“Don’t Remind Us. We’re Trying to Forget!”

I would seem some conservatives are all up in arms* over the commercial Chrysler aired during the Super Bowl halftime.

Karl Rove does not like it.

Rush Limbaugh does not like it.

Why? One reason.

Obama saved Detroit. If not for Obama, there would be no Chrysler to air that ad. There would be no GM. And there is a good chance there would be no Ford.**

Obama took control and saved the domestic auto industry. At little or no cost to the taxpayer (or maybe a profit…final tally is not yet in), Obama saved the domestic auto industry. The Chrysler ad subtly references that fact.

While I watched the ad, I half wondered if it would turn out to be a political ad, clearly pro Obama (though I was expecting it to be a Chrysler ad since it is so in keeping with many of their ads of late).

Romney says he would have allowed GM and Chrysler to fail.  Obama saved them.

This is not just bad news for conservatives politically, it is bad news ideologically. Obama accomplished the “impossible.” Many conservatives said it would be a disaster. “Socialism!” was the cry. Government cannot intervene and expect a good outcome.

But government did intervene. Things did improve. Detroit was saved!

This commercial reminds us of that fact. Conservatives want us to forget it. Maybe more importantly,  conservatives want to forget it themselves. Facts that contradict their worldview are intolerable.

Do you think Chrysler is enjoying the notoriety of the ad? I’m sure they planned on it.

** If GM and Chrysler went under, many of their suppliers would have gone under, too. Many of those suppliers also made parts for Ford. Ford would have been in a world of hurt with no source for parts with which to build cars.

Hat tips to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has a nice quick take on the ad, and Ann Althouse.


Keystone Pipeline

As part of the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, GOP officials demanded an expedited decision on the project.

And Obama did the only thing he could do given that limitation.  He stopped the project.

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly, at the end of his post on the subject, includes this claim that Obama’s decision was an act of courage:

Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and Keystone XL protest leader,issued a statement this afternoon, lauding President Obama. “[T]his isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call,” McKibben said. “The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong.”

Ann Althouse thinks the decision was pure politics:

 It wasn’t so much a question of whether he should make the right decision or do what would help him get re-elected. It was which way to decide would better help him get re-elected.

Althouse is probably closer to the truth.

I may be mistaken, but I detect a hint of snark in Althouse’s comment.  Since Obama has stopped trying to compromise with the Republicans and started being more confrontational, I have come across many complaints from the right about how Obama is now in “campaign” mode.

Of course they complain of it. Obama is very good at campaigning, too good from the GOP perspective. If they did not want him in campaign mode, they should have been more cooperative when he was in “governing” mode.

Also from Benen’s post:

I’d argue that this is the outcome Republicans wanted all along. The GOP didn’t really want the pipeline; they wanted the ability to whine about the absence of the pipeline. This wasn’t, in other words, about energy production; this was about creating an issue for the 2012 campaign.

I agree with that. But I think this backfires on the GOP (though in the end it won’t mean much either way). Obama now gets credit from the liberals for stopping the project and can persuasively argue to moderates that the GOP tied his hands.


Only a Matter of Time?

President Obama has received no end of grief over his rush to compromise right out of the gate.   I have felt all along that this was due to his insistence when campaigning that he would change the tone of the debate in Washington.

For some time now it has been more than clear that it takes two to change the tone and that the Republicans were not participating.

So now Obama is finally putting bills with progressive ideas in them on the table and insisting that they be passed, as well as bringing out the veto threat in what seems a more serious way than previous.

So how long will it take before a Republican accuses Obama of breaking his campaign promises to change the tone in Washington?

Letter to the Editor

There was an amusing letter to the editor in Wednesdays Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (yes, I am slow to get to the newspaper…shocking, ain’t it?).  The letter is headlined “Obama’s misquoting Constitution instructive” and is the third letter at the link.

Mr. Rusk, Sr. is upset with President Obama for misquoting the Constitution of the United States:

On multiple occasions President Obama has misquoted a key part in the opening lines of our most important protection from tyranny. His reading is “…all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights…”

Attentive readers have probably already noted that the “quote” is not even from the Constitution, but from the Declaration of Independence.  Details, details.

Readers may also be asking what is wrong with the quote.  I know I did.  One problem is the word “inalienable”.

