Who Is Responsible For The Deficit? (Hint: Conservative Republican Presidents)

As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, if you want to reduce the deficit you should vote Democratic as, despite conservative rhetoric, it is conservative Republicans and not Democrats who are responsible for the deficit. James Fallows presented further evidence of this, taking data compiled by deficit hawk Chuck Spinney. Spinney compared the records of all presidents since Harry Truman, looking at both the change in the debt burden and how much overall federal debt grew, or shrank, as a share of gross domestic product during each administration. Here are his results:

The presidents responsible for the increased debt burden are in red: Reagan, Bush and Bush.

James Fallows

James Fallows – James Fallows is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. A 25-year veteran of the magazine and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, he is also an instrument-rated pilot and a onetime program designer at Microsoft.

James Fallows is National Correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for more than 25 years, based in Washington DC, Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and most recently Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford. In addition to working for the Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and has been an Emmy nominee for a documentary “Doing Business in China.” He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards from Tomorrow Square (2009) are based his writings for The Atlantic. He is married and has two sons.

Where Did Our Debt Come From?

Thumbnail image for SpinneyTime.jpgChuck Spinney

The Worst People In American History–To Conservatives

Right Wing News conducted a survey of conservative  bloggers to find out who they thought were the worst twenty-five people in U.S. history. John Wilkes  Booth beat out Nancy Pelosi, but only by one vote. Jimmy Carter leads, followed by Barack Obama. Both are well ahead of Timothy McVeigh, who also trails Ted Kennedy, FDR, and LBJ.  The results:

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

It also appears that, in their view, we are living in really bad times considering how many of the worst people in American history are now living or were around in the not very distant past.

Conservative Bias At The Wall Street Journal

While the previous post noted the right wing spin at one Rupert Murdoch newspaper, The Times of London, I’m more concerned with the manner in which Murdoch is moving The Wall Street Journal to the right. I’ve continued my subscription so far, but the newspaper is certainly not The Wall Street Journal of three years ago. David Carr of The New York Times looked at this on the second  anniversary of the sale of this once great newspaper:

But under Mr. Murdoch’s leadership, the newspaper is no longer anchored by those deep dives into the boardrooms of American business with quaint stippled portraits, opting instead for a much broader template of breaking general interest news articles with a particular interest in politics and big splashy photos. Glenn R. Simpson, who left the newspaper back in March, is not a fan of the newsier, less analytical Journal.

“Murdoch didn’t ruin The Wall Street Journal; he just rendered it into a much more ordinary paper,” he said.

But there are growing indications that Mr. Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, doesn’t just want to cover politics, he wants to play them as well.

A little over a year ago, Robert Thomson, The Journal’s top editor, picked Gerard Baker, a columnist for The Times of London, as his deputy managing editor. Mr. Baker is a former Washington bureau chief of The Financial Times with a great deal of expertise in the Beltway. The two men came of age in the more partisan milieu of British journalism.

According to several former members of the Washington bureau and two current ones, the two men have had a big impact on the paper’s Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone, and editing and headlining articles to reflect a chronic skepticism of the current administration. And given that the paper’s circulation continues to grow, albeit helped along by some discounts, there’s nothing to suggest that The Journal’s readers don’t approve.

Mr. Baker, a neoconservative columnist of acute political views, has been especially active in managing coverage in Washington, creating significant grumbling, if not resistance, from the staff there. Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits — “health care reform” is a generally forbidden phrase — and global warming skeptics have gotten a steady ride. (Of course, objectivity is in the eyes of the reader.)

The pro-business, antigovernment shift in the news pages has broken into plain view in the last year. On Aug. 12, a fairly straight down the middle front page article on President Obama’s management style ended up with the provocative headline, “A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough?” The original article included a contrast between President Jimmy Carter’s tendency to go deep in the weeds of every issue with President George W. Bush’s predilection for minimal involvement, according to someone who saw the draft. By the time the article ran, it included only the swipe at Mr. Carter.

