quarta-feira, 31 de março de 2010
terça-feira, 30 de março de 2010
segunda-feira, 29 de março de 2010
domingo, 28 de março de 2010
sábado, 27 de março de 2010
sexta-feira, 26 de março de 2010
quinta-feira, 25 de março de 2010
Republicanos encontram duas irregularidades e obrigam à repetição da Reforma da Saúde na Câmara dos Representantes
Duas questões de pormenor forçarão a nova contagem de espingardas da lei já assinada por Obama:
«Senate Republicans have suceeded in forcing Democrats to send the health reform reconciliation bill back to the House for another vote, after Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin ruled early Thursday morning that two minor provisions violated the chamber's rules and couldn’t be included in the final bill.
Democrats believe the provisions — technical changes to language about Pell Grants for low-income students – are so minor that they don’t threaten to derail the reconciliation package, which includes a series of fixes to the reform bill that has already been signed into law by President Barack Obama.
But clearly Democrats are anxious to put the health care voting behind them – given the painful history of the past year of close votes and near-death experiences on the bill – and want nothing to pop up now that could give them headaches.
It’s also possible that Republicans can force more changes to the bill when the Senate reconvenes at 9:45 a.m., with a vote on the bill scheduled for 2 p.m. It wasn’t clear early Thursday morning when the House would vote, but both chambers are anxious to wrap up business to get out of town for the two-week Easter recess.
All told, 16 lines of text will be removed from the 153-page bill to strip the Pell Grant language, Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman Jim Manley told reporters as business on the Senate floor wrapped up early Thursday morning.
The House has already passed the reconciliation bill, on Sunday night when it approved the landmark health reform measure. But since the House and Senate must pass identical versions of the reconciliation bill to put the fixes into law, the reconciliation piece must go back to the House for a second vote.
And the reconciliation bill includes several provisions that are must-haves for House members, including eliminating the Cornhusker Kickback and other state-specific deals and putting off a tax on "Cadillac" insurance plans until 2018.
“We are confident the House will quickly pass the bill with these minor changes,” Manley said Thursday morning.
Obama's signature Tuesday means the landmark health reform changes are already the law of the land, and nothing that happens to the reconciliation bill will change that. He travels to Iowa City, Iowa, Thursday to promote health reform -- the city where he first unveiled his plans for universal coverage as a presidential candidate in May 2007.
The provisions are included in one non-health-reform part of the reconciliation bill – a change to student lending laws sought by Obama. One provision would make sure students don’t see cuts in their Pell Grants even if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money for the program, and the other strikes obsolete language. But they didn’t pass the parliamentarian’s muster – despite extensive Democratic efforts to make the reconciliation bill bulletproof to just such a technical challenge.
A spokeswoman for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) reiterated that the changes are "minor" and won't create problems when the altered bill goes back to the House for approval. The reconciliation bill is designed to make changes to the newly minted health care reform law.
"The parliamentarian struck two minor provisions tonight from the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, but this bill’s passage in the Senate is still a big win for the American people. These changes do not impact the reforms to the student loan programs and the important investments in education. We are confident the House will quickly pass the bill with these minor changes,” Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul said in a statement.
The all-night session came as Republicans offered 29 amendments in a final attempt to scuttle the bill, or at least force Democrats into taking politically difficult votes that could be used against them in November.
Democrats steadily rejected each amendment, arguing that any changes would send the bill back to the House for another vote, an outcome Senate Democrats worked mightily to avoid before the parliamentarian's ruling early Thursday. That meant Democrats had to vote no on such campaign ad fodder as a provision barring sex offenders from being given Viagra.
Reid finally adjourned the marathon session at about 2:45 a.m. after striking a deal with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to return at Thursday morning -- news that was greeted with audible sighs of relief from tired senators.»
quarta-feira, 24 de março de 2010
Texto publicado ontem no site de A BOLA, secção Outros Mundos:
Barack & Nancy Care - A Reforma da Saúde nos EUA
Por Germano Almeida
Uma vez mais, as notícias sobre o falhanço de Obama revelaram-se precipitadas: a Reforma da Saúde, que tinha sido dada como morta depois da perda da supermaioria democrata, a 19 de Janeiro, foi aprovada na Câmara dos Representantes – e, desta vez, só precisará de uma maioria simples para passar no Senado.
Quer isto dizer que o fantasma do 'filibuster' republicano não impedirá a concretização da principal batalha política do primeiro mandato de Obama. O que foi aprovado na House será sujeito a alterações no Senado, mas sob a forma de 'reconciliation', figura que não exige 60 votos para aprovação.
Neste momento, os democratas têm 59 senadores – e só precisam de uma maioria de 51 para selar uma reforma que estava a ser tentada no último século, desde Teddy Roosevelt.
Em votação histórica, que se prolongou madrugada dentro na câmara baixa, o Congresso norte-americano aprovou, por 219 votos favoráveis e 212 contra, a Reforma da Saúde.
Sem qualquer apoio republicano e com 34 democratas a votar contra – menos, ainda assim, do que havia acontecido na primeira aprovação feita pela Câmara dos Representantes.
Foi uma enorme vitória política para Barack Obama e, como bem lembrou o Presidente, só foi possível graças à «extraordinária liderança da 'speaker' Nancy Pelosi».
Depois da derrota de Martha Coakley no Massachussets, os democratas entraram em estado de choque. Muitos garantiram que, sem a supermaioria, o sonho de Obama de alargar os cuidados de saúde a quase toda a população tinha ido por água abaixo. O próprio Presidente anunciara, no dia seguinte à derrota no Massachussets, que o importante seria «aprovar rapidamente uma versão mais modesta do diploma».
Havia dois caminhos a seguir: tentar preservar uma versão alargada do ObamaCare, mas tendo presente que já não havia os votos suficientes para fazer aprovar a versão final no Senado; ou iniciar com os republicanos uma versão bem mais modesta, evitando, assim, o risco de 'filibuster' (minoria de bloqueio).
Vingou a tese de Nancy
A via mais pragmática era liderada por Rahm Emanuel, o chefe de gabinete de Obama. Rahm já havia começado a negociar como a ala republicana um conjunto de cedências. Mas Nancy Pelosi acreditou que era possível manter o que o Senado tinha aprovado na véspera de Natal (ainda com a supermaioria democrata).
Obama hesitou, porque, numa primeira fase, duvidou dos benefícios de retomar o processo, numa altura em que os democratas ainda estavam a recuperar do choque e perdiam, claramente, o 'momentum' político.
Mas Nancy terá convencido o Presidente de que iria conseguir estabelecer uma nova maioria no Congresso – e persuadiu Obama a aceitar uma 'final push' pela Reforma da Saúde que implicaria dois passos: uma nova aprovação na câmara baixa e uma concretização no Senado pela via da «reconciliação».
