Sunday, May 18 2003
RECENT TERRORISM: A very insightful email on the terrorist attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca.:

It seems as if the left is seizing upon the most recent bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco as proof that al-Qaeda is beginning to reconstitute itself and is beginning to reassert itself onto the international scene. The correct view is to look at these attacks as the violent death throes of an increasingly ineffective organization.

The most telling aspect of these last two attacks is the geographic locations – Arabic countries nearby radical Islamist regimes. In the case of Saudi Arabia, parts of their own country can be considered radically Islamist; Morocco’s location adjacent to Algeria has always made it a prime target.

Why is this telling? These locations are within the “local” sphere of Arabic influence. The infrastructure and resources required to bring the fight to the enemy’s territory (us) has been effectively disrupted. Logistical planning and operational expertise has been effectively eliminated. Al-Qaeda can rely only on local extremist support, as that is what is left. The low-tech, Palestinian method, effectively demonstrates that few resources are available and that the imagination and planning required for more sophisticated attacks is just not present.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that the rulers of these Arabic countries realize this more fully than we appreciate. In effect, they now understand that, since al-Qaeda cannot attack where they want to attack, they will attack where they are capable of attacking, namely, the very countries and societies that have supported them in the past. A relatively sympathetic local population provides a willing pool of martyrs and the logistics required to move arms and materials is much less demanding. Also, as the security apparatus of most of these countries are compromised with radical supporters, the security issues are much less demanding, as well.

In effect, al-Quada can no longer “export” terrorism to the West. It must now content itself with Part B of their strategy, overthrowing the existing ruling elite of the Arabic nations and replacing them with Islamic fundamentalist regimes that will provide the safe havens for al-Qaeda to reconstitute itself for the larger task of confronting the West.

The existing governments are now coming to the realization that their past support (tacit and otherwise) of these organizations have created a scenario whereby they are now in peril of the very organizations they supported in order to deflect opposition to their regimes onto external enemies. As the capacity to attack externally has been effectively disrupted these resources are focused internally. The existing governments now realize that these radical elements must be eliminated within their own countries before they, themselves, are destroyed.

Therefore, we can expect increasing cooperation with the United States from these countries as the war against al-Qaeda moves into a new phase. We will see these regimes moving ruthlessly to destroy the internal infrastructure they have created. There will be more pressure on the Palestinians to whack a deal with Israel so as to defuse the raison d’etre for many in the Arab world. You will also see some “liberalization” within these societies as the ruling elites desperately move to cling to whatever power they can retain.

The war on terror has been a success. The arena has not shifted. The roll back continues. Arabic countries have now been forced into the realization that, for their own survival, these groups must be destroyed. These regimes are nothing if not ruthless. Expect a surge of beheadings in the near future.

This is of course the glass is half-full take on the current situation with Al-Qaeda and the general terrorist environment in the Arab world, but I think there is a lot of truth in this thesis. J. McIntyre 11:42 am

Friday, May 16 2003
KRUGMAN V. MAINSTREAM AMERICA: Another fantastic column this morning - and by fantastic I don't mean "great" but rather the word's primary definition: "seemingly conceived by unrestrained imagination; fanciful or capricious." I'll save you a lengthy rant over the details of Krugman's dishonesty and just cut to the final sentence:

The truth is that the pursuit of televised glory — which led the Bush administration to turn its attention away from Al Qaeda, and to pick a fight with a regime that, however nasty, posed no threat — has made us much less safe than we should be.

The idea that the Bush administration went to war for a photo-op and doesn't care about fighting al-Qaeda stretches the boundaries of both cynicism and reality. First, let's acknowledge that this new argument flies in the face of what Krugman and the rest of the Dems have been saying for the past eighteen months, namely that Bush has been too preoccupied with the War on Terror to deal with domestic issues in any real way.