On Aug. 27, a fairly straightforward obituary about Ted Kennedy for the Web site was subjected to a little political re-education on the way to the front page. A new paragraph was added quoting Rush Limbaugh deriding what he called all of the “slobbering media coverage,” and he also accused the recently deceased senator of being the kind of politician who “uses the government to take money from people who work and gives it to people who don’t work.”

On Oct. 31, an article on the front of the B section about estate taxes at the state level used the phrase “death tax” six times, but there were no quotation marks around it. A month later, the newspaper’s Style & Substance blog suggested that the adoption of such a loaded political term was probably not a good idea: “Because opponents of estate taxes have long referred to them as death taxes, the term should be avoided in news stories.”

Ben Smith posted the Wall Street Journal’s response, noting that”the text is classically News Corp. in its treating the news business like a political campaign.”

The news column by a Mr David Carr today is yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat. The usual practice of quoting ex-employees was supplemented by a succession of anonymous quotes and unsubstantiated assertions. The attack follows the extraordinary actions of Mr Bill Keller, the Executive Editor, who, among other things, last year wrote personally and at length to a prize committee casting aspersions on Journal journalists and journalism. Whether it be in the quest for prizes or in the disparagement of competitors, principle is but a bystander at The New York Times.

It does sound like a typical right wing political response: attack the enemy personally without any actual factual arguments. There is certainly nothing in their response which demonstrates any errors in Carr’s criticism.

Former Speech Writers on Obama’s Comments on Winning Nobel Peace Prize and the Republican Response

A pair of former speech writers have some comments on Barack Obama’s statement about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and the Republican reaction. James Fallows was impressed by Obama’s statement, especially considering how little time he had after receiving the unexpected news. He analyzed the statement paragraph by paragraph, with this comment on the final paragraph:

This was the most important and shrewdest thing he said, because it is where he acknowledges an uncomfortable fact that everyone knows to be true. Of course the award can’t be in recognition of projects he has already achieved and completed, because there aren’t that many of them. In these third and fourth paragraphs, Obama acknowledges that point — but adds the news-analyst’s argument that often the Nobel committee awards these prizes as encouragements, signals, or what it hopes will be momentum-changers. If other people are going to say that, Obama does well to signal his understanding of the point himself. And from there he’s off to the rest of the (fairly brief) statement, enumerating the sorts of common challenges he has in mind.

Jerome Doolittle, who worked with Fallows as a speech writer for Jimmy Carter, posted a set of tips for the Republican talking points:

1. What do you expect from a bunch of socialists?

2. Not that I’m a racist, but I know affirmative action when I see it.

3. Carter, Gore, Obama? Do we see a pattern here?

4. A clumsy attempt by Europe to save a failing presidency.

5. The Norwegians are just using Obama to slap George W. Bush in the face.

6. Besides, who cares what a bunch of geeks in Oslo think? The International Olympic Committee speaks for the whole world.

7. No thinking person has taken the Nobel Peace Prize seriously since Reagan didn’t win one for ending the Cold War.

8. We elect a president to keep America safe, not to win prizes.

9. True leadership is not an international popularity contest.

10. Peace is no big deal anyway. No, wait a minute. Strike that last one.

He missed one potential Republican talking point: So what if we agree with the Taliban on this award. Stopping Obama’s agenda is a goal we both share.

Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

In a surprise move, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Barack Obama, making him only the third sitting American president to win the prize.  The award was given for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” The committee particularly noted his efforts to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal.

While often the award is given for past achievements, this award was given as a recognition that ideas matter, and in order to further promote Obama’s views on international relations. The award is also seen as recognition of the significant change in direction for the United States with the replacement of George Bush and Dick Cheney with Barack Obama.

It is remarkable for Obama to have won the award so early in his presidency. Two previous sitting presidents, Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, have won the award. In addition, Jimmy Carter won the award following his term in office in 2002 and former Vice President Al Gore won the award in 2007. (I would be curious as to the initial gut reaction to this award by Bill Clinton.)

