Tag Archives: Obama administration

Auto Dealers Ending Their Cash for (Political) Clunkers Program

cash-for-clunkers-we-can-helpThe nation’s largest auto dealers association has apparently decided to end its long standing participation in the Cash for (Political) Clunkers program.

An historically dependable source of income for Republicans in the House and Senate, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has long contributed about twice as much to Republican election campaigns than to Democrats.

In 2008, the NADA gave $968,000 to Democrats and $1,892,000 to Republicans ($923,000 to House Democrats and $1,679,500 to House Republicans; $45,000 to Senate Democrats and $212,500 to Senate Republicans).

In 2006, the results were similar – the NADA gave $842,600 to Democrats and $1,978,500 to Republicans ($752,600 to House Democrats and $1,827,000 to House Republicans; $90,000 to Senate Democrats and $151,500 to Senate Republicans).

The ratio was also similar in 2004 – the NADA gave $714,500 to Democrats and $1,888,800 to Republicans ($630,500 to House Democrats and $1,698,800 to House Republicans; $84,000 to Senate Democrats and $190,000 to Senate Republicans).

But for the 2010 election, the Auto Dealers’ political contributions have dramatically shifted gears.

So far, the NADA has given $134,300 to Democrats and only $43,000 to Republicans.  This figure includes $101,800 to House Democrats and $43,000 to House Republicans, and $32,500 to Senate Democrats and nothing at all to Senate Republicans.

The reasons for this unprecedented shift in the Auto Dealers’ political allegiance is pretty obvious: The Republicans have told Detroit and the nation’s auto dealers to drop dead, opposing both the Obama administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry and it’s hugely popular “Cash for Clunkers” program.

Here in Orange County, Republicans in Congress have benefited enormously in the past from the NADA’s political contributions.

In 2008, John Campbell (R-48th CD) – an auto dealer himself — received $10,000 from the NADA, which was the largest amount they gave to individual campaigns that year.  In  2006, the year that he was elected to his first full term, they gave Campbell $20,000, also the largest amount given to any campaign and twice as much as they gave to anyone else.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-46th CD) received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, $5,000 in 2006, and $10,000 in 2004.

Ken Calvert (R-44th CD) also received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, as well as $5,000 in 2006 and $5,000 in 2004.

What did the auto dealers get for their money?

Recently, not much.

On the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, the auto bail out bill, Campbell voted “present” (citing his personal financial interest), while criticizing those who voted in favor.

Calvert voted “No,” calling it the “nationalization of the auto industry,” and Rohrabacher did not bother to vote at all.

On the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program (the Cash for Clunkers bill), Campbell did vote “Aye” against his party, (apparently no longer concerned about his personal financial stake in the auto dealer business), as did Calvert, but Rohrabacher voted “No,” complaining that the bill is “nothing more than a subsidy to prop up auto manufacturers, many of which have already received billions in taxpayer money.”

As we get closer to the 2010 campaign, we’ll see whether the auto dealers again make the mistake they’ve made in the past of giving cash to these political clunkers.

So far, it seems that they’ve shifted gears and are driving in another political direction.

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Five Ways that Obama Should NOT Emulate Lincoln

Much has been made of Barack Obama’s identification with Abraham Lincoln.  Obama choose a line from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – “A New Birth of Freedom” — as the theme for his own inauguration speech.  He took his oath of office on Lincoln’s personal bible.

And like Lincoln, Obama has attempted to create a “team of rivals,” placing former opponents from within his party, such as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as Republicans, at the center of power in his administration.

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Of course, Lincoln makes a powerful role model for any president, especially in troubled times.

But there are at least five ways in which Obama should not follow Lincoln’s example, and five corresponding ways in which Lincoln should serve Obama as an example of what not to do.

First, do not believe that you can succeed by compromising with those who are set to destroy you.

Like most moderates on the issue of slavery, and unlike the radicals and abolitionists, Lincoln believed that his enemies in the slave-holding South were reasonable men and that he could hold the Union together by compromise.  Although he abhorred slavery, he promised not to emancipate the slaves by force.

Instead, Lincoln held to a policy of gradually ending slavery by containing it within the slave states (and prohibiting it within the new federal territories) and by offering compensated emancipation (along with the removal of freed slaves to Africa) over a period of many years.

The South didn’t buy it – they saw Lincoln as a far more radical and dangerous opponent of slavery than he was – and were unwilling to engage in any compromise themselves.  They had prepared for war and attacked the Union as soon as Lincoln was elected.

Second,  do not fail to prepare for all-out war with your opponents.

Because Lincoln believed that he could win over the slave-holders with a policy of gradualism and compromise, he failed to prepare, as his enemies had, for all-out war  As a result, the first years of the Civil War were a near disaster for Lincoln and the Union.

Third, do not allow yourself to be pressured into making a bad appointment to the Supreme Court.

