Tag Archives: David Corn

It Is 1995 Again And We Are Wearing Doc Martens, Listening To Everclear

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

Congress has until March 4 to figure out how to fund the U.S. government. And as of right now, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are more than $60 billion away from a consensus. It’s a high stakes game, given that last time the federal government shut down, all sorts of important functions were halted (passport/visa processing, toxic waste cleanup, museums, monuments and 368 national park sites all closed, etc). So who stands to benefit from all this brinkmanship?

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been working behind the scenes to draft a two-week stopgap measure to avert a government shutdown that would include $4 billion in immediate cuts, according to House and Senate GOP aides.

The House would move first – the Rules Committee could meet as early as Monday. Boehner is hoping to pass the bill by Wednesday. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been in discussions but if a deal is not reached ahead of time Senate Republicans would offer Boehner’s proposal as a substitute to Reid’s bill. The cuts will include reductions that President Obama has suggested and other non-controversial items in the hopes of luring support from moderate Senate Democrats who are facing tough reelections. No details were immediately available on what cuts Boehner and McConnell are looking at. “Senator Reid’s position that they will force a government shutdown rather than cut one penny in spending is indefensible – and it will be very hard for them to oppose a reasonable short-term funding measure that will cut spending,” says a House GOP aide. If nothing is done by March 4 the government will shutdown.

Reid’s office said Wednesday he still plans to move forward with a 30-day spending freeze at current levels. The House on Saturday passed a bill funding the government through the end of the fiscal year. But that bill slashes funding by $100 billion — cuts that are not likely to survive the Democratically-controlled Senate. The Senate has proposed cutting $41 billion from Obama’s 2011 request, but that translates into funding the government at roughly the same level it’s at right now. “While Republicans are making a genuine effort to cut spending and debt, Washington Democrats can’t seem to find a single dime of federal spending to cut, insisting on the status quo, even for a short-term spending bill,” McConnell said Wednesday in a statement to TIME. “But keeping bloated spending levels in place is simply unacceptable. So it is our hope that Democrats will join us in a bill that actually reduces Washington spending.” Both sides agree that more time is needed to negotiate a compromise and Boehner has said he will not allow even a temporary extension without some cuts.

The competing bills amount to a game of chicken between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate. Both sides claim they are trying to avoid a shutdown, but if one happens both are laying the ground work to blame the other. While both Parties say they want cuts, Republicans want immediate results while Democrats have been taking more of a “scapel” rather than a “meat axe” approach, as Reid put it yesterday on a call with reporters.

Annie Lowrey at Slate:

So what actually happens if Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution and the coffers dry up? Certain necessary activities would continue—anything related to defense, inpatient or emergency medical care, air traffic control, securing prisoners, or disaster assistance, for instance. But legally, federal agencies would have to wind down nonessential business. That means hundreds of thousands of employees would go on furloughs, from Treasury to Health and Human Services to the Department of Education, to be paid whenever a continuing resolution passed. Thousands more contractors would just lose their gigs. Parks would shut down. Offices would clear out. Phones would go unanswered.

Nobody knows exactly how it would shake out, not just yet. The president has broad discretion to decide what counts as necessary and what does not, says Stan Collender, a longtime budget expert and a partner at Qorvis, a D.C. communications firm. Right now, the White House Office of Management and Budget says it is helping agencies review their protocols in the event that March 4 comes and goes without a continuing resolution on Obama’s desk. (The OMB has required federal agencies to keep an updated contingency plan on file since 1980.) Officials are looking at who will go and who will stay, and how they will tell whom to go where, just in case.

But everyone dreads the prospect. The last time the government shut down was during the Clinton administration. For five days in November 1995 and 21 days between December 1995 and January 1996, the lights went off. In the first shutdown, 800,000 workers stopped heading into the office. In the second, about 284,000 stayed at home, with an additional 475,000 working on “non-pay status.” These were not just pencil-pushers either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave up on monitoring the outbreak of diseases. Workers at 609 Superfund toxic-waste sites stopped cleaning up.

Ezra Klein:

This isn’t just about the spending bill. The stakes are higher even than that. At this point, no one side really knows how the power dynamic between the House and the Senate will shake out. House Republicans feel their preferences should take priority because they won the last election. Sharp cuts to non-defense discretionary spending are nothing more than their due. Senate Democrats counter that they still control not just the Senate, but also the White House — the House Republicans are a minority partner in this play, and don’t get to decide what the government does or doesn’t do merely because they control one of the three major legislative checkpoints. An uncompromising force is meeting an unimpressed object. But this won’t get settled in an arm wrestling bout, and it’s looking less and less likely that it’ll get settled in negotiations, either. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly possible that this will ultimately get decided when both sides put their theory to the test and take their case to the people during a government shutdown.

The Economist

David Corn at Politics Daily:

What would be the reasonable course of action in a situation like this? The answer is obvious: pass a short extension of the current continuing resolution — say, for a few weeks — to cover the time needed to hammer out a compromise between the House GOPers and Senate Democrats. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has done just that, proposing a stopgap bill that would fund the government at current levels until the end of March. Boehner, though, has declared he won’t accept a temporary measure unless it includes spending cuts. So if he sticks to that extreme position and he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid don’t reach a compromise by March 4, much of the federal government will shut down.

In such a scenario, it would seem that Boehner would deserve most of the culpability. Just like Gingrich. But would Boehner pay the same price?

The political dynamics are different this time. And Boehner is playing to two audiences that each is looking for a different show. Much of the tea party crowd — in and out of Congress — would cheer a government shutdown. These folks see the federal government as the enemy. They’d be delighted to strangle it, even if only for a few days. Yet independent voters, whom both parties need to court, would probably not be as happy. These people usually want their representatives in Washington to make the system work. They aren’t looking for showdowns or games of chicken. By forcing a shutdown, Boehner can appease his right — but at the cost of potentially alienating the middle.

Of course, if a shutdown comes, Boehner will try to blame it on Democrats and President Obama, claiming that their unwillingness to accept spending cuts created the problem. He’ll bash them for not listening to the people, and he’ll depict himself as a champion of principle. If it comes to this, it will be the climax of the GOP’s just-say-no strategy of the past two years.

Capitol Hill Democrats say Boehner is riding the Overreach Express and risks coming across more as a tea party bomb-thrower than as a responsible legislator. At least, that’s their hope. It will certainly take some deft maneuvering for Boehner to cause a shutdown, accuse the Democrats, and be hailed as a spending-cut hero of the republic. But it’s hard to know where the American public is these days. It generally detests overall government spending, but opposes many of the individual cuts the Republicans have passed. And though the American electorate sent a band of conservative ideologues to Washington this past November, many Americans fancy the notion of bipartisan cooperation. It’s no sure bet that the public will embrace a politician who throws this switch.

Boehner might be the player who has the most to lose. Obama and the Senate Democrats are already viewed as politicians who consider government a positive force that can be used to resolve the nation’s problems. If they draw a line against severe GOP cuts and ask for more time to forge a compromise, that’s hardly a news story. But Boehner, who is still a new figure on the scene, has benefited by not being regarded as an ideologue. If he refuses to back a measure that keeps the government functioning while the politicians look for a bipartisan deal, he could end up becoming identified as an I-know-best, anti-government extremist. That will, no doubt, be a badge of honor in certain circles. But it may not go over well beyond those quarters.

Boehner has a choice: reasonableness or ideology. In 1996, Gingrich chose the latter and crashed. At that time, Boehner was in his third term as a House member. The next two weeks will show what lessons he learned — if any.

Major Garrett at The Atlantic:

House GOP leaders held a conference call with freshmen GOP members on Wednesday to lay out the strategy. More than half of the 87-member class participated in a call with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. The call gave more detail to an outline of the strategy GOP leaders gave the freshmen class before it left Washington for this week’s recess.

The GOP aides said the thrust of the trimmed-down CR is to avoid a government shutdown and make the GOP spending cuts as hard as possible for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House to ignore or criticize. “What we will end up saying is we have passed two bills to prevent a shutdown and then we will ask the Senate: ‘How many bills have you passed to prevent a shutdown?’ ” an aide said.

Senate Democrats dismissed the idea that the House proposal represented any kind of concession.

“The Republicans’ so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow,” said Jon Summers, Reid’s communications director. “This isn’t a compromise; it’s a hardening of their original position. This bill would simply be a two-week version of the reckless measure the House passed last weekend. It would impose the same spending levels in the short term as their initial proposal does in the long term, and it isn’t going to fool anyone. Both proposals are non-starters in the Senate.”

The GOP freshmen, according to senior House GOP aides, backed the approach, even though it amounts to a retreat from the $61 billion in cuts from enacted fiscal 2010 spending levels (and $100 billion from Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal that the previous Congress ignored). The House approved the $100 billion in cuts after the freshmen rejected the GOP-leadership-backed plan to cut $32 billion from fiscal 2010 spending levels.