Second, while many on the left may actually believe Krugman's fantasy, it's fairly evident that the rest of the country feels differently. In the last ABC News/Washington Post poll, by exactly a two to one margin respondents said they felt the victory in Iraq will decrease the risk of terrorism here at home. Bush's approval ratings remain in the mid-to-high 60's and, despite the difficult economic circumstances, a large plurality of the public feels the country is moving in the right direction. Krugman's attempt to use the Riyadh bombing and the IISS report to make the argument that Bush's War on Terror is complete sham is, well, let's just say it's less than convincing.

As we've said before, the defining question of the 2004 election may not be "Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?" but rather "Are you safer than you were 4 years ago?" Given where we stand today, it's virtually inconceivable that anyone - outside of the hard-left activist base of the Democrat party - can look at any of the current Democrat presidential hopefuls (with the possible exception of Lieberman) and believe they would have spent as much time, effort, and resources on fighting terror and protecting the homeland as President Bush has during his first term.

DELAY'S BAD WEEK: First, Texas Dems hit the road and end up foiling House Majority Leader Tom Delay's effort at a second redistricting in his home state. Then he gets in a bit of hot water with Speaker Hastert for working above his pay grade on the assault weapons ban.

PICKERING IS BACK: The Washington Times reports that Republicans plan to resurrect the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering and force Senate Democrats into a third filibuster. It looks as if Frist and the GOP are betting heavy on the notion that the Dems are either going to capitulate to public pressure on the issue of judges or that they will pay a severe price at the ballot box in 2004. This is now a high-stakes game of chicken that is going to have a big winner and a big loser. - T. Bevan 7:41 am

Thursday, May 15 2003
EMAIL CONCERNING VANDERBILT LAW REVIEW: When I was on law review at Vanderbilt from '94 to '96, the same controversy existed. Vanderbilt allows (or at least, it did then) for students who don't make law review to attempt the following year to "write on" by submitting a legal article as part of a separate competition. Very few slots were available for this (one or two at the most, with no guarantee any will be selected), and very few students even tried. In other words, writing on to the law review was a long shot.

One year ahead of me, there was a black student I'll call Lenny. Lenny was an affable, outgoing student well-known among the students, and a liberal who was outspoken on issues of race. During my first year, Lenny spoke openly about his plans to submit an article for the write-on competition for law review. He spoke about it to students, he enlisted the advice of professors, and he made it clear that the article was going to deal with the issue of race in American society and the role the concept plays in law. During the year, Lenny could frequently be found in the law school library talking about all the research he was doing on his article or in the student lounge openly discussing how he had at least one former English teacher review his writing to correct it for grammatical errors. Come the end of the year, there was not a person in the law school, student or faculty, who did not know Lenny was submitting an article on race as part of the law review write-on competition.

Well, big surprise--Lenny made law review. What Lenny had done was completely manipulate the competition by daring the law review judges not to select him. He made sure everyone knew that he was entering the competition, made sure everyone knew the topic--even the title--of the article he was submitting, and, of course, he chose a topic that threw anonymity out the window and which simply had to be accepted as wonderful lest the judges be accused of racial bias. Now, compare that to the writing portion of the regular law review competition I had to endure, which constituted half of my competitions score (the other half being grade point average): the topic was chosen for me, so that everyone in the competition had the same one; the research was provided, so I couldn't separate my paper from the others by being more diligent in finding support or precedent or stumbling across some great case; I was bound under the honor code not to discuss or share my paper with anyone else under threat of automatic disqualification; and I was given a firm two-week deadline from the time I picked-up the packet containing the secret topic and research material until the time I turned it in. Certainly, I did not have the opportunity to have my paper vetted by former English teachers.

