Economy & Budget

Obama Fails First Test of Leadership

In Barack Obama's first major test in showing leadership of his party as the Democratic presidential nominee, he failed miserably.

As the titular head of the party, Obama was unable to control House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — unable to prevent her sabotaging the bailout bill and utterly clueless that she was going to ensure its failure by making a barn-burning partisan speech that would send many Republicans walking.

As John McCain was encouraging bipartisanship and cooperation and staying involved, Obama was phoning it in — literally — saying, "They can call me if they need me." Meanwhile, his Democratic leadership ran amok and Obama is nowhere to be found.

Verdict on the Presidential Debates

The Hill's A.B. Stoddard answers viewer questions about John McCain and Barack Obama's performances in the Presidential Debates as well as McCain's reaction to the current financial crisis.


Sarah Palin in Pants: Wall Street vs. Main Street — Sarah 10, Barack McCain 1

There was potentially a change in venue and archetype with Sarah Palin. There was the possibility of the awakening of a holistic inner life as when Victoria was queen — to my grandmother and oldest aunties, she was more the mother than their real mothers, and every English person felt a part of her family. Another possibility was of a new Jacksonian populism awakening Alaska-style, which would have been restorative. A republic should every several generations marry to the coyote or artic wolf to retain its original vitality. But McCain is prone to the work of the Trickster and his mercurial play. That alone might have been his motivation for choosing her. However, now that she is here and every manicured and coiffured squid on CNN and in the northeast press is taking shots at her, it could get interesting.

Palin’s mistake was in letting the poltroons who have been composing her recent public appearances — said to have been sent over from Bush’s office; they worship at the altar of Kali, the Death Mother — put her in pants. She wore a skirt and was free, natural, womanly and instinctive at her VP speech and it sent McCain toward the winners circle for the first time in months. And she came in with enough personal references — Dick Morris, William Kristol, David Brooks — to assume that she had at least entry-level ballast as Alaskan governor.

Don’t Let Them Crash

A scene from the classic movie “Airplane” keeps coming to my head.

The famous conservative commentator Jack Kirkpatrick, who used to do a Point/Counterpoint segment on “60 Minutes,” said this about efforts to rescue the plane from going down: “Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let ’em crash.”

I was getting a little worried that House conservatives were going to take the Jack Kirkpatrick view when it came to our national fiscal crisis: Wall Street bought its tickets, they knew what they were getting into. We say, let it crash.

Hey Big Spender! Obama Not Ready to Face Taxpayers

The most liberal senator in the United States Senate could not tell us what he would cut or trim in his massive spending proposal package in light of the financial crisis. That is frightening. As John McCain noted in tonight's debate, it is pretty far to travel from the far left to be able to reach across party lines and work with Republicans to solve any issue, let alone a huge financial crisis.

Barack Obama is an eloquent speaker, but he is not very swift on his feet, as exhibited by his clumsy tap dance onstage tonight. When asked by Jim Leher what he would alter in his spending program if elected president, Obama was lost and seemed to be missing talking points on that key point.

If the Bailout Fails, a New Political Movement Could Grow

We have seen the call for consensus all week. If we don’t get the agreement by Friday, the bear will come out of the woods. It is as if consensus itself is the answer, and I’ve heard a former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) say just that. Makes us all feel good about ourselves. This is not about Democrats and Republicans; this is about being Americans.

But it is just that fraternal nature that has reinforced bipartisan incompetence in Congress and even catastrophe in our times — especially when both parties rushed in a similar manner to approve George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq without, as West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D) said, so much as a brief discussion on the floor of Congress. Wasn’t time for discussion; needed to act fast before al Qaeda sneaked a dirty bomb into Cleveland or dropped WMDs into the porridge. They’re coming through the windows!

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson paid about $23 million for 828,000 square miles that included Louisiana, some parts of Texas, most of Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, some parts of Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, most of Montana, most of Wyoming, parts of North and South Dakota and most of Colorado.

Jefferson got a lot of grief for his purchase. Some ideologues said it was unconstitutional. But he did it anyway, because he wanted access to the port of New Orleans. Napoleon Bonaparte sold the territory to the U.S. because he needed the money, and because he thought that the Americans would become a rival to the British, whom he despised.

He said, upon completion of the agreement, "This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride."

No Time for ‘Politics as Usual’

The U.S. economy is teetering on the edge of a cliff — with a hungry bear nipping at its heels. Yet, we cannot turn around and return from where we came — that would be as disastrous as stepping off the cliff.

We have but two choices — turn right or turn left. However, we have no time to contemplate what might await us at either turn. There is no time to debate what the optimal solution might be because stepping off the cliff or awaiting the bear to come upon us are not viable options.

Bush, Paulson and Bernanke have put forward a monumental and historic plan that many seem eager to debate or find flaw with. It might not be hard to do — but what politician can’t find flaw in the other party’s plan? The problem is the crisis facing the U.S. economy and the American public is so dire that such rhetoric will surely push the economy over the cliff or render us helpless to the fast approaching bear.

McCain: The Gambler in an Age of Gamblers, Bankruptcies and War

John McCain says the economy is strong and sound. Days later, John McCain says we might have a depression and cancels his campaign. McCain has not been in the Senate since April. Now McCain airlifts his desperate campaign and presidential politics into the heart of sensitive negotiations on a subject he knows nothing about and has been wrong about for 26 years.

Here is McCain's latest lie: that he wants to deal with the crisis in a bipartisan manner. Obama calls him early Wednesday morning seeking bipartisanship. McCain does not take the call and does not return the call for half a day. He then talks to Obama about being bipartisan and minutes later runs to the cameras to cancel the debate and airlift himself into the crisis. What a phony!

Good Moves

I was talking to my good friend Dave Winston yesterday morning, bitching about the state of the McCain campaign and its mishandling of the economic message over the last week. Winston suggested to me that McCain should stop his campaign, come back to Washington and help forge a deal on the economic bailout.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. And I thought it would never happen.

Well, it was a brilliant idea, and by Jove, McCain did it!

McCain turned a tough situation into his advantage by going on offense and by putting the country first. Obama was flat-footed in his response, unable to change course and unwilling to suspend his campaign.