Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bills, Fed rules on credit cards

A comparison of House and Senate legislative proposals with pending Federal Reserve regulations:


Takes effect a year after enactment, except for requirement of notice before interest rates are increased, which goes into effect in 90 days. The bill:

_ Prohibits double-cycle billing and "retroactive" interest rate hikes on previous balances.

_ Requires that customers receive 45 days notice before their interest rates are increased.

_ Bans the issuance of credit cards to anyone under 18. Sets underwriting standards for credit cards for college students, including limiting credit lines if there is no co-signer, and requiring proof of income and credit history.

_ Bans "pay-to-pay" fees, which are charged when someone pays their bill by phone or on the Internet.

_ Allows individuals to set a credit limit for themselves that cannot be exceeded. If a bank approves a purchase that pushes the consumer above their limit, the bank cannot charge a fee.


Takes effect nine months after enactment.

_Bans double-cycle billing and retroactive rate increases.

_Requires that customers receive 45 days notice before rates are increased.

_Bans the issuance of credit cards to people under 21 unless they show they can repay the debt or complete a certified financial literacy course.

_Bans "pay-to-pay" fees.

_Restricts over-the-limit fees to one each billing cycle.

_Prevents card issuers from changing any terms of a contract so long as the card holder pays on time.


Take effect in July 2010.

_ Require banks to give customers a reasonable time, such as 21 days, to pay their bill before it is considered late.

_ Require banks to give customers 45 days notice before raising interest rates on new purchases, even if the customer is late or delinquent in paying their account.

_ Prohibit, in most cases, retroactive rate increases.

_ Prohibit double-cycle billing.

_ Limit excessive fees charged on subprime credit cards, which are marketed to people with bad credit.


New Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Drop to 631K

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of newly laid-off workers signing up for unemployment benefits dropped unexpectedly last week, but the number of people continuing to draw jobless aid rose to nearly 6.3 million, setting a record high for the 13th straight week.

Meanwhile, consumer spending fell more than expected in March while personal savings rose, fresh evidence that the economy is still struggling to emerge from the recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that new applications for unemployment aid fell to a seasonally adjusted 631,000 last week. That was down from the prior week's 645,000, which was revised slightly higher from the government's initial estimate.

Economists had expected a small increase in new jobless claims.

The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which smooths out volatility, dropped last week to 637,250. That was the lowest level since late February and a decrease of about 20,000 from the high in early April. Goldman Sachs economists have said a decline of 30,000 to 40,000 in the four-week average is needed to signal a peak.

Still, the number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits jumped to more than 6.27 million, the highest on records dating back to 1967 and steeper than economists expected.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in March, worse than the 0.1 percent decline economists expected. Incomes, reflecting persistent mass layoffs, dropped 0.3 percent, also worse than expected.

The personal savings rate rose to 4.2 percent from 4 percent in February. It stood at 4.4 percent in January, the first time in more than a decade the rate has been above 4 percent for three straight months.

Households have been cutting back on spending and boosting savings during the recession, worried that they need to replenish depleted nest eggs as job cuts mount and investment values plunge.

The fact that spending turned negative in March after two straight gains is a worrisome sign. Consumer spending in the first quarter grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate after two consecutive quarters of declines, but some analysts said that may be just a blip. Economists closely watch consumer spending because it accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity.

New jobless filers -- as opposed to those who remain on the unemployment compensation rolls -- also are closely tracked by economists for clues about the future direction of the economy. Analysts want to see a sustained decline in new applications as a sign of improved conditions.

Although last week's drop in new claims was welcome, the level remains elevated and signals a troubled jobs market. The labor market usually doesn't recover until well after a recession has ended. That's because companies won't want to ramp up hiring until they feel certain any recovery has staying power.

The record number of continued claims suggests that many laid-off workers are having trouble finding new jobs.

As a proportion of the work force, the total jobless benefit rolls are the highest since late December 1982. The continuing claims data lag initial claims data by a week.

Besides the continued claims, the report said there were 2.4 million people receiving benefits, as of April 11, under an extended unemployment compensation program enacted by Congress last year. That provides an additional 20 to 33 weeks on top of the 26 weeks typically provided by states.

Workers and companies have been hard hit by the recession, which began in December 2007. It has snatched 5.1 million jobs and pushed the unemployment rate to a quarter-century high of 8.5 percent. It is expected to top 10 percent by early next year before it starts to slowly drift downward.

Companies have laid off workers and resorted to other cost-saving measures to survive the recession, which has eaten into sales and profits.

More job losses were announced this week. Textron Inc. said it will expand layoffs, eliminating 8,300 jobs, or 20 percent, of its global work force as the recession weakens demand for corporate planes. The maker of Cessna planes, Bell helicopters and turf-maintenance equipment earlier this year said it would reduce its work force by 6,200 jobs, or 15 percent, mostly at Wichita, Kansas-based Cessna.

Elsewhere, General Motors Corp. laid out a massive restructuring plan that includes cutting 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year. Clear Channel Communications Inc., the largest owner of U.S. radio stations, said it's cutting 590 jobs in its second round of mass layoffs this year. And bearings and specialty steels maker Timken Co. indicated it will cut about 4,000 more jobs by the end of this year after earlier suggesting about 3,000 jobs already had been targeted.

Still, many analysts predict the recession is easing in the current quarter.

Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat


There was a time when red meat was a luxury for ordinary Americans, or was at least something special: cooking a roast for Sunday dinner, ordering a steak at a restaurant. Not anymore. Meat consumption has more than doubled in the United States in the last 50 years.

Now a new study of more than 500,000 Americans has provided the best evidence yet that our affinity for red meat has exacted a hefty price on our health and limited our longevity.

The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods.

Results of the decade-long study were published in the March 23 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. The study, directed by Rashmi Sinha, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, involved 322,263 men and 223,390 women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Each participant completed detailed questionnaires about diet and other habits and characteristics, including smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, education, use of supplements, weight and family history of cancer.

Determining Risk

During the decade, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died, and the researchers kept track of the timing and reasons for each death. Red meat consumption ranged from a low of less than an ounce a day, on average, to a high of four ounces a day, and processed meat consumption ranged from at most once a week to an average of one and a half ounces a day.

The increase in mortality risk tied to the higher levels of meat consumption was described as “modest,” ranging from about 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. But the number of excess deaths that could be attributed to high meat consumption is quite large given the size of the American population.

Extrapolated to all Americans in the age group studied, the new findings suggest that over the course of a decade, the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats, according to estimates prepared by Dr. Barry Popkin, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report.

To prevent premature deaths related to red and processed meats, Dr. Popkin suggested in an interview that people should eat a hamburger only once or twice a week instead of every day, a small steak once a week instead of every other day, and a hot dog every month and a half instead of once a week.

In place of red meat, nonvegetarians might consider poultry and fish. In the study, the largest consumers of “white” meat from poultry and fish had a slight survival advantage. Likewise, those who ate the most fruits and vegetables also tended to live longer.

Anyone who worries about global well-being has yet another reason to consume less red meat. Dr. Popkin, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, said that a reduced dependence on livestock for food could help to save the planet from the ravaging effects of environmental pollution, global warming and the depletion of potable water.

“In the United States,” Dr. Popkin wrote, “livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of antibiotics consumed, and a third of total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water.”

Finding a Culprit

A question that arises from observational studies like this one is whether meat is in fact a hazard or whether other factors associated with meat-eating are the real culprits in raising death rates. The subjects in the study who ate the most red meat had other less-than-healthful habits. They were more likely to smoke, weigh more for their height, and consume more calories and more total fat and saturated fat. They also ate less fruits, vegetables and fiber; took fewer vitamin supplements; and were less physically active.

But in analyzing mortality data in relation to meat consumption, the cancer institute researchers carefully controlled for all these and many other factors that could influence death rates. The study data have not yet been analyzed to determine what, if any, life-saving benefits might come from eating more protein from vegetable sources like beans or a completely vegetarian diet.

The results mirror those of several other studies in recent years that have linked a high-meat diet to life-threatening health problems. The earliest studies highlighted the connection between the saturated fats in red meats to higher blood levels of artery-damaging cholesterol and subsequent heart disease, which prompted many people to eat leaner meats and more skinless poultry and fish. Along with other dietary changes, like consuming less dairy fat, this resulted in a nationwide drop in average serum cholesterol levels and contributed to a reduction in coronary death rates.

Elevated blood pressure, another coronary risk factor, has also been shown to be associated with eating more red and processed meat, Dr. Sinha and colleagues reported.

Poultry and fish contain less saturated fat than red meat, and fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked in several large studies to heart benefits. For example, men who consume two servings of fatty fish a week were found to have a 50 percent lower risk of cardiac deaths, and in the Nurses’ Health Study of 84,688 women, those who ate fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week cut their coronary risk by more than 20 percent.

