Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

U.S. Military Adjusts Toward Confidence in Obama

November 30, 2008

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went unarmed into his first meeting with the new commander in chief — no aides, no PowerPoint presentation, no briefing books. Summoned nine days ago to President-elect Barack Obama‘s Chicago transition office, Mullen showed up with just a pad, a pen and a desire to take the measure of his incoming boss. 

 

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 30, 2008; Page A01

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with The Associated ... 
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with The Associated Press during an interview at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

There was little talk of exiting Iraq or beefing up the U.S. force in Afghanistan; the one-on-one, 45-minute conversation ranged from the personal to the philosophical. Mullen came away with what he wanted: a view of the next president as a non-ideological pragmatist who was willing to both listen and lead. After the meeting, the chairman “felt very good, very positive,” according to Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

As Obama prepares to announce his national security team tomorrow, he faces a military that has long mistrusted Democrats and is particularly wary of a young, intellectual leader with no experience in uniform, who once called Iraq a “dumb” war. Military leaders have all heard his pledge to withdraw most combat forces from Iraq within 16 months — sooner than commanders on the ground have recommended — and his implied criticism of the Afghanistan war effort during the Bush administration.

But so far, Obama appears to be going out of his way to reassure them that he will do nothing rash and will seek their advice, even while making clear that he may not always take it. He has demonstrated an ability to speak the lingo, talk about “mission plans” and “tasking,” and to differentiate between strategy and tactics, a distinction Republican nominee John McCain accused him of misunderstanding during the campaign.

Obama has been careful to separate his criticism of Bush policy from his praise of the military’s valor and performance, while Michelle Obama‘s public expressions of concern for military families have gone over well. But most important, according to several senior officers and civilian Pentagon officials who would speak about their incoming leader only on the condition of anonymity, is the expectation of renewed respect for the chain of command and greater realism about U.S. military goals and capabilities, which many found lacking during the Bush years.

“Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders,” said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

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Left cuts Obama slack for now

November 21, 2008

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama boasted of opposing the Iraq War from the start.

By Glenn Thrush and Ryan Grim, Politico

But as president-elect, he has come to the rescue of surge supporter Joe Lieberman and flirted with the idea of keeping on Bush administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates — and now he seems poised to nominate war-authorizing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to serve as his secretary of state. 

The sound from the left: not silence, but no howls of betrayal, either.

“Anybody who has reacted after two weeks is not a serious person,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

Members of Obama’s loyal liberal base — from the Netroots to campus liberals to Hill Democrats — are watching closely as the candidate’s vague incantations of hope coalesce into cold, concrete presidential decision making. It’s not a seamless transition, but so far the left seems to be cutting Obama some favorite-son slack. Then again, he’s been president-elect for only two weeks — even milk bought on the day he was elected hasn’t had time to go sour.

“People continue to be excited,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who represents an Oregon district he described as one of the five most progressive in the nation. “They’re still going to websites. There are campaigns they can be involved with. They’re still networking and raising ideas and moving forward.”

Anti-war voters are used to being disappointed. Some were flabbergasted when George W. Bush won a second term in the midst of the war in 2004; others were disillusioned when the Democrats didn’t do more to stop the war after capturing majorities of the House and the Senate in 2006.

And for some, that “here we go again” feeling came rushing back recently when Obama urged his soon-to-be-former Democratic Senate colleagues not to hold “grudges” against Lieberman, who infuriated liberals with his support for Iraq then picked at the scab by supporting John McCain — and opposing Obama — during the presidential race.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20081121/pl_politico/
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Obama Promised ‘Change’ But All Picks So Far Are Democrat Insiders, Not New

November 20, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama promised the voters change but has started his Cabinet selection process by naming several Washington insiders to top posts.

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer
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Obama is enlisting former Senate leader Tom Daschle as his health secretary. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a well-known Washington personality, seemed more likely than ever to be his secretary of state. Clinton is deciding whether to take that post as America’s top diplomat, her associates said Wednesday

Obama is ready to announce that his attorney general will be Eric Holder, the Justice Department’s No. 2 when Clinton’s husband was president. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, is another veteran of the Clinton White House.

Daschle’s selection to head the Health and Human Services Department — confirmed Wednesday but not yet announced — isn’t at the same level of Cabinet prestige as the top spots at the State and Justice departments. But the health post could be more important in an Obama administration than in some others, making Daschle a key player in helping steer the president-elect’s promised health care reforms.

