Friday, December 10, 2010

Triangulation, Ahoy!  A good observation from Peggy Noonan today, apropos our advice to Obama.  Peggy says:
President Obama was supposed to be announcing an important compromise, as he put it, on tax policy. Normally a president, having agreed with the opposition on something big, would go through certain expected motions. He would laud the specific virtues of the plan, show graciousness toward the negotiators on the other side—graciousness implies that you won—and refer respectfully to potential critics as people who'll surely come around once they are fully exposed to the deep merits of the plan.  Instead Mr. Obama said, essentially, that he hates the deal he just agreed to, hates the people he made the deal with, and hates even more the people who'll criticize it.
This is what I meant when I said Obama doesn't have the temperament to triangulate.  He's too morally self-satisfied to compromise effectively.  He's supposed to increase his standing when he makes a deal.  With this, he just made himself look petty and supercilious.

Word of Warning:  Jane's getting serious.  Just thought I'd let you know.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wanna buy a watch?

Guy buys a Rolex at a Navy Exchange fifty years ago. Wears it every day until he puts it in a drawer 10 years ago. Finds it recently and puts it on eBay for $9.95. Turns out it is a Rolex Submariner Ref 5510 (what Connery wore in "Dr. No", "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball"). Final bid: $66,100. Bonus: the seller used to party with Christopher Reeve back in the 80s.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sex and State Secrets?  You don't have to like Julian Assange to get the feeling that his current legal jeopardy in not wholly unconnected to his current endeavor.

I don't know what to make of the guy.  However the leaks reached him, is he any more culpable than, say, the NYT when they published the Pentagon Papers?  That's a hard argument to make.  And while a military employee might be guilty of espionage or treason for leaking the stuff to him, it's hard to make the case that Assange carries the same burden, being in many ways simply a journalist.  An activist journalist, to be sure -- but again, the Times's decisions to publish some leaks and not others were not made in a moral or political vacuum.

All that said, Assange does come across as a bit of a dick -- e.g., sleeping with some starf*cker "activist" cutie and then asking her to buy his train tickets because he has no cash and doesn't want the Americans tracking his credit card usage.  Can't you just hear him playing it up to her?  "Make love to me again, darling, for I will remember you, even as dark forces gather to take my life.  I am but a pawn in this larger game.  Oooh, and buy me this copy of Time.  I'm on the cover."

But it's hard to prosecute a guy for being a dick, as much as two women may regret their assignations with him after finding out he was not exactly monogamous.  (Young, handsome, subject of world's attention, focal point of rage among the establishment, cult hero to the professional left -- and you think he's not getting ass like Mick Jagger circa 1968?)

Look, I get why this is a problem and an embarrassment for the goverment, the military, the country.  But their whining hardly sounds different from that of the two ladies making the sexual complaints against him.  Or, more accurately, the U.S. goverment sounds like a 15-year-old girl who texted a snapshot of her tits to her boyfriend, then found it on the web later in the week.  Welcome to the new world.

Monday, December 06, 2010

This Looks Like A Good Start: 12 suggestions on what to cut from the federal budget in 2011. In particular I'm a fan of items 3, 4, 8, and 11 but I don't see anything I can't live without on the list.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Obama the Centrist?  This subject is beginning to get an airing over at the Corner, too.  I think one of the points they work over is germane here:  how does Obama sell this?  As I said, I don't think Obama can triangulate -- he's not going to flip-flop the way Clinton did, partly because he's a bit to morally self-satisfied.  But, as Jonah mentions, Clinton could sell you on it.  He could switch sides on an issue and tell you that's how he felt all along.  I just don't see Obama pulling that off.

Worse, this is the guy who rode the liberal wave to Washington, and the left is already pushing him away with both hands, calling him "Bush's third term."  Any obvious move to the center, Clinton-style, and Obama will only add to this base-shedding problem.

I like Flyer's idea of a big Obama lurch to the left.  I doubt it will happen, but wouldn't that be fantastic?  For him to double down at this point would show he has balls like church bells.

