Category Archives: David Broder

Economic stimulus

Economic stimulus, David Broder style:

Can Obama harness the forces that might spur new growth? This is the key question for the next two years.

What are those forces? Essentially, there are two. One is the power of the business cycle, the tidal force that throughout history has dictated when the economy expands and when it contracts.

Economists struggle to analyze this, but they almost inevitably conclude that it cannot be rushed and almost resists political command. As the saying goes, the market will go where it is going to go.

In this regard, Obama has no advantage over any other pol. Even in analyzing the tidal force correctly, he cannot control it.

What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy.

Look back at FDR and the Great Depression. What finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II.

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

Is he suggesting Obama start a war in order to stimulate the economy?  Aren't there other things we can blow our money on?

Does David Broder read the Washington Post?

Two short points today. We’re still working out the kinks here.

First, my view is that we ought to redo our health care system. I think this is a matter of national security, much more say than the imaginary weapons of a fictional dictator. People here actually die from lack of adequate health care. Now, since it’s a matter of national security, and since we continue to pay richly for imaginary threats to our national security, we ought to not complain about things that are real. This is why this kind of stuff from David Broder) raises one’s blood pressure:

Acknowledging that “clearly, we need radical reconstructive surgery to make our health-care system effective, affordable and sustainable,” Walker cautioned that “what we should not do is merely tack new programs onto a system that is fundamentally flawed” — and rapidly driving the national budget into ruin.

He proposes a four-part test of fiscal responsibility for any health reform plan: “First, the reform should pay for itself over 10 years. Second, it should not add to deficits beyond 10 years. Third, it should significantly reduce the tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded health promises that we already have. Fourth, it should bend down — not up — the total health-care cost curve as a percentage of” gross domestic product.

If only people had made this argument about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Next point, the Lewin group is an insurance company-funded group. One ought not to cite them as independent and impartial observers. Following directly from the above:

An analysis by the Lewin Group shows that the Energy and Commerce Committee bill that was the basic blueprint for the House measure comes close to meeting the first of those tests and fails the other three, according to Walker, “by a wide margin.”

A separate Lewin Group study of the Finance Committee bill from which Majority Leader Harry Reid is working on the Senate legislation shows it is almost as much of a fiscal failure. It fails the fourth test, falls short on the third, and passes the first two only by assuming that future Congresses will force reductions in reimbursements to doctors and hospitals that lawmakers in the past have refused to impose.

Here is the Washington Post on the Lewin group on 7.23/2009:

Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest insurers.

Doesn’t Broder read his own paper?

Serious Breaches of Trust

David Broder argues today that while he supports accountability for illegal acts and serious breaches of trust, he does not support investigating illegal acts and serious breaches of trust.  I have trouble putting these two claims together:

First, we should investigate and hold accountable the guilty:

My friend and fellow columnist Eugene Robinson has written a characteristically passionate and well-reasoned piece commending Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to name a special counsel to examine possible law-breaking by interrogators of terrorist subjects during the last administration.

But I think he is wrong.

First, let me stipulate that I agree on the importance of accountability for illegal acts and for serious breaches of trust by government officials — even at the highest levels. I had no problem with the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, and I called for Bill Clinton to resign when he lied to his Cabinet colleagues and to the country during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

I'm all for that as well.  Now the second claim:

Cheney is not wrong when he asserts that it is a dangerous precedent when a change in power in Washington leads a successor government not just to change the policies of its predecessors but to invoke the criminal justice system against them. 

Illegal acts.  The policies of the previous administration may have involved–may have involved–illegal acts.  Their being policies of an administration does not remove them from the realm of legal and illegal.  At least I hope it does not.  Broder continues.

I think it is that kind of prospect that led President Obama to state that he was opposed to invoking the criminal justice system, even as he gave Holder the authority to decide the question for himself. Obama's argument has been that he has made the decision to change policy and bring the practices clearly within constitutional bounds — and that should be sufficient

Accountability for illegal acts.  Now for some self-congratulation:

When President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974, I wrote one of the few columns endorsing his decision, which was made on the basis that it was more important for America to focus on the task of changing the way it would be governed and addressing the current problems. It took a full generation for the decision to be recognized by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and others as the act of courage that it had been. 

It's hard for me to understand the logic of this argument.  If Broder took the position that Clinton should have been impeached for lying in a civil deposition (lying to the country and his cabinet colleagues was not the crime in question, I think) about the character of an adult consensual relationship with a former employee, then how does it not follow that much more serious crimes (such as torture, murder, conspiracy, etc.) deserve at least to be investigated by the criminal justice system? 

