Recently in Politics & Process Category
This is a cool video on data visualization which makes some interesting points in a short, fresh presentation. It may explain some of the blather that has apparently shown up on some of the cable tv political news shows (which I have not seen because I refuse to watch them most of the time).
The inability to articulate anything logical beyond the Glenn Beck yelling points is amply illustrated though perhaps to be expected.
Major kudos to the young interviewer and his calm and non-confrontational manner.
Margaret. Forgive me honey for I have sinned... I realize now that President Obama is not perfect. I was wrong to suggest that Obama would rid the world of evil and walk on water while doing it. I was wrong to believe he was the Messiah. I can now say that he is not the smartest human to have ever lived and quite frankly he throws like a girl. Whew. That feels good to get off my chest.
I am a big enough woman to admit when I am wrong. But there is one thing wrong with all of this. I never said any of those things in the first place and neither did any Democrat I know. I never said he was perfect. I never expected him to solve all the problems of the world. And I know lots of women who can throw a ball better than most men. I recognize that he is human and I am sure most people in their right minds know that as well. But you would never know any of this if you listen to Rush Limbaugh. Evidently we Democrats are deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to Obama.
I am not giving Obama a free pass. I'm giving him a chance. He has four years to "make it or break it" as they say. And considering what George Bush did to it, breaking it is the least of our worries. Healthcare in the United State is broken. Our reputation around the globe is broken. The banks are broken. The tax system... the school systems... the environment - all broken. Someone needs to try and fix it. So why not Obama?
When George Bush was President I didn't want him to fail. I wanted him to stop acting like an idiot. I wanted him to be honest and listen to the debate of the people. I didn't expect him to act like a Democrat. I expected him to act like an American. And I expected him to at least try to keep his campaign promises.
Exactly Margaret. She has more to say. Read the rest here.
The president's read on Dick Cheney in this Newsweek interview is pretty interesting. He actually makes the point that Cheney had lost credibility in the prior administration and that he's trying to re-litigate issues he already lost out on.
What's your reaction to Vice President Cheney's ongoing [criticism]? He's not quite twittering your administration [ laughter ] but he's coming fairly close.
You know, Dick Cheney had a strong perspective about national security. It was tested in the early years of the Bush administration, and I think it resulted in a series of very bad decisions. I think what's interesting is that, in some ways, Dick Cheney actually lost these arguments inside the Bush administration.
And so he may have won early with Colin Powell and Condi Rice, but over the last two or three years of the Bush administration, I think there was a recognition among Republicans and Bush administration officials that these enhanced interrogation techniques that were being applied--that they had applied early on--were potentially counterproductive; that a posture of never talking to our enemies, of unilateral action, of framing national security only in terms of the application of force, often unilateral--that that wasn't producing.
And so it's interesting to me to see the vice president spending so much time trying to vindicate himself and relitigate the last eight years when, as I said, I think, actually, a lot of these arguments were settled even before we took over the White House.
The president's comments on his daughters dating while being guarded by men with guns and on Startrek are pretty interesting too.
In many ways, I think the first 100 days summation is a false marker of sorts. The world goes at its own pace and things like pandemics don't really care who is President of the United States. But given that the US (and foreign) media are fascinated with the arbitrary assessment point and have produced lots of verbiage and pictures for us to review, here's some of the things that made an impression on me.
The president held a prime-time press conference (transcript via NYT) which was distinguished by a couple of things. First, how nice to have a president who can speak intelligently and articulately on a broad range of issues. David Gergen on CNN almost embarrassed himself exclaiming over this point. The second was the improvement in the quality of the questions this time around. Here's the video of the complete press conference in case you missed it.
Chuck Todd no longer needs to hang his head in shame. He redeemed himself with his question on Pakistan. Actually it wasn't that the question was so outstanding other than raising the topic itself of Pakistan's stability vs. its nuclear arsenal. What was notable was the response it elicited from Obama about US connections with the Pakistan military and the fragility of the civilian government. It almost makes one wonder if there aren't scenarios drawn up somewhere that encourage the Pakistani military to step back in and take control of the government in a military coup if the Taliban threat proves too much for President Zardari and his government.
But the two best questions came from Michael Scherer and Jake Tapper with an assist from Mark Knoller of CBS.
Jake tackled the question of torture, specifically asking if Obama thought that the Bush administration sanctioned torture. Obama never said yes, directly but he did talk at length about the fact that waterboarding was torture and that he had put a stop to such "enhanced interrogation techniques". He brought up a story of Winston Churchill and his response to suggestions of torture for German detainees during WWII. Not one I'd heard before but it's an outstanding response for those among us still debating in their minds about whether or not torture is ever the right response. Here's part of Obama's response to Jake's question.