I don't begrudge Lenny his slot on law review. The point of my anecdote is simply this--if the law review was so desperate to keep blacks off, why would they bend over backwards to provide this kind of an opportunity for Lenny? I say "bend over backwards," because he defied all the competition's ostensible safeguards and no one uttered a peep of protest. They were anxious to have him aboard. At the time, the lack of minorities on law review was always a source of embarrassment for the editorial staff--at least since the 1980s--and I'm sure it is no different today. The question is, are you going to have two sets of standards? One for whites, one for blacks? Do liberals really think that is doing blacks a favor? A spot on law review is an academic honor that students work hard to achieve, and the prestige it confers translates into higher demand among the top law firms in the country. Unlike the college admissions process, there are no ways to distinguish oneself in the regular competition other than through merit--there is no application form, no list of extra-curricular activities, no chance to brag about a foreign language skill or athletic accomplishment or charity work. It is a ruthlessly unbiased assessment of grades and skill. Racial tensions at even a collegial school like Vanderbilt will reach a snapping point if white students are forced to earn that honor under a stricter standard than black students are required to meet. 4:17 pm

THE TEXAS DEMS: We got a bit of grief yesterday for not displaying this story more prominently on the site, so today we're going to 'flood the zone.' Just kidding.

Here's the latest from the Associated Press, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle. And for a comically partisan column on the subject here is Molly Ivins, the Maureen Dowd of the South, in today's Washington Post.

Sometimes politics is complicated and sometimes it's simple - like this case, for example. Right now in Texas, it's payback time. Republicans, who've been on the short end of the redistricting stick for, oh, the last 130 years, finally made their way into the driver's seat at the State House and decided to use the means at their disposal to secure political advantage. This happens every day in every state legislature across the country in one way or another. Is taking a second shot at redistricting under such circumstances extraordinary? Sure. Is it illegal? No.

In response Democrats acted like the kid at the playground who didn't get selected as the team captain again so he took his ball and went home. Is this behavior childish? Absolutely. Is it illegal? Quite possibly.

More to the point, the rest of the state's business is being left undone because the Dems can't bring themselves to face one of the consequences of their defeat at the polls last November. A commentator on NPR yesterday said hundreds of bills are going to die in the Texas House along with the redistricting bill this week - including legislation covering such issues as healthcare and education.

Does it drive liberals crazy that this piece of revenge is being engineered by their arch-nemesis Tom DeLay? Before you answer, let me refer you again to Molly Ivins' hysterical outburst this morning. But, you ask, is it fair? That's irrelevant. Nobody ever said anything about politics being fair. Ask Miguel Estrada if politics is fair.

Sometimes in politics you lose at the ballot box and as a result, you find the other guy standing over the top of you with his boot on your throat. You can either take your medicine, learn your lessons, and find a way to get back up and fight another day or, if you're a Democrat from Texas, you can pack up the party van and drive to Oklahoma.

THE BARONESS: Margaret Thatcher is back on the scene. I see Andrew Sullivan beat me to the punch in posting her quote about the French, so let me offer a different and perhaps more profound excerpt from her speech yesterday:

Lady Thatcher said that she had “drunk deep from the same well of ideas” as her great ally, the former US President Ronald Reagan. Both instinctively knew what worked, she said, including low taxes, small government and enterprise. “We knew, too, what did not work, namely socialism in every shape or form. Nowadays socialism is more often dressed up as environmentalism, feminism, or international concern for human rights. All sound good in the abstract.

“But scratch the surface and you will as likely as not discover anti-capitalism, patronising and distorting quotas, and intrusions upon the sovereignty and democracy of nations.”

Well said.

DIVERSITY ALERT: Interesting article in the Balitmore Sun regarding the disparity of diversity in the composition of the student body at the Vanderbilt School of Law (about 13% African-American) and the members of the Vanderbilt Law Review (about 0% African-American). The former takes diversity into account as a factor for admission, while the latter is derived from an anonymous, merit-based application process.

Here are the first few graphs of the article, ending with a quote that pretty much sums up what I think is a fundamental flaw in the concept of diversity:

Damon Brown feels duped. Like many of his classmates, he came to the Vanderbilt University Law School partly for its racial diversity: Its student body is 13 percent black, a higher proportion than at most other top law schools.

Then Brown found out about the law review.

The Vanderbilt Law Review - the most prestigious club at the school, and a springboard to the best clerkships and law firms - does not have a single black student among its 60 members. By one count, there have been only four African-Americans among the 750 students selected through its rigorous, merit-based selection process in the past 25 years.

