Author archives: Chris Gacek

The Pro-Obama Attack Machine Rolls On

by Chris Gacek

March 11, 2009

The New York Times jumped into the fray on Monday to help rescue President Obama’s economic policy-making reputation.  This was done in the guise of an analysis piece on the cable business channel, CNBC, that also served as a shot across the bow.  The story by Brian Stelter and Tim Arango entitled, “CNBC Thrives as Hosts Deliver News with Attitude,” lets the cat out of the bag when it intones: “CNBC is now a place for politics…. making the line between reporter and commentator almost indistinguishable at times.”

            What follows is a grab-bag of faux concern for CNBC’s brand and its reputation for journalistic integrity.  Some anonymous back-biting by three CNBC employees is added for good measure.  Blah, blah, blah.  But the rub comes down to this:  “In recent weeks some have perceived the network to be leading the campaign against President Obama’s economic agenda.”  BINGO.

            Well, the folks in the mainstream media (MSM) are clearly irritated because CNBC is now the most important news organization driving the political-economic debate.  The MSM is beginning to realize that it cannot control a news network populated by the brightest reporters on TV and accomplished guests who focus on the hard logic of the markets, interest rates, stock prices, currencies, etc.

            After Rick Santelli, a CNBC reporter from Chicago’s mercantile exchange, blasted the Obama Administration’s mortgage rescue plan he was attacked by NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show.  Similarly, Jim Cramer was dragged to the Today Show for a hazing by Lauer who had to be assisted by CNBC’s Erin Burnett.  Even she couldn’t make it a fair fight.  Cramer just brushed them off.

            Unfortunately for the MSM the news broadcasts on CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC are populated with reporters who know relatively little about economics and finance compared to their counter-parts at CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Business Channel.  So, when someone like Lauer tries to slime Santelli or Cramer he is totally mismatched.

            This means that serious interviews on the economy now have to be conducted on CNBC.  Yesterday’s interview of Warren Buffet by CNBC’s Becky Quick is a case in point.  Aside from the two-hour length, that interview would not have been possible on the MSM networks.  There are no broadcast TV analogs to Ms. Quick, Joe Kernen, and Carl Quintanilla who are all very, very bright and industry savvy.

            This is not to say that CNBC is perfect.  It has its flaws.  Big Deal.  However, between the network’s excellent morning (“Squawk Box”) and evening shows (“The Kudlow Report” hosted by Larry Kudlow) one becomes engaged in an ongoing conversation about our nation’s political-economic-financial situation.  The point isn’t that CNBC hosts and guests don’t make mistakes or erroneous predictions.  Who hasn’t in this market?

            The point is that CNBC presents its viewers with a window into an ongoing high-level conversation between many of the best minds on “Wall Street” as they try to diagnose and solve the enormous problems we face.  It has been fascinating to watch many themes developed and analyzed over an extended period of time on CNBC.

            This is all to say, that the MSM is incapable of presenting the public with this type of sophisticated, repetitive “longitudinal” analysis that makes it possible to think through the various problems the markets face.  And, with all due respect to the snooty journalism professors who love the Times, this is great journalism.

            Finally, regarding the charges of being political, as Larry Kudlow said Tuesday night to Charlie Gasparino (another CNBC reporter under attack) - (paraphrasing) “I learned a long time ago that if the liberal pundits are coming after you, you must be doing something right.”  Amen, Brother Larry.  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

The 25 Movies President Obama Gave Prime Minister Brown

by Chris Gacek

March 6, 2009

The British press is a-flutter over President Obama’s gift of 25 DVDs to Prime Minister Brown. In response to criticism that the gift was cheap and vulgar, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded that the DVDs represent an American Film Institute selection of classic cinema that accurately portrays aspects of the United Kingdom’s history. Downing Street reportedly will not divulge the titles of the DVDs. The U.K.’s Daily Mail has published a list of the movies, but luckily, we at Family Research Council have obtained the real list of DVDs given to Prime Minister Brown.

Here is President Obama’s selection:

1

Braveheart

2

The Patriot

3

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

4

Ghandi

5

Zulu Dawn

6

A Bridge Too Far

7

John Adams (HBO Series)

8

Bloody Sunday

9

Patton

10

Khartoum!

11

A Man for All Seasons

12

Gallipoli

13

1776 (film)

14

The Buccaneer

15

The Crossing (A&E)

16

Rob Roy

17

The Bounty (1984)

18

Churchill: The Hollywood Years

19

Bottleshock

20

Beckett

21

Unforgiven

22

A Passage to India

23

Austin Powers

24

In the Name of the Father

25

Joan of Arc (1948)

Now,what subject of the Crown wouldn’t enjoy watching these films?

