Commentary Magazine


Topic: budget director

There He Goes

A majority of the House would have voted to extend all the Bush tax cuts, but Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t allow a vote. The president’s class-warfare gambit went down the drain. And now he’s coming up with new excuses for why he’s championing a massive tax increase at a meeting of his economic advisory board:

Obama gave his most detailed response to date to [former budget director, Peter] Orszag’s attention-grabbing debut column in the New York Times in which the ex-OMB maven suggested the White House would be wise to accede to a deal in which the Bush-era income tax cuts were extended for two years for all income levels — and then allowed to expire.

Orszag’s fallback position was advanced by Harvard Economist Martin Feldstein and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson more enthusiastically than Orszag did. Obama said, in essence, that their stance was intellectually legit, but politically naive.

“The consequences of extending the upper-income tax cuts, based on what we’ve heard fairly explicitly in the political environment, is that you do that now you’re going to do it forever,” Obama said. “There’s not going to be necessarily a deal that says — as Martin, I think — an entirely respectable position is to say extend them all for two years and then they go away. I mean, that’s an intellectually consistent position. But that’s not really the position that is being promoted up on Capitol Hill.”

Actually, that is precisely the position being promoted — a two-year extension — by Democrats. He now seems to be contending — though his argument is less than crystal clear — that once you continue to uphold lower tax rates, people will want to keep them at that reduced rate. Forever!

No wonder his poll numbers and those of his party are sinking. More shocking than the president’s flimflammery is his ongoing disdain for the private sector:

“There’s this concern about the business community’s attitude about the administration. And it’s not just the business community, it’s high-income individuals, entrepreneurs and others. And so the increase in the tax on those individuals is a signal that the administration” — Feldstein said.

“They have to pay slightly higher taxes,” Obama interrupted.

“That they’re going to have to pay higher taxes, and it may be even more going forward,” Feldstein said.

There you have it. Even as his poll numbers continue to sink, the public becomes increasingly convinced that he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the economy, the recovery stalls, and a chunk of his party rises in revolt, Obama’s answer remains the same on tax hikes: the “rich” and businesses can handle it. Remarkable.

A majority of the House would have voted to extend all the Bush tax cuts, but Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t allow a vote. The president’s class-warfare gambit went down the drain. And now he’s coming up with new excuses for why he’s championing a massive tax increase at a meeting of his economic advisory board:

Obama gave his most detailed response to date to [former budget director, Peter] Orszag’s attention-grabbing debut column in the New York Times in which the ex-OMB maven suggested the White House would be wise to accede to a deal in which the Bush-era income tax cuts were extended for two years for all income levels — and then allowed to expire.

Orszag’s fallback position was advanced by Harvard Economist Martin Feldstein and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson more enthusiastically than Orszag did. Obama said, in essence, that their stance was intellectually legit, but politically naive.

“The consequences of extending the upper-income tax cuts, based on what we’ve heard fairly explicitly in the political environment, is that you do that now you’re going to do it forever,” Obama said. “There’s not going to be necessarily a deal that says — as Martin, I think — an entirely respectable position is to say extend them all for two years and then they go away. I mean, that’s an intellectually consistent position. But that’s not really the position that is being promoted up on Capitol Hill.”

Actually, that is precisely the position being promoted — a two-year extension — by Democrats. He now seems to be contending — though his argument is less than crystal clear — that once you continue to uphold lower tax rates, people will want to keep them at that reduced rate. Forever!

No wonder his poll numbers and those of his party are sinking. More shocking than the president’s flimflammery is his ongoing disdain for the private sector:

“There’s this concern about the business community’s attitude about the administration. And it’s not just the business community, it’s high-income individuals, entrepreneurs and others. And so the increase in the tax on those individuals is a signal that the administration” — Feldstein said.

“They have to pay slightly higher taxes,” Obama interrupted.

“That they’re going to have to pay higher taxes, and it may be even more going forward,” Feldstein said.

