FRESNO, Calif. — Vice President Joe Biden said this week that the Obama administration "hit the accelerator" toward spending $5 billion under the economic stimulus law to weatherize people's homes, create thousands of jobs, help consumers save money and put the nation on track for energy independence.

Yet the weatherization program the vice president highlighted in his visit Thursday to New Hampshire is widely considered among the least organized spending projects under the $814 billion economic stimulus law and has regularly been targeted for criticism of its slow progress by auditors and outsiders. Biden didn't hint much at its troubles.

Nearly 18 months since it started, the stimulus weatherization program has experienced spending delays, inefficiencies and mismanagement. In Biden's home state of Delaware, the entire program has been suspended since May, and last month federal auditors identified possible fraud.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — An occasional look behind the rhetoric of public officials.

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In his visit to Manchester, N.H., Biden said the program already had retrofitted 200,000 homes and would meet its ambitious goals of nearly 600,000 homes by March 2012.

He called it "one of our signature programs" under the stimulus law, saying that "thousands of construction workers across the country are now on the job making energy-saving home improvements that will save working families hundreds of dollars a year on their utility bills."

What Biden failed to mention:

_In Alaska, the program has yet to retrofit one home.

_In Texas, auditors found the private contractor earning the most in stimulus money did shoddy work on 60 percent of the houses it was hired to weatherize.

_In California, a contracting company paid nearly $3 million to caulk low-income residents' homes didn't train two dozen of its employees, the state's inspector general found last week.

Just months ago, at the one-year anniversary of the stimulus law, the Energy Department's inspector general complained in a report about "little progress" weatherizing homes and said the government's best efforts "appeared not to have significantly increased the tempo of actual units weatherized across the nation."

Government rules about how to run the complex program, including how much to pay contractors and how to protect historic homes, were among early hurdles. There were further, unexpected delays as the money flowed from Washington to the states and later to local nonprofits that hired contractors. The recession itself, and state hiring freezes, compounded the problems.

Why would politicians tout a federal spending program with so many challenges? Democratic officials in Washington say they are eager this election year to promote stimulus spending in "bite-sized" pieces. Democrats said polling suggests that voters are more likely to support their record if they can see tangible benefits of the spending, such as winter weatherization programs or smoother roads.

For months, President Barack Obama and his Cabinet have visited businesses and programs that directly benefited from Washington's efforts to point out specific, local projects that make the enormous program more real for people.

In Delaware, where Biden served as a U.S. senator for 36 years, the tangible benefits of weatherization are hard to find. The program is suspended, and last month federal officials released an audit that found lax oversight, conflicts of interest and possible fraud. The results of the audit were first reported by The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.

Contractors reportedly were paid for insulating attics they barely visited. Companies earned the same amount whether they installed high-quality or low-quality equipment. One resident who didn't qualify for the program's income levels got a boiler installed just the same, the Energy Department audit concluded.

"There was a feeling we should get out there and start doing this work and get the contractors trained," Delaware's health and social services secretary, Rita Landgraf, said. She asked the state attorney general, Biden's eldest son, Beau, to investigate. "We didn't have a strong program in place beforehand, and when we ramped it up under the stimulus it crumbled."

Biden acknowledged the effort's slow start as he visited a New Hampshire home being insulated for winter. Assistant Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi said 34 states have now reached their federal targets, a big improvement, and said the job creation figures would keep climbing.

Still, just last week, California Inspector General Laura Chick grew so concerned about one contractor's accounting practices that she recommended the company stop work because auditors couldn't understand how much money had been spent. State officials said problems at Campesinos Unidos Inc. are being corrected.

"This program has flaws, problems and issues and it needs to be rethought," Chick said. "If it were to go forward exactly as it is today, I would be screaming bloody murder."

Biden touted the program's successes at the home of Lynn Dumont, a single mother of two who said she looks forward to seeing her heating bills lowered. But, in an awkward moment, he didn't exactly win her ringing endorsement.

While she said she was thrilled to have the vice president over, when asked whether she voted for him, there was a long pause.

"Did I vote for him?" she said. "I'd rather not say."

Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Washington and Holly Ramer in Manchester, N.H., contributed to this report.

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President Obama came into office as the heir to a great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent U.S. president. Why? Because the United States stands on top of the power ladder, not necessarily as the dominant power, but certainly as the leading one. As such we are the sole nation capable of exercising global leadership on a whole range of international issues from security, trade, and climate to counterterrorism. We also benefit from the fact that most countries distrust the United States far less than they distrust one another, so we uniquely have the power to build coalitions. As a result, most of the world still looks to Washington for help in their region and protection against potential regional threats.

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Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America's offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.

The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.

Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press—supported by polls—is about the end of the "special relationship" with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama's speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama's visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president's poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.

Obama's policy on Afghanistan—supporting a surge in troops, but setting a date next year when they will begin to withdraw—not only gave a mixed signal, but provided an incentive for the Taliban just to wait us out. The withdrawal part of the policy was meant to satisfy a domestic constituency, but succeeded in upsetting all of our allies in the region. Further anxiety was provoked by Obama's severe public criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his coterie of family and friends for their lackluster leadership, followed by a reversal of sorts regarding the same leaders.

Obama clearly wishes to do good and means well. But he is one of those people who believe that the world was born with the word and exists by means of persuasion, such that there is no person or country that you cannot, by means of logical and moral argument, bring around to your side. He speaks as a teacher, as someone imparting values and generalities appropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, not as a tough-minded leader. He urges that things "must be done" and "should be done" and that "it is time" to do them. As the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, put it, there is "the impression that Obama might confuse speeches with policy." Another journalist put it differently when he described Obama as an "NPR [National Public Radio] president who gives wonderful speeches." In other words, he talks the talk but doesn't know how to walk the walk. The Obama presidency has so far been characterized by a well-intentioned but excessive belief in the power of rhetoric with too little appreciation of reality and loyalty.

In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama's meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with.

Les Gelb wrote of Obama, "He is so self-confident that he believes he can make decisions on the most complicated of issues after only hours of discussion." Strategic decisions go well beyond being smart, which Obama certainly is. They must be based on experience that discerns what works, what doesn't—and why. This requires experienced staffing, which Obama and his top appointees simply do not seem to have. Or as one Middle East commentator put it, "There are always two chess games going on. One is on the top of the table, the other is below the table. The latter is the one that counts, but the Americans don't know how to play that game."

