Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dispatches from the Bush Posse#1

When Bush boarded his helicopter last week and flew out of Washington, over the next several days I sensed in the world of progressive politics a mustering of  lawmakers, pundits, bloggers, and others who, in effect, mounted their steeds and, in a cloud of dust, went stampeding after him, guns blazing!  I share Obama's stated ambivalence on some of this -- but I am very interested in following the progress of this group I playfully refer to as the "Bush Posse."  Knowing that some readers share my ambivalence, I'm pulling these stories out of the usual News Nuggets and giving them a separate category of posting.  To kick it off, check these missives from today.

Putting Torture Behind Us (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"As George Santayana, the eminent Harvard philosopher wrote: “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” Rather than lose forever the chance to grow from our missteps, here’s a two-step proposal for confronting the past without distracting from the work on the economic crisis."

Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo (John Yoo) from the Wall Street Journal
From one of the MAIN targets of the posse, no vested interest expressed here!

News Nuggets 85

Next Year's Model: Tennessee through Vermont from Daily Kos
"As part of an ongoing series of preliminary analyses of the 2009 and 2010 US Senate elections, we turn this week to Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont."

The Big Fix from the New York Times Sunday Magazine
"The main lesson from other crises of the past century is that governments tend to err on the side of too much caution — of taking the punch bowl away before the party has truly started up again."

Democrats: The Party of Business (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"Obama shows his skill at stimulus politics, addressing an admiring crowd of CEOs while the GOP postures and makes itself increasingly irrelevant."

For GOP, a Case of Misshapen Identity from the Washington Post
"Into this new world order, ... , that a steadfastly loyal group of Republicans descend this week, skidding into an iced-over landscape and holing up at the Capital Hilton beginning yesterday for a four-day winter meeting of the Republican National Committee."

"It’s the Obama Touch — the squeeze on the biceps, the pat on the shoulder or the tap on the back that signals the displeasure of the commander in chief. Let others turn on the deep freeze or lose their cool when they’re annoyed. Obama prefers to deal with problems by taking them in hand — literally."

"Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear."

On a Downtown Train (Howard Fineman) from Newsweek
"As glorious as it was to elect an African-American to the presidency, the political breakthrough with more street-level significance is that we've just sworn in our first modern Metropolitan President. Barack Obama has the right background to handle this economic crisis because the pain is concentrated in cities—in industries such as banking and finance—and it's where the revival, led by new energy efficiencies, might be most easily generated."

Where Did All the Republicans Go? from the New York Times
"The results, ... , show that only five states have a statistically significant majority of voters who identify themselves as Republicans."

"In both developed and developing autocracies, the election of a minority candidate stands as a powerful example of the American democratic model.  But what concrete steps will Mr. Obama take to promote democracy?"

Obama's Fresh Start: Substance Over Showbiz (Joe Klein) from Time Magazine
"But the groups Obama lavished his attention on were an unlikely bunch: diplomats, Muslims and Republicans. The gestures involved a geographic humility that was a clean break from the presidential past."

US Leadership, Barack Obama Style from La Jornada [of Mexico in English]
"Obama offered urgently needed realism and common sense after the bellicose and genocidal paranoia with which neoconservatives had undermined Washington’s foreign policy. … in his first day on the job, the new president provided a sign of his leadership, and that data is reassuring."

A very funny (and TRUE) list!
"Obama has done everything reasonable, and more, to move toward non-P-partisanship.  The overwhelming impression he's leaving for voters is one of reasonableness and accommodation."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

News Nuggets 84

ANOTHER image for the "What the @#$%" file!  It's called "snake therapy".  Having your little buddies crawl all over you is supposed to be a uniquely relaxing type of therapy.  Strikes me as a more useful test for mental illness -- but TO EACH HIS OWN!


CHECK OUT Obama's interview with Al-Arabia Television!

"President Barack Obama presented a humble and conciliatory face of America to the Islamic world Monday in the first formal interview since he assumed office, stressing his own Muslim ties and hopes for a Palestinian state, and avoiding a belligerent tone — even when asked if America could "live with" an Iranian nuclear weapon."


Also CHECK OUT this amazing photo of the inauguration -- and then start zooming in!

The Same Old Song (Bob Herbert) from the New York Times

"What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?"

The New Black Manhood from The Root

"The daily presence of President Barack Obama is setting a new standard for black manhood. For black boys, he is providing a new script from which they can borrow to rewrite their futures."

