Archive for August 5th, 2009

UPDATE: Cash for Clunkers Looking Good

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The AP is reporting at this hour that the Senate has reached a deal to extend cash for clunkers. A vote is scheduled for Thursday to pump $2 billion more into the program, meaning consumers could get rebates on fuel efficient cars through Labor Day.

Following lengthy negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats and Republicans had agreed to vote on the plan Thursday, along with a series of potential changes to the bill, which was passed by the House last week. Reid has said Democrats have enough votes to approve the measure and reject any changes that would cause an interruption in the rebates of up to $4,500.

Apparently, this means the bill has enough Republican support to ward off a threatened filibuster.

[Republican] Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky concurred that the matter would be settled soon. And objectors conceded they do not have the votes to force all of the changes they want, or to block the House version of the bill.

This is terrific news, for all the reasons I blogged about yesterday. And this:

If the Senate approves the additional money, it’s likely to lead automakers to increase production and bring back laid-off workers. Many automakers reported low inventories due to increased sales from the program at the end of July. Already Hyundai Motor Co. has added a day of production to its Montgomery, Ala., plant, and Ford is considering increases.

It’s a great start to a critical month in which Democrats will be barnstorming the country, making the case for health care reform, asking Americans to trust their government.

POSTSCRIPT: On a 60-37 vote, the Senate approved $2 billion more for cash for clunkers today. The AP reports:

The legislation had its share of critics, though, most of them Republicans.

“What we’re doing is creating debt. … The bill to pay for those cars is going to come due on our children and grandchildren,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

Really? This, from the same Judd Gregg who didn’t bat an eyelash over the past eight years as George Bush racked up 4 trillion dollars worth of debt? More debt than any president in U.S. history?

I think what we are doing is creating jobs, selling cars, helping the environment, and spurring consumer confidence — all of which could hasten the end of this recession and actually help lower the national debt, over the long term.

But, hey, that’s just me.

Gergen: ‘If John Bolton Had His Way, These Two Women Would Still be in Prison’

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

All day today, washingtonpost.com ran its lead story — news that Bill Clinton had secured the release of two American prisoners in North Korea — along with an op-ed by John Bolton: ‘Clinton’s Unwise North Korea Trip.’

Which made me wonder, after I cleared my head and put my glasses back on: Is there anything the Democrats or the Obama administration could do that wouldn’t earn immediate public scorn from the GOP?

The women, both journalists, had been sentenced in sham trials to 12 years of hard labor in North Korean prison camps. Clinton, in a visit of less than 24 hours, secured pardons and releases for both women. It was billed as an unofficial visit, but according to reports, Obama’s State Department was very active behind the scenes, working to make this happen. As I write this, the women are flying back to the United States, with Clinton, in his plane.

The gist of Bolton’s argument seems to be that Clinton’s visit to North Korea somehow rewards state-sponsored terrorism.

Despite decades of bipartisan U.S. rhetoric about not negotiating with terrorists for the release of hostages, it seems that the Obama administration not only chose to negotiate, but to send a former president to do so.

While the United States is properly concerned whenever its citizens are abused or held hostage, efforts to protect them should not create potentially greater risks for other Americans in the future.

Bolton, in case you’ve forgotten, was George Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations — the one who was opposed to the United Nations. (He famously said: “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States,” also noting that the U.N. building in New York “has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”) Among his lifetime achievements are the derailing of the 2001 biological weapons conference in Geneva, and his support for military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power — during the Clinton administration.

“In Pyongyang’s view,” Bolton writes in the Post op-ed, “the two reporters are pawns in the larger game of enhancing the regime’s legitimacy and gaining direct access to important U.S. figures.”

On CNN moments ago, political consultant David Gergen — who served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, and was an advisor to Clinton — was asked directly about Bolton’s views. Gergen did not mince words:

“I think that’s nonsense and heartless … I just sharply disagree here. Listen, the United States gave nothing away. Bill Clinton went as he is a private citizen … and beyond that, if John Bolton had his way, these two women would still be in prison.

“And finally, I must say we ought to take a moment here to say how exemplary Bill Clinton’s behavior has been since his wife became secretary of state. A lot of people thought he’d be a loose cannon. He has been totally supportive, he’s been quiet, and on this occasion he did something good for the country. I think people ought to have a higher level of respect for him, after this trip, and thank him for doing what he did.”

Quite honestly, I couldn’t have said it better, myself.