sábado, 28 de fevereiro de 2009

Obama e as críticas da ala esquerda do Partido Democrata: «Não prestaram atenção ao que eu disse na campanha»*

* no Congresso, já há algumas vozes críticas por parte de democratas «muito liberais» sobre as opções do Presidente sobre o Afeganistão. Ouça a resposta de Barack, em entrevista a Jim Lehrer, na PBS

'Climate of Change: a Very Good Budget'

Um artigo do Prémio Nobel da Economia, Paul Krugman, no New York Times, muito elogioso em relação ao primeiro orçamento da Administração Obama:

«Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.

For this budget allocates $634 billion over the next decade for health reform. That’s not enough to pay for universal coverage, but it’s an impressive start. And Mr. Obama plans to pay for health reform, not just with higher taxes on the affluent, but by putting a halt to the creeping privatization of Medicare, eliminating overpayments to insurance companies.

On another front, it’s also heartening to see that the budget projects $645 billion in revenues from the sale of emission allowances. After years of denial and delay by its predecessor, the Obama administration is signaling that it’s ready to take on climate change.

And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

Many will ask whether Mr. Obama can actually pull off the deficit reduction he promises. Can he actually reduce the red ink from $1.75 trillion this year to less than a third as much in 2013? Yes, he can.

Right now the deficit is huge thanks to temporary factors (at least we hope they’re temporary): a severe economic slump is depressing revenues and large sums have to be allocated both to fiscal stimulus and to financial rescues.

But if and when the crisis passes, the budget picture should improve dramatically. Bear in mind that from 2005 to 2007, that is, in the three years before the crisis, the federal deficit averaged only $243 billion a year. Now, during those years, revenues were inflated, to some degree, by the housing bubble. But it’s also true that we were spending more than $100 billion a year in Iraq.

So if Mr. Obama gets us out of Iraq (without bogging us down in an equally expensive Afghan quagmire) and manages to engineer a solid economic recovery — two big ifs, to be sure — getting the deficit down to around $500 billion by 2013 shouldn’t be at all difficult.

But won’t the deficit be swollen by interest on the debt run-up over the next few years? Not as much as you might think. Interest rates on long-term government debt are less than 4 percent, so even a trillion dollars of additional debt adds less than $40 billion a year to future deficits. And those interest costs are fully reflected in the budget documents.

So we have good priorities and plausible projections. What’s not to like about this budget? Basically, the long run outlook remains worrying.

According to the Obama administration’s budget projections, the ratio of federal debt to G.D.P., a widely used measure of the government’s financial position, will soar over the next few years, then more or less stabilize. But this stability will be achieved at a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of around 60 percent. That wouldn’t be an extremely high debt level by international standards, but it would be the deepest in debt America has been since the years immediately following World War II. And it would leave us with considerably reduced room for maneuver if another crisis comes along.

Furthermore, the Obama budget only tells us about the next 10 years. That’s an improvement on Bush-era budgets, which looked only 5 years ahead. But America’s really big fiscal problems lurk over that budget horizon: sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the forces driving up long-run spending — above all, the ever-rising cost of health care.

And even if fundamental health care reform brings costs under control, I at least find it hard to see how the federal government can meet its long-term obligations without some tax increases on the middle class. Whatever politicians may say now, there’s probably a value-added tax in our future.

But I don’t blame Mr. Obama for leaving some big questions unanswered in this budget. There’s only so much long-run thinking the political system can handle in the midst of a severe crisis; he has probably taken on all he can, for now. And this budget looks very, very good.»

Sarah Palin lidera as preferências dos republicanos para 2012

Bobby Jindal, o jovem governador do Luisiana, tem sido o rosto do GOP nesta primeira fase do mandato de Obama, mas está longe de transmitir unanimismo nas bases republicanas.

As críticas à forma como Jindal reagiu ao discurso do Presidente no Congresso foram o primeiro sinal desta tendência. Mitt Romney continua atento e não perde uma oportunidade de aparecer na Fox. O mesmo acontece com Mike Huckabee, que se mostrou muito forte a agarrar a base conservadora, nas primárias de 2008 (especialmente no Sul).

E, claro, há Sarah Palin. Apesar do que muitos liberal analists , como costuma dizer a governadora do Alasca, gostam de pensar, a verdade é que a Palin continua a ser uma estrela nacional -- mesmo que, por vezes, o seja pelas suas gaffes.

Esta sondagem volta a provar que talvez seja pouco prudente olhar Sarah Palin com desdém:


-- Sarah Palin, governadora da Alasca, 29%
-- Mike Huckabee, ex-governador do Arkansas, 26%
-- Mitt Romney, ex-governador do Massachussets, 21%
-- Bobby Jindal, governador do Luisiana, 9%
-- Outros 10%
-- Indecisos 6%

McCain apoia o plano de retirada do Presidente*

* o adversário de Barack Obama nas presidenciais de Novembro de 2008 lança a ponte para um entendimento bipartidário que permita uma saída digna do Iraque

sexta-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2009

Obama confirma retirada do Iraque até Agosto de 2010

Imagens do Presidente, dia após dia

A imagem acima mostra Barack Obama com o seu Conselheiro Económico Nacional, Larry Summers, ao fundo. Esta é apenas uma de uma enorme quantidade de fotos do Presidente, no seu exercício quotidiano de poder, que poderá ver em http://www.daylife.com/topic/Barack_Obama/photos/today/3.

Vai haver um português na Casa Branca*

* ainda vai a caminho de Pennsylvania Avenue, 1600, mas é já certo que é um cão d'água português a escolha canina da família Obama. Michelle acha que é a escolha mais adequada para o problema alérgico de Malia; as miúdas estão ansiosas pela chegada do novo elemento. Em princípio, será só em Abril

'Obama's Speech: A Tonal Masterpiece'

Ainda o discurso de Barack Obama no Congresso, proferido na passada terça-feira. Para Joe Klein, na Time, foi uma «obra-prima»:

«Obama came into full possession of the U.S. presidency toward the end of his February 24 budget speech to a joint session of Congress. He had just read a letter from a South Carolina schoolgirl, pleading for help with her dilapidated school. "We are not quitters," the girl had written. The President's eyes brightened as he repeated that phrase, and he seemed barely able to control his joy and confidence as he attacked his peroration: that even in the toughest times, "there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency and a determination that perseveres." This was the chord that had been missing in the first dour month of Obama's presidency — not so much optimism as confidence, the sense that he was not only steering the presidency, but loving the challenge of it. It was the quality that distinguished Franklin Roosevelt's public persona, guided by the motto that F.D.R. had in his office: "Let unconquerable gladness dwell."

The modern presidency is a vast electronic synthesizer, capable of exhilarating musical effects or rank cacophony. The President needs to be able to throw his voice in a variety of ways — now sober, now soaring, now educating, now soothing. George W. Bush's presidency was straitjacketed by his inability to command any style but clenched orotundity. The two great television-era communicators in the office were yin and yang: Bill Clinton was a master of the conversational, not so good at set-piece speeches; Ronald Reagan just the opposite. Barack Obama has now demonstrated an ability to synthesize those two. On the day before his budget speech, the President was positively Clintonesque, interacting easily with a gang of high-powered political and business leaders at his entitlement summit, alternately ribbing Eric Cantor, the House Republican, about GOP intransigence, then wonking out on defense procurement policy with Senators Susan Collins and John McCain.

If the entitlement summit was a conversational concerto, the budget speech was a full-blown symphony featuring a percussive series of simple declarative sentences that conveyed a sense of command, especially in the emotional heart of the speech, the section on banking reform. On corporate extravagance: "Those days are over." On the public anger over the bailouts: "I promise you — I get it." These were marshaled in the service of public education: Obama explained why, despite the despicable behavior of the bankers, the system had to be salvaged. If houses and cars were to be bought, if businesses were to make payrolls, loans had to be made. "[I]n a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment," he said, aiming a dagger at his detractors.

