thoroughly documented their techniques, including how they considered them legal under the letter of the law.

      These are the actions of people trying to meet the demands of their superiors while obeying the letter of the law.

      For millennia human beings have been finding new and inventive and horrific ways to inflict pain and suffering on each other. Genuine torturers would look at the techniques plied by our CIA against these terrorist suspects and laugh in derision.

      If there were violations of U.S. laws regarding torture the documents released this week don’t show it at all. On the contrary, they add to the evidence that the U.S. interrogators acted responsibly.

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      They Aren’t Willing to Concede

      David Ignatius writes:

      Now, the Republicans have taken over as the “tut-tut” party, and they are unwittingly embracing the narrative of America as a nation in decline. That’s never a good bet. Last week’s goofy anti-tax “tea parties” were a sign of a party chasing its own tail, ignoring the public desire for an activist government that can solve problems.

      That’s precisely wrong in nearly every respect. Republicans both in and out of office do not think and do not argue that America is in decline; they argue that Obama’s policies will make America a weaker and poorer country. That is why they so vigorously argue against a bullying government, a massive spending spree,  and a set of policies which inhibit flexible labor markets and limit growth. If they believed America was in decline or its people feeble they would not argue to restrain the impulse to micromanage every aspect of our lives.

      As for the tea parties, he tags them as “anti-tax” — which is only partly true. They are, as he then seems to grudgingly concede, an effort primarily to address the spending side of the equation and to hold back the “activist” tide. Ignatius contends that public opinion is fixed and immovable on the subject, that people are not amenable to reason and that it is foolhardy to resist. But polling shows the primary weaknesses for Obama, especially among independents, are the public’s unease with spending, its aversion to bailouts, and its concern that government not extend itself beyond the immediate needs of our current economic predicament.

      Ignatius clearly would prefer that Republicans and those hundreds of thousands of tea party attendees pipe down and go along with the wave of statism. Generally, the way parties out of power revive is by making clear their objections to overreaching incumbents, resisting bad policies, and offering an alternative if things go poorly. The Republicans have done the first two. Whether they drift off into oblivion or come storming back largely depends on whether Obama’s economy (and it is his now) recovers, whether his agenda is perceived as too ideologically extreme, and whether Republicans can offer a sane alternative.

      David Ignatius writes:

      Now, the Republicans have taken over as the “tut-tut” party, and they are unwittingly embracing the narrative of America as a nation in decline. That’s never a good bet. Last week’s goofy anti-tax “tea parties” were a sign of a party chasing its own tail, ignoring the public desire for an activist government that can solve problems.

      That’s precisely wrong in nearly every respect. Republicans both in and out of office do not think and do not argue that America is in decline; they argue that Obama’s policies will make America a weaker and poorer country. That is why they so vigorously argue against a bullying government, a massive spending spree,  and a set of policies which inhibit flexible labor markets and limit growth. If they believed America was in decline or its people feeble they would not argue to restrain the impulse to micromanage every aspect of our lives.

      As for the tea parties, he tags them as “anti-tax” — which is only partly true. They are, as he then seems to grudgingly concede, an effort primarily to address the spending side of the equation and to hold back the “activist” tide. Ignatius contends that public opinion is fixed and immovable on the subject, that people are not amenable to reason and that it is foolhardy to resist. But polling shows the primary weaknesses for Obama, especially among independents, are the public’s unease with spending, its aversion to bailouts, and its concern that government not extend itself beyond the immediate needs of our current economic predicament.

      Ignatius clearly would prefer that Republicans and those hundreds of thousands of tea party attendees pipe down and go along with the wave of statism. Generally, the way parties out of power revive is by making clear their objections to overreaching incumbents, resisting bad policies, and offering an alternative if things go poorly. The Republicans have done the first two. Whether they drift off into oblivion or come storming back largely depends on whether Obama’s economy (and it is his now) recovers, whether his agenda is perceived as too ideologically extreme, and whether Republicans can offer a sane alternative.

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      “I Am Altering The Deal. Pray I Don’t Alter It Any Further.”

      The Obama administration continues to use the clout it has bought with the taxpayers’ money to impose its own vision on American industry.

