Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Toyota: Democrats 'Not Industry Friendly'
Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as “activist” and “not industry friendly," a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker's top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall. According to a presentation obtained under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Relations committee, Toyota referred to the “changing political environment” as one of its main challenges and anticipated a "more challenging regulatory" environment under the Obama administration's purview. This document, in addition to piles of other records, will be front and center this week as the Japanese automaker girds to face lawmakers hungry for answers about a recall that has the company teetering. Upwards of 8 million cars have been recalled in the U.S. and worldwide, amid reports of Toyota's vehicles accelerating rapidly. The problems have turned political, as the company has shuttered some American factories, potentially resulting in layoffs. The oversight committee, which is led by Democrat Ed Towns of New York and Republican Darrell Issa of California, will seek to discover if Toyota was forthright in disclosing problems with rapid acceleration – and if the government was responsible and quick in investigating such complaints. Toyota has launched an image rehabilitation campaign on Capitol Hill, and its top lobbyist has sent emails to Congressional aides in an attempt to shape its image amid this crisis.
Committee aides say the presentation, which was obtained by POLITICO, gives the clearest view into the minds of Toyota executives. Aides believe the presentation was an explanatory slideshow prepared to explain the inner-workings of Toyota’s Washington lobbying operations. It includes a responsibility flow chart, in addition to resources the office calls upon, including The Brookings Institution and the Chamber of Commerce. The slideshow is titled “Toyota Washington, DC” and the cover sheet is labeled “Yoshi Inaba” – the president of Toyota North America, who is slated to testify. It is a peek into how Toyota executives view the American political environment. The “Activist Administration & Congress – increasing laws & regulations” is listed as one of “Toyota Challenges,” as is “Massive government support for Detroit automakers.” The July 2009 presentation also says the Department of Transportation and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration “under Obama administration” is “not industry friendly,” and anticipates a “more challenging regulatory and enforcement environment.” It says the NHTSA “new team has less understanding of engineering issues and are primarily focused on legal issues.” “While the administration may have changed, the bureaucracy itself has not and we must ensure that government regulators give every possible consumer concern its due diligence,” said Republican Oversight spokesman Kurt Bardella.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Ron Paul Wins CPAC Presidential Straw Poll
Rep. Ron Paul, hero of a fervant band of libertarians, unexpectedly won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, claiming 31% of the votes cast. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has carried the survey for the past three years, was second at 22%. The straw poll is unscientific but is sometimes seen as a show of organizational strength among presidential hopefuls. However, Paul, who made a longshot bid for the Republican nomination in 2008, has given no indication he plans to run again. "It is clear that Paul brought a lot of people" to CPAC, said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who ran the straw poll. Fabrizio said 2,395 of a reported 10,000 attendees voted. It was the most votes in the history of CPAC -- about 40% higher than last year, he said.Fabrizio noted that Romney's support was about the same as in last year's straw poll but that support for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich was cut by about half. Palin was at 7%, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6%, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence at 6% and Gingrich and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at 4%. Romney, Pawlenty, Pence and Gingrich had addressed this year's CPAC, but Palin had not. In the straw poll, a majority also said they were dissatisfied with the field of contenders for the 2012 nomination against President Obama. The announcement of the results brought gasps, cheers and a round of boos from a packed ballroom. The annual three-day conclave, hosted by the American Conservative Union, ended tonight with an address by Glenn Beck.
