Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 17, 2009

This Does Not Sound Like Someone Looking for a Confrontation

President Obama gave an interview to the editor of Newsweek that should give pause to the kind of people Jonathan Tobin exposed as eagerly hoping for a brouhaha between Obama and Bibi Netanyahu. Obama’s words portend just the opposite.

“I’ve been very clear that I don’t take any options off the table with respect to Iran,” Obama said, endorsing a concept that caused his supporters to nearly demand war crimes tribunals under the previous president. Meacham then asked Obama whether he expects Israel to follow the U.S.’s diplomatic approach on Iran “and not take unilateral [military] action.”

No, look, I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why. So their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute. They’re right there in range and I don’t think it’s my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.

The line about America not dictating Israel’s security needs is an old and meaningless one, but Obama’s willingness to articulate the way Israel perceives Iran — especially in the midst of his outreach to Iran — is not. And there is even a hint that Obama is already feeling slightly chastened by engagement:

I assure you, I’m not naive about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn’t work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it’s being victimized by a U.S. government that doesn’t respect Iran’s sovereignty.

Obama may or may not be speaking sincerely, but at a minimum it is evident by his choice of words that he is not trying to set up a public confrontation with Netanyahu. My prediction is that the major points of discussion are going to be related to chronology — how much time before a point of no return is reached on the Iranian nuclear program, how much time Obama plans on devoting to engagement, how much time can pass before Israel decides it must act, and how to formulate the timing of Obama’s approach to the peace process, which today — as I think Obama implicitly acknowledged — has taken a back seat to the Iranian challenge. (If Obama wanted to make the peace process a higher priority than the nuclear program, why did he endorse the idea that the Iranian program poses an existential threat to Israel?)

If you really want to get into the weeds on this, there is some good analysis here, here, here, here, and, last but not least, a great piece from our own Shmuel Rosner.

President Obama gave an interview to the editor of Newsweek that should give pause to the kind of people Jonathan Tobin exposed as eagerly hoping for a brouhaha between Obama and Bibi Netanyahu. Obama’s words portend just the opposite.

“I’ve been very clear that I don’t take any options off the table with respect to Iran,” Obama said, endorsing a concept that caused his supporters to nearly demand war crimes tribunals under the previous president. Meacham then asked Obama whether he expects Israel to follow the U.S.’s diplomatic approach on Iran “and not take unilateral [military] action.”

No, look, I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why. So their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute. They’re right there in range and I don’t think it’s my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are.

The line about America not dictating Israel’s security needs is an old and meaningless one, but Obama’s willingness to articulate the way Israel perceives Iran — especially in the midst of his outreach to Iran — is not. And there is even a hint that Obama is already feeling slightly chastened by engagement:

I assure you, I’m not naive about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn’t work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it’s being victimized by a U.S. government that doesn’t respect Iran’s sovereignty.

Obama may or may not be speaking sincerely, but at a minimum it is evident by his choice of words that he is not trying to set up a public confrontation with Netanyahu. My prediction is that the major points of discussion are going to be related to chronology — how much time before a point of no return is reached on the Iranian nuclear program, how much time Obama plans on devoting to engagement, how much time can pass before Israel decides it must act, and how to formulate the timing of Obama’s approach to the peace process, which today — as I think Obama implicitly acknowledged — has taken a back seat to the Iranian challenge. (If Obama wanted to make the peace process a higher priority than the nuclear program, why did he endorse the idea that the Iranian program poses an existential threat to Israel?)

If you really want to get into the weeds on this, there is some good analysis here, here, here, here, and, last but not least, a great piece from our own Shmuel Rosner.

