Entries Tagged as 'White House'

SCOTUS Could Force Obama’s Hand on Jerusalem

David Frum November 5th, 2011 at 8:27 am 38 Comments

In my column for the National Post, I discuss how a Supreme Court case might force the White House to explain its policy towards Jerusalem:

Two can play at this game. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have abandoned negotiations with Israel. They are seeking UN recognition of Palestinian statehood: statehood without peace. Already they have gained one victory: acceptance as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Yet this victory may be their last.

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Why Obama is Quiet About Al-Awlaki

David Frum September 30th, 2011 at 2:14 pm 220 Comments

Michael Tomasky asks, “Why doesn’t President Obama take more credit for killing the al-Qaeda leadership?”

Tomasky is normally a tough-minded observer of all points of the political compass, but on this occasion he has sunk much too deep into liberal self-regard.

Imagine if the Bush administration had killed bin Laden, under circumstances as daring as the ones under which he actually was put on ice by the Obama administration. Imagine what that week would have been like. On Fox News, we’d have been subjected to endless Soviet-style encomia to our heroic leader. What would the administration itself have done? I’ll concede the 10 or 15 percent chance they’d have surprised us and played it humbly. But in all likelihood, Bush and Cheney and Rummy and Condi would have dashed around the country making speeches at martial events, alternated (of course) with bathetic public ceremonies in the presence of some of the very 9/11 widows whom the Bushies, in other moments, aspersed for wanting things like an honest commission investigation into how 9/11 happened in the first place.

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The Candid and Frank Betty Ford

David Frum July 11th, 2011 at 8:52 am 9 Comments

In my latest CNN column, I write about Betty Ford’s candid and frank speaking style:

The role of first lady is one of the most difficult in American public life. Few women have struggled with the role as passionately and poignantly as Betty Ford, who died this week at 93.

Betty Ford arrived in the White House at the same time that the new media culture arrived on TV. It suddenly became permissible for journalists to ask questions that no respectable journalist would have ever dared ask before. And it was not Betty Ford’s nature to leave a question unanswered, once asked.

In 1975, Betty Ford sat down with Morley Safer of “60 Minutes.”

Safer: What if Susan Ford (who was then 18 years old) came to you and said, ‘Mother… I’m having an affair’?

Betty Ford: Well, I wouldn’t be surprised. I would think she’s a perfectly normal human being, like all young girls.

Betty Ford shared with the nation her views of her children’s marijuana use. (She guessed that, yes, they had tried it.) She shared the information that she and President Gerald Ford slept in the White House in a single rather than double beds. She shared details of her life before her marriage to Ford. She shared her views on abortion (pro-choice). She shared news of her breast cancer, her face-lift and her dependency on painkillers, alcohol and cigarettes.

A journalist once asked President Ford:

“Have you ever said to your wife, ‘Why do you have to be so revealing, so honest?’ “

He answered: “I’ve told her a million times. It has no impact.”

The journalist Tom Wolfe archly dubbed the 1970s the “Me Decade.” He didn’t mean that people had become any more selfish than previously. He meant that they had become more compulsively self-revealing. “Let’s talk about me!” Betty Ford epitomized — and to a great extent accelerated — that trend of the times.

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Here’s How To Get To A Debt Ceiling

June 27th, 2011 at 2:31 pm 7 Comments

The theatrics of the past two weeks aside, click the wink and the nod seem to be already communicated as the President, remedy the Speaker of the House, sale and the Senate Majority and Minority leaders begin the next phase of the drama.

Both sides have now solidified their bases in Congress.  “No new taxes” now balances “The end of Medicare as we know it.”  Neither will happen to any significant degree and the press releases for back home can be written well in advance.

The question arises, then, if the negotiations ignore 70 percent of the problem, what kind of deal could pass muster with a majority in both the House and Senate?

Here’s the dirty little secret—it isn’t that hard to meet the targets set out by either side.

Let’s start with the basics.

To get a debt ceiling increase that will take Congress and the Administration beyond the November, 2012, elections, requires approximately $2.4 trillion.  Speaker Boehner has declared that he wants that much in spending restraint, dollar for dollar.

Selected leaks from the now-defunct Biden meetings crowed about getting as much as $2 trillion.

Can either target be met without confronting the underlying structural changes in entitlements that would truly change the debt trajectory?


Here’s a “back of the napkin” plan to reach the Speaker’s goals and not harm entitlements.

