ThinkFast: September 28, 2009

President Obama

President Obama said that a world leader approached him at the G20 summit last week wondering why his critics are smearing him. The unidentified world leader told Obama, “We don’t understand it. You’re trying to make sure everybody has health care and they’re putting a Hitler mustache on you — I don’t — that doesn’t make sense to me. Explain that to me.”

On CNN yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay will take longer than the Obama administration planned. “I think it has proven more complicated than anticipated,” said Gates, who said that he had pushed for the deadline of January 2010.

Job seekers now outnumber job openings six to one, “the worst ratio since the government began tracking open positions in 2000.” The Labor Department reports that, in July, only 2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open, with 14.5 million people officially unemployed.

The Boston Globe reports that bank lobbyists, who earlier this year killed mortgage cramdown legislation, are funneling millions of dollars to Congress and hiring a number of former congressional and White House staffers as lobbyists in an effort to defeat proposed regulations. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the chief negotiators in talks on new legislation, has responded to bank lobbyists hiring one of his committee’s former aides by barring his staff from talking to him.

More than half of the 2,737 lobbyists “hired to promote the interests of drug companies, insurers, hospitals, health professionals, industry groups and business organizations” used to “work for the government they’re trying to influence.”

A new “60 Minutes”-Vanity Fair poll released yesterday finds that half of Americans say that taxing the richest Americans by at least 50 percent is a great idea. The poll also found that the public as a whole believes that a politician taking bribes is a “greater sin” than engaging in extramarital affairs.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta expressed his support for a new value-added tax. He explained that while such a tax may be regressive, it can be balanced by exempting some products and using “the money to support low-wage workers.”

President Obama will travel to Copenhagen this week “to support Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, projecting the highest-ever White House profile in lobbying for the international event.” Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett told the AP that Obama will join his wife, Michelle, to make the pitch to the International Olympic Committee. He will be the first ever president to make such an appeal in person.

William Safire, “a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times,” passed away from pancreatic cancer on Sunday. Safire also wrote the popular “On Language column for the Times and was “a Pickwickian quibbler who gleefully pounced on gaffes, inexactitudes, neologisms, misnomers, solecisms and perversely peccant puns.”

And finally: On Wednesday, Washingtonians will be competing in DC Improv’s “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” contest. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), who won the contest in 2006, advised this year’s competitors to “practice,” “consider your audience,” and “drink heavily — just kidding.” “If someone yells out, ‘You lie!’ Just yell back, ‘At least I don’t tea bag!'” she added. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) will also be receiving a lifetime achievement award at this year’s contest.

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