Daschle could push Obama for quick action on health care reform next year, if he follows his own advice.

In this April 22, 2008 file photo, former Senate Majority Leader ... 
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, left, followed by current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic officials say Daschle has accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s offer to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File )

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“American Press has Turned Into a Joke” Comparing Obama To FDR, Lincoln

November 19, 2008

“Barack Obama is just like Lincoln,” a youthful and eager fan reported to me.

And I thought: except for the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, the preservation of the Union and his record as President of the United States.

Bill Sammon of the Washington Examiner said, “The American press has turned into a joke by comparing Barack Obama to FDR and Abraham Lincoln.  They do him no favor by raising expectations to a level that is not achievable.”

Barack Obama, the first ever black man elected to America’s highest office, should be honored for sure; but we should also put our regard for him in proper perspective and watch how the next four years transpire.

Barack Obama is still, to me, a potential agent of manifest change: and not yet a historically overpowering figure we honor for his many accomplishments.

Oh I agree with others that the election of a Black American is historic and memorable; but while it says a lot about our new President-elect it says more to me about the American people.

The notion that Barack Obama is, in many ways, “Linconesque,” is at least premature and could seem a tad bizarre, especially to historians seeking meaning, accomplishments and proven character.

Obama has not yet managed through his Cuban Missile Crisis, his Vietnam War, his Great Depression or whatever real crises we can anticipate — and even whatever nobody could ever anticipate like George W. Bush’s “Nine Eleven.”

Yet both Lincoln and Obama certainly share Illinois and a place in history.  Lincoln’s place in history is “writ large.”  We do not yet know if Barack Obama is a chapter or two of history; or just a paragraph or two. 

President-elect Barack Obama answers a journalist's question ... 
President-elect Barack Obama answers a journalist’s question during his first press conference following his election victory in Chicago, November 7, 2008.(John Gress/Reuters)

Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He graduated from  Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

Obama is an “indoorsman,” who wrote two books about himself and arguably became addicted to his BlackBerry.

Lincoln was an outdoorsman who grew up in a log cabin in the rough “west” of the United States in his time, including Kentucky and Illinois.

Wikipedia says “Lincoln struck out on his own, canoeing down the Sangamon River to the village of New Salem in Sangamon County. Later that year, hired by New Salem businessman Denton Offutt and accompanied by friends, he took goods from New Salem to New Orleans via flatboat on the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi rivers.”

Lincoln’s formal education consisted of about 18 months of schooling, but he was largely self-educated and an avid reader. He was also a talented local wrestler and skilled with an axe.

Barack Obama is skilled with a computer keyboard, a teleprompter, and as a very eloquent public speaker and, though I myself have been moved by the style of many Obama speeches, the next day I have found something sometimes lacking. Yet like some of Mister Lincoln’s orations and remarks, Mr. Obama’s speeches are filled with “hope” and “change.”

Obama's speech earned him praise from politicians on the left and right. But not everyone was impressed.

Above: Barack Obama before a crowd in Germany. Photo: Getty Images
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Lincoln participated in the most studied and recalled political debates ever held in America.

Barack Obama’s debates with John McCain will be recalled for one thing only: Obama became the elected president.

“I don’t think we need any big media-run productions, no processed questions from reporters, no spin rooms, just two Americans running for the highest office in the greatest nation on earth responding to the concerns of the people who’s trust that we must earn,” John McCain said well before the debates with Barack Obama.

Famously, McCain said he wanted ten “Lincoln-Douglas” style debates with Barack Obama.

The nation ended up with far fewer than ten debates and not one came close to resembling the famed and historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.

But the world is a different place now and our national attention span and will to concentrate is short for good reasons, even though we are multitasking…

Creators Syndicate

Oprah Already Has Dress For Obama's Inauguration
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Access Hollywood

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are pretty much comfortable everywhere — from public speaking in Germany to Bill Ayers house and onward to Oprah’s TV show and to Hollywood.

Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd, which many historians believe was at least “on the edge” and probably crazy, were famously uncomfortable in most settings.  Many Hollywood and TV people today say that Lincoln’s looks would probably make him unelectable today.

Lincoln mourned the loss of one of his own children: and he watched in horror as Civil War casualties bled the nation white.  He even took the time to pen a letter to a grieving mother who lost five sons in “Lincoln’s war.”

