Friday, January 30, 2009

Geithner Redux

Tim Geithner was confirmed 60-34 by the Senate as Secretary of the Treasury on Monday. He immediately assumed office and started a fast pace as Secretary of the Treasury.

He apologized profusely during his confirmation hearings for his tax oversights, at one point blaming the omissions on TurboTax. I just got a TurboRax disc in the mail. Maybe I should throw it away. If the brilliant Secretary of the Treasury can’t figure it out with Turbo Tax, what chance do I, a lowly law professor, have?

Already, he’s the butt of jokes around the internet. Next time you’re audited for failure to declare income, simply state “I forgot” citing the Secretary of the Treasury. Ask also for the Geithner/Rangel treatment and have all penalties waived.

Congressman John Carter, R Texas, introduced the “Rangel” Bill to have all IRS interest and penalties waived for taxpayers. Citizens should receive the same courtesies as Congressman Rangel and Secretary Geithner. We may also have to add Senator Franken, who dodged taxes in 19 states, and Secretary Dasche to the list as the Obama Administration becomes the Scofflaw Administration.

But that’s not the major problem with Secretary Geithner. His failure to declare taxes is but one instance of poor judgment in a growing list.

President Obama obviously thinks Secretary Geithner is the right man at the right time at the right place to fight our economic problems. He is very experienced, and enjoyed the respect of both Democrats and Republicans. Indeed, the 60 yeas and 34 nays were non-partisan. The President and a majority of the Senate believe these difficult times call for a Secretary with vast experience.

His degree is from Dartmouth, but his education is worldwide.

He has also worked in 4 administrations since 1988, except for three years at the International Monetary Fund. He has amazing skills in thriving in the bureaucracy.

The best education, and personality mean naught if judgment is flawed.

Twice in recent months the Secretary has shown bad judgment which has been costly to the economy and will add to future pressures on our recovery.

As discussed in an earlier blog, he opposed any bailout of Lehman Brothers in his capacity as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Lehman’s collapse directly resulted in the global credit freeze.

The US government has in just a few months invested trillions of dollars in either bailouts or guarantees. This year’s budget deficit will exceed one trillion dollars. President Obama has stated that we will be facing trillion deficits into the future.

The deficits will be financed, at least initially by the Fed borrowing money. Much of the bond purchases in recent years have come from foreign nations with large trade surpluses with the United States. China is high on the list.

China is a proud country and does not accept criticism lightly.

During his confirmation hearings Geithner strongly criticized China, claiming it manipulates its currency, ignoring the fact the Bush Administration de facto devalued the dollar earlier this decade ultimately resulting in the commodities price explosion.

Debtors should never insult their creditors. Debtor nations are playing with fire when they do so.

China’s highly offended by Geithner’s remarks. With its own economy reeling from the US collapse, it may well be unwilling to buy US debt, especially at the current low interest rates. China’s exports to the United States fell 17% in November. Thousands of its export oriented factories are closing with layoffs as severe as in the United States.

China’s premier has in essence blamed the policies of the United States for the global economic collapse. China has suffered large losses in Morgan Stanley, Reserve Primary Fund, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.

Let’s hope Secretary Geithner has not inflamed a currency war with China, our creditor.

Lessons From Blagojevich

Audio tapes can be much more devastating (OJ, Blago) than video tapes (Rodney King).

If you think you are being investigated, assume that the government, especially the Feds, is bugging your electronic means of communications.

No money, no lawyer, no defense! The US Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, freezed Blago’s campaign funds and the Attorney General of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, refused to let the State pay Blago’s legal fees.

Blago should have appointed Lisa Madigan, a mortal enemy, to the Senate seat.

Blago did not receive due process, but life’s not fair, and politics can be purely Darwinian.

Arrogance in politics can be both common and deadly.

Governor Blago spent almost all his time in Chicago rather than fraternizing with legislators in Springfield.

The ability to get elected to office is not the same as the ability to succeed in office.

