March 20, 2009
Barak Bites The Hand That Feeds Him
In response to reports that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: The Israeli Army is the most moral in the world, and I know what I’m talking about because I know what took place in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq. Now, he might be referencing the former regimes of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. But isn't it more likely to be a not-so-subtle dig at the United States military's human rights record? After all, why would he bother to favorably compare the IDF to the armies of two ruthless dictators?
A reader makes a great point: If bank nationalization is in the works or were to become necessary in the near future, as so many people expect, keeping the markets calm would require confidence from the private sector that the administration's economic policies were not subject to abrupt changes. This legislation might threaten that confidence, because it demonstrates a situation where mistargeted populist outrage can unexpectedly override the administration's policies.
White House photographer Pete Souza has a fascinating find: a picture of Ronald Reagan visiting Moscow as president, talking to a tourist who looks an awful lot like Vladimir Putin. We can't be sure it's Putin.
Who Is Scott Gration?
On Wednesday, Barack Obama appointed retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan. In 2001, when the envoy position was first created, the job entailed brokering a peace deal between Khartoum and rebel groups in the south. It subsequently mutated to include halting Darfur's genocide and reversing President Bashir's expulsion of humanitarian aid workers. So, what does Gration's appointment mean for Darfur policy now? The Sudan experts I spoke to were cautiously optimistic.
March 19, 2009
Up a Very Steep Hill
Although Barack Obama has had plenty of domestic fights with Republicans over everything from earmarks to his stimulus plan, when it comes to his foreign policy, partisan politics have been relatively quiet. No longer. A cadre of Senate Republicans are now trying to bring down Obama’s pick for ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill,. But because the GOP is less interested in how Hill might handle Iraq than in venting grievances about his personality, and his role directing the Bush administration's North Korea policy, their surprise offensive appears to be stalling. Obama will get his choice.
Populism Isn't the Weasel
WASHINGTON--Conservatives have argued for decades that the sins most dangerous to our society were rooted in lust when in fact the most damaging transgressions involved greed.We are at the beginning of a great popular rebellion against those who showed no self-restraint when it came to lining their own pockets. Their entitlement mentality arose from an inflated sense of their own value, of how much smarter they were than everyone else. The sound you are hearing in response to the AIG payoffs--excuse me, bonuses--is the rancorous noise of their arrogance crashing to earth.
Early one morning in November 2007, just as the college basketball season was getting under way, a message from my mother popped up on my laptop insisting that I go to the Wikipedia page for Kyle Singler, a 6'8" then-freshman phenom debuting at Duke, my alma mater.
Free Ray Lahood! (er, Sort Of.)
Greenwire's Josh Voorhees has an insightful piece about how new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is trying to be cautious about what he says these days, especially after causing a minor fracas last month when he publicly suggested a per-mile tax on driving.
The Fed Fights Back
I made the point earlier today that Treasury and the White House probably wanted to avoid antagonizing the Fed by scapegoating it for the bonus fiasco, since the Fed was in a position to fight back with damaging leaks.
Trying to tease out What Americans Think about climate change is incredibly frustrating. One will show people hand-wring over rising temperatures. But the next poll will suggest it's a low priority compared with other issues. Then a third poll will find that people are willing to trade some economic growth to protect the environment. Yet another poll will show that people don't want to pay more for, say, gas—even if it'd reduce oil use. Obviously, responses are sensitive to the wording of the questions—a tweak here or there can lead to vastly different sentiments.