Ties to Cancer

Choosing protein from sources other than meat has also been linked to lower rates of cancer. When meat is cooked, especially grilled or broiled at high temperatures, carcinogens can form on the surface of the meat. And processed meats like sausages, salami and bologna usually contain nitrosamines, although there are products now available that are free of these carcinogens.

Data from one million participants in the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition trial found that those who ate the least fish had a 40 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer than those who ate more than 1.75 ounces of fish a day. Likewise, while a diet high in red meat was linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer in the large Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, among the 35,534 men in the study, those who consumed at least three servings of fish a week had half the risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with men who rarely ate fish.

Another study, which randomly assigned more than 19,500 women to a low-fat diet, found after eight years a 40 percent reduced risk of ovarian cancer among them, when compared with 29,000 women who ate their regular diets.


The bronze to Congresswoman MICHELE BACHMANN.

We‘re all laughing at her historical gaffe about Jimmy Carter and swine flu.
It turned out she topped herself on the floor of the House.

The Carter gaffe first, “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under a Democrat President Jimmy Carter. And I‘m not blaming this on President Obama. I just think it is an interesting coincidence.”

Yes, the swine outbreak was in February 1976 when Republican Gerald Ford was president 11 months before Carter was inaugurated. But on the same day, she pulled this whopper, “FDR applied the opposite formula, the Hoot-Smawley Act, which was a tremendous burden on tariff restrictions and then, of course, trade barriers and the regulatory burden and taxpayers. That‘s what we saw happen under FDR. The American people suffered for almost 10 years under that kind of thinking.”

Seriously, congresswoman, you are a buffoon. Smoot-Hawley, not Hoot-Smawley. It was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. And not only was it passed in 1930, three years before Franklin Roosevelt became president, but it was written by two Republicans, Sen. Reed Smoot and Congressman Willis Hawley. It was signed into law by a Republican President Herbert Hoover over the pleading of all the economists and big bankers, even the head of J.P. Morgan, and it was repealed under FDR in 1934.

I know, I know, congresswoman. You weren‘t paying attention in history class in high school. You were too busy going to the movies. But it was in the movies, in “Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off” where Ben Stein, the economics teacher, asked his class, “Anyone? Anyone?” where anyone raise or lowered. He was asking about the Smoot-Hawley Act. Hoot-Smawley. Hoot-Smawley.

We let this woman vote on actual pieces of legislation. But it‘s worse that that. We let her drive a car. Hoot-Smawley.


The Audit Bureau reports the average American daily news paper lost just over seven percent of its circulation during the last six months compared to a year ago. Some did better, some did worse. The circulation of the “L.A. Times” dropped 6.6 percent. That of the “New York Times” dropped 3.6 percent.

But the biggest loss in the top 25 market - Murdoch‘s “New York Post.” Circulation is down 20.5 percent. This other piece of the Murdoch empire, the cornerstone of the reactionary, the jerk, half-fiction racist, xenophobic, retaliatory conservative media and one out of every five readers has vanished, three times as fast as “New York Times” readers.

How can the stockholders of News Corp. continue to indulge Rupert Murdoch‘s personal political agenda, vanity press? How can the folks not stand up and say, “Rupert, you owe me money.”

But our winner, and this is the most despicable thing said on the floor of the House in decades.
This feature is Congresswoman VIRGINIA FOXX
from the fifth district of North Carolina, Winston-Salem, arguing against the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill.


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX,NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSWOMAN: The hate crimes bill that is called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed. But we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn‘t because he was gay. The bill was named for him. The hate crimes bill was named for him. But it is really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills. (end clip)

KEITH OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Foxx you are the only hoax here. One of Matthew Shepard‘s killers admitted under oath that he knew he was gay, that they lured him from a bar by pretending to be gay themselves. Then they robbed him, pistol-whipped him, fractured his skull, tortured him with sharp implements and they tied him to a fence post in rural Wyoming. He was not found for 18 hours.

There is no excuse for Congresswoman Foxx‘s remarks. She is, at best, callous, insensitive, criminally misinformed. At worst, she is a bold-faced liar. And if there is a spark of a human being in there somewhere, she should either immediately retract and apologize for her stupid and hurtful words, or she should resign her seat in the House.

She is not worthy to represent this country nor any of its parties nor any of its peoples. She is our shame. And adding to our shame, she said all that as Matthew Shepard‘s mother sat in the House gallery. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, fifth district of North Carolina, today‘s worst person in the world.

President Reflects on First 3 Months in Office

Obama Emphasizes Sharp Departures From Bush Policies

One hundred days into his term, President Obama used a pair of public events Wednesday to chart how far he has steered the country from the course set by the Bush administration, saying, "We are off to a good start, but it is just a start."

Capitalizing on the heightened public attention surrounding the milestone, Obama said his early achievements include setting a timeline to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq -- a war he inherited from President George W. Bush -- and moving quickly to remake an economy suffering as a result of irresponsible borrowing during Bush's tenure.

But his most pointed comments during a day that included a prime-time news conference at the White House and a town-hall forum in Missouri involved his decision to ban waterboarding and other abusive interrogation methods sanctioned by the Bush administration for use against terrorism suspects.

Last night, Obama flatly called those techniques "torture" and said the practice "corrodes the character of a country."

He said the "public justification" of those methods, including assertions by former vice president Richard B. Cheney that they helped save American lives, "doesn't answer the core question, which is: Could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn't answer the broader question: Are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?"

"This is a decision that I'm very comfortable with," Obama said. "And I think the American people over time will recognize that it is better for us to stick to who we are, even when we're taking on an unscrupulous enemy."

Obama appeared relaxed and reflective throughout the news conference, the third of his presidency, and he struck a reassuring tone on issues as diverse as the widening swine flu crisis and the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. With nearly seven in 10 Americans approving of his performance, according to polling, Obama spoke more personally than he has before on issues such as abortion and the surprises he has encountered since taking office.

He said he is encouraged that two large U.S. carmakers will remain in business. He said he is "confident" that Pakistan's military has a secure hold on its nuclear arsenal even as he acknowledged that he is "gravely concerned" about the stability of that country's government in the face of Taliban gains. And twice he detailed the precautions people should take to avoid exposure to swine flu -- wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, don't go to work if you feel sick.

"I know it sounds trivial," Obama said, "but it makes a huge difference."

Obama spent his 100th day in office in much the same way he spent the previous 99 -- in the public eye. He began the day welcoming Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, bringing it closer to a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, and ended it with the news conference.

In between, Obama traveled to Missouri, a state he narrowly lost to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in last year's election. At a boisterous town-hall meeting in Arnold, a distant suburb of St. Louis, Obama said, "We have begun to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and we've begun the work of remaking America."

"I'm pleased with the progress we've made, but I'm not satisfied," Obama told the cheering crowd at Fox Senior High School. "I'm confident in the future, but I'm not content with the present."

The celebratory atmosphere of Obama's day, however, was disturbed by a Commerce Department report showing that the U.S. economy contracted at an annualized rate of 6.1 percent in the first quarter..

But economists said that although the economic retreat was precipitous, there are signs that the bottom of the 16-month-old recession is in sight. U.S. credit markets, home prices and consumer spending are showing signs of improvement, and payments from the government's $787 billion stimulus plan are beginning to flow into the economy.

Obama used the town-hall meeting, and his news conference last night, to highlight elements of his long-term plan to build a sustainable economy. Congress yesterday easily approved a $3.4 trillion spending plan, which passed the House by a vote of 233 to 193 and the Senate 53 to 43.

The spending plan includes money for such domestic priorities as expanding health-care coverage, improving the quality of and access to all stages of public education, and developing an alternative energy industry. But Republicans and some conservative Democrats have criticized Obama, saying he has failed to identify ways to pay for his expensive initiatives over the long term, potentially ballooning the national debt in the years to come.

At the town hall, the president responded sharply to the criticism, saying, "I know you've been hearing all these arguments about, oh, Obama is just spending crazy, look at these huge trillion-dollar deficits, blah, blah, blah."

"Well, let me make a point," he said. "Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit -- that wasn't me. Number two, there is almost uniform consensus among economists that in the middle of the biggest . . . financial crisis since the Great Depression, we had to take extraordinary steps."

He added, "We are going to have to tighten our belts, but we're going to have to do it in an intelligent way, and we've got to make sure the people who are helped are working American families."

During the news conference, Obama said he was most surprised "by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time." And he said he was most "sobered by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises."

"I would like to think that everybody would say, you know what, let's take a time-out on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year and then we can start running for something next year," he said. "And that hasn't happened as much as I would have liked."