America's Best PR: the Vitality of its Democracy from Le Mond [of France in English]

"Retribution for the country's racist past, testimony to its inimitable capacity to renew itself, Obama’s assumption of the presidency is a proof of the vitality of American democracy. … This election will change the image of America abroad even more than the image Americans have of themselves."

The President is Presidential, Not Your Average Guy from the Boston Globe

"Obama's stately rectitude was in contrast to almost every other member of the nation's political aristocracy on the dais that day, and a reminder of why people on the campaign trail found him to be both very presidential and often quite aloof."

For Thousands of Americans, There was Only One Place to Be from the Christian Science Monitor

"For some, the day marked a lifetime of protest and hope, a celebration of values they hold dear. For the youngest among them, it was a chance to see something great."

No More Mr. Nice Guy from the Guardian [of London]

"George Mitchell's appointment as Middle East envoy should put Israel on notice that Obama expects to get results."

The One Person Who Hasn't Bought into All the 'Messiah' Hype is Obama Himself from the Daily Mail [of London]

"What is apparent is that the one person who hasn’t bought into the ‘Messiah’ schtick is Obama himself. He’s not going to promise what he can’t deliver. "

Why Barack Obama is His Father's Son from the Daily Nation [of Kenya]

A fascinating perspective showcasing cultural differences and a certain kind of global identity politics that seem to swirl around Obama.

"A man is the son of his father, so we say out here in Africa. But how much of Barack Obama Senior is in his son, the Democratic nominee for US president? Or just how Kenyan is Sen Obama?"

The Day the World Thought Would Never Happen from the Daily Mail [of London]

"There's a fascinating picture here of the office arrangement in the West Wing now that Obama has moved in.

"History was being made up there on the hill and the atmosphere was so electrifying that it took your breath away."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

News Nuggets 83

Folks in Nairobi, Kenya watching the inauguration.

Erasing Bush (Michael HIrsh) from Newsweek
"After Inauguration Day, departed presidents usually become footnotes pretty quickly. What we are witnessing now is far more dramatic. It's closer to a liquidation, or a cauterization. George W. Bush is being turned into an unperson, like a character out of Orwell."

More Than Charisma (Bob Herbert) from the New York Times
"We’ve been watching that something this week, and it’s called leadership. Mr. Obama has been feeding the almost desperate hunger in this country for mature leadership, for someone who is not reckless and clownish, shortsighted and self-absorbed."

The Story Behind the Clothes-in-the-Bag Story (David Frum) from New

This is one of the first conservative commentators I've seen who is even getting close to diagnosing some of the numerous ills of the GOP.

"Our party has been crippled by an all-pervading assumption at the center that if you just don’t talk about bad news, it will go away: whether it’s an extravagant wardrobe decision - or a bad job creation record. Our leaders cocoon themselves, refuse to hear unwelcome news, and reward yesmanship."

Teacher on a World Stage (Jim Hoagland) from the Washington Post

"The world's leadership club has welcomed President Barack Obama with a mixture of hope and wariness. It's been a while since members of this club have had to deal with an American leader who may be more popular with their publics than they are."

A Presidential Spring in my Son's Step from the Washington Post

"For my son, the issue is fatherlessness. Not having a father has been an impediment to "fitting in.""

'Soirees' Across Paris Celebrate Inauguration from Liberation, [of France in English]

"In Paris, too, we celebrated the inauguration of American President Obama. Several soirees were held in all four corners of the capital, in very different styles."

One President, Two Americas (Charlie Cook) from the National Journal

"There is an America that watched with hope and excitement as Barack Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States. And there is an America that watched with dread and skepticism."

The Making of a First Lady from Chicago Magazine

"She’s confident and levelheaded, and she carries the nurturing legacy of a close-knit South Shore family, an experience she wanted to re-create in her own home. After years of resenting her husband’s political career, Michelle Obama found her voice and flashed her style on the road to the White House."

Off to a Good Start on Change America Needs from the Miami Herald Editorial Board
"Most Americans do not expect -- or want -- their president to act like Captain Picard of Star Trek, who could impose his will with a simple command -- Make it so! -- but elections do have consequences. Mr. Obama's decisions show his intent to deliver on promises made on the campaign trail. His convincing victory at the polls reflects the popular support behind these measures."

Meet the Lawyers (Ben Smith) from Politico
"President Barack Obama is staffing his Justice Department with some of his predecessor’s fiercest critics, among them lawyers who were fired by President Bush or who quit jobs working for his administration."

