Rahm Emanuel’s profitable stint at mortgage giant

Rahm Emanuel’s profitable stint at mortgage giant

Short Freddie Mac stay made him at least $320,000

Chief of Staff

The White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listens as President Barack Obama delivers remarks to open the White House Forum on Health Reform in the East Room of the White House. (Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / March 5, 2009)

 

Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel—now chief of staff to President Barack Obama—who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.

As gatekeeper to Obama, Emanuel now plays a critical role in addressing the nation’s mortgage woes and fulfilling the administration’s pledge to impose responsibility on the financial world.

Emanuel’s Freddie Mac involvement has been a prominent point on his political résumé, and his healthy payday from the firm has been no secret either. What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation’s current economic mess.

Though just 49, Emanuel is a veteran Democratic strategist and fundraiser who served three terms in the U.S. House after helping elect Mayor Richard Daley and former President Bill Clinton. The Freddie Mac money was a small piece of the $16 million he made in a three-year interlude as an investment banker a decade ago.

In business as in politics, Emanuel has cultivated an aggressive, take-charge reputation that made him rich and propelled his rise to the front of the national stage. But buried deep in corporate and government documents on the Freddie Mac scandal is a little-known and very different story involving Emanuel.

He was named to the Freddie Mac board in February 2000 by Clinton, whom Emanuel had served as White House political director and vocal defender during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board’s working committees, according to company proxy statements. Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate.

On Emanuel’s watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

The accounting scandal wasn’t the only one that brewed during Emanuel’s tenure.

During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago.

The board was throttled for its acquiescence to the accounting manipulation in a 2003 report by Armando Falcon Jr., head of a federal oversight agency for Freddie Mac. The scandal forced Freddie Mac to restate $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements. It also foreshadowed even harder times at the firm.

Many of those same risky investment practices tied to the accounting scandal eventually brought the firm to the brink of insolvency and led to its seizure last year by the Bush administration, which pledged to inject up to $100 billion in new capital to keep the firm afloat. The Obama administration has doubled that commitment.

Freddie Mac reported recently that it lost $50 billion in 2008. It so far has tapped $14 billion of the government’s guarantee and said it soon will need an additional $30 billion to keep operating.

Like its larger government-chartered cousin Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac was created by Congress to promote home ownership, though both are private corporations with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The two firms hold stakes in half the nation’s residential mortgages.

Because of Freddie Mac’s federal charter, the board in Emanuel’s day was a hybrid of directors elected by shareholders and those appointed by the president.

In his final year in office, Clinton tapped three close pals: Emanuel, Washington lobbyist and golfing partner James Free, and Harold Ickes, a former White House aide instrumental in securing the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. Free’s appointment was good for four months, and Ickes’ only three months.

Falcon, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, found that presidential appointees played no “meaningful role” in overseeing the company and recommended that their positions be eliminated.

John Coffee, a law professor and expert on corporate governance at Columbia University, said the financial crisis at Freddie Mac was years in the making and fueled by chronically weak oversight by the firm’s directors. The presence of presidential appointees on the board didn’t help, he added.

“You know there was a patronage system and these people were only going to serve a short time,” Coffee said. “That’s why [they] get the stock upfront.”

Conservative Senator Says Obama’s Plan to Expand AmeriCorps Is Unwarranted Federal Intrusion

Conservative Senator Says Obama’s Plan to Expand AmeriCorps Is Unwarranted Federal Intrusion
Thursday, March 26, 2009
By Ryan Byrnes


First lady Michelle Obama, center, rear,shakes hands with students of the YouthBuild AmeriCorps community service program who gathered on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, March 17, 2009. (AP photo/Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Senate is poised to approve a dramatic expansion of the AmeriCorps national community service program. Conservatives who oppose the measure say it is an attempt to greatly expand government’s role in providing community services by replacing charitable volunteers with paid government workers.

Senators voted 74-14 Monday to take up the Serve America Act, legislation that would more than triple the size of the AmeriCorps program over the next eight years, expanding its current 75,000 positions to 250,000.

Last week, a similar bill that would add 175,000 participants to the program passed in the House by a vote of 321-105.

President Barack Obama said at the time that expanding AmeriCorps is “timely.”

