Monday, June 08, 2009

Straw Men - the Typical Obama Administration Tactic

It has been pointed out by many that one of the 'features' of a typical Barack Obama administration speech is the erection of straw men (usually representing the previous administration) against whom to argue, making the argument much simpler by inventing the strawman position at the same time. Obama himself used this several times, to the point of making me laugh out loud, in his Cairo speech. Man, those poor American Muslim girls desperate to wear the hijab - I am so glad his administration is committed to slaying the dragons standing in their way! :-) (More so, in Canada, the real stories are about a Canadian Muslim girl, who did not want to wear the hijab, and get killed by her male relatives.)
On FOX News Sunday the ever excellent Chris Wallace hosted a panel that included Austan Goolsbee making a comment at one point, slamming the Bush administration for the loans that kept GM and Chrysler alive, and I felt puzzled, as I was sure I recalled clear statements at the time that this strategy was to allow the Obama administration to handle the problem, which a) made sense, and b) was a classy behavior, in my view. Not now in Austan Goolsbee's:

We are only in this situation because somebody else kicked the can down the road, and that’s really an understatement. They shook up the can, they opened the can, and handed to us in our laps. Senator Shelby knows that to be true. When George Bush put money in to General Motors, almost explicitly with the purpose, how many dollars do they need to stay alive until January 20th, 2009? There was no commitment to restructuring, to making these viable enterprises of any kind.

Keith Hennessey not merely remembers the context, but also considers the strawman erected here as an utter offense against truth. And makes his case.
Even if Dr. Goolsbee was not privy to the quiet discussion we had with the senior Obama team last November, the public record refutes his claim:

1. The Obama team declined to respond to the Bush team’s offer to work together to create a joint process that would have resulted in a resolution by March 1st or April 1st, rather than by June 1st for Chrysler and maybe September 1st for GM.
2. We then worked with the Democratic majority to enact legislation that would have limited funds to be available only to firms that would become viable.
3. After Congress left town for the holidays without having addressed the issue, President Bush was faced with a choice between providing loans and allowing these firms to liquidate in early January, which would have further exacerbated the economic situation for the incoming President. President Bush chose to provide the loans.
4. We provided GM and Chrysler with sufficient funds to get to March 31st, not January 20th, and in those loans we gave the incoming Administration the ability to extend them for 30 more days.
5. The loans were conditioned on restructuring to become viable, with a precise definition of viability, specific restructuring goals, and quantitative targets.
6. The Obama Administration followed the restructuring process laid out in the Bush-era loans. They are now measuring that deal against the targets established in the Bush-era loans. The only changes the Obama team made were that they extended GM for 60 days rather than 30, and the Obama Administration directly inserted themselves into the negotiations as the pre-packager.

Dr. Goolsbee’s comments this morning were both inflammatory and incorrect.

I somehow doubt any Obama administration official would see fit to apologize for this. THey apologize mostly for what were sensible policies.

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