- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

YACKETY-YAK

“Through most of his inaugural prime-time press conference, Barack Obama seemed like he was channeling a particularly loquacious combination of Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and the ghost of Hubert Humphrey,” Walter Shapiro writes at the New Republic Web site (www.tnr.com).

“The president’s response to the first question from the Associated Press about the risks of sounding too apocalyptic about the economy ran (or, to be more accurate, crawled) for nearly 1,200 words - and ended with Obama saying ‘OK’ with an implicit question mark as if he were requesting permission to keep on talking.

“A national poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday afternoon found that 92 percent of Americans described Obama as a ‘good communicator.’ There is a suspicion that those astronomic numbers had dipped by the time that Obama exited from the East Room of the White House at 9 p.m. on the dot.

“In Obama’s defense, the press conference was the first extended glimpse that many Americans had of their new president since the Inaugural Address. No one can deny the complexity of the economic challenges facing the nation - and President Obama is uniquely equipped to play Explainer in Chief. But Obama radiated the sense of a leader who has digested too many economic briefings and memorized too many talking points in preparation for his prime-time rendezvous with the public.

“He clearly came out in an over-caffeinated mood ready to do battle with his Republican congressional foes, whom he had already vanquished - and, as a result, he over-reacted to last week’s Fox News commentary instead of focusing on the exact shape of the stimulus. What shone through the entire press conference is how irked the president is with laissez-faire conservatives who believe, even now, ‘that the government has no business interfering in the marketplace’ and that ‘FDR was wrong to intervene back in the New Deal.’ (Presumably Amity Shlaes, the Roosevelt-ripping author, should not plan on any immediate Oval Office invitations.)”

‘SNARKY POINT’

“President Barack Obama’s first press conference [Monday] eveningwas absolutely riveting,” economist Tim Kane writes at www.growthology.com.

“The man cannot make up his mind whether his stimulus/rescue/spending-is-the-whole-point bill emerging from the Senate is bipartisan or a rejection of Republicans who don’t have ‘a lot of credibility’ and whose failed policies created this mess. Which is it? He wants to be congenial and condescending at the same time, and it does not work,” Mr. Kane said.

“As a snarky point, I do find it funny that the Democrats have been saying for six years that the war against Iraq was Bush unilateralism despite a dozen or so allied nations alongside America, yet less than half a dozen Republican votes makes the Senate bill ‘bipartisan.’

“The view inside the Beltway is that the president is rallying House Democrats - who love partisanship - to go along with him in support of the Senate bill. He’s using feisty language they like. But baiting the Republicans is risky public relations, and there are real doubts about whether Obama’s rhetorical fence-straddling will work in gathering House votes. The reality is that the two bills going into conference are different only in this way: one is extremely liberal and the other is extremely liberal with a superficial bipartisan gloss.”

‘WAR IS DIFFERENT’

“It has never been possible, nor thought possible, to win a war in court,” Andrew C. McCarthy writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“There are simply too many jihadists, with the vast majority operating outside the jurisdiction of our laws. When we are fortunate enough to nab one, that usually happens under fog-of-war conditions not conducive to Miranda warnings, police evidence-collection protocols and the like,” Mr. McCarthy said.

“And it bears keeping in mind that the purpose of an American trial is to force the government to meet a very high burden of proof in a system developed for the benefit of American citizens enjoying the presumption of innocence. That is why we say we would prefer to see the government fail - i.e., prefer to see the guilty go free - than to see an innocent person wrongly convicted.

“War is different. A war is fought - meaning that people are killed and prisoners taken - in order to achieve vital national objectives, particularly the protection of American lives. In that context, we cannot prefer to see the government fail. We need the government to prevail, or our lives and the rights we cherish are in jeopardy.

“That doesn’t mean the enemy doesn’t get due process, particularly if we decide to put some of them on trial for war crimes rather than simply detaining them for the duration of the conflict. There is, however, a reason it is called due process, rather than, say, trial process. We owe only the process that is due in the particular circumstances.

“War and peace are not the same circumstance. The process due Americans accused of crimes in civilian courts is not the same as the process due foreign combatants and terrorists captured during military operations.”

BLOVIATION

“There’s only one thing more revolting than watching Wall Street abuse taxpayer dollars: watching Congress bloviate about it,” Caroline Baum writes at www.bloomberg.com.

“Our elected representatives are gleeful at the opportunity to fan public outrage at bankers for their excesses - in part because it deflects attention from their own,” the writer said.

“Whether it’s Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, calling bankers a ‘bunch of idiots,’ or Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse proposing an ‘oversight court’ to restrain Wall Street’s ‘massive self-indulgences,’ Congress is perched on its high horse.

“Public anger at Wall Street is both palpable and understandable. It’s also well-deserved.

“Yet it would be a mistake for Congress to interpret that anger as a condemnation of capitalism and an endorsement of bigger government. …

“They like President Barack Obama and want him to succeed. They want increased regulation of the financial sector, especially since they’re on the hook for past mistakes.

“That said, the public doesn’t want government calling the shots. They understand - at least they should - that prices are a better way of allocating the economy’s scarce resources than government diktat. (If government was good at it, the Soviet Union would be flourishing.)”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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