Archive | April, 2009

Palin is on Twitter… Shark=jumped.

30 Apr

palin-watch

This is the equivalent to watching your mom join Facebook…if your mom were a lighting rod for praise, hatred, and lust by millions across the globe.

Follow away!

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The Specter Aftermath

30 Apr

You can take the Arlen out of the party, but you can’t take the sonuvabitch out of Arlen. Republicans are still licking their wounds after Specter left them behind like an annoying prom date, but they might have cracked a small smile after hearing he voted against Obama’s budget. No matter where he goes he will always be a thorn. The question now is, how will the GOP cope with one less Senate seat and one more step toward ideological purity?

After Specter’s switch (some call it a bait-and-switch) on Tuesday, both parties are charged with emotion. Republicans have resorted to finger-pointing and “told-you-so” accusations. Some blame right-wing groups like the Club for Growth, whose president, Pat Toomney, challenged and narrowly lost to Specter 6 years ago. Others blame the Republican party’s quest for ideological purity. Senators like Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham are calling the GOP’s self-inflicted purge a “losing” strategy.

And who’s one to argue? The Republican party is still in shock, and when in shock people do illogical things, like turn losing an election into losing future elections. (According to David Brooks, a couple more will do the trick.) A few other blame Specter himself. Karl Rove, the Brain to Bush’s Pinky, blamed Specter for not having used the last 6 years to “cement himself” against people like Toomney. This would make sense, if the reality of just being the Republican on the ballot didn’t make you the long shot in a Blue state like Pennsylvania. Rove assumes being the most Republican (i.e. conservative) man on the ballot guarantees a welcome outcome. The Republican brand is tainted; the morale is hyperventilating; the GOP is running around praying for a miracle.

Democrats couldn’t be anymore full of themselves. The party that was swirled around like bad coffee 6 years ago is now skipping along into their offices while whistling Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Obama and Biden are jockeying for who should take credit for Specter’s move, but they do it with an ear to ear grin.

If only it were so easy. Another Democratic seat in the Senate (potentially two more if Franken ever gets seated)would make many believe Congress will become a rubber stamp for Obama’s proposals. Hardly. Organizing Democrats to do anything is like herding cats–political cats, with their own egos and agendas to look after. Historically, a one-party Congress and White House duo never lives up to its potential. Even when George Bush had the three-branch power play he failed to push through big policy proposals like immigration reform, the privatization of Social Security, and simplifying the tax code. During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, even though he had 74 Democrats in the Senate and 67% of the House, the relationship between Congress and the Presidency soon became acrimonious and ineffective. This may be a blessing for Obama’s most ambitious projects, but only if he has learned from the mistakes of his predecessors.

Republicans need to start rethinking their mission statement. Specter doesn’t reflect Republican sentiment, but independent/moderate America’s sentiment. Independents and moderates flocked to Obama throughout his primary and national campaign. They weren’t attracted by his policy on this and that thing, but on his overall outlook on the challenges ahead. His liberal pragmatism made him the safest choice. Many Republicans think the only way to fight Obama and the Democrats is to reflect the polar opposite, and that is why they are currently nothing more than the contrarian party. Saying “No!” to everything becomes annoying very quickly–just ask any parent of a 6 year-old.

If not recoil and assume a fetal position, what should the Republicans do now that they face political irrelevance? They need to answer one simple question: Who can be a Republican? Will they be a “big tent” party, or a monastery of conservative ideologues? From the chatter going on between the heavyweights, it appears these are the only two options they are considering. Moderate Republicans like Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins(R-ME),  Governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) and Charlie Chris (FL), and others who want to be faithful to the party without being surrounded by watered down rank-and-file or hard-liners are being pushed away by the decision makers. They are one nudge away from pulling a Specter and securing their sanity and political viability with a D after their name. Don’t they get it yet?

First 100 Days: Done. Now What?

29 Apr

I tried to get a feel for what the major news outlets are saying about Obama’s first 100 Days. Ever since FDR, the first 100 days of a president’s term are considered to set the pace and tone of the rest of their tenure. Of course, during FDR’s first term, amidst the Great Depression and dust bowl-type public morale, his 100 days had to change gears. In the end FDR essentially changed cars, setting a whirlwind pace of transformative legislation never seen thereafter–until now.

All commentators and editorial boards agree: Obama has changed things. Not only did he embark (and survive) the busiest 100 days since the 4-term Roosevelt, but his 100 has changed the tone coming from the White House. George Bush used his first 100 days in both terms to demand respect and attention. Bush claimed an unquestionably victory in 2001, and undeniable “political capital” in 2005. He treated his first 100 as he did the rest of his time at the White House. with stubborn hubris.