“At this moment of economic crisis, when so many people are in need of help and so much needs to be done, this could not be more urgent,” Obama said. “It is up to every one of us to do his or her small part to make the world a better place.”

But conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C) call the expansion nothing more than “the federal government reaching further into the world of civil society” — an arena they say is best left to the local level and to organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, United Way and Knights of Columbus.

“Government charity is anathema to what our Founders intended and what our Constitution stands for,” DeMint said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

“Civil society works because it’s everything that government is not – it’s small, it’s personal, it’s responsive, it’s accountable,” he said. “Civil society must be protected from anything that makes it more like government.”

AmeriCorps, which combined the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program and the National Civil Community Corps into one program, was launched in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act into law.

More than 500,000 have participated in the program since its inception, completing public service projects ranging from building houses to teaching inner-city youth.

But DeMint said the proposed expansion of AmeriCorps would make its parent, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the 14th-largest company in the world, in terms of number of employees.

The South Carolina senator also said the federal government’s recent behavior casts doubt on whether it would be able to effectively manage such a large institution.

“Despite the good intentions of this bill, we are creating a huge new government entity that will be unmanageable and violates some of the core principles of our civil society,” DeMint said. “This bill is everything wrong with how Congress sees the world.”

The expansion would be costly. The Senate bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), is projected to cost $5.7 billion over the next five years. The House version would cost an estimated $6 billion during the same period.

Last month’s stimulus plan (the Reinvestment and Recovery Act) devoted $201 million in funding for the Corporation for National Community Service to support expansion of AmeriCorps programs.

AmeriCorps participants currently receive up to $4,725 at the completion of year-long service to help cover the costs of college or pay back student loans, according to the AmeriCorps Web site.

Both the Senate and House bills would increase the maximum award to $5,350 – the same amount as a Pell Grant scholarship for college students.

Most AmeriCorps participants, the majority of whom are between the ages of 18 and 26, also receive an average living stipend of $11,800 during their service period.

AmeriCorps has had its share of financial struggles. Earlier this decade, the program was accused of not knowing how many volunteers it had enlisted in its program and, consequently, how much funding was available to help pay members the stipend they had been promised.

In June of 2003, AmeriCorps said it would only be able to fund half of its volunteers.

During a Committee on Appropriations hearing in the spring of 2003, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) chastised the group’s leaders and referred to AmeriCorps as the “Enron of non-profits.”

Mikulski, however, said this week that AmeriCorps has improved, and she supports the current plan to expand the program.

Matthew Spalding, director of the Center of American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, said that while many of the group’s past problems have since been corrected, the idea of tripling the size of any bureaucratic organization is a recipe for further financial troubles.

“We need to separate voluntary service – which we strongly support – and service that is sponsored and instituted by the government,” Spalding told CNSNews.com. “That’s something very different and something that, in our opinion, we need to oppose.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), meanwhile, has threatened to call the Senate in for a weekend session if a final vote on the measure doesn’t take place by Friday.

Geithner to Propose Vast Expansion Of U.S. Oversight of Financial System

Geithner to Propose Vast Expansion Of U.S. Oversight of Financial System

By Binyamin Appelbaum and David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 26, 2009; A01

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner plans to propose today a sweeping expansion of federal authority over the financial system, breaking from an era in which the government stood back from financial markets and allowed participants to decide how much risk to take in the pursuit of profit.

The Obama administration’s plan, described by several sources, would extend federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives and to companies including large hedge funds and major insurers such as American International Group. The administration also will seek to impose uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, an unprecedented step that would place significant limits on the scope and risk of their activities.

Most of these initiatives would require legislation.

Geithner plans to make the case for the regulatory reform agenda in testimony before Congress this morning, and he is expected to introduce proposals to regulate the largest financial firms. In coming months, the administration plans to detail its strategy in three other areas: protecting consumers, eliminating flaws in existing regulations and enhancing international coordination.

The testimony will not call for any existing federal agencies to be eliminated or combined, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The plan focuses on setting standards first, leaving for later any reshaping of the government’s administrative structure.

