Friday, February 6, 2009


Obama's Tardiness Sets Him Apart From Bush
Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has struggled to arrive on time to events and news conferences.

WASHINGTON -- There's a new time zone in the nation's capital: Obama Time.

Barely two weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama has made a clean break from George W. Bush in several high-profile moves, including reversing a number of the 43rd president's policies.

He's also reversed an unwritten but much-noticed Bush policy: Be on time, all the time.

Obama has been routinely late to events and news conferences, including the ones at which he reversed Bush's orders. This has led to an already familiar refrain from the Obama camp: "He's running late."

The president was nearly 30 minutes late Wednesday for the ceremony at which he signed a bill to expand children's health care. He was 10 minutes late Thursday to a memo signing at the Energy Department.

Even before the inauguration, Obama wasn't a punctual sort; he arrived late to a Jan. 8 news conference on the economy that was aired live by broadcast and cable networks.

When it comes to following the clock, Obama closely resembles Bill Clinton, who was famously late to events when he was president. By contrast, Bush despised being late and punctual to a fault. He set the tone early in his presidency -- he arrived at the Capitol five minutes early for his inauguration.

"To me, being tardy, it's got to be one of two things," said presidential historian Doug Wead, who advised both Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. "Bad organization that can be corrected, or it's arrogance. It sounds to me like this is arrogance."

Mark Lindsay, a Democratic consultant and former senior White House adviser to Bill Clinton, disagreed, explaining that Clinton was late sometimes because he was making accommodations for logistics or average citizens.

"I would make the opposite observation," Lindsay said. "I would say that taking time to accommodate your schedule to regular citizens is not an act of arrogance. It's an act of humility."

Lindsay, who was the assistant to Clinton for management and administration, said Bush was not known for having the same level of engagement with regular people.

Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University, had a different explanation for Clinton's tardiness.

"President Clinton was always late because he wasn't very disciplined in general," he said. "This was a man who marched to the beat of his own drummer, who liked to talk, liked intellectual discussions, had his finger in every pie."

There are two kinds of presidents, Lichtman said: "Foxes and hedgehogs."

"Foxes know a little about everything. They have their fingers in every pie. ... Hedgehogs only know a few things and know it well and leave the details to others. Clinton was a classic fox. Bush was a classic hedgehog."

And Obama? He appears to be a fox, too, Lichtman said.

Obama was habitually late to events on the campaign trail and to meetings as a U.S. senator. In fact, there's a montage on YouTube of him offering apologies for missing testimony and presentations because of his late arrivals to meetings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He even apologized in advance for asking questions that might be repetitive.

The president's tardiness already appears to have spread to others in his administration. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has been routinely late for daily news briefings, sometimes by more than an hour.

Wead warned that habitual tardiness can be misinterpreted, citing the Cingular dropped-call ads that show how communication breakdown can lead to awkward moments in a New York minute. And he said being late could cost Obama politically.

"When Obama's popularity slips, some people on Capitol Hill will not wait for him, and that will result in diminished political power," he said.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

What is that other name for a cat (no, not feline)?

Sources: Charges to Be Dropped Against USS Cole Bombing Suspect
The legal move by the Hon. Susan J. Crawford would bring all Guantanamo cases into compliance with President Barack Obama's executive order to halt court proceedings at the Navy detention center in Cuba.

The senior military judge overseeing terror trials at Guantanamo Bay is expected to drop charges Friday against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, FOX News has confirmed.

The legal move by the Hon. Susan J. Crawford would bring all Guantanamo cases into compliance with President Barack Obama's executive order to halt court proceedings at the Navy detention center in Cuba.

Judge James Pohl had refused the Obama administration's request to delay the arraignment of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused planner of the Cole attack in Yemen.

A senior Obama administration official told The Associated Press that the charges against al-Nashiri will be dismissed without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later in another venue, possibly a military court martial or criminal court.

It also gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held there and decide whether they should be prosecuted in the U.S. or released to other nations.

Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kurt Lippold, who was commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemeni waters in 2000, told FOX News that he was invited to the White House on Friday for a special meeting with Obama.

Lippold decried Obama's request to delay all pending trials at Guantanamo. But he told FOX News he "will go with an open mind and wait to see and hear what President Obama has to offer."

FOX News' Catherine Herridge and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Okay, you have to get past the strange permanent tan, but can anyone reasonably argue with Dick Armey's logic here?

Washington Could Use Less Keynes and More Hayek

Says Dick Armey, former economics professor and former GOP majority leader of the House of Representatives in today's Wall Street Journal:

"In the long run, we are all dead," John Maynard Keynes once quipped. An influential British economist, Keynes used the line to dodge the problematic long-term implications of his policy proposals. His analysis of the Great Depression redefined economics in the 1930s and asserted that increased government spending during a downturn could revive the economy.

