- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CAUTIONARY TALE

Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that ‘in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.’ Robert S. McNamara, who spent many years thinking about the Vietnam War, first as an architect and then as a critic (and getting it wrong on both ends), was a man who believed mainly in plans,” Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens writes.

“McNamara, who died [Monday] at 93, will go down as a cautionary tale for the ages, and perhaps none more than for the Age of Obama. Whatever else distinguishes JFK’s New Frontier or LBJ’s Great Society from Barack Obama’s ‘New Foundation,’ this too is an era of soaring rhetoric, big plans and boundless self-regard, issued by an administration convinced it can apply technocratic, top-down solutions to huge and unpredictable systems - the banking, auto and health care industries, for instance, or the climate. These are people deeply impressed by their own smarts, the ones for whom the phrase ‘the best and the brightest’ has been scrubbed of its intended irony.”

CRONY CAPITALISM

“First President Bush, then President Obama poured billions into General Motors and Chrysler to keep the companies alive but barely breathing,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“That was just for starters. Next came Obama’s creation of an Auto Task Force to oversee the auto companies. To head the task force, the president picked Steve Rattner, a Wall Street investor with no experience in automaking but lots in raising campaign money for Obama and Democrats,” Mr. Barnes said.

“GM and Chrysler were quickly restructured, mostly to the benefit of the United Auto Workers, the union which spent millions in 2008 to elect Obama and Democrats. The UAW now owns 17.5 percent of GM and 55 percent of Chrysler - quite a return on an investment of zero dollars. Obama said all parties should ‘sacrifice,’ but only bondholders did. They got a fraction of what they were legally entitled to receive. UAW retirees, in contrast, got a gift of $9.5 billion at GM and $14.2 billion at Chrysler.

“There’s an epilogue. Delphi, the auto-parts manufacturer once owned by GM and still its biggest supplier, has been in bankruptcy for four years. To acquire its assets and run the company, Delphi and Obama’s Auto Task Force picked an affiliate of the private equity firm Platinum Equity. There was no auction or competitive bidding, though Platinum stands to make millions in the deal. Why Platinum? The UAW favored it, sources said.

“There’s a name for all this: crony capitalism. Obama insists he believes in capitalism, but it’s not the free-market variety that he’s been promoting since he became president. Obamanomics is a different strain entirely.

“Crony capitalism is usually identified with Third World despots, like [Venezuela’s] Hugo Chavez, who reward their friends and allies in the business and financial communities. Some might be appointed to top government jobs, as Rattner was. But the chief characteristic of crony capitalism is favoritism for some companies or organizations (unions, for example) - in loans, grants, giveaways, and specific policies.

“There’s another aspect. Obama isn’t merely rewarding a few cronies, he’s seeking more and more favored groups to reward. One way he’s doing this is through his energy, health care, and other policies, which would boost certain companies and industries over others.”

OBAMA’S KATRINA?

“The economy is shaping up to be Barack Obama’s Katrina,” James Pinkerton writes at www.foxnews.com.

“If President George W. Bush was blamed for his slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 - there was plenty of blame to go around, of course, but the disaster was on Bush’s watch - then Obama will get the blame for his slow response to the current recession. The difference, of course, is that Katrina afflicted a city and a few states, while the recession afflicts the whole country,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

“Unemployment is 9.5 percent and rising fast, certain to go higher than 10 percent. And what is the federal government doing about it? Not much. And so House Republican Leader John Boehner makes a good point when he asks, ‘Where are the jobs?’

“On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said that the Obama administration had ‘misread’ the economic indicators. So what are they likely to do about it? More of the same - which is to say, not much.

“The problem the Democrats have - and come to think of it, the country has it, too - is that even if you want to build something, you can’t do it. That is, you can’t do it without plowing through years’ worth of lawyers and environmental-impact-statement-writers, nor without enduring endless hearings and lawsuits where every last NIMBY gets a whack at the project. And so even before this terrible recession, America’s capacity actually to build anything - build a highway, build a bullet train, build a power plant - had been crippled.

“So piling on new money does no good, because the old money hasn’t been getting spent. Getting spent, that is, on bricks and mortar and technology, as opposed to lawyers and consultants. In the past, ‘stimulus’ was a way to put blue collars and hardhats back to work. Yet now, the only people being stimulated are white-collar lobbyists and litigators.”

NOT SO CRAZY

“The political community’s reaction to Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin’s announcement that she would resign on July 26 was swift, withering and very nearly unanimous,” Charlie Cook writes at www.nationaljournal.com.

“It’s hard to dispute that Palin handled the announcement badly, but was her decision to resign really crazy, or just unexpected, with the press reacting to an unorthodox move by declaring it insane?” Mr. Cook asks.

“First, look at the issue of not seeking re-election in 2010 and work back. A good case can be made that seeking a presidential nomination has become an extraordinarily difficult undertaking in terms of organization-building, fundraising and cultivating the relationships necessary to win. And perhaps doing that well and being an effective governor are mutually exclusive. …

“So assuming Palin would not seek re-election in 2010, what value would she get from spending the next 18 months as a lame-duck governor, having to contend with a recalcitrant state legislature that already has shown little interest in making her look good, while trying to lay the groundwork for a national campaign?”

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

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide