Tag Archives: pakistan

A Chill in the Air

Summer officially starts this weekend, but it’s getting cold out there.

The AMA reacted coolly to President Obama’s healthcare plan. Iran’s elections may have a chilling effect on its relations with the United States. Senate Republicans want to freeze the Sotomayor proceedings until fall. And Sarah Palin is going all ice queen on David Letterman.

Bundle up, dear reader.

The president addressed the American Medical Association’s annual convention yesterday, outlining his healthcare policy to a new level of detail. If doctors, hospitals, and insurers can cut care costs, the president offered, government will also work to lower medical liabilities (right now, a doctor’s greatest expense is malpractice insurance).

Here’s where it gets frosty: the president said his plan may cost $1 trillion. For a federal budget buckling under the weight of bailouts, bankruptcies, and decade-old tax breaks, another trillion-dollar program makes everyone shudder. Think spending may become a political problem for the Democrats? You ain’t the only one.

Congress will soon undertake healthcare reform, but this week, it’s focused on the environment and new financial regulations. And Sonia: the GOP is hoping to stall for time, but it’s running up against a concerted White House media strategy.

The president’s primary international concern is (still) west Asia. Iran’s presidential elections have been fascinating to watch.

The incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a bigot who thinks America sucks. The challenger, Mir Hossain Mousavi, quit politics 15 years ago to become an architect. Mousavi wasn’t supposed to be the main opposition, but former president Mohammed Khatami thought he had no chance this go-round, so he dropped out.

That’s because until recently, Ahmadinejad was very popular. He is a hero to rural conservatives and the urban poor, whose causes he championed. But 70 percent of Iran is under 30 years old, and many young people find Iran’s current brand of theocratic authoritarianism suffocating. They want freedom, and Mousavi is their man.

Ahmadinejad won, but it looks like he may have cheated. Mousavi supporters have taken to the streets, and Iran’s ruling clerics have opened an investigation into the election results. New elections, or even hard evidence of cheating, are unlikely. But it’s interesting to watch a government testing out the mechanics of democracy, especially a government at the center of the world stage.

Meanwhile, there may be “tough months” ahead for Afghanistan, according to Gen. David Petraeus, who oughta know. The Blog wonders: “tough” as opposed to what? All the easy living Afghanistan’s been soaking up lately?

Pakistan isn’t doing much better.

Even our allies are raising a ruckus. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s recent call for a Palestinian state with a big “pfff.” Actually, Netanyahu said the Palestinians could have their own country, so long as that country didn’t have an army and so long as Israelis could continue trying to take over Palestine one settlement at a time. The Palestinians—and the Blog—find his munificence overwhelming.

Twenty years ago, the New York Times’ Tom Friedman (see this week’s Top 5) wrote that Israel’s big problem is that it can only have two of the three things it wants: to be 100 percent Jewish, 100 percent democratic, and occupy 100 percent of all the territory of Old Testament Israel. It can have any two, Friedman argues, but not all three. Israel has still not chosen.

Finally this week, the Blog presents a moment of absurdity. Guess who is conservatives’ newest worst enemy? This moment of absurdity has been brought to you by Sarah Palin, defender of all that is right.

Top 5

The week’s best political reporting and commentary…

The Washington Post: “Muted Response Reflects U.S. Diplomatic Dilemma” by Scott Tyson.

The New York Times: “Winds of Change?” by Tom Friedman.

Economist: “Tehran Rising.

Newsweek: “The Micawbers and Mrs. Roosevelt” by Jon Meacham.

Wall Street Journal: “White House Sends Signals on Deficit” by Gerald Seib.

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It’s (Still) the Economy, Stupid

The Wrap: News Quiz

If you’ve tuned in to cable news today, you probably know America’s prison system now holds as many governors as Heisman Trophy winners. But The Blog asks: do you know…

 

…when tickets go on sale for Oprah’s DC shows? (Answer: yesterday.)

 

…how many consecutive days of ‘round-the-clock drinking it will take to numb our nation’s pocketbook pain? (Answer: four.)

 

…how many Bushes in the Senate would be one too many? (Answer: one.)

 

These were the questions that plagued the District this week. Other topics of discussion included Bill Richardson’s beard (or lack thereof), sympathy for Richard Nixon (or lack thereof), and the current president’s governing style (or lack thereof).

