Remember the war between the White House and the US Chamber of Commerce? Well, nevermind. Despite the Chamber's protests that the President was trying to "neuter and marginalize us," White House records released today show that Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue met with administration officials 10 times during Obama's first nine months in office, including twice with the President himself.

Stories in the Washington Post and Politico have painted a much different picture: "Instead of working through the Chamber," the Post reported last month, "President Obama has reached out to business executives, meeting repeatedly with small groups of CEOs in his private White House dining room." A few weeks later, an address by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to the Chamber's board of directors was described by Politico as "fence mending" and extending an "olive branch."

But was it? The White House visitor logs suggest that a true war between the White House and the Chamber never really happened. They're less enemies than frienemies--reluctant and mutually-suspicious collaborators.

J.D. Hayworth, the ultra-conservative Rep. turned talk radio host from Arizona, has emerged as a possible challenger to John McCain in the 2010 Senate primary. And according to a recent Rasmussen poll, he only trails the former presidential candidate by two points. Hayworth's candidacy would be awful for the GOP because he is likely too conservative for a general election battle and could weaken the already fragile McCain. Five reasons Dems should hope J.D. Hayworth enters the race:

  • Hayworth has been investigated by the US Justice Department for accepting cash and gifts from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies. This shady connection contributed to the loss of his House seat in 2006.
  • Hayworth has been accused of antisemitism. In his 2006 anti-immigration manifesto, Hayworth praised Henry Ford's "Americanization" vision. Ford used this term to describe "the Jew" who "inveighs against Americanism" for refusing to assimilate. In February, Hayworth appeared on Hardball claiming that Sen. Chuck Schumer and George Soros—"the guy in the background…manipulating all of the currency," a reference which Steve Benen says is highly problematic—should be blamed for the financial crisis instead of the Bush administration. He also has ties to Neo-Nazis.
  • His connection to "Birthers" and love for Orly Taitz. He once hosted Taitz on his radio show, calling her "Doctor" and treating her like a legal expert, instead of the supposed perjurer she is.
  • His close relationships with Arizona's most notorious anti-immigrant crusaders. Next month, Maricopa County’s infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio will host a fundraiser for Hayworth's "Freedom In Truth Trust." In another recent Rasmussen poll, Arpaio polled 15 points ahead of the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, state AG Terry Goddard, and said on Twitter this week that "if ever there was a time to consider a run, now may be the time."
  • And finally, look what happened to Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman in NY 23.

Wikileaks has released an archive of half a million wireless pager messages from 9/11.  Here's a random sampling:

13:37:52 All, feel free to work from home the remainder of this week.  All is fine and I am in Kansas City now.  I am attempting to get to Denver tomorrow, but do not know if I will get there or not.
13:37:52 Call me ASAP All TEA travel has been cancelled until further notice.  You will have to stay where you are for now.
13:37:54 ]!z00]"AJ];0a]<6America Under Attack  ]<4Breaking News:  ]<2The U.S. stock markets are closed u
13:37:56 National Preparedness Responce Team Update: Due to terrorist action in New York 23 DS3's leased from TCG are down
13:37:59 PLEASE CALL WIFE ON CELL OR ANYWAY YOU CAN.
13:38:50 IM GLAD YOUR SAFE. I LOVE YOU. CALL ME IF YOU CAN GET THROUGH.  SUNSHINE
13:38:56 Russ, I am going to work from home, honestly I can not concentrate here, news, radio, hope you understand
13:38:56 Mike, The Center has been asked to evacuate
13:38:57 Pizza has been ordered if you haven't had lunch yet.  Come by fish bowl.   sd
13:38:57 YOUR SISTER CALLING TO CHECK TO SEE IF YOU ARE OK.

Where did all these messages come from?  Wikileaks says: "While we are obligated by to protect our sources, it is clear that the information comes from an organization which has been intercepting and archiving national US telecommunications since prior to 9/11."  I wonder who that could be?

Earlier this morning I said that whenever I settle down and take a serious look at the policies Barack Obama has pursued so far, "nine times out of ten" it's pretty much what I expected.  Among big-ticket items, the biggest one-time-out-of-ten where he's not doing what I expected is in the area of detainee and civil liberties issues.  Glenn Greenwald wonders if this is what led to the abrupt resignation of Phil Carter the other day:

I have no idea what actually motivated Carter's abrupt resignation, but here's what I do know:  so many of the detention and other "War on Terror" policies Obama has explicitly adopted were the very same ones which Carter (as well as Obama) repeatedly railed against during the Bush years, in Carter's case primarily in blogs he maintained both at The Washington Post and at Slate.  Whatever else is true, the policies Obama has adopted in the last six months in the very areas of Carter's responsibilities were ones Carter vehemently condemned when implemented by Bush.

Last week, the Obama DOJ announced that it would deny trials to several Guantanamo detainees and instead send them to military commissions....announced two weeks ago that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose case originated as a criminal investigation with the FBI, would now be turned over to a military commission for prosecution....use of the "state secrets" privilege as a means of evading vital constitutional and other legal questions.

