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We have a new audio clip up: "Obama's First Month." You can hear it here.
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2009
NO PRESS BIAS HERE; JUST MOVE ALONG - AT 7:11 P.M. ET: You don't think there's press bias? Just read this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's push to reset U.S.-Russian relations took a huge stride when he signaled the Kremlin he might forgo an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe if Moscow uses its clout with a troublesome Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
The back-channel diplomatic gambit was one of the few tools Obama had for unknotting the stalemated relationship -- one that suffered under former Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.
Details of the Obama proposal, a letter responding to one from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, have not been disclosed, but the U.S. president has clearly enticed the Kremlin into a dialogue that could pay significant benefits to both sides.
COMMENT: Has clearly enticed the Kremlin? Really? Where is the evidence of that? In fact, the Kremlin today ridiculed the president's advance. And, of course, the writer must get in the obligatory dig at former President Bush.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:01 P.M. ET: Preliminary figures - The Dow closed down 18, to 6745.
THE ORACLE SPEAKS - AT 3:55 P.M. ET:
March 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said falling share prices may mean bargains for investors with a “long-term perspective.”
COMMENT: Taking advice on economics from Barack Obama is like taking advice on abstinence from Bill Clinton.
CURIOSER AND CURIOSER - AT 3:48 P.M. ET: Now the president himself is denying the story widely circulated in the press that the U.S. offered Russia a deal - help us neutralize the Iranian nuclear program, and we won't deploy missile defense in Eastern Europe. (See our first story of the day.):
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday denied offering Russia a deal in which Washington would slow deployment of a missile defense shield in Europe in exchange for Moscow's help in a nuclear stand-off with Iran.
The New York Times reported that Obama had sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month suggesting he would back off deploying a new missile defense system if Russia helped stop Iran from developing long-range weapons.
"The report that was in The New York Times didn't accurately characterize the letter," Obama said after meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for talks at the White House.
"What I said in the letter is what I have said publicly, which is that the missile defense that we have talked about deploying is directed toward, not Russia, but Iran," he said.
"And what I said ... was that, obviously, to the extent that we are lessening Iran's commitment to nuclear weapons, then that reduces the pressure for, or the need for a missile defense system."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Tuesday that Moscow was willing to talk to Washington about the missile defense shield but that Iran's nuclear program, which it is involved in, was a separate issue.
COMMENT: It seems to me that the president's denial needs a denial. His characterization of the letter pretty much confirms what the press has been reporting, so why the denial? Also, Medvedev's reply essentially negates the whole suggested deal. Mass confusion.
DOW LETHARGIC - AT 3:33 P.M. ET: The Dow is indecisive today, and is down 20, a half hour before the close.
DOW NOT WOW - AT 11:15 A.M. ET: The Dow has moved into negative territory, and is now down 16.
Posted at 10:35 a.m. ET
This is one of those stories that just outrages us. From William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal:
Dick Durbin has a nasty surprise for two of Sasha and Malia Obama's new schoolmates. And it puts the president in an awkward position.
The children are Sarah and James Parker. Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation's capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program -- and with it perhaps the Parker children's hopes for a Sidwell diploma.
An absolute obscenity. And liberals claim they're all for "the people." Right - as long as "the people" are members of education unions.
Known as the "Durbin language" after the Illinois Democrat who came up with it last year, the provision mandates that the scholarship program ends after the next school year unless Congress reauthorizes it and the District of Columbia approves.
Here's a program that seems to work. Let's kill it. There are endangered species to save in Nancy Pelosi's district! Let's get our priorities straight.
Deborah Parker says such a move would be devastating for her kids. "I once took Sarah to Roosevelt High School to see its metal detectors and security guards," she says. "I wanted to scare her into appreciation for what she has at Sidwell." It's not just safety, either. According to the latest test scores, fewer than half of Roosevelt's students are proficient in reading or math.
Nonsense! We must stop these involved parents. Soon they'll be asking questions about their kids' educations.
That's the reality that the Parkers and 1,700 other low-income students face if Sen. Durbin and his allies get their way. And it points to perhaps the most odious of double standards in American life today: the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people's children -- mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos -- trapped in schools where they'd never let their own kids set foot.
Well, look, there are better families, you know. Let's not carry this equality thing too far.
As for Sidwell, the school has welcomed the Opportunity Scholarship program. Though headmaster Bruce Stewart declines to get into either politics or the Obamas, he says that a program that gives parents more educational options for their children is not only good for their kids, it's good for the community.