There you have it. Even as his poll numbers continue to sink, the public becomes increasingly convinced that he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the economy, the recovery stalls, and a chunk of his party rises in revolt, Obama’s answer remains the same on tax hikes: the “rich” and businesses can handle it. Remarkable.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats are in trouble: “If voters think the economy’s gotten worse under a Democratic President they’re going to vote Republican. Add in the Democrats’ enthusiasm issues and you have the formula for the big GOP victory that’s likely on the way.”

Obama is in trouble when his base-rousing appeals are annoying the base. “‘I think it is a remarkably condescending message,’ said Darcy Burner, the executive director of ProgressCongress.org and the Progressive Congress Action Fund. Progressives, she said, continue to be deeply involved in policy and in politics and are not at all lethargic or disengaged. ‘The fact that they are frustrated and discouraged has as much to do with the rhetoric coming out of the White House as anything else,’ she said. ‘And this is the latest example of that.'” When Burner and Rubin agree, it’s not a good sign for Dems.

The non-peace talks are hanging by a thread, and their collapse would mean trouble for Obama and his “smart” diplomacy: “Special Envoy George Mitchell, his deputy David Hale, and the NSC’s Dan Shapiro left Monday for the Middle East to try to hold together the direct peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas won’t say whether he will leave the talks until next week, following the end of the Israeli settlement moratorium. The U.S. was ‘disappointed’ in the Israeli decision, Crowley said.” You get the feeling its panic time at Foggy Bottom and in the White House.

The Rahm Emanuel brand is in trouble if he can’t get his own tenant to let him back in his Chicago house. Not even to live in the basement. Live in the basement?!

Obama must be in more trouble than we thought if his disapproval rating is 55 percent in the state that launched his presidential run.

The blame-Bush gambit is in trouble: “Portman, budget director and U.S. trade representative in Bush’s administration, leads Democrat Lee Fisher 50 percent to 37 percent barely more than one month before the November 2 congressional election. … The poll found a majority of Ohio voters brushed aside Democratic charges that Portman would represent a return to the failed economic policies of Bush, with 60 percent saying his work with Bush made no difference in their vote.”

No wonder the Obami are in such trouble. Emanuel was apparently under the belief that “the White House must govern principally through the [New York] Times.” OK, that’s scary.

Hotline: “Democrats See Old Bulls in Trouble.”

The economy is still in trouble: “September consumer confidence sagged to its lowest levels since February, driven by deteriorating labor market and business conditions, according to a private report released Tuesday. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 48.5 in September from a revised 53.2 in August. ‘September’s pull-back in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook, ‘said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. …  ‘Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim,’ Franco said.”

The Democrats are in trouble: “If voters think the economy’s gotten worse under a Democratic President they’re going to vote Republican. Add in the Democrats’ enthusiasm issues and you have the formula for the big GOP victory that’s likely on the way.”

Obama is in trouble when his base-rousing appeals are annoying the base. “‘I think it is a remarkably condescending message,’ said Darcy Burner, the executive director of ProgressCongress.org and the Progressive Congress Action Fund. Progressives, she said, continue to be deeply involved in policy and in politics and are not at all lethargic or disengaged. ‘The fact that they are frustrated and discouraged has as much to do with the rhetoric coming out of the White House as anything else,’ she said. ‘And this is the latest example of that.'” When Burner and Rubin agree, it’s not a good sign for Dems.

The non-peace talks are hanging by a thread, and their collapse would mean trouble for Obama and his “smart” diplomacy: “Special Envoy George Mitchell, his deputy David Hale, and the NSC’s Dan Shapiro left Monday for the Middle East to try to hold together the direct peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas won’t say whether he will leave the talks until next week, following the end of the Israeli settlement moratorium. The U.S. was ‘disappointed’ in the Israeli decision, Crowley said.” You get the feeling its panic time at Foggy Bottom and in the White House.

