The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Bob Woodward's new book points out how incompetent President Obama is!

According to Bob Woodward's book, “The Price of Politics,” (reported by ABC News) there was almost an agreement between President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner that would have established the kind of budget compromise that some moderate blogs have advocated: a mixture of spending cuts and revenue enhancements.

The book … shows how close the president and the House speaker were to defying Washington odds and establishing a spending framework that included both new revenues and major changes to long-sacred entitlement programs.

But at a critical juncture, with an agreement tantalizingly close, Obama pressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal — a miscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he'd already gone.


President Obama, obviously, had no impression how much pressure Speaker Boehner was under from his own conference — or at least from the “Tea Party” wing — and ended up exerting more pressure than the Speaker could take. He tried to call the Speaker, but Boehner took his time replying.

When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obama lost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a “flash of pure fury” coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obama gripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it.

“He was spewing coals,” Boehner told Woodward, in what is described as a borderline “presidential tirade.”

“He was pissed…. He wasn't going to get a damn dime more out of me. He knew how far out on a limb I was. But he was hot. It was clear to me that coming to an agreement with him was not going to happen, and that I had to go to Plan B.”


But this may be a result of Obama's unwillingness to even contemplate the possibility that people might think differently from him. The ABC News article notes:

The failure of Obama to connect with Boehner was vaguely reminiscent of another phone call late in the evening of Election Day 2010, after it became clear that the Republicans would take control of the House, making Boehner Speaker of the House.

Nobody in the Obama orbit could even find the soon-to-be-speaker's phone number, Woodward reports. A Democratic Party aide finally secured it through a friend so the president could offer congratulations.


The problem was that Obama was learning on the job how to be President — the problem with having a President with so little experience. Obama simply has not got the kind of understanding of how Washington works to make compromises:

Obama found that he had little history with members of Congress to draw on. His administration's early decision to forego bipartisanship for the sake of speed around the stimulus bill was encapsulated by his then-chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel: “We have the votes. F--- 'em,” he's quoted in the book as saying.


The article continues:

Obama's relationship with Democrats wasn't always much better. Woodward recounts an episode early in his presidency when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were hammering out final details of the stimulus bill.

Obama phoned in to deliver a “high-minded message,” he writes. Obama went on so long that Pelosi “reached over and pressed the mute button on her phone,” so they could continue to work without the president hearing that they weren't paying attention.

As debt negotiations progressed, Democrats complained of being out of the loop, not knowing where the White House stood on major points. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is described as having a “growing feeling of incredulity” as negotiations meandered.

“The administration didn't seem to have a strategy. It was unbelievable. There didn't seem to be any core principles,” Woodward writes in describing Van Hollen's thinking.


Now, Chris Van Hollen (who just happens to be my Congressman) is hardly someone I agree with on many things. But it's clear (although he'd be unlikely to say so now, in this election year, of course) that he thought that Barack Obama was simply clueless. And this passage in the report casts further aspersions on Obama's competence:

Woodward portrays a president who remained a supreme believer in his own powers of persuasion, even as he faltered in efforts to coax congressional leaders in both parties toward compromise. Boehner told Woodward that at one point, when Boehner voiced concern about passing the deal they were working out, the president reached out and touched his forearm.

“John, I've got great confidence in my ability to sway the American people,” Boehner quotes the president as having told him.

But after the breakthrough agreement fell apart, Boehner's “Plan B” would ultimately exclude the president from most of the key negotiations. The president was “voted off the island,” in Woodward's phrase, even by members of his own party, as congressional leaders patched together an eleventh hour framework to avoid default.


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