Be nice to those you pass on the way up because you may see them again on the way down.

Loyalty is fleeting in politics.

Congressman Phil Burton drew a gerrymander work of art in California after the 1980 census. It dramatically changed the California Congressional delegation from 22-21 Democratic to 27-18 Democratic. The Republicans responded by getting the voters to approve a different plan. Chief Judge Rose Bird of the California Supreme Court wrote the opinion invalidating the ballot provision. A removal campaign was mounted in 1986 against Rose Bird and two of her colleagues. The Democrats, whose seats had been saved by the judges, ran away from them.

Blago had no friends when it counted.

Hypocrisy in politics is an art. One wonders how many of the Illinois legislators who voted to impeach and convict Blago have their own ethical issues?

Jesus said “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Those with sin often cast every stone to get elected.

Why is it that when Republicans get in trouble, the media refers to them as Republicans, such as Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, but when Democrats get in trouble, their political affiliation is hardly ever mentioned?

Did you know that earlier this week, Salvatore DiMasi, the Democratic Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives resigned, or that he is but the latest in a chain of Democratic House leaders to mess up? His predecessor, Thomas Finneran, pled guilty to obstruction of justice (sounds like Clinton), and a long term speaker, William Bulger, has a brother, Whitey Bulger, who has been on the lam for over a decade. Did you know that a few months ago Massachusetts Democratic State Senator Diane Wilkinson was caught on video taking a bribe?

Unless you are the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, don’t always wear black.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bush's Cardinal Sin: The Failure to Communicate

