Archive for January, 2011

Egypt: Former Bushie lies to rehabilitate Bush

As part of the ongoing — and futile — effort to rehabilitate the reputation of former President George W. Bush, Elliott Abrams, one of Bush’s foreign policy advisers, wrote an essay in yesterday’s Washington Post claiming that “Bush was right” to push democracy in the Middle East.
Commenting on the protests currently roiling Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, Abrams said:

All these developments seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush’s “freedom agenda” as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. But as Bush’s support for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and for a democratic Palestinian state showed, he was defending self-government, not the use of force. Consider what Bush said in that 2003 speech, which marked the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, an institution established by President Ronald Reagan precisely to support the expansion of freedom.

“Sixty years of Western …

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What do business leaders really want?

WASHINGTON — Since capitalism is the nation’s official religion, President Obama must bow before business executives, who don’t believe he has been sufficiently fawning. It wasn’t enough for Obama to expend taxpayer funds, as his predecessor did, to save capitalism.

The president has had the effrontery to point out that free markets need sensible regulations to protect consumers from poisoned food, lead-laced toys and a reckless Wall Street — a position that has angered many among the mogul class. So, even with a roaring stock market and soaring corporate profits, Obama has been obliged to launch a charm offensive to re-assure the business executives that he’s no socialist.

This may be heresy, but here it is: The interests of Big Business and the needs of regular working Americans don’t always coincide. As just one example, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, newly appointed as the White House jobs czar, heads a company which relies increasingly on foreign …

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Egypt and the limits of US power

Few relationships better demonstrate the limits of American power or the frustration conundrums of Realpolitikbetter than our alliance with Egypt.
It is one of our most reliable partners in the fight against Islamic terrorists, but its autocratic police state bred one of the best-known pro-terror organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood. Its treaty with Israel has helped to keep the lid on explosive relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but its sclerotic and corrupt regime frustrates its youthful population. That keeps the pot simmering.
Protests which erupted in Tunisia have now spread to other Middle Eastern police states, including Egypt. From The New York Times:

After days of protests in the Arab world that have toppled one president and shaken many others, demonstrators calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak poured from mosques in Cairo after noon prayers on Friday, clashing with police who fired tear-gas and water-cannons, according to news reports and …

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Americans need to grow up about the deficit

The independent and non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted a budget deficit that, in monetary terms, is the worst in the nation’s history. The deficit will reach a record of nearly $1.5 trillion in 2011. (As a percentage of gross domestic product — 9.8 percent — the deficit will be slighter smaller than the record.) It’s time for our elected leaders to get serious about reducing the sea of red ink without cutting spending too quickly and pushing the still-sputtering economy back into recession.
As the first essential part of the exercise, Republicans need to admit that the record-high deficit was exacerbated by extending the Bush tax cuts. Strange as it is, our political dialogue over the deficit is handicapped by the fact that one of the two major parties refuses to admit the rules of basic arithmetic.
President Bush and the GOP-dominated Congress arranged for their massive tax cuts to have a sunset clause after ten years. They did that because the CBO …

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Michele Bachmann gives GOP another Sarah Palin problem

Paul Ryan’s Republican State of the Union response was not inspiring, but at least he didn’t embarrass himself or his party. That was left to Michelle Bachmann, the loopy Minnesota Republican who gave the response from the tea party caucus of the Republican Party.
It was incivil, disjointed and, in some places, outright wrong.

As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted, President Obama and Ryan aimed for unifying rhetoric. But Bachmann wasn’t having it:

As the leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the Minnesota Republican gave her own, unauthorized response to the State of the Union, live from the National Press Club, filmed by Fox News, broadcast live on CNN and telecast by the Tea Party Express. It had all the altitude of a punch to the gut.

“After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don’t have,” Bachmann said. “But, instead …

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State of the Union is better; state of Obama is strong

President Obama’s speech tonight is widely seen as a preview of the themes on which he will build his re-election campaign. He is expected to call for a freeze on some federal spending, while also emphasizing the need for more investments in education, infrastructure and research.
Republicans will push back hard against his calls for more spending, but he has the wind at his back. The president is enjoying high approval ratings that Republicans can only envy.
Polls show that Obama has bounced back with independents — the key to any general election campaign. From CNN:

Several national polls released during the past week indicated Obama’s approval rating is on the upswing among voters who said they aren’t affiliated with either major political party, Politico reported.

In two polls, Obama improved his standing with independent voters by more than 10 points.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll indicated he had 46 percent approval among independents, an 11-point increase since …

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A conservative tells Obama what to say tonight

David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is a talented writer and a committed conservative. He is best known for coining the phrase “axis of evil,” which Bush used in this 2002 State of the Union speech to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
In this month’s Esquire magazine, Frum offers the speech that he thinks President Obama should give tonight.

In my favorite part, Obama (using Frum’s words) offers a sharp retort to the critics who insist he has put the country on the path to “socialism.” Frum is a conservative, but he lives in the reality-based universe, where facts matter.

Here is an excerpt:

When my administration arrived in office in January 2009, we confronted the worst economic collapse since the 1930s. We did our best to estimate the depth of the crisis ahead. We got it wrong. As bad as we thought the recession would be, it was worse. We prepared for a fifty-year flood. We got a hundred-year flood. We thought our measures would cap unemployment at …

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A Georgia Congressman won’t be ‘kissy-kissy’ during State of the Union

Can we all just get along?

Following the atrocity in Tucson, mainstream Democrats and Republicans made a pledge to try to be more civil in their public debates, to discourage inflammatory rhetoric and to make at least a gesture of reaching across the aisle to the other party. House Majority Leader John Boehner led a very respectful and moving tribute to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was shot in the head.

Then, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) made the suggestion that members of Congress break with tradition and sit with members of the opposite party during tomorrow night’s State of the Union address. He offered the idea as a way of bolstering the new atmosphere of civility. From The WaPo:

It’s one of the first symbolic acts of this supposedly new era of civility in Washington: Heeding a call from Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), nearly 60 lawmakers – and counting – from both parties are pledging to sit together at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, breaking with …

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Tiger Mothers vs most Americans

WASHINGTON — Okay, I’ll admit it: I, too, was annoyed by the pushy Chinese-American mother who bragged, in a Jan. 8 Wall Street Journal essay, about rearing child prodigies. It took me a few hours of fuming to remember the many parents I know who’ve pushed their children to superior academic performance without resorting to Amy Chua’s harsh techniques.

Indeed, most of my upper-middle-class peers — black, white and brown — are parents obsessed with their children’s achievement. They provide ballet lessons, violin lessons, math camps, drama camps, SAT tutorials, foreign language classes, summers abroad — all in pursuit of a spot at an exclusive college and a path to a well-paid profession.

Still, Chua, a Yale University law professor, could not have picked a more opportune moment to publish her parenting memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Declaring most American parents deficient, she picked at the scab of upper-middle-class anxieties at a moment when …

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Americans don’t really want to cut spending

As the comic strip character Pogo famously put it, ” We have met the enemy, and he is us.” A new New York Times/CBS poll makes clear that Americans don’t want to raise taxes but we don’t want to cut spending, either. From the NYT:

As President Obama and Congress brace to battle over how to reduce chronic annual budget deficits, Americans overwhelmingly say that in general they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government’s projected long-term debt.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security …

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