But Obama is being a much better guest than Bush, even with the opposition, something Bush was never able to overcome. He has frequently invited Republican leaders to chat, dined with conservative columnists, and added Bushies to his cabinet. At the same time, Obama has no qualms letting everyone know who the most popular guy in the room is (“this guy”). People privy to private meetings between the prez and opposition leaders often account how Obama listens, nods, and respects, but almost always comes back with a reminder of who won the election. “I am the president,” is something Obama has often reminded Republicans, according to these sources. In all, Obama has played nice and shared his toys while letting everyone know he knows he is mommy’s favorite.

His legislative achievements up to this point are very good, if not great in any other set of circumstances. In 100 days, Obama has reversed many controversial policies enacted by his predecessor, such as Gitmo, torture, climate change, and foreign policy with Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. Obama created and successfully pushed through a passive Congress the largest spending bill in the nation’s history. Obama has micromanaged monstrous issues simultaneously, such as the restructuring of the auto industry, Wall Street’s recovery and penance, and taming anti-Americanism abroad. He is sticking to his pledge to tackle the 500-lbs gorillas all at the same time. In his and his staff’s eyes, this is the worst of times and the best of times (in that order).

These achievements are in addition to the smaller emergencies he has a heavy hand in, like the capture of the Maersk Alabama captain by Somali pirates, and the Special Olympics joke when on The Tonight Show. Sure, that counts as an emergency.

Obama should feel very proud of his presidency so far. His ambition is only matched by his boundless curiosity and steady composure. He has had some trip-ups, but much like his campaign, he knows how to bounce back in better shape than before.

It’s somewhat unreal to remind myself that he has only been in office for a little over 3 months. He still has over 3 and a half years to go. Obama shows no sign of slowing down, either. He is already preparing for a healthcare battle that he is poised to win. His organizational skills are very impressive. So far, Obama’s forces look ten times more powerful and disciplined than Bill and Hillary Clinton’s did over 15 years ago. Obama is also moving his focus a bit to Pakistan and back again to Iraq. The stability of both of these countries is in doubt, and with the possession of nuclear weapons and increasing incidence of suicide bombings, respectively, these two will definitely become centerpieces to his Middle East policies.

President Obama has been often compared to President Kennedy, FDR, and Lincoln, but those comparisons don’t gel well enough with his style. Obama shares many qualities with these great men, but he performs in a way that is most similar to Ronald Reagan. Obama admires Reagan’s “transformative” persona, and he is to be channeling that right now. Using his charm and popularity, Obama is making unlikely coalitions, adding unthought of allies (hello, Arlen Specter), and following a strategy that may seem mild at the moment, but will bring astounding set of changes within his first term. Obama is poised to become something like Reagan, but Reagan never had to face the slew of challenges Obama has on his desk at the same time. This may make Obama greater than him if he keeps up this pace.

The First 100 Days of Presidential Cuddling

28 Apr

Forget what you read on Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal. The only true way to judge President Obama’s first 100 days is by looking at pictures where he an Michelle show some PDA. From The Daily Beast, some lovey-doveyness.

In contrast to the “I’m sorry, I have a headache” relationship George and Laura exhibit, and the “OK, stay in your space, please” image Bill and Hillary will forever be stuck with, Barack and Michelle act like a couple of high school sweethearts. Barack’s Hawaii Zen and Michelle’s Chicago Fiestiness make it all work, I suppose (and they make most marriages around the country jealous, I am sure).

Specter (PA) to Switch To Dems

28 Apr

Surprising everyone and jolting Senate minority leaders Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl, Arlen Specter, the moderate Republican, is switching over to the Democratic party.

With currently only 41 votes in the Senate, the GOP is being hit hard with this move. Not only will this leave them with just 40 votes, meaning every single one of them would have to vote Nay to block a bill proposed by the Democrats, but it also makes the Minnesota seat one they cannot lose.

From Politico:

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties so he can run in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, abandoning his party because he does not want to be “judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.”

Specter, in a Tuesday afternoon statement, said he knows his supporters will be disappointed, but says he is “willing to take all comers” in his Senate race

Will the Rich Go on Trial?

27 Apr

The public’s outrage at what a group of greedy few have made of our economy is prompting some to think the rich will go on trial. Specifically, the rich bankers, hedge fund managers, CEOs, and investment firms who that are at the epicenter of the Great Recession.

