Sunday, November 30, 2008


Bush’s going-away presents
In a burst of activity meant to leave a lasting stamp on the federal government, the Bush White House in the past month has approved 61 new regulations on environmental, security, social and commercial matters . . .
The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job. . . .


Pardon alert

I always think it’s interesting when governors of either party, having to face real problems on the ground and make solutions work, converge on very similar and less ideological policy views. Today’s example: energy

Thinking Big
Democratic Congressional leaders and the nascent Obama administration are moving quickly to assert control over federal policy, aiming to have economic, health and spending legislation waiting on the new president’s desk almost the minute he gets back down Pennsylvania Avenue from the inauguration.

Given the severity of the problems facing the nation, officials on Capitol Hill and in the Obama team say Democrats have put their schedule on fast-forward . . .

Big, big, big
Barack Obama’s picks for Cabinet and other senior posts are many things: centrists, veterans, rivals. Most of all, though, they’re big: big names, big intellects, and big egos.

The president-elect’s national security and economic policy teams, inside the White House and out, will be led by power politics veterans, all but one of them older than the president-elect, and all accustomed to being the most important voice in the room.

While official announcements and Senate confirmations await, it appears that on national security decisions, Obama will have a team of heavyweights: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice President Joe Biden, retired four-star Marine general Jim Jones as his National Security Adviser, and four-star General David Petraeus as chief of U.S. Central Command.

His economic team is of similar stature: new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will find his rival for the job, Larry Summers, in the White House, while former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker will also be in the mix as head of a new economic recovery advisory board.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel seems unlikely to be shy about his views in either arena. . . .

Who is James Jones (Obama’s pick for National Security Adviser)? No one seems to know very much

Can Obama establish himself as a credible Commander in Chief?
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went unarmed into his first meeting with the new commander in chief -- no aides, no PowerPoint presentation, no briefing books. Summoned nine days ago to President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago transition office, Mullen showed up with just a pad, a pen and a desire to take the measure of his incoming boss. . . .


The attacks in Mumbai draw attention to the larger mess between India and Pakistan
[Dday] The attacks in Mumbai are grisly enough, and it's a relief that they appear to be coming to an end. But the question over involvement of Pakistani groups has the potential to make things much, much worse, and really cripple any hope of stability in the region. . . .
As evidence mounts that last week’s attacks in Mumbai may have originated on Pakistani soil, American officials’ aggressive campaign to strike at militants in Pakistan may complicate efforts to prevent an Indian military response, which could lead to a conflict between the bitter enemies. . . .


Obama’s Senate replacement?

Center-left/center-right: the debate rages on

I hope the Big Thinkers of the GOP keep coming up with advice like this. Just learn to use the Internet better. (When their real problem is bad candidates, bad policies, and a bad record of governing.) Hey guys, I shouldn’t offer this advice but: it’s not the marketing, it’s the product

More big thinking about what ails the GOP: make it smaller, more conservative, and more ideologically pure
[Mark Sanford, R-SC] I make that point because there’s a real temptation in Republican circles right now to try and be all things to all people. We tried that already — it was called “compassionate conservatism,” and it got us nowhere. . . . [read on!]


The pundits: so often wrong, but never discredited
[Peggy Noonan, 2006] [T]he Democratic Party seems to be near imploding, and for that most humiliating of reasons: its meaninglessness. Republicans are at least arguing over their meaning.

The venom is bubbling on websites like Kos, where Tuesday afternoon, after the Alito vote, various leftists wrote in such comments as "F--- our democratic leaders," "Vichy Democrats" and "F--- Mary Landrieu, I hope she drowns." The old union lunch-pail Democrats are dead, the intellects of the Kennedy and Johnson era retired or gone, and this--I hope she drowns--seems, increasingly, to be the authentic voice of the Democratic base.

How will a sane, stable, serious Democrat get the nomination in 2008 when these are the activists to whom the appeal must be made?

Advice not taken: a hilarious look back
[Heritage Foundation, 2001] President-elect George W. Bush laid out a dream and a remarkably detailed policy agenda during his election campaign, with proposals ranging from substantial reform of Social Security and Medicare to ambitious changes in federal education policy and ways to reduce the historically high tax burden on the American people. . . . [read on, and laugh!]

Rupert Murdoch dislikes Fox News (especially Bill O’Reilly)

Sunday talk show line-ups
NBC Meet The Press: First Lady Laura Bush, Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United States Said Jawad and Ted Turner, Author, "Call Me Ted"

ABC This Week: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) of the Armed Services Committee and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) of the Foreign Relations Committee. A roundtable with ABC News' Matthew Dowd, Donna Brazile, Torie Clark, and George Will.

CBS Face the Nation: "A Look At An Historic Election: Annual Books and Authors Show" with authors Bob Woodward, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Eric Dyson and Jane Mayer.

CNN Late Edition: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst, Sajjan Gohel, director of international security, Asia-Pacific Foundation, Ron Gettelfinger, UAW President, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, Commander, Multi-National Division-North, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist, CNN political contributor, James Carville, Democratic strategist; CNN political contributor, David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst; former presidential adviser, Amy Walter, CNN political contributor; editor-in-chief, The Hotline, Ed Henry, CNN White House correspondent, Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.

