The promises are going faster than a pizza at a Weight Watcher’s Convention.
The Promise: Obama pledged during his campaign that he would give the public five days to review a bill before he signs it.
Sunlight Before Signing: Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.
The Reality: Broken with the 2nd bill he signed.
The House gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill extending health insurance to millions of low-income children, and President Obamasigned it this afternoon, in the first of what he hopes will be many steps to guarantee coverage for all Americans.
5 days? He didn’t even wait 5 hours.
Hope and change.
This circus needs a couple of more clowns:
When retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni told the Washington Times that he was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq before being passed over in favor of diplomat Christopher Hill, he did not say that one of the outrages of the experience was that his friend of 30 years, fellow former Marine Corps commandant and now national security advisor James L. Jones, had offered him the job, and then failed to tell him when the decision was changed.
“Jones had called me before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as ambassador to Iraq or in one of the envoy jobs, on the Middle East peace process,” Zinni told Foreign Policy. “I said yes.”
“Then two weeks ago, Jones called,” Zinni continued, “and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes.
“The president called and congratulated me,” Zinni said.
Sounds like a done deal, doesn’t it? And Zinni, who was a staunch Obama supporter and harsh critic of the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war thought it was too. In fact, he even met with Hillary Clinton, and again, everything seemed on track.
Then he didn’t hear from anyone for a week. He finally reached Jones one night and Jones told him, ‘We decided on Chris Hill.’”
Needless to say, Zinni was less than pleased and, when offered the ambasadorship to Saudi Arabia, told Jones to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.
So trying to figure out who the “we” is in “we decided on Chris Hill” I happened to read a piece by Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard.
I just had a conversation with one Republican who speculated that Richard Holbrooke may have been at the center of the current mess over who will serve as U.S. ambassador in Iraq. According to the scenario he laid out, despite Jones having offered the job to Zinni — an offer from one retired four-star to another — and Clinton having confirmed the offer, Holbrooke interceded on behalf of his protege, Chris Hill, urging Clinton to reserve the Iraq post for someone who had spent a career in the foreign service.
You just knew Clinton was at the bottom of this somewhere. And no surprise that Holbrooke is in the middle of it too. Nice. Essentially tell a guy he has the job and then avoid him for a week. Real class.
If you’re wondering what the excuse is going to be when they’re finally asked to explain it, well, here it is:
[T]he former senior official said, it might also have been problematic that until the end of 2008, Zinni had been executive vice president of defense contractor Dyncorp, which has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in Iraq. “If I was a responsible senator, I would scream about having the number two Dyncorp official” as ambassador to the country where it’s making so much money, the former official said.
How could a ‘responsible Senator’ scream about anything after putting a tax cheat in the Treasury post? They were also on the verge of puttin one into HHS had he not withdrawn.
Another embarrassment for the Obama administration (created by Hillary Clinton – and mark my word, this won’t be the last), which is becoming quite adept lately at creating them.
Hope and change.
Yesterday, President Obama expressed outrage at Wall Street’s “excesses” and said he would cap the salaries of CEOs in institutions getting federal bailout money to $500,000 a year. If that isn’t absurd enough:
Adding to the outrage was a flurry of reports that after taking taxpayer rescue funds, some big banks were still planning to purchase corporate jets, planned executive junkets to Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, or had spent millions of dollars on office renovations.
Can’t have that – well, except if you’re the Democrats:
The House Democratic Caucus spent more than $500,000 in taxpayer money over the past five years for its annual retreats at resorts in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
On Thursday, Democrats will head to the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in historic Williamsburg, Va., for the three-day planning powwow. The resort boasts multiple championship golf courses, a full-service spa and six restaurants.
And guess who’s jetting in to say “hi”:
Tonight, Obama takes his first trip as president on Air Force One for a one-day “out and back excursion” to the House Democratic Caucus retreat at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, Va.
To be fair, the Republicans had their retreat as well. But the Republicans aren’t carping about executive pay and company junkets at the presidential level, are they? And don’t forget about the recent Democratic corporate junket with Citi.
What, there’s no place in DC in which the Dems could “retreat” to do any of this?
