March 04, 2009
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.
The Wrong Envoy To Syria?
I was surprised to see Jeffrey Feltman as one of the two envoys Obama is sending to Syria to begin talks with President Bashir Al-Asad. Feltman, currently the acting assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs (he is rumored to be keeping the job), was formerly the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, where he cultivated a staunchly anti-Syrian reputation. Hearing his name still reminds me of the banner that used to hang across downtown Beirut: "Topple the Feltman Government," it read--a reference to his staunch support for the pro-West and anti-Syrian March 14 coalition.
Martin Wolf Is Making Sense
....as usual. Today's effort: This [the current approach], then, is loss-socialisation in action – it guarantees a public buffer to protect creditors. This could end up giving the government a controlling shareholding in some institutions: Citigroup, for example. But, say the quibblers, this is not nationalisation. What then are the pros and cons of this approach, compared with taking institutions over outright? Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution analyses this question in an intriguing paper. Part of the answer, he suggests, is that it is unclear whether banks are insolvent.
Iran Watch: Obama=bush?
Still not much thaw, publicly at least. From Ha'aretz: Meanwhile Wednesday, Iran's top authority said that U.S. President Barack Obama was pursuing the same "wrong path" as George W. Bush in supporting Israel, which he called a "cancerous tumor." The comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on policy in the Islamic Republic, are likely to disappoint the new U.S.
Jonathan Martin has a good piece reporting out how and when Democrats realized Rush Limbaugh was their perfect foil. The thing that makes Rush different from past GOP boogeymen--such as Newt and Bush--is that, because his bottom line is ratings (rather than votes), the Dems' demonization of him is actually kind of good for him: Limbaugh is embracing the line of attack, suggesting a certain symbiosis between him and his political adversaries.