"You've been recruited to come, they've painted this diverse picture, and then you come and find, 'Oh, there hasn't been [an African-American] on law review for so many years,'" said Brown, 24, a black second-year student from Los Angeles. "It's sort of an illusion, that by getting into law school, these opportunities are available to you, when they're not." (Emphasis added)

Obviously, no one is preventing Damon from availing himself of the opportunity to be a member of the Law Review. But his clear sense of entitlement, and the feeling that any process based only on merit is somehow discriminatory against him is not only misguided, it's ultimately detrimental to his sense of self worth and his ability to achieve. - T. Bevan 7:37 am

Wednesday, May 14 2003
NO, WE DIDN'T TAKE THE DAY OFF: Rough day yesterday. In case you didn't see the note on the front page, the site went down somewhere around 7:30am EDT when a construction crew in Boston (on the "Big Dig," no less) cut through a main fiber line connecting to our hosting company. Looks like all is up and running again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: I should have expected - but didn't - the headlines around the world this morning trumpeting the "resurgence" of al-Qaeda."Al Qaeda May Be Back, and Stronger" shouts the LA Times. Al-Qaeda Thrives Where Roots Began says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The BBC has a round up of more media breathlessness.

I'm sorry but I just don't see it. Al-Qaeda hasn't done much of anything in the last 18 months - except get rolled up by anti-terror police forces around the world. I don't want to make light of the fact that 25 people just perished in a terror attack, but it would seem to me that if America and the West are al-Qaeda's main targets and the best they can manage is blowing up a couple of trucks full of C-4 in downtown Riyadh, then I'd say that's a sign of their weakness, not their strength. A more accurate headline would read, "Riyadh Bombing Desperate Act of Crumbling Terrorist Organization." Or something like that.

ILLINOIS SENATE UPDATE: The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that when Dems are desperate to hold a seat they'll do damn near anything. You need money, Frank Lautenberg? Done. Looking for assurances of seniority in the Senate, Walter Mondale? You got it.

Not so for Republicans. The GOP wouldn't promise Edgar the financial backing he wanted ($3 million) or the plum he demanded (a seat on the Foreign Relations committee), so the best chance of saving Peter Fitzgerald's seat next year evaporated.

I'm not saying the GOP should have capitulated to Edgar's demands - from the reporting it sounds like Edgar mishandled the negotiations by dispatching an envoy to D.C. with an all or nothing offer. Still, faced with the same decision I'll bet Terry McAuliffe and Jon Corzine would have done the deal in about 30 seconds and moved on to other business.

IL GOP Chair Judy Baar-Topinka also announced she won't run for the seat, and neither will Jim Ryan, former state AG and 2002 GOP gubernatorial candidate. This leaves Andrew McKenna and Jack Ryan as the two most likely GOP primary favorites - at least for now. - T. Bevan 7:25 am

Tuesday, May 13 2003
RACE OBSESSED: I happened to catch a little bit of Aaron Brown's program last night, including his interview of Bob Herbert over the Jayson Blair incident. Herbert said something which really struck me as odd. Here's how it went:

BROWN: Are you concerned that people will use this to attack diversity in the newsroom or affirmative action, any of those things?

HERBERT: Oh, I think people are already attacking both. Am I concerned about it? Sure, I'm concerned about it. But folks who want to -- folks who hold that position to start with, who are, in some sense, against diversity or who are opposed to affirmative action, it's hard to change their minds with rational arguments or discussions. And they will use this to attack both of those things. And I see both diversity and affirmative action as very good and necessary things. So, to the extent that this might harm efforts in that direction makes me somewhat sad. But we'll get past it.

BROWN: Someone wrote last week that, if it were a middle-aged white reporter, he never would have been given as many chances, as many mistakes. Do you think there's any truth in that?