If a President is going to insist on box lunches and Day’s Inns for others, it might be wise to look at cutting back on a few things himself (like no more $100 a pound Wagyu beef?). But that’s leadership. And leadership is usually developed throughout life by doing things, not talking about them. So turn down those thermostats, America – while they grow orchids in the Oval office.
Hope and change.
Marshall’s premise is that we are, without a doubt, headed for the “Greatest Depression Ever” if Republicans don’t just capitulate and spend a trillion bucks on whatever it is the Democrats say we should spend it on.
The discussion of what to do on the Democratic side tracks more or less with textbook macroeconomics, while Republican argument track either with tax cut monomania or rhetorical claptrap intended to confuse. It’s true that macro-economics doesn’t make controlled experiments possible. And economists can’t speak to these issues with certainty. But in most areas of our lives, when faced with dire potential consequences, we put our stock with scientific or professional consensus where it exists, as it does here. Only in cases where it goes against Republican political interests or economic interests of money-backers do we prefer the schemes of yahoos and cranks to people who study the stuff for a living.
The link, if your wondering (or even had to wonder) is to Paul Krugman.
So let’s recap. Only the sacred texts hold the answer. But it’s also true that “macro-economists” can’t conduct “controlled experiments”. And it is also true that economists can’t speak to these issues with certainty.
But, by George, we should listen to them anyway. And certianly not to Republican “cranks” and “yahoos” who only have the interests of “money-backers” at heart and are truly only opposing this for political gain.
No word from Marshall as to why a Senate of 57 Democrats and 2 Independents caucusing with the Dems can’t seem to get this passed, but assuredly the reason is the Republicans and their repudiation of the sacred texts.
And correct me if I’m wrong (speaking of controlled experiments), but the last time we did the Paul Krugman macro thing in the ’30s, the results were less than stellar.
Of course, at some level, why would Republicans be trying to drive the country off a cliff? Well, not pretty to say, but they see it in their political interests. Yes, the DeMints and Coburns just don’t believe in government at all or have genuinely held if crankish economic views. But a successful Stimulus Bill would be devastating politically for the Republican party. And they know it.
Obviously Marshall hasn’t paused long enough in his rant to take a breath and realize that the stimulus package is going to pass in some form. What he’s whining about, and casting aspersions over, is the fact that the Senate Republicans (and the House Republicans as well) refused to bow at the altar of the the newly annointed and take that package of bacon without checking to see if it was spoiled. And besides, if the Republicans only have the interests of “money-backers” at heart, I’d be pleased to hear an argument which logically supports their desire to “driv[e] the country off the cliff” economically.
Yup, doesn’t resonate with me either.
If the GOP successfully bottles this up or kills it with a death of a thousand cuts, Democrats will have a good argument amongst themselves that Republicans were responsible for creating the carnage that followed. But the satisfaction will have to be amongst themselves since as a political matter it will be irrelevant. The public will be entirely within its rights to blame Democrats for any failure of government action that happened while Democrats held the White House and sizable majorities in both houses of Congress.
The public, of course, is showing much more sense than Marshall, with support for this massive mistake dropping to 37% according to Rasmussen.
And, to be clear here, if (and when) the bill does pass (since it is clear that Marshall hasn’t figured that out yet – it isn’t “if” but “when and with what”) then Republicans will be able to hold Democrats responsible for creating the debacle that follows, correct?
So either way – the failure to pass it or the responsibility for the failure that occurs when it passes – rest in the lap of Democrats.
Works for me.
Hope and change.
As public support for the Democratic version of the “stimulus” package continues to tank, Democratic leaders in the Senate are desperately seeking Republican support.
Before I go on here, two things should be made clear. A) There are two premises at work here – one says we don’t need this “stimulus” package, but should instead take the ‘pain’ now, get it over with and begin the recovery. The other says that government must act to ameliorate the pain and to help jump-start the economy. B) Senate Republicans have bought into the second premise.
My point? Like it or not (and I don’t) there’s going to be a stimulus package – just not the one now on the table.
So to the particulars. There aren’t enough votes in the Senate to pass the present version so there are a number of alternatives being offered. One is by John McCain which cuts the package by about one-half to $445 billion. But that’s unlikely to happen. Waffle-boy, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Some of the Time), says:
Graham said he could back something between the McCain bill and the House bill. Although some Republicans would prefer to shelve the measure temporarily, hoping that spending demand will cool, other GOP lawmakers would prefer to stay on schedule and find common ground. “There’s sort of political chaos right now,” he conceded.