[Special thanks to my colleagues Michael Fragoso and Michael Leaser, who contributed to the above mischief.]

An Open Letter to Larry Kudlow, the Nation’s Irreplaceable CNBC Host

by Chris Gacek

March 5, 2009

Dear Larry:

The Politico reported yesterday “it’s rumored that [Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT)] could face a challenge [in his 2010 Senate re-election race] from CNBC host Larry Kudlow, an opponent who would focus the coming election squarely on the economy.”

Say it ain’t so, Kudlow.

For those not familiar with you, Larry, I provide two links with some fair and balanced info: CNBC, Wikipedia. In short, you are a supply-side economist who served in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Reagan Administration’s Treasury Department, and various Wall Street firms with distinction. You are a happy guy; an optimist. You are a conservative, and, as I have observed over the years, a much-needed media friend of the pro-life cause - something we at FRC appreciate greatly. And, since the financial meltdown you have been hosting a M-F 7:00 p.m. hour-long market analysis program on CNBC - now called The Kudlow Report.

In my opinion, The Kudlow Report has become the most important news program in America since the financial crash hit in September 2008. Given the deep recession we are experiencing it is understandable that an economy-focused program would reach such prominence. However, I am sure your ratings do not come close to measuring your impact on American politics, but I believe that I am correct.

As a conservative moderator you have exposed the Bush (bad) and the Obama (failing) economic responses to the financial crash to systematic analysis by many of the best thinkers on Wall Street. You provide this invaluable service on a daily basis with great intellectual rigor. What is crucial here is that a supply-side (non-Keynesian) supporter of free markets has this prominent role on America’s foremost business channel. As long as the current economic recession remains unabated, The Kudlow Report will remain the most important source of news on the economy.

This brings me to the alarming rumors of your potential Senate race. I write to urge you to reject any attempts to entice you to run for the Senate in Connecticut.

First, let’s assume that you run and defeat Senator Dodd. Under that scenario, it is fair to say that as a junior senator from Connecticut - in the minority (the GOP cannot take back the Senate in 2010) - you would have no chance of attaining the level of influence you now enjoy on CNBC. Being well down the pecking order in a body of 100, you may be able to get a seat on the banking committee, and you would be able to accomplish some good in the Senate: perhaps an amendment here and there; some oversight questions on TV. Not much to compare with being able to teach the nation about core conservative economic principles every evening while assessing the events of the day and interviewing newsmakers.

Second, the chances are not great that you will defeat Senator Dodd. Yes, he has some vulnerabilities on housing and mortgage policies. That said, he is in his fifth term, and his father was a two-term U.S. Senator from Connecticut. The state is very liberal. Connecticut is unlikely to elect someone who would now have difficulty winning a seat in New Hampshire. In sum, you will most likely lose the race, but the costs would be greater than those associated with a failed campaign - lost time, treasure, and effort.

The greatest cost would come from your absence from CNBC. This would be a heavy price to pay because the nation needs daily access to someone guided by sound doctrine analyzing economic and financial developments. This is the job for which your lifetime of work and training has prepared you - not sitting in the Senate. It is no small responsibility to provide accurate economic news to the people of the United States in the worst recession since the 1930s. Unless you stay focused on the task at hand there is little chance that the American people will receive via cable or television the high-quality analysis of Obama Administration policies that they deserve for 2010 and 2012.

Best wishes,

Chris Gacek
Family Research Council

Been in D.C. Too Long?

by Chris Gacek

February 24, 2009

How do you know that you know way too much about Washington bureaucracies and how they “work”? Here’s how. When you hear CNBC’s Rick Santelli calling for a Chicago Tea Party tax protest this summer, you immediately start to wonder whether he’ll need to get permits from some government entity like the Environmental Protection Agency. And then you wonder whether Illinois permits will be needed also. Well, I plead guilty to having had such thoughts last Thursday.

Fortunately, I am not alone and not nearly as bad off as Scott Ott of the D.C. Examiner appears to be. Ott has written a brilliant, hilarious piece entitled, EPA Arrests Rick Santelli, ‘Chicago Tea Party’ Cancelled.” (See Feb. 24, 2009 ed., p. 14.) The satirical article contains the following slam from President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, commenting on Santelli’s arrest for threatening to pollute Lake Michigan: “I don’t know where Mr. Santelli lives, but apparently, like most conservative critics, he has a callous disregard for the lives of the waterfowl, sturgeon and fresh-water mollusks that inhabit the Lake Michigan watershed.”