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Sounds Like Those Employees Are Getting a Raw Deal

Card check has become a legislative quagmire for Big Labor in more ways than one. It seems that the SEIU has wrecked its finances with all the political lobbying efforts, taking out $25 million in loans last year and seeing its net assets plunge to $34 million from $64 million. And of course the little guys suffer and get laid off when management messes up. (Hmm, not a good sign if they want to run car companies.) We hear from Andy Stern: “We maxed out the credit card and now we’re paying it off.” The Wall Street Journal explains:

Labor experts say it is unusual for unions to take out big loans. Usually, they rely on member dues and interest from investments. “I would say SEIU is overextended,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian .  . . “I would say that clearly the union bet the ranch that this investment was going to pay enormous dividends and those dividends ultimately have to come in the form of new members,” said Michael Lotito, a management-side attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP. “Without a fundamental change in the way unions gather up new members, the return on investment is going to be found lacking.”

One wonders what the average SEIU union member must think of this. Their dues are being used to try and foist card check and mandatory arbitration on a wary public while the union engages in a blood feud with the rest of organized labor and lays off its own employees. If this is the model for a new era in labor relations, perhaps they might want to rethink the whole endeavor.

Card check has become a legislative quagmire for Big Labor in more ways than one. It seems that the SEIU has wrecked its finances with all the political lobbying efforts, taking out $25 million in loans last year and seeing its net assets plunge to $34 million from $64 million. And of course the little guys suffer and get laid off when management messes up. (Hmm, not a good sign if they want to run car companies.) We hear from Andy Stern: “We maxed out the credit card and now we’re paying it off.” The Wall Street Journal explains:

Labor experts say it is unusual for unions to take out big loans. Usually, they rely on member dues and interest from investments. “I would say SEIU is overextended,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian .  . . “I would say that clearly the union bet the ranch that this investment was going to pay enormous dividends and those dividends ultimately have to come in the form of new members,” said Michael Lotito, a management-side attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP. “Without a fundamental change in the way unions gather up new members, the return on investment is going to be found lacking.”

One wonders what the average SEIU union member must think of this. Their dues are being used to try and foist card check and mandatory arbitration on a wary public while the union engages in a blood feud with the rest of organized labor and lays off its own employees. If this is the model for a new era in labor relations, perhaps they might want to rethink the whole endeavor.

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Stuck on the Same Page

Frank Rich is halfway towards understanding the significance of Obama’s pivot Bushward:

No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

Obama can’t turn the page on the Bush administration because he’s faced with the same challenges and the same limited array of responses.  If Frank Rich thinks that wet towels on the faces of three terrorists constitute an “eight-year nightmare,” try to imagine the tone of his displeasure had Bush let us get hit again. Obama may have entered office with certain “high ambitions,” but after a few classified briefings any president can be made to understand that the highest ambition in the post-9/11 world is keeping the U.S. attack-free, not carbon-neutral. Obama now finds himself locked into responsible policy by the forces of . . . yep, evil. Try telling the recipient of daily classified intelligence that that category doesn’t exist; or that the term is quaint and unhelpful.

For seven years the Left complained about Bush’s national security approach, but they never had alternatives; now they’re in power and they still don’t. Attorney General Eric Holder says we don’t think about race enough. He’s obviously been thinking about it too much, and thinking too little about things like what to do with unlawful enemy combatants. Apparently he’s stumped. On Friday, it was announced that Bush-era military tribunals would be resumed.  There are so many legal reasons why these prisoners can’t be tried in civilian courts it seems frankly eccentric that the idea was ever proposed.

Obama has to stick with Bush policy, but if anyone is unwilling to turn the page it’s people like Frank Rich. The rest of his column reads like a Daily Kos bleat circa 2006:

Take the [intelligence update] dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

Yeah, Yeah, we know. Bush was on a mission from God, Cheney was on a mission from Halliburton, and Rumsfeld “sold” Saddam weapons. All of which fails to explain why Barack Obama has chosen to keep the U.S. in the same theater under more-or-less the same framework agreed to by the Bush administration. The only quagmire in evidence these days is in columns like Rich’s. He, Maureen Dowd, and other career-conspiricists need an exit strategy, but it’s not going to come from President Obama.

