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On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Right Decision Could
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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December 4, 2008
While president-elect Obama continues to travel the moderate or middle of the road course in some of his most important appointments, the Democratic Party’s leadership in Congress is speeding down the left-hand lane of the political road. For example:
With the enthusiastic approval of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats voted, 137 to 122, to replace Representative John Dingell of Michigan, longtime chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, with energetically outspoken liberal Henry A. Waxman, Pelosi’s fellow California Democrat, whose public persona suggests a liberal perpetually angry over one issue or another.
(Speaking of Pelosi brings to mind this thought: This ambitious, hard-charging liberal actually makes, in my eyes, vice president-elect Joe Biden of Delaware a relatively—relatively, I stress—attractive president if something should remove Obama from office. The prospect of Nancy Pelosi second in line to succeed to the presidency is, I believe, enough to send shivers down a good many spines, definitely including mine.)
Another sign that the Democratic left wing Congressional leadership is alive and at least relatively well:
Consistent with Obama’s campaign pledge to seek a U.S. leadership role in promoting climate change, the United States in sending a delegation this month to an international meeting in Amsterdam where the goal will be to approve a final push towards a sweeping new global warming treaty
Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who aspires to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declared, “America is back,” adding, unfortunately but predictably, an insult to outgoing President Bush. “After eight years of obstruction and delay and denial, the United States is going to rejoin the world community in tackling this global challenge.”
Kerry presumably would like the American people to forget that in July, 1997, the United States Senate, of which Kerry was a member, passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel resolution which, in effect, rejected any “protocol” that (1) did not include binding targets and timetables for developing countries like China and India as well as industrialized nations like the United States and would (2) not “result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.”
Don’t bet that any national—or international, for that matter—news medium will ask Senator Kerry to explain that unanimous Senate vote or to explain why China, the world’s largest gross emitter of carbon dioxide, and other developing nations like India are exempt from the Kyoto protocol provisions.
If Senator Kerry has been hoping for years to bring the U.S. under the greenhouse-gas-emission standards set by the Kyoto protocol, why hasn’t he pushed for another Senate vote to overturn that 95-0 rejection by a Senate of which he was a member?
Interestingly, research which my associate Jackie Wrieth and I did to produce the “Kyoto protocol” information reported above spotlighted this incidental but important piece of information: France gets 80% of its electricity from relatively “clean” nuclear power. Yet development of nuclear power in this country has, of course, been blocked for years by liberal environmentalists who oppose construction of additional nuclear power plants in the United States.
A few thoughts in regard to Obama’s latest announced appointments:
Appointing former Marine General James Jones as national security advisor and asking Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense seems to me to be further evidence that Obama is not only looking for top-drawer talent regardless of party affiliation but also understands that America’s interests are served best by leadership which generates support and approval across party lines.
As for another of his Obama’s appointments—Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State—I would say only time will tell as to the wisdom of giving this heavy assignment to a senator whose greatest experience has been in domestic affairs. She has not been, for example, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But Senator Clinton will be a quick study. She will also, I believe, surround herself with a team of experienced foreign policy advisers.
I think it’s fair to speculate that Obama chose Clinton for two reasons: He feels she will be a capable Secretary of State and he feels also that the appointment will help win over the many millions of Americans—particularly women, understandably—who thought it was time to make history by electing a woman as President of the United States.
* * *
Tom Friedman, meet Art Davis.
If you’ll pardon this suggestion, Tom, before you write another New York Times column excoriating “overrated dopes” or “greedy cynics” who used their leadership positions at Wall Street investment banks to help bring on the mortgage-loan-ignited financial crisis, you might want to talk with Art Davis, more formally Congressman Artur Davis, D.-Alabama.
After listening to Representative Davis, you might want to write another column, this time targeting the politicians who are also guilty of, to borrow your language, “a near total breakdown of responsibility” in connection with the mortgage mess.
Your column was right on in targeting some of the guilty parties—from “people who had no business buying a home with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years,” all the way up the financial ladder to those Wall Street investment bankers. But you made only vague passing reference to lack of proper “government regulation.”
You could and should have been much more specific when it came to governmental failure, as Representative Davis could have told you. Davis was recently quoted in USA Today as saying:
“Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie.” (Government-created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were pressing lenders to issue high-risk mortgages which Fannie and Freddie would purchase). “Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit, when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong.”
Had you chosen to take your column further into the question of what Representative Davis wishes his “Democratic colleagues would admit,” you could start naming names like those of Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut. (William Jefferson Clinton also had a hand in urging Fannie and Freddie to be more lenient in purchasing mortgages.)
Senator Dodd, then ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, turned aside a Bush administration-supported proposal to increase government supervision over Fannie and Freddie, saying that the subprime mortgage issuing program was “one of the great success stories of all time.” (And this man is now chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.)
