Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

Jackson Diehl sums up the Obama diplomatic debut: “What’s striking about Obama’s diplomacy, however, has been his willingness to embrace the priorities of European governments, Russia and China while playing down — or setting aside altogether — principal American concerns.  . .  Is the new president shrewd and pragmatic about using his power at home and abroad — or too passive, even weak? That’s a question worth weighing as he heads back to Washington.” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Jim Hoagland is sick of the “I’m not Bush” routine and the deferential listening. “Listening is not a policy,” he explains.

You’d think a mass movement with hundreds of events in nearly every state would gain some more mainstream media attention. I wonder if the numbers attending will surpass the number of “pledges” (actual, not the triplicated copies) collected by the president’s perpetual campaign (Organizing America).

Brian Riedl of Heritage observes that Democrats who “condemned President Bush for running temporary $300-$400 billion deficits (partially resulting from the war) has now approved budget deficits averaging $1 trillion annually over the next decade. That is a staggering $68,000 per household of new debt, to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. And after quadrupling the budget deficit in one year, fulfilling their pledge to ‘cut the deficit in half’ from that level by 2013 shouldn’t impress anyone.”

Obama policy initiatives seem to be bogged down, reports ABC News. I wouldn’t underestimate the ability of Reid and Pelosi to slip items back in late night Senate-House conference committee meetings.

She’s joking right? Sarah Palin wants the sitting Senator to step down and run against Ted Stevens. It isn’t going to happen: that’s not how politics works and Stevens is not exactly the model the GOP wants to project. Other than that it’s a swell idea.

The NY-20 vote count teeters back and forth.

It appears that meeting between the bank CEOs and the president wasn’t so cordial. The banks want to give the TARP money back and get out from under the government’s thumb, but Obama is having none of that. Return the taxpayers’ money? How dare they!

Stuart Varney explains what the Obama team is up to: “The government wants to control the banks, just as it now controls GM and Chrysler, and will surely control the health industry in the not-too-distant future. Keeping them TARP-stuffed is the key to control. And for this intensely political president, mere influence is not enough. The White House wants to tell ’em what to do. Control. Direct. Command.”

Not that there is anything wrong with making a buck: “Lawrence Summers, a top economic adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, was paid about $5.2 million in compensation by hedge fund D.E. Shaw during the past year, according to financial disclosure forms released on Friday by the White House.” And he got $2.7  million in speaking fees from troubled Wall Street firms. And you have to love the Clintonian parsing:”But White House aides said the speeches occurred before he joined the Obama transition team in an official capacity.” So how exactly did those conflict of interest rules work?

Wasn’t there a ban on lobbyists? “Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, disclosed earnings of between $1 million and $5 million from lobbying firm Downey McGrath Group, Inc., where her husband, Thomas Downey, is a principal. She states $450,000 in ‘member distribution’ income, plus retirement and other benefits from The Albright Group, a lobbying firm whose principals include former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.”

Who would have thought? There may be a law about allowing people who have received terrorist training into the U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions writes a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him whether this doesn’t prevent release of Guantanamo releasees into the U.S.

The Washington Post’s editors are dismayed that “‘reformer’ Education Secretary Arne Duncan is pulling the plug on vouchers for DC kids without fully considering the just-complete study of the program. “Perplexing” they note with distain — “Unless, of course, politics enters the calculation in the form of Democratic allies in Congress who have been shameless in their efforts to kill vouchers.” Nah, that’d mean they’re beholden to teachers’ unions and don’t care about poor kids. Couldn’t be.

Allen Meltzer: “There is not much relation between Pres. Obama’s words and his actions. The talk is centrist, the actions leftist–social democratic perhaps. The administration forecasts 4% growth, above average. But the recovery will be slow, I believe. The president talks about investment but the administration program shifts resources toward heavily subsidized energy and healthcare. Better healthcare for all may increase well-being but it won’t have much effect on productivity. Subsidized energy may also improve the quality of life with little effect on productivity growth. The president emphasizes his intention to cut the budget deficit in half by the end of his term, but he neglects to say that it will be $800 or 900 billion.”

Fred Barnes calls Obama out for “misdirection” — a concerted effort to deceive his true and daring intentions on everything from deficit “cutting” to running GM. As Barnes points out, sooner or later people figure out what’s going on. (Probably around the time they can’t get their Chevy repaired or pay their sky-high tax bill.)

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