January 30, 2009
Larry Summers has a cutting sense of humor. For example, when he thinks a proposal calls for government heavy-handedness, he will dismiss it as “Putinesque,” a reference to the statist Russian leader. So maybe it’s fitting that some of Summers’s administration colleagues view the intellectually fierce former Harvard president, now head of the National Economic Council, in similar terms.
In the heady days leading up to Barack Obama’s inauguration, Washington was abuzz with speculation about the next great cause his legion of idealistic, tech-savvy supporters would tackle. Would they harness their collective Facebook energies to combat global warming? Or would they turn their Twittering talents toward fighting for universal health care? In the dawn of this new political era, anything seemed possible.
Asking The Right Questions
From today's White House press briefing: Q Can you describe the relationship between Senator Gregg and the President? What is their friendship/relationship? Do they play basketball together? MR.
Waiting For The Nukes Team
During the presidential campaign, experts on preventing nuclear terrorism were almost giddy over Barack Obama's grasp of their issue. Not only was Obama attuned to state-level nuclear proliferation in places like Iran and North Korea, but he also appreciated the far less sexy threat of bomb-usable nuclear materials laying around sites like academic research reactors in Eastern Europe. (Repeat this mantra: Getting the nuclear material is the hard part.
Buy America Or Bye America
Nothing in the Democrats' stimulus bill has created as much fuss as a provision in the House bill that requires that American steel be used in the infrastructure projects that it funds. Washington business lobbies dominated by multinational corporations have mobilized against it. The Washington Post and The Economist have railed against it, accusing the Democrats of re-enacting Smoot-Hawley legislation, the 1931 tariff that is often blamed for contributing to a world depression in the 1930s. Vice President Joe Biden has come to the defense of the provision, but the President, his press secre
I have a piece out today about the subtle ways Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has positioned his department to exert serious influence, despite what you've heard about Larry Summers, the top White House economic aide, dominating the policy landscape. Today's Wall Street Journal brings another data point (via Halperin): Obama has just named Mike Froman, his law school classmate and close confidant, to an intriguing joint National Economic Council/National Security Council appointment.
India's Empty Holbrooke Power Play
It may be an interesting demonstration of India's clout that New Delhi managed to strip Indian issues from Richard Holbrooke's official mandate as a special envoy to deal with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it's nonsense to think this reflects any substantive change in Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's diplomatic plans. The problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan are as intertwined with India as Lebanon is intertwined with Iran and Syria.
January 29, 2009
Republicans on the Side
WASHINGTON--President Obama's visit with House and Senate Republicans this week was useful for setting a new tone and a refreshing break from the Bush administration's habit of consulting almost no one.
Lib and Let Die
At Barack Obama’s inauguration, John Roberts’s adverb trouble, subconsciously driven by a “blackboard grammar” quest to deflect faithfully from “splitting” the verb execute from the auxiliary will, was a rather gorgeous example of how educated people can be tripped up by unworkable hoaxes about how language works. (“To boldly go where no man has gone before” is “bad” grammar?).
Remember that entertaining confrontation last May between Joe Klein and John McCain over who truly dictates Iranian foreign policy? McCain insisted it was Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Klein noted (persuasively) that the really important shots--including those related to grand strategy and the country's nuclear program--are called by Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.