Frank Rich is halfway towards understanding the significance of Obama’s pivot Bushward:

No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

Obama can’t turn the page on the Bush administration because he’s faced with the same challenges and the same limited array of responses.  If Frank Rich thinks that wet towels on the faces of three terrorists constitute an “eight-year nightmare,” try to imagine the tone of his displeasure had Bush let us get hit again. Obama may have entered office with certain “high ambitions,” but after a few classified briefings any president can be made to understand that the highest ambition in the post-9/11 world is keeping the U.S. attack-free, not carbon-neutral. Obama now finds himself locked into responsible policy by the forces of . . . yep, evil. Try telling the recipient of daily classified intelligence that that category doesn’t exist; or that the term is quaint and unhelpful.

For seven years the Left complained about Bush’s national security approach, but they never had alternatives; now they’re in power and they still don’t. Attorney General Eric Holder says we don’t think about race enough. He’s obviously been thinking about it too much, and thinking too little about things like what to do with unlawful enemy combatants. Apparently he’s stumped. On Friday, it was announced that Bush-era military tribunals would be resumed.  There are so many legal reasons why these prisoners can’t be tried in civilian courts it seems frankly eccentric that the idea was ever proposed.

Obama has to stick with Bush policy, but if anyone is unwilling to turn the page it’s people like Frank Rich. The rest of his column reads like a Daily Kos bleat circa 2006:

Take the [intelligence update] dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

Yeah, Yeah, we know. Bush was on a mission from God, Cheney was on a mission from Halliburton, and Rumsfeld “sold” Saddam weapons. All of which fails to explain why Barack Obama has chosen to keep the U.S. in the same theater under more-or-less the same framework agreed to by the Bush administration. The only quagmire in evidence these days is in columns like Rich’s. He, Maureen Dowd, and other career-conspiricists need an exit strategy, but it’s not going to come from President Obama.

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Who Cares?

When the Republican Senate Campaign Committee endorsed Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race supporters of the young and telegenic Marco Rubio were more than a little annoyed. Many conservatives aren’t enamored of Crist’s moderate politics and embrace of Obama’s stimulus plan. But sometimes Beltway endorsements don’t help the recipient, as the local Florida press observes:

A Republican backlash is brewing against the state and national party as they anoint Gov. Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign — thereby dissing that of his rival, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.From South Florida to Tampa Bay, a few county Republican parties are discussing or passing resolutions telling the state party to butt out of the Senate race or any other primary.

We have passed the point at which Beltway politicians of either party are granted deference on matters of candidate selection by the base. Harry Reid and even the president aren’t going to convince Pennsylvania Democrats to accept Arlen Specter; Specter will have to do that on his own. And Republican insiders desirous of an easier and and less expensive race aren’t going to persuade Florida Republicans that Crist is a foregone conclusion.

In fact, the entire 2008 presidential race was a display of the utter inability of self-appointed party guardians to determine the outcome of contentious electoral battles. If party insiders really had the last say, Hillary Clinton would have wrapped up the nomination in January and John McCain’s candidacy would have evaporated in the 2007 immigration reform fight.

We’ll see next year whether Crist and Specter go the way of Hillary Clinton. But anyone who thinks the stamp of approval from Washington politicians is a net plus probably never imagined we would have an Obama vs. McCain face off.

When the Republican Senate Campaign Committee endorsed Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race supporters of the young and telegenic Marco Rubio were more than a little annoyed. Many conservatives aren’t enamored of Crist’s moderate politics and embrace of Obama’s stimulus plan. But sometimes Beltway endorsements don’t help the recipient, as the local Florida press observes:

A Republican backlash is brewing against the state and national party as they anoint Gov. Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign — thereby dissing that of his rival, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.From South Florida to Tampa Bay, a few county Republican parties are discussing or passing resolutions telling the state party to butt out of the Senate race or any other primary.