 

Beyond the Beltway, actual news events took place. According to American intelligence officials, Pakistan’s intelligence agency supported Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that killed hundreds in Mumbai late last month. To make up for it, Pakistan attacked a Lashkar camp yesterday.

 

Al Qaeda detainees have decided to plead guilty and welcome the death penalty, including 9/11 “mastermind” (if that term can be used to describe a sociopath) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

 

And, it turns out, the economy will be in the commode for a long time.

 

Top 5

Newsweek: “Bernanke’s Burden” by Robert J. Samuelson.

 

The New York Times: “Trouble in the Other Middle East” by Robert Kaplan.

 

Foreign Affairs: “Preparing the Pentagon for a New Age” by Robert Gates.

 

Newsweek: “Our Mutual Joy” by Lisa Miller.

 

Economist: “Searching for the Promised Land.”

 

Feature: It’s (Still) the Economy, Stupid

The recent presidential race was, to an extent, about the economy. Candidate Obama worked hard to convince voters he was capable of handling America’s unsteady finances. He won, so now our economy is his predicament.

 

That’s tough enough, but as ABC News pointed out this week, the president-elect (and Congress) must work two problems at once:  “Beyond the optics—and the symbolism does matter—there remain major policy (will it work?) and political (will it fly?) differences here.”

 

Other blogs can clue you in to the policy arguments, the oversight mechanisms, the precise amount and timing of funds. But if you’re interested in the politics, let The Blog engage you in a little role play.

 

****

 

Say you’re Barack Obama. Just last month you were minted Leader of the Free World after a campaign during which you were rumored to have been born in a manger, or at least on Planet Krypton. Oprah called you “the One.” A Georgia woman, when asked why she voted for you, explained, “I won’t have to pay my mortgage if Obama wins!”

 

Expectations are higher than the Dude in a bubble bath, but January 20 is quickly approaching. You have to figure out how to fix an economy that’s gasping like Charlie Manuel running a marathon. Your advisors are telling you one thing, and the people are telling you another. What to do?

 

If you nix future bailouts and curb spending, you’ll continue your man-of-the-hour streak. These actions would satisfy our sense of fairness. Beleagured companies got themselves into this mess. Why should we have to get them out? As for government spending, we were committing financial child abuse before this crisis by passing boatloads of debt to our children. After this fall’s binge, they’ll never be able to pay it off. Why make the burden heavier?

 

But remember, Mr. President: governing means doing the right thing even when it looks like the wrong thing. We want corporate justice now, but there are other things we don’t want: unemployment, stagflation, and stock market dives. Those are likely consequences of letting troubled companies flounder.

 

Bailing Detroit out doesn’t just save machinist jobs at auto plants. It saves jobs at parts suppliers around the country, at dealerships, training centers, and repair shops. We should make the Big Three get with the times, but at some point, tough love becomes self-flagellation.

 

Spending can help, too. We have needs: our infrastructure needs a makeover, and more and more Americans need jobs. Public works satisfy both. There are obstacles, of course, but if you do it right, Mr. President, government can work for the people while the people work for the government.

 

Your advisors champion these ideas. They know bailouts and spending in tough times can be painful, but it’s nothing compared to the anguish of the alternative. Trust them. Bite the bullet and defy voter opinion.

 

****

 

Politics is about “vox populi, vox dei.” If you don’t put the voters’ attitudes first, you lose your job. The problem is, sometimes voters like what’s bad for them.

 

Leadership is about convincing voters of what is right and motivating them to help themselves. Obama was a good enough politician to get elected president, and he has the makings of a genuine leader.

 

The economy will be his test.

 

On Deck: More Punch Than Your Bowl of Juice

The Blagojevich story may stick. In the hours since it’s been announced, the Illinois governor has been accused of taking bribes, extorting potential Senate candidates, trying to fire half the Chicago Tribune editorial board, and kidnapping the Lindberg baby. Apparently, he also framed Roger Rabbit. The Blog will likely update this story next week.

 

We’ll also likely have more news for you, dear reader, on the auto bailout. Congressional leadership is hard at work (for congressional leadership, anyway) to get something passed and signed before Christmas.