Aug 27 2009

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The Harbingers of August

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August is the gift of Providence to those of us whose work is unheralded but necessary in our nation’s capital. Even chest-puffing Capitol Hill staffers flee while the going is good before their bosses come back from a month of reality in their districts.

While the famous, powerful and consequential de-camp the District for rest and recuperation, those of us left are blessed with smooth commutes, on-street parking and access to the city’s best restaurants. Voice mail is heavy.  Action is temperate.

It is proof that there is equilibrium in the universe.

But the absence of people is not an absence of news.  And as Duffy recharges for the battles ahead, here are some pearls of wisdom gleamed from our newspapers of record to tide you over until the proverbial shooting starts in earnest after Labor Day.

POTUS on an Island:  the same crack PR team that has managed the President’s ten point slide in the polls since June – and put him under 50% with key demographic groups – was apparently in charge of planning his vacation.

With 1.8 million Americans facing foreclosure this year, whose idea was it to have the President stay at a $35,000 a week estate on one of the most elite islands in the United States? Moreover, this is hardly the crowd that will provide real world feedback to the president as he considers how to get out of the hole he has dug for himself on so many domestic policies.

Economy:  the good news is that OMB and CBO estimates on the economy, normally at odds, actually agree. The bad news is that it is all bad news.

The deficit for 2009 will be $1.6 trillion. Those of you a bit older may remember that Ronald Reagan’s entire defense build-up for the 1980s was $1.6 trillion; an amount that liberals at the time found shocking, unsustainable and wasteful. Now we’re going to spend it all in one year, and you could hear a pin drop sooner than a liberal crying foul. 2010’s estimate is not much better, with a projected deficit of $1.5 trillion.  Let’s remember that Obama said George Bush’s deficits represented out of control spending in Washington. Bush’s last deficit was a puritan $459 billion.

What’s more, the ten year outlook is even worse, with the US racking up $9 trillion in debt, with government spending outstripping GDP growth, with debt becoming a thoroughly shocking 68% of GDP by 2019.  See if you can qualify for a mortgage if your credit card bills are 68% of your salary.

Who Needs Card Check?  the pervasive influence of unions continues unabated under the Obama administration. Obama’s solemn pledge not to tax health plans is rooted in union interests where generous and unsustainable health benefits have been the key concession in contract negotiations with management.

Now, under Obama restructuring, the unions are actually owners of the car companies they once worked for. And as we worry about Wall Street greed, take reassurance that the new head of the New York Federal Reserve – a banking position for those of you who don’t follow the news – is an AFL-CIO president with no financial experience.

Swine Flu:  while the public mania over Swine flu has dropped significantly as the media has moved onto juicier stories, new estimates from the CDC estimate that Swine flu could infect up to half the citizens of the United States in one form or another next year, making it one of the worst influenza breakouts in history.

And just when you were wondering about your Swine flu shot, comes a story up to half of the health care workers globally won’t take the shot, for fear of side effects or that it won’t work.

Stock upon dry goods and water, and plan on telecommuting next winter.

Terrorists: during the Bush administration, liberals accused the Administration of raising the terror alert status whenever bad news was coming from another direction, something that Tom Ridge seems to be confirming in his forthcoming book.

By the same turn, it seems that whenever bad news is coming at the Obama administration – and these days it is being brought in by dump truck – the Administration falls back on the bugaboo of CIA interrogation tactics.

Now we get not just a document dump, but also a special investigator to determine whether individual CIA agents should be prosecuted.

While this gets the liberal base all fired up, it has a more complicated and divisive impact on the public at large. First, the President promised to look forward, not back. Second, by dumping classified documents and conducting “witch hunts” to find CIA operatives who conducted enhanced interrogation, the Justice Department all but assures that CIA relationships with other intelligence organizations around the globe will suffer, as will morale at the CIA, ostensibly the agency charged with seeing the next danger coming by finding out things from people who are not friendly to us.

CIA procedure in those early days after 9-11 may seem shocking and eye-averting to average Americans, but prosecuting the past when the techniques led to actionable intelligence seems an unreasonable stretch.

Moreover, when you actually read what the CIA did, and watch what Al Qaeda does, Americans will consider CIA techniques potentially abusive, but not torture; particularly when the techniques were used on people who were directly responsible for killing 3,000 Americans, and who were happily planning on killing more.

All of this fits nicely with Scotland’s release of the only convict of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988; a Libyan national – apparently near death – who received a hero’s welcome upon his arrival at Tripoli.  That PM Gordon Brown had talked PR strategy with Gaddafi during the G8, requesting that there be no media circus upon the return of the terrorist, points to his complicity in the release; though we will have to wait for the award of Libyan oil and gas contracts to conclusively determine that this was all about economics.

Disgusted yet?

Well, now comes a story that Gaddafi plans to pitch a tent in Englewood, NJ, a prosperous hamlet 12 miles outside of Manhattan, and the location of the Libyan UN representative, when he comes to NY in September for the opening of the UN General Assembly.

The Scottish and English may have a more highly developed sense of humanity, or a better sense cut throat global competition when it comes to cutting deals with Gaddafi, but the locals in NJ, were more than 100 of the Lockerbie victims hailed from, have a different opinion, and are raising a royal stink with their Members of Congress, already shell-shocked from town hall meetings, and the striped pants set at State.

Mayor Bloomberg had already nixed a request from Gaddafi to pitch his tent in Central Park.

Which leads to today’s conclusion that maybe President Obama should consider hiring some of Bloomberg’s PR guys.

Enjoy the end of summer.


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