Thursday, July 30, 2009

4 Beers

Pool report from today's Rose Garden event (referred to yesterday in the briefing room variously as the "Beer Blast", "Beer Fest" by colleagues, to be gently chided by Gibbs that the event was a more serious one than that) notes that, unexpectedly, Biden was also present.

The thinking here, I believe was 1) to balance a focus of 2 men, actively engaged, and one President--e.g. to provide balance, and round off the numbers should the two become overactively engaged; and 2) To let Joe's loquaciousness take some of the steam and punch out of any arguments that could arise, draining it off with words, words, words, and deflecting some of the focus off of Obama, a key role for Biden since the start.

Pool report notes that POTUS drank Bud Light--popular and unobjectionable; VPOTUS: Bucklers--need we say, a "near beer"; Gates: Sam Adams, a quality home brew, and Crowley: Blue Moon, which we might note is meant to appear different and a rarer brew, but is actually owned by Coors--although they don't like to advertise this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birth Pangs

National Review has an almost sane editorial today that, although enshrouded in a multitude of caveats meant to dispel any possible momentary belief that they may be approving of any of his actions, makes clear that they recognize that he, indeed, was "Born in the U.S.A."

The unsigned op-ed, which still manages to impute questions about his biography, letting the faithful know that even in that realm, their not giving away all of their cards, manages to get one good line in among the protective bombast (which even attempts to normalize the Birthers through citation of questions about Chester Alan Arthur's putative Canadian birth):

The director of Hawaii’s health department and the registrar of records each has personally verified that the information on Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s records, the so-called vault copy. Given that fact, we are loath even to engage the fanciful notion that President Obama was born elsewhere, contrary to the information on his birth certificate, but we note for the record that his mother was a native of Kansas, whose residents have been citizens of the United States for a very long time, and whose children are citizens of the United States as well

In any event, the Review's action is only politically wise, as the patent iron clad conspiracy theories of the Birthers prevents their only slightly less distorted usual positions from being visible. This is a case of a typical technique (factual distortion that incites and draws the masses) done both too poorly--too easily seen as absurd even by the analytically unskilled--and too well, drawing attention away from the mischaracterizations and inaccuracies that can be more easily passed over on the public.

There's health care to distort and mischaracterize--let's not muddy the waters with the more obvious fallacies of the Birthers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran: Bluster and Thought

Welcome back.

The outrageous, narrow, contradictory, self-serving position of those on the Right--such as Robert Kagan, who makes at least some attempt at casting a veil of intellectual coherence, or the bloviating Mike Pence, who only goes as far as enjoying the familiar sound of his words--is another example of the continuing simple-minded viciousness that lies at the heart of a large sector of those who identify as conservative.

The logic here is simple. They are itching for a fight. They want to draw Obama into "confronting" Iran, prodded by rhetoric that really comes down to no more than opportunism hiding behind the usual protective shield of patriotic boilerplate, so that Iran will then accuse the U.S. of meddling.

Obama can then be accused of "failing" in foreign policy--because of the conflict that they conveniently and typically encouraged. And Iran can be placed in the role which they find more comfortable and exciting, and which they are more accustomed to--the place that they can and should fight.

That this permits the Iranian government to have a critical distraction from the battle for freedom, focusing attention on an external enemy--that is, that it will serve to undercut the "freedom" that they declare is their purpose--is not mentioned.

Sad, hypocritical, tiresome...ah! A return to the feelings of the Bush Administration!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Where Rubber Meets Road

Today I received an email, as did many of you, from the Obama team about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

It differs from the many emails sent before in that, for the first time, post-Inauguration, they are asking for action. This is the turn--the first test of whether the enthusiasm for sacrifice shown during the campaign and post-election period will actually translate into the actions of a populace--one willing to act on what they enthusiastically endorsed, one that is committed beyond fulfilling emotions, brief, self-gratifying opinion-making and the next entertainment--the actions, as Obama has briefly tested the phrase--of a movement.

This is where we see if the pleasure people took in voicing opinions, and experiencing change translates into active behavior in the interest of the nation. Work--where the rubber hits the road.

I have to say that, from a psychological point of view, when we consider that this is the first time that American citizens will be asked to be so broadly mobilized for such an event, outside of a campaign's carrying enthusiasm, in more than a generation--and given their preparation for action and sacrifice by the last Administration--the email is short on agenda.

Without it, and with very little practice or preparation for doing this in the past, the very real risk is that most Americans won't know quite what to do--and in that moment, in such a situation, the best predictor of behavior is past behavior--e.g., watch TV, someone else will do it, not sure how to act, hope it works out, maybe I'll do something later--and a critical defining opportunity will be lost, while another one occurs: that email that asks one to do something that sounds nice, something that they never do, instead of the email that enables them to continue to carry forward their enthusiasm and commitment with clear action.

