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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The crowd at the 92nd Street Y tonight was friendly territory for native New Yorker (and Mets fan) David Axelrod, President Obama's chief political strategist — at least going by the hands-up poll conducted by John Heilemann, New York's national correspondent and the evening's host. 'We have a roomful of Obama supporters and four trackers for the Romney campaign,' remarked Axelrod, who was jokingly introduced by Heilemann as an 'exotic rodent' — he is one of mankind's last remaining mustachioed men, after all. If there were any Romney moles in the audience, their ears surely perked up when Axelrod got onto the subject of campaign finance ... Obama's campaign manager said earlier this year that the president would consider a constitutional amendment, but it's been unclear how forcefully he might push the strategy.Axelrod's claim that democracy (and not just Obama's candidacy) is threatened by this flood of undisclosed cash may seem a tad disingenuous considering Obama's embrace of Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA. So he offered up a little scenario. The Obama campaign would need to tap 180,000 small donors — who average about $50 dollars — just to equal the $10 million donation Karl Rove's outfit pulled in from a single anonymous donor last year. Beyond campaign finance, Heilemann and Axelrod sparred jovially about a number of other 2012 flash points, indulged in a little 2008 nostalgia, and swapped the odd Obama pre-presidency anecdote ... The day the Affordable Care Act passed Congress, David Axelrod was in the Roosevelt Room when he felt compelled to shut himself in his adjoining office and weep. He was remembering back when his daughter, just 7 months old at the time, began having seizures. (Axelrod and his wife later helped found CURE, an epilepsy charity.) Her medication wasn't covered by their insurance; other insurance plans wouldn't cover it either, citing the epilepsy as a preexisting condition. He remembered paying almost $10,000 out of pocket, at a time when he was barely earning $40,000 a year. 'We almost went bankrupt.' Back in the Roosevelt Room, Axelrod grabbed the president and, still with tears in his eyes, said, 'I just want to thank you on behalf of my family.' Obama put his hand on his friend's shoulder and replied, 'This is why we do the work.' It's a feel-good moment meant to elicit oohs and ahs and applause, which it did, but it was also Axelrod's way of fully claiming ownership of Obamacare when, as Heilemann pointed out, the reelection campaign seems to be sidestepping the issue." (NYMag)


"Rumors are again swirling that Anna Wintour could be tapped for the diplomatic post of US ambassador to London, replacing Louis Susman, who is to retire this year. The Vogue editor is a top bundler for President Obama and is attending fund-raisers this week in Chicago and New York, but we’re told she isn’t quite jumping at the chance to grace the grand but not terribly fashionable US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. A source said, 'These are just rumors. She’s quite happy at her current job.'" (PageSix)


"I recently returned from a two-week trip to Asia, visiting India, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. I've been to these countries many times over the past 25 years in my capacity as chief investment officer and later chairman of Emerging Markets Management and AshmoreEMM. During my trip I met with a number of high-level policymakers, bankers, company executives, investors, think tanks, and scholars. But where there was once almost universal optimism, this time I came away with a very different sense. A few years ago there was a widespread feeling that the developed world had fallen off its pedestal -- that Asia had not only escaped the global financial crisis but that its system was somehow superior. That overconfidence seems gone now. Instead, there is a sense of vulnerability. There is more awareness of the political Achilles' heel of their own path of development and even new economic concerns about challenges to their newly acquired competitive edge. Confidence about political stability and effectiveness has been shaken in China, India, and other emerging markets. The Arab Spring was a shock wave that not only brought to light misdeeds of autocratic regimes but also created economic uncertainties for the future. In BRICs at two ends of the political spectrum, political stability has turned out to be more fragile than earlier assumed. The Bo Xilai case in China has raised questions about the legitimacy of the whole political succession process. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's disappointing performance in India (some business leaders even told me he had 'lost it') has created gridlock in New Delhi while emboldening states. At the height of the financial crisis, local elites and the broader population in India and China viewed indecision, stagnation in policymaking, corruptive power of vested interests, and lack of leadership as major problems in the United States, Europe, and Japan -- but these same people are now concerned that they face similar problems. On the positive side, turmoil from Tunisia to Myanmar has brought hope and a feeling of empowerment. The sudden transformation now under way in Myanmar has re-energized Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a sizable, relevant, and vital economic entity nestled between the two emerging regional superpowers, China and India. The other big question involves the economic future of the leading emerging market -- China. Who would have thought a decade ago that the United States would lose its unquestioned AAA credit status?" (Foreignpolicy)


