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Thoughts On Blagobamarama

Wednesday, December 24, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

For reasons detailed in the post on the economy below, I want the president-elect to succeed in conveying confidence and energy as he assumes office. I don’t want him enmeshed in a scandal that draws in his close associates and key advisors. I want him to focus on the war and get that right, on the economy and get that right, and rethink disastrous ideas on health care etc.

I want him, in other words, to grow in office into a centrist figure who will recognize that his allies on the left genuinely don’t have a clue about wars are won or economies grown. President-elect Obama is a smart guy. It could happen.

But he also has to figure out you cannot game a nasty bit of business like Blagojevich, or Chief of Staff-designate Emanuel’s calls to Balgoland. Put everything out early, answer every question now, and toss everyone from the bus immediately if necessary. I got many e-mails after yesterday’s show pointing out how extraordinary it is for the president-elect and two key staffers to be interviewed in a massive criminal investigation into corrutpiton and not to have had the interviews announced for many days or basic follow-up questions asked and answered. This attempt to massage the story might work in illinois or during a presidential campaign when the MSM is blocking for you, but it won’t work over a four year term when careers have to made and remade by media climbers. There’s always a young Woodward who will go where there’s a story. President-elect Obama would do himself and the country a lot of good by abandoning the tactics of the last two weeks and start to live by the openness and transparency he promised.

From an Assistant United States Attorney:

Caught some of the show yesterday after the release of the Obama internal report.

I know you’re off the air for a couple weeks, but I thought I’d mention a couple of things:

First, the “false statement” statute is 18 USC Sec. 1001 (not 2001).

Second, neither the FBI nor US Attorney’s Office puts witnesses under oath when they are interviewed. The oath is only administered before testimony before a GJ. Agents are not authorized to administer an oath, nor are prosecutors.

Nevertheless, the existence of the 1001 statute has the same
functional effect. Any intentional misstatement or omission of a
material fact when being questioned by a federal law enforcement agent about a matter under investigation is a felony, oath or no oath. That’s why LIbby was charged both with perjury before the GJ and making false statements to the FBI during his earlier interviews.

As for the order of the witness interviews, its really only
speculation, and witness availability has a lot to do with it, but in
my experience having done a few wiretap cases involving drugs back in California, you start with the recorded conversations as your basic record. I would then pull the telephone tolls of every person who was recorded, and I would want to know who they spoke to on the phone immediately before and immediately after each recorded conversation. So, if Emanuel is recorded at 12:00 noon talking to Harris about appointing Jarrett, and at 12:15 there is a telephone toll showing a call to Obama, I would want to ask Obama about the contents of that phone call. If there was a call at 12:20 from Emanuel to Jarrett, I would want to ask Jarrett about that phone call — keeping in mind that I know what it is Emanuel and Harris talked about because they are recorded. So, it’s sometimes easy to pick-up on prevarications and inconsistencies when you start getting explanations that don’t sound right. Once you have the interviews done of the people who were contacted around the same time as key recorded conversations you go
back to the person who was recorded and ask him about the unrecorded conversations that came before and after the recorded conversations.

This is really where the current environment — the same as the
environment Libby found himself in — borders on the unfair.
Fitzgerald knows — as any good prosecutor would know and take
advantage of — that the people he wants to talk to cannot assert
their Fifth Amendment rights for political reasons. If I was
Emanuel’s lawyer, it would be my advice that he not be interviewed – he has only his best recollection of what he has been recorded as saying, and he doesn’t get to listen to his conversations prior to answering questions about them. Second, he has no idea what the other people being interviewed are saying about unrecorded conversations they had with him.

For a prosecutor this is the equivalent of “broken field running” —
you’re through the line or scrimmage and behind the linebackers, and everyone else is trying to catch-up to where you are. Fitzgerald has probably 3-4 guys/gals working on this full time — meaning they spend all day comparing transcripts, subpoenaed documents, and interview notes looking for opportunities to lay traps for people about to be interviewed. That was the undoing of Libby and almost Rove. When the prosecutor calls you back to the GJ for the 3rd and 4th time, its not because he’s still genuinely unsure about your testimony. He’s asking you to navigate the minefield of the record that has been created to that point under oath. Your missteps are going to become his indictment. No normal person would go back to the GJ time after time,
but Fitzgerald knows that he’s going to get whatever he asks for
because doing otherwise would make it look like Obama’s people have something to hide.

The report comes out late in the day on Tuesday, Dec. 23. They know that most folks like yourself are going to be off the air on Wed, or they are going to have holiday themed shows. Thurs, is obviously not a news day, and Fri is likely going to be the same. Next you have the dead week between Christmas and New Years.

Obama is in Hawaii until Jan. 2 with no public events planned where he might be asked questions. Emanuel is in Africa where he is out of contact on a long planned family vacation.