Recent U.S. attempts to introduce more meaningful sanctions against Iran produced a U.N. resolution that is way less than the "crippling" sanctions the administration promised. The United States even failed to achieve the political benefit of a unanimous Security Council vote. Turkey, the Muslim anchor of NATO for almost 60 years, and Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, voted against our resolution. Could it be that these long-standing U.S. allies, who gave cover to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's nuclear ambitions, have decided that there is no cost in lining up with America's most serious enemies and no gain in lining up with this administration?

The end result is that a critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West. Obama feels, fairly enough, that America must be contrite in its dealings with the Muslim world. But he has failed to address the religious intolerance, failing economies, tribalism, and gender apartheid that together contribute to jihadist extremism. This was startling and clear when he chose not to publicly support the Iranians who went to the streets in opposition to their oppressive government, based on a judgment that our support might be counterproductive. Yet, he reaches out instead to the likes of Bashar Assad of Syria, Iran's agent in the Arab world, sending our ambassador back to Syria even as it continues to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon and expands its role in the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance.

The underlying issue is that the Arab world has different estimates on how to deal with an aggressive, expansionist Iran. The Arabs believe you do not deal with Iran with the open hand of a handshake but with the clenched fist of power. Arab leaders fear an Iran proceeding full steam with its nuclear weapons program on top of its programs to develop intermediate-range ballistic missiles. All the while centrifuges keep spinning in Iran, and Arab leaders ask whether Iran will be emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower. They did not see Obama or his administration as understanding the region, where naiveté is interpreted as a weakness of character, as amateurism, and as proof of the absence of the tough stuff of which leaders are made. (That's why many Arab leaders were appalled at the decision to have a civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York. After 9/11, many of them had engaged in secret counterterrorism activities under the umbrella of an American promise that these activities would never be made public; now they feared that this would be the exact consequence of an open trial.)

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

The United States for 60 years has met its responsibilities as the leader and the defender of the democracies of the free world. We have policed the sea lanes, protected the air and space domains, countered terrorism, responded to genocide, and been the bulwark against rogue states engaging in aggression. The world now senses, in the context of the erosion of America's economic power and the pressures of our budget deficits, that we will compress our commitments. But the world needs the vision, idealism, and strong leadership that America brings to international affairs. This can be done and must be done. But we are the only ones who can do it.

 US NEW & WORLD REPORT

6/18/2010

 

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The Wall Street Journal

Confidence Waning in Obama, U.S. Outlook

Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama's leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

[NBCpol]

The survey also shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation's economy and environment.

Sixty-two percent of adults in the survey feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election. Just one-third think the economy will get better over the next year, a 7-point drop from a month ago and the low point of Mr. Obama's tenure.

News Hub: The Mood of Americans on Obama

3:44

The polls are showing that the mood of Americans has taken grim turn as the Gulf oil spill diminishes past high hopes. Peter Wallsten of the Wall Street Journal discusses with Kelly Evans and Neal Lipschutz.

Amid anxiety over the nation's course, support for Mr. Obama and other incumbents is eroding. For the first time, more people disapprove of Mr. Obama's job performance than approve. And 57% of voters would prefer to elect a new person to Congress than re-elect their local representatives, the highest share in 18 years.

The results show "a really ugly mood and an unhappy electorate," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff. "The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats."

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0623obama
Associated Press

President Barack Obama pauses in the East Room of the White House in Washington on April 6.

Mr. McInturff said voters' feelings, typically set by June in any election year, are being hardened by frustration over the economy and the oil spill. "It would take an enormous and seismic event to change the drift of these powerful forces before November," he said.

Mr. McInturff added that any "little, faint signs" in the spring that voters were adopting a more optimistic outlook have now been "squished by feelings from this oil spill."

For Democrats, the results underscore the potential for major losses in November. Both parties have been forced to contend with an anti-establishment wave this year. But Republicans, through strong fund raising and candidate recruitment, have put enough seats in play in the House and Senate to give the GOP a realistic shot at winning control of both chambers.

Support for Mr. Obama and his party is declining among centrist, independent voters. But, more ominous for the president, some in his base also are souring, with 17% of Democrats disapproving of Mr. Obama's job performance, the highest level of his presidency.

Pulse of the Poll

See results from The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Following the Polls

Pick your own answers to survey questions and see how you line up with the poll respondents.

Approval for Mr. Obama has dropped among Hispanics, too, along with small-town residents, white women and seniors. African-Americans remain the firmest part of Mr. Obama's base, with 91% approving of his job performance.

In winning the presidency, Mr. Obama conveyed an image of remaining steady and focused during the banking crisis and economic downturn. Now, amid the oil spill and a weak economic recovery, Americans are taking a dimmer view of his personal qualities and leadership style.

Some 30% in the poll said they "do not really relate'' to Mr. Obama. Only 8% said that at the beginning of his presidency. Fewer than half give him positive marks when asked if he is "honest and straightforward.'' And 49% rate him positively when asked if he has "strong leadership qualities,'' down from 70% when Mr. Obama took office and a drop of 8 points since January.

Just 40% rate him positively on his "ability to handle a crisis," an 11-point drop since January. Half disapprove of Mr. Obama's handling of the oil spill, including one in four Democrats.

"As a Democrat and as a woman, I am disappointed in him," said poll respondent Melissa Riner, a 42-year-old law clerk from Mesa, Ariz. Referring to the oil spill, Ms. Riner added, "I don't think he's handling it. He doesn't seem to be doing anything. He just talks."

James Ciarmataro, a 23-year-old stay-at-home dad from Macomb, Mich., said it was difficult to relate to Mr. Obama, because the president is "eating steak dinners at the White House and playing golf" while the country is suffering.

Poll Consolidates Doom And Gloom

1:42

An exclusive Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has bad news for President Obama and congressmen of all political stripes. WSJ's Peter Wallsten says the political climate will make for a brutal midterm election.

An independent, Mr. Ciarmataro said he would vote in November for "whoever seems the newest, and doesn't seem to have any ties to anybody else."

Tina Becker, a 47-year-old homemaker and registered Democrat from Wauseon, Ohio, who identifies herself as an independent, said she still strongly supports Mr. Obama. "But it might have made him look better if he communicated more about how things were progressing," she said.

In the survey, 45% said they wanted to see a Republican-controlled Congress after November, compared to 43% who wanted Democratic control. But even more telling is the excitement gap between the core voters of each party.