That’s funny, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Santelli really could be arrested for dumping tea or “derivative securities” (paper) into the Great Lakes. Well done, Mr. Ott.

Andie Coller of The Politico observed today that Gibbs “dismissed [Santelli] as a know-nothing derivatives trader out of touch with Main Street.” Coller then noted that “[a] Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 55 percent of those surveyed thought federal mortgage subsidies to those most at risk of losing their homes would be ‘rewarding bad behavior.’” If I were the White House I would be very careful about trying to roll out a campaign of intimidation and bullying against journalists, in general, and a journalist, in particular, who is very much attuned to public sentiment, is an expert in the numerous cross-cutting markets traded in Chicago, and is the most popular figure on America’s #1 financial news network.

Gregg’s Revolt Unmasks Obama’s Highly Politicized White House

by Chris Gacek

February 17, 2009

Senator Judd Gregg’s announcement late Thursday afternoon, revoking his agreement to serve as Secretary of Commerce, badly damages President Barack Obama’s aura of bipartisanship. Gregg clearly concluded that his future effectiveness at Commerce was rapidly deteriorating. Furthermore, he must have been furious at having been politically humiliated by the White House last Thursday when it announced it would wrest control of the Census Bureau from the Commerce Department. Unfortunately, this debacle reflects the true nature and inherent weakness of the highly politicized White House now being created by President Obama.

It may not seem that important, but the Census Bureau plays a critical role in the political life of our country. Obama’s decision is all about playing with the numbers — that is, the 10-year population data that informs the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives, distribution of state legislative districts, and the allocation of government spending based on population.

According to Carrie Dann in the February 6 issue of Congress Daily, the organizational change came about “after the Congressional Black Caucus, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and other groups expressed displeasure” with Obama’s nomination of Gregg to be Secretary of Commerce. According to the groups, Gregg essentially had condoned the undercounting of minorities in the 2000 Census when he voted against emergency funding that year. It was a grossly unfair accusation. Nevertheless, the decision to shift control of the Census Bureau’s budget and public affairs functions to the Office of Management and Budget was intended to placate these groups.

Try to imagine the Democrats’ response if the Bush White House had put Karl Rove in charge of Census. They would have gone nuts and that reaction would have been justified merely for the appearances created by such a ham-fisted stunt. The problem here is that the Democrats do want to move the census from an actual head count, as required by the Constitution, to a count that incorporates manipulable statistical sampling. Since Rahm Emanuel doesn’t have a Ph.D. in applied statistics, this organizational shift doesn’t seem on the up-and-up.

Gregg’s “resignation” and his public reference to the disagreement over the Census Bureau tell us much about President Obama. First, keeping Gregg in the cabinet and avoiding the unavoidable destruction of political capital was not as important to him as catering to Democratic Party interest groups. Second, it also indicates that messing with the Census is a priority of his administration. If it weren’t, Obama would have made peace with Gregg who most probably could have swallowed the appalling stimulus bill if it were the only unwholesome meal on his menu. However, Gregg could not have allowed himself to become the administration’s GOP political gelding - always available to be trotted around the Ellipse as evidence of Obama’s “new politics” bona fides.

The White House politicization is most obvious in this fight over the Census, but there are other signs. A recent White House staffing decision has also alarmed knowledgeable observers. On February 9 Jon Ward of The Washington Times wrote about opposition researcher “Shauna Daly, a 29-year-old Democratic operative,” who “was named last month to the new job of White House counsel research director.” That is, she is now the top researcher inside the White House legal office. She is not an attorney and “doesn’t list any legal training on her resume.”

An “opposition researcher” is someone who helps dig up dirt on political rivals, and this appears to be the sum and substance of her working career. There may be a place and time for such things, but not in that office. The Times notes that “even some Democrats said there is reason to be cautious about the presence of a political-opposition researcher inside a White House legal office that is supposed to be free of partisan influence.” In this economy, there are certainly plenty of fine, unemployed lawyers who would love to work in the White House counsel’s office for almost any salary. For its part, the White House assures us that she will be doing legal work.

Finally, we have some highly placed abortion activists on the White House staff. Ellen Moran, of Emily’s List, the major political fund-raiser for pro-abortion candidates, will be Communications Director. Melody Barnes, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, was a board member for Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List. This is not a complete list, and, of course, political activists have long gotten jobs for which they were ill-suited in many administrations. That being said, the Gregg rupture has set off a five-alarm call to examine whether this White House is taking us in a new direction. It may be doing exactly that, but not on the road the country wanted to travel.