A—accept approximately $1.1 trillion in defense savings over the 10-year period by simply counting the money that will be saved as we draw down troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

B—freeze non-defense, domestic appropriated accounts for five years, saving $400-$500 billion.

C—make minor changes in small entitlements like agricultural subsidies, change the Cost-of-Living index used to calculate increases in various federal programs, and allow many of the openings in the federal work force the next decade to go unfilled, saving another $100-$200 billion.

D—accept a freeze on new defense spending, outside the troop drawdown savings, for enough time to get $300 billion.

E—close a couple of tax loopholes—like the ethanol subsidy, some of the “tax extenders” for special purposes, and remove the mortgage interest deduction entirely for second homes—and save another $600 billion over the decade.

F—finally, add to these savings the amount of federal interest payments that such savings would produce, another $300-$400 billion.

Lo and behold, you’ve done it.   These changes from the Congressional Budget Office current policy baseline for the next decade amount to even more than $2.4 trillion.  And, better yet, the savings from “cuts” in programs outweighs the new revenues from loophole closings by about three to one.  That is another stated goal of whatever package emerges.

Republicans get to claim that they held on “no new taxes.”

Democrats get to shout that they kept “hands off our Medicare and Social Security.”

And both sides can do all this without having to reduce Medicare payments to doctors, or to expand the reach of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), or to reform almost anything of significance.  Better, if the 113th or 114th Congress confronts a serious international challenge, those folks can always increase defense spending as needed.  One Congress cannot bind another—a basic law of legislation.

No one will notice, except for budget geeks and some cranky media types, that the total indebtedness of the federal government will total $23 trillion ten years from now.  This means that the $2.4 trillion in savings barely achieves 10 percent of anticipated debt.  Worse, such a deal allows Medicare, Medicaid and most other entitlements to continue to climb without restraint.

Why does this outcome seem probable?  Because we have been down this road before.

In the Reagan years, Congress promised a package of deficit cuts that would be three-to-one spending changes compared to tax changes.  When all was said and done, and we looked back a couple of years later at our handiwork, much more was said than done.  The package never achieved three-to-one spending versus taxes and deficits barely budged from projections.

Yes, the package may contain serious process reform and enforcement mechanisms that promise to save more in the future.  But such an outcome will hardly satisfy those who want real fiscal reform and real stabilization of the federal debt.

Kicking a can down the road really is fun.  You watch kids do it all the time.

U.S. Burmese Policy “Yields Little”

June 23rd, 2011 at 1:01 pm Comments Off

A Congressional panel yesterday criticized the White House for keeping it in the dark about any progress in US efforts to engage Burma’s military dictatorship after watching a videotaped appeal from Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi calling for greater American and international pressure on the regime.

The House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific hearing on Capitol Hill was convened to address last November’s rigged elections in Burma. Election laws enacted in March 2010 stipulated that one fourth of the national legislature would be appointed by the military, regardless of the election’s results.

Although the White House pledged to pursue a diplomatic process of “pragmatic engagement” with the country’s ruling military junta following the election fiasco, Congress has heard little about the initiative. Democratic Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, the subcommittee’s Ranking Member, suggested the Obama White House had not cooperated with the subcommittee’s efforts.  “I hope we can get someone from the administration down here in the future and have them tell us what the heck is going on over there,” he said.

Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director of the US Campaign for Burma, concurs that engagement with the regime, despite the administration’s good intentions, has yielded little. “There hasn’t been any positive outcome whatsoever from the engagement, she told FrumForum today. “We don’t have a problem with engagement.  But when you have no timeline and you set no benchmarks, it’s just this open-ended thing that goes on and on.  And so you don’t see any changes on the ground.

“As far as the Obama Administration [is concerned], we had problems with them focusing on Burma even before the events in the Middle East.”

Among the witnesses yesterday were Aung Din, executive director of the US  Campaign for Burma and Dr. Chris Beyrer, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights.  But the highlight of the hearing was a previously recorded video address from Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy activist and former general secretary of the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NLD won Burma’s 1990 general elections in a landslide, but were prevented from assuming power by the military.  Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the 21 years since the election under house arrest. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

In recorded address, the first official contact between the Burmese dissident and Congress, Suu Kyi was appreciative of the attention her country has received from the U.S. government and its efforts on Burma’s behalf.