Bonus item: Follow-up on the Confederate flag story from yesterday

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Saturday, November 29, 2008


“Bush’s Greatness”

Bush thinks so too:

Sure enough, the Bushian ploy of holding back a translation of the Iraq SOFA agreement (because they want to be able to claim after the fact that it means something different from what Iraq thought it was agreeing to) has undermined the SOFA’s legitimacy on both sides of the agreement. They can’t even avoid screwing up the END of the war they started

Wingers still believe that an infatuated media vaulted Obama into office – ergo they are convinced that the same media will bring him down. They still haven’t come to grips with why he won, and why they lost{02E39668-FF76-4780-9FA4-BCD109D90773}
[Jon Friedman] I'm starting to feel a little guilty about the media's treatment of President-elect Barack Obama -- and I may not be the only one.
Chalk it up to a phenomenon I'd like to call "Obama-remorse." You know how you feel buyer's remorse after you've spent a lot of dough on some big-ticket item, only to realize that you might have made a mistake? Well, it's going to happen to the president-elect as well. . . .


Another example: now the Right thinks all they need is a better Internet strategy
[Kos] Now it's conservatives' turn to plead for their side to emulate our machine. Yet here's the funny thing -- their machine is still bigger and better funded than ours. If I could trade Daily Kos for Fox News and the entire AM radio dial, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd make some major changes at those media outlets, of course (beyond a change of ideology), most of them dealing with how they interact with their audiences online, but really, their problem isn't that they don't have an equivalent to Daily Kos or MoveOn, their problem is that their ideas suck, and now progressives have enough of a machine to counteract their lies and smears.

Remember, a party predicated on the notion that government sucks and can't do anything right can't possibly run an administration that doesn't suck and can do anything right. Competent conservative governance would instantly invalidate conservatism's core tenets. That's why Bush named horse lawyers to FEMA, and why fourth-tier law school grads have infested every corner of the Justice Department. . . .


Why we still don’t have proper oversight of the bailout
[Zachary Roth] Earlier this month, the Bush administration nominated Neil Barofsky, a federal prosecutor, to be the Treasury Department's special inspector general on the bailout program. That's a crucial post, given the astronomical sums at issue, the broad authority that Treasury has been given to distribute them, the concerns that have been raised about possible conflicts of interest, and the general urgency of our efforts to prevent an economic collapse.

So you'd think Congress would be doing everything it could to get Barofsky confirmed right away. You'd be wrong.

Last week, Sen. Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the banking committee, issued a little-noticed statement saying that although the nomination "was cleared by members of the Senate Banking Committee, the leadership of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and all Democratic Senators," it was "blocked on the floor by at least one Republican member."

More bailout screw-ups:

Bringing science back into government
Few federal agencies are expected to undergo as radical a transformation under President-elect Barack Obama as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, which have been at the epicenter of many of the Bush administration's most intense scientific and environmental controversies. . . .

Karl Rove (remember him?), still giving Obama unwanted and unneeded advice


Update on the Coleman/Franken recount in Minnesota

Bonus item: The kind of people they are (thanks to Digby for the link)
[Arkansas Democrat-Gazette] Barack Obama’s presidential victory upset James and Linda Vandiver.

So, on election night, the couple — owners of the historic Faubus Motel in downtown Huntsville — walked outside, lowered Old Glory and raised the Confederate battle flag in its place.

It’s remained there ever since, flying high in silent protest of election to the nation’s highest office a politician the pair says is a “Marxist.” . . .

The Vandivers said they didn’t raise the Rebel flag to protest a black man moving into the White House, as many of their neighbors assume. Instead, they did it because they believe the country has abandoned the principles of its founders by electing Obama.

Linda Vandiver said the Democrat is a Marxist who wants to turn America into a socialist country.

Obama wants to redistribute wealth by raising taxes on the rich, create a universal healthcare system and institute a global tax aimed at eliminating worldwide poverty, she said.

“We think socialism is deeply rooted in him, and we’ll see it manifest in all areas,” Linda Vandiver said. “This doesn’t have anything to do with despising Mr. Obama’s color. We’d like to celebrate the fact that for the first time we have a black president. But we can’t.” Obama is also a friend to terrorists, James Vandiver said, referring to Obama’s association with William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground. The group bombed public buildings during the 1970 s.

“If Obama was just a regular Joe Citizen, he would not be able to get security clearance to get in the White House,” James Vandiver asserted. “This is the only way I know to send a message to the people of our country that we are in protest of someone like this being in the position of president.” . . .

For Steve Maher of Whorton Creek near Huntsville, the Rebel flag is an “offensive symbol.” Maher wrote to the Record that townsfolk should boycott the motel, the City Council should condemn the action publicly and the town chamber of commerce should revoke the Vandivers ’ membership.

“I respect the freedom of speech, but this symbol of racism can’t be allowed to represent our community,” Maher wrote. “If we do nothing, we are silently supporting or at least accepting the symbolism of that flag.” For Loy Mauch of Bismarck in Hot Spring County, the Confederate flag is a symbol of America’s Christian roots, from which he believes the nation has strayed.

“The government has lost its moral authority over God-fearing Americans and I wish more patriots like James Vandiver would take their stand for what the Confederate Battle Flag truly symbolizes,” Mauch wrote. . . .

Heath Bradley, pastor of Huntsville United Methodist Church, asked his congregation the Sunday after the flag first flew to send the Vandivers letters asking them to lower it. He’s also called for the Vandivers to take the flag down in a posting on his church Web log.

