Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sound, Fury, And A Lot Of Dead

Jeff Huber is certainly one of the folks you should be reading on US foreign policy, and his take on Israel's latest foray into Gaza is spot on.
Never tired of watching its own horror show, the Bush team is reprising the scenario it ran in Lebanon: Cheney goads Bush into giving tacit approval for Israel to launch a military offensive against a group of sand colored people who, in terms of relative firepower, amount to an ant colony. Kondi does her hair up like a fright wig and drags out the ceasefire process until Israel a) has killed all the sand colored people it wants to kill or b) starts getting its tohkes kicked by the sand colored people and wants mommy to make them stop it.
As usual, read the whole thing, then bookmark Pen and Sword, if only because he's one of the few Americans on earth willing to say:
It's too bad for the Palestinians they can't afford to set up a lobbying group like the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and to buy all of our politicians and our media like the Israelis have done.
And if that doesn't perfectly sum up the major problem with Israel and America's "special relationship" over the last 16 years, I dunno what will.

Turning A Blind Eye

Over at MoJo, Kevin Drum lets Team Obama have it over Bill Richardson's resignation.

The wreck of Bill Richardson, who withdrew earlier today as President-elect Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, surely should have been anticipated by the Obama vetters. As previously reported by Mother Jones, the New Mexico governor has, over the last decade, left behind a wide trail of questionable business dealings, many of them involving the energy industry.

Obama's transition team apparently chose to ignore these past whiffs of scandal. They also seem to have been unfazed by the current federal investigation into a possible pay-to-play scandal, which was already well underway when Richardson’s nomination was announced on December 3. Within two weeks of the nomination, the media was widely reportingthat Richardson was the subject of a grand jury probe in a “highly active stage.”

Richardson insists that he and his administration “have acted properly in all matters” and that he is withdrawing his name from consideration only because “the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.” But the accusations are pretty damning. The Washington Post reports:

The probe in New Mexico involves questions about a California firm, CDR Financial Products, and its president, David Rubin. The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into whether the firm was given a contract with the New Mexico Finance Authority because of pressure from Richardson. CDR made $1.48 million advising the authority on interest-rate swaps and refinancing of funds related to $1.6 billion in transportation bonds issued by the agency, state officials confirmed.The firm and Rubin together gave $100,000 to two Richardson organizations shortly before winning those contracts.
Drum of course is absolutely correct, Richardson's legal troubles and pay-to-play whisperings have been swirling around him for some time now. But the fault lies primarily with Obama's staffers and ultimately with Obama himself. He's the guy in charge, he made the Richardson selection in the first place, and now he does look bad at a time where we need a real leader and the country is in deep, deep trouble.

It's almost as if for every really excellent decision Obama makes, he has to balance it out with a truly craptastic one. While that's an improvement over Bush for sure, the times demand nothing less than an exceptional President right now, or we're looking at a national catastrophe.

Fair or unfair, Obama absolutely must be better than this.

Slighting DiFi

This whole "We forgot to tell the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence committee about Leon Panetta, oops" thing is crap. Diane Feinstein is pissed for a reason.
“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” Feinstein said in a statement. “My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

A Feinstein spokesman told CNN’s Dana Bash that the California senator found out about Obama’s pick after her staff showed her a New York Times report.

"The President-elect will now have a chance to make his arguments,” the spokesman said. “Her next move is to listen."

No, her next move is to sit the hell down and shut the hell up.

Look, I'm not a retired general or a 30-year intel community veteran, but even I can spot political chin music. Obama is dead serious about cleaning house at the CIA. This is a message fastball right at the helmet, and Feinstein and outgoing chair Jay Rockefeller were left out of the loop on this one for a specific reason. That reason is both of them bought into Bush's "Jack Bauer From 24" theory of torture as CIA operating procedure, and Obama is having none of that. He wants Gitmo gone, he wants torture stopped, he wants rendition ended, and he wants the people inside the CIA who pulled the trigger on this ripped out at the root. Moreover, he's sending a clear message that the folks who supported this kind of thing during the Bush years are totally on Barry's shit list going forward.

You don't "forget" to tell the chair of the Senate committee confirming your pick who your pick is ahead of time. You certainly don't forget to divulge critical information to the chair of the Intelligence committee. Folks, I all but guarantee you this was a caluculated insult, and the selection of Panetta combined with the selection of Dawn Johnsen at the Office of Legal Counsel is making a lot of people at Langley very uncomfortable right now. And let's not forget the reason why DiFi and Jello Jay Rockefeller are sweating Panetta. Both of them have a lot to answer for should the CIA torture regime stuff go public.

Barry's about to go collect some heads, yo. And I don't see DiFi standing in his way on this, having just gotten the chair. She can't protest too much, after all.

[UPDATE] And there you have it: DiFi is now on board with the idea of Panetta as CIA Director.

"I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA Director," a new statement from her office read. "I look forward to speaking with Mr. Panetta about the critical issues facing the intelligence community and his plans to address them."
That was almost record speed, making me think that while Obama is going to be cleaning up the CIA, he may be more discrete about the worst of it, sparing DiFi and Jello Jay.

We'll see.

The Low, Low Price Of $8 Trillion

CNN has calculated the current cost of the bailout from Bear Stearns to Obama's simulus package and come up with eight trillion dollars.
"Monetary stimulus alone is not enough - it must be combined with fiscal stimulus if you want more bang for your buck," he noted.

But the new program, which Obama aides have said could total $775 billion, will also weigh heavily on the ballooning federal deficit. The current fiscal year is barely a few months old and already the government is running a deficit exceeding $400 billion -- nearly the same amount as all of last year. Many economists believe it will top $1 trillion in the end.

Some say that the benefits of massive spending outweigh the cost of inaction.

"While it seems like quite a lot, we don't really need to focus on the cost due to the depth of the recession," said Mark Vitner, economist with Wachovia.

Others, while saying that government action is needed, question the vast sums that are being allocated and proposed.

"The government says it can spend the money better than you can, but that hasn't been the case in the past," said Bill Beach, director of the center for data analysis at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation. "That will really show up when they have to raise taxes in the future to make up for the increasing deficit."

If we've thrown that much money at the economy already and we're still very much expected to have an even worse 2009 and 2010, there's something fundamentally wrong with both Bush and Obama's assumptions on the economy. Obama's plan just isn't going to work. It will soften the blow somewhat, but the reality is the massive deficit we'll be carrying from this will only serve to slow down the economy even more in the future. As much as I hate to agree with anyone from the Heritage Foundation ever, Obama is going to have to raise taxes at some point, and raise them significantly.

We're looking at a very long process that may stretch a decade or more.


Related Posts with Thumbnails