Obama's month in office has not been kind to Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll released the day before the budget speech, 79% said that the GOP should put more effort into cooperating with the President and only 17% said Republicans should stick by their principles. Indeed, a brace of polls indicated great faith in Obama, somewhat less faith in his proposed solutions, and a crushing consensus that the Republican Party seemed more interested in playing politics at a time of crisis than in behaving constructively. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a smart fellow if not yet a wise one, gave the Republican response to Obama's speech and quickly became the poster boy for his party's vacuity and cynicism. He had announced noisily that he was rejecting a portion of the stimulus money coming to his state — but it turned out to be a minuscule portion, little more than 2%. In other words, when the rubber met the road, he supported 98% of the Obama plan. (See pictures of Obama's nation of hope.)

All is not joy for Obama, of course. He has to govern. He has to manage situations — the banks at home, the deterioration of Pakistan overseas — that might prove unmanageable. For all the spiritual success of his budget speech, there were precious few details about his policy priorities. No one really knows what to do about the American auto industry. No one really knows if, or how quickly, alternative energy sources can revive the economy and salve the planet. There seems to be some confusion about how to proceed on health care. In his speech, the President promised a national health plan within the year. But in a prespeech briefing, a senior Administration official was less sanguine: "Health care will move forward based on our ability to get consensus. It's not as easy as getting 61 votes on the stimulus bill. It's too big and too complicated to move quickly."

There are, then, strong indications that the big decisions on a range of crucial issues have yet to be made. But after the budget speech, there is a clearer sense that we have a President who will attack those decisions, then lead the way forward with the unconquerable gladness of a man invigorated by the tasks before him.»

quinta-feira, 26 de fevereiro de 2009

A (justa) homenagem presidencial a Stevie Wonder, um grande apoiante de Barack Obama


Quem quiser saber, ao pormenor, como está a ser utilizado o dinheiro que o Congresso autorizou a Administração Obama a gastar, pode consultar o site «Recovery», em www.recovery.gov.

Sobre as verbas destinadas aos bancos, Obama comentou, eloquentemente, no Congresso: «Não estamos a dar dinheiro aos bancos para ajudar os bancos, estamos a fazê-lo para ajudar os cidadãos».

Confira a distribuição já aprovada até ao momento:
-- Cortes fiscais federais: 288 mil milhões de dólares
-- Cortes fiscais a nível estadual e local: 144 mil milhões de dólares
-- Infra-estruturas e ciência: 111 mil milhões de dólares
-- Protecção aos desfavorecidos: 81 mil milhões de dólares
-- Cuidados de saúde: 59 mil milhões de dólares
-- Educação: 53 mil milhões de dólares
-- Energia: 43 mil milhões de dólares
-- Outros: 8 mil milhões de dólares

Sondagem: 92% dos americanos gostaram do discurso do Presidente

É o terreno de excelência de Obama e Barack voltou a aproveitá-lo: o primeiro discurso no Congresso como Presidente obteve a aprovação de 92% dos americanos.

68 por cento deles consideram-no «muito positivo», 24 por cento acharam o discurso «razovelmente positivo» e apenas 8% reprovam a performance de Obama perante os membros do Senado e da Câmara dos Representantes.

85 por cento dos americanos auscultados na sondagem CNN/Opinion Research Corporation sentiram-se «mais optimistas em relação ao futuro», depois de ouvirem os 50 minutos de discurso de Obama.

Pode ver e ouvir, na íntegra, o discurso do Presidente no Congresso no post que publicámos esta tarde (seis posts abaixo deste).

Bobby Jindal chama «irresponsável» ao Plano Obama*

* e diz que a força da América reside «nos cidadãos» e não no governo federal. O jovem governador da Luisiana foi a grande aposta do GOP para reagir aos discurso do Presidente no Congresso, confirmando-se como um dos novos rostos dos republicanos. Mas foi o próprio David Brooks, colunista conservador do New York Times, a chamar «ridículas» as críticas de Jindal a Obama

A reacção de Joe Biden ao discurso de Obama no Congresso

O vice-presidente teceu fortes elogios à estreia de Barack Obama em discursos aos membros do Senado e da Câmara dos Representantes e reforçou a esperança no sucesso do Plano de Recuperação:

Confirmado: Gary Locke nomeado secretário do Comércio

Para ler mais sobre a escolha de Obama, pode ver o post que publicámos anteontem sobre Gary Locke (é só descer um pouco o ecrã...)

quarta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2009

Resumo escrito do discurso do Presidente no Congresso

«We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely - to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we're taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America - as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited - a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber - Democrats and Republicans - will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

On yesterday's fiscal summit ...

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.
I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn't tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."»

«Um dos melhores discursos da vida de Obama»

A frase é da senadora Barbara Boxer, democrata eleita pela Califórnia:

Obama no seu primeiro discurso no Congresso: «Bold Action, Big Ideas»


«We will rebuild the state of the economy and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before»

«The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation»

«The eyes of all people, in all nations, are onde again upon us, watching to see what we do at this moment»

As palavras de Barack (II): uma sociedade que se importa, a abordagem pragmática de Obama à política progressista

Será Obama um «progressista» ou um «moderado»? Um «esquerdista» ou mais um típico «centrista» que cabe no consenso do sistema americano? A discussão subiu de tom após a aprovação do Plano de Recuperação e Reinvestimento, o maior plano de investimento federal da história americana.

Os republicanos lançaram o rótulo: Obama é «demasiado intervencionista» e até quer «arrastar o centro político para a esquerda».

Mas há também quem acuse o Presidente do contrário: de mal ter chegado a Washington se ter rendido ao sistema e à influência centrista (vide a escolha de Robert Gates).

Em que ficamos? Mais uma vez, o melhor é recordar as palavras de Barack Obama, o político, antes de ser Presidente (neste caso, até antes de ser candidato presidencial). A 16 de Novembro de 2005, quando do octogésimo aniversário de Robert Kennedy (para muitos, Barack é o herdeiro do legado da candidatura presidencial de Bobby, em 1968), o então senador do Illinois Barack Obama referiu:

«É tempo de confrontarmos os porquês de hoje com os «porque não» que tantas vezes citamos, mas raramente pomos em prática -- responder aos «porquê a fome?» e aos «porquê sem abrigo?», ao 'porquê a violência?' e ao 'porquê o desespero?' com o 'porque não bons empregos com bons salários?', 'porque não melhores cuidados de saúde e escolas de primeira classe?', 'porque não um país onde tornamos possível o potencial que existe em cada ser humano?'»

terça-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2009

Presidente da FED fala em «severa contracção» da economia americana, mas acredita que a retoma virá já em 2010*

* para Ben Bernanke, o Plano Obama poderá travar a recessão até ao final deste ano. Mas, para isso, há que usar de «todas as ferramentas públicas para estimular a economia»

'The Big Test: Worrying about Obama'

Um artigo de David Brooks, no New York Times:

“We cannot successfully address any of our problems without addressing all of them.”

Barack Obama, Feb. 21, 2009

«When I was a freshman in college, I was assigned “Reflections on the Revolution in France” by Edmund Burke. I loathed the book. Burke argued that each individual’s private stock of reason is small and that political decisions should be guided by the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Change is necessary, Burke continued, but it should be gradual, not disruptive. For a young democratic socialist, hoping to help begin the world anew, this seemed like a reactionary retreat into passivity.

Over the years, I have come to see that Burke had a point. The political history of the 20th century is the history of social-engineering projects executed by well-intentioned people that began well and ended badly. There were big errors like communism, but also lesser ones, like a Vietnam War designed by the best and the brightest, urban renewal efforts that decimated neighborhoods, welfare policies that had the unintended effect of weakening families and development programs that left a string of white elephant projects across the world.

