Tag Archives: Obama

Really, Mr. President?

The Jay Leno appearance didn’t bother me. Filling out a NCAA bracket for ESPN was kind of cool. But a $500,000 advance for a book deal? Had Bush done something similar, we’d all be braying about gross dereliction of duty. Granted, context matters, and so far the Obama Administration is nowhere near Bushian levels of incompetence. And yet we still don’t have a coherent bank plan. The economy continues to tank. And I’m left wondering why Obama is so consumed with antics more suited to the campaign trail or a post-presidential goodwill tour than a harrowing first-term presidency.


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Memo to National Review: Returning a bust of Churchill does not signal the end of the “Special Relationship.” I found this line particularly laughable:

The President has never even mentioned the Anglo-American alliance in a major policy speech, and has little affinity for Britain.

Of the two major candidates, Obama was the only one to demonstrate any awareness whatsoever of our unique connection to Great Britain. Roll tape:

But, the former constitutional law professor argued, “What I have also said is this: that when you suspend habeas corpus — which has been a principle, dating before even our country, it’s the foundation of Anglo-American law — which says, very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ and say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.’

“The reason you have that safeguard,” he said, “is because we don’t always have the right person. We don’t always catch the right person. We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist, it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You may think it’s Barack the bomb thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president.

But of course that doesn’t count.

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Pickup Artist

SI discovers the libertarian social theory behind Obama’s affection for pickup basketball:

Organized basketball, particularly in high school, is an exercise in submission to social control. Pickup ball, by contrast, involves collective governance and constant conflict resolution. It is, to borrow Sarah Palin’s phrase, community organizing in which everyone has “actual responsibilities.” For all its associations with inner-city pathologies, pickup ball harks back to a traditional time, when kids weren’t squired to playdates or stashed with third parties but made their way to the park on their own, picked teams and — as Obama did — grew up along the way.

On a related note, here’s a pretty great YouTube video:

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Anyone watching the inaugural ceremony has to be impressed by all the pomp and circumstance, though I’m one of those curmudgeons who is less enamored with the presidency’s ever-expanding roster of privileges and responsibilities. If anything, the presentation emphasizes the fragility of our constitutional arrangement. We need ceremony and traditions to mask this. The beautifully-choreographed scene in Washington suggests continuity, permanence, and power. The reality is that no matter how many flags are draped across the Capitol, the Republic remains extremely fragile.

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“Smart” People

At Foreign Policy’s new Shadow Government blog, Philip Zelikow takes issue with Hillary Clinton’s use of the term “smart power”:

There was also a conceit embodied in the phrase, “smart power.” The conceit is interesting because it is so characteristic of contemporary American political life and scholarship in its preoccupation with process. Process shaping substance (this is the underlying premise of what political scientists somewhat confusingly call ‘rational choice’ theory); process trumping substance; and — quite often — process actually being the substance. Talking — or talking in a certain way — as, in itself, the solution. Or at least therapeutic.

So no surprise that a team of highly experienced people, having lived through the Bush years, might feel that ‘smart power’ is a term that really captures the contrasting vision they offer. It was an appealing way of saying: “They were kinda dumb or at least blinkered; we’re smart and open-minded. They weren’t clever and professional enough to use all the tools; we will.”

I suppose Bush sympathizers might disagree with the (supposedly unfair) characterization of the outgoing Administration as “dumb,” but really, emphasizing innocuous terms like “smart power” and “competence” – terms that are, as Zelikow points out, fundamentally procedural – suggests a strong degree of continuity between Obama and Bush. If you agree with the Bush Administration’s underlying policies  – the Global War on Terror, Iraq etc. – you should be downright enthusiastic at the prospect of an incoming Secretary of State who emphasizes competence and cosmetics over substantive political change. And if an implicit dig at Bush’s intelligence is the worst criticism Republicans have to endure from Obama, I think they’ll have gotten off rather lightly.

Some of Bush’s more astute supporters recognize this, which is why Krauthammer is writing columns predicting Bush’s imminent rehabilitation at the hands of none other than Obama. If this sounds slightly absurd, it’s probably because you supported Obama as a more decisive break with past foreign policy failures than either McCain or Clinton. McCain’s entrance into the hallowed ranks of bipartisan heroes and Clinton’s appointment as chief architect of the new Administration’s foreign policy ought to make anyone think twice about the content of Obama’s “change,” but if you’re still not convinced, I recommend this excellent op-ed from Andrew Bacevich.

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Uncomfortably Numb

Post-bailout, does the public attach any significance to the dollar cost of public programs?  Do you? Do I? Chris Hayes writes that Republicans will opportunistically capitulate on the stimulus package and then use its cost to justify blocking Obama’s other legislative priorities. In any other political context, this strikes me as a savvy move, but I’m beginning to think that the bailout debacle has left us numb to more deficit spending.

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Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Reason’s Michael Moynihan:

Perhaps President-elect Obama isn’t the left-wing radical so feared by the green-inkers at Newsmax and Human Events. And this is distressing some of his most vocal supporters. We are a few months  away from inauguration, but impatient progressives are already fuming that Slavoj Zizek hasn’t been appointed to the National Security Council.

If Obama appoints Slavoj Zizek to anything – I mean anything –  I’ll vote Democrat until Doomsday.

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