      Many banks were pressured into taking TARP bailout money knowing full well there would be strings attached. But I doubt they had any inkling of just how those strings would be pulled. Likewise, when GM and Chrysler asked for and accepted federal loan guarantees, they probably expected there would be more restrictions than when Chrysler did it in the 1970′s. But I doubt they foresaw what would happen.

      The Obama administration has adopted an ownership mentality towards the institutions they granted money and guarantees, and intends to show the world that it can run these businesses better than the people who’ve spent their entire careers in the fields of finance and auto-making. (To be fair, those worthies haven’t exactly done a bang-up job, either, or they wouldn’t have gone hat in hand to Washington.)

      Well, President Obama’s  hand-picked Car Czar, Steven Rattner has chosen the plan to “save” Chrysler. Chrysler will be sold off, and Ratner has narrowed down the list of buyers to precisely one: Fiat. And to help entice Fiat to make the deal, some of Chrysler’s biggest creditors will write off billions of debt.

      Why would Chrysler and its banking creditors buy into this deal? Because they accepted federal bailout money. The Golden Rule prevails — that is, “Them with the gold makes the rules.” Chrysler took federal funds, so it has to sell itself to whomever the government says. And the banks took federal funds, so they have to write off whatever debts the government says.

      That was Rattner’s initial plan, anyway.  The banks — once they pulled their collective jaws off the floor — said they’d come up with a counter-proposal. One that will presumably give the banks some kind of incentive or reward for helping Chrysler.

      Right now the “incentive” for all the players is brute force. They have been told, in no uncertain terms,  that they should not fear the government; rather they should fear the American people. Indeed, President Obama told a meeting of banking executives recently that “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks” — a statement eerily reminiscent of mobster thugs running a protection racket.

      This is the message of the Obama administration: if you play ball with us, understand that we instantly become the boss. We set the rules. We call the tune to which you will dance. And we will change that tune whenever it suits us.

      And if you don’t, then may the fates be merciful. Because we won’t.

      The Obama administration continues to use the clout it has bought with the taxpayers’ money to impose its own vision on American industry.

      Many banks were pressured into taking TARP bailout money knowing full well there would be strings attached. But I doubt they had any inkling of just how those strings would be pulled. Likewise, when GM and Chrysler asked for and accepted federal loan guarantees, they probably expected there would be more restrictions than when Chrysler did it in the 1970′s. But I doubt they foresaw what would happen.

      The Obama administration has adopted an ownership mentality towards the institutions they granted money and guarantees, and intends to show the world that it can run these businesses better than the people who’ve spent their entire careers in the fields of finance and auto-making. (To be fair, those worthies haven’t exactly done a bang-up job, either, or they wouldn’t have gone hat in hand to Washington.)

      Well, President Obama’s  hand-picked Car Czar, Steven Rattner has chosen the plan to “save” Chrysler. Chrysler will be sold off, and Ratner has narrowed down the list of buyers to precisely one: Fiat. And to help entice Fiat to make the deal, some of Chrysler’s biggest creditors will write off billions of debt.

      Why would Chrysler and its banking creditors buy into this deal? Because they accepted federal bailout money. The Golden Rule prevails — that is, “Them with the gold makes the rules.” Chrysler took federal funds, so it has to sell itself to whomever the government says. And the banks took federal funds, so they have to write off whatever debts the government says.

      That was Rattner’s initial plan, anyway.  The banks — once they pulled their collective jaws off the floor — said they’d come up with a counter-proposal. One that will presumably give the banks some kind of incentive or reward for helping Chrysler.

      Right now the “incentive” for all the players is brute force. They have been told, in no uncertain terms,  that they should not fear the government; rather they should fear the American people. Indeed, President Obama told a meeting of banking executives recently that “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks” — a statement eerily reminiscent of mobster thugs running a protection racket.

      This is the message of the Obama administration: if you play ball with us, understand that we instantly become the boss. We set the rules. We call the tune to which you will dance. And we will change that tune whenever it suits us.

      And if you don’t, then may the fates be merciful. Because we won’t.

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      Maybe the Worst Ever

      This exchange from earlier in the week reminds us once again what a perfectly awful press secretary Robert Gibbs is:

      TAPPER: First of all, just for the record, I’d like to voice my objection to this being off camera, on behalf of the TV people.  President Obama has said that it’s –
      GIBBS: To be on camera, Jake, you’d have to comb your hair. (Laughter.)
      TAPPER: No, I wouldn’t –
      GIBBS: — for the record.
      TAPPER: — the camera would be on you. The camera would be on you.