A tese de Nancy acabou por vingar – e o sucesso desta madrugada mostrou que o caminho estava correcto. Anne Eshoo, congressista democrata da Califórnia, comentou ao site Politico.com: «Depois do desastre do Massachussets, a speaker Pelosi foi a única que manteve pressão real sobre o Presidente em relação à Reforma da Saúde. Os méritos devem-lhe ser atribuídos».
O plano aprovado no Congresso prevê um investimento de 940 mil milhões de dólares, a pagar na próxima década. Alarga o acesso a cerca de 95 por cento da população até aos 65 anos (a população sénior já está coberta com os programas Medicare e Medicaid). Prevê a obrigatoriedade de um seguro de saúde garantido pelos empregadores aos seus funcionários, com a contrapartida de benefícios fiscais. Os portadores de doenças crónicas não poderão ver recusados os pedidos de tratamento por parte das seguradoras.
O actual Sistema de Saúde na América está obsoleto. É caríssimo (representa um sexto do PIB americano) e é injusto (deixa de fora uma grande fatia da população). O plano aprovado cobrirá cerca de 32 milhões dos 47 milhões que se encontram desprotegidos.
Com o ObamaCare, todos os adultos na América terão um seguro de saúde, a partir de 2014 – através do seguro garantido pelo seu emprego, ou de um mercado individual (quem tiver menos rendimentos, receberá ajudas governamentais).
Enorme vitória de Obama
Obama sublinhou a importância do momento histórico: «Depois de quase cem anos de conversa e frustração, e depois de um ano de esforços continuados e debate intenso, o Congresso americano finalmente declarou que os trabalhadores americanos, e as famílias americanas, e os pequenos negócios na América também, merecem ter a segurança de saber que neste país nem a doença nem os acidentes devem pôr em perigo os sonhos que demoraram uma vida inteira a conquistar».
Recuperando um registo que utilizou muito durante a campanha, Barack apontou: «Quando os 'pundits' diziam que já não era possível, ficámos acima do ruído dos políticos. Conseguimos passar à frente da influência dos 'interesses especiais'. Não desistimos perante a desconfiança, o cinismo ou o medo. Em vez disso, provámos que continuamos a ser um povo capaz de fazer grandes coisas. Provámos que este governo, que é um governo 'do povo e pelo povo', continua a ser capaz de trabalhar 'para o povo'».
E sobre os votos favoráveis de congressistas democratas que revelaram muitas reservas quase até à hora da votação, Obama decretou: «Sei que não foi um voto fácil para muita gente – mas foi o voto certo».
Para o Presidente, esta aprovação não marca um triunfo partidário: representa, isso sim, o triunfo do bom senso. «Este debate nunca foi sobre abstracções, uma luta entre Esquerda e Direita, entre democratas e republicanos. Foi sobre algo bem mais importante: é sobre cada americano que sente o choque de abrir uma carta em que fica a saber que os 'premiums' voltaram a disparar, em tempos que já são suficientemente duros. É sobre o desespero de cada pai, que perante uma doença fatal de um filho, não sabe o que mais possa tentar fazer, depois de ouvir repetidamente 'não'. É sobre todos os donos de pequenos comércios, que eram forçados a escolher entre admitir empregados ou manter o seu negócio. Esta não é, por isso, uma vitória partidária. É uma vitória do povo americano e é uma vitória do senso comum.»
O regresso da «change»
Sem temer a contra-resposta que os republicanos já estão a preparar, Obama focou-se no essencial: «Quando a poeira assentar, ficará claro que, a partir de agora, não vigorará um sistema que privilegiava os interesses das grandes seguradoras, mas sim um sistema que integra visões dos dois partidos».
Pelas contas da Administração Obama, a lei que será assinada, nos próximos dias, pelo Presidente reduzirá o défice norte-americano em mais de um bilião de dólares na próxima década e em mais de um trilião de dólares nas próximas duas décadas.
«Não resolverá todos os problemas do Sistema de Saúde, mas move-nos na direcção correcta. É isso que a 'mudança' deve ser», conclui Obama.
Visão bem diferente tem o senador John McCain, do Arizona: «Pela primeira vez na História, será feita uma grande reforma sem o apoio da maioria dos americanos. Quando se vai contra a vontade das pessoas, paga-se um preço».
Os republicanos estão contra esta enorme intervenção governamental na área da Saúde – mas já não conseguirão travar a aprovação do ObamaCare.
A opinião pública, que se tem mantido dividida sobre esta tema, terá uma importante palavra a dizer nas midterms de Novembro.»
terça-feira, 23 de março de 2010
A secretária da Saúde, antiga governadora do Kansas, foi uma das grandes vencedoras da votação desta madrugada no Congresso:
Robert Gibbs: «A aprovação da Reforma da Saúde foi mais importante para Obama do que a sua eleição como Presidente»
O porta-voz da Casa Branca não faz a coisa por menos...
segunda-feira, 22 de março de 2010
«Não seria possível ver a Reforma da Saúde aprovada no Congresso sem o trabalho de Edward Kennedy, que fez deste tema a causa da sua vida. Numa carta que escreveu ao Presidente Obama, dias antes de morrer, o senador Kennedy referiu que a Reforma da Saúde era o 'grande assunto por resolver na nossa sociedade'. Esta noite, esse assunto ficou, finalmente, resolvido»
Nancy Pelosi, esta madrugada, no Câmara dos Representantes
Nancy Pelosi, esta madrugada, no Câmara dos Representantes
Foi à justa, mas passou: 219 votos a favor, 212 contra.
Barack Obama teve, esta madrugada, a sua maior vitória política interna desde que é Presidente. A Reforma da Saúde foi aprovada na Câmara dos Representantes, em grande parte devido ao trabalho feito por Nancy Pelosi, a speaker do Congresso.
«House Democrats passed their landmark health care overhaul on a party-line 219-212 vote late Sunday night, marking a stunning turnaround for an undertaking on the brink of collapse just weeks ago and an achievement that leaders said was akin to the enactment of Social Security and Medicare.
The vote sends the Senate’s health care bill to the president for his signature following a weekend of high drama. After days of an all-out whip effort led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama, the outcome was still in doubt until the White House cut a deal Sunday afternoon with a bloc of anti-abortion-rights Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.) by drafting an executive order reiterating that no federal funding would pay for elective abortions.
The House also approved a package of reconciliation "fixes" to the Senate version of the bill, which will be considered this week by the Senate. A majority of Senators, all Democrats, have agreed to support the reconciliation measure.
