Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day Roundup (excerpts with video)

"Obama Aides Cite Bipartisan Success" (WaPo):
Senior advisers to President Obama on Sunday defended passage of the economic stimulus bill in Congress as a bipartisan effort, even though it received only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.

Speaking on the Sunday-morning talk shows, press secretary Robert Gibbs and senior adviser David Axelrod insisted that the massive spending and tax-cut bill reflected ideas from both political parties.

"Their suggestions have been taken seriously, Bob," Gibbs told Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation." "We'll continue to reach out to them. It's an outreach plan that includes, as you said, more than just Wednesday-night cocktails. We're going to listen for their ideas. This president is willing to listen to anybody who has got an idea that will help get this economy moving and get people back to work."
"For Obama, governing isn't campaigning" (LA Times):
New presidents and their staffs always hit unexpected obstacles in their first months. Some former Obama campaign aides are still marveling at how different governing is from campaigning.

But the administration's ranks also include people who have seen presidents come and go, and who (if they were paying attention) learned lessons from what they saw. The Clinton White House demonstrated that a presidency can survive very bad days if it stays focused on its central goals. The Bush White House showed that denying your mistakes is not always good politics. Obama's White House appears to be trying, amid turbulence, to apply both of those lessons.
"The Eye of the Storm" (E.J. Dionne):
Barack Obama senses that he's in the middle of a hurricane whose gale-force winds could blow history his way.

He doesn't mind acknowledging that he is learning as he goes, and he is not bitter about how little help he is getting from Republicans. But he will never again let bipartisanship become the defining test of his success.

And, yes, he is aware that the passage of his stimulus package, though a big deal three weeks into a presidency, is only a prelude to the "really tough" part. The next step, "getting credit flowing again" and averting "potential catastrophe in the banking system," may make the stimulus fight look like a friendly warm-up game.
Dow4KingCou, video (01:53):"Dow Constantine to run for King County Executive."

"Constantine to run for King County executive." (Seattle P-I):
Constantine said it's imperative King County leaders, facing tight budgets like most other government agencies, decide which services they can provide efficiently and which they can't. Services that the county can't deliver well should be discontinued or farmed out, he said.

He cited the county animal shelter program as an example. Last year a consultant released a report saying animals were being mistreated.

"We're doing a terrible job there," Constantine said. "Animals are suffering. Partners in the community have offered to come in. Instead we've put in more and more money."
"When her daughter was diagnosed with uncontrollable epilepsy, Susan Axelrod knew: I Must Save My Child" (PARADE):
Lauren Axelrod, now 27, is cute and petite, with short black hair and her mother's pale eyes. She speaks slowly, with evident impairment but a strong Chicago accent. "Things would be better for me if I wouldn't have seizures," she says. "They make me have problems with reading and math. They make me hard with everything."

By 2000, the savagery and relentlessness of Lauren's seizures seemed unstoppable. "I thought we were about to lose her," Susan says. "Her doctor said, 'I don't know what else we can do.'�" Then, through CURE, Susan learned of a new anti-convulsant drug called Keppra and obtained a sample. "The first day we started Lauren on the medication," Susan says, "her seizures subsided. It's been almost nine years, and she hasn't had a seizure since. This drug won't work for everyone, but it has been a magic bullet for Lauren. She is blooming."
"Obama to appoint panel for auto recovery" (AP):
It will take more than one "car czar" to help get the embattled U.S. auto industry back on track, President Barack Obama has decided. Instead, his administration is establishing a presidential task force to direct the restructuring of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, a senior administration official said Sunday night.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers will oversee the across-the-government panel, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.
"One Congressman Who Gets It: Pete DeFazio" (John Nichols,The Nation):
Who cast the most meaningful vote on the final version of the federal "stimulus" legislation?

Here's a hint: It was not one of the Republican senators who extracted extreme compromises -- in the form of ridiculous and unnecessary tax-restructuring schemes -- from unfocused Democrats.

Nor was it one of the handful of "Blue Dog" Democrats in the House who voted against the initial good version of the bill -- which was carefully constructed by Appropriations Committee chair David Obey to spend the proper mix of money on job creation and retention while aiding the unemployed -- but voted for the final not-so-good-version.

And it certainly wasn't the lockstep Republican partisans who gutted key job-creation and small-business supporting portions of the bill, voted "no" on everything and then turned around and claimed they wanted to spend more money on job creation and small-business supports.

The most meaningful vote on the final version of the stimulus measure -- which was approved Friday by both the House and Senate was cast by Oregon Congressman Pete DeFazio.
"More Like Gandhi" (Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker):
Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if -- or especially if -- the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it's not Rovian hardball he's playing. More like Gandhian hardball."
Howie P.S.: Hertzberg is mostly right, but the Gandhian comparison breaks down for me when Obama talks about politics in Chicago (including Rahmbo):
If they bring a knife, we bring a gun.

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