If you are unclear on the difference between his “inalienable” and the proper word “unalienable,” consult a good dictionary.

I consulted four or five online dictionaries and my real life dictionary.  They all agree that unalienable is a variant of inalienable.   So even if the President is using the wrong word, the meaning is the same.

Mr. Rusk then complains about Obama’s omission of the phrase “by their Creator”.   Fair enough.  Of course it is not clear that the President considers himself to be quoting the Declaration in the first place.  Obama’s freely inserts biblical and foundational phrases into his public rhetoric all the time.  That he would frequently talk about how all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights is not all that surprising.  Indeed, anyone who has listened to enough of Obama’s public speech would be surprised if he was not using such language.

Finally, Mr. Rusk asks:

If our creator is not the source of our rights, who or what then is? Certainly not this or any other government.

Well, we are all entitled to our own opinion.  There are plenty of people that do not believe in a god, but still accept that human beings do in fact have rights.  These rights are simply inherent.  They do not “come” from anywhere.   Note that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not invoke god or even mention god.

To depend upon a creator for your rights is problematic when faced with those who do not believe in a creator.

Mr. Rusk’s letter is so problematic that it leads one to wonder if some liberal wrote it trying to make Conservatives look bad (my money is not on this possibility).

Dear President Obama

Well, it’s been a week since I last posted on this subject (or any subject!).   So we must be one week closer to the day the federal government runs out of money.  Are we closer to an answer?

So, where does that leave us? The House won’t pass a clean bill; it won’t pass a Grand Bargain; it won’t pass the Gang of Six proposal; and at least 80 House Republicans are prepared to try to kill the Plan B compromise.

It would seem we are not.  President Obama has not (yet) taken my advice from a week ago (could it be he does not read my blog?!?!).  I stand by it with one addition.

Dear President Obama,

You should announce tomorrow that it is clear that the deadline will not be met and that it is your intention to see to it that all the debt obligations of the United States will be met, interest and principle.  Principle will be met by paying off what is immediately due and then borrowing that much again to do the same tomorrow (thereby never exceeding the debt limit but also meaning that the process is going to start sooner than August 2).   You then should make it crysal clear what will not be paid.  You should do this in a speech, in a press conference, in a press release, and you should send administration officials to the Sunday (and any other) talk shows to explain what will not be paid.

Obviously, you will have to explain again (and again) that this situation exists because the Republican House decided it was what they wanted and that they refuse to negotiate insisting that they get 100% of what they want.

This will cause a lot of consternation, some short term hardship, and some short and long term economic costs.  It is absurd that the situation exists at all .  There is, however, a dim silver lining comprised of the fun of seeing House Republicans tripping over themselves as they rush to raise the debt ceiling after the start to hear from their constituents.


My Advice to the President

President Obama,

You need to be clear about what you will do when the debt ceiling is not raised.  You need to state unequivocally that the United States will not default on it’s debt, that the interest payments will be made.

It must be clear that federal expenditures will immediately be cut 40%.  You need to be clear what 40% that will be.  There ARE Americans who are going to not get their checks and you need to let us know who that will be now.

You must be clear that even though the interest payments will be made, the interest rate America pays on its debt will go up and that this WILL mean that the debt of the United States will now be even greater than what everyone has been projecting up until now.  This is because the amount of principle payments that are due in August exceed the amount of revenue that will be available to pay them.  The only way those principle payments get paid on time is to borrow the money from someone else, but the borrowing limit has been met.  When principle payments are late, the interest paid is going to go up.

You should explain that you have given up negotiating since the Republicans have brought nothing to the table and you now insist that the debt limit bill be a clean bill.  You should ask Americans who are  upset with the consequences that you have laid out to contact their congressman and insist on a clean bill to raise the debt limit.

After making these consequences clear to the American people, you need to go in to the debt limit negotiations and explain that you are done negotiating.  The Republicans have demonstrated beyond all reason that they have no idea what it means to negotiate and compromise and since no deal can be reached, the bill must come through clean.

Thank-you for your attention to this matter.

Rich Beckman

A constituent.

Who’s to Be Blamed?