Purely in terms of stagecraft, the day’s most dramatic moment came after a midday Democratic Caucus — the final in scores the majority has held over the past year to wrestle with health care. During that meeting, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) placed the issue in the context of the civil rights struggle, and both spoke about Lewis’ experience 45 years ago leading civil rights marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, Ala., where they were assaulted by state troopers. When the Caucus meeting ended, Pelosi, backed by her leadership team, emerged from the Cannon House Office Building room holding the oversized ceremonial gavel that Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) had used to call the vote when the Medicare bill was passed in 1965.
“I will use it this evening when we cast a very successful vote for this important legislation,” Pelosi said. “We’re doing this one for the American people.”
Pelosi, Lewis and other Democratic leaders then linked arms and walked out of Cannon and across the street to the Capitol, through a gauntlet of anti-reform tea party protesters shouting “kill the bill!” and a smattering of pro-reform supporters shouting “We vote yes!”
“I think I will remember the walk across the street with John Lewis for the rest of my life,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.).
The health care reform bill’s passage comes after a year of seemingly intractable party infighting. And it comes two months after the effort appeared all but dead following the upset victory of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the special Senate election to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy (D). As he neared the end of his life last summer, Kennedy, the former chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called health reform the cause of his life.
But Pelosi, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly regrouped, brushing aside Democrats who urged them to scale back the effort and finding a way to appease House Members who had a profound distaste for the Senate bill, in particular its tax on high-cost health insurance plans and a series of special deals cut individual Senators.
Several of those deals will be deleted if the reconciliation package passes the Senate and the “Cadillac” tax will be dramatically scaled back and delayed until 2018 – two presidential elections away. The reconciliation bill also boosts affordability credits for buying insurance plans.
The combined package spends $940 billion to expand health care coverage to 32 million Americans while slicing the deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years and more than $1 trillion in the second decade.
It also raises or creates a host of new taxes, with the largest tax increase hitting the wealthy, and it slices more than $500 billion from expected Medicare costs over the next decade.
Democrats said the bill would extend the solvency of Medicare’s trust fund by nine years; Republicans said the cuts would erode services for seniors, and they charged the bill would ruin the economy and the quality of health care while bankrupting the government.
The true turning point for Democrats in their months-long effort came when Stupak and his cadre of like-minded, anti-abortion-rights Democrats announced a deal at a packed 4 p.m. press conference on Sunday — ensuring at least 216 votes for passage of the bill.
Republicans ripped the deal as a betrayal, and the Catholic bishops remained opposed to the package, but Stupak said that there was simply no way for his tougher abortion insurance ban to get through the Senate.
“We’d all love to have a statute,” Stupak said. “We can’t get 60 votes in the Senate. The reality is we can’t do it.”
While the White House and Pelosi were heavily involved in negotiating the abortion compromise, at one point on Saturday, talks with Stupak appeared to have broken down as top Democrats sought to splinter his coalition and peel off the support they needed without him.
“It’s the damndest process you’ve ever seen,” Stupak said around 3:30 p.m., acknowledging he was no longer in talks with leaders or the White House. During votes later Saturday, Stupak talked on the floor with Dingell, a home-state colleague, close friend and mentor. Stupak had managed Dingell’s unsuccessful campaign to hold onto his Energy and Commerce Committee gavel when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) challenged him after the 2008 elections — and was crushed when Dingell lost.
Now, Stupak was leading a group of holdouts that was threatening to sink a reform initiative Dingell, and Dingell’s father before him, have made their life’s work in the House.
The duo agreed to meet in Dingell’s Capitol hideaway, where they spent about an hour, one-on-one, talking about the standoff between leaders and the anti-abortion rights group Stupak was leading, Democratic aides said.
Dingell’s message: Don’t lose hope, and don’t walk away. “John Dingell had a piece of me yesterday,” Stupak said at his Sunday press conference.
Stupak also had become a hero of sorts to Republicans who hoped abortion would ultimately sink the Democrats’ bill. But he went from hero to villain in an instant.
“Anybody who will trade the protections of law for a vague promise which can at best last a few years, is making obviously a terrible trade, one that can never be pictured as pro-life, one that will never be viewed as pro-life, one that by pro-lifers of the future will be viewed as a Benedict Arnold moment,” said Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).
But Stupak said the executive order carried the same effect as law.
“Make no doubt about it, there will be no public funds for abortion,” he said.
Stupak also said that his group would continue to work to push his stricter abortion language in the future. “I would like some day to get statutorily what the bishops would want,” he said.
But he understood that the compromise wasn’t going to sit well with either camp.
“Now both sides will be pissed,” the Michigan Democrat said with a wry smile.
Democrats and Republican leaders, meanwhile, were already turning their eyes to the fall elections and assessing the impact of the sweeping legislation.
House Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and other GOP leaders predicted the bill would lead to a new Republican revolution sweeping them back into power, and over the weekend he compared the package to “Armageddon.”
“We’re now about 24 hours from Armageddon, 24 hours from Members casting a vote on one of the biggest bills they’ll ever vote for in their careers,” Boehner told GOP Members on Saturday during a Conference meeting. “We are right there.”
GOP lawmakers exited the meeting to the cheers of protesters who told thanked them and urged them to “fight on.”
As the debate on the health care bill neared on Sunday, Republicans still raised numerous objections and procedural motions on the House floor to try to delay action, but acknowledged that under the rules adopted by Democrats there will be little they can do to stop the final vote.
“These rules closed the door on everything,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) said. “They have raised tyranny to a new level.”
But as Democratic holdouts began to announce their support for the bill, the GOP resolve began to waver.
By the time the vote was held, most of protesters had left and Republicans, who had drawn much of their political energy from the thousands of activists who flooded the Capitol grounds, accepted they had lost.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) predicted that the bill would become more popular once it becomes law.
“First of all, the American people are going to wake up the day after the president signs the final package and realize that all the horror stories that Republicans and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have talked about are just not true. ... They are going to realize the world did not come to an end, and then they are going to begin to see the benefits of legislation.”
Democrats pointed to a host of changes that would take place within six months of enactment, including banning discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, banning lifetime insurance caps, banning rescissions when people get sick and beginning to close the “doughnut” hole for Medicare prescription drug benefits.
“There is going to be a huge credibility gap on the other side,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen also said that Democrats are eager to defend the bill on the campaign trail.
“I don’t quote George Bush much, but ‘bring it on,’” he said.»
domingo, 21 de março de 2010
Um artigo de Carrie Buddof Brown e Glenn Thrush, no POLITICO.com:
In the jittery days following Scott Brown’s Senate victory, Nancy Pelosi was eager to resurrect comprehensive health reform. But first, she had to get past longtime ally Rahm Emanuel, who was counseling President Barack Obama to consider a smaller, piecemeal approach.
