Monday, December 8, 2008
Personal Aside: Chicago all but Officially Designated Political Capital of the U.S.
As I told you before, this town is the ideal place from which to report political news. Washington, D. C. seems almost second rung to us. Chicago contains the Obama campaign HQ, ensconced at 233 N. Michigan where it will remain for much of his tenure (theyre getting ready now for the 2010 congressional off-year) as well as the site of The Little White House the Hyde Park mansion Obama bought with the advice of now convicted felon Tony Rezko not to forget the nerve center: City Hall, home of the most powerful one-party government in the world which has outlasted its nearest competitor, the USSR by five years.
Were the home of Henry Paulson, in a suburb only a few miles away from the Loop (more about him later). Also the original home away from home for secretary of state Hillary Clintonwith many of her closest pol-friends still here (including billionaire J.B. Pritzker) the carpetbag residence of ex-suburbanite Rahm Emanuel and the stamping ground of Dickie Durbin the number-two Democrat in the Senate but its number-one hack, whos available by cell-phone instantaneously to do the Daley bidding. Durbin has just suggested that President Bush pardon the last Republican governor who was convicted for wanton corruption, a dear Daley wish.
Im always amused at the lachrymose explanations politicians invent when their actions turn unpopular. This is from a popular fax-letter explaining why Dickie wrote the letter to Bush. Its because Dickie has become kinder, gentler with the death of his daughter, dont you know when everybody knows hes doing it at the command of Richard M. Daley. And dont think a full pardon is out of consideration from Bush as there has always been a strange bit of romance between Bush and the mayor: they find time to dine together in huddled conversation where they destroy grammatical syntax together whenever the president is in town.
Also for diverse entertainment, this is the hometown of an Illinois governor whos awaiting indictment; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and his congressman son, Jesse Jr. who hopes to be named to Obamas seat; of Minister Louis Farakkhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Fr. Michael Pfleger (who runs Democratic rallies each Sunday inter-sprinkled with Mass rubrics, gleefully dispensing the sacrament to one and all whether theyre Catholic or not and who as a special favor ignores pastoral term limits which must be followed by everyone else).
Were home to the team of Billy Ayres and Bernardine Dohrn who prove that the terrorist man and wife who plots treason together unrepentantly, stays together. When TV invaded his front law, Billy told them to get off my propertystrange language for one who espouses the Marxist ideology that all private property is theft.
And, oh yes, the home of Patrick Fitzgerald, the arrow-straight U. S attorney who is plotting to put the current Democratic governor and some of Daleys friends in jail.
Here the Catholic pro-abort Daley runs his bulldozers clearing the way for ever increased buildup of city-state-federal power. Hes using Barack Obama as a wedge to get the Olympics of 2016 here, enabling the jobs and contracts for massive building projects to be let building stadiums, parks, coliseums and fabulous accommodations at a public-private cost that may rival Chicagoan Hank Paulsons bailouts.
Here Daleys kid brother, pro-abort Catholic John, the chair of the powerful Cook county finance committee which virtually runs a government larger than 29 states and bigger than six of the smallest states combined; a number two kid brother, pro-abort Catholic Bill whos seriously thinking of running for governor of Illinois; control of the most influential zoning law office in the state, run by yet another pro-abort Catholic littlest brother, Michael.
This plus the command post for the most successful political imagery and lobbying firm in the country run by Obama guru David Axelrod-- which itself is on the lip of gaining unrivaled power for a private advocacy enterprise. A company that specializes in political astro-turfing.
What is political astro-turfing, you may ask? ASK is the right term. Astroturf is the name given to communications firms like Davids whose name is ASK [for Axelrod-Sedley-Kupper] which conditions the public not just in campaigns but for huge, taxpayer-funded capital projectsby taking polls, forming front groups, making TV commercials and spreading the good word without being burdened by a lobbyists registry. I.e. doing everything a lobbyist does to achieve the desired effect but--. Thus keeping Obamas skirts clean from having to say he is working with lobbyists. Astro-turfing is far more lucrative than plain old lobbying.
The Blessing of Broken Promises.
