Of all the charges and counter-charges that have been aired so far in the reality show known as "America's Next Fed Chairman," none is more explosive than the charge of sexism.
Quite the cavalier attitude from a president who's in the middle of a potemkin "jobs" tour, with the national U-6 unemployment rate hovering above 14 percent. Discounting 2,000 American jobs as a "blip" might strike many unemployed Americans as an odd formulation. Beyond that, he's wrong on the numbers, ignoring the dramatically more optimistic findings of his own State Department. The Washington Post's fact-checker lays out the stats, awarding Obama "two Pinocchios" for his misleading characterization:
After getting over the shock of the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to delay the employer mandate for a year, supporters of the law have taken to downplaying the significance of the step. Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein, among others, have said it is just not that big of a deal to delay a provision that they claim affects so few employers. After all, they argue, most employers offer coverage today without the mandate, so it can’t be true that imposing the mandate is essential to making the rest of the law work well. Klein goes even further and says it would be...
Sarah Palin: "I was banned from talking about" Bill Ayers during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Sarah Palin still speaks bitterly about 2008. The former Republican vice-presidential candidate spoke on Fox News recently about current matters such as the raid on the American diplomatic outpost in Libya and the IRS vetting of nonprofit applications when she turned back to the 2008 presidential campaign. "I was banned from talking about Jeremiah Wright and Obama's friend, Bill Ayers, the character that he befriended and kicked off his political campaign in the guy's living room," Palin said. "Couldn't talk about that." Palin pointed a finger at who she thought was to blame. "I was not allowed to talk ...>> More
President Obama, for the first time in memory, is not going to ignore August. Augusts haven't been kind to Obama in the past. But this time around it appears he's going to proactively go on the offensive for the month, rather than sitting on the sidelines during what is now known as "town hall season." How successful he will be in this effort remains to be seen, but it is at least refreshing to see him make the attempt.
Augusts have traditionally been long and languid on the political scene. Congress scarpers off to avoid the Washington miasmic heat, and up until the advent of YouTube, not much political news was ever made during this vacation lull. Then came the Tea Party Era, where videos of people screaming at their elected representatives became high entertainment. Politicians were caught rather flat-footed, since these "chat with the folks back in the home district" events had always been so low-key and low-risk. If some lunatic interrupted an event by ranting about his pet conspiracy theories, it might be a one-day story in the local newspaper -- but it certainly wouldn't even rate the front page of the Podunk Gazette, much less national airtime.
That all changed during the healthcare reform debate. The Tea Partiers had been riding a wave of popular attention, and now pretty much everyone had a video-capable cell phone to record even the most backwoods town halls in America. The national media gleefully went along for the ride, since August traditionally produced so little political news that they had nothing at all to compete with the videos of the ranters and ravers. Since that time, the politicians have become more savvy and they are taking these events a lot more seriously (those that haven't just cancelled all such events in pre-emptive retaliation). What this has meant is a whole month where the fringiest of the fringe are awarded center stage in our national political debate. Since the Republican Party has moved so far fringewards anyway, it was the party poised to actually benefit from airing their own fringe voices.
President Obama has, until now, mostly remained aloof during this period. To his detriment, as measured by public opinion polling. In both 2009 and 2010, Obama's job approval numbers took the biggest one-month hit in August that they would for the entire year. In 2011, Obama's worst three months were (in order): June, August, July. He broke the trend in the election year of 2012, while campaign season was underway. This year, it appears he's going to try something different, by launching a major political offensive on the economy and helping the middle class. His poll numbers so far this year have been sliding down from his post-election "second honeymoon," but they've reached dangerously low levels even before August begins. Perhaps this has something to do with his newfound boldness, or perhaps that's just too cynical. Either way, Obama doesn't have a lot to lose at this point in making the attempt to change the national political conversation.
