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Archive for January, 2013

Illinois’s Downgrade Makes It America’s Greece

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 30th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

Illinois’s Downgrade Makes It America’s Greece

Conservatives Should Snap Out Of It
James Taranto, Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON–We spent part of the weekend at the National Review Institute Summit. Less than a week into Barack Obama's second term, you wouldn't expect a conservative conclave in the capital to be a cheery affair, and this one lived up to expectations. Slate's Dave Weigel reports that NRI summits are always like this:National Review has only held two other post-election summits"”they save 'em for real debacles. In 1993, William F. Buckley gathered 1,000 conservatives in the nearby Mayflower Hotel, to vent and strategize about the threat of Bill Clinton….

Republicans Will Never Attract Minorities
Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast
What with everything going on these days, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Reince Priebus hasn't been foremost in your mind lately. Well, this is your opportunity to correct that error, because I deliver tidings that the Republican National Committee is holding its winter meeting right now, starting yesterday, in Charlotte. A-No.1 on Chairman Priebus's list, say advance reports, is figuring ways the GOP can attract more support among minorities. Well, they could. But they'd have to do things that would make them not the Republican Party anymore, and their base would…

Immigration Bills Take Shape. Can One Pass?
Caitlin Huey-Burns, RCP
Moments of bipartisanship are so fleeting on Capitol Hill these days that when a group of U.S. senators — four Democrats and four Republicans — introduced a rough outline for immigration reform Monday, it was considered a breakthrough. The plan, which includes a path to citizenship for illegal residents, prompted the question that will be asked about most major bills over the next two years: Can it get through the Republican-led House of Representatives?But the lower chamber might soon have an immigration breakthrough of its own. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is a step ahead of its…

Marco Rubio’s Immigration Reality Show
Dana Milbank, Washington Post
Marco Rubio was a bundle of nervous energy as he waited his turn to speak about the bipartisan immigration plan he had helped to draft. The Republican senator from Florida clasped his hands in front, then in back, then in front again. He poked his tongue into his cheek, he clenched his jaw, and he licked his lips. He fiddled with his suit-jacket button once, then again, then a third time. He rubbed his fingers together, then interlocked them.

President Obama and The Meaning of “The”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 27th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

President Obama and The Meaning of “The”
Emily Bazelon, Slate
Would you believe me if I told you that President Obama is in constitutional trouble—with hundreds of decisions of the National Labor Relations Board from the last year now potentially invalid—over the meaning of the word the?That’s what three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Friday. The president has constitutional egg on his face because the judges have blocked his appointments of three NRLB members on Jan. 4, 2012. The president said that on that day, the Senate was in recess, which meant he could exercise his authority to…

World Is Right to Worry About US Debt
Kenneth Rogoff, Financial Times
Many foreign observers look at the US budget shenanigans with confusion and dismay, wondering how a country that seems to have it all can manage its fiscal affairs so chaotically. The root problem is not just a hugely elevated level of public debt, or a patently unsustainable trajectory for old age entitlements. It is an electorate deeply divided over the direction of government, with differences compounded by changing demographics and sustained sluggish growth. It is hard to escape the notion that today’s budget battles are but a skirmish in a much longer-term war that…

The Motor City Roars Out of Washington’s Shadow
Henry Payne, WSJ
The 2013 North American International Auto Show here in the nation's auto capital is proof that the industry is back at full throttle. Cobo Hall convention center is filled with manufacturers catering to every corner of a diverse consumer market. Automotive forecasting firm R.L. Polk & Co. predicts new vehicle registrations””a key indicator of auto sales””will hit 15.3 million in 2013, up 6.6% from 2012.From sport utes to sports cars to soccer-mom vans, every industry segment is thriving””with the notable exception of the…

How Obama Is Unraveling Reagan Republicanism
Robert Reich, Salon
Soon after President Obama's second inaugural address, John Boehner said the White House would try “to annihilate the Republican Party” and “shove us into the dustbin of history.”Actually, the GOP is doing a pretty good job annihilating itself. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal put it, Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.”

Obama Can Use Executive Power to Push Progressive Agenda

A New Term, But Old Divisions Remain

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 22nd, 2013 12:08 am by HL

A New Term, But Old Divisions Remain
Dan Balz, Washington Post
The theme of many presidential inaugurations is renewal, the marking of a moment when the nation vows to put aside past divisions and unite behind its leader to confront the challenges of the day. Events that have taken place since President Obama won reelection in November suggest that another reality colors this Inauguration Day.Monday’s ceremonies may be only a temporary cessation of the political conflict that has gripped and at times paralyzed Washington throughout Obama’s presidency. In that sense, what takes place on the Capitol’s West Front, with all its…

The Liberation of Barack Obama
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Barack Hussein Obama can begin his second term liberated by the confidence that he is already a landmark figure in American history. His task is not to manufacture a legacy but to leave his successors a nation that is more tranquil because it finally resolved arguments that roiled it for decades.Whatever happens in the next four years, Obama will forever be our first African-American president, and our first biracial president. He has won two successive popular vote majorities. Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt, both of them icons, are the only other Democrats who managed…

Which Way for Netanyahu?

