29 October 2009

Does the White House Know How to Strategize?

This is third week in a row that Jake Tapper (ABC News) seems utterly mystified at the lack of any real strategy originating from the White House for any of the administration's major policy initiatives.
'TAPPER: Robert, is it the opinion of this White House -- has it been conveyed by this White House to Senate Democrats that the trigger mechanism for the public option would be a better way to get to 60 votes than the opt-in provision?

GIBBS: The President, when Senate Democrats were here last week, the President listened to what their strategy was for moving health care forward.

TAPPER: Robert, did he convey to them, one way or another, what he thought would be a more likely way to get the bill passed?

GIBBS: We listened to what their thoughts were there in the Senate and wanted to hear their strategy.

TAPPER: Seriously, you're not -- okay, so you listened, but the President didn't convey any --

GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.

It would be funny if it weren't so disconcerting.

Vote for Freedom of the Press

Whether you like or dislike the commentary on the Fox cable channel, their news division is out there gathering and reporting on the news just like any other news division. And yet, the White House is trying to treat them like a political enemy. Freedom of the press is one of the most cherished rights in the country, and no administration has the right (or is right) to try to suppress that freedom. Despite some fairly large ideological gulfs between various news agency members, many in the press are rallying to the side of Fox News in defense against the silly (and at times self-demeaning) attacks by the White House. Apparently, the White House thinks that this issue that's not going away any time soon, but I have to wonder why an administration facing so many grave and important decisions is spending its time trying to squelch unfavorable coverage.

The NPR News Blog has a short survey on this issue if you care to vote.

25 October 2009

Iran Dithering Over Proposals

While Iran is permitting inspections of the recently -revealed nuclear processing site, near Qom, to go forward, it is by no means certain that it will accept the proposed deal to allow France and Russia to finalize fuel processing. The proposal would ship, either in stages or in bulk, all of Iran's nuclear fuel to Russia and France for final reprocessing. The two countries would ensure that fuel was processed only to the extent required for nuclear medicine. Major concerns about the ability of Iran to either hide reprocessing or to simply continue processing unshipped material (in the case of piecemeal shipments) abound. France has warned that Iran does not seem to be bargaining in good faith, and that it will drag the negotiations out until the process is meaningless. This was born out last week by Iran's decision to postpone a decision. Also of concern is Russia's on-again, off-again bargaining with Iran to directly ship uranium to the country. Whether or not Russian can be relied upon as a partner in this process remains to be seen.

President Obama has stated that Iran is 'on notice to comply' with the plant inspections and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This kind of 'bold' rhetoric has yet to produce results in North Korea, Pakistan or really any country the President has put on notice. It's doubtful that Iran will take much notice of the warnings without some real consequences on the table. France openly scoffed at this language during the G-20 summit, and Russia declared it unhelpful. President Sarkozy seems to have backed off some vis/vis President Obama, holding a telephone conversation yesterday with Obama on Iran, but continues to predict that direct actions (either through strengthened sanctions or turning a blind eye to Israeli action) may be necessary.

18 October 2009

UPDATED: No We Won't - Oh Wait, We Will

UPDATE 1: Link here to an interesting editorial on a better use for White House talent.

After throwing the equivalent of a four-year old's tantrum over the posturings of puffed-up opinion commentary on Fox, the White House has decided that it might be in its best interest to allow Administration officials to appear on Fox News shows after all. In the last posting, I discussed the increasingly partisan, and over-hyped coverage on all of the cable news shows (of course, both the left and the right have long concluded that media bias is rampant), and the increasingly competition between the various outlets.