We have passed the point at which Beltway politicians of either party are granted deference on matters of candidate selection by the base. Harry Reid and even the president aren’t going to convince Pennsylvania Democrats to accept Arlen Specter; Specter will have to do that on his own. And Republican insiders desirous of an easier and and less expensive race aren’t going to persuade Florida Republicans that Crist is a foregone conclusion.

In fact, the entire 2008 presidential race was a display of the utter inability of self-appointed party guardians to determine the outcome of contentious electoral battles. If party insiders really had the last say, Hillary Clinton would have wrapped up the nomination in January and John McCain’s candidacy would have evaporated in the 2007 immigration reform fight.

We’ll see next year whether Crist and Specter go the way of Hillary Clinton. But anyone who thinks the stamp of approval from Washington politicians is a net plus probably never imagined we would have an Obama vs. McCain face off.

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What Is a “Settlement Freeze”?

In the many predictions of what’s going to happen tomorrow in the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, a lot of attention is being paid to the possibility of Obama demanding a “settlement freeze”:

Settlements will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama, who supports Palestinian statehood, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is skeptical about it, meet at the White House next week. Vice President Joe Biden told Israel supporters in Washington on May 5 that settlement-construction must stop, the strongest statement on the subject so far from the administration.

The problem is the phrase “settlement freeze.” As a slogan it’s catchy, but in practice the discussion between the U.S. and the Israeli government is much more nuanced. There’s the “freeze” on new settlements (Israel doesn’t build any); there’s Israel’s commitment to remove illegal outposts (and the sub-issue of who determines what’s illegal); there’s the issue of building within existing settlements – those that are part of “settlement blocks” (which will presumably remain in Israeli hands according to the 2004 “Bush letter to Sharon”), and those that aren’t part of the blocks; there’s the issue of building only for “natural growth”; there’s, of course, the question of building in greater Jerusalem.

Thus, when Amr Mussa of the Arab League speaks about cessation of Israeli settlement building, it is one thing:

“They [Arab leaders] must not meet with [Netanyahu] if building in the settlements continues and if demolitions of (homes) in Arab villages continue. This will change the demographic balance and undermine our cause,” he said Sunday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.

Mussa wants to freeze everything — Jerusalem included. But when special international envoy Tony Blair talks about a freeze he presents a much more realistic approach, one similar to the position espoused in the Bush letter:

But in a way for the Palestinians … the biggest problem they have are the restrictions actually right in the heart of their territory. And some of these restrictions, I mean many of them relate to settlements rather than to the protection of Israel proper. So that’s why if they are expanded, and particularly if they are expanded in certain areas, they do change the realities in a way that at a certain point makes it hard to describe a Palestinian state in viable terms.

Blair wants a freeze – but is willing to focus on “certain areas.” Since no Israeli government can agree to freeze in Jerusalem, and most Israeli governments will acknowledge that there’s an Israeli commitment to evacuate outposts, the issues are: what areas should be off limits for new development and whether “natural growth” can be blocked. As I’ve mentioned before, Ehud Barak thinks not – and he isn’t the only left-of-center leader who feels that way. President Shimon Peres, visiting Washington last week, reportedly told Joe Biden that “Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married.”

The problem with discussing this nuanced topic in superficial terms is that whatever Netanyahu does or says – whatever concessions he makes – he will not be able to take the “freeze” off the table. If he evacuates outposts, if he prohibits all construction in all settlements behind the security fence, there will still be a lot more to freeze – and more to complain about. If Israel drags its feet on the issue it’s because Israeli leaders know this.

In the many predictions of what’s going to happen tomorrow in the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, a lot of attention is being paid to the possibility of Obama demanding a “settlement freeze”:

Settlements will be on the agenda when President Barack Obama, who supports Palestinian statehood, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is skeptical about it, meet at the White House next week. Vice President Joe Biden told Israel supporters in Washington on May 5 that settlement-construction must stop, the strongest statement on the subject so far from the administration.