This man is clearly a security risk.
All of which leaves the First Parent with a decision to make: Will he stand up for those like his own children's schoolmates -- or stand in front of the Sidwell door with Mr. Durbin?...
...This, after all, is a man who has written of the "anger" he felt as a community organizer, when his attempts to improve things for Chicago school kids ran up against an "uncomfortable fact."
"The biggest source of resistance [to reform]," he said, "was rarely talked about . . . namely, the uncomfortable fact that every one of our churches was filled with teachers, principals, and district superintendents. Few of these educators sent their own children to public schools; they knew too much for that. But they would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before."
This is an important story. Let's see if the private-school parents who run the nation's media will do anything with it, or even notice it.
March 3, 2009. Permalink
DOW OPENING - AT 9:41 A.M. ET: The Dow opened up 72 points, to 6835.
END OF THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP? - AT 8:57 A.M. ET: President Obama is going out of his way to snub Great Britain, our closest ally. First, he unceremoniously returned a bust of Winston Churchill that Britain had loaned to President Bush, even though the Brits never asked for it back. According to some accounts, Obama still can't get over Churchill's affection for the British Empire.
Now Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in Washington, and is getting less than the full treatment, as The Telegraph explains:
Strange goings on surrounding the programme for the first day of Gordon Brown's visit to Washington.
No sooner had the Prime Minister's plane touched down at Andrews Air Force on Monday evening when word was passed to travelling Westminster correspondents that the press conference they'd been told to expect had been called off "because of snow."
Someone apparently left the windows open at the White House. They're still digging out the East Room.
Mr Brown might lament that despite the so-called "special relationship" Britain is now getting the same treatment as the President of Uruguay, but he need not despair. I'm told there's a chance he might get drinks with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening.
COMMENT: One thing about Obama - he's sensitive and seems to hold grudges. Thus, he won't even give President Bush credit for the success of the surge in Iraq. If he still harbors resentment over Britain's colonizing of Kenya, land of his father, that's too bad. We were able to reconcile with Japan and Germany after World War II. Maybe it's time Obama understood the relationship between Britain and America, and how important it's been to the very system that made Barack Obama possible. No such luck.
McCAIN STRIKES - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
Long delayed but not shrunken with time, a nearly $410 billion omnibus spending bill is fast becoming a great bone in the throat for Democrats and the White House, just when each hoped to put the past behind them and move onto President Barack Obama’s new 2010 budget.
Minutes after hitting the Senate floor Monday, the bill touched off a fierce, emotional attack from the president’s old rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lectured Obama for failing to do more to stand up against the thousands of spending earmarks in the 1,132 pages.
At the same time, Democrats admitted privately that the White House itself has hurt their cause by frightening off Republicans, who negotiated the bill in December but are now in “sticker shock” after seeing the full cost of the new president’s agenda.
COMMENT: The White House is oblivious to the fact that 46% of voters cast their ballots for McCain. And there is no indication that the great majority of Americans voted for the kind of crazed spending that we see before us. The Obama honeymoon may soon require marriage counseling.
NO KIDDING - AT 7:57 A.M. ET: Actual headline at the Washington Post's website today:
Government Actions Fail To Reassure Investors
COMMENT: They figured it out?
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL - AT 7:41 A.M. ET: Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times's "Top of the Ticket" blog, examines the latest literary news - that former Governor Rod Blagojevich is writing a book, and that Hot Rod's flack says it "will at times be embarrassing to himself and to others." To which Andrew Malcolm replies:
First of all, it is impossible for Illinois politicians to be embarrassed.
Indicted? Yes, of course. Convicted? Oh, for sure. Often. Imprisoned? You bet. But "embarrassed"? Gimme a break!
Yes, of course, Blagojevich needs the six-figures for his defense attorneys. But he's gonna write a tell-all book about his alleged crime before his federal trial for same?
Maybe this publicist guy really is from Illinois.
COMMENT: "Top of the Ticket" is a rarity on the web - a political blog that's actually well written. Check it out.
DOW ANGST - AT 7:29 A.M. ET:
NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street is headed for a mixed open Tuesday as investors recover from a massive selloff and await data on home and auto sales.
The Dow Jones industrial average on Monday plunged far below the 7,000 mark to end at 6,763—the lowest close for the Dow since April 25, 1997. The Dow has fallen more than 52 percent since hitting a record high of 14,164.53 in October 2007.
