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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Power grab

"Amidst the high-profile fight over the stimulus plan and the embarrassing tumult over the batch of Obama administration appointees with tax cheating problems there hasn't been much attention paid to the most naked power grab yet attempted by the Obama administration: the effort to wrest oversight of the federal census from professionals in the Commerce Department," Jennifer Rubin writes at pajamasmedia.com.

"As required by the Constitution, every 10 years the federal government undertakes a massive effort to count and gather information about Americans. The information impacts hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions about federal funding and policy. But most importantly, it will be the basis for the redistricting which determines Congressional representation," the writer said.

"The White House has proposed that the director of the Census, a Commerce Department employee, report to the White House. The White House contends this is no big deal. Nevertheless, the move followed a wave of protest from liberal civil rights groups concerned that they might not succeed in maximizing the count of minority voters if the census remained under the auspices of Republican Judd Gregg, the Commerce secretary nominee.

"Republican leaders in Congress are waking up to the implications of the White House's decision and beginning to sound the alarm. Two Republican congressmen have sent a letter to the White House protesting the move. The congressmen cited Title 13 of the U.S. Code, requiring that the Census Bureau be administered 'within, and under the jurisdiction of, the Department of Commerce.' They contend that 'the Executive Branch is limited to providing support for the Bureau in the form of information and resources.' "

Free rent

"Amazing. Yet another Obama appointee apparently has tax problems. Pardon me, usher, but I think Ive seen this movie before," J.G. Thayer writes at www.commentarymagazine.com.

"This time it's White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. It appears that the former congressman found a handy way to save money. Most members of Congress find themselves having to support two households - one in their home district, and one in or around DC. Some members, in the past, have ended up sharing apartments or town houses. Emanuel took that one step further: he moved into the home of his colleague, Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), staying there for five years. Rent-free," the writer said.

"To most people, this is 'imputed income' - non-financial gifts or compensation that should be reported to the IRS. Emanuel and DeLauro defend their conduct by saying that House ethics rules permit 'hospitality between colleagues.'

"Apparently they are not familiar with the old aphorism that 'guests, like fish, start to smell after three days.'

"And no, there was no impropriety or hanky-panky going on. Rep. DeLauro is happily married to one Stan Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg, by the way, is not a lobbyist. No, he's the next best thing in DC - hes a pollster. And, by wild coincidence, Greenbergs polling company (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research) lists both Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (which Emanuel headed) as clients.

"Let's see ... a Democratic representative gets free housing from a pollster who enjoys some very lucrative contracts from both that representative and a very influential group said representative heads up? Why, I'd never even suggest some kind of a quid pro quo arrangement."

Happy liberal

"Well, it's already happened. Barely two weeks into the job and President Barack Obama has compromised fundamental principles, timorously caved in to Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate and lost control of his agenda," Michael Tomasky writes in the London Guardian.

"Or ... wait. Maybe it's the case that, a mere two weeks into the job, President Obama has already changed the country's direction in remarkable ways. He's on the verge of a massive political victory when the Senate passes the stimulus package [Tuesday], as expected, and the Republicans are apoplectic and divided and intellectually bankrupt.

"Which is it? Friends, I usher you on a tour of the liberal mind," Mr. Tomasky said.

"OK, what I'm about to say isn't true of everyone, of course. But there is a general thing: liberals are happy being unhappy. Or worrying. We're (I very much include myself) big worriers. ...

"In addition, there is a general tendency to accentuate the negative. Partisans of both sides focus on what has been lost in compromise, but there is a crucial difference in the quality of complaint. Conservatives tend to look upon compromise and shout: 'Betrayal!' Liberals have more often tended to sigh: 'Well, I figured as much.' The blogosphere has given liberalism an often necessary jolt of the former disposition, but it's still the general reflex of the liberal mind (again, including my own) to assume the worst and nod knowingly as it inevitably happens.

"Well, today, I announce my emancipation from such habits. Goodbye to all that. The stimulus bill, imperfect as it is, does indeed represent an enormous political victory for Obama. For reasons tactical as well as substantive, liberals ought to declare victory and dance on the vast empty tundra that is the Republican present."

Hard to govern

"Either Congressional Democrats went from undeniably brilliant to unbelievably inept in just a few weeks, or being in the majority in Congress isn't nearly as easy as being the opposition, Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

"Those seem to be the two obvious alternatives that follow from the problems Democrats have had selling an economic stimulus package that began with considerable public support and the backing of a popular president. I'll cast my vote for the second alternative," Mr. Rothenberg said.

"As Republicans on Capitol Hill are now finding, being in the minority actually can be a lot of fun, even if it is inherently frustrating. They can't dictate results, but they sure can cause problems for Democratic leaders.

"However, Democrats shouldn't overreact to their current problems, which range from the party's handling of the economic stimulus bill to the tax problems of some of the president's Cabinet nominees. Even with all of their party's recent stumbles, the president and congressional Democrats will end up looking pretty good if the economy rebounds and Americans start to feel better about things."

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce.