January 14, 2009
Welcome to Washington
WASHINGTON--The capital of the United States is flooded with visitors for the presidential inauguration. Mention of this city sometimes evokes the wildest prejudices (including the ridiculous notion that America's Founding Fathers were cannibals, courtesy of the "Masters of Horror" TV series!). So, what is life really like here?Before I came to live in Washington, I was convinced that since more than one in four residents work for the government, the District of Columbia was a socialist republic.
One does not expect to see New York’s school Chancellor Joel Klein on the same stage as Reverend Al Sharpton. Klein is infamous for his emphasis on test scores and shutting down schools that fail to measure up. Not so long ago, Sharpton was in the barricades with Russell Simmons protesting mayor Michael Bloomberg and Klein’s plan to cut New York City’s education budget. Yet these days the two are teaming up for the Education Equality Project, which seeks to close the achievement gap between white and black kids in public schools.
Exit, Pursued By History
George W. Bush’s first day of retirement from electoral politics will look just like his days as a politician. Upon leaving Washington on Inauguration Day, the former president’s first stop will be at a rally in his childhood hometown of Midland, Texas. As unnatural as a Bush rally may seem these bleak days, the plan ensures that news coverage of Barack Obama’s triumphal arrival will include at least a few clips of his predecessor addressing a joyous crowd.
Because today was an oh-so-busy day: * No bombshells dropped in this morning's confirmation hearings for Lisa Jackson (EPA) and Nancy Sutley (CEQ). Both nominees pledged to respect science, protect the environment, and consider options for reducing greenhouse gases. Shocking! Still unanswered is what exact role Carol Browner will play as the White House's energy and environment coordinator.
Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner were the Obama appointees grabbing all of the public attention on Tuesday. But Peter Orszag, Obama’s choice for the post of budget director, may have made the most intriguing statement. It came while Orszag was responding to a question by Senator Ben Cardin, the Democrat from Maryland. Cardin asked Orszag about the new administration’s agenda--in particular, where Obama would focus his energies after dealing with the economic stimulus package.
January 13, 2009
I write this in remembrance of the renowned Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, murdered two years ago, on Jan. 19, 2007, for his comments on the slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces during WWI ... in horror that the police officers guarding the 17-year-old murder suspect, Ogun Samast, saw fit to take a video in which he proudly held the Turkish flag as they recorded their brief association with him for posterity ...
Worse Than Hoover
We are less than two weeks away from the end of the Bush era, but it is not too early to assess how this important presidency went so disastrously wrong. There are already shelves full of books criticizing Bush and his administration, and there will undoubtedly be more as records become available to reveal what will almost certainly be a generation’s worth of damage that we have not yet even recognized. But the whole of Bush’s failure is not simply the sum of his administration’s parts. The key to his behavior is less ideology than a critical aspect of his character.
Obama And Kristol, Together At Last!
According to the latest pool report, and confirmed here, Barack Obama dined in Chevy Chase, MD, tonight at the home of columnist George Will. Also in attendance: David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill Kristol himself. I imagine this will generate some outrage from the left--potentially at the idea that Obama is already falling into the Beltway cocktail-circuit trap, or perhaps out of mere loathing for the crew in question (although the four fall into different categories, and Will and Brooks in particular have written some pretty nice things about Obama).
The End Of Israeli Democracy?
More than a few bloggers have jumped on the news that the Israeli Knesset's Central Elections Committee voted overwhelmingly to ban Arab parties from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, with some of these bloggers using the vote to question Israel's status as a democracy. Allegations of racism surrounding the vote demonstrate a lack of knowledge about Israeli history and society. This is not the first time that Israel has banned an extremist political party. In 1988, the Central Election Commission banned Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach party for its racist and undemocratic platform.
Brendan Nyhan has some worthy thoughts on the legislative strategy behind Obama's stimulus plan: As I have repeatedly pointed out, the economy and other political fundamentals drive presidential elections. If the US gets caught in a Japan-style deflationary trap, it is extremely difficult to imagine Obama being re-elected. No amount of post-inauguration bipartisan goodwill will change that fact ... This worldview is consistent with the approach to the economy taken by Bill Clinton, who passed a deficit reduction plan on a difficult party-line vote during his first year in office.