- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

SPREAD THE WEALTH

“I keep hearing the White House staff describe the president as a pragmatist,” Robert B. Reich writes at www.salon.com.

David Axelrod, one of his chief advisers, whom I admire enormously, recently called him a ‘ruthless pragmatist.’ Soon, I expect, he’ll be called a ‘take-no-prisoners pragmatist,’ or perhaps a ‘remorseless, merciless and unrelenting pragmatist.’

“I’m relieved the president is a pragmatist, but that doesn’t let him or anyone around him off the hook for describing what he wants to achieve and why. Being a pragmatist is a statement about means, not ends. It describes someone who chooses the most practical way of achieving a certain goal, but it does not explain why he chooses one goal over another,” said Mr. Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration.

“The president seems to me especially thoughtful and passionate about one of the great moral questions of domestic policy today: widening inequality of income and wealth, and therefore of opportunity and political power.”

YES TO SOCIALISM

“Later this week, the Obama administration is expected to release the details of its budget proposal, the broad outlines of which passed Congress [Tuesday] with no Republican votes,” liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias writes at www.thedailybeast.com.

“A lack of bipartisan support is becoming customary, but the specific terms of the debate are interesting. As the Hill reported: ‘Republicans blasted the budget as a turn toward a bigger-government philosophy prevalent in Europe.’ Obama’s proposals, in other words, aren’t just bad. They’re downright un-American!

“But political attacks can sometimes have surprising results. Thus, the main impact of the conservative movement’s months-long campaign to brand Barack Obama a dangerous radical who’s going to bring European-style socialism to the United States has been raising poll numbers for socialism, especially among the young. After all, the term is fairly vague, but people have concrete opinions about Obama (they like him) and about his antagonists (they don’t like them) so if Obama’s for socialism, the thinking goes, it can’t be all bad.

“Americans cling to the idea that inequality and sky-high child poverty rates are the price we have to pay for the social mobility we crave. In fact, the reverse is true,” Mr. Yglesias said.

“Optimistically, a secondary effect of Republican attacks will be to get people thinking more seriously about a European-style welfare state which, despite ossified conventional wisdom, is in many ways exactly what we need.”

BOW-WOW

“Following the path of CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman and producer Kate Albright-Hanna, who both jumped aboard the Obama campaign last year, senior political producer Sasha Johnson this week announced she’s leaving the network’s Washington bureau to take the press secretary slot at the Department of Transportation,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“She won’t be the only media vet in that shop. As the Politico’s Michael Calderone noted Monday night in reporting Johnson’s move, former Chicago Tribune Washington correspondent Jill Zuckman ‘already headed to Transportation in February, becoming director of public affairs and assistant to Secretary Ray LaHood.’

“Plus, in the past month or so, two other D.C. journalists accepted administration positions. ABC’s longtime Justice Department correspondent, Beverley Lumpkin, in April joined the very department she covered for so many years, prompting a Washington Post blogger to quip on Tuesday that she’s ‘turning sources into colleagues.’

“Speaking of The Washington Post, its former science reporter, Rick Weiss, is now advancing Obama policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology. So far, by my count, at least 10 mainstream media journalists have revolved into positions toiling for the Obama campaign, transition or administration,” Mr. Baker said.

POOR ARLEN

“In theory, the switch made perfect sense. Arlen Specter would switch parties, have the primary field cleared for him, romp overPat Toomey in the general election, then continue his Senate career as before. What could possibly go wrong?” Sean Trende writes in a blog at www.real clear politics .com.

“Well, to start with, it increasingly looks as though Specter will have a serious primary opponent. While polling shows Specter is likely to win that matchup, it means he will (i) face the risk of losing, (ii) have to raise and spend money for the primary, and (iii) probably have to tack to the left to maintain his primary lead,” Mr. Trende said.

“Then, speculation increased that former Republican Governor Tom Ridge would get into the race. The same polling … shows Ridge thumping Pat Toomey in the primary, and then beating Specter in the general election (other polling shows the general election race quite close).

“Now it appears that Harry Reid was unable to keep his promise to award Specter his seniority. According to CNN, a resolution [Wednesday] prevented Specter from retaining his seniority. This is a double blow for Specter. First, he can no longer argue to Pennsylvanians that his seniority is a benefit to the state. This makes problem one and two above harder to overcome, as he loses one of the major arguments for his candidacy.

“Second, Specter does not strike me as a man with a small ego, yet he has dropped from being the 12th most senior senator to coming in right below Kirsten Gillibrand, who was in diapers when Specter was starting his political career. I would imagine that isn’t easy to take. To make matters worse, there isn’t much he can do about it; what can he do, switch parties back?

“So far, Specter’s best day as a Democrat was his first day.”

DOING HER PART

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is doing her part to give a much-needed boost to the pork industry, which has been wrongly blamed for the spread of swine flu.

Ms. Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a Wednesday hearing that included few tough questions that “I tried to have a ham and cheese sandwich every day last week.”

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

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