- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

MOUNTAINS OF MONEY

“Money by the barrelful, by the truckload. Mountains of money, heaped like gassy pyramids in the national dump. Scrounging packs of politicos, snapping, snarling and sending green bills flying sky-high as they root through the tangled mass with ragged claws. The stale hot air filled with cries of rage, the gnashing of teeth and dark prophecies of doom,” Camille Paglia writes at www.salon.com.

“Yes, this grotesque scene, like a claustrophobic circle in Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ was what the U.S. government has looked like for the past two weeks as it fights on over Barack Obama’s stimulus package - a mammoth, chaotic grab bag of treasures, toys and gimcracks. Could popular opinion of our feckless Congress sink any lower? You betcha!” Miss Paglia said.

“Why in the cosmos would the new administration, smoothly sailing out of Obama’s classy inauguration, repeat the embarrassing blunders of Bill Clinton’s first term? By foolishly promising a complete overhaul of health care within 100 days (and by putting his secretive, ill-prepared wife in charge of it), Clinton made himself look naive and incompetent and set health care reform back for more than 15 years.

“President Obama was ill-served by his advisers (shall we thump that checkered pinata, Rahm Emanuel?), who evidently did not help him to produce a strong, focused, coherent bill that he could have explained and defended to the nation before it was set upon by partisan wolves. To defer to the House of Representatives and let the bill be thrown together by cacophonous mob rule made the president seem passive and behind the curve.”

UNPOPULAR GOP

“Public support for the Democrats’ stimulus bill seems to have been dropping, most strikingly in Rasmussen’s surveys. But public support for a stimulus remains high: People think Washington needs to act. And they look much more favorably on Obama’s handling of the stimulus than on congressional Republicans’ handling of it,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“I suspect that congressional Republicans are faring poorly in the polls for two reasons. The first is that Republicans are just unpopular now, and most people are therefore going to disapprove of their handling of anything. The second is that the public sees Republicans as opposed not only to this stimulus, but to any stimulus. The public does not see them as having an alternative. As has been widely noted, Obama has in recent days been trying to deepen this public impression. He knows what he’s doing,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“It is easier to unify a minority party around opposition to the majority party’s proposals than around alternatives. But the resulting cacophony of alternatives makes it hard for the public to hear about any of them. I’m not sure how Republicans can solve this problem. But it seems to me, first, that they should not kid themselves that their attacks on the stimulus, or for that matter Obama’s nominee missteps, have brought his approval ratings down.

“As Karlyn Bowman of [the American Enterprise Institute] puts it, it’s just ‘the normal force of gravity’ that has brought Obama’s numbers slightly down since the inaugural. Second, Republicans would probably be better off if they spent less time pointing out the Democratic plan’s flaws and more time talking up their favored economic fixes.”

CLINTON’S RIVALS

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is finding that her job description is dissolving under her feet, leaving her with only a vestige of the power she must have thought she acquired when she signed on to be President Obama´s chief Cabinet officer,” Dick Morris writes in the Hill newspaper.

“Since her designation:

• “Vice President Biden has moved vigorously to stake out foreign policy as his turf. His visit to Afghanistan, right before the inauguration, could not but send a signal to Hillary that he would conduct foreign policy in the new administration, leaving Hillary in the role of backup.

• “Richard Holbrooke, the former Balkan negotiator and U.N. ambassador, has been named special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He insisted on direct access to the president, a privilege he was denied during much of the Clinton years.

• “Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine), negotiator of the Irish Peace Accords, was appointed to be the administration´s point man on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

• “Samantha Power, Obama´s former campaign aide, who once called Hillary a ‘monster,’ has been appointed to the National Security Council (NSC) as director of ‘multilateral affairs.’

• “Gen. James L. Jones, Obama´s new national security adviser, has announced an expansion of the membership and role of the NSC. He pledges to eliminate ‘back channels’ to the president and wants to grow the NSC´s role to accommodate the “dramatically different” challenges of the current world situation.

• “Susan Rice, Obama´s new United Nations ambassador, insisted upon and got Cabinet rank for her portfolio, and she will presumably also have the same kind of access to Obama that she had as his chief foreign policy adviser during the campaign.

“So where does all this leave Secretary of State Clinton?”

SILENT ON CENSUS

“The Obama administration’s decision to have the White House supervise the 2010 census - a response to left-wing complaints that the census was too important to leave under the authority of Republican Judd Gregg, the nominee for commerce secretary - has thus (as of Tuesday morning) far drawn absolutely no attention from the three broadcast networks, with not a single mention on the ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening newscasts,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

This would undoubtedly be a huge story if the White House were still in Republican hands and it was the GOP that was attempting to take over the census. As the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund reported on Tuesday: ‘There’s only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement,’ a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. ‘And it’s called politics, not science.’ ”

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

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