President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats (very few of whom likely have read Keynes's 1936 book "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money") have dug up the dead economist's convenient justification for deficit spending in defense of their bloated stimulus legislation. But none ask the most important question: Was Keynes right?

According to Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek, a contemporary of Keynes and perhaps his greatest critic, Keynes "was guided by one central idea . . . that general employment was always positively correlated with the aggregate demand for consumer goods." Keynes argued that government should intervene in the economy to maintain aggregate demand and full employment, with the goal of smoothing out business cycles. During recessions, he asserted, government should borrow money and spend it.

Keynes's thinking was a decisive departure from classical economics, because arbitrary "macro" constructs like aggregate demand had no basis in the microeconomic science of human action. As Hayek observed, "some of the most orthodox disciples of Keynes appear consistently to have thrown overboard all the traditional theory of price determination and of distribution, all that used to be the backbone of economic theory, and in consequence, in my opinion, to have ceased to understand any economics."

Classical economists up to that time had emphasized a balanced budget and government restraint as the primary goals of fiscal policy. The simplistic notion that "aggregate demand" drove investment and employment threw all of that out the window, but it had one particular convenience for policy makers. Government spending is, according to Keynes's construct, a key component in determining aggregate demand, so more spending, even to resod the Capitol Mall or distribute free contraception, drives the economy in the short run.

Read the rest of Armey's piece here.

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Change Che Guevara Could Believe In

Obama to Limit Executive Pay for Bailout Recipients
Administration plans to limit pay to $500,000 a year for executives of bailed-out companies in a new get-tough approach to bankers and Wall Street.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration plans to limit pay to $500,000 a year for executives of government-assisted financial institutions in a new get-tough approach to bankers and Wall Street, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Obama plans to announce the new limits with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the White House on Wednesday.

"If the taxpayers are helping you, then you've got certain responsibilities to not be living high on the hog," President Barack Obama said in an interview with "NBC Nightly News".

An administration official familiar with the new restrictions said the most restrictive limits would apply only to struggling large firms that receive "exceptional assistance" in the future. Healthy banks that receive government infusions of capital would have more leeway.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plan had not yet been made public, said firms that want to pay executives above the $500,000 threshold would have to compensate them with stock that could not be sold or liquidated until they pay back the government funds.

The president and members of Congress have been weighing various proposals to restrict chief executives' compensation as one of the conditions of receiving help under the $700 billion financial bailout fund.

Banks and other financial institutions that receive capital infusions, but are considered healthy, could waive the $500,000 salary cap and the stock restrictions. But they would have to disclose the compensation and submit the pay plan to shareholders for a nonbinding vote.

The administration will also propose long-term compensation restrictions even for companies that don't receive government assistance, the official said.

The proposals include:

-- Requiring top executives at financial institutions to hold stock for several years before they can cash-out.

-- Requiring "say on pay" nonbinding shareholder resolutions.

-- A Treasury sponsored conference on a long-term overhaul of executive compensation.

Top officials at companies that have received money from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program already face some compensation limits. But elected officials want to place more caps, a sentiment reinforced in recent days by revelations that Wall Street firms paid more than $18 billion in bonuses in the midst of the economic downturn in 2008.

"I do know this: We can't just say, 'Please, please,"' said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who has proposed that no employee of an institution that receives money under the $700 billion federal bailout can receive more than $400,000 in total compensation until it pays the money back.

The figure is equivalent to the salary of the president of the United States.

Compensation experts in the private sector have warned that such an intrusion into the internal decisions of financial institutions could discourage participation in the rescue program and slow down the financial sector's recovery. They also argue that it could set a precedent for government regulation that undermined performance-based pay.

Obama, in an interview with CNN Tuesday, insisted that the restrictions would not amount to excessive government intrusion.

"There are mechanisms in place to make sure that institutions that are taking taxpayer money are not using that money for excessive executive compensation," he said. "It's not a government takeover. Private enterprise will still be taking place. But people will be accountable and responsible. And that's what we have to restore in the financial system generally."

And some Republicans, angered by company decisions to pay bonuses and buy airplanes, have few qualms about restrictions, especially if they are temporary.

"In ordinary situations where the taxpayers money is not involved, we shouldn't set executive pay," said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican in the Senate Banking Committee.

"But where you've got federal money involved, taxpayers' money involved, TARP money involved, and the way they have spent it, with no accountability, is getting close to being criminal."

The administration's compensation announcement will precede its more comprehensive plans for how to spend the remaining $350 billion in the TARP program. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Obama's economic team have been revamping the framework of the program and are expected to announce the changes next week.