Alexander Haig Dead At 85
Former U.S. secretary of state, Republican stalwart, general and businessman Alexander Haig died Saturday. He was 85. Haig's family said he died in a Baltimore hospital from complications from an infection. He had been ill for some time. Haig, who served in the U.S. army for 20 years before moving to the White House staff in 1968, was famous for his response after a gunman shot then-president Ronald Reagan in March 1981. "As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice-president," Haig said on television. He said he was intending to reassure Americans amid the crisis — Reagan survived the shooting — but Haig's comment is remembered as a huge gaffe.Haig was actually fourth in line to succeed to the presidency; ahead of him were the vice-president, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro-tempore of the Senate (usually the longest-serving senator of the majority party). John Hinckley, Jr., was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of the president and three other people. Haig was a top adviser to three presidents. As Richard Nixon's chief of staff in 1973, he helped the president prepare his defence for his role in the Watergate scandal. After Nixon resigned, president Gerald Ford appointed Gen. Haig as supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe and commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in Europe. In 1979, he retired from the army to become president of United Technologies Corp. He was secretary of state in the Reagan administration in 1981 and 1982.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Democrats Seek Distance From Obama
As Congress begins picking through President Obama's vast election year budget, many Democratic incumbents and candidates seem to be finding something they love — to campaign against. A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget's sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And an endangered Senate Democrat denounced proposed cuts in farm subsidies. A headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), blares her opposition to Obama's farm budget: ``Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families,'' it says. Heading into an election season in which Republicans are trying to tie Democrats to Obama's unpopular policies, Obama's budget gives his fellow Democrats an unlikely campaign tool — a catalogue of ways to establish their distance from controversial aspects of his administration. It is a time-tested campaign tactic for politicians to declare their independence of party leaders. But the tactic is particularly important for Democrats this year, because their party dominates Washington, and being an insider is a political liability in an anti-incumbent climate. Underscoring that dynamic, Obama held a question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats on Wednesday, drawing polite challenges from a procession of incumbents up for reelection. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), a recent party-switcher, questioned trade policies battering the steel industry. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) asked about health care for first responders involved in the Sept. 11attack. The message from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.): ``California is hurting.'' All that underscores a potential gap between Obama's governing agenda and congressional Democrats' political interest in the election. While Democrats on the ballot encounter stiff headwinds, Obama is asking them look at the big picture on the budget, take on tough issues, and let the politics take care of themselves. ``If anybody's searching for a lesson from Massachusetts, I promise you, the answer is not to do nothing," Obama told the Senate Democrats. "We've got to finish the job on health care. We've got to finish the job on financial regulatory reform. We've got to finish the job, even though it's hard." Since his State of the Union address last week, Obama has offered a spirited defense of his agenda, his feisty demeanor an implicit promise of support for those Democrats who work with him. At a time when some might be thinking about parting ways with his agenda, Obama is pressing his case that now is not the time to abandon the ideals that swept him into office. While Democrats agree with Obama's broad goals, they do not agree with all it takes to achieve them – especially in his budget, which makes little short-term progress in deficit reduction yet calls for spending cuts in many programs.Lincoln is a dedicated proponent of fiscal responsibility. But she sharply denounced the cuts in farm subsidies that are so important to her state. That is not only good constituent service, but good 2010 politics in a state that voted heavily against Obama in the 2008 election. Wednesday's meeting with Obama gave Lincoln a televised opportunity to challenge Obama on a broader question. As one of eight Democrats hand-picked by party leaders to question the president, all but one up for re-election this year, Lincoln urged Obama to ``to push back against people in our own party that want extremes.'' Then, in short order, her campaign website featured a news report: ``Lincoln challenges Obama on liberal `extremes.'" Elsewhere around the country, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas — a freshman Democrat from a Republican leaning part of Florida — minced no words in complaining about Obama's proposed cuts to the NASA budget. The space industry is one of the largest employers in her district. ``The president's proposal lacks a bold vision for space exploration and begs for the type of leadership that he has described as critical for inspiring innovation for the 21st century,'' said Kosmas. In the swing state of Missouri, Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan wasted no time this week denouncing Obama's budget as profligate. ``I'm disappointed in the president's budget recommendation,'' she said. ``Missouri families have to balance their checkbooks and our government is no different.'' Democrats trumpet that split between their candidate and Obama as Carnahan tries to run as an outsider. But Republicans have tagged her ``Rubberstamp Robin'' for supporting Obama's health care bill and other congressional initiatives. Probably no vulnerable Democrat has more of a burden in defending Obama's budget than Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), the House Budget Committee Chairman who is facing a strong opponent in his Republican-leaning district. The National Republican Congressional Committee has already run an ad attacking him for his record in handling deficit-laden budgets. But Spratt has not shied from his association with the volatile issue. When Obama's budget was delivered to Capitol Hill Monday, Spratt joined in a ``photo op'' for its reception. The photo was run on a conservative blog under the headline: ``Budget now in Spratt's liberal hands.''