Department of Justice Stalls, Fund and WSJ Fumble on Mandates and Obama

Is Obama following Bush’s lead on records decisions? Holder and the DOJ have backtracked just slightly in the decision to with hold documents relating to harsh or inhuman treatment of detainees at  Guantanamo. They asked for more time to review all the documents – “In response to the outcry over the state secrets argument, the Justice Department promised to review other cases to ensure that the Bush administration has asserted such claims properly.” That still leaves  this past Monday’s decision by the Obama Justice Department would maintain adhere to the absurd Bush administration position that the torture related lawsuit be dismissed because it undermines national security. The entire country already knows from press reports that people were tortured and many of the techniques used. The public appears to back the idea of investigations of Bush-Cheney wrong doing, Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics

Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

President Obama’s poll numbers are still solid gold and his recent press conference and public advocacy show how effective he is at rallying public support. So if the administration is afraid of partisan political fallout from the public, that fear seems unfounded. If anything Obama could probably make the public more aware of how Bush’s policies have endangered Americans and hurt efforts to combat Middle-East radicalism. Not to mention Obama’s own promises for more transparency and adherence to the law. With the stimulus pretty much out of the way there is little excuse to avoid a little more focus on some legal and Constitutional issues that will haunt his presidency.

Leahy, D-Vt., this week proposed a “truth commission” to assemble facts. He said the panel could offer immunity from prosecution for everything but perjury. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why,” he said.

Conyers, D-Mich., has called for a panel that would gather facts and make recommendations, and could possibly lead to prosecutions. “This isn’t payback,” he said. “We are getting things straightened out for the future.”

Republican Arlen Specter expressed the same thoughts echoed by many on the right. They don’t make sense,

“If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it,” he said. “This is not Latin America.”

The state of Illinois just managed to take about five minutes to impeach Rod Blagojevich. That probably had something to do with the people of Illinois and their state representatives thinking that the rule of law was more important then what party was embarrassed or some unicorn filled nightmare where the impeachments never end because  you had one. Let’s not prosecute anyone for anything according to that reasoning, close the prisons and save the tax payers tons of money.

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Why The Stimulus Is Too Small

It’s a matter of basic math, says economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The economy is currently losing – annually — $450 billion in housing wealth, $650 billion in consumer spending and $150 billion in commercial real estate value.
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“You’re talking about a gap on the order of twelve-hundred-fifty billion dollars, and we’re trying to plug that with four-hundred-something, so we’ve got a long way to go,” Baker says. (The stimulus package of roughly $800 billion doles out spending and tax cuts over two years.)

Galbraith, too, says that demonstrating that the stimulus is too small is a matter of basic math. The $400 billion it will inject into the economy each of the next two years is equal to about two to three percent of GDP, he noted. But the economy is falling at a much faster rate, projected at eight percent a year by the CBO – and that projection, again, doesn’t account for the financial collapse.

If it’s too small, how is it, then, that economic models like the Congressional Budget Office’s show that the economy will turn around sometime in 2009 or 2010?

The harsh reality: they’re just guessing. And they’re guessing based on economic models, says Galbraith, that have been built post-World War II and don’t take into account the collapse of the financial sector. Instead, they assume the credit markets will be there to help ease the nation out of the downturn.

Some of the individual items taken out will come up in regular spending bills – so that is not an end of the world situation. Its a matter of pumping enough money into banks so they’re not afraid to lend and businesses aren’t afraid to borrow.

The Wall Street Journal’s regular reporting generally isn’t that bad, but their editorial page is a crazy quilt club for wing-nuts that indulge in  historical revisionism and spin. There is a huge business opportunity waiting for someone to open a rehab clinic for Republicans hooked on spin, Obama Misreads His Mandate – Reagan didn’t assume his landslide was a license for whatever he wanted

To be sure, Reagan’s team knew that the honeymoon period would provide maximum leverage, and that they had to move quickly before “organized interest groups regain their strength and aggressiveness.” But by handing over the drafting of the stimulus package to Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama started out by empowering interest groups to unleash their pent-up aggression.

