Automakers finalize turnaround plans for bailout money

It looks like the automakers will have plans ready for Congress by Tuesday, and the Big Three should be getting some concessions from the UAW as well.

The lamest of all possible ducks

Leave it to Joe Klein to sum up the sad spectacle of George W. Bush limping to the finish line of his failed presidency.

That we have slightly more than one President for the moment is mostly a consequence of the extraordinary economic times. Even if George Washington were the incumbent, the markets would want to know what John Adams was planning to do after his Inauguration. And yet this final humiliation seems particularly appropriate for George W. Bush. At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks.

Watching Obama name a cabinet of all-stars is reassuring, though Bush also appointed heavyweights with impressive resumes. You can have the best team in the world, but that team will fail without strong leadership. I’m optimistic that Obama will fare much better than W.

Klein ends his column with a final indictment of Bush’s presidency.

In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.

Obama’s appointments

So far, Obama’s appointments have been very impressive. A few liberals are complaining that he is picking too many moderates, but that’s just typical griping.

More importantly, liberals like Paul Krugman recognize that Obama is assembling a team of all-stars.

Seriously, isn’t it amazing just how impressive the people being named to key positions in the Obama administration seem? Bye-bye hacks and cronies, hello people who actually know what they’re doing. For a bunch of people who were written off as a permanent minority four years ago, the Democrats look remarkably like the natural governing party these days, with a deep bench of talent.

That doesn’t mean they’ll succeed — this might be a good time to reread The Best and the Brightest. But what an improvement!

Democrats punt on auto bailout

It’s striking how inept Reid and Pelosi appear on this issue. The Bush administration isn’t helping matters, but someone needs to take leadership here. Obama is trying to stay on the sidelines, but at some point he needs to speak up and take a strong position.

Meanwhile, the stock market is cratering on the news that a bailout deal has not been reached.

Everyone here is playing with fire. This is not about the auto companies, the unions or whether executives came to Washington on private jets. This is about a fragile economy that could fall into chaos if GM goes bankrupt. Nobody knows precisely what would happen, but taking that risk seems insane at this point.

Someone needs to start actng like a grownup here.

Stevens loses in Alaska

The Democrats are now at 58 seats, with the possibility of getting two more. The AP has called the race for Mark Begich in Alaska.

Convicted Sen. Ted Stevens lost his re-election bid to Democrat Mark Begich after the last large batch of votes was counted Tuesday.

The longest-serving Republican in the history of the Senate trailed Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by 3,724 votes after Tuesday’s count.

That’s an insurmountable lead with only about 2,500 overseas ballots left to be counted.

Ted Stevens represented everything that was wrong with politics in Washington, as he steered millions of pork dollars back to Alaska. Oh, and he was also a convicted felon. It’s a disgrace that the race ws even this close, but at least he won’t be returning to the Senate. Also, we won’t have to face the potential drama of Sarah Palin appointing herself to this seat in the event that Stevens won and then was removed from the Senate.

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