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” This classic phrase by Strother Martin and Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke explains George Bush’s greatest failure as President. It’s not Iraq, which appears to be a victory; it’s not the global collapse of the credit markets, which occurred on his watch. Neither is it 9/11 nor Katrina.
No, it’s his failure to communicate, to explain and defend his Administration.
A cardinal rule of politics is to define yourself because if you don’t your opponents will do it for you. And if a lie or misrepresentation is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth.
The President is the public face of the Administration, but the Bush Administration had no public face. The President must get the message out, defend the Administration, empathize with the people.
He ran the Administration as a CEO holed up in an office, letting others, if at all, do the public presence.
The President has the Bully Pulpit. He must use it. The President must also be a cheerleader for America. An effective President must connect with the American public. FDR’s fight from 1932 to 1941 to end the Great Depression may have been a failure, but the public believed in him because he constantly touched them, especially through his fireside chats.
An effective President can not be perceived as a behind the scenes MBA type, isolated from the public.
The President must defend the Administration or suffer the death of a thousand cuts.
Quiet competence may be rewarded by historians decades from now, but the contemporary regard of the public is essential to the President while in office.
Bush’s aides admit that the Administration never recovered from the seemingly tepid response to Katrina. Legally, the federal government is not the first responder in natural disasters; it’s the states.
The President should have played the tapes that showed Mayor Nagin of New Orleans ordered an evacuation two days before Katrina struck and then was countermanded by Governor Blanco. The second tape should have been the one in which the Governor stated that federal assistance was not needed. The final tape in the trilogy would have been the damage to the Lake District and St. Bernard’s Parish, showing that it wasn’t just the African American Ninth Ward which was devastated.
Instead, Bush remained silent and his opponents painted him as incompetent and racist.
The Valerie Plame debacle is another prime example. Long after the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald discovered that the “leaker” of her identity as a CIA employee to Robert Novack was Richard Armitrage, the Deputy Secretary of State, he continued the inquiry and then brought a lying charge against Libby Scooter, the principal aide to Vice President Chaney.
The Bush Administration treated the situation solely as a legal matter. President Clinton, in his impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury, could also have treated it as a legal matter. Instead, from the beginning the Clintonistas treated Kenneth Starr’s investigation as a political battle, and proceeded to slime him. Starr did not fight back, and came out looking like an incompetent pervert.
The Bush Administration did not have to denigrate Fitzpatrick, but could have questioned the need for the Special Prosecutor to proceed after the identity of the culprit was discovered and that it was clear the law was not broken with her identification.
President Bush was widely accused of lying to the American people to get us into an unnecessary war with Iraq. The argument was that since weapons of mass destruction were not found, Bush must have lied. Several reasons existed for the invasion. In essence, Hussein was a continual threat to peace in the Mideast.
Almost everyone, including Iraqi generals, reasonably believed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Our soldiers were fortunate he did not.
The Bush Administration should have clearly informed the American people that Congress, in voting to authorize the war, was provided the same information that the Bush Administration relied upon. Interestingly, Senator Clinton, the newly sworn in Secretary of State, admitted that she had not read the information provided prior to voting to authorize military action. We can assume that she was not the only one who failed to make an informed decision.
While we are told that Hussein was not involved in 9/11, he was involved in sponsoring terrorism in the Mideast. Every time a suicide bomber blew up Israelis, Saddam sent the bomber’s family $25,000. He also harbored terrorists in Iraq.
Saddam also tried to have the former President, George H. W. Bush, assassinated. That alone would be causa bellis.
Bush initially bonded with the public in his appearance at Ground Zero. The Administration was later accused of not connecting the dots, and that it was warned of the threat of Osama Bin Ladin. The reality is that no specific warning was provided of a specific threat – only of a general threat which provided no useful information upon which to take preventative measures. Bush should simply have pointed out that the Sudan government on three occasions offered Bin Laden to Clinton, who refused to accept him as a prisoner. 9/11 then followed.
On another occasion the Bush Administration and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were accused of playing politics with dismissing six United States Attorneys. The US attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, who has every right to terminate them for poor service.
The reason for their firings in essence was a failure to pursue and then prosecute instances of voter fraud, such as in Missouri and New Mexico. Think ACORN! We know that in the recent elections, Senator Norm Coleman probably lost reelection because of ACORN’s actions.
One of the first acts of President Clinton in assuming the Presidency was to fire every US Attorney, shutting down in the process ongoing investigations of Democratic misconduct.
And yet, Congressman John Conyers is still holding Congressional Hearings in an effort to bring criminal indictments against Karl Rove and other members of the Bush White House.
The Bush Administration was silent on all these major “scandals.”
Instead what happened with all of these situations is that talk radio took the lead in defending the Administration, but they are essentially appealing to those who already believe in the Administration.
Admittedly, President Bush assumed office with half of Americans voting against him, and a sizable minority believing him to be illegitimate. In their view, he was “selected” – not “elected.” Many never accepted him. Unlike the current inauguration of President Obama, the Democrats never pled for the Country, all of us, to support President Bush and rally around him.
Bush probably also assumed that, no matter what he did, the media would never give him the credit he deserved. How much have we heard, for example, of the sums he spent fighting AIDs in Africa, or the multilateral negotiations with Iran and North Korea to remove their potential to build the bomb?
President Bush failed to communicate, and his approval rating suffered accordingly. We all suffered for this failure.
Do not expect President Obama to make the same mistake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hail to the Chief, Hail to America

Today we inaugurate Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Let us celebrate the man, the occasion, the historical significance of an African American President. Let us note that it comes the day after we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us equally celebrate the greatness of America, the greatness which has made this celebration possible.

The greatness of our democracy, as laid out by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is the ability of America to change, to grow, to evolve.

We are Americans, a people of all those who came before us and are stilling coming to the international beacon of freedom. America is not one people, one religion, one ethnicity, one class, one caste. We are all.

We have long since outgrown our WASP roots.

We will change with the current wave of immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, India, Vietnam and Korea. They too will be assimilated into America, as have the prior waves of Irish, Italians, Poles, Slavs, Serbs, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Scandinavians, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, French Canadians, Chinese and Japanese, and even the former slaves and their descendants. Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Hindu; it no longer matters as every immigrant adds to the American milieu.