      Not exactly the model of decorum and charm one would hope for as the voice of the White House.

      Now, presumably the president wants a press secretary who belittles reporters (on everything from inquiries about the “bow” to questions about the sequence of events on the AIG bonus debacle). And one supposes that he likes a press secretary who denigrates individual media figures. Otherwise he would put someone else in there, right? But it is harder to figure out what benefit the White House derives from the constant flow of non-answers and incomprehensible explanations on reasonable topics, like why unemployment is going up after we were told the stimulus plan would keep unemployment to 8%.

      One school of thought is that no one really pays attention to Gibbs’s briefings since the president himself is constantly on TV. So what difference does it make if Gibbs is hyper-partisan, rude and inept? Another is that the media is so overly-sympathetic to Obama that Gibbs is unlikely to be held up as an example of secrecy and media hostility as Scott McClellan was. And then it might just be that the Obama administration is not really interested in communicating but in deflecting. Gibbs certainly has the part about “don’t give out too much information” down.

      But the test comes for press secretaries as scandals, bad news, and the passage of time erode their president’s popularity and the media’s patience with non-stop spin wears thin. The best press secretaries — Mike McCurry and Tony Snow, to name two — help presidents weather bad times. It is hard to imagine when the going gets tough that Gibbs will be the one to effectively defuse a crisis or lay out a convincing case for the administration. But for now he’s doing his level best not to let anything slip out.

      This exchange from earlier in the week reminds us once again what a perfectly awful press secretary Robert Gibbs is:

      TAPPER: First of all, just for the record, I’d like to voice my objection to this being off camera, on behalf of the TV people.  President Obama has said that it’s –
      GIBBS: To be on camera, Jake, you’d have to comb your hair. (Laughter.)
      TAPPER: No, I wouldn’t –
      GIBBS: — for the record.
      TAPPER: — the camera would be on you. The camera would be on you.

      Not exactly the model of decorum and charm one would hope for as the voice of the White House.

      Now, presumably the president wants a press secretary who belittles reporters (on everything from inquiries about the “bow” to questions about the sequence of events on the AIG bonus debacle). And one supposes that he likes a press secretary who denigrates individual media figures. Otherwise he would put someone else in there, right? But it is harder to figure out what benefit the White House derives from the constant flow of non-answers and incomprehensible explanations on reasonable topics, like why unemployment is going up after we were told the stimulus plan would keep unemployment to 8%.

      One school of thought is that no one really pays attention to Gibbs’s briefings since the president himself is constantly on TV. So what difference does it make if Gibbs is hyper-partisan, rude and inept? Another is that the media is so overly-sympathetic to Obama that Gibbs is unlikely to be held up as an example of secrecy and media hostility as Scott McClellan was. And then it might just be that the Obama administration is not really interested in communicating but in deflecting. Gibbs certainly has the part about “don’t give out too much information” down.

      But the test comes for press secretaries as scandals, bad news, and the passage of time erode their president’s popularity and the media’s patience with non-stop spin wears thin. The best press secretaries — Mike McCurry and Tony Snow, to name two — help presidents weather bad times. It is hard to imagine when the going gets tough that Gibbs will be the one to effectively defuse a crisis or lay out a convincing case for the administration. But for now he’s doing his level best not to let anything slip out.

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      None Dare Call It Bribery

      Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (remember that?) sent out an e-mail to its list of names. And in it, James Carville announced a nifty new contest to help retire their campaign debt — they will draw three names from a round of contributors, and the winners will either get a day with former President Clinton in New York, attend the American Idol finale in Los Angeles, or get a guided tour of Washington, DC with Carville himself and Paul Begala (commencing, presumably, after their daily conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos).

      This raised a couple of eyebrows.

      The first eyebrow poked up at the memory of Hillary’s eventual capitulation and endorsement of then-Senator Obama for president. At the time, it was reported that one key element of her signing on was his pledge to help her retire her multi-million-dollar campaign debt.  To keep that pledge, Obama and his wife each wrote checks at the legal maximum for the campaign, and encouraged their supporters to do likewise. Apparently, Obama’s support didn’t pay off.

