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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Energy

Obama was warned of loan dangers long before Solyndra sank

Obama feigns interest in solar panels during a visit to the now bankrupt Solyndra facility 5-26-10 now undergoing hearings on Capitol Hill

Top economic advisors to President Obama warned him a year ago about the serious political and financial risks of the Energy Department's loan guarantee program that has resulted in taxpayers likely being responsible for the loss of $527 million loaned to the politically-connected California solar firm Solyndra.

That loan is currently under investigation by a House subcommittee and the FBI, which raided company offices earlier this month.

Obama visited the Solyndra plant in 2010, touting it as a shining example of his program to simultaneously boost the U.S. green-energy industry and create new jobs. Last winter the Energy Dept. restructured the more than half-billion dollar loan to the troubled firm.Lawrence Summers 9-11

But on Aug. 31 the company, whose major owner was also a major fundraising bundler for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign, filed for bankruptcy and eliminated most of its 1,100 jobs.

In a detailed story posted overnight, The Times' Tom Hamburg, Kim Geiger and Matea Gold outline the danger signals set off in October 2010 when secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and chief economic advisor Lawrence Summers warned the president that Energy's vetting process was not stringent enough to weed out troubled applicants in advance.

Energy Secy. Steven Chu, who like Obama holds a Nobel Prize, was eager to push through applications by 30 companies for the program's $17 billion. He wanted even less oversight from Treasury.

The story has developed legs for two reasons:

One, it hints at possible high-level political favoritism using taxpayer dollars in risky ventures with well-connected business people, what some have labeled "crony capitalism."

And, two, it's a classic example of the fundamental ongoing D.C. debate over government's proper role in the economy and the financial dangers to taxpayer funds inherent when officials and bureaucrats, not free market forces, pick corporate winners and losers.

Pencil this into your calendar for future political debate throughout 2012.

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 --Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Alex Brandon / Associated Press (Obama in 2010 during a visit to the now-shuttered Solyndra facility undergoing hearings on Capitol Hill); T.J. Kirkpatrick / Bloomberg (Summers).

Weekly remarks: Obama warns no quick fix on the economy; GOP's Kinzinger asks where the jobs are

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

Hello, everyone. I want to spend a couple minutes talking with you about our economy. We’ve just come through the worst recession since the Great Depression, and while our economy as a whole has been growing and adding private sector jobs, too many folks are still struggling to get back on their feet.

I wish I could tell you there was a quick fix to our economic problems. But the truth is, we didn’t get into this mess overnight, and we won’t get out of it overnight. It’s going to take time.

The good news is, when it comes to job-creation and economic growth, there are certain things we know we can do. Now, government is not – and should not be – the main engine of job-creation in....

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Romney now leads Obama among registered voters; 60% of Americans flunk the Democrat on the economy

a Sinking Ship

It's one of those polls that says on-the-one-hand there's good news while on the other hand there's more good news.

A new Gallup Poll out this morning finds that President Obama's poll bump from courageously having the Navy SEALs whack Osama bin Laden has evaporated, and Republican former Gov. Mitt Romney is indeed the GOP front-runner heading into tonight's New Hampshire debate.

The new ABC/Washington Post survey finds that among all Americans Romney and Obama are tied at 47% each. However, ominously for the incumbent, among registered voters, the millionaire businessman leads the ex-state senator who often voted Present, 49%-47%.

By a two-to-one margin Americans told pollsters the country is seriously on the wrong track Sarah palin Blows a Kiss to her many supporters, fileunder the current Democratic admninistration and nearly six-in-ten say that regardless of government stats, the economy is not recovering. Time for another big speech on the huge hole he inherited from you-know-who.

This the day after Obama's top economic advisor Austan Goolsbee announced his resignation because, he says, a Chicago classroom beckons.

With barely 518 days before the election, fully nine-in-ten Americans rate the economy poorly, according to the poll.

Thank goodness for Obama's spate of factory visits and putting Vice President Joe Biden in charge of the stimulus package; imagine the hole they'd be in without that.

About 60% give the Democrat a bad grade on his economy job performance, while even more political independents -- nearly two-thirds -- give him failing marks, including for the first time a slight majority who do so strongly, another ominous sign for incumbents.

About 45% now trust congressional Republicans more than the president on the economy, if you can believe such a thing. That's a whopping 11 point gain for the GOP delegation just since March.

Although it's months before any Republican primary/caucus voting, Romney appears best positioned as the challenger at the moment on a broad range of issues in Americans' minds.

However, in a no doubt encouraging sign for another former Republican governor, Sarah Palin, who may perhaps possibly be considering a presidential run, there's still about one-in-three Americans who have yet to definitely rule out voting for her ever no matter what.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press; Joe Burbank, file.