These experiences drove me toward the crooked timber school of public philosophy: Michael Oakeshott, Isaiah Berlin, Edward Banfield, Reinhold Niebuhr, Friedrich Hayek, Clinton Rossiter and George Orwell. These writers — some left, some right — had a sense of epistemological modesty. They knew how little we can know. They understood that we are strangers to ourselves and society is an immeasurably complex organism. They tended to be skeptical of technocratic, rationalist planning and suspicious of schemes to reorganize society from the top down.

Before long, I was no longer a liberal. Liberals are more optimistic about the capacity of individual reason and the government’s ability to execute transformational change. They have more faith in the power of social science, macroeconomic models and 10-point programs.

Readers of this column know that I am a great admirer of Barack Obama and those around him. And yet the gap between my epistemological modesty and their liberal worldviews has been evident over the past few weeks. The people in the administration are surrounded by a galaxy of unknowns, and yet they see this economic crisis as an opportunity to expand their reach, to take bigger risks and, as Obama said on Saturday, to tackle every major problem at once.

President Obama has concentrated enormous power on a few aides in the West Wing of the White House. These aides are unrolling a rapid string of plans: to create three million jobs, to redesign the health care system, to save the auto industry, to revive the housing industry, to reinvent the energy sector, to revitalize the banks, to reform the schools — and to do it all while cutting the deficit in half.

If ever this kind of domestic revolution were possible, this is the time and these are the people to do it. The crisis demands a large response. The people around Obama are smart and sober. Their plans are bold but seem supple and chastened by a realistic sensibility.

Yet they set off my Burkean alarm bells. I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well. I fear that we have a group of people who haven’t even learned to use their new phone system trying to redesign half the U.S. economy. I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists.

I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge. Every time the administration releases an initiative, I read 20 different economists with 20 different opinions. I worry that we lack the political structures to regain fiscal control. Deficits are exploding, and the president clearly wants to restrain them. But there’s no evidence that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have the courage or the mutual trust required to share the blame when taxes have to rise and benefits have to be cut.

All in all, I can see why the markets are nervous and dropping. And it’s also clear that we’re on the cusp of the biggest political experiment of our lifetimes. If Obama is mostly successful, then the epistemological skepticism natural to conservatives will have been discredited. We will know that highly trained government experts are capable of quickly designing and executing top-down transformational change. If they mostly fail, then liberalism will suffer a grievous blow, and conservatives will be called upon to restore order and sanity.

It’ll be interesting to see who’s right. But I can’t even root for my own vindication. The costs are too high. I have to go to the keyboard each morning hoping Barack Obama is going to prove me wrong.»

Sugestão do dia: o Podcast de Francisco Sena Santos

A sugestão de hoje não é um blogue, mas é um podcast de grande qualidade: Francisco Sena Santos, nome histórico da rádio portuguesa, alimenta diariamente, em blocos de cerca de 12 minutos, um espaço que vale a pena ser ouvido.

Com a riqueza de conteúdos que sempre mostrou quando estava na TSF e na Antena 1, Sena Santos aborda temas que marcam a agenda internacional, com pertinência e de forma sintética, citando os grandes jornais americanos, franceses, espanhóis e italianos.

Interessante na forma e no conteúdo. Pode ouvir em: http://senasantos.podcasts.sapo.pt/

A importância da China para a Administração Obama

... pôde confirmar-se com a recente viagem de Hillary Clinton e reforça-se, agora, com a provável escolha de Gary Locke.

Vale a pena, a este propósito, recordar estas palavras do então candidato Barack Obama, no seu discurso «Renovação Económica: o conflito no Iraque distrai-nos das crises internas e externas», proferido a 20 de Março de 2008, em Charleston, Virgínia, no auge da disputa nas primárias:

«Estamos a ter de pagar esta guerra com empréstimos da China. Ter a China como nosso banqueiro não é bom para a nossa economia, não é bom para a nossa liderança global e não é bom para a nossa segurança nacional. A história ensina-nos que para que um país se mantenha como potência militar proeminente, deve manter-se como potência económica proeminente».

Gary Locke é o provável secretário do Comércio - à terceira será de vez?

Gary Locke, 57 anos, antigo governador de Washington, é o provável secretário do Comércio da Administração Obama. Duas fontes próximas do governo dos EUA avançaram à CNN que a escolha de Barack já estará feita.

Depois das hipóteses goradas de Bill Richardson (governador do Novo México) e Judd Gregg (senador republicano do New Hampshire), o Presidente pretende resolver, finalmente, o vazio que se mantém há mais de um mês na pasta do Comércio.

Locke poderá ser, assim, o segundo sino-americano nesta administração, que já conta com o secretário da Energia (e antigo prémio Nobel da Física), Steven Chu, e o terceiro asiático (contando com o ministro dos Veteranos de Guerra, Eric Shinseki).

Eleito governador do estado de Washington (costa ocidental) em 1996, cumpriu dois mandatos, tornando-se no primeiro sino-americano a governar um estado norte-americano. Antes, Locke cumprira cinco mandatos como membro da Câmara dos Representantes.

segunda-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2009

O lado dos conservadores (III): o regresso de Ann Coulter*

(para ver o video de Ann Coulter a responder na FOX, clique em cima)

* no lançamento do seu novo livro, «Guilty», a polémica colunista, ultra-conservadora, tece duríssimos ataques ao primeiro mês da Administração Obama

O lado dos conservadores (II): Schwarzenneger pede o apoio dos republicanos ao Presidente*

* em apuros no seu próprio estado, por ter sido obrigado a despedir 20 ml funcionários e a aumentar os impostos, o governador da Califórnia representa o sector dos republicanos moderados que querem colaborar com Barack Obama

Obama nomeia Joe Biden como supervisor da aplicação do 'stimulus package'*

* o sucesso do Plano Obama só será possível com um boa aplicação por parte de cada um dos 50 estados. Por isso, o Presidente apelou à ajuda dos governadores e nomeou o seu vice-presidente para um importante cargo de supervisão, garantindo que, ao contrário do que dizem certos sectores republicanos, «isto não é um cheque em branco»...

Não se admirem se for ele o adversário de Obama em 2012

Bobby Jindal, 37 anos, governador da Luisiana, filho de emigrantes indianos nos EUA, é um forte opositor ao modo como o Presidente quer aplicar o 'stimulus package'.

O seu protagonismo entre as figuras mais populares do GOP é cada vez maior. Chegou a estar na shorlist de John McCain para a vice-presidência e é um dos mais populares governadores do EUA, além de ser o mais jovem actualmente em funções nos 50 estados norte-americanos.

Transmite uma imagem de renovação no Partido Republicano, mas mostra credenciais suficentemente conservadoras para ser aceite pela base principal de apoio do partido do elefante.

Não é impossível este cenário: em 2012, o duelo presidencial a ser travado por um afro-americano a concorrer à eleição e por um indo-americano, na altura com apenas 40 anos, a tentar ser o mais novo Presidente da história da América. Como se viu em 2008, por aquelas bandas é preciso admitir todas as hipóteses...

Barómetro: 16% dos americanos acham que Obama está a «exceder as expectativas»

«Independentemente do facto de aprovar ou desaprovar a eleição de Barack Obama, considera que o Presidente está a exceder as expectativas, está abaixo delas ou está a cumprir o que se previa?»