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.
Michael Scherer asked Obama about his stance on the State Secrets act and whether he was going to continue as the Bush administration had. This is an area which has been very unclear as to where the Obama administration stands. Obama took the opportunity to clear the air on it, noting that it was overly broad in its current implementation. From Scherer's post about the exchange:
He said there should be "ways to redact, to carve out certain cases, to see what can be done so that a judge in chambers can review information without it being in open court, you know, there should be some additional tools so that it's not such a blunt instrument." This is, in rough terms, the idea behind the State Secrets Protection Act, a bill that has been introduced in the Senate by Feingold and other Democrats. Though Obama has not yet said whether or not he would support that bill, he clearly indicated Wednesday that he is ready to work on negotiating a new standard with civil libertarians.
All in all an interesting way to spend an hour. And just for the record, this is Obama's third prime-time press conference of his presidency on day 100. Per Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect, "...his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each had only four in the entire eight years of their respective presidencies." Though as Ben Smith, in a post about Clinton's lack of prime-time pressers deriving from the refusal of the networks to carry them, noted this "Obama's ability to command the television time -- though the networks will, no doubt, quickly tire of losing revenues -- speaks both to his star power and the depth of the current sense of crisis."
Well, let's hope that the sense of crisis lessens to the point that prime-time presidential press conferences are once more considered too boring for prime-time. And on that note, the White House media people have posted a presidential photostream on flickr with a Creative Commons attribution license. Enjoy:
Jake Tapper has an interesting post up about President Obama's 10 letters a day from the public at large which are a part of his daily briefing material.
The letter to President Obama came from a woman in Arizona whose husband lost his job. He was able to find work, but the new gig came with one-third the pay; the family is struggling to make their mortgage payments.
The letter from the Arizona woman illustrated a policy conundrum, recalled senior adviser David Axelrod. President Obama read it, and absorbed the lesson.
"She said they had made all their mortgage payments, but were running out of money," Axelrod said. "And they were told they could not renegotiate unless they were delinquent in their payments."
Before President Obama's housing speech last week, he'd made copies of his letter and "sent it to his financial team and said, 'This is the kind of person our housing plan should help," Axelrod recalled.
The president had other copies made of that letter. He had it distributed to staff on Air Force One.
"He had been struck by how powerful the story was," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "He wanted us as we were creating policy to make sure that we were listening and hearing these examples as well."
Monday through Friday the head of White House Correspondence delivers ten letters to be read by the President, choosing among letters that are broadly representative of the day's news and issues; ones that are broadly representative of President's intake of current mail, phone calls to the comment line, and faxes from citizens; and messages that are particularly compelling.
Some of these, maybe two or three each day, the President responds to in his own hand.
Gibbs says that before two different economic speeches, the President "pulled letters he has gotten and distributed them to staff, to understand what people were going through."
The vast majority of the calls coming into the White House, and over a third of the faxes have been on the stimulus package and the economy, so up to half of the letters the President sees are on that broad subject. Aides say that many of these correspondents also have other complications: bankruptcy due to health care, lost job, lost opportunities for their children.
A smaller number of the letters address other issues, such as the environment, health care, education, foreign affairs, or nuclear proliferation.
And a handful, usually no more than five a week, are from people who have a simple supportive message or inspirational story to tell.
The head of correspondence also includes letters to the President from smaller children who ask questions or give advice.
FDR historian Robert McElvaine wrote at Huffington Post that Obama has modeled his reading after FDR. Evidently we Americans are a loquacious bunch when it comes to writing letters.
In the week following FDR's inauguration, 450,000 letters poured into the White House. For years the average remained at 5,000 to 8,000 communications each day. Under Roosevelt the White House staff for answering such letters quickly increased from one person, who had been adequate in past administrations, to fifty.
Letters from the public were very important to Roosevelt, who saw the mail as a way to gauge fluctuations in public sentiment. According to his aide Louis Howe, FDR "always maintained that a personal letter from a farmer or a miner or little shopkeeper or clerk who honestly expresses his conviction, is the most perfect index to the state of the public mind." The president therefore had the mail analyzed on a regular basis and sometimes read a random sampling of letters himself "to renew his sense of contact with raw opinion."
It's good to know that he's found another way to increase the porous nature of the White House bubble and that it's making a difference in his policy.
Barack Obama adds one more tool to his arsenal of things he's doing differently as president. His op-ed in the Washington Post within the first two weeks of his inauguration indicates that he's choosing lots of different communication venues to make the case for his initiatives.