MUST SEE TV: CNBC’s “House of Cards”

by Chris Gacek

February 14, 2009

Keep an eye out for an amazing documentary on CNBC called “House of Cards.”  (It will be showing numerous times this weekend.)  David Faber narrates a two-hour program on the current financial-economic recession and its origins in mortgages, securitized debt instruments, the dishonest or incompetent rating of those instruments, and governmental incompetence.  Greed, fraud, stupidity, and recklessness are all on display.  It is an excellent program that is a nice introduction to what happened to our economy.

To me one person stood out above all the rest: “The Maestro,” Alan Greenspan, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman.  Watching Greenspan make excuses for his non-stop money printing in the early 2000s makes it clear that this guy had no business being in that job.  He essentially admits that he made no effort to control the Fed’s credit expansion because it wasn’t what the political powers in Washington wanted.  This is the problem with having a politician, like Greenspan, as Fed Chief.  The Fed was designed to be insulated from political decision-making; his job was to make the tough choices and control credit.  Instead, he threw up his hands and cranked up the presses.  Disgraceful.

Economists from the Austrian School knew Greenspan’s policies were dangerous.  Read this before-the-crash assessment of his Fed tenure by Stefan Karlsson from the Ludwig von Mises Institute website.  Greenspan’s philosophy was not deregulatory.  No group of economists is more deregulatory than the Austrian School, but they are also committed to price stability and tight money.  Don’t be fooled if someone tells you Greenspan was a conservative; he wasn’t.

Judd Gregg and the Fairness Doctrine

by Chris Gacek

February 4, 2009

President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to head the Commerce Department has at least one interesting ricochet.  How will Gregg affect Obama administration policy toward reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine?  The Commerce Department contains one of the federal telecommunications regulatory agencies, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  It appears that NTIA would have no direct role in matters pertaining to the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine ….that capacity lies solely within the jurisdiction of the FCC and Congress.  Of course, judicial review would occur also.

That being said, what is Senator Gregg’s position on the Fairness Doctrine?  Well, Save Talk Radio Dot Org posted the text of a press release from Senator Norm Coleman’s office dated July 13, 2007.  The release states that on that date Senate Democrats blocked an amendment “to the Defense Authorization bill that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine….”  One of the amendment’s co-sponsors was Senator Judd Gregg. 

Even though Commerce/NTIA would not play a direct role in this matter, as a department secretary whose portfolio does touch on telecommunications issues, Judd Gregg would be better positioned to present a pro-First Amendment case to the President and the Obama cabinet.  He would certainly be much better placed to let the President know the sort of nuclear political war he will start should an Obama FCC go down that path.

Hopefully, Senator Gregg will be reminded of this 2007 vote during his confirmation hearing.

Kanjorski’s Stimulus Vote: A Big Deal

by Chris Gacek

January 29, 2009

There has been much press coverage of the fact that all House GOP members voted against the Pelosi stimulus bill yesterday.  Well, something like eleven Democrats voted against the measure… but not so much coverage of that.  Of considerable interest is the fact that Paul Kanjorski (Dem-PA) was amongst the dissenters.  Kanjorski  appears on  CNBC regularly and  has a  friendly, bi-partisan persona.  He is also the “senior member,” under Chairman Barnie Frank, on the Financial Services Committee.  In fact, he chairs the sub-committee on “Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises.”  That sounds like a pretty important job in a financial/banking crisis.  Given all that, Kanjorski’s vote against the stimulus bill seems very important.  Hopefully, we’ll get the scoop from CNBC host Larry Kudlow, the most important economic journalist in the Obama era, who has interviewed Kanjorski on numerous occasions.  Perhaps, Democrat support for the spending plan is less solid than we are being led to believe.

Murkowski Goes with the Left on Mexico City

by Chris Gacek

January 28, 2009

What’s up in Alaska?  Senator Lisa Murkowski today voted with President Obama to overturn the Mexico City Policy which, according to World Magazine, “prohibits grantees in receipt of U.S. funding from performing abortions, lobbying to legalize abortion, or promoting abortion as a family-planning method.”  (See also, our Tom McClusky’s description of the policy below - in the blog on 1/23/09.)  That places her in the company of liberal Republicans Arlen Specter, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe as the only Republicans to vote with the Democrats.  Alaska’s new senator, Mark Begich, voted to fund overseas abortion providers as well.  

