"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
- Urgent Agenda
MORE POLL RESULTS - AT 7:31 P.M. ET: New poll results from CNN and Pew confirm Rasmussen's report that the president's poll numbers are slipping, although Ras's numbers are lower than the other two:
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are slipping as Americans fret about the economy, two polls found.
A March 12-15 survey conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corp. found Obama’s approval rating dropped 3 points from late last month and 12 points from early February. A Pew Research Center poll taken March 9-12 found that Obama’s approval rating slipped to 59 percent from 64 percent last month.
While Americans still generally support Obama’s handling of the economy, more questions are cropping up, according to the polls.
COMMENT: A drop after some weeks in office isn't that unusual. But the trend in all polls is downward, based on policy decisions. That is bad news for the administration. A percentage of the public is losing confidence in Obama's policies, and we haven't even had a foreign crisis. There is opportunity here for Republicans, but only if they develop a coherent set of policy choices that comes from the party, not from talk-show hosts. The Contract with America was effective in 1994, and it's a good model.
But Republicans must be careful. Millions of Americans are hurting, and they are legitimately angry at the excesses of some business firms, which are now using our tax dollars to get out of trouble. If the GOP just goes back to stale old mantras about the "great American free enterprise system," or if conservative talk-show mouths keep screaming about "redistribution of wealth," the party may well get a very cold response. The idea is to recognize legitimate problems and come up with solutions that work, consistent with the principle that government should become involved only when the private sector can't or won't do the job.
A particular danger area for Republicans is health care. The conservative movement was successful over the last 40 years not simply because it stood for "low taxes," but because it became the embodiment of traditional American ideals, a strong national defense, and a moral code based on our Judeo-Christian heritage. When Ronald Reagan demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" he was speaking of human freedom, not the desire to replace the wall with a corporate data center. Health care, especially for a pro-life party, involves serious moral issues. Republicans must deal with these in a sensitive, ethical manner, and not lean on talkers who scream, "Where does it say you get health care?" The GOP can develop an enlightened health-care plan, mostly dependent on the private sector, but mindful of our moral codes. That it must do. That will appeal to Americans, who are an idealistic, but not an ideological people.
DOW FIZZLES - AT 5:04 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down seven points, to 7217, after the earlier rally fizzled.
MORE DEATH IN THE CITY ROOM - AT 2:13 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
On Tuesday, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper will produce its last printed edition and become an Internet-only news source, the Hearst Corporation said on Monday, making it by far the largest American newspaper to take that leap.
In Seattle, boxes holding the city’s two major dailies. On Tuesday, The Post-Intelligencer will produce its last printed edition and become an Internet-only news source.
But the P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it has had, and a site consisting mostly of commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting.
COMMENT: The P-I is very liberal. Whether that affected its fate, I do not know and cannot prove. But when you develop a reputation for having such a narrow outlook, you drive away readers who doubt your credibility. I do believe that loss of credibility is an important factor, generally, in the survival problems of many newspapers today.
DOW CONTINUES RALLY - AT 12:41 P.M. ET: The Dow is up 129 points, to 7353. The rally continues. What is it based on? I have no idea. Earlier in the day, Bloomberg reported:
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Industrial production fell in February for the fourth consecutive month, driven by declines in computers and machinery that point to a deepening slump in global business investment.
COMMENT: So go figure.
March 16, 2009
OBAMA SLIPS IN POLL - AT 11:03 A.M. ET: From Rasmussen:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 36% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-two percent (32%) now Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of +4, his lowest rating to date (see trends).
COMMENT: We stress that a poll is a snapshot in time, and Rasmussen is only one poll. However, he does a daily tracking poll of presidential approval, and we've found it useful in marking trends. The president is clearly facing some diminished support, although his overall popularity remains high, at least for now.