“Regardless of his motivations, it’s going to be seen as a racist symbol,” Bradley said “And as followers of Jesus, we feel any symbol of racism... cuts against the grain of our faith.” “We do see it as a blemish on our town.” However, James Vandiver said all the feedback he’s gotten has been positive.

Steven Fowler, an accountant from nearby Alpena, which sits on the Boone-Carroll county line, called Vandiver to tell him that he supports what he’s doing after he read about it in the Record.

The Battle Flag of the Confederacy, with a version of St. Andrew’s cross emblazoned across it, is a symbol of Christianity first and foremost, Fowler said.

But it also represents the supremacy of the states over the federal government.

By flying it, Fowler said, the Vandivers are warning against an Obama presidency that he believes will expand the federal government by nationalizing health care, redistributing wealth and broadening the welfare system.

“And it’s not just Obama. [GOP candidate John] McCain would do the same thing. The trend is toward centralizing power,” Fowler said. “The [Confederate] flag is a symbol of defiance against tyranny and centralization of power. I urge everybody to learn what the flag truly represents and fly it.” Van Owens, the Arkansas chairman of the League of the South, called James Vandiver and offered him membership in the group after hearing about what he had done.

The league advocates peaceful Southern secession and “an end to federal tyranny in every area of our lives,” according to the group’s Web site. . . .

Vandiver didn’t join the league, Owens said, but will let him advertise his motel at no cost on the group’s Web site.

Owens flies a Confederate flag at his home in Mammoth Spring in Fulton County. He said he considers himself a Confederate American being held against his will by an oppressive federal government.

Owens said he thinks the majority of people in Huntsville understand why the Vandivers are flying the flag and have no problem with it — they’re just afraid to say so.

“There was a time when Americans were free to do what they wanted. But now we have to measure up to some politically correct ideal,” Owens said. “People ought to take [James Vandiver] at his word. He has a right to make a statement against a political figure.” Linda Vandiver wrote in a letter to the Record printed Wednesday that blacks, gays, Democrats — even liberal filmmaker Michael Moore — are all afforded a right to freedom of speech and political protest. So why not white, Southern Christians who are disenchanted with the incoming administration ?

“Our statement in raising the flag is ‘ Barack Obama is not our president, ’” Linda Vandiver said in an interview. . . .

How long will the protest go on?

James Vandiver wouldn’t say.

That’s up to God and the American people, the hotel’s proprietor said.


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Friday, November 28, 2008


What the hell is happening in Mumbai?
[Deena Guzder] Most Americans were shocked to learn that coordinated terrorist attacks struck the heart of Mumbai, India's commercial capital on Wednesday evening. After all, India is not Iraq or Afghanistan or even Pakistan. According to pundits such as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, India is a shining capitalist success story and the next global superpower. In the pro-globalization narrative, India's eager-beaver working class has benefited greatly from neoliberal economic policies. . . . [read on]
[Mark Kleiman] The important context for the Mumbai bombings must surely be the peace initiative launched by the Pakistani President earlier in the week and seemingly moved forward by a meeting of the two foreign ministers yesterday. That makes the obvious suspects the folks who have the strongest interests in keeping India and Pakistan at daggers drawn: the Pakistani ISI (which Zardari had already stripped of its role in domestic politics) has to be the prime suspect, and apparently India has such suspicions. But there's also the Pakistani military, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Hindu nationalists.

Of all the things that might conceivably happen in the next few months, it's hard to imagine one that would be a bigger win for U.S. long-term interests than a rapprochement between India and Pakistan. . . . [read on]


The Status of Forces Agreement passes the Iraqi parliament. What does it mean?
[Juan Cole] Reuters reports that the Iraqi parliament passed the US-Iraqi security agreement, which stipulates that all US troops will be out of Iraq by 2011. of 275 members of parliament, 198 attended and 145 voted in favor. That means it barely passed from the point of view of an absolute majority, though it was a clear simple majority. Apparently the al-Maliki government bowed to Sunni Arab demands that the agreement be submitted to a national referendum, California-style. If that is true, it is possible that it could still be rejected by the Iraqi people. But al-Maliki got it through parliament by painting opponents as implicitly opposing a US withdrawal, and that campaign tactic may work with the general public, too. . . .
[Spencer Ackerman] According to AFP, the SOFA's passage comes thanks to the Sunni-mollifying proposal to hold a popular referendum in 2009 that gives the Iraqi people a chance to essentially move up the SOFA's deadline for a 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal. The final parliamentary maneuver was to move the schedule for that referendum up to May 30, 2009. What's that mean? . . .

The English translation (finally):

McClatchy reports the views of analysts who fear that al-Maliki may get too powerful in the wake of this victory. He is establishing tribal councils, which have a paramilitary element, and which some fear will become the prime minister's private militia, and might intimidate voters so as to strengthen al-Maliki's Da'wa Party. . . .
The USG Open Source Center translates a radio broadcast from The Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran praising the passage of the Security Agreement between Iraq and the US by the Iraqi parliament. The celebratory style shows that official Iran has swung behind the agreement as a tool for getting the US military out of their western neighbor. . . .

Did John Brennan get a raw deal from the left blogosphere?
[Spencer Ackerman] Glenn [Greenwald] has led the charge against John Brennan for being "an ardent supporter of torture." Without touching on Glenn's evidence, I looked at the case made by an anti-Brennan coalition and found it to be dubious. . . . [read on]

There is a raging debate over whether Obama and the Dems should press ahead with, basically, war crime trials for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. Torture, rendition, and imprisonment without charges or trial are serious crimes against humanity, condemned regularly here in this blog since its first days during the Abu Ghraib horrors.