The nation’s financial regulations are largely an accumulation of responses to financial crises. Federal bank regulation was a product of the Civil War. The Federal Reserve was created early in the 20th century to mitigate a long series of monetary crises. The Great Depression delivered deposit insurance and a federally sponsored mortgage market. In the midst of a modern economic upheaval, the Obama administration is pitching the most significant regulatory expansion since that time.

An administration official said the goal is to set new rules of the road to restore faith in the financial system. In essence, the plan is a rebuke of raw capitalism and a reassertion that regulation is critical to the healthy function of financial markets and the steady flow of money to borrowers.

The government also plans to push companies to pay employees based on their long-term performance, curtailing big paydays for short-term victories. Long-simmering anger about Wall Street pay practices erupted last week when the Obama administration disclosed that AIG had paid $165 million in bonuses to employees of its most troubled division, despite losing so much money that the government stepped in with more than $170 billion in emergency aid.

The administration’s signature proposal is to vest a single federal agency with the power to police risk across the entire financial system. The agency would regulate the largest financial firms, including hedge funds and insurers not currently subject to federal regulation. It also would monitor financial markets for emergent dangers.

Geithner plans to call for legislation that would define which financial firms are sufficiently large and important to be subjected to this increased regulation. Those firms would be required to hold relatively more capital in their reserves against losses than smaller firms, to demonstrate that they have access to adequate funding to support their operations, and to maintain constantly updated assessments of their exposure to financial risk.

The designated agency would not replace existing regulators but would be granted the power to compel firms to comply with its directives. Geithner’s testimony will not identify which agency should hold those powers, but sources familiar with the matter said that the Federal Reserve, widely viewed as the most obvious choice, is the administration’s favored candidate.

Geithner and other officials have said in recent weeks that such powers could have kept in check the excesses of AIG and other large financial companies.

“The framework will significantly raise the prudential requirements, once we get through the crisis, that our largest and most interconnected financial firms must meet in order to ensure they do not pose risks to the system,” Geithner said yesterday in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Hand in glove with this expanded oversight, the administration also is seeking the authority to seize these large firms if they totter toward failure.

Under current law, the government can seize only banks.

The administration yesterday detailed its proposed process, under which the Federal Reserve Board, along with any agency overseeing the troubled company, would recommend the need for a takeover. The Treasury secretary, in consultation with the president, then would authorize the action. The firm would be placed under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The government also would have the power to take intermediate steps to stabilize a firm, such as taking an ownership stake or providing loans.

“Destabilizing dangers can come from financial institutions besides banks, but our current regulatory system provides few ways to deal with these risks,” Geithner said yesterday. “Our plan will give the government the tools to limit the risk-taking at firms that could set off cascading damage.”

The administration compared the proposed process with the existing system under which banking regulators can take over failed banks and place them under FDIC control.

One important difference is that the decision to seize a bank is made by agencies that have considerable autonomy and are intentionally shielded from the political process. Some legislators have raised concerns about providing such powers to the Treasury secretary, a member of the president’s Cabinet.

The cost of bank failures is carried by the industry, which pays assessments to the FDIC. The Treasury said it has not yet determined how to pay for takeovers under the proposed system. Possibilities include dunning taxpayers or collecting fees from all institutions the government considers possible candidates for seizure.

FDIC chairman Sheila C. Bair issued a statement that expressed support for an expansion of her agency’s responsibilities.

“Due to the FDIC’s extensive experience with resolving failed institutions and the cyclical nature of resolution work, it would make sense on many levels for the FDIC to be given this authority working in close cooperation with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors,” Bair said.

The administration also wants to expand oversight of a broad category of unregulated investment firms including hedge funds, private-equity funds and venture capital funds, by requiring larger companies to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Firms also would have to provide financial information to help determine whether they are large enough to warrant additional regulation.

Hedge funds were designed to offer high-risk investment strategies to wealthy investors, but their role quickly grew from one on the fringe of the system to a place near the center. Some government officials have sought increased regulation of the industry since the 1998 collapse of Long-Term Capital Management threatened the stability of the financial system.

Geithner also plans to call for the SEC to impose tougher standards on money-market mutual funds, investment accounts that appeal to investors by aping the features of checking accounts while offering higher interest rates. He will not make specific suggestions.

SEC chairman Mary Schapiro plans to testify today that the SEC supports both proposals.