....Following Greg Craig, this is now the second high-profile resignation of a relatively devoted civil libertarian in a short period of time.  Combine that with the still-missing-and-unconfirmed Dawn Johnsen, and all of this leaves those who are indifferent or hostile to civil liberties values — people like John Brennan and Rahm Emanuel — with even fewer counter-weights than before.

I don't have any special insights here either.  Maybe Phil was disappointed in Obama, or maybe he really did resign for personal reasons.  There's no telling.  But it's a disappointment either way, as is Obama's unwillingness to fight harder for civil liberties.  The shoals of reality have just proven a little too rocky.

More Stimulus, Please

Matt Yglesias thinks the Fed needs to do more to stimulate the economy:

I’ve had some correspondents suggest that the Fed really does want to be more accommodating but there’s nothing more they can do. That’s certainly not the way recent statements have sounded to me. On the contrary, it seems to me that Ben Bernanke and co. are just flagrantly ignoring their actual legal mandate to balance considerations of employment, growth, and price stability. If we had five percent unemployment and five percent inflation instead of 10 percent unemployment and no inflation, the Fed would be freaking out. So why not freak out at 10 percent unemployment.

Actually, I'd like an answer to that question.  What should the Fed do at this point?  When inflation is high, the answer is obvious: if it wants to, the Fed can simply keep raising interest rates until inflation is under control.  The sky's the limit.  But the other direction is harder.  With interest rates already at zero and trillions of dollars of quantitative easing already in place, what's left to bring down unemployment?  Brad DeLong suggests that the Fed announce a long-term inflation target of 3% instead of 2%, but I haven't heard a lot of other proposals.

If the answer is even more dramatic quantitative easing, that's fine.  But is it?  Inquiring non-economists want to know.

Is Mother Jones part of a vast liberal conspiracy? The US Chamber of Commerce says it has uncovered "a predictable pattern" in our reporting on the nation's biggest, beleagured business lobby: "An advocacy group such as the Yes Men or Velvet Revolution, SEIU, Center for American Progress, the NRDC. . .will post something of dubious accuracy," said Chamber flak Thomas J. Collamore, speaking yesterday at a forum of conservative bloggers hosted by the Heritage Foundation. "And then Huffington Post or Mother Jones will pick it up and treat it as a fact. And then more mainstream sources such as MSNBC or the Washington Post will treat it as a real story and follow up with us."

"The Chamber isn't blinking," he added. "We're trying to stay on the high road."

So far, the Chamber has taken the high road by making blanket statements about the "dubious accuracy" of our stories. It hasn't said which of our pieces it takes issue with, but a new Chamber web page, boldly titled "The Facts," offers a hint. It disputes the assertion, first made by me, that the Chamber was forced to lower its membership claims by 90%. "Our direct membership comprises 300,000 businesses," the page says. "Our federation contains over three million businesses and organizations. We represent both sets [of numbers]."

The Chamber isn't saying anything new here. It continues to ignore the fact that it almost never cited its true membership number or explained the meaning of the 3 million figure before I pointed out the discrepancy. (I've addressed its flip-flops here, here, and here). The Columbia Journalism Review has compiled an archive of the Chamber's use of the two numbers that clearly illustrates how it has willfully misstated its true size. Even now, most of the Chamber's web pages and press releases, including the one announcing the "The Facts" site, misleadingly cite only the larger number.

Far from following a "predictable pattern" of parroting advocacy groups, the idea to fact-check the Chamber's membership claims was entirely my own. In turn, my reporting was picked up by other journalists, several of whom independently reviewed the issue and confirmed my conclusions. As a result, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have all embraced the correct membership number. This isn't a case of dubious information passing through a liberal echo chamber: It's a textbook example of reporters doing their jobs. (And the Chamber getting slammed by advocacy groups at the same time).

The Chamber's accusation that its critics have blurred the line between fact and spin is ironic: A spokesman for a conservative advocacy group speaks at an event for conservative bloggers hosted by another conservative advocacy group, where he makes a statement of dubious accuracy. Will those conservative bloggers pick it up and treat it as fact?

Has Obama Fizzled?

I haven't read one of Richard Cohen's columns in a long time, but yesterday a regular reader alerted me to his latest buffoonery.  Apparently Obama's "moral clarity" has disappeared:

As president [] he has tried so hard to be the un-George Bush that the former president's overweening moralism — his insistence on seeing things as either black or white — has become an Obama gray. Human rights in general has been treated as if it's a Republican idea. Obama should reread his Philadelphia speech. He'll find a good man there.

Blah blah blah.  Obama the famously supple and nuanced campaigner saw things in black and white?  WTF?  [Oops.  Sorry.  Cohen is talking about George W. Bush here.  I misread.  But the general point stands: Cohen thinks Obama has lost his "moral clarity."] But apparently this has become a trend.  Here's Michelle Cottle:

As its "Arena" question to pundits this morning, Politico has "Obama's Charisma: Where Did He Leave it?"