Speaking of testicular fortitude, Flyer is right that Obama has clearly not taken the opportunity to show North Korea anything other than watered down diplo-speak.  This is a bad sign.  Could it be that he will spend his next 18 months in a state of paralysis?  Remember how he kicked the can on Afghanistan policy for so long, listening to the experts, weighing the options?  Could that become the theme of his presidency, overreach followed by two years as Pelosi's court eunich?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rescuing Obama: I generally defer to Eno and Razor's political instincts, and I think Eno makes a great argument for how Obama can sure up his reelection chances by going moderate, a la Clinton. Middle of the road will bring some independents back to him and that may be enough. After all, the Republican primary campaign stands to be pretty brutal over the next 18 months, and he'll look a lot better against Romney after he's been savaged as everything from Obama-lite to a Mormon Billy Graham (or is it Scientologist? Can't remember sometimes, and believe me, nobody else can either). But I'll offer another tack for Obama, one he's probably more comfortable with.

This is a man who is clearly more skilled as a campaigner and advocate than as a manager or policy wonk. He'd much rather stand atop the barricades and rail against the corporate flacks that make up the Republican House majority and relegate actual policy agendas to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, his bulwarks in the Senate. I think he moves even further left and stirs the base to a frenzy, basically telling them if they don't turn out they'll have failed the cause. This means a full throated defense and expansion of health care reform, playing hardball with the deficit commission's report next month, and pushing for another stimulus package, one targeted to "shovel ready projects" to create jobs directly. The fact that he's already acknowledged that these don't exist won't matter much because he'll be able to pin that on the Appropriations Committee or Ways and Means, aka feet-dragging, partisan Republicans.

I don't know if this is a better strategy than triangulation or not, but I just can't see Obama settling for trifling little legislative victories while his credibility on the left goes to tatters. This is where he differs from George W. Bush (or one way, at least). Bush was willing to take half-a-loaf on No Child Left Behind or expanded prescription drug coverage under Medicare and anger purists on both sides while winning the center. Obama proved unwilling to take the same kind of deal with health care reform and I think he's pot-committed to it and the rest of his domestic policy agenda. Better to go all in, rally the base and hope the public is distracted by the food fight that is sure to unfold on the right.

The same will hold true in foreign policy, and it's already playing out with North Korea. Compare and contrast these statements on the North/South dustup the other day.
“These latest brazen provocations demand a firm response from the United States, our allies, and the broader international community,” Lieberman said. ”The unprovoked shelling today of Yeonpyeong Island will only strengthen the resolve of the United States to stand alongside and defend our ally the Republic of Korea, as well as reaffirm our security commitments throughout the region. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in this outrageous and deplorable attack, and express full support and solidarity with President Lee for his strong and steady leadership.

“I am likewise deeply concerned by the revelation that Pyongyang has constructed a new uranium enrichment facility. This latest nuclear provocation fits into a broader pattern of North Korean behavior, which must not be rewarded or appeased. Rather, all responsible countries must take additional steps to increase the pressure on the regime in Pyongyang, by cracking down on the arms trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, smuggling, and other illicit activities that sustains its nuclear and military programs.

“I am particularly alarmed by any possible linkages between North Korea’s nuclear activities and foreign countries. We must redouble our efforts to bring any such linkages to light, and any country that either provides or receives nuclear or other proliferation-related assistance from North Korea must be subject to crippling punishments — as must North Korea itself.”

"This is a -- just one more provocative incident in a series that we've seen over the last several months, and I'm going to be talking to the president of Korea -- South Korea this evening and we'll be consulting closely with them in terms of the appropriate response," the president said. "We've strongly condemned the attack...We are rallying the international community once again to put pressure on North Korea."

The first one is from Joe Lieberman. The second is Obama's. I don't see a president looking to kick ass and let the world know you better not wake the tiger. Now it's not a simple situation, and his ability show teeth here is very restricted by China and the fact that we are up over our knees in Afghanistan and Iraq still, but he sees the U.S. as just one player in the international community, and not necessarily the most legitimate. He's not going to alter this kind of core philosophy to score some votes. I don't think that kind of political maneuvering is in him, and he sure didn't have time to develop it in the Senate.

Of course how all this plays out is up in the air. It'll be telling to see who steps up as the dominant advisor as Rahm Emanuel goes back to Chicago, and maybe Eno's right that Obama's desire for a second term will force him to target middle American centrists. Maybe we need somebody in an actual swing state to give us their take. Raz?