-- Está a exceder: 16%

-- Está a cumprir: 58%

-- Está abaixo: 23%

(fonte: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation)

domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2009

O lado dos conservadores: Obama pode «agravar os erros de FDR»*

(clique no link para ver o video da entrevista a Shaun Hannity na FOX)

* na FOX, Mike Huckabee, o candidato do GOP que apanhou a base conservadora nas primárias de 2008, critica o Plano Obama e acusa o Presidente de «em nome da actual geração, estar a comprometer as gerações futuras». «Roosevelt apelou aos sacrifícios da sua geração a nosso favor, mas Obama está a preparar uma intervenção ainda maior do Estado

Última paragem de Hillary na Ásia: China, a mais importante*

* a secretária de Estado sublinhou que, mesmo com esta crise aguda, os chineses continuam a confiar na Economia americana e a comprar títulos do Tesouro dos EUA e pediu colaboração de Pequim no ataque à crise; sobre os Direitos Humanos, uma diplomática ambiguidade: há que respeitá-los, mas esse problema não pode ser confundido com a estratégia bilateral sino-americana no combate a problemas económicos comuns. É a dureza da realpolitik, não é Hillary?

Obama garante que o Plano de Recuperação vai começar a fazer efeito nas próximas semanas*

* e toma medidas que visam obrigar os bancos e empresas que vão receber ajudas a usá-las de modo a poder restituir a confiança no sistema; para o Presidente, os cortes fiscais que irão ser feitos na classe baixa e na classe média «permitirão aos americanos voltar a ter dinheiro para pagar as suas contas»; são medidas que apelam ao bom senso e que só poderão vingar se houver mesmo a «nova era de responsabilidade para todos» anunciada pelo Presidente na sua tomada de posse

sexta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2009

Presidência Obama faz um mês (II)

'Voices of Obama's America: Who We Are Now'

Um artigo de Jon Meacham, na Newsweek, com a colaboração de Pat Wingert, Marc Bain e Daniel Stone:

«The message seemed mixed. It was 3 o'clock on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 3, 1965, and President Lyndon B. Johnson had come to the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to sign the unsexily named Immigration and Nationality Act. It was a grand and sentimental stage for Johnson, who loved the grand and the sentimental. There he was, less than a year into a term he'd won in the greatest of landslides over Barry Goldwater, at the mythic gateway to America, Robert and Ted Kennedy in the audience, the eyes of the press fixed on him in the shadows of the nation's most fabled icon of freedom. "Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers," Johnson said, reaching for political poetry. "From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide."

But the president was openly ambivalent, too. "The bill that we sign today is not a revolutionary bill," he said, defensively, almost as though to reassure white Americans that they had nothing to fear. "It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power."

To borrow an old line about Winston Churchill, when Lyndon Johnson was right, he was right, but when he was wrong, well, my God. (See, for example, War, Vietnam.) On reflection, the bill LBJ signed on that October day was one of the most significant of his momentous presidency, and the virtually forgotten legislation played a key role in creating the America that made this week's inauguration of Barack Obama possible.

Why exhume the long-dead Johnson on the occasion of one of the most engaging inaugurals since George Washington took the oath at Federal Hall in New York City in 1789? Because who we are now—a country in which traditional barriers of race and age and gender are crumbling—flows in many ways from what LBJ did then. His conflicting language on that October day, meanwhile, underscores the nation's occasionally wary view of the changes wrought by immigration. We like to say we love the new, but the familiar, come to think of it, is awfully comfortable, too. So which will it be in the coming years: the America of the melting pot, or the America of resentments? The America of Lincoln's better angels, or the America of Nixon's Silent Majority?

The answer is almost certainly that we will be one or another of these Americas at different times depending on different circumstances. One reason to think that we might find ourselves with Lincoln more often than with Nixon, though, is that the "we" is getting ever trickier to define quickly and easily in terms of race, ethnicity and religion. We the People of 2009 are not the We the People of 1959 or 1969 or even 1979. And that is because of Lyndon Johnson.

There is something quintessentially American about a lumbering white man from Texas—a complex, gifted and ultimately tragic politician—transforming, however inadvertently, a largely Anglo-Saxon nation into a country which, in roughly the same amount of time that separates us from John F. Kennedy's inauguration, will have more people of color than whites. (The shorthand for this milestone, projected to take place in about 2050, is the arrival of a "majority-minority" country, but if the minorities are actually the majorities, we should probably find a cleaner linguistic way to talk about the coming reality.)

Stories about demography tend to be prospective and general, and it is all too easy to exaggerate this turn in the statistics or that tick in the projections. But this much is clear and certain: the nation over which Obama will preside is changing, rapidly, and history is likely to connect his political rise to the shifting nature of a country that was largely one thing in the wake of World War II and through the Cold War and into the opening years of the 21st century, and quite another as the Obama era began.

In the understandable thrill of the inaugural season, all eyes are turned to this single man, all ears attuned to his voice. Whatever your politics, the election of the 44th president represents a kind of redemption from the long and tragic history of blacks in America since the first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Va., in 1619. Ever since, as the biographer Taylor Branch once wrote, color has defined American life as it defines vision itself.

Yet the Obama victory is about more than Obama, and about more than black and white. In a democratic republic like ours (a product, in large part, of Madison's insight, Jackson's energy and Lincoln's genius), the president is both a maker and a mirror of the manners and morals of the electorate that has invested him with ultimate authority. We have not reached the promised land in which race and ethnicity no longer matter; history tells us that racism, tribalism and nativism will be always with us. The America of 2009, though, is not the America that Johnson felt coming into being the year before he spoke at the Statue of Liberty. After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he told an aide he had just handed the South to the Republicans for a generation. (If you count a generation as roughly 21 years, he was off the mark, since the racially inspired backlash shaped politics for more than 40 years.)

For the moment—and it could be a very brief moment—the division of voters into us and them along racial and ethnic lines is at once more difficult and less effective. As the electorate changes, voters themselves are more likely to come from diverse backgrounds or live in a world in which diversity is the rule, not the exception. Not every part of the country is like the Bronx, where there is a 90 percent chance that any two people chosen at random will be of a different race or ethnicity. But there are now Hispanics, for instance—the country's fastest-growing population—living in practically every county in the country.

The roots of this new America—for it is quite new—can be traced to our long-running debate over immigration, a debate Johnson was trying to shape. Immigration boomed in the first decade of the 20th century, too. Waves came from Italy (1.9 million), Russia (1.5 million) and Austria-Hungary, which included Poland (2 million). All told, by 1910 there were about 13.5 million foreign-born people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census, and 87.4 percent of them were European.

Nativist Americans, though, thought many of the Europeans who were being admitted were inferior, and the Immigration Restriction League was formed to argue against the undesirables, most of whom were Southern and Eastern Europeans. In 1909, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge proposed a literacy test to restrict the influx of "Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics." (Lodge liked "English-speaking [immigrants] … Germans, Scandinavians, and French.") The test, along with other restrictions, passed in 1917. In the 1920s, amid difficult economic times and fears of communism in the wake of the Russian Revolution, America passed quotas that favored Lodge's preferred region of Europe. Jews and Asians were particular targets.

Then, in 1952, Congress passed the McCarran-Walter Act, which essentially made naturalization colorblind. In other words, anyone admitted as an immigrant could apply for citizenship. "By eliminating racial discrimination in naturalization, it helped change the whole pattern after that," says Roger Daniels, professor emeritus of history at the University of Cincinnati and author of several authoritative books on immigration. "Not a lot of Europeans came immediately after the 1952 act, but many recent immigrants, especially Asians who had not been able to naturalize, were able to become citizens."

The 1965 bill was intended to reward the Southern and Eastern Europeans (chiefly the Italians and the Poles) who had been loyal Democrats. It completely abolished national quotas and allowed naturalized citizens to send for relatives—thus rewarding initiative and family stability. "Johnson thought that he was getting payback for the things that had been done to the new immigrants of 1920, the Italians and the Poles, and he thought this would take care of them," says Daniels. "If this had passed soon after World War II, when Europe was a mess, maybe that would have been true. And if it had not been for the Iron Curtain, it would have been something else. But in 1965, immigration from Europe was down to 10 percent." Asians, Mexicans and other Latin Americans began flowing in. Four decades on, Census data estimate that of the nearly 40 million foreign-born people in the United States, the largest percentages come from Mexico, China, the Philippines, India and Vietnam.