Thank God for a president who breaks many of his liberal campaign promises. The way Obama campaigned, everyone including the Left thought hed fill his national security posts with pointy-headed denizens from the Harvard faculty lounge as FDR didbut evidently hes decided not to yet. Assuredly the bad stuff will happen pro-abortion measures, pro-abort judges et al if and when the economic crisis is over but for now his most fervent supporters The New York Times, magazines like The Nation and blogs like The Daily Kos.com, MoveOn.org and The Huffington Post are gnawing their clenched fists in exasperation.
Instead he has named mostly very reasonable people particularly on foreign policy and national security and for a good reason. He is convinced since hes facing what could be the greatest economic crisis in the countrys history he doesnt need to be bothered with pesky foreign policy-defense issues. Forgotten is his promise to free up tens of billions in wasteful spending from the Pentagon. Cutting defense is always the most bitterly contested steps in the federal governmentso he has resolved not to let anything detract from his test with the economy first and foremost.
So rather than touting lefty language like begin pulling out of Iraq immediately he renamed Bushs Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. What it means is he has given an all-but-official blessing to the surge in Iraq, if not everything Gates has stood for. Gates was an opponent of the surge as member of the Iraq Study Group sponsored by the Baker-Hamilton commission, primarily because of the clunker the occasion became in its early days. Bush named him defense secretary only on condition that he would support the surge the president insisted on. Lucky thing for him Gates did agree: he is now lauded as one of the more astute defense secretaries in history for the surge which Bush endorsed seemingly alone, following one of the most condemned defense chiefs, Donald Rumsfeld, also from here who botched the early occupation phase.
Gates made good on his own in the job by picking Gen. David Petraeus who now commands all U.S. forces in the Mideast. Yes, Obamas decision to keep Gates is extraordinarily good and it must be assumed that the president-elect gave Gates some leeway about carrying out the same policies without having to repudiate them. The president-elects selection of former Marine commandant Gen. James Jones as national security adviser is even more of a stunner. This means the two central posts on national defense will be run by two superbly equipped men.
About Hillary Clinton at State I am ambivalent. But call her what you will (and Obama has) she is a patriot. Yet I feel my old suburban neighbor must have taken leave of her senses to even want the job, given that she places her future in the hands of an enemy who can terminate it any time he wishes. He can snap his fingers at any time and poof! shes gone. Remaining in the Senate, she could--if things turn sour for Obama--run for president in the future. Now shes going to be tied to the Obama record.
She evidently wants to disprove Obamas worst remark about her, that her experience in foreign policy has been derived mainly by hosting teas for ambassadors wives. Well, Hillary wont have to invent any more tales about how she ran through Bosnian sniper fire and negotiated northern Ireland peace. She might have some real foreign policy accomplishments to point to.
One Good Old Face on the Economy.
Ive never been red-hot for Bushs economic team in the past--nor am I entirely about Obamas bunch although the stock market liked them. The best thing that happened to the economy thus far came in an initial leak from Bill Daley, of all people, saying that the new team is seriously considering postponing any tax hikes until 2011: that means no tax hike on dividends or on capital gains.
Start with the best of Obamas economic appointments. Paul Volcker who will chair a new independent panel advising on the financial markets and the economy. Brobdingnagian is the name for himthe gigantic people in Gullivers Travels. One neednt be agog at the stature of this 6-foot-8-inch intellectual giant literally and figuratively to appreciate his role in economic history. Twenty-five years ago when he took over the Fed inflation was roaring out of control, consumer prices were rocketing at 13% annually and the dollar was torpedoing. He had the gutsalso the strong backing of President Ronald Reaganto push interest rates to 21.5% which wrung inflation out of the economy, giving us a recession in 1981-82, yes-- which, was tough medicine but a needed corrective until the Reagan tax cuts kicked in that stabilized the dollar, leading to 20 years of sturdy economic growth. With that record and his mind as sharp as ever, Volcker should have made treasury secretary, 82 years old or not.
The Obama treasury pick, Tim Geithner chairman of the New York Fed, makes me queasy because the word is that because hes a member of the troika that agrees unanimously on economic policy in the Bush administration, he shares in my estimation in a record that has not exactly stunned the world with its effectiveness. Yes, thats right: the story is that no step on the rescue efforts has been taken until Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Geithnerall three---agree. Well, that doesnt exactly shore up confidence in Tim Geithner. Hes been the wagging tail on the dog: the dog being Paulson. A former Wall Street deal-maker, Paulsons used to short-term, snap decisions and reverses them just as quickly and runs treasury the same way: first he said injecting capital into financial institutions was not the right approach. Then a few weeks later he did a total about face, saying it is. The cost he pulled out of his hip pocket initially, $700 billion, has zoomed to trillions, the mortgage industry rescue now ballooning to banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, maybe auto makers.