<img src="http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/media/WSJNBC0610_D_-alt-1.jpg" alt="" width="262" height="176"/>

Just 44% of Obama voters—those who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 or told pollsters they intended to—now express high interest in the midterm elections. That's a 38-point drop from this stage in the 2008 campaign.

By contrast, 71% of voters who supported Republican John McCain in 2008 expressed high interest in this year's elections, slightly higher than their interest level at this stage in that campaign.

The gap helps explain why the Democratic National Committee is spending $50 million on a campaign to try to lure Obama voters back to the polls this year.

Nearly two-thirds in the survey said they wanted more regulation of oil companies. Majorities also favor more regulation of Wall Street firms, health insurers and "big corporations."

While a majority still favors greater offshore drilling, support has slipped considerably over the past month as the Gulf oil spill has grown worse—from 60% in May to 53% now.

Sixty-three percent support legislation to reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of alternative and renewable energy sources, even if it means an increase in energy costs.

Write to Peter Wallsten at peter.wallsten@wsj.com

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More fun from this morning’s exercise in ass-kicking on “Today”. Skip ahead to 2:36 for the key bit. The One’s logic, such as it is, is that it’s not worth talking to Tony Hayward because he’ll only end up giving him the runaround — a curious position coming from a guy who campaigned on the virtues of “dialogue” and who’s been locked in halting negotiations with Iran for fully 16 months. Even Lauer is openly incredulous. Captain Kickass has nothing to say to a guy who potentially holds the fate of his presidency in his hands? Even after yesterday’s hair-raising Times piece claiming that BP’s effort to cut the leaking riser may have actually increased the flow of oil many times over? I thought this was supposed to be the new, improved, “engaged” Hopenchange.

That’s the second half of the clip. I gave you an extra two minutes up front so that you can watch O once again throw himself a pity party over the “24-hour news cycle” (TV critic David Zurawik is pounding him for that today) before insisting that none of his critics seem to have any suggestions for what he should have done differently in the early days of the spill. Don’t they, though? Byron York highlights this bit from a recent NYT piece:

For example, it took the Department of Homeland Security more than a week to classify the spill as an event calling for the highest level of federal action. And when state officials in Louisiana tried over and over to win federal permission to build sand barriers to protect fragile coastal wetlands from the oil, they got nowhere. “For three weeks, as the giant slick crept closer to shore,” the Times reports, “officials from the White House, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency debated the best approach.”

And here’s something hot off the presses from ABC:

A leading scientist following the BP oil spill said Monday that if the company or the government had made realistic estimates about the amounts flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, they could have had sufficient tanker space ready on the surface to hold the crude being pumped up through a make-shift collection device…

In an extensive interview with ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, [oceanographer Ian] MacDonald examined underwater video from the early days of the disaster and concluded that BP had been underestimating the scope of the spill, with little objection from the U.S Coast Guard or other federal agencies

Coast Guard officials told ABC News that BP refused to allow them to release the more startling images, arguing they were proprietary. But at the time, the agency was doing little to convey to the world what the images were showing. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry was sticking with estimates, calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which put the spill’s size at about 5,000 barrels a day for several weeks.

Don’t forget either that Bobby Jindal’s request for hard booms on May 2 was still woefully undermet three weeks later. Exit question: Another two or three sanitized photo ops of Obama inspecting tar balls on the beach should smooth this over, no?

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Kerry Picket scores a scoop at the Washington Times today with audio of an impromptu interview conducted with Charles Rangel last week on the Gulf oil spill.  Kerry must have caught Rangel in a particularly frustrated mood — not uncommon these days when the Gulf oil spill gets discussed — when she asked Rangel for his take on the administration’s response.  Rangel said that the Obama White House didn’t have the “slightest clue” what to do:

A few days before the recent Congressional recess, I spoke with Congressman Charles Rangel, New York Democrat, who seemed frustrated the administration had not dealt with the oil companies before the spill (all emphasis is mine):

“I have a bias against the oil companies always having it just their way. Quite frankly, it may be that the administration is doing all that they can, but as a result of us never demanding more of the oil companies, now that we have a crisis, it would appear to me, that this president and other presidents always said, ‘but what if.’ It’s abundantly clear that no one said, ‘but what if.’  But [they] left it up to the oil companies to decide what we would do. The fact they are doing all that they can is not an answer. It’s what they should have done and what we will have to demand that they would do.”

Mr. Rangel also believes the administration is in the dark regarding the administration’s faith in BP fixing the break and cleaning up the spill:

I don’t think the administration has the slightest clue. We’re bringing in experts now, in and outside of government, to see whether or not BP will do more. We should have had the answers to that long before we even drilled. Now we’re trying to find the answer after the problem. The potential danger was always there.”

Be sure to follow the link back for the audio, which Kerry has embedded on the WT site.

Rangel makes a good point here.  Both the industry and the government should have at least gamed out the possibility of a blowout and prepared some sort of response protocol for it.  Bruce McQuain calls it a “go to hell plan,” ready to be put in place when everything goes to hell and all of the backups can’t stop a catastrophe.  Instead of being prepared, it looks as though everyone sat around scratching their heads for a while, and then started grasping at straws through increasingly desperate ad hoc measures.  Rangel is right when he says that we should have had the answers, or at least a plan, long before an actual blowout at 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf, and that failure will impact our ability to continue the drilling we must do to produce our own energy.

Who’s fault is that?  Well, it’s BP’s fault for not being prepared to handle its own mess.  It’s also the fault of the federal government through several past administrations for not ensuring that the industry was prepared to respond in a timely and proper manner.  That includes this administration, especially since they spent 16 months apparently doing nothing at MMS to fix the regulatory failings at the Interior Department agency, but it’s not exclusive to it, either.  Nevertheless, the Obama White House has been in charge long enough to have analyzed this before announcing its drilling policy in March, and they need to start doing something about it.  Up to now, they have looked entirely clueless, and ineffective as a result.


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The left has a message for Barack Obama: Shape up, or we’re shipping out. 

 

A high-profile conclave of progressives, which served as a platform for supporting Obama in years past, opened in Washington on Monday amid growing disenchantment with the president over the Gulf oil spill, health care, jobs, immigration and political deal cutting.

 

Liberal activists warned that Obama can no longer count on a progressive base that was supposed to protect Democrats from a mass wipeout in the midterms in 2010 and propel him to reelection in 2012.