A WHITE HOUSE COMPETENCE PROBLEM? - AT 9:23 A.M. ET: Sharp-eyed observer Michael Goodwin, of the New York Daily News, wonders whether incompetence has now begun to weigh down the Obama White House:
Yes, it's early, but an eerily familiar feeling is spreading across party lines and seeping into the national conversation. It's a nagging doubt about the competency of the White House...
...Polls show that most people like Obama, but they increasingly don't like his policies. The vast spending hikes and plans for more are provoking the most concern, with 82% telling a Gallup survey they are worried about the deficit and 69% worried about the rapid growth of government under Obama. Most expect their own taxes will go up as a result, despite the President's promises to the contrary.
The doubts are extending to the president himself:
His famous eloquence is wearing thin through daily exposure and because his actions are often disconnected from his words. His lack of administrative experience is showing.
His promises and policies contradict each other often enough that evidence of hypocrisy is ceasing to be news. Remember the pledges about bipartisanship and high ethics? They're so last year...
...And in an absolute jaw-dropper, he told business leaders, "I don't like the idea of spending more government money, nor am I interested in expanding government's role."
No wonder Americans are confused. Our President is, too.
COMMENT: An excellent piece, an indictment really, of the first months of the Obama presidency. They've got to get things straight in the White House, or sink.
WHITE HOUSE FRETS ABOUT BACKLASH - AT 8:17 A.M. ET: From The International Herald-Tribune (which is owned by The New York Times, and picks up pieces from The Times):
WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Barack Obama's agenda.
The administration's sharp rebuke of the American International Group on Sunday for handing out $165 million in executive bonuses — Lawrence H. Summers, director of the president's National Economic Council, described it as "outrageous" on "This Week" on ABC — marks the latest effort by the White House to distance itself from abuses that could feed potentially disruptive public anger.
COMMENT: And they're right. Please see our 7:14 posting this morning, on a related subject.
OBAMA VULNERABLE? - AT 7:53 A.M. ET: We've said here that some of the best commentary about American politics comes from British writers. And one of the best of the British writers is Janet Daley of The Telegraph, who writes of Barack Obama's sudden vulnerability:
The President's recent display of liberalism – and confusion – can only help the opposition, says Janet Daley.
The Republicans now believe they have a grip on what Barack Obama is about. At least for this week. The grip is subject to reappraisal because Mr Obama has developed a gift for reinventing himself with remarkable alacrity. One very senior commentator on the Right said to me, "First we had Candidate Obama, who was a liberal [ie Left wing]. Then we had President-Elect Obama, who was post-partisan and centrist. Now we have President Obama, who has reverted to being ultraliberal."
The question of who Mr Obama really is, and what he truly believes, underlies the growing list of Very Odd Things that seem to be happening under his administration. Among the most perplexing of these mysteries is why, when he went to such pains to assemble a huge and widely experienced team of White House economic advisers (even going to the lengths of parading them at a press conference before he took office) he then handed over the actual drafting of his economic policy to the old Democratic fixers in Congress.
COMMENT: Spot on. Read the whole piece, which is very incisive. The British press has grown increasingly skeptical of Obama, especially since the president's awkward handling of the visit by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. We're getting a better critique from Britain than we're getting from much of our own press.
RELIGION OF PEACE STRIKES AGAIN - AT 7:44 A.M. ET: From London's Daily Mail:
A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: ‘If you go back to the studio, we’ll break your legs.’
The Reverend Noble Samuel was driving to the studio when a car pulled over in front of him. A man got out and came over to ask him directions in Urdu.
Mr Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, said: ‘He put his hand into my window, which was half open, and grabbed my hair and opened the door.
"He started slapping my face and punching my neck. He was trying to smash my head on the steering wheel..."
COMMENT: Let's see if the British left, which, like the American left, is always whining that it's being "suppressed," will take a stand against this. I wouldn't bet the car on it.