In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.
These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.
So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.
I think he's talking to you, Congress. The rest of us already get it as he acknowledges in his writing.
with the gratuitous Kerry bashing.
I just read one more off-the-cuff putdown of John Kerry from a lefty blogger and I've had it with those who mouth the criticisms without bothering to find out what the truth of the matter is.
Senator Kerry been very eloquent on Obama's behalf. His appearance on MTP on 11-2-2008 pulled no punches. He was extremely clear. His early and enthusiastic endorsement of Obama in South Carolina brought him much grief from supporters of other candidates. He did what he thought was right.
His speech at the DNC Convention was one of the 3 best given there. From my blog:
Josh Marshall called it The Golden Speechand said "in its own way I think the speech I just saw John Kerry give is one I've heard at this convention. And I do not have any doubt that it's the best I've ever heard from him." Emphasis is his.
It got rave reviews at/by Daily Kos, Steve Benen, Andrew Sullivan, Ta-Nahisi Coates, BalloonJuice, The Jed Report, Al Giordano, Karen Tumulty, Jack & Jill Politics, OpenLeft, mydd, Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, Rod Dreher, Daily Intel, Reason Online, MalContends, and Democratic Underground. This list coud be 5 times as long but you get the idea.
Here's the video if you haven't seen it yet. It's worth your time.
JK did what those of us who follow him closely know he can do and has done before. Just watch his Dissent speech. And as he has before, JK gave us a masterfully delivered speech yesterday. It's hard for me to pick out my favorite excerpts. I'd end up excerpting most of it so go see the full transcript of his remarks as delivered below the fold, courtesy of Lynn Sweet at the Sun Times, if you can't watch the video.
He didn't mince any words the other day when he said we should ignore the Republicans and do what we think we'll work in the stimulus package.
He was on Meet The Press Sunday morning pushing for the stimulus package.
He declared climate change a central foreign policy focus and pulled Al Gore in to testify in his first full session as SFRC chair. From The Vine at TNR:
Right now, C-SPAN is showing Al Gore testify on climate change before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Significantly, committee chair John Kerry just declared that "climate change will be increasingly central to our foreign policy," citing warnings from top U.S. military leaders that a warming planet will put pressure on the earth's resources and lead to more conflicts and more security risks around the world.
As I said above, enough with the gratuitous Kerry-bashing. He's out there speaking out and doing it well. Just because a lefty blogger didn't happen to notice it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
The New York Times has put up a remarkable photo gallery with narration by the photography team that took the pictures of people who are or have been affiliated with President-Elect Obama. There's a short bio on each person as well interesting tidbits which the narrators divulge. Just maximise the gallery, turn your volume up and click through the pictures. Great photography.
Like thereisnospoon, I've been on hiatus during the holidays but dipping back in now and then to see what's going on. And like thereisnospoon, I must urge you to read Paul Krugman's column, "Bigger Than Bush".
He has so succinctly described the moral bankruptcy of the Republican party. His indictment follows John Dean's in Conservatives without Conscience.
Let's hope Mr. Krugman's column breaks through the wind barrier in the chattering classes. Of course, this has been discussed before on dkos as thereisnospoon points out in his post. Perhaps if they read dkos, they'd have better input for their crystal balls.
Matt Yglesias did a little plain speaking on his blog as he is wont to do. What happened next is more unusual. The self-described "acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Jennifer Palmieri, decided to post a note on Matt Yglesias's blog.
Poorly done Ms. Palmieri. This commenter detailed the reasons correctly. You've undercut Matt's credibility tremendously. Plus you've now begged the question: Just who can pressure CAP to change its positions and how often does this happen?
Not to mention that Third Way now looks like the crybaby on the playground. And to a much larger audience than would ever have read Matt's blog post in the first place. Front page of Daily Kos, Open Left, Atrios. And as of right now, your post is the #1 item on Mememorandum which also shows links from Salon, TalkLeft, American Power, Outside the Beltway, Brendan Nyhan, Rising Hegemon, Grasping Reality and The Jed Report.
I suspect that you're another one of those inside-the-beltway types who doesn't really "get" blogs. You know they're there and that someone needs to pay attention to them but you don't really get how it all works. Well, pay attention.
You just hurt yourself, your organization and the organization that you were supposedly protecting. Which, as Matt so rightly pointed out, is a bunch of namby-pambies pushing a domestic agenda that's "hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit".
Jay Rosen adds his insight to the mess in this comment and I couldn't agree more.