The town hall season this year had been shaping up to be a big discussion (complete with extreme views being aired by a public not too concerned about political correctness) on immigration reform. This may still happen on schedule, given the fact that the most contentious town hall scenes happen during the "question and answer" period, and the crowd is going to ask what the crowd is going to ask -- no matter what else is happening in the political world. Republicans in the House punted working on immigration until after the August break, which puts the issue front and center for a lot of their base. Fears that bipartisanship might somehow break out in the House to pass the bipartisan Senate bill are the motivating factor for the Republican base. Rightwing talk radio has been whipping the issue up for months, and there are some people out there who are absolutely enraged that anything short of "round up the 11 million, ship them home tomorrow" is even under consideration. These voices will likely be heard during town hall season, no matter what Obama's talking about.
For the rest of the public, the contrast may be stark. Images of Republican House members trying to assuage anti-immigration reform types will be competing with Obama giving speeches about helping the middle class and improving the economy. The difference between the two types of image will be clear to all. Seen solely through the lens of politics, Obama has the chance to define both himself and his opponents and reap obvious political benefits by doing so.
Crass politics aside, however, Obama is setting himself up on the policy side of things very nicely as well. Because while immigration reform will be an issue for the House when they get back, there are two other looming issues which must be dealt with very soon. Immigration doesn't have any sort of hard-and-fast deadline, but the federal budget and the debt ceiling do. Both must be dealt with in September, in some fashion or another. This giant budget battle looms, which is why Obama has launched his speaking tour on the subject of the economy. He is preparing the ground for the September struggles.
So far, Obama has moved the debate to things he wants to talk about, although both the media and his opponents took the bait of Obama's "phony scandals" line and have mostly avoided direct discussion of the real economic theme of Obama's speeches. What, after all, is the Republican response to Obama's calls for Congress to get the job done and produce a budget he can sign?
Republicans were going to spend August talking up their own theme of "Fighting Washington." Obama has undercut this theme in a big way already -- by pointing out that anyone in Congress is not just part of Washington, but in fact they have a job description and they are failing miserably at doing the tasks we the people pay them to do. The federal budget is a yearly affair, it is not surprising or unique. The House has passed a budget document, and so has the Senate. But Republicans are refusing to even form a conference committee to work out a compromise, because "compromise" is an ugly and evil concept to their base. Specifically on the debt ceiling, some Republicans are already threatening to take the entire American economy hostage, once again, if they don't get every single item on their wish list from Democrats and the president. This is nothing new, really.
What is new, however, is that President Obama is fighting back, and he's doing so before Republicans have really even entered the ring. Some Republicans have begun to pivot from "Fighting Washington" to what I have decided to call the "Laurel And Hardy Defense." For those not up on classic comedy routines, the bombastic Ollie Hardy would, after some monumental screwup of his own making, turn to his hapless partner Stan Laurel and say with exasperation: "Now look what you've made me do!" This is precisely the line that some Republicans are now using to describe their own behavior versus the president's. Republicans hold the economy hostage and refuse to budge one inch in budget negotiations, and because Obama simply is not going to sign any bill which consists solely of Republican ideas, the congressional Republicans will take the economy over the cliff rather than compromise. As we enter free fall after either a government shutdown (if the budget isn't worked out) or the default of America's creditworthiness (if the debt ceiling isn't resolved), Republicans will smugly say: "Now look what Obama's made us do!" Or, perhaps (also from Laurel and Hardy): "Here's another fine mess Obama's gotten us into."
This showdown was likely always going to happen in this fashion. Anyone who has seen the modus operandi of the Republicans for the past two or three years should really not be surprised at how the upcoming budget fight is being set up. The only difference, really, is who will be playing offense and who will be playing defense. In previous years, Democrats have clung to the hope that Republicans would sooner or later realize that compromise was necessary, and by doing so they would be fairly muted in their public statements, especially about their opposition. Republicans, knowing in advance that they were in no mood to compromise, held no such illusions and felt free to characterize their opponents however they wished in public statements.