According to several GOP sources, the freshmen and many senior conservatives are girding for an eventual retreat from the bigger CR because they know GOP leaders are fearful of the political consequences of a government shutdown and want to wage the spending-cut battle over many cycles–instead of betting all their chips on this first showdown with Reid and Obama.

Boehner and Cantor have pleaded with the freshmen to take the long view of the budget war and not risk a political backlash over the CR dispute. GOP leaders have instead argued to win as many spending cuts as they can during the CR debate and follow up with more when Congress must raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling later this spring and find still more when the fiscal 2012 appropriations bills are written.

This approach reflects Boehner’s deep-seated belief that the 1995 Gingrich-led Congress risked everything in its shutdown confrontation with President Bill Clinton, and in the aftermath Republicans not only lacked the stomach to fight for more spending cuts, they veered in the opposite direction and targeted federal spending to vulnerable districts to protect the GOP majority.

“We have a totally different mindset and approach than 1995,” said a senior House GOP source. “We don’t want to shut the government down. But we do want to cut spending. And we will. And the CR will do that one way or the other.”

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Dump All Your Stock In Chalkboards Now!

Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

Furthermore, in the last quarter century, there have been transitions from allied dictatorships to allied democracies in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name only a few. The United States has played a role in helping those transitions turn out (reasonably) well. America needn’t be passive or fretful or defensive. We can help foster one outcome over another. As Krauthammer puts it, “Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.”

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

Rich Lowry at National Review:

Bill Kristol has an editorial on conservatives and Egypt. He takes a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic

Robert Stacy McCain:

Generally speaking, I’m a bigger fan of Kristol than of Krauthammer, mainly because Krauthammer is such an anti-Palin snob. In this case, however, I share Krauthammer’s forebodings of an Egyptian revolution and dislike Kristol’s effort to enhance his own Strange New Respect quotient by dissing Beck.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Glenn Beck went off on a rather extraordinary monologue last week about a caliphate taking over much of the world. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standardtook exception to what Beck said. And yesterday Beck fired back.

Set aside (if you can) Beck’s childish and churlish attacks on Kristol and focus on the substance of the disagreement.

Beck lectures Kristol on the dangers of “getting into bed with dictators.” It’s “really something the left does and not something the right should do.” But of course Bill’s position on Egypt is that America ought to get out of bed with dictators. That’s the main point of Kristol’s editorial, after all. And whether you agree with Kristol or not, he has been a strong advocate for the so-called Freedom Agenda, which argues that in the past the United States, in opting for “stability” over liberty in the Middle East, has gotten neither.

More important, though, people should simply listen to the original Beck meditation on the coming worldwide caliphate. It is Beck Unplugged, complete with chalkboards and maps; with happy faces and sad ones; with friends, enemies, and “frenemies”; with references to the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn; and of course dire, apocalyptic warnings. The result of the “coming insurrection” will be that the “whole world starts to implode.”

“Play it out with me,” Beck pleads. “The entire Mediterranean is on fire,” he cries out us — but not just the Mediterranean. This all-consuming blaze is spreading to the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Greece, and Germany; to Russia, Africa, Morocco, and almost every place in between. Beck demonstrates “how this whole thing cascades over to us.” And beware: none of this is happenstance. “This is coordinated,” America’s intrepid truth teller informs us. Pro-democracy talk is part of a “progressive movement.” The masses in Egypt’s Liberty Square are “useful idiots.” And oh-by-the-way, he promises to tell us what the real reason behind the 2003 Iraq war was:

Two wars in Iraq. We said no bombing there. Ancient Babylon. Ancient Babylon. Why? Because the Bible tells us that that is the seat — right here — of power of a global, evil empire. Well, that’s also where the 12th imam from Iran is supposedly going to show up. Everybody on this side wants ancient Babylon for their caliphate.

Leave it to Glenn Beck to sees dots on a map and connect lines invisible to mere mortals, lines that are the result of a massive and astonishingly well-organized conspiracy. It is something out of the twilight zone.

I’ve been warning about Glenn Beck for a couple of years now, concerned about his erratic behavior and conspiracy theories. “My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now — and will soon flame out,” I wrote in 2009. “Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism … he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.”

Jeffrey Goldberg:

What about this don’t you understand, Mr. Wehner? Is it not shockingly clear to you? Glenn Beck has performed a great service for us, by highlighting the weakness of the Iberian Peninsula (the foremost challenge facing American policymakers at this moment, obviously)  and the role ancient Babylon will play in the coming campaign for the worldwide imposition of Muslim law. Combine this trenchant analysis of Muslim politics with his recent attempt to highlight the pernicious work of the nine most evil people in world history, eight of whom, entirely coincidentally, are Jewish, and you should begin to get the picture.

Of course, the conspiracy goes deeper than Beck has yet revealed; I’m hoping that, in coming days, if the Freemasons, working in concert with Hezbollah and the Washington Redskins, don’t succeed in suppressing the truth, that Beck will reveal the identities of the most pernicious players in this grotesque campaign to subvert our way of life. I can’t reveal too much here, but I think it’s fair to say that Beck will be paying a lot of attention in the coming weeks to the dastardly, pro-caliphate work of Joy Behar; tthe makers of Little Debbie snack cakes; the 1980s hair band Def Leppard; Omar Sharif; and the Automobile Association of America. And remember, you read it here first.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

And I’ve heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice. His ratings are dropping, too–which, in the end, is a good part of what this is all about. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

As Beck becomes increasingly unhinged and lost in conspiracy-land, he may well become a litmus test for the right — and a measure of whether the leaders of Fox News care about any claim to respectability. Should Fox throw him out of the coop, Beck will still have a cult-like following that he can service via his syndicated radio show, website, and books — and still make tens of millions of dollars a year. He won’t crawl off to an undisclosed location. But he will no longer have the imprimatur of the right’s main media outfit. And what better confirmation that the conspiracy is vast, oh so vast.

Jeff Poor at The Daily Caller:

On “Morning Joe” Tuesday, the Weekly Standard editor appeared to promote “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” a collection of essays written by his father, Irving Kristol. During that appearance, New York magazine’s John Heilemann asked Kristol why Republicans were reluctant to challenge Fox News host Glenn Beck, a regular target of MSNBC’s personalities, as Kristol did in a column for the Feb. 14 issue of the Weekly Standard for his claim Islamists and liberal forces were collaborating to orchestrate a caliphate.

Kristol explained MSNBC wasn’t the place for such a “debate” and cited a 2010 Weekly Standard article that praised Beck in some regards for his role in the Tea Party movement, explaining the commentary on Beck goes both ways.

“Well, I’m not going to get into a debate with Glenn Beck here on MSNBC,” Kristol said. “I’ll debate him on Fox where we’re fair and balanced where we have these debates among ourselves. No, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Matt Continetti had a long piece a year ago on — partly on Glenn Beck, on the tea parties, what was healthy and not so admirable in certain strains of thoughts among people like Glenn Beck. So I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Oh, you guys should be calling him out and monitoring everyone on your side.’ That’s not — we publish what we believe in the Weekly Standard. I’m happy to defend to defend the Weekly Standard and what I say on Fox News Sunday.”

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The End? Part II: Speech, Speech, Speech!

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with an early round up.

Marc Ambinder:

President Obama has asked the television networks for 15 minutes tonight, and he’s going to pack quite a bit of messaging into that short period of time. Why do we need a speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq? It’s because we’re going to need, according to Obama, to understand the future of the war in Afghanistan and the interconnectedness of foreign and domestic policy in a way that reflects what Obama was able to do in Iraq.

What did he do? He set a time-frame and stuck to it. Iraq will now begin to fend for itself. He promised during his presidential campaign that he would end the Iraq war “responsibly.” He will note tonight that his administration managed to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq “responsibly.” He will portray this as a major milestone in his presidency.

We forget how integral Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to oppose the Iraq war was to his own political awakening, and how many contortions Hillary Clinton had to untwist in order to justify her own support for the war authority, and how, by the day of the general election, given the success of the surge (or the success of JSOC’s counterterrorism efforts), Iraq was no longer a central voting issue. Voters seemed to exorcise that demon in 2006, when they voted Democrats into Congress.

A large chunk of the speech will be taken up by the president’s careful description of the sacrifices that a million U.S. soldiers and diplomats have made by their service in Iraq, and how 4,400 Americans did not come home.

Then, a pivot point: the Iraq drawdown has allowed the president to refocus attention on the threat from Al Qaeda worldwide, and he will mention that the terrorist network is degraded, albeit still capable of waging terrorist attacks and intending to do so.

