Sunday, March 1, 2009

From New York Times: The Ecstasy and the Agony

March 1, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Ecstasy and the Agony
BARACK OBAMA must savor the moment while he can. It may never get better than this.

As he stood before Congress on Tuesday night, the new president was armed with new job approval percentages in the 60s. After his speech, the numbers hit the stratosphere: CBS News found that support for his economic plans spiked from 63 percent to 80. Had more viewers hung on for the Republican response from Bobby Jindal, the unintentionally farcical governor of Louisiana, Obama might have aced a near-perfect score.

His address was riveting because it delivered on the vision he had promised a battered populace during the campaign: Government must step in boldly when free markets run amok and when national crises fester unaddressed for decades. For all the echoes of F.D.R.’s first fireside chat, he also evoked his own memorably adult speech on race. Once again he walked us through a lucid step-by-step mini-lecture on “how we arrived” at an impasse that’s threatening America’s ability to move forward.

Obama’s race speech may have saved his campaign. His first Congressional address won’t rescue the economy. But it brings him to a significant early crossroads in his presidency — one full of perils as well as great opportunities. To get the full political picture, look beyond Obama’s popularity in last week’s polls to the two groups of Americans whose approval numbers are in the toilet. There is good news for Obama in these findings, but there’s also a stark indication of the unchecked populist rage that could still overrun his ambitious plans.

Continue reading at

Friday, February 27, 2009

David Brooks on George W. Bush's Iraq Surge Decision

OK, if you watch PBS or listen to NPR like I do then you heard New York Times columnist David Brooks praise George W. Bush's decision to surge the troops in Iraq as one of the boldest presidential decision he has seen in his lifetime. This is not the first time Bush apologists have said this. In fact during the campaign last year, the complaint was that Obama refused to acknowledge that the surge was a success. If you are Obama who had been against the war from the start, you can understand why.

Truth is that after more than 4,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq and almost $1 trillion dollars later, Iraq is finally safe enough for US troops to start returning home as President Obama announced earlier today. Did the surge help? Sure. But in a way that is just like praising a man who pushes another man into a river then jumps into the water and saves him. One can accept that Bush's decision to surge the troops was perhaps his best presidential decision, but it would also be fair to note that the decision to go to war with Iraq in the first place, instead of finishing the war in Afghanistan, was one of the worst presidential decisions in contemporary times.

Week In Politics Examined - NPR, February 27, 2009

PBS Newshour: Shields and Brooks Weigh Obama's Troop, Budget Plans

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reaction to President Obama's Address to Joint Session of Congress

New York Times
February 25, 2009
Obama Assures Nation: ‘We Will Rebuild’
Jeff Zelleny

WASHINGTON — President Obama urged the nation on Tuesday to see the economic crisis as reason to raise its ambitions, calling for expensive new efforts to address energy, health care and education programs even as he warned that more money might be needed to bail out banks.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama mixed an acknowledgment of the depth of the economic problems with a Reaganesque exhortation to American resilience and an expansive agenda with a pledge to begin paring down a soaring budget deficit.

“While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this,” Mr. Obama said. “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

He was greeted in the House of Representatives chamber with gregarious applause, particularly from Democrats who hold a strong majority. Yet even Republicans leaned in close to Mr. Obama as he passed by them in the narrow aisle and made his way to the speaker’s dais at the front of the room.

Mr. Obama said he came to the Capitol not only to address members of the House and Senate who were seated before him, but also to “speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.”

“If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities — as a government or as a people,” Mr. Obama said. “I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.” Continue reading at NYTimes

Washington Post
Obama Emphasizes Reform, Offers Hope Amid Economic Crisis
By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer

Five weeks into an administration already marked by dramatic highs and lows, President Obama sounded a note of hope at a time of crisis tonight, delivering an address to a joint session of Congress heavily focused on the ailing economy and how to fix it.

Offering the prospect of a brighter future after weeks of grim rhetoric, Obama sought to put a human face on complex policy proposals. He linked his banking rescue plan to the ability of a "young family" to "finally buy a home." And he acknowledged populist anger at the prospect of more Wall Street bailouts, vowing to crack down on CEO bonuses and conduct tough oversight of the hundreds of billions of dollars already pledged to address the economic crisis.

