Saturday, January 10, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Sure, Harry Reid has managed to trap himself now on the subject of Roland Burris, and is getting a lot of criticism for it. But how many of you saw his dilemma coming? At the time the Blagojevich scandal broke, did Reid and the Democrats really have any choice but to distance themselves as much as possible, and assert flatly that they wouldn't seat anyone that he nominated? Did they really have any reason to expect that a quasi-credible candidate like Roland Burris would actually accept Blagojevich's nomination (as opposed to someone like, say, Patti Blagojevich?)
I think Reid can be criticized for one thing -- for failing to advocate for a special election. But even if the Democrats had made a more earnest push to hold a special election, that would still have provided for the possibility that Blagojevich would attempt to nominate someone in the meantime. What were they supposed to have said? "You know Rod, we really have no legal grounds to block your nominee, so please pretty please with a cherry on top don't do it?"
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration intends to keep Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair in her post, Democrat officials said Wednesday.
Ms. Bair, a Republican who is one of the most influential figures in the government's response to the financial crisis, was nominated to run the FDIC by President George W. Bush in 2006. She has won praise from congressional Democrats for her aggressive push to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But she has emerged as a controversial figure during the banking crisis, occasionally clashing with the White House, Treasury Department, and Federal Reserve over the government's response.
She has criticized the Bush administration's management of the $700 billion financial rescue package because she has said it doesn't do enough to keep people in their homes. There had been speculation that President-elect Barack Obama would ask Ms. Bair to leave and would appoint his own person.
Reports of overwhelming African American support for Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage were exaggerated in exit polls, a new look at the November election results has found.
"Party identification, age, religiosity and political view had much bigger effects than race, gender or having gay and lesbian family and friends," said Patrick Egan of New York University, who wrote the report with Kenneth Sherrill of Hunter College of New York for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Exit polls found that 70 percent of black voters backed Prop. 8 on Nov. 4, even as they overwhelmingly supported Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, who opposed the same-sex marriage ban.
But an analysis of precinct-level voting data on Prop. 8 from Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco counties, which are home to nearly two-thirds of California's black voters, suggested that African American support for Prop. 8 was more likely about 58 percent.
That is a Senate matter. But I know Roland Burris, obviously he is from my home state. He is a fine public servant, if he gets seated then I am going to work with Roland Burris like all other senators to make sure that the people if Illinois and the people across the country are served.
In truth, this is a softening of his stance. He's still saying "if he gets seated", but c'mon, we all know what's happening here...
So Burris meets with Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Harry Reid (D-NV). And while the meeting is going on, the Associated Press reports that Burris's seating was about to happen.
Senate Democrats plan to accept Roland Burris for President-elect Barack Obama's vacant seat.
Problem. Harry Reid came out of the meeting, and promptly says that no decision's been made yet.
There's going to come a time when the entire Senate is going to have to act on this. And that day I hope would come sooner rather than later.And to further clarify his ongoing position in regards to this new President, especially in context of the first quote I gave, Harry Reid told an Interviewer from the Hill:
I don't believe in the executive power trumping everything... I believe in our Constitution, three separate but equal branches of government. If Obama steps over the bounds, I will tell him. ... I do not work for Barack Obama. I work with him.
And a reporter from Politico:
I like Barack Obama very much. He won a classic election, never have we had a better one. But I don't work for him, I work with him.
He also managed to throw a brushback pitch to Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in regards to her pro-Burris statement from yesterday.
That’s not valid, her statement. I told her that. OK?
And that AP story? Well, Harry Reid's spokesperson, Jim Manley, emailed Talking Points Memo and said simply:
It is wrong.
During his presser, Harry managed to clarify his official legal position on Burris matter:
Reid and Durbin both went to great lengths to say how much they like and respect Burris, and how constructive the meeting they just had with him was. But for now, they're waiting on two things: A ruling from the state Supreme Court on whether the missing signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is required for the appointment to be valid, and for Burris' testimony tomorrow before the Illinois House impeachment committee.