During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”
Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.
Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise – and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.
In the end, Pelosi, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) braved a political backlash to pursue comprehensive reform, green-lighting a two-step reconciliation process that requires the House to approve a Senate health bill reviled by many House Democrats.
If the House approves the bill Sunday – and House leaders sound confident they can — it will be followed by a potentially contentious Senate re-write of the legislation that removes special deals like the “Cornhusker Kickback” and delays an excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans until 2018.
Republicans may have the last laugh, of course, if they are able to capitalize on the plan’s unpopularity in the midterms.
But pass or fail, the fact that a sweeping reform effort is alive at all — much less on the precipice of becoming the law of the land after its brush with death eight weeks ago — is a remarkable turnabout for a party that was on the brink of a political and nervous breakdown in late January.
The rebirth of the reform effort is the result of a little luck, insurance company avarice, a subsiding of post-Brown panic among party incumbents and the calculation by many Hill Democrats that going small or giving up was just as politically perilous as going big.
But the main reason the bill has made it to the floor has as much to do with the complex, occasionally tense, ever-evolving partnership between the first African-American president and the first female speaker.
“I think [Pelosi] is the one who has kept the steel in the President’s back – and I think she represents that to Harry Reid too,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Pelosi’s closest friend in Congress, told POLITICO.
“White Houses end up with – how do I say this? — they take an incrementalism pill,” added Eshoo. “But Nancy Pelosi is not an incrementalist.”
Neither is Obama, says Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), it’s just that he moves more deliberately. “I don’t think [the White House] were there from Day One, but they were from Day Two,” he said. “I think they knew this would be the way.”
Life before Scott Brown
The groundwork for Sunday’s vote was laid out during a three-day marathon White House negotiating session, which took place in the week before the Massachusetts special election Jan. 19.
The fact Brown might take Ted Kennedy’s old seat – and what that would mean for health reform — didn’t dawn on the principals involved on the bill at first, but it eventually began to sink in, lending the effort a sense of increased urgency, according to a senior Senate aide.
In sessions that stretched into the early morning hours, Obama helped House and Senate Democrats resolve their biggest policy battles. And they left the White House the Friday afternoon before the vote with a tentative agreement. Looking back, congressional Democrats, demoralized and frustrated after the Massachusetts loss, may well have decided that they were too far apart and too exhausted to push ahead, if they didn’t have that deal.
But there was a stark reminder during those three days of the differing styles of the House and the Senate, and how that divide would define the next two months.
On the second day, Obama asked the House and Senate leaders to return after dinner with $70 billion in suggested cuts from the bill. The senators hunkered down in Sen. Max Baucus’s office, ordered pizzas and drew up a list of trims. Each senator gave up something, aides said.
Later that night, back at the White House, the House presented its approach: They would cut nothing. Obama, not persuaded, sent them to different rooms, and told them to keep working at it.
Eventually, they whittled the gap down to $20 billion, and Obama made his own suggestions.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, seemed pleased. “I don’t speak for the House, but you have put forward a serious set of numbers,” he said to Obama, according to a person present.
Pelosi was not so impressed. “Mr. President, I agree with Henry on two points,” she said before turning to Waxman. “The president put out a set of numbers, and you don’t speak for the House of Representatives.”
Obama was done. He left the room in frustration, telling his aides to deal with it.
Living with the loss
The confusion only deepened after Brown’s victory.
Harry Reid, facing a stiff reelection challenge back in Nevada, made it clear that he was in no rush to push through another bill, committing only to doing health care “this year.”
New York Sen. Charles Schumer, an influential Reid adviser who presided over the Democrats’ Senate take-back in 2006, prodded Senate Democrats to put the issue on the back-burner in favor of a high-profile push for jobs bills.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a key liberal, pronounced reform was dead. And Emanuel, a former congressman who quarterbacked the hugely successful ’06 midterm as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, talked about scaling the measure down in conversations with Blue Dog Democrats – all the better to push jobs bills and an overhaul of financial regulatory reform.
Publicly, Obama seemed to side with Pelosi over his own chief of staff, professing his commitment to comprehensive reforms at the State of the Union.
But he was also sending deeply mixed signals. In a closely watched interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos a day after Brown’s win, Obama expressed support for a quickly passed bill containing only “the core elements” of reform.
The White House press office wouldn’t participate in this story, saying it wasn’t appropriate to comment on the legislation while the outcome remained uncertain.
Pelosi had her own chorus of incrementalists to deal with. A few days after Brown won, dispirited Democrats rose one-by-one at a private meeting to plead with the speaker to abandon her plans for a bigger bill and move something a little more piecemeal. “A lot of people wanted us to take baby steps,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democrats’ campaign arm in the House.
She explained that incremental legislation posed even more problems because the pieces of health care reform are so interrelated – but did offer one sop to reassure them: Legislation to repeal a decades-old antitrust exemption for health insurers. It passed with over 400 votes, but it was the last incremental bill she offered.
Around the time of Brown’s victory, Pelosi and her staff became alarmed by reports, in the New York Times and elsewhere, that consensus was growing for the House passing the Senate bill as-is – with no reconciliation.
Pelosi, according to several associates, went through the roof, telling Obama and Emanuel that there was no chance her members would pass the Senate bill with its excise tax and sweetheart deals. Obama quickly soured on that idea too, particularly as the backlash built over deals involving Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
For his part, Obama was frustrated with the speaker’s insistence that the Senate move first on the reconciliation bill, successfully urging her to drop the demand, according to staffers.
Even before the Massachusetts shocker, Ron Pollack, the executive director of the pro-reform Families USA, began canvassing health care and legislative experts for ways to keep the bill alive without 60 votes.
The most promising option was something he termed the “two-step:” The House would pass the Senate bill, followed immediately by a package of fixes that could move through Senate through reconciliation.
A day before the election, Pollack sent an email to 19 senior congressional aides, as well as senior staff at the White House. It was already being discussed privately, but Pollack wanted to the idea in the public domain, telling POLITICO about the potential approach.
“I felt it was predictable that if he did win, it would have a major impact in terms of what the perceptions would be about the future of the health reform effort,” Pollack said.
Pelosi’s staff liked it.
Obama settles in
Meanwhile, in the White House, the debate over health care was still raging: Big or small?
The idea of a scaled-back bill drew serious consideration from senior aides, with staff drawing up an outline of what a smaller bill would look like.
Publicly, the White House seemed to send a different signal each day.
In the space of two weeks, Obama or his top advisers suggested breaking the bill into smaller parts, keeping it together in one comprehensive package, putting it at the back of legislative line and needing to “punch it through” Congress, as Obama himself said at one point.