We come from every country and region of the world. Every religion is represented in America, and we have added some of our own. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York especially reflect the melting pot of America.

Obama’s election is an epochal event in American history. But so too was the election of Andrew Jackson, as the first Irish President, and JFK as the first Irish American President, Ronald Reagan as the first divorced President, Jimmy Carter as the first Southern Democrat since the New Deal, and Bill Clinton as the first non-veteran since World War II. Let us also acknowledge Obama as the first Democrat from the Frost Belt since JFK. Indeed, the election of every President and the peaceful transfer of power is an epochal event in the history of America and the World.

The elections of Oscar De Priest to Congress in 1928 and Edward Brooke to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1967 were the first post-Reconstruction Blacks elected to Congress. Both incidentally were Republicans.

We recognize the elections of Carl Stokes, Richard Hatcher, Coleman Young, and Thomas Bradley as mayors of big cities, Douglas Wilder as Governor of Virginia, and the appointment of Robert Weaver to the cabinet in 1966.

Let us also recognize Shirley Chisholm’s campaign as an African American Congresswoman for President in 1972, and the appointments of Louis Brandeis, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O’Conner to the Supreme Court.

Yes, I remember much of the recent history of racism in the United States. I remember watching a small black and white TV as President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to enforce integration at Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. I remember President Johnson pushing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts through Congress.

I remember the civil rights riots of the late 1960’s that swept the nation.

I remember the assassinations of Dr. King and Medgar Evers, the 1963 16th Street Church Bombing killing 4 girls in Birmingham, Alabama, Bull Conner and his police dogs in Birmingham, the murders in Mississippi of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Learner, Julian Bond needing an opinion of the United States Supreme Court to claim his elected seat in the Georgia Legislature.

I also know many of the perpetrators of these hate crimes were ultimately brought to justice, even if decades later, in America.

I also remember over time the changes in Strom Thurmond and George Wallace as they evolved away from their earlier racism, reflecting the changes in the South.

I graduated from high school on January 28, 1964 and immediately matriculated at the University of San Francisco. I quickly became the photographer for the student newspaper, the Don. My first assignment was to photograph the civil rights demonstrators outside the car dealerships on Auto Road/Van Ness Avenue.

I remember too at the same time too that the department stores in San Francisco similarly employed non-whites in response to demonstrations.

Yes, even the progressive city of San Francisco had its vestiges of segregation.

As a Don, I learnt the lore of USF, especially the 1951 football team, christened the undefeated, untied, and uninvited team. USF played black athletes, including future Hall of Famer Ollie Matson. The southern bowls would not invite an integrated team in 1951. I also know that in 1955 and 1956 USF basketball teams, starting 3 blacks (Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, and Hal Perry) won 60 straight games and two national championships.

Texas Western under the recently deceased coach Don Haskins started 5 blacks in 1966, and defeated the seemingly invincible Kentucky Wildcats for the NCAA basketball title.

Other white pioneers who led the way in integrating sports include Branch Rickey and Paul “Bear’ Bryan.

Athletic pioneers included Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, Althea Gibson and Arthus Ashe, Jesse Owens, Earl Lloyd, Doug Williams, JoeLouis and Muhammad Ali.

Yet, even while the political system, public accommodations, housing and schooling were segregated, Blacks were making progress in the greater American society. Lincoln Perry, Ethel Waters and Hattie McDaniel led the way to success in Hollywood, followed by Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Bill Cosby opened up TV. Our musical culture included Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Paul Robeson, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Marian Anderson, Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin and all of Motown, Chuck Berry, Harry Bellefonte, Lou Rawls, Noble Sissle, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Moms Mabley, Bill Robinson, Pearl bailey, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Dorothy Dandridge, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Bill Robinson, Josephine Baker, The Nicholas Brothers, and the Hines were acclaimed dancers.

Comedians, such as Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Nipsy Russell, and Redd Foxx paved the way for the current generation.

Let us also remember Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Booker T Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rystin, James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Carl Rowan, Bessie Coleman, and Charles Drew..