The first part, the ruling from the Illinois State Supreme Court is getting a fair bit of play. Fair enough that the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, came out and said:
They could have seated him without my signature; my signature is not required.
Otherwise, the Secretary of State and not the Governor would be the most powerful person in any state. White also let go this particular nugget...
Asked by [WGN-AM 720's John] Williams if he had been made "the fall guy," White said, "You're absolutely correct."
So now, I think we're all pre-positioned for Burris's seating...
...the last part, that Harry is also waiting Burris' testimony in the Illinois House Impeachment Committee. That's interesting. Perhaps Harry is waiting to hear how hard Burris slams Blago during it before giving him the green light.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
"I can't imagine the secretary of state countermanding a gubernatorial appointment," Feinstein said. "The question, really, is one in my view of law. And that is, does the governor have the power to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? And the answer is yes. Does that affect his appointment power? And the answer is no until certain things happen."
This from the lady who defended the FISA Legislation...
This from the lady who thought Iraq was a good idea...
This from the lady who voted for Leslie Southwick...
This from the lady who said "Go ahead, Michael Mukasey will be a total departure in the Attorney General's Office."
In my world, because Feinstein's for it, is a good enough reason to be against it.
Much of the time between now and when Obama signs the bill will be spent acting out the new era of politics he has promised. Much of Obama's popularity is based on his promises to build bridges with Republicans and change the way Washington works. Obama "really does want this to be bipartisan," said one veteran Democratic Senate aide when I asked why Senate Democrats couldn't just push through the Obama program quickly with their new massive majority. According to one participant in Obama's Monday meetings with Republican leaders, he stressed that he wanted "substantial Republican votes" in support of the bill. He promised that while he wouldn't agree with every idea, he would listen.
Republicans will have to get comfortable with the stimulus bill's contents and find plausible explanations to offer their constituents for their yes vote. (In meetings with Obama, congressional Republican leaders said his proposal for $300 billion in tax cuts will help them make the case.) Unlike recent unpopular recent bailouts, this one is targeted toward regular people, which should make it easier for Republicans to explain. But GOP legislators don't want to look like they're just writing a blank check to a government that President Bush has already put into historic bloat. (Some Republican strategists argue that a symbolic fight over spending would be a useful way for Republicans to show that the party had broken with the Bush era.)
The process of winning over members in the minority party—or at least making it look like they were given a fair role in the process—will require patient negotiations and perhaps committee hearings during which Republicans are given sufficient time to ask questions and perhaps even call witnesses. If Obama wants to embrace their contributions to the bill—one of the biggest signs he's making good on his bridge-building promises—he'll then have to make sure he shows the same concern for the views of his fellow Democrats, like the deficit-conscious Blue Dog Democrats who want rules written into the bill that link future spending to corresponding budget cuts.
One way Obama could grease the legislation would be to allow members to fund pet projects through earmarks. But he's said he doesn't want to do that. Obama has promised the bill will include no earmarks. That's an honorable position, but it creates a second problem. He's raised the bar on the kinds of programs that will be funded by the legislation. Some of the infrastructure programs governors and mayors have suggested are "shovel ready"—meaning they have all the permits they need and are best prepared to take advantage of immediate federal dollars—aren't technically earmarks but can sound like pork. "Part of the charge of … our budget team is to make sure that we are proceeding on projects and investments based on national priorities and not based on politics," he said last year describing his "new way of doing business." Figuring out how to move quickly while retaining some level of federal oversight will be complicated.
"I understand their thinking" in choosing Panetta, Feinstein explained, describing herself as "very respectful of the president's authority ... this is the man [Obama has chosen]."
I asked Feinstein whether her reticence about Panetta's lack of ties to the CIA would be mitigated by having Steven Kappes, her preferred choice for CIA director, stay on as the agency's No 2. "I believe very strongly" that Kappes should stay, Feinstein said, adding that Panetta's standing would be "very much enhanced" were Kappes to stay his deputy.