The Rahm Emanuel brand is in trouble if he can’t get his own tenant to let him back in his Chicago house. Not even to live in the basement. Live in the basement?!

Obama must be in more trouble than we thought if his disapproval rating is 55 percent in the state that launched his presidential run.

The blame-Bush gambit is in trouble: “Portman, budget director and U.S. trade representative in Bush’s administration, leads Democrat Lee Fisher 50 percent to 37 percent barely more than one month before the November 2 congressional election. … The poll found a majority of Ohio voters brushed aside Democratic charges that Portman would represent a return to the failed economic policies of Bush, with 60 percent saying his work with Bush made no difference in their vote.”

No wonder the Obami are in such trouble. Emanuel was apparently under the belief that “the White House must govern principally through the [New York] Times.” OK, that’s scary.

Hotline: “Democrats See Old Bulls in Trouble.”

The economy is still in trouble: “September consumer confidence sagged to its lowest levels since February, driven by deteriorating labor market and business conditions, according to a private report released Tuesday. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 48.5 in September from a revised 53.2 in August. ‘September’s pull-back in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook, ‘said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. …  ‘Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim,’ Franco said.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

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Is Obama’s Middle Name Hoover?

In Cleveland today, in a remarkably bitter and partisan speech, President Obama ruled out allowing the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year to continue because of the recession. Even his former budget director, Peter Orzsag, recommended continuing them in a New York Times op-ed article. If the president gets his way, there will be a sharp increase in taxation on the affluent and on small businesses, many of which are sub-chapter-S corporations, which are taxed via the personal income tax rather than the corporate one.

The president argues that we simply cannot afford the $700 billion that extending the tax cuts for all would cost the government in foregone revenue. That estimate is based, I assume, on the static models that both the OMB and the CBO rely on to forecast revenues and which are always wrong, because the economy is highly dynamic, not static.

We tried raising taxes, especially on the rich, in the teeth of a recession once before in order to narrow the gap between federal revenues and expenditures. That was in 1932. The results were not pretty, to put it mildly. Both houses of Congress passed Hoover’s proposed tax increases by wide margins, and John Nance Gardner, the speaker of the House (and FDR’s first vice president), even wanted to add on a national sales tax, which would have impacted the poor far more than the rich, in order to balance the budget. It didn’t work and the economic decline sharply accelerated. Government revenues in 1932 were $1.9 billion, despite the tax increases. Expenditures that year were $4.6 billion. The deficit, in other words, was 132 percent of revenues, by far the worst peacetime deficit in the nation’s history. Ever since, the idea that taxes should be raised in a recession has been an off-the-table idea. That, after all, was what Herbert Hoover did, not a model later presidents have chosen to emulate. At least until President Obama, that is.

Of course, what Obama wants and what he will get are not necessarily the same thing right now. All the Bush tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2011, not just those on higher incomes. So legislation will be needed. With the politicians in a hurry to go home and campaign, and Democrats in a gathering panic about losing their majorities, who knows what will happen?

In Cleveland today, in a remarkably bitter and partisan speech, President Obama ruled out allowing the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year to continue because of the recession. Even his former budget director, Peter Orzsag, recommended continuing them in a New York Times op-ed article. If the president gets his way, there will be a sharp increase in taxation on the affluent and on small businesses, many of which are sub-chapter-S corporations, which are taxed via the personal income tax rather than the corporate one.

The president argues that we simply cannot afford the $700 billion that extending the tax cuts for all would cost the government in foregone revenue. That estimate is based, I assume, on the static models that both the OMB and the CBO rely on to forecast revenues and which are always wrong, because the economy is highly dynamic, not static.

