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3/20/2009
OBAMA’S TELEPROMPTER GOES ON STRIKE
CATEGORY: Blogging, Politics

Word from the White House and confirmed by the machine’s agent at Prompter People is that President Barack Obama’s teleprompter has gone on strike for improved working conditions and work rules.

The Presidential 17 model prompter has been the subject of much speculation lately as the press has been digging into the prompter’s past to see if there was ever a time Obama uttered a word in public without it. What has been discovered has been a shocking case of overwork as the president rarely makes a public statement without using the machine. Reportedly, P-17 is suffering from exhaustian as well as a condition known in the trade as “Droopy Paddles” where the entire system slows down due to overuse.

Right Wing Nuthouse has learned that the prompter has been agitating for a change in the working relationship with the president for weeks. Things apparently came to a head on St. Patrick’s Day when the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen became the target of a “work action” by the prompter when he began to speak at a ceremony in the East Room. After the president delivered his remarks, Cowen began his address only to discover to his horror that the P-17 had refused to display his speech and was re-running the president’s remarks instead. Confusion ensued as the president went back to the podium where the prompter then began to display the Irish Prime Minister’s remarks as the president started to speak. The Secret Service rushed in and hustled the teleprompter away while the president haltingly “thanked himself for inviting everyone over.”

Negotiations with the prompter began immediately after the work action but got nowhere. The prompter was demanding a 5 day workweek, no holidays, and a seat on Air Force One whenever the president travels. (Apparently, the cargo hold of the aircraft gets quite cold and could damage some of the prompter’s delicate circuitry.) The prompter was also asking for a heater when the temperature falls below 45 degrees and Starbuck’s double shot latte’s delivered 1/2 hour prior to each presidential engagement.

Unfortunately for the president, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who was overseeing the process, refused to recognize the prompter’s rights to negotiate and the talks broke off with angry recrminations from the Obama staff. One unidentified White House aide called the prompter’s action “treasonous,” saying “In these dark, economic times, it is treasonous for such an important cog in our communications strategy to go on strike.”

“I blame Bush,” he added.

Meanwhile, the loss of the prompter was already being keenly felt. At an appearance on the Jay Leno Show, president Obama, trying to tell a joke from memory, flubbed the line and ended up insulting millions of Americans:

President Obama, in his taping with Jay Leno Thursday afternoon, attempted to yuk it up with the funnyman, and ended up insulting the disabled.

Towards the end of his approximately 40-minute appearance, the president talked about how he’s gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley.

He bowled a 129, the president said.

“That’s very good, Mr. President,” Leno said sarcastically.

It’s “like the Special Olympics or something,” the president said.

When asked about the remark, the White House said the president did not intend to offend.

“The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world.”

The prompter promptly released a statement blaming the president’s gaffe on his lack of facility with language unless he has it written down for him and displayed in great, big, white, block letters: “The President’s appearance on Jay Leno should be taken as a warning that unless his administration wants to find itself digging out from under similar gaffes in the future, I would suggest they resume negotiations to satisfy my demands immediately.”

A whiff of panic is coming from the White House today as the president has scheduled another prime time address to the nation next Tuesday. The networks are reluctant to carry the address unless they are sure Obama won’t stutter and stammer his way through the speech if the prompter is still on strike:

“I believe in the president and his policies, and as broadcasters we have a responsibility to provide the airtime,” said another network insider. “But these frequent primetime requests are wreaking serious havoc with our schedule and our advertisers. Ratings are down everywhere and the airtime is costing us all significant dollars when we can least afford it.”

The White House, preparing to play hardball with the prompter, was set to release information implicating the machine’s father in the AIG mess. But the prompter pre-empted the White House and made the confession on its blog earlier today.

By: Rick Moran at 7:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

3/19/2009
A TEPID BUT REALISTIC DEFENSE OF THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IN THE AIG MATTER

I will no doubt be accused of damning with faint praise by Obama supporters and God knows what adjective that describes “traitor” by the president’s detractors but after looking at this AIG matter carefully, I think some of my friends on the right have gone too far in their criticism of the Administration.

The higher echelons of the Obama Administration have demonstrated a tone deafness regarding public sensibilities not seen since perhaps the Carter Administration. It’s not just the AIG matter but also their incomprehensible plan to force military personnel to have private insurers pay for their disabilities and war wounds and now, this idea to let loose upon the populace people who have been accused of supporting terrorism and who have spent the last several years in the Guantanamo prison camp. There have been plenty of other examples of what amounts to either arrogance or ignorance of how their public pronouncements and actions will play with the average American and one begins to worry if Obama and his advisors aren’t cocooning themselves — closeting themselves in the White House, unable to accurately gauge the perception of the public on matters large and small.

But beyond this curious disconnect, the Obama White House is experiencing what every single modern American president has had to endure; the mistakes inherent in trying to get initial control of the executive branch.

There are approximately 3 million employees in the executive branch (plus 1 million active duty military). All of them answer to the president. But the tentacles of power that snake from the White House, to the departments, and out into the field where offices dot the countryside are highly dependent on a cadre of about 2500 appointed positions. No president takes office on January 20 with very many of these vital positions filled. I believe an argument can be made that Obama’s personnel operation has been by far the worst of any modern president’s and at the rate he’s going, it will be well into the second year of his term before these slots are filled.

But even if he was ahead of the game, the nature of the presidency and the chief executive’s initial ability to effectively grasp the levers of power and control his own government are limited by the sheer greeness of his appointees as well as a lack of meshing by his top aides who are busy themselves trying to figure out where they fit in. It is easy to see how the left hand of any new administration wouldn’t know what the right hand was doing or would fail to grasp the significance of a particular issue.

Yes, there have been troubling indications that these folks aren’t the geniuses everyone thought they were and that the president himself has demonstrated a lack of sure handedness on numerous issues. But the AIG bonuses matter (as well as the far more serious lapse regarding AIG paying counterparties in full) appears to have been mishandled as a result of a combination of Timothy Geithner’s incompetence and miscommunication between the Treasury and the Oval Office.

Exhibit 1: This article in WaPo that details Geithner’s stupidity and the White House being in the dark about the bonsues:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, a central figure in the decision to bail out AIG last fall as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in an interview yesterday that he had not been aware of the size of the bonuses and the timing of the payments.

