8 a.m. ET: As President Obama's "vacation" began Sunday, his spokesman reassured the traveling press corps, "Nobody's looking to make any news." Within the next 36 hours, aides leaked Obama's plan to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman, Eric Holder named a prosecutor to investigate Bush-era interrogation practices and the CIA's Inspector General released a graphic report on the same subject.
Obama plans to announce the Bernanke appointment at 9 a.m. ET on Martha's Vineyard, ratifying a choice that had been mostly expected and will likely cheer the markets. "White House officials said that Mr. Obama had effectively decided four or five weeks ago that he wanted Mr. Bernanke to continue, and that he formally discussed the job with him last week at a meeting with the Fed chairman in the White House," the New York Times writes, adding that Obama did not offer the job to anyone else, though other names like Larry Summers, Janet Yellen and Roger Ferguson were rumored. "A move by Mr. Obama to install his own person at the Fed might have have rattled markets and unsettled the foreign investors," reports the Wall Street Journal, which also quotes Rahm Emanuel saying Obama credits Bernanke with "pulling the economy back from the brink of depression." (Note that it's Emanuel delivering the message once again, rather than Summers or Tim Geithner or Robert Gibbs, but that's another story.)
Stability seems to be the word of the day. "You can certainly argue that Bernanke made mistakes, both in failing to spot the housing bubble and in his handling of the Wall Street collapse last autumn," the Economist judges, while "the standard argument for retaining Bernanke is that he avoided a repeat of the Great Depression. ... Perhaps the more practical argument is that, with sentiment still fragile, replacing Bernanke might have damaged the fledgling recovery." Bernanke's reappointment has already been blessed by Chris Dodd, and so the Fed chairman should have a relatively smooth confirmation aside from the complaints of some critics.
While the reaction to the Bernanke news was mostly positive, Holder's decision to name a prosecutor for interrogation issues drew a more mixed response. ABC News reports that Leon Panetta had a "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House last month over Holder's move, and that "senior White House staff members are already discussing a possible shake-up of top national security officials." Eugene Robinson argues that Obama "has a legal and moral duty to determine whether crimes were committed in the Bush-era detention and interrogation" and prosecute such crimes if they occurred. But the Los Angeles Times writes that by naming a prosecutor, "the Obama administration has plunged into just the kind of controversy it said it wanted to avoid -- a polarizing, backward-looking fight over issues far removed from the president's top priorities." The Wall Street Journal,frets, "What's nearly certain, however, is that the names of the agents will soon become a part of the public record, either directly or through leaks that the liberal press will have no scruple about printing."
The CIA's interrogation report prompted a similarly heated debate. The Washington Post notes that the Bush administration and the Obama administration drew starkly different conclusions from the same evidence. The New York Times says the report "gives new details about a variety of abuses inside the C.I.A.’s overseas prisons, including suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family, staging mock executions, intimidation with a handgun and power drill, and blowing cigar and cigarette smoke into prisoners’ faces to make them vomit." Because of such incidents, some liberal lawmakers want Holder to authorize an even broader probe of interrogation practices, one that would reach further up the ladder to the policymakers and lawyers who gave the orders. But Power Line writes, "Having read the CIA report in its entirety, I am struck once again by how humane our treatment of captured terrorists was intended to be, and generally was. The handful of incidents highlighted by press accounts of the report came to light precisely because they were reported as deviations from the treatment of detainees that had been authorized by DOJ lawyers."
Someone else decided to make news during the dog days of August -- Rudy Giuliani. The New York Times reports that America's Mayor "is clearing a path for a possible race for governor in 2010, believing public anger at an ineffectual Albany and unease over the economy could create ideal conditions for a Republican to reclaim the governor’s mansion." Democratic-held statehouses in New Jersey and Virginia are in danger of falling to the GOP this year, and a Giuliani candidacy would put another blue state in play next year. It would also bring an interesting level of scrutiny to Giuliani's private-sector business dealings. Does he really want to release his client lists?
August 25, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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