What seems particularly ridiculous is the personal offense the White House seems to feel whenever Beck or Hannity goes off on a rant. I feel little sympathy for much of the sentiment behind those rants, but the President is supposed to be a little thicker-skinned than this. So what is Beck says something ludicrous - ignore it if possible, or rebut with facts. Don't scream, yell and cry for Momma. Like all modern politicians, Obama has made full use of the media when it suits his purposes, even 'permitting' ABC to broadcast, from the White House, a full-throated defense of his approach to health care reform. When the President of the United States engages in a particular attack on one media outlet, ignoring the bias of the very outlet on which those accusations are made (by proxy), he looks the fool.

11 October 2009

Cable News Wars Heats Up

CNN aired an ad in the South Florida market tonight with a voice-over by a woman calling herself "... a lifelong Democrat." In the spare ad, she states that she listens to CNN's Anderson Cooper (AC360) because she knows that he "... holds right-wing Republican Congressmen ..." accountable when they "lie." Nothing in the ad says anything about holding left-wing politicians who lie accountable. One comes away with the impression that CNN is now firmly a Democratic organ. The ad is not yet available on the Internet, but will be posted here when it is.

This ad seems to be part of a larger trend for the cable news networks to directly attack each other, head-to-head. Most recently, Fox News and CNN have gone after each other over coverage of the 9-12 (Tea Party) protest in Washington, D.C. on September 12. Both networks covered the protests fairly extensively (having spent part of the day going back and forth between the coverage, my own estimation was that while Fox spent more time and resources on the coverage, both networks covered the event extensively). Fox took out an ad stating that all of the major news networks, including CNN, missed covering the event altogether. Most of the other networks mentioned the event, but did little coverage, but CNN was incensed to be included among this group, and fired back with an ad and reporting directly accusing Fox of lying.

MSNBC aired an ad early in the year, attacking both CNN and Fox, implying that they both were distorting the facts, and siding with (by implication) the Bush Administration. Both networks fired back immediately.

It's difficult to know what to think of these tit-for-tat attacks between the networks, although it does seem clear that most news networks are increasingly turning to new interpretation rather than straight reporting. Once thing seems certain: the conflict is going to continue to heat up for now.

06 October 2009

Updated: At Least the Swiss Have Spine

Update 2: Poland and France seem to be backing off its support for the pig (actually, that's an insult to innocent pigs everywhere, but words fail me when it comes to people like him).

UPDATE 1: What makes Poland's objections to the Polanski arrest so strange, is its recent passage of a law requiring the chemical castration of pedophiles prior to release from prison. That's actually a law I would strongly consider supporting (not that Congress would ever countenance such a move, particularly as certain members have engaged in something close), but it seems a tad hypocritical given Polanski's admitted crime.

The Swiss government has rejected an appeal to release Roman Polanski, and has urged the court hearing the extradition request by the United States to do the same. Fortunately, the Swiss seem to be a little more stable than the Hollywood crowd that clamored for Polanski's release, on the grounds that his art outweighs his crime of drugging and raping a thirteen year old girl. They also seem to be paying little heed to the French and Polish officials who are behaving as if child-rape is no big deal. From the perspective of 'middle-America' (otherwise known as flyover land) the Swiss are now the protectors of middle-American virtues and common sense. If only Hollywood would reflect even a tithe of that sense.

01 October 2009

John Kerry Serving at the Pleasure of His Own Ego

Sen. Kerry is now advocating that President Obama take a good deal of time in deciding whether or not to resource Gen. McChrystal's request for additional troops. McChrystal's analysis of the situation on the ground is fully backed by Gen. Petraeus and Adm. Mullen, who are dealing directly with the mission that was given to them by the President this year. Kerry seems to blame the military leadership for being so bold as to request the resources necessary to fill that mission. Morning Edition reported today on Kerry's 'helpful' suggestion to listen to those ready to challenge 'the Generals,' calling the military leadership "... a lot of yes people who are there to serve at the pleasure of the wrong choice."

Besides being thoroughly insulting to the professional military, Kerry's new position is in direct contrast to the one he held up until a couple of months ago. Apparently calling for something, and being responsible for sourcing it, are two very different things to the Senator.

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