Apparently, she needed her ring kissed...and her No. 1 choice appointed No. 2, so it's smooth sailing. Mr. Leon Panetta, your Head of the C.I.A.!
What this analysis seems to be taking for granted is that the tax cuts are something the Obama administration does not want on their own merits. This, however, is far from self-evident. Obama's economic team is fairly centrist, number one. Obama campaigned on a tax cut, number two (albeit a tax cut paired with a tax hike for the wealthy). And number three, even most liberal economists seem to think that some measure of tax cuts are a decent idea, although there are questions about which taxes should be cut and in what amounts. (Likewise, most conservative economists seem to think that some measure of spending increases are a good idea -- it's just a question of how much).
Basically, I would resist the temptation on either side to see the stimulus in too overtly ideological terms. The ordinary rules are suspended during a severe recession: what matters is -- emperically, theoretically -- What Works. Instead, I would encourage everyone to cut down on their consumption of political blogs for the next few weeks and instead read more of Brad DeLong and Greg Mankiw and Paul Krugman and Tyler Cohen. Those are the sorts of people I'm interested in listening to on this; all others must bring data.
And Richard Wolffe talks up the fact that whatever Stimulus passes by Valentine's Day (the first Congressional Break), is merely Part 1. Part 2 is coming in the fall. (Richard's part begins about 2:47 into the piece, but his part about there being a second stimulus begins about 5:58 into the piece).
Monday, January 5, 2009
I used to do a lot of intelligence reporting. But I haven't really done any to speak of in a few years. So I'm coming at this cold. But I feel instinctively suspicious of the congressional reaction to this appointment. Rockefeller is saying he's not happy. But he was a very poor ranking member and then chairman of the senate committee. So I don't think that means much. If the Obama team really didn't make a courtesy call to Feinstein, who's taking over the overseeing committee, that was a goof -- just because there's enough hard slogging getting this kind of stuff done that you don't get people ticked over stupid things. But let's not let that distract from the substance of the issue. I'm not certain what I think about this appointment yet. But on first blush, the nature of the opposition makes me more inclined to support it.
Next Joan Walsh of Salon.com:
I wasn't sure what to make of the appointment of Leon Panetta as CIA director -- until I heard that Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller opposed it. That's not entirely true: I thought the competent and popular Panetta, who came out strongly against Bush administration torture, detention and interrogation policies, was a clear message that Obama wants to change the way our intelligence agencies do business. The two Democrats' pique -- they say Obama didn't vet Panetta with them -- is a good sign that Panetta's not viewed as an insider who will simply roll over for what the intelligence establishment wants, since Feinstein and Rockefeller did little or nothing to stand up against Bush policies (and Glenn Greenwald agrees with me.)
On MSNBC's "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," I said I trust Obama and Panetta on these issues far more than Feinstein and Rockefeller. Pat Buchanan and David Shuster predicted the opposition of Feinstein and Rockefeller would liberate congressional Republicans to savage Panetta in confirmation hearings; I trust he'll make it through, with Obama's strong backing.
Spencer Ackerman reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is upset with the selection of Panetta, petulantly complaining that she wasn't consulted in advance and that it would be best to have an "intelligence professional" in that position. CQ's Tim Starks reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller is making very similar noises about this selection. Few things could reflect better on Panetta's selection than the fact that Feinstein and Rockefeller -- two of the most Bush-enabling Senators -- are unhappy with it.
Even a Conservative, Michael Ledeen of NRO, that I've never heard of (courtesy Andrew Sullivan - a conservative I have heard of):
I always liked Panetta. He served in the Army and is openly proud of it. He seems to be a good lawyer (oxymoronic though it may seem). He's a good manager. And he's going to watch Obama's back at a place that's full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none. But Italians know all about political assassination; you may remember Julius Caesar. Or Aldo Moro. The self-proclaimed cognoscenti will deride his lack of "spycraft," and he's never worked in the intel bureaucracy or, for that matter, in foreign policy or national security. But he's been chief of staff, which involved all that stuff. I think it's a smart move.