Obama first heard about winning the award in a wake up call from press secretary Robert Gibbs, who had learned about this from members of the media. The news has been received by considerable world praise. It was also greeted by opposition by some with valid concerns, and with outrage by those who oppose American values including Hamas, the Taliban, and many American conservatives. This award not only represents a repudiation of conservative views, but is contrary to their goals. While the Nobel Prize committee awarded this prize partially in the hopes that it will help promote Obama’s ideas and goals, failure on Obama’s part has become a top goal of the conservative movement.

Following is the  statement of the committee on the announcement of the award:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the United States is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Dumbest Quote of the Day

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFDyxO4FLZQ]

We might have some dumb criminals here in West Michigan, but they sure have some dumb politicians in Minnesota:

I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter, and I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.
–Michele Bachmann

If this isn’t bad enough, the previous swine flu outbreak occurred when Gerald Ford was president.

It is also interesting that of the last two major terrorist threats, one occurred under a Democratic president and the Millennium attacks were stopped. The other occurred under a Republican president in which the warnings were ignored and the attack succeeded. Texas has some politicians as dumb as the one from Minnesota.

The Locker-Room Atmosphere in the Oval Office

obama-casual

It doesn’t take much to get the right wing to attack Obama. After being photographed without a jacket in the Oval Office, Andrew Card complained about the “kind of locker room experience that seems to be taking place in this White House and the Oval Office.” The Huffington Post found that, contrary to claims that he was never casual in the Oval Office, George Bush has been photographed without a jacket.

bush-casual

This so-called “locker-room atmosphere” was not limited to the Bush administration. Presidents have commonly been photographed in casual dress, including Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford:

clinton-very-casual

carter-casual

ford-casual

This even includes fictional portrayals of the Oval Office, such as Jeb Bartlett:

bartlett-casual

Obama’s Pragmatism and Complaints From the Left

If Jimmy Carter is, as many consider him, our best ex-president, then Barack Obama must be one of history’s best president-to-come. Due to the combination of the financial crisis and the incompetence of the outgoing president support for Obama, along with hope for his success, is astronomical, even among many Republicans. Speculation about an Obama administration is based largely upon his appointments, including rumors of those not yet made, and even many conservatives are praising him for building a centrist, pragmatic economic team. With moderates and conservatives praising Obama, it is inevitable that some factions of the far left are questioning Obama. This has been a common topic in the blogosphere recently, with Glenn Greenwald discussing this today.

I don’t share the disappointment of those on the far left as I (along with many Democratic voters) never desired a far left economic program any more than I desired far right policies from the Republicans. I will have to wait and see what Obama does before judging. As I wrote before the primaries began, “My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.” After the Bush years I primarily hoped for reality-based economic policies. Once the Democratic race came down to at most three viable candidates, I greatly preferred the pragmatism displayed by Obama over the Nanny State views of Hillary Clinton or the opportunistic class warfare of John Edwards.

Despite the attacks for being on the far left coming from the Repubicans, and perhaps the hopes that he is from a minority of Democrats, Obama made his views quite clear. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes.  But it wasn’t Obama who misled them.  It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered…

But Barack Obama is a centrist, establishment politician.  That is what he has been since he’s been in the Senate, and more importantly, it’s what he made clear — both explicitly and through his actions — that he intended to be as President.

Barack Obama was not elected by the far left or the netroots. He was elected by a coalition which included them, but also contained many more moderates, independents, and even Republicans.

The description of Obama as a centrist, establishment politician is somewhat true in economic matters and, while I might not agree with him on everything, this is how many of us who voted for him hope he governs. In other areas there continues to be  hope that Obama will govern based upon liberal values, including strengthening civil liberties, ending the influence of the religious right on public policy, defending reproductive rights, ending the ban on financing embryonic stem cell research, protecting the environment, ending torture, and returning to a reality-based foreign policy.