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s most famous oration, the Gettysburg Address, took just two minutes to deliver.  For more than a century, American school children memorized this magnificent piece of writing and oration, one of the finest speeches ever given in America, some say, and all in less than 280 words.

On the day of that address, Lincoln was not the featured speaker, who droned on for some time.  But nobody without a deep history education can even recall the man who delivered his remarks before Lincoln on Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the cemetery in Gettysburg.


Soldiers National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Lincoln freed the slaves and preserved the Union.  So far, Obama freed the media and the electorate of the feeling and belief that racism kept good men of color from key posts.

Lincoln was unafraid of firing his top generals — and then while U.S. Grant was gaining ground and winning battles and his staff said the man was a drunk, Lincoln issued an order to send Grant a case of his favorite spirits, or so the story is told.


Lincoln in the field during the Civil War

Lincoln had to sneak into Washington DC for his inauguration.  Obama will be greeted by a throng of millions.

Lincoln assembled a cabinet that was a train wreck of disagreement to the point of dysfunction.  Some in the media today say that Obama is emulating Lincoln’s ability to be “inclusive” in his cabinet selections.

But Lincoln did famously “reach out” to all great leaders who could help him including the Catholic Archbishop of New York, “Dagger” John Hughes.

Linoln also gave a seemingly open door to the White House to Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who pushed President Lincoln to create and issue the Emancipation Proclamation — against the advice of many including his top military commanders.


Above: Frederick Douglass, in about 1879.

Above:  Lincoln met with his cabinet on July 22, 1862 for the first reading of a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Barack Obama’s challenges have yet to unfold.

Lincoln’s challenges were manifest.

History has judged Lincoln.  Obama’s first full chapter, now, at least in part, well chronicled by eager contemporary media scribes, is mostly still a way off for historians to evaluate.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
November 19, 2008

***************

The Topeka Capitol Journal began an article on November 9, 2008 with, “Plans are being made to promote a national holiday for Barack Obama, who will become the nation’s 44th president when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20.”

My Vietnamese American relatives say, “We seem to have the Easter before the Palm….”

Lincoln’s Day, once celebrated on his birthday, is now largely forgotten and squeezed out by the celebration of other great Americans like Martin Luther King.  Frederick Douglass has no day at all. It might be prudent to hold off on the “Barack Obama Day” just a tad….

Related:
Barack Obama Needs To Know: Lincoln’s Dysfuncional Cabinet Was Not Your Mother’s A-Team
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 Frederick Douglass: Turning Points
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“Most Famous” Lincoln Letter of Civil War Found?

Barack Obama Needs To Know: Lincoln’s Dysfuncional Cabinet Was Not Your Mother’s A-Team

November 18, 2008

People love Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on the Lincoln presidency, “Team of Rivals.” More important, for this moment in American history, Barack Obama loves it. The book is certainly fun to read, but its claim that Abraham Lincoln revealed his “political genius” through the management of his wartime Cabinet deserves a harder look, especially now that it seems to be offering a template for the new administration.

“Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet,” is the way Obama has summarized Goodwin’s thesis, adding, “Whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through this time of crisis.”

By Matthew Pinsker
The Los Angeles Times

That’s true enough, but the problem is, it didn’t work that well for Lincoln. There were painful trade-offs with the “team of rivals” approach that are never fully addressed in the book, or by others that offer happy-sounding descriptions of the Lincoln presidency.

Lincoln’s decision to embrace former rivals, for instance, inevitably meant ignoring old friends — a development they took badly. “We made Abe and, by God, we can unmake him,” complained Chicago Tribune Managing Editor Joseph Medill in 1861. Especially during 1861 and 1862, the first two years of Lincoln’s initially troubled administration, friends growled over his ingratitude as former rivals continued to play out their old political feuds.

In fairness, Goodwin describes several of these more difficult moments, such as when Secretary of State William Seward tried to seize political command from Lincoln during the Ft. Sumter crisis. But she passes over their consequences too easily.

Though Seward, the former New York senator who had been the Republican front-runner, eventually proved helpful to the president, the impact of repeated disloyalty and unnecessary backroom drama from him and several other Cabinet officers was a significant factor in the early failures of the Union war effort.


Above: Seward

By December 1862, there was a full-blown Cabinet crisis.

