- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

CRISIS DU JOUR

“Blame Joe Biden. His warning last fall that 'it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama' with 'an international crisis' has spawned a cottage industry of premature declarations,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Calls of 'this is it' have greeted every development in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran. Lately, it's been the Somali pirates' turn to be labeled the test,” Mr. Goodwin says.

“By the veep's standards, each incident qualified as the Big One. Except, of course, none was. Each faded and was replaced by a fresh crisis that, briefly, laid claim to fulfilling Biden's prophecy. The problem is that Biden had it wrong. There isn't going to be just one international test of Obama's mettle. There will be a string of them until friend and foe alike gauge where Obama is willing to draw a line and defend it.

“With his first turn on the global stage, our new president's priority was to prove he meant it when he said the days of George Bush's so-called cowboy diplomacy were over. From playing the peacemaker on symbolic issues to keeping mum when he didn't get his way, Obama demonstrated an overwhelming preference for coordinated actions with other nations and groups like the International Monetary Fund, NATO and the United Nations.

“There is an undeniable appeal to burden sharing with broad coalitions, yet one early result of Obama's Kumbaya approach remains the nagging question about his bottom line. Will he act in what he believes is America's interest, even if no one follows? Or will he subject every action in every crisis to the litmus test of whether there is a consensus?”

NEW BALLGAME

“When economics was just economics, analysts and forecasters had a difficult job. Now that economics has reverted to its original calling, Political Economy, the chore is well-nigh impossible,” Irwin Stelzer writes in the London Times.

“We are no longer guessing merely at the effect of declining house values on consumption - the wealth effect - or of the jobless rate on consumer confidence. We are now forced to guess what politicians, described by Adam Smith as 'that insidious and crafty animal … whose councils are directed by the momentary fluctuations of affairs,' will do in response to economic developments,” says Mr. Stelzer, who is the director of economic-policy studies at the Hudson Institute.

“No, imprudent lending will not bring a bank to the end of its rope, so long as the government provides more for survival - and to tie management's hands. No, falling car sales will not necessarily force one or more car companies into bankruptcy, as they would in a market free of the long arm of a government beholden to trade unions. No, a weaker currency will not necessarily buoy exports and reduce imports, not when governments can erect barriers to trade. And no, a wave of house repossessions will not necessarily teach the virtue of living within one's means, when the government is around to force lenders to stay their hands, and create moral hazard on a huge scale.”

STEELE SNUB?

“Turmoil and controversy continue to swirl around new Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. But the latest flareup - a very public rejection of a request to speak at the anti-Obama, anti-tax 'Tea Party' in Chicago on April 17 - might not be his fault,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

” 'He never asked to speak,' says a party official. 'There was never an expectation, nor formal request for our participation.'

“But here's how it's playing: The event's organizers, the Don't Go Movement in Chicago, say they received a request earlier [last] week from Steele to participate. Organizer Eric Odom, on the Don't Go site, thanked the GOP for the outreach and then shut the door to any play by Steele. 'I very much appreciate the fact that Chairman Steele is now finally starting to reach out to the true grass-roots side of the free-market movement in America. Unfortunately, it appears that he has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten and how much media is now involved,' he wrote in an e-mail to the RNC. 'With regards to stage time, we respectfully must inform Chairman Steel [sic] that RNC officials are welcome to participate in the rally itself, but we prefer to limit stage time to those who are not elected officials, both in government as well as political parties. This is an opportunity for Americans to speak, and elected officials to listen, not the other way around.'

“[Thursday], when I heard about this, I called the RNC, which said that Steele plans to be in Chicago for a party meeting and was just interested in getting info on the event and the attendees,” Mr. Bedard writes. ” 'He's in a daylong meeting anyway, so we weren't ever going to be speaking,' said an official. 'It was just a “Hey, we're going to be in town” call.'

“Well, after we e-mailed Don't Go, organizers there must have realized the news value of their claim. They put out a news release titled: 'RNC chairman denied. Steele not wanted to speak at Chicago Tea Party.' The RNC's reaction: 'They're just having a little fun.' ”

TO BE IN CAROLINA …

Sen. Richard M Burr, North Carolina Republican, says he has little doubt that this is the calm before the storm and that next year his state again will be the focus of a national battle for control of the U.S. Senate, Rob Christensen writes in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.

“With the bull's-eye that organizations have put on North Carolina Republicans' backs, there is going to be more money spent in North Carolina than anybody can ever fathom in the next election cycle,” he says.

“Two statewide polls show Burr's approval rating in the mid-30 percent range, regarded as a dangerously low number for an incumbent. That's why Democrats, fresh off defeating Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole last November, are now looking to bump off Burr in November 2010 and gain a filibuster-proof Senate for President Barack Obama.

But Mr. Christensen was not sure that Mr. Burr was helping himself.

“Burr spent last week's Easter recess traveling across North Carolina, trying to raise his visibility. On Wednesday, he slipped into a North Raleigh Rotary Club meeting with little fanfare and no entourage, and he gave a lunchtime speech with virtually no applause lines. Instead, Burr delivered plenty of earnest policy-wonk talk about the 'architecture of the financial institutions,' 'infrastructure partnerships' and 'a national insurance product.' ”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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