The problem is the phrase “settlement freeze.” As a slogan it’s catchy, but in practice the discussion between the U.S. and the Israeli government is much more nuanced. There’s the “freeze” on new settlements (Israel doesn’t build any); there’s Israel’s commitment to remove illegal outposts (and the sub-issue of who determines what’s illegal); there’s the issue of building within existing settlements – those that are part of “settlement blocks” (which will presumably remain in Israeli hands according to the 2004 “Bush letter to Sharon”), and those that aren’t part of the blocks; there’s the issue of building only for “natural growth”; there’s, of course, the question of building in greater Jerusalem.

Thus, when Amr Mussa of the Arab League speaks about cessation of Israeli settlement building, it is one thing:

“They [Arab leaders] must not meet with [Netanyahu] if building in the settlements continues and if demolitions of (homes) in Arab villages continue. This will change the demographic balance and undermine our cause,” he said Sunday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.

Mussa wants to freeze everything — Jerusalem included. But when special international envoy Tony Blair talks about a freeze he presents a much more realistic approach, one similar to the position espoused in the Bush letter:

But in a way for the Palestinians … the biggest problem they have are the restrictions actually right in the heart of their territory. And some of these restrictions, I mean many of them relate to settlements rather than to the protection of Israel proper. So that’s why if they are expanded, and particularly if they are expanded in certain areas, they do change the realities in a way that at a certain point makes it hard to describe a Palestinian state in viable terms.

Blair wants a freeze – but is willing to focus on “certain areas.” Since no Israeli government can agree to freeze in Jerusalem, and most Israeli governments will acknowledge that there’s an Israeli commitment to evacuate outposts, the issues are: what areas should be off limits for new development and whether “natural growth” can be blocked. As I’ve mentioned before, Ehud Barak thinks not – and he isn’t the only left-of-center leader who feels that way. President Shimon Peres, visiting Washington last week, reportedly told Joe Biden that “Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married.”

The problem with discussing this nuanced topic in superficial terms is that whatever Netanyahu does or says – whatever concessions he makes – he will not be able to take the “freeze” off the table. If he evacuates outposts, if he prohibits all construction in all settlements behind the security fence, there will still be a lot more to freeze – and more to complain about. If Israel drags its feet on the issue it’s because Israeli leaders know this.

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Don’t Mention the You Know What

Robert J. Samuelson wonders when Obama’s budget will be labeled “irresponsible”?

From 2010 to 2019, Obama projects annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion; that’s atop the $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009. By 2019, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy) would reach 70%, up from 41% in 2008. That would be the highest since 1950 (80%).

The Congressional Budget Office, using less optimistic economic forecasts, raises these estimates. The 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82%.

But wait: Even these totals may be understated. By various estimates, Obama’s health plan might cost $1.2 trillion over a decade; he has budgeted only $635 billion.

Samuelson contends these figures have been “ignored” because of the promised tax cut to 95% of Americans and the immediate economic crisis. But neither Republicans nor the tea party protests have ignored this. It is the focus (together with their bailout-animus) of their ire toward the administration. And independent voters haven’t ignored it either, registering disapproval in poll after poll about the growth in spending and debt.

The groups that have ignored it — the Democrats in Congress and the media cheerleaders — are committed to ignoring it because it looms as a barrier to enactment of the new New Deal. The notion that we can’t afford what we have already committed to spend, let alone anything more, is a dilemma they’d rather sweep under the rug.

The president let’s it slip out now and then that the growing deficit is “unsustainable,” but unless he’s prepared to once again disappoint his base it will continue to be the least discussed and most important economic issue of his presidency.

Robert J. Samuelson wonders when Obama’s budget will be labeled “irresponsible”?

From 2010 to 2019, Obama projects annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion; that’s atop the $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009. By 2019, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy) would reach 70%, up from 41% in 2008. That would be the highest since 1950 (80%).