Though he began by recognizing that "the impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere," Obama said he sees light at the end of the tunnel, despite rising unemployment, a cratering stock market, teetering banks and an auto industry gasping for breath. Continue reading at WPost
Obama puts forth ambitious agenda in speech

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda to revive the economy, saying it's time to act boldly "to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity."

Obama focused on the three priorities of the budget he will present to Congress later this week: energy, health care and education.

The president said he sees his budget as a "vision for America -- as a blueprint for our future," but not something that will solve every problem or address every issue.

Obama said his administration already has identified $2 trillion in government spending cuts that can be made over the next decade.

Obama said he would cut spending considered wasteful, and invest in programs that will help the economy recover.

The president touted the $787 billion stimulus plan he signed into law last week, saying it will invest in areas critical to the country's economic recovery.

The United States has "fallen behind" other countries when it comes to producing clean energy, he said, but thanks to the stimulus, he said the United States will double its supply of renewable energy in the next three years.

Obama asked Congress to send him legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.

He said to support that innovation, the country will invest $15 billion a year to develop new technologies.

Saying the United States can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold, Obama said his budget proposal will include a "historic commitment" to it. Continue reading at
Obama Says Country Will Rebuild, Recover in Wake of Recession
President Obama warns about the danger of an "open-ended recession," but also urges lawmakers to join him in doing whatever is necessary to prevent it during his first address to Congress.

The economy will recover and the nation will rebuild, President Obama declared Tuesday in his first address to Congress as he tried to assure the country that the end of the recession is in sight.

The president struck a more optimistic tone than in recent speeches, balancing honesty about the challenges of the economic crisis with confidence in the ability of Americans to confront the recession and emerge stronger from it.

He warned about the danger of an "open-ended recession," but also urged lawmakers to join him in doing whatever is necessary to prevent it.

"I refuse to let that happen," Obama said about the possibility of the economy sputtering along for years. He said investments not only in the financial system but energy, health care and education will ensure a sustained recovery. Continue reading at

From New York Times: Selling a New Deal, but Promising It Will Be Brief

February 25, 2009
On Washington
Selling a New Deal, but Promising It Will Be Brief

It was only 13 years ago that Bill Clinton declared before a joint session of Congress that “the era of big government is over.” President Obama’s challenge on Tuesday night is to declare that, out of ugly necessity, big government is back — and then to make a persuasive case, with a specificity he has avoided until now, that if done right, this era will not last for long.

His aides say this is no moment for the lofty idealism of the inaugural address, 35 long days and roughly a thousand Dow Jones points ago. His task is to be at once reassuring and realistic, or, as one of Mr. Obama’s economic advisers said over the weekend, “to convince the country we’ve finally pulled the ripcord on the parachute, even if we can’t tell you how long we fall or where we land.”

The hardest part will be convincing his countrymen that they cannot save themselves without first saving the banks that let greed blot out prudence, the carmakers who ignored competitive reality for a quarter-century, and the homeowners who somehow persuaded themselves that housing prices only move up.

Continue reading at NYTimes

Sunday, February 22, 2009

From New York Times: America in Denial

February 22, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
What We Don’t Know Will Hurt Us

AND so on the 29th day of his presidency, Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill. But the earth did not move. The Dow Jones fell almost 300 points. G.M. and Chrysler together asked taxpayers for another $21.6 billion and announced another 50,000 layoffs. The latest alleged mini-Madoff, R. Allen Stanford, was accused of an $8 billion fraud with 50,000 victims.

“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems,” the president said on Tuesday at the signing ceremony in Denver. He added, hopefully: “But today does mark the beginning of the end.”

Does it?

No one knows, of course, but a bigger question may be whether we really want to know. One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Continue reading at NYT

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

From Associated Press: Daschle out as health nominee due to tax problems
Daschle out as health nominee due to tax problems
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven, Ap White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON – Tom Daschle withdrew Tuesday as President Barack Obama's nominee to be health and human services secretary, dealing potential blows to both speedy health care reform and Obama's hopes for a smooth start in the White House.

