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Saturday, January 24, 2009

"I won."


The top congressional leaders from both parties gathered at the White House for a working discussion over the shape and size of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. The meeting was designed to promote bipartisanship.

But Obama showed that in an ideological debate, he’s not averse to using a jab.

Challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: “I won.”

The statement was prompted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona , who challenged the president and the Democratic leaders over the balance between the package’s spending and tax cuts, bringing up the traditional Republican notion that a tax credit for people who do not earn enough to pay income taxes is not a tax cut but a government check.

Obama noted that such workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The issue was widely debated during the presidential campaign, when Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, challenged Obama’s tax plan as “welfare.”

With those two words — “I won” — the Democratic president let the Republicans know that debate has been put to rest Nov. 4 .

DKos provides an apt video from the campaign:

At the same meeting Obama advised his Republican colleagues that:

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."


Obama's Weekly Address:


Bob Herbert:

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 formature leadership, for someone who is not reckless and clownish, shortsighted and self-absorbed.

However you feel about his policies, and there are people grumbling on the right and on the left, Mr. Obama has signaled loudly and clearly that the era of irresponsible behavior in public office is over.

No more crazy wars. No more torture, and no more throwing people in prison without even the semblance of due process. No more napping while critical problems like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, global warming, and economic inequality in the United States grow steadily worse.

“We remain a young nation,” Mr. Obama said in his Inaugural Address, “but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”


Michael Hirsh:

on Wednesday, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the appointment of two permanent envoys to major trouble spots—George Mitchell to the Mideast and Richard Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was perhaps the surest sign of all that Obama intends a 180-degree reversal from the ultimatum-heavy approach of the Bush administration, which saw diplomacy mainly as an exercise in stating terms for surrender, whether to Iran, Hamas or North Korea (except over the last couple of years). "Anything short of relentless diplomatic efforts will fail," Clinton said, making it clear that Holbrooke and Mitchell would each be spending much of the next four years away from home. Both men, Holbrooke and Mitchell, gained fame by ending what seemed to be intractable conflicts, Bosnia (Holbrooke) and Northern Ireland (Mitchell). "There is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended," Mitchell said.


There's some interesting backstory on Holbrooke's portfolio.



In his last few months in office, former President George W. Bush's Administration pushed through over 150 "midnight regulations," many of them weakening existing environmental protections. Although Obama is now in charge, most of Bush's new rules are on the books, and changing them will take time and effort from an already burdened White House. "The Obama Administration will be saddled with reversing harmful Bush rules at the same time that Obama wants to enact his own agenda," says John Walke, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

That's no accident. In May 2008, then White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten issued a memo instructing federal agencies to finalize any new regulations by Nov. 1, 2008. At the time, the White House said the memo was meant to head off the rush of last-minute rulemaking that usually jams up the final months of any outgoing Administration. But it also had a tactical purpose: new regulations require 30 to 60 days from their official publication in the Federal Register to take effect. (Regulations that have an "insignificant" economic effect — less than $100 million — need 30 days; bigger rules need 60.) By finalizing midnight regulations at the beginning of November, the Bush Administration ensured that most of the rules would be in effect before Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20 — in some cases, just before.

They include regulations that allow mountaintop-removal mining projects to pollute streambeds with leftover dirt, and a Bush move to begin to permit drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. Worse, they also include a drastic weakening of the Endangered Species Act, allowing federal agencies to bypass expert advice from federal scientists on whether proposed projects would have an impact on endangered species, essentially cutting the heart out of the act.

With an economy in meltdown, two wars to fight and a need to find his feet quickly, Obama may not have the time to rewrite Bush's rulebook, even if it does hurt the planet. "It's a huge burden on a new presidency that already faces more than its fair share of burdens," says Vickie Patton, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund. Bush's messes won't be cleaned up easily.


Marc Ambinder considers what the first hundred days might look like.


A staffer reports that the mood at the Dept of Education has changed dramatically.




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