 

“We are not apathetic, we are not depressed — we are willing to get out and fight for the people who fight for us,” said Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn.org’s campaign director, at the Campaign for America’s Future annual meeting. “But no longer can they count on us for a solid Democratic vote. We are getting more sophisticated to understand that not all Democrats are created equal.”

 

The criticism of Obama during the lightly attended opening day was more visceral than issue specific and more in the vein of familial disapproval than open revolt. It’s also not clear where liberals, who helped fueled Obama’s ascent to the presidency, might turn in 2012 if Obama is on the ballot.

 

But the left's lack of enthusiasm for its representation in Washington — the "enthusiasm gap" between dispirited liberals and hyperenergized conservatives — is palpable and poses a real danger to Obama and his congressional allies, said veteran progressive Robert Borosage, who organized the conference.

 

“We have the energy and the willingness to mobilize; we can be a huge ally or a huge obstruction,” he warned. “No president wants trouble in the base, and Obama doesn’t want trouble in his base.”

 

Sterling Newberry, an economist and consultant who has attended the event for years, said the mood of the left could be read by the several dozen empty chairs in the ballroom during the opening session of the conference.

 

“It wasn’t always like this,” he said of the turnout. “The Republicans out of power are fired up to vote, and the Democrats who are in power are de-motivated.” 

 

The White House said Obama has worked hard to achieve the goals of his progressive agenda, especially health reform.

 

“During his first 500 days in office, President Obama has fulfilled his commitment to bring the change we need to Washington by signing historic health care reform legislation that will reduce costs for millions of families and small businesses, implementing education reforms that will lay the foundation for our nation’s long-term economic strength and reducing the influence of special interests that has changed business as usual in Washington,” said White House spokesman Joshua Earnest.

Obama took a bit of beating at the conference last year – after it was renamed “America's Future Now” from the catchier, pre-Obama “Take Back America” – for his early compromises on health care. His aides have always viewed the conference with some ambivalence, considering its leadership as more aligned with red-meat populists like Howard Dean and John Edwards. But Obama got the hero’s welcome during appearances in 2006 and 2007, when he bashed Bush, reveled in a long standing ovations and delivered a speeches not too dissimilar from the red-meat addresses delivered on Monday.

 

“These are Americans who still believe in an America where anything's possible - they just don't think their leaders do,” Obama said in 2006. “These are Americans who still dream big dreams -they just sense their leaders have forgotten how.”

 

Answers for solving the problem were in shorter supply: Those in attendance said there wasn't a magic solution but demanded progress on ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and proof that Obama was willing to expend political capital to pass immigration reform despite dim hopes of passage on the Hill.



Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0610/38222.html#ixzz0qHakuMJF

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In mid-February 2008, fresh from winning a bunch of Super Tuesday primaries, Barack Obama granted an interview to "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Croft. "When you sit down and you look at [your] resume," Croft said to Obama, "there's no executive experience, and in fact, correct if I'm wrong, the only thing that you've actually run was the Harvard Law Review."

"Well, I've run my Senate office, and I've run this campaign," Obama said.

 

Seven months later, after receiving the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper. At the time, the news was dominated by Hurricane Gustav, which was headed toward New Orleans and threatening to become a Katrina-like disaster. "Some of your Republican critics have said you don't have the experience to handle a situation like this," Cooper said to Obama. "They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience. ..."

 

"Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees," Obama answered. "We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years."

 

Obama ignored Palin's experience as governor of Alaska, which was considerably bigger than the Obama campaign. But his point was clear: If you're worried about my lack of my executive experience, look at my campaign. Running a first-rate campaign, Obama and his supporters argued, showed that Obama could run the federal government, even at its most testing moments. He could set goals, demand accountability, and, perhaps most importantly, bend the sprawling federal bureaucracy to his will.

 

Fast forward to 2010. The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is gushing out of control. The Obama administration is at first slow to see the seriousness of the accident. Then, as the crisis becomes clear, the federal bureaucracy becomes entangled in itself trying to deal with the problem. "At least a dozen federal agencies have taken part in the spill response," the New York Times reports, "making decision-making slow, conflicted and confused, as they sought to apply numerous federal statutes."

 

For example, it took the Department of Homeland Security more than a week to classify the spill as an event calling for the highest level of federal action. And when state officials in Louisiana tried over and over to win federal permission to build sand barriers to protect fragile coastal wetlands from the oil, they got nowhere. "For three weeks, as the giant slick crept closer to shore," the Times reports, "officials from the White House, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency debated the best approach."

 

The bureaucracy wasn't bending to anyone's will. The direction from the top was not clear. And accountability? So far, the only head that has rolled during the Gulf crisis has been that of Minerals Management Service chief Elizabeth Birnbaum. But during a May 27 news conference, Obama admitted he didn't even know whether she had resigned or been fired. "I found out about it this morning, so I don't yet know the circumstances," the president said. "And [Interior Secretary] Ken Salazar's been in testimony on the Hill." Obama's answer revealed that he hadn't fired Birnbaum, and he couldn't reach a member of his Cabinet who was a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Given all that, perhaps candidates in future presidential races will think twice before arguing that running their campaign counts as executive experience.

 

A few days before Obama won the White House, Bill Clinton joined him for a late-night rally in Kissimmee, Fla. Clinton, who became president after 12 years as a governor, told the crowd not to worry about Obama's lack of executive background. Given the brilliance of Obama's campaign, Clinton said -- and here the former president uncharacteristically mangled his words a bit -- a President Obama would be "the chief executor of good intentions as president."

Chief executor of good intentions? Perhaps that's what Obama is now. But with oil gushing into the Gulf, that's just not good enough.



Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Spill-reveals-Obama_s-lack-of-executive-experience-95819074.html#ixzz0qHa1LZQU

 

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June 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is poised to increase the U.S. debt to a level that exceeds the value of the nation’s annual economic output, a step toward what Bill Gross called a “debt super cycle.”

The CHART OF THE DAY tracks U.S. gross domestic product and the government’s total debt, which rose past $13 trillion for the first time this month. The amount owed will surpass GDP in 2012, based on forecasts by the International Monetary Fund. The lower panel shows U.S. annual GDP growth as tracked by the IMF, which projects the world’s largest economy to expand at a slower pace than the 3.2 percent average during the past five decades.

“Over the long term, interest rates on government debt will likely have to rise to attract investors,” said Hiroki Shimazu, a market economist in Tokyo at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., a unit of Japan’s third-largest publicly traded bank. “That will be a big burden on the government and the people.”