Obama has a Way of Steering Clear of Trouble from the Rock Hill Herald [of South Carolina]
"Barack Obama has demonstrated an uncanny aptitude for putting the lid on potential trouble and keeping it from blowing up in his face."

Obama Restores Some of the 'Freedom' to FOIA from the McClatchy News Service
"As one of his first acts, President Barack Obama issued an order reversing his predecessor's approach toward the release of government documents. Scholars, journalists, farmers and the simply curious now await the reopening of federal information taps tightened since 2001."


A correspondent from the Guardian of London shows his trip to the inauguration.  Very interesting and inspiring!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

News Nuggets 82


See Hillary's reception today at the State Department!

On Day One, Obama Sets a New Tone from the New York Times
"President Obama moved swiftly on Wednesday to impose new rules on government transparency and ethics, using his first full day in office to freeze the salaries of his senior aides, mandate new limits on lobbyists and demand that the government disclose more information."

"President Barack Obama's inauguration generated an unprecedented 35,000 stories in the world's major newspapers, television and radio broadcasts over the past day -- about 35 times more than the last presidential swearing-in -- a monitoring group said on Wednesday."

President Obama, We Are Proud of You from the Standard [of Kenya]
"A brilliant lawyer, social organiser, outstanding orator and an incredibly sensitive man, Obama dared to dream, braved America’s toughest political duel ever and emerged victorious."

The New American Feeling from Der Spiegel [in English]
"There are days in the history of a nation when it's not about reaching a major decision. Rather, it's about deeply felt emotion. Tuesday was such a day for the United States of America."

Obama Brings the Grownups Back to Washington (Margaret Carlson) from the Bloomberg News Service
"At its core, the speech was an invitation to grow up, fast. “Set aside childish things,” he lectured, as former President George W. Bush looked on. ...  The permanent teacher, of stern demeanor and withering gaze, announced that there will be homework, no grading on a curve, and a change of curriculum."

Obama Has 'Reactivated American Magnetism' from Der Spiegel [in English]
"While Europeans are enthusiastic about the new president, this may not translate into sending more troops to Afghanistan. German newspapers nevertheless hope that Obama marks the dawn of a new age."

President Obama: The World's New Reference Point from the Daily Sun [of Nigeria in English]
"The manner of Obama’s emergence as president is such that for many years to come, the world will make copious reference to it."

Hope from Libération [of France in English]
"Not a fantastic and unrealistic rupture, but one that begins to reverse the blind course we have been on, of an economy without rules and aggressive corporatism."

Barack Obama: The Hand of History from The Scotsman [of the UK]
"ONLY a man who shines with hope could deliver such a difficult message and have it received with the awed rapture that fell upon the masses in Washington DC."

Europe's Scramble for Obama from the Guardian [of London]
"EU leaders will want to ingratiate themselves with the president – and they have cause to hope his response will be favourable."

"History was being made up there on the hill and the atmosphere was so electrifying that it took your breath away. Beneath a great white dome built with the sweat and blood of black slaves, an African-American was being installed as the most powerful man on the planet, and among the watching millions some were overwhelmed with emotion."

Sweet Victory, This Promised Land from the Standard [of Kenya]
"Like other Kenyans, I was on the edge of my chair as the spellbinding footage of President Barack Obama’s inauguration dazzled on screen.  The powerful emotions that swept through it, bore tribute to his acknowledgement of Kenya as the "land of his grandfathers". Secondly, as a student of black history and literature, I noted that the ceiling over the black man’s head was being shattered."

Japan Learns English From Obama Book from the Standard [of Kenya]
"An English-language textbook, The Speeches of Barack Obama, has sold more than 400,000 copies in two months, a big hit in a country where few hit novels sell more than a million copies a year"

VERY COOL map of the office arrangement in Obama's West Wing of the White House.

"If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

News Nuggets 81


Obama's one-hour meeting with the Washington Post Editorial Board -- very interesting!


On NPR's All Things Considered, David Brooks and E.J.Dionne discussed their special meetings with Obama earlier in the week.  Well worth hearing their general impressions!  Very inspiring!


Gwen Ifill's 'The Breakthrough' from The Root

A look at Gwen Ifill’s ‘The Breakthrough’, the much-anticipated book on black political leaders in the Obama generation.

Best of All Possible Presidencies (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post

"With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the "progressive pessimists." This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist's appreciation of the limits of political and military power."

