Obama's top advisers have led him into a ditch.11:40 AM, Feb 9, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Andrew Malcolm writes:
Many political observers are coming to see that the ex-state senator from the South Side is running his federal administration in Washington much the way they run things back home: with a small....
...claque of clout-laden people from the same school who learned their political trade back in the nation's No. 3 city, named for an Indian word for a smelly wild onion.
That style is tough, focused, immune to any distractions but cosmetic niceties. And did we mention tough. A portly, veteran Chicago alderman once confided only about 40% jokingly, that he had taken up jogging to lose weight but quickly gave it up as boring because "you can't knock anyone down." That's politics the Chicago way.
Obama and his top advisers Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, and David Axelrod all hail from the Chicago school. Press secretary Robert Gibbs is an Alabaman who worked for North Carolinian Democrats, but he's adapted to the Chicago method with ease. Together, this band of operatives has not deviated from the themes and goals of Obama's 2008 campaign. They do not admit errors of substance. Faced with a troublesome midterm election, Obama did not search out new figures and guides for his party. He reached back to his 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe.
The president's popularity doesn't guarantee a good night for the Democrats.12:02 PM, Feb 4, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Obama's State of the Union Address and his outreach to Republicans has led to a slight bump in his job approval rating. Obama is at 49 percent in the latest Rasmussen Reports daily survey. In Gallup Daily Tracking, Obama is now once again above 50 percent.
This is one reason Republicans should heed Stuart Rothenberg's warning not to become overconfident (link is subscribers only). Obviously, no one has any idea how long the bump will last. Still, when you study midterm elections, the rule tends to be that approval rating reigns supreme. In 1982, 1994, and 2006, the president's approval rating was in the low forties. The 1982 election saw major Democratic gains; 1994 and 2006 saw the out-party win Congress. For the 2010 Republicans to do the same -- something that prevailing wisdom now considers a possibility -- Obama's job approval would have to fall farther than it already has.
Or maybe not. In Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, Obama's approval rating was just slightly under 50 percent or higher even as his favored candidates lost high profile elections. Obama may be the exception that proves the rule of presidential job approval and midterms. He may be the exception because he receives an enormous amount of goodwill from the American public. Even as the electorate votes against his agenda and his party, it tends to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Health care reform's chances keep dwindling.10:29 AM, Feb 4, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
AP reporter Erica Werner on Obamacare:
The legislation remains in limbo. Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, moderates from California who voted for the House bill, burst out laughing when asked about the issue's fate.
These are members of Pelosi's state delegation. She simply does not have the 218 votes necessary to pass the bill.
A nice-sounding idea that's not without its problems.3:57 PM, Feb 3, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
The prevailing opinion in Washington is that President Obama's debate last week with the House Republicans was a big success. Whether you are an E.J. Dionne liberal ("The Q&A was a smash success, and we need many more") or a Charles Krauthammer conservative ("I do think it should be something we ought to consider institutionalizing"), you probably enjoyed the opportunity to watch the president and his congressional opponents go at it in a civil manner. I did too!
The latest response to the Baltimore encounter is a bipartisan petition to hold such sessions regularly. Signatories run the gamut from Jane Hamsher to Ed Morrissey. Here's the pitch:
This was one of the best national political debates in many years. Citizens who watched the event were impressed, by many accounts. Journalists and commentators immediately responded by continuing the conversation of the ideas put forward by the president and his opponents — even the cable news cycle was disrupted for a day.
America could use more of this — an unfettered and public airing of political differences by our elected representatives. So we call on President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner to hold these sessions regularly — and allow them to be broadcast and webcast live and without commercial interruption, sponsorship or intermediaries.
The White House seems eager to repeat the Baltimore experience with the Senate Republicans. But before we go about institutionalizing an American version of question time, let's consider a few things:
(1) America is not a parliamentary democracy. The president is half-king, half prime-minister. He is separate from and coequal to the Congress. The Constitution stipulates only that he make an annual report to the Congress. He does not have to make an overly long televised speech that serves to buck up partisans and set the agenda for the year. He does not have to regularly submit to questions from his opponents. Why?
1:51 PM, Feb 3, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton took his first turn behind the podium today, and was asked about the president's health-care remarks at yesterday's town hall during which he said he hoped to get health care done this year.
Mark Knoller of CBS News asked whether that was a new deadline, and if the president had specific dates and plans. Bill Burton:
The GOP congressman engages his opponents.11:13 AM, Feb 3, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Even his adversaries agree that Rep. Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future is a big idea: The plan reforms Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the income tax. It effectively deals with the long-term fiscal crisis. The Obama budget, by contrast, projects record deficits and rising public debt long into the future.
Obama says the Republicans are always on the sidelines, but on a major issue -- preventing the fiscal reckoning that could lead to high interest rates, inflation, low growth, economy-strangling austerity plans, or all of the above -- Obama and the Democrats have little to say. To date, the president's attempt to address the entitlement problem has been restricted to his health care bill, which relied on rosy assumptions and left the "tough choices" to future Congresses and Independent Medicare Advisory Boards. And the health reform is unlikely to pass in any case. Entitlement commissions? Nonstarters. Spending freezes? They're trivial. We're back at square one.
And relies more heavily on the Russians. 10:02 AM, Feb 2, 2010 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
In the president's proposed budget, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s Constellation launch vehicle program. I think this decision is both irresponsible and short-sighted. “We certainly don't need to go back to the moon,” one administration official is quoted in the Orlando Sentinel as saying, but without explaining why this is a valid value judgment. Another stated that the budget is intended to “send a message that it's time members of Congress recognize that NASA can't design space programs to create jobs in their districts. That's the view of the president.”
So, the entire argument for canning the Constellation appears to be a tired re-run of the Luddite lambasting of the Apollo missions. A complete waste, we were told back then. A useless exercise to collect moon rocks, hit golf balls in space, and funnel money to fat-cat aerospace companies. Obama’s advisers seem to forget the endless list of consumer items we now use every day of our lives that have their genesis in the technologies developed for the Apollo program.