Boiling of the blood around the heart

There is a fairly simple argument for exploring the possibility of criminal trials against those who justified, ordered and performed torture: torture is illegal.  David Broder, however, seems very confused about the nature of legality.  He writes:

But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more — the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps — or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability — and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Holy crap is that silly.  Vengeance is irrelevant to whether or not someone has broken laws.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, people have broken the law.  The people who trusted them with their vote (and those who didn't vote for them, but implicitly "trusted" them anyway) have a right to be rather narked (I don't know how to spell that Britishism properly) about their violating that trust.  There being angry about it, however, is an independent, mostly irrelevant, fact about their character used ad hominemly to distract the reader from drawing the correct conclusion.

It's about as irrelevant as the following:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has — thankfully — made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness — and injustice.

The question is not whether the torture decision was a policy decision–we all know that it was–the question is whether that policy decision was legal.  Just because the right people sat in a room and debated it doesn't mean it's just politics.  It only makes the crime (should there be determined to be one) worse.    

Foul deeds and words

Rod Blagojevich, the embattled Illinois Governor whose name everyone now knows how to pronounce incorrectly, has been seen on some 20 or so talk shows lately.  This is odd in the first place because his name is hard to pronounce, but in the second place he's undergoing impeachment right now.  Well, maybe it's not really odd.  It seems to me he has given up on any chance of not being impeached, so he's concentrating his efforts on the forthcoming criminal trial.  Whatever his purpose or strategy, he has never been convicted of any crime.  Someone should tell David Broder, punditorum praefectus, who cannot believe his colleagues would talk to a person such as Blagojevich.  He writes:

But even as Blagojevich has abandoned any pretense of mounting a legal defense of his actions, he has launched a full-scale public relations campaign, hitting the morning talk-show circuit to parade his impudence under the guise of proclaiming his innocence.

It's as if there were no bill of particulars filed against him and approved almost unanimously by the members of the Illinois House of Representatives, who have endured six years of his misgovernment.

By simply asserting the claim that the state Senate trial on those charges is a "witch hunt," Blagojevich has tried to duck responsibility for his foul words and deeds while cloaking himself in phony martyrdom.

When Blagojevich was interviewed on TV and cable networks, the first — and maybe only — question should have been: "Why the hell are you here in our studio instead of where you belong: testifying under oath in the Senate trial in Springfield?"

Instead, he was allowed to charge, falsely, that the rules of the trial prevented him from calling defense witnesses or making his own case.

To my chagrin, the PR offensive seems to be working, not only with TV talkers who often confuse celebrity with more serious attributes, but with journalists who ought to know better.

Pardon my being direct, but what a numbskull–Broder I mean. (1) Blagojevich is going to proclaim his innocence (guilty people sometimes do); (2) they will pretend there are no credible charges against them; (3) they will claim the trial is politically motivated; (4) they have a right not to incriminate themselves so they don't have to testify or even show up; (4) people are allowed to lie constantly on TV (cf. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ESPN); (5) the blame for believing Blagojevich falls on those who believe him, if he's lying.

Most of all, however, Blagojevich has been accused of foul deeds, despite David Broder's prudishness, it's not illegal to use foul words.



Where I come from–Liberal Academia–debates are won by the party who has (1) the better command of the facts; (2) the better argument.  Where David Broder lives, Washington D.C., such liberal, post-modern notions as facts and argument matter not.  

Palin did just fine on her own, and so did Joe Biden, her sparring partner and the veteran senator from Delaware. In fact, the surprise of the night was that the candidates for the No. 2 job were much livelier and more impressive on the Washington University stage than Barack Obama and McCain had been when they met at Ole Miss.

In a session that was faster-paced and friendlier than the presidential debate, Palin and Biden smiled often at each other while exchanging glances and verbal blows. It was a reminder that politics can be fun — as well as informative.

But it created a mystery of its own. Why in the world has the McCain campaign kept Palin under wraps from her debut at the Republican National Convention until this debate? What were they afraid of?

I asked that question of Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign manager, and he disputed the premise. Schmidt said that Palin has answered "hundreds" of questions — which will come as news to the reporters who have been traipsing around the country with her. Going into the debate, she had done exactly three television interviews — with ABC, CBS and Fox — and not held a single news conference.

It doesn't appear Broder even watched the debate.  It's one thing to assert that Palin did fine in the debate, followed by (1) a new definition of "fine" and (2) evidence that it applies to her performance in St.Louis.  It's rather another thing simply to state as settled fact that she did fine and then mysteriously wonder why the McCain camp worried about her in the first place.  As anyone who saw those interviews knows, they worried about her because when pressed, it becomes clear she doesn't know anything about anything and, more importantly, she can't even fake it when pressed.

Argumentum ad linguam

David Broder reviews a conservative think tanks' "admirably well written and well researched" pamphlet about whether "whether America's national identity is eroding under the pressure of population diversity and educational slackness."  Broder, in his oddly positive review of this pamphlet, fails to see the irony in the following two claims.