Forgive and Forget? (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times

"I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power."

Pragmatist in Chief from the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

"PRESIDENT-ELECT Barack Obama came to The Post editorial board yesterday with two messages sketchy on details yet reassuring in approach: a commitment to fiscal discipline, and a determination not to be bound by liberal, or indeed any, orthodoxy."

It's Over: Bush Staffers Make Exits from Politico

"The president will be the president until 12 noon Tuesday, but most of his employees will be gone by the close of business Friday.  They’ll turn in their BlackBerrys, laptops, building passes and gym keys. "

Americans Believe Obamas will Deliver Despite Down Times from USA Today

"Americans are as down as they've been in decades about the state of the country and its polarized politics, even as they express soaring confidence that Barack Obama will be able to turn things around."

The Frat Boy Ships Out from the Economist

"Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president.  HE LEAVES the White House as one of the least popular and most divisive presidents in American history."

Credit Markets Showing Some Signs of Revival from the New York Times

"There are limited signs that the credit markets in the United States are starting to function, at least for better-qualified borrowers."

First Thoughts: First and 10 for Obama (Chuck Todd et al.) from MSNBC

See "First and 10" and "You don't see this every day" entries.

"Every Kid Gets a Trophy" (Joan Walsh) from Salon

"Bush's goodbye address is a festival of self-pity and delusion."

Obama Tries to Seduce Republicans from Politico

"It's no secret Barack Obama is trying to seduce Republicans these days. But his conservative courting runs much deeper and wider than is publicly known."

The Edge of the Mystery (Matt Bai) from the New York Times Sunday Magazine

"No Democrat since Kennedy has rekindled the hipster flame like Barack Obama. ... The advance sentry for the post-’60s generation, Obama is the first Northern Democrat to win the presidency since 1960, the first whose very election seems to mark the opening of a new chapter in the culture."

End of an Era: Bush's farewell address was the president at his worst (Eleanor Clift) from Newsweek

"Such widespread rejection should provoke introspection, but Bush remains unrepentant. He interprets his dismal standing with the American people as evidence of his willingness to defy public opinion and do what is right, or rather, what he thinks is right, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The lower his polls go, the more correct he thinks he is."

The Enigma In Chief from Newsweek

"Did Bush's own innocence and incompetence drive his missteps? Or was he manipulated into his bad choices?"

The US and Europe Standing Shoulder to Shoulder' from Der Spiegel [from Germany in English]

"In a letter to Barack Obama, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offers the US president-elect a "new dimension of cooperation" in trans-Atlantic relations. He foresees the US and Europe standing shoulder to shoulder and says Germany will "step up its contribution" to help create a stable Iraq."

Bush Wasn't Evil.  Just the Epitome of Ineptitude from the Times [of London]

"Having stood closely by George Bush's America these last few years as a trusted member of Tony Blair's inner circle, and then as Foreign Secretary, David Miliband yesterday chose the last 120 hours of Mr Bush's presidency to say what a disaster his foreign policy had been."

A Narrative of Racism and Hope from the Los Angeles Times

"Bob Dunn's stories of poverty, taunts, war and elections weave through 80 years of American history. The climax, for him, was Obama's historic rise. 'It is almost as though I am on air.'"

Slumdog President from the Nation

"Many Indians believe Obama's victory makes all things possible for people of color--but for all the good will, there is little mention of India's ever-present racism."

What Obama Means to the World from the Nation

"America had a black leader, and suddenly everybody else wanted one. Or at least they wondered how they could get hold of one."

Self-Destructive Conservatism (Charlie Cook) from the National Journal

"At a time when Republicans should be starting to think about how they can expand their party to reclaim those who abandoned it, the party is instead lurching ever more to the right."

Two Visions of Leadership from the National Journal

"Obama promises inclusive governance, while Bush remains definat to the end." 

'This is Our Moment' from the New York Times Sunday Book Review

"In four new books, hopeful progressives interpret the 2008 election and Barack Obama’s coming presidency."

Obama Targets a 'Grand Bargain' to Fix Budget (Gerald Seib) from the Wall Street Journal

"The harder part will be trying to follow that up by creating what is coming to be known in Obama circles as a Grand Bargain: getting everyone to agree to clean up the nation's budget mess in a really big way, one that doesn't just fix the problems being created now, but also addresses the frightening long-term problems America was going to face anyway to pay for Social Security and Medicare in coming decades."