Gross, who runs the world’s largest mutual fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said in his June outlook report that “the debt super cycle trend” suggests U.S. economic growth won’t be enough to support the borrowings “if real interest rates were ever to go up instead of down.”

Dan Fuss, who manages the Loomis Sayles Bond Fund, which beat 94 percent of competitors the past year, said last week that he sold all of his Treasury bonds because of prospects interest rates will rise as the U.S. borrows unprecedented amounts. Obama is borrowing record amounts to fund spending programs to help the economy recover from its longest recession since the 1930s.

“The incremental borrower of funds in the U.S. capital markets is rapidly becoming the U.S. Treasury,” Boston-based Fuss said. “Do you really want to buy the debt of the biggest issuer?”

(To save a copy of the chart, click here.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Garfield Reynolds in Sydney atgreynolds1@bloomberg.netWes Goodman in Singapore atwgoodman@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: June 4, 2010 05:06 EDT 

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Originally, I intended to just clip out the statement from Keynesian economist Jeffrey Sachs that “the stimulus failed,” which Joe Scarborough had to dig to get, but the entire segment is worth viewing. First, Sachs confirms — on MS-NBC, no less — that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress had no strategy for long-term growth. The stimulus was a collection of short-term minor stimuli, combined with liberal hobby horses that Democrats had ridden for twenty years. Scarborough tries to defend Keynesianism from the Keynesians, but the failure can’t be separated from the philosophy:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy

Heritage dissects the failure of the Porkulus package:

For objective observers the failure of President Obama’s $862 billion stimulus has become increasingly difficult to deny. But not for the White House. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden told Charlie Rose on PBS that the stimulus was “an absolute success.” Betraying a common perception about unemployment, Biden told Rose: “[W]e lost 8 million brand new jobs … since … 8 million brand new jobs since we hit the skids. On top of the 6% that were already unemployed. It took us several years to get there, it is going to take several years to get back to that number.” That is not quite true. In fact, the American economy has shed 55.4 million jobs since the recession began in the First Quarter of 2008. But at the same time the economy has only added 46.5 million jobs. Putting the two together produces the net approximate 8 million jobs lost that Biden referenced.

But isn’t net jobs all that really matters? Why should anyone care exactly how many jobs were lost and created since all that really matters is the net number of Americans who are no longer employed? Here’s why: despitean unemployment high of just 6.4%, more jobs were lost in the first seven quarters of the 2001 recession than were lost in the first seven quarters of this recession. How is that possible? How could job losses have been worse in 2001 but unemployment so much higher now? Weak job creation. The latest Bureau of Labor and Statistics data show that employers have created 8.6 million fewer new jobs this time around than they did almost a decade ago. Heritage Senior Labor Policy Analyst James Sherk estimatesthat lower job creation accounts for 65 percent of the recession’s decreased employment.

Our nation’s unemployment rate is hovering near 10% not because of record job losses, as Biden suggests, but because of record job non-creation. Private sector employers have gone on strike. Contrary to what the President’s economic wizards and New York Times columnists believe, massive government deficit spending does not stimulate job creation. President Obama does not have a secret vault of money he can just throw at the American people. The resources the government spends come from the economy. When the government increases spending, it crowds out the resources that business owners could have invested in their enterprises. Private investment falls sharply when government spending rises. According to Sherk, annual private fixed nonresidential investment has fallen by $327 billion since the recession started— a 19 percent drop. Less private investment means less hiring.

And then there is the rest of the Obama agenda that has created, and is creating, significant economic uncertainty: ObamacareEPA carbon regulationsfinancial regulations and impending tax hikes. Renouncing these policies, and canceling the rest of the stimulus, would do more to spur private sector job creation than anything this White House has done so far.

Scarborough gets it right when he says it’s all about the debt, and Porkulus just made our debt position even worse.  The spending from Democrats over the last three-plus years had also made it worse.  We’re approaching a debt level of 100% of GDP, and that portends disaster.

Sachs talks about improvisation in Obama’s Gulf strategy, but improvisation has been the rule all along.  No one knows what they’re doing in this White House; they’re just spitballing to see what sticks.


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By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support the pursuit of criminal charges in the nation's worst oil spill, with increasing numbers calling it a major environmental disaster. Eight in 10 criticize the way BP's handled it  and more people give the federal government's response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.

Click here for a PDF with full charts and questionnaire.

BP's response to the spill draws even broader criticism  81 percent rate it negatively. And 64 percent say the government should pursue criminal charges against BP and other companies involved in the spill, which has poured oil into the Gulf from a well 5,000 feet beneath the surface since an explosion and fire destroyed theDeepwater Horizon drilling rig April 20.

The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, mostly before BP announced Sunday that a containment cap on the well was capturing a substantial portion of the gushing oil. Nonetheless, BP faces deep damage to its public image: Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 73 percent, see "unnecessary risks taken by BP and its drilling partners" as a significant factor in the spill.

And amid fouled beaches, oiled wildlife and closed fisheries, there's growing public dismay over the damage. Seventy-three percent now call the spill a major environmental disaster, up sharply from 55 percent in a Pew Research Center poll a month ago.

Support for pursuit of criminal charges against BP and its partners rises to 71 percent among people who call the spill a major disaster. Similarly, 73 percent favor criminal charges among those who suspect that unnecessary risks were taken by BP and its partners.

There's sharp negative intensity in views of BP. Fifty-four percent give its response the lowest rating, "poor," and 51 percent "strongly" favor examination of criminal charges against the company and its partners  both high levels of strong sentiment.

BP Oil Spill: Partisanship & Federal Government Response

Substantially fewer, by contrast, rate the federal government's response as "poor," 32 percent.

There's partisanship in views of the federal response, with Democrats less critical of the Democratic-led government. Nonetheless, even among Democrats, 56 percent rate the federal response negatively. That rises to 74 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.

Partisanship ran in precisely the opposite direction in views of the Katrina response under the Bush administration. Just 41 percent of Republicans rated that response negatively, compared to 64 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats.

In addition to the 7-point difference in negative ratings of the federal response to the oil spill vs. Katrina, there's a 10-point difference in positive ratings  28 percent for the government's oil spill response, vs. 38 percent for its response to Katrina. That's in part because 59 percent of Republicans rated the response to Katrina positively, while just 40 percent of Democrats say the same about the current oil spill response.

All the same, there's far less partisan division in concern about the spill's effects: It's seen as a major environmental disaster by seven in 10 Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats and independents alike.