RESTRAINT CALLED FOR - AT 7:14 A.M. ET: There is concern among some New York congressmen that criticism of Wall Street could go too far. From The Politico:
Americans united around New York in the wake of the terrorist attacks eight years ago, but the Big Apple is now a different kind of ground zero: the target of white-hot anger from people who have lost their jobs or lost their savings.
New York Rep. Michael McMahon, a Democrat, is worried:
McMahon, a Democrat, said that’s not fair, at least not to the people who live in his Staten Island- and Brooklyn-based district — a lot of managers and human resources staffers and other lower-rung Wall Street employees, plus the limo drivers and food vendors and other service-industry workers whose jobs depend on the health of the financial industry.
“Have there been abuses? Have there been sins committed? Yes,” McMahon said. “But there are thousands of people who should not be punished for the sins of a few greedy or misguided corporate executives.”
COMMENT: That is correct, of course. The great majority of the people who work in the financial sector had nothing to do with the abuses. Still, the abuses took place, and the very leaders now worried about an unfair backlash looked the other way during the reckless go-go years, as long as the tax revenues came in. They should blame themselves a bit, but they won't.
MORE FROM OUR EUROPEAN "ALLIES" - AT 7:02 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
European countries that have offered to help the Obama administration close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have begun raising questions about the security risks and requirements if they accept prisoners described by the Bush administration as “the worst of the worst,” according to diplomats and other officials.
The concerns, and a deep suspicion of whether the American intelligence community will share full information on the prisoners, are likely to complicate the resettlement effort, which is critical to President Obama’s fulfilling his pledge to close Guantánamo within a year of his taking office.
COMMENT: I love it. Don't you? For years these countries have been lecturing us about "values." But ask them to do anything to put teeth behind their lectures, and immediately the hedging starts. Object, if you wish, to the Bush administration's "unilateralism." Maybe they had no other choice.
MAJOR NEWS BULLETIN - AT 6:59 A.M. ET: From Britain's Telegraph:
The European Parliament has banned the terms 'Miss' and 'Mrs' in case they offend female MEPs.
The politically correct rules also mean a ban on Continental titles, such as Madame and Mademoiselle, Frau and Fraulein and Senora and Senorita.
Guidance issued in a new 'Gender-Neutral Language' pamphlet instead orders politicians to address female members by their full name only.
Officials have also ordered that 'sportsmen' be called 'athletes', 'statesmen' be referred to as 'political leaders' and even that 'synthetic' or 'artificial' be used instead of 'man-made'.
The guidance lists banned terms for describing professions, including fireman, air hostess, headmaster, policeman, salesman, manageress, cinema usherette and male nurse.
COMMENT: Oh, man! Wait. Can't say that. Oh, person! What comes next? These are the countries we think of as our "European partners." Oh wait, that implies rejection of singleness. Our European friends? Equal European colleagues? No, no, no. European is so..so exclusivist. A club. With admissions rules based on the unfair accident of geography. These are our equal colleagues who live on the other side of a rapidly warming ocean. Yeah, that's it. And they're changing our language. Our civilization. I know, it's a bigoted concept based on racial norms and intense lookism. I apologize.
RON SILVER DIES - AT 8:22 P.M. ET: From the New York Post:
Actor and longtime political activist Ron Silver died this morning, succumbing to a long battle with cancer, friends of the liberal Democrat-turned-GOP stalwart told The Post.
COMMENT: Ron Silver was a terrific guy, a conservative in an ultra-liberal industry. He had a curious mind, and was always learning. I saw him last year at a small briefing on militant Islam at a private home. He's going to be missed, especially by those fighting for some ideological balance in Hollywood. He was 62.
March 15, 2009
THIS JUST IN - AT 4:20 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The economy is fundamentally sound despite the temporary ''mess'' it's in, the White House said Sunday in the kind of upbeat assessment that Barack Obama had mocked as a presidential candidate.
