We all know about the "war czar." He's the guy who's going to win the war in Iraq, just as soon as the White House finds someone to take the job. But did you know that, over the years, Bush has also appointed a "bird flu czar," a "food safety czar," and an "AIDS czar"? A "manufacturing czar" and a "cybersecurity czar"? That's from Steven Benen's TAP piece today about the Bush administration's preferred solution to any large, intractable problem. Czars galore. --Bradford Plumer
I feel guilty for not keeping closer tabs on the immigration-bill talks up on Capitol Hill. But whenever I try to catch up I encounter passages like this one: Senate GOP Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (Ariz.), an opponent of last year's bill turned White House ally in the negotiations, tamped down talk of a filibuster on the motion to proceed to placeholder legislation - provided that it would be only a stand-in for a complete agreement that has yet to emerge. Sigh.
It's true, as Mike points out, both Obama and Bush are proposing similar-sounding CAFE increases. The main difference, I think, is that the White House has given every indication that it intends to be much more, um, "flexible" about things. Here's a telling caveat from the president's State of the Union address, which estimated that his CAFE plan would reduce gasoline consumption by 8.5 billion gallons in 2017: These amounts are based on an assumption that on average, fuel efficiency standards for both light trucks and passenger cars are increased 4 percent per year....
Of all the low points during the Bush administration, perhaps the most surreal was the week in December 2004 when Bernie Kerik was poised to become secretary of Homeland Security. By the traditional measures used to judge qualifications for this sort of job, Kerik was not an ideal candidate. The main points in Kerik's favor were his loyal service to Rudy Giuliani, first as driver for his mayoral campaign, then corrections commissioner, then police commissioner--the last of which was commemorated by the casting of30 Kerik busts.
Most political activists can point to one catalyzing event, an episode in each of their lives (or, more often, in the life of their country) that shook them from their complacency and roused them to change the world. You can find many such stories if you troll through the netroots, the online community of liberal bloggers that has quickly become a formidable constituency in Democratic politics. But the episode that seems to come up most often is the Florida recount.
Many have commented on the extraordinary nonchalance of Rudy Giuliani's response to the debate question of whether it'd be a good thing if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. What struck me, though, was the extent to which he carelessly demolished the code he's been relying on to allay social conservatives' fears on this very subject: It would be OK to repeal it.
by Casey BlakeDavid Brooks was delighted by the response he received when he popped the Reinhold Niebuhr question to Barack Obama a week or so ago. "I love him." Obama said. "He's one of my favorite philosophers." Needless to say, Brooks was impressed. "So I asked, What do you take away from him?" "I take away," Obama answered in a rush of words, "the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ...
Dems seem to be mulling over two funding options for Iraq. They could send the White House a short-term, string-free bill that forces the president to come back in a few months for more money (at which point they might have enough votes for a timetable). Or they could pass a full funding bill that doesn't set deadlines, but does contain "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government and readiness standards for the troops. Greg Sargent runs down the pros and cons of each option with a House Democratic aide. Worth reading, though I'm not sure I quite understand the downsides of the short-term bill.
Okay, I'd honestly like to know if any of the arguments against the hate-crimes bill that just passed the House actually hold up. (To recap, the bill would add gender and sexual orientation to the categories covered by federal hate-crimes laws, and enable the FBI to work more closely with local officials on these matters.) Here's a sample: Christian Right groups claim that the bill will prevent Tony Perkins from gay-bashing every Sunday. That's doubtful.
Ramesh Ponnuru says I'm being unfair and that the White House opposes the hate-crimes bill because of concerns over federalism, not because the bill would add sexual orientation to the list of protected categories. That might well be true. In the past, people like Barney Frank have claimed that the GOP leadership scuttled versions of the bill mainly because they included protections for gays and lesbians, but hey, it's possible that Frank's wrong and they really were doing so out of a principled concern for federalism.