Nevertheless, she expressed disappointment over Burma’s lack of “progress towards democracy”.  Suu Kyi said she was especially concerned with continuing human rights violations and corruption in the Burmese judiciary.

“Without the rule of law, none of our people can be secure,” she said.

Suu Kyi further criticized the regime for refusing to release political prisoners — even while it publicly promises more open political discourse.

“Why are they still in prison?” she said.  “If [the regime] is sincere in its claims that it wishes to bring democracy to Burma, there is no need for any prisoners of conscience.”

But despite wide agreement among the witnesses about the nature of the problems facing the Burmese people, the panel, which never included more than three Congressmen at once, could come up with little in terms of substantive policy suggestions to ameliorate the situation in the former British colony.

All three witnesses praised the reasoning behind the Obama administration’s policy of “pragmatic engagement” with the ruling junta, but criticized what they see as a complete lack of results.

According to Dr. Beyrer, “The situation in Burma has not changed.”

Ultimately, the witnesses agreed that there is little the US can do unilaterally to help the Burmese.  Indeed, the main policy recommendations from the witnesses were for the US to advocate for the enforcement of a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution from March of this year and encourage a UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Burma.

The March resolution calls on the Burmese government to allow basic liberties, ensure the rule of law, and cease human rights violations.  Suu Kyi sees the implementation of the UNHRC resolution as Burma’s best roadmap to democracy.

“The requests, the urgings, the demands of this resolution are very much in line with what we in Burma think is needed to start Burma on the genuine path of democratization,” Suu Kyi said.

The Burmese general election in fall 2010 was widely criticized for failing to allow political parties to mount any serious opposition to the ruling military junta.

Political parties were also required to expel all members with criminal records, including former political prisoners such as Suu Kyi.  The State Department derided the 2010 elections as “devoid of credibility” and “a mockery of the democratic process.”

What Washington Can Learn from Baseball’s Commish

April 22nd, 2011 at 10:10 pm 9 Comments

Major League Baseball moved this week to protect one its most storied franchises: the Los Angeles Dodgers. In doing so, Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has apparently decided that the risk of the organization missing payroll, not fielding a team for a given game, or basically screwing up an entire league wasn’t an acceptable scenario.  Selig’s made the right move.  In fact, Washington should be paying attention.

Selig’s bold step made me wonder: Wouldn’t this be an appropriate time to replace Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury with Bud Selig? After all, there’s a lot to recommend about Selig.

While Mr. Selig understands that spending more than one takes in does not work in ether the short run or the long run, he also understands that creditors like to be sure they are going to be paid. He also apparently understands that promising to reduce spending and actually taking action to reduce spending are different. He understands that commitment starts today and that today’s bills can’t be paid with the hope that a recent draft choice is going to have a batting average of .395 and hit 50 home runs in five years. That new phenom might or might not fill the stadium in a couple years time and the creditors won’t loan any longer on that hope and chance.

Selig gets it.  He’s a serious man: When times are tough, he sits at his desk working, not running around the country trying to misdirect blame. He’s working with his colleagues to forge a solution for the Dodgers and the national pastime. While it’s sad to see the Dodgers in their time of distress, it’s refreshing to see a man working at fixing problems rather than talking them to death.

The choice is clear.  Will anyone in Washington take note?

What if Sarah Palin Were President *Now*

March 16th, 2011 at 8:00 am 64 Comments

The economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen.  Needless to say, the President of the United States has a few things to worry about.  It’s in light of these recent events that we must consider the way the GOP chooses its candidates for high office.  Not even four years ago, our party ran Sarah Palin on the ticket for the Vice-Presidency.  She lost, but one has to ask the question: what if she hadn’t?  Or worse yet, what if this were two years from now and she were President on, say, the day that our Japanese allies were rocked by a disaster the scale of which they haven’t seen since 1945, when the U.S. dropped “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s in those moments that politics stops being about ten word answers and polling data and starts being real.

In those moments, populism is useless if not downright dangerous. Intellect and prudence are the qualities that we want in our President for it’s in those moments that one man or woman will be called upon to impact the future of the free world.  It’s these moments that make Sarah Palin’s apparent deficit in intellectual curiosity (and indeed perhaps even intellect) much more than easy laughs for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.  These lapses matter and speak to her credibility as a candidate.