At a fundraiser in early February, Obama described the “next step” as sitting down with Republicans, Democrats and health care experts, describing a process that could take weeks, if not longer. He also seemed to acknowledge for the first time that Congress may well decide to scrap health care altogether — an admission that blunted his repeated and emphatic vows to finish the job.
Behind the scenes, Obama had, in fact, already settled on a strategy.
He would invite Republicans and Democrats to a summit, to give them one last chance at compromise, knowing they wouldn’t budge. And privately, he had decided that his favored approach was a comprehensive bill.
At the same time, recognizing political and economic realities, Obama, Pelosi and Reid pushed ahead quickly with jobs bills, to appease nervous Democrats in both houses who feared the White House had lost focus on the economy.
Still, Democrats were fed up with what they perceived as a lack of direction from the White House.
On Feb. 5, Obama met with Democratic senators at the Newseum. In the closed-door session that followed, freshman Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), lit into an Obama adviser for failing to show more leadership on the issue. It was the culmination of weeks of frustration.
The news breaks the Democrats’ way
That very morning, however, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was leafing through his daily clip package when he saw that Anthem Blue Cross in California was hiking rates dramatically, as much as 25 percent for many of its patients.
It gave Obama, who thrived in the competitive environment of the 2008 campaign, an opponent worthy of his scorn and wonky policy discourses.
“It was an a-ha moment,” Pollack said. “This was the clearest indication of what would happen if legislation didn’t pass. Even if it was condemned roundly by people in California, it was an early Christmas gift for health reform.”
The Anthem development – coupled with polls showing the unpopularity of Washington – provided Obama with a reason to hit the road, to barnstorm for the plan. He hit stops in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia – and focused on health care during a campaign swing for Reid in Nevada. And in the process, he finally appeased Hill Democrats who had been longing to see the president fully engaged.
Along the way, the GOP has given rank-and-file Democrats, who have been playing defense for a year, a way to go the attack. In late February, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) held up an extension of unemployment and health insurance extension benefits. The move caused a huge uproar, and Democrats were quick to tie Bunning to a Senate GOP leadership unified in opposition to almost all things Obama.
Also near the end of February, Obama convened his White House health summit, roughly three weeks after announcing it during an interview on Super Bowl Sunday. Initially, it was dismissed by some congressional Democratic aides as a waste of time, and worried activists thought the president was frittering away precious weeks.
But in the end, it turned out to be a plus. Democrats finally were able to shift the narrative away from Massachusetts and back to the policy and political differences with Republicans, aides said -- boosted by the fact that Obama himself finally put forth a health care bill that he would call his own.
All of this has some Democrats talking about Scott Brown’s victory in slightly less apocalyptic tones.
"In a curious way, the Massachusetts vote helped bring a conclusion to health care,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). “It helped people get comfortable with the idea of a path forward that would have been the only path forward that would have been the only path forward anyway."
Texto publicado ontem no site de A BOLA, secção Outros Mundos:
A sentença de Simon Schama
Por Germano Almeida
«Barack Obama já entrou para a História por várias razões, mas ninguém sabe se irá entrar pela mais importante de todas: a de ser um Presidente de sucesso. Simon Schama, autor de "O Futuro da América", livro editado recentemente em Portugal, acredita que isso ainda vai acontecer - desde que Obama não tenha medo de passar ao ataque.
O inglês Simon Schama, 65 anos, é professor de História e de História da Arte na Universidade de Columbia, Nova Iorque (curiosamente, a mesma onde Barack Obama se formou em Ciências Políticas).
Em longa entrevista concedida a Teresa de Sousa, na revista Pública, Schama aponta: «Obama decidiu governar sem hostilidade. Mas isso é muito difícil».
Mas a análise de Shama está longe de ser fatalista. O autor de «O Futuro da América» acredita no sucesso do legado de Obama, apesar das hesitações do primeiro ano. «Há sinais de vida nesta presidência. Não tenho dúvida. Mas ele cometeu erros. Foi demasiado arrogante, demasiado fechado, demasiado filosófico. Foram meses e meses assim.»
O autor inglês aponta a necessidade de Obama conquistar a autoridade presidencial, imagem à qual ainda não conseguiu colar-se totalmente: «Ainda não fez um único discurso na televisão a partir da Sala Oval, com a autoridade do selo presidencial atrás dele. Não sei quem é que lhe diz para não o fazer. Teria sido uma boa ocasião quando fez o discurso sobre o Afeganistão. Lembrei-me de Kennedy ou de Reagan, que conseguiram muito cedo estabelecer esse tipo de autoridade de alguém que fala para toda a Nação.»
Numa frase, Schama sentencia: «Ele tem de aprender a ser um rei.»
Uma «maravilhosa história americana»
Eleito num período de extraordinárias dificuldades, a história de Obama pode -- acredita Simon Schama -- continuar a ser dominada pelo registo positivo: «A história do próprio Presidente é uma história de optimismo: a mãe que era uma hippy, abandonado por um pai de um raça e de um país diferente, criado no Estado mais pluricultural da União (ndr: o Havai). É uma maravilhosa história americana.»
Manter a fasquia elevada é, por isso, um dos maiores desafios: «A tarefa mais difícil de Obama é ser o gestor de expectativas que são hoje muito baixas. E ele nunca quis ser isso. Ele queria e ainda quer convencer a América a não ser pessimista, no sentido em que nós, europeus, costumamos ser».
Pode parecer ser quase a… quadratura do círculo, mas Obama já o começou a fazer: falar verdade aos americanos e manter o tom eloquente da campanha: «Creio que no discurso do estado da União, ele foi capaz de dizer algumas coisas muito duras e difíceis com um sorriso na face. E isso foi espantoso. Ele conseguiu encontrar o caminho para falar das más notícias sem levar as pessoas a sentirem-se culpadas pelo estado do país. Que não é culpa delas, mas da forma como os bancos se comportaram. É por isso que estou plenamente convencido de que nada está ainda acabado», observa Schama, na entrevista à Pública.
«Nos últimos 250 anos», recorda o professor de Columbia, «milhões e milhões de pessoas foram para a América porque a América era uma coisa única no mundo. É essa precisamente a posição de Obama: que a América, se fizer o que é preciso ser feito, manterá o seu lugar de energia moral e de dinamismo.»
Sobre a desilusão que muitas pessoas dizem sentir ao ver Obama como um Presidente bem mais moderado em relação ao «poder de Washington» do que os liberais gostariam, Schama comenta: «Obama não quer que a América regresse aos tempos de fazendeiros. Não está interessado em diabolizar o poder do dinheiro e em dizer que toda a gente é corrupta ou irresponsável em Wall Street. Aliás, rodeou-se de pessoas de Wall Street».
