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Suspended

I have suspended writing new posts for this blog.  I watch the Republican presidential debates and listen to the debate about bombing Iran and am speechless.  There is hardly anything left to say.

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Obama’s Kansas Speech Sets 2012 Themes

It appears Obama is turning against his own accommodationist strategy of the last three years, and doing it in typical Obama fashion.   He gave a speech.  As expected, it set the tone and themes for his 2012 campaign. In sweep it was similar to his 2008 stump speech. At that time,  he posed an essential question: why, with the knowledge and skills that this country has, can we not move forward in solving problems of competitiveness, economic growth, energy, immigration, the environment.  He famously blamed hyper-partsan grid-lock.  We have the skill but answers are stuck in the mud of Washington politics. That’s what his campaign was about.

Obama’s rhetorical sweep in 2008 sliced against wedge politics on the right and single issue narrowness on the left. Obama thought Republicans would respond in kind.  Instead , they doubled-down on partisanship.

This year he’s asking something different: what are we becoming as a country?  The crisis has heightened inequality and, as banks were bailed-out, the middle class was cheated out of a ‘fair shake’.

In 2011, if yesterday’s speech is an example, Obama turns the table.  Obama’s sweep is draw on history.  Starting  with the Teddy Roosevelt comparison of the ‘trust-busting’ era today era of greed was ingenious.  Obama then surveyed the ‘normal’ way the country worked out problems before and after WW2; the ability of labor and capital to come together to make the country grow beyond expectations; why workers expected and were rewarded the benefits their productivity earned; the American Dream of a better life for your children.  That spirit of community has given way to an ultra-individualism of ‘every man for himself’, and judging by Wall Street, with any means necessary.

Obama’s speech pulled no punches.  Just as in 2008 when Americans sensed there was nothing wrong with the country that couldn’t be solved by working together, last week’s speech captured the sentiments of ordinary Americans who know something is wrong when their living standards decline while Wall Street basks in record profits.

By invoking history, Obama sweep this year played on nostalgia for a more earnest way of living.   He contrasted the American value of pulling together  with the divisiveness of today.  This time, however, everyone’s experienced the consequences in their own lives or in the lives of relatives and friends.

And this time, President Obama chastised the opposition for ‘amnesia’ regarding the origins of the economic crisis; for wanting to go back to the same policies which got the country into it; for Republican refusal to approve essential consumer protection appointments; for the constant push-back the Administration gets from banks and the financial sector.

This is exactly the type of broad-scope analysis presented in an accessible form  and pinpointing peoples’ fears that energized a majority in 2008.  Especially independents and Republican transfers voted for Obama because he made sense, rhetoric aside.

Obama owes those voters a lot.  They are not happy.  He’s pulled the rabbit out of the hat before.  The question is whether he can and will deliver as a lame duck.  Not with big, fancy programs but with targeted programs that re-build a forward-looking dynamic.

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Germany Got Israel to Release Funds

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is reporting that Germany Chancellor Merkel insisted that Israel release $100 Million of Palestinian funds it was holding before Germany would approve a submarine sale to Israel.

Israel’s decision to release frozen public funds to the Palestinians last week came after Germany insisted it did so as a condition for the completion of the sale of a submarine, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

The Welt am Sonntag quoted sources as saying Germany had told Israel it could not go ahead with the purchase of the submarine unless it made political concessions.

And here we have President Obama adding more funds to the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ project and getting nothing back from Israel for all-out American support for Israel at the UN.  In contrast, the Palestinians’ money was returned the same day Merkel spoke.

 

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Jobless Rate Drops to 8.6%

The US economy added 120,000 jobs in November, as more jobs were filled in September and October than previously reported.  According to MarketWatch:

The reduction in the jobless rate, which stood at 9.0% in October, stemmed in large part from a decline in the size of the labor force. Some 315,000 people stopped looking for jobs last month, which is usually not a good sign.

Yet the decline in the labor force is belied by other evidence showing that companies continue to add workers at a modest pace. The increase in hiring in November was accompanied by revisions in the October and September data that show an additional 72,000 jobs were created.

What’s more, the labor force had increased by nearly 1 million people in the three months before November, suggesting that more jobs are available. People tend to reenter the labor force when they think they have a better chance of finding a job.

 

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Can Newt Win?

Polls are showing Newt catching up with Romney.  The latest Rasmussen Poll gives Newt a 6+% lead.  Newt is shoring up his campaign in Iowa, where he wants to have a good showing, but counting on South Carolina as the primary he retires Romney as a candidate.

It is certainly possible that Newt could win the Republican nomination.  The base is going for outrageous, overbearing and out-of-bounds this season, and Newt excels in each.  The media make a big thing about how Gingrich’s immigration reform position, giving illegals in the US 20 years or longer a chance for citizenship, is a type of ‘amnesty’ hated by Republicans.

So what?  Gingrich continues to throw heftier pieces of meat to the base than immigration.  War with Iran, anyone?

Newt winning would be good news for Obama.  Gingrich will sizzle like bacon in a fry-pan at any debate with Obama the Unflappable and come out with half the support of what he had going in.

Newt is pudgy, nasty, hypocritical, moronic and a boar.  His only redeeming quality is shutting up.  He could never run a disciplined campaign because he is so undisciplined himself.  He could never get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to be at a campaign stop by 6.  It would be physically impossible. And forget about the 3 am international emergency!