"Last Wednesday, I learned, along with everyone who reads the New York Times obituaries, that Randy Paar had died the previous Sunday at age 63. According to the Times, she had fallen onto the tracks at Grand Central Station last Wednesday and was taken to Bellevue where she died four days later. They weren't sure what happened, but it was thought that she might have had a seizure or a stroke. The news came as a shock. The manner of her death, painful, alone, left me in grief for her.  We had been friends in the 1970s when I lived in Connecticut and her parents, Jack and Miriam Paar lived in New Canaan, the town next door. It was a short friendship, time-wise, but a very important one for me. It was connection that had a strong impact on my life as a professional. Randy most likely never thought of it that way, but she would know what I meant if she heard it ...Randy was shy but naturally very sociable. She made friends easily, both in school and through the families who were friendly with her parents. Her closest friend when we met was Senator Eugene McCarthy’s daughter Mary, who died just a few years later, of cancer; and one of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s daughters. Randy was shy around males who were attractive to her, although she was self-possessed and could cover it well with her sophistication and sense of humor. She could be timorous until she could be sure that the person was also attracted, and naturally disappointed when they weren’t. She also had a strong sense of irony. However, her place in life at the time was always as it was when we knew each other, and throughout her life, as Jack Paar’s daughter." (NYSocialDiary)


"Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has emerged as the point man in an effort to keep Mitt Romney in step with congressional conservatives, many of whom were slow to support him during the GOP primary.
Romney’s campaign has kept in close contact with conservatives in order to avoid unexpected backlash from Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers, who have surprised GOP leaders at various points in the 112th Congress.The last thing Romney needs is a blow-up with members of his own party when he should be focusing his energy against President Obama. To build a measure of predictability into Romney’s campaign strategy, Johnson has met frequently with conservative members of the Senate Republican Steering Committee and the House Republican Study Committee to keep the presumptive GOP nominee from walking into any friendly fire. An added benefit of these meetings is that they will cultivate relationships Romney would find useful in moving an agenda during his first 100 days in office, should he defeat Obama in November ... The last two Republican presidential nominees, George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), relied on the Senate and House leadership to coordinate with rank-and-file Republicans. But leaders have seemed out of sync with their colleagues at times this Congress. And Tea Party-allied conservatives say that Romney cannot rely on Senate and House leaders alone if he wants to get the most accurate sense of the sentiments within his party. 'If Romney only listens to [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio], he’s not going to have a good read; he needs to have open-minded conversations with other parts of the conference to get a good understanding of where the party is,' a GOP aide said." (TheHill)



"Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. If you're in the downtown art scene, that place is The Hole. Since opening two years ago—and especially since moving to The Bowery last June—Kathy Grayson's gallery has been bringing together many of the scribblers, scratchers, designers, and spinners that make things hum below 14th Street. The two shows that opened last night adopted that community as a theme: Portrait of a Generation, which paired up artists for mutual renditions, and AndrĂ©polis, an installation by Le Baron's AndrĂ© Saraiva that depicts the city as nocturnal theme park. Appropriately, eager gallery-goers (at least one of them shirtless, several of them brown-paper-bagging it) waited at a velvet rope to get access to Saraiva's work, a neat arrangement of human-scaled Deco skyscrapers outfitted with mirrors and go-go signage." (Style)

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