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24 posts categorized "President"

December 20, 2009

COP15: Obama's high handed pseudo-deal

Barack Obama declared victory and went home. Too bad it was in Copenhagen and not Kabul:

Late on Friday night, President Barack Obama announced that an agreement had been reached, establishing a minimalist accord that would not set a firm schedule with hard-and-fast targets for reducing emissions. But after Obama held a press conference to declare semi-victory—"this is going to be a first step"—and jetted back to Washington, European officials said nothing was in the bag. [Mother Jones]

That evening, Obama sat down with the leaders of four major emerging economies: Brazil, South Africa, India, and China. A Brazilian diplomat who attended the meeting told Kate Sheppard and David Corn of Mother Jones that the major sticking point was international verification of emissions. The U.S. and China had been at odds over verification throughout the summit.

A bit of background: The U.S. won't act on climate change unless China does. China agreed to reduce emissions, but balked at international monitoring. Earlier in the summit, China's foreign minister implied that he was willing to scuttle the talks over verification. Understandably, the U.S. isn't prepared to commit to anything based on China's unverifiable promises. So, the summit was paralyzed for days while the world's two biggest emitters fought over verification.

According to the Brazilian diplomat, Obama floated a new phrase during the eleventh-hour negotiating session: "examination and assessment" of emissions. It was language China could live with. 

Unfortunately, as Sheppard and Corn explain, the draft that came out of the meeting was extremely weak in other ways. The non-binding agreement contains no specific emissions targets and no hard and fast promises of climate aid to developing countries.

The draft sets the goal of somehow raising $100 billion a year for climate aid by 2020. It doesn't say who's going to contribute what, or when. Developing countries know that such vague promises are all but meaningless.

Worse, the draft struck all references to a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees and substituted "less than 2 degrees." This is a life and death distinction for many small island states and low-lying countries. Negotiators wrangled for days over the maximum temperature increase. With a stroke of a pen, Obama's side deal erased hard-won concessions for developing countries.

Obama announced that a deal had been struck and left for D.C.. But it wasn't his deal to strike. The COP in cop15 stands for Council of Parties. By any reasonable standard, a deal at Copenhagen means a deal adopted by the 192-member COP.

COP rules say that any deal has to be adopted by unanimous vote. So, by preemptively declaring victory, Obama basically handed his 12-page document to the world and said "Here, sign this."

As Sheppard and Corn explain, the last-minute meeting was an end run around Europe and the developing world:

The Obama agreement was a sly maneuver. The United States sidestepped the official proceedings and found a way to separate major developing nations from poorer ones—while skating past European desires for a more comprehensive and binding agreement. Though European negotiators first declared they were not on board, as the final evening of the summit entered the wee hours, Europe conceded. At a 2:00 a.m. press conference, dour-looking European leaders announced their unhappy support. "This accord is better than no accord, but clearly below our ambition," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "We have to be honest."

So, it's hardly surprising that other countries balked when they were asked to vote for the Obama Accord, which they had no say in drafting. Can you imagine a better way to piss off a roomful of negotiators who have been sweating blood for two weeks than by rewriting the whole deal behind closed doors?

In the end, the COP merely "noted" the agreement instead of adopting it.

It's great that the U.S. and China were able to move forward on verification. That's a major diplomatic achievement for Obama. The Obama Accord could even pave the way for a stronger agreement next year.

Yet, by trying to hype a solid side deal as the Copenhagen Accord, Obama reinforced the stereotypes that have stymied climate change negotiations to date. Throughout cop15, developing countries have complained bitterly that the developed world is ignoring them.

By overselling the agreement Obama confirmed suspicions that the accord is just a figleaf to cover a failed summit.

There is a silver lining here. If conservatives hear that Obama pissed off smaller, weaker countries in Copenhagen, they'll want a treaty for sure.

October 09, 2009

Obama Nobel: But what will the wingnuts think?

The president wins the Nobel Peace Prize and some Democrats are wondering if he should turn it down because it might upset the wingnuts. Marc Ambinder summarizes:

This tracks with one argument I'm hearing and reading from Democrats and others who are skeptical of the prize: it will turn the volume and enthusiasm level all the way to the extreme end of the dial for conservatives -- overmodulating at 110%; the resulting hyperpolarization will hurt Obama's agenda.  (Representative of this opinion: I think it will feed not just conservative dislike but the growing concern of independents and elites, that he is a man of rhetoric, a work of imagination, but as of now an unaccomplished statesman. The smartest thing he could do is turn it down. It will backfire on him.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a parallel dimension where everything is inverted. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize makes you look bad? It's narcissistic to accept prizes from other people

I am gobsmacked that some Democrats want the president to turn down the prize for his own good. What message would that send to the rest of the world? Something along the lines of 'Thanks, guys, but I'm really all about war'?  

Of course the Republicans are going to freak out. Our guy wins a Nobel Peace Prize after 9 months in office, primarily for tinkering with the worst excesses of the wars their guy started. That's humiliating. Humiliated Republicans lash out, news at eleven.

July 23, 2009

Chris Matthews demolishes "birther" G. Gordon Liddy

You know, Chris Matthews is pretty smart when he remembers to take his Ritalin. Watch him demolish G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate burglar turned "birther" (a term for those conspiracy theorists who believe that president Barack Obama is an illegal alien from Mombassa, Kenya). For more on the birther phenom, check out my friend Dave Weigel's recent appearance on Rachel Maddow:

February 19, 2009

Homeowner Helper: Obama plan would let bankruptcy judges modify mortgages

Obama's proposed anti-foreclosure has a new twist: letting bankruptcy judges reduce mortgages to the present value of the home.