He will note that the government will be able to reap a bit of a post-Iraq transition dividend, allowing the administration to invest more in job creation, health care, and education here at home. (Subtly, the point: Obama wouldn’t have gone into Iraq, so we wouldn’t have had to spend as much as we did.) It’s time, he will say, to build our own nation.

Kevin Drum:

Since it’s a slow news day, let’s mull this over. First take: can you imagine anything that would piss off the liberal base more than acknowledging that the surge worked? You’d be able to hear the steam coming out of lefty ears from sea to shining sea. Second take: Even if he decided to do it anyway, would it be worthwhile? If he wants to be honest, Obama would have to at least mention all those other factors that Ambinder mentions, namely that the reduction in violence in 2007 was quite clearly the result of 4 S’s: Surge, Sadr ceasefire, Sectarian cleansing, and Sunni Awakening. But is this too much to talk about? And would it seem churlish to acknowledge the surge and then immediately try to take some of the credit away from it?

Third take: Forget it. Not only would mentioning the surge piss off liberals, but it would also imply some kind of “victory” in Iraq, and surely Obama can’t be dimwitted enough to come within a light year of claiming that, can he? Of course not. Not with sporadic violence back in the news and Iraqi leaders still stalemated on forming a government five months after the March elections.

So I’ll predict no direct mention of the surge. And since I’m usually wrong about this kind of stuff, I suppose you should try to lay down some money right away on Obama mentioning the surge tonight. But I still don’t think he’ll do it.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

Why is Barack Obama giving a speech on Iraq?

To mark the end of U.S. combat missions in the nation George W. Bush invaded over seven years ago, the president on Tuesday night will deliver a high-profile address from the Oval Office. Speeches from the Oval Office are usually reserved for the most pressing and profound matters of a presidency. And this partial end of the Iraq war — the United States will still have 50,000 troops stationed there — is a significant event. It demonstrates that Obama has kept a serious campaign promise: to end this war.

But with the economy foundering — many of the recent stats are discouraging — most Americans are probably not yearning above all for a report on Iraq and likely will not be all that impressed with Obama’s promise-keeping on this front. The main issue remains jobs, especially as the congressional elections approach.

Summer is essentially done. It’s back-to-school and back-to-work time for many of us. But on Obama’s first days after his Martha Vineyard’s vacation, he’s devoting (at least in public) more time and energy to foreign policy matters than the flagging economy. Worried Democrats must be livid. (Most House Democrats are still campaigning in their districts and are not yet back in Washington to gripe about their president.)

Wars are the most significant stuff of a presidency. There’s not enough media attention devoted to the Afghanistan war. But politically there’s little or no payoff for an Iraq war address. Obama can’t brag, “Mission accomplished.” (In fact, on Monday, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would not be using those words.) He can’t declare victory. He can only declare a murky end to a murky war. That’s not going to rally the Democrats’ base or win over independents. It was not mandatory for Obama to deliver such a high-profile speech. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Baghdad to commemorate this milestone. The administration has conducted other events regarding the end of combat operations. It’s been duly noted.

David Frum at FrumForum:

Just guessing, but here’s why:

The president’s biggest political problem is the disillusionment of his liberal voters. Contra Fox News, they do not see a liberal president doing liberal things. They see a consensus president rescuing Wall Street. The job situation remains dismal, the administration is deporting illegal immigrants, and where are the gays in the military?

What Obama needs to do between now and November is pound home the message: I have kept faith with my voters on their big concerns, healthcare and the Iraq war. Now those voters must keep faith with me.

Ronald Reagan could count on a cadre of conservatives to defend his actions against any and all critics. A friend once teased Bill Rusher, then publisher of National Review: “Whenever Reagan does something awful, you defend it on one of two grounds: either that Reagan had no choice, or that the full wisdom of his action will be disclosed to lesser mortals in God’s good time.” According to legend, Rusher answered, “May I point out that the two positions are not necessarily incompatible?”

Nobody seems willing to do for Obama what Rusher did for Reagan. So Obama must do the job himself. Tonight’s speech is part of that job. Message: I ended George Bush’s war. Vote Democratic.

The trouble is: This message seems unlikely to work in the way Democrats need. Obama’s speech is much more likely to alienate marginal voters than to galvanize alienated liberals, and for this reason:

Obama’s liberal voters will not abide any whiff of triumphalism in the president’s speech. For them, Iraq was at best a disaster, at worst a colonialist war crime. (Elsewhere on the Politics Daily site, David Corn’s colleague Jill Lawrence specifies what she’d like to hear the president say: “Never again.”)

But most Americans want and expect triumphs. “Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser.” So said George Patton on the eve of D-Day, and he was right. And if President Obama declines to declare himself a winner, guess what alternative remains? Exactly.

Democracy In America at The Economist:

8:20: All in all, a nice speech by Mr Obama, in my opinion. Hit most of the right notes.

8:19: Agreed, though “they are the steel in the ship of our state” was a little much.

8:19: Call me a shallow booster, but that part about troops coming home, from the predawn dark to the excerpt below, was great prose. Just beautiful. Very affecting.

8:18: “Who fought in a faraway place for people they never knew”—that’s some beautiful iambic hexameter right there.

8:18: This turned into a rather moving tribute to the troops.

8:17: The shift from the war-ending announcement to the nation-building task reminds me of the BP speech—from the disaster to a different energy future was a stretch too far.  A good speech makes one or two strong points, not lots.

8:17: Yep—there’s the money: a post 9/11 GI bill. He’s daring Republicans to challenge it.

8:17: Is that a subtle gauntlet—the reference to doing right by our veterans?

8:16: This is starting to feel a little platitudinous. Time to dangle Beau from the upstairs window.

8:15: By one estimate, America has spent about $750 billion on the Iraq war.

8:14: Blaming the deficits on the war? True up to a point, but …

8:14: Also very nicely done—not setting a timetable for Afghan withdrawal. That makes it his more than Iraq. Double-down.

8:13: “As we approach the tenth anniversary, there are those who are asking tough questions about our mission there.” And I’m not going to answer those questions. PUNT!

8:12: Can’t explain why but the Oval Office format doesn’t play to Mr Obama’s significant strengths as a communicator. Maybe those curtains…

8:12: Having said that, I enjoyed this comment from one of Kevin Drum’s readers: “The surge worked just like stitches work to close a wound after improperly handling a knife.”

8:11: Why not thank him for the surge? It was a courageous, albeit very late in coming, policy.

8:10: Very nicely done—the reach-out to GWB. He didn’t knuckle under and thank him for the surge (as well he shouldn’t), but it was a graceful acknowledgement.

8:09: “A belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.” Don’t feed the neocons.

8:09: Odd no mention of Saddam. If the war achieved anything it was toppling a mass murdering dictator. But that would be giving too much credit to Bush.

8:08: This part (Iraqis are a proud people, only Iraqis can do this and that) has the feeling of a plea.

8:08: Nice wiggle room: when a representative government is in place, then they will have a strong partner in the United States (but until then…?)

8:07: Is that true: that Iraqi forces have “taken the fight to” al-Qaeda, and have weakened them?

8:07: Credible elections, yes, but how can the US get the warring politicos to form a credible government?

8:06: It’s quite a valedictory tone, considering there are 50,000 troops still there.

8:05: Praising the courage of the armed forces is understandable and even obligatory but also a wonderful way to dodge the question of the whether the war was worthwhile

8:03: “Ahem, these are the reasons I did not support this war.”

8:02: Have other presidents had so many family pictures behind them during Oval Office addresses? Nice touch.

8:01: On the question of whether Mr Obama will give Mr Bush credit: I think he should. But I also think Mr Obama’s Afghan strategy is the sincerest acknowledgment of the surge’s success.

8:00pm: And we begin.

Instapundit:

ABSOLUT VICTORY: STEPHEN GREEN IS Drunkblogging Obama’s Iraq Speech.

Bush got a mention, the troops got two mentions — but I haven’t hear thanks to either one. . . .

What the hell is this? Seriously. We were promised an update on Iraq. Instead we’re getting a defense of Obamanomics, which unlike the Surge (anyone?), has been a total failure.

Read the whole thing. And weep, or laugh, or something. Drink!

UPDATE: More from Prof. Jacobson.

And here’s the full text of Obama’s speech.

Allah Pundit:

8 p.m. ET across the dial. It’s billed as an Iraq speech, but that’s not really what it is. The “key part,” apparently, will be a renewed call to “take the fight directly to al Qaeda” by finishing the job in Afghanistan. (Wouldn’t taking the fight to AQ require operations in Pakistan, not Afghanistan?) It’s also being billed as a “mission unaccomplished” speech, as the White House is ever mindful after Bush of the pitfalls in celebrating too early. But that’s not really what this is either. Like it or not, by investing the end of combat ops with the grandeur of an Oval Office address, The One is necessarily signaling completion of the task. And why not? The public couldn’t be clearer as to how it feels about renewing combat operations if Iraqi security starts to fall apart. This is closure, for better or worse.

