ThinkFast: July 23, 2008

“Wall Street got drunk,” President Bush said at a private fundraiser last week in Houston. Unaware that he was being recorded, Bush joked about the country’s housing crisis and said Wall Street now has “a hangover.” (Watch the video here.)

According to IRS data, “the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation’s adjusted gross income for two decades” and “possibly the highest since 1929.” Meanwhile, “the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years.”

President George H.W. Bush’s former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft warned the current president to stop threatening Iran. He said yesterday “that by mentioning that threat, ‘we legitimize the use of force…and may tempt the Israelis’ to carry out such a mission. He said he thinks that negotiations must continue.”

One day before he is to meet with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), British Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined a tentative plan “for withdrawing most of Britain’s remaining troops from Iraq early in 2009,” telling Parliament that Britain planned a “fundamental change of mission.” Brown gave no fixed timetable for withdrawal, however.


On the trail today: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be campaigning in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and then touring offshore oil rigs in Louisiana. Sen. Obama was in Israel earlier today, visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust history memorial, and is now meeting with officials in the Palestinian territories.Attorney General Michael Mukasey “has defended or let stand some of the most controversial policies that he inherited” from his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said Mukasey “hasn’t provided the balance that I had hoped for,” and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly called Mukasey’s recent performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee “terrible.”

Kurdish lawmakers in Iraq “walked out of parliament Tuesday in protest over a vote on conditions for Iraq’s provincial elections that called for ethnic groups to share power” in oil-rich Kirkuk. The walkout “appeared to reduce the chances that the elections would be held this year.”

In January, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson told Congress, “I made the decision. It was my decision” for the EPA to block the California greenhouse emissions waiver. But yesterday, former EPA official Jason Burnett said that Johnson concluded that “California’s request was legally justified — until White House officials ordered him to reverse the decision.”

Political appointees at the Department of Labor are rushing to “push through” a rule before President Bush leaves office that would make it “tougher to regulate workers’ on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.” Workplace-safety advocates, unions and Democrats say that the Bush administration is “working secretly to give industry a parting gift that will help it delay or block safety regulations.”

And Finally: The Force is with Mike Pence. Following remarks by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), American Values President Gary Bauer and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol at the third annual Washington Israel Summit last night, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said that he felt like a sidekick. “That’s kind of like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker — and your final speaker will be R2-D2,” Pence joked.