President’s Best Days Are Probably Ahead
Steve Kornacki, Salon
It's not surprising that President Obama clocks in near the bottom of a list compiled by Gallup of average first-term approval ratings for presidents in the postwar era. Obama's average score of 49.1 percent places him ahead only of Gerald Ford (47.2 percent) and Jimmy Carter (45.5 percent), while the highest numbers belong to Lyndon Johnson (74.2 percent) and John F. Kennedy (70.1 percent).It's actually a fairly misleading list. Johnson's first term, for instance, is defined as the 14 months between Kennedy's assassination and the 1965 inaugural ““ a…

Jack Lew’s Questionable Stint at Citigroup

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 21st, 2013 12:08 am by HL

Jack Lew’s Questionable Stint at Citigroup
Paul Roderick Gregory, Forbes
Barack Obama vilifies both “Wall Street speculators “who pay themselves big bonuses when times are bad” and the  greedy top Two Percenters who do not pay “their fair share” by exploiting tax loopholes.  With such strongly articulated views, his nominee for Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew, and his current Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Geithner, appear to be unlikely choices for such a sensitive cabinet position.Jack Lew collected over two million dollars for his short stint at the collapsing Citigroup. Tim Geithner, whose…

Quiet Ceremonies, Oath-Taking for Obama
Alexis Simendinger, RCP
Plenty of Americans could miss the moments when President Obama and Vice President Biden are sworn in Sunday, a full day before the pomp and the parade. The Constitution's instructions to begin governing on Jan. 20 must be honored, but the party will wait till the 21st.Before most revelers in the nation's capital get their coffee Sunday morning, Biden will have taken his oath at the Naval Observatory at 8:15 a.m. and motored to Arlington National Cemetery to be with the president for a wreath-laying ceremony.Obama is to return to the White House to recite the oath of office at 11:55…

How to Cut Megabanks Down to Size
Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times
IT is a prevailing myth in Washington: big bailouts are over for good. Never again, the line goes, could giant financial institutions imperil the nation's economy. This is nonsense, of course. Whatever regulators and lawmakers say, the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul lacks any guarantee that taxpayers won't have to come to the rescue again.So it was refreshing to hear a member of the Federal Reserve Board debunk the bailouts-are-gone theory last week. 

Sonia Sotomayor’s Disappointing Memoir
Damon Root, Reason
In May 2009, shortly after Justice David Souter announced his retirement from the Supreme Court but before President Barack Obama got around to announcing his replacement, The New Republic published an article entitled “The Case Against Sotomayor.” Written by legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen, the piece quoted several unnamed legal officials, including federal prosecutors and law clerks, who had worked directly with Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's presumed favorite to replace Souter. They were not impressed with her qualifications.”They expressed questions about her temperament,…

The Frightening Math for Republicans
Charlie Cook, National Journal
It was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is preparing a push for an immigration-reform proposal that promises to be the first real test of whether Republicans have learned a lesson from the Nov. 6 election results. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans won the white vote by numbers normally seen in landslide victories, and they also won independents by 5 and 7 percentage points, respectively. But Romney lost the election nationally by almost 4 points, and the GOP lost the overall popular vote for the House of Representatives. Although winning big among white voters and…

Obama’s Army: Activists & Corporate Cash

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

Obama’s Army: Activists & Corporate Cash
Jonathan Karl, ABC News
Attention Democrats reluctant to support the President’s agenda on gun control and other issues: President Obama’s new grassroots organization is about turn the heat up on you.Powered by a grassroots army of some 20 million activists and millions of dollars in unlimited contributions, the newly reincarnated Obama campaign will now push the White House’s policy agenda – even when that means putting pressure on fellow Democrats to support the President’s initiatives.

PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” Turns Out to Be True
Mark Hemingway, WS
Last month, PolitiFact selected its “Lie of the Year.” Given PolitiFact's dubious record of singling out Republicans for lying far more often than Democrats, you probably could have guessed the winner of this particular sweepstakes was a Mitt Romney campaign ad:It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep's…

McCain and The Neocons’ Mideast Blunders
Andrew McCarthy, NRO
I wonder if the jihadists of eastern Libya are still “heroes” to John McCain. That’s what he called them — “my heroes” — after he changed on a dime from chummy Qaddafi tent guest to rabid Qaddafi scourge.