Sarah Palin plays the media like a violin: Her turn now

Sarah palin one nation Bus As Seen From the Rear 5-31-11

Sarah Palin, with her counterintuitive secret publicity bus tour, is demonstrating one of the most important rules of American politics:

There is nothing the U.S. media wants more than something it thinks it can't have. Hence the power of news leaks that manipulate the thrust of their initial presentation. Hard-to-get is a rigid rule of human behavior. Ask any teenage boy or girl.

And there are few things more sweet to Palin and her fervent supporters cheering their TV sets this week than the image of a hungry know-it-all "lamestream media" caravan of 15 or more vehicles traipsing along behind her red-white-and-blue bus enroute to they-know-not-where to do they-know-not-what.

To make it worse, each one of the frustrated, confused chasers knows that Fox News' Greta Van Susteren is....

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Sarah Palin wants to terminate all energy subsidies, including ethanol

Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor, accompanied by daughter Piper Palin, meets with people in view of the Liberty Bell at Independence National Historical Park

Sarah Palin was asked Tuesday about the sticky subject of ethanol subsidies, and she said that not only  should they be squelched but that all federal energy subsidies should be eradicated.

"I think that all of our energy subsidies need to be relooked at today and eliminated," Palin told Real Clear Politics at a coffee shop in Dillsburg, Pa. "And we need to make sure that we're investing and allowing our businesses to invest in reliable energy products right now that aren't going to necessitate subsidies because, bottom line, we can't afford it."

Ever the maverick, Palin was responding was in direct opposition to Mitt Romney, who last week in Iowa, came out in favor of government subsidies for ethanol, the fuel produced from corn and other farm products.

"I support the subsidy of ethanol. I believe ethanol's an important part of our energy solution in this country," Romney told a supporter from West Des Moines on Friday.

Neither former governor has officially stated his or her intention to run for the GOP nomination for president; however, Romney is expected to throw his hat in the ring later this week.

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Weekly remarks: Eric Cantor says no more budget gimmicks; Biden hails Obama auto bailout

> Joe Biden talking to Capitol Hill reporters 5-11

 

Weekly remarks by Vice President Joe Biden, as provided by the White House

Hello, everyone. I hope you’re having a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. I’ve got some good news for us today. Not only is our economy overall growing, but one of the important sectors of our economy is on the rise again: the American automobile industry.  

Just a few days ago, on Tuesday, Chrysler Corp. announced that they were repaying the taxpayers for the loans we gave them when we came into office.

And this announcement came six years ahead of schedule -– and just two years after Chrysler Corp. emerged from bankruptcy. You know, and it’s a sign of what’s happening throughout the American automobile industry.

It’s not just Chrysler. Also this week, GM announced that its Detroit Hamtramick factory will run three shifts for the first time its 26-year history. You know, that’s 2,500 more good, paying jobs.

In the words of Don LaForest, of the UAW -– and I want to quote him –- he said....

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Weekly remarks: GOP's Hutchison decries domestic energy delays; Obama says school reforms can't wait

Capitol Hill as Budget Deal is announced 4-8-11

Weekly remarks by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as provided by the Republican Party leadership

Hi, I’m United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas.

With energy prices soaring nationwide, many American families are struggling to put gas in their cars and trucks. We are seeing the price of food and other goods rise. An overwhelming majority of Americans say gas prices are causing financial hardship for their families. And more than half say they have had to make major changes to their budgets to compensate.

Unfortunately, rather than work to increase domestic energy production and help bring down gas prices, the Obama administration is seeking to impose more regulations and taxes on oil and gas companies. This is placing our own valuable resources out of reach and stifling job creation -– their proposals will actually increase pain at the pump. 

Earlier this week, Republicans put a modest bill to increase production on the floor, and Democrats couldn’t even support that with gas hovering around $4 a gallon!

Republicans have consistently called for greater access to our domestic sources of energy to spur good American jobs, and to prepare for circumstances we can’t control, like....

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Late-night's best: The secrets within Osama bin Laden's diary

As The Ticket's 64,000-plus Twitter followers here and 6,800 Facebook fans here know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each night. Feel free to pass them on to friends using the Share buttons above. Normally, we publish these on Monday mornings.Pakistani protestors burn image of president obama after the assassination of Osama bin Laden in their country 5-11

Letterman: Osama bin Laden's Diary: 'April 12 - Dear Diary, Awful TV reception. Death to Time Warner!' April 20 - Dear Diary, three wives and one bathroom. You do the math.'

Fallon: Yup, Bin Laden reportedly had a porn stash in his hideout. Some interesting titles: ‘Debbie Does Abbottabad,’ ‘Deep Goat’ and ‘Bare Ankles 4.'

Conan: President Obama says the Bin Laden raid was the longest 40 minutes of his life. With the possible exception of every time he asks Joe Biden, 'Hey, what’s up?'

