Leavitt To Europe

The New York Times reports this morning that HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt will soon be traveling to Switzerland and the Netherlands to see first-hand how those countries' health-care systems--which achieve universal coverage through, more or less, a mandate-and-subsidize approach similar to the one proposed in the Senate by Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett--actually function in practice.

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 I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the audacity of the fake press briefing FEMA staged last Tuesday, in which agency reps, pretending to be reporters, lobbed softball questions at Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson, allowing him to ramble on and on about the greatness of FEMA's response to the California wildfires.

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I normally love Michigan's Carl Levin, the simultaneously hard-assed and endearingly grandfatherly Iraq expert in the Senate (here's a link to his coos-of-appreciation-inducing Time award as one of "America's Best Senators"!). The Iraq measures he's introduced this year, often with Rhode Islander Jack Reed, have always been smart -- they keep a strict focus on the desired outcome, withdrawal, while resisting pressure to buck the political and technical realities of how that's going to happen. But he needs a new p.r. guy.

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Code Red

The first big scandal confronting Rudy Giuliani in his presidential quest has nothing to do with his personal life, his governing style in New York City, or his associations with people such as Bernie Kerik, his police commissioner now under criminal investigation.No, it has to do with Rudy's heresy as a Yankees fan: In hot pursuit of votes in next January's New Hampshire primary, Giuliani declared that, because of his preference for the American League, he was rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series.

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Authority Figure

At a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, last month, local resident Bob Roughsedge introduced Rudy Giuliani as “the next mayor of the United States.” No one tittered or spoke up. Afterward, Roughsedge wasn’t even aware of the slip, and Giuliani, who is usually quick to correct, did not seem aware of it either. Maybe that’s because Giuliani is actually running to be mayor of the United States.   Giuliani is selling himself to voters on the basis of his service as New York’s mayor. He is arguing that he has the kind of administrative experience that would prepare him to be president.

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At his recent Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, would-be attorney general Michael Mukasey sounded at times positively Alberto Gonzales-like. Pressed on whether waterboarding, an interrogation technique in which interrogators strap the subject to a plank and pour water over his face to create the sensation of drowning, counts as torture, he hemmed and hawed: "I don’t know what’s involved in the technique.

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More Advice For Obama

That L.A. Times piece Mike linked to earlier had a couple more useful nuggets. First, a theory of Hillary's support that sounds both interesting and plausible: "When he talks about representing change, women who are considering Hillary look at him and say, If this is about change, she represents greater change than you do, simply by being a woman," [pollster Dick] Bennett said.

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A War Of Ideas

I didn't know much about the Internet in Russia, and whatever I knew I learned from an intoxicatingly brilliant Harvard student named Anton Troianovski who spent part of this past summer interning at The New Republic.  For the rest of the summer, he was in Moscow as an intern for the Washington Post, pursuing what is also his senior thesis subject: how the regime controls the web and conspires to control it more.

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Rove, Still Spinning

  Last Friday, Karl Rove appeared at Regent University to defend the Bush administration's record in fighting terrorism. The Washington Post reports:  An interesting moment came when Cleland accused President Bush of not capturing Osama bin Laden because he was distracted by Iraq. "We let him go up in the Tora Bora mountains. We blew it," Cleland said, directing his remark to Rove. "The U.S. military and U.S. intelligence agencies made every effort possible to get Osama bin Laden," an irked Rove responded.

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Fruitless Conversations

The Annapolis conference is set for November 4-6, and -- sad to say -- no one yet knows who exactly will show up.  Of course, no one knows how the sessions will end up either.  And, if truth be told, no one even knows what will be discussed.Poor Condi Rice has ordered up a multi-hundred page reprise of what happened at previous important junctures in the failed history of the peace process.  This is a silly exercise for some junior foreign service officer to waste the next days reading.  Everybody knows the basic narrative: the Arabs show up and are intransigent; the Israelis are squeezed; the

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