Rachel Maddow on Letterman

Towards the end of the interview, after expressing utter dismay at the relentless barrage of criticism that’s levelled against Barack Obama, Dave asks: “I would like to know, how would we be better off, how would our lives be now if John McCain had won and he was the President? How would it be better?”

Unless you’re a hardened cynic who believes (not altogether unjustifiably, it has to be said) that, for various reasons, the occupant of the White House is largely an irrelevance these days, then Dave’s hypothetical is an interesting one to ponder…

Side Note: I just want to take a moment to thank Youtuber “MiniRtist” who posted this clip and who has been doing just yeoman work in recent months posting full-length excerpts from Keith Olbermann’s new iteration of “Countdown” on Current TV.

No Time for Politics

I can’t help but watch the initial days of this new presidency unfold without imagining in my evil head how this all might have played out if the McCain-Palin ticket had somehow won the 2008 presidential race.

Does anyone feel up to the task of fantasizing about how exactly the dynamic, incredibly “mavericky” duo would have tackled the fallout from the economic meltdown and various other issues… Quite frankly, I’m stumped by this proposition, starting with the inaugural address, my friends…

Q: Whither the “Conservatives”?


Pity the beleaguered editors of the Calgary Herald… In two opinion pieces this morning they lament the apparent flight of “fiscal conservatives” from the scene in the mad rush to plunge the government into levels of deficit spending that just months ago were inconceivable.

Are there no fiscal conservatives left in Canada? Evidently not: The allegedly Conservative federal government is set to post a deficit of up to $30 billion over the next four years, rather than addressing the issues raised for government by the recession through reduced spending.

Now, we have Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government, its conservatism clearly overwhelmed by its progressivism, predicting a technical deficit for the coming fiscal year — again, with no apparent recourse to financial rigour.

Perhaps that’s what one should expect from a party with an oxy-moron for a name, along with such fuzzy concepts as “technical” deficits: Deficits happen when government expenses exceed revenues, at which point governments typically borrow, or cut spending. That Alberta alone among the provinces has a Sustainability Fund to draw upon doesn’t mean it is somehow not in the red. In other words, unless it’s possible to be technically speeding or technically pregnant, Premier Ed Stelmach offers a distinction without a difference.

The second editorial is even more amusing. In addition to bemoaning the Conservatives’ enthusiastic (albeit belated) embrace of deficit spending, it desperately attempts to shift blame for this dramatic reversal of course on the opposition parties, the Bloc in particular.

If only it were possible to spend one’s way to wealth. As any person laden down by debt now keenly appreciates, it is not.

Yet, stripped of its padding, that seems to be Ottawa’s plan to “get through”what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told provincial finance ministers gathered in Saskatoon Wednesday would be a tough year in 2009: Canadians can expect job losses and for the first time in nearly two decades, a contracting economy. The federal response, said Flaherty, would be a cocktail of expanded federal infrastructure spending, tax cuts and federal participation in a plan to free up stranded debt — the so-called asset backed commercial paper held by banks and financial institutions, now considered too risky to touch.

A federal budget deficit, thanks largely to the threat of a separatist-backed coalition, is now a certainty.

Unfortunately, in their exuberance to jump start the economy, it may be that the Conservatives are overreacting. According to Don Drummond, Canada should limit next year’s budget deficit to $22 billion even as it boosts spending to deal with the world economic downturn.

Even so, “It’s not going to make a horrific difference to most Canadians… We do have physical limits to what we can do,” Drummond told CBC Newsworld.

Calling Harper’s proposed deficit in the range of $30 billion in the next fiscal year “unrealistic” Drummond instead recommends a maximum of about $12 billion in extra fiscal stimulus, bringing the final shortfall to $22 billion or 0.75 percent of the national GDP.

Given that Drummond has been acting as an advisor to Michael Ignatieff since his installation as leader of the LPC, it’s probably safe to say that this more modest proposal reflects the Liberal position on the “stimulus” package and deficit spending. Also, I might add, one that’s somewhat more in tune with the public mood that is skeptical about the concept of deficit spending. If so, this should prove to be a rather interesting role reversal between the Conservatives and Liberals in future discussions about the upcoming budget.

A: Here*

Update: Seems like as good a place as any to include this interview of Harper by Steve Murphy of CTV Atlantic from several days ago.

*Graphic via Calgary Grit.

Harper: Depression a Possibility


Great. In the latest installment of Stephen Harper’s ever-changing position on the economy, he now feels that a depression is a possibility. But not to worry! ‘Cause we’ve learned lots of stuff since then.

Stephen Harper has delivered his bleakest forecast yet for the Canadian economy, warning yesterday the future is increasingly hard to read and conceding the possibility of a depression.

“The truth is, I’ve never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future,” the Prime Minister told CTV News in Halifax.

“I’m very worried about the Canadian economy.”

When asked whether a depression might be possible, he answered:

“It could be, but I think we’ve learned enough about depression; we’ve learned enough from the 1930s to avoid some of the mistakes that caused a recession in 1929 to become a depression in the 1930s.”

Why am I not filled with confidence at anything this man says? In the space of one short month, he’s gone from predicting small surpluses, to a potential depression, and since vowing during the election that, under no circumstances would the Conservatives ever run a deficit, he now glibly says, “Obviously, we’re going to have to run a deficit.” Well, obviously. Duh! By the way, the month prior to that, Harper had said: “My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of big crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now.”

Aside from his economic flip-flopping, on the other topics discussed with CTV Atlantic’s Steve Murphy yesterday, Harper continues to be arrogant (you can judge for yourself here) and completely unrepentant. “Asked repeatedly whether he regretted unveiling a fiscal update that would have financially crippled the opposition parties, while saving roughly $27 million a year, Harper said he had acted in the best interest of Canadians.” Yeah, that worked out real swell there, Steve.

John McCain’s Late Show Redemption

To borrow the “nut graph” (now there’s an old timey journalistic expression) from Newsday: “Presidential campaigns are brutal and divisive affairs. It was nice last night to almost forget that the last one ever even happened.”

David Schuster talks with Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson to speculate about how the election might have been different if “that guy” had shown up instead of the nerve-jangling trainwreck that was Sen. McCain during the latter stages of the campaign, as well the more general issue of how high priced handlers distort (and in this case thwart) the image of the candidates they’re charged with protecting (presumably from their “authentic” selves).

And here’s the complete Letterman interview (or most of it, anyway).