COMMENT: The lack of confidence in the Obama economic plan is remarkable. All those chic Wall Street types who contributed to the Obama campaign probably want their money back.
STRANGE - AT 7:11 A.M. ET: The biggest story this morning, other than the financial meltdown, is the suspicious leak of a letter sent by President Obama to the president of Russia. We started reporting on this last night. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama sent a secret letter to Russia’s president last month suggesting that he would back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons, American officials said Monday...
...The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran. Russia’s military, diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran give it some influence there, but it has often resisted Washington’s hard line against Iran.
COMMENT: Note the plural - "officials." This is a strange leak. Did the Obama people want the letter leaked. If so, why? Or are these anonymous officials opposed to the policy, and are mobilizing to stop it by releasing the letter? This is a major story because East European allies of the United States went out on a limb to join us on missile defense, and now the Obama crowd seems to be knifing them in the back. We'll follow this closely. Right now there are not enough details to draw firm conclusions.
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2009
REPEAT - AT 8:25 P.M. ET: From The Politico:
AFP reports the WH is standing by Ron Kirk: "The White House predicted Monday that Ronald Kirk, President Barack Obama's nominee to be US Trade Representative would win Senate approval, despite some past errors on his tax returns..."
COMMENT: You know that button on your CD player that says REPEAT? This administration has installed the same button in its personnel office. It's the same tax-dodge story over and over and over.
CONFIRMATION - AT 8:18 P.M. ET:
March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Eastern European governments that ran political risks to support former President George W. Bush’s security policies are now concerned that his successor, Barack Obama, will backtrack on those regional commitments.
Leaders in the Czech Republic, Poland and other former communist nations face a backlash at home over their support of Bush-era initiatives, including the proposed U.S. missile- defense system and troop participation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, concern is growing in eastern Europe that it will be put on “the back burner” as the Obama administration talks about working with Russia and western Europe on issues such as Iran, says Annette Heuser, executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation, a policy group in Washington.
COMMENT: See story right below, titled "Oh no." We've been writing about this for weeks. Betraying allies is not a good thing. Of course, it depends on how The One defines an ally.
OH NO, AT 5:24 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
President Obama offered to consider scrapping plans for a missile defense shield in Europe if Russia helps rein in Iran's nuclear program, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.
The article said Obama wrote to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell him Russia's aid in resolving the threat from Iran would make the missile shield plans unnecessary, according to an account from Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
A senior administration official told FOX News that Obama sent a letter to Medvedev but "we won't comment on the specifics."
COMMENT: We stress that this report is unconfirmed. If true, it's absolutely awful. That we would abandon our friends in Eastern Europe, who took the risk of siding with us against Russia on missile defense, in exchange for some vague notion of "help," is rank amateurism...or worse. We'll watch this closely.
AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN - AT 5:12 P.M. ET: Reader Adrian J. Murray alerts us to this, from AP:
WASHINGTON – Ron Kirk, nominated as U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration, owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to make his payments, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday.
COMMENT: What is it with this crowd? I've never seen such poor vetting of nominees, and such inadequate nominees.
LITERARY BULLETIN AT 5:05 P.M. ET:
CHICAGO (AP) -- A publicist for Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) says the former Illinois governor plans to write a book ''exposing the dark side of politics.''
Glenn Selig says Blagojevich signed a six-figure deal Monday.
COMMENT: The style. The language. The poetry. I can't wait. Can the Pulitzer Prize be far behind?
WEATHER REPORT - AT 4:57 P.M. ET:
(CNSNews.com) – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had to cancel an appearance Monday at a global warming rally in Washington, D.C., that was hit by a snowstorm because her flight was delayed, her office told CNSNews.com...
...A blizzard Sunday night and early Monday morning blanketed the nation’s capital with snow, causing events to be cancelled and delayed across the city.
COMMENT: Nothing to see here, nothing to see. Snowstorms are proof of global warming. Don't you know that? All the guests at the parties I go to know that.
DOW DESTRUCTION - AT 4:08 P.M. ET: Preliminary figures - the Dow closed down 300 points, to 6763. The Dow closed under 6800 for the first time since 1997.
NOT NEEDED - AT 2:26 P.M. ET: From The Politico:
On the same night he was offering the keynote address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Rush Limbaugh drew criticism from an unlikely source: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
In a little-noticed interview Saturday night, Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an “entertainer” whose show is “incendiary” and “ugly.”
