January 30, 2009
I have a piece out today about the subtle ways Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has positioned his department to exert serious influence, despite what you've heard about Larry Summers, the top White House economic aide, dominating the policy landscape. Today's Wall Street Journal brings another data point (via Halperin): Obama has just named Mike Froman, his law school classmate and close confidant, to an intriguing joint National Economic Council/National Security Council appointment.
India's Empty Holbrooke Power Play
It may be an interesting demonstration of India's clout that New Delhi managed to strip Indian issues from Richard Holbrooke's official mandate as a special envoy to deal with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it's nonsense to think this reflects any substantive change in Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's diplomatic plans. The problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan are as intertwined with India as Lebanon is intertwined with Iran and Syria.
January 29, 2009
Republicans on the Side
WASHINGTON--President Obama's visit with House and Senate Republicans this week was useful for setting a new tone and a refreshing break from the Bush administration's habit of consulting almost no one.
Lib and Let Die
At Barack Obama’s inauguration, John Roberts’s adverb trouble, subconsciously driven by a “blackboard grammar” quest to deflect faithfully from “splitting” the verb execute from the auxiliary will, was a rather gorgeous example of how educated people can be tripped up by unworkable hoaxes about how language works. (“To boldly go where no man has gone before” is “bad” grammar?).
Remember that entertaining confrontation last May between Joe Klein and John McCain over who truly dictates Iranian foreign policy? McCain insisted it was Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Klein noted (persuasively) that the really important shots--including those related to grand strategy and the country's nuclear program--are called by Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Waiting For Dennis Ross
It's a popular diversion in foreign-policy circles right now to speculate about why Dennis Ross, who is reportedly set to be the State Department's lead official on Iran, has not yet been officially announced as part of the new Obama-Clinton team (even though Ross has already started showing up for work at Foggy Bottom). I'm told the holdup has nothing to do with Ross--but rather the fact that the administration hasn't quite decided on its early public positioning and rhetoric towards Iran.
About That White House Chef
Chait's right, that Lisa Schiffren post about Sam Kass as a new White House chef is absurd. That said, Schiffren has a shred of a point when it comes to the annoyingness of Alice Waters. After the election, Waters was pushing Obama to can the current White House executive chef, Cristeta Comerford, who'd gotten that job under President Bush, and replace her with someone more in tune with Waters's ideas about local and organic food.
Lisa Schiffren, writing at the Corner, manages to be outraged over the fact that Barack Obama has hired his own White House chef. I'm not quite sure how to sum up her argument. The main thrust is that Michelle Obama is a hypocrite for not cooking the family meals. You just have to read it to believe it. --Jonathan Chait
Waxman: Health Care Reform This Year
Barack Obama has said he wants to pursue major health care reform this year. Two key committee chairmen in the Senate, Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy, have said they watn to pursue health care this year. But what about the House? The leadership has been strangely silent on the question, except for some recent statements by James Clyburn, the Majority Whip, that it might be better to move slowly and expand coverage incrementally. A few minutes ago, Congressman Henry Waxman made his feelings known--and did so with no ambiguity.
How To End The Culture War
This item about whether Obama will bring the culture war to an end has inspired two thoughtful posts -- one by Tim Fernholz at Tapped, and another by Ed Kilgore at the Democratic Strategist. Tim's post concludes by posing the following question: "So, Damon, how does one end the culture wars?" Good question. One option is to demoralize the other side to such an extent that they effectively give up and go home. This is pretty much what fundamentalists did after the humiliation of the Scopes Trial in 1925.