Partir para o combate e chegar a Jefferson
As referências históricas são recorrentes no discurso político de Obama. Simon Schama explica: «A sua obsessão pela História americana é absolutamente única. Não me lembro de qualquer outro Presidente, à excepção de Jefferson e de Lincoln, mais obcecado pelos grandes traços e pelos grandes ideais da América e o que significa ser americano. Para ele, os grandes presidentes americanos foram-no, não apenas pelo seu sentido político, mas em última análise por se terem mantido fiéis a ideais que ele sente profundamente.»
Tal como foi Jefferson, Obama é, também ele, um intelectual que conseguiu conquistar o coração do povo. Mas Simon Schama identifica diferenças que, pelo menos para já, impedem que Barack chegue ao patamar do terceiro Presidente americano: «Obama não é tão bom no seu populismo como era Jefferson. Mas há ainda outra coisa – quando foi Presidente, Jefferson tornou-se um combatente feroz. Enfrentou o Supremo Tribunal. Dava luta.»
Será esse, então, o grande desafio de Barack para o seu segundo ano: não ser apenas o «professor de Direito, produto de Harvard» e mostrar o lado «South Side de Chicago» que aprendeu quando fez trabalho comunitário em zonas difíceis - partir para o combate sabendo que a «reconciliação» não é sempre a chave para a vitória.»
sábado, 20 de março de 2010
O Presidente joga forte nos argumentos finais antes da grande votação de amanhã no Congresso:
«President Obama made a last-minute push for his health care reform plan Friday in advance of Sunday's planned vote in the House, telling a supportive audience at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia that "a century-long struggle" for reform is about to "culminate in a historic vote."
The president, who appeared energetic and enthusiastic, linked passage of the health care bill to the passage of social security and civil rights legislation, arguing that the debate on the legislation is "about the character of our country."
The Hunt for Health Care Votes: Democrats to Watch
He cited past presidents who have supported reform, among them Republican Teddy Roosevelt, who he quoted as having backed "aggressive fighting" for expanded coverage.The legislation would eventually mean coverage for about 32 million people who are now uninsured, though many provisions expanding coverage do not kick in until 2014.
"I know this has been a difficult journey," he said. "I know this will be a tough vote." The president said that while he doesn't know how pushing for reform will "play politically," he does know that it's the right thing to do.
Mr. Obama added that despite rhetoric suggesting the legislation represents radical change, the bill is ultimately about "common sense reform." He said that if the bill does not pass, the insurance industry "will continue to run amok."
"They will continue to deny people coverage," he said. "They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. That's why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak. And pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. That's why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill."
He continued: "So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win again? Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people?"
House Democrats have been working furiously to secure the votes to pass the bill ahead of the Sunday vote from skittish lawmakers concerned about their reelection prospects as well as issues like the cost of the $940 billion package. They added billions of dollars in insurance subsidies to the bill Thursday as well as a $250 rebate for seniors on high-cost prescription drugs.
Dems Sweeten Health Bill in Final Push
Before Mr. Obama spoke, Rep. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, announced he was switching to a "yes" vote on the bill. Reps. Bart Gordon, Dennis Kucinich and Betsy Markey have also switched to supporting the bill, while Rep. Stephen Lynch has switched to a "no." If no Republicans support the bill, it will not pass if more than 37 Democrats oppose it.
There are now 20 Democrats who are firm nos and 47 who are undecided, according to a continuing CBS News count. The president plans to meet Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Capitol with the House Democratic Caucus.
At George Mason, the president noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would more than pay for itself over time, reducing the deficit by $1 trillion over two decades.
"This proposal's paid for," he said, contrasting it with previous Washington "schemes" that self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives have supported. Citing rising health care costs, he added: "We can't afford not to do this."
The president compared reporting on the bill to "Sportscenter" and "Rock'em Sock'em Robots," with cable talking heads more concerned about the political implications of action than its practical impact.
He also laid out what is contained in the package, stressing the reforms that would be instituted this year, among them:
Banning insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage when people get sick;
Eliminating annual or lifetime coverage limits;
Requiring insurance plans to offer free preventive care to customers;
And extending how long young people can stay on their parents' insurance plans to age 26.
As Mr. Obama made his speech, Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, gave a press conference noting that the president is "doing the hard sell" on this bill. Boehner said voting against the bill is ultimately about "doing the right thing for the American people."
Republicans have been nearly universal in their opposition to a bill they deem a "government takeover of health care." They have also strongly objected to a proposal by House Democrats to use a move known as "deem and pass" to combine a vote on the Senate bill with a vote on a bill making changes to it.
Some states are groups are considering lawsuits if the bill passes, and Republicans have vowed to delay and try to block the reconciliation measure in the Senate if it passes the House.»
sexta-feira, 19 de março de 2010
quinta-feira, 18 de março de 2010
quarta-feira, 17 de março de 2010
«A Cimeira da NATO, que está prevista ser realizada em Lisboa a dia 19 e 20 do próximo mês de Novembro, proporcionará a visita do Presidente dos Estados Unidos da América, Barack Obama, avança o “i”.
Portugal organizará pela primeira vez na capital uma cimeira da Aliança Atlântica, da qual Obama é o principal cabeça de cartaz.
Durante a estadia em solo português, o Chefe-de-Estado norte-americano deverá encontrar-se com o homólogo luso, Cavaco Silva, e com o primeiro-ministro, José Sócrates»
in www.abola.pt, secção Outros Mundos
terça-feira, 16 de março de 2010
Uma análise de Carrie Budoff Brown, no POLITICO.com:
«With a 2,000-plus page bill, roughly a week to pass it and countless wavering House members, the political degree of difficulty of passing health reform is as high as it can be for Democrats.
They’re optimistic they’ll get to 216 votes in the House. They’re not there yet. And the vote could go either way.
The road from here to there will turn on a multitude of issues, private conversations and decision points, large and small.
Here are five ways health reform survives — and five ways it could falter inches from the finish line.
1. Obama’s presidency depends on passage of the bill, so he has every incentive to cajole, threaten and flatter his way to passage.
He has rejected state-specific deals in the bill, but that doesn’t mean President Barack Obama doesn’t have some goodies of his own to dole out — special attention from Cabinet secretaries, visits from high-level officials and even some of his own personal campaign muscle to House members who matter.
When Obama rolled up his sleeves the last time in January, Democrats walked out of the White House with a deal to roll back the excise tax on Cadillac insurance plans — so presidents can be pretty persuasive. And if he fails on health care reform, the next three years look pretty bleak for him.