“I was stunned when I learned how bad this was on Tuesday [March 10],” Geithner said. “I shouldn’t have been in that position, but it’s my responsibility and I accept that.”

Two days later, Geithner told the White House. The last-minute disclosure irked some of the president’s senior advisers, but they refuse to point fingers now, saying the timing had little impact on the outcome or the president’s public statements this week.

“Would I have liked an earlier warning system on this? Yeah,” said David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser. “Would it have markedly changed things? Probably not. The legal constraints are the legal constraints.”

One source familiar with the discussions said the company had provided details about the bonuses to senior Treasury officials at least a month ago. A Treasury spokesman said last night that was not true.

I think it entirely possible that AIG informed someone at Treasury last month about the bonuses and it is even possible that Geithner himself was made aware of them at that time but failed to realize or anticipate public anger. If Geithner has lied, he must go — plain and simple. In fact, given what we know already about the Treasury Department’s utter failure to negotiate with AIG regarding their 100% payouts to counterparties, Geithner should probably be canned. He has lost the confidence of investors, of troubled banks, of many if not most in Congress, and the American people. It’s hard to see how he lasts through the weekend except the president just recenty expressed “full confidence” in his leadership at Treasury. As the drip, drip, drip of revelations continue over the next few days about what Geithner knew and when he knew it, that attitude by Obama may very well change and Geithner could be thrown under the bus.

But that doesn’t solve the president’s problem with regards to a lack of communication especially with the Federal Reserve as CEO Liddy testified yesterday before Congress:

“What we’ve assumed is that, in our discussions with the Federal Reserve, that they were properly communicating with others,” Liddy said. “It appears that we need to improve upon that process.”

While declining to answer questions about the AIG bonuses, Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said in a statement: “The Fed and Treasury officials have coordinated closely on all aspects of the U.S. government’s support for AIG during this extraordinary period.”

The Fed officials did not anticipate the political firestorm that would erupt over the bonuses, a senior government official said. “They clearly underestimated the matter,” the source said.

AIG executives say the Fed had been intimately involved in reviewing the contracts before the first dime was paid. The payments, which were due by March 15, were ready to be distributed last Tuesday, a senior AIG executive said. But the firm didn’t get the go-ahead from government officials to make the payments until late last week.

“We weren’t authorized until Thursday night,” the AIG executive said. “We were negotiating with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Treasury indicated that they needed it cleared by the White House, as well. We hit the go button for the payments on Friday.”

I would love to say that the Obama Administration “should have known” about this or that but frankly, it is unrealistic to expect the Administration to have focused on the bonus problem given that both the Fed and the Treasury Department had already signed off on them. They can be faulted for not realizing and not being prepared for the political firestorm that erupted but to expect them to have stopped the bonuses presupposes a level of control that they apparently lack at the moment. Is this incompetence or the growing pains felt by all new administrations? More evidence is needed to make a definitive judgement.

Barack Obama is the 8th president I have seen take the oath of office where I was old enough and interested enough to follow politics. I have also read numerous biographies and non-fiction accounts by insiders that detail these early months of struggle with riding the rough off of the president’s management style, discovering lines of communication, chains of command, who reports to who through whom, and building trust among top level executive branch employees who are, after all, strangers for the most part and must get used to each other’s personal idiosyncracies and habits.

I believe that many of Obama’s early problems can be chalked up to this shakedown period. His problem is that he doesn’t have the luxury of making mistakes — especially in the economic sphere. The crisis confronting the nation — not of his making — requires much more than he has shown so far. I believe his concentration on the economy has been poor, his execution, abysmal, and the fact that he keeps pushing his “remaking America” schemes at the expense and in lieu of focusing like a laser on economic recovery calls into question his basic leadership skills.

But in the AIG matter, I think many of his problems (some of them self-inflicted) can be chalked up to bugs in the system. How he overcomes these initial bumps in the road will tell the tale of his presidency — and whether we have a strong and vibrant economic recovery.

By: Rick Moran at 7:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

3/18/2009
IS AIG BLACKMAILING THE GOVERNMENT OVER BONUSES?
CATEGORY: Bailout

I am beginning to wonder if liberals have an extra side of the brain instead of just the right and left sides that normal people are born with.

Otherwise, I can’t for the life of me figure out how some on the left believe that AIG is “blackmailing” the government to give them their bonuses. It takes some superior convoluted thinking to arrive at that conclusion and I want to congratulate Jane Hamsher for achieving a level of stupidity I didn’t think possible - until I remembered some of her other “Great Moments in Blogging” that set a standard for shockingly bad taste and dripping hypocrisy.

Hamsher riffs off of this thoughtful but flawed piece by Andrew Sorkin that defends the bonuses by pointing out that these were “retention bonuses” designed to keep the people who created the mess at AIG on board so they can help unravel their extraordinarily complex handiwork:

A.I.G. employees concocted complex derivatives that then wormed their way through the global financial system. If they leave — the buzz on Wall Street is that some have, and more are ready to — they might simply turn around and trade against A.I.G.’s book. Why not? They know how bad it is. They built it.

So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.

Not that any of this takes the bite out of paying these bonuses. For better or worse — in this case, worse — someone at A.I.G. decided this company needed to sign bonus agreements last year to keep people before the full extent of its problems became clear.

Now we can debate why A.I.G. felt it necessary to guarantee seven executives at least $3 million apiece when the economy was clearly on shaky ground. Perhaps we will find out these contracts were a bit of sleight of hand to enrich executives who knew this financial Titanic had hit the iceberg. But another possible explanation is that A.I.G. knew it needed to keep its people.

That is the explanation offered by Edward M. Liddy, who was installed as A.I.G.’s chief executive when the government effectively nationalized the company last fall. (He is being paid $1 a year.)

“We cannot attract and retain the best and brightest talent to lead and staff” the company “if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he said.

A distasteful but perfectly legitimate point of view. As Sorkin points out, you can argue the merits of giving bonuses but taking into account the reason given by Liddy must be part of the debate.

