March 27, 2009
Stuck In The Middle
Now that the Labor Party has decided to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Israelis have begun debating whether the new coalition is a “right-wing government” supported by Labor, as its detractors believe, or a “unity government,” as its supporters insist. The answer to this question is not only relevant for how the government will approach pressing policy questions, but may also portend a significant realignment of the Israeli political landscape. The fate of the Labor Party is the pivotal question in understanding the future of Israeli politics.
What Obama Couldn't Say About Af-pak
The good news about Barack Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy is that it exists at all. After years of neglect under the Bush administration, Obama, and extremely capable deputies like Richard Holbrooke, are focused intently on the alarming nexus of al Qaeda and nuclear weapons in the region.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an item that tries to answer a question I've struggled with while working on certain pieces lately: How much of the original $700 billion bank bailout (i.e., TARP) do we have left in the fridge? According to the Journal: Based on Dow Jones Newswires' reporting and calculations, it appears that Treasury has, at most, $52.6 billion left in its rescue fund. That would mean about 92% is already committed.
Obama Previews His Deal For Detroit
Sometime very soon, probably on Monday, we'll find out whether President Obama is prepared to keep Chrysler and General Motors going with further government assistance. And it looks like the answer is "yes," albeit with under some very strict conditions, following about a month of study by the administration's twelve-person task force. Here's what the Wall Street Journal has learned: Interviews with task-force members indicate that the administration doesn't want to let General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC slip into bankruptcy protection, a course advocated by some critics of the industry.
More Non-news Barely Fit To Print
This morning's entry in my ongoing obsession with "You Call This News?" stories: There's a short piece in the WaPo about some parents' unhappiness over the new on-line method of distributing tickets to the White House Easter Egg roll. Headline: "Slow Boil Over Egg Roll Tickets on Web." Used to, folks had to get up at the crack of dawn (or head out the night before) and wait in a looooonnng line in downtown DC to secure tickets.
Things Obama Didn't Explain
Obama's speech promised benchmarks and metrics to measure our progress in AfPak. But what are they? That's the really hard question. There may be a White House backgrounder on this point that I haven't seen. But to me the speech sounded like a vow to set benchmarks, not an explanation of what they'll be, As for an ultimate goal, this is how Obama put it: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. Okay, but where is the point at which we're confident al Qaeda won't be coming back?
March 26, 2009
Last week, lawmakers dashed to the podiums of Capitol Hill to condemn AIG and the rest of those bonus-loving scoundrels on Wall Street. But not long before that, some of those same members had been dashing to fundraisers with the very financial bogeymen they were now skewering. Indeed, the line between friend and target is a fine one in Washington, and often the line moves from month to month.
A Truth Deficit
WASHINGTON -- The debate on the budget is phony, the howling on deficits a charade. Few politicians want to acknowledge that if you really are concerned about long-term deficits, you have to support tax increases. That's why the most significant moment of President Obama's news conference on Tuesday was not his dodge of a question on AIG, but his defense of the least popular tax increase in his budget: limits on the benefits wealthier taxpayers get for their charitable contributions and mortgage payments.It has been a long time since a president was willing to defend raising taxes.
Politico Gets It Right
I've railed on Politico for being too business-friendly in the past, so it's incumbent onme to point out when they're on the right track. This morning Eamon Javers writes up a brilliant, scathing critique of the Administration's new regulatory plan, essentially arguing that it's just low-hanging fruit and fails to deliver the sort of thorough reform the system needs.
March 25, 2009
When Curt Schilling announced his baseball retirement Monday by grandly proclaiming on his blog, “This party has officially ended,” I couldn’t help thinking of the greatest movie of all time, Anchorman, and the party scene at Ron Burgundy’s house in which Ron (Will Ferrell) turns to Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and announces: “We’ve been coming to the same party for twelve years now, and in no way is that depressing.” Why? Because Curt Schilling was baseball’s Ron Burgundy.