Dec 22 2010

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Amy Goodman: President Obama’s Christmas Gift to AT&T (and Comcast and Verizon)

One of President Barack Obama’s signature campaign promises was to protect the freedom of the Internet. He said, in November 2007, “I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose.”

Jump ahead to December 2010, where Obama is clearly in the back seat, being driven by Internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. With him is his appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, his Harvard Law School classmate and basketball pal who just pushed through a rule on network neutrality that Internet activists consider disastrous.

Robert Reich: The Year Washington Became “Business Friendly”

History will record 2010 as the year Washington became “business friendly.”

Not that it was all that unfriendly before. Some would say the bailouts of Wall Street, AIG, GM, and Chrysler were about as friendly as it can get. In addition, Washington gave windfalls to drug companies and health insurers in the new health bill, subsidies to energy companies in the stimulus package, and billions to domestic and military contractors.

But for corporate America it still wasn’t friendly enough. Before the midterm elections, Verizon CEO and Business Roundtable chair Ivan Seidenberg accused the president of creating a hostile environment for investment and job-creation. In the midterms, business leaders overwhelmingly threw their support to Republicans.

So the White House caved in on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and is telling CEOs it will be on their side from now on. As the president recently told a group of CEOs, the choice “is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between America and our competitors around the world. We can win the competition.”

Fred Kaplan: Political Brinksmanship

Republicans picked a silly fight over START, and they lost badly.

The Senate seems on its way to ratifying the New START on nuclear arms, an achievement that looked unlikely to say the least just a few weeks ago.

If a Republican were president, the accord would have excited no controversy and at most a handful of diehard nays. As even most of its critics conceded, the treaty’s text contains nothing objectionable in substance.

There were two kinds of opponents in this debate. The first had concerns that President Barack Obama would use the treaty as an excuse to ease up on missile defense and the programs to maintain the nuclear arsenal. In recent weeks, Obama and his team did as much to allay these concerns as any hawk could have hoped-and more than many doves preferred.

So that left the second kind of opponent: those who simply wanted to deny Obama any kind of victory. The latter motive was clearly dominant in this debate.

Ari Berman: Is Obama the New Comeback Kid?

The ink was barely dry on the Obama-McConnell tax deal and already Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer had proclaimed the president “the new comeback kid.” Many in the media quickly echoed this new meme. “Political Rebound? Obama sets up as new Comeback Kid” seconded USA Today. “Some now see Obama as the ‘comeback kid'” wrote the Christian Science Monitor. You get the gist.

Six weeks ago, in the wake of the Democrats’ midterm shellacking, many commentators put the Obama presidency on life support; he was weak, spineless, out of touch. Now they’re promoting the exact opposite narrative — Obama is strong, ruthless, willing to put the good of the country ahead of his whiny liberal base.

Time for a reality check: Obama’s presidency didn’t end after the midterm election and it hasn’t been revived during the lame duck session of Congress. Polls currently show a mixed bag of news for Obama. After dropping precipitously in 2009, his numbers have held steady for much of 2010. According to the latest Gallup poll, 46 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing as president, while 45 percent disapprove. He’s facing a divided country and a weak field of prospective 2012 GOP challengers, with the possible exception of Mitt Romney, who’ll spend the next year trying to convince Tea Party activists how “Romneycare” is different from “Obamacare.” Good luck with that, Mitt.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Obama’s Enablers, Obama’s Adversaries, and the Fight to Save the New Deal

The Democratic base seems to have coalesced around two opposing realities: Either President Obama is inept – if not an enemy of all things good and true – or he’s doing the best any human being could possibly do. Both of these seemingly opposing positions lead to the same outcome. They encourage inaction, either through trust or through hopelessness, at a time when action is urgently needed.

Whatever his motives, reports suggest the President’s about to make a terrible mistake by announcing cuts to Social Security in his next State of the Union address. If he does he’ll be remembered as the “anti-FDR,” the President who destroyed the Democratic legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, began the dismantling of the New Deal, and led his party to overwhelming defeat. As for his Presidential legacy – well, you can bet he’ll be remembered. Generations of older Americans will mutter his name under their breath every time their Social Security check arrives.

What are his motives? I don’t know, and at the moment I don’t really care. He’s shown that he’ll respond to public pressure, and he urgently needs to feel some of that pressure right about now.

Dahlia Lithwick: Field of Greens

The dreaded broccoli uprising and other freaky GOP nightmares.

Last week, flush with his victory in a lawsuit challenging the president’s health care initiative, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced gravely that “if we cross this line with health care now-this unconstitutional line-where the government can force us to buy a private product and say it’s for our own good, then we’ll have given the government the power to force us to buy other products: cars, gym memberships, asparagus. The list goes on.” Broccoli? Belgian endive? The list indeed goes on.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Cuccinelli’s rhetorical choice perfectly echoed a question federal Judge Henry Hudson posed to the Obama administration during the October argument of the case Cuccinelli just won, as Hudson wondered aloud at the time whether the government could require people “to buy a car, to join a gym, to eat asparagus.”

Using the same logic, columnist George Will conjured the dread specter of the state brandishing broccoli when he wrote at the start of this month that if congressional power to regulate interstate commerce “is infinitely elastic, Congress can do anything-eat your broccoli, or else-and America no longer has a limited government.” Don’t think there’s anything that sinister about broccoli, friends? Think again. That broccoli is just a front for the New World Order.

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