LIKE STEINBRENNER v. MARTIN: Robert Gibbs's Kinsley gaffe about the potential for Republicans to take over the House was an inadvertent and significant political error.
But the resulting conflagration was not primarily about what Gibbs said.
Indeed, the White House and Speaker Pelosi's office are putting out word tonight that there was NO mention of Robert Gibbs during the Speaker's meeting with President Obama today. And Gibbs made sure to pivot right back to the Republican record.
Tensions between the White House and the House have ebbed and flowed, but they've existed ever since the stimulus package ... ever since the House took a tough vote on energy legislation that the Senate didn't reciprocate ... ever since the House put the public option on the line, only to see it taken off the line. The perception that the White House protects the Senate and takes the House for granted is real.
Gibbs has apologized for his mistake; the White House has tried to tamp
down the angry words, knowing that public discussion of the kerfluffle
makes it harmful where it had just been hurtful. A memo describing the
scope of the White House fundraising activities seems to have done
little but open the anger vent even wider.
The main reason for Nancy Pelosi's behind-the-scenes thundering at a White House leg affairs staffer is legit: the DCCC and her candidates need big donors and small donors to pony up money to defend their seats. Conceding the possibility of a takeover could cost the committees and candidates millions of dollars. And it will no doubt help Republicans raise a significant amount of money. When Karl Rove stuck to the nostrum that Republicans would definitely
keep the House in 2006, it wasn't because he was stupid: it was because
he knew that the White House has a formidable signaling capacity to
donors and activist facilitators.
feel they've had the momentum the last four weeks ... with consequent malaprops from Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. John
Boehner. They were away for a week and worked their butts off back home, and
then Gibbs said what he did and that's what greeted them in Washington.
In the end, this is a Washington problem and compared to most Congress-President relationships, this one is quite strong. But feelings are raw, members' hides are raw, and those raw hides are on the line.
BTW: everyone in the House loves Vice President Biden. He's been their champion, money wise.
PENN PAL: Brian Goldsmith notes that the White House's message for the midterms, "forward not back" -- repeated ad nauseum since the Sunday shows -- seems to come from an unlikely source. Mark Penn suggested it in Politico and originally wrote it in 2005 on behalf of another embattled progressive party, British Labour, which then cruised to a win.
.CONDOM: Little noticed but quite important today: the Domain Name Service, the roots of the Internet, is now fully sheathed by a protective layer of digital authentication. What this means: it is now harder to damage the guts of the Net. For a year, the Department of Commerce has been working with the IT industry to get this done, and it's done.
NEXT WEEK'S TIME: Michael Crowley wrote the cover story on the
stalled economy. With the stimulus package soon to run out
and poor jobs numbers continuing and elections approaching, the
Obama administration is facing a difficult balancing act -- to spend or not spend?
REID TOO MUCH?: It was quite interesting to note what Sen. Harry Reid did not mention in his preview of the
Senate calendar for the remainder of the summer -- START ratification. The administration is still holding to the public line that it would like to see a
final Senate vote by the end of the summer, but with the treaty not yet out of committee and Senate floor time at a bare minimum, that is looking less and less
likely. This may have to be held over to September. There are whispers of a potential deal between Democrats and Republicans, but I'm only picking up whispers.
GOP & GAYS: Joshua Green's column tomorrow notices the spate of Republican judges who are advancing the cause of gay marriage:
[T]he Republican pedigrees of the judges moving gay marriage toward legality [is] all the more striking, particularly in how it contrasts with conservative outcries about judicial activism. But more than that, it's a gauge of how far from the mainstream modern conservative jurists have drifted.
Read more tomorrow.
BUSINESS BEAT: Daniel Indiviglio tells us that RealtyTrac will tomorrow release its
foreclosure data for June. Levels have remained high this year, but appear to be
improving a little over the past few months. The next few days will provide a
double-dose of inflation data. The government provides producer price level
tomorrow and the consumer price index on Friday. The Senate Banking Committee will
hold hearings on Thursday to begin to consider President Obama's three nominees
for new Federal Reserve governors. They include Janet Yellen, Peter Diamond, and
Sarah Bloom Raskin.
