Entries Tagged as 'CNN'

Watch: Frum on Broken Government

September 27th, 2011 at 11:19 am 9 Comments

David Frum recently appeared on American Morning to discuss his latest CNN column arguing that government institutions need fundamental reforms.

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Obama’s 5 Big Debt Negotiation Mistakes

David Frum July 25th, 2011 at 12:17 pm 74 Comments

In my CNN column, I write about the five major mistakes President Obama has made in his handling of the debt-ceiling debate and the economy.

If the debt ceiling crisis were a movie, President Barack Obama would deserve an Oscar for his performance in the role of “the last reasonable man.”

But of course the crisis is not a movie. The crisis is a deadly serious clash of ideas and interests. And there, the president has lost his way.

Obama has lost his way so badly that even his core liberal supporters should be questioning whether they have got the right man in the job.

The indictment has five headings:

1. Obama has ceased to lead on the economy.

The management guru Stephen Covey famously said: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Economic recovery is — or should be — the main thing. In 2009, Obama advanced a series of bold proposals to accelerate recovery: his big fiscal stimulus, the auto bailout and so on.

The president’s proposals did not fail, exactly. But they did not work as advertised. The American economy limps weakly forward, leaving millions out of work.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt demanded from his administration “bold, persistent experimentation.” By contrast, Obama put measures in place at the beginning and waited for them to yield results. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, at the end of 2010, he added one more measure to the mix: a partial cut to the payroll tax, included as part of the deal that renewed the Bush tax cuts.

The payroll tax holiday is welcome if late. But it was small (2 percentage points out of the 12.6% paid by workers and employers) and was almost immediately offset by the surge in oil prices after the so-called Arab Spring. That surge took back from workers every dollar of the $110 billion in tax relief delivered by the payroll holiday.

And since December, Obama has surrendered entirely to the claim that we can somehow fix the economy by fixing the debt problem. The truth is the opposite: Fix the economy, and the debt problem will shrink to much more manageable proportions.

2. Obama does not effectively use the domestic powers of the presidency.

Talk radio shows accuse Obama of acting like a Third World dictator heading a thug government. That’s a devilishly ingenious line of attack on a president who actually makes weaker use of his domestic power than any since Jimmy Carter.

Example: The U.S. recovery that commenced in the summer of 2009 stalled in the spring and summer of 2010. Many economists blame the stall on the Federal Reserve’s April 2010 decision to stop providing additional monetary stimulus for fear of igniting inflation. Those inflation fears proved utterly misplaced, and in late 2010 the Federal Reserve resumed its monetary stimulus.

Where was the president during this crucial debate? AWOL.

Yes, yes, the Federal Reserve is independent and all that. But other presidents have succeeded in making their views known and respected on monetary policy. Obama had a unique chance to influence the debate, because through the summer of 2010 two of the seven seats on the Fed’s Board of Governors stood vacant. The president nominated expansion-minded governors to fill the seats. The nominations were put on hold by Republican senators. And what did the president do? Did he take to the airways to demand action on his nominees? Did he punish the senators by stopping federal projects in their states? Did he fill the seats with recess appointments?

To borrow the answer from Fred Armisen’s imitation of Obama on “Saturday Night Live”: “I’m seeing two big accomplishments: jack and squat.”

3. Obama cannot communicate empathy for Americans in economic distress.

Remember that video of the Obama supporter expressing her exhaustion and disappointment with the president’s record of help to the middle class?

Watch it again, and pay careful attention to what the president does. He first makes a perfunctory effort to connect with the woman in front of him as a fellow-parent. Then he rattles off a list of small programmatic changes: in the student loan program, in credit card regulation, none of them especially relevant to the woman in question. He finishes with a “stay the course” message that must ring hollow in the ears of all those for whom the “course” means unemployment of 38 weeks or longer.

Notice what the president does not do. He does not thank his questioner for defending him. He does not ask her questions of his own. He is so determined to sell his narrative, that he cannot hear or honor her fears. And indeed the questioner did lose her job a few weeks after the town hall meeting.

For two years, Obama’s economic message has been “recovery is around the corner.” He has delivered this message from factory floors and restaurant tables. He has not spoken in front of groups of unemployed; he has not spoken at welfare offices.

Obama’s disconnect from those in distress may explain the remarkable collapse of his support among younger whites, once one of his most important groups of supporters. Pew reports a 10-point surge in Republican identification among whites under age 30 since 2008. These are some of the voters hardest hit by this recession. They are voters to whom this president has spoken least.

Click here to read the whole column.

Van Jones and 9/11 Denialism

David Frum September 5th, 2009 at 11:52 am 38 Comments

On CNN’s Situation Room last night, I was asked about the White House’s green jobs adviser’s signature of at least one (and maybe two) statements endorsing the denialist point of view. The White House is apparently excusing its man on the grounds that he did not appreciate the significance of the documents. My reply: “This is a man in charge of supervising $80 billion worth of contracts – and your defense of him is that he signs things without reading them?”