This time around, however, Obama has entered the field first. And Obama is attacking Congress and their refusal to do their jobs, pre-empting the Republicans' complaints about "Washington" before they can even get started. Because the House Republicans refused to act before August, they will face the heavy distraction of discussing immigration during their town halls. Democrats can lay out their case to the public in the meantime, which consists of their usual bargaining position: "We can compromise on many things, but there are a few deal-breakers which we will not even consider." This will be contrasted with the Republicans' position of: "We're not going to compromise on anything, we're going to fight battles we've repeatedly lost in the past all over again, and unless Obama signs on to the entire Republican list of demands, we will destroy the American economy for political reasons."
Now, I'm not saying that this is going to be a slam dunk for Obama. The media's idiotic insistence on "false equivalency" will lead them to attempt to paint both sides as being equally bad in the debate. So that's a headwind Obama and the Democrats face. But this time around, Obama is fighting back first -- he is attempting to start the conversation on his terms, before his opponents have even warmed up. And this time around, there are plenty of past examples of Republican brinksmanship to remind the public who is threatening to take the economy hostage, and who is trying to get something done for the American people and the middle class. So Obama's got a chance of building support for his positions this year -- a chance that hasn't really existed in years past. The difference is Obama seems to be eagerly charging into August, and (for once) taking the initiative and playing offense instead of defense. We'll see, in upcoming weeks, whether this strategy pays off for President Obama or not. But it certainly is refreshing to see him get out there and fight, this early in the game. Because it gives him a much better chance of winning the debate with the American people than in years past, when he all but ignored the month of August.
This week saw the resurfacing of an unfortunate episode that many had thought was over, or had at least conveniently forgotten about. I'm talking, of course, about our still-sputtering economy. On Wednesday, President Obama gave what was billed as a major speech, in which he called on Congress to end the ongoing partisan gridlock and do something for the middle class, but offered few specifics on how to make this happen. In reality, the speech was mostly a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of upcoming budget and debt ceiling battles. But few in the country were paying attention, too caught up in the latest revelations in the summer's worst sequel (yes, worse than The Hangover Part III), Weinergate II: The Rise of Carlos Danger. The outpouring of ink and airtime provoked by some naked selfies and sleazy sexts proved once and for all that what America's job crisis really needs to move to the top of the agenda is a good sex scandal.
My rival in this race," President Obama announced early in 2007, "is not other candidates. It's cynicism." Sadly, it's now evident cynicism won.In a much-hyped speech at Knox College on Wednesday, Obama sought to pivot back to the economy "” as the journalistic clichÃ© goes "” and shape the issue environment for the 2014 congressional elections.Because of an "endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals," the president said, "Washington's taken its eye off...
From a frigid winter to an oppressively hot summer, 2013 has had its share of extreme weather. The widest tornado ever recorded in the United States wreaked havoc on Oklahoma. Wildfires ran rampant in the west, claiming the lives of 19 young firefighters in Ariz. The world as a whole experienced one of the hottest Junes ever recorded.
This infographic from the World Resources Institute plots the most extreme weather events from January until now. WRI created a similar infographic last year, focusing on weather events from January 2012 through September 2012. According to their site, the group focuses on the intersection between environment and socio-economic development, topics that come to the forefront in the aftermath of weather-related disasters.
“All weather events are affected by a warming planet,” President Obama said in his climate change speech on June 25th. “The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
Check out the World Resources Institute timeline below (Note: This list is not comprehensive, but rather highlights some of the significant events this year.)
"A symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law." These are President Obama's recent words on Guantanamo Bay, the military prison he rules as commander-in-chief. But as Gitmo's infamous hunger strike enters its sixth month, it is increasingly plain that we have not one, but two administrations on Guantánamo Bay.
The first - the administration of President Obama's speeches - regrets the prison, promises a new push to close it, and finds force-feeding repulsive, if necessary. It says: "Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are on hunger strike.... Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?"