Asked about abortion, Obama made clear that he does not intend to push Congress to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate state and local restrictions on abortion. Some students at the University of Notre Dame are protesting his selection as their commencement speaker because of his support for abortion rights, and he explained his thinking on the issue last night.

"I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations," he said. "I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with."

He continued: "The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy."

Obama said he is optimistic about the future of the U.S. auto industry, a month after he rejected the restructuring plans of Chrysler and General Motors as inadequate to justify more government money. He said he is "more hopeful than I was 30 days ago that we can see a resolution that maintains a viable Chrysler auto company out there" after merging with the Italian automaker Fiat, a deal that seems likely to go through.

Asked what he intends to do as the chief shareholder of some of largest U.S. companies, Obama insisted playfully that he has no desire to run anything other than the country.

"I've got two wars I've got to run already," he said. "I've got more than enough to do. So the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we're going to be."

Obama also used the opportunity to counter criticism that he is intent on using the economic crisis to expand government authority deep into the private sector and preserve it over the long term. "I'm always amused when I hear these, you know, criticisms of, 'Oh, you know, Obama wants to grow government,' " he said. "No. I would love a nice, lean portfolio to deal with, but that's not the hand that's been dealt us."

Michael D. Shear, Michael A. Fletcher and Scott Wilson
Washington Post

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poll: Obama gets high marks

Poll:NBC/WSJ poll shows Obama’s numbers are higher than Bush, Clinton

WASHINGTON - As he enters his 100th day in office, President Barack Obama enjoys higher marks from the American public than his most recent predecessors did at similar points in their presidencies, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

More than six in 10 approve of Obama's job, nearly two-thirds view him favorably, and a majority believe he has gotten off to a solid start during his first three months on the job.

Perhaps most significantly, Americans so far find him to be likeable. More than 80 percent in the poll say they personally like Obama, even if they don’t agree with all of his policies. And respondents give him high scores on his personality, demeanor and leadership qualities.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these numbers suggest “someone who is wearing well” with the public at this stage of his presidency. McInturff, in fact, even compares Obama’s early likeability to Ronald Reagan’s in the 1980s.

Yet the poll also contains a few cautionary numbers for Obama and his young administration: a growing number believe the president is liberal; a majority thinks he’s trying to take on too many issues; and there are concerns about all the government spending.

“The wind is at his back,” Hart says. But looking ahead to the next 100 days, the Democratic pollster adds that Obama might “face some pretty stiff headwinds in his future.”

Mr. Popular
Obama’s first 100 days have been marked by several highs (the economic stimulus’ passage, progress on a budget creating a framework for health-care reform, the rescue of Capt. Phillips from Somali pirates) and several lows (rising unemployment, confirmation troubles, furor at those AIG bonuses).

Despite these ups and down, the president remains quite popular. According to the poll, 61 percent approve of Obama’s job — that’s compared with George W. Bush’s 56 percent and Bill Clinton’s 52 percent at this same juncture in their presidencies.

Also, 64 percent view Obama favorably versus 23 percent who see him in a negative light — once again, higher than Bush’s and Clinton’s scores on this question.

In addition, 54 percent believe the president is off to a “great” or “good start;” 59 percent say he’s accomplished a “great deal” or a “fair amount;” and 64 percent feel more hopeful about the direction of the country with Obama in office.

What’s more, a whopping 81 percent say they like him personally (51 percent like him personally and approve of most of his policies, and another 30 percent like him personally but disapprove of his policies).

“How popular can this guy be?” Hart asks. “The answer is exceptionally popular.”

Indeed, as other recent national polls have shown, Obama’s early popularity has seemed to increase the number of Americans who believe the nation is headed in the right direction.

In the NBC/Journal poll, 43 percent say the country is on the right track, compared with an equal 43 percent who say it’s on the wrong track.

Yet that’s a 17-point jump since January, when just 26 percent believed the nation was on the right track. And it’s a 31-point increase since October 2008, when only 12 percent thought that.

“That’s an extraordinary movement,” McInturff says. “It means after 100 days that he has latitude to really govern with some potency.”

Warning signs for Obama
Still, the poll — which was taken April 23-26 of 1,005 adults (including 100 reached by cell phone), and which has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points — contains some warning signs for the Obama administration as it looks ahead to the next 100 days and beyond.

For starters, the number of Americans who view Obama as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal” has spiked 10 points, from 49 percent in January to 59 percent now.

Moreover, 52 percent believe that the president is trying to take on too many other issues, versus 43 percent who say he has a clear and sharp focus on the economy.

And concern about the administration’s spending and the size of the budget deficit ranks in the poll as one of the public’s top two negative impressions about Obama. (Nearly seven in 10 think the budget deficit is a real number that has a direct impact on the average citizen.)

But the poll suggests a public appetite for Obama’s legislative priorities on health care and energy. By a 56-to-37 percent margin, respondents say they support expanding health insurance coverage and raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for it.

And by a 58-to-35 margin, they favor charging a fee to companies that emit greenhouse gases — even if that will results in higher utility bills — and using that money to provide tax cuts for middle-class Americans.

A tough start for the GOP
While the poll finds that Obama is off to a solid start in these first 100 days, the same isn’t necessarily true for the GOP.

Just 29 percent have a positive view of the Republican Party, while 44 percent view it negatively — the 32nd consecutive NBC/Journal poll showing it with a net-negative rating.

By comparison, the Democratic Party has a net-positive rating, 45-to-34 percent.

Also, a majority of respondents in the poll say congressional Republicans have been too stubborn in their dealings with Obama. On the other hand, just 25 percent believe that Obama has been too stubborn, and 48 percent think the president has struck the right balance.

“While the Republicans are trying to be the loyal opposition, the public doesn’t see it that way,” says Democratic pollster Jay Campbell, who works with Hart.

And even though they’re no longer in office, the poll shows that George W. Bush (with a 26 percent positive rating) and Dick Cheney (18 percent) remain unpopular.

Mixed takes on interrogation
In the last several days, President Obama’s release of old Bush administration memos detailing controversial interrogation practices has dominated the political discussion. According to the poll, 53 percent say the United States tortured detainees, versus 30 percent who say it didn’t.

However, a plurality — 46 percent — believe harsh interrogation techniques have helped extract important information to stop terrorism. Forty-two percent say those techniques have undermined the country’s moral authority and have inflamed anger in the Islamic world.

And more than six in 10 oppose any kind of criminal investigation into whether the Bush administration committed torture.

McInturff says these findings suggest that Americans don’t want to litigate the past. “This is a country that wants to move on,” he said. “What people are saying is, ‘Bad things may have happened… But whatever happened, it is in the past.’”


After the Great Recession
On April 14, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University, trying to explain why he was taking on so many economic issues so early in his administration. He argued that the country needed to break its bubble-and-bust cycle and cited the New Testament in calling for a new economic foundation for the nation. This foundation would be built on better schools, alternative energy, more affordable health care and a more regulated Wall Street, he said. Later that afternoon (shortly before the Obama family introduced its new dog, Bo, on the South Lawn of the White House), I sat down with the president to talk about how his agenda might change daily life in this country.

This was our third interview about the economy, the first two occurring during last year’s campaign. And while the setting was decidedly more formal this time — the Oval Office — the interview felt as conversational as those earlier ones. We sat at the far end of the office from his desk and spoke for 50 minutes. None of his economic advisers were there. As the conversation progressed, Obama spoke in increasingly personal terms. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that interview.

At the end of our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings — “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill.

I. The Future of Finance

Q: The idea here is to look beyond the current moment and try to think about what American life is going to be like on the other side of the so-called Great Recession. And so I thought it might make sense to start where the trouble started — finance. People who want to get a sense for how you think about education and jobs and all sorts of other issues can get a really good sense for your thinking by reading “The Audacity of Hope,” or by reading your old speeches, where you basically lay out your learning curve. But there’s no chapter on finance in “The Audacity of Hope.” And so I wonder if you would be willing to describe a little bit of your learning curve about finance, and what you envision finance being in tomorrow’s economy: Does it need to be smaller? Will it inevitably be smaller?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that we should distinguish between finance as the lifeblood of our economy and finance as a significant industry where we have a comparative advantage — right? So in terms of just growing our economy, we’ve got to have enough credit out there to fund businesses, large and small, to allow consumers the flexibility to make long-term purchases like cars or homes. So that’s not going to change. And I would be concerned if our credit market shrunk in ways that did not allow for the financing of long-term growth.

What that means is not only do we have to have a healthy banking sector, but we’re going to have to figure out what we do with the nonbanking sector that was providing almost half of our credit out there. And we’re going to have to determine whether or not as a consequence of some of the steps that the Fed has been taking, the Treasury has been taking, that we see the market for securitized products restored.