COMMENT: Poor move by Steele. We don't need this mini civil war. Rush does some things well, other things not so well. While there have been over-the-top moments that have made me uneasy as well, I don't think calling him an entertainer, or using words like "incendiary" and "ugly" is at all helpful. He's not an entertainer. He comes prepared, and knows his material. Steele is trying to reach out to new constituencies, which is admirable. But he's been a bit ham-handed about it.
NOW WE FIND OUT - AT 2:15 P.M. ET: From AP:
Muslims in America have a much more positive outlook on life than their counterparts in most predominantly Muslim countries and some other Western societies, according to a poll released Monday.
COMMENT: Yes, and they can thank George Bush for that. After 9-11 he could have easily demagogued Islam, but refused to. He sure got a lot of credit for his restraint, didn't he? And the Muslims can thank the American people as well, the most fair-minded people in the world.
DOW DUMPING - AT 2:08 P.M. ET: The Dow is down 211, to 6852.
CLINTON ON IRAN - AT 10:41 A.M. ET: From AP:
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed doubt Monday that Iran would respond to the Obama administration's expressions of interest in engaging Teheran on nuclear and other issues, a senior State Department official said.
COMMENT: Utterly fascinating. Is Hillary distancing herself from the Obamans, or is common sense starting to take hold? See "Bolton on Iran," below.
DOW OUCH - AT 10:24 A.M. ET: The Dow is down 159, to 6904.
BOLTON ON IRAN
Posted at 10:21 a.m. ET
The great John Bolton, who refuses to go along with political correctness, tears into The One's policy toward Iran, which seems to be going nowhere fast:
The State Department recently named Dennis Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator, as a "special adviser" to the Gulf region -- a bureaucratic but important prerequisite for direct talks with Iran. Unfortunately, a new envoy and a new diplomatic tone cannot disguise the ongoing substantive collapse of U.S. policy and resolve in the teeth of the Islamic Republic's growing challenge.
Say it, John! Say it!
Tehran welcomes direct negotiations with Washington. Why not, given the enormous benefits its nuclear programs have accrued during five and a half years of negotiations with Europe? Why not, with America at the table, buy even more time to marry its impending nuclear weapons with its satellite-launching ballistic missile capability?
And we seem to be giving them that time.
We have yet to see any evidence that Barack Obama (any more than George W. Bush) knows how to stop Iran. Consider these four blunt threats to our interests that direct talks may only facilitate, not reduce.
The mainstream media generally tilts things to suggest that talks always improve prospects for progress. Not so. Bolton is right.
First, diplomacy has not and will not reduce Iran's nuclear program. Ironically, European leaders are belatedly feeling hollow in the pits of their diplomatic stomachs, now that their failed diplomacy has left us with almost no alternatives to a nuclear Iran...
...Second, dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as though they are unrelated to Iran's broader threat is exactly backwards. Mr. Obama is again following Europe's mistaken view that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict will help to resolve other regional problems...
...Third, Iran opposes a freer, more stable Iraq, and U.S. diplomacy will not change that...
...Lastly, Iran has no incentive to "help" in Afghanistan, especially on narcotics, despite a domestic narcotics problem. Tehran's approach to Afghanistan is more subtle and complex. Whatever the desire to reduce its own drug problem, why should Iran not welcome increased sales to the decadent West and a weaker Kabul government?
The One's administration could use this kind of clear-headed thinking. Is it getting it? I doubt it.
Hordes of U.S. officials with vague and overlapping mandates -- special envoys, ambassadors, cabinet officials, and, of course, the vice president -- are racing to be in the first photo-op with Iran. But what should focus our attention is the substantive risk that Tehran will use its opportunity to employ diplomacy to undermine U.S. interests.
Iran has already made clear how it will proceed. By recently withholding visas for the U.S. women's badminton team, Iran symbolically dashed administration hopes to update "ping pong" diplomacy. Perhaps in Iran they still play badminton with a clenched fist rather than an open hand.
At some point these chickens will come home to roost, right in the Oval Office.
March 2, 2009. Permalink
BULLETIN AT 9:53 A.M. ET: THE DOW HAS JUST DROPPED BELOW 7000, DOWN 97 TO 6965.
AFGHAN UPDATE - AT 9:01 A.M. ET: Urgent Agenda has some excellent sources around the world. One is an American traveler to Afghanistan who has expert knowledge of the country. Our source makes the following points in an e-mail to us:
In retrospect, Iraq was relatively easy...there was a foundation of education, government, military competence, and nationhood, though much tainted by Saddam. Nevertheless, it simply had to be picked up and dusted off (I know I oversimplify). Afghanistan, on the other hand, has no similar background. All those things have to be built from the ground up.