It should not come as a surprise that Obama has picked more centrist figures, many from the Clinton years, for his top positions. Bill Clinton was the only Democratic president in recent years and Democrats who have experience in Washington are most likely to have obtained it from working under Clinton. The economic crisis requires that Obama builds an administration which displays stability and competence, preventing the appointment of inexperienced outsiders to top positions.

Much of the work of government is also done by the appointees under the cabinet secretary position, and this is where there is greater possibility for bringing in new blood. The people brought into government at this level are the ones who will advance in future years and might be the ones who really change Washington. Policy is also developed far more in the White House than by the cabinet, and I expect Obama to be receiving a wide range of opinions, including from the left.

Cabinet members under Barack Obama will still be implementing the policies of Barack Obama. It is fortunate, not cause for panic, that many Republicans are pleased with Obama’s appointees as this will better enable Obama to achieve bipartisan cooperation to pass his policies. Many ideas which were considered far left in the past are now considered to be more centrist. If Obama’s policies are good policies, it is actually advantageous politically if they are considered to be pragmatic or centrist as opposed to leftist. We should judge Obama based upon the actual policies which come out of his administration, not by his appointees before he has even taken office or the labels applied.

John McCain and Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live

John McCain joined Tina Fey (playing Sarah Palin) on Saturday Night Live. The two opened the show in a skit in which they were appearing on GVC since they lacked the funds to purchase a spot on network television as Obama did last Wednesday. McCain explained, “Look, would I rather be on three major networks? Of course. But I’m a true maverick–a Republican without money.” Palin announced, “And, as part of our agreement with the QVC folks, we’re gonna try and sell you some stuff.” Palin sold a set of Joe Dolls: Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, and Joe Biden. Pull Biden’s string and he talks (endlessly). Cindy McCain also appeared briefly to demonstrate the product when John McCain sold “McCain Fine-Gold” jewelry. Ultimately Sarah Palin went rogue and offered a Palin 2012 shirt, requesting that purchasers wait until after Tuesday to wear it. The video of the skit is below:

McCain also appeared on Weekend Update as he explained his final campaign strategies to Seth Meyers:

“I thought I might try a strategy called the Reverse Maverick,’’ Mr. McCain told his interviewer. “That’s where I do whatever anybody tells me. I don’t ask questions, I just go with the flow. If that doesn’t work, I go to the Double Maverick. That’s where I go totally berserk and just freak everybody out. Even the regular mavericks.’’

McCain also mentioned other possible strategies including “Forrest Gump” and “The Sad Grandpa Strategy.” The full video is below:

McCain has consistently done the best of the major political candidates appearing on Saturday Night Live. I have more on his previous SNL sketches here. Perhaps McCain has a new career to fall back on should he lose both the presidential race and lose his Senate seat, which appears to be a real possibility in 2010

The show also featured guest host Ben Affleck mocking Keith Olbermann. In the opening monolog Afflect described his history of backing politicians, including Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid against Ronald Reagan, Paul Tsongas in 1992, Al Gore in 2000, and  John Kerry in 2004. In light of the outcomes of those races, he felt that the best thing he could do for the Democratic Party this year would be to endorse John McCain.

Brother Problems and Other Irrelevant News

I imagine I should have one post on two of the most discussed topics in the blogosphere the last couple of days. So far I haven’t bothered as neither story really matters. There are plenty of reasons to vote for Obama over McCain other than these. Assuming that it was just the isolated act of a campaign worker acting alone, the Ashley Todd hoax is not a reason to vote against McCain. It did provide a good window into the thought process in much of the right wing blogosphere which quickly jumped onto this story, while some conservative bloggers such as Michelle Malkin did realize it was a hoax from the start.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y6_s3O5Bj0]

Then there’s the brother problem. Considering the stories on John McCain’s anger problems, it didn’t help McCain to have his brother Joe make the news (video above). If John McCain were to make a comeback and get elected, he wouldn’t be the first president who risked being embarrassed by their brother. Jimmy Carter had Billy. Bill Clinton had Roger. Imagine if Jeb Bush were to ever become president. He’d have the biggest the most embarrassing brother of them all.