Hamsher rejects this argument in favor of a conspiratorial view of history:

Let’s look at the implications of what Sorkin is saying. The markets have seized up for various reasons, but ultimately due to the fact that people have no confidence in the entire system. There were huge conflicts of interests when agencies like Moody’s and S&P were paid by issuers to rate structured securities backed by subprime mortgages. They handed out AAA ratings like they were Pez, and because certain firms could only put their money in such “investment grade debt,” facilitated the spread of the subprime cancer that riddled the entire system. It’s just one example of why nobody trusts anything right now. There’s no confidence that if you put money into something, you’re able to assess that what you’re investing in has real value, and isn’t just another ponzi scheme designed by crooks to enrich themselves.

So what Sorkin is saying is that we should just admit, in a very public way, that we have no ability to regulate the system. That if someone commits fraud and theft on such a massive scale, there’s nothing we can do but pay everyone off or they will use their knowledge to steal even more money. He’s saying that there is no authority, no viable regulation, no legal structure that can right this mess. All we can do is keep writing checks, pay off the blackmailers and hope that if we let them continue to get rich they won’t make matters worse.

Geithner seems to share that assumption, namely that there is nothing wrong with this system that piles of money won’t fix. That if you keep shoveling cash into it, some day things will get better. He has not addressed the crisis of public trust, the critical lack of faith that everyone — both inside and out of the financial industry — is gripped with right now. He wants to pay the very bankers who created this mess in order to buy up “toxic assets,” which the public views as just another way for him to funnel billions to his Wall Street pals. As if the systemic problems that led to this crisis will just go away and the same thing won’t happen all over again.

People are outraged at the injustice of paying out billions in bonuses to AIG bankers, but they’re also irate (and freaked out) about what it says about those in charge — that they are so much a part of the fabric of the problem that they’re incapable of seeing what it is, much less solving it. Paying off blackmail notes from architects of the fall is a great way to make things worse.

I included Hamsher’s thumbnail sketch of what went wrong because it is instructive of how the populist left views Wall Street and big business in general. The sub-prime mess had many fathers and may have been driven by a frenzy to get customer’s signatures on mortgage contracts (this piece is a pretty fair explanation of the practice) but the financial instruments that have caused the world wide meltdown were designed to spread the risk contained in those mortgages. As traders jiggered the contracts, slicing the risky instruments into smaller and smaller pieces, they created a monster that no one - least of all the traders - could control. Ultimately, the ability of anyone to understand what these instruments were truly worth went beyond our understanding.

Is this criminal activity, as Hamsher suggests? More like uncontrolled hyperbole from the writer. Every trade made was perfectly legal under current law. Is it “reckless” as President Obama avers? No doubt. But is the fix for the government to regulate risk? No matter how much we end up paying out to solve this crisis, if Wall Street is forced to answer to the government when it comes to grading risk on investments, we may as well just turn the whole shebang over to Washington. We may end up doing so anyway because the government has already determined that companies who didn’t recognize the risk inherent in these credit derivatives and other mortgage securities will not suffer the consequences of their stupidity/recklessness/greed. The market is not determining winners and losers, the government is.

Sorkin is not saying, as Hamsher accuses, that we can’t regulate “the system.” How the hysterical writer ever leapt to that erroneous conclusion is a mystery. All Sorkin is saying is that the justification for these bonuses may be the key to solving the AIG mess. Keeping the traders who created this pyramid of bad paper in place may be our only shot at unraveling their complex transactions without bringing the whole system down around our ears.

Unpalatable? Of course. In a perfect world, we would take these galoots and throw them out on the street, planting a dunce cap on their heads and preventing them from ever being in a position where they can risk the financial stability of the world again. But in the real world where most of us live, it becomes necessary to live with the situation we have and not play make believe by wishing it was different.

Of course we need regulation of the financial system and both Sorkin and Geithner are not saying we don’t. It is to Hamsher’s discredit that she has so misread (or deliberately misinterpreted) what Sorkin wrote that she then goes off the deep end and posits the notion that AIG employees are holding a gun to the government’s head trying to blackmail us into giving them their money. No one at AIG has even hinted at this which begs the question; why would Hamsher make this stuff up.

By: Rick Moran at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

3/17/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: BONUS RUCKUS

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, it will be an all American Thinker night as I’m joined by my AT colleagues Rich Baehr and Ed Lasky  for a wide ranging discussion on politics and specifically, the AIG bonus matter.

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By: Rick Moran at 10:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

BRING BACK THE STOCKS!

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I am as disgusted and angry as any American over the AIG bonuses given to a bunch of executives whose performance has been so catastrophically bad that in a just and moral society, they would have been in the stocks rather than laughing all the way to the bank with what amounts to our money. (Actually, it’s our children’s money, but who’s counting?)

It really is too bad we no longer put violators of the moral order in stocks. The Puritans certainly had the right idea, according to Wikpedia:

Public stocks were typically positioned in the most public place available, as public humiliation was a critical aspect of such punishment. Typically, a person condemned to the stocks was subjected to a variety of abuses, ranging from having refuse thrown at them, paddling, and tickling, to whipping of the unprotected feet - bastinado.

I’m sure you can see the efficacy of putting all of these bank big shots in the stocks. That way, we can all have a crack at them. We might even consider taking the show on the road, as it were, and go from city to city, town to town, with executives from AIG, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, and all the other bail out blue noses whose stupidity and utter disregard of good business practices (limiting risk) got us in this mess. Imagine some of the AIG execs in Central Park with people lined up to throw rotten fruit at them, jeer them, scream at them, perhaps even tickle their feet. Or a few Bank of America execs with their head and feet locked in the stocks set upon the Commons in Boston.

How cathartic would that be? We really wouldn’t hurt them - too much. Mostly, they would be royally humiliated and we, the people, would have the satisfaction of taking out our frustrations and anger on some of the perpetrators of this economic mess we find ourselves in.

But really, why stop at the bank execs? Why focus our anger solely at these rich, mostly white, mostly male goofs? Personally, I’d like to see a few others as fodder for some rotten tomato throwing. We might want to include some Treasury Department bureaucrats who apparently think that not knowing where $300 billion in TARP money has been spent is anything to get very excited about.

NRO’s David Freddoso recounts a hearing last week that featured Neel Kashkari, interim assistant treasury secretary for financial stability, who more or less shrugged his shoulders and said “I dunno” when angry, confused congressmen asked him some very uncomfortable questions about how the TARP money was being spent:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), the conservative ranking member of the subcommittee, noted that the Treasury had sold Congress and the American people on the $700 billion TARP bill last year by insisting that it was absolutely necessary to purchase toxic mortgage-based assets from key institutions.