Obama Is Overplaying His Hand

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 19th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

Obama Is Overplaying His Hand
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal
Presidential inaugurations are rare and notable events, coming only once every four years since April 30, 1789, when George Washington raised his right hand and took the oath on the second-floor balcony of New York's Federal Hall.It's a big day with all its pomp and ceremony, and among its purposes is this: to encourage all who watch to let go, for a moment, of the ups and downs of the political day-to-day and think, for a moment, about the longer arc of our history. A president's inaugural address is a chance to go big and be big”"to be thematic and not…

Farewell, Obama’s “Green Dream Team”
Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones
Another member of President Barack Obama's cabinet is on his way out the door. On Thursday night, Bloomberg News reported that Energy Secretary Steven Chu is planning to leave the Obama administration. The Nobel Prize winner plans to announce his intentions next week, according to sources “familiar with the matter.”Chu came to Washington from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where he served as director. He's a nerd's nerd—a guy who does physics problems for fun and continued to bike to work in Washington (at least when the Secret…

Obama and the End of Liberalism?
Charles Kesler, National Review
'He was much more liberal than his presidential campaign let on,” Charles Kesler writes of Barack Obama in 2008. You can say that again. “Liberals like crises, and one shouldn’t spoil them by handing them another on a silver salver. The kind of crisis that is approaching . . . is probably not their favorite kind, an emergency that presents an opportunity to enlarge government, but one that will find liberalism at a crossroads, a turning point,” he argues in I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of…

Lance Armstrong’s Legacy

Obama’s 1-2 Punch?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 17th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

Obama’s 1-2 Punch?
Thomas Friedman, New York Times
If election campaigns are supposed to be an exercise in coming to grips with our biggest problems, then the one we just went through was a dismal failure. Our only real solution — a strategy to reignite consistent growth so we can narrow our income gaps and lift the middle class — never got a serious airing. Instead, each side was focused on how to secure a bigger slice of a shrinking pie for its own base. This lousy campaign produced the worst of all outcomes: President Obama won on a platform that had little to do with our core problems and is only a small part of the…

Cuomo, O’Malley: Ready for Prime Time?
Josh Kraushaar, Natl Journal
Politics is often a very easy business to cover. The transparency with which politicians try to exploit short-term changes in public opinion can sometimes be painfully obvious. And such is the case over gun control, with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both 2016 presidential hopefuls, looking to pass ambitious gun laws in their home states.What separates the pretenders from the contenders is the ability to anticipate the most consequential issues in 2016, not react hyperactively to the moment's headlines. Gun control is currently the issue du jour, with…

Cuomo’s Leadership on Gun Control
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
So now New York is the first state to officially change its gun laws in the aftermath of Newtown. So Albany, once viewed as the lounge act of state politics in this country, once again shows you the possibilities of how government can still be on the right side of history.This all happens a month and a day after the murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary, 20 of them children. Happens big and loud because Gov. Cuomo continues to show his constituents and the country that he can bring people from both parties together, and in so doing bring his state to the kind of moment it had on…

Obama’s Gun Plan Faces Tall Odds in Congress
McPike & Huey-Burns, RCP
President Obama's sweeping — and contentious — gun-control package, unveiled Wednesday at the White House, stands little chance of success on Capitol Hill, where a divided Congress continues to squabble over even the basic legislative task of raising the debt ceiling.If the recent fiscal cliff negotiations are any indication, lawmakers will have a difficult time passing almost anything on the president's 2013 agenda — which also includes other divisive issues such as immigration reform and energy legislation. Economic issues remain a top priority for this session of Congress, and…

Obama Takes on Extremism on Guns
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Obama went big in offering a remarkably comprehensive plan to curb gun violence, and good for him. But his announcement Wednesday is only the beginning of a protracted struggle for national sanity on firearms. Extremists have controlled the debate on guns for many years. They will do all they can to preserve a bloody status quo. The irrationality of their approach must be exposed and their power broken.Far from acting as if his work was now done, the president made clear that he is fully invested in seeing his agenda realized — and fully prepared to lead a national…

The Entitlement Era Is Winding Down

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 15th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

The Entitlement Era Is Winding Down
Michael Barone, DC Examiner
It's often good fun and sometimes revealing to divide American history into distinct periods of uniform length. In working on my forthcoming book on American migrations, internal and immigrant, it occurred to me that you could do this using the American-sounding interval of 76 years, just a few years more than the Biblical lifespan of three score and 10.It was 76 years from Washington's First Inaugural in 1789 to Lincoln's Second Inaugural in 1865. It was 76 years from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.Going backward, it was 76…