I’m optimistic that ultimately we’re going to be able to get that part of the financial sector going again, but it could take some time to regain confidence and trust.

What I think will change, what I think was an aberration, was a situation where corporate profits in the financial sector were such a heavy part of our overall profitability over the last decade. That I think will change. And so part of that has to do with the effects of regulation that will inhibit some of the massive leveraging and the massive risk-taking that had become so common.

Now, in some ways, I think it’s important to understand that some of that wealth was illusory in the first place.

So we won’t miss it?

THE PRESIDENT: We will miss it in the sense that as a consequence of 25-year-olds getting million-dollar bonuses, they were willing to pay $100 for a steak dinner and that waiter was getting the kinds of tips that would make a college professor envious. And so some of the dynamic of the financial sector will have some trickle-down effects, particularly in a place like Manhattan.

But I actually think that there was always an unsustainable feel about what had happened on Wall Street over the last 10, 15 years, and it’s not that different from the unsustainable nature of what was happening during the dot-com boom, where people in Silicon Valley could make enormous sums of money, even though what they were peddling never really had any signs it would ever make a profit.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Silicon Valley is still not a huge, critical, important part of our economy, and Wall Street will remain a big, important part of our economy, just as it was in the ’70s and the ’80s. It just won’t be half of our economy. And that means that more talent, more resources will be going to other sectors of the economy. And I actually think that’s healthy. We don’t want every single college grad with mathematical aptitude to become a derivatives trader. We want some of them to go into engineering, and we want some of them to be going into computer design.

And so I think what you’ll see is some shift, but I don’t think that we will lose the enormous advantages that come from transparency, openness, the reliability of our markets. If anything, a more vigorous regulatory regime, I think, will help restore confidence, and you’re still going to see a lot of global capital wanting to park itself in the United States.

Are there tangible ways that Wall Street has made the average person’s life better in the way that Silicon Valley has?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that some of the democratization of finance is actually beneficial if properly regulated. So the fact that large numbers of people could participate in the equity markets in ways that they could not previously — and for much lower costs than they used to be able to participate — I think is important.

Now, the fact that we had such poor regulation means — in some of these markets, particularly around the securitized mortgages — means that the pain has been democratized as well. And that’s a problem. But I think that overall there are ways in which people have been able to participate in our stock markets and our financial markets that are potentially healthy. Again, what you have to have, though, is an updating of the regulatory regimes comparable to what we did in the 1930s, when there were rules that were put in place that gave investors a little more assurance that they knew what they were buying.

There was this great debate among F.D.R.’s advisers about whether you had to split up companies — not just banks — you had to split up companies in order to regulate them effectively, or whether it was possible to have big, huge, sprawling, powerful companies — even not just possible, but better — and then have strong regulators. And it seems to me there’s an analogy of that debate now. Which is, do you think it is O.K. to have these “supermarkets” regulated by strong regulators actually trying to regulate, or do we need some very different modern version of Glass-Steagall, (1)

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’ve looked at the evidence so far that indicates that other countries that have not seen some of the problems in their financial markets that we have nevertheless don’t separate between investment banks and commercial banks, for example. They have a “supermarket” model that they’ve got strong regulation of.

Like Canada?

THE PRESIDENT: Canada being a good example. (2) And they’ve actually done a good job in managing through what was a pretty risky period in the financial markets.

So — that doesn’t mean that, for example, an insurance company like A.I.G. grafting a hedge fund on top of it is something that is optimal. Even with the best regulators, if you start having so much differentiation of functions and products within a single company, a single institution, a conglomerate, essentially, things could potentially slip through the cracks. And people just don’t know what they’re getting into. I mean, I guarantee you that the average A.I.G. insurance policyholder had no idea that this stuff was going on. And in that sense I think you can make an argument that there may be a breaking point in which functions are so different that you don’t want a single company doing everything.

But when it comes to something like investment banking versus commercial banking, the experience in a country like Canada would indicate that good, strong regulation that focuses less on the legal form of the institution and more on the functions that they’re carrying out is probably the right approach to take.

II. The Ticket to the Middle Class

Staying on the Great Depression, it led to a surge in high-school graduation. A high-school diploma during that decade or two went from being elite to the norm, and it became a ticket to the middle class. I’m curious what you think today’s ticket to the middle class is. Do you want everybody aspiring to a four-year-college degree? Is a two-year or vocational degree enough? Or is simply attending college, whether or not you graduate, sufficient to reach the middle class?

THE PRESIDENT: We set out a goal in my speech to the joint session that said everybody should have at least one year of post-high-school training. And I think it would be too rigid to say everybody needs a four-year-college degree. I think everybody needs enough post-high-school training that they are competent in fields that require technical expertise, because it’s very hard to imagine getting a job that pays a living wage without that — or it’s very hard at least to envision a steady job in the absence of that.

And so to the extent that we can upgrade not only our high schools but also our community colleges to provide a sound technical basis for being able to perform complicated tasks in a 21st-century economy, then I think that not only is that good for the individuals, but that’s going to be critical for the economy as a whole.

I want to emphasize, though, that part of the challenge is making sure that folks are getting in high school what they need as well. You know, I use my grandmother as an example for a lot of things, but I think this is telling. My grandmother never got a college degree. She went to high school. Unlike my grandfather, she didn’t benefit from the G.I. Bill, even though she worked on a bomber assembly line. She went to work as a secretary. But she was able to become a vice president at a bank partly because her high-school education was rigorous enough that she could communicate and analyze information in a way that, frankly, a bunch of college kids in many parts of the country can’t. She could write —

Today, you mean?

THE PRESIDENT: Today. She could write a better letter than many of my — I won’t say “many,” but a number of my former students at the University of Chicago Law School. So part of the function of a high-school degree or a community-college degree is credentialing, right? It allows employers in a quick way to sort through who’s got the skills and who doesn’t. But part of the problem that we’ve got right now is that what it means to have graduated from high school, what it means to have graduated from a two-year college or a four-year college is not always as clear as it was several years ago.

And that means that we’ve got to — in our education-reform agenda — we’ve got to focus not just on increasing graduation rates, but we’ve also got to make what’s learned in the high-school and college experience more robust and more effective.

I was in West Virginia recently talking to some college students, and these are kids in college, fully intending to graduate, and yet they were still telling me they’re not sure whether a college education is worth it. They’re going to be graduating in a recession. They’re worried their jobs will go to China. You hear these things all the time. What would you say — there are a large number of very thoughtful people who have those concerns — what would you say to them?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I’d start off by saying just look at the statistics. The unemployment rate for high-school graduates is at least three times what it is for a college graduate. So it’s true that in this recession you’re seeing white-collar jobs impacted. Even before the recession, it’s true that you saw some outsourcing of white-collar jobs. But if you’re working the odds, your likelihood of getting a job that pays you a good, solid middle-class wage is vastly increased upon graduating from college — unless you’re LeBron James. And so I think the evidence (3) speaks for itself.

Now, what is true is that a postgraduate education that isn’t giving you skills that are measurable in some way, that provide you with some differentiation, means that you’re going to have a little bit of a harder time. I would argue that anybody — that young people generally are going to benefit from a good, solid liberal-arts education. That’s what I got.

If you’re only going to go to school for two years, though, then making sure that you’re enrolled in a program where at the end of that journey you can see a job or a career or a field that’s growing instead of contracting certainly can make some sense.

But, again, I think the big challenge that we’ve got on education is making sure that from kindergarten or prekindergarten through your 14th or 15th year of school, or 16th year of school, or 20th year of school, that you are actually learning the kinds of skills that make you competitive and productive in a modern, technological economy.

That’s why I don’t just want to see more college graduates; I also want to specifically see more math and science graduates, I specifically want to see more folks in engineering. I think part of the postbubble economy that I’m describing is one in which we are restoring a balance between making things and providing services, whether it’s marketing or catering to people or servicing folks in some way. Those are all good jobs, and we’re not going to return to an economy in which manufacturing is as large a percentage as it was back in the 1940s just because of automation and technological advance.

And there are advantages to service jobs, right? Less injury —

THE PRESIDENT: Less injury, less strain. And I’ve always claimed that if a Wal-Mart associate was getting paid 25 bucks an hour like the autoworker, then there’s no reason for complaint.

Although I do think that there’s a culture of making things in a factory that appeals to people and that I understand. Whenever I’d walk into a factory during the campaign and would see these big turbines — things that, you know, you’d say, well, this is neat stuff — in a way you wouldn’t when you walk into a retail store.

But the broader point is that if you look at who our long-term competition will be in the global economy — China, India, the E.U., Brazil, Korea — the countries that are producing the best-educated work force, whose education system emphasizes the sciences and mathematics, who can translate those technology backgrounds or those science backgrounds into technological applications, they are going to have a significant advantage in the economy. And I think that we’ve got to have enough of that in order to maintain our economic strength.