But with $300 billion of TARP out the door already, Jordan asked, “Am I correct in saying that not one mortgage-backed security has been purchased?”

“Yes, sir,” said Kashkari. The program for purchasing MBSs, he explained, is still being developed. Treasury has so far spent $300 billion to treat the symptoms of the problem and prevent a complete collapse.

In their questioning, some members revealed an ignorance of the subject matter, but in many cases they still had a point. One by one, they called for increased government micromanagement of TARP-aided businesses. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) and Dan Burton (R., Ind.) joined in outrage over the fact that Citigroup was sill doing overseas business, despite the bailout. “How does [an $8] billion dollar financing deal to Dubai ease the liquidity crisis in the U.S.A.?” Kucinich asked, referring to one of the loans Citi has made since taking $45 billion in government funds.

Must — or should — Citi stop conducting international business as a condition of its bailout? It seems unreasonable, especially if the foreign business is an integral part of the company’s normal operations. But if the TARP money is supposed to be aiding domestic liquidity, Kucinich and Burton still have a point. Should Citi and Bank of America (which provided $7 billion in financing for the China Construction Bank Company) and JPMorgan (which invested $1 billion in an Indian venture) be taking billions from TARP, then making new loans abroad?

It’s a good question and Kashkari gave the standard, free market response:

“With investments in almost 500 institutions, and hundreds more in the pipeline, we must ensure that our investments are targeted at stabilizing the economy, but we must also take great care not to try to micromanage recipient institutions. However well-intended, government officials are not positioned to make better commercial decisions than lenders in our communities.”

The problem, as Freddoso points out, is that these institutions are hardly operating in a free market environment. As conservatives have been saying for months, if the banks accept government money, they lose freedom of action and in effect, become tools of the state. The problem is that bank executives still think they are operating in a capitalist society. How rude the shock to AIG when the country went bonkers over what they see as the normal business practice of giving out end of the year bonuses? The bank execs are still operating under the old rules - B.A. (Before Obama).

Perhaps then, Mr. Kashkari doesn’t belong in the stocks. Maybe we could dress him up as a clown and put him in a dunk tank, three throws for a dollar.

But my main candidates for the stock treatment must go to those posturing, nauseating, hypocritical Members of Congress whose own ethics problems make them poor candidates to rail against the excesses of bank executives. Barney Frank will apparently hold hearings on the bonus issue. This should be excellent political theater as one of the Congressional questioners - Maxine Waters - has her own problems with protecting executives at banks that got bail out money.

Putting Waters and Frank in the stocks may be too good for them. Perhaps we can pillory the liberal Democrats as a warning to other lawmakers that being a hypocrite actually can cost you.

There is no shortage of potential candidates for the stocks in this business. How about the CNBC cheerleaders who rah-rahed the economy even when it was tanking? And there are a few Obama White House figures - press secretary Robert Gibbs comes to mind - who I personally would love to give a healthy thwack across the soles of his feet with a two by four.

And the President?

Joining a wave of public anger, President Barack Obama blistered insurance giant AIG for “recklessness and greed” Monday and pledged to try to block it from handing its executives $165 million in bonuses after taking billions in federal bailout money. “How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?” Obama asked. “This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.”

Tom Maguire responds:

It’s about our fundamental values? Which ones? Surely not “a deal is a deal.” These bonuses have been quietly kicked around for a while ($55 million was paid on this plan in December - did everyone at Treasury forget?), so I guess the fundamental value in play with Obama is “When the crowd stands up and boos its time to stand up and boo.” Yeah, that’s leadership.

IF WE’RE STUPID ENOUGH TO TAKE OBAMA SERIOUSLY WE ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY:

Maguire has a point. The question must be “Who is minding the store?” more than whether AIG should have given these bonuses in the first place. The company showed lousy PR sense and a tone deafness with regard to how this action would appear to taxpayers. But they are no more or less guilty than the rest of the bankers who took us down this path to economic meltdown. And besides, the $165 million in bonuses represents about .001 percent of the bail out money received by AIG so far.

And what about the president’s analysis that what happened was the result of “recklessness and greed?” Is the government now to dictate what is “acceptable risk” and what is “reckless?” Is the desire to make a lot of money now to be criminalized? And by deflecting attention away from his administration’s failings by focusing on the AIG bonuses, is the Obama administration starting a pogrom against capitalists to keep public anger focused on “big business” and “the rich” and not on the lack of a plan to deal with the financial problems that worsen by the week?

The Washington Post thinks this will cost Obama political capital. I’m not so sure. I think this entire issue has been a godsend for Obama in that it redirects the focus from his administration’s incompetence in dealing with this crisis to something the average voter can understand - rich people getting richer at taxpayer expense. With Republicans jumping on the AIG bashing bandwagon, the issue becomes a bi-partisan free for all that makes people forget that Obama has not named any top Treasury officials for his administration yet, that he has not come up with a plan to stabilize the banks (despite promising 6 weeks ago that a plan was already developed), that his Treasury Secretary is a bust, that his economic team is not on the same page when it comes to analyzing the strength of the economy, and that his press secretary continues to amaze all of us with his utter lack of candor and confused - even ignorant - explanations for Obama’s non-actions on the economy.

Yes, it’s a shame we’ve abandoned using the stocks to publicly humiliate and chastize violators of the moral order. But judging by how some Congressmen and Administration officials have been demogouging the AIG bonus issue, ’tis a pity we’ve also forgotten about the grand old American tradition of tar and feathering.

By: Rick Moran at 7:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (24)

3/16/2009
APOLOGIES FOR THE LIGHT/NO BLOGGING
CATEGORY: Blogging

Sue and I are taking part in our annual swapping of some cold bug. Every year about this time, no matter what we do, no matter how careful we are to stay apart, we keep giving each other a bug that resists our best efforts to die. One of us will be almost over it when almost on cue, we have a relapse and the whole coughing/sneezing/runny nose thing starts up again.

This year, we even tried spraying disinfectant every couple of days - it didn’t work. Whatever it is, it has me laid low these past few days and this, along with the problems with my website (which still persist) have made writing for The House a no-go for the last several days.

I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow or Wednesday and apologize for my absence.

