March 04, 2009
The Scoop Factory
On the evening of January 22, a few hours after his administration's debut news conference, Barack Obama made a surprise visit to the cramped quarters of the White House press corps. It was meant to be a friendly event, and Obama glad-handed his way through reporters and cameramen, exchanging light banter as he went. But Politico reporter Jonathan Martin wasn't there to chat. Martin pressed Obama about the president's decision to nominate William J. Lynn III, a former defense lobbyist, to deputy defense secretary and about Obama's pledge to curtail the influence of lobbyists.
One a mission to Ramallah and Jerusalem in 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell began with an attempt to bring about a cease-fire and ended in a public squabble with Yasser Arafat.
Really Open Thread
Who leaked Barack Obama’s personal letter to Russian president Dmitri Medvedev? Yesterday’s New York Times story on the letter, which suggested that Russia’s help in stopping an Iranian nuclear bomb could lead to the cancellation of a planned U.S. antimissile system in Eastern Europe, didn’t explain why someone is taking private diplomacy public. The key clue seems to be that the letter’s contents were first reported by the Russian newspaper Kommersant. That led several Russia experts with whom I spoke to speculate that the leak had come from the Russians.
The seventh floor of the U.S. State Department is a generally dreary place. Its employees roam hallways so long and confusing that they are color-coded for guidance. Fluorescent lights throw down a harsh hospital glare. But, to most State employees, the "real" seventh floor is a secure area, protected by armed guards and doors that require electronic keys, where the department's top staffers, including the secretary herself, spend their days.
Freeman Not Yet A Done Deal
TNR Contributing Editor Eli Lake breaks some important news in the Washington Times today: an independent inspector general will be investigating the selection of Chas Freeman--former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, president of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), and enthusiastic proponent of the Tiananmen Square massacre--as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. The investigation follows bipartisan congressional calls for an explanation as to how and why Freeman would be chosen for such a sensitive, high-level position.
David Brooks's "Moderate Manifesto" has attracted much attention, and deservedly so. It is a cri de coeur from a respected commentator who cannot stomach what conservatism has become, but who also cannot embrace what he calls the "transformational liberalism" of the Obama administration. Brooks' critique is fiscal, ideological, and moral--so let's cover the fiscal aspects first.
Obama And Rush--why Not?
El Rushbo extends an invite to the president. Take it, I say! If Rush really is the leader of the opposition, then why not talk to the opposition? (Can it be worse than talking to Iran and Syria? Er, don't answer that....) Obama is a cool customer who fairly easily held his own against Bill O'Reilly, who is at least as obnoxious as Rush (although Rush is admittedly smarter). What's the worst that can happen? If the concern is elevating Limbaugh, well, he's already been plenty elevated these past few days.
Ross Douthat charges President Obama with doing George W. Bush's budget strategy in reverse: what you see in his budgeting proposals, I think, is the liberal equivalent of the conservative attempt to "starve the beast." In both the Reagan and Bush eras, Republicans passed tax cuts and ran up large deficits while hoping that by starving the federal government of revenue they would curb its long-run growth.
Heckuva Job Boehner
First Read writes up the results of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, and it looks like the GOP's rejectionist strategy is working about as well as it did last fall (with the caveat that no sequel ever does quite as well as the original): Obama’s favorability rating is at 68% (an all-time high in our survey), 67% say they feel more hopeful about his leadership, 60% approve of his job in the White House, and 49% have a positive view of the Democratic Party (which is also near a high).
My thanks go to Damon Linker for his concise thoughts on why I was correct to write about Carl Schmitt, the Nazi political philosopher, in my book The Future of Liberalism. I too have wondered why conservative sensibilities are so easily offended on this point. Reading John Yoo is like overhearing Schmitt translated into English. Pride of place for taking offense goes to Jonah Goldberg. I hope Jonah decides to read my book rather than rely on reviews.