METHODOLOGY  This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone June 3-6, 2010, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point error margin. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.

ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollingunit

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Well, at least he's still got Sir Paul McCartney. At the White House last week, the 67-year-old crooner was gushing in much the same manner as his own groupies did at Shea Stadium in 1965. "I'm a big fan, he's a great guy," McCartney told American critics of President Barack Obama. "So lay off him, he's doing great."

Later, McCartney serenaded the First Lady with a rendition of Michelle and, receiving a prize from the Library of Congress, took a cheap shot at President George W Bush that was as unfunny as it was unoriginal. “After the last eight years, it’s great to have a president who knows what a library is.” Bush. Doesn’t read books. Stupid. Geddit?

The problem for the President is that even if the former Beatle does speak for billions, the overwhelming majority of those are overseas. Polls show that around 10 per cent of those who voted for Obama in 2008 now disapprove of his performance and the heavy turnout of young people and black voters among the 69 million who back him will not be repeated again.

McCartney's banalities were an example of a transatlantic dissonance that is all too apparent these days. Whereas Europe is stuck in November 2008 and still hopelessly in love with Obama, Americans have got over the historic symbolism of it all and are now moving on as they live with the reality.

That reality has now begun to dawn on some of Obama's natural constituency - Hollywood and the Left. The "no drama Obama" demeanour that served him so well on the campaign trail is now becoming a liability.

Bemoaning Obama's passivity after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the director Spike Lee thundered: "He's very calm, cool, collected. But, one time, go off! If there's any one time to go off, this is it, because this is a disaster."

This is the same Spike Lee who once described Obama's election as a "seismic" change that represented "a better day not only for the United States but for the world".

The ladies of The View, the liberal-dominated morning talk show moderated by Whoopi Goldberg, spent a lot of time last week sympathising with Mrs Obama about how difficult it must be to argue with a husband who never shows any fire or emotion.

Even the liberal chattering classes are deserting Obama. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times jeered that his "Yes we can" slogan had been downgraded to "Will we ever?", while fellow colunnist Frank Rich blasted his "recurrent tardiness in defining exactly what he wants done".

Perhaps Obama's toughest critic over the BP oil slick has been James "Rajin' Cajun" Carville, the mastermind of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and one of those Democrats who represents the beating heart of the party. He blasted Obama's "political stupidity" and "hands off" attitude, concluding: "It seems the President is madder at his critics than he is at BP."

His point was proved when Robert Gibbs, Obama's hyper-aggressive spokesman, responded: "I don't think James understands all of what we're doing. I don't think James understood the facts." Carville is a Louisiana native who had spent more time viewing the oil-soaked coastal wetlands than anyone in the White House.

It is an irony of Obama's presidency - which came into being because he was the unBush - that it shares some of the worst traits of his predecessor's administration. Among these are insularity and a blinkered arrogance.

The young Texans who seemed genetically incapable of viewing any criticism of George W Bush as less than treason may have gone but a similar cult has replaced them. The Obamatrons who now populate Washington have iPads under their arms and greet each other with fist bumps. Earnest, geeky types, they look upon anyone who does not worship Obama with pity – such a being must be too stupid or bigoted to know better.

Obama has never been wracked by self-doubt and he is unusually self-contained for a politician. He seems not to need people or reassurance. In office, this is dangerous – he sometimes seems to be living in a cocoon.

The White House's attempts to deal criticisms of Obama's detachment have been comical. First there was Obama's own cringeworthy (and doubtless bogus) anecdote about his 11-year-old daughter Malia asking: "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?" Then there was Gibbs illustrating Obama's passionate concern for the people of the Gulf by relating that he had said "damn" and exhibited a "clenched jaw".

Perhaps their biggest problem is that it was not just McCartney's dyed hair and 1960s songs that seemed so retro. His adulation of Obama struck the wrong chord because few outside the White House bubble are in that place any more. It is now permissible – even fashionable – to have a go at the man once hailed as the Messiah.

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Well, maybe he did at one point, so expect this to become a big deal in James Clapper’s confirmation hearings to replace Dennis Blair as the Director of National Intelligence.  Washington Times reporter Eli Lake did a little research on Barack Obama’s choice for the thankless position (Clapper would be the fourth DNI in five years) and discovered a nugget that comes straight out of the so-called neocon argument for war against Saddam Hussein:

President Obama’s choice to be the next director of national intelligence supported the view that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq sent weapons and documents to Syria in the weeks before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and current undersecretary of defense for intelligence, will be the next DNI. A formal announcemente is expected as early as Saturday. …

Gen. Clapper headed the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency between September 2001 to June 2006. The NGA is responsible for creating maps and terrestrial imagery and also assesses what is called “measurement and signature intelligence,” or MASINT, the intelligence function of analyzing such things as radar signals and the composition of air particles, soil samples and other physical characteristics of the earth.

On Iraq, Gen. Clapper said in an interview with The Washington Times in 2004 that “I think probably in the few months running up prior to the onset of combat that … there was probably an intensive effort to disperse into private homes, move documentation and materials out of the country. I think there are any number of things that they would have done.”

The comments came amid the debate over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, which some U.S. officials had said were moved out of Iraq prior to the invasion of Iraq with the assistance of Russian military intelligence forces.

From this description, it seems as though Clapper parsed his words carefully.  He never mentions WMD, at least not in the portion quoted by Lake.  However, there was no real reason to cart anything else out of Iraq just prior to the invasion.  Saddam Hussein certainly had plenty of conventional weapons, and no one had suggested that Saddam needed to disarm himself of those.  In fact, it would make no sense at all for Saddam to have moved conventional weapons out of Iraq just as the US poised to invade.

Clapper has some other problems as well.  Leadership in Congressional intel committees wanted a civilian in the post, and someone more closely tied to Obama himself.  The obvious choice would have been Leon Panetta, the CIA Director, but Panetta just won a big turf war with the departing Blair, which would have made that move a demotion in practical terms.  Likewise, Clapper has spent the last couple of years arguing that the Pentagon should have final authority over its intel budgets, not the DNI, which makes the position even weaker.

If anything, Clapper’s nomination to the post highlights both the lack of competence at the White House and the structural problems created by the reorganization of the intel communities five years ago.  Why would Obama choose someone who has spent the last couple of years attempting to make the position weaker?  And why are we still looking to find the next unlucky candidate to get all the blame and little authority, rather than undoing the 9/11 Commission “reform” and fixing the very obvious problems in organization, lines of authority, and turf battles in the American intelligence community?  Blair’s resignation gives us an opportunity to fix those problems, but Obama seems intent on making them even worse.