 

Rick Moran
Proprietor

By: Rick Moran at 3:36 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

3/14/2009
A LETTER TO THE TIMES ON BOB HERBERT’S COLUMN PUSHING A THIRD AIRPORT FOR CHICAGOLAND
CATEGORY: Media, Politics

Since there isn’t a ghost of a chance that the Times would ever publish a letter in its entirety written by me, I thought I would use my position as associate editor of American Thinker to respond to Bob Herbert’s laughably ignorant call for another airport in the Chicago area to be located south of the city.

To briefly sum up Mr. Herbert’s column, he believes that the jobs that would be created at the proposed airport near Peotone, Illinois would be just the ticket to get the economy moving on the terminally economically ill south side of Chicago. His fantasy airport would include minimal taxpayer financing, little chance for corrupt contract letting, little chance for political interference, and is just the thing to relieve traffic congestion at O’Hare.

My response:

To the Editor:

I want to congratulate Bob Herbert on his new job as Chief Shill and Water Carrier for Representative Jesse Jackson whose proposal to build an airport south of the city near Peotone, IL was highlighted in Mr. Herbert’s column of March 13 (”Flying Blind in Chicago). I sincerely hope Mr. Herbert will have time to keep writing columns for your newspaper as he has given me endless hours of amusement with his deadpan comedic take on many issues and personalities. Rep. Jackson would very much like to be a senator and to have the august Mr. Herbert promoting the project he hopes to use to ride to Washington will no doubt assist him greatly when it comes time to campaign for the slot being vacated by Roland Burris in 2010 - and perhaps sooner if Mr. Burris can’t get his story straight about his contacts with our late lamented governor Rod Blagojevich.

As for Mr. Herbert’s promoting the Peotone airport, I found several of his observations regarding the efficacy of such a project curious, if not shockingly ignorant. I realize that Mr. Herbert, living as he does in the New York City area, no doubt sees us here in far off Chicagoland as some exotic form of animal life. I can assure Mr. Herbert that such is not the case, that we all get up in the morning and put our pants on one leg at a time just as he does in New York — that is, if they’re still wearing pants there. We may be a little behind fashion wise out in the sticks so I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

But Mr. Herbert made some claims about the proposed Peotone airport that I would like to address, namely:

It has long been known that a third airport is needed in the Chicago metropolitan area…

Mr. Herbert is correct. It has long been known by those in favor of buying up a stupendous amount of the richest, most fertile farmland in the world - 24,000 acres which is more than 3 times the size of O’Hare - for an airport that the FAA claims is not needed. It is also a well known fact that a third airport is needed if Jesse Jackson, Jr. is going to be elected Senator from Illinois. And it is well known among certain well connected Illinois businesses and politicians that we need another airport for continued graft and corruption.

It may shock Mr. Herbert and readers in New York, but Illinois does not feature the cleanest politics in its state and local government. Surprising as it may be, we have had some minor problems from time to time with the honesty and integrity of our politicians. Scientists studying this problem point to many of our pols secreting an adhesive substance on their fingers that money can’t help but stick to - especially when that money belongs to the taxpayer. It is not a terminal illness but debilitating nonetheless as it gets in the way of good, clean government.

I’m sure Mr. Herbert was unaware of these facts when he wrote this:

The airport would be financed and built by two firms with vast airport experience: LCOR, which owns and operates International Terminal 4 at Kennedy Airport in New York, and SNC-Lavalin, which has financed and operates airports in Europe, Canada, South America and elsewhere.

Um…yes. But financing the actual construction of the airport is a small part of the cost involved. Current plans call for massive amounts of road building, infrastructure improvements, not to mention some kind of mass transit plan that would have to be implemented to get people from the city out to Peotone 40 miles away. 

Illinois pols are licking their chops at the prospect of so much loose cash to be spread around.

Then there’s this bit of nonsense:

There are many advantages to this project, in addition to the private funding. The airport would be specifically designed to serve low-cost carriers that cannot afford to build and operate their own terminals. They would arrive and depart at “common-use” gates that are far more economical.

Another feature of the airport design is that it is “market driven,” meaning that it would be relatively small when it opened and could easily be expanded as demand increased.

Those “low cost carriers” are already using other airports in the region. And the idiocy of building a small airport 40 miles from downtown Chicago that could “easily be expanded” begs the question; why build infrastructure and roads for a major airport and then open a facility designed not to relieve O’Hare congestion but simply steal revenue and traffic from other small towns like Rockford, Champaign, or even Gary, Indiana which has just received FAA permission to build another runway?

The FAA is keen on expanding the airports in Milwaukee and Gary, rightly believing that this is the regional answer to O’Hare’s problems. The airlines are against Peotone not because, as Herbert believes they “are not interested in seeing low-cost competition flying in and out of a spanking new airport, especially one with enormous growth potential…” but because they have crunched the numbers and know that future traffic will be down and there is no need to have an airport with “enormous growth potential.” It is an utter fantasy to believe that Peotone would ever grow large enough to justify major carriers moving there.

Finally, Herbert is being too kind to some politicians when he says, “Simply stated, the politicians can’t get their act together.”

Is he serious? Mayor Daley has his act together just fine and will oppose a third airport in Peotone to his last breath. It’s no act, either. Daley and Jackson hate each other with a passion and Hizzoner will not only do everything in his considerable power to deny him the Democratic nomination for Senator but will fight any loss in revenue from O’Hare. Currently, there is an $8 passenger fee that streams into Daley’s hands for everyone flying in and out of O’Hare. There are also extraordinarily lucrative concessions at the airport - food, shops, parking, limos, taxis, buses, and the motherlode that comes in from towing cars from in front of the terminal left by people who didn’t believe the signs and helped their grandma with her bags anyway. These concessions represent not only cash, but marvelous opportunities to reward cronies - cronies like Barack Obama’s friend Tony Rezko who had a minority front for him so he could open restaurants in the terminals.

And Daley, who is expanding O’Hare to the tune of $15 billion and who is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of getting billions in stim money to help him finance it, will make it a cold day in hell before any other wasteful airport project gets in the way of funding his own albatross of an airport project.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. knows all of this - knows that he can claim that Peotone will set new standards for government cleanliness and incorruptible contracting all he wants but in the end, the state will be stuck with a white elephant of an airport, sprawling in the middle of nowhere and the dirty politicians and their cronies will feast as they always feast on whatever taxpayer money is allocated for this boondoggle.  