“We are now on the brink of destruction,” Lincoln confided to a close friend after being deluged with congressional criticism and confronted by resignations from both Seward and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Goodwin suggests that Lincoln’s quiet confidence and impressive emotional intelligence enabled him to survive and ultimately forge an effective team out of his former rivals, but that’s more wishful thinking than serious analysis.

Consider this inconvenient truth: Out of the four leading vote-getters for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination whom Lincoln placed on his original team, three left during his first term — one in disgrace, one in defiance and one in disgust.

Simon Cameron was the disgraced rival, Lincoln’s failed first secretary of War. Goodwin essentially erased him from her group biography, not mentioning him in the book’s first 200 pages, even though he placed third, after Seward and Lincoln, on the first Republican presidential ballot. Cameron proved so corrupt and inept that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives censured him after he was removed from office in 1862.

Above: Portrait of Simon Cameron by Freeman Thorp.

Chase was the defiant rival. As Goodwin acknowledges, the Treasury chief never reconciled himself to Lincoln’s victory, continuously angling to replace him. Lincoln put up with this aggravation until he secured renomination and then dumped his brilliant but arrogant subordinate because, in his words, their “mutual embarrassment” was no longer sustainable.

Atty. Gen. Edward Bates was the disgusted rival. The elder statesman — 67 when he was appointed — never felt at home in the Lincoln Cabinet and played only a marginal role in shaping policy. He resigned late in the first term. His diary reflects deep discontent with what he considered the relentless political maneuvering of his Cabinet peers and even the president.

“Alas!” Bates wrote in August 1864, “that I should live to see such abject fear — such small stolid indifference to duty — such open contempt of Constitution and law — and such profound ignorance of policy and prudence!”

Only Seward endured throughout the Civil War. He and Lincoln did become friends, and he provided some valuable political advice, but the significance of his contributions as Lincoln’s secretary of State have been challenged by many historians, and his repeated fights with other party leaders were always distracting.

John Hay, one of Lincoln’s closest aides, noted in his diary that by the summer of 1863, the president had essentially learned to rule his Cabinet with “tyrannous authority,” observing that the “most important things he decides & there is no cavil.”

Over the years, it has become easy to forget that hard edge and the once bad times that nearly destroyed a president. Lincoln’s Cabinet was no team. His rivals proved to be uneven as subordinates. Some were capable despite their personal disloyalty, yet others were simply disastrous.

Lincoln was a political genius, but his model for Cabinet-building should stand more as a cautionary tale than as a leadership manual.

Matthew Pinsker, author of “Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home,” teaches Civil War history at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

Barack Obama will follow Lincoln’s lead in choosing bipartisan Cabinet

November 17, 2008

Barack Obama said today he would appoint at least one Republican to his cabinet as he praised the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln – a president who gave top posts to several of his bitterest political enemies.

Mr Obama, who meets John McCain in Chicago tomorrow to discuss ways they can work together after he becomes president, said he would be announcing Cabinet appointments soon, days after he discussed with Hillary Clinton the possibility of making her his Secretary of State.

In his first full interview since winning the election, Mr Obama described the challenges he faces when he takes office in January as “enormous” and “multiple”.

He made clear his determination to pick the most effective team to tackle them, even if it means choosing former rivals and Republicans.
Mr Obama said he had spent “a lot of time” reading the writings of President Lincoln since the election, because “there is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.”

He and Mrs Clinton have both read and admired ‘Team of Rivals’, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about how President Lincoln bought old foes into government after winning the 1860 election.

Reminded that the 16th president put many of his political enemies in his cabinet, Mr Obama was asked on CBS’s 60 Minutes whether he was considering the same approach. “Well, I’ll tell you what,” he replied. “I find him a very wise man.”

Lincoln and his cabinet. Courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York

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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_
americas/us_elections/article5167418.ece

The New World Financial Order

November 16, 2008

For the past seven years, according to Rep. Jim Moran, “We have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in the simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it.” Actually, that “simplistic notion” has been the linchpin of the American system of free enterprise for the past two centuries. It has served to make the United States the most bountiful, wealthy and charitable nation on earth. Yet Moran says that system “doesn’t work in the long run.”

By Oliver North

My fellow Americans, welcome to the long run.