III. The New Gender Gap

Those factories are obviously filled disproportionately with men. There’s a way in which that reminds me of your grandparents, even though I know your grandfather wasn’t a factory worker. You talk about the fact that your grandmother outearned your grandfather. And in a way your family was a forerunner of a much larger trend: There’s still sexism, there’s still a pay gap, clearly, but the pay of men has stagnated, and the pay of women has gone up.

I think there are a lot of men out there today, working at G.M. and Chrysler and other places, who feel the same kind of dejection (4) that your grandfather did. What do you think the future of work looks like for men?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s an interesting question, because as I said, you know, you go in to factories all across the Midwest and you talk to the men who work there — they’ve got extraordinary skill and extraordinary pride in what they make. And I think that for them, the loss of manufacturing is a loss of a way of life and not just a loss of income.

I think a healthy economy is going to have a broad mix of jobs, and there has to be a place for somebody with terrific mechanical aptitude who can perform highly skilled tasks with his hands, whether it’s in construction or manufacturing. And I don’t think that those jobs should vanish. I do think that they will constitute a smaller percentage of the overall economy. And so what we’re going to have to do is, with a younger generation, find new places for that kind of work.

The possibilities are there, though. I spoke during the campaign of this company that I visited, McKinstry, in Seattle, where you’ve got a bunch of welders and tradesmen who are now retrofitting buildings. They’re not performing the same kind of manufacturing that their fathers might have, but with similar skill sets they are now making hospitals and schools and office buildings much more energy efficient, and then that’s providing enormous value to the economy as a whole.

In shaping our recovery package, one of the things I was pushing very hard was the smart grid (5) as a big project similar to the Interstate that could have some enormous ramifications for energy utilization. One of the biggest constraints that we’ve got in building a smart grid in addition to siting issues, which are sort of classic political jurisdictional battles, is actually we don’t have enough trained electricians to lay down those lines. Now, you can’t tell me that there aren’t a whole bunch of men and women out there who are interested in those jobs. But somehow we have not done a good job of matching up the training with the need out there. And that’s one of the things where government can help, help to guide and steer our education process in a way that meets future needs and not just the needs of the past.

Would you also encourage men to become more comfortable working in fields that they traditionally have not? I mean, nursing is a very well-paying field. There’s a shortage there.

THE PRESIDENT: I mean, nursing, teaching are all areas where we need more men. I’ve always said if we can get more men in the classroom, particularly in inner cities where a lot of young people don’t have fathers, that could be of enormous benefit.

Now, as you and I both know, in a lot of those fields they have been underpaid because they were predominantly women’s fields. And so part of what we have to do is to recognize that women are just as likely to be the primary bread earner, if not more likely, than men are today. As a consequence, eliminating the pay gap between men and women, and the pay gap between fields, becomes critically important. And we’ve already taken action, for example, with the Lilly Ledbetter bill (6) to try to move in that direction.

I think that if you start seeing nursing pay better and teaching pay better, and some of these other professions, you’re going to see more men in those fields, although there’s a little bit of a chicken and an egg — if you start getting more men in those fields, then the stereotypes about this being a woman’s field and all the gender stereotypes that arise out of thinking that somehow they’re not the primary breadwinner, those stereotypes start being whittled away.

Did Michelle ever make more than you did?


Probably only for a brief time, because I was working three jobs most of the time that I was in the State Senate. I was still practicing law and I was still teaching. So when you kind of put everything together, I think I was still making a little bit more. But when I started campaigning for the U.S. Senate and I had to drop some of those jobs, then she carried us for a couple years.

IV. Where the Economists are Coming From

I want to talk broadly about policy. When you and I spoke during the campaign, you made it clear that you had thought a lot about the economic debates within the Clinton administration. And you said that you wanted to have a Robert Rubin type and a Robert Reich type having a vigorous debate in front of you. And clearly you have a spectrum of Democrats within your economic-policy team.

THE PRESIDENT: But I don’t have Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz. (7) (Laughter.)

No, this wasn’t about them. But they have made it clear that they are not working in your administration, haven’t they?

But in your inner circle, it really is dominated by Rubin protégés. And I’d be interested if —

THE PRESIDENT: You know, the — I mean, look, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner obviously worked at Treasury under Rubin.

And Peter Orszag, I think.

THE PRESIDENT: And Orszag — fair enough. You know, Christy Romer didn’t.

Jared Bernstein doesn’t — and Jared sits here every morning as part of my economic team. And Austan Goolsbee doesn’t. (8)

I mean, the truth is that what I’ve been constantly searching for is a ruthless pragmatism when it comes to economic policy. It is probably true that, given the financial crisis that had arisen, that the fact that both Tim and Larry had familiarity with financial crises was a plus, because I thought that we needed some people who could hit the ground running and would be comfortable dealing with some very large and difficult economic issues. And frankly, that list is pretty small, because the last Democratic president we had was Bill Clinton; he was on the scene for eight years, and for a big chunk of that time, Bob Rubin was his primary economic-policy maker. So it’s not surprising that anybody who had experience in those fronts was going to be coming out of a shop that would have been influenced by that.

Keep in mind, though, I mean, I have enormous respect for somebody like Joe Stiglitz. I read his stuff all the time. I actually am looking forward to having these folks in for ongoing discussion. Somebody who has enormous influence over my thinking is Paul Volcker, who is robust enough that, having presided over the Carter and Reagan years, he’s still sharp as a tack and able to give me huge advice and to provide some counterbalance.

The last point I’d make, though, is I think that — and I may have mentioned this to you — but now that I think about it, maybe it was post-election. When I first started having a round table of economic advisers, and Bob Reich was part of that, and he was sitting across the table from Bob Rubin and others, what you discovered was that some of the rifts that had existed back in the Clinton years had really narrowed drastically.

They agree a lot more than they used to, but not entirely.

THE PRESIDENT: Not entirely. But, I mean, the fact is that Larry Summers right now is very comfortable making arguments, often quite passionately, that Bob Reich used to be making when he was in the Clinton White House. Now Larry might not like me saying that —

Larry Summers is the new Bob Reich —

THE PRESIDENT: — that he’s become a soft touch. But, no, I think that one of the things that we all agree to is that the touchstone for economic policy is, does it allow the average American to find good employment and see their incomes rise; that we can’t just look at things in the aggregate, we do want to grow the pie, but we want to make sure that prosperity is spread across the spectrum of regions and occupations and genders and races; and that economic policy should focus on growing the pie, but it also has to make sure that everybody has got opportunity in that system.

I also think that there’s very little disagreement that there are lessons to be learned from this crisis in terms of the importance of regulation in the financial markets. And I think that this notion that there is somehow resistance to that — to those lessons within my economic team — just isn’t borne out by the discussions that I have every day.

If anything, the only thing I notice, I think, that I do think is something of a carry-over from Bob Rubin — I see it in Larry, I see it in Tim — is a great appreciation of complexity.

And a willingness to admit what you don’t know, in many cases.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, exactly. And so what that means is that, as we’re making economic policy, I think there is a certain humility about the consequences of the actions we take, intended and unintended, that may make some outside observers impatient. I mean, you’ll recall Geithner was just getting hammered for months. But he, I think, is very secure in saying we need to get these things right, and if we act too abruptly, we can end up doing more harm than good. Those are qualities that I think have been useful.

V. Postreform Health care

You have suggested that health care is now the No. 1 legislative priority. It seems to me this is only a small generalization — to say that the way the medical system works now is, people go to the doctor; the doctor tells them what treatments they need; they get those treatments, regardless of cost or, frankly, regardless of whether they’re effective. I wonder if you could talk to people about how going to the doctor will be different in the future; how they will experience medical care differently on the other side of health care reform.

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I do think consumers have gotten more active in their own treatments in a way that’s very useful. And I think that should continue to be encouraged, to the extent that we can provide consumers with more information about their own well-being — that, I think, can be helpful.

I have always said, though, that we should not overstate the degree to which consumers rather than doctors are going to be driving treatment, because, I just speak from my own experience, I’m a pretty-well-educated layperson when it comes to medical care; I know how to ask good questions of my doctor. But ultimately, he’s the guy with the medical degree. So, if he tells me, You know what, you’ve got such-and-such and you need to take such-and-such, I don’t go around arguing with him or go online to see if I can find a better opinion than his.

And so, in that sense, there’s always going to be an asymmetry of information between patient and provider. And part of what I think government can do effectively is to be an honest broker in assessing and evaluating treatment options. And certainly that’s true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, where the taxpayers are footing the bill and we have an obligation to get those costs under control.

And right now we’re footing the bill for a lot of things that don’t make people healthier.