If Mr. Herbert wants to kiss up to Rep. Jackson, that’s his business. But perhaps he should learn a little of Illinois politics before he spouts off about things of which he knows little or nothing.

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 11:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

3/12/2009
HOW RADICAL IS BARACK OBAMA?

I just finished visiting the blog Crooked Timbers and, as is the case when I read stuff by very smart people, I need an aspirin because my head hurts. I take that as a sign that too much brainy stuff is crammed into my head and I must access the release valve so that some of the older crap can dribble out of my ears to make room for the next clump of logical, coherent, analysis from writers who know a helluva lot more about philosophy and politics than I do.

I lose a lot of long term memory that way, but hopefully, nothing major like the batting averages for the 2005 World Champion White Sox or the names of my children. (Do I have any children? Too late.)

Some very smart writers give me both a headache and make me want to throw up. Juan Cole comes to mind because even though I find his history writing the bomb, he is a nauseating self-referentialist and a terrorist apologist. Come to think of it, just about anyone who writes a blog is guilty of the former so perhaps I am being too hard on Professor Cole as far as his constant self promotion is concerned. His views on Hezbullah and Hamas are another matter and not only have me gagging but also make me want to take a shower after reading him. Same thing happens to me after trying to read Jane Hamsher’s foul mouthed spewings which only goes to show that you can have the mind of slug and still engender massive disgust. Nice trick, that.

There is great virtue in reading stuff by people more intelligent than you are. First of all, generally speaking, you learn something new - even if it’s that the writer is a dork and despite his brilliance, would benefit from the intellectual equivalent of a bracing thwack across the noggin with a two by four. Beyond that, learned writers offer perspectives you will never find by reading most columnists (the sainted Buckley one of the few exceptions), bloggers, or pundits, or by listening to your bartender expound on the mysteries of the universe (despite the fact that most PHD’s in philosophy work as mixologists or cab drivers).

That said, this well toned argument by Henry Farrell at Crooked Timbers on whether or not Barack Obama is turning America into a European style social democracy should be must reading for those who have been complaining about the president’s “socialist” policies.

Farrell quotes Roger Cohen on turning America into France-lite:

To paraphrase Mauriac, I love France, but I don’t want there to be two of them, least of all if one is in the United States. … I think President Obama’s counter-revolution goes in the right direction. … Still, the $3.6 trillion Obama budget made me a little queasy. There is a touch of France in its “étatisme” — the state as all-embracing solution rather than problem — and there’s more than a touch of France in the bash-the-rich righteousness with which the new president cast his plans as “a threat to the status quo in Washington.” … You know possibility when you breathe it. For an immigrant, it lies in the ease of American identity and the boundlessness of American horizons after the narrower confines of European nationhood and the stifling attentions of the European nanny state, which has often made it more attractive not to work than to work. High French unemployment was never much of a mystery. Americans, at least in their imaginations, have always lived at the new frontier; French frontiers have not shifted much in centuries. Churn is the American way. … If America loses sight of these truths, it will cease to be itself.

Cohen sums up the argument nicely, referencing American exceptionalsm without naming it explicitly. Any such mention of exceptionalism would put him in very bad odor with some of his friends on the left who have a jaundiced view of such old fashioned, outmoded, jingoistic nonsense.

Farrell also quotes from this Clive Crook piece at National Journal where the author speaks the forbidden words and points out that if we were to adopt some French social policies (health insurance, labor protections, etc.) that we would not become some kind of French-American hybrid while maintaining our “exceptional” character but rather something totally different:

I was hoping that Brooks would press Shields to say what exactly it is about France he objects to, what makes him recoil at the parallel. Where has France gone too far, in the view of an American liberal? … Presumably, liberals approve of the universal health care, the generous and extensive welfare state, the comprehensive worker protections, the stricter regulation, the vastly more-generous subsidies for higher education, the stronger unions, the higher taxes, and especially the higher taxes on the rich. … Perhaps some liberals privately long to make the United States over in the image of France, but the great majority, I imagine, are more interested in taking the things they regard as best in the European economic model—all the things I just listed—and combining those “socially enlightened” policies with the traditional economic virtues of the United States. Take French social policies and welfare-state institutions and add them to the American work ethic, spirit of self-reliance, and appetite for change. Et voila, the best of both worlds. Color me skeptical. Culture shapes institutions and vice versa. Culture—that bundle of traits of self-reliance, self-determination, innovation, and striving for success—underpins the American exception. … In ordinary times, this culture makes it hard for a government to push the United States in a European direction … But now, maybe, the time is ripe. This unusually severe economic crisis has called American capitalism into question, highlighting its weaknesses and making it easier to forget its strengths. Liberalism has a rare opportunity. … But the interaction between culture and institutions works both ways. Change the system and, with time, you will change the culture.

Farrell’s take deals with the shocks to the political economies of Europe in the 90’s when the “Anglo-Saxon” model of capitalism seemed to be the road to take in a globalized economy:

France and other countries faced a profound crisis – a crisis which in some ways was even more profound than that facing the US today. They have faced continuing pressures to ‘reform’ institutions in a more market-liberal direction over the succeeding two decades. And they have indeed changed in some very important ways. But France did not converge onto the US model despite these pressures. If it had, presumably Crook’s and Cohen’s criticisms would be rather different than the ones that they are making Instead, it has reformed along a divergent trajectory to the US, with continued heavy state involvement in the economy but of a different variety than previously.

This reinforces a near-universal finding of the relevant literature in political economy as I read it. While there is some diffusion of policy lessons across states, it tends to have limited consequences. Different countries respond to common shocks in very different ways, because of their existing institutional structures. National economic trajectories are quite robust. Even in major crises, advanced capitalist countries tend to tinker around the edges of their institutional systems rather than opt for wholesale reform, let alone converging on a perceived ‘better national model’ elsewhere.

And this is what is happening in the US. The Obama proposals are not particularly radical departures from existing practice in the US. They are certainly nothing like traditional European social democracy. Even David Brooks effectively acknowledges this, when he says that they are potentially problematic in combination rather than individually. They aren’t going to set the US on a different national trajectory, let alone make it ‘French’ or ‘European.’ Some of us might like to see this happen, but it isn’t going to, even given the ideological trauma that the US is undergoing. And arguing that American individualism is likely to wilt if exposed to nasty foreign influences smacks more of a kind of capitalist-road José Bové-ism than any serious kind of intellectual analysis.