We tried raising taxes, especially on the rich, in the teeth of a recession once before in order to narrow the gap between federal revenues and expenditures. That was in 1932. The results were not pretty, to put it mildly. Both houses of Congress passed Hoover’s proposed tax increases by wide margins, and John Nance Gardner, the speaker of the House (and FDR’s first vice president), even wanted to add on a national sales tax, which would have impacted the poor far more than the rich, in order to balance the budget. It didn’t work and the economic decline sharply accelerated. Government revenues in 1932 were $1.9 billion, despite the tax increases. Expenditures that year were $4.6 billion. The deficit, in other words, was 132 percent of revenues, by far the worst peacetime deficit in the nation’s history. Ever since, the idea that taxes should be raised in a recession has been an off-the-table idea. That, after all, was what Herbert Hoover did, not a model later presidents have chosen to emulate. At least until President Obama, that is.

Of course, what Obama wants and what he will get are not necessarily the same thing right now. All the Bush tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2011, not just those on higher incomes. So legislation will be needed. With the politicians in a hurry to go home and campaign, and Democrats in a gathering panic about losing their majorities, who knows what will happen?

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Orszag Heading out the Door

With much justification, the Wall Street Journal editors zap the outgoing Office of Management and Budget director:

According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on “a high note.” Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Certainly, this president was determined to spend a lot, to expand government dramatically, and to blame the huge deficit on others. But the Journal editors are right to point out that it was Orszag’s fuzzy math and flim-flammery that facilitated the most irresponsible piece of legislation in several generations:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement. Mr. Orszag’s illusion that government can “bend the cost curve” enabled Democrats to nationalize more health-care spending while claiming to save money.

In a New England Journal of Medicine essay last week, Mr. Orszag wrote that ObamaCare “will significantly reduce costs” because “it institutes myriad elements that experts have long advocated as the foundation for effective cost control.” But not according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf, who wrote recently that “Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond” and that “the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.”

It is a fitting reminder for those who crave the inner circle of power. Too many of them hedge and trim and spin to maintain their position. Whether it is fudging the health-care budget numbers or facilitating a dangerously ineffective policy toward Iran (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross), those in power should plan ahead. One day (sooner than they imagine), they’ll be on the other side of the White House gates. If they frittered away their reputations and intellectual credibility for a year or two of power-player status, they may come to regret it.

With much justification, the Wall Street Journal editors zap the outgoing Office of Management and Budget director:

According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on “a high note.” Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Certainly, this president was determined to spend a lot, to expand government dramatically, and to blame the huge deficit on others. But the Journal editors are right to point out that it was Orszag’s fuzzy math and flim-flammery that facilitated the most irresponsible piece of legislation in several generations:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement. Mr. Orszag’s illusion that government can “bend the cost curve” enabled Democrats to nationalize more health-care spending while claiming to save money.

In a New England Journal of Medicine essay last week, Mr. Orszag wrote that ObamaCare “will significantly reduce costs” because “it institutes myriad elements that experts have long advocated as the foundation for effective cost control.” But not according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf, who wrote recently that “Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond” and that “the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.”

It is a fitting reminder for those who crave the inner circle of power. Too many of them hedge and trim and spin to maintain their position. Whether it is fudging the health-care budget numbers or facilitating a dangerously ineffective policy toward Iran (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross), those in power should plan ahead. One day (sooner than they imagine), they’ll be on the other side of the White House gates. If they frittered away their reputations and intellectual credibility for a year or two of power-player status, they may come to regret it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

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Faking Bipartisanship

Word is leaking out: Obama is not a very sincere guy. It seems the Los Angeles Times has let on that the health-care summit is one big setup. “In a flurry of recent public appearances, Obama has sent a message that he is prepared to embrace Republican ideas. But he is also signaling that if Republicans balk at compromise, he’ll exact a political price.” And sure enough, Republicans have figured out that the health-care summit, following the unveiling of ObamaCare II (to be slammed through by reconciliation), isn’t on the level.

