Sunday, February 28, 2010

President Obama's Weekly Address: Accountability and Triumph

Highlights from President Obama's weekly address in which he describes the problems in Washington.

From February 27, 2010:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Post-Post Partisan Easter Bunny*

Uh huh. About that health care summit. From ABC:

Obama has invited Republicans and Democrats to a televised bipartisan meeting on health care on Feb. 25, but experts are skeptical about whether the open event will be any more than political theater and actually achieve any concrete results in bringing both sides together.

"It could either be a choreographed professional wrestling match or it could be another 'Kumbaya' meeting, and I think both would be totally useless," said Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of political economy at Princeton University . "It should be a frank exchange -- thoughtful, polite, but the way adults should talk to each other."

The president is hoping to thaw the ice on a health care overhaul bill that right now faces grim prospects on Capitol Hill. By bringing both Republicans and Democrats to the table, the White House hopes to resurrect the momentum by energizing wary Democrats and staunchly opposed Republicans.

"Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all the things that they [Republicans] believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in and want, and that's the price of bipartisanship," Obama said at an impromptu press conference Tuesday, "but that's sometimes the way it gets presented.

"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway," he said. "But there's got to be some give from their side as well. ... That's what I'm hoping gets accomplished at this summit."

Squarely in Obama’s wheelhouse, right? After all, it’s exactly the sort of thing Obama said would make him a good president during the 2008 campaign.

Obama, September 22, 2008 on 60 Minutes:

KROFT: Why do you think you’d be a good president?

OBAMA: One of the things I’m good at is getting people in a room with a bunch of different ideas who sometimes violently disagree with each other and finding common ground and a sense of common direction.

Then again, that self-assessment hasn’t survived the harsh realities Obama has experienced since becoming president, now has it?

In fact, though almost all of the violence in the health care debate has been on Obama’s side of the ideological aisle, Obama has done nothing to find common ground or a sense of common direction with his political opponents (to be blunt, he's done much worse than doing nothing, what with the name calling and the attempts to shut down debate, but that's for another day).

You might say Obama was wrong about bringing people together. And you would be right.

But let's cut him some slack on that 60 Minutes interview. It’s not like he’s just now realizing this reality. In fact, his reason for why he would be a good president barely survived a week before meeting its expiration date – he violently disagreed with it eight days later. I mean, you could get a bunch of people in a room and not one could find common ground or a common sense of direction between his statement above and this one.

Obama, September 30, 2008 on ABC:

"I don't think me calling House Republican members would have been that helpful, I tend not to be that persuasive on that side of the aisle," he said.

In other words…

Obama told me that if he was elected president, he might as well eschew bipartisan outreach because he tends not to be that persuasive to his political opponents. And he was right! And he has!

Finally! An Obama statement that has not reached an expiration date. Somebody call Geraghty.

So. Is the summit a serious undertaking or simply political theater?

Either way, I think most can agree that Obama can’t and won’t do much persuading.

Including, frankly, Obama.

*RIP, Dean

A Buck Passer at Heart

Mark Steyn points to this piece by Leslie H Gelb:

It’s not clear whether the bad judgments on priorities, practicalities, and steadiness come from Mr. Obama or his White House team. Maybe he overpowers them in discussions, or maybe he gives them a role in policymaking far beyond their experience in that realm. Unless you’re there, you don’t know. But Mr. Obama is the president, and except for the right-wing crazies, most Americans still recognize his great talents and promise. It is he who’s got to be helped. So it is they who’ve got to go.

True. If we’re not there, we don’t know. We aren’t there. We don’t know.

But is there anything from recent memory that might help us develop a better possible answer than just a guess?


"It wasn't like 'Let's have a discussion.' It was 'One, two, three, four, here's what we're going to do,' "a staffer said. "When things don't go well, [Obama] doesn't yell and scream. He's very prescriptive. Everybody understands this isn't about having a discussion. He's got 99 percent of the voting shares. There's no point in taking a vote."

Unless Obama has given up those voting shares since arriving in the Oval Office that he once commanded at Campaign HQ, we just might have our answer.

Then again, perhaps more likely, the account of Obama as being large and in charge all the time on every topic during the campaign was an exaggeration, a part of the myth-making of Obama 1.0: The omniscient leader who would heal the planet (that’s Steyn again).

But either way, is there any doubt that at some point, though we know not the time nor the place, that Gelb’s prescription (dump a slew of current advisors for New! and Improved! ones) comes true in some form or fashion?

Because, after all, there is something else from recent memory about Obama when things go south: Obama is a buck-passer at heart.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Never Forgetting Peter Bocking

An obituary for PUK was recently published in the Guardian:

My friend Peter Bocking, who has died aged 66, lived a double life: in the UK he was revered as a jazz guitarist on the north-west beat group scene; in the US he was admired for his written contributions to the blogosphere. Neither group knew of the existence of the other.


Yet his wider fame rested on non-musical talents. His death was greeted with an outpouring of grief from US blog sites, where PeterUK's contributions were legendary. For example, on the Is-Barack-a-black-Lincoln? debate: "There is some European socialist in him, so perhaps he is a Lincoln Continental." PeterUK's comments have since been gathered on several sites. In a way, Bocking surpassed the Beatles' achievement: he conquered America without ever leaving his armchair.

There were a few of us Americans in the PUK blog fan club who knew of his musical prowess.

The obit also includes a new (to me) photo of PUK:

Read the whole thing -- you'll get more flavor of PUK's life.