The Republican party is now at least, if unintentional, acknowledged as an ‘interest group’ by John Fund and the WSJ. As Mr. Fund tries however limply to imply that President Obama was too partisan, he slaps the president’s had for reaching out to that special interest group otherwise known as Republicans. A shrewd move it turns out as Republicans showed that were not the least bit interested in bipartisan compromise – something voters will remember in the mid-terms, but in the end despite any fodder to cable comedians, got almost all of the original stimulus package he wanted. Did he fitter away any political capital. Not according to polls in which the public trusts Obama far more then Republicans and even more then Congressional Dems to run the economy. Reagan’s first forays in shaping a budget that was projected to run the country into deficit Nirvana a-la Bush, though not as deep was moderated by Democrats who held a solid majority in the House at the time,

But after his initial victories on tax cuts and defense, the revolution effectively stalled. Deficits started to balloon, the recession soon deepened, his party lost ground in the 1982 midterms, and thereafter Reagan never seriously tried to enact the radical domestic agenda he’d campaigned on. Rather than abolish the departments of Energy and Education, as he had promised to do if elected president, Reagan added a new cabinet-level department–one of the largest federal agencies–the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Though his budgets requested some cuts in some areas of discretionary spending, Reagan rapidly retreated and never seriously pushed them. As Lou Cannon, the Washington Post reporter who covered Reagan’s political career for 25 years, put it in his masterful biography, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, “For all the fervor they created, the first-term Reagan budgets were mild manifestos devoid of revolutionary purpose. They did not seek to ‘rebuild the foundation of our society’ (the task Reagan set for himself and Congress in a nationally televised speech of February 5, 1981) or even to accomplish the ‘sharp reduction in the spending growth trend’ called for in [his] Economic Recovery Plan.” By Reagan’s second term, the idea of seriously diminishing the budget was, to quote Stockman, “an institutionalized fantasy.” Though in speeches Reagan continued to repeat his bold pledge to “get government out of the way of the people,” government stayed pretty much where it was.

Mr. Fund has, like many on the extreme Right, a selective and very rosy memory of things that did not happen or didn’t happen quite the way they would like everyone to believe. If Democrats had not reigned in Reagan’s slash and burn budget we would have had an even more painful preview of the Bush 43 years. It could be argued that had Reagan somehow plowed ahead with his wildly extremist agenda Conservatism would have died in the 90s rather then languishing in juvenile displays of irrelevancy we have seen the past two weeks a The 10 Trillion Dollar Debt Party resort to quoting fake reports, imaginary studies  and history that never happened. Fund also ever so conveniently leaves out the Bush administration in his examples of presidents and how they should act on mandates from voters, Cheney Should Smile as Obama Tells GOP , “I Won”

Following the disputed 2000 election, the Bush-Cheney transition team prepared to assume the White House without either a popular vote mandate or dominant majorities in Congress. But while the mainstream media consensus concluded that a “weakened” President Bush would have to govern from the center and “build bridges to the opposition,” Dick Cheney had a different idea. Especially when it came to the Republican ticket’s radical plan of tax cuts for the economy, Cheney insisted:

“We don’t negotiate with ourselves.”

[  ]…RUSSERT: Governor Bush and you campaigned on a platform of a $1.3 trillion tax cut. Now that the Senate is 50-50, Democrats-Republicans, and the Republicans control the House by eight or nine votes, won’t you have to scale down your tax cut in order to pass it? [...] But, in reality, with a 50-50 Senate and a close, close, small majority in the House, you’re going to have to have a moderate, mainstream, centrist governance, aren’t you?

CHENEY: Oh, I think so. [...] But I think there’s no reason in the world why we can’t do exactly what Governor Bush campaigned on.

Bush-Cheney certainly had no mandate and acted with blinding hubris toward Congress and the American public – very statesman like – no wonder Fund suddenly forgot the 43rd president. President Obama has a clear mandate, could act without Republican support, yet has reached out to – some would say too much so – to Republicans. While I clearly disagree with Obama and his team on a few things I cannot fault him his noble attempts to be a true statesman. Like many I wish President Obama would be a little less bipartisan and more prize fighter. There is too much at stake to try and cater to the Bushican party that wants to press replay on all the same disasterous polcies that got the country where it is today.

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