Published April 20, 2011
Obama Tries to Buy A Superman Cape
“That’s a lot of ‘change to believe in.’ I’m sure the corporate class is hoping he continues on the same path.”
-- Rose Ann DeMoro, who heads the 65,000-member California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle mocking President Obama’s solicitations of California’s well-heeled donors.
President Obama is looking to rake in more than $4 million from wealthy donors in a West Coast campaign swing as the embattled incumbent looks to deepen his cash reserves.
Obama’s campaign team is counting on massive early fundraising to re-establish the president as a strong bet for re-election despite a spate of struggles.
Bruising battles with Republicans over federal spending, unpopular foreign policy positions in Libya and Afghanistan and continued economic instability have left Obama in a weakened position with voters. His poll numbers have been rapidly retreating from a post-election revival. Obama’s job approval in the Real Clear Politics average is back down to its mid 40s range from the health care doldrums of 2010 and still sliding.
Today and tomorrow Obama will be the headliner at six fundraisers, including one for 60 donors who will pay $35,800 apiece for dinner, a Thursday breakfast with seats ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 and a star-studded event Thursday night at the Sony Theater where the president will tap the entertainment industry for similar sums.
This follows his fundraising kickoff in Chicago and will likely be followed by a trip to New York to go trawling for Wall Street big fish. It’s part of an effort to raise what Democrats believe will be an insurmountable sum. The goal is to beat the president’s 2008 haul of $750 million and do so without the need to spend money on a costly primary campaign.
That effort will be augmented by unrestricted spending by outside groups led by Obama loyalists like former spokesman Bill Burton and the president’s labor allies. The range of spending in support of Obama’s bid for a second term could be far in excess of the eye-popping $1 billion that first caught attention.
The message to Republicans (and any Democrats daydreaming of a primary challenge) is that they can’t afford the stakes at Obama’s table.
There are downsides to Obama’s gold rush, though. Canoodling with corporate donors and the heir and heiress set who populate Democratic fundraising circles reinforces Obama’s image as out of touch with regular Americans and diverts his attention from governing at a time when he is struggling to show he is in control.
Democrats hope that Obama can raise enough money early on to rev up the machinery necessary to put the squeeze on mid-level donors soon with an avalanche of postal, electronic and telephonic solicitations. That effort will be expensive, but less time consuming for the president.
By buttering up the rich folks this spring, Obama is trying to build a perpetual motion political machine.
Obama Jabs, Geithner Dabs
“There are powerful voices in Washington…And they’re going to want to reduce the deficit on your backs. And if you are not heard, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
-- President Obama at a campaign event at a Virginia community college urging young voters to mobilize against a Republican debt-reduction plan.
“If you listen you see the leadership of the United States of America recognizing this is the right thing to do for the economy. We have to put in place reforms that bring down our long term deficits in ways that will help bring future growth.”
- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in an interview with FOX Business Network
During his West Coast fundraising swing to relieve the California elite of some unused millions, President Obama will also make campaign-style appearances to talk to young voters via Facebook and to rally supporters in union-friendly Reno, Nev.
Look for Obama to continue his cannonade against Republican debt proposals, begun in a speech last week and continued almost daily since then.
It’s good politics since it helps fire up the base by casting the GOP as a mortal threat and gives the droopy Democratic base a reason to forgive Obama the disappointments of his term. Plus, Obama’s request to again increase the federal borrowing limit is a political toxin and his attacks on Republicans help keep the focus off him.
It also strengthens Obama’s negotiating position in his fight to enact a tax increase and resist proposed Republican spending cuts. If Obama can cast Republican proposals as draconian or “not on the level,” it will move the point of compromise to the left.
So pity poor Timothy Geithner who is watching global markets go on the fritz as lenders and investors brace for the possibility of a U.S. debt disaster. Geithner, after all, is the one who has to borrow the money and arrange federal obligations in the event of a partial government shutdown.
The government is just a few weeks away from exhausting it’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. There is something like $70 billion left and the government borrows something like $4 billion a day.
As the Chinese look to overwhelm the weakened dollar as the global reserve currency and international lenders openly worry about American creditworthiness, Geithner is facing a looming crisis.
The secretary needs Congress to act quickly to increase the debt ceiling to calm jittery lenders and also comprehensively in order to allay long-term worries that the U.S. is eventually heading for European-style debt asphyxiation.
It cannot be helpful then for his boss to be out cracking Republicans on the skulls all day in a bid to regain his political mojo and weaken the Republican bargaining position. Part of this is political theater, with Geithner playing Danny Glover to Obama’s Mel Gibson, but the resentments among Republicans over Obama’s bashing are real.