The second administration - that of the generals and lawyers who theoretically answer to President Obama - offers a retort. To Gen. John Kelly, the situation at Gitmo is 'Hunger Strike Lite'. To the DoJ lawyers who defend force-feeding, detainees are non-persons with no rights to the free exercise of religion. And if you thought strapping a prisoner in a chair and feeding a tube down his gullet might reasonably be described as non-consensual, here's Gen. Kelly again: "We don't force-feed right now at Gitmo."
Another depressing reminder of this reality emerged last week, as the Gitmo authorities flouted a federal judge's order to halt gratuitous and invasive searches of prisoners' genitals - searches which were deployed, in Judge Royce Lamberth's words, to "discourage meetings with counsel." In the initial days after the ruling, DoJ lawyers wrote to us at Reprieve and said the government was simply going to ignore the judge's ruling: DoD were "not in a position to apply the Court's order." DoJ has since appealed.
How do we square these alternate realities? We can safely assume President Obama knows what is happening on his watch. Prominent papers cover these issues daily. Yet despite his remarks, his lawyers defend the very force-feeding he decried, and his generals swear it is urgently necessary to 'search' prisoners by "placing the guard's hand as a wedge between the [detainee's] scrotum and thigh . . . and using [a] flat hand to press against the groin". His Solicitor-General has green-lighted the appeal to defend this pointless groping.
All of this makes clear that the second administration currently runs the show. The only question is why President Obama will not stop it.
Prominent legislators and judges have also sought in vain to stir the slumbering giant in the White House. Judge Gladys Kessler recently found that force-feeding, currently imposed on 45-odd Guantanamo detainees, is a "painful, humiliating and degrading process." And while she said she had no power to order the force-feeding to stop, she knew of someone who did: the Commander-in-Chief. Senators Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein echoed her call. These words - along with those of the UN, who call it torture, and the American Medical Association, who have condemned the practice as against medical ethics - have failed to make any visible impact on the practices of the Obama administration to address the hunger strike.
This is why organisations such as ours often despair of litigation alone as a sufficient method of bringing justice to Guantánamo. This is why we feel it is important to ensure that the voices of the people in Guantánamo are heard.
Yet this, too, meets underhand tactics by Guantanamo's defenders. Journalists report that the DoD has been passing them videos showing the (voluntary) tube feeding of children, to suggest that Guantánamo prisoners cannot possibly experience the humiliation and pain they repeatedly describe (and as demonstrated by Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def). Marc Theissen, a former speechwriter to George W. Bush, echoed this argument recently in the Washington Post.
Yet what Mr. Thiessen - who at least was prepared to run the point, however wrong, in his own name - and the shadowy spinners at the DoD fail to grasp is the difference between a consensual and a non-consensual medical practice. Many of us have had teeth extracted by dentists, with our consent, for legitimate medical reasons - but that doesn't negate the experiences of the many victims of torturers through the ages who have had teeth pulled as a torture technique. This is an extreme example, but the point stands: you and I accept all sorts of indignities at the hands of dentists and doctors that - were we hauled to a restraint chair, strapped down, and forced to undergo a harsh military version of the same - would hurt us, humiliate us, and which we would rightly view as assault. On Twitter, I invited Mr. Thiessen to test this proposition himself, and film a sequel to the force-feeding video with us. He has yet to reply.
But all this theatre obscures the real point. In their cells at Gitmo, my clients know full well which administration matters to them. Many of them very much wanted to believe in Barack Obama at first. Some even read Dreams from My Father. But in the intervening years they have seen that a government's behaviour can prove woefully inconsistent with the words of its commander-in-chief. They have been cleared, many not for the first time, and sat in prison for years. So they are starving themselves, not because they want to die - but because they reasonably believe this may be their only way out.
