There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time for Him to Go

By GAIL COLLINS

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Gail Collins

Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning.

Seriously. We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.

Putting Barack Obama in charge immediately isn’t impossible. Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We’re desperate, but not crazy.) Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. Obviously, she’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.

As a bonus, the Pelosi presidency would put a woman in the White House this year after all. On the downside, a few right-wing talk-show hosts might succumb to apoplexy. That would, of course, be terrible, but I’m afraid we might have to take the risk in the name of a greater good.

Can I see a show of hands? How many people want George W. out and Barack in?

A great many Americans have been counting the days all year on their 2008 George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown calendars. I know a lot of this has been going on because so many people congratulated me when the Feb. 1 Bush quote turned out to be from one of my old columns. (“I think we need not only to eliminate the tollbooth from the middle class, I think we should knock down the tollbooth.”)

This was not nearly as good as Feb. 5 (“We ought to make the pie higher”) or Feb. 21 (“I understand small business growth. I was one.”) But we do what we can.

In the past, presidents have not taken well to suggestions that they hand over the reins before the last possible minute. Senator J. William Fulbright suggested a plan along those lines when Harry Truman was coming to the end of a term in a state of deep unpopularity, and Truman called him “Halfbright” for the rest of his life. Bush might not love the idea of quitting before he has a chance to light the Christmas tree or commute the execution of one last presidential turkey. After all, he still has a couple more trips planned. And last-minute regulations to issue. (So many national parks to despoil, so many endangered species to exterminate ... .) And then there’s all the packing.

On the other hand, he might want to consider his legacy, such as it is.

In happier days, Bush may have nurtured hopes of making it into the list of America’s mediocre presidents, but somewhere between Iraq and Katrina, that goal became a mountain too high. However, he might still have a chance to avoid the absolute bottom of the barrel, a spot currently occupied by James Buchanan, at least in my opinion. Buchanan nailed down The Worst President title in the days between Abraham Lincoln’s election and inauguration, when the Southern states began seceding and Buchanan, after a little flailing about, did absolutely nothing. “Doing nothing is almost the worst thing a president can do,” said the historian Michael Beschloss.

If Bush gives up doing nothing by giving up his job, it’s possible that someday history might elevate him to the ranks of the below average. Better than Franklin Pierce! Smarter than Warren Harding! And healthier than William Henry Harrison!

The person who would like this plan least probably would be Barack Obama. Who would want to be saddled with the auto industry’s problems ahead of schedule? The heads of America’s great carmaking corporations are so dim that they couldn’t even survive hearings run by members of Congress who actually wanted to help them. Really, when somebody asks you exactly how much money you need, the answer should not be something along the line of “a whole bunch.”

An instantaneous takeover would also ruin the Obama team’s plan to have the tidiest, best-organized presidential transition in history. Cutting it short and leaping into governing would turn their measured march toward power into a mad scramble. A lot of their Cabinet picks are still working on those 62-page questionnaires.

But while there’s been no drama with Obama, we’ve been living a Technicolor version of “The Perils of Pauline.” Detroit is tied to the railroad tracks and the train is coming! California’s state government is falling into the sea! The way we’re going now, by the time the inauguration rolls around, unemployment will be at 10 percent and the Dow will be at 10.

Time for a change.

Original here

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics

US officials flunk test of Amerian history, economics, civics ISI – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade …

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.

The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

Among the questions asked of some 2,500 people who were randomly selected to take the test, including "self-identified elected officials," was one which asked respondents to "name two countries that were our enemies during World War II."

Sixty-nine percent of respondents correctly identified Germany and Japan. Among the incorrect answers were Britain, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

Forty percent of respondents, meanwhile, incorrectly believed that the US president has the power to declare war, while 54 percent correctly answered that that power rests with Congress.

Asked about the electoral college, 20 percent of elected officials incorrectly said it was established to "supervise the first televised presidential debates."

In fact, the system of choosing the US president via an indirect electoral college vote dates back some 220 years, to the US Constitution.

The question that received the fewest correct responses, just 16 percent, tested respondents' basic understanding of economic principles, asking why "free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government's centralized planning?"

Activities that dull Americans' civic knowledge include talking on the phone and watching movies or television -- even news shows and documentaries, ISI said.

Meanwhile, civic knowledge is enhanced by discussing public affairs, taking part in civic activities and reading about current events and history, the group said.

Original here

A Letter to My Brother Newt Gingrich

Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O'Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, "There you go, again."

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked.

The truth is that you're living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as -- and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

Welcome to the 21st century, big bro. I can understand why you're so afraid of the energy that has been unleashed after gay and lesbian couples had their rights stripped away from them by a hateful campaign. I can see why you're sounding the alarm against the activists who use all the latest tech tools to build these rallies from the ground up in cities across the country.

This unstoppable progress has at its core a group we at HRC call Generation Equality. They are the most supportive of full LGBT equality than any American generation ever -- and when it comes to the politics of division, well, they don't roll that way. 18-24 year olds voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8 and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. And the numbers of young progressive voters will only continue to grow. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning, about 23 million 18-29 year olds voted on Nov. 4, 2008 -- the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election. That's an increase of 3 million more voters compared to 2004.

These are the same people who helped elect Barack Obama and sent a decisive message to your party. These young people are the future and their energy will continue to drive our country forward. Even older Americans are turning their backs on the politics of fear and demagoguery that you and your cronies have perfected over the years.

This is a movement of the people that you most fear. It's a movement of progress -- and your words on FOX News only show how truly desperate you are to maintain control of a world that is changing before your very eyes.

Then again, we've seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a religious group -- one that looks down upon minorities and women -- when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us "fascists" when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of "traditional" marriage. And, of course, you've also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of "historic Christianity" you claim to champion.

Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we're used to hearing.

What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That's really so '90s, Newt. In this day and age, it's embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it.

In other words, stop being a hater, big bro.

Original here

Obama Set On Key Cabinet Nominees

President-elect Barack Obama has settled on nominees for two more cabinet positions, and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton accepted an offer to become secretary of state, a source close to the transition team told NPR Friday.

Obama tapped New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for U.S. secretary of commerce, and New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner has been asked to serve as Treasury secretary, the transition team member said.

Clinton's name surfaced as a possible secretary of state nominee shortly after the election. NPR confirmed that she accepted the post Friday, and The New York Times quoted two Clinton associates saying that the former first lady has accepted Obama's offer.

"She's ready," one of the sources told the newspaper, which said Clinton came to her decision after additional discussions with Obama about the nature of her role as the top U.S. diplomat and his plans for foreign policy.

Democratic Party sources have said Clinton was on track to be nominated, with an official announcement expected after the Nov. 27 Thanksgiving holiday.

Richardson, a former United Nations ambassador and energy secretary during President Bill Clinton's administration, had been an early supporter of Obama after dropping his own presidential ambitions.

Original here