Officials are considering a government-run "bad bank" that would take on the bad debts and investments of financial institutions. In addition, the Treasury could seek help from the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to provide banks with guarantees against losses on assets backed by residential and commercial real estate loans.

On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Banking Committee with close ties to Wall Street, warned against the "bad bank" idea saying it could be too expensive and the government would have a difficult time setting a value on the assets. He instead endorsed guaranteeing bad assets at a value lower than what banks have on the books.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pay No Attention to that Warm Man in the Oval Office

Obama Getting Heat for Turning Up the Oval Office Thermostat.
President Obama is facing criticism for keeping his office warm enough to "grow orchids" in -- after he called on Americans to protect the environment and turn down their thermostats.

President Obama lectured voters during the campaign about the need to make sacrifices for the environment. But now it's warm and toasty in the White House -- so much so that aides have likened it to a tropical hot house -- and Obama is under fire for turning up the heat.

Obama made climate change a staple of his stump speech last year, calling on Americans to lower their energy use and set a model for the rest of the world in combating climate change.

During a campaign event in Oregon in May, Obama said we have to "lead by example." "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times," he said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen."

But for the first few weeks of his presidency, that's precisely what has happened in the White House.

On the first day of his presidency, Obama allowed staffers to venture into the Oval Office without wearing coat and tie, which had been obligatory under President Bush. Fashion observers called it a new age of business casual at the White House.

Obama's aides had a simpler explanation. Though he's spent more than 20 years in Chicago, the president was born in Hawaii. And so he "likes it warm" in the Oval Office, said Chief of Staff David Axelrod. "You could grow orchids in there," he told the New York Times.

But while it's perpetual summer in the Oval Office, the rest of the country has been trudging through a tough winter. Ice storms have cut power to millions in the Midwest and South.

With few orchids growing in the heartland, critics are saying that Obama -- who urged individual sacrifice in an inaugural address that called for a "new era of responsibility" -- hasn't been willing to bear the cold with the rest of the country.

"It's stunning hypocrisy," said Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of two books critical of global warming activists. "Obama spins the dial up, takes off his coat and seeks to mandate that we turn the dial down," he said.

Obama could take a lesson from one of his predecessors, critics say.

During the gasoline shortage of the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter famously donned a cardigan and turned down the thermostat in the White House. He urged the nation to do the same during a notably chilly fireside chat he gave from his cooled-off home -- a symbolic gesture intended to move other Americans to go easy on the country's depleted stores of energy.

Charles Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institute, said that presidential roles and security measures will necessarily prevent Obama from being completely green.

"No one can justify from an energy-efficiency standpoint riding in a bulletproof car, but as president of the United States I think we need to protect his security," he said. "Symbolically it's important, but I wouldn't read too much into it."

The 800-square-foot Oval Office accounts for only a small part of the White House's overall area: at 55,000 square feet, the Georgian mansion is a public institution, and taxpayers cover the cost of powering a building that is part dwelling, part museum and the nerve center of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.

The White House began going green during the 1990s, and reports from the Department of Energy show that innovations and changes have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs each year for the buildings that house White House staff.

Obama's White House declined to comment on the president's personal energy use, but did note that his stimulus package will continue the greening trend, paving the way for 75 percent of federal buildings to be modernized to increase their energy efficiency.

Yet in the sanctum sanctorum of executive power, Obama has kept it steamy -- literally. The entire White House complex is heated by steam radiators, part of an old energy system that continues to undergo renovations.

Critics say it's time for the president to put his coat -- or his cardigan -- back on.

Horner said the president should follow the demands he's made of the rest of the country and start "turning down the dial and putting on a sweater instead of [demanding] sacrifice he talks about for other people."

But some energy experts say Obama, who made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his campaign, needs to stay on message.

"He's got to make every American make a personal commitment" to decrease their own energy use and educate the country about the threat of climate change, he said. "The earlier the president can convey that message the better."
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January 2009 "Barack-Hillary Ratio"

In the Barack-Hillary tug of war for the media spotlight, there was an uptick in the quantity of New York Times coverage of President Obama during the month of January -- despite the coverage associated with Clinton's Senate confirmation and the New York statehouse saga in filling her Senate seat.

Click on the graphic at the top of this entry for a better view of the data.

Going forward, the Barack-Hillary Ratio will provide a leading indicator on Obama's hold on his presidency. Obama and Hillary are the two power centers of the Democratic Party. To the degree that Obama is in control, he should be holding onto his lead in New York Times mentions. If Hillary closes the gap, watch out for fireworks in the administration.

Click here for last month's inaugural item on the Barack-Hillary ratio, an exclusively monthly feature on The Rapier.

