William Katz / Urgent Agenda
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2008
Today is November 22nd.
That date may not have the resonance of December 7th, or, for the young generation, September 11th, but of course it is the date that President Kennedy was assassinated some 45 years ago.
A vast amount has been written about that event, and President Kennedy himself. I can add little. But not enough has been written about the aftermath, particularly the treatment of Lyndon Johnson by the press, by the Kennedys, and by the northeast liberal establishment. That is a subject worth mentioning.
One of the great myths about the sixties - one of many, many myths - is that Lyndon Johnson was hated because of the Vietnam War. That is not quite correct. Lyndon Johnson was hated from the moment he took the oath...because he wasn't Jack Kennedy. He hadn't gone to the right schools, he wasn't eloquent, his wife didn't go to classical concerts, and, worst of all, he was from Texas. Well, wait. Maybe that wasn't worst of all. Worst of all was the fact that he was an effective legislator, a dealmaker, and that didn't go down well with the pure-of-heart northeastern crowd, which had convinced themselves that the Kennedys were godlike and above mere politics.
Johnson had always been resented by that clique, and his selection as Kennedy's running mate in 1960 had stunned them. He wasn't "one of us." He didn't talk like "us." He was from south of Boston. When Johnson became president upon Kennedy's murder, the clique loathed him, and gathered around Bobby Kennedy. Johnson got very little credit for shepherding through the 1964 civil rights legislation that Jack Kennedy could probably not have gotten passed. He got very little credit for anything.
We recall these things because George W. Bush is despised by the same crowd that despised Johnson, and for the same reasons. It's a cultural thing. You must be a member of the club. You can do business with a machete during the day, but, as long as you go to the Philharmonic at night, you're forgiven. So now, as the Bush years reach their end, we might reflect on the treatment of Lyndon Johnson, and recognize that we've just seen it again. It is hurtful to American politics, and hurtful to the country, but the practitioners of this socially acceptable form of hate never seem to care.
November 22, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: I've always been baffled by this term, "militant." It's like saying, "Japanese militants attacked Pearl Harbor yesterday..." What, precisely, does "militant" mean? It's a euphemism, of course, for "terrorist." I prefer the real thing. At any rate, the raid was a success, for which we thank our militant military.
Moran, a well-known grassroots organizer, has also managed statewide Democratic campaigns and managed the Wal-Mart corporate accountability campaign for the AFL-CIO.
EMILY's List, one of the most important Democratic constituency groups, says it is "dedicated to building a progressive America by electing Democratic pro-choice women to office."
COMMENT: Major political payoff, but possibly a bad move. The communications failures of the Bush White House show the importance of this position. Appointing a partisan with narrow, leftist experience doesn't strike me as smart.
For those inclined to believe that Sarah Palin would disappear into the tundra after the election, there must be crushing disappointment. It seems that the governor is in more demand now than ever. She has a career ahead of her. Tina Fey has a career ahead of her. Everybody should really be happy. The facts:
I used to be a William Morris client. Sarah will have to get used to five-foot-five-inch men named Murray.
And there's more:
Of course, it's legitimate to ask how many of these people will try to ambush her, and make her look bad. But I suspect she's ready for that now. She wasn't that ready in the first few weeks after McCain selected her.
The book tour would be something to behold. Of course, there are the party poopers:
Hey, guy, she has an 80-percent approval rating.
Sarah Palin is a political phenomenon. We cannot and should not try to project how far she can go. No doubt, and it must be admitted, part of the fascination is her good looks. She's the most lookable major candidate we've had in years.
But there's also a fascination with her life story, which she now has a chance to tell in her own time, and in her own way, unencumbered by campaign staffs.
With Sarah emerging, and Hillary as secretary of state, we're in for juicy times.
November 22, 2008. Permalink
We've said before at Urgent Agenda that some of the best writing on American politics is done by British and Australian reporters. The best of the best is Gerard Baker of The Times of London, who examines the whole Hillary as secretary of state thing. The Brits must be astonished:
Ah, but wait...
Yes. And we're not talking about another guy:
They will keep him in the closet and away from microphones. Hillary might ask him to arrange room service at foreign hotels.
The Dem bench is not deep, especially where national security is concerned.
Hmm. Yeah. We see his point. The Clinton leak machine could make clear where she differs with him, even as she carries out his instructions. And - we're dreaming here - a Clinton resignation "on principle," just before, oh, 2012, could be devastating to Obama.
Yeah, no doubt about it. This is theater. The best show in town. Can you just see inauguration day, in two months? The networks will give as much attention to the Clintons as to the Obamas. Hillary, as an appointed cabinet official, will probably be sitting right behind Obama as he rises to take the oath. She'll know she's on TV, so she won't curse. But I'll give anything I have to see the expression on her face, and I'll give more than I have to see the expressions when her eyes meet Michelle's.
Politics is occasionally fun, even when the other guys win.
November 22, 2008. Permalink
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2008
The president-elect clearly dodged a high-powered political bullet today by leaking the nomination of his presumed Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. Mr. Obama was beginning to face a firestorm of criticism that he wasn't serious enough about the economy. That criticism should ease now.