The tension between assimilation and separation is eternal, but there is no doubt that this flood of immigration and the breaking down of barriers between previously estranged groups within the country has created a much more fluid culture than previous generations might have thought possible.

The new reality is reflected in the NEWSWEEK Poll. Sixteen years ago, in the wake of the recession of 1991–92, anti-immigrant sentiment ran high, with 60 percent of Americans saying that they thought current immigration to the United States was a bad thing on the whole, and only 29 percent saying it was a good thing. Now the public is evenly divided, 44 percent to 44 percent. The percentage saying there are too many people coming to America from Africa has dropped from 47 percent in 1992 to 21 percent. Closer to home, public approval of interracial marriages (like the one between Obama's parents) has risen significantly in the past decade, from 54 percent in 1995 to 80 percent today. The percentage of Americans who say they know a mixed-race couple has risen from 58 to 79 percent since 1995, and more than a third (34 percent) say they or a close family member have married or live with someone of another race or who has a very different racial, ethnic or religious background, including a quarter (24 percent) who say it is specifically an interracial marriage or live-in relationship.

By and large, the younger you are, the more assimilated you are in this new tapestry of daily life. The key cohort is the 75 million-strong generation known as the millennials (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000). To state the obvious, the experiences of the younger generation—now voting and beginning their adult lives—are not the experiences of their parents or of their grandparents. Vietnam seems as distant as Saratoga; Roe v. Wade as far off as Dred Scott. That much is self-evident, and perennial. (Every generation is shaped by unique forces; that is part of what makes them a generation, aside from the accident of a birth date.) What was less than clear until the election of 2008 was whether the experience of younger Americans would produce a shift in political attitudes, and would such a shift be felt beyond Facebook and Starbucks? Could Obama count on them to show up?

Yes, he could. The disparity between older and younger voters was greater in 2008 than at any other time since exit polling began in 1972, according to the Pew Research Center. Obama won 66 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote, 12 points more than John Kerry attracted in 2004. The younger cohort is more diverse than the general population, more female, more secular, less socially conservative and more willing to describe themselves as liberals. Note to the ghost of LBJ: 20 percent of this crucial group are children of immigrants.

And 2009 is only the beginning of the story. According to Pew, if current trends continue, the U.S. population will rise from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million in 2050. Eighty-two percent—let me repeat that: 82 percent—of the increase will be attributable to immigrants arriving after 2005 and to their descendants. By that point, whites may make up only 47 percent of the country, ending centuries of a majority-white America.

Will the journey be smooth? That is doubtful. Politics can quickly turn mean. In hard economic times there is often a search for an "other" on which to blame the problems of life. In the wake of a possible terrorist attack, fear could easily lead to tension, resentment and discord. The good news about America, though, is that for all of our nativist fevers and periodic witch hunts, we tend, often after having exhausted every other option, to do what is right.

Johnson closed his remarks in October 1965 by alluding to nearby Ellis Island, "whose vacant corridors echo today the joyous sound of long-ago voices." The voices of the new America, of Obama's America, are just beginning to be heard.»

Tradição cumprida: a primeira viagem de Obama fora dos EUA foi ao Canadá

Aviso de Bill Clinton: Obama deve ser «mais optimista» no ataque à crise

Mortgage Foreclosure - o Plano de ajuda às famílias*

* o Presidente Obama anunciou um pacote especial de medidas para estabilizar o mercado imobiliário. São 75 milhões de dólares (cerca de 62 milhões de euros) para evitar o colapso dos proprietário imobiliários. Estima-se que a medida possa ajudar perto de nove milhões de famílias norte-americana

Presidência Obama faz um mês (I)

Recorde o (brilhante) discurso de inauguração do 44.º Presidente dos EUA

quinta-feira, 19 de fevereiro de 2009

'The Quiet American: How The World Sees Obama'

Um artigo de Joe Klein, na revista Time:

«At this year's U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, speaker after Muslim speaker had nothing particularly awful to say about the United States. The Muslims were, in fact, hopeful about, and slightly amazed by, the new American President. Some even wondered aloud what they could do to help him succeed. Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader, listed the significant gestures that Obama had made toward the Islamic world, from the President's interview with al-Arabiya television network to the appointment of George Mitchell as Middle East negotiator. Obama had even made reference to "a hadith, which is something not many Islamic leaders do!" Ibrahim added, referring to the sayings of the Prophet that are not included in the Koran. Then Ibrahim went further: "But will the U.S. find credible partners in the Muslim world? ... How do we expect the President of the United States to solve our problems when we do nothing?" (Read "Talking to Iran: What Are Washington's Options?")

It was a rare slash of candor in the annual winter policy-conference festivities — the worthy caravan of world-class bloviation that migrates from the now soiled majesty of the economic wizards at Davos to the Cold War clutch of the Munich Security Conference, to the think-tanky but heartfelt attempts to reach across the cultural chasm at Doha. These conferences were not much fun for Americans during the George W. Bush years, when a solid plurality of the questions began with "How could you?" But the U.S. election promised a change, and I attended Munich and Doha this year to find out how the world was reacting to the new Administration. I found the world slightly nonplussed — mildly euphoric, if a bit nervous.

The nerves were rattled by the studied opacity of the official American speakers, who are awaiting the Administration's policy reviews on Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan before venturing anything interesting. The clearest statement of American intent came from Vice President Joe Biden in Munich, in a speech so important that Biden read it word for word, without Bidenic huzzahs — he didn't say, for example, "Vladimir Putin, Lord love 'im!" He did say quietly startling things like "We will listen. We will consult." And "We will strive to act preventively, not pre-emptively." And "America will act aggressively against climate change." He offered an unclenched fist to Iran and a willingness to push "the reset button" with Russia. (Read "Europe: No Blank Check for Obama on Global Security".)

This clarion statement of international sanity had a curious effect on its audience: stunned silence, as the assembled Europeans and Russians were confronted with a terrifying new reality. They were out of excuses, especially our NATO allies. If the U.S. was done with thoughtless bellicosity, the peaceable Euros might have to respond more substantively to our requests for them to live up to their pledges in Afghanistan. This seemed the underlying tension in Munich — the split between countries whose troops actually fight in Afghanistan and those whose troops do not. It is a breach to watch, one that could cripple the alliance.

The tension splattered into full view once, in an indirect confrontation between the Defense Ministers of Germany and the U.K. The German, a Gandhian archetype named Franz Josef Jung, gave a ridiculously optimistic report about progress in Afghanistan. The British Defense Minister responded elegantly during the next panel, "We need more of a wartime rather than a peacetime mentality at NATO ... There's too much of an obsession with process and prevarication."

It has become clear that there's a bit of an obsession with process in the Obama Administration as well, but this is a necessary corrective. Rather than making peremptory judgments, pro and con, about foreign leaders, as Bush did, Obama seems predisposed to see every foreign policy problem in its global context — the decision to press the reset button with Russia, for example, could have a profound influence on the start of talks with Iran, especially if the Russians agree to help dissuade the Iranians from an illegal nuclear program (in return for a U.S. pledge to halt the antimissile defense system that Russia fears). Every decision will be evaluated for its synergy with other decisions: troop levels in Afghanistan will reflect, among other things, the level of tension between India and Pakistan.

As a result, Obama's foreign policy will move at the speed of diplomacy — slower than a sclerotic donkey — punctuated by the occasional laser whoosh of a Hellfire missile in Waziristan. His policies will be nuanced and will not please anyone overmuch — not the Muslims (nor the Israelis) nor our NATO allies nor those Americans seeking ideological clarity or consistency. This will make for a round of more argumentative policy conferences next year, but perhaps fewer "How could you?" questions directed at Americans.»