Mr. President, this is your prison. These matters are your responsibility and, unless you act, will taint your legacy. Stop the force-feeding, stop soldiers groping my clients, and do the one thing that will end this crisis in peace: send a cleared man home.
The faultline in the GOP revealed by the party's internal debate on immigration reform "“ over whether a future Republican coalition should rely more heavily on whites than it already does, or should try and bring more Latinos into the fold to win the presidency "“ remains unresolved. What we can say is that the last election and current polling suggest that the Republicans' path of least resistance is to win even more non-college-educated whites and to try to win somewhat more of the minority vote.Start with the fact that in 2012 Obama lost a...
Conventional wisdom says highly motivated opponents and unmotivated supporters cost Democrats 2010's midterm. If true, Obama's current low polling numbers could augur a sequel in 2014.Not only is Obama today almost exactly where he was with the overall population in the 2010 election, he is polling decidedly worse among those with strong feelings.Rasmussen polling data provide a comprehensive, almost daily picture of Obama's presidency. By averaging 14-day polling periods, we avoid daily volatility and get an accurate view "” like a series of high-speed...
"I don't normally do this," President Obama's senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in the subject line of an e-mail blast to reporters Sunday night.This was tantalizing. What would this top White House official be doing? Singing karaoke on the North Lawn? Getting a "POTUS" tattoo on his arm?Reality was rather more prosaic. Pfeiffer was announcing the rollout of a series of economic speeches Obama would begin on Wednesday "” roughly the 10th time the White House has made such a pivot to refocus on jobs and growth. What would set...
WASHINGTON -- Sometimes it's good to be proved wrong. Last week, I wrote a column doubting that President Obama could speak powerfully and effectively about the racial issues raised by the Trayvon Martin case. Well, the president did just that.Obama's remarks Friday -- a surprise to reporters expecting the usual daily press briefing -- were brief and informal. But they amounted to the most important speech about race our first African-American president has delivered in office.My skepticism about whether Obama should even try to say anything meaningful about Martin's death and...
President Obama’s poor job approval ratings have become as much a part of late July as sweet corn and a fire sale on the Cubs’ roster. But this time, Team Obama has a plan to prevent the second-half slump that played out in every year of his presidency.Maybe. But with his Real Clear Politics Average approval rating down to 45.8 percent today, massive battles ahead and no ready solutions to what’s weighing him down, it would take something pretty remarkable to let the president defy his own gravity.
On Friday President Obama picked at America’s racial wound, and it bled a bit.Despite persistent attempts by some to divest the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy of its racial resonance, the president refused to allow it.During a press briefing, Mr. Obama spoke of the case, soberly and deliberately, in an achingly personal tone, saying: “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
Everything about President Obama’s grand takeover of everyone’s aches and pains puts the pain in a new place. The only relief he can promise is that the pain is more tolerable today than it will be tomorrow.If the failing economy doesn’t kill you, Obamacare will. The only good news if that the abundant bad news over there might take your mind off your troubles over here. The jobs market here, such as it is, is likely to continue in the dumps. Come back soon.
One of the key selling points for ObamaCare was President Obama's repeated promise that if you like your current health insurance plan, you can keep it. This posed a challenge to the president because not only was it clearly untrue, but the health-care reform law was specifically designed to prevent many people from being able to keep their insurance. The most humorous moment in the frantic effort to sell the public on ObamaCare based on false pretenses was when ABC News finally asked Obama to explain the claim:"When I say "If you have your plan and you like...
That is not to say Mr. Obama is uninvolved. In the privacy of the West Wing, away from the cameras, he has made calls to leading figures in the Arab world and has met with advisers trying to influence the crisis. But his low public profile on issues like immigration, Syria and health care underscores a calculated presidential approach that admirers consider nuanced and detractors call passive.While other presidents have put the bully in the bully pulpit, Mr. Obama uses his megaphone, and the power that comes with it, sparingly, speaking out when he decides his voice can shape the trajectory...