The danger to Obama, of course, is that anything that smacks of Clinton-style overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom could look unseemly. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hammered this point Monday on the chamber floor, saying, “Unfortunately, in its desperation to force this bill through, the White House is reverting to the anything-goes approach. And the results are predictable: Americans won’t like this bill any more than they liked the last one.”
2. Pelosi, too, has every incentive to pull out all the stops — not only to preserve the Democratic House majority but also to protect her legacy and her longevity in the job.
Depending on the outcome, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be the most effective House speaker in decades or the one that let health care slip away.
In the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate defeat, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sounding tepid on reform and the White House talking up a scaled-back bill, the speaker was dogged in her insistence that Democrats pass a comprehensive measure.
This raises the stakes for Pelosi, who will need to do everything in her power to close the deal with members. There’s honey, including an appeal to the loyalty of a caucus that respects her. And there’s vinegar, including threatening to deny Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee funds to those who will need that money to save them in tough races.
3. Democrats already own the bill — so they might as well reap the benefits that come with passage.
This has been the top argument from the White House and congressional leaders to wavering Democrats. Top administration aides concluded long ago that Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994 not because they pushed for health care reform but because they failed to deliver.
So whether they like it or not, Democrats are all in. Polls show people want Washington to govern. Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern pointed to the poll released Monday by his union to argue that Democrats should act on health care. “They’re in a ridiculous position to sustain, which is trying to explain why nothing got done when they’re in charge,” Stern told POLITICO.
4. The Stupak coalition falls apart.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has said at least a dozen Democrats would vote against the Senate bill unless it’s amended to include the House language barring federal funding of abortion. And it won’t be. So if Stupak is right, that’s more than enough votes to tank reform.
But Democratic leaders don’t buy it, and they’re calling Stupak’s bluff. They figure Stupak can claim closer to a half-dozen committed “no” votes on the abortion issue — and Pelosi and company figure they can make up six or so votes out of the 39 Democrats who voted no the first time.
5. It seems inevitable (even though it may be anything but).
For much of the past year, Democrats benefited from this belief that health care reform would happen. That perception faded after the Massachusetts defeat. But the momentum is back, at least for now — and momentum is real, in sports and in politics.
The White House has tried to build the illusion that Obama’s health care reform plan will be the law of the land by next week, even though top aides acknowledge privately that chances of that are maybe 55 percent. Plus, the White House and congressional leaders will argue to members: Do you want to be part of a small clutch of Democrats who killed the most sweeping piece of progressive legislation in generations?
1. Endangered Democrats don’t really care about Pelosi’s or Obama’s legacy.
The ugly truth is this: Given the choice between saving Obama and Pelosi — or saving their own hides — it’s not a hard choice for some House members.
They don’t have the luxury of worrying about what the president will run on in 2012 if health care reform fails or whether his first term would be hobbled by the bill’s defeat. They care about Nov. 2, 2010.
And as it looks right now, voters don’t like what Congress is doing with health care reform, and the first person to take out that anger on will be the member of Congress who runs for reelection in less than eight months.
2. Undecided Democrats decide the bill is just too toxic.
Sure, the Senate bill goes further than the House bill to contain health costs. Yes, it drops the public option that gave the Republicans their “government takeover of health care” attack line.
But even days before a potential history-making vote, there are a lot of unknowns about the bill. Much of the cost savings depend upon punting budget-cutting moves to future Congresses — who are no less likely to take a hard vote than this one. Republicans can rightly say the bill raises taxes (on people making more than $250,000). There are cuts to Medicare. Some people might have to switch insurance. And the major reforms don’t kick in for a number of years.
3. The Stupak coalition holds firm.
Maybe Stupak is right. Maybe he does have 12 committed “no” votes without big changes to the abortion language, and that’s bad news indeed for Pelosi.
Pelosi has abandoned negotiations with lawmakers who want tighter language on federal funding of abortions. But if she repeatedly comes up short this week on votes, she could be forced back to the table with them, and reopening talks on abortion could scramble the decks.
4. 2,000-plus pages, hundreds of reasons to say “no.”
The sprawling bill gives Democrats who are looking for an excuse to vote "no" plenty of pages to find one.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has threatened to vote against it because it prohibits illegal immigrants from using their own money to purchase insurance in the exchange. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) won’t support the bill because it isn’t liberal enough. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), a “yes” vote in October, could turn against the measure now that Democrats have attached a student-lending overhaul to the bill that could cost jobs at a Sallie Mae processing center in his district. Who hangs tough, and who folds?
5. The polling in swing districts is ominous for Democrats, particularly those who come from districts that backed Republican John McCain in 2008.
The White House has pushed back hard in recent days on the notion that Democrats will suffer dire consequences if the bill passes, with Obama’s lead pollster, Joel Benenson, refuting the charge in a Washington Post op-ed. But a new set of numbers released Monday by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway will sow fresh seeds of doubt. Conway surveyed 1,200 votes in 35 swing districts, in which 15 members voted no and 20 voted yes.
“Should members from these districts and those like them be concerned? Yes,” Conway wrote in the Wall Street Journal with Heather Higgins, president of Independent Women’s Voices. “Walking the Democratic line now means walking the plank. Sixty percent of the voters surveyed will vote for a candidate who opposes the current legislation and wants to start over.”»
segunda-feira, 15 de março de 2010
domingo, 14 de março de 2010
sábado, 13 de março de 2010
Texto publicado na quinta-feira, no site de A BOLA, secção Outros Mundos:
O regresso da diplomacia
Por Germano Almeida
«A frente externa tem ficado um pouco esquecida nas prioridades da Administração Obama. A turbulência que tem dominado as principais batalhas de política interna (Reforma da Saúde e recuperação económica) está a adiar e relegar questões como o processo de paz no Médio Oriente para uma zona de menor atenção mediática.
Mas isso não é necessariamente mau. Depois do excessivo intervencionismo de Bush filho – que depois do 11 de Setembro se deixou seguir pela «doutrina preventiva» dos neocons – Obama prometeu «um novo começo» na forma como a América se relaciona com o resto do Mundo.
Esse gesto, verbalizado no discurso do Cairo, gerou duas reacções opostas: a sua base de apoio viu nele a confirmação do regresso da «América boa», mas a Direita americana sentiu-se ainda mais deslocada do novo Presidente.
John Bolton, embaixador dos EUA nas Nações Unidas no segundo mandato de G.W. Bush, não poupou nas críticas, depois do primeiro discurso de Obama na ONU: «O Presidente tem uma visão ingénua das relações internacionais. Apareceu aqui a perguntar ao resto do Mundo: "E porque é que não podemos ser todos amigos?" Chegar à ONU com palavras meigas para os nossos inimigos é quase como acreditar no Pai Natal».