Similar to the Pecora Commission after the crash of 1929, some believe an independent commission with subpoena power is currently not out of reach. Recent amendments calling for a deeper probe of what led to the economy’s sputtering as well as anti-fraud measures may lead to the wealthy going on trial.

Ferdinand Pecora, a cunning immigrant from Sicily, and former Manhattan assistant District Attorney, led the investigation against the likes of JP Morgan Jr., and Charles “Sunshine Charley” Mitchell, the head of then First National City Bank (now CitiGroup). His cross-examination skills, memory for facts, figures, people, and dates, and the backing of Americans’ anger, helped Pecora make these giants confess to a litany of sins.

The Pecora hearings resulted in 12,000 pages of transcripts that are still a primary source for historians of the Great Crash, and important New Deal legislation that for the first time regulated the high-handed, free-wheeling banking industry and protected the public from its excesses — including the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (which established the Securities and Exchange Commission — Pecora was one of its first commissioners) and the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933, which erected a firewall between commercial and investment banking — a wall torn down during the Clinton administration, leading to much of our trouble today.

Does the country need to put the financial elite on trial? Signals show that Obama may be more than willing to forgive and forget.

From Salon.

Harry Reid knew Obama had "It" all along

27 Apr

Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), is coming out with a new book: The Good Fight. Last January, he was well aware that any new book dealing with politics in the United States must have AT LEAST 15 pages dedicated to loving/trashing/analyzing Obama. So he did just that and wrote a 15-page epilogue titled, “The Obama Era.”

Here are some cute/insightful stories from Harry’s tell-some:

The Majority Leader recalls Obama as a freshman senator giving “an unusually fine speech” about President Bush’s war policy.

“That speech was phenomenal, Barack,” Reid said.

“And I will never forget his response,” Reid writes. “Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: ‘I have a gift, Harry.’ In the Bible, we are told that all men are given different gifts. And we see it in every field, from art to science, academia to athletics. Some are great; others are gifted. We were all about to learn just what a gift Barack Obama had.”

As Justin Timberlake likes to say, it isn’t really cocky if you know that it’s true.

Here is Harry recalling the zany, Benny Hill-esque instance when McCain decided to suspend his campaign to “save” our economy:

On Wednesday, September 24, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., phoned Reid and told him, “Harry, I am suspending my campaign to come back and help negotiate a deal.”  McCain explained that he was also calling upon Obama to suspend his campaign, and together they could convene a meeting at the Bush White House to help come to a deal on a bailout for Wall Street.

Reid didn’t think it was such a great idea, given that negotiations were well underway, with Democratic leaders of the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee working with White House and Treasury Department officials.

“They were on the verge of an agreement, and any such McCain stunt would cost us valuable time,” writes Reid, also noting that McCain “had no standing to do any such negotiating. He was neither a member of the pertinent committees, nor did he have any particular expertise, nor was he of influence with rebellious Republicans who were openly opposing the plan.”

“John, please don’t come,” Reid says he told the GOP presidential nominee. “I’ve just issued a statement. I’ll read it to you. ‘This is a critical time for our country. While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis. I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.”

“That’s how I feel, John,” Reid said.

“I hope you’ll reconsider, Harry,” McCain responded.

Almost immediately, Reid writes, he got another call, this time from then-Sen. Obama.

“Harry, what’s John up to?” Obama said. “It sounds crazy.”

The White House meeting happened, of course, and Reid writes that the Democrats “entered the Cabinet Room having decided that Barack would do most of the talking on behalf of the Democrats. His presentation—eloquent, thoughtful, and commanding—was devoid of politics, and as he spoke, without notes, expertly dissecting how we had gotten ourselves in the situation, outlining the myriad problems before us and making the case for imperative action, the room was rapt. The senior staff lined the walls of the room, and the chief of staff for a senior Republican senator could be heard to whisper to a colleague: ‘He is good.’

“Obama concluded his remarks. ‘Yesterday, Senator McCain and I issued a joint statement, saying in one voice that this is no time to be playing politics,’ he said. ‘And on the way here, we were on the brink of a deal. Now, there are those who think we should start from scratch. . . . If we are indeed starting over, the consequences could well be severe.”

President Bush turned to McCain who suggested someone else should speak instead, Reid writes. “The longer I am around here, the more I respect seniority.”

“And then, as the meeting that he had called disintegrated into acrimony and disunion, John McCain remained silent,” Reid writes. “I don’t think that there was a person in that room, Democrat or Republican—with the possible exception of John McCain—who came away from that meeting thinking that Barack Obama shouldn’t be the next president of the United States.”

From Political Punch.

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