The administration’s broad determination to regulate the totality of the financial markets also includes a plan to regulate the vast trade in derivatives, complex financial instruments that take their value from the performance of some other asset. Derivatives have become a basic tool of the financial markets, but trading in many variants is not regulated. Credit-default swaps, a major category of unregulated derivatives, played a major role in the collapse of AIG.

Geithner plans to call for the entire industry to be placed under strict regulation, including supervision of dealers in derivatives, mandatory use of central clearinghouses to process trades and uniform trading rules to ensure an orderly marketplace.

The Fed already is moving to improve the plumbing of the financial system, including of the derivatives trade. The administration wants to expand and formalize these efforts.

Senior government officials view these highly technical arrangements as critical to the restoration of a healthy financial system.

Staff writer Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.

Love That Hate!

Love That Hate!

By Paul Kengor

“We must teach our children to hate,” Vladimir Lenin instructed his education commissars. The Bolshevik godfather declared that hatred was not only “the basis of communism” but “the basis of every socialist and Communist movement.”

Class envy has been a defining staple of the left for centuries, from the frenzied mobs leaping around the French guillotines to the Soviets to, well, the new masses circling AIG executives today. The difference is merely the degree of response — a question of socially acceptable force or violence.

 

Historically, this behavior is both foreign and antithetical to the American experience. Unfortunately, modern Americans don’t understand their founding and the nation’s core principles — our educational system doesn’t teach those things. Thus, they are now voting, and behaving, in kind. And we are now witnessing our own homegrown socialist movement in action, inspired by hate.

 

Some Americans, whipped into poisonous hatred by their elected representatives, have literally called for death for AIG executives, and one U.S. senator openly requested that these businesspeople commit suicide.

 

Liberals in Congress, from Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Chris Dodd, plus a wild gaggle of unleashed central planners in the House, have conducted a show trial of AIG executives, with the larger purpose of placing American free enterprise in the dock.

 

The interrogation by this anointed body made me think of the old Soviet “Extraordinary Commission,” the operation of which was explained by its awful head, the Latvian M. Y. Latsis:

 

In your investigations don’t look for documents and pieces of evidence about what the defendant has done, whether in deed or in speaking or acting against Soviet authority. The first question you should ask him is what class he comes from, what are his roots, his education, his training, and his occupation. These questions define the fate of the accused.

 

Latsis characterized his commission as a tribunal acting on the home front against the capitalist class.
Liberals — if they’d ever heard of Latsis, which they probably haven’t in their universities — might ridicule the extremism of my analogy. After all, they aren’t talking about “eliminating the bourgeoisie as a class,” as did Latsis. Fair enough. But, again, it’s a matter of degree. Certainly, the acceptable demonization of an identified, despised class, for the purpose of working the masses into a rush of rage for political exploitation, is not terribly different.

 

As members of Congress target the likes of AIG chief executive Edward Liddy, mobs target the homes of AIG employees in Connecticut.

 

Of course, our sophisticated members of Congress separate themselves from the fray by choosing a non-violent but, ironically, somewhat Bolshevik-like response: they confiscate AIG pay (“bonuses”) at a flat, full tax rate of 90%.

 

Will this financial penalty satiate the mob’s bloodlust? No. That’s the problem when deadly sin — envy — becomes government demagoguery and policy. The torch-carriers spill into the streets to take “social justice” into their own hands.

 

A case in point is a remarkable New York Times article, titled, “Scorn Trails AIG Executives, Even in Their Driveways.”

 

Though frightening, the piece is not surprising. It begins with AIG executive James Haas trying to make his way into his home in Fairfield, Connecticut — a “bay-windowed house,” as the Times described it. “I feel horrible,” said Haas, “this has been a complete invasion of privacy.”

 

But Haas’s tormentors do not respect things private. They seek to expropriate the private.

 

“You have to understand,” pleaded Haas, fighting back tears, “there are kids involved, there have been death threats.”

 

Haas explained how he had offered political penance — to pay reparation: “I didn’t have anything to do with those credit problems. I told Mr. Liddy I would rescind my retention contract…. Leave my neighbors alone.”