Got that? This is something which must remain “on schedule” (Feb 13) vs. being well thought out and well targeted. Does it surprise you at all that their priority is an arbitrary date vs. good legislation?
And here’s what should really make you nervous:
The most ambitious effort to cut the bill is being led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), moderates in their parties who share a dislike of the current version. Collins is scheduled to visit Obama at the White House this afternoon. “I’m going to go to him with a list” of suggested deletions, she said.
Nelson said he and Collins have agreed to “tens of billions” in cuts, although he said he is skeptical that the effort will reach Collins’s target of $200 billion in reductions. The pair has counted up to 20 allies in their effort, with more Democrats than Republicans at this point.
Among the items that the Collins-Nelson initiative is targeting: $1.1 billion for comparative medical research, $350 million for Agriculture Department computers, $75 million to discourage smoking, $20 million in Interior Department funding, $400 million for HIV screening and $650 million for wildlife management.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the centrist group led by Nelson and Collins would target programs that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would not spend their funding quickly. He said the list includes a number of proposals that will spend only about 10 percent of their funding in the next 18 months. “These become immediate candidates for review,” Conrad said of the provisions.
Whenever Republicans have Sen. Susan Collins in the lead concerning
spending, you can mostly be assured that they won’t get the best deal.
One slightly bright spot in all of this was the portion of the legislation giving Hollywood a specific and very nice tax break was stripped from the bill:
Then, on a 52 to 45 vote, the chamber stripped $246 million in tax breaks for Hollywood production companies, a measure offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Senate’s self-appointed watchdog on federal spending. Coburn, who almost always loses his quixotic efforts to cut funding, appeared jubilant — if somewhat surprised — by his unexpected victory.
“This is a gift,” he said of the Hollywood provision. “It’s not going to stimulate the economy at all.”
One of the reasons that happened, I’m sure, is the visibility it got when it was discovered. So between now and Feb 13th (yes it’s a Friday the 13th and completely apropos for what is being legislated by Congress) more of these examples of pork and special interest legislation need to be given light.
Success for other stimulus amendments was mixed:
Later, the Senate turned away legislation to reduce the tax rate on multinational corporations that are returning earnings from overseas, as opponents argued that it was a giveaway to industry. But some new spending programs proved too politically attractive to the Senate. In a 71 to 26 vote, the Senate approved a new incentive for car buyers, at an estimated cost of $11 billion over 10 years. According to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the amendment’s sponsor, buyers could deduct the cost of sales tax for new cars purchased between last Nov. 12 and Dec. 31, 2009. Individuals with incomes of up to $125,000 would qualify.
Of course the multinational corporation tax cut on earnings would have stimulated investment here, and that leads to what? Yup, jobs. Notice the language – letting a company keep more of what it has earned is a “giveaway”. Amazing.
Bottom line: this is going to pass in some form or fashion within the next week or so. The only thing left to do, to borrow a phrase, is to decide what shade of lipstick they’re going to put on this pig.
Hope and change.
And what do you get? Nancy Pelosi:
Math is hard
As Tammy Bruce says, “Botox apparently removes more than the wrinkles from your forehead. Apparently it removes the wrinkles from your brain as well”.
It sounds innocuous enough – at least in the broad language used below. I’m talking about Sen. Boxer’s promised push to move “global warming” legislation through Congress within weeks (or, per Boxer, no later than the end of the year):
Boxer’s principles for global warming legislation aim for a law that would:
– set “certain and enforceable” short and long-term emissions targets;
– ensure state and local entities keep working to address global warming;
– establish a market-based system that cuts carbon emissions;
– use revenues from this carbon market to help consumers make the transition to clean energy and invest in new technology and efficiency measures;
– ensure a level global playing field with incentives for polluting countries to give their share to the international effort to curb climate change.
These goals won quick applause from environmental and conservation groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Environment America and Environmental Defense Fund.