"Now we must move forward," Obama said in a written statement accepting "with sadness and regret" Daschle's request to be removed from consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he "absolutely" stood by Daschle in the face of problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest.

The stunning Daschle development came less than three hours after another Obama nominee also withdrew from consideration, and also over tax problems. Nancy Killefer, nominated by Obama to be the government's first chief performance officer, said she didn't want her bungling of payroll taxes on her household help to be a distraction.

"They both recognized that you can't set an example of responsibility but accept a different standard of who serves," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, a strong and early backer of Obama's presidential bid and a close Obama friend, said he would have been unable to operate "with the full faith of Congress and the American people."

"I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction" to Obama's agenda, he said.

Obama had given Daschle two jobs — to be White House health czar on top of the post leading the Health and Human Services Department — and Daschle is relinquishing both. The developments called into question whether Obama will be able to move as quickly as he has promised on sweeping health care reform — one of the pillars of his first 100 days agenda and expected to be among the hardest to accomplish.

"It really sets us back a step," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "Because he was such a talent. I mean he understood Congress, serving in the House and Senate; he certainly had the confidence of the president."

Said White House spokesman Gibbs: "We're looking for a new nominee, but the problem has existed for quite some time and the work toward a solution to make health care more affordable won't stop or won't pause while we look for that nominee."

Among those considered for the post before it went to Daschle was Howard Dean, the physician-turned-politician who ran for president in 2004 and recently left as head of the Democratic National Committee.

Asked repeatedly whether the White House sought Daschle's withdrawal, Gibbs said it was Daschle's decision alone. He "did not get a signal" from the White House to step aside, the spokesman said.

Daschle is the third high-profile Obama nominee to bow out. Obama tapped Bill Richardson to be Commerce secretary, but the New Mexico governor withdrew amid a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors. Obama named Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to the position Tuesday.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, but only after days of controversy over the fact that he had only belatedly paid $34,000 in income taxes.

Asked whether tax questions are going to arise with any other nominees, Gibbs said only that "the president has confidence in the people he has chosen to serve in government." He also defended the administration's vetting process.

He added: "the president takes responsibility" for the spate of nomination troubles.

The White House dispatched senior adviser David Axelrod to Capitol Hill to soothe Democrats whose nerves were frayed by the loss of Daschle.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Daschle's former Democratic colleagues had rallied to Daschle's defense in the wake of questions about his failure to fully pay his taxes from 2005 through 2007. Last month, he paid $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest.

"Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged," Obama said Tuesday. "He has not excused it, nor do I. But that mistake and this decision cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country."

"I was a little stunned. I thought he was going to get confirmed," said Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the panel that would have voted on Daschle's nomination. "It's regrettable. He's a very good man."

Daschle also was facing questions about potential conflicts of interests related to speaking fees he accepted from health care interests. He also provided advice to health insurers and hospitals through his post-Senate work at a law firm.

The controversy has undercut Obama's promise to run a more ethical, responsible and special interest-free administration. Republicans and major newspapers had been questioning Obama's decision to stick with Daschle.


Associated Press writers Ron Fournier, Charles Babington and Liz Sidoti contributed to this story.

Friday, January 30, 2009

From The RNC Name Michael Steele as the New Chair

It's Steele!
By: Alexander Burns
January 30, 2009 04:09 PM EST

Former Maryland Lt. Gov Michael Steele triumphed over four opponents in the race for Republican National Committee chairman Friday, giving the party its first black chairman as well as a forceful communicator at a time of political weakness.

“This is awesome,” Steele told RNC members in a victory speech. “It is with a great deal of humility and a sense of service that I accept and appreciate and thank all of you for the opportunity to serve.”

Steele emerged victorious from a lengthy, six-ballot voting process. Running against him were incumbent RNC Chair Mike Duncan, South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson, Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

The Marylander, who entered the race in November, received 46 votes on the first ballot, but gained momentum in later rounds after Duncan faltered on the third ballot and Anuzis withdrew after the fifth. He was declared the winner after collecting 91 votes from a total of 168 on the committee.