Business entrepreneurs include Abraham Lincoln Lewis, John Johnson, and Madam C. J. Walker.

We have come a long way in a short historical frame from the Jim Crow Laws and King’s I Have a Dream Speech.

The same story will be written for Hispanics, Asians, Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners as they fully assimilate into America.

Yes, today is a defining moment for the greatness of America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tim Geithner: Tax Dodger to Head Treasury

Tim Geithner’s nomination as the next Secretary of the Treasury has encountered a “hiccup”.

The “hiccup” is that he’s is a confirmed draft dodger. The Internal Revenue Service is in the Department of the Treasury.

The real problem is a question of judgment. As President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York he opposed the bailout of Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered the credit crisis which is racking the global economy. By itself, that should result in a rejection of his nomination.

Public attention though is focused on his failure to pay taxes on income earned as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He claimed his mistake was “innocent.” Obama has echoed that remarked that the oversight was an “innocent mistake.” Many liberal commentators have explained that these mistakes are common because of the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code.

A closer look, as provided by both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, provide a much different story. He

Geithner has a history of omissions and questionable deductions, which have only been rectified when audited or seeking appointment as Secretary of the Treasury.

After serving in the Treasury Department in the Clinton Administration, Geithner became a consultant to the IMF. The IMF is not subject to US income taxes, but American employees and consultants are. He earned $25,000 in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.

The nuances of quarterly payments for outside income can be mind boggling, and subject to extensive errors. But that is not the case with Geithner, who was on express notice of the duty to file. He was not only provided quarterly and annual notices of his tax obligations, but he even signed a statement acknowledging the self-employment tax obligation. In addition, to ensure that the Americans like Geithner actually netted $25,000, the IMF overpaid them to cover the taxes.

The IRS in 2006 audited his 2003 and 2004 returns and noted the IMF omissions. He paid the past due taxes and interest. Significantly, he did not though file amended returns for the 2001 and 2002 taxes until his appointment to the Treasury two years later.

The Geithner saga does not end there. Geithner claimed on his 2002, 2004, and 2005 tax returns expenses for sleep away camps in calculating the dependent care tax credit. An accountant questioned this claim for his 2006 return and Geithner dropped it. As with the 2001 and 2002 self employment taxes, he only filed an amended return for the three earlier returns when his appointment to Treasury unfolded.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his late filings is that the IRS, which Geithner will oversee, waived all penalties on Geithner.

Should he be confirmed, as is likely, he will join Congressman Charles Rangel, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, as a tax dodger. Of course, we’ve already had a draft dodger as President, and hence Commander in Chief of the military.

If Geithner were a Republican nominee for the Treasury, the mainstream media would be crucifying him, rejecting his protestations of innocent mistakes. To its credit, the New York Times has consistently questioned the conduct of both Rangel and Geithner.

16 years earlier, both Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba Wood had to withdraw their nominations for Attorney General because of their failure to pay the Nanny Tax; that is, social security taxes on domestic employees including nannies.

Taking deductions up to the line is permissible. As stated by the great jurist Learned Hand in the 1934 case of Helvering v. Gregory: “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury.”

That does not include the failure to omit taxable income.

Judge Hand’s famous passage also includes this statement: “There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” Someone should remind Joe Biden of the Hand quote.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Twentieth Century Presidency is Often One of Apparent Failure

President Elect Obama assumes office on January 20, 2009. We have only one President and wish him great success for the sake of the country and the global economy. If he succeeds over the next 4 or 8 years, he will deserve all the acclaim, encomiums, honors, kudos, praise and rewards to be bestowed upon him.

However, the history of the Twentieth Century American Presidency is not one of optimism. Lyndon Baines Johnson did not stand for reelection in 1968. The Great Society could not save him from Vietnam.

Richard Nixon resigned prior to impeachment. Watergate doomed his Presidency.

Taft, Hoover, Ford, Carter, and Bush I were defeated for reelection.