      The second eyebrow joined the first at the thought of a sitting Secretary of State going, hat in hand, to the American people for money for a debt not related to her current office. The potential for mischief, for conflicts of interest, are screamingly flagrant. While the Secretary of State doesn’t have the clout to enrich or benefit individuals and groups as, say, the President or the Treasury Secretary or the Secretary of Labor does, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how currying favor with such a worthy might end up personally profitable.  Indeed, it seems the very definition of “appearance of impropriety.”

      On the other hand, the potential prizes could be tremendously entertaining. Setting aside the American Idol trip, imagine the mischief one could have if one were to spend the day with either Bill Clinton or James Carville and Paul Begala.  “James, Paul, can I listen in on the daily conference call with the White House and ABC News?”

      All kidding aside, this is precisely the sort of matter that should have been resolved before Mrs. Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State. To have someone in so powerful an office, and so high up in the line of president succession, with this kind of liability is simply unconscionable.

      Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (remember that?) sent out an e-mail to its list of names. And in it, James Carville announced a nifty new contest to help retire their campaign debt — they will draw three names from a round of contributors, and the winners will either get a day with former President Clinton in New York, attend the American Idol finale in Los Angeles, or get a guided tour of Washington, DC with Carville himself and Paul Begala (commencing, presumably, after their daily conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos).

      This raised a couple of eyebrows.

      The first eyebrow poked up at the memory of Hillary’s eventual capitulation and endorsement of then-Senator Obama for president. At the time, it was reported that one key element of her signing on was his pledge to help her retire her multi-million-dollar campaign debt.  To keep that pledge, Obama and his wife each wrote checks at the legal maximum for the campaign, and encouraged their supporters to do likewise. Apparently, Obama’s support didn’t pay off.

      The second eyebrow joined the first at the thought of a sitting Secretary of State going, hat in hand, to the American people for money for a debt not related to her current office. The potential for mischief, for conflicts of interest, are screamingly flagrant. While the Secretary of State doesn’t have the clout to enrich or benefit individuals and groups as, say, the President or the Treasury Secretary or the Secretary of Labor does, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how currying favor with such a worthy might end up personally profitable.  Indeed, it seems the very definition of “appearance of impropriety.”

      On the other hand, the potential prizes could be tremendously entertaining. Setting aside the American Idol trip, imagine the mischief one could have if one were to spend the day with either Bill Clinton or James Carville and Paul Begala.  “James, Paul, can I listen in on the daily conference call with the White House and ABC News?”

      All kidding aside, this is precisely the sort of matter that should have been resolved before Mrs. Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State. To have someone in so powerful an office, and so high up in the line of president succession, with this kind of liability is simply unconscionable.

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      Flotsam and Jetsam

      President Obama rides to Chris Dodd’s defense because . . . because he “deserves the help.” And that is because? He is just the epitome of Hope and Change?  Well, he’s a “D” vote in the Senate.

      Good grief: “Indiana in March joined seven other U.S. states with a jobless rate of at least 10 percent, and unemployment surged in Oregon, Washington and West Virginia as the worst employment slump in the postwar era rippled through the economy.”

      Into the legal weeds in the NY-20.

      Mickey Kaus takes liberal bloggers to task for selling healthcare reform as a cost-saver: “Isn’t it an epic mistake to try to sell Democratic health care reform on this basis? Possible sales pitch: ‘Our plan will deny you unnecessary treatments!’ Or maybe just ‘Republicans say ‘yes.’ Democrats say ‘no’!’ Is that really why the middle class will sign on to a revolutionary multi-trillion dollar shift in spending–so the government can decide their life or health ‘is not worth the price’?  I mean, how could it lose?” Well, that’s why Obama is trying to tell us that making all our records electronic will be a huge cost saver. Sounds better than telling people the wait for chemo will be six months.

      Free speech and open access at a journalism award presentation? You must joking.

      A smart take by Josef Joffe on the fallacy that Obama’s soothing words and heartfelt apologies can resolve fundamental international conflicts: “Conflict between states is made from sterner stuff than bad manners or bad vibes, past grievances or imaginary fears. International politics is neither psychiatry nor a set of ‘see me, feel me’ encounter sessions. It is about power and position, about preventing injury and protecting interests. Love and friendship move people, not nations.”