Because it is closure, and closure at a moment when things are ominously open-ended in Iraq, I admit to having no appetite today for the standard left/right recriminations about how much Bush screwed up or whether Obama should credit him for the surge. (I think he will acknowledge Bush tonight, for what it’s worth, mainly to signal that this is an occasion that transcends partisanship. But never underestimate the political instincts of the perpetual campaigner.) Instead, since we’re putting a bookend on history, I offer you this grim big-picture reminiscence by star NYT correspondent John Burns, who was on the ground over there until 2007. Today is a day that’s taken forever to arrive, he says, and yet it still seems to have arrived too soon.

Ann Althouse:

Obama on Iraq: Mission Accomplished.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard:
President Obama opposed the war in Iraq. He still thinks it was a mistake. It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc. Given that (erroneous) view of his, I thought his speech was on the whole commendable, and even at times impressive.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat

George Packer at The New Yorker

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Matt Welch at Reason

UPDATE #2: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Arguments Commence Over The Best Way To Remember, Over The BBQ Grill

Tim Smith at The Baltimore Sun:

The original purpose of Memorial Day can get easily lost amid all the cookouts or, in these parts, trips to the beach for the unofficial start of the summer season. The origin of the holiday can get overlooked, too, since there have been so many wars since the one that led to the practice of commemorating those who died in service to the country.

It was in 1868 that the first Decoration Day ceremonies were held, honoring the dead of the Union Army in the Civil War. Over time, of course, the observance incorporated the dead of both sides and, renamed Memorial Day, encompassed all of this country’s fallen in subsequent wars.

I was thinking today of those Civil War roots of the holiday and of a song that was popular with Northern troops: “We’re Tenting Tonight On the Old Campground.” I’m fascinated by Walter Kittridge’s words from 1864 as much as the tune. This is a remarkably powerful, personal expression of that war’s toll — any war’s toll.

It seems doubly appropriate to recall it on this Memorial Day, when there are still conflicts and casualties. I’ve posted some of the lyrics here, followed by a recording of “Tenting Tonight” that effectively communicates the song’s sadly timeless message:

We’re tenting tonight on the old campground. Give us a song to cheer our weary hearts, a song of home, and friends we love so dear. Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, wishing for the war to cease. Many are the hearts looking for the right to see the dawn of peace …”

E.J. Dionne at WaPo:

Why is it that every Memorial Day, we note that a holiday set aside for honoring our war dead has become instead an occasion for beach-going, barbecues and baseball?

The problem arises because war-fighting has become less a common endeavor than a specialty engaged in by a relatively small subset of our population. True, some people slipped out of their obligations in the past, and military service was largely, though never exclusively, the preserve of men. The steady growth of opportunities for women in the armed forces is a positive development. I say this proudly as someone whose sister is a veteran of the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as is her husband.

Can we ever return to a time when we pay proper homage to the service of our warriors, living and dead? Closing the divide that exists between military life and the rest of our society is the first step on that path. Achieving that end is the single best reason for ending the ban on gays in the military. This is not a special-interest demand. It is a powerful way of declaring that in a democracy, service should be seen as a task open to all patriots.

Our major wars — particularly the Civil War, which gave rise to Memorial Day, and World War II — were in some sense mass democratic experiences. They touched the entire country. The same cannot be said of our more recent conflicts.

Because it has been 65 years since we’ve seen anything like a mass mobilization, regular contact with our military is largely confined to the places where our men and women in uniform live. And, according to a 2007 Defense Department report, more than half of our home-based military personnel — 54.5 percent of them — are stationed in only six states: California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Twelve states account for three-quarters of our service members. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a terrible principle when it comes to honoring those who protect us. But is there any doubt that it applies?

Atrios:

I really hate the annual ritual of writing columns about how people don’t behave properly on Memorial Day. People don’t get many vacation days in the greatest country on Earth, and sitting around pretending to be sad or watching Spielberg war porn doesn’t really honor those who served either. Not going to read the minds of those who served, willingly and enthusiastically or otherwise, but when after I die Atrios Memorial Day is declared, feel free to grill some burgers and have a few beers in my name. I’ll be honored.

Robert H. Scales at Politics Daily:

The heavy lifting in Iraq and Afghanistan is being done by a very small and increasingly isolated minority. We find that military service is fast becoming a family business. At least 100 sons and daughters of general officers are in harm’s way as we speak. The level of relative sacrifice is far greater today than it was in my generation. It’s not unusual to find a soldier or Marine who is now in double-digit deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we don’t sense the difference between their lives and ours, but increasingly they do. We don’t hear much from them publicly because, unlike my generation of draftees, they are professionals and tend to keep their own counsel. But resentment is there, just under the surface. Unlike my generation, soldiers are plugged into the outside world through the Internet. You can often find a young soldier in the remotest and most inhospitable place blogging and tweeting and watching his countrymen with a wry cynicism.

Soldiers often ask why the media gave them so much attention before the surge when things were going badly in Iraq and so little attention now when things are going well. They wonder how so many political and media pundits know so much about a soldier’s business, and yet lately, soldiers see so few of them near their foxholes. The Internet is a two-edged sword. In Vietnam, we only heard from home infrequently, by letter. Today a soldier is likely to go off on patrol after getting an earful about his loved one’s problems with bill collectors, teachers or, increasingly, family counselors.

Memorial Day should be about memories, to be sure. But it should also be about remembrances of those who are serving us so selflessly now. We must never allow this precious and tiny piece of Sparta to become permanently detached from America’s Babylon. Next time you’re in an airport, spend a second to shake a soldier’s hand. Commit to rekindling that sense of good will toward our men and women in uniform you felt just after 9/11. The war for us is now background noise. But believe me, war is very real and increasingly dangerous for those whom we charge to fight it.

Michelle Oddis at Human Events:

<!–

–> At a time when President Obama’s relationship with the military is already on shaky ground, his decision to take a vacation with his family in Chicago rather than pay his Memorial Day respects at Arlington National Cemetery further proves his apathy toward our armed forces, according to some veterans.

“The President seems to demonstrate almost weekly just how, at least to me, little he cares about this country and our history and our heritage,” retired Marine Lt. Col. Orson Swindle told HUMAN EVENTS.

“He seems almost to resent it, which is the most mind-boggling thing in the world, because without a country like America Barack Obama could not be President. He seems to dislike our institutions… and that’s a sad, sad thing,” said Swindle, a decorated Vietnam prisoner of war and Sen. John McCain’s cellmate in Hanoi.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean. Unemployment is still near 10 percent. There are two wars underway. And what are conservative pundits fretting about? That this year President Obama won’t be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The liberal watchdog outfit, Media Matters, has been keeping track of this latest right-wing meme:

– Glenn Beck says, “Obama is skipping out on a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery because he’ll be in Chicago on vacation. I’m sorry, I don’t ever, ever question the president’s vacation. I didn’t under Bush, I didn’t under Clinton, I don’t under Obama. . . . I have no problem with the man taking a vacation. But I am sick and tired — sick and tired — of people believing the lie that this administration has respect for the police or has respect for the soldiers of our country. I’m tired of it.”

– Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and CNN contributor, tweeted, “Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The Commander-in-Chief has a job to do.”

– Noting that Vice President Joe Biden will assume the wreath-laying duties this year, Doug Powers, a guest blogger for conservative Michelle Malkin, grouses, “President Obama went to Arlington Cemetery to lay the wreath last year, but this year Obama’s handing the wreath to [Biden] and heading off to the more welcoming political climes of Chicago. . . . Obama will however make it back to Washington in time to honor Paul McCartney next week. Boy, I’m starting to think that West Point speech [Obama gave this past weekend] wasn’t from the heart.”

You’d think these folks would have better things to gripe about. And Obama is not retreating on Memorial Day. (What president would?) Instead of visiting Arlington cemetery, Obama and the first lady will participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., about 50 miles south of Chicago. Moreover, not every president has spent Memorial Day at Arlington. In 1983, President Reagan was at a summit meeting, and the deputy secretary of defense — not even the veep! — placed the wreath. Nine years later, President George H.W. Bush passed off the wreath to Vice President Dan Quayle (who had used family connections to get a slot in the National Guard during the days of the Vietnam War draft). And in 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney took on the wreath mission, while President George W. Bush was in Texas, perhaps clearing brush.

This wreath scuffle is yet another silly episode in the right’s never-ending campaign to persuade Americans that Obama doesn’t care about U.S. troops and is weak on national security. It shows how unserious these bloviators can be. Obama is in the middle of sending an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan and has boosted the number of drone attacks aimed at al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still, conservative wingnuts insist on questioning his commitment to the defense of this nation. (I’m skeptical of the Afghanistan surge, but it certainly is a commitment to the war — for at least the time being.)

