Archive for April, 2009

It’s too early to attack Obama, but GOP can’t help itself

In battle, in sports, in business and in many other areas of life, faith in leadership can get you through tough times. It’s a tribal survival instinct to want to rally around the leader.

Yesterday, the AP released polling numbers showing that for the first time in five years, a plurality of Americans say the country is moving in the right direction. Those numbers are impressive given that we have six million unemployed, Chrysler is reportedly about to announce bankruptcy, GM is closing most of its plants over the summer and the stock market continues to wallow at levels 40 percent off its peak. For the moment, Obama seems to be providing people the reassuring leadership they need in tough times, much as FDR did through the Great Depression.

So, speaking strictly in terms of political strategy, how can Republicans respond?

They can rally behind obstructionism in Congress, but only 29 percent approve of how Republicans in Congress are responding to the economy; only 7 percent …

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Americans a little more upbeat about future

According to a new AP poll, Americans who believe the country is headed in the right direction (48 percent) outnumber those who believe it’s headed in the wrong direction (44 percent). It’s the first time that has happened in five years.

Obama’s approval/disapproval numbers are still more than 2-1 (64-30); congressional approval/disapproval numbers are still bad (38/57) but also still improving (it was 22/74 in October.)

On the economy, 50 percent say they approve what congressional Democrats are doing; 45 disapprove. The numbers for Republicans are disastrous — 29 percent approval, 65 percent disapproval — and have worsened since February.

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Official Washington moves to protect itself

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from The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they were backing committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has fended off calls for an independent counsel or commission by insisting her committee handle the task….

“It is in our best interests to do this sensibly, prudently, to wait until Sen. Feinstein completes this investigation,” said Durbin.

The majority leader did confirm that he was briefed on the Bush administration’s policies at the time that they were being used, and that he raised objections to the harsh interrogation methods. But he said the issue was too delicate to take outside the Senate’s regular committee structure.

“We’re talking about more than waterboarding,” Reid said. “I think it would be very unwise from my perspective to start having commissions, …

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If the Pakistani state falls, what then?

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What happens when a nuclear state becomes a failed state?

We may be about to find out. In testimony Wednesday before a House committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was surprisingly blunt about the situation in Pakistan. Among her remarks:

“I think we cannot underscore [enough] the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group — terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state. Which is, as we all know, a nuclear-armed state.”

“Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world. And I want to take this occasion … state unequivocally that not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora … need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents.”

“If you …

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The things you learn from Twitter

from Erick Erickson:

“Rachel Maddow’s Viewership Drops 40% From Peak (Just get her a Janet Reno vibrator and she’ll be ok.)”

from Newt Gingrich:

“Had a nice fish dinner at le mistral in mclean. Callistas dover sole was good but my trout was better. The mussels were superb”

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The high consequences — for everyone — of failing high school

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The proud, soon-to-be graduates of Atlanta’s Grady High School filed into commencement dressed in school colors —- the boys in red caps and gowns, the girls wearing white.

But as the students mounted the stage and turned beaming smiles toward the audience, something about the color scheme seemed out of balance. Then I realized —- those graduates dressed in white far outnumbered those wearing red.

Somewhere along the line between kindergarten and this moment, a lot of boys had disappeared from the graduating class. They were out there somewhere, on street corners, in dead-end jobs, a few maybe already in jail or prison. But they weren’t up on stage, accepting the diploma that would be their ticket to decent jobs or college.

The numbers back up that impression. According to a new report on urban school systems, the graduation rate in Atlanta public schools is only 44.4 percent.

Believe it or not, that’s the good news. Between 1995 and 2005, according …

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Meet your new Teflon president

Jonathan Martin at Politico has an interesting piece on President Obama’s ability to simply shrug off everything the Republicans are throwing at him. He’s saying and doing things that in the past would have gotten a Democratic president in hot water, and much to the GOP’s frustration, he gets away with it.

“Part of the answer is generational. Many hot-button liberal issues — decades-long obsessions for many baby boomers — have cooled a lot since the last time a Democrat occupied the White House.

And part of it is that the highest-profile Republican messengers these days are a deeply unpopular former vice president and a similarly polarizing former House speaker — both of whose days in the sun would seem to be behind them.

“The fact is, the world has changed,” said Charlie Cook, who has carefully studied election results for decades. “Whether it was [Bill] Clinton, [Al] Gore or [John] Kerry, they were all spooked by ghosts. But Obama just isn’t. If you haven’t been around for …

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Breaking news, breaking news!!

I know you’ll be shocked to learn this, but … Dick Cheney is a liar.

From the New York Daily News:

“U.S. counterterrorism officials are reacting angrily to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that waterboarding 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times was a “success” that produced actionable intelligence.

“Cheney is full of crap,” one intelligence source with decades of experience said Tuesday.

Another retired counterterrorism official who read reports when they arrived in Washington detailing the confessions of Mohammed, known as “KSM,” said most of the information he coughed up during the waterboarding sessions involved things he thought his CIA-contract interrogators already knew, or were just his ideas for mayhem.

“Most of the (cables) were reports of actions that KSM was only remotely thinking of undertaking – they didn’t even reach the planning stage,” the retired counterterrorism official said. “So it’s a bit of a stretch for Bush administration officials to …

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The untallied costs of economic meltdown

From The Washington Post:

“The acting chief financial officer of troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac was found dead in his Fairfax County home early this morning after apparently committing suicide, Fairfax police said.

David Kellermann, 41, was a longtime Freddie Mac executive who joined the firm as an analyst in 1992. Police were called to his stately red brick home in the upscale Hunter Mill Estates subdivision shortly before 5 a.m., police spokesman Eddy Azcarate said….Azcarate said Kellermann’s body was found in the basement…..

Kellermann was named acting chief financial officer of Freddie Mac last September, when the federal government seized Freddie Mac and ousted its top executives….

As acting chief financial officer, Kellermann reported directly to the company’s chief executive, according to a biographical profile posted on the company’s Web site. He was responsible for the company’s financial controls, financial reporting, tax, capital oversight, and compliance with …

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What were legal limits to torture under Bush?

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In December 2005, former White House lawyer John Yoo debated Notre Dame law professor Doug Cassel on the question of human rights, torture and the law. Yoo was the author of extremely permissive legal memos that attempted to legitimize the illegitimate — i.e., the use of torture that was clearly in violation of federal law, treaty agreements (which under the Constitution have the force of U.S. law), and international law.

The crux of Yoo’s argument is that the president’s position as commander in chief gives him the authority to ignore any treaty or law that, in his opinion, might interfere with defending the nation. As Cassel pointed out, that would mean that a president is bound by no laws whatsoever, that merely by citing his powers as commander in chief he could justify any act.

It also led to the following exchange:

Cassel: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, …

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