Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

President Obama publicly decried “shameful” bonuses for Wall Street execs. But in private with the execs he remained mum. (He was trolling for support for his stimulus.) Whatever happened to speaking truth to power?

Gerald Selb describes the choice for President Obama as one between the Reagan (big bipartisan majorities) and Clinton (narrow party-line victories) models. The bigger problem is that Obama has lost control over the contents and the narrative surrounding the stimulus, which is now “being defined more as spending on new sod for the National Mall and cars for government agencies.”

Matt Continetti explains: “What the Democrats have done is write down every single item on their liberal wish list, append dollar amounts next to the items seemingly at random, and call it ‘stimulus.’ The president wanted the bill to be free of pet projects and include business tax cuts. But no one told Pelosi’s appopriators. They are using the current troubles to push through a decades-old domestic policy agenda. The spending–$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for global warming studies–demonstrates that the bill has no overarching logic.”

Joe Biden is trying not to be irrelevant. But get a look at that creepy body-language with Hillary. He’s literally all over her back — and she’s in full cackle (“Joe, you expect me to listen to this all day long!?”)

With the advantage of experience, John McCain says it’s silly for the President to take on Rush Limbaugh.

Another Obama administration tax problem — this one for Tom Daschle. This is the problem with letting a Tim Geithner slide through. What’s to keep the next guy — with a $128,000 tax bill — from being confirmed? Once you start lowering standards, is there any way to reverse the trend?

J. Peter Freire thinks in electing Michael Steele over Ken Blackwell and Mike Duncan, the GOP rejected the “conservative movement.” Actually, the Republican committeemen demonstrated that certain self-appointed representatives of the conservative movement — who had their heyday twenty years ago — carry very little weight, even with party regulars. But Freire is right that the party dodged a PR bullet.

As Jim Geraghty noted, at the end of the RNC chairman race “it was no longer a contest between two men; it was a contest between an African-American, who had been endorsed by the other African-American in the contest, calling for the GOP to remain ‘the party of Lincoln,’ against the guy whose membership in a country club ensured that his name would always appear in the same sentence as ‘whites-only charter.'”

Politico says its reporter didn’t mean to imply that George Stephanopoulos abandoned his professional demeanor in daily conference calls with his former Clintonite pals. Sounds like everyone wishes the story would just go away.

The Los Angeles Times cuts 70 newsroom jobs. Given the paucity of actual reporting from the Times it surprised me there were more than 70 people working there.

Josh Gerstein reports: “President Obama’s first major White House event aimed at wooing organized labor came and went Friday without any mention of the union’s movement’s top priority: so-called card check legislation pending on Capitol Hill.” In a separate interview, Joe Biden sounded wishy-washy on the timing of bringing up card check. Perhaps the “I won” attitude only gets the Obama team and its liberal wish list so far.

TNR’s attempt to paint a lovable portrait of Terry McAuliffe in his Virginian gubernatorial race winds up making him out to be a lunatic with tidbits like this: “In the style of Julius Caesar, who bequeathed his private arbors and 75 drachmas each to the people, McAuliffe spontaneously offered last week to donate his gubernatorial salary to build the economically depressed town of Martinsville a high school gym.” If this were Hardball or a presidential year race all of this might excite the base, but the sort of voters who turn out for an off year gubernatorial election will likely view all this  as, well, downright embarrassing.

Forget the pundits’ reviews, the markets are giving a thumbs down on the stimulus plan: “After an end of year rally, stocks have slid again in January, despite a rush of hope and goodwill for the new Obama Administration. To the extent equities are a vote of confidence in future policy, this is discouraging. The Dow is down nearly 9% since the New Year began, the S&P 500 about 8.6%. One problem is that the ‘stimulus’ bill has devolved into a political spending free-for-all that has little to do with incentives for growth. President Obama is missing an opportunity to use his 70% job approval to prod Capitol Hill to focus the $819 billion on growth rather than social-welfare policy. He is abdicating to his party’s Congressional wing, and investors can see the main result will be more debt and higher taxes down the road.”

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