The most important factor influencing who wins the presidency in 2012 is the economy.  If the economy is showing improvement, then Obama wins.  If the economy has double dipped into another recession, things look bad for Obama.  And if the economy is similar to today’s, limping along in a slow recovery, then it will be a close race.

There is another factor that in certain scenarios is more important than the economy.  That factor is where the voters lay the blame if the economy is poor.

I have read a lot about Obama’s (and the Democrats) poor messaging and positioning.   But we have arrived at a point where Obama has managed to be on the correct side of the messaging and positioning.

The Republicans are holding the economy hostage.  They refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied with huge amounts of spending cuts and no increases in revenue.  The problem for the Republicans is that they are using the language of a hostage taker.  Obama initially asked for a clean bill, but quickly “caved” and entered negotiations.  Since then, it is the Republicans who have repeatedly insisted that it is their way or the economy gets it.

If Obama had stuck to his guns for a clean bill, he would have been just as much a hostage taker as the Republicans.  He did not and the Republicans are now looking at the possibility of taking the blame for a bad economy.

Cause and Effect?

Of course the recent job numbers now reveal that Obama has destroyed the economy (at least according to some conservative voices).    Here is a revealing chart:



This chart shows private sector job growth.  Red is during the last year of the Bush administration and blue is the Obama administration.   The blue line to the far right is May of 2011.   April 15 was when the 2011 budget was finally passed.   The budget that cut spending.  What is the fallacy?   Post hoc ergo propter hoc.  And, let us admit, the budget did not cut all that much spending.  But there is this:

About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid were offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending

But cuts in government spending are not the only thing the Republicans have managed to do that might influence economic and job growth.

There is the dreaded “uncertainty”.  This concept is a favorite of Republicans when, for example, there is a possibility that the top tax rate might or might not go from 35% to 38% and job creators sit on their money instead of create jobs with it since they do not know what the tax rate will be.  I think that “uncertainty” is bunk, but…

What of the uncertainty of whether the US is going to pay its debt or not?  Ever since the 2011  budget passed, the Republicans have made all kinds of noise that they will let the government go into default if they do not get their way.  Does this not create uncertainty?   I suggest this creates a hell of a lot more uncertainty than the possibility that the top tax rate might go up!

Cause and effect?  Ithink things were going along pretty good there until the Republican house finally started influencing what was happening.


I am ambivalent about the imposition of the no fly zone over Libya.

The big negative I see here is if the rebellion fails to overthrow Gaddafi anytime soon.  At what point would we be able to lift the no fly zone.  I’m guessing never.   There is the additional problem of the world seeing us stick our nose into issues that are not our concern.  Right now, few see it that way, but over time….

It strikes me that there were/are no good choices here.  And given that, I think Obama has done pretty good.

Tunisia and Egypt managed to have essentially bloodless revolutions.  Big props to the Egyptian military for refusing to fire on peaceful demonstrators.  But Gaddafi’s remaining military is largely (all?) mercenary.  They are ready to fire on whoever Gaddafi tells them to fire upon.

If no intervention had taken place, Gaddafi guns down untold numbers of his people.

Notice the difference between Libya, where an active revolution is in progress and Iraq, where no revolution was in progress at the time we invaded.

If Gaddafi was allowed to gun down his own people and put the revolution down, how would that have effected Libya’s neighbors Tunisia and Egypt?   If Gaddafi was allowed, how would that effect events in Yemen?

In Yemen, government snipers shot down more than 50 people.  A few hours later, the no fly zone was put into place.  Today, the situation in Yemen still hangs in the balance, but the government has shown restraint.  Coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.

I am appreciative of Obama waiting until the international community endorsed the no fly zone.  If things stretch out, I am sure many will be critical of what they once supported, but at least the record of support is there.  I have already seen or heard something about Italy beginning to make noises of pulling its support (which means air bases).

It would have been nice if Obama had gotten some kind of approval from Congress in the days leading up to the action.  But I guess there was the possibility that Congress would have refused to give it to him.  Better to ask forgiveness than permission.  Besides, at this point there is the long established history of Presidents ignoring that bit of constitutional requirement,  so I find it difficult to get too worked up over this.

Finally, there is the problem of what happens after Gaddafi is overthrown.  Will the Libyans move towards democracy?  Civil war?  A new dictatorship?  No guarantees here.