The most terrifying moment in modern economic history occurred two years ago this month. For several long days after the fall of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008, the financial system was in danger of total collapse, and the United States seemed on the precipice of another Great Depression.
The most powerful woman in American politics has kept her head down for most of the first 18 months of her tenure as secretary of state. She is also by far the most unscathed senior member of a badly battered administration. And the once defeated Democratic candidate may have the most promising political prospects of just about anyone in the administration.
In marking the end of America's combat role in Iraq, President Obama sought to shift his priorities to the United States' own deep problems at home. "We have met our responsibilities. It is time to turn the page," Obama told the nation from the newly refurbished Oval Office, seeking to open a new chapter in his troubled presidency.
No one doubts that Michael Steele suffers from chronic foot-in-mouth disease. So when Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, declared recently that Afghanistan was a war that Obama had chosen, and that America shouldn't get bogged down in a place where "everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed," he initially encountered the usual reaction from conservatives leery of his leadership: derision and calls to resign.
The abrupt dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for making inappropriate remarks and the simultaneous announcement that he would be succeeded by his superior, CentCom Commander David Petraeus, papered over Obama's real problem: the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that McChrystal championed and Petraeus virtually invented may be fatally flawed, at least as it's practiced in Afghanistan.
The Obama team may be overcompensating for the mistakes made by George W. Bush, who possessed a too-great eagerness to expand the idea of radical Islamism in order to gin up the war against Iraq—though it was unrelated to Al Qaeda—and to connect the "war on terror" to all extremist groups, including Hamas and Hizbullah.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced the latest in a series of sanctions slapped against Iranian financial companies. But a question was put to Undersecretary Stuart Levey at the news conference: why not make Iran's choice suddenly and unmistakably, rather than "increasingly," clear?
Call it the Goldman effect. For whatever reason, it looks as if the Senate is holding firm, for the moment, on tough new regulations on Wall Street. The Street's lobbyists are no longer getting the traction they once did in congressional corridors paved with millions of lobbying dollars.
Sen. Carl Levin (Win McNamee/Getty Images) After two years of hemming and hawing in Washington about the real culprits on Wall Street, Sen. Carl Levin's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations finally got to the heart of the matter this morning.
Washington is suddenly looking very unkind to the firm that used to be known as "Government Sachs." Now the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, is planning to focus hearings scheduled for next week at least in part on Goldman Sachs's role in the financial disaster.