Suspend Your Disbelief: How to Enjoy Your Inauguration Fully (Peggy Noonan) from the Wall Street Journal

"Barack Obama isn't president yet, but already is he is omnipresent."

A Kenyan Transition to Power from the Washington Post

"While the president-elect prepares to manage the high expectations of many Americans, members of his extended Kenyan family are also busy managing a kind of international stardom conferred upon them by their famous, if distant, relative."

At Long Last, Ready for the Real Deal (Maya Angelou) from the Washington Post

"I telephoned Oprah Winfrey, aware that she knew the Obamas, and asked, "What is your take on Michelle Obama?"  Oprah answered promptly and with conviction, "She is the real deal.""

Farewell to this Flawed and Unpopular President from the Independent [of London]

"George Bush's failures opened the way for a very different successor."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

News Nuggets 80

The largest (20 lbs) oldest (140 years old) lobster ever recorded.  He was rescued in New York City, and his name is George.

As I've said before, there are a lot of commemorative books and magazines out right now about the Obama campaign, and most of them are empty glossy photo sugar bombs filled with images you've probably already seen.  A notable exception is USA Today's Obama: A Historic Journey which just hit the newsstand early this week.  It is LOADED with reactions, analysis, overviews and great photos and graphics highlighting the election AND the upcoming inauguration.  It is well worth the $4.95 -- I got it at my local grocery store.

Leaning Closer from the Financial Times of London
"With Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House on January 20, differences between the US and Europe are likely to narrow on policies ranging from climate change to detention of terrorist suspects at the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. As a result, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic – the alliance that won the cold war and which still represents the most significant economic relationship in the world – are looking forward to working together more closely than they have for years."

Person of the Year: Barack Obama from the Financial Times of London
"Mr Obama will be sure to enrage some erstwhile admirers pretty soon after taking the oath of office on January 20. But even highly informed people are having a hard time figuring out which groups he will alienate first."

"With the metabolism of a White House set by its occupant, Obama's team is preparing for a return to long nights, heavy weekend shifts – and a boss who will venture into Washington far more than the place's current resident."

Sorry, No Details (Andrew Sullivan) from the Atlantic
"Lots of emails from readers asking about the chat with the president-elect this morning. It was totally off the record and I'm a stickler for those rules. I can say, however, the following: it's hard to express the relief I feel that this man will be the president soon. I realize that's what I feel above all else: relief."

"In comments published Wednesday, Obama received high marks from Republican senators."

10 Take-Aways from the Bush Years (Bob Woodward) from the Washington Post
"There's actually a lot that President-elect Barack Obama can learn from the troubled presidency of George W. Bush."

Principles and Pragmatism from the New York Times Editorial Board
"One of America’s greatest strengths is its potential for redemption and renewal. We saw that again Tuesday during Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s confirmation hearing to be President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state."

The Logic of Choosing Hillary is Now 'Obvious to All' from Le Figaro [from France  in English]
"It was a first test of how Barack Obama will conduct global affairs. In front of senators on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton demonstrated the benefits that the new president will enjoy having as his chief of diplomacy a prestigious personality like the former first lady."

"Michelle Obama comes to global prominence bearing the weight of expectations that she’ll be every woman’s role model, representing every mother of young children and every professional trying to balance career and family."

"What is American about American art? Or American music? Or American literature? These venerable questions--to which there are certainly no simple answers and probably no definitive answers--have been on my mind for the past few weeks, since Barack Obama, on "Meet the Press," announced that "our art and our culture, our science, that's the essence of what makes America special"

Talk About Race? Relax, It's OK from the New York Times
"THE awkward conversations usually start with something like, “You look like Tiger Woods.”  Or, “Your last name is Rice — are you related to Jerry? Condoleezza?”"

"“I would put them up there with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,” says Chris Doherty, owner of INF, the first agency, in 2006, to capitalize on Obama shirtless in Hawaii."

"Barack Obama is likely to spend the next four years with one big advantage over his recent predecessors — a first term in the White House with his party in uninterrupted control of both the House and the Senate."

In the Shadow of Nixon from the Guardian [of London]
"Until the end, Bush retains his self-delusion that he didn't bring out the darkest part of the American character."

"The challenge Mr Obama now faces is surprisingly similar to the one that faced Roosevelt in 1933: an economic crisis."

"At 9:00 p.m. Friday, the highest-level staffers will turn in their gear; and the West Wing will become a ghost town."