You did get commendably more specific, Tom, when you cited an example from author Michael Lewis’ essay, “The End of Wall Street’s Boom.” Lewis wrote:
“In Bakersfield, Calif., a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.”
* * *
Some quick hits:
- - President-elect Obama’s appointment of a Marine general as his national security advisor relieved some of the concern I felt when I read that among the many questions which potential Obama appointees were asked to answer was this one: “Do you own a gun?”
- - The headline read: “For Fahey, street car just a start.” I would think that the feasibility study proposed by Mayor Fahey and authorized by a split-vote of the City Council should be the end of the line for the foreseeable future, in view of the other more practical and more pressing financial needs facing Omaha’s city government.
- - Haven’t the fund-raisers for various privately-financed philanthropic programs heard there’s a recession going on? The question occurred as I opened three days worth of mail, finding seven requests for funds—one asking a one-third increase from the $1,500 annual level. Two of the seven were from agencies partially supported by the United Appeal to which Marian and I try to contribute generously.
* * *
The New York Times is a national newspaper, so I suppose it was not surprising that The Times targeted Nebraska for some of its editorial criticism last week. The problem was that The Times unfairly singled out Nebraska and, as is so frequently true of Time editorials, used insulting language. The Times subject was the nationally-reported use (abuse?) of Nebraska’s safe haven law.
The Times said that unexpectedly heavy use of the safe haven law, before it was amended in a recent Legislative session, has “finally shamed” Nebraska legislators into taking action to provide a social welfare system for little children.
In the first place, Nebraskans and their state government are keenly aware of the need to make further improvements in the child welfare system, including foster care homes. They don’t need any advice from The New York Times.
And in the second place, and perhaps even more important, The Times doesn’t understand that Nebraska’s experience with its safe haven law points out the need for improvements in child welfare programs in a good number of states besides Nebraska. If Times editors had done even minimal research, they would have discovered that more than one-fourth of the youngsters left in Nebraska under the safe haven law came from other states.
Keep in mind that these non-Nebraskans either traveled or were transported by a parent from other states. Who knows what the number of such cases would total if other states—including, say, New York—had tried 18-year-old age limit safe haven laws under which children in those states could have been dropped off close to home.
* * *
Again this week, this longtime Nebraska Cornhusker football fan can’t resist the temptation to comment on the Huskers’ progress, concentrating this time on the two final-minutes improbabilities which gave the Huskers a nine-point victory margin over the Colorado Buffaloes.
The first improbability, of course, was a 57-yard field goal by quietly-confident Alex Henery, a sophomore from Omaha Burke. Henery made the game-winning last of his four field goals look relatively easy (it cleared the crossbar by a comfortable margin) but I think it still must be considered an improbability.
The second improbability was that touchdown by Ndamukong Suh, 300-pound nose tackle who has now scored both a defensive touchdown and an offensive touchdown in his occasional role as fullback. The highlight of Suh’s last-minute touchdown run with his pass interception was, to me, the way he literally brushed off a tackle attempt by the passer, Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins. It was a sort of “get away, little man, don’t bother me” swat with his left arm. It sent Hawkins to the turf where he rolled over a couple of times as Suh proceeded into the end zone.
Second only to the Husker triumph over Colorado was, to me, Kansas University’s last-minute win over the Missouri Tigers—my least favorite Big 12 opponent. “Least favorite” may be too weak a description. How about “most hated” Big 12 opponent—a status which results from Missouri fans abusive treatment of visiting fans, even when the Tigers have won on their own field. It’s a status which Missouri fans have, perhaps unfairly but nonetheless realistically, earned for the Missouri team itself.
* * *
Speaking of The New York Times, as I so often do, a picture which appeared on The Times editorial page in connection with Thanksgiving Day makes you wonder if The Times editors need an education in identifying wildlife species.
Consider the illustration below, reprinted from a Thanksgiving week Times editorial page. Americans traditionally consider that the bird associated with Thanksgiving is the turkey. But The Times chose the pheasant as the bird to feature this Thanksgiving week—leading one to conclude that Times editors don’t know the difference between a pheasant and a turkey.
The pheasant has become very much an American game bird and is considerably more attractive, to my eye at least, than the turkey. The pheasant was imported into this country from China late in the 19th century and introduced in Oregon, from where it has spread broadly across the northern half of the United States.
Turkeys, on the other hand, have been residents of this country for a very long time, going back thousands of years before the days when roast turkey was part of the spread of Thanksgiving food which the Pilgrims are said to have enjoyed.
Incidentally, I plan to send a copy of at least this portion of this week’s column to the editors of The New York Times. Obviously, they need to learn more about American wildlife out beyond Manhattan Island.
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