Nominating Newt would destroy the Republican Party.  Long live the Newt!

 

 

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Contrary to Rumors, Obama is Not…

calling it quits on the white working class.  Alec MacGillis reports on how the rumor thrived for a few days in The New Republic.

What has prompted this conclusion? Another overheard musing by Obama about “bitter” working class voters? A secret memo from Jim Messina in Chicago? No. A demographic analysis of the 2012 electorate from the Center for American Progress. Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin did not realize it, but their dense 69-page report analyzing the electorate — which notes, above all, that the electorate’s share of racial minorities and Gen-Y voters continues to grow — was so convincing that it has now been adopted as the official governing document of the Obama campaign. Leave aside that the analysis, as discussed in this space last week, makes clear that Obama is in trouble if he loses too many working class white voters below his 2008 share

Advice: distrust everything you hear between now and November, 2012.  Rule of thumb:  wait three days after any ‘shocking news’ to hear the other side, then decide which sounds more credible.  Extra step: download the entire speech/interview/press conference to make sure the (object, victim, candidate) was quoted in context.

 

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Reactions to UNESCO Accepting Palestinian Bid

Yesterday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to accept Palestine as its 195th member.  The US immediately announced it would no longer fund UNESCO.  Laws from 1990 and 1994 prohibit American financing of any UN organization that recognizes Palestine as a member.  That means a quarter of UNESCO’s funding, beginning with $60 million scheduled for this month, will dry up.  Although the Obama Administration will try to find ways to support UNESCO in other ways, State Department attorneys see the US law prohibiting  funding for UNESCO as air-tight, and UNESCO is prohibited from using any ‘extra’ funding for operations.

The Israeli reaction:

The Israeli ambassador, Nimrod Barkan, said that Unesco had done “a great disservice” to international efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. “Unesco deals in science, not in science fiction,” he said, noting that a Palestinian state is not otherwise recognized by the international community. Unesco, he said, had acted on a “political subject outside of its competence.”

The Palestinian reply:

Washington has to look at these laws that should have been changed ages ago,” said Muhammad Shtayyeh, a close aide to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. “The P.L.O. is not a terrorist organization anymore. It exchanged letters of recognition with Israel back in 1993.”

Both Democrats and Republicans blamed the Palestinians for throwing yet another obstacle into the peace process.  First, UNESCO membership is separate from the peace process, so why all the fuss?  Second, both the Palestinians and Israelis have pledged to present their respective views of borders to the Quartet (US, EU, Russian and UN), the unofficial lead agency, replacing the US, within 3 months.  This is a step forward for peace that came in the wake of the Palestinian UN bid for statehood.  UNESCO membership doesn’t affect the Quartet process one way or another.

Other Developments

In other news concerning Palestinian statehood, it appears the US has rounded up enough ‘no’ votes on the Security Council to deny the Palestinian petition without a US veto.

The Quartet this week  laid out a challenge to both parties, Israel and Palestine, that they come up with boundary maps within a three month time-line imposed by the Quatet.  Both agreed.  In the past, these types of demands were made behind-the-scenes and no transparency or public accountability.

Finally, in her new book former Secretary of State Condi Rice admits surprise that the Obama Administration did not follow-up on the significant progress she, former Israeli PM Olmert, and PA President Abbas made in resolving some of the thorniest issues of peace in the last months of the Olmert Administratioin. Instead, the Obama Administration chose to ignore the past and begin at zero.

This was an unforgivable strategic error on the part of the Obama Administration.  The Olmert/Rice/Abbas negotiations, and what they agreed to, is well-known in Israeli political circles.  Obama could have insisted that negotiations under his leadership start from the Olmert/Rice base.  He didn’t, and now the world sees Israel as a state unwilling to engage peace as attempted by former PMs Barak and Olmert.  Instead, Israel is seen as a ‘refusnik’ pariah state unwilling to accept legitimate interests on the part of Palestinian and unable to compromise.

 

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Ornstein Rips Brooks (and a bit of Obama)

Norman Orstein, founder of the American Enterprise Institute and a Congressional scholar writes with Tomas Mann in The New Republic.  Ornstein is one of the clearest thinkers around:

In his continuing, illusive quest for the Grand Bargain, New York Times columnist David Brooks has now offered some free campaign advice to President Obama: Drop the angry and divisive populist talk; link your reelection to the Congressional supercommittee to tackle the deficit; lower the ideological temperature. Political independents now recoil from big government, Brooks argues, so Obama should be blurring, not highlighting, the differences between the two parties over the role of government.

Obama should say thanks, but no thanks for the advice. Based as it is on a series of tired and false assumptions, this strategy would doom whatever chance Obama has of winning reelection

Obama should likewise know by now that working with a supercommittee whose Republican members are under orders from their House and Senate leaders to oppose all revenue increases is a fool’s errand. And imagining that a substantial center in the American public will respond positively to such an approach is pure fantasy. What sense does it make for Obama embrace an agenda without any support on the other side of the aisle, and make nice to a party whose sole objective is to deny him reelection.

In other words, highlighting differences with Republicans is essential to a national consensus – or Obama winning reelection.

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