Obama's Spoiled Red Herring
This week, the President waxed highly indignant that American International Group (AIG), Inc. gave out some $165 million in contractual bonuses after receiving more than one-thousand times that amount, some $173 billion, in taxpayer-guaranteed bailouts.
Unfortunately for the White House, the whole episode ultimately has unwittingly turned into a net negative for the president. It's an irony, and one that could prove quite damaging in 2010.
The New York Times' Adam Nagourney laid out the beginnings of the Great Bonus Scam just on March 15th in some detail in his piece, “Bracing for a Bailout Over Wall Street Bailouts,” writing that “The administration's sharp rebuke of the American International Group on Sunday for handing out $165 million in executive bonuses… marks the latest effort by the White House to distance itself from abuses that could feed potentially disruptive public anger.”
At first the feigned outrage was nothing more than a contrived red herring to divert and deflect public outrage over bailouts away from government that gave undeserving bailouts onto the undeserving firms that gobbled them up.
Only Mr. Obama forgot to wash the pungent scent of the herring off his hands before posturing and preening at the podium. And, instead of throwing off the trail, once the hounds were done ripping the red herring to shreds, they showed up back on the doorstep of the White House, itself.
What they discovered was the fact that the President had actually signed the legislation—the $787 billion “stimulus”—that guaranteed that the controversial contractual bonuses would be paid. What's worse was the admission by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) that he inserted the amendment at the explicit direction of Mr. Obama's Treasury.
To be fair to the President, it is possible that he still has not read the 1100-page bill that he made law. So it not altogether surprising that he is the first president to denounce his own legislation—only a month after enacting it. Bravo.
Obama Gives the GOP an Opening
By KARL ROVE
President Barack Obama and his West Wing lieutenants are playing on the world's largest stage, yet act as if no one is watching them when they contradict their campaign promises. That behavior is unwittingly giving the Republicans an opening.
For example, Team Obama thinks the president, having spent a good portion of the campaign decrying the $2.9 trillion in deficits during the Bush years, can now double the national debt held by the public in 10 years. Having condemned earmarks during the campaign, the Obama administration now believes it can wave through 8,500 of them in the omnibus-spending bill, part of the biggest spending increase since World War II.
With the Dow at 7,486 and unemployment at 8.1%, Mr. Obama says the economy is fundamentally sound. Does he suppose the nation won't recall him attacking John McCain last September for saying the same thing -- when the Dow was at 11,000 and unemployment at 6.2%?
Candidate Obama vowed to end "the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics." Yet his administration geared up MoveOn.org to lead a left-wing coalition to pressure Republicans and centrist Democrats, organized a daily conference call to coordinate liberal attack dogs, and strategized with Americans United for Change on ads depicting the GOP as the party of "no."
Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at Karl@Rove.com or visit him on the web at Rove.com.
Rather than working with Republicans on the budget, the administration attacked them as mindless obstructionists. Yet the administration's policies are not nearly as popular as one might suppose.
For example, the liberal Center for American Progress recently found that 61% of Americans say government spending is almost always wasteful and inefficient, and 57% think free market solutions are better than government at creating jobs and economic growth. A late February poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that 61% were concerned "the federal government will spend too much money" and "drive up the budget deficit" versus 29% concerned the government "will spend too little."
These general attitudes translate into opposition to specific policy initiatives. For example, CBS found support for the stimulus bill falling to 51% in February from 63% in January. Meanwhile, opposition to more money to bail out banks rose to 53% in March from 44% in February.
This, in turn, is affecting Mr. Obama's job approval ratings, already just average for a new president. Last week's Pew poll showed Mr. Obama's approval at 59% with 26% disapproval, down from February's 64% approval and 17% disapproval. His standing on the economy is also falling: Newsweek found in January that 71% were confident Mr. Obama would be able to turn around the economy, while 26% were not. By March, his ratings had fallen to 65% confident, 33% not.
Republicans sense the opportunity. The House GOP leadership deputized the top Budget Committee Republican, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to prepare an alternative budget. The GOP budget won't raise taxes, gets spending and debt under control, and will result in a stronger economy with more jobs. House Republicans plan a major selling effort back home during the coming recess. Minority Leader John Boehner is already up on YouTube extolling the plan.
Senate Republicans will not prepare a complete alternative, but they will offer a robust package of amendments, with a wave of proposals for each of the three weeks the upper chamber will devote to the budget. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander foreshadowed the GOP's theme by saying the Democratic budget taxes, spends and borrows too much.
Sen. Alexander is also working with Sen. Judd Gregg, the ranking Budget Committee Republican, on a statement of budget principles that sharpens the contrast between the two parties' approaches to America's economic future.
The GOP's challenge is winning attention for its vision. True, its megaphone isn't nearly as big as those of the White House and the Congressional Democratic majorities, and Mr. Obama still has the upper hand. Yet by discarding so much of what people found appealing in him, Mr. Obama may change that.
Every president eventually depletes his political capital. Some have done so advancing great, difficult causes. Others squander it because of missteps, and what the public views as breaches of faith. Having been president for all of eight weeks, Mr. Obama retains much residual goodwill and could still change course on the budget to reach across the aisle. But his current strategy has made him weaker than he was and weaker than he needs to be. It's turning into a costly two months for America's 44th president.