John J. Miller at The Corner:

Some conservatives have criticized President Obama because he won’t pay homage to America’s fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery today. Instead, he will be at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois. This is a silly controversy and has the potential to make the complainers look petty. Thousands of American veterans are buried at national cemeteries that aren’t as famous as the one at Arlington. These heroes are worthy of presidential visits on Memorial Day, too.

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I Ain’t Saying They’re A Golddigger…

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round up. Fisher:

Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York declared in a press conference Tuesday that his office will be targeting Goldline–a gold-selling company he accuses of ripping off customers–and its prominent backers in the conservative media. He particularly focused on Glenn Beck’s connections to Goldline. Weiner says the company falsely portrays itself as a credible investment adviser, while selling gold to customers at 190% of its market value and exploiting public fears for monetary gain. He also accuses Beck and other pundits of being complicit.

Kenneth Vogel at Politico:

Talk show host Glenn Beck and Goldline International, a California-based gold retailer, have colluded to use fear mongering tactics to bilk investors, according to a stinging report issued Tuesday by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

The report alleges that Goldline grossly overcharges for the gold coins that constitute the bulk of its business, uses misleading sales techniques and takes advantage of fears about President Barack Obama’s stewardship of the economy – which are stoked by its stable of paid conservative endorsers including Beck, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and Fred Thompson – “to cheat consumers.”

Goldline is the exclusive gold sponsor of Beck’s radio show. But, as POLITICO detailed in December, a number of gold selling companies pay other conservative commentators as sponsors and also advertise on a variety of conservative talk radio shows, as well as Fox News, which airs Beck’s television program.

“Goldline rips off consumers, uses misleading and possibly illegal sales tactics, and deliberately manipulates public fears of an impending government takeover – this is a trifecta of terrible business practices,” said Weiner. He said a December report in POLITICO report prompted his scrutiny of Goldline.

“This industry goes beyond Goldline, but the Goldline circle has been particularly cynical in its cultivation of these conservative commentators,” he said. “There are two industries that are intertwined here in this cynical play: the media industry and the online gold industry, and there is a lot of blame to go around.”

As for Beck, Weiner asserted he “should be ashamed of himself.”

Glenn Beck:

GLENN: Forget Goldline. Weiner is shooting a bit lower in the finance food chain going after gold dealers. His latest target, Goldline, which has made its name profiling with the help of conservative talkers, made its money off of fees for buying and selling gold against public anxiety. A representative of the company has just circulated this e mail this afternoon. Tomorrow, May 18th, Congressman Weiner will either be having a press conference and sending out press releases that will involve Goldline International and Glenn Beck. Congressman Weiner will also be going after other conservative supporters that endorse Goldline. We are not sure exactly what Weiner will be saying, but we know that it will not be favorable to either Goldline or the conservative personalities that support Goldline.

STU: You think?

PAT: What a Weiner.

GLENN: This is incredible. This is incredible. This is again another arm of this administration coming out to try to shut me down. This is absolutely incredible. Is there anybody that is going to say anything in the press at any time if you stand up against this White House? They have three, count them, three advisors of this president that have launched official campaigns boycotting my sponsors! Any sponsor that stays with me, now they are targeting through — you want to talk about the McCarthy era! Look at what this country is becoming! Is there anyone, anyone that has the courage to stand up against these monsters? Look at what they are doing! It’s incredible! Incredible.

In response to Weiner’s accusations — or really as part of his response — which have received wide-ish play in the media, Beck has launched (it’s run by his staffers) WeinerFacts.com: “world wide weiner web.” The site is devoted to “facts” about Rep. Weiner interspersed with pictures of wieners. Yes. Glenn Beck has gone opposition 2.0 (literally! He showed off the new site on his iPad). One can only look forward to the day his chalkboard gets its own Twitter account.

Fear not, however, Beck did not let Weinerfacts.com do all his trash talking for him. Chalkboard and funny voices at the ready, Beck also demonstrated why Weiner’s connections to President Obama and Media Matters (and inevitably Van Jones) may be evidence he is the new…Joe McCarthy: “How afraid they really must be.” Or, you know, looking for for the sort of attention that results in campaign donations down the line. Video below.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

Beck is free to give whatever economic advice to his fans, but he has blended his analysis with self-serving commerce, promoting a particular gold coin retailer called Goldline, which has too often ripped off customers by peddling coins at much higher prices than their true value and selling them as solid financial investments. Not coincidentally, Goldline is a major sponsor of Beck’s radio and TV shows. My Mother Jones colleague Stephanie Mencimer has written a thorough exposé of Goldline and the Beck connection, and the story has hit at a propitious moment: just as Beck has attacked a Democratic congressman who has investigated Beck and Goldline.

[…]
Weiner has the goods on Beck and Goldline. Mencimer does, too. This is a sleazy business. Beck and Fox rake in the bucks, and viewers who take Beck seriously have been rooked by Goldline. Their motto could be: We exhort, you get taken for a ride.

Weiner is not going to let go of this. On Tuesday night, “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann asked him if he’s prepared for a battle of wits with Beck. “He comes only half-prepared to that battle,” Weiner quipped. And no doubt, Beck will squeeze what he can out of this fight (or crusade of persecution). After all, he’s all about turning bad news into gold.

Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones:

For more than a century, gold has held a special allure for the conservative fringe. Amid economic downswings and social upheaval, the precious metal has come to be seen as a moral and political statement as much as an investment. Ever since the late 19th century, when the gold standard became the center of a ferocious debate about the country’s financial future, gold has been mythologized as bulwark against inflation, federal meddling, and the corrosive effects of progressivism. In the late 1970s, South African Krugerrands became a refuge from soaring interest rates and oil prices. In the ’90s, militia groups fearful of big banks and the Federal Reserve hoarded gold.

And now, with the economy limping along and a black Democrat in the White House, gold mania has gone mainstream. Gold prices hit a recent high last December and remained strong as the European debt crisis unfolded this spring. John Paulson, the hedge-fund giant who made billions bundling and betting against Goldman Sachs subprime mortgage securities, has invested heavily in gold, even starting a new fund devoted solely to it. A recent New York Times poll found that 1 in 20 self-identified Tea Party members had bought gold in the past year. Cashing in on all this is a raft of entrepreneurs who have tapped into financial insecurity and fever dreams of approaching tyranny. Nearly every major conservative radio host, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, has advertised gold. But none has done more to cheer on the new gold rush than Glenn Beck.

Beck, whose various media enterprises brought in $32 million last year, according to Forbes, has a particular interest in plugging gold. Since 2008, Goldline has been one of his most reliable sponsors, underwriting his comedy tours and investing heavily in his radio show. Last year, after Beck called President Obama a racist, and mainstream advertisers bailed on his cable show, Goldline stuck by him. And its loyalty appears to have paid off. In an email, Goldline’s executive vice president Scott Carter says that while its Beck sponsorship doesn’t bring in the majority of its customers, it “has improved sales,” which exceed $500 million a year.

In turn, Beck, has stood by Goldline. Last year, he made a promo video for the company in which he stated, “This is a top-notch organization”—a quote featured prominently in Goldline ads on its own website. Until last fall, Goldline’s website identified Beck as a paid spokesman. After the liberal watchdog Media Matters complained of a potential conflict of interest, Goldline modified its ad copy to indicate that it sponsors Beck’s radio show, not Beck himself. Beck posted a video on his website in which he unapologetically noted that he’d started buying from Goldline long before it was his sponsor, back when gold was $300 an ounce.

But there’s still a powerful feedback loop between Beck and Goldline. The more worked up Beck gets about the economy or encroaching socialism, the more Goldline can employ those fears in pitching their products to his audience. But in putting his seal of approval on Goldline, “the people I’ve trusted for years and years,” Beck has gone beyond simply endorsing an advertiser. A Mother Jones investigation shows that Beck is recommending a company that promotes financial security but operates in a largely unregulated no-man’s land, generating a pile of consumer complaints about misleading advertising, aggressive telemarketing, and overpriced products.

[…]

What Goldline doesn’t say upfront is that for its own bottom line, collector coins are a lot more lucrative than mere bullion. Profits in the coin business are based on “spread,” the difference between the price at which a coin is sold and the price at which the dealer will buy it back. Most coin dealers, including Goldline, will sell a one-ounce bullion coin for about 5 percent more than they’ll buy it back for, a figure that closely tracks the price of an ounce of gold on the commodities markets. That 5 percent spread doesn’t leave a lot of room for profits, much less running dozens of ads a week on national radio and cable programs, with endorsements by everyone from Beck to Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, and Dennis Miller. So, Goldline rewards its salespeople for persuading would-be bullion buyers to purchase something with a bigger markup.

