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Reviewing the Inauguration

Thursday, January 22, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Transcripts of interviews on the Inauguration of President Obama with Christopher Hitchens, Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry, and John Podhoretz are all posted, as is a transcript of yesterday’s conversation with Senator Jon Kyl in which he predicts Eric Holder will be confirmed.

Yesterday’s hour long conversation with actor Gary Sinise is also posted. Playing the roles of historical figures such as Harry Truman and George Wallace has turned Sinise into a history-lover, and it shows, as does his genuine appreciation for and service on behalf of the American military.

If you aren’t reading Mike Allen’s “Playbook” at Politico.com every morning, you are missing the best wake-up call in the world. He even summarizes his own website’s work, as with this cheat sheet on a longer Politico.com piece by John Harris and Jim VandeHei on the key questions about the new president’s policies:[# More #]

WILL THERE BE A SURGE IN AFGHANISTAN? Politico’s John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei on “What we don’t know about Obama”: “The stirring rhetoric witnessed on the campaign trail and in Tuesday’s inaugural address is laced with spacious language -flexible enough to support conflicting conclusions about what he really believes.” Their questions, with Playbook’s guesses at the end:

1) DOES HE REALLY THINK AFGHANISTAN IS WINNABLE? … If he intends to win in Afghanistan, he is not going to be a Peacemaker President. To the contrary, he is committing himself to being just as much of a War President as George W. Bush, certainly for the first term and very possibly for a potential second. Most military experts think a decisive win in Afghanistan -as opposed to a muddle-through strategy leading to a gradual withdrawal -will involve a major surge in troops and a willingness to tolerate high costs and high casualties. …

2) DO DEFICITS MATTER? … His inaugural address warned about the need to cut programs that don’t work and make ‘hard choices.’ Does he really mean it? If so, the second half of Obama’s first term likely will be marked by austerity just as much as the first half is going to be marked by massive spending in the name of economic stimulus. …

3) HOW FAST IS TOO FAST IN IRAQ? The president says he still wants U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months. Tellingly, he always adds caveats that conditions and advice from commanders will dictate the pace. … [T]his remains an extremely volatile region that could erupt in new bloodshed. Will Obama still cling to a speedy pull-out if it means the country could implode?

4) WHAT’S IN THE FILES? … Since Tuesday, Obama has all the same files, and all the same access to the nation’s top secrets, that Bush and Cheney ever did. How will Obama react when he gets a constant morning diet of dire warnings? The president seems intent on shutting down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and ending torture-and has surrounded himself with critics of both who are unlikely to tolerate backsliding. But it is not unfathomable that Obama has a ‘Few Good Men’ moment and has to tell liberals and civil libertarians they can’t handle the truth-and that drastic steps sometimes need to be taken to avert disastrous consequences.

5) DO UNIONS WEAR WHITE HATS? Obama, for the entire campaign, said all the right things when it comes to keeping peace with Big Labor. … Lately, he sounds like a man rethinking his enthusiasm. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, he suggested he would not aggressively push for legislation to free workers to easily unionize … Even Nancy Pelosi seems inclined to cut him some slack for a while on this one-but at some point the pressure will intensify and we will learn if this is truly a pro-union White House.

6) CAN U.S. POWER SAVE DARFUR? Darfur will be the first test case – but almost certainly not the last one – in which we will learn just how strongly Obama believes his stated view that the United States should act aggressively when it can use its military power to stop genocide or other humanitarian catastrophes. There is powerful momentum inside the Democratic Party to come the aid of the suffering people of Darfur. Among the biggest advocates are two of Obama’s top advisers: Biden and U.N Ambassador-designate Susan Rice. But with the military stretched thin, and with many others in his administration more skeptical about the use of force on problems that don’t directly threaten national security, nothing is likely to happen unless Obama puts his own influence and reputation strongly behind an intervention. During the campaign, he signaled a willingness to intervene, but also cautioned: “There’s a lot of cruelty around the world. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time.”

7) HOW MUCH DOES HE HAVE TO PLACATE THE LEFT? … Politically savvy liberal activists are an important reason Obama beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic nominating contest, and a big reason he blew through all fund-raising records. It will be hard for Obama to govern without their enthusiasm. On the other hand, it will be tough to reinvent politics if Obama is forced to routinely throw bouquets to the various factions of the Democratic Party.

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Helping Housing Restart The Economy

Thursday, January 22, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Housing starts fell again in December. Only about 37,000 houses got underway last month in the entire country. “Year over year, housing starts were 45.0% below the level of construction in December 2007,” the Wall Street Journal noted.

Housing construction drives a huge portion of the economy, and is an extraordinary multiplier of economic activity. This isn’t debatable. But the stimulus package unveiled in the House of Representatives last week does nothing for the housing sector. Some had expected up to a $20,000 tax credit for the purchase of a home in the first two or three quarters of 2009, a huge kick in the pants to the buyers who are waiting for the bottom of the housing market to appear. Such an incentive would in effect create the bottom as savvy buyers rushed to take advantage of the credit and the low mortgage interest rates. With a recovery in housing would come a lessening in the concern about the value of the mortgage backed securities, and beyond that a general sense of relief among homeowners.

But the geniuses in the House didn’t provide the jump start. The Senate can repair that oversight, and even talk of doing so will start the recovery. Perhaps today’s news will focus the president and his economic team on the obvious things that need to be said and then done.

Sinise’s “Wallace”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Hollywood good guy Gary Sinise will be on today’s program, in part to promote the release of his 1997 “Wallace,” only released in DVD this week. Sinise won a Best Actor Emmy for his portrayal of the segregationist-turned sorrow-filled figure from the ’60s. We’ll cover Sinise’s thoughts on the Inauguration, of course, as well as his tireless support for the troops.

George Wallace (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Gary Sinise is also one of the co-founders of Operation Iraqi Children, a wonderful effort to bring American assistance to the children of Iraq.

And here’s the link to the Lt. Dan Band website with tour dates for Sinese’s band.

“Obama’s People”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The New York Times provides a photo gallery of the new Administration’s senior appointees. (HT: Chris Cillizza.)

Run through it to get a sense of how great the ambitions must be on this the first full day of the Obama era. I wish we had a link to a similar photo shoot from the first day of the Bush Administration, when 9/11 was only months away, and the realities of the world not yet fully appreciated. If this team can continue the departed team’s record of keeping the country safe from a second catastrophic attack, they will have accomplished a great great deal. If they don’t, nothing else will matter.

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