Last week Paulson said that since he already spent most of his $350 billion, hed leave the remainder for his successor: telegraphing hes through. Stocks plummeted. Then he reconsidered and the Dow rose 500 points the first hour. Tell me whats so great about this troikaone step forward and two steps back? In contrast, Volcker saw right from the start in mid-September the need to create a government-backed mechanism to buy back toxic assets to liquefy banks so they can keep the credit blood-stream flowing. Period.
Larry Summers who will be National Economic Council director is far better than anyone Bush has had at treasury. He was pro-deregulation as Bill Clintons treasury secretary as well as an architect of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and tried in vain to reform the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac crowdonly to be blocked by Clinton himself: not Summers fault. The only reason Summers is not back at treasury is flak expected to come from Barbara Boxer from the absurd charges made against him by unreasonable and pampered feminist professors at Harvard a ridiculous reason for disqualification.
The new OMB budget chief the one who stood out from all the other appointees with the incredibly awful toupee that sits atop his head like a stocking cap, Peter Orszag is better than anyone Bush had in his place except Mitch Daniels. Christine Romer to head the Council of Economic Advisers is superb. She may even be a supply-sider, having written recently that tax cuts have very large and persistent positive influence output effects. We can hope, anyhow.
But there is a cloud overhanging the feeble sunburst: the stimulus package, a harbinger of an extended Depression ala FDRlarge hikes in infrastructure spending and other government programs to generate 2.5 million jobs, public ones pushed by federal spending. Repairing bridges and highways is fine but effective job creation can only come from the private sector. Ahead looms the union membership card check to destroy the secret ballot which would tilt more power to organized labor and its wage demands plus benefits businesses cant afford. Not a word about reducing marginal tax rates, the real cure for joblessness. Were as likely to get that as offshore drilling from this crowdnada.
But theres one bright. spot: Obama on 60 Minutes echoed one-time Chicagoan Amy Shlaes whose book debunking FDR I cited last week. Keep in mind, he said, that 1933, the unemployment rate was 25% inching up to 30. But at the same time his team is planning an infrastructure campaign ala the old CCC like the New Deals, heedless that it took our entrance into WWII to get people back to work. Depressing.
Now we get to the real bad stuff
Daschle at HHS
Obama has already moved to put the greatest health care system in the world in statist irons by the appointment of pro-abort Catholic Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services. A horrible appointment but the one promise Obama has kept. Daschle, former senate majority leader, has written a book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis. In it he advocates a federal board to set standards for health care delivery similar to the Federal Reserve (remember how omniscient this Fed has been recently on the economy?). He says, The Federal Health Board wouldnt be a regulatory agency but its recommendations would have teeth because all federal health programs would have to abide by them Then as columnist Tony Blankley points out, in 19 words Daschle sketches the possibility of ending private health care in this country: Congress could opt to go further with the Boards recommendations. It could, for example, link the tax exclusion for health insurance to insurance that complies with the Boards recommendation.
Obviously this would end all private health insurance if denied the tax exclusion and would set a policy where every drug company, hospital, physician and health insurance company would have to knuckle under to the federal government. Think of Canada where you could wait 2 weeks to get government clearance for an operation.
Pro-Abort and Anti-Free Speech
The other bad things in Obamas social policies include passage of a so-called Freedom of Choice Act that would nullify all restrictions passed earlier on abortion from the Hyde amendment to statutes enacted by various legislatures. No one I have talked to who has contact with the Obama-nation believes this is coming soon because of its fierce controversy that would detract from the overall job of trying to rescue the economy. Another is the clamping down of the misnamed Fairness Doctrine which will silence radio star Rush Limbaugh andhorrors, me on ABC radio here-- either by regulatory fiat of the FCC or bill passage by Congress. If it comes, it will likely be via the FCC but the same people I talk to insist that it is way off in the distance for the same reason: distraction and fiery controversy.
If he had 60 Senate votes to break a filibuster, probably Obama would be emboldened to try these measuresbut he has fallen short by one, the newly reelected Republican in Georgia. To this may be added Norm Coleman in Minnesota. For now, oremus, let us pray this happens.