Prescription for an Ailing California
Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register
Only a fool, or perhaps a politician or media pundit, would say California is not in trouble, despite some modest recent improvements in employment and a decline in migration out of the state. Yet the patient, if still very sick, is curable, if the right medicine is taken, followed by the proper change in lifestyle regimen.The first thing necessary: Identify the root cause of California's maladies. The biggest challenge facing our state is not climate change, or immigration, corporate greed, globalization or even corruption. It's the demise of upward mobility for the vast majority…

Obama Blinks: No Emperor’s New Coin
Bill Frezza, RealClearMarkets
It looks like the American people have been cheated out of a precious teachable moment. Demonstrating their ability to think two moves ahead, something their Republican opponents seem incapable of, the Democratic leadership has decided to stop dancing around the threat to issue a trillion dollar coin. The Treasury Department, Saturday, finally issued a flat out denial.Pity. Daring them to do it would have been the perfect tool to demonstrate that the emperor has no clothes.Any American who is not terrified of the mess created by the Federal Reserve, the Too-Big-to-Fail banks,…

GOP Isn’t Serious on the Debt Ceiling

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 13th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

GOP Isn’t Serious on the Debt Ceiling
Jamelle Bouie, American Prospect
If you're looking for evidence that Republicans will”"despite their rhetoric”"eventually cave on the debt ceiling, it's worth noting a recent statement from Rand Paul, to Business Insider, on how he thinks the GOP should approach the ceiling. Rather than force a shutdown, Paul thinks Republicans should pass a bill that would prioritize payments to bondholders if the limit is reached. This would, he says, “force us immediately to have a balanced budget.”

Defeating Christie a Tall Order for N.J. Democrats
Scott Conroy, RCP
NEWARK, N.J. — By several measures, Republican Gov. Chris Christie should be a vulnerable incumbent in this dark-blue state where President Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 18 points.New Jersey, after all, is suffering from a stubborn unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, anemic economic growth, and the nation's highest property tax rate.But the consensus among pollsters and political observers here is that Christie's prospects for winning a second term come November are brighter than ever."The Democrats never really figured out a way to knock him out before, and then when…

Report: Climate Change Is Really Scary
Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones
Say what you want about the Obama administration's relative ignoring of climate issues: Many of his top scientists are paying rapt attention, and they think we're about to get our butts kicked—although dumping the news at 4pm on a Friday gives some indication of where it sits in federal priorities.The National Climate Assessment is produced by the US Global Change Research Program, which is tasked with collating climate research from a wide variety of federal agencies and, every few years, distilling it into one major report. The latest, a first draft, is the third such…

Yes, Your Paycheck Just Shrank
Neil Irwin, Washington Post
Many Americans received their first paycheck of 2013 today. That sound you hear is the collective “What the . .. “ they have emitted upon looking at their pay stub.For all the self-congratulatory back-patting from the White House and Congress on the deal that averted the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases—the deal locked in the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for households making under $450,000—they tended not to mention what the deal did, or rather didn’t do, on the payroll tax. A 2 percentage point reduction in the Social…

Did Politics Play a Role in Bigelow’s Oscar Snub?

At EPA, Obama Should Look for Another Like Lisa Jackson

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 10th, 2013 12:08 am by HL

At EPA, Obama Should Look for Another Like Lisa Jackson

Here We Go Again
Ruth Marcus, Washington Post
Last week, I described the “fiscal cliff” deal as a pathetic punt. In light of later developments, I am worried that characterization was overly optimistic.The punt part stands: The expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and Republican desire to continue them in perpetuity, represented a point of maximum leverage to obtain a grand-enough bargain on tax revenue and entitlement reform. That moment was squandered, perhaps irretrievably. “We should never, ever, ever try another grand bargain, at least until the president is willing to lay all his cards on the…

Why Gov. Christie Is Presidential Timber
Ron Fournier, National Journal
If you want to understand the difference between a functioning democracy and Washington, listen to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: “I wake up every morning knowing that even though I think I'm right,” the GOP governor said today, “I'm not going to get everything I want.”In Washington, compromise has become a dirty word. With gridlock the norm, Congress's approval rating is below 10 percent and the public has lost faith in its national leadership. The Republican Party emerged from the November elections with a particularly intense image problem.

The Radical Visions of St. Francis of Assisi
Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
"Why you?" a man asked Francesco di Bernardone, known to us now as St. Francis of Assisi. Francis (1181/2-1226) was scrawny and plain-looking. He wore a filthy tunic, with a piece of rope as a belt, and no shoes. While preaching, he often would dance, weep, make animal sounds, strip to his underwear, or play the zither. His black eyes sparkled. Many people regarded him as mad, or dangerous. They threw dirt at him. Women locked themselves in their houses.Francis accepted all this serenely, and the qualities that at the beginning had marked him as an eccentric eventually made…