You decided to have the wrong "tough" conversation. The tough conversation you should have had is with the people or person at Third Way who asked that you do something to separate yourself from this Matt Yglesias and his damn opinions. You should have told that person who Matt is, why he was hired and what he does at your site, rather than telling us about Third Way is and how supportive your Center is of their work. Your protected the wrong guy, put the wrong people on notice, undercut your own blogger, and-alas-now you are getting what you deserve.
One more thing: in the real world of the Web, as against the back-scratching fantasyland that you feel you can extend to the Web, the right way to handle this is for someone with a voice at ThirdWay to write a letter to Matt, objecting to his post. He'd run it, and there would be a debate. Instead you chose the cozy Washington way, and projected it onto the Web. Please learn from that.
Ms. Palmieri, alas, you've proved once again that inside the beltway = clueless.
The Arena over at Politico posed this question recently for its Arena participants.
Should the DOJ consider prosecuting Bush administration officials for detainee abuse as the NYT and others have urged?
Scrolling through the responses revealed this one by Maurice (Mickey) Carroll who's the director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Is it a good idea for a new administration to look for prosecutable crimes by the old administration? Even if their opinion is that there WERE crimes? By and large, the answer is no. Even if the true believers (and the true-believer editorial writers) are pestering the Obama administration to do it. One of the strengths of the American political system is that it's not a blood sport. We disagree without looking to put the other guys in jail. Which is a longish way of saying: There'll be a new slate. Shouldn't we wipe the old slate clean?
There have been times this year when I've wondered at some of the phrasing utilized in the Q-poll surveys and at some of the comments made by Mr. Carroll on the local NPR news outlet. But this comment seals the deal. Mr. Carroll is specifically saying that it is okay for people in government to break the law. That it's okay for those responsible for investigating and prosecuting law-breaking to ignore the activities. That a government administration that has broken the law is above the law.
I cannot imagine a more irresponsible position for Mr. Carroll to take. Why is someone with such a spurious view in charge of a what was a well-regarded university research center? If Quinnipiac University wants its polling research center to maintain its position, it would do well to identify a new leader.
John Dean, Nixon White House and Watergate alumni, offers some advice to President-Elect Obama on how to respond to the Blagojevich scandal.
I am writing with a suggestion that might help to remove you and your new administration from the still metastasizing scandal of Governor Blagojevich trying to sell your senate seat. Needless to say, until the news media is satisfied that you and your new administration have no complicity in this matter, they will continue to focus on it. Because of my own personal experience with Watergate, the mother of modern presidential scandals, not to mention being a student of scandals that followed, I speak as someone who learned the hard way by making mistakes and then watched as others made their own similar and unnecessary blunders. First, a bit of background.
It is trite but true that the best antidote to a growing scandal is transparency, and that making all relevant information, both good and bad, public sooner rather than later is vital, as is releasing more information rather than less, for all these actions help resolve matters more quickly - presuming innocence or, at worst, innocent mistakes. If, however, you or your aides are guilty, up to your ears in dealing with Blagojevich, I still recommend that you ignore the Nixon presidency precedents - for we wrote the book on what not to do. If Blagojevich has poisoned your presidency, you might confer with Vice President Dick Cheney, who has taken "stonewalling" to new heights and shown that cover-ups can actually work if you do not mind having a thirteen percent public approval rating. But this is exactly the type of behavior in Washington that you have promised to change. I submit that the lessons of Watergate remain relevant to this day and apply to the Blagojevich situation, as a few examples might suggest.
Nixon had many opportunities to prevent the disaster that befell his presidency, none more than at the outset of Watergate. If following the arrests of burglars at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972 Nixon had issued a memorandum to his White House and reelection campaign staffs demanding that anyone with any direct or indirect knowledge or involvement with the matter immediately submit a full written explanation to him, an explanation which in turn would be released by the press office, or if not willing to do so submit their resignation, there would have been no Watergate cover-up. In fact, if I learned anything from Watergate it was that in the interest of the nation presidents (which would include presidents-elect) must openly and aggressively confront any and all scandals that affect them. [...]
Speaking of high level resignations, another lesson I learned was that when something goes very wrong memories of those touched by it get very bad, and few volunteer anything. For example, before the first White House meeting, forty-eight hours after the Watergate arrests, with the chief of staff Bob Haldeman, the president's top assistant for domestic affairs John Ehrlichman, the former attorney general and campaign manager John Mitchell, attorney general Dick Kliendienst, and yours truly who was White House counsel, I told Haldeman that since I had heard plans to break-in the Watergate offices being discussed in John Mitchell's office and tried - but clearly failed - to turn them off, I was fully prepared to resign. I expected to hear similar disclosures from others at this meeting to assess how to best deal with the problems created by the Watergate arrests, and protect the president.