And so, the Bradley scholars say, "knowing what America stands for is not a genetic inheritance. It must be learned, both by the next generation and by those who come to this country. In this way, a nation founded on an idea is inherently fragile." 


When it comes to the treatment of immigrants, the Bradley team sees a real threat in such things as multilingual ballots and bilingual classes. Such accommodations to the growing diversity of the population could lead to "many Americas, or even no America at all," they maintain. "Historical ignorance, civic neglect and social fragmentation might achieve what a foreign invader could not." 

Seems to me the authors are disturbed by the mechanisms of greater civic knowledge and participation.  Besides, if I remember my history rightly, both of the belligerents in American Civil War spoke English.

Anti-intellectual punditry

David Broder seems surprised–and informed–by the claim of a recent book (Elvin T. Lim's, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency) that there is a notable absence of "logical argument" in presidential politics.  He writes:

In a slim book titled "The Anti-Intellectual Presidency," [Lim] argues that the real problem is not the increased quantity of words coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but the sharp decline in content — especially of logical argument.

While I'm not surprised that Broder is surprised (Bush is staged for a comeback!), it's a disappointing reminder of rather low quality of critical thought in the political press (compared in one recent and blistering article to the courtiers of Versailles).  In an ideal world, Lim's thesis would be the job description of the pundit class and the everyday content of the op-ed page.  But no.

Armed with information

A PBS show about a successful but financially strained state run health care program for the poor in Tennessee featured someone–a state representative dead set against the program–who said: not all problems can be solved with money. Fair enough. But all money problems can be solved with money, and that was a money problem. David Broder isn’t far away from that when he writes:

>What I learned about Leavitt in his years as governor is that he is blessed with vision that sees future policy challenges and developments more clearly than most politicians. In this case, he is visualizing a radically different kind of medical marketplace, in which families armed with specific information about the treatment success and prices of hospitals and doctors can shop at will for the best quality and most affordable care.

There’s no shortage of information about health care success. Here’s one that even I know: seeing a doctor for basic health care needs increases one’s healthness quotient. The primary shortage, as anyone can tell you, is access to affordable health care for millions of employed as well as unemployed people.

What’s the big idea?

Sometimes op-eds can be entertaining for their emptiness. David Broder on Newt Gingrich:

>In the years since I first met him in 1974, I have learned that it’s wise to take Newt Gingrich seriously. He has many character flaws, and his language is often exaggerated and imprudent. But if there is any politician of the current generation who has earned the label “visionary,” it is probably the Georgia Republican and former speaker of the House.

No, I don’t mean to question here whether Gingrich is a visionary. I just wonder what Broder thinks he’s talking about. Here’s his evidence:

>but his presence in the field would raise the bar for everyone else, improve the content of the debates and change the dynamic of the race.

I wonder how. Broder continues:

>The fact that he is prepared to say plainly that Republicans, if they are to have a prayer of electing George Bush’s successor, must offer “a clean break” from Bush’s policies sets Gingrich apart.

Bush is at 29 percent. That’s not visionary, that’s obvious.

>His personal history and the scars he bears from leading the 1994 revolution that brought Republicans to power in Congress for a dozen years would make it hard for him to mobilize the money and support needed in an already crowded field.

Still waiting for the “visionary” evidence.

>he is right in saying that when “10 guys are lined up like penguins” for TV debates in which answers must be compressed to 60-second sound bites, the “big ideas” he wants to promote would probably be lost.

Right, the “big ideas.”

>So he is opting for American Solutions for Winning the Future, a policy and advocacy group for the Internet age that will be launched at the end of this month from the west front of the Capitol, where Gingrich staged his “Contract With America” signing at the start of the 1994 campaign.

>This effort, which is nominally nonpartisan, is aimed at developing fresh solutions to the public policy problems that challenge the nation, from health care to immigration to inner-city education.

>Gingrich is brimming with ideas on these subjects, but he is realistic enough to suggest that it may be five years before public opinion — and other politicians — are ready to embrace some of them.

Mind sharing, Newt?

>At the news breakfast where I saw him, he was as pumped-up about his new venture as he was when we first had coffee 33 years ago. Then he was a college professor, engaged in a losing House campaign but blessed or cursed with grandiose ideas about how the Republicans might — after more than 30 years — become the majority in Congress.

>He works and travels at a frenetic pace, drawing fresh ideas from visits last week to a Michigan hospital, a Microsoft plant and a health-care complex in Spokane, Wash.

>If big ideas and big ambitions can bring Republicans back to life, Gingrich is ready to supply them. And I have learned not to underestimate him.

Gingrich’s big idea seems to consists in having big ideas, his plan is to have a plan, and he will win by victory.