“The president has failed to lead on our government’s spending addiction,” one GOP Hill leadership aide told Power Play. “Now he is demonizing the responsible Republican plan to reign in the out-of-control debt. He is obviously not serious about addressing this crisis. He is more interested in exploiting it for his 2012 re-election.”
An impasse of Obama’s debt ceiling request would mean only a partial shutdown of the government since the feds would have to get by on real revenue – currently 60 cents of each dollar the government spends.
But it could also send U.S. borrowing rates skyward after borrowing resumed. If there wasn’t a long-term plan in place, foreign lenders would demand higher returns if Washington seemed to be teetering on the brink of a budget crack up. Higher bond rates would help spur inflation and reduce desperately-needed access to credit.
Wall Street insiders like Geithner certainly fear the obduracy of the Republican fiscal hardliners on the debt ceiling. But Obama’s partisan rhetoric can be no comfort to them either.
Two Weeks to Debt Showdown
"They're working like mad. There's definitely a lot of pressure, but who knows if they'll get to a place that everyone can support. I think there's a growing feeling that they just have to."
-- A senior staff member close to Senate’s “Gang of Six” debt negotiations talking to FOX News colleague Trish Turner.
President Obama instructed Congress to appoint a “bipartisan, bicameral” group – two from each caucus in each House for a total of eight -- to negotiate a deal over raising the debt ceiling. Vice President Joe Biden is slated to convene the first session on May 5.
Democrats quickly warmed to the task, picking Assistant Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
But the Republicans picked only two delegates to the conclave, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The message to Democrats: don’t get comfortable.
The two-man GOP crew will be there as messengers not delegates to the kind of lengthy discussions generally favored by the Obama administration. Kyl and Cantor will be there to deliver Republican demands, not chomp apples and sip Diet Coke.
That only intensifies the pressure on the bipartisan Gang of Six in the Senate to come up with some kind of deal on debt and spending. Aides told FOX News that their target date for a draft proposal is May 2, the day Congress convenes after Easter break.
That timetable would leave three days for Congress to review the plan before the Biden negotiations begin. The best hope for averting a fiscal impasse is that the deal can get broad approval and circumvent what promises to be a hostile negotiation with Biden.
"There is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city.”
-- Brig. Gen. Marc van Uhm, the Dutchman in charge of NATO operations in the Libyan civil war, briefing reporters.
The American boots on the ground in Libya have so far belonged to CIA agents and covert operators helping direct air strikes and gather intelligence. But Britain is making the major symbolic move of sending in uniformed officers as military advisers.
The Obama administration, which has informed Congress that it has funneled $25 million to the tribal and Islamist rebels fighting against government forces, is keeping its options open. By using secret forces, President Obama is following the same arms length approach that past presidents have taken with rebel groups, notably John Kennedy’s erstwhile support of anti-communist rebels at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.
The Europeans, though, seem determined to draw NATO deeper and deeper into the conflict. There may be fewer than 20 Brits headed to Libya, but it is a very public show of alliance and support. Leaving now would be a retreat. This is more like what Kennedy did in Vietnam by sending uniformed officers and staking American clout.
With the U.N. continuing to angle for a ceasefire and the Europeans anxious over long-term instability that could jeopardize their oil supplies, it falls to America to push one way or the other. Since the Euros and the UN both lack the military means to deal with Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi it is America’s problem.
The Cuba model or the Vietnam model? Neither sounds very appealing.
Administration’s Oil Crackdown Outlasts Gulf Crisis
-- Decline in U.S. offshore oil production post-Gulf oil spill.
The oil is gone from all but a few dozen spots on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans is serving up plenty of crawfish and sweet shrimp again, but the aftermath of the BP oil spill still grips the region.
Oil industry analyst Wood Mackenzie says that a partial ban on offshore oil drilling and a new, slower permitting process have reduced American oil output by 375,000 barrels a day. That’s even with a spike in land-based production driven by sky-high energy prices.
The Wall Street Journal puts it like this – that’s about a third of all the oil production being blocked by the ongoing Libyan civil war.
The regulatory blockade continues to dampen the local economy and help drive up costs for American consumers.
Gulf officials say that had existing regulations been properly enforced and if BP had followed its own safety rules the 2010 spill could have been avoided, suggesting that the new rules are less about safety and more about punishing the oil industry.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I think it's clear that Obama made a decision that the way to run in 2012 is not to be the transcender or the guy who makes the deal. He thinks he can't get it, or doesn't want to get it between now and 2012. The way to get [re-elected is to] demagogue what Republicans proposed. He thinks it's a trap that Paul Ryan and the Republicans have walked into. He will hit them on Medicare and taxes.”