Obama's Presidency in Retrospect--The Daschle Cave: TNR editorializes that Obama's "high minded ethics standards" are preventing him from filling key appointive positions. a) Is Obama's problem an "ethics" obsession or a press obsession? Bouncing Nancy Killefer because a lien had once been put on her house due to $298 in unpaid unemployment taxes on household help--a debt she'd taken care of years ago --didn't reflect an ethics obsession. It reflected a hypertrophied fear of a little ding in the press that might cost the Obama administration .0001% in the polls. At some point, Obama needs to stand up for a qualified appointment (other than Tim Geithner), say "this is my nominee," take the minor news-cycle hit, and push it through. b) In hindsight, isn't it clear that the moment to do this was Daschle's nomination to head Health and Human Services? Daschle was supposed to be the key to the administration's health care strategy. His tax problem involved an understandable question of interpretation ( when does a "perk" become taxable income ?). Instead, Obama let Daschle get spooked by a self-righteous editorial in the New York Times . Why not tell the Times to stuff it? This isn't an excess of Obama administration ethics. It's a deficiency of Obama administration cojones. ... 1:06 A.M.
Get-Up-and-Get-a-Beer Line of the Day: From Noam Scheiber's solid, highly favorable profile of Larry Summers --
There is surely real value to Summers's respect for institutional boundaries. And no one thinks Larry Summers has suddenly become Sally Quinn. Colleagues say he remains fiercely opinionated in meetings; his humor is sometimes cutting. [E.A.]
Projected reader response: 'Hmm. Interesting. If Larry Summers suddenly became Sally Quinn, what would that be like? Lots of possibilities. Would he marry Ben Bradlee? Wonder what Scheiber means. I'll get up and get a beer and think about it.'... P.S.: Does Sally Quinn respect institutional boundaries? Didn't she, a non-Catholic, recently roil Catholics by taking communion at Tim Russert's funeral and then doubling down when criticized about it? Is Quinn secretly meek and un opinionated to those who know her well? Help! ...
Update: Matt Yglesias calls Scheiber's piece "[t]he mother of all beat-sweeteners." Maybe Yglesias really does put his most interesting stuff on Twitter. ... I like Summers so I was receptive to Scheiber's sympathetic take. You have to wonder, though, if Scheiber--or Summers--is setting Treasury secretary Geithner up for a fall with this passage:
Thanks to his vast intellectual range and the urgency of the moment, Summers has thus far taken a leading role in the housing plan, the auto industry rescue, health care, and energy, in addition to the stimulus. But, when it comes to the bank bailout, the consensus is that Summers has scrupulously respected Geithner's turf.
The most-criticized part of Obama's economic strategy is the one part he's not responsible for. ... More: In public, Summers has praised Geithner for daring not to have a plan!
You know I think Secretary Geithner has handled this in a difficult and courageous way. The easy thing to do would be--and anybody who has worked in Washington for a while knows how to do it--would be to lay out a nine point plan with the illusion of specificity and the sense of certainty about what the future would bring.
This defense seems less friendly than it did yesterday. ... 1:24 A.M.
Are Toyota resale values falling? Automotive News reports that the legendary resale value of Toyotas coming off lease has fallen to 46.5% , which is below projections. ... It's not clear if this reflects some underlying problem with the vehicles. (That would be a big deal in the car world.). ... The Toyota Tundra truck, for example, was expected to retain about 60% of its value. In fact it kept only 40.1%. Yet that's still better than its Detroit competitors, the Chevy Silverado (39.9%) and Ford F-150 (32.2%). ... 1:51 A.M.