In the last round of voting, Steele faced off against Dawson in a one-on-one contest that pitted Dawson’s insider credentials against Steele’s celebrity profile.

In past elections, the committee has been reluctant to elect a non-member to the chairmanship. But this year marked a departure from tradition, perhaps indicating the strength of the RNC’s desire for change.

See Also
GOP fights to keep Gregg in the Senate
Conyers-Rove showdown postponed
Are you with Obama or Rush?

“It’s time for something completely different,” Steele said in his victory speech.

Steele’e emergence as the victor appeared to signal a desire on the committee to distance itself from the eight years of the Bush administration and put forth a new face for the party.

The election of an outsider, however, was not the only respect in which the race was unconventional. Usually a low-profile, inside-the-Beltway affair, the chairman’s race took on an outsized importance for the GOP this year after the party lost the White House and suffered heavy defeats on the congressional level last November.

For a party seeking to define itself in the post-Bush era, the chairman’s election provided a first opportunity to chart a fresh course for the GOP. And throughout the day RNC members emphasized the potentially pivotal nature of the vote.

“This may be the most important decision we ever make as members of the RNC,” Oklahoma Republican Party Chair Gary Jones said in a nominating speech for Blackwell at the beginning of the day.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer was even more emphatic as he delivered a seconding speech for Steele.

“The eyes of the nation today are looking upon us,” he said. “This vote will be the greatest contribution you will have ever made to the Republican Party.”

In the last few weeks the election took a divisive turn as candidates began leveling harsh, below-the radar attacks on each others’ ethics and political track records. Dawson’s past membership in an all-white country club came under assault, as did Steele’s performance as chairman of GOPAC, Blackwell’s experience as secretary of state and Anuzis’s mixed track record winning elections in Michigan.

The election process was the longest in decades, indicating a lack of strong consensus behind any one contender. The last two open chairman’s races, in 1993 and 1997, went to three and five ballots, respectively.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

From The Economist: George Bush's legacy

George Bush's legacy

The frat boy ships out

Jan 15th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The Iraq war was a case study of what happens when politicisation is mixed with incompetence. A long-standing convention holds that politics stops at the ocean’s edge. But Mr Bush and his inner circle labelled the Democrats “Defeaticrats” whenever they were reluctant to support extending the war from Afghanistan to Iraq. They manipulated intelligence to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had close relations with al-Qaeda. This not only divided a country that had been brought together by September 11th; it also undermined popular support for what Mr Bush regarded as the central theme of his presidency, the war on terror.

Sean Wilentz, a historian at Princeton, remarks how unusual it is for a president to have politicised such a national catastrophe: “No other president—Lincoln in the civil war, FDR in world war two, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the cold war—faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances, failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonised the Democrats.”

Read the full article at

Friday, January 16, 2009

From Washington Post: Americans, Feeling the Love

Americans, Feeling the Love
With Obama's Election, Expatriates Say, There's a New Attitude Abroad. Instead of Challenges on Iraq and WMDs, They're Met With Hugs and Good Wishes.

By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 16, 2009; A12

LONDON, Jan. 15

It's cool to be an American again, Wyatt said. "Finally! I'm tired of pretending I'm Canadian."

From Jakarta to Johannesburg, Americans who travel or live abroad are finding that instead of being scolded about the Iraq war, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or U.S. climate change policy, they are being hugged when strangers hear their accent.

"People would question me: 'Where are the weapons of mass destruction? What is America doing?' " said Wyatt, 38, a San Francisco native who said she does not align herself with any party but comes from a Republican family.

Since Barack Obama's election, she said, people want to hang out at American parties and talk about the latest news from Washington: "There is a buzz about America now."

Continue reading at Washington Post...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From New York Times: He’s Leaving. Really.

January 15, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
He’s Leaving. Really.
Tonight President George W. Bush bids adieu to the American people.

Excitement mounts.

The man has been saying goodbye for so long, he’s come to resemble one of those reconstituted rock bands that have been on a farewell tour since 1982. We had exit interviews by the carload and then a final press conference on Monday, in which he reminisced about his arrival on the national stage in 2000. “Just seemed like yesterday,” he said.