Consider that again — the incoming WH Chief of Staff, in a “change of parties” transition from one Presidency to the next which is less than 4 weeks away — and he’s in Africa??????

And they want the press to have nothing on this story other than their self-serving exoneration of all key staffers.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Fearing Fearing Fear: The Case For Common Sense and Focused Stimulus

Wednesday, December 24, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Consumers cut back spending in November and increased their savings in anticipation of the recession’s bite. At a Christmas gathering last night a senior car exec from one of the “transplants” told me that people have gone from buying cars they want to buying only cars they need, and that there are a lot of miles left of the 16 million autos sold each year of the past few years. This is an evidence of the lingering impact of the panic of October and the fear about the economy spread daily by the MSM that, as ever, oversells every story including recession.

Congress can help change the car consumer crouch via the stimulus package, of course, by offering car buyers a price concession via the tax code, one that only lasts three months or six at most. If the president-elect announced it and guaranteed it, the cars would fly off the lots as they are extremely attractively priced. The same goes for home sales –if Congress makes purchase of a home a really good deal for the next six months, the recovery will be quick.

Lawrence Summers and the rest of the economic team know this. They know that “spreading the stimulus” around will defeat its purpose. Can the president-elect hold off his coalition of interest groups each demanding a slice of the stimulus pie and do the right thing by targeting a massive amount of stimulus on key sectors?

Brian Wesbury, chief economist of First Trust Portfolios, was on the program yesterday, and he thinks ’09′s recovery can begin almost immediately as the slowdown is largely based on fear that can dissipate quickly. My friend Richard McKenzie, an economist whose book, Why Popcorn Costs So Much At The Movies, is one of the best business books of 2008, also believes that the economy can turn on a dime and expand strongly in the new year.

Everyone of any sense agrees this is a recession, not a Great Depression. (Unemployment in the nation was above 25% in 1933, in Toldeo it was 80% –that’s a depression.) Most agree that there’s lots of cash on the sidelines, and extraordinary deals on the big ticket items –cars and mortgages– to be had right now. Stocks are a bargain as well.

Some in the media are hysterical, as per usual. Some on the left want to engage in a last frenzy of Bush bashing. Some in the Democratic Party see an opportunity to talk down the economy so as to talk up Obama’s success when the cycle turns.

But what we need is a lot of common sense from the incoming powers-that-be, and a repetition of the basic fact that the business cycle has been around for a long, long time, and the recessions it contains are unpleasant but not catastrophic for the country even as they fall heavily on individuals. Key points need to be made again and again, for instance: Madoff is a crook who has hurt a lot of people very badly, but his crime is not emblematic of investment professionals, and its impact is not significant on the overall market.

Which is why I hope the president-elect sticks with the Lincoln shtick and refuses the FDR imitation. We don’t need grave discussions of 1933 and fearing fear. We need common sense in the stimulus package, not theatrics to stimulate glowing packages on the MSM.

Was the President-elect Under Oath?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Incredibly, the press seems not to have asked the obvious question about the U.S. Attorney’s interview with President-elect Obama on December 18.

Further, the interview occurred on the 18th, and it wasn’t disclosed until today? What happened to transparency?

Question for prosecutors: Since the Fitzgerald team already knows what Emanuel said to Blago et al, why was he interviewed after the president-elect and Valerie Jarrett? Simple scheduling, or could there be a reason for the order of the interviews?

Demographics: Churches and Schools Division

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Mark Steyn calls himself a demographics bore, but anyone who has read American Alone knows that demographics are indeed destiny.

And not just for countries and subcontinents, but also for congregations and school districts.

Today the Wall Street Journal ran a long story on the number of churches running into terrible financial difficulties and even foreclosure on their church buildings because of shrinking congregations and budgets.

This week as well the California Teachers Association announced a push for a new initiative to raise the sales tax by 1% to make up for budget shortfalls –this despite a declining school age population. I might actually vote for increased school funding via a dedicated sales tax, but first I have to be persuaded of the need, and simply shouting fire isn’t enough anymore.

Today’s program features Mike Regele, CEO of MissionInsite.com and DecisionInsite.com, two firms that deal with demographic forecasting for churches and school districts respectively. I have known Mike for 20 years, and believe with him in the power of demographics analysis completely. As a result, i am sympathetic to churches and school districts that have fallen on hard times, but I also have to wonder if the folks running them have taken the time to ask some basic questions, such as whether there are enough bodies in a community to fill the pews and whether there are too many schools for a particular community?

Only a couple of decades ago, a lot of informed guess work went into the decision of where to plant a church or build a school. These days with the programming and data at the fingertips of many extraordinary specialists, it is very hard to justify new taxes (or fund drives) without first seeing in black-and-white a demand analysis. One good effect of the recession may be to force public entities and not-for-profits into the 21rst century when it comes to planning.

If you have a question for Mike Regele, you can e-mail him at mregele@missioninsite.com or mregele@decisioninsite.com.

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