Thus far his appointments are center-left. That's fine, and the best we can hope for. However, I still am uneasy with things I hear about his national-security policies, especially that he's taking advice from Brent Scowcroft, Bush 41's national security adviser. Taking advice from Scowcroft is like taking advice from Zbig Brzezinski, Carter's national security adviser. Brent and Zbig think alike, and often write columns together, as they did for today's Washington Post. Their track record isn't encouraging.
But let's see, and give the president-elect a chance. One thing that's particularly intriguing about the Hillary thing - assuming she does wind up at State - is that she and Obama have had fundamental disagreements about foreign policy. Presumably, they've talked over exactly what Obama's plans are. Presumably, also, he recognizes how embarrassing it would be if Clinton resigned her position in protest over policies that were too far to the left. I say "presumably." There are no guarantees here.
The record shows that Hillary behaved herself when she entered the U.S. Senate in 2001. She did not lord it over other senators, and took her place in the seniority chain. She understands those same rules apply when she's secretary of state. But we can only imagine what is going through her mind - the photos of her international "triumphs," and maybe a Nobel Peace Prize. There is no doubt in my mind that she has her eye on 2016, when she'll be only 68, and a presidential candidate once more. All this assumes, of course, that things go well, and that is a major assumption.
There might also be intermediate steps for Clinton. She might become governor of New York. She might have her eye on the secretary generalship of the UN. There has been talk of a Supreme Court appointment, but I can't see it. Her legal qualifications are thin. She could be vice president in a second Obama term, if Biden fades away, or is made to fade away.
Isn't it something - we're talking more about Clinton than Obama. But that is the risk Obama is now taking.
November 21, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: The question arises: What role will there be in the new administration for Joe Biden, other than letting him take his oath? The man has, Soviet style, essentially disappeared.
COMMENT: A disappointment. The clear choice is the brilliant Larry Summers, who held the post under Clinton. But Summers ran afoul of radical feminist groups when he was president of Harvard, and I suspect they derailed him. These are the same groups, of course, that are silent about the oppression of Muslim women. Mustn't upset the multiculturalists.
COMMENT: We assume The Times, or its copy editors, knows how to spell, so please notice the use of "confidants," the male spelling, rather than the feminine "confidantes." So, presumably, it was two men who spilled the beans. Also, the story goes on to report "additional discussion" between Obama and Clinton since their now-famous meeting in Chicago. I'd be willing to guess that Obama had to spell out some details of his foreign policy. She is far more hawkish than Obama has claimed to be.
A side note: I was struck by the term "the man who beat her" in the quote above. In polite company we usually say, "the man who defeated her." Hmm.
COMMENT: Real troupers. Hey, so what if we screwed up the entire economy. Here's a Christmas break. (Thanks to Bruce Goldman for alerting me to the misspelling of "troupers.")
COMMENT: Did you ever think you'd see the headline GM BELLY UP? It may be a wise solution, but Newt asked a few nights ago, "Who would buy a car from a bankrupt company?" The psychological factor here could be troubling.
COMMENT: Just a slump in ads? How about the little problem of putting out a product in which people have lost confidence? Address that and both readers and advertisers will beat a path to your door.
COMMENT: And other sources say that she's hesitating. We'll know right after the next commercial for Colgate toothpaste.
In the midst of all the economic chaos, leave it to Victor Davis Hanson to provide some needed perspective, not about numbers, but about culture and ethics. Here he provides some common sense about failure, and its uses, starting with what many of us were taught as children:
And that message:
True. Do we remember any of the names? Can we place the faces? If some of the worst culprits walked down our street, would we recognize them?
At least we're seeing some resistance. Many Americans aren't buying the fast hustle as quickly as some politicians are.
California is also on the edge. They spend, and spend.
Ah, a delicate nerve. When are we finally going to look at colleges with a cold eye, and realize that they're businesses?
Good thoughts to ponder on the weekend. Charles Kettering, of the once-successful General Motors, used to say that there's no such thing as failure. There's only experience. Another good thought.
November 21, 2008. Permalink
COMMENT: But no cries of anguish, no demand for a bailout. When you've done it right, you can absorb losses.
"I can tell you flat out there will be no endorsement [by Mr. Obama] prior to January 20," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut a day after his committee heard a combined appeal for billions of dollars in taxpayer help from the heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler LLC.
COMMENT: Increasingly, in TV spots and on the internet, there is a muttering of dissatisfaction with Obama, that he should be making the economy his priority and appointing a Treasury secretary to reassure the people and the markets. Not a good show so far.
UPDATE AT 6:52 A.M. ET: The foreign markets stabilized overnight. That may (or may not) portend a better day on Wall Street, especially with profit takers hanging around. Let's see. The overall downward trend, and the psychological factors that lead to recessions, are plainly there.
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THE CURRENT QUESTION
Last week we asked:
What did the Republicans do wrong in this election campaign, and what can they do in the future to avoid another electoral disaster?
You can view the answers here.
Should President-elect Obama appoint Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and why?
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