A recent poll of Republicans demonstrates that many within the party are waking up to the reality that we cannot responsibly attempt to place former Governor Palin in the Oval Office. An ABC-Washington Post survey finds that for the first time in their polling, less than 60% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents see Palin in a favorable light, down from 88 percent immediately following the 2008 Republican National Convention and 70 percent in October.

This is welcome news, but from time to time, our party’s nominees will prevail.  In light of that possibility, every single Republican ought to ask themselves this question before they decide whom to support in the upcoming battle for the GOP nomination: is this a person we can trust when the s*** hits the fan and politics flies out the window?

Follow Jeb on twitter: @JGolinkin.

Obama’s New Spin Machine

March 7th, 2011 at 12:00 am 17 Comments

On Sunday, the White House sent new Chief of Staff Bill Daley out to do Meet the Press for the first time since Mayor Rahm bounced from the post to run Chicago.  Daley’s performance was so fun that we thought we would translate a few of his answers out of politics and into English.

* * *

On Speaker Boehner: “The last thing I’d ever do is speculate about the Speaker’s ability to control his caucus (I am about to speculate about the Speaker’s ability to control his own caucus). My sense is — and I have great admiration for him (I really love him, specifically because I don’t think he has control over his caucus) — I think there’s no question that (it is highly unlikely that) he understands that, as Speaker, he not only speaks for his party, he leads the House of Representatives. They and the Senate have to get together and agree on a budget, or this government doesn’t fund itself, and we look ridiculous (we will blame this all on Boehner.  So what I’m saying is that Boehner will look ridiculous) If anyone thinks that out of this last election, the American people were voting for more partisanship, more saying ‘no’, they’re going to have a rude awakening in the next election (we are big fans of the current House Republicans.  We think they are going to score us four more years!)

On Ambassador Huntsman: ‘His support of the Obama administration, his support of the president, the things he did on behalf of this administration, and the closeness in which he worked with the President is much appreciated (Michelle Bachmann and the Tea Party People!  You should read about this guy on Wikipedia!  He is SUCH a RINO!  He is President Obama’s boy!   The President just loves and respects him so much!)…and I’m sure we’ll talk about that in the primaries. (Because we know that the quickest way to eradicate any chance this Huntsman fellow has of winning the nomination is to make sure everyone knows that he is the President’s friend….also, did I mention that he is a Mormon?)

On a “No Fly Zone” for Libya: Well, you know, lots of people throw around phrases of “no-fly zone,” and they talk about it as though it’s just a game on a video game or something and some people who throw, throw that line out have no idea what they’re talking about.  (I hate Fox News.  These fools that keep carping about “no fly zones” are windbags who don’t have the slightest idea what the hell they are talking about.  Don’t you think if this problem could easily be solved by some magic “no fly zone,” we’d be doing it?  This isn’t Star Fox for Nintendo 64.  This is real.  Why the hell did I take this job?  What was I thinking? )

On “Leading the Way” with Libya: It is in our interest…. there should be no violence in these changes that are going on in the Middle East.  You have to protect the basic human rights (and stabilize oil prices).  And at the end, there has to be a process, both political and economic, for the people in these countries to have some opportunity of real change in their government.  (Look, Gregory: what do you want from me?  If I say that we are committed to securing human rights, the neocons will start banging the drums of war and the anti-war left will start supporting another candidate.  The budget busters will start yelling about how we can’t afford a war.  The neo-liberals will start lobbying us to talk to the UN more.  Meanwhile, the price of oil will just keep going up and up and no one will vote for us in the middle.  So just shut up….next question.)

On President Karzai’s Complaints about Civilian Casualties: Well, well, President Obama spoke with President Karzai recently (He told him to shut his mouth or else we were going to defund his security detail). No question we’ve–we feel terrible about–and, and not only the general, the president has stated his sorrow over this tragedy that occurred.  Obviously, these are difficult actions when you’re in the middle of a war. (“President” Karzai knows we are busting our asses to try to avoid civilian casualties because it undermines our efforts.  So, it would be great if Hamid could stop calling press conferences every time it happens.)

Follow Jeb on twitter @JGolinkin

The White House’s Clumsy Timing

David Frum September 17th, 2009 at 11:49 am 44 Comments

Sept. 17, buy viagra 2009, sildenafil is the day that the Obama administration yielded to Russian pressure and canceled the proposed missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Today also happens to be the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, when Russia gulped down its share of the territories assigned by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Everyone in Poland remembers that anniversary. Apparently the Obama White House does not.

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?”