The coincidence of an economic downturn and our most recent political realignment have produced calls for urgent, dramatic, decisive action. Liberal politicians, such as Moran, are suggesting that we all would be better off if we’d adopt a more punitive tax code and use the Internal Revenue Service to redistribute the wealth. Republicans and Democrats already have allied to use our tax dollars to bail out an insurance giant, mortgage companies and financial institutions that made bad loans and extended credit to borrowers who couldn’t pay. Coming soon: tax dollars to save U.S. automakers. Attached to all these U.S. Treasury checks: countless pages of new fine-print regulations designed to prevent future financial stupidity — or to ameliorate its consequences. But as they say in the Marines, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

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http://www.creators.com/opinion/oliver-
north.html?columnsName=ono

Auto Maker Bailout “Doubtful”

November 14, 2008

A senior Democratic senator raised doubts on Thursday that an attempt to bail out U.S. automakers had enough support to clear Congress this year. 

As Republicans amplified their concerns about a bailout, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd raised the biggest red flag for fellow Democrats trying to craft a $25 billion rescue and pass it during a post-election session set to start next week.
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By John Crawley and Rachelle Younglai, Reuters 

“Right now, I don’t think there are the votes,” Dodd of Connecticut told reporters about prospects in the Senate. “I want to be careful of bringing up a proposition that might fail,” he said.

Although Dodd said “we ought to do something” and personally backed using money from the ongoing $700 billion financial services rescue program to help Detroit, he was skeptical that enough Republicans would support a bailout.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, also cautioned that success of a bailout rests with Senate Republicans and the White House. With their slim majority, Democrats cannot force a measure through the Senate or trump a White House veto.

The White House opposes the approach being taken by congressional Democrats but has not threatened to block any bailout. Bush administration officials have said they would consider other steps Congress can take to help General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC.

Dodd said there have been “legitimate issues raised” about how to help.

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http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idINN1339
368420081114?rpc=44

Chances Dwindle on Bailout Plan for Automakers

November 14, 2008

The prospects of a government rescue for the foundering American automakers dwindled Thursday as Democratic Congressional leaders conceded that they would face potentially insurmountable Republican opposition during a lame-duck session next week.

By David M. Herszenhorn  
The New York Times
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At the same time, hope among many Democrats on Capitol Hill for an aggressive economic stimulus measure all but evaporated. Democratic leaders have been calling for a package that would include help for the auto companies as well as new spending on public works projects, an extension of jobless benefits, increased food stamps and aid to states for rising Medicaid expenses.

But while Democrats said the stimulus measure would wait until President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January, some industry experts fear that one of the Big Three automakers will collapse before then, with potentially devastating consequences.

Despite hardening opposition at the White House and among Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Democrats said they would press ahead with efforts to provide $25 billion in emergency aid for the automakers. But they said the bill would need to be approved first in the Senate, which some Democrats said was highly unlikely.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/business/
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A Lemon of a Bailout

November 14, 2008

When you get gemons, “make lemonaide” the saying goes.  But when spending taxpayer billions for a fiscal and economic recovery plan or “bailout” that almost nobody likes, a lemon can get in the way….

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, November 14, 2008; Page A19

Finally, the outlines of a coherent debate on the federal bailout. This comes as welcome relief from a campaign season that gave us the House Republicans’ know-nothing rejectionism, John McCain‘s mindless railing against “greed and corruption,” and Barack Obama‘s detached enunciation of vacuous bailout “principles” that allowed him to be all things to all people.

Now clarity is emerging. The fault line is the auto industry bailout. The Democrats are pushing hard for it. The White House is resisting.

Underlying the policy differences is a philosophical divide. The Bush administration sees the $700 billion rescue as an emergency measure to save the financial sector on the grounds that finance is a utility. No government would let the electric companies go under and leave the country without power. By the same token, government must save the financial sector lest credit dry up and strangle the rest of the economy.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is willing to stretch the meaning of “bank” by extending protection to such entities as American Express. But fundamentally, he sees government as saving institutions that deal in money, not other stuff.

Democrats have a larger canvas, with government intervening in other sectors of the economy to prevent the cascade effect of mass unemployment leading to more mortgage defaults and business failures (as consumer spending plummets), in turn dragging down more businesses and financial institutions, producing more unemployment, etc. — the death spiral of the 1930s.

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 http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/13
/AR2008111303348.html?hpid=opinionsbox1