William Katz / Urgent Agenda
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FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 2009
COMMENT: Now, do Republicans have to certify that they've thrown away their radios? Taken the batteries out? What if they're caught listening by the Radio Police? Does this include car radios? If Rush is interviewed on another show, do they have to turn that off, too? The president should be clear on what the rules are for participation in government. They should be written.
THE LATEST IN CULTURE - AT 8:51 P.M. ET: From London's Telegraph:
COMMENT: Thought you'd like to know about the latest trend. I give this trend a week.
COMMENT: Can you just imagine if George W. Bush had done this.
Mr. Suskind doesn't know what he's talking about. Human intelligence didn't die under Bush. The fact is, we've never been very good at it. When I was in the CIA, and that was in the sixties, one of the first things were were told was that the agency was strong on technology, weak on human intelligence. Human intelligence depends on "native assets," citizens of a particular country who are willing to help us. Rarely is this willingness related to how much we've loved. It usually has more to do with money, resentments, and favors. (We recently bribed some local chieftains in the Afghan/Pakistan border area with Viagra.)
The fact is, though, that very few people in any country will stick their necks out to help a foreign intelligence organization, even if they hate their own government. And, by the way, about 80 percent of intelligence information is collected openly.
Mr. Suskind has seen too many James Bond movies.
COMMENT: We're so moved that Ms. Sarandon knows what the world is thinking. Apparently, actresses have this sixth sense. Oh, by the way, we wonder if she knows that Egypt and Abu Dhabi are dictatorships. Just asking.
COMMENT: Bottom line - President Obama doesn't want thousands of American casualties on his head if we fail to get information from a high-value subject. He's left the required loophole.
COMMENT: An informed source tells me that the governor's state-funded health plan includes psychiatric care. He should avail himself of the benefit.
COMMENT: We can't even trust our classical musicians anymore. Civilization is near its end.
WITH THE CLINTONS, IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING - AT 8:37 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
COMMENT: Influence the Clintons? Whoever heard of such a thing? Look, I suspect Hillary has enough smarts to insulate herself. She's ambitious. She doesn't want to blow it. But money can complicate things.
COMMENT: Puts all the fast talk about "closing Gitmo" in a bit of perspective, ay? Maybe the fast closers should be put in a room with parents of some Americans who'll probably be killed by this guy. And, of course, once again the name Saudi Arabia surfaces. You know that great ally of the United States?
COMMENT: As reported here yesterday, there were also testy moments between the press corps and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Already there is some tension between the media and the new administration. In a way, that's good for the reporters. The more they get out of the in-the-tank-for-Obama mode, the better for all of us.
COMMENT: The building was just built. There are still factory warranties on the equipment. The Times is in serious trouble, and does not want to confront the fact that its product just isn't as respected as it once was. That is why readers drop away, and fewer readers means less advertising. This is an important story because The Times is still the most influential journalistic institution in the country.
COMMENT: The Palestinians are in a near civil-war situation. The more moderate (comparatively) wing, the Palestinian Authority, is in conflict with Hamas, a radical Islamic group. The PA official is right: Once again, under international pressure, Israel withdrew before the job was done. Soon, though, Israel will have a new government - elections are scheduled for next month - and maybe some better strategic planning will result.
CUE ORGAN MUSIC: In today's episode, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of fame and fortune, is crushed by press reports saying that she had to bow out of the race to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate because of problems involving taxes, a nanny, and possibly her marriage.
ORGAN MUSIC UP: At the same time, David Paterson, wily governor of New York and son of Democratic power Basil Paterson, is ready to appoint Kirsten Gillibrand, upstate congresswoman, to Clinton's seat.
PATRIOTIC ORGAN MUSIC: Meanwhile, back at the State Department, Hillary Clinton, who has it in for Caroline because Caroline backed Obama in the primaries, is in her glory, with a wide smile, introducing the president and vice president to the State Department staff. She is satisfied that Caroline didn't get her seat.
SINISTER ORGAN MUSIC: But in Albany, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of the powerful Mario, and who was once married to Caroline's cousin, and who wanted to be senator, steams over the rejection by the hated David, and plots revenge as he paces his office.
HAPPY ORGAN MUSIC: As all this is going on, Rose, daughter of Caroline, whoops it up at Harvard, hanging with guitarist Mike Einziger, who's some kind of important music guy.
FUNEREAL ORGAN MUSIC: Watching are liberal Dems, seething, angry, weeping, because new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is backed by the NRA. There is talk of revenge, plots, betrayal.
Brought to you by Tide, for whiter whites and bluer blues. Tune in tomorrow...
January 23, 2009. Permalink
THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 2009
COMMENT: Brilliant. Real brilliant. Another act of genius by "executives," who provide the left with all the ammunition they need. It's also a warning to all of us: There are very responsible people on Wall Street. But some are not. There are some who should be drummed out of the investment business, but probably won't be. These types are not thinking of ways to reform the system. They're thinking of ways to do exactly the same thing again, and not be caught at it next time. I know some of these characters personally. Trust me.
This was the first full day on the job for President Obama. He signed executive orders closing the prison at Guantanamo within a year, and restricting interrogation techniques to those found in the Army field manual.
But what do these orders really mean? Robert Gibbs held his first briefing today as White House press secretary, and the news was in what wasn't said. The reporters were prickly and challenging at times, which is good. There were indications that some of them, at least, have gotten the message that in-the-tank journalism won't do, especially on live television. Gibbs, a laid-back southern chap who looked like he'd be more at home in the Bush White House, fielded all questions, but fully answered many fewer.