THE PRESIDENT: That don’t make people healthier. So when Peter Orszag and I talk about the importance of using comparative-effectiveness studies (9) as a way of reining in costs, that’s not an attempt to micromanage the doctor-patient relationship. It is an attempt to say to patients, you know what, we’ve looked at some objective studies out here, people who know about this stuff, concluding that the blue pill, which costs half as much as the red pill, is just as effective, and you might want to go ahead and get the blue one. And if a provider is pushing the red one on you, then you should at least ask some important questions.

Won’t that be hard, because of the trust that people put in their doctors, just as you said? Won’t people say, Wait a second, my doctor is telling me to take the red pill, and the government is saving money by saying take the blue —

THE PRESIDENT: Let me put it this way: I actually think that most doctors want to do right by their patients. And if they’ve got good information, I think they will act on that good information.

Now, there are distortions in the system, everything from the drug salesmen and junkets to how reimbursements occur. Some of those things government has control over; some of those things are just more embedded in our medical culture. But the doctors I know — both ones who treat me as well as friends of mine — I think take their job very seriously and are thinking in terms of what’s best for the patient. They operate within particular incentive structures, like anybody else, and particular habits, like anybody else.

And so if it turns out that doctors in Florida are spending 25 percent more on treating their patients as doctors in Minnesota, and the doctors in Minnesota are getting outcomes that are just as good — then us going down to Florida and pointing out that this is how folks in Minnesota are doing it and they seem to be getting pretty good outcomes, and are there particular reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing? — I think that conversation will ultimately yield some significant savings and some significant benefits.

Now, I actually think that the tougher issue around medical care — it’s a related one — is what you do around things like end-of-life care —

Yes, where it’s $20,000 for an extra week of life.

THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. And I just recently went through this. I mean, I’ve told this story, maybe not publicly, but when my grandmother got very ill during the campaign, she got cancer; it was determined to be terminal. And about two or three weeks after her diagnosis she fell, broke her hip. It was determined that she might have had a mild stroke, which is what had precipitated the fall.

So now she’s in the hospital, and the doctor says, Look, you’ve got about — maybe you have three months, maybe you have six months, maybe you have nine months to live. Because of the weakness of your heart, if you have an operation on your hip there are certain risks that — you know, your heart can’t take it. On the other hand, if you just sit there with your hip like this, you’re just going to waste away and your quality of life will be terrible.

And she elected to get the hip replacement and was fine for about two weeks after the hip replacement, and then suddenly just — you know, things fell apart.

I don’t know how much that hip replacement cost. I would have paid out of pocket for that hip replacement just because she’s my grandmother. Whether, sort of in the aggregate, society making those decisions to give my grandmother, or everybody else’s aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they’re terminally ill is a sustainable model, is a very difficult question. If somebody told me that my grandmother couldn’t have a hip replacement and she had to lie there in misery in the waning days of her life — that would be pretty upsetting.

And it’s going to be hard for people who don’t have the option of paying for it.

THE PRESIDENT: So that’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that’s also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

VI. Out of the Rough?

Do you think this recession is a big-enough event to make us as a country willing to make some of the sorts of hard choices that we need to make on health care, on taxes in the long term — which will not cover the cost of government — on energy? Traditionally those choices get made in times of depression or war, and I’m not sure whether this rises to that level.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, part of it will depend on leadership. So I’ve got to make some good arguments out there. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I came in, is to say now is the time for us to make some tough, big decisions.

The critics have said, you’re doing too much, you can’t do all this at once, Congress can’t digest everything. I just reject that. There’s nothing inherent in our political process that should prevent us from making these difficult decisions now, as opposed to 10 years from now or 20 years from now.

It is true that as tough an economic time as it is right now, we haven’t had 42 months of 20, 30 percent unemployment. And so the degree of desperation and the shock to the system may not be as great. And that means that there’s going to be more resistance to any of these steps: reforming the financial system or reforming our health care system or doing something about energy. On each of these things — you know, things aren’t so bad in the eyes of a lot of Americans that they say, We’re willing to completely try something new.

But part of my job I think is to bridge that gap between the status quo and what we know we have to do for our future.

Are you worried that the economic cycle will make that much harder? I mean, Roosevelt took office four years after the stock market crashed. You took office four months after Lehman Brothers collapsed. At some point people may start saying, Hey, why aren’t things getting better?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s something that we think about. I knew even before the election that this was going to be a very difficult journey and that the economy had gone through a sufficient shock and that it wasn’t going to recover right away.

In some ways it’s liberating, though, in the sense that whether I’m a one-termer or a two-termer, the problems are big enough and fundamental enough that I can’t sort of game it out. It’s not one of these things where I can say, Oh, you know what, if I time it just right, then the market is going to be going up and unemployment will be going down right before re-election. These are much bigger, much more systemic problems. And so in some ways you just kind of set aside the politics.

What I’m very confident about is that given the difficult options before us, we are making good, thoughtful decisions. I have enormous confidence that we are weighing all our options and we are making the best choices. That doesn’t mean that every choice is going to be right, is going to work exactly the way we want it to. But I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night feeling that the direction we are trying to move the economy toward is the right one and that the decisions we make are sound.

We Didn’t Have to Lose Arlen Specter


IT is disheartening and disconcerting, at the very least, that here we are today — almost exactly eight years after Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party — witnessing the departure of my good friend and fellow moderate Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, for the Democratic Party. And the announcement of his switch was all the more painful because I believe it didn’t have to be this way.

When Senator Jeffords became an independent in 2001, I said it was a sad day for the Republicans, but it would be even sadder if we failed to confront and learn from the devaluation of diversity within the party that contributed to his defection. I also noted that we were far from the heady days of 1998, when Republicans were envisioning the possibility of a filibuster-proof 60-vote margin. (Recall that in the 2000 election, most pundits were shocked when Republicans lost five seats, resulting in a 50-50 Senate.)

I could have hardly imagined then that, in 2009, we would fondly reminisce about the time when we were disappointed to fall short of 60 votes in the Senate. Regrettably, we failed to learn the lessons of Jim Jeffords’s defection in 2001. To the contrary, we overreached in interpreting the results of the presidential election of 2004 as a mandate for the party. This resulted in the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008, which combined for a total loss of 51 Republicans in the House and 13 in the Senate — with a corresponding shift of the Congressional majority and the White House to the Democrats.

It was as though beginning with Senator Jeffords’s decision, Republicans turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface, failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered.

It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.

Senator Specter indicated that his decision was based on the political situation in Pennsylvania, where he faced a tough primary battle. In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.

I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates.

In that same vein, I am reminded of a briefing by a prominent Republican pollster after the 2004 election. He was asked what voter groups Republicans might be able to win over. He responded: women in general, married women with children, Hispanics, the middle class in general, and independents.

How well have we done as a party with these groups? Unfortunately, the answer is obvious from the results of the last two elections. We should be reaching out to these segments of our population — not de facto ceding them to the opposing party.

There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.

It is for this reason that we should heed the words of President Ronald Reagan, who urged, “We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only ‘litmus test’ of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.” He continued, “As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.”

I couldn’t agree more. We can’t continue to fold our philosophical tent into an umbrella under which only a select few are worthy to stand. Rather, we should view an expansion of diversity within the party as a triumph that will broaden our appeal. That is the political road map we must follow to victory.

Olympia Snowe is a Republican senator from Maine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu FAQ

WebMD Provides Answers to Your Questions About Swine Flu

Like people, pigs can get influenza (flu), but swine flu viruses aren't the same as human flu viruses.

What is swine flu?
Like people, pigs can get influenza (flu), but swine flu viruses aren't the same as human flu viruses. Swine flu doesn't often infect people, and the rare human cases that have occurred in the past have mainly affected people who had direct contact with pigs. But the current swine flu outbreak is different. It's caused by a new swine flu virus that has spread from person to person -- and it's happening among people who haven't had any contact with pigs.

What are swine flu symptoms?
Symptoms of swine flu are like regular flu symptoms and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Those symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions, and that means that you and your doctor can't know, just based on your symptoms, if you've got swine flu. It takes a lab test to tell whether it's swine flu or some other condition.

If I think I have swine flu, what should I do? When should I see my doctor?
If you have flu symptoms, stay home, and when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. That will help prevent your flu from spreading.

If you've got flu symptoms, and you've recently been to a high-risk area like Mexico, CDC officials recommend that you see your doctor. If you have flu symptoms but you haven't been in a high-risk area, you can still see a doctor -- that's your call.

Keep in mind that your doctor will not be able to determine whether you have swine flu, but he or she would take a sample from you and send it to a state health department lab for testing to see if it's swine flu. If your doctor suspects swine flu, he or she would be able to write you a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza. Those drugs may not be required; U.S. swine flu patients have made a full recovery without it.