I think I speak for the entire nation when I say that the way this transition has been dragging on, even yesterday does not seem like yesterday. And the last time George W. Bush did not factor into our lives feels like around 1066.
Continue reading at New York Times...

From New York Times: Eight Years of Madoffs

January 11, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
Eight Years of Madoffs
THREE days after the world learned that $50 billion may have disappeared in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, The Times led its front page of Dec. 14 with the revelation of another $50 billion rip-off. This time the vanished loot belonged to American taxpayers. That was our collective contribution to the $117 billion spent (as of mid-2008) on Iraq reconstruction — a sinkhole of corruption, cronyism, incompetence and outright theft that epitomized Bush management at home and abroad.

The source for this news was a near-final draft of an as-yet-unpublished 513-page federal history of this nation-building fiasco. The document was assembled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction — led by a Bush appointee, no less. It pinpoints, among other transgressions, a governmental Ponzi scheme concocted to bamboozle Americans into believing they were accruing steady dividends on their investment in a “new” Iraq. Continue reading at New York Times....

From Washington Post: Pink Slips du Jour

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, January 14, 2009; A17

Something has gone terribly wrong with the American dream. No longer is a college degree -- or even an advanced degree -- a guarantee of employment or job security. Suddenly, there seem to be an awful lot of "consultants" floating around, lingering longer than usual over coffee because there's no office to get back to.
Continue reading at Washington Post...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From NYT: Apple’s Chief Taking a Medical Leave

January 15, 2009
Apple’s Chief Taking a Medical Leave
Saying his health-related issues were “more complex” than he originally thought, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, announced Wednesday that he would take a medical leave of absence from the company until the end of June.

In a letter to Apple employees released after markets closed, Mr. Jobs said that curiosity over his personal health “continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well.”

Mr. Jobs said he had asked Tim Cook, Apple’s longtime chief operating officer, to take on responsibility for Apple’s day-to-day operations. “As C.E.O., I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out,” Mr. Jobs added. “Our board of directors fully supports this plan.”

An Apple spokesman could not immediately be contacted for comment.

After-hours trading in Apple shares was halted as the news was released.

Mr. Jobs, 53, said last week that doctors had recently diagnosed a “hormone imbalance” that was depleting proteins in his body as the cause of his weight loss. The remedy, he said, “is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment.”

Last week, Mr. Jobs said he had a hormone deficiency that had caused him to dramatically lose weight.

Text of Jobs letter to Apple employees:


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Democrats Need To Seat "Senator" Roland Burris, And Move On To More Important Issues

Until Illinois Governor named him to the currently vacant senate seat, few people outside Illinois including myself had ever heard of the name Roland Burris, but now that he has been named to the seat, Washington Democrats are wasting time creating unnecessary drama refusing to seat him. This is mindboggling considering most people in Congress are trained lawyers who should be able to distinguish between law, ethics and politics.

First of all, let me make it very clear. Gov. Blogojevich's attempt to 'sale' the senate seat was ethically wrong, but legally he has not even been indicted. Plus what happened to being innocent until proven guilty? It is true that the Illinois legislature can impeach the Governor, but until they do so, he still has the constitutional power to name a replacement to the Obama seat. Blagojevich played hardball and dared Democrats by naming Burris to the seat. What he did was despicable, but it was not illegal. That Burris himself would stoop so low as to accept the tainted appointment says something about him, but Roland Burris is not under investigation here or accused of any crime. If anything, his judgment is what we should question here. Is he so ambitious about being Senator that he would rather go to Washington under the tainted cloud of the appointee rather than win the senate seat in a special election? Also, Burris, Bobby Rush and Blagojevich's attempt to paint Democrats in Washington as being racist is just plain insulting. This is a nation that just elected the first African American president. We have made progress on racial relations and while we still have a long ways to go, seating Roland Burris is not and should not be at the top of race relations to-do list.