Digby lays out the case below. She expresses the view, shared by many, that it is politically cynical to set aside these trials so that other aspects of Obama’s political and legislative agenda can take priority. She also utterly rejects the non-prosecutorial approach of some “Truth and Reconciliation” style panel (which would yield little truth and no reconciliation). Maybe so.

But criminalizing these actions, even though justified, would create a surprising backlash of sympathy and support for people who “went too far, but with the high motives of keeping America safe from another 9/11 attack.” Remember Ollie North, who EMBRACED the Iran/Contra charges against him, and became a national hero to many? (“I thought it was a pretty neat idea.”)

We have to remember that a sizable number of Americans, who might never admit it, secretly had little trouble with what was done to “those people,” just so long as they were kept safe from another 9/11. Then there is the murky issue of whether DOJ memos gave people the patina of legitimacy in BELIEVING that they were operating within the law. It would be a legal mess, caught up in courts and appeals for years – and driving every other issue off the front pages. The outcome? Likely acquittals, or (in the worst cases) pleas to lesser charges. Nuremberg it won’t be.

Meanwhile, call it cynical, but an historic opportunity to pass real reform, provide a fairer health care system, rebuild our country and put millions of people back to work, will be squandered. Obama’s legacy will be written around the narrative of partisan payback, not around building a new and possibly enduring national progressive consensus

Denial is a river . . .
[Victor Davis Hanson] George Bush is neither the source of all our ills nor the “worst” president in our history. He will leave office with about the same dismal approval rating as the once-despised Harry Truman. By 1953, the country loathed the departing Truman as much as they were ecstatic about newly elected national hero Dwight Eisenhower — who had previously never been elected to anything.

As for Bush’s legacy, it will be left to future historians to weigh his responsibility for keeping us safe from another 9/11-like attack for seven years, the now increasingly likely victory in Iraq, AIDS relief abroad, new expansions for Medicare, and federal support for schools versus the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, the error-plagued 2004-2007 occupation of Iraq, and out-of-control federal spending. As in the case of the once-unpopular Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman, Bush’s supposedly “worst” presidency could one day not look so bad in comparison with the various administrations that followed.

But these days even that modest assessment that things aren’t that bad — or all that different from the past — may well elicit a hysterical reaction from an increasingly hysterical generation.

I strongly support this man as head of the Republican party, and I hope they will organize all their resources behind a national campaign for Sarah Palin as their standard-bearer

Bonus item: Give thanks

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I have nothing to say here about the horrific attacks in Mumbai – but I did note that on the news coverage I watched, Obama’s statement appeared first, and was more strongly worded, than Bush’s

Good politics, good theater, good substance
[Emptywheel] In a really smart move, Obama is quickly pulling together a meeting between him and the nation's governors (and always the master of theater, he's holding it at Independence Hall in Philly). . . . [read on]

We’ve been covering the daily commentary on Obama's appointments, as people read every tea leaf for signs that Obama is shifting rightward. Maybe he is. But the fact is, his policy statements have all been very, very good: and he clearly has to cover his right flank in order to implement them. Josh puts it well, I think
[Josh Marshall] Though I might have chosen differently in one or two cases, overall, I'd say I'm very pleased with the announced or prospective nominees so far from Barack Obama. But for those who are more critical, I try to keep focusing everyone's attention back on the salient point. With a strong president, appointees, particularly cabinet appointees execute policy. They work for the president. They execute his policies. I think we have a strong president. And unless and until I see policies that don't square with the platform he ran on (which I don't expect) I see no reason to revise that judgment.

Here’s the way I’d put it: Obama isn’t shifting toward the center – the center is shifting toward Obama
[Nate Silver] There is, to say the least, a lot of jumping to conclusions about just which type of President Barack Obama is liable to be, by which I mean whether he'll govern from the left or the center. This speculation has been principally based on his cabinet appointments, a subject that people may be reading too much into. . . .

Most of this discussion, moreover, has dwelt in the realm of tactics, presentation and salesmanship rather than grand strategy. One can "govern from the center" and implement a number of liberal policies . . . [read on]

A to-do list for Obama

Interesting: finding something for Richard Holbrooke to do

Good news coming for FEMA

Bailouts, loans, loan guarantees – we’re hearing about federal spending in the trillions to stimulate the economy and backstop failing financial markets. But it’s different kinds of money. Here’s the full menagerie

Sarah Palin’s future
"I happen to think the media is up to a bit of mischief here. I think the media wants to take Sarah Palin and make her, subliminally, the face of the Republican party. They want to make her: this is what Republicans are, the face of the party, the leader of the party, because it amuses them to do that."

-- Former White House speechwriter Peggy Noonan, on MSNBC.

[Taegan Goddard] During the presidential election, Noonan was caught on a live microphone saying Sen. John McCain's pick of Palin doomed the Republican ticket.