      Bizarre advice from the Washington Post’s foreign affairs columnist: “Stay focused on fixing the American economy. Avoid pleasant distractions created by dealing with foreign leaders and crises without congressional interference. Stay out of the honey-tree trap of commander in chiefism.” Yes, if the world would just chill, the president could ignore it.

      Shocking, I know, but Obama is making up his claim that 90% of guns in Mexico used in crimes come from the U.S.

      The sort of news a gubernatorial candidate likes to see: “Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie today applauded his former staff on winning six guilty verdits in the corruption trial of former State Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Paramus). Christie was the federal prosecutor when Coniglio was indicted in 2008.” And since it is New Jersey there are likely more of those to come along.

      Yuval Levin explains NIH’s embryo stem cell restrictions. Whatever you think of the guidelines, it is striking once again that in contrast to his predecessor who gave a detailed and thoughtful speech, and made the call himself, Obama dumped this one in the laps of NIH staffers.

      On healthcare, Fred Barnes wonders if “Obamacare might suffer the fate of HillaryCare.” Well, only if people understand how much it will cost and what happens when private health insurance withers away to be replaced by European-like national healthcare insurance. But Barnes is right, Republicans aren’t going to be able to count on help from big business or drug companies this time — they’re quite willing to sell private healthcare insurance down the river.

      Not a bad result of the financial meltdown: fewer MBA grads are looking to investment banking careers. Other fields, I think, could use some more smart people these days.

      President Obama rides to Chris Dodd’s defense because . . . because he “deserves the help.” And that is because? He is just the epitome of Hope and Change?  Well, he’s a “D” vote in the Senate.

      Good grief: “Indiana in March joined seven other U.S. states with a jobless rate of at least 10 percent, and unemployment surged in Oregon, Washington and West Virginia as the worst employment slump in the postwar era rippled through the economy.”

      Into the legal weeds in the NY-20.

      Mickey Kaus takes liberal bloggers to task for selling healthcare reform as a cost-saver: “Isn’t it an epic mistake to try to sell Democratic health care reform on this basis? Possible sales pitch: ‘Our plan will deny you unnecessary treatments!’ Or maybe just ‘Republicans say ‘yes.’ Democrats say ‘no’!’ Is that really why the middle class will sign on to a revolutionary multi-trillion dollar shift in spending–so the government can decide their life or health ‘is not worth the price’?  I mean, how could it lose?” Well, that’s why Obama is trying to tell us that making all our records electronic will be a huge cost saver. Sounds better than telling people the wait for chemo will be six months.

      Free speech and open access at a journalism award presentation? You must joking.

      A smart take by Josef Joffe on the fallacy that Obama’s soothing words and heartfelt apologies can resolve fundamental international conflicts: “Conflict between states is made from sterner stuff than bad manners or bad vibes, past grievances or imaginary fears. International politics is neither psychiatry nor a set of ‘see me, feel me’ encounter sessions. It is about power and position, about preventing injury and protecting interests. Love and friendship move people, not nations.”

      Bizarre advice from the Washington Post’s foreign affairs columnist: “Stay focused on fixing the American economy. Avoid pleasant distractions created by dealing with foreign leaders and crises without congressional interference. Stay out of the honey-tree trap of commander in chiefism.” Yes, if the world would just chill, the president could ignore it.

      Shocking, I know, but Obama is making up his claim that 90% of guns in Mexico used in crimes come from the U.S.

      The sort of news a gubernatorial candidate likes to see: “Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie today applauded his former staff on winning six guilty verdits in the corruption trial of former State Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Paramus). Christie was the federal prosecutor when Coniglio was indicted in 2008.” And since it is New Jersey there are likely more of those to come along.

      Yuval Levin explains NIH’s embryo stem cell restrictions. Whatever you think of the guidelines, it is striking once again that in contrast to his predecessor who gave a detailed and thoughtful speech, and made the call himself, Obama dumped this one in the laps of NIH staffers.

      On healthcare, Fred Barnes wonders if “Obamacare might suffer the fate of HillaryCare.” Well, only if people understand how much it will cost and what happens when private health insurance withers away to be replaced by European-like national healthcare insurance. But Barnes is right, Republicans aren’t going to be able to count on help from big business or drug companies this time — they’re quite willing to sell private healthcare insurance down the river.

      Not a bad result of the financial meltdown: fewer MBA grads are looking to investment banking careers. Other fields, I think, could use some more smart people these days.

      Read Less




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