HERBERT: I have seen cases where white reporters have, over substantial periods of time, made up stuff and put them in newspapers and been fired and that sort of thing. And they were given chance after chance after chance, even though red flags were being waved, you know? Warning flags were out there. So it's easy to jump on this case and try to make it a racial situation. I mean, I think that it's not. When white reporters have been fired for making up stories and putting them in the newspapers, the stories the next day on television and in the papers don't say, a white reporter for this publication was busted. They just say that this reporter or a veteran reporter or some other kind of reporter was caught doing the wrong thing. But you get used to that after a while. Race is a big problem in this country. A lot of people are obsessed with it. So people like to see things in a racial context.

First, there are two components to the Blair affair: fraud and opportunity. Certainly, there have been plenty of cases of journalistic fraud and they don't have anything to do with race. Any journalist who is intent on lying and deceiving his or her editors and the public will always be able to succeed - at least for a while.

But an important question, however, is whether Blair's rapid advancement to a position of prominence in The Times' organization - despite his well documented record of sloppiness - had anything to do with receiving preferential treatment as an African-American minority. One of the reasons this scandal is so devastating is because Blair was writing big-time front page stories. Had he been on the Metro desk or the Sports desk, the blow to The Times' reputation would have been significantly less. This is a perfectly legitimate question, and Bob Herbert just dismisses it completely.

I'd be willing to bet that if you asked every reporter in the newsroom at The Times whether it's typical for 27 year-olds with five years experience and astronomical correction rates to be promoted to the national desk to write front page scoops they'd probably say no. Even Herbert would have to admit Blair was the exception rather than the rule.

Second, it's hard for me to think of anyone in the country more "obsessed" by race than Bob Herbert. I understand that he comes from a generation that grew up during segregation and still sees the world through the lens of the 1960's, but I think he's got it almost 100% backward. Most people acknowledge that race remains an issue in America and that incidents of racism still exist, but a large plurality of the country today also recognizes the enormous progress that has been made over the last few decades and continues to grow increasingly disinterested in the color of a person's skin. Part of this is due to the Civil Rights revolution and part of it is just plain demographic: most kids and young adults today live quite comfortably in an incredibly diverse world and see segregation as a horrible relic of a bygone era - which is exactly what it is. Put simply, America continues to become more tolerant, not less.

Despite these realities, Mr. Herbert and the rest of diversity crowd on the left cling to the idea that "race is a big problem in this country." Their entire rationale for being is to focus exclusively on matters of race and to engineer, regulate and monitor race in every corner of our society. We must have X number of minorities in this school, X percentage of these different racial groups working at that company , we must pass additional laws to protect minority group X from discrimination.

The textbook definition of obsess is "to dominate or excessively preoccupy the the thoughts, feelings or desires of" and "to think about something unceasingly." This seems to me to be almost a perfect description of Bob Herbert and his fellow diversity mongers on the left when it come to the issue of race.

ANOTHER ALLY: If you're the Prime Minister of Malaysia, what better way to honor German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder than by bashing the U.S.?

BATTLE OF REPUTATIONS: Apparently Clare Short isn't content with resigning from Blair's cabinet, now she's trying to engineer his removal from office. In an interview with The Guardian Short suggests Blair shouldn't serve another term as PM and that "it would be very sad if he hung on and spoiled his reputation." I guess since Ms. Short's reputation is already in tatters it makes sense that she would be concerned about saving Tony Blair's reputation. Or not.

CHART TOPPER: I honestly thought this was a joke, but sometimes the truth is even funnier:

Controversial Egyptian singer Shabban Abderrahim, who hit the headlines with a song called I hate Israel, once again plans to rock the pop world with the release of a single called Saddam's hell is better than America's paradise, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