Depois do Japão, Coreia do Sul e Indonésia, Hillary está a caminho da China

Hillary Clinton em operação de charme na TV indonésia

quarta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2009

'Obama's Governing Style'

Um artigo de Tony Blankley, no Washington Times:

«In the Middle Ages, when a young prince suddenly and prematurely became king, the royal court, the church leadership and other senior aristocrats would scrutinize his every word and habit for signs of what kind of mind would be deciding their country's fate and their personal prosperity and safety. Today, around the world, President Barack Obama's every word, every action, every inaction is being likewise scrutinized for similar reasons.

Prior to the November election, the only evidence we had of Mr. Obama's managing style -- and that evidence was indirect -- was the management of his campaign, which was brilliant. But whether he was its active manager or merely took guidance from a shrewd Svengali remains to be known.

Since the election, we have begun to get hints of his management style in four items Mr. Obama himself has described as of the highest priority to him -- and thus, one presumes, items to which he would have given his personal attention: Cabinet selection, closing Gitmo, the stimulus package and bipartisanship.

Regarding the Cabinet selection, he famously said he "screwed up." But from a management perspective, the unanswered question is: How did he "screw up"? Did he actively design the failed vetting process and actively assess the various negative pieces of information and fail to see their significance? Or did he "screw up" by letting others design the failed system and assess the data inflow? The former would show poor substantive judgment. The latter would show he wasn't paying sufficient attention to a presumably vital matter. We don't know yet which kind of "screw-up" it was.

The second item, President Obama's performance at the Gitmo executive order, provided brief but revealing insight into the president's personal involvement in vital decision making. He had campaigned hard on closing Gitmo. His first public signing as president was that executive order to close it down. The central issue of Gitmo's closing was and is: What do we do with the dangerous inmates? President Bush kept it open primarily because his administration couldn't figure out an answer to that question.

Thus, it was breathtaking that at the signing ceremony, President Obama didn't know how -- or even whether -- his executive order was dealing with this central quandary.

President Obama: "And we then provide, uh, the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed, uh, no later than one year from now. We will be, uh. ... Is there a separate, uh, executive order, Greg, with respect to how we're going to dispose of the detainees? Is that, uh, written?"

White House counsel Greg Craig: "We'll set up a process."

To be at the signing ceremony and not know what he was ordering done with the terrorist inmates is a level of ignorance about equivalent to being a groom at the altar in a wedding ceremony and asking who it is you are marrying.

Once again, in the third item -- the stimulus process -- his lack of personal involvement in its design is curious. He recently said (incorrectly, I believe) that his presidency will be judged only on whether he fixes the economy or not. Thus, as he has identified the stimulus as essential to the recovery process, his willingness to let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid design a bill that, even now that it's passed, Mr. Obama has continued to criticize as needing improvement (on bank executive compensation) leaves one puzzled as to why he didn't use his currently vast political clout with his own party allies to shape a bill more to his liking.

The final item to examine here is his repeated campaign and post-campaign commitment to bipartisanship. While he was gracious in inviting leading Republicans to the White House for a Super Bowl party, he permitted his congressional allies to completely shut out (except for the three collaborators) all Senate Republicans and all House Republicans, including their leadership and the GOP's titular leader, Sen. John McCain, in the drafting of the bill and the final conference committee.

He says he wants bipartisanship. Why would he permit his congressional allies to kill any hope of bipartisanship by their egregious conduct?

I can think of four possible explanations for this almost unprecedented presidential detachment from the decision making of policies the president publicly declared to be vital to the country and his presidency:

1) He is a very, very big-picture man, and he delegates decisions even on the central points of vital issues.

2) For tactical reasons, he decided these matters were not worth using up political chits.

3) He is either hesitant or unskilled at management, and he let matters drift until it seemed too late to intervene personally.

4) Or his personality type leaves him surprisingly uninterested in things that aren't personally about him.

Whatever the reason, this level of presidential detachment from high policy decision making is dangerous in a White House that has so many czars and other senior players (the West Wing staff is reputed to be more than 130 -- about double the usual number) combined with emissaries and strong-willed Cabinet secretaries. It may well lead to what has been called (regarding another country's government) "the immanent structurelessness to the running of the state."»

Hillary sobe o tom dos avisos à Coreia do Norte

Bill Clinton elogia o Plano Obama*

* em entrevista a Larry King, o antigo Presidente considera o 'stimulus package' como «a ponte para águas ainda muita turvas»

terça-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2009

Lincoln, o melhor Presidente de sempre

'Honest Abe' foi eleito, mais uma vez, o melhor Presidente da história americana

A propósito do Dia do Presidente (data oficiosa que assinala o aniversário de George Washington), o C-SPAN organizou um ranking de todos os 42 Presidentes anteriores a Barack Obama.

A votação foi feita por um grupo heterogéneo de 65 historiadores, das mais diversas tendências ideológicas. Como era de esperar, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington e Franklin Roosevelt foram os três primeiros -- premiando, assim, o facto de terem sido o Presidente que garantiu a União e aboliu a escravatura (Lincoln), o primeiro Presidente da história americana (Washington) e o Presidente que recuperou a América da Grande Depressão e venceu a II Guerra Mundial (FDR).

Menos consensuais são o quarto posto de Theodore Roosevelt, o sexto de John Kennedy e mesmo o décimo de Reagan. Eisenhower, que mereceu um excelente oitavo lugar, vê reconhecido o seu desempenho como antigo herói militar que soube ser, na Casa Branca, um Presidente de todos os americanos.

George Washington, o primeiro líder dos EUA, ficou em segundo

Clinton, em décimo quinto, vê premiado os anos dourados em termos económicos (e só não terá ficado melhor devido ao escândalo Lewinsky). O 36.º lugar de George W. Bush diz tudo sobre o legado histórico do Presidente que terminou funções há menos de um mês. James Buchanan, o último classificado, foi o Presidente que assistiu, impotente, ao início de uma Guerra Civil.

1.º Abraham Lincoln
2.º George Washington
3.º Franklin Roosevelt
4.º Theodore Roosevelt
5.º Harry Truman
6.º John Kennedy
7.º Thomas Jefferson
8.º Dwight Eisenhower
9.º Woodrow Wilson
10.ºRonald Reagan
11.ºLyndon Johnson
15.º Bill Clinton
18.º George H. W. Bush
25.º Jimmy Carter
27.º Richard Nixon
36.º George W. Bush
42.º James Buchanan

'A Lost Decade Ahead?'

Um artigo perturbador de Robert Samuelson, na Newsweek, onde se faz a analogia entre a década de recessão ou estagnação sentida pelos japoneses e o que poderá vir a acontecer aos EUA e ao resto do mundo ocidental, nos próximos anos:

«"If you delay acting on an economy of this severity, (it potentially) becomes much more difficult for us to get out of. We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they ... suffered what was called the 'lost decade.'"

-- President Barack Obama, Feb. 9

"The Japanese ... had eight separate stimulus packages. ... It was unprecedented. And it didn't work."

-- Conservative TV talk show host Sean Hannity, Jan. 23

We argue by analogy. The president says that Japan's history demonstrates the need for his "stimulus package." To the contrary, claim Hannity and other conservatives, Japan shows that stimulus plans don't work. Up to a point, they're both right. But the possible parallels between Japan's experience and our own are much broader and pose the question of whether we, too, might face a "lost decade."

What happened to Japan in the 1990s?

It did not, as some commentators say, suffer a "depression." Not even a "great recession," as others put it. Japan experienced a listless, boring prosperity. Its economy expanded in all but two years (1998, 1999), although the average annual growth rate was a meager 1.5 percent. Unemployment rose to 5 percent in 2001 from 2.1 percent in 1990. Not good, but hardly a calamity. Japan remained a hugely wealthy society.

