So here I am, the day after Thanksgiving, exhausted and visibly gaining weight, the soul of sluggishness, unable to respond to the large number of people in my house with much of anything other than a noncommittal grunt. And I haven’t blogged since Tuesday.But ah, as I slumped in the living room wondering if I had the energy to watch a football game, easy inspiration arose on CNN: Michael Brown’s announcement of his new “disaster preparendness” consulting firm. The idea, it appears, is that having made every mistake in the book in dealing with Hurricane Katrina, Brownie is just the guy to tell companies what kind of mistakes they should look out for in dealing with natural disasters.After pocketing a “Political Turkey of the Year” designation by CNN’s Bill Schneider, ol’ Brownie seems determined to win some sort of Profiles in Chutzpah award. This goes well beyond such obvious analogies as Elizabeth Taylor becoming a marriage counselor, Terrell Owens holding seminars on “teamwork,” or Ozzie Osbourne starting a new “straight edge” anti-drug band. After all, Brownie’s accomplishment was to turn disaster response and relief into almost as big a disaster as the disaster he was “responding” to. And he did that with resources his potential clients are not likely to have, such as a multi-billion dollar budget, an entire federal agency, and the ear of the President of the United States.So what is Brown going to tell the corporate CEOs who are allegedly expressing interest in his services? Perhaps: “If you have no clue what you’re doing, be sure to hire some people who do.” Maybe: “Don’t let George Bush give you a nickname on national television.” Or finally: “Pick one person to shift blame to, and stick to your story.”The only thing I can think of that rivals Brownie’s self-salvage project is one once undertaken by William Calley, the guy who admitted ordering the cold-blooded murder of dozens of women and children at a hamlet named My Lai in Vietnam. In 1978, some television network aired a ten-year retrospective on the various convulsions that struck America in 1968, and the sections on Vietnam were narrated by Calley, who posed as some sort of anti-war martyr.At least he waited ten years.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.