Bad news for Al Franken
In a setback for Al Franken's chances in the Minnesota recount, the state canvassing board has just rejected the Franken camp's request that the board review the thousands of rejected absentee ballots and potentially re-admit ballots that might have been excluded because of clerical errors -- keeping any such ballots out of the count for now. . . .
The Franken camp, faced with a big setback today, is regrouping for the moment but vowing to fight on -- and may even contest the election result in court or the United States Senate itself later on. . . .
Itasca County isn't waiting for the canvassing board to act: They're going to go ahead and review the rejected absentee ballots from their own county, thus setting a precedent that has got to have Coleman sweating bullets. . . [read on]

The GOP is trying to find ways to motivate Senators to stick together to maintain their filibustering minority. The latest whine: those darn Democrats have just been too mean to us

I would suggest that what matters here is less the number of moderates than the number of people representing states Obama won. Namely — Senators Collins, Snowe, Spectre, Voinovich, Lugar, Grassley, Burr, Martinez, Ensign, and possibly Coleman. Obama will have a strong argument to make that the voters of those states would like to see congress cooperate with the Obama agenda, and he has the organizational tools at his disposal to ensure that voters who feel that way are able to express their feelings to their senators.

[Glenn Greenwald] How the media talks about torture . . . [read on]


The damage George Bush can still do
As the Bush administration prepares to issue its ruling on whether to limit greenhouse gases, it's sending out a message to some of its allies: Tell us how much you don't want us to regulate emissions linked to global warming. . . . [read on]
The Environmental Protection Agency seems on the brink of issuing a new regulation that would make it easier for power plants to operate longer hours — and emit more pollution. . . . [read on]

Don’t let the White House doors hit you on the way out
[Ryan Avent] [Bush] very easily could have asked Congress to send him a stimulus bill, even a modest one, amid an intensification of what will likely be the worst recession in thirty years, if not longer. It would have made a difference. It would have made the season a little more bearable for the growing numbers of unemployed, and it would have made Obama’s task a little less daunting.

Instead, he’s spending his waning days weakening environmental rules, helping his cronies get jobs in the professional bureacracy, and preparing his pardons. What a stupid, despicable man. History can’t judge him too cruelly. . . [read on]

Can’t work up much sympathy, sorry,8599,1862307,00.html
[Joe Klein] We have "only one President at a time," Barack Obama said in his debut press conference as President-elect. Normally, that would be a safe assumption — but we're learning not to assume anything as the charcoal-dreary economic winter approaches. By mid-November, with the financial crisis growing worse by the day, it had become obvious that one President was no longer enough (at least not the President we had). So, in the days before Thanksgiving, Obama began to move . . .

It is in the nature of mainstream journalism to attempt to be kind to Presidents when they are coming and going but to be fiercely skeptical in between. I've been feeling sorry for Bush lately, a feeling partly induced by recent fictional depictions of the President as an amiable lunkhead in Oliver Stone's W. and in Curtis Sittenfeld's terrific novel American Wife. There was a photo in the New York Times that seemed to sum up his current circumstance: Bush in Peru, dressed in an alpaca poncho, standing alone just after the photo op at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, with various Asian leaders departing the stage, none of them making eye contact with him. Bush has that forlorn what-the-hell-happened? expression on his face, the one that has marked his presidency at difficult times. You never want to see the President of the United States looking like that. . . .

It is too early to rate the performance of Bush's economic team, but we have more than enough evidence to say, definitively, that at a moment when there was a vast national need for reassurance, the President himself was a cipher. Yes, he's a lame duck with an Antarctic approval rating . . .

In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.

What Joe used to say:

Bonus item: MSNBC gets snarky

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Paul Krugman: “the grown-ups are coming”

Obama's Health Care Team: They Mean Business

Is Obama “moving toward the center”? Or was he always there? And what does “center” mean right now?
Obama Advisers: He's Not Moving To The Center
Obama Preparing To Redefine The "Center"

Obama may have a chance to make a major impact on the Supreme Court: who’s on the list?

Some evaluations:

The future of stem-cell research

As expected, Obama is keeping on Robert Gates as Sect’y of Defense

The pros and cons:

John Brennan, in line for a top intelligence post, withdraws his name from consideration; the progressive blogosphere rejoices
[AP] In a letter Tuesday, Brennan wrote to Obama that he did not want to be a distraction. His potential appointment has raised a firestorm in liberal blogs who associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies. . .


What next?

Obama’s “pragmatic” foreign policy team – is this a good or bad thing?

The team:

“Pragmatism vs. ideology”

“How to engage with Iran”

[Matt Yglesias] One thread running through this advice is that for a diplomatic strategy to succeed, the people carrying it out need to be primarily concerned with trying to make it succeed, hoping that the fruits of a breakthrough would provide the political justification for having undertaken the mission. If you go in trying to guard your right flank and “look tough,” it’s going to be hard to follow this advice.

A sad, little voice
[AFP] US President George W. Bush believes the Iraq war was a success and is "very pleased" with what is happening there . . . "I think the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right” . . .

Bush plans to stiff Iraq over the troops agreement – you watch
The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday . . .

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. . . .

In some areas, three officials told McClatchy, the U.S. and Iraq have agreed on the words but have different interpretations of what they mean. All three declined to speak on the record because the administration, which had planned to release the official English language text last week, has instead designated it "sensitive but unclassified." [read on]

Is Afghanistan getting ready to kick us out too?

The new Bush stance on torture: pardons aren’t necessary, because DOJ legal opinions made it legal


Jonathan Turley rips them up:

We’re paying for Alberto Gonzales’ legal bills

Rove rewrites history

The GOP has a death wish
[WSJ] The [Obama economic stimulus] plans brought a quick retort from House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio. He said lawmakers "should start listening to the American people, who do not believe increasing government spending is the best way to put our economy back on track." He proposed eliminating the capital gains tax, which is currently 15%, as well as other tax cuts.