Clinton, The Man from Hope, served two scandal ridden terms, never received a majority vote in either election, was impeached by the House, acquitted by the Senate, but Monica Lewinsky, the albatross of Clinton, was too great a hurdle for Vice President Gore to oversome.

Indeed, as with Vice President Gore, VP’s pay for the sins of their Presidents. Ford I is the only sitting Vice President since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected President. Both Van Buren and Ford I were defeated for reelection. Vice Presidents Nixon and Humphrey lost their bids to succeed Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson.

Nixon provided the Democrats unfathomable majorities in Congress. Clinton returned the favor three decades later by giving the Republicans the House, Senate, state houses, and state legislatures. Bush II has flipped these seats back to the Democrats.

Reagan was dogged by Iran Contra in his second term, but left office with his head held high.

Harding looked like a Senator and President, and was exceedingly popular when he died. Truman did not look like either a Senator or President, and was as unpopular when he left office as Bush II today.

Wilson, a great Populist president for 6 years, was crippled by a stroke in October 1919 and was a failure in his final two years in office with the League of Nations going down in flames.

McKinley and JFK were assassinated in office. Theodore Roosevelt succeeded McKinley in 1901 and was reelected President in 1904. He stepped aside for Taft in 1908, but was later defeated for the Presidency on the Bull Moose Ticket in 1912, splitting the Republican vote and giving a narrow victory for Wilson.

No one remembers anything about “Silent” Calvin Coolidge, but Coolidge, Wilson. FDR, IKE, Reagan and Clinton were the only six to serve two full terms. Bush II is a 21st Century President.

FDR has, of course, been sainted, but the dying FDR never should have run for reelection in 1944.

The problem is not necessarily with the Presidents, but in the nature of our expectations for the President. He must be perfect in office, and clearly not run for reelection with problems in the economy.

Obama represents an epochal change in American politics. Whether or not he changes the modern Presidency remains to be seen.

Who is Obama?

President Elect Obama will be President in three days. America’s hopes and expectations lie in the Senator.

We know the community organizer; we know the candidate who ran for President for two years; we know the gifted orator, but we do not know the man or the person. It is much too early to beatify Obama.

Is he the social activist who used the left wing of the Democratic Party to jumpstart his political career?

Is he a closet pragmatist, as shown by his appointments in defense, foreign policy, and the economy?

We don’t know.

On January 20, 2009 the Senator will be inaugurated our President. Is he decisive? His career has been spent dodging controversial votes. No more voting present on difficult issues; no more resigning early from the Senate to avoid votes; no more standing still like the sphinx; no more smiles like the Cheshire cat or Gioconda; no more deferring tough international issues to the current President; no more photo ops.

Candidate Obama clearly talks the talk, but will President Obama walk the walk?

He will learn that criticism is easy for a candidate, but the viable options as President are limited.

The time to duck issues is over.

He must act and decide – decisively and firmly. The White House is not the place for deep introspection.

He will learn why Presidents visibly age in office.

So who is Obama?

He may drape himself in the mantle of Lincoln, but he is no more Lincoln than he is FDR or JFK. If he succeeds, he will be known to history as Obama with the name pronounced with reverence. If he fails, he will be known to history as Obama, as in “Obama – the failed Presidency.”

Obama, the skillful candidate was a sitting Senator when he ran, but his campaign was that of an outsider.

Will he be the outsider who finally brings a fresh perspective, comity and bipartisanship to Washington? Or is simply a consummate insider?

He ran on a platform of change (Don't they all?), but is he for change?

His appointments, starting with Vice President Elect Biden, are those of an insider with the core appointees being from the Clinton Administration.

We know Obama loves personal spectacles, but is there a backbone behind the soaring rhetoric?

How will he respond when he loses the adoration of Americans, as he most assuredly will because our expectations are unrealistic?

How will he respond when his long honeymoon (and it will be long) ends?

What is the life span of Obamamania?