The main story: When asked if the restriction on interrogation techniques applied to "high-value" captures, say, Osama bin Laden, Gibbs declined to give an explicit reply, simply saying he'd check with the White House counsel.
The point, of course, is that there may be exceptions in the executive order, expressed or implied, or secret exceptions that will never be revealed publicly. Thus, no real answer to the question.
Gibbs was also shy when challenged on what, specifically, will be done with the Gitmo detainees considered too dangerous to release. No real answer except Gibbs's constant repetition of the memorized talking point - that the president felt the order closing the prison would enhance American security.
The press is constantly obsessed with itself, and many reporters expressed annoyance at being kept out of the second swearing-in ceremony. Bill Plante of CBS was especially testy on this point, charging that it violated the Obama administration's claim of transparency.
Summary: It was a testier news conference than I would have predicted.
TV coverage then shifted to the State Department, where a confident-sounding and very-much-in-charge Secretary Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her subordinates, the president and the vice president, introduced two new special envoys - former Senator George Mitchell for the Mideast, and former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan/Pakistan. The president spoke, and, despite some hysterical reporting in the British press that he made a sharp break with Bush policy on Israel, he did nothing of the kind. He essentially reiterated American policy on the two-state solution and expressed compassion for victims on both sides. There was nothing, thus far, to be alarmed about.
The president speaks well, as we all know, and it was his style that differed from the former president's, in his State Department speech. He has a more personal tone than did Mr. Bush. You can parse his words all you wish, but I saw far more continuity in policy than rupture.
January 22, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: These issues would have potentially embarrassed Governor Paterson, but they could have also embarrassed the president. Please recall that Kennedy headed up his search team in the quest for a vice presidential candidate. Apparently, if the above story is accurate, she was never properly vetted for the position, a problem that has plagued the president in some of his Cabinet picks.
COMMENT: Famous political families often produce bizarre histories. Franklin Roosevelt's children didn't work out all that well. The Longs of Louisiana are a saga in themselves. We're glad that Jimmy Carter's brood never became politically important. Lincoln only had one child who lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln, who, after some years of government service, became a railroad lawyer and is largely forgotten. And then there's Britain's royal family, which, in terms of food for gossip, puts the Yanks to shame.
COMMENT: I'll bet Caroline Kennedy wishes she'd never have gotten involved. Every supermarket tabloid, and plenty of legitimate news outlets, will be after this story. The president might be able to save her by giving her one of those "special assignments," but she's damaged herself.
One of the raps against President Obama is that he's vague. You never know, according to the charge, exactly where he stands or what his policies will be. The Politico seems to confirm that in a fine story this morning, examining the president's lobbying reforms. The key word is "loopholes."
Other stories out today regarding the closing of Guantanamo and new rules for interrogating terror subjects feature the same vagueness. Rules will be issued, but how tight they'll be still remains a mystery.
Yeah, we noticed all that change we can believe in.
There's always the matter of interpretation:
But, in fairness, most experts quoted in the story say that Mr. Obama's effort is the most far-reaching, and that is good. We now have to see how all this plays out in the real world.
January 22, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: We expect Hamas to lie. It's a fascistic terror group. But what is sickening here, although not shocking, is the corrupt role of the UN in just accepting Hamas numbers. Equally sickening, and not shocking, is the role of the press. You'd think, by now, in light of documented episodes of padded numbers, Photoshopped photos, and invention of "massacres," that the press would get the picture. It doesn't. I'm afraid too many "journalists" don't want to.
COMMENT: He also proved himself faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and he's working on leaping tall buildings at a single bound. Whatever happened to journalism?
NO OIL, NO SECURITY - AT 7:07 A.M. ET:
COMMENT: No good, no good. Hope it isn't true. The American people, in survey after survey, favor that drilling. It's critical for our independence, until some other energy sources are developed. We hope Obama doesn't cave to the environmental religionists.
Do you love political intrigue? Then you have to love what's going on in New York, where Governor David Paterson, son of a powerful New York politician, must fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, wife of a powerful Arkansas and Washington politician, and has been considering Caroline Kennedy, daughter of a powerful Massachusetts and Washington politician. Now Caroline has pulled out of the race, and the frontrunner is New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of a powerful New York politician and former governor, Mario Cuomo. And Andrew Cuomo used to be married to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, a powerful New York and Washington politician. But the marriage broke up when Kerry Kennedy fell in love with Andrew Cuomo's friend. Oh, and Kerry Kennedy is the cousin of Caroline Kennedy, mentioned above.
Procter & Gamble is negotiating for the rights to this story, and plans to put it on CBS every afternoon at three, with organ music.
Welcome to public responsibility, at a time of economic peril.
So, Caroline has now pulled out. Fred Dicker, of the New York Post, one of the best political reporters around, was on TV this morning, having broken the story. He reinforced our doubts, expressed here late last night, that Caroline's sudden withdrawal, citing "personal reasons," had anything to do with Uncle Ted's collapse at an inaugural luncheon Tuesday. He made the point that Teddy has been seriously ill for some time. He speculated - stress speculated - that the withdrawal may have had something to do with the background check on Caroline, conducted for New York Governor David Paterson.
Andrew Cuomo is now considered frontrunner for the post, something that might enrage the Kennedys because of his difficult split from Kerry Kennedy. However, don't be shocked if the governor names a woman, possibly a congresswoman.
Great political story.
January 22, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: I thought this was a bit weird. Shouldn't the president have been in attendance? It was an all-Clinton affair, including her childhood friend. Hmm.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
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