March 21, 2009
Today At Tnr (march 21, 2009)
How Lincoln Won The War--And Why He's Our Country's Greatest Argument Against Despair In Dark Times, by Drew Gilpin Faust Why It's Time For The White House To Unleash Larry Summers, Its Genius-In-Residence, by Noam Scheiber Will Our New Special Envoy To Darfur Change Our Policies There? by Barron YoungSmith What The Ozone Scare Can--And Can't--Teach Us About Finding A Solution For Climate Change, by Bradford Plumer 'Duplicity' Has Clive Owen And Julia Roberts As Conniving Spy/Lovers. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
March 20, 2009
The Geithner Disaster
Being Treasury secretary is usually not a job that calls for great political skills. But with a banking crisis crippling the economy and threatening to turn a recession into a depression, Tim Geithner has been plunged into the center of politics--as both the person responsible for what the administration should do, and as the main exponent of that policy. But he has faltered in crafting an effective policy and failed miserably in putting it forward.
Late Friday Obama Agenda Update
Brad and Marc Ambinder say that George Stephanopoulos has a big scoop: Democrats have chosen to put health care but not cap and trade through the "reconciliation" process, which probably means that health care will pass but cap and trade won't. But I'm not sure Stephanopoulos actually has the goods here. Here's Stephanopoulos's item: When the White House released its budget, I said the president's effort to reform health care and cap carbon emissions were "scorpions in a bottle" -- only one could make it through Congress this year.
OMB director Peter Orszag makes some fair points in response to a lot of the angst the new CBO deficit numbers are inspiring in some quarters.
As noted on The Treatment, the Congressional Budget Office is out with its new budget projections. And the bottom line is that CBO expects deficits will be worse than the administration, among others, have been predicting. They will be worse in the near term. And, yes, they will be worse in the long term. These sorts of projections are notoriously rough. And the CBO seems to be making some pessimistic assumptions about future growth, although--given the latest economic data--pessimism does't necessarily seem far fetched. In any event, it's hard to spin this as good news.
Barak Bites The Hand That Feeds Him
In response to reports that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: The Israeli Army is the most moral in the world, and I know what I’m talking about because I know what took place in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq. Now, he might be referencing the former regimes of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. But isn't it more likely to be a not-so-subtle dig at the United States military's human rights record? After all, why would he bother to favorably compare the IDF to the armies of two ruthless dictators?
A reader makes a great point: If bank nationalization is in the works or were to become necessary in the near future, as so many people expect, keeping the markets calm would require confidence from the private sector that the administration's economic policies were not subject to abrupt changes. This legislation might threaten that confidence, because it demonstrates a situation where mistargeted populist outrage can unexpectedly override the administration's policies.
White House photographer Pete Souza has a fascinating find: a picture of Ronald Reagan visiting Moscow as president, talking to a tourist who looks an awful lot like Vladimir Putin. We can't be sure it's Putin.
Who Is Scott Gration?
On Wednesday, Barack Obama appointed retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan. In 2001, when the envoy position was first created, the job entailed brokering a peace deal between Khartoum and rebel groups in the south. It subsequently mutated to include halting Darfur's genocide and reversing President Bashir's expulsion of humanitarian aid workers. So, what does Gration's appointment mean for Darfur policy now? The Sudan experts I spoke to were cautiously optimistic.
March 19, 2009
Up a Very Steep Hill
Although Barack Obama has had plenty of domestic fights with Republicans over everything from earmarks to his stimulus plan, when it comes to his foreign policy, partisan politics have been relatively quiet. No longer. A cadre of Senate Republicans are now trying to bring down Obama’s pick for ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill,. But because the GOP is less interested in how Hill might handle Iraq than in venting grievances about his personality, and his role directing the Bush administration's North Korea policy, their surprise offensive appears to be stalling. Obama will get his choice.