Jobs are the top message priority for Republicans, too, but they've been dog-whistling to their base on the "broken promise" on abortion in health care.
-- Cloture on Wall Street reform in the Senate is at 11:00 am EST tomorrow.
-- Attention teachers' unions: Arne Duncan will speak tomorrow to the board of the folks who give you the AP tests in Washington on raising high school performance standards and levels. He'll be at the Marriott Wardman Park at 4:50 pm.
-- Why do the Young Republicans like the Liaison hotel so much? That's where they always hold their conferences. Anyway, sorry. Distracted. They'll hear tomorrow from Minority Leader (or, if you're Bill Galston, the next Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, who will speak "about the Democrat agenda and Republican efforts to counter it with the
kind of straightforward, common-sense approach Americans are looking for from Washington."
-- Shane Harris on the one Russian spy who might actually have learned valuable stuff about valuable stuff.
Forget credit hours—in a quest to cut costs, universities are simply asking students to prove their mastery of a subject.
MANCHESTER, Mich.—Had Daniella Kippnick followed in the footsteps of the hundreds of millions of students who have earned university degrees in the past millennium, she might be slumping in a lecture hall somewhere while a professor droned. But Kippnick has no course lectures. She has no courses to attend at all. No classroom, no college quad, no grades. Her university has no deadlines or tenure-track professors.
Instead, Kippnick makes her way through different subject matters on the way to a bachelor’s in accounting. When she feels she’s mastered a certain subject, she takes a test at home, where a proctor watches her from afar by monitoring her computer and watching her over a video feed. If she proves she’s competent—by getting the equivalent of a B—she passes and moves on to the next subject.
Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush look abroad for inspiration, heralding the end of American exceptionalism.
This election cycle, two candidates have dared to touch a third rail in American politics.
Not Social Security reform. Not Medicare. Not ethanol subsidies. The shibboleth that politicians are suddenly willing to discuss is the idea that America might have something to learn from other countries.
The most notable example is Bernie Sanders, who renewed his praise for Western Europe in a recent interview with Ezra Klein. “Where is the UK? Where is France? Germany is the economic powerhouse in Europe,” Sanders said. “They provide health care to all of their people, they provide free college education to their kids.”
On ABC’s This Week in May, George Stephanopoulos asked Sanders about this sort of rhetoric. “I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: ‘He wants American to look more like Scandinavia,’” the host said. Sanders didn’t flinch:
Even when a dentist kills an adored lion, and everyone is furious, there’s loftier righteousness to be had.
Now is the point in the story of Cecil the lion—amid non-stop news coverage and passionate social-media advocacy—when people get tired of hearing about Cecil the lion. Even if they hesitate to say it.
But Cecil fatigue is only going to get worse. On Friday morning, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, called for the extradition of the man who killed him, the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Muchinguri would like Palmer to be “held accountable for his illegal action”—paying a reported $50,000 to kill Cecil with an arrow after luring him away from protected land. And she’s far from alone in demanding accountability. This week, the Internet has served as a bastion of judgment and vigilante justice—just like usual, except that this was a perfect storm directed at a single person. It might be called an outrage singularity.
A hawkish senator doesn't apply the lessons of Iraq
Earlier this week, Senator Lindsey Graham, a hawkish Republican from South Carolina, used a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to stage a theatrical display of his disdain for the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
The most telling part of his time in the spotlight came when he pressed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to declare who would win if the United States and Iran fought a war:
Here’s a transcript of the relevant part:
Graham: Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?
Carter: No. The United States.
Graham: We. Win.
Little more than a decade ago, when Senator Graham urged the invasion of Iraq, he may well have asked a general, “Could we win a war against Saddam Hussein? Who wins?” The answer would’ve been the same: “The United States.” And the U.S. did rout Hussein’s army. It drove the dictator into a hole, and he was executed by the government that the United States installed. And yet, the fact that the Iraqi government of 2002 lost the Iraq War didn’t turn out to mean that the U.S. won it. It incurred trillions in costs; thousands of dead Americans; thousands more with missing limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder and years of deployments away from spouses and children; and in the end, a broken Iraq with large swaths of its territory controlled by ISIS, a force the Iraqis cannot seem to defeat. That’s what happened last time a Lindsey Graham-backed war was waged.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Who can devise the most convoluted way to wipe out the Islamic State?
