June 16, 2009
Why Is Obama Ditching Obamaism?
One of the early hallmarks of the administration's governing style is to make Congress a partner (sometimes even the senior partner) in policy development rather than submitting fully-formed legislation and trying to whip up votes for it. Part of this derives from Obama's personal style, which prizes consensus. And part of it is just shrewd politics and a willingness to learn from past presidential failures, as Matt Bai pointed out in this recent Times magazine piece.
Yesterday I wrote about how the 2004 election should have taught conservatives about the vulnerabilities liberals face in being associated with foreign influence. Today, via the Lede, I see a terrific example of an Iranian propaganda commercial. It involves a White House plot to subvert Iran, involving John McCain and... Republican bogeyman George Soros! (Are there any foreign plots that don't involve Soros?) The video has to be seen to be believed.
June 15, 2009
From Kiev To Tehran?
As I watched events in Iran unfold at the end of last week, I couldn’t help but note the similarities to the “Colored Revolutions” that swept through the post-communist region in the middle of this decade. Pre-election polls predicted a surprisingly competitive election in an erstwhile authoritarian country. Following the election, both sides claimed victory amid allegations of serious electoral fraud.
To The Mattresses
WASHINGTON--Business has been on the ropes since last fall's financial collapse, but the first glimmerings of recovery are calling forth a capitalist counteroffensive. It's one thing for President Obama to face off against Fox News, the right-wing radio empire, and Republican congressional leaders whose names are unfamiliar to much of the public. It's quite another to confront organized business. That's why last week's announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of a new "Campaign for Free Enterprise" could be one of the year's most consequential political developments.
The Return Of Idealism
The past few years haven't been kind to foreign policy idealism--the belief that when authoritarian states mistreat their own people, it is a matter of concern for all of us. We idealists can largely blame ourselves for this. The biggest reason idealism fell out of favor was Iraq--a disastrous war that many of us foolishly supported in the naive belief that substituting liberalism for totalitarianism in the heart of the Middle East would be a relatively simple thing. We made mistakes beyond Iraq, too.
Dennis Ross To Nsc
It seems that Ha'aretz report wasn't totally off base. Says Time: Dennis Ross, the Obama Administration's special adviser on Iran, will be leaving his post at the State Department to become a senior adviser at the National Security Council with an expanded portfolio, Administration officials tell TIME. The new White House position puts him closer to the center of foreign policy power, placing him in the top ranks of Obama's in-house aides, said an Administration official. "He is closer to being able to provide advice to the President," the official said.
So How's Chu Doing At Revamping Doe?
In this month's Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell has a terrific profile of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Sadly, it's not online, but Charlie Petit managed to scrounge up a bootleg PDF, so you can go read it over at his site. One of the subplots of the piece is that Chu came into office with the incredibly daunting aim of remaking the country's trillion-dollar energy economy—trying to ramp up the clean-tech sector and cutting U.S. emissions in order to help avert dangerous climate change.
How Does Sheila Bair Do It?
If you've been following the coverage of the administration's plans for financial market reform, you may have noticed two emerging themes: 1.) All the regulators not named Sheila Bair (the FDIC chairman) seem to dislike Sheila Bair and wish she had less authority. This nugget from yesterday's New York Times is typical: But at the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, Ms. Bair is viewed as someone who pushes her and her agency’s interests rather than someone who finds common ground with other policy makers. Besides Mr. Dugan, she has antagonized many other leaders in Washington.
...is this, which Tim Geithner and Larry Summers propose in their Washington Post op-ed today: The administration's plan will impose robust reporting requirements on the issuers of asset-backed securities; reduce investors' and regulators' reliance on credit-rating agencies; and, perhaps most significant, require the originator, sponsor or broker of a securitization to retain a financial interest in its performance. The problem is that banks expanded credit to overly-risky borrowers because they knew they could turn around and sell those mortgages to investors via securitization.
Is The Dollar Doomed To Crash?
Despite signs that the U.S. has avoided a repeat of the 1930's, it may be unrealistic to get overly optimistic about the country's economic future. That's the message from Nobel economist Paul Samuelson, who fears that the U.S. dollar is in for a dramatic fall: Up until now, China has been willing to hold her recycled resources in the form of lowest-yield U.S. Treasury bills. That's still good news. But almost certainly it cannot and will not last. Some day -- maybe even soon -- China will turn pessimistic on the U.S. dollar. That means lethal troubles for the future U.S.