- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moving right

Barack Obama wants to give the economy a jolt. So far, though, the biggest jolt we’ve seen is the one the economy has given to Obama. That jolt, in the form of a plummeting stock market, upset Obama’s desire for a leisurely transition. It made him virtually America’s acting president,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Obama is fond of saying - he said it again last week - that the country has only one president at a time, and until January 20 it’s George W. Bush. True enough, but financial markets don’t look at Washington that way. They focus on the future, and that means Obama. Financial markets demanded at least some comforting hints about Obama’s plans for reversing the economic downturn,” Mr. Barnes said.

“Reluctantly, Obama has begun to provide them. But it took a 900-point dip in the stock market, plus persistent pleas, for Obama to act. After two days of market collapse, his aides spread the word that Obama’s choice for secretary of the Treasury would be Timothy Geithner, the head of the Federal Reserve in New York.

“Last week, Obama made his choice of Geithner official. And he named former Treasury secretary Larry Summers his top economic counselor at the White House and chose a monetarist, Christina Romer of the University of California at Berkeley, as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. The stock market rallied. This was change financial markets could believe in.

“There’s a larger point here. It’s not that Obama, despite his unswervingly liberal record in the Senate, turns out to be a pragmatist. The point is he’s pragmatic (so far) in one direction - rightward. Who knew?”

Alarm on the left

Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing at The Nation, expressed alarm on the left over Barack Obama’s national security team.

“Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq but, as he told us earlier this year, ‘I want to end the mind-set that got us into war.’ So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment has asked Robert Gates to stay on as secretary of defense - and assembled a national security team of such narrow bandwidth,” Miss vanden Heuevel said.

“It is true that President Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it more difficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama’s election has offered to re-engage the world and reset America’s priorities. Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in U.S. history doesn’t mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama’s foreign policy/national security team opposed the war - or the dubious claims leading up to it?

“The appointment of Hillary Clinton, who failed to oppose the war, has worried many. But I am more concerned about Gates. …

“It’s the appointment of Gates which has a dispiriting, stay-the-course feel to it. Some will argue, and I’ve engaged in my fair share of such arguments, that Gates will simply be carrying out Obama’s policies and vision. … But Gates will undoubtedly help to shape policy and determine which issues are given priority. And while Gates has denounced ‘the gutting’ of America’s ‘soft power,’ he has been vocally opposed to Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plan. And at a time when people like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz are calling for steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons (a position Obama has adopted), Gates has been calling for a new generation of nuclear weapons.”

Changing hip hop

“It continues to appear that the cool and highly intelligent Barack Obama is going to have a powerful impact on debilitating black popular culture, particularly hip hop. The signs are everywhere,” Stanley Crouch writes in the New York Daily News.

In the wake of Byron Hurt’s searing documentary ‘Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,’ hip-hop fans have questioned the retarding effect that hip hop has had on young black men through encouraging thuggish violence, misogyny, clownish behavior and crude materialism,” Mr. Crouch said.

“Hurt’s documentary is most powerful because the filmmaker himself is a fan of the idiom but, as a grown and responsible man, he felt it was necessary to call out hip hop’s many shortcomings because the idiom had moved from clever rhymes and dance beats to advocating personal, social and criminal corruption.

“Those who pretend that they do not know what Hurt is investigating because ‘that is not ALL of hip hop’ need to take note of the fact that Russell Simmons, the godfather of hip hop, recently blamed the deep vulgarization of the genre on producers who would do anything for a buck. ‘Some producers have found that dirt sells,’ says the godfather. How now, brown cow?

“Simmons is nothing if not clever and senses that the arrival of Barack and Michelle Obama could mean things are going to change.”

Failed talks

“With much of the world´s attention focused on the economic crisis and now the terrorist attacks in India, a noteworthy anniversary has passed,” Pierre Atlas writes at Real Clear World.

“On Nov. 27, 2007, President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convened an international peace conference in Annapolis, Md. The ultimate goal, Bush declared, was to achieve, by the end of 2008, an agreement that would create a Palestinian state ‘living side by side with Israel in peace and security.’ One year later, it does not look like this ambitious timeline will be met,” said Mr. Atlas, an assistant professor of political science and director of the Richard G. Lugar Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College

“The Annapolis process was seriously flawed from its inception. The Bush administration agreed to assist the Israelis and Palestinians in their bilateral negotiations, but declared it would not play the role of active broker, even if the talks bogged down. Negotiated settlements need third-party mediation - especially, as in this case, when there is an absence of trust among the parties in conflict. And the United States has always been the only country with the clout and credibility to broker a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“There were additional problems with Annapolis as well. The final-status issues were deliberately left off the table, but, as I wrote for realclearpolitics in October 2007, they needed to be front and center if the summit was to succeed.

“Finally, the Annapolis process may have been doomed from the start due to weak and ineffective leadership.”

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

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