How will he respond when his words and those of Vice President Biden are parsed by a no-longer fawning media?

How will he respond to a reenergized GOP and substantial mid-year losses?

Which campaign promise will Obama break first (as all Presidents do)?

Will it be tax credits for new employees?

Will the earmark king block future earmarks?

Will it be opposition to coal and nuclear?

Will it be effectively closing down Gitmo?

When will he pull out of Iraq?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Only 15 Days Until President Obama's Inauguration

Yes, only 15 days until Barack Hussein Obama is sworn in as President of the United States and leader of the Free World.

Only 15 days until:

Happy Days are here again

The clouds part and the sun shines eternally

Global warming ends

The oceans recede


The great stimulus package is adopted

An end to unemployment

Wall Street turns bullish

Housing recovers

Mortgage foreclosures drop to zero

Detroit is saved

Americans love mass transit

The inner city is reborn

Zero pollution

Clean energy

Peace in the world

Peace in the Mideast

Iran abandons the bomb

Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri surrender

Al Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah lay down their arms

Energy Independence

Affordable healthcare is no longer an oxymoron

Colleges are affordable

Entitlements will be reformed

No more earmarks, pork or Congressional graft

Bipartisanship and nonpartisanship return to Washington

Immigration is resolved

Equity comes to the BCS

The Red Sea is parted

Obama quits smoking

President Obama’s greatest challenge is us. We have projected all our highest hopes and expectations onto him He will solve all our problems. All our hopes ride on him.

Yet, like every President before him, President Obama will discover that his options are often very limited. Candidates can easily criticize their opponents and incumbents, but then have to make the same decisions under similar circumstances.

Let's all hope he succeeds for the good of the country and the world.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Blagojevich: Crazy Like a Fox

You’ve got to give it to Blago. He has been arrested, taken the public perp walk. He is corrupt; he may be tried and convicted; he has no friends in Springfield, Illinois and will probably be impeached in the next few weeks.

But he’s still Governor of Illinois with all the constitutional and statutory powers inherent therein. Unable to sell Obama’s Senate seat, he’s now giving it away, causing great problems for the Democrats in doing so, and creating a constitutional crisis and racial divide.

The beneficiary of his largess is 71 year old Roland Burris, the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois, former Secretary of State and Attorney General of Illinois, and as far as is known, free from scandal in his decades of public service in Illinois.

Blago is daring the Senate Democrats to reject or expel an African-American, a Senate without an African American with Senator Senator Obama’s resignation from the Senate.

Blago is a diabolical, in your face, street fighter. He is sending a message. If he goes down, he will go down fighting, and take many with him. Just imagine what he can testify to that is not on a tape.

He is also tainting the jury pool in Chicago. If he goes to trial with a typical Chicago jury pool, he might obtain a hung jury.

The Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan, he whose daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan aspires to become Governor, is calling for an impeachment vote next week. The Lt. Governor, Pat Quinn, who will become Governor, is fueling the flames of impeachment.

They play hardball in Chicago!

He’s also thrown a monkey wrench into the rush to judgment. Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney who rushed to arrest Governor Blagojevich and publicly humiliate him four weeks ago, is now seeking an additional three months to indict him. The legislature seeks to impeach prior to indictment, much less trial and conviction. So much for a presumption of innocence!

Upon Blago’s arrest, Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, announced that the Senate would not seat any appointee by Governor Blagojevich, presumably on the premise that any appointee would be tainted.

The rectitude of the Senate Democrats in upholding the integrity of the Senate is quite a sight to behold. Reid himself has been the multi-million dollar beneficiary of questionable real estate transactions. Christopher Dodd, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, received a sweetheart mortgage from CountryWide, as did Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Senator Dodd also received more campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other Senator or Congressman.

Next Tuesday is Senator designate Burris’ Day of Reckoning for that is when the new Senate will be sworn in. Will Burris be seated, rejected, sent to Committee or arrested for trespass? Will he be given an office, a seat, a telephone, a vote, even a prized Senate parking permit? Or will he be shunned?