Obama's Democratic allies pleaded for patience with an administration hitting the two-month mark this week, while Republicans said the White House's plans ignore small business and the immediate need to fix what ails the economy. After weeks projecting a dismal outlook on the economy, administration officials -- led by the president himself in recent days -- swung their rhetoric toward optimism in what became Wall Street's best stretch since November.
During the fall campaign, Obama relentlessly criticized his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, for declaring, ''The fundamentals of our economy are strong.'' Obama's team painted the veteran senator as out of touch and failing to grasp the challenges facing the country.
COMMENT: Obama is the only messiah I've ever seen who switches gears so easily. I can just imagine the great prophets of the Bible saying, "Uh, that last psalm is inoperative. Ezekiel will explain our revised position..."
OBAMA APPROVAL - AT 3:45 P.M. ET: Rasmussen reports that President Obama's approval rating has slipped back to where it was early in the week, after a slight gain in the last three days. Some 56% approve, while 43% disapprove. These are still strong, but less than overwhelming numbers.
UTTERLY FASCINATING - AT 11:35 A.M. ET: From The Weekly Standard:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that General David Petraeus is planning on delivering the commencement address at the University of Iowa in 2010. Hmmm.
COMMENT: Oh, that is juicy. That is oh so juicy. Iowa? Isn't that where the first presidential caucus is held? Petraeus will also give the baccalaureate address at Princeton this May. There is political buzz.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 10:35 A.M. ET: From Lorne Gunter in the Edmonton (Canada) Journal:
Global warming is not only no longer happening, it is not likely to resume until 2025 or later, if then. So why are we continuing to hear so much doomsaying about climate change?
There are a lot of people in every age who think they know better than everyone else and, therefore, have a right to tell everyone how to live. In the 1950s, it was country-club and parish council busybodies with their strict moral codes. In the 1970s, it was social democrats with their fanciful economic theories. Today, it's environmentalists.
Same instinct, different wrapper.
COMMENT: Well said. We claim no special expertise about global warming here, but we do think it's time that qualified dissenters be heard fully, rather than ridiculed by that great man of science, Isaac Newton Gore. And we must denounce the idea of a scientific "consensus" on the issue. Science isn't about consensus. It isn't a show of hands. Science is about proof and observation. All it takes is one scientist to prove "the world of science" wrong, and it's happened many times.
MORE GREAT P.R. - AT 9:59 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.
COMMENT: Something else that will endear Wall Street to the American people. These "businessmen" seem intent on giving the anti-free-enterprise crowd all the ammunition they need.
BAFFLING BLAIR - AT 9:55 A.M. ET: We've been reporting on the bizarre choice of Saudi and China worshipper Charles Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, a choice finally derailed by rising opposition. The pick was made by intelligence czar Dennis Blair, a former four-star admiral. It turns out Freeman isn't his only weird personnel choice. From Newsweek:
Now both Republican and Democratic intel experts are raising questions about another Blair pick: John Deutch, a former CIA director once accused of major security lapses, who's been appointed to a temporary panel reviewing troubled, top-secret spy-satellite programs.
After Deutch resigned as CIA director in 1996, agency officials discovered he had stored hundreds of pages of classified files on his home computers, despite repeated warnings that they could be intercepted via the Internet. Because of the incident, Deutch was stripped of his high-level security clearances, and a criminal probe into the matter culminated in January 2001, when the ex-spy chief agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of mishandling classified material. (The next day, Clinton, in one of his final acts as president, pardoned him.)
COMMENT: Blair's judgment needs work. Another mistake and there will clearly be calls for him to be replaced.
KAMIKAZE TACTIC - AT 9:27 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system.
The proposal is politically problematic for President Obama, however, since it is similar to one he denounced in the presidential campaign as “the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” Most Americans with insurance get it from their employers, and taxing workers for the benefit is opposed by union leaders and some businesses.
COMMENT: This will certainly prove popular, won't it? What will they tax next? Lungs? Hearts? Premature babies? This is the kind of proposal only a limousine liberal could love.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
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