I wonder whether Sarah Palin would have made it a trio ?? The GOP Platform on which Palin ran for President with John McCain stated:

We strongly support the long-held policy of the Republican Party known as the ‘Mexico City policy,’ which prohibits federal monies from being given to non-governmental organizations that provide abortions or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. We reject any treaty or agreement that would violate those values.”

Perhaps, I am wrong, but I never heard Palin stating an objection to the platform on this point.

Change Watch Backgrounder: Dawn Johnsen

by Chris Gacek

January 14, 2009

POSTION:  Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel

NOMINEE:  Dawn Johnsen                                                   

Education:  summa cum laude B.A. in economics and political science, Yale, 1983; J.D. Yale, 1986, Article & Book Review Editor, Yale Law Journal

Family:  N/A

Experience: law professor, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington, 1998-present; Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, United States Department

of Justice, Washington, D.C., 1997-1998; Deputy Assistant Attorney General, 1993-1996; Legal Director, National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (currently

NARAL Pro-Choice America), Washington, D.C., 1988-1993; Law Clerk to the Honorable Richard D. Cudahy, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago, Illinois, 1986-1987

Clinton White House: From 1993 to 1998 she worked in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), including a stint as Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the OLC

Obama Campaign:  After election, named to Obama transition’s Department of Justice Review Team.

Affiliations:  American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, National Board Member; National Co-Chair of Project on The Constitution in the 21st Century; Co-Chair of Separation of Powers/Federalism Issue Group. NOTE: This group is the relatively new Leftist answer to the Federalist Society.

From her article on fetal rights:

In recent years, however, courts and state legislatures have increasingly granted fetuses rights traditionally enjoyed by persons.  Some of these recent ‘fetal rights’ differ radically from the initial legal recognition of the fetus in that they view the fetus as an entity independent from the pregnant woman with interests that are potentially hostile to hers.” D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. 599 (1986).

Until recently, the law did not recognize the existence of the fetus except for a few very specific purposes.”  D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 601.

In thus treating the fetus, courts have glossed over crucial differences between fetuses and persons, and have lost sight of the interests that narrow legal recognition of the fetus traditionally has attempted to protect.  They have ignored alternatives to equating the fetus with a person that would have more appropriately served their goals.”  D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 610.

Granting rights to fetuses in a manner that conflicts with women’s autonomy reinforces the tradition of disadvantaging women on the basis of their reproductive capability.  By subjecting women’s decisions and actions during pregnancy to judicial review, the state simultaneously questions women’s abilities and seizes women’s rights to make decisions essential to  [*625]  their very personhood.  The rationale behind using fetal rights laws to control the actions of women during pregnancy is strikingly similar to that used in the past to exclude women from the paid labor force and to confine them to the “private” sphere. 

D. Johnsen, “The Creation of Fetal Rights:…”, 95 YALE L.J. at 624-25.

On Alito Hearings:

We have squandered a rare opportunity for public education. The Senate’s focus on the formal status of Roe, while understandable, masks the extent to which the court has already gutted the right to choose and what the confirmation of Alito most immediately would mean for reproductive liberty.

            D. Johnsen, Slate, “The Outer Shell: The hollowing out of Roe v. Wade,” Jan. 25, 2006.

On Reducing the Number of Abortions:

My point was that the kind of legislative initiatives that come out of the “Republican coalition” you were discussing does not actually accomplish a reduction in abortions.  (And that the primary prochoice organizations do work hard toward that goal.)  That may also well reveal that some (not all) such political forces are more interested in objectives other than reducing the number of abortions.  Among them may be controlling the nature and understanding of motherhood and diminishing women’s equality and sexual freedom (and even where those are not objectives, they may provide strong influences).  For the many who sincerely would like to reduce the number of abortions, that desire provides the basis for education about the true effects of the legislation and the possibility for instead forging common ground policies that promote pregnancy prevention and healthy childbearing.

            D. Johnsen, Slate, “Reducing Abortions,” March 22, 2008.

In his book, Bearing Right, William Saletan notes that in the late 1980s, Dawn Johnsen and Marcy Wilder, top lawyers at NARAL, “drew a hard line on parental involvement” in abortion decisions.  Saletan quotes an internal NARAL memo by Johnsen and Wilder:  “In practice, both consent and notification laws amount to a parental veto power over a minor’s decision to an abortion.  Do not, as part of an affirmative legislative strategy, introduce even a liberalized version of a parental consent or notification law.”

William Saletan, Bearing Right, p. 289 (Memo, Dawn Johnsen and Marcy Wilder to NARAL Staff and Consultatns, “Pro-Choice Legislative Strategy for Minor’s Access to Abortion Services,” 9/5/89).

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