After enjoying a larger and larger share of the media spotlight in three straight months at the height of the campaign -- September - November 2009 -- Obama saw more attention shift to Clinton, in relative terms, in December 2009.

Last month, the lead shifted back to President Obama.

Click here for a timeline of critical events during the election.

The Rapier will update the Barack-Hillary Ratio monthly and will take a look at the wild card tangled up in all of this media coverage: Bill Clinton himself.

Methodology note:

Using The New York Times online "advanced search" feature, The Rapier tallied the number of mentions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for each month, from January 2006 through January 2009. For Obama, the tally included the number of mentions of "Barack Obama" and "Barack Hussein Obama" but did not count mentions alone of his first or last names. For Clinton, the tally included the number of mentions of "Hillary Clinton" and "Hillary Rodham Clinton" but did not count mentions alone of her first or last names.

The Rapier created the ratio by taking the number of Barack Obama mentions and dividing this number by the tally of Hillary Clinton mentions. The Rapier then took that ratio and subtracted 1. This created a value where negative numbers indicated a greater number of Hillary Clinton mentions. A positive number represents more Barack Obama mentions.

Raw data below. First column is the date searched. First number is the tally of Barack Obama mentions. Last number is the tally of Hillary Clinton mentions.

Jan-06 2, 52
Feb-06 7, 69
Mar-06 9, 84
Apr-06 7, 39
May-06 13, 79
Jun-06 5, 64
Jul-06 6, 52
Aug-06 2, 73
Sep-06 7, 70
Oct-06 23, 111
Nov-06 39, 94
Dec-06 47, 70
Jan-07 89, 118
Feb-07 113, 147
Mar-07 84, 113
Apr-07 112, 105
May-07 92, 112
Jun-07 82, 124
Jul-07 87, 119
Aug-07 76, 120
Sep-07 94, 174
Oct-07 94, 188
Nov-07 110, 206
Dec-07 164, 225
Jan-08 336, 429
Feb-08 450, 497
Mar-08 399, 410
Apr-08 361, 396
May-08 385, 365
Jun-08 408, 218
Jul-08 379, 90
Aug-08 433, 160
Sep-08 475, 115
Oct-08 603, 94
Nov-08 973, 176
Dec-08 658, 157
Jan-09 841, 170
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Who needs tax CUTS? Just don't pay them in the First Place...

Another Obama Nominee is a Tax Cheat
Killefer withdraws nomination

Nancy Killefer, who failed for a year and a half to pay employment taxes on household help, has withdrawn her candidacy to be the first "Chief Performance Officer" (whatever THAT is) for the federal government, the White House said Tuesday.

Michael Sniffen and Liz Sidoti of the AP have the story here.


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Monday, February 2, 2009

Come on, haven't we ALL failed to pay $146,000 in taxes for the gifted limo at some point?

HHS Nominee Daschle -- Former Senate Majority Leader -- Says He "Unintentionally" Failed to Pay Taxes on Limousine and Driver He Was "Given"

In an act making several folks scratch their heads at how this could be the "Change we've been waiting for," President Obama continues to support Tom Daschle, his nominee to be head of Health and Human Services, despite Daschle's admission that he (1) failed to pay income taxes on a $1,000,000 "consulting" fee; (2) failed to pay taxes on a limousine and driver that a supporter had gifted to him; and (3) failed (on top of the $146,000 in income taxes owed) to pay an additional $6,000 in Medicare taxes for the limo driver -- and this is the guy whom Obama wants to put in charge of overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.

"My mistakes were unintentional," Daschle wrote ove the weekend. As with Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Daschle waited until he got caught before paying the taxes.

This writer is not surprised that Daschle isn't getting quite the same treatment by the media as, say, Joe the Plumber, who owed a whopping $1,182.

Ceci Connolly and Paul Kane of the Washington Post have full coverage here.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Would Jesse Do?

Editor's Note: Jesse Helms was a five-term legislator known as "Senator No," because of his unreconstructed conservative views and attempts to block federal government initiatives. The following is part of an occasional series asking, as to current issues, "What would Jesse do? -- or say?"

  • Issue: Supporting the $819 Billion Stimulus Package. What would Jesse Do (and Say)? "Folks, especially young people, do not need any more 'stimulating,' except within the confines of a traditional, het'rosexshul marriage." Perhaps more importantly, Senator Helms simply would not have supported the TARP (even though it should benefit big North Carolina based banks) in the first place and he certainly would not have caved to the demands of the new administration and the Democrats in the newest and latest spending craze intoxicating much of Washington.
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Check out Cato's "Fiscal Reality Central"

Cato Institute economists try to hold the free-market line against the Obama stimulus tidal wave.

With ads in the NY Times and Washington Post, Cato argues against the notion that economists are unified in support of massive government spending to stimulate the economy.
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