Everyone with a stake in Middle Eastern geopolitics publicly declares that ISIS must be defeated. Yet opinions range widely on how this should be achieved.
Saudi Arabia, for example, believes ISIS cannot be defeated unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Turkey has just convinced NATO nations that the war against ISIS can only be won if Turkey’s traditional Kurdish opponents are neutralized first. Israel sees only one way to defeat ISIS: destroy Iran’s nuclear program and clip its wings regionally.
So what explains these apparently contradictory aims? The cynical view would be that all these parties are less interested in defeating ISIS than in achieving their own regional goals, and that they’re only pretending to be concerned about wiping out the group. Clearly, however, there is no place for cynicism in Middle Eastern politics. Everyone involved in the region is known to be sincere, albeit in radically different ways.
The Wall Street Journal’s eyebrow-raising story of how the presidential candidate and her husband accepted cash from UBS without any regard for the appearance of impropriety that it created.
The Swiss bank UBS is one of the biggest, most powerful financial institutions in the world. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton intervened to help it out with the IRS. And after that, the Swiss bank paid Bill Clinton $1.5 million for speaking gigs. TheWall Street Journal reported all that and more Thursday in an article that highlights huge conflicts of interest that the Clintons have created in the recent past.
The piece begins by detailing how Clinton helped the global bank.
“A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts,” the newspaper reports. “If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court. Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS.”
The IOC’s selection of Beijing as the host of its 2022 games is met with a lukewarm response.
When the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing on Friday as the host for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the Chinese capital became the first city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter games. This, most likely, isn’t coincidental: Beijing’s hosting of the Summer games in 2008 was generally considered a success, and Almaty, the Kazakh city whose bid placed second, lacks comparable experience.
A closer examination of Beijing’s 2022 bid, though, reveals the selection is far more peculiar than it seems at first glance. One reason: It barely snows in Beijing. China’s northern plain is extremely dry, and what precipitation that falls in the capital tends to occur during the summer. Beijing’s Olympic planners have assured the IOC this won’t be a problem—the country will simply use artificial snow to accommodate events, such as skiing, that require it.
Jim Gilmore joins the race, and the Republican field jockeys for spots in the August 6 debate in Cleveland.
After decades as the butt of countless jokes, it’s Cleveland’s turn to laugh: Seldom have so many powerful people been so desperate to get to the Forest City. There’s one week until the Republican Party’s first primary debate of the cycle on August 6, and now there’s a mad dash to get into the top 10 and qualify for the main event.
With former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore filing papers to run for president on July 29, there are now 17 “major” candidates vying for the GOP nomination, though that’s an awfully imprecise descriptor. It takes in candidates with lengthy experience and a good chance at the White House, like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush; at least one person who is polling well but is manifestly unserious, namely Donald Trump; and people with long experience but no chance at the White House, like Gilmore. Yet it also excludes other people with long experience but no chance at the White House, such as former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson.
Netflix’s revival of the ensemble cult film does far more than play on nostalgia—it’s an absurd, densely plotted prequel that never forgets to be funny.
At some point, given time, word of mouth, and endless rewatching, a cult classic evolves into a universally beloved media property. Netflix, it seems, has become the arbiter of that transformation—first and most notably by reviving the adored-but-prematurely-canceled Arrested Development for a fourth season. Now the service is continuing this effort by turning the 2001 comedy Wet Hot American Summer, a critical and commercial bomb on its release, into an eight-episode prequel miniseries. Though it all but vanished without a trace on release, Wet Hot’s shaggy, surreal charm and its cast of future stars have helped it endure over the years, and despite its bizarre positioning, the Netflix edition hasn’t missed a beat, even 14 years later.