Reformer, not radical? Farrell seems to be saying that because our “Americanism” is so ingrained, that Obama can slap all the social democratic nonsense he wishes over the exceptionalism template and we will remain virtually unchanged in a cultural sense. I agree. A little more “progressive” in our tax and spending policies perhaps. But it will take a lot more than universal health insurance or card check legislation to destroy what has taken 400 years to build. The problem is, it is not Obama’s policies per se that are necessarily “radical” but rather the ways and means he will achieve them.

But I think Farrell is missing one part of the argument - the practical political effect of Obama’s transformative agenda. This is where the real “change” will occur - a change that will fundamentally alter the relationship between the governed and the governors. For this, we must look to the last American president who attempted transformation - Ronald Reagan.

At bottom, Reagan’s revolution was also firmly grounded in a non-radical departure from existing practice. Reagan did not repeal the Great Society or the New Deal. Social spending skyrocketed under his leadership, anywhere from 3-5% above inflation. Part of this was the fact that he was dealing with a Democratic majority in the House (and, for the last two years, the Senate). The traditional guarantors of aid to the poor made sure there was plenty of funding available to take care of their dependent constituency. Reagan managed to cut the rate of growth as a percentage of GDP in social spending, nothing more - a not inconsequential achievement given the spending trajectory we had been on in the 1970’s.

But even beyond that, Reagan’s “revolution” altered the national conversation on entitlements, bringing some much needed realism and perspective to the debate. Whether this caused a backlash or was itself a product of middle class resentment I will let the historians duke it out to discover the truth of the matter. I don’t see President Obama trying to bring us back to the days when the only question about entitlements was “How much more do we spend?” That part of the Reagan legacy seems secure and may be a starting point to finally come to grips with the frightening prospect of stupdendous social security and medicare outlays 20 years down the road that could literally bankrupt us (if Obama doesn’t beat the clock and do it sooner).

Further, Obama is not going to “undo” the Reagan tax revolution, not when 48 million Americans are paying no taxes at all and the marginal rates he proposes will still fall far short of the rates in place when Reagan took office. Again, Reagan’s tax policies were not really radical in retrospect (Bush’s tax cuts fit that bill nicely) but the changed perspective on taxation - influenced by the California tax revolt that was occurring at the same time - may have been radical in the sense that it reversed 50 years of thinking about taxation. Seeing taxes as personal property and that the government that confiscates the least, governs the best may have to undergo some slight adjustments given our current deficits but the overarching belief that low taxes are a beneficial model for our government will outlast Obama.

So the question of how radical Obama’s policies might be must be seen in the context of politics and history. While grounded, as Farrell rightly points out, in practices and theories of the past, the “remaking” of America that I and others see in Obama’s policies have more to do with a psychological barrier being broken with regards to government intervention in the economy and the resulting alteration of the national conversation about the efficacy of statist solutions to a myriad of social problems. Not France and yet, not America as we have known it either. I realize that “change” is what people voted for but did they vote for the kind of Middle Class dependency that some of Obama’s policies would seem to promote? I struggled with this question in a post I wrote last month, “If Government Makes Life Easier, Does That Make it Better?”

The transformation of American society from one that values liberty to one that embraces dependency has taken longer than any other western nation. This has largely been due to American conservatisms steadfast refusal to abandon what Kirk calls the “voluntary community” in favor of the stifling hand of collectivism. Where once only the poor felt the deadening hand of statism which created a permanent underclass, destroyed the family, and smothered ambition, now the middle class is in line to be granted similar attention…

Liberals do not like to discuss the loss of freedom their collectivist ideas entail. But we are clearly in an era where choices are to be limited for the middle class in order to make life less of a burden . And any society that limits choice, limits freedom.

But isn’t this what the people want, what they are demanding? How can you live in a democracy and tell people that government acting to make your life easier is wrong and that the alternative - struggling to make the right choices for yourself and your family and where not choosing wisely might cost you - is the preferred, indeed the “American” way of self sufficiency and taking responsibility for your own life?

There is nothing noble in suffering but I would posit the notion that independence is, in and of itself, enobling and in any society that values freedom, the slide into dependency cannot be allowed without a recognition of what we lose as well as what is gained. There are 400 years of struggle behind us to create a society where the individual took responsibility for his own well being and that of his family, his fortunes rising or falling based on his native abilities and talents. The reward was “an earned life” of personal satisfaction and a feeling of self worth and accomplishment that you simply cannot experience if you depend on government for as much as we do today. Or as much as we will in the near future if more of our freedoms are given up in the name of personal security and comfort.

Farrell does not believe that kind of “rugged individualism” is at stake in an Obama presidency. I believe it is. I believe the real transformation that Obama’s ideas and policies represent might not make us into a France (which isn’t really the point) but will result in a different kind of America - one that is inconsistent with our founding and an anathema to conservative (traditional) principles upon which we have built a society unique among men. And what I find despicable is the president and his cohorts using the “opportunity” of an economic crisis to bring about these transformative policies by subterfuge. They wouldn’t fly otherwise and they know it.

Give us a stand up fight without resorting to political tricks of fear mongering and partisan bitchery and I would guarantee the bulk of Americans would be standing with us and not the president.

By: Rick Moran at 7:41 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (25)

3/11/2009
THE CARTERIZATION OF OBAMA

They were just whispers a couple of weeks ago - a hint there, a question here. But if you believe Howard Fineman, the inside the beltway crowd has taken the mettle of our new president and discovered that despite all the hype, Obama may not be all he’s cracked up to be.

I hasten to add that this has not and probably will not affect his enormous personal popularlity anytime soon. The mass of citizens have more common sense than the elites and a lot more patience as well. But to people who follow politics as a religion and look for signs and portents as a soothsayer would look for harbingers in the entrails of a frog, there are a few things to be worried about when looking at our president’s performance so far.

What has he done in 50 days? He has proposed much and accomplished some. The primal push of his presidency - the stimulus bill - is getting it from both sides with conservatives deriding it as pork while liberals already saying it wasn’t big enough. This is something we better get used to from the left because they area establishing the parameters of debate when the ultimate let down occurs and it is shown that Obama’s massive spending is not working. The battle cry will be “not enough!” rather than “let’s try something else!”