Don't miss the release of the Al-Qaeda dance remix version. - T. Bevan 7:28 am

Monday, May 12, 2003
RUSSERT AND THE ECONOMY: From yesterday's Meet the Press.
RUSSERT: Let me show you the economic record of the first 28 months of the Bush-Cheney administration. And here it is. Dow Jones is down 19 percent. Unemployment rate is up 46 percent. We’ve gone from a $281 billion surplus to a $246 billion deficit. That’s a swing of $527 billion and that’s going up, and worst of all, a net loss of 2.1 million jobs. Now, you used to have a very different view towards deficits, I believe. Let me show you what you said in 1995 and it couldn’t be clearer: “The budget deficit puts a hole in the pocket of every American, every day of their lives. It threatens the very foundation of our culture and we must seize and act upon this historic opportunity to solve this, the most pressing issue facing the country.” Do you believe the deficit is still the most pressing issue facing the country?
SEC’Y SNOW: No. No. That was 1994 and 1995 when we were in an entirely different set of economic circumstances.
A deficit at a time of full employment and a deficit that’s rising over time is troublesome. That’s what I was talking about in 1995. Today, we have underemployment. Today, the economy is far short of its potential. If you’re going to run a deficit, this is the time to do it because the real deficit we face today—and this is important to make this point—the real deficit we face today is a jobs deficit and a growth deficit.
RCP: Secretary Snow is exactly right. When the economy is humming along and unemployment is not a problem that is when you do NOT want to be running long-term structural budget deficits. When the economy is struggling and unemployment is rising (the situation we face today) that is EXACTLY the time the government should be running deficits. This is ECON 101 stuff and Russert is either clueless when it comes to basic economics or he is deliberately misrepresenting the truth for political purposes.

MR. RUSSERT: When the president proposed his 2001 tax plan, he said it would create jobs. Since the enactment of the first Bush tax cut we have lost 1.7 million jobs. Why?
SEC’Y SNOW: Tim, let me say something to you on that. In July of 2000, I was at my corporate headquarters reviewing the papers in Richmond, the headquarters of CSX, and the numbers came in. I couldn’t believe them. You know, CSX is a transportation company. It gives you a bird’s-eye view of the whole economy, and the numbers from the barge line and from the ocean carrier and from the railroad and the trucking operations and warehousing operations and logistics operations were terrible. We hit a wall. We had gone over a cliff. I called all the leaders of those businesses and said, “Are these numbers right?” And they said, “Yes, they are, unfortunately.” And we could—I could see then that the economy was in trouble. And I told the president in Texas, in Austin, at a summit, president-elect in January of 2001, “Mr. President, you are inheriting a recession.” That recession would have been a lot deeper, it would have been a lot harsher, it would have been a lot worse but for those ’01 tax reductions that the president was behind.
RCP: This is a critical point and maybe the American people understand this better than the inside-the-beltway crowd. Bush inherited an economy in January 2001 that had been on the equivalent of a long bender and was literally running on fumes. If it wasn't for the FED's massive easing which started in Jan '01 and President Bush's tax cut the economy would be in significantly worse shape today. Russert and the Democrats want to blame Bush for losing 1.8 million jobs when this economy would have lost jobs no matter who was President or what the economic policies were. The truth is President Bush's 2001 tax cut was a critical shot in the arm for the economy and not with standing what Tim Russert or Tom Daschle might say, that 2001 tax cut helped the job situation in America. And I haven't even mentioned 9/11.

I think that is one the reasons the 'bad' economy had very little negative impact on the GOP in 2002. Polls in 2001 and 2002 regularly showed that more people blamed Clinton for the bad economy than Bush, and when you throw in the obvious impact of 9/11 on our nation's economy, most people don't blame President Bush for the current economic stagnation. And they're right.

This doesn't make Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats happy, but it was the general feeling last November and it is part of the reason the President was able to pickup seats in on an off-year election. The big political question is how long will the American people continue to feel this way. If the economy is a mess in 2004 will they blame the President or will they understand that Bush inherited a post-bubble economic disaster that was then severely compounded by 9/11 and the War on Terror?

RUSSERT: Let me bring you back to a speech you gave at the Commonwealth North in Alaska on July 21 of 2001 because it’s very strong language, and I’ll give you a chance to see if you still agree with your comments.

The U.S. economy is very weak. In fact, I would say it’s the weakest I’ve seen it in 20 years. The economy we’re looking at is pretty bleak.