The Congressional Budget Office, using less optimistic economic forecasts, raises these estimates. The 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82%.

But wait: Even these totals may be understated. By various estimates, Obama’s health plan might cost $1.2 trillion over a decade; he has budgeted only $635 billion.

Samuelson contends these figures have been “ignored” because of the promised tax cut to 95% of Americans and the immediate economic crisis. But neither Republicans nor the tea party protests have ignored this. It is the focus (together with their bailout-animus) of their ire toward the administration. And independent voters haven’t ignored it either, registering disapproval in poll after poll about the growth in spending and debt.

The groups that have ignored it — the Democrats in Congress and the media cheerleaders — are committed to ignoring it because it looms as a barrier to enactment of the new New Deal. The notion that we can’t afford what we have already committed to spend, let alone anything more, is a dilemma they’d rather sweep under the rug.

The president let’s it slip out now and then that the growing deficit is “unsustainable,” but unless he’s prepared to once again disappoint his base it will continue to be the least discussed and most important economic issue of his presidency.

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Holy Confused Metaphor

From the president’s new speech, linked on RCP, entitled, “Two Pillars of a New Foundation.”

I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity; a foundation that will support good jobs and rising incomes; a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk – but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.

Two pillars of this new foundation are clean energy and health care.

Does Obama know that pillars rest on top of foundations, not the other way around? If George W. Bush said something like this, we’d never hear the end of it.

From the president’s new speech, linked on RCP, entitled, “Two Pillars of a New Foundation.”

I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity; a foundation that will support good jobs and rising incomes; a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk – but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.

Two pillars of this new foundation are clean energy and health care.

Does Obama know that pillars rest on top of foundations, not the other way around? If George W. Bush said something like this, we’d never hear the end of it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Arlen Specter is already looking to wriggle out of his “no card check” pledge. But one senses the battle for the pro-card check forces for anything eroding the secret ballot or resorting to mandatory arbitration is already lost. Unlike Specter none of the Red state Democrats (e.g. Blanche Lincoln) are going to risk looking like craven flip-floppers on something that’s a loser with the voters. The bigger danger for business: an innocuous sounding compromise that will permanently tip the scales in favor of increased unionization.

James Carafano: “Joe Biden said the other day stimulus spending was about $ 1.1m billion per day. Yet the Pentagon could not afford the $1.4 billion it had to cut to keep missile defense fully funded. Who is doing the math over at the White House, when did one day of building roads become more important to the federal government than defending the entire nation.” Well, obviously the answer to the latter is January 20, 2009.

In a brilliant take-down of Nancy Pelosi’s ever-changing torture tales Mark Steyn observes: “Dianne Feinstein has provided the least worst explanation for her colleague’s behavior [things looked different in 2002]. The alternative – that Speaker Pelosi is a contemptible opportunist hack playing the cheapest but most destructive kind of politics with key elements of national security – is, of course, unthinkable. Senator Feinstein says airily that no reasonable person would hold dear Nancy to account for what she supported all those years ago. But it’s OK to hold Cheney or some no-name Justice Department backroom boy to account?”

Her first smart move: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) turned down invitations to be on several Sunday morning talk shows and is instead spending the weekend with her family.”

The AP’s Liz Sidoti observes: “The White House desperately wants to get Democrats in Congress focused on the president’s priorities. Obama’s team has made it clear it’s not eager to retread the past. But House and Senate liberals, prodded by a vocal and active network of grass-roots and “netroots” supporters, relish doing just that, seemingly fixated on how Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney handled Iraq and terrorism. And it’s the popular new president who may have the most to lose.”

Sam Youngman remarks on the irony: “Less than six months into an administration that promised to be the sunny morning to the darkest night of the Bush administration, Obama has been accused of something unthinkable on that cold January day when he placed his hand on the Bible and became commander in chief. He’s being compared to George W. Bush. Obama, this week, found some of his closest allies — those who viewed his election as the answer to their prayers — feeling betrayed and making that unfathomable comparison: Obama is like Bush.”