The entire nation was shocked by the Blagojevich revelation, but Democrats in Washington may have overreacted by immediately saying they would not seat anyone Blagojevich. The Democrats in Illinois did no better, instead of looking for ways to immediately take the power to fill the seat from the Governor, they went to the IL Supreme Court to ask that it declare Blagojevich unfit for office. They could have declared a special elections for the seat but they hoped Blagojevich under pressure would resign and the Lt. Gov. would then be the one to name the replacement. But Blagojevich did not budge and did what he still has the constitutional power to do.

There are many things that congress should be dealing with, take the economy for example, hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs everyday. Instead of fighting an appointee who stands no chance of winning election in 2010, the Democrats should provisionally seat him and move on to more important things.

Monday, January 5, 2009

From New York Times: Virginia Governor Is Named D.N.C. Chief

January 5, 2009
Virginia Governor Is Named D.N.C. Chief
WASHINGTON — Gov. Tim Kaine, of Virginia, who was a top contender to be President-elect Barack Obama’s running mate, has been tapped by him to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Democrats familiar with the decision said Sunday.

Mr. Kaine will succeed Howard Dean as the party chairman when the party elects officers at its meeting here this month. By tradition, the committee defers to the choice of a sitting president.

Mr. Kaine was elected governor in 2005, but is barred by the state’s Constitution from seeking re-election. His term expires at the end of 2009. Mr. Obama’s associates said Mr. Kaine would serve as party chairman during his last year as governor, with an executive director running the day-to-day operations, an arrangement that is not unusual. At the end of his term, Mr. Kaine will work full time in his new position.

The decision by Mr. Obama was first reported by The Washington Post on its Web site on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Kaine, 50, is a lawyer who was little known outside his home state before Mr. Obama began considering him as a running mate. He previously served as the state’s lieutenant governor.

His selection is the latest reflection of the extent to which Virginia is moving into the Democratic column. Mr. Kaine succeeded another Democrat, Mark Warner, as governor. Mr. Warner was elected to the United States Senate from Virginia in November. Mr. Obama, after making a concerted effort in Virginia, easily defeated John McCain in the state.

Mr. Kaine endorsed Mr. Obama early in the presidential contest, and the two became close as Mr. Obama spent a lot of time campaigning in Virginia. And Mr. Kaine, like Mr. Obama, is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

From Washington Post: Richardson Withdraws Name as Commerce Secretary-Designee

This has got to be very sad news for the Obama adminstration. I am thinking that without the cloud of the Illinois Blagojevich scandal, they would have told Richardson to hold off and see what the grand jury does. I think Governor Richardson would have been great as Secretary of Commerce. Hopefully, he did not do anyting illegal and would be back serving the people of New Mexico.

Richardson Withdraws Name as Commerce Secretary-Designee
By Michael D. Shear
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name from consideration as commerce secretary for President-elect Barack Obama, citing an ongoing investigation about business dealings in his state.

Richardson, 61, who competed unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination, was secretary of energy and U.N. ambassador during Bill Clinton's presidency, and also the first high-profile Latino named to Obama's Cabinet.

But a grand jury in New Mexico is currently looking into charges of "pay-to-play" in the awarding of a state contract to a company that contributed to Richardson.

The importance of the inquiry was apparently dismissed when Richardson was first nominated. But it may have taken on more weight in light of the "pay-to-play" allegations involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson's decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce," the president-elect said in a statement released early this afternoon. "Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office.

"It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time."

Obama added that he would "move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision."

Richardson said in a statement that: "Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process. Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done."

In the statement, first obtained by MSNBC and later released by the presidential transition office, he added: "I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country."

The decision is the first serious political hit for one of Obama's Cabinet nominees and comes just as confirmation hearings begin next week.

Richardson said he would remain governor of New Mexico "for now."

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.

The probe into the donations was said to be "highly active" around the middle of last month, according to two sources familiar with the investigation, which is being conducted by the FBI and federal prosecutors.

In mid-December, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, said the governor was "aware of questions surrounding some financial transactions at the New Mexico Finance Authority" and expected state officials to cooperate fully. Gallegos declined further comment.

CDR's attorney, Richard Beckler, declined to answer questions several weeks ago.