 

The neighbors, however, are fit to be tied. They want a body. The Times quoted a loving New England resident who for 24 years lived down the block. Driving by, dripping with rage, surely after watching the morning news shows, she practically spit as she fulminated against AIG bonuses – which are a microscopic sliver compared to the trillions of dollars in debt Obama and the Democrats have racked up in only eight weeks.

 

“It makes me absolutely sick,” scowled the neighbor, in reference to AIG, not the federal government. “It’s despicable. It’s disgusting what these people have done. They should be forced to give every cent back.”

 

AIG workers are being demonized, noted the Times; they are hiring bodyguards. And it isn’t only AIG. Merrill Lynch is dealing with similar assaults.

 

And that’s just the start. It’s only a matter of public exposure until another group of private-sector “reptiles” — Lenin’s word — is identified for the proletariat. Congress and the White House will be happy to call out the next group of kulaks.

 

Alas, among the eager comrades joining this effort — and, predictably, not investigated by the liberal media camped outside AIG homes — are the ringleaders behind the packs of protestors across the country, including those carted around in “bus tours” of AIG executives’ homes.

 

These alleged unprompted uprisings of “the people” are, of course, hardly spontaneous. They are organized, particularly by the odious Service Employees International Union.

 

Personally, I knew where to follow the footsteps. I went to the website of People’s Weekly World, an organ of Communist Party USA. There, among the articles praising Obama’s “mandate for change,” praising the “Employee Free Choice Act,” and so forth, was an article titled, “Angry about AIG? Here’s how you can do something about it.”

 

The CPUSA article emphasized that “President Obama calls AIG’s behavior an ‘outrage.'” “But what can [you] do about it?” asked the communists. Well, “if you’re angry,” you can join the “March 19 Day of Action Against Corporate Excess.” CPUSA then linked to a “complete list of cities and events.”

 

“Don’t see your city on there yet?” carefully guided the article. “Sign up to organize your own Take Back the Economy rally — all the materials you need are available through the site.” Indeed, they were: PDF’s of fliers and all kinds of things.

 

Following the links, one ends up at the sponsors for the Day of Action. Topping the list, naturally, is ACORN, the training ground for the current President of the United States and leader of the free world. Joining Obama’s alma mater is SEIU, MoveOn.org, the National Lawyers Guild, the Mass Nurses Association, and other usual suspects.

 

Dependably, the useful idiots of the Religious Left were there: Interfaith Worker Justice, United for Peace and Justice, Catholics United, American Friends Service Committee, Brockton Interfaith, Catholic Scholars for Social Justice, Mass Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, New England Jewish Labor Committee, and other fellow travelers.

 

But most significant, the greatest dupes of all — the liberal media — are relied upon as the ultimate sucker: The ringleaders count on the press to report the tiniest protest; they understand that the mainstream media is educator-in-chief to most Americans. From there, the likes of James Haas’s Connecticut neighbor learn how to feel about the Haas family’s bay windows.

 

That’s the process. Thus, the mob.

 

Well, the mob wants someone’s head on a platter — now. Time to eat the rich. Perhaps our dear leader, President Obama, can go to Connecticut to play the role of healer, addressing the faithful, calming their fears, a political sermon on the mount. Blessed would be the peacemaker.

 

But not yet — for now, this hate is just too excellent, too perfect for advancing the agenda of the leftist ideologues and envy-mongers running the republic.

 

Who’s to blame? The American people are to blame. I’m tired of the populist nonsense from talk-radio on how Americans “deserve better than this.” They do? Why? They voted for this. Obama is being Obama. Pelosi is being Pelosi. Schumer is being Schumer. The American people cast the ballots.

 

You reap what you sow. Enjoy the hate, America. You elected it.

 

Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/03/love_that_hate.html at March 26, 2009 – 09:55:40 AM EDT

Obama’s Foreign Failures

Obama’s Foreign Failures

By Ralph Peters
New York Post | 3/26/2009

AMERICA’S enemies smell blood and it’s type “O.”

All new administrations stumble a bit as they seek their footing. But President Obama’s foreign-policy botches have set new records for instant incompetence.

Contrary to left-wing myths, I wasn’t a fan of the Bush administration. (I called for Donald Rumsfeld to get the boot in mid-2001.) But fair’s fair. Despite his many faults, Bush sought to do good. Obama just wants to look good.