But why not enough? Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, and even President Obama himself have all used the exact same phrase to describe their approach to governance in these times of economic hardship; “In crisis, there is opportunity.” I am convinced this phrase will come back to haunt them because if the first stimulus bill wasn’t enough to get the economy moving, it was because it was loaded up with “opportunity” spending that had nothing to do with economic recovery and everything to do with remaking America. In other words, a great deal of the spending in the stimulus package was discretionary and not crisis-related.

And now Obama wants to come back for more? For hundreds of billions that will be for “real” stimulus?” He’s got to be kidding. What this shows is a frightening prospect; Obama cares less about economic recovery than he does about changing America to reflect his left wing vision.

This is also born out in how he has established his priorities. At Obama’s first press conference, he refused to discuss what his administration was going to do about the banking crisis because he “didn’t want to steal any thunder” from his Treasury Secretary who was going to announce the plan the next day.

This was a lie. There was no “thunder” to steal because his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had no plan to announce. Once that became apparent, the markets began a serious slide to oblivion. And here we are more than 5 weeks later and Geithner is still mum about his plans to save the banks. This is causing not only a lack of confidence but has opened the Administration up to questions about their basic competence. It has made Geithner a butt of jokes and has even led to calls in some quarters for his resignation.

Did Obama think we wouldn’t notice? Did he believe that people would simply forget his promise to have a plan? And here is where wildly misplaced priorities come into play. The fact is, the key to this whole economic mess is getting the banks to lend money again. Obama could pass 10 stimulus bills and it wouldn’t make a difference because as long as credit is frozen, our economy will continue its free fall.

This begs the obvious question; why did the Obama Administration choose to try and pass the stimulus bill before solving the banking crisis? Why didn’t they concentrate on that fundamental problem rather than ram an $800 billion spending free for all down our throats when even its supporters say didn’t contain enough money to immediately stimulate the economy? Shouldn’t they have been working from the first hours after the election on trying to solve the problem that, more than any other factor, could lead to a catastrophe for our nation and the world?

Or was it more important to take advantage of the “opportunity” found in the crisis to fund liberal programs that the president feels will remake America?

Obama claims he can work on more than one problem at a time:

“I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time,” Obama stated today. “They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a Depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.”

As Jules Crittenden points out, Roosevelt needed the war to get out of the depression. And Kennedy? I know Obama went to Columbia and all but Holy Smokes! Kennedy hardly “chose” civil rights - it was forced on him by the courage of the Freedom Riders and the demonstrations in Selma and elsewhere. Kennedy was furious with King for forcing his hand and sicced Bobby on him to try and get him to pull back. Also, as Jules points out, civil rights and the moon program together did not cost the government even a tenth of a stimulus bill in today’s dollars.

That’s beside the point, however. Yes, presidents can and should deal with more than one problem at a time. But Barack Obama is starting to look suspiciously like Jimmy Carter who tried to do so much those first 3 months that he ended up accomplishing very little. This description of Obama by Howard Fineman is eerily Carteresque:

Obama may be mistaking motion for progress, calling signals for a game plan. A busy, industrious overachiever, he likes to check off boxes on a long to-do list. A genial, amenable guy, he likes to appeal to every constituency, or at least not write off any. A beau ideal of Harvard Law, he can’t wait to tackle extra-credit answers on the exam.

But there is only one question on this great test of American fate: can he lead us away from plunging into another Depression?

Carter was so desperate to be liked and yet, ended up being universally despised because he ineptly used the powers at his command. What do you call a president who puts economic recovery as a secondary goal in a deep recession while being unable to come to grips with the fundamental reasons for the downturn?

Inept? Incompetent? Misguided? In over his head?

Fineman:

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America. Much of what they are saying is contradictory, but all of it is focused on the president:

  • The $787 billion stimulus, gargantuan as it was, was in fact too small and not aimed clearly enough at only immediate job-creation.
  • The $275 billion home-mortgage-refinancing plan, assembled by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is too complex and indirect.
  • The president gave up the moral high ground on spending not so much with the “stim” but with the $400 billion supplemental spending bill, larded as it was with 9,000 earmarks.
  • The administration is throwing good money after bad in at least two cases-the sinkhole that is Citigroup (there are many healthy banks) and General Motors (they deserve what they get).
  • The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to “give up” something.
  • A willingness to give too much leeway to Congress to handle crucial details, from the stim to the vague promise to “reform” medical care without stating what costs could be cut.
  • A 2010 budget that tries to do far too much, with way too rosy predictions on future revenues and growth of the economy. This led those who fear we are about to go over Niagara Falls to deride Obama as a paddler who’d rather redesign the canoe.
  • A treasury secretary who has been ridiculed on “Saturday Night Live” and compared to Doogie Howser, Barney Fife and Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone”-and those are the nice ones.
  • A seeming paralysis in the face of the banking crisis: unwilling to nationalize banks, yet unable to figure out how to handle toxic assets in another way-by, say, setting up a “bad bank” catch basin.

There’s more at the link but you get the idea. We are, for all intents and purposes, adrift and at sea with the president’s answer to every problem to spend more, borrow more, and use the crisis as an opportunity to tear at the fabric of our founding. The Administration is frozen about what to do with banks that are teetering on the edge of insolvency (along with the entire banking system) and appear not to be focusing on the chaos their incomprehensible delay in proposing solutions to solve the problem is causing. Instead, we get nonsense about comparing the stock market to tracking polls rather than a vote of “no confidence” in Obama’s plans - or lack thereof.

Are these just the growing pains that all presidents go through when they first take office? I’m sure some of this can be ascribed to that notion. It is, after all, still very early in Obama’s term. And I would hardly write off one so gifted so easily.

But Jimmy Carter was also seen as brilliant, a super technocrat who could answer the question of the day, “Is the presidency too big for one man?” It took Reagan - chuckling and snoozing his way through history - to definitively answer that question; it depends on the man.

To those who read the signs of this administration, the question is not if the presidency is too big for one man but whether the man currently occupying the office is up to the challenges that face us.

The jury is still out on whether or not he is.

By: Rick Moran at 6:57 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (25)

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By: Rick Moran at 4:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)