Twenty-franc Swiss coins are a little smaller than a nickel and contain a little less than two-tenths of an ounce of gold. The coins are about 60 to 110 years old and not especially hard to find (though Goldline describes them as “rare”). They are not fully considered collectors’ items nor commodities, making their value more subjective than bullion’s. Goldline sets a 30 to 35 percent “spread” on the coins, meaning that it will pay $375 to buy back coins it’s currently selling for $500. At that rate, gold prices would have to jump by a third just for customers to recoup their investment, never mind making a profit. Investing in Goldline’s 20 francs would be like buying a blue chip stock that lost a third of its value the minute it’s purchased. It’s difficult to think of any other investment that loses so much value almost instantly. So what persuades people to buy anyway?

Kevin Drum

Marc Perton at Consumerist:

Goldline, a company that sells gold coins, has an important announcement: coin collectors made out well in the 1930s and were protected from “the whims and vagaries of a spendthrift government.”

So why should anybody care about this now?

One reason is that gold prices are hitting record highs, so sellers of the precious metal are shifting their marketing into high gear. While we’re not about to tell you whether or not gold is a good investment (we’re sure you’ll tell us in the coments, though), we’re pretty confident of one thing: The government is not about to come and confiscate your bullion.

Goldline shares this history lesson:

Times were very good for many Americans in the mid- to late-1920s: the stock market had grown exponentially — driven, in part, by a frenzy of investing which sent stock prices well beyond their true value. In 1929, the frenzy ended. Black Tuesday started a stock market crash which ultimately led to the Great Depression. By 1933, the demoralized nation looked to Washington, D.C. and President Franklin D. Roosevelt for salvation. Seeking to inflate the dollar in an effort to combat the depression, the United States government issued an order confiscating gold bullion from American citizens under threat of fines or imprisonment. There were certain limited exceptions. One of the most notable exceptions was that Americans could continue to own: “gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins.”

For the most part, though, the law was never enforced, and was later overturned. Today, Americans can own as much gold as they can fit in their hidden book safes, safe deposit boxes, or buried backyard bunkers.

But never mind that. According to Goldline, “the events of the 1930s and the decades that followed help to prove the importance of owning collectible gold coins.” Goldline customers can even get a free copy of Executive Order 6102 printed on faux parchment. We really want to say something about this not being worth the paper it’s printed on, but we’re sure Goldline has already beaten us to it.

Wonkette:

Yeah yeah yeah what do you know, Weiner. Have you ever run a comically trashy if not illegal international gold & silver business? It is a trifecta of Profit.

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Dodd’s The Word, Part II

Wall Street Journal prints Chris Dodd’s fact sheet on the bill:

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW BILL

Consumer Protections with Authority and Independence: Creates a new independent watchdog, housed at the Federal Reserve, with the authority to ensure American consumers get the clear, accurate information they need to shop for mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products, and protect them from hidden fees, abusive terms, and deceptive practices.

Ends Too Big to Fail: Ends the possibility that taxpayers will be asked to write a check to bail out financial firms that threaten the economy by: creating a safe way to liquidate failed financial firms; imposing tough new capital and leverage requirements that make it undesirable to get too big; updating the Fed’s authority to allow system-wide support but no longer prop up individual firms; and establishing rigorous standards and supervision to protect the economy and American consumers, investors and businesses.

Advanced Warning System: Creates a council to identify and address systemic risks posed by large, complex companies, products, and activities before they threaten the stability of the economy.

Transparency & Accountability for Exotic Instruments: Eliminates loopholes that allow risky and abusive practices to go on unnoticed and unregulated – including loopholes for over-the-counter derivatives, asset-backed securities, hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders.

Federal Bank Supervision: Streamlines bank supervision to create clarity and accountability. Protects the dual banking system that supports community banks.

Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance: Provides shareholders with a say on pay and corporate affairs with a non-binding vote on executive compensation.

Protects Investors: Provides tough new rules for transparency and accountability for credit rating agencies to protect investors and businesses.

Enforces Regulations on the Books: Strengthens oversight and empowers regulators to aggressively pursue financial fraud, conflicts of interest and manipulation of the system that benefit special interests at the expense of American families and businesses.

David Corn at Mother Jones:

Elizabeth Warren, the lead advocate for the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, seems to like—or, at least, not dislike—the financial reform package (finally) released on Monday by Sen. Chris Dodd, the Democratic chairman of the Senate banking committee. In the summary of the legislation, Dodd notes that his bill would create the CFPA as an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve—which could pose problems—but that it will have the power to write and enforce rules governing the sale of various financial products, including credit cards and mortgages. Yet its enforcement powers would not extend to banks with less than $10 billion in assets. In a statement, Warren notes:

Since bringing our economy to the brink of collapse, Wall Street has spent more than a year and hundreds of millions of dollars in an all-out effort to block financial reform. Despite the banks’ ferocious lobbying for business as usual, Chairman Dodd took an important step today by advancing new laws to prevent the next crisis. We’re now heading toward a series of votes in which the choice will be clear: families or banks.

That sounds like a cautious endorsement

John Carney at Forbes:

Spreading the Fed’s authority risks making this problem of market homogenization even worse. Hedge funds and insurance companies escaped the financial crisis intact, largely because they weren’t subject to the same regulators whose views on prudence so damaged the banks. Subjecting a broader range of financial firms to the Fed’s market views will create more systemic risk, leaving more firms in vulnerable if the Fed gets it wrong again.

The new powers being proposed for the Fed would allow it to order financial firms to “reduce risk.” Which is to say, the Fed’s view of risk will even more directly control the financial system. The Fed will be able to impose its views of risk on a broader range of financial firms. But that is exactly what regulators thought they were doing when they incentivized banks to buy up mortgage backed securities through sliding-scale capital requirements.

In short, the regulators’ views of prudent banking got us into this mess. Allowing the Fed to fail upward is just a recipe for another—likely worse—crisis.

Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic:

The next stop as I continue to go through Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) new financial reform proposal (.pdf) is how he intends to resolve too big to fail firms. As with most other sub-proposals I’ve discussed thus far, this one largely resembles what’s found in the House bill. The big differences have to do with the creation of a “Orderly Liquidation Authority Panel” of bankruptcy judges to bless the resolution and the size of the fund to pay for it.

Both proposals call for firms to create resolution plans. In each proposal, the Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Chairman, relevant regulator or the firm itself requests resolution. The firm’s failure must pose a systemic risk to the U.S. economy in order to utilize this process instead of the bankruptcy code. The Federal Reserve Board and the relevant regulator’s board or commission vote on whether or not to proceed. A two-thirds vote is required. All of this is essentially identical for both Dodd’s and the House’s versions.

Orderly Liquidation Authority Panel

Next, the House version turns the process over to the FDIC, who completes the resolution process. Dodd’s proposal, however, takes a quick detour. He wishes to establish a panel of three bankruptcy judges who must first approve. If they agree that the firm in question is, indeed, in default or in danger of default, then the FDIC takes over.

This is an interesting deviation, and I suspect that Senate Republicans may have had a hand in this provision, based on reports during the compromise process. I’m a little mixed on whether it’s a good idea or not. I don’t know that it would hurt much — the judges must decide within 24-hours, so it would still be pretty quick. But then, a lot can happen in the world of finance in a day’s time.

John Berlau at Big Government:

For more than 150 years, state law has governed the director nomination and election process for corporations and their shareholders. In states such as Delaware and Nevada, where many companies are incorporated, any shareholder can nominate a candidate for the board, but that candidate has to pay for the campaign out of his or her own pocket. Under Dodd’s bill, the federal government would force the companies and other shareholders to subsidize the campaigns of dissident shareholders and include their candidates in a company’s own proxy materials.

But as I have written in BigGovernment.com, subsidizing certain shareholders to let them run director candidates on the cheap opens the floodgates to special interest agendas that hurt the bottom line for ordinary shareholders. “Groups from unions to animal rights groups could run their own candidate for corporate directors and promote their special interest agendas at the company’s (and ultimately other shareholders) expense,” I wrote.

And leaders of 17 groups representing a broad spectrum of the center-right coalition — from my Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Tax Reform to the Christian Coalition of America – recently sent a letter to members of the Senate Banking Committee pointing out that with proxy access: “Everything on the anti-market political wish list from cap-and-trade carbon restrictions, to animal rights activism, to interfering with defense contractors to advance foreign policy objectives would be possible. These initiatives, whatever their merits, belong in the political arena, not in corporate boardrooms where the focus should be on maximizing shareholder value.”