Vice President Dick Cheney was arrogant. Vice President Joe Biden is arrogant and stupid. Take your pick.

Don’t worry about the new administration’s ideology. Worry about its terrifying naivete.

Consider a sampling of the goofs O and his crew have made in just two months:

China: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (you know that gal married to the Saudi hireling) crawled to Beijing to tell the party bosses that human rights don’t matter. Our “relationship” is more important than freedom and human dignity.

Beijing’s response? A staged military confrontation with an unarmed US Navy vessel; continued screw-America currency cheating; a renewed crackdown on dissidents and, yesterday, a call for a new global currency to replace the dollar.

Thanks, Hill. You’re a sweetheart.

Pakistan: With viral corruption throughout and Islamist fanatics sweeping half of its territory, Pakistan’s coming apart. Its Dem-adored prez tries to ban opposition parties and gut the judiciary. It has nukes and seethes with hatred of America. And Islamabad controls our primary supply route into Afghanistan, using it as an extortion tool.

Obama’s response? Billions in new aid for Pak pols to pocket. We’d be better off handing the money to AIG to pay out more bonuses.

Afghanistan: Obama’s Vietnam. Am I the only American who remembers that candidate Obama had a plan to capture Osama bin Laden and fix our previous “mistakes” in Afghanistan? President Obama doesn’t have a clue.

Iran: Obama tried to reach out, to talk. After all, talking got him to the White House. But America-bashing is what keeps Iran’s leaders in office, it’s their political essence. After 30 years of fierce hostility, hasn’t anyone figured out that the senior mullahs need us as an enemy? Without the Great Satan America to blame, they’d have some real explaining to do to their homies. So O got the left-hand finger.

He wanted to chat with the Taliban, too. They told him he could stick it where the sun don’t shine.

North Korea: Obama wanted a fresh start. North Korea’s response? Threats of war with South Korea and the kidnapping of two American journalists. And the renewed pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, along with rocket tests.

Cuba: Obama would like to liberalize our relationship. The Castro boys told him to kiss off. They need an enemy, too. (Dear Mr. President: It’s not always about us or how evil America is.)

Venezuela: Guess who else needs an enemy?

Mexico: The good news: Obama knows where it is on a map and recognizes that Mexico’s government faces a narco-insurgency that threatens our country, too. His first action? Cave to the Teamsters, violate a lawful treaty on cross-border trucking, reignite fading anti-Americanism and undercut President Felipe Calderon.

Poland: Obama’s stance on our bravest ally on the European continent? The Russians are more important than you are. He’s sending the same message to Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia: Bolshie Biden, the commuting commissar, knows he’s the man who can turn Russia into our best pal. After “Friend of Bill” Strobe Talbott tried and failed disastrously. And after poor W saw into Putin’s soul, only to get his butt handed to him. “Uncle Joe” Biden has nothing to learn from past failures, though: He’s got a re-set button.

Moscow’s response to the Obama administration’s bid for a new start? It threatens NATO members it once occupied and continues to back Iran’s nuclear program. Plus, it bribes Kyrgystan to kick us off the critical-to-Afghanistan Manas airbase (then offers to help replace that supply lifeline, giving Russia a choke-hold on our troops).

Next, the Kremlin threatens massive re-armament and demands the abandonment of the dollar as the international reserve currency.

Obama’s response? Push that re-set button again. And again.

At what point does naivete become cowardice?

As for our allies, Obama apparently needs them less than Bush did. O treated Britain’s prime minister like the deputy Paraguayan veterinary inspector, and he blindsided the leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland, Mexico and Canada on issues ranging from missile defense to trade. But he’d like them to take the Gitmo terrorists off our hands, please.

The one bright spot thus far has been Iraq, where Obama quickly tossed aside his campaign promises. The O-man doesn’t want to be on the blame-line for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Baghdad. And his MoveOn.org supporters can throw all the tantrums they want. (Breaking news, folks: O’s a professional pol, not the messiah . . . )

Apart from Iraq a success Sen. Obama did all he could to prevent his foreign policy’s an instant wasteland. By comparison, the Carter administration is starting to look like a model of manly strength, courage and patriotism.



Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”
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