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted to the world recently that President Barack Obama had on his night table “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” Edmund Morris’s rip-roaring, Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the formative years of America’s most colorful president.

 

Presumably, Gibbs was implying that the great man now occupying the White House was taking pointers from the great man who preceded him.

 

Politicians just love to see themselves as leaders like Teddy Roosevelt or Winston Churchill — giants who trampled over obstacles with unyielding doggedness and even a kind of childlike insouciance.

 

As Obama underachieves his way through the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis, Gibbs’s effort to link the president to Roosevelt makes the opposite point intended: Great leaders are a very rare thing, and the man in the White House today ain’t one of them — at least not yet.

 

Obama’s detached performance with respect to this massive and growing crisis — the ripple effects of which could still be with us on Election Day 2012 — is generally portrayed as a PR meltdown and a simple failure to step up by an understandably beleaguered Obama.

 

“It’s impossible not to feel sorry for President Obama,” writes Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, “pummeled by the cascading disasters, at home and abroad.”

 

Well, it’s possible.

 

Obama’s failure to convey any hint of genuine emotion, to rouse the American people to turn their hearts toward the Gulf and to assure them that their world — still built on the plentiful supply of fossil fuels — is not falling apart, is a profound failure of leadership.

 

Instead of offering reassurance, the president is using the crisis to promote his political agenda, hankering for alternative energy and climate change legislation in Congress — though there won’t be any significant replacement of carbon-based power sources for years to come.

 

Instead of an uplifting message of unity rallying the country to confront the horror and assuring all Americans that we will deal successfully, one way or another, with its disastrous effects, the nation is treated to petty lecturing of BP — even a refusal to let BP evildoers sully the stage the administration uses to discuss the latest failures.

 

The very company the administration needs to work with to stop the bleeding is vilified and threatened with criminal prosecution.

 

This separates Obama from the “bad guys.” But it also likely harms the stoppage effort by creating a climate of suspicion and forcing BP to focus on PR and legal CYA operations while trying to plug the well.

 

The spill is becoming one of the great catastrophes the country has faced. Think of how other presidents have risen to the occasion under similar circumstances. 

 

Who can forget that moment when, touring the ruins of the World Trade Center, former President George W. Bush — with a spontaneity hard to imagine from Obama — grabbed a bullhorn and declared to the workers at ground zero that revenge was coming:

 

“I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon! The nation — the nation sends its love and compassion — to everybody who is here.”

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Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has been left red faced after mistakenly sending a birthday message to the Queen a week early.

An official statement from the US foreign policy chief paid tribute to the “Queen’s life and legacy,” despite the fact that the Monarch does not celebrate her official birthday until next weekend.

The diplomatic faux pas, sent on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people on Friday, also celebrated the “special relationship” between the British and US governments.

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Obama's Youth Brigade Burns Out

BS Top - Olopade White House Walkout Max Whittaker / Getty Images A crowd of twentysomething true believers followed Obama from the campaign to Washington. But 18 months in, the "Yes We Can" crowd is losing faith.

Joe Boswell quit his job at Camp David. But first, he played a tennis match with Michelle Obama. Her second chief of staff, Susan Sher, is an avid tennis fan, and Boswell, her assistant, was game for a doubles match. After a straight-sets victory, he leveled with the first lady of the United States. “I was tired of going through the motions,” he remembers. “She told me to go out and save the world and come back.”

“It’s cool to my family, or the girl that I meet at the bar, but in terms of day-to-day work—am I really doing the change we can believe in?” asked one Iowa veteran.

Today, Boswell isn’t so sure he’s coming back. The 25-year-old Dartmouth graduate served as one of a “dirty dozen” of young campaign fixers who roamed the country for President Barack Obama’s campaign. Yet, less than a year into the Obama administration, “I was bored,” he says. “I like to execute things; I like to get people empowered,” he adds. Despite helping to plant the first lady’s famous White House kitchen garden and holding playdates with the Obama daughters, “I knew it was time to go when I was falling asleep at meetings,” he said.

Boswell is not the only one looking for a change of scenery. Former Michigan field director Elizabeth Wilkins left her position at the Domestic Policy Council last week to attend Yale Law School. Longtime press assistant Priya Singh departed the beehive of the communications shop a month earlier to work with Ambassador Susan Rice at the United Nations. Her move came on the heels of the departure of Rice’s previous assistant—a young Harvard graduate more interested in journalism. Elizabeth Bafford, a key aide to budget director Peter Orszag, will attend Duke’s Fuqua School of Business this fall. Jake Levine, special assistant to climate adviser Carol Browner, is revisiting his decision to defer law school for the campaign life. His housemate, Eric Lesser, right-hand man to senior Obama adviser David Axelrod, is reportedly more interested in national-security issues. Yohannes Abraham left a job working under legislative affairs chief Phil Schiliro in order to become the national political director for Organizing for America.

The 18-month itch hits every administration—and some of these folks are heading for new jobs with their belief in Obama intact. But others are clearly suffering from "change" fatigue. And this presidency was supposed to be different. The young people working in the White House are supposed to be the truest of true believers. Countless postmortems attribute the Democratic Party’s 2008 success to a unique surge in “Barack the Vote” enthusiasm among 18- to 34-year olds. Many of these folks followed their political hero from the fields of Iowa into the White House—hoping to translate their dreams into policy, and build satisfying careers in the process.

A recent New York Times Magazine article focused on White House “twentysomethings” like Lesser, Levine, Jon Favreau, Reggie Love, and Samantha Tubman—and what they’re learning on the job. But as the campaign juggernaut settles into the grind of governing, many junior staff across the administration are heading for the exits, burned out and tired of life in the Obama bubble.

“Everyone, for better or worse, gets that it’s a special place to be,” says a former campaign staffer who worked in two federal agencies in Washington before leaving the government in March. “But the challenge is: What does it mean to ‘make it’”? One young graduate who left a plum job at the White House for more policy-related work at a federal agency explained the choice: “I can’t have the same job on my résumé for two and a half years. If I was going to stay, I needed to grow, and so I had to move.”