People know how to act during a campaign--cheer and enthuse and enjoy the contest and battle of opinions, glorying in their superior knowledge. They don't know how to galvanize these thoughts and emotions for a bill--especially in a house meeting, something that will feel new and undefined itself.

Nevertheless--I'm in. I worked for this and I want it to work. So I'll provide the agenda:


Talked the talk? Walk the walk. Come to the Georgetown House Meeting on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


1) INTRODUCTION: Understanding the Act and its key initiatives.

2) CONGRESS: identifying and contacting key members of Senate; developing key arguments for vulnerable members

3) MEDIA: Broadcast (Radio/TV) and Cable: Identification and development of local and national stories/narratives describing how the Act will support families and communities
New Media: Development of Twitter and Facebook campaigns (Facebook app?), short-form video to support the Act

4) SUMMARY AND ACTION PLAN: Detail team and individual actions for the above and point persons for completion and follow-up

Where: Dr. Alan J. Lipman
1010 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
The Waterfront Center, Georgetown
Suite 320
Washington, D.C.

When: Saturday, February 7th, 2-4 pm.

The Waterfront Center is located along the Potomac in Georgetown, on the corner of K Street and Wisconsin. There is metered parking directly in front of the new Georgetown Park, as well as a parking garage.

Call to RSVP: 202-423-6153

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Change and The EPA

From Reuters, via Yahoo News:

President Barack Obama began reversing the climate policies of the Bush administration on Monday, clearing the way for new rules to force auto makers to produce more fuel-efficient and less polluting cars.

The president told the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider immediately a request by California to impose its own strict limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for contributing to global warming.

The Democratic Obama took over last Tuesday from former President George W. Bush, whose Republican administration had denied the request, prompting California and other states to sue.

"The federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Obama said at the White House, taking a stab at his predecessor's policies.

I recall watching the torturous testimony of former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on this issue, as he went against the recommendations of his own agency staff.

Last Vestiges...

From Talk Left:

The Supreme Court issued opinions and orders today. Among them:

* Ruled that a man wrongly convicted and sent to prison for 24 years cannot sue the former Los Angeles district attorney and his chief deputy for violating his civil rights. The court said unanimously that decisions of supervising prosecutors, like the actions of prosecutors at trial, are shielded from civil lawsuits.

* Ruled that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

Trying to get as many in as possible before Obama will be able to shift the balance?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hello Robert

By which we provide friendly advice to Robert Gibbs, who is very capable and well-experienced from the campaign--but who could not enjoy the benefit of a little friendly advice?

Larry Summers is certainly distinguished in many ways. And, in the swirl of internalizing broad swaths of information, managing egos, and getting one's wheels on the ground that is the growing job of Press Secretary, it certainly makes sense to protect that ego--particularly when someone else will (likely) be the Treasury Secretary.

But is it really necessary to refer to him as "Dr. Summers"--and Peter Orszag as "Peter"? Doesn't that establish/signify a bit of a listing coming together of the Cabinet--and suggest initial and future fractures?

A small point perhaps, but one that people notice. Best to keep the pragmatic, no- nonsense tone for all--and show the public that all of you have more important things in mind than ruffled feathers.

Kristol's "Work"

In November, Mr. Kristol told, “I’m ambivalent” about the prospect of continuing to write the Times column. “It’s been fun,” he said, adding, “It’s a lot of work.”
~The New York Times, in reporting the "mutual" decision to end his column, January 26, 2009.


It's a lot of work.

Thinking about where we should go to war, dreamily touting Vice Presidential candidates.

It's work, I tell you.

And when you work, you're prone to mistakes.

Just look at the New York Times--they have to run corrections, why, most every day.

Fortunately, policy pieces and recommendations aren't followed by corrections.

That makes them--a lot less work.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tom Friedman and "Jaws"

If Tom Friedman uses that "we need a bigger boat" metaphor from "Jaws" one more time, I will scream.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Celebration is Over–The Work Begins

A talent at campaigning, as is well known, does not a priori equate to a talent for governance. The celebrations–full, moving–are over. Today the work begins.

Obama has indicated a willingness and intention to hit the ground running. He has prepared for this well. The work of preparation has been detailed, based in realities rather than fantasies and vindictive ideology. There is an intention to hew to the needs of this nation, and to use factual indicators rather than long-held spiteful or self-deceptive illusions as a basis.

Now the work of translating those plans, and imposing them upon a moving world begins. Geithner sits now, taking the questions of the mildly impaired Jim Bunning, with the knowledge but also the clear uncertainties before him.

