ThinkFast: January 16, 2009


Last night, President Bush said goodbye to the American people in his final address to the nation. But as he leaves office, the majority of Americans couldn’t be happier to see him go. In a recent poll, CNN found that 75 percent of Americans “said they are glad he is leaving.” Only 23 percent said they will miss him.

Israel shelled the UN Relief and Works Agency headquarters in Gaza yesterday, calling the attack a “response to enemy fire.” The attack wounded three people and destroyed a warehouse “full of hundreds of tons of food and medicine.” It was the second attack on a UN facility since violence began.

In an interview with USA Today, President-elect Obama said “he will appoint a team immediately after his inauguration Tuesday to address ‘on Day One’ the crisis in Gaza and brewing troubles across the Middle East.” The challenges in the region are “not going to be solved in isolation. And we’ve got to be active in all these areas in order for us to be successful in any of these areas,” he said.

Obama is also pledging to reform spending on Social Security and Medicare, convening a “fiscal responsibility summit” next month. “Social Security, we can solve,” he said. “The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable.” Obama said he intends to “spend some political capital on this.”

Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden yesterday defended the agency’s use of torture and advised the incoming Obama administration “against going too far in dismantling the agency’s controversial counter-terrorism programs.” “These techniques worked,” Hayden said of the agency’s interrogation program.

More than a month has passed since Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a Dec. 14 press conference. Zaidi, however, remains in custody and has “been allowed only two visitors — and none since Dec. 21.” His family is concerned that Zaidi has been beaten while imprisoned.

As the recession grows, more middle class families will sink into poverty, analysts predict. Figures due in August will likely show the percentage of Americans living in poverty rose half a percent in 2008, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. Poverty is defined as an annual income of $21,203 or less for a family of four.

A provision requiring companies “receiving federal bailout money to divest of their private aircraft or leases” was stripped from the House version of the Troubled Assets Relief Program Reform and Accountability Act of 2009. Kansas officials warned the provision would “would hurt aircraft orders and lead to more layoffs at a time the aviation industry.”

Obama appears to be putting D.C. voting rights on the back burner, warning that it “takes on a partisan flavor” and saying “our legislative agenda’s chock-full.” However, he insisted that that he supported a bill to give the District’s sole congressional member full voting rights in the House, which was narrowly defeated by Senate Republicans last year.

And finally: Is President Bush feeling “sweetly or innocently charming” at the end of his presidency? He is, according to presidential counselor Ed Gillespie. When talking to reporters yesterday about the President’s state of mind at the end of his tenure, Gillespie repeatedly said that Bush was feeling “winsome.” When reporters later asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino what Gillespie meant by that word, she said, “I think ‘wistful’ might have been the word.”

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