Well of course those groups applauded the list. They’ve been beating the AGW drum for years. And it occurs to me that one of the reasons Boxer is working so hard to move this into the legislative hopper as quickly as possible because the skeptic’s voices are becoming increasingly heard.
Like anything else, there’s a window for legislation and I think Boxer sees that window starting to close. The information countering the AGW nonsense is starting to build momentum. Boxer understands that at some point there will be a tipping point. Already polls have flipped and for the first time more believe the climate change we’re undergoing is the result of natural cycles and not man-made emissions.
If that gap continues to widen, and I believe it will, plus the cost to do what Boxer and the Democrats want to do is given more visibility, the opportunity to pass such legislation will wane (just as we see support for the present stimulus bill withering as more and more information about it becomes available).
Boxer and the Democrats hope to strike while the iron is hot – no pun intended.
Hope and change.
It sure has been getting low-key coverage in the MSM, but it appears the election in Iraq went off very well and is producing some surprising and, frankly, good results.
14,400 candidates stood for office. Unlike 2005, when 200 candidates were killed prior to the election, this time 8 were lost. 14 of the 18 provinces were included (Kurdistan’s provinces are having separate elections) and while turnout was considered to be low (51%), Sunnis participated en mass for the first time. William Shawcross describes the results:
All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called “Shia firebrand”, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out.
The only Islamic party to gain ground was the Dawa party of the Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki – and even that party dropped the word Islamic from its name. The power of Maliki, who has emerged a stronger leader than expected, is further enhanced by these elections. Now no Islamic parties will be able to control any provinces on their own. The election is thus a big defeat for Iran which had hoped that Shia religious parties would control the south and enable Iran to turn them into a mini Shia republic.
I know this has some of you gasping for breath out there. We were assured by none other than the great Juan Cole and his fellow travelers that Iran was in total control of the Iraqi governmental apparatus and would quickly turn into what Shawcross characterizes as a “mini-Shia republic”.
Yet it appears that the Iraqi public are rejecting the concept of a theocracy in favor of a more secular government. And that, of course is a de facto rejection of Iran.
Obviously Iraq still has a long way to go, but it is hard to deny the amount of progress that has been made. Except for the dead-enders who’ve vested so much into this being the “worst foreign policy disaster in US history”, it is looking pretty darn good in Iraq.
USMC Maj Gen John F. Kelly gives you an indication of the level of change that has taken place in previously violent Anbar province:
Something didn’t happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.
What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives.
One of the things I’ve always said was that we came here to “give” them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.
Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province. Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.
There will be further setbacks. But who knows, Iraq may yet even become a model for democratic change in other Arab countries. If so, who deserves some credit? The much maligned President Bush. And Tony Blair.
Now that’s real hope and change.
The Pentagon, unsurprisingly, has completed a study in which it concludes that the US should lower its expectations in Afghanistan:
A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and other military leaders.
[T]he plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials who confirmed the essence of the report.
In other words, the military is saying “let us do what we’re good at – killing bad guys.”
Let’s face it, nation building requires the intense participation of the State Department in addition to the military, and during the Bush years, State showed no stomach for that sort of work in Iraq. Under the Obama administration – and the Clinton State Department – the desire to participate will be even less.
And while only a fool would argue that the establishment of a democracy in Afghanistan would be the best case for the US (and the world), at this time, it may not be an attainable goal.
So the Pentagon, reading the hand-writing on the wall, is saying let’s go kinetic and forget about trying to establish another democracy – Afghanistan is just not worth the blood and treasure at this time.
Interestingly, that’s also the conclusion Michael Yon has reached a similar conclusion (via email):
My humble recommendation is to downgrade all expectations for Afghanistan. Treat the patient as best we can, and concern ourselves with more important matters while striving not to allow Afghanistan to again become a launching pad for international terror. President Obama should not stake our national reputation on the idea that we will achieve our current more ambitious goals. Decrease expectations, and work on more important matters such as the world economy and other more serious military threats. Afghanistan is not worth so much effort when most of NATO has no heart and is virtually worthless. Eventually we’ll likely end up alone, or mostly alone, holding the bag, while Europe goes home to its wine and beer.
Given the lack of progress with nation building and NATO’s intransigence, I’m beginning to think this approach may be the most rational way to proceed in Afghanistan.