And a White House official cited by the Los Angeles Times demonstrates the depth of the cynicism: “The Massachusetts election obliterated the argument that we could [govern] all on our own. … What we’re doing now is actively reaching out and demonstrating our interest in bipartisanship — but not passively standing by if Republicans are not willing to meet us halfway.” In other words: do it our way, or we’ll use parliamentary tricks and try to make you other guys look intransigent.

Then the New York Times questions Rep. Paul Ryan and gets some candid answers:

Your “Road Map,” we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as “a serious proposal.”

Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word “bipartisanship” come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.

He seems genuinely pained by what he has called the “obstinacy” of Congressional Republicans and their just-say-no obstructionism.

You know, casting the other side as somehow nefarious and evil and poorly intended is the oldest trick in the book.

Obama is simply doing what he always does — substituting political tactics for smart policy and at all costs avoiding any rethinking of his agenda. It’s always some new ploy with him. In the first year, Obama tried to convince us he was a moderate while pushing a very radical agenda. Now in the second year, he’s trying to convince us he’s discovered bipartisanship while resorting to some fairly blatant partisan stunts. In both cases, he imagines the voters won’t catch on. But they are smarter, I suspect, than Obama thinks. Otherwise, Year One’s trick would have worked, and we wouldn’t need the Year-Two gambit.


Word is leaking out: Obama is not a very sincere guy. It seems the Los Angeles Times has let on that the health-care summit is one big setup. “In a flurry of recent public appearances, Obama has sent a message that he is prepared to embrace Republican ideas. But he is also signaling that if Republicans balk at compromise, he’ll exact a political price.” And sure enough, Republicans have figured out that the health-care summit, following the unveiling of ObamaCare II (to be slammed through by reconciliation), isn’t on the level.

And a White House official cited by the Los Angeles Times demonstrates the depth of the cynicism: “The Massachusetts election obliterated the argument that we could [govern] all on our own. … What we’re doing now is actively reaching out and demonstrating our interest in bipartisanship — but not passively standing by if Republicans are not willing to meet us halfway.” In other words: do it our way, or we’ll use parliamentary tricks and try to make you other guys look intransigent.

Then the New York Times questions Rep. Paul Ryan and gets some candid answers:

Your “Road Map,” we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as “a serious proposal.”

Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word “bipartisanship” come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.

He seems genuinely pained by what he has called the “obstinacy” of Congressional Republicans and their just-say-no obstructionism.

You know, casting the other side as somehow nefarious and evil and poorly intended is the oldest trick in the book.

Obama is simply doing what he always does — substituting political tactics for smart policy and at all costs avoiding any rethinking of his agenda. It’s always some new ploy with him. In the first year, Obama tried to convince us he was a moderate while pushing a very radical agenda. Now in the second year, he’s trying to convince us he’s discovered bipartisanship while resorting to some fairly blatant partisan stunts. In both cases, he imagines the voters won’t catch on. But they are smarter, I suspect, than Obama thinks. Otherwise, Year One’s trick would have worked, and we wouldn’t need the Year-Two gambit.


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The Perils of Executive Inexperience

Al Hunt writes a column that reveals the typical finger-pointing and backbiting that ensues when things are not going all that well in an administration. First, he relates this episode:

On Dec. 2, as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8 (and a day after his Afghanistan speech at West Point) he met with policy makers. He heard a familiar reprise of the previous several meetings with budget director Peter Orszag arguing for more emphasis on reducing the deficit and Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer leading the contingent espousing a greater short-term stress on jobs. The president, by his standards, exploded. Why are we having this meeting again, the same discussion, participants quoted him as saying.

But really, who comes off looking bad in this one? It’s Obama. He is the one who apparently allows the same discussion to churn endlessly. He is the one who hasn’t set the direction of his economic policy. (And that aides would not just finger-point at each other but also suggest that the president is lacking in executive mojo tells us that both focus and loyalty are in short supply in this White House.) Hunt continues with this:

The other problem, an inability to effectively communicate an economic policy, was typified in a Dec. 4 interview with Geithner, who was asked what is the clear, coherent economic message of the administration. He proceeded to talk about high-class education for children, affordable health care, better incentives for energy and infrastructure, public-private arrangements and the like. There are 15.4 million unemployed Americans and another 11.5 million underemployed, either having given up looking and thus not counted in the jobless numbers or involuntarily relegated to part-time work. A laundry list of the Democrats agenda is unlikely to prove comforting.