And of course, Andrew Sullivan himself:
Others, like Goldberg and York [note: and Joe Klein], peddle the line that no one who has operated in the "real world" of intelligence could agree with Obama's attempt to move the US past the torture era. No: a huge majority of intelligence professionals agree with Obama on effective interrogation. But after eight years of a CIA tainted with torture and presidentially-sanctioned lawlessness, drawing a bright line under the recent past is critical.
That's why the Panetta pick is inspired. The more I think about it, the more that seems true. This is change we can believe in. And in this necessarily secret area, public trust is vital. For the first time in a long dark patch, we will regain it.
I was hoping for more, but I'll take five. I bet Kos and Jed chime in tomorrow.
Can someone help me come up with an argument for why the Obama stimulus plan isn't turning out to be a painful joke?
Thanks in advance.
Okay, what did that mean?
Apparently, the Murdoch Street Journal had a story saying that there was going to be a lot of tax cuts in the stimulus plan.
Liberals everywhere, freaked...because if the Wall St. Journal's happy, it can't be a good thing. Normally, I'd agree, but it was hard to put a pin in this since I hadn't (at the time) heard from the President-Elect.
Paul Krugman chimed in on his blog on Friday:
There’s a reasonable economic case for including a significant amount of tax cuts in the package, mainly in year one.
But the numbers being reported — 40 percent of the whole, two-year plan — sound high. And all the news reports say that the high tax-cut share is intended to assuage Republicans; what this presumably means is that this was the message the off-the-record Obamanauts were told to convey.
And that’s bad news.
Realizing that his first post was a little...arch, and now armed with Krugman's pushback, Josh went on to explain what he meant:
Since my earlier post was more arch and cryptic, I wanted to expand on what seems to be the problem with the Obama stimulus plan, as revealed in the current round of leaks. I would point to three key issues. And I'm going to base these three on the premise -- which is by no means clear -- that the business tax cuts included in the bill aren't particularly egregious on their own terms but rather ones that make some economic sense in the situation we find ourselves in.
So with that, the three.
First, there seems to be a decent consensus that the tax rebates from last year had little stimulative effect on the economy. So while it's a good thing for families on the margin to get another $500 or $1,000, it's not clear how much bang for the buck you'll get for the money spent in terms of creating demand/consumer spending in the economy.
Second, the amount of the bill that comes in tax cuts leaves the spending side of the bill really small -- judged by the standards of what most economists seem to think is necessary, like $400 billion over two years. So it's not just the logic of the tax cuts on their own merits but the degree they're beggaring the spending side of the ledger. (A lot of this just comes down to whether or not you buy into the Keynesian premise of the whole exercise, of course. But let me note for the record that there does seem to be a decent rationale for significant tax cuts in year one of the bill, since you need to get money into the economy rapidly and there may not be enough projects that can be started quickly. That leaves the question of why so much of it is also included in year two. I fear that may be the 'tell'.)
Third, and in some ways this is the most troubling. It would be far better on many counts to bring in substantial Republican support for this bill. And I don't just mean that in the BS sense in which President Bush usually meant it, which was to say essentially, 'Of course we'd like you to vote for exactly what we want. More the merrier. But if you don't want to vote for our ideal bill, tough luck.' No, I think there's a real logic in not going the 51 votes model President Bush followed. But Obama seems to be telegraphing that to a significant degree the fundamental structure of the legislation is being built around accommodating the concerns of Republicans -- members of a political party that are about as unpopular and weak as you can get at the moment. And that sounds a lot like he's negotiating with himself, something that will embolden opposition and invite Republicans to up the ante even further.
These are just leaks. We don't have details. Some are speculating that this is part of some global head fake by the Obama folks. I hope so. But put me down as very skeptical.
