January 29, 2009
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.
January 28, 2009
Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell's appointment as the latest U.S. Presidential envoy to the Middle East is meant to serve as proof that, after eight years of disengagement, the United States is ready to make a renewed, determined push for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. And who better than Mitchell, the man who brokered the "peace process" in Northern Ireland, to lead the effort? As President Obama put it in his interview with Al Arabiya, "George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature.
Struck Out Looking
President Obama is hoping former Senator George Mitchell will bring the same sort of patient, tough diligence to his role as special envoy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he did with the crisis in Northern Ireland more than ten years ago. Let’s hope so. And, more to the point: Let’s hope he does a better job than he did with Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report, the “investigation” into steroid abuse that came out in December 2007.
The Two Americas
WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama will meet his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in April at the Summit of the Americas. They expect much from him--never a good sign. What approach should he bring to the table?The most important thing the United States can do is to fix its own economy.
Les Gelb looks at the new administration's second-tier foreign policy players--people like Donilon, Steinberg, Flournoy, Blinken--and concludes: [A]ll are middle-of-the-roaders who are somewhat to the right or conservative side of the Democratic Party as a whole on foreign and national-security policy. They are all pragmatists and problem-solvers by intellectual temperament, and they are not political risk-takers. They will handle most hard problems with consummate skill, but will be reluctant to seek high-risk policy solutions.
The House vote on Obama's stimulus bill -- H.R. 1, the administration's first big test of its capacity for arm-twisting the legislature -- is imminent. Will it pass? Democratic leadership is optimistic -- and politically, it must pass. Nancy Pelosi can't bring it to the floor without knowing it will pass, because a rejection would be such a blow to the new Obama administration. The problem at this juncture isn't the Republicans -- they're entirely lost -- but the Blue Dogs, who are anxious about the price tag and the idea of abandoning fiscal discipline.
Yesterday, we asked President Bush's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, if he had any hard-won suggestions for Robert Gibbs. My view is that the press-briefing model that is used now is kind of outdated.
I Need Glasses. Or A Bigger Tv.
I just glanced over at the television, which is tuned to MSNBC and carrying a press conference by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It's on the other side of the room and, from a distance, it looked for a moment like Phil Gramm. Seeing Gramm's face at the White House press office made for a disturbing, if blessedly fleeting, moment. So be aware: It's an easy mistake to make. --Jonathan Cohn
Geithner To Citi: No Plane For You!
I come not to praise Tim Geithner, but ... It's still too early to say he's changed the tone of the D.C.-Wall Street relationship. However--a few days ago Citigroup announced that, despite its multiple bailouts from the federal government, it was going ahead with plans to buy a $50 million corporate jet. That's a lot of coin, even for a corporate jet, and it was a clear challenge to Geithner's Treasury. Former Secretary Paulson and his staff would have waited to read the public response; if the media had splashed the news on Page 1, they might have acted.