Getting the law and history wrong and fuming at Dick Cheney for tying the Democrats in knots, Maureen Dowd  still can’t bring herself to retract her claws on Pelosi’s behalf: “The stylish grandmother acted like a stammering child caught red-handed, refusing to admit any fault and pointing the finger at a convenient scapegoat. She charged the C.I.A. with misleading Congress, which is sort of like saying the butler did it, or accusing a generic thuggish-looking guy in a knit cap with gang tattoos to distract from your sin. . . Leon Panetta, the new C.I.A. chief, who is Pelosi’s friend and former Democratic House colleague from California, slapped her on Friday, saying that the agency briefers were truthful. And Jon Stewart ribbed that the glossily groomed speaker was just another ‘Miss California U.S.A. who’s also been revealing a little too much of herself.'”

Arlen Specter is already looking to wriggle out of his “no card check” pledge. But one senses the battle for the pro-card check forces for anything eroding the secret ballot or resorting to mandatory arbitration is already lost. Unlike Specter none of the Red state Democrats (e.g. Blanche Lincoln) are going to risk looking like craven flip-floppers on something that’s a loser with the voters. The bigger danger for business: an innocuous sounding compromise that will permanently tip the scales in favor of increased unionization.

James Carafano: “Joe Biden said the other day stimulus spending was about $ 1.1m billion per day. Yet the Pentagon could not afford the $1.4 billion it had to cut to keep missile defense fully funded. Who is doing the math over at the White House, when did one day of building roads become more important to the federal government than defending the entire nation.” Well, obviously the answer to the latter is January 20, 2009.

In a brilliant take-down of Nancy Pelosi’s ever-changing torture tales Mark Steyn observes: “Dianne Feinstein has provided the least worst explanation for her colleague’s behavior [things looked different in 2002]. The alternative – that Speaker Pelosi is a contemptible opportunist hack playing the cheapest but most destructive kind of politics with key elements of national security – is, of course, unthinkable. Senator Feinstein says airily that no reasonable person would hold dear Nancy to account for what she supported all those years ago. But it’s OK to hold Cheney or some no-name Justice Department backroom boy to account?”

Her first smart move: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) turned down invitations to be on several Sunday morning talk shows and is instead spending the weekend with her family.”

The AP’s Liz Sidoti observes: “The White House desperately wants to get Democrats in Congress focused on the president’s priorities. Obama’s team has made it clear it’s not eager to retread the past. But House and Senate liberals, prodded by a vocal and active network of grass-roots and “netroots” supporters, relish doing just that, seemingly fixated on how Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney handled Iraq and terrorism. And it’s the popular new president who may have the most to lose.”

Sam Youngman remarks on the irony: “Less than six months into an administration that promised to be the sunny morning to the darkest night of the Bush administration, Obama has been accused of something unthinkable on that cold January day when he placed his hand on the Bible and became commander in chief. He’s being compared to George W. Bush. Obama, this week, found some of his closest allies — those who viewed his election as the answer to their prayers — feeling betrayed and making that unfathomable comparison: Obama is like Bush.”

Getting the law and history wrong and fuming at Dick Cheney for tying the Democrats in knots, Maureen Dowd  still can’t bring herself to retract her claws on Pelosi’s behalf: “The stylish grandmother acted like a stammering child caught red-handed, refusing to admit any fault and pointing the finger at a convenient scapegoat. She charged the C.I.A. with misleading Congress, which is sort of like saying the butler did it, or accusing a generic thuggish-looking guy in a knit cap with gang tattoos to distract from your sin. . . Leon Panetta, the new C.I.A. chief, who is Pelosi’s friend and former Democratic House colleague from California, slapped her on Friday, saying that the agency briefers were truthful. And Jon Stewart ribbed that the glossily groomed speaker was just another ‘Miss California U.S.A. who’s also been revealing a little too much of herself.'”

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