And then Krugman chimed in again, once he had details...and still wasn't happy.
A few more details are emerging: $140 billion for Obama’s tax break for workers, which gives most workers $500. But it sounds as if the rest is mainly, perhaps almost entirely, tax cuts for business. Not very New Dealish.
In contrast, former Labor Secretary, and Obama Economic Adviser Robert Reich was on board:
For the record, Reich is part of the transition team. He's probably got more insight than he's letting on, so I don't know what he's talking about.
At the same time, when Josh writes of Reich's comments that: "He was very positive on the tax cuts, which is a key tell", I have no idea what that means. I assumed it meant that the Rubinomics folks were on board, which to Josh and Krugman is a bad thing.
Then Jed, over at the Jed Report, also tried to calm folks down.
Overall, the package will cover a two-year period with a price-tag of $675 billion to $775 billion, $270 billion to $310 billion of which would be spent on tax cuts. The balance — $405 billion to $465 billion — would be spent on infrastracture, health care, and other programs.
One thing to keep in mind is that in early 2008 Congress passed a $131 billion tax cut stimulus plan covering one year. Therefore, while $300 billion over two years might seem like a lot, it’s actually the same level of spending as we saw in 2008.
I'm not sure it worked, though.
Now, imagine the President-Elect's confusion in all this. In his mind (and mine as well) this is what he's been promising all along:
I'm having a hard time understanding the anger coming from Krugman and Josh, and thus am having a hard time determining if it's misplaced or right on the money. I seem to remember a combination of Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, Tax freezes on salaries between $150,000 and $250,000 and a Tax hike on anyone making over $250,000 as part of the plan. I also remember Obama wanting to get help for Small Businesses as well.
So, what's the problem here?
But now that I've heard that one of my Senator's, Dianne Feinstein, doesn't seem to like the pick, what I can say? I feel a hell of a lot better about it.
This is what her office sent TPM Alum, Spencer Ackerman over at the Washington Independent.
“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.
“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”
David Corn, of Mother Jones, was just a little warmer:
Panetta is an even-tempered and highly regarded Washington player--kind of a Mr. Fixit in a nice suit. He is also a zero-tolerance critic of the use of torture, and he considers waterboarding--a tactic used by the CIA--to be torture. A year ago, he wrote in The Washington Monthly:According to the latest polls, two-thirds of the American public believes that torturing suspected terrorists to gain important information is justified in some circumstances. How did we transform from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers? One word: fear.Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock?The simple answer is the rule of law....Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances..
It doesn't get much clearer than this. (Take that, Jack Bauer!) By picking Panetta, Obama is repudiating the waterboarding ways of the Bush-Cheney administration.
As a member of the Iraq Study Group, Panetta joined with other Establishment poohbahs to criticize George W. Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war. And in a newspaper op-ed, he noted that the Iraq war "could give al-Qaeda a base for terrorism throughout this critical region."
Like past presidents, Mr. Obama will likely be tempted to avoid the requirement that treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate.
Past Presidents, like YOUR BOSS?!?!?
Robert Samuelson has already dismissed the idea of a Stimulus Package as having a positive effect on the Economy.
Yet here is Robert Samuelson being allowed to ask: Obama's Stimulus Plan, will it really work??
My question is...if the guy's already made a predetermination as the value of Obama and his plans, what's the point of allowing him to bleat on, about the same points?
The Office of Legal Counsel, inside the Justice Department, is probably the most consequential federal government office that remains relatively obscure. The legal opinions which it issues become, more or less automatically, the official legal position of the Executive Branch. It was from that office that John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others did so much damage, issuing now-infamous memoranda that established the regime of lawlessness that has dominated our political institutions over the last eight years. Other than Attorney General-designate Eric Holder and Obama himself, there is probably no official who will have a more significant role in determining the extent to which the Obama administration really does reverse the lawlessness and legal radicalism of the Bush years.