The implication seems to be — and I feel as though I've heard a variation on this question asked not infrequently of late — that Obama was such a dazzling, inspirational, transformational campaigner that it's hard to fathom where this wonky, chilly, pathologically measured grind of a president came from.

What? Are we all suffering from short-term memory loss?....Yes, Obama has the juice to thrill the globe with his from-the-pulpit-esque speeches. (Which he still delivers when occasion calls.) But it's not as though the guy has ever been known for his overwhelming warmth or charisma in the daily ebb and flow of things. He is as he has always presented himself to us.

Liberals are mad at Obama for sending more troops to Afghanistan.  The gay community thinks they've been betrayed because he hasn't instantly repealing DADT.  M.J. Rosenberg is unhappy because Obama has turned out to be a "conciliator," not a fighter.  Conservatives are apoplectic because the guy who billed himself as a moderate is trying to push through healthcare reform and a climate change bill.

But this is all kind of crazy.  Obama said repeatedly that he planned to shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan.  He made it as clear as any candidate could that he wanted to dial down the temperature on the culture wars and avoid big social issues early in his presidency.  He spent an entire primary campaign selling himself as a post-partisan reach-across-the-aisle guy in contrast to the brawling Hillary Clinton.  And healthcare reform and cap-and-trade were the main pillars of his presidential campaign.

Once you get elected, real life is messy, politics intrudes, and mistakes are made.  Sure. And Obama has disappointed me in a bunch of respects.  But nine times out of ten, when I actually think through the ways I'm disappointed, I find that things are actually going almost exactly the way I expected them too.  That disappoints me sometimes, but it's not because Obama has turned out to be a fraud or a fizzle.  It's because he hasn't.

Atrios isn't impressed with my support of a plan to bring Social Security into long-term balance:

I really don't get why people think there's some grand deal to be cut on Social Security which would take it off the table. A couple of years after the deal is cut, new projects with slightly different facts/assumptions will show it "going broke" in "only" 65 years or something and then they'll be back to hack away at it again.

They don't want the programs to survive, they want to kill them.

I know this is a fashionable view among battle-hardened liberal bloggers, but I just don't think it's true.  The demographic basis of Social Security's finances is extremely steady and generally changes by only hundredths of a percentage point each year — and with the retirement of the baby boom generation now finally upon us and better understood than ever, this is even truer than before.  If Congress enacted a combination of small revenue increases and small benefit cuts (amounting to less than 1.5% of GDP, as shown in the chart on the right) that phased in slowly and brought the program into long-term balance, it's almost a certainty that the financial projections would continue to show long-term balance for another 20-30 years.  Granted, that's not forever, but it's as long as anything ever lasts in politics.

As for "slightly different facts/assumptions," even during the heyday of Social Security privatization in 2005, virtually everyone accepted the midpoint assumptions of the Social Security trustees report as gospel.  Obviously there will always be some fringe groups with their own doomsday scenarios who can't be satisfied no matter what, but the trustees report will satisfy virtually everyone who matters.  What's more, unlike most subjects, this is one where Democrats could almost certainly pick off enough Republican votes to get something passed.  It really would take Social Security largely off the table as a political football for a very long time.

And I'd rather take it off the table now, under some kind of reasonable terms, than have it taken off the table a decade from now when some shiny new Republican is back in power.  It's not something that's a high priority right now, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make it a priority sometime in the near future.

Good news: Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen for the beginning of the United Nations summit on climate change next month. He'll make an appearance at the meeting on December 9, according to an administration official—a brief stopover en route to pick up his Nobel Prize in Oslo the next day.

Really good news: Obama plans to put a solid target for US emissions cuts on the table when he gets there. Obama will promise delegates at the summit that US will cut emissions "in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020," according to a White House official.

Not so good news: He's not planning to return for the end of the summit, which runs through Dec. 18. That's when approximately 65 other heads of state and government are expected to attend.

What to make of this? Well, now that it's clear that there's not going to be a final treaty in Copenhagen, the presence of heads of state is not quite as important. The real work is still to be done by negotiators.

But Obama's early appearance will help set the tone for the event, showing high-level US engagement with the issue (and perhaps even a desire on Obama's part to earn that Nobel he'll receive the next day.) Appearing later—when it probably wouldn't influence the conversation one way or another—might only lead to a repeat of what happened with the Olympics in October. If Obama shows up to much fanfare and nothing happens, that will only create bad press.

The emissions cuts promise is the really major news here. Having a solid commitment from the US—one involving actual numbers—is expected to lubricate the climate talks significantly. Sure, the 17 percent figure is not nearly as high as the reductions called for by the European Union, Japan, many developing nations—OK, basically everyone else in the world. Yet the hope is that if the US shows its cards, other key players (like China and India) will also start talking in real figures. Obama showing up in person to present those numbers is a pretty big deal.

The White House also announced that a number of cabinet secretaries and other top officials will make an appearance in Copenhagen during the conference. Scheduled to attend and give speeches at the summit are Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner. Their presentations, the White House said in a press release, will "underline the historic progress the Obama Administration has made to address climate change and create a new energy future."