How does swine flu spread? Is it airborne?
The new swine flu virus apparently spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from an infected person, or by touching an object they recently touched, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, delivering their germs for your own infection. That's why you should make washing your hands a habit, even when you're not ill. Infected people can start spreading flu germs up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC.

The swine flu virus can become airborne if you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth, sending germs into the air.

The U.S. residents infected with swine flu virus had no direct contact with pigs. The CDC says it's likely that the infections represent widely separated cycles of human-to-human infections.

How is swine flu treated?
The new swine flu virus is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. The CDC recommends those drugs to prevent or treat swine flu; the drugs are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms. But not everyone needs those drugs; many of the first people in the U.S. with lab-confirmed swine flu recovered without treatment. The Department of Homeland Security has released 25% of its stockpile of Tamiflu and Relenza to states. Health officials have asked people not to hoard Tamiflu or Relenza.

Is there a vaccine against the new swine flu virus?
No. But the CDC and the World Health Organization are already taking the first steps toward making such a vaccine. That's a lengthy process -- it takes months.

I had a flu vaccine this season. Am I protected against swine flu?
No. This season's flu vaccine wasn't made with the new swine flu virus in mind; no one saw this virus coming ahead of time.

If you were vaccinated against flu last fall or winter, that vaccination will go a long way toward protecting you against certain human flu virus strains. But the new swine flu virus is a whole other problem.

How can I prevent swine flu infection?
The CDC recommends taking these steps:

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Can I still eat pork?
Yes. You can't get swine flu by eating pork, bacon, or other foods that come from pigs.

What else should I be doing?
Keep informed of what's going on in your community. Your state and local health departments may have important information if swine flu develops in your area. For instance, parents might want to consider what they would do if their child's school temporarily closed because of flu. That happened in New York City, where St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens closed for a couple of days after eight students were found to have swine flu. Don't panic, but a little planning wouldn't hurt.

How severe is swine flu?
The severity of cases in the current swine flu outbreak has varied widely. In Mexico, there have been deaths and other severe cases. Early cases in the U.S. have been mild. But that could change. The virus itself could change, either becoming more or less dangerous. Scientists are watching closely to see which way the new swine flu virus is heading -- but health experts warn that flu viruses are notoriously hard to predict, as far as how and when they'll change.

Why has the swine flu infection been deadlier in Mexico than in the U.S.?
It is unclear why U.S. cases have been milder compared to those in Mexico. Among the first 20 reported cases in the U.S., only one patient required hospitalization and that person has fully recovered. CDC researchers are actively investigating to learn more about the differences between the cases in Mexico and those in the U.S.

Have there been previous swine flu oubtreaks?
Yes. There was a swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix, N.J., in 1976 among military recruits. It lasted about a month and then went away as mysteriously as it appeared. As many as 240 people were infected; one died.

The swine flu that spread at Fort Dix was the H1N1 strain. That's the same flu strain that caused the disastrous flu pandemic of 1918-1919, resulting in tens of millions of deaths.

Concern that a new H1N1 pandemic might return in winter 1976 led to a crash program to create a vaccine and vaccinate all Americans against swine flu. That vaccine program ran into all kinds of problems -- not the least of which was public perception that the vaccine caused excessive rates of dangerous reactions. After more than 40 million people were vaccinated, the effort was abandoned.

As it turned out, there was no swine flu epidemic.

I was vaccinated against the 1976 swine flu virus. Am I still protected?
Probably not. The new swine flu virus is different from the 1976 virus. And it's not clear whether a vaccine given more than 30 years ago would still be effective.

How many people have swine flu?
That's a hard question to answer, because the figure is changing so quickly. If you want to keep track of U.S. cases that have been confirmed by lab tests and reported to the CDC, check the CDC's web site. If you're looking for cases in other countries, visit the World Health Organization's web site. And when you hear about large numbers of people who are ill, remember that lab tests may not yet have been done to confirm that they have swine flu. And there may be a little lag time before confirmed cases make it into the official tally.

How serious is the public health threat of a swine flu epidemic?
The U.S. government has declared swine flu to be a public health emergency.

It remains to be seen how severe swine flu will be in the U.S. and elsewhere, but countries worldwide are monitoring the situation closely and preparing for the possibility of a pandemic.

The World Health Organization has not declared swine flu to be a pandemic. The WHO wants to learn more about the virus first and see how severe it is and how deeply it takes root.

But it takes more than a new virus spreading among humans to make a pandemic. The virus has to be able to spread efficiently from one person to another, and transmission has to be sustained over time. In addition, the virus has to spread geographically.

NOTES from JODY to help you stay ahead of the flu pig!:

Ramp up your immune system by removing grains and dairy from your diet with the exception of live bacteria yogurt, increase consumption of purified water, organic produce and clean proteins,eat mostly live foods and avoid sugars and processed, irradiated and packaged foods.

Along with any supplements add a good amount of quality probotics and plenty of essential fatty acids, viruses have a difficult time reproducing with healthy fats present.

Get exercise, daily sunshine and plenty of sleep in the darkest room you can create and try two or three deep breathing sessions a day at least.

Consider a good colloidal silver as a supplement.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Ironies of 'a Devout Non-Ideologue'

How many ironies can a single presidency engender? Barack Obama is a detached man who has inspired fierce loyalties, and a cool man who has aroused both warm feelings of affection and a fiery opposition.

He loves to engage conservatives, yet few of them have chosen to engage him. He is seen as too moderate by parts of the left, but the right thinks he has a radical, statist agenda.

Wall Street's critics believe Obama's approach to rescuing the financial system amounts to coddling the bankers and financial scammers who got us into this mess. But many on the Street say Obama doesn't understand them and fear he is a secret populist who would displace finance as the dominant force in the U.S. economy.

On torture, Obama sought a middle ground: He ended the practice, disclosed what happened and proposed that we move on. Yet the right opposed disclosure, parts of the left wanted more accountability and their fight brought forth all of the bitterness Obama wants to put behind us.

The man does more than defy labels. He hates them. At a briefing for columnists last week to influence the coming 100-day assessments, a senior Obama adviser, struggling to offer a philosophical definition of the 44th president, finally settled on calling him "a devout non-ideologue."

But the mysteries and paradoxes of these 100 days cannot be unraveled without an understanding that the president is more than a "whatever works" guy. Obama would not inspire such loyalty if his supporters did not see (correctly) that he has an agenda to move the country to a very different place. He would not inspire such resistance if his opponents did not sense exactly the same thing.

There can be no denying that if Obama succeeds, government will play a larger role in American life because access to health care will be guaranteed by Washington and the financial system will face much tougher rules. The federal government will be influencing education and its financing more than it does now and will push the country toward reliance on a new mix of energy sources.

It's equally clear that the financing for all this will depend more heavily on taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans and that assistance to the neediest Americans will grow. As one social activist to Obama's left who was closely involved in the stimulus fight observed, "When it has the opportunity, the administration always puts its thumb on the scale in favor of doing more for the poor." Obama doesn't tout that fact, and he is not a radical egalitarian. But he certainly is for more equality.

In foreign affairs, the picture is blurrier, partly because this is an area in which Obama really is opposed to an ideological approach. This is precisely what separates him from the previous administration. Without question, the pragmatic Obama is winning the United States new friends in the world. He will need to show how this new affection translates into support for American positions and material help for American undertakings.

The first 100 of the 1,461 days in a presidential term are an imperfect predictor of how a leader will ultimately be judged. But they do offer a clear look at a president's style. Obama, on the whole, has been as crisp a decision maker and as calm an influence on his aides and his country as he was during the campaign.

But the most intriguing aspect of Obama's presidency so far may be the way in which he combines intelligence and intellect. The two are quite different, as Richard Hofstadter noted more than four decades ago in his instructive book, "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life."

Intelligence, Hofstadter argued, is an "unfailingly practical quality" that "works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals." Intellect, on the other hand, is the mind's "creative and contemplative side" that "examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines."

For Obama's base of progressive and liberal supporters, it is his intellectual side that draws such fierce loyalty and admiration, while his conservative foes mistrust the very part of him that imagines and dreams -- because they do not share his dreams.

But Obama's continued high standing in the polls rests on the great middle of the electorate that doesn't care if he's intellectual as long as he is smart enough to fix things. Obama and his aides know this, which is why our intellectually inclined president will continue to sow mystery by casting himself as a mechanic, a problem-solver and "a devout non-ideologue."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

MEET the PRESS 'Obama 100 days' Goodwin & Meacham

MR. GREGORY: We're joined by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and the editor of Newsweek magazine, Jon Meacham.