Of course, commuting to the most exclusive office building in America has its perks—and these privileged few are wary of whining at a time when so many of their peers are struggling just to find a job, any job. Toasting health care’s passage on the Truman Balcony of the White House, high-fiving members of the U.S. men’s soccer team, or sitting in on international climate negotiations are unforgettable memories. “You get to learn from the people that are making the decisions that affect the course of our country,” says Ross Weingarten, who recently left the Justice Department for a summer of service in Uganda. “For a young person, few experiences could be more educational, more exciting, or more fulfilling.”

Yet virtually all of the young White House and administration staffers I spoke to (most were unwilling to be named because of the sensitivity of their positions) have grown somewhat disillusioned—and say the glamour factor noted in the Times article is overblown. “It’s cool to my family, or the girl that I meet at the bar, but in terms of day-to-day work—am I really doing the change we can believe in?” asked one Iowa veteran. “Probably not. And it is very much of a shock.”

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Not only does he name names — as the Denver Post originally reported, it was indeed deputy chief of staff Jim Messina who contacted him about dropping out — but he’s actually released Messina’s e-mail from last year describing the jobs they had in mind for him. The one key omission? Any acknowledgment by Romanoff that he himself lied to the Post when initially asked whether anyone had offered him a position.

U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff acknowledged tonight that he discussed three possible jobs with the deputy chief of staff of the Obama administration — all contingent upon a decision by Romanoff not to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Romanoff said none of the jobs was formally offered, but said the only reason they were discussed with Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina was if Romanoff stayed out of the Senate race.

“Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race,” Romanoff wrote in a statement. “He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one.”

Here’s the full text of Romanoff’s statement, together with the description of the available jobs. Is Messina guilty of a crime for having made this kinda sorta offer, even without any formal “promise”? Let’s see:

Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

I think we can get this one to the jury! Seriously, though, I don’t want Messina charged, partly because he was obviously acting at Rahm Emanuel’s behest (no deputy COS would be authorized to bribe a senate candidate on his own initiative, I assume) and partly because I’m sure this really is D.C. business as usual for both parties. The point of bringing up the statute again and again is simply to remind people that it’s the same sort of unrealistic “good government” aspiration that Captain Hopenchange used to such cynical effect during the campaign and which he’s now happily willing to violate in the most flagrant ways. Remember when he promised to put Congress’s health-care deliberations on C-SPAN? That was pure garbage aimed at idealistic young voters, which he duly abandoned as soon as he was elected save for that “health-care summit” dog-and-pony show earlier this year. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t include this angle in his campaign platform: “We won’t deny primary voters a choice with dirty deals!” sounds like precisely the sort of pap he was pushing at his nomination speech in front of the Temple of Zeus or whatever. Although, to be completely fair, I wonder in hindsight how many lefties really bought it or even cared whether he’d keep his “Change” promises or not. The point was to win an election and that mission was accomplished. Who cares if he’s turned out to be every inch the Chicago politician that he is?

As for the politics of Romanoff putting out this statement, I agree with Ben Smith: This sure looks like a middle finger towards the White House, aimed at casting his primary opponent, Michael Bennet, as the puppet of a very cynical political machine. No wonder Joe Sestak’s suddenly ducking joint appearances with The One.


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CNN released a small portion of its latest poll yesterday — oddly, almost two weeks after taking the survey — that shows that ObamaCare is just as popular as ever.  In a survey of over 1,000 adults (rather than registered or likely voters), the health-care overhaul legislation still trails its opposition by 13 points:

According to the survey, 56 percent of the public disapprove of the passage of the bill, with 43 percent approving of the new law.

“Opposition is highest among men, older Americans, and people who make more than $50,000 a year,” says Holland.

But Americans are more evenly divided over whether the health care bill will be good or bad for the country. Fifty-one percent of people questioned in the survey say the bill will hurt the U.S., with 46 percent saying it will help.

“That indicates that Republican candidates may want to make the midterm elections into a retrospective referendum on whether the bill should have passed, while Democratic candidates may prefer to focus on the future and what the health care bill might mean for the country in the long run,” adds Holland.

Technically, neither side should make strategic decisions about this poll because of the nature of the sample.  A poll of adults is the least predictive sample for elections.  Polling likely voters gives politicians a much more predictive look at voting behavior than registered voters, and a general adult population sample is relatively worthless when other pollsters provide the more predictive sampling techniques.  In fact, general-population polls tend to skew too far toward liberal policies and politicians — so this isn’t good news at all for Obama and his health-care plan supporters.

But a better question is why CNN chose to hold off the release of this question for almost two weeks.  A week ago, the news network released data on the immigration law from the same survey.  The older the data, the less relevant it is.  CNN appears to have wanted to pair it with results that showed support for the Obama administration — in this case, on financial regulation reform.  It doesn’t report the ObamaCare findings until the eighth paragraph of its release.

CNN still hasn’t released the entire survey, showing the sampling demographics and especially the partisan split in the sample.  After almost two weeks, one has to wonder why.


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Thanks to an expiring tax credit, the Obama administration got some good news from the housing markets in the last couple of months.  However, the underlying numbers look positively grim, and CNBC’s Diana Olick believes they predict a double-dip recession in housing for later this year.  With mortgage applications hitting their lowest level in over 13 years, she has good reason to worry:

Everybody take a nice long look at today’s Pending Home Sales Indexfrom the National Association of Realtors, because it’s just about the last positive picture we’re going to see for a while. …

This index is based on contracts signed in August, and that’s how the credit was set up; you had to sign your contract by April 30th and close by June 30th in order to get your $8000 if you’re a first time buyer and $6500 if you’re a move up buyer.

And then came May, traditionally the height of the spring housing season.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home began to sink. Now, four weeks later, mortgage purchase applications are down nearly 40 percent from a month ago to their lowest level since April of 1997. Yes, you can argue that a larger-than normal share of buyers today are all cash, but those are largely investors.

That means real organic buyers are exiting in droves.

The tax credit, as I have repeatedly argued, was nothing more than a Cash for Clunkers applied to the housing market.  It artificially inflated demand by stealing future sales and pushing them further up the calendar.  It did not create qualified buyers; it merely incentivized qualified buyers to act immediately instead of later this year or next year.

Now, without the artificial stimulus, we will see a serious deflation of a bubble extended by government intervention in the market.  That’s exactly what happened with the original housing bubble, and it’s not a coincidence that the end of an intervention takes us back to a demand level prior to the bubble’s beginnings in 1998.  The interventions have only postponed the natural revaluation of assets in the wake of irrational inflation over more than a decade.


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