"CDR has always tried to abide by these byzantine campaign finance regulations and is cooperating fully with this investigation," Beckler said in a telephone interview with a Post reporter on December 15.

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

From Time Magazine: The Top 10 Everything of 2008

Time Magazine has usual has an exhaustive list ot "The Top 10 Everything of 2008" at

From Time Magazine: The Year of Living Stupidly

Time Magazine
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008
The Year of Living Stupidly
By Joel Stein,9171,1867120,00.html

In a disaster, the key is to remain calm and make informed choices. If you're a dork. Disaster is actually a great excuse to do whatever you want. What is a riot if not a chance to grab a free flat screen?

So with the Great Depression II: Greater and Furiouser™ approaching, this was a year of massive risk-taking. At every turn, we used chaos as an opportunity to take the nest egg and gamble it--but only after leveraging that nest egg with complicated derivatives that would famously come back to bore the crap out of us. (See the top 10 everything of 2008.)

How crazy did we get? Our presidential election came down to a woman and a black guy, as if the presidency were no more important than those last two Supreme Court seats at the end of the bench. The Republicans picked their Vice President using the same criterion as guys in an Alaskan bar: by going for the only chick there. Sarah Palin got a $150,000 makeover when it was obvious to everyone outside the party that John McCain needed it more. As the year went on, people got even more entranced by risk, placing their roulette bets on green. Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. Heidi married Spencer. Coors got rid of Zima.

When Obama faced the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal, instead of denying or attacking, he led a serious discussion about race--something that has never worked after the first semester of sophomore year. Mitt Romney made a similarly brave gambit when posing with some black children on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and opening the dialogue by saying, "Who let the dogs out? Who! Who!" The nation's fastest-rising politician, Joe the Plumber, got his start with the gutsy decision to ask for a tax break that he didn't remotely qualify for. Even crazier, opponents of gay marriage in California bought ads claiming kids would be taught gayness in schools, when everyone knows kids don't get taught anything in California schools. (See TIME's Person of the Year, People Who Mattered, and more.)

Governor Rod Blagojevich, already under suspicion for looking and dressing like a Serbian warlord, publicly dared people to wiretap him, insisting all they'd hear him discussing was what the Cubs should do in the off-season. Baseball things like taking government money in return for firing Chicago Tribune writers who hate him. When what the Cubs really need is a starting pitcher.

Danger-seeking was so popular that somehow pirates came back. Someone gave Don Imus a radio job. When investment banks crumbled, we decided to hand over $700 billion to Henry Paulson, who used to run an investment bank. It was the kind of year when a famous football player could think, Sure, I've drunk a lot and have a loaded gun in my pants, but the music in this club makes me want to put my hands in my pockets and dance!

Never before had non-French, non-soap-opera-character wife cheaters been so bold. After learning about the intricacies of prostitution rings by busting them, Eliot Spitzer sought out a girlfriend experience with a prostitute who is an aspiring singer with a MySpace account. He would have been more discreet making love to a screen live on CNN, as John King did. The mayor of Detroit communicated with his mistress by text-messaging, a form of communication so obviously insecure that the President is not allowed to do it and teenagers are.

Other countries seemed just as insane. The President of Georgia dared the Russians to attack, which always results in invasion unless there is someone else at the exact same moment daring Russians to drink. And Canadians held countrywide protests demanding a new election--even though they'd just had one. When Canadians start acting crazy, America should fit itself for a giant straitjacket.

Who wasn't taking risks? The banks. When the government gave them money to get them lending again, they pretended that they would hand it out as per the agreed-upon rules, and when no one was looking, they smartly held on to all of it, which we all know is the only real way to win Monopoly.

The other person suddenly not taking risks is Obama. He hired old, experienced staffers--one of whom is so old, he was, impossibly, the Fed chairman before Alan Greenspan. It is possible that he's vetting people from Lincoln's Cabinet. Obama's economic scheme isn't to buy up vast amounts of mortgage-backed securities but to fix old roads and bridges. This is a guy who not only understood how to roll the dice in 2008 but might also have a good idea what we're going to be like for the next few years. We're probably all out of risks for a while.