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, 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.