The bill also takes the unwise step of coercing companies into cookie-cutter corporate governance procedures such as separating the chairman and CEO. Some corporate governance activists have flagged this as a bad practice, but there is no empirical evidence that it harms shareholder returns. In fact, shareholders of Google and Berkshire Hathaway seem quite pleased with their CEOs – Eric Schimidt and Warren Buffett, respectively (both of whom supported Obama) –  also serving as chairmen, and would be quite angry if the government were to penalize this practice that had been so effective for these companies’ growth and profitability.

In the meantime, as I have noted in the New York Daily News, Citigroup’s having a separate chairman and CEO throughout most of the last decade did nothing to prevent that firm’s financial implosion that resulted in taxpayer bailouts. Different governance structures may work better for different firms, as an entrepreneurial startup may opt for a close-knit board and a more established company may want to separate these positions. Regardless, shareholders are perfectly capable of deciding on things like whether the chairman and CEO should be separate, and that these matters shouldn’t be dictated to them by the government

Finally, the one-size fits all corporate governance procedures would greatly reduce the competitiveness of Delaware and Nevada in attracting firms from all over the world incorporating their because of the variety of corporate structures the states allow that work both for entrepreneurs and investors.

Paul Krugman:

OK, I’m still evaluating the Dodd proposal for financial reform. But here’s my puzzle: the bill, as I understand it, calls for an independent Consumer Protection Agency, with a director directly appointed by the president, but one that is “housed” at the Fed.

What, exactly, does that mean? Physical location is presumably not the issue; I don’t know if all Fed staffers are currently in the main complex, but there have certainly been times when some departments spilled over into other locations. (Back in 1977, when I was an intern at the International Finance Section, we were located in the Watergate!)

Does it mean that the staff will all be long-term Fed employees? Then that would, to at least some degree, compromise the agency’s independence. Or is it purely a cosmetic issue? If so, who exactly is being diverted?

I’m not prejudging this — there’s a lot to look at. But I’m puzzled.

Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator:

That is, it’s written up to include loopholes to allow hedge funds to continue whatever risky or abusive practices they’ve engaged in previously. The key loophole is that there is no real common definition of a hedge fund. The only concrete distinguishing feature of a hedge fund is that it has under 100 owners. Usually a hedge fund entails some combination of a long/short strategy and leverage, but not necessarily. There is no bright line dividing what are referred to as hedge funds, private equity funds, and venture capital funds — they are legally similar firms distinguished mostly by different business models . Yet Dodd would attempt to “close loopholes” on hedge funds without affecting private equity or venture capital firms. How? From the text (pages 377-378, pdf):

Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall issue final rules to define the term ‘venture capital fund’ for purposes of this subsection….   Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall issue final rules… to define the term ‘private equity fund’ for purposes of this subsection.’

In other words, the Democrats would pass the bill, satisfying the left-wing’s resentment of Wall Street fat cats, and then give hedge fund managers six months either to lobby for very wide definitions of venture capital and private equity or to make whatever small organizational changes are necessary to get away with calling their firms venture capital or private equity instead of hedge funds.

Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect:

So what happened to the much-lauded Volcker rule, which would limit the size and scope of bank activities, in Sen. Chris Dodd’s latest financial reform bill? It’s a bit complicated, but essentially the rule is gone.Regular readers will recall that the key distinction between the Volcker rule, as proposed by the Obama administration, and similar provisions in the House bill, was that the Volcker rule was mandatory: It required regulators to ban proprietary trading, hedge and private-equity funds from commercial banks, and would offer specific limits on the size of a bank’s liabilities. The House bill, on the other hand, would simply give regulators the authority to limit a firm’s size and scope however they pleased if they determined it was necessary. While the House authorities were more powerful, they are also less likely to be implemented; the Volcker rule provides definitive, hard and fast lines.

Well, no more. The new method is that the Systemic Risk Council will have six months to study how and why to implement the size and scope rules, and then recommend how to write those rules, or even if they should be written at all. Basically, it’s regulatory discretion with a time limit: The council has six months to do the research and nine months after that to write rules that could be either totally cosmetic or, less likely in my view, actually effective.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

In a CNN/Opinion Research Poll conducted in January (results at PollingReport.com), Wall Street reforms ranked behind the economy, unemployment, terrorism, the deficit, health care, education, Afghanistan, Iraq, and taxes–in that order–as an issue that President Obama and Congress must deal with. 64% said it was important; 36% said it wasn’t.

Polling has indicated that many Americans think the federal government helped Wall Street too much in its response to the financial crisis, and Obama has said, many times, that no one wanted to undertake the financial bailout initiated under the Bush administration and then stewarded by the Obama administration–that helping the banks was a distasteful necessity.

It would stand to reason that financial reform is the counterweight, politically, to the unpopular bailout; that if the public is angry that banks got saved, an ensuing regulatory crackdown is the political move that would placate that sense of unjustness–the price the banks must pay to the taxpayer, so to speak.

But if it isn’t high in voters’ minds right now, will it have much political effect?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum collecting reactions. His collection:

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist

Mike Konczal at Rortybomb

UPDATE #2: Paul Krugman

UPDATE #3: Krugman in NYT

More Konczal at Ezra Klein’s place

Jonathan Chait at TNR

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Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending, The Crisis

In Denmark, A Smorgasbord Is Called A Kolde Bord. With That In Mind, Here’s A Kolde Bord Of Posts Related To Climate Change And Kobenhavn.

To open, a case of dueling op-eds:

Tom Friedman in the New York Times:

In 2006, Ron Suskind published “The One Percent Doctrine,” a book about the U.S. war on terrorists after 9/11. The title was drawn from an assessment by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who, in the face of concerns that a Pakistani scientist was offering nuclear-weapons expertise to Al Qaeda, reportedly declared: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Cheney contended that the U.S. had to confront a very new type of threat: a “low-probability, high-impact event.”

Soon after Suskind’s book came out, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who then was at the University of Chicago, pointed out that Mr. Cheney seemed to be endorsing the same “precautionary principle” that also animated environmentalists. Sunstein wrote in his blog: “According to the Precautionary Principle, it is appropriate to respond aggressively to low-probability, high-impact events — such as climate change. Indeed, another vice president — Al Gore — can be understood to be arguing for a precautionary principle for climate change (though he believes that the chance of disaster is well over 1 percent).”

[…]

This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.

What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.

When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.

If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent.

Sarah Palin in the Washington Post:

With the publication of damaging e-mails from a climate research center in Britain, the radical environmental movement appears to face a tipping point. The revelation of appalling actions by so-called climate change experts allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue.

“Climate-gate,” as the e-mails and other documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have become known, exposes a highly politicized scientific circle — the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference. The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won’t change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse.

The e-mails reveal that leading climate “experts” deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to “hide the decline” in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What’s more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate.

This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I’ve always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics. As governor of Alaska, I took a stand against politicized science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population had more than doubled. I got clobbered for my actions by radical environmentalists nationwide, but I stood by my view that adding a healthy species to the endangered list under the guise of “climate change impacts” was an abuse of the Endangered Species Act. This would have irreversibly hurt both Alaska’s economy and the nation’s, while also reducing opportunities for responsible development.

Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits — not pursuing a political agenda. That’s not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate — far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to create a subcabinet to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska’s communities and infrastructure.

But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs. And those costs are real. Unlike the proposals China and India offered prior to Copenhagen — which actually allow them to increase their emissions — President Obama’s proposal calls for serious cuts in our own long-term carbon emissions. Meeting such targets would require Congress to pass its cap-and-tax plans, which will result in job losses and higher energy costs (as Obama admitted during the campaign). That’s not exactly what most Americans are hoping for these days. And as public opposition continues to stall Congress’s cap-and-tax legislation, Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats plan to regulate carbon emissions themselves, doing an end run around the American people.

In fact, we’re not the only nation whose people are questioning climate change schemes. In the European Union, energy prices skyrocketed after it began a cap-and-tax program. Meanwhile, Australia’s Parliament recently defeated a cap-and-tax bill. Surely other nations will follow suit, particularly as the climate e-mail scandal continues to unfold.

David Boaz at Cato:

Bannered across the top of the Post’s op-ed page today is a piece titled “Copenhagen’s political science,” titularly authored by Sarah Palin. I’m delighted to see the Post publishing an op-ed critical of the questionable science behind the Copenhagen conference and the demands for massive regulations to deal with “climate change.”

But Sarah Palin? Of all the experts and political leaders a great newspaper might call on for a critical look at the science behind global warming, Sarah Palin?

Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard:

Sarah Palin’s Washington Post op-ed today, calling on President Obama to boycott the Copenhagen climate summit, has elicited a predictable response from the left. Foreign Policy‘s Annie Lowrey blogs: “I wouldn’t recommend reading it.” Joe Klein seems worried that “The Washington Post devotes valuable op-ed space today to Sarah Palin.” Noted climate expert Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic has penned a long “Fisking” of the op-ed, in which he concludes, “It is virtually certain that humans are causing a significant amount of climate (not weather!) change over time.” Gotta love the “virtually” part.