Nos dias que correm, este tipo de agressividade verbal tem colhido frutos em Washington. Dick Cheney, uma espécie de guru da Direita mais ressentida com a vitória de Obama em 2008, tem-se desdobrado em entrevistas nos canais nacionais a avisar: «A Administração Obama é fraca e põe em risco a segurança da América».
“Back to basics”
A forma como as administrações americanas lidam com a política externa costuma ser crucial para se definir o perfil de cada Presidente.
Bush pai era um «realista». Avançou para o Iraque só depois da anexação do Kuwait, mas na hora de entrar em Bagdad, preferiu mandar as tropas para trás, evitando a deposição de Saddam.
Ironia da História: uma década depois, o seu filho, George W. Bush, ordenou a consumação dessa queda, dando ouvidos aos membros da sua primeira administração que mais se conotavam com essa visão 'neocon': o seu vice-presidente, Dick Cheney, o então secretário da Defesa, Donald Rumsfeld, e Paul Wolfowitz, que era o número dois de Rumfsfeld no Pentágono, até 2005, e foi apontado como sendo o «arquitecto» da «Doutrina Bush», gizada após o 11 de Setembro.
Essa doutrina apontava três vértices de um suposto Eixo do Mal que atemozaria a América: o Iraque, o Irão e a Coreia do Norte.
Olhada aos dias de hoje, essa visão parece ultrapassada -- mas convém não exagerar na contraposição. O que se passou no Iraque é conhecido. Mas é um facto que o Irão e a Coreia do Norte são problemas que os EUA ainda não resolveram.
Parece inegável que a abordagem do «poder de Washington» às ameaças externas mudou de tom, desde a eleição de Barack Obama. Mas ainda há contornos a revelar na verdadeira face da Presidência Obama para a frente externa.
O novo jogo do Médio Oriente
Na questão israelo-árabe, há mudanças claras na estratégia dos EUA. No consulado de George W. Bush, a posição norte-americana não gerava dúvidas: era claramente pró-israelita.
Não por acaso, Israel era um dos pouquíssimos países no Mundo onde Barack Obama teria perdido a disputa de 2008 para John McCain (de acordo com sondagens feitas dias antes da votação presidencial).
A insistência na two states solution tem marcado uma muito maior neutralidade por parte da Administração Obama. Em recente visita a Jerusalém, Joe Biden deixou mensagem clara: «Os Estados Unidos vão responsabilizar, de forma igual, Israel ou a Palestina se algum dos lados tomar medidas que dificultem os esforços de paz».
Uma frase com este tom é especialmente significativa, se atendermos ao facto de ter sido dita um dia depois de Israel ter anunciado a construção de 1600 novos apartamentos em território que é reclamado pelos dois lados.
Será esta maior neutralidade americana o caminho para se relançar o processo de paz? Só o tempo o dirá.
Por muito que o discurso de Washington mude sobre esta questão, a influência judaica nos centros de decisão norte-americanos é incontornável – basta consultar a lista de membros da Administração Obama, nos mais diversos níveis hierárquicos.
Mestre em tratar as situações difíceis com pinças, Obama terá no relançamento do processo de paz no Médio Oriente uma das prioridades do seu segundo ano.»
sexta-feira, 12 de março de 2010
quarta-feira, 10 de março de 2010
A conselheira económica de Obama considera que a recuperação vai exigir investimento (e não cortes) por mais algum tempo:
"Immediate fiscal contraction would inevitably nip the nascent economic recovery in the bud -- just as fiscal and monetary contraction in 1936 and 1937 led to a second severe recession before the recovery from the Great Depression was complete," said Christina Romer, who heads the Council of Economic Advisers.
Romer, in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics, also said President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package had been successful in pulling the economy out of a deep recession.
However, she said additional measures were necessary to bring the jobless rate down from the current level of 9.7 percent, which she called "a terrible number by any metric."
In a worrisome sign for the job market, a survey released by Manpower Inc on Tuesday showed U.S. employers were slightly less willing to hire than three months ago.
One year ago, Romer addressed the same group in the same banquet room overlooking the Potomac River and Washington Monument, and said the stimulus package would probably generate more "oomph" than usual.
Her argument was that because credit conditions were tight, households and businesses would be more likely to spend the extra money from tax cuts and other measures.
Business spending has picked up recently, particularly in the fourth quarter of 2009 when spending on equipment and software jumped at an 18.2 percent annual rate.
Consumer spending has been slower to recover, although it has shown some signs of modest improvement in the first few weeks of 2010. It took additional measures such as the "cash for clunkers" auto sales incentives and the $8,000 credit for home buyers to spur demand.
Many households are still trying to pay down debt and boost savings lost in the housing and stock market slumps, which may constrain spending growth for some time.
JOBS THE WEAK LINK
The weak link remains employment. Romer's own research had predicted that the stimulus package would curtail the rise in unemployment, but the jobless rate rose far higher than the White House had anticipated.
That has created political problems for Obama and his Democratic party, which has recently lost two governors' races and the Senate seat that had been held by liberal standard-bearer Edward Kennedy, who died last year.
Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said companies were poised to resume hiring and monthly payroll reports are likely to turn positive very soon.
However, he said the pace of job growth would be slow, with just 850,000 jobs added over the course of 2010. While Global Insight expects the private sector to add more than one million jobs, that will be partially offset by continuing declines in state and local government payrolls.
"Making the transition to job growth is an important step in the expansion," he said. "It will not change the story that this will be a subdued recovery, due to credit and balance sheet constrains, but will reduce the odds of a relapse."
Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, also predicted a sluggish labor market recovery, which he said meant the central bank was likely to keep borrowing costs low for some time.
Romer said Obama's job creation proposals -- a hiring tax credit, additional aid for cash-strapped states, and providing capital to small banks -- would help to bring down the jobless rate although she acknowledged that the economy probably would not grow fast enough to quickly close the labor gap.
A $149 billion package of tax breaks and unemployment aid cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to pass the bill within the next few days and send it to the House of Representatives.
Responding to Republicans, who have objected to additional spending measures because of budgetary concerns, Romer said that the budget problem had been "years in the making."
"It was not, as some have suggested, due to actions taken this past year," she said.
The sensible way to address the deficit was with a long-run plan that tackles the biggest drivers, including health care costs, while keeping necessary short-term assistance flowing to the economy and labor market, Romer said.
"Failure to take additional targeted actions to jump-start job creation would lead to slower recovery and higher unemployment for an extended period," Romer said.
"High unemployment is not just bad for people; it is bad for the budget deficit. It is virtually impossible to get the deficit under control when the unemployment rate remains near 10 percent," she said.»