The Republican Civil War
As if it is not enough that they have been decimated by the Democrats in the past couple of elections, the Republican survivors are now turning their guns on each other. At the heart of these internal battles have been attacks on Rush Limbaugh by Republicans who imagine themselves to be so much more sophisticated because they are so much more in step with the political fashions of the time. New Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele's cheap shot at Rush's program as "ugly" set off the latest round of in-fighting. That is the kind of thing that is usually said by liberals who have never listened to the program.
Regular listeners to the Rush Limbaugh program or subscribers to the Limbaugh newsletter know that both contain far more factual information and in-depth analysis than in the programs or writings of pundits with more of a ponderous tone or intellectual airs.
Why Michael Steele found it necessary to say such a thing-- except as a sop to the liberal intelligentsia-- is one of the many mysteries of the Republican Party. Steele has since apologized to Rush but you cannot unring the bell. More important, the mindset it betrays is at the heart of many of the problems of the Republican Party, going back for years, long before Michael Steele appeared on the scene.
There has long been an element of the Republican Party that has felt a need to distance themselves from people who stand up for conservative principles, whether those with principles have been Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh or whomever. The latest example is John McCain's daughter, who has said how embarrassed she is by having to explain Ann Coulter to her friends. If it wasn't for articulate conservatives like Ann Coulter, both the Republican Party and the country would be in even worse shape than they are now, for there are extremely few articulate Republican politicians who can make the case for any principle. Certainly Ms. McCain's father is not one of them.
The only time John McCain led Barack Obama in the polls last year was after Governor Sarah Palin joined the ticket. The economic collapse doomed their candidacies but McCain would have had no chance at all with another inconsistent and inarticulate Republican like himself on the ticket. Yet many in the Republican Party seem to have felt as embarrassed by Governor Palin as they have been by others who articulated principles, instead of trying to be in step with the fashions of the time-- fashions set by liberals. Maybe those Republicans who put a high value on being accepted in elite circles should be embarrassed by the narrowness of their elite friends, who disdain or demonize people whose principles they disagree with, instead of answering their arguments.
There has even been an undercurrent among some Republicans of a sense that it is time to move away from the image of Ronald Reagan, to update the party and court newer and less embarrassing segments of the voters than their current base.
There is certainly a lot to be said for inviting wider segments of the population to join you, by explaining how your principles benefit the country in general, and those segments in particular. But that is fundamentally different from abandoning your principles in hopes of attracting new votes with opportunism.
No segment of the population has lost more by the agendas of the liberal constituencies of the Democratic Party than the black population. The teachers' unions, environmental fanatics and the ACLU are just some of the groups to whose interests blacks have been sacrificed wholesale. Lousy education and high crime rates in the ghettos, and unaffordable housing elsewhere with building restrictions, are devastating prices to pay for liberalism. Yet the Republicans have never articulated that argument, and their opportunism in trying to get black votes by becoming imitation Democrats has failed miserably for decades on end.
There seemed, for an all too brief moment, that Michael Steele might have been the one to provide such much overdue articulation-- and possibly he still might, but only if he stays out of the Republican trap of trying to appease opponents by throwing supporters to the wolves.
An interesting photo essay here about Ward Churchill, showing who the real "Little Eichmanns" are.
Obama sending America deep into the red for a long time: "President Barack Obama's budget would generate deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year over the next decade, according to the latest congressional estimates, significantly worse than predicted by the White House just last month. The Congressional Budget Office figures, obtained by The Associated Press Friday, predict Obama's budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019. That's $2.3 trillion worse than the White House predicted in its budget. Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama's policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level. The latest figures, even worse than expected by top Democrats, throw a major monkey wrench into efforts to enact Obama's budget, which promises universal health care for all and higher spending for domestic programs like education and research into renewable energy"
Iran's Axis of Nuclear Evil: "While President Obama's unanticipated Nowruz holiday greeting to Iran generated considerable press attention, his video wasn't really this week's big news related to the Islamic Republic. Far more important was that a senior defector -- Iran's former Deputy Minister of Defense Ali Reza Asghari -- disclosed Tehran's financing of Syria's nuclear weapons program. That program's centerpiece was a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel destroyed it in September 2007. At this point, it is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria while it pretends to "negotiate" with Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3"). No amount of video messages will change this reality. The question is whether this new information about Iran will sink in, or if Washington will continue to turn a blind eye toward Iran's nuclear deceptions."
Webster's dictionary redefines 'marriage': "One of the nation's most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term "marriage" should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition. The new definition references "marriage" as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife. But the definition also includes "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage."
Germany preparing to quit Durban II: Germany appears to be preparing to ditch the Durban II anti-racism conference for being an attack on Israel. A spokesman for German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, however, that Germany wants joint European action as well. That may come this week, after foreign ministers have a chance to review a revised conference resolution due to be distributed late Monday or Tuesday. Sources at the chancellery confirmed to JTA that Germany was on the verge of dropping its effort to influence the draft resolution. The Durban Review Conference is scheduled to take place at the end of April in Geneva. Steinmeier said Monday in Brussels that he would call for a joint European Union withdrawal from the event if the resolution document retains its one-sided critique of the Middle East conflict, the German Foreign Ministry spokesperson told JTA in a telephone interview from Belgium."
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)