Like Charles Krauthammer, I’m a global-warming agnostic. Like Freeman Dyson, I happen to think that the trade-offs involved in fighting climate change are too burdensome to support at the moment. And the piece to read on the East Anglia scandal is Steven F. Hayward’s cover piece in the new STANDARD.

Joel Achenbach:

Here’s Palin in her Post Op-Ed:

With the publication of damaging e-mails from a climate research center in Britain, the radical environmental movement appears to face a tipping point. The revelation of appalling actions by so-called climate change experts allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue.

You understand, these aren’t climate change experts she’s talking about, these are “so-called” climate change experts. Never mind that studying climate change is what they’ve done their entire professional lives. They’re a bunch of Salahis! Full-time posers.

Just because these scientists have been under constant assault for years and years because of their conclusions does not give them the right to be so dyspeptic in their e-mails. Just because they’ve reached conclusions that call into question the sanity of burning up all the fossil fuels on the planet and thus put them in the cross-hairs of trillion-dollar industries does not forgive their clubbiness and sense of embattlement.

The fact that these scientists have let politics creep into their scientific work is what’s so appalling, because surely the politicization of science is the proper responsibility of politicians.

Steve Benen:

There’s no reason for the Post to publish baseless garbage like this. None. Ghost-written propaganda on Facebook is inconsequential, but reality-challenged, 800-word op-eds in the Washington Post are far more disconcerting.

The problem isn’t just that the paper published another right-wing piece from someone who’s obviously clueless — note, the WaPo published a similarly foolish Palin op-ed in July — it’s that the piece is factually wrong. The paper has a responsibility to publish content that informs its readers. Obviously, with “opinion” pieces, the standards are slightly different, but that does not give the editors license to run claims that are patently, demonstrably false.

Marc Ambinder had a very strong post, reviewing Palin’s claims, point by point, which is worth checking out. But also don’t miss Media Matters’ piece, which notes that the Palin op-ed even contradicts the Washington Post‘s own reporting.

Now, back to Copenhagen:

David Corn at Mother Jones:

Who needs a binding global climate treaty?

That was essentially the message delivered by Jonathan Pershing, the Obama administration’s deputy special climate change envoy, when he held an off-the-record briefing for US nongovernmental outfits at the Copenhagen climate summit on Tuesday. Speaking to about 200 people from various environmental groups, Pershing made the case that a non-binding political agreement—in which the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases would pledge to take various actions to reduce their own emissions—would be more effective than a treaty establishing firm and legally enforceable commitments, according to several people who attended the session. Pershing’s comments mark a significant effort on the part of the United States to reshape the climate negotiations underway in Copenhagen. Though the Copenhagen session was initially conceived as the gathering where a hard-and-fast treaty would be crafted, there is now no chance of that happening. Pershing was trying to turn the absence of such an accord into a plus.

Pershing, a well-known scientist who has worked on climate change for decades, maintained that a binding treaty—which would mandate emission reductions and contain penalties for noncompliance—could easily stall. It would have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate (which would require 67 votes) and winning Senate approval would be no easy feat for the Obama administration. (The Senate does not yet have the 60 votes need to block a filibuster of pending climate change legislation.) Other nations also would have to approve it. He pointed out that the 1997 Kyoto global warming accord, which the US Senate never approved, took five years to be ratified around the world. If Copenhagen did produce a binding treaty, Pershing said, it would be years before it could go into effect. In the meantime, emissions would continue to flow. A political deal, he contended, could kick in immediately, with countries taking individual steps to meet self-established goals for reductions and working collectively to fund clean-energy programs in less-developed nations—and could lead to a binding treaty. World leaders have said they expect a non-treaty agreement would include immediate steps and set longer-term goals.

“This is front-page news,” said one American environmentalist who attended the briefing. “The administration is going for a major reframing.” In what seemed to be an attempt to position the United States to be able to declare success, Pershing was saying that the consolation prize could actually be better than the top prize.

Kevin Drum:

It’s true, after all, that the prospect of getting 67 votes to approve a climate treaty in the Senate is piss poor.1 So perhaps this really is our only realistic alternative.  Still, it’s the Obama administration’s biggest climbdown yet, and one that suggests that Obama believes Waxman-Markey is the best we’re going to be able to do in the near term.  Unfortunately, he’s probably right.

1Though there’s always the possibility of ratifying it as an executive agreement with only 60 votes, as NAFTA and other international agreements have been.

Ken Adelman at Foreign Policy:

Diplomacy in all circumstances is tough. It gets tougher when expectations are dampened from the start. Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted that slim pickings will come out of Copenhagen, besides some prep work and a call for another grand multinational climate conference to take place next year.

The diplomat-theorist George F. Kennan once quipped that the problem of reaching a good outcome equals the square of the number of participants. With 192 countries participating at Copenhagen, squaring that yields a mighty big number. At large multinational conferences, successful diplomacy is nigh unto impossible.

In the 1980s, we had to contend in nonproliferation negotiations with a couple dozen fewer countries, but even with fewer players the main problems remain. First, diplomats take over from the wonks. Although a marvelous group — remember, I was among them — they tend to know little of the substance. Real experts get shoved aside, or accommodated, while the “comma futzing” (that’s a euphemism) begins. So, loads of people spend loads of time negotiating over a topic on which they themselves could say little of merit.

Second, the diplomatic accord heads for the heavens. Striving to find compromise, hence consensus, language either drives the rhetoric into the netherworld — so abstract as to be virtually meaningless — or into the depths — so obtuse as to have contradictory — or zero — meanings.

Hence, such linguistic contortions arise as the classic “flexible freeze” from the 1980s (during the height of the popular “nuclear freeze” movement). The phrase was intended to express one thing (stop any increase in nuclear weapons), but actually mean another (allowing an increase in the weapons, to balance Soviet missiles aimed at Western Europe at the time). In the end, nothing was frozen, save perhaps the human mind struggling to comprehend such a notion.

Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard:

On Monday, an environmental reporter for Mother Jones magazine reported on Twitter that EPA Administration Lisa Jackson linked the EPA “endangerment” finding to the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen.

Kate Sheppard wrote:

Lisa Jackson on yesterday’s endangerment finding: “We tried to make sure we had something to talk about.”

Today, though, Jackson claims that the timing of the announcement was a happy coincidence.

According to Politico, Jackson, speaking in Copenhagen, said: “The endangerment finding and the work here are separate. Certainly, I was glad we were able to complete the finding and make that statement just before, but that wasn’t the impetus for our work.”

There are more artful ways of making such contradictory statements.

Ed Morrissey:

Liberals used to screech about the Bush administration’s belief in the “unitary executive,” a concept they misunderstood from the start.  However, this power grab more closely resembles the point of their hysteria than anything Bush proposed.  Obama and Jackson have essentially bypassed Congress altogether and given the EPA the power to interfere in just about every transaction that takes place in the US.  That creates a juggernaut of an executive, unbounded in any practical way by Congress from using and abusing power.

In fact, the EPA’s timing makes that clear.  It intends to allow Obama to argue that he can implement any Copenhagen agreement by diktat, rather than wait to see if 60 Democrats in the Senate ratify a treaty in the proper manner and then legislate to enforce it.

John Dickerson at Slate talks to Al Gore:

Q: Why does the Copenhagen meeting matter?

A: We face the gravest threat that civilization has ever confronted. It’s global in nature and requires a global solution. Increased CO2 emissions anywhere, whether from China or the United States or from one of the countries that is burning its forests like Brazil or Indonesia—from wherever the emissions come, they have the same effect: They trap much more heat from the sun, melt the ice, raise the sea level, cause stronger storms, floods, drought, bigger fires, generate millions of climate refugees, destabilize political systems, threaten the growing of food crops and cause a number of other catastrophic consequences which, taken together, threaten the basis for the future of human civilization on the Earth. Because these consequences are distributed globally, the problem masquerades as a distraction. Because the length of time between causes and consequences stretches out longer than we’re used to dealing with, it gives us the illusion that we have the luxury of time. Neither of those things is true. The crisis is a concrete threatening reality today. It stands to get catastrophically worse unless we take action before the accumulation [of] this global warming pollution reaches such toxic levels that the problem becomes bigger than we can solve.

We’re already at the point where it’s stretching our capacity to reach an agreement that will solve the problem, but it’s still within our capacity. There are abundant reasons for hope that we will act in time. If you look at the difference between today and 10 years ago, there is a global consensus. More than 70 leaders from nations are gathering at Copenhagen. Many nations have taken action and the world is waiting for the natural leader, the United States to move on this.

UPDATE: Anne Applebaum in WaPo

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum on where it is now

Bradford Plumer at TNR

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Filed under Environment, International Institutions