[David Sirota] Grover Norquist is regularly billed as one of the leading intellectual lights of the conservative movement - and I think you will agree that the arguments he made in a debate with me over taxes this morning on CNBC highlight not merely the shocking intellectual bankruptcy of the movement he leads, but just how out of touch Republicans in Washington really are.

The debate revolved around President-elect Obama's potential plans to put off raising taxes on the very wealthy. Norquist begins the debate with the claim - I kid you not - that "the economy is in the present state because when the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006 you knew those tax increases were going to come in 2010." He insisted that, "The stock market began to collapse as soon as you recognize that those old tax rates were coming back." Yes, because under "those old tax rates" - ie. Clinton-era tax rates - the economy was so much worse than it is today.

As you'll see, the CNBC reporters start laughing at Norquist, having trouble taking him seriously. And I must say, I really wasn't sure he was being serious - but, of course, he was. . . . [read on]

Some Republicans understand the problem
[Roger Simon] The old labels that the Republicans used to hang on the Democrats did not stick.

"The Democrats talked about middle-class tax cuts! They weren't the party of the poor anymore! They weren't the party of gun control anymore! What did Republicans want? Tax cuts for the rich! And small government," he says.

Small government -- the mantra of the Republican Party ever since Ronald Reagan -- will not work anymore, the senator says.

"We can't revive the ghost of Ronald Reagan," he says. "People want government in times of need." . . .

"Sarah Palin is not the voice of our party."

In Minnesota, it’s all coming down to contested ballots


In Georgia, it’s all coming down to turnout

McCain’s ad guy says, we never even used the really vicious stuff

“Disgusting,” yes
[Josh Marshall] You've probably noticed Mark Halperin's claim that the level of pro-Obama bias in the election coverage this year was so bad it was "disgusting." I'll leave it to others to analyze what "disgusting" means when deployed by someone who takes his journalistic cues from Matt Drudge . . . [read on]

Bonus item: Who knew it was so simple?
Ann Coulter's jaw wired shut

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The mess we’re in
[Fareed Zakaria] Some of us—especially those under 60—have always wondered what it would be like to live through the kind of epochal event one reads about in books. Well, this is it. We're now living history, suffering one of the greatest financial panics of all time. It compares with the big ones—1907, 1929—and we cannot yet know its full consequences for the financial system, the economy or society as a whole. . . . [read on]
[John Cassidy] Bernanke, working closely with Henry (Hank) Paulson, the Treasury Secretary, a voluble former investment banker, was determined to keep the financial sector operating long enough so that it could repair itself—a policy that he and his Fed colleagues referred to as the “finger-in-the-dike” strategy. As recently as Labor Day, he believed that the strategy was working. . . .

The most serious charge against Bernanke and Paulson is that their response to the crisis has been ad hoc and contradictory: they rescued Bear Stearns but allowed Lehman Brothers to fail; for months, they dismissed the danger from the subprime crisis and then suddenly announced that it was grave enough to justify a huge bailout; they said they needed seven hundred billion dollars to buy up distressed mortgage securities and then, in October, used the money to purchase stock in banks instead. Summing up the widespread frustration with Bernanke, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington, told me, “He was behind the curve at every stage of the story. He didn’t see the housing bubble until after it burst. Until as late as this summer, he downplayed all the risks involved. In terms of policy, he has not presented a clear view. . . . [read on]
[David Kurtz] The $700 billion bailout package passed by Congress is small potatoes compared to the $7.4 trillion that the Fed has pledged to throw at the credit crisis . . . So far, $2.8 trillion has actually been tapped by financial institutions, but the Fed is still refusing to disclose who got the loans recipients and what collateral secures the government loans.



Now, Citigroup
In September 2007, with Wall Street confronting a crisis caused by too many souring mortgages, Citigroup executives gathered in a wood-paneled library to assess their own well-being.

There, Citigroup’s chief executive, Charles O. Prince III, learned for the first time that the bank owned about $43 billion in mortgage-related assets. He asked Thomas G. Maheras, who oversaw trading at the bank, whether everything was O.K. . . . [read on]
[Paul Kiel] The government's bailout of Citigroup is different from the Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG bailouts. It's most clearly put this way: The government has agreed to absorb up to $247.5 billion in losses in exchange for a $7 billion fee. . . .
Paul Krugman notes this morning that a Citigroup bailout, under the circumstances, may have been worthwhile, but this bailout is outrageous: "a lousy deal for the taxpayers, no accountability for management, and just to make things perfect, quite possibly inadequate, so that Citi will be back for more. Amazing how much damage the lame ducks can do in the time remaining." . . . [read on]

Oh, very nice. Treasury Sect’y Paulson said that he wouldn’t be able to spend all the $700 billion allocated to the bailout, and would turn over half of it to Obama to use in light of his priorities after he took office. Well . . .
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, less than a week after indicating he would let the Obama administration decide how to use the second half of the $700 billion financial fund, is considering asking for the money. . . .