Each cabinet member, each agency head, awoke with the awesome, largely unknown task of the work before them, uniting members and through them the public before plans that, gratefully, have begun to take substantial form before today, but which cannot be fully formed, and which then must be brought to an expectatant public.

Yesterday, during Obama’s inaugural speech, the largest response–although this may have been an artifact of media placement, was to Obama’s line about a father who 60 years ago would have been turned away from a lunch counter. This is both a promising and an auspicious sign for the work ahead.

After we take pride in the first African American president–there is work to do. The recognition of the one does not immediately translate into the commitment and dedication required of the other. This is a difficult turn for the public to make, fed as it has been on easy entertainments and self-satisfactions, which they are all to ready to reach for and then walk away, all to unfamiliar with the task of sacrifice and volunteerism, day upon day, that Obama called for. He tried to make that turn–staying, as he does, within limits. We will see if a nation, gilded with the fragile protections of comforting distractions, will step up in the greyness of each day, to make this turn with him–and whether the Administration, in the face of recalcitrance and need for learning how to shoulder a burden, will stand to the task of consistent inspiration.

We begin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

7th and D Streets, N.W., 8 A.M.

Crowd awaits at 7th and D to be let into Mall area:

In the building above, police watch:

6. A.M., January 20th

At about 6 A.M., I could hear cheering directly outside of my window. It seemed much too close to be coming from the Capitol, and was clearly a very large crowd--hundreds, perhaps a thousand or more. It was too early for a pre-Inaugural concert, too late for a late-night party, and too large.

I went to the window. Directly below was a gigantic throng, wrapped in overcoats, scarves. They were standing before a gate, that had been set up to channel traffic to the Mall. They were shouting, cheering with excitement, with the desire to get there, to be there. People ran down the street like streaking flares, to join and become part of the crowd. One girl dropped her scarf, and in her excitement, just ran on, then came back to grab it.

The joy was palpable, the excitement of being part of it and wanting to be part of it, of milling before a nation that they felt they could finally belong to. They wanted to run towards it and be free.

I've never seen this kind of enthusiasm about politics in 10 years in this city.
Obama is carrying the enthusiasm of a world today. It is not clear what it will become. But the excitement, the joy in a new and freer world, is extraordinary.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Inauguration Speech

My Fellow Citizens:

We gather here today as citizens of a great nation. We have arrived from all parts of this country. We arrive awakened to both the necessities and possibilities of freedom. We arrive inspired by the hopes and aware of the challenges of our shared future. And we arrive with a solemn task--yet one that can bring us the greatest joy; the responsibility that can bring the greatest satisfaction to ourselves, our families and communities. To join together with strength of hope, knowledge, determination and unity to rebuild this nation.

In recent years, as we have been buffeted by attack and crisis, many have been imbued with fear, distracted by division and polarization, made distant from the values that in their hearts they knew lay at the core of this nation.

Yet from this darkness, the force of life that we have seen emerge, time and time again, from this great nation has arisen, moving us together, towards the unity and freedom that, from the core of this land, provides a beacon of strength and hope that can light and inspire the world. From the cities and towns across this country, in the face of division and disunion, in the face of foreboding and fear, we found together our unique American capacity for hope--and for a willingness to rise above that fear as one to make that hope a reality.

One nation that is determined to demonstrate its strength by realizing its values. One nation that can face its challenges as reality, not illusion, by fully recognizing and employing the talents, desires, strengths and aspirations of all of its people. One nation that has refused to continue to live under shackles of fear and darkness. And one nation that will join together, black and white, young and old, rich and poor to create, as was said so long ago, a more perfect Union--one strengthened by our knowledge that as each of us is equal, each of us must contribute--and that will face the challenges ahead with the knowledge that the person beside them shares that responsibility and commitment.

The days ahead will be hard. None of us can or ever should claim perfect knowledge. But what we can face and shoulder together, we can and will achieve together--with the joy of contributing to our lives, the lives of our family and community, and to the future of this nation.

Our time, as always, is short. And, with this knowledge, we begin. Within each of us is the recognition that we can share this burden--if we know that each of us is dedicated to the tasks ahead. There will be doubts. Crisis will breed the narrow temptations of cynicism and division. We know: These are but small and momentary distractions from the reality of what each of us, each day can create and contribute. With our hands, with our hearts, with out persistence in the face of division and distraction, with our determination to forge ahead through both the familiar and unknown barriers that lay before us, we will bind together the strength of this nation. With the strength of a citizenry bound by a true patriotic unity--beyond race, beyond Party, together--with the strength and dedication of the fullness of our talents, and freed and full measure of our devotion, we will meet those challenges, and fulfill our promise beyond measure.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


We should all be very proud of what we have done.