Senator Reid said “no way” will Burris be sworn in, but is now wavering and will meet with the Senator designate on Monday.

The Governor is probably patting himself on the back for his brilliant move.

What was the Repu blican culture of corruption is rapidly becoming the Democratic culture of corruption.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Caroline Kennedy Gets the Sarah Palin Treatment, Sorta

The response by much of the New York press and political establishment to Caroline Kennedy’s announcement that she was interested in Senator Clinton’s Senate seat was to subject her to the flyspecking received by Sarah Palin. Dozens of reporters did not parachute into New York to check out her record, but only because they were already there. They discovered that Caroline had not voted in several elections.

A common response, especially by Democratic office holders and hence aspirants to the same Senate seat, is that she is not qualified. Of course, these same politicians are all chomping at the bit to be appointed to the Senate, but must hide their ambitions.

Others, similar to Palin’s coverage, question her interviewing abilities – a polite way of saying Caroline Kennedy, with degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law School, is inarticulate and perhaps even unintelligent. Of course, that statement is often made against President George W. Bush, he with degrees from Yale and Harvard Business School, and with a GPA and presumably SAT higher than Senator John Forbes Kerry.

In an extensive interview with two New York Times reporters, Ms. Kennedy used the phrase “You know” 142 times. Yes, someone counted how many times she said “you know,” as in Yes, you know ….” That is true flyspecking.

Interestingly enough, you know, Rush Limbaugh edited a press conference by Senator Barack Obama in which the Senator spoke unscripted. He found minutes of “Oh’s” and “ahs” & “umms”. Without a script the President elect losses some of his great oratorical abilities.

Ms. Kennedy also at one point, in response to a series of inane questions, had the effrontery to ask the New York Times reporters if they ever thought of writing for a woman’s magazine.

Speaking ability and intelligence are not one and the same. We all see newscasters who can read from a teleprompter, but if they have to go off script become blithering idiots. Politicians may be no different. Governor Grandholm of Michigan is intelligent, articulate and telegenic; she’s also incompetent and has worsened the economic climate in Michigan

The Constitutional requirements for the Senate are being a citizen of at least 30 years of age. Ms. Kennedy meets those requirements.

The question about qualifications in essence premises you cannot become a Senator unless you previously held elective office, presumably in Congress. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of New York’s great senators last century. He held no prior elective office prior to his three Senate terms. His successor also held no prior elective office, and was not even a New Yorker; that being Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Senate seat was earlier held by yet another carpetbagger also never previously elected to office, Robert F. Kennedy. The choice for the New York Senate is first up to Governor David Paterson and then the voters of New York. That’s it.

California has had two governors emerge from Hollywood: Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger (ironically married to a Kennedy) without prior elective experience. Governors often appoint non-elective officials to fill an open Senate seat.

I’m not sure what elective experience means as a qualification since in recent years Congress has been consistently ranked 10-20% below President Bush’s abysmal approval ratings.

What we are watching with Caroline Kennedy, and earlier with both Governor Palin and Senator Clinton in the primaries, is political sexism. The media, commentators, and bloggers have imposed a double standard, subjecting the women to much closer scrutiny than the male candidates.

Senator Biden, for example, was almost a gaffe a day, calling into question both his intelligence and judgment, but barely a mention in the mainstream media, including the New York Times. Nor did the media parachute three dozen reporters into Chicago to closely scrutinize Senator Obama’s relationship with the corruption of Chicago politics or his many “friends” of dubious repute (especially Ayres, Pfleger, Rezsko, and Wright). The media could have had a field day with Senator Obama’s smoking habits, but totally ignored them. Indeed, as with Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976 the mainstream media anointed Obama as the chosen one and gave him a free pass throughout the long campaign.

Senator Caroline Kennedy has one impressive qualification this year that is especially needed in today’s political world of corruption. She has integrity and cannot be bribed!