RUSSERT: Do you agree with that?
SEC’Y SNOW: Oh, yeah, it was bleak. And the ’01 tax plans that we talked about helped bring us out of that and gave us the shallowest and shortest recession in modern times.
RUSSERT: When you made those comments, Mr. Secretary, “the weakest economy in 20 years,” let me show you what the economic numbers were compared to now. The Dow was at 10,000; it’s now 8,600. Unemployment was 4.6; it’s now 6. There were 132 million people working; there are now 130, a net loss of 1.7 million. The economy is much weaker now than it was when you said it was the weakest in 20 years.
SEC’Y SNOW: Tim, you know too much about economics to believe that statement. Economies deal with leads and lags. And what I was saying is that I saw the economy that I was dealing with, the industrial sector, very weak. And that was a leading indicator for the rest of the economy. You know, that industrial sector still hasn’t come back to where it was.
RUSSERT: How would you describe the economy right now?
SEC’Y SNOW: I’d say the economy is in a recovery, but it’s not a robust recovery. It’s a sort of a weak—soggy is a word I sometimes use—recovery. Growth rates last quarter, 1.6 percent. You know, we should be growing at 3.5 to 4 percent. So it’s—we’re underperforming.
RCP: I loved that "you know too much about economics to believe that statement." Snow finally called Russert to the mat for the constant misrepresentation of the truth. Like the Secretary said Tim, "Economies deal with leads and lags."

I thought on balance Treasury Secretary Snow did a good job of batting down Russert's partisan hyperbole and making the point that this White House is interested in producing jobs. But I detected a pause from his straight-shooting style when Russert asked him "how would you describe the economy right now?" I think his response "So it’s—we’re underperforming" was very revealing. As a spokesman for this Administration and as Secretary of the Treasury his words matter and I was left with the feeling that private citizen John Snow would have been much more pessimistic in his characterization of the current economic situation.

DASCHLE AND THE ECONOMY:
RUSSERT: Secretary Treasury Snow in ’95 said the deficits were the most pressing issue facing the country. When I asked him about this earlier he said “Deficits are not all equal.” Do you agree with that?
SEN. DASCHLE: I don’t know what he meant by that, Tim. I’m not sure that he explained it. Debt is debt. Deficits are deficits.
RCP: It's clear that "I don’t know what he meant" and "Debt is debt. Deficits are deficits." was just the beginning of Daschle's promoting of Herbert Hoover economics.
SEN. DASCHLE:The first step that we take is to say let’s quit digging the hole that this administration has dug for the last two years. Let’s not add on to the deficits that Secretary Snow talked about.....We’ve got to find a way to deal with this incredible debt. We’re going to see long-term interest rates go up. They’re going to go up exponentially if we don’t find a way to turn this around. The deficit and the debt matter..... As you said, two years ago, we created a situation very similar to this. We passed a tax cut, and we’ve seen nothing but unemployment numbers going up, deficit going up, and no result in the economy to date.
RCP: Daschle's attitude towards debt and deficits would be disastrous to the country. To begin with, someone on his staff should tell him that long-term interest rates are at 40-year lows. Has Daschle heard of deflation? Has he read anything about the 1930's or Japan post-1990? The LAST thing this country needs is a Congress determined to balance the budget today. A balanced budget this year or next would throw this country into a depression. This economy is struggling to stay afloat even with the FED's massive liquidity and the 2001 Bush tax cut.

Secretary Snow is exactly right when he says "the real problem the economy faces today is jobs and growth." The paramount concern to the economy IS maintaining jobs and growth, not short-term budget deficits. If jobs and growth can be maintained or marginally increased, the passing of time will work to alleviate the structural dislocations of the '90's financial bubble and and allow the country to grow out of the potentially disastrous debt and deflationary overhang it now faces.

If growth comes to halt, or goes negative, this country could be in for some very rough economic sledding and Daschle's suggestion that the first step is to focus on the budget deficit is a prescription for tipping the economy into negative growth. He either doesn't understand modern-day economics or is deliberately arguing for polices that will throw the country into a recession or worse.  J. McIntyre 8:52 am

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