Quick Takes

Dan Froomkin
Copyright 2010
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 6:11 PM

Bob Herbert writes in his New York Times opinion column: "It was thought by many that a President Obama would put a stop to the madness, put an end to the Bush administration???s nightmarish approach to national security. But Mr. Obama has shown no inclination to bring even the worst offenders of the Bush years to account, and seems perfectly willing to move ahead in lockstep with the excessive secrecy and some of the most egregious activities of the Bush era." Scott Wilson writes in The Washington Post: "Iran's post-election tumult has exposed the sharply divergent ways in which the Obama administration and its Republican opponents view the nature of American power and the president's role in speaking to political dissent outside the borders of the United States... In recent days, GOP leaders have invoked the unambiguous Cold War rhetoric of Ronald Reagan as the model for the message Obama should be sending to the demonstrators, citing the inspiration it provided to millions of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain." But a senior administration official tells Wilson: "We're trying to promote a foreign policy that advances our interests, not that makes us feel good about ourselves." Jonathan Chait writes for the New Republic: "The thing that people haven't figured out about President Obama's conduct of foreign policy is that it's the same as his conduct of domestic policy. Obama believes in the power of negotiation and public dialogue to split his adversaries--Republicans at home, Islamists abroad--and strengthen his own position. Obama's speech in Cairo to the Muslim world was simply the foreign analogue of his dealings with the GOP." Howard Kurtz writes about Rahm Emanuel in The Washington Post: "Perhaps no White House chief of staff in modern history has worked the media as aggressively and relentlessly as Emanuel. Drawing on his long-standing relationships with journalists, Emanuel serves up on-the-record quotes, background spin and the sort of capital gossip that lubricates relationships. The former Chicago congressman also seeks their take on events and floats possible administration tactics.... [He] somehow finds time to stay in constant touch with a sizable group of journalists, both on the phone and through a series of off-the-record restaurant dinners. Emanuel has also hosted off-the-record gatherings of columnists and Sunday show hosts in his White House office, or on his outdoor portico." Saul Hansell writes in the New York Times: "The White House made its first major entree into government by the people last month when it set up an online forum to ask ordinary people for their ideas on how to carry out the president???s open-government pledge. It got an earful ??? on legalizing marijuana, revealing U.F.O. secrets and verifying Mr. Obama???s birth certificate to prove he was really born in the United States and thus eligible to be president.... The experience so far shows just how hard it is to allow all voices to be heard and still have a coherent discussion. When millions of Internet users are invited to discuss every regulation, how can any real work get done? On the other hand, why bother opening up the government if views that are outside the mainstream ??? as defined by the usual collection of lobbyists and think tank scholars ??? are summarily dismissed?" Indeed, here is open government czar Beth Noveck opening up the new, wiki-like portion of the process, where the public can submit and edit drafts of the open-government rules. Sadly, it, too, is suffering from a severe lack of public participation. Here, for instance, is the section on what I described last week as Baking Transparency Into Government. As of this writing, there is one submission, and it's not responsive. Robert Pear writes in the New York Times: "The White House on Monday hailed what it described as a 'historic agreement to lower drugs costs' for older Americans, but it was not immediately clear how much the government would reap in savings that could be used to pay for coverage of the uninsured." It looks to be a "boon to Medicare beneficiaries," but not necessarily the government. Greg Sargent blogs for WhoRunsGov.com: "In a major new effort to throw Obama???s campaign apparatus into the push for health care reform, the White House???s political operation is set to launch a massive new online data bank of thousands of health care stories, which will be spread around the country via Obama???s extensive email list, officials familiar with the project tell me." Jeff Zeleny writes in the New York Times: "As he signed legislation bringing tobacco products under federal control for the first time, the president conceded that the new law, aimed at keeping children from starting to smoke, could have helped him three decades ago.... He did not mention whether he still smokes, a topic that has been a subject of considerable curiosity, and family drama, for years. Instead, he talked about the dangers of the addiction and its causes." Paul Farhi writes in The Washington Post that "everyone at the White House acts like a kid caught smoking when the subject comes up." From Obama's remarks: "When Henry Waxman first brought tobacco CEOs before Congress in 1994, they famously denied that tobacco was deadly, nicotine was addictive, or that their companies marketed to children. And they spent millions upon millions in lobbying and advertising to fight back every attempt to expose these denials as lies. Fifteen years later, their campaign has finally failed. Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, health care and consumer advocates, the decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious. Today, change has come to Washington." AFP reports: "The White House would not confirm Monday that President Barack Obama will head for the 2010 World Cup, but top aides already seemed to be sizing up tickets for the opening ceremony and first match.... The opening ceremony for the 2010 World Cup will be at the new 100,000-seat Soccer City stadium on the outskirts of Soweto."

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