Heard the results of an interesting poll. Most Afghans do not have electricity, but those who do not are NOT dissatisfied with that reality. They are happy with life as they know it. Some believe that the effort to push electricity into these communities and the resulting changes: bureaucracy, potential for abuse, intermittent service after initial installation, expectations that the service will be free (like all other govt services in Afghanistan) will cause great problems. File this under the law of unintended consequences and the fact that no good deed goes unpunished.
COMMENT: Afghanistan will be difficult. It's now Obama's war. He's declared it the good war, the one worthy of being won. So give us a strategy.
DEM DISSENT - AT 8:52 A.M. ET: Not everything is happy in the land of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, as The Washington Times notes:
Senate Democrats are breaking with President Obama over his plan for sweeping new climate-change laws that he says will rake in billions of dollars to help offset massive budget deficits.
The dissenters, mostly Democrats from Rust Belt states likely to be hit hardest by the proposed environmental rules, question the economic impact of the program that would cap carbon-dioxide emissions and then sell to businesses the right to emit that carbon dioxide.
COMMENT: What? You mean not all Democrats come from Manhattan and Beverly Hills? You mean they don't all have private jets? They don't go to meetings in Aspen?
What kind of people are these? Do we have to listen to them?
WALL STREET FORECAST - AT 8:16 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
PARIS — Financial shares led stocks lower in Europe and Asia Monday, and Wall Street appeared headed for a decline amid concern for the precarious health of American International Group and Citigroup.
COMMENT: The Dow is hovering just above 7000. If it goes into the 6000's, another psychological barrier will have been broken. Psychology is a substantial part of the economic story. What people feel will determine what they'll do, and what they'll spend.
THE FREEMAN CASE - AT 7:37 A.M. ET: The media disgrace continues. There is virtually no reporting on the appointment of Charles Freeman Jr. to head the National Intelligence Council, which supervises the preparation of the National Intelligence Estimates. Urgent Agenda readers know that Freeman is a puppet of the Saudi regime, a man who lavishes praise on Arab dictators, and someone who expressed open, written approval of the Tiananmen Square massacre. It is a sickening appointment, and yet there is no press interest. The insensitivity of the mainstream media to the very concept of democracy is revolting.
Fortunately, two Republican congressmen, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and GOP whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, are demanding that the inspector general of the Office of the Director for National Intelligence investigate Freeman's associations. American Thinker asks this question:
Another question might be: how could the President think that assigning a key intelligence post to someone whose prejudices are so extreme that they have convoluted history, who excuses enemies of the U.S., and who condemns its friends would be able to provide the unvarnished, unbiased information that the nation needs for its security?
COMMENT: Remember when so-called "liberals" asked questions like that? No more.
YOU MEAN WE HAVE TO DO STUFF? - AT 7:16 A.M. ET: Shocked, shocked are the Obamans that governing is different from running for office. Even the technology is different, as the Washington Post reports:
The team that ran the most technologically advanced presidential campaign in modern history is finding it difficult to adapt that model to government. WhiteHouse.gov, envisioned as the primary vehicle for President Obama to communicate with the online masses, has been overwhelmed by challenges that staffers did not foresee and technological problems they have yet to solve...
...Beyond the technological upgrades needed to enable text broadcasts, there are security and privacy rules to sort out involving the collection of cellphone numbers, according to Obama aides, who acknowledge being caught off guard by the strictures of government bureaucracy.
COMMENT: The strictures of government bureaucracy? This is what they're complaining about? They're part of the biggest expansion of government bureaucracy in modern history, and they're whining already? Welcome to reality, guys. You're not in the Ivy League anymore.
OBAMA'S NUMBERS - AT 6:50 A.M. ET: It's clearly time to pay more attention to the president's poll numbers. We don't believe here that presidents should act according to polls, but the surveys do give us the trends in public opinion.
Obama's numbers are down, according to Rasmussen's report yesterday. "Overall, 58% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance so far while 40% disapprove." While those are thoroughly respectable numbers, they are less than great, and the downward trend won't amuse the White House. By comparison, the numbers the day after inauguration were 65% and 30.
COMMENT: The public isn't giving Obama much of a honeymoon. You can't use the word "crisis" as often as the president does, and expect the electorate to sit back and relax.