Its situation compelled attention mainly because it confounded conventional wisdom. From 1956 to 1973, Japan had grown 9 percent a year; in the 1980s, it was still growing at 4 percent. Japan was widely expected to overtake the United States as the richest, most advanced economy. It didn't. Worse, its semi-stagnation defied the notion that modern economics enabled government to ensure adequate growth.

Papers were written, conferences organized, and the verdict rendered: The Japanese had botched it. After the "bubble economy" of the late 1980s burst, the Bank of Japan had eased credit too slowly. Burdened with bad loans, banks stopped lending; government didn't cleanse the banks quickly enough. Government stimulus packages were too little, too late. Naturally, the economy languished. All plausible -- and wrong.

The standard analysis reassures, because it suggests that with better decisions, Japan might have avoided its prolonged slowdown. The reality seems to be that Japan's economic reverses reflect deeply held social and political values. The same might be true of us.

Japan has what Richard Katz, editor of the Oriental Economist, terms a "dual economy." On the one hand, export industries (autos, steel, electronics) are highly efficient. They face intense global competition. On the other, many domestic industries (food processing, construction, retailing) are inefficient and sheltered from local competition by regulations or custom.

This has suited most Japanese. Exports earned the foreign currency needed to buy food and fuel imports. Meanwhile, protected domestic industries provided the job security and social stability that most Japanese preferred to hyper-competition. While exports thrived, they -- and the supporting business investment -- were Japan's engine of economic growth.

The trouble is that this system broke down in the mid-1980s. The rising yen made Japanese exports costlier on world markets. New competitors -- South Korea, Taiwan -- emerged. Japan lost its engine of growth and hasn't found a new one. That's Japan's central economic problem.

Government has tried. In the 1980s, the Bank of Japan sought to offset the effect of the higher yen with cheap credit. This backfired, resulting in the bubble economy. From 1985 to 1990, Tokyo land prices rose 134 percent; the stock market boomed. Since the bubble's collapse, there have been 13 stimulus plans, reckons economist Randall Jones of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Even now, the economy is trade dependent; in December, exports dropped 35 percent from a year earlier, pushing Japan into a deep recession.

What happened in Japan does not doom Obama's stimulus as futile. Sometimes, government should intervene to break the fall of a declining economy. Japan's packages probably temporarily bolstered a faltering economy. In this sense, the president is correct. Unfortunately, his stimulus is weaker than advertised, because much of the effect occurs after 2009.

Still, the operative word is "temporarily." Hannity is correct in that serial stimulus plans become self-defeating. The required debt is unsustainable. At some point, the economy must generate strong growth on its own. Japan's hasn't. Will ours?

Since the early 1980s, American economic growth has depended on a steady rise in consumer spending supported by more debt and increasing asset prices (stocks, homes). Just as the mid-1980s signaled the end of Japan's export-led growth, the present U.S. slump signals the end of upbeat consumption-led growth. But its legacy is an overbuilt and overemployed consumption sector, from car dealers to malls. The question is whether our system is adaptive enough to create new sources of growth to fill the void left by retreating shoppers.»

O Presidente foi passar o fim-de-semana a Chicago*

* e aqui o vemos a regressar a Washington DC, na companhia de Michelle, das filhas Malia e Sasha e da sogra, Marian

Hillary escolheu o Japão para local da primeira viagem como secretária de Estado*

* a chefe da diplomacia da Administração Obama já está em Tóquio, iniciando um périplo pela Ásia

segunda-feira, 16 de fevereiro de 2009

Barómetro Semanal: 66% de aprovação

Aqui vão os números do Barómetro que publicamos sempre às segundas-feiras:

-- Aprovação 66%
-- Reprovação 26%
(fonte: Real Clear Politics)

SONDAGEM: Quando ouve o nome 'Barack Obama', que palavra (só uma) lhe vem à cabeça?

-- Intelligent/Intellectual: 33%

-- Change: 17%

-- Honest: 16%

-- Confident: 15%

-- Inexperienced: 15%

-- Hope/Hopeful: 14%

-- Smart: 13%

-- Socialist: 13%

-- Good: 12%

-- Charismatic: 11%

-- Great: 10%

(fonte: Pew Research Center)

O choque da realidade

«O Estado é a única entidade com recursos capaz de voltar a dar vida à economia. Acabou-se a festa»

BARACK OBAMA, Presidente dos EUA

John McCain: o Plano «não foi bipartidário» e revelou-se «um mau início para Obama»*

* o senador pelo Arizona, candidato derrotado nas eleições de Novembro, tem um registo impecável em matéria de bipartidarimo em 22 anos no Senado e considera que a forma como os democratas garantiram a passagem do Plano de Recuperação e Reivestimento esteve longe de ser consensual. Depois da derrota a 4 de Novembro, McCain havia prometido que iria colaborar com Obama, mas parece que não é para já...

domingo, 15 de fevereiro de 2009

Thanks, Olympia

O Presidente Obama e os democratas no Congresso bem lhe podem estar gratos: Olympia Snowe, senadora republicana do Maine, que está quase a completar 62 anos, foi uma das chaves que resolveram esta difícil aprovação do Plano de Recuperação e Reinvestimento, megainvestimento federal de 787 mil milhões de dólares para relançar a Economia americana.

Olympia foi um dos três republicanos moderados que possibilitaram a aprovação do diploma, juntando-se a 57 dos 58 senadores democratas (Ted Kennedy não pôde participar na votação, por razões de saúde). A par de Susan Collins (também ela uma senadora republicana moderada eleita pelo mesmo estado, o Maine) e do senador Arlen Spector (republicano da Pensilvânia), Olympia Snowe desempenhou um papel que, das duas uma: ou fica para a história como tendo sido decisivo para garantir o mínimo de acordo bipartidário nesta fase inicial da era Obama (ainda que em doses menores do que se chegou a acreditar), ou, então, será mais tarde recordado como uma cedência dramaticamente errada que os republicanos jamais irão perdoar.

Enquanto ainda é cedo para se fazer o «julgamento da história», vale a pena olhar para o registo dialogante, bem ao jeito do que Obama pretende ver suceder nos próximos anos no Congresso, de Olympia Snowe.

Eleita, em 2006, pela Time como um dos dez melhores senadores do Capitólio (numa lista em que constavam pesos-pesados de Capitol Hill, como John McCain ou Ted Kennedy), Snowe tem um historial de «gamesolver» em votações que estiveram perto de emperrar no filibuster (minoria de bloqueio).

Desta vez, o 'stimulus package' em que Obama tanto apostou só não foi vítima desse instrumento de travagem do Senado graças ao voto desta senadora com 13 anos de experiência no Capitólio e já quase três décadas de Congresso (foi membro da Câmara dos Representantes durante 16 anos).

Filha de emigrantes gregos, representa um estado da Costa Leste e tem vindo a corporizar, nestes 29 anos como congressista, aquela velha ideia de que «um republicano da Nova Inglaterra é mais democrata do que um democrata do Texas...»

Foi um pouco isso que terá acontecido, novamente. Um telefonema do vice-presidente Joe Biden, amigo pessoal de Olympia há mais de 20 anos, terá sido o tiro certeiro que desbloqueou o impasse.

Esperemos que o esforço de Joe tenha valido a pena. Mas uma coisa parece já certa: o «longo consenso bipartidário em tempos de crise» do Presidente Obama não passará de um sonho que durou aqueles 80 dias entre a eleição e o pós tomada de posse. É que mesmo com o paradigma da «change» em marcha, «the show must go on» em Washington e não será agora que este espectáculo deixará de ter dois actores (democratas e republicanos ) que se definem pela oposição entre si.