So, 100 days. Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post has an interesting a column today in which he says that the first 100 days are like the opening chapter of an unfinished novel. Doris, what have we learned about this president after 100 days?

MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: I think we've learned a lot about his leadership. We've learned that he's a man who is enjoying the job of being president, which is really important. You know, somebody said to FDR in the middle of all those challenges, "How can you bear all of this?" And he said, "Wouldn't anybody want to be president?"

It's the best job in the world. If you frees your psychic energy by loving the job, that's one thing. We've learned that he loves to speak to the American people, that he's willing to risk the overexposure in order to establish that connection with the American people. We've learned that he somehow shapes his own day. I mean, I think it's great that he gets up in the morning, has breakfast with the kids before going to the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan did the same thing. He said--not with the kids, but he got to the Oval Office later. Somebody said, "There'll be a national security adviser there at 7:15. You've got to be there, Mr. President." He said, "That guy's going to be waiting a long time. I'm going when I want to."

If you can find ways to sustain your spirit and maintain a sense of normalcy, the fact that he goes out and he has dinner in the White House--I mean, in the, in the Washington, D.C., area, that he goes on ESPN, all of that frees up, I think, your energies to replenish yourself and allow you to become a good president.

MR. GREGORY: Jon, it's interesting. We're talking about temperament here. It applies to the substance.

MR. MEACHAM: This is a president who almost instantly looks in the mirror and says, "I am the go-to guy" when it comes to pulling it all together, providing leadership, providing the way forward and communicating all of that. You expect that out of a president, but it comes in varying degrees.

It's the politics of calm, in many ways. And I think we'll study these 100 days and possibly the entire administration, ultimately, as a case study in crisis management in which he is trying to do something quite fascinating. He's doing a counterculture--running a countercultural presidency. In a news--in a world run by news cycles that move so fast, stories burn so brightly, he's saying, no, that we will be--he quoted St. Paul in his inaugural address, to use another one, "Be patient in tribulation."

He's arguing for a kind of patience. It's a projection of his personal characteristics on the politics of the moment. And that is one of the things that defines a great president, if he becomes one.

MR. GREGORY: And yet critics would say one of the things that he's done in 100 days already is expand the role of government, the size of government, the level of activism of government to a point that has put this country on a very dangerous heading, particularly financially, for the longer term.

MS. GOODWIN: You know, on the other hand, that's what he ran for the presidency in the first place for. He thought this was a moment in time when people realized that government had to take a more active role in solving the problems. That was his whole campaign. And I think to a certain extent, by doing a lot of things at once, at least setting the groundwork for them--he knows he's not going to get everything at the same time. But if he does get health care, then he can move toward alternative energy, then he can move toward education. By having those task forces going, by having Congress starting to work--you know, LBJ was told in '65, "You just got the Civil Rights Act desegregating the South through in '64, you had your war on poverty. Go slow, the country has to absorb these things." He said, "No. The momentum is here, I've got to move forward." He went for voting rights, he went for Medicare, he went for aid to education, he went for immigration reform, and he got those things because the country was ready. He's making a decision that the country's ready for this act of his government.

MR. GREGORY: And isn't it interesting, a new poll from The Washington Post/ABC News out just today measuring people's sense of whether the country's headed in the right direction, and for the first time, look at these numbers. In January he takes office, only 19 percent thought the country was headed in the right direction. Now that's 50 percent, more than think it's headed in the wrong direction. Jon, even at such an anxious time for the country.

MR. MEACHAM: Yeah. I think he wants to make a lot of big plays, and he knows that presidents are only remembered for two or three things. I think this argument about doing too much too quickly actually underestimates the people.

MS. GOODWIN: I agree.

MR. MEACHAM: I think that the American people are a sophisticated and mature republic and can, I think, think about more than one thing at once. And I think, again, as Doris says, does no one listen during campaigns? This happened with--you know, you covered President Bush. He use to say, when they say, "Well, why are you really cutting taxes?" He said, "Well, you know, this is what I ran on."

He ran on changing the conversation. In, in the same way President Reagan changed it center right, Obama wants to change things to center left. And that's the issue before us.

MS. GOODWIN: I think that right track, wrong track thing is huge, because what that shows is this mystery of leadership, that somehow you can change the American people's feeling about their country because you're there. You know, when FDR got into office there was this incredible letter sent to him by somebody who said, "Oh, my dog is hurt, my roof is falling in, I've lost my job, my, my wife is mad at me, but you are there so everything's going to be all right."

That's the extraordinary transference of a leaders to the mood of a country.

And if you can get confidence in the country going, that's the most important thing he's done in these 100 days.

MR. GREGORY: But there's--this is a question of leadership. Again, what critics would say, if you look at how this president handled the bonus question with AIG, he knew that in the scheme of things it was not the biggest deal to this administration. And yet when the politics shifted, he stood up and said, "Yeah, those bonuses are table--terrible, and I'm angry." Perhaps the leadership moment there was to say to the country, "Calm down, it's not the most important thing." Here on this memos now he seems to be shifting positions because he's got a left wing of his party that says there must be accountability from the Bush administration. The politics of looking backward are tricky.

MR. MEACHAM: They are hugely complicated, and my sense is we have not seen the end of this story. I think that they are keeping some options open. I'm personally in favor of a 9/12 Commission, where we find someone like Jack Danforth and Sam Nunn and do some something like the 9/11 Commission where you review the entire war on terror. Did rendition work, did the unmanned aerial drones, as well as the, the interrogation techniques? And I, I suspect that what they've shown themselves to be are quite pragmatic, quiet realistic. That was the AIG example you raised. He didn't want to jump on it. There was a huge moment of populist rage. But remember, it was just a moment. I mean, it burn, it burned very quickly. And what's going to happen, for all the stylistic points, all the temperament points, he's going to be judged on whether this stuff works.

And whether the, whether the economy comes back and how he confronts still unforeseen national security challenges.

MR. GREGORY: Isn't this question about torture, Doris, if you put it in an historical context, we have to ask the large question, which is can you defeat an enemy like al-Qaeda without compromising the nation's character? Can you?

I mean, is that a debate that should go forward?

MS. GOODWIN: I mean, one has to hope so, that it's possible to do; as everybody was saying before, that the moral values of our nation are what we are known for abroad. I think the interesting question about why he wanted to look forward instead of back, I think he recognizes, as all leaders do, that you only have a certain number of resources in time, focus and imagination. And if the country goes off on a jag, you're going to lose--look at even now, we've been talking about torture this morning rather than maybe what should have been talked about if he had his way, which was this new speech that he just made about the importance of every time you have a tax increase you're going to have to use that to go for the tax cut. Every time you have a increased spending, you're going to have to have some sort of reduction in spending. That's a big thing he was talking about. You lose, you lose command of the airwaves with these things, and I think that was his initial instinct of hoping that somehow we could put this behind us. But once that elephant is in the room with that CIA memo...

..options are lost. They're going to have to do something.

MR. MEACHAM: I disagree a little bit. I think that the, to go to your phrase of politics of looking back, is the mature thing to do. And if we are right about our first point that the people can handle a lot of things, then finding a smart, moderate, intelligent way to look back, find out what this history of these seven years can teach us about how to fight terrorism, as you say, can we do this and preserve our moral values? Well, Abraham Lincoln didn't. FDR didn't. Great war presidents have always committed great sins, whether it's suspending habeas corpus or detaining Japanese...

MS. GOODWIN: Incarcerating, incarceration.

MR. MEACHAM: ...Japanese-Americans. And so life is messy. Life is complicated. But we have to understand this history, because if we don't then we--I think we're unilaterally disarming, in a way, as we push forward.

MS. GOODWIN: How could I go against looking back at history? I must yield to your greater judgment.

MR. MEACHAM: There you go.

MR. GREGORY: Doris, you know what's--talk to people, and they want to know, you know, what's he like? What are president's like? How do they make decisions? And somebody close to the president said he's got a very disciplined mind. What do we know about how he makes decisions?

MS. GOODWIN: Well, it sounds like one thing he does is to bring people into the room and ask them to debate different sides of the issue so that he can get alternative points of view, and that what I've heard him say, or other people say, is that he asks people who have been quiet in the room, "Speak up. I want to hear what you said." That's a very healthy thing. Again, going back to FDR, there was a certain time when he was in a room and he was explaining a pet project and everybody said, "Oh, it's great, Mr. President. It's great." George Marshall didn't say a word. He said, "George, what do you think?" and Marshall said, "I don't agree with you at all, Mr. President." Instead of being mad at him, he lifted him 34 feet up--not 34 feet up, 34 generals up to become his chief. And I think that's the way you want to have a president to make decisions, to have as many points of view there, listen to them and then think, think.

MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to leave it there. Thanks both of you very much