But is this really the fault of the hapless Geithner or is this rather a problem characteristic of the president’s own lack of focus? Obama spent a year hawking a health-care plan no one can defend on the merits, while pushing a series of small-beans job proposals and signing on to a stimulus plan widely regarded as a failure. For months we saw a new dog-and-pony show every week, each on a different topic. Obama’s spinners incessantly told us the problem wasn’t that he was trying to do too many things at once. But now it seems that it was and that his key advisers don’t understand the administration’s top priority.

The administration seems to have reached the stage of leaving the advisers and the “message” to be blamed. But it is the president who appointed and directs the advisers. And the president — celebrated for his eloquence — is supposed to be the chief communicator. All of this reveals that the president frankly lacks some basic leadership skills and executive know-how. Obama didn’t come to the White House with any executive experience beyond sitting atop a campaign operation that was fortunate to have on off-message primary opponent followed by a non-message general-election opponent. He never ran a company, directed an agency, led a military organization, or served in any executive office. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the White House doesn’t have its act together. The only mild surprise is that now the mainstream media is willing to tell us about it.

Al Hunt writes a column that reveals the typical finger-pointing and backbiting that ensues when things are not going all that well in an administration. First, he relates this episode:

On Dec. 2, as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8 (and a day after his Afghanistan speech at West Point) he met with policy makers. He heard a familiar reprise of the previous several meetings with budget director Peter Orszag arguing for more emphasis on reducing the deficit and Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer leading the contingent espousing a greater short-term stress on jobs. The president, by his standards, exploded. Why are we having this meeting again, the same discussion, participants quoted him as saying.

But really, who comes off looking bad in this one? It’s Obama. He is the one who apparently allows the same discussion to churn endlessly. He is the one who hasn’t set the direction of his economic policy. (And that aides would not just finger-point at each other but also suggest that the president is lacking in executive mojo tells us that both focus and loyalty are in short supply in this White House.) Hunt continues with this:

The other problem, an inability to effectively communicate an economic policy, was typified in a Dec. 4 interview with Geithner, who was asked what is the clear, coherent economic message of the administration. He proceeded to talk about high-class education for children, affordable health care, better incentives for energy and infrastructure, public-private arrangements and the like. There are 15.4 million unemployed Americans and another 11.5 million underemployed, either having given up looking and thus not counted in the jobless numbers or involuntarily relegated to part-time work. A laundry list of the Democrats agenda is unlikely to prove comforting.

But is this really the fault of the hapless Geithner or is this rather a problem characteristic of the president’s own lack of focus? Obama spent a year hawking a health-care plan no one can defend on the merits, while pushing a series of small-beans job proposals and signing on to a stimulus plan widely regarded as a failure. For months we saw a new dog-and-pony show every week, each on a different topic. Obama’s spinners incessantly told us the problem wasn’t that he was trying to do too many things at once. But now it seems that it was and that his key advisers don’t understand the administration’s top priority.

The administration seems to have reached the stage of leaving the advisers and the “message” to be blamed. But it is the president who appointed and directs the advisers. And the president — celebrated for his eloquence — is supposed to be the chief communicator. All of this reveals that the president frankly lacks some basic leadership skills and executive know-how. Obama didn’t come to the White House with any executive experience beyond sitting atop a campaign operation that was fortunate to have on off-message primary opponent followed by a non-message general-election opponent. He never ran a company, directed an agency, led a military organization, or served in any executive office. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the White House doesn’t have its act together. The only mild surprise is that now the mainstream media is willing to tell us about it.

Read Less




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