Today, as The Boston Globe just reported, Barack Obama announced several new appointments to key DOJ posts, including Dawn Johnsen to head the OLC. Johnsen is a Professor of Law at Indiana University, a former OLC official in the Clinton administration (as well as a former ACLU counsel), and a graduate of Yale Law School. She's become a true expert on executive power and, specifically, the role and obligation of the OLC in restricting presidential decisions to their lawful scope.
There are several striking pieces of evidence that suggest this appointment may be Obama's best yet, perhaps by far. Consider, first, this rather emphatic Slate article authored by Johnsen in the wake of the disclosure, last April, of the 81-page John Yoo Memo which declared that the President's power to torture detainees is virtually limitless.
Harry Reid's Views on Race
It kinda makes you wonder if Reid would have told Illinois Democratic leaders back in 2004 not to back Obama for Senate because he was supposedly "unelectable."
A.K.A. Gollum?? The guy who's jedi-mind tricked Janet Jackson into dating him whatever some reason??
Yet, I have a newfound respect for the man, listen to this:
Obama hasn't even been sworn in yet and he's being pushed and pulled in all the different directions everyone else thinks he's supposed to go. Everywhere I look people are trying to steer Obama one-way or the other. Usually, into whatever lane suits them best. And it isn't just the Republicans who are doing the complaining. If anything, they seem the most happy with Obama's decisions - maybe because they didn't expect much. It's his own party that's pulling the guy every which way, like some whacked out back seat driver. "Turn left! No! Go straight ahead! What are you doing?!? You were supposed to make a right! Go back!" Everybody thinks he owes them and they're hell bent on trying to collect.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I think Burris is a cheap hack, and I think that we should go through fire to make sure he's not seated...
That being said, Harry Reid is gonna cave. First off, it's in his nature. Second off, the mathematics play to the Democrats.
From Nate Silver:
Presently the Democrats have a 57-member caucus, counting neither Burris nor Franken. However, because there are currently only 98 senators, this reduces the number of votes required to break a filibuster from 60 to 59. (Vacancies are not counted when calculating the number of votes needed to break a filibuster; three-fifths of 98 is 58.8, which rounds up to 59). Therefore, the Democrats would need two crossover votes to pass a cloture resolution.
But now, suppose that Franken gets seated but Burris doesn't. The Democrats add a member to their caucus, brining them to 58 members. However, with 99 senators rather than 98, the filibuster threshold goes back up to 60 votes (three-fifths of 99 is 59.4, but the rule in this instance requires rounding up). Thus, the Democrats remain two votes shy of breaking a filibuster.
Once the Democrats get senators seated in both Illinois and Minnesota, however, they'll have 59 votes out of the 60 they need, leaving them just one vote shy -- and Sens. Specter, Snowe, et. al. ripe for the picking.
Now, I got this transcript of this (Sunday) Morning's Meet The Press from the Jed Report:
MR. GREGORY: But are you willing to go to the mat on this to deny Roland Burris, if it requires going to the Supreme Court? Is it worth that effort?
SEN. REID: The state of Illinois deserves a vote in the United States Senate, and the people of the state of Illinois, the fifth most populous state in the union, deserve that vote. It’s too bad Blagojevich has diverted attention from the real issue. And we’ll—we’re—as I’ve indicated, we’re going to come—I’m going to meet with Senator McConnell, my Republican counterpart. I hope to do that Monday evening. I think it’s around 6:00 or something like that. We’ll talk about this. I hope we can solve this issue on a bipartisan basis.
MR. GREGORY: But there sounds to me like there may be some room here to negotiate and actually seat Burris?
SEN. REID: Hey, listen, David, I’m an old trial lawyer. There’s always room to negotiate.
MR. GREGORY: All right, so you’re not saying no completely that he won’t serve?
SEN. REID: That’s right.
The only thing that annoys me is that there are some Liberal blogs that are going to be celebrating this.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.
"Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact," he said Sunday in a report by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."