Letterman: Osama bin Laden did suffer after all. He was cooped up six years with three wives always complaining that he never took them anywhere. Finally, the SEALs arrive and Bin Laden says, 'What took you so long?'

Letterman: Did you hear of the SEALs' backup plan? Invite Osama Bin Laden to an Italian restaurant and tape a gun to the toilet.

Letterman: We’re learning more about Osama Bin Laden’s plans. He wanted to create chaos in Washington. Well, thank God that didn’t happen!

Conan: After killing Bin Laden, President Obama's approval rating was the highest in two years. At this rate, Obama can count on reelection if he just kills Osama bin Laden two more times in the next 12 months.Gas Prices sign in Washington DC 5-11

Letterman: Strange. When I first heard about Osama bin Laden, my first thought was: NOW what will Oprah do for her last guest?

Conan: Officials are confirming that besides SEAL Team 6 there was also a team of lawyers available in case Bin Laden was captured alive. The team goes by the much less exciting code name “Team Weisberg, Melman and Pratt.”

Conan: This past weekend in Detroit, a plane was diverted due to a threatening note. The note said, 'Welcome to Detroit.'

Fallon: A new report says the population of U.S. millionaires will double by 2020. Of course, by then being a millionaire will mean you have a full gas tank.Katie Couric leaving CBS

Leno: Hollywood is talking now about making a new Mad Max movie where people steal and kill over the world's limited gas supplies at some time in the future -- like July.

Conan:  A Delta passenger was arrested after he tried to open an emergency exit in flight. If he'd succeeded, he’d have been the first Delta passenger ever to make a connection on time. 

Leno: Leno: Mick Jagger's daughter is posing nude in Playboy next month. Here's the amazing part -- she's 72 years old.

Letterman: Katie Couric is leaving CBS News after five years. I thought she was a crown jewel. I watched her the other night. I really think it's time.

Fallon: The Obama 2012 presidential campaign moves into a 50,000-square-foot Chicago office. Ron Paul lands a sweet kiosk at the mall right across from Sunglass Hut.

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Late-night's best: Air Traffic controllers, NFL replacements and Donald Trump

Late-night's best: Obama, Osama, Oprah, Oh Biden!

-- Andrew Malcolm

Obama walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender asks, "Does he talk?" The parrot says, "Not without a Teleprompter." Monday mornings, the best of late-night. And no need to go out; just click here to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle now. Use the ReTweet buttons below to share this item with family and friends.

Photos: Khalid Tanveer / Associated Press (Pakistanis burn President Obama's image in protest over the death of Osamas bin Laden); Susan Walsh / Associated Press (Washington, D.C. gas prices); Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images (Couric).

Weekly remarks: GOP's Martha Roby wants more domestic energy; Obama decries subsidies for Big Oil

Obama talks about Budget 4-7-11

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

Recently, there have been signs that the economy is picking up steam. Last month, we saw the strongest job growth in five years, and have added more than three-quarters of a million private sector jobs in just three months. But there are still too many Americans who are either looking for work, or struggling to pay the bills and make the mortgage.  Paychecks aren’t getting any bigger, but the cost of everything from groceries to college tuition keeps on rising. 

Without a doubt, one of the biggest burdens over the last few months has been the price of gasoline. In many places, gas is now more than $4 a gallon, meaning that you could be paying more than $60 to fill up your tank.

These spikes in gas prices are often temporary, and while there are no quick fixes to the problem, there are a few steps we should take that make good sense.

First, we should make sure that no one is taking advantage of consumers at the pump. That’s....

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Gas prices could fall by 50 cents this summer; Democrats try to end Big Oil's tax breaks

Gas prices in San Francisco

Gas prices are not just the bane of consumers, who feel the pain at the pump, but also of politicians, who may get punched out at the polls if they are seen as being part of the problem.

Donald Trump, once he saw that banging the birther drum could only last so long, brazenly promised that if he were president and the United States was involved in foreign wars with oil-rich countries, he would "take" their oil after the conflict ended and the U.S. had won.

The Republican billionaire feels so strongly about this that if you disagree with him, even if you regularly appear on the GOP-friendly "O'Reilly Factor," Trump will call you a sad fool.

Although such made-for-TV bickering may be entertaining, Fred Rozell, the retail-pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service predicts that gas prices, which that typically balloon in the spring and fall in the summer, will drop by approximately 50 cents in the coming months.

Gas station owners, Rozell told the Associated Press, were caught on the wrong end of the dipstick recently as wholesale oil prices rose faster than they could adjust their retail prices. That trend will reverse this summer, Rozell predicted.

"So station owners will be watching each other this summer," Rozell said. "When one guy drops, so will the other."

A 50-cent drop in gas prices is estimated to save U.S. motorists about $189 million a day.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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