My colleague, TMC Economy blogger Zach Carter explains, "Obama is supporting a bill in Congress that would enable bankruptcy judges to reduce the amount a borrower owes to the present value of the home. The beauty here is that investors who own the mortgage securities, not taxpayers, will have to eat the losses. In short, investors will be held responsible for making a poor investment."

For more information, see Mike Lillis' excellent backgrounder on Obama's housing plan.

November 03, 2008

Madelyn Dunham, Obama's grandmother, passes away

Barack Obama, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's maternal grandmother, died peacefully in her sleep early this morning after a long struggle with cancer.

She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman whose legacy lives on in her grandson.

Although Mrs. Dunham was too ill to join her grandson on the trail, she followed the campaign closely on television. It's tragic that she won't get to see Obama win tomorrow.

As I've covered this campaign, my thoughts have returned time and time again to the people who won't be here to celebrate the end of the Bush era. Studs Terkel, Utah Phillips, David Foster Wallace, and especially, my dad.

Tomorrow's going to be bittersweet.

August 07, 2007

Giuliani advisor quit Nevada GOP over Minuteman fliers

First there was the his mobbed-up nominee for Homeland Security chief, then the alleged South Carolina coke peddler, now the nativist demagogue:

LOS ANGELES - Rudy Giuliani's southwest political director left a top position at the Nevada Republican Party last year after breaking rules by advertising a Minuteman border patrol rally in internal GOP e-mails.

The notices publicizing a "Stop the Illegal Invasion" rally in October 2006 outraged some Hispanic Republicans in the state, who said they feared it would alienate voters in the nation's fastest-growing minority group just weeks before election day.

The executive director of the Nevada party, Chris Gulugian-Taylor, resigned after party leaders said he violated procedures by circulating the Minuteman information to party members. He was installed recently as Giuliani's political director for California, Arizona and New Mexico after the departure of Mike Vallante, a former chief operating officer of the California Republican Party who split from the campaign about a month ago. {AP]

Imagine that!

Rudy Giuliani needs to make some better friends. One scuzzy buddy is a tragedy, but two or three begin to look like carelessness.

June 19, 2007

Giuliani's SC chair indicted on crack cocaine conspiracy charges

Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse for Rudy Giuliani, hizzoner's South Carolina campaign chair got indicted for conspiring to distribute crack cocaine:

State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel has been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, federal and state authorities announced at a news conference at SLED headquarters this afternoon.

The Charleston Republican raised millions of dollars to unseat long-term Democratic incumbent Grady Patterson in November.

Ravenel, 44, is a millionaire real estate developer and the son of Arthur Ravenel Jr., a powerful South Carolina politician who served in the General Assembly and the U.S. House.

As treasurer, Ravenel is responsible for handling the state’s finances and investments. He also holds a seat on the powerful State Budget and Control Board, which controls much of the state bureaucracy. His salary is $92,007. [The Herald]

The Supreme Court recently decided to reexamine the glaring sentencing discrepancies for crack vs. powder cocaine crimes, over the objections of the Bush administration.

Most people forget that Giuliani made his bones as a zealous drug warrior. I wonder if he supports the POTUS on this one.

Giuliani quit Iraq study panel to fundraise

Hizzoner' priorities:

WASHINGTON - Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why - the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months. [AP]

May 28, 2007

Free Republic bans Giuliani boosters

The conservative website Free Republic has banned supporters of Rudy Giuliani, according to the New York Observer:

[Free Republic has] experienced one of the biggest internal battles to rock the site since the 2000 election of George W. Bush -- a tumultuous campaign year that nearly tore the site apart, as its founder and chief administrator first cleansed commenting ranks of Bush supporters, then, later, rallied to his support.

At the heart of the latest controversy: the fight over the conservative bona fides of Rudy Giuliani.

Over the past few weeks, chaos has reigned in the “Freeper” community as members sympathetic to the former mayor's candidacy claim to have suffered banishment from the site. They were victimized, they say, by a wave of purges designed to weed out any remaining support for the Giuliani campaign on the popular conservative web forum. Another significant chunk of commenters have migrated away from the controversial site over the action, according to a number of former site members and conservative bloggers who have been tracking the situation.

In a plaintive post on the blog “Sweetness & Light,” exiled commenter Steve Gilbert, who says he does not support the former mayor’s campaign, blasted the site’s new “anti-Giuliani, anti-abortion jihad.” Since George W. Bush was elected president, he wrote, “there haven’t been any large scale [Free Republic] purges to speak of – until now.” [NYO]

This does not bode well for Giuliani's chances with the Republican base.

The fight began one month ago, when site founder Jim Robinson posted an anti-Giuliani manifesto titled: “Giuliani as the GOP presidential nominee would be a dagger in the heart of the conservative movement.” Then the virtual ax started to swing. Longtime posters to the freewheeling discussion threads, used to serious no-holds-barred web etiquette, were still stunned by the intensity of the anti-Rudy activity; conservative blogs buzzed with the development. [NYO]

Imagine if every conservative voter in America knew as much about Giuliani as New Yorkers and Freepers.

HT: Thad.

April 20, 2007

POTUS word salad

The most powerful man in the world loses the thread in Tip City, Ohio.