Terá Obama a capacidade de escapar aos fantasmas dos anos crispados dos dois mandatos de Bill Clinton?

'Republicans Must Be a National Party'

Um artigo de Fred Barnes, editor-executivo do Weekly Standard, sobre as ideias e posições de Jeb Bush, irmão e filho de dois antigos Presidentes, ex-governador da Florida e, para alguns, um possível nomeado do Partido Republicano às presidenciais de 2012:

«His grandfather Prescott Bush was a U.S. senator, and his father and brother were presidents. Yet Jeb Bush doesn't believe in political dynasties, and seems perfectly willing to let his family's legacy of serving in high office in Washington pass him by.

Ismael RoldanIt's "possible," he says, that he'll never run again -- for anything. That includes the presidency in 2012. "I'm totally comfortable with what I'm doing and how I'm going about it. I hope I can find a role to play that doesn't include running for office to make a contribution."

Mr. Bush, who turned 56 this week, stepped down in 2007 after eight years as governor of Florida. Now he's working in real estate, consulting, giving paid speeches, promoting education reform, and offering advice to the Republican Party. Even the U.S. Senate seat that Republican Mel Martinez will vacate next year didn't entice him. That, he says, would require a seven and a half year commitment -- a year and a half of campaigning and six years in office. He sounds weary merely discussing another campaign.

But Mr. Bush becomes animated when talking about ideas and policy innovations -- he's an unorthodox Republican who latches onto reform ideas wherever he finds them. He's a fan of the school system in Sweden (more on this below). Currently he's reading "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns" -- on his Kindle electronic reader. And he's convinced Republicans should make a heroic effort to govern California because it's "a center of innovation and a place that looks like the changing demographics of our country, similar to Florida."

But the first question I ask Mr. Bush is about his life and work after declining to seek a Senate seat. He's not second-guessing his decision. He's relaxed, dressed Miami-style in slacks, a tattersall shirt and no tie. When Mr. Bush left the governor's mansion in Tallahassee, he worked out of an office in his Coral Gables condo. Six months later, he moved to the Four Seasons office complex five miles away on the fringe of downtown Miami. It is not plush, but modest and functional with a modern print on the wall and a few dozen books -- on policy, politics, religion -- on two shelves.

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Nevertheless, his current lack of interest in elective office surely is not the last word on Mr. Bush's political career. He's popular with both moderate and conservative Republicans, and more easy-going and genial than his brother George. Mr. Bush was a successful governor (1999-2007) of the fourth most populous state. His tenure was memorable because of his intense focus on reform of education, government, the budget process, civil service, health care, procurement and race-based programs. He also cut taxes in a state with no income tax.

What comes through when Mr. Bush is asked about education is how radical his views are. He would toss out the traditional K-to-12 scheme in favor of a credit system, like colleges have.

"It's not based on seat time," he says. "It's whether you accomplished the task. Now we're like GM in its heyday of mass production. We don't have a flourishing education system that's customized. There's a whole world out there that didn't exist 10 years ago, which is online learning. We have the ability today to customize learning so we don't cast young people aside."

This is where Sweden comes in. "The idea that somehow Sweden would be the land of innovation, where private involvement in what was considered a government activity, is quite shocking to us Americans," Mr. Bush says. "But they're way ahead of us. They have a totally voucherized system. The kids come from Baghdad, Somalia -- this is in the tougher part of Stockholm -- and they're learning three languages by the time they finish. . . . there's no reason we can't have that except we're stuck in the old way."

So are Republicans, Mr. Bush believes. But with a few adjustments, the GOP can become a modern reform party. "I don't think there's anything that holds us back," he says. "I think we're actually well positioned to do exactly that." Mr. Bush would stand the party on its head by de-emphasizing Washington and mounting "a real effort to play offense outside of Washington in advancing a reform agenda. I think a respectful, policy-oriented opposition in Washington will be quite effective." But the states are where "being able to change things is easier to do."

This approach "worked in the early 90s," Mr. Bush says. "We had some fantastic governors who were my role models." He mentions his brother when he led Texas, John Engler of Michigan and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin. "We had an all-star team." He likes the current crop of Republican governors, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

"Beyond the ideas and all of that," Mr. Bush says the GOP must be a national party. That means "we need to be competitive in California," where the "burden of big-government policies" has produced a $42 billion deficit. "I don't care how big the state is, that's mind-boggling. It's not a tax problem. Don't they have the 'excuse me for living' tax out there? The growth of government spending has been enormous. And a creative, reform-minded candidate on the Republican side" could be elected governor.

He encouraged Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, to try. "She's the kind of person who's lived and managed and led through the disruptive changes that are going on in our lives," Mr. Bush says. On Feb. 9, Ms. Whitman set up an exploratory committee, normally a precursor to running.

Mr. Bush commented last fall that "a big-government Republican" is a nonexistent species. What did he mean?

"I think the one common thread throughout all these strains of conservative thinking and Republicanism is limited government. If we don't have that in common, what else do we have? And the next question you'll ask is what do I think of my brother's record. I think circumstances come into play. When you're attacked as a nation it's legitimate to spend resources to deal with huge holes in national security. And so there are times in history when it's important to use the power of government."

Republicans must also clean up their act on immigration, Mr. Bush insists. Last year, he says they "set a tone" that pushed Hispanic voters away. "The tone of the debate reached a point that was very damning to the Republican Party, and the evidence is in. The chest pounders lost."

Mr. Bush supports immigration reform as championed by his brother and John McCain, which would allow illegals already in this country to stay. "Politics has to be about ideas and values and aspirations." he says. "It shouldn't be about anger and preying on people's emotions. You can't lead a mob."

To publicize their alternatives to President Obama's policies, Mr. Bush wants Republicans to emulate the British ("recognizing that we have a different system") and set up a shadow cabinet. "We should organize our opposition based on policy," he says. "I don't think the [2008] election was a transformational one in the ideological sense. I don't think Americans went to the left. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't get that sense. It's a huge opportunity to advocate reforms and advocate our beliefs and do so with some humility and recognition that the other guys won."

What did he take away from his experience as governor? Mr. Bush says he "learned you could change things if you worked at it. What I learned was how to take ideas and implement them over the long haul. The thing with politics is that it's focused on the here and now." However, "by focusing on the longer-term things I had a chance to take conservative ideas and reform-minded thoughts and put them into practice. It was invigorating. It was uplifting to me personally to see that in America a whole lot of people can work together to accomplish that."

As Mr. Bush explains it, an exhausting strategy is required. "You have to have an aspirational goal, and you have to communicate it over and over and over. You have to have the humility to recognize that people aren't watching your every word. . . . You have to be constantly adding to the reforms. You have to take the risk of measuring the success or lack of it. You have to be held accountable . . . Sometimes it's not fun."

Mr. Bush has kind words for Mr. Obama. He was the first Democrat to win Florida since 1976, and Mr. Bush has nothing but praise for his "spectacularly well-run campaign. They started with the premise that we're going to have a huge database and we're going to connect people to this campaign. When things got going in earnest in the general election, it was a finely tuned machine, to Obama's credit." The campaign spent $60 million in the state, Mr. Bush says, based on the correct assumption that "if they won Florida, they'd win the election."

He also has a suggestion. "I think it would be great politically for President Obama" to break with one of his party's interest groups, Mr. Bush says. "I hope it's the teachers' union. He can bring about a transformation of education" and speak "on behalf of the kids that traditionally are shut out of the learning process, and [allow] a thousand flowers to bloom, not just one prescribed from Washington."

Mr. Bush has a personal motive for urging Republicans to "avoid personal, partisan attacks" on Mr. Obama, a strategy they've largely followed in Washington. "I would never want Obama to go through what my brother went through. It might be fair that every president gets the same amount of vitriol. But it's not right for our country, it's not going to help us, and it's not going to help Republicans."»