To the contrary, no one said anything. Haldeman was silent on his telling me to have nothing to do with such operations when I had informed him after hearing them and he never mentioned my offer to resign; Ehrlichman was silent on having approved an earlier break-in at Dan Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office by the people arrested at the Watergate; Mitchell would not admit he had approved the Watergate break-in plans for almost a year; and Kliendienst would not tell anyone what he told me after the meeting - on a pledge of confidentiality - that the man who had bungled it all, Gordon Liddy, had sought him out on a golf course after the arrests of his men at the Watergate and confessed. In short, no one seemed to have the president's interests in mind only their own.
There's more good advice. Since reading his Conservatives without Conscience book, I've had great respect for John Dean. His advice is worthy.
I am one of those who thinks Bill Ayer's 15 minutes was up some time ago and would not have gone out of my way to view his appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews. But Al Giordano of The Field posted an item about Bill and Chris's conversation that was intriguing enough that I did watch the youtube clip.
What was interesting about the conversation was the connection of their positions as antagonists back in 1971.
In 1971, Bill Ayers was a 27-year-old member of the Weather Underground, a clandestine revolutionary organization mainly of young people opposed to the Vietnam War and the capitalist system. That year, the organization took credit for setting off a bomb in a US Capitol bathroom one night when the building was closed to the public.
In 1971, Chris Matthews was a 26-year-old US Capitol police officer, a member of the group of workers that could have been wounded or killed by the bomb (which upon explosion did damage to property but not people, as was the Weather Underground's goal)...
The conversation was an intelligent, thoughtful discussion - a variety not usually seen on cable news. Al summed it up more eloquently.
Striking about Ayers' appearance on Hardball is his thoughtfulness, the intelligence of his political analysis, and the disarming yet substantive way that he answered some hard questions from Matthews. Both men dressed themselves in glory during that conversation and in doing so created a kind of lighthouse with which the rocky shoals and stormy waters of American political discourse can better be navigated. Both revealed themselves as men of maturity and seriousness that would be worthy and valued collaborators on any political project.
Check it out if you have time.
If a comment must be made about the Blagojevich fiasco, one could say that rumors of problems have surrounded him for years and this should not be any great surprise. In fact, it sounds pretty normal for Illinois politics when viewed from the adjacent state of Wisconsin where I lived for many years.
Not familiar with the Chicago machine or Illinois politics? Here's two items that will help you catch up.
Kossak don mikulecky pointed out Harold Meyerson's column on politics in Chicago and the great state of Illinois and made a few comments himself from his 73-year-old vantage point about Chicago politics.
President-Elect Obama sat down with a couple reporters from the Tribune company yesterday and did a fairly extensive interview.
No, he never talked to Blagojevich about the Senate seat. Yes, he does intend to follow the tradition of using his full name when being sworn in. Yes, he does plan on giving a speech in an Islamic capital. No, he doesn't know precisely when. Yes, he plans on visiting his house in Chicago regularly. Yes, there's a lot on his plate and they're working on how to best accomplish what they need to achieve.
The long version is better.
CNN did some polling on Obama and what sort of reception he's getting from the American people. And what a reception it is.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey out Tuesday morning are giving the president-elect the thumbs up when it comes to his handling of the transition.
Seventy-nine percent approve of Obama's performance so far during transition, with 18 percent disapproving.
The job approval rating is up 4% from last month. And those who think he'll do a poor job as president dropped 3% from last month.
Bill Schneider of CNN put it this way:
"An Obama job approval rating of 79 percent -- that's the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a leader after a national disaster. To many Americans, the Bush administration was a national disaster."
That's about right Bill. Though I suspect that the disastrous economy and Obama's management of his transition in response to the disaster has something to do with it.
News arrived over the weekend that President-Elect Obama had selected Gen. Shinseki as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The official announcement is to be made on Monday, December 7th, the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Obama referenced it in his talk with Tom Brokaw on Meet The Press Sunday.
"He was right."
That was his clipped response to Brokaw's query on Shinseki and his dismissal by Rumsfeld. It was brief and powerful. James Fallows has a piece on the karmic justice of it all and a follow-up commenting on the elegance of the timing.
Fallows' recitation of Shinseki's history and approach to his position and responsibilities is corroborated by this first person narrative from kossak Homer J which offers another angle from which to see how Gen. Shinseki respected and cared for the veterans and soldiers under his command.
Spencer Ackerman and Hilzoy have posted about Obama's selection of Shinseki. Spencer unequivocally approves. Hilzoy looks thoughtfully at some of the implications and possible outcomes of his appointment.