Lincoln’s first appointment to the Court was Noah Haynes Swayne.  Swayne was a close friend of Supreme Court justice John McLean, who had issued a stirring dissent in the Dred Scott case and was a powerful force in the new Republican Party.  McLean had tried twice for the party’s presidential nomination and was probably instrumental in rallying Republican support for Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.  When McLean died in April 1861, Lincoln appointed Swayne to take his place, largely on McLean’s recommendation, as well as intense lobbying by Republican members of Congress, railroads, and banks. Swanye wrote little for the Court and is remembered today mostly for his support for the broad expansion of legal privileges for corporations.

Fourth, don’t change vice-presidents.

Lincoln’s first vice-president was Hannibal Hamlin, a senator from Maine.  Hamlin was a staunch opponent of slavery and was supported by the more radical Republicans and abolitionists. For his second presidential election campaign, Lincoln picked a new running mate, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.  While little is known for certain about the reason Lincoln decided to replace Hamlin with Johnson, the decision was probably made with the hope that a Southern vice-president would help unify the nation at the conclusion of the war.  Johnson, of course, went on to allow the slave-holders and racists in the defeated South to regain power and effectively re-enslave Black people for another hundred years.

Fifth, do not grow a beard.

It worked for Lincoln.  It won’t work for Barack Obama.

The Gang That Couldn’t Appoint Straight

During the presidential election campaign, even Barack Obama’s most severe detractors conceded that he was smart, politically savvy, and had put together a team of brilliant advisors and managers.

Everyone expected that President Obama would carry the cool professionalism and political acumen of his campaign into his administration.

What the hell happened?

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Since the election, the Obama team has become The Gang That Couldn’t Appoint Straight.

Today, both his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services (Tom Daschle) and his nominee for Chief Performance Officer (Nancy Killefer) were forced to withdraw their nominations because of tax problems (or worse).  Last week, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary (Timony Geithner) was approved by the Senate only after offering a mea culpa for his own tax issues.  And Obama’s first nominee for Commerce Secretary (Bill Richardson) was forced to withdraw his nomination when it became known that he is under federal grand jury investigation into improper pay-to-play business dealings (or worse).

Who is to blame for this mess?

As the executive director of Obama’s transition team, Obama’s Harvard Law classmate Chris Lu bears much of the responsibility, as does transition team co-director John D. Podesta and personal director Jim Messina (now Deputy White House Chief of Staff), as well as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor (and formerly chief campaign strategist) David Alexrod, and Staff Secretary Lisa Brown.

Along with the White House’s expressions of “regret” and “disappointment,” someone (probably from the group named above) should step forward and admit that they had the responsibility to vet these nominees and that they’ve (repeatedly) blown it.

Much of Obama’s post-election popularity – and his political capital – rests on the belief that we finally have a president who is smart enough, engaged enough, and politically savvy enough to navigate the ship of state through the very dark and troubled waters ahead.

With a series of highly publicised botched appointments to several of the most crucial cabinet positions, Obama risks undermining that belief and squandering his political capital before it is even spent.

My concern is not so much with the nominees themselves (and I’m not sure where I come down regarding the seriousness or deeper implications of their tax and other problems), but with the lack of competence and completeness in their vetting by the Obama team.

The danger is that the public will reverse its perception of Obama as having his (and our) act together. That would be very bad for Obama, for Democrats, and for the country.

Rush Limbaugh Offers New Hope for Progressives Nervous about Obama’s Cabinet

Rush Limbaugh, of all people, has offered renewed hope to progressives, such as Frank Rich, Tim Carpenter and others, who are nervous about the centrism of Barack Obama’s cabinet picks.

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According to Limbaugh, Obama’s centrist cabinet selections are merely a smoke screen for his plans to radically reconstruct America along progressive economic and social lines and finish the job that Franklin D. Roosevelt started in his New Deal.

Forget about the middle-of-the-roaders, recycled Clintonistas and (even) Republicans in Obama’s cabinet, Limbaugh says.  What Obama means to do is lead America to a new, bigger and more sweeping New Deal that will embrace and revitalize the progressive governmental activism of the early years of the Roosevelt administration.

To this end, Limbaugh insists that Obama actually wants the economic crisis to get worse before he takes office.  That’s why, and not because of an abstract belief that America has only one president at a time, Limbaugh says, Obama has not moved more forcefully to influence economic policy prior to his inauguration.  Limbaugh claims that Obama figures that the more desperate the country’s economic crisis, the easier it will be for him to achieve his goal of transforming the government into an engine of progressive economic and social activism.

What Limbaugh suggests is that Obama is planning on a progressive version of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” of disaster capitalism, in which “‘only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change’.  When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; [Milton] Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the ‘tyranny of the status quo’. ”

Except that in this instance, it won’t be conservatives and Friedmanites who are employing the disaster capitalism shock doctrine, but progressives.

The irony, of course, is that it was the use of the shock doctrine of disaster capitalism (in the Reagan years and beyond) — in which corporations systematically exploited the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies shock and crisis to remove regulations and government oversight of their activities — that produced the economic mess were in now.

Another way to look at Limbaugh’s argument it is that Obama is using the current economic crisis as his own 9-11, hoping that the fear generated by economic disaster will force his opponents to capitulate to fundamental changes that in other, safer times they would have obdurately refused to accept.

Thanks, Rush.

I hope you’re right.