Astonishing, if you think about it. Joe Lieberman says, offhandedy, that we’re “between Presidents.” Well, you know, we’re not really. We HAVE an elected President – not that you can tell
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): As everyone knows, this is an unprecedented economic situation. I mean, just think about the effects. We've lost about $8 trillion of value in the stock market. There are millions of Americans whose home mortgages are either in foreclosure or about to go into foreclosure. Unemployment is rising. We need to work together to, to get the economy going again. I was . . . I'm concerned that we're between presidents now and in the meantime, the economy is continuing to cycle down and, to, to a lot of people, out of control.
[James Baker] I think that a lot of what we're seeing out there today is a lack of confidence, and the president-elect and, as a matter of fact, the current president have to face this problem over the next 60 days. It's unfortunate that we're in this interregnum of a transition, but I think that something very useful might even come out of the two of them sitting down together and addressing not the, not the midterm, not the mid and long-term problem that we face that was the subject of the president-elect's speech, but the--but facing--but addressing stability of our financial system and to see if there isn't something that they could do jointly, together, over the next 58 to 60 days that would help us make sure that the--that the financial system is stabilized and, and secure.
[Eugene Robinson] The problem, and it's becoming serious, is that no one is prepared to orchestrate a comprehensive program to stabilize the financial system, put a floor under housing prices and keep the economy from sinking into a long, punishing recession.

Bush could and should do it -- he is still president, and preventing economic collapse is part of the job description. But he won't. It's ironic that after being so aggressive and proactive in other areas, the Decider is so indecisive and passive about the economy. He has limited his role to signing off on whatever Paulson says . . . [read on]
[Tom Friedman] If I had my druthers right now we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. . . .

[NB: It's a silly idea, of course -- but it reveals so much that he would even suggest it]

Mister Cellophane
[David Kurtz] President Bush appeared this morning with Henry Paulson -- I guess just to affirm that he'd signed off on the Citigroup bailout, in case we were concerned that he'd delegated all of his powers to Treasury and the Fed.

Song reference:
Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name
Mister Cellophane
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there...

Yes, health care IS an economic recovery issue

Obama is making Rush lose his mind, apparently
[Rush Limbaugh] He is promising you here a collectivist, socialist agenda. This is right out of FDR and the TVA and all these make-work projects, building roads, crumbling roads, bridges and so forth . . . This is a rerun of FDR . . .

He is turning crisis into opportunity. This that he is announcing today with his economic team, his speech on Saturday, his radio address, all of this spending. This has nothing to do with reform; it has nothing to do with improving the economy. It will not work, not as you and I define work. It will work for them. It will work for Obama and the Democrats. It will continue to create crisis. It will not create two-and-a-half million private sector jobs. It may create two-and-a-half million government jobs. They could do that overnight if they wanted to, and that may be what they intend. . . .

Two-and-a-half million jobs would more than double the federal workforce, or thereabouts, if that's what he has in mind. By the way, does anybody want to continue the discussion that Obama is governing from the center, that Obama is a moderate? This is full-fledged, FDR, New Deal collectivism that he is outlining; and I listened to a little bit of his announcement ceremony that's taking place today, and it is pretty much what I thought it would be. He's making these radical proposals . . . But he is doing it with an air of confidence and assuredness that is a continuation of the image. It's sort of like the way FDR mesmerized people with the fireside chats. He just inspired confidence. He sounds like he knows what he's doing; he sounds like he's in charge . . .

An emerging right-wing meme: Obama only won because he won the stupid vote

Al Franken too:

Mark Halperin joins the chorus that the press shamelessly flacked for Obama (this despite the obvious evidence that McCain was BELOVED by the press until his campaign turned stupid and ugly)

Republican obstructionism: how far can they go?

Republicans still try to insist that they’re relevant, and Obama has to deal with THEM. Uh, guys, isn’t it vice versa?

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) ran ads in 2002 depicting triple-amputee war hero Max Cleland as a Bin Laden-lovin’ traitor – so you know he’ll do anything to win. But even for him . . . .

It’s working:

Missing ballots in Minnesota


Spying on our friends
Did U.S. intelligence listen in on the personal phone calls of Tony Blair . . .


Bonus item: “Thank you Sarah Palin” – I kept waiting for this to turn into a parody. It never does

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, November 24, 2008


It’s pretty clear now that Obama is going to push hard for a very big stimulus/new energy/employment/infrastructure package. You don’t get many chances, and this is a big one: and I see no way the Republicans can block or filibuster it. I’d like to see them try
Democratic sources tell ABC News that President-elect Obama's transition team is working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill so that on Obama's first day in office, Jan. 20, 2009, an economic stimulus package has passed both houses of Congress and is awaiting his signature. . . .

[WP] "Democrats can't seem to stop trying to outbid each other — with the taxpayers' money," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "We're in tough economic times. Folks are hurting. But the American people know that more Washington spending isn't the answer."

Obama has a dilemma: he doesn’t want to start off his administration with a series of difficult (and seemingly vindictive) investigations into Bush/Cheney wrongdoing. On the other hand, he wants to draw a clear line with the previous administration’s policies of rendition, torture, and imprisonment without trial that have sullied the US reputation around the world. A possible solution? Instead of criminal investigations or congressional hearings, a 9/11 style bipartisan committee devoted to factfinding and bringing actions to light, rather than punishments that might never be achieved anyway
Despite the hopes of many human-rights advocates, the new Obama Justice Department is not likely to launch major new criminal probes of harsh interrogations and other alleged abuses by the Bush administration. But one idea that has currency among some top Obama advisers is setting up a 9/11-style commission that would investigate counterterrorism policies and make public as many details as possible. "At a minimum, the American people have to be able to see and judge what happened," said one senior adviser . . . [read on]
[Mark Benjamin] The plan would not rule out future prosecutions, but would delay a decision on that matter until all essential facts can be unearthed. Between the time necessary for the investigative process and the daunting array of policy problems Obama will face upon taking office, any decision on prosecutions probably would not come until a second Obama presidential term, should there be one.

