March 29, 2009
Surely, the president's attempted enticements of Iran are not over. No one could have imagined -and certainly not someone as cerebral as he- that a televised missive to the people of Iran would have done the trick. In any case, his strategy (and it is not a trick) is to talk openly to the Persian masses, the declining middle class and restless youth, to engage the most enlightened of the political strata, and to show tough resolve on not permitting the mullahs to acquire or to manufacture nuclear weapons in west Asia.I wish this diplomatic design would work. Inshallah.
March 28, 2009
The IMF Matters
Global news editors’ eyes glaze over when you pitch them on a story about the International Monetary Fund. Somehow, nothing sounds as deeply uninteresting as an international organization dealing with the intricacies of the global financial system. To make matters even less interesting, no employee of the IMF can be called to testify before Congress, so the organization hasn't had any high tension TV moments that might familiarize people with the work it does.But at this week’s G20 summit, at long last, the IMF will step out into the limelight.
March 27, 2009
Republican Senator Arlen Specter announced this week that he will vote against the Employee Free Choice Act, a reversal of his position in 2007 when he was the only GOP senator to vote for cloture. Specter has been quick to defend his apparent flip-flop, arguing that his 2007 vote did not equate to support of the union-friendly bill, but was rather just an attempt “to take up the issue of labor law reform,” out of an implied procedural respect for Congress--a claim, though cryptic, he did make at the time to both the Lancaster New Era and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
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.