The proposed commission -- similar in thrust to a Democratic investigation proposal first uncovered by Salon in July -- would examine a broad scope of activities, including detention, torture and extraordinary rendition, the practice of snatching suspected terrorists off the street and whisking them off to a third country for abusive interrogations. The commission might also pry into the claims by the White House -- widely rejected by experienced interrogators -- that abusive interrogations are an effective and necessary intelligence tool.

A common view among those involved with the talks is that any early effort to prosecute Bush administration officials would likely devolve quickly into ugly and fruitless partisan warfare. Second is that even if Obama decided he had the appetite for it, prosecutions in this arena are problematic at best: A series of memos from the Bush Justice Department approved the harsh tactics, and Congress changed the War Crimes Act in 2006, making prosecutions of individuals involved in interrogations more difficult. . .
[Kevin Drum] I find myself surprisingly torn by all this. My instinctive reaction is to turn over every last shred of paper in open court and mercilessly toss into jail anyone associated in any way with this stuff. But I suspect Obama is reacting more wisely than me in this matter. Not only would trials and jail sentences set off a firestorm of protest, but in the end they might not accomplish much either. That's discouraging as hell to write, but at bottom we still have a public opinion problem here: like it or not, half the country still seems to think that torturing al-Qaeda suspects was perfectly acceptable.

So in the end, perhaps we'll get half of a Truth and Reconciliation commission: we'll get the truth, but not the reconciliation, since I doubt that any of the perpetrators of this stuff are inclined to show the slightest remorse for what they did. I suppose that here in the real world this might be the most we can expect, but I don't have to like it. And I don't.
[Matt Yglesias] I think it’s important to draw a distinction between simply declining to engage in war crimes prosecutions as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, and actually taking prosecution off the table. The latter should be done, if at all, only in exchange for confessions, expressions of remorse, and cooperation with investigations. The former may is probably the better part of wisdom for now, but many of the perpetrators can be expected to live for decades and absent something like a real Truth and Reconciliation Commission the door should be left open to doing something down the road if circumstances change. I don’t think it’s even remotely acceptable to just give a full retrospective stamp of approval on everything that was done during the Bush years merely because that might be the most convenient way to build legislative support for Obama’s domestic agenda.

Undoing the Bush/Cheney web of secrecy
[Charles Homans] In 1974, Congress ordered a lockdown on all records kept by the Nixon White House, afraid that the outgoing president would try to wipe out the paper trail of his disastrous second term and chastened by the recent destruction of decades’ worth of FBI files by the late director J. Edgar Hoover’s loyal secretary. . . .

Fortunately, an accounting of the Bush years is a less daunting prospect than it seems from the outset. If the new president and leaders on Capitol Hill act shrewdly, they can pull it off while successfully navigating the political realities and expectations they now face. A few key actions will take us much of the distance between what we know and what we need to know.



Special access to Obama for Hillary?
The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton . . .

What will Obama do about the Bush tax cuts?

Politics versus policy
[David Rothkopf] "This is the violin model: Hold power with the left hand, and play the music with your right” . . . [read on]


Obama’s appointments: not liberal enough?
[Glenn Greenwald] I've been genuinely mystified by the disappointment and surprise being expressed by many liberals over the fact that Obama's most significant appointments thus far are composed of pure Beltway establishment figures drawn from the center-right of the Democratic Party and, probably once he names his Defense Secretary and CIA Director, even from the Bush administration -- but not from the Left. . . . [read on]


Obama’s appointments: not bipartisan enough?

Brent Scowcroft: behind the scenes
Many of the Republicans emerging as potential members of the Obama administration have professional and ideological ties to Brent Scowcroft, a former national-security adviser turned public critic of the Bush White House.

Mr. Scowcroft spoke by phone with President-elect Barack Obama last week, the latest in a months-long series of conversations between the two men about defense and foreign-policy issues, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The relationship between the president-elect and the Republican heavyweight suggests that Mr. Scowcroft's views, which place a premium on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, might hold sway in the Obama White House. . . .


Here’s something we don’t talk about very much: the future of agricultural policy under Obama

Here's a man with his priorities straight: Obama skips church, goes to the gym

More on the “center-right nation” myth


For what it’s worth: Nate Silver predicts that Franken will win the recount in Minnesota

Last weekend, George Will shared with us some of his favorite personal theories about the Great Depression. Unfortunately for him, Paul Krugman was sitting there to school him on his historical inaccuracies and sloppiness of reasoning. This week, without Krugman there, Will repeated exactly the same nonsense. (A slow learner, I guess)

Last week:

Joe Lieberman: a weasel to the very end
[Steve Benen] He twice referenced remarks made in the "heat of the campaign," for which he feels "regret." Brokaw noted, "I hear the word regret, but not the word apologize." Lieberman responded that he's "going forward," adding, "You can take from the word "regret" what you will. I wish I had not said some of the things I've said. But again, we all do it."

In the same interview, Brokaw asked which campaign remarks he regretted most, Lieberman said, "I don't want to go into the details." . . . [read on]

Bonus item: Govt officials score lower on civics exam than ordinary citizens

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***