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Showing posts from February, 2013

It's what Woodward represents that matters

TPM has published  a helpful timeline in case you've missed how Bob Woodward has jumped the shark lately. The whole episode has many wondering why we're paying any attention to the man - or WTH has happened to him . I just can't figure out what's gotten into Woodward, or why he's acting so erratically. But at this point, it seems Woodward is doing lasting, possibly irreparable harm to his once-sterling reputation, and that is a genuine shame. Jonathan Chait does a good job of reminding us that perhaps Woodward is not the god of journalism we've often assumed him to be. To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a

The Arc of History: from Rosa to Sonia

I know I've used this quote from Michelle Obama here a lot . But I want to post it again following some of the outrageous things we heard yesterday from the Supreme Court to the punditry . Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight. If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there. We always have. Last night as I was trying to absorb all the news of the day, its that last part

Republican Plan B: let the lunatics have their tantrum

Thanks to Ryan Lizza's excellent reporting, we now know the basics of Republican Plan A. This version dates back to the summer of 2011 when they took the American economy hostage over raising the debt ceiling and Speaker Boehner was negotiating a deal with President Obama. Cantor told me that it was a "fair assessment" that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama's deal. He said he told Boehner that it would be better, instead, to take the issues of taxes and spending to the voters and "have it out" with the Democrats in the election. Why give Obama an enormous political victory, and potentially help him win re-election, when they might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal with a new Republican President? Boehner told Obama there was no deal. Instead of a Grand Bargain, Cantor and the House Republicans made a grand bet. The bet failed spectacularly. The fact that the plan consisted of total obstruction - hoping that would give them a win in 2012

What it means to "win" in politics

Anyone who is committed to social justice should know by now that you can never declare victory and go home. The struggle in this world is always ongoing. So in that sense - you never "win." But one of the things that has always intrigued me is how so many on the left seem to almost have a distaste for acknowledging the small steps of progress when we are winning. I'm one who happens to think that if you always see the glass as half-empty, you are likely to miss understanding how progress is actually made. As we've watched the achievements of President Obama over these last 4 years, many of us have felt the need to remind our fellow progressives that the suffragettes threw black women under the bus to achieve the right of women to vote, FDR did the same thing to women and African Americans to get Social Security, and Congress watered down the 1964 Civil Rights Act's enforcement on private businesses in order to break a filibuster. And yet all of those were mil

"The thing about being a little black girl in the world" by Mia McKenzie

Anyone who stops by here today must go directly to a blog titled Black Girl Dangerous and read the article by Mia McKenzie titled The Thing about Being a Little Black Girl in the World: For Quvenzhané Wallis. I'd love to pull a quote to entice you. But I can't. The whole thing is just too full of truth and beauty. I'll only warn you to grab a tissue first. Thank you Mia for helping to heal some of the hurt.

A stormy night at the Oscars

For the past few years I haven't paid much attention to the Academy Awards because I don't tend to see the movies that are nominated in time to root for my favorites. But this year I had seen Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Beasts of the Southern Wild and  The Impossible . So I settled in for the night to watch the whole thing. Its possible I just don't get Seth MacFarlane's humor. But it was cringeworthy to me for most of the night and downright offensive occasionally. I could have taken the whole "boobs" song as simply adolescent nonsense, but cracking jokes about assassination, sexualizing a 9 year-old, and anti-semitic jokes from a teddy bear crossed a line for me. Other than Daniel Day Lewis winning the best actor award for  Lincoln , I was completely surprised and disappointed in the winners. I had read  The Life of Pi  years ago and hated the book. So I wasn't interested in seeing the movie. Perhaps I missed something

One should NEVER accuse Republicans of consistency!

Last week Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said this about the sequester: A week from now, a dramatic new federal policy is set to go into effect that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more. And then along comes GOP spokesman George Will to totally harsh Boehner's buzz. Even during this desultory economic recovery, one industry thrives — the manufacture of synthetic hysteria. It is, however, inaccurate to accuse the Hysteric in Chief of crying “Wolf!” about spending cuts under the sequester. He is actually crying “Hamster!” I guess that it should come as no surprise that since Will is paid to be a writer, he is going to outpace Boehner in the use of analogy. But the title the WP editors gave him says it all: "The manufactured crisis of sequester." And just when the Speaker was getting his whiplash groove on going from "I got 98% of what I wanted" to "Obamaquester," along come folks like Bill Wilson at Forb

Politics and egos (updated)

Years ago I used to spend a lot of time at our State Capitol trying to get legislators on board with supporting the kind of work we do with young people. After awhile, I could see what was going on. Its a heady game. You gain status as a "somebody" by feeding the egos of people who aren't always the brightest bulbs in the universe. Most of the people who inhabit those great halls have insatiable egos, and so the task is never-ending. I'm not very good at that kind of thing. So I eventually quit trying and found other ways to get the job done. I thought of that experience when Kevin Drum asked an interesting question. I'm perplexed by [Bob] Woodward these days. He really seems to have some kind of weird jones against the Obama White House. I can't quite figure out where it comes from. If my little State Capitol is filled with insatiable egos, I can only imagine what it looks like in Washington DC - not just when it comes to politicians, but journalists li

Ambition and Desire

Ambition takes us toward a horizon but not over it - the line will always recede before our reaching hands. But desire is a conversation between our physical bodies, our work, our imaginations and the territory we seek. Ambition takes willpower and constant applications of energy to stay on a perceived bearing; desire demands only a constant attention to the unknown gravitational field which surrounds us and from which we can recharge ourselves every moment, as if breathing from the atmosphere of possibility itself.  - David Whyte

What neither the left or right will tell you about the federal budget (in graphs)

As I said a few days ago, we should all hang onto our hats for a bumpy ride over the next couple of months due to the upcoming battles about the federal budget. The sequester is merely the seventh inning in this saga that started back in 2010. One challenge for all of us as pragmatic progressives is the poor quality of the conversation on both the left and the right about this issue. The result was this depressing news that Steve Benen highlighted the other day. What's depressing about that? Ninety-four percent (94%) of Americans are unaware of the fact that the federal deficit is actually getting smaller . As a matter of fact, the deficit is shrinking at its fastest pace since World War II. With this kind of success, the question you have to ask yourself is why the public doesn't know. Its clear that the Republicans don't want to talk about this because it would give President Obama credit for a victory on their main talking point. But too many on the left

Musings on the future of race and national politics

Yesterday BooMan wrote an interesting piece asking whether Hillary can kill the modern GOP . I've said before that I'm not going to write about 2016 for another two years and what I'm about to write probably breaks that promise...again. So sue me ;-) I agree with the concerns BooMan expressed about the Clinton machine...I don't trust it.  But there was a point in that article where I began to part ways with his analysis. There are signs that a Clinton candidacy could be strong enough to force the Republicans to play defense in Texas. A recent Public Policy Polling survey found Clinton beating Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie in the Lone Star State. My explanation for this is that hostility to Obama's skin color is masking the true weakness of the modern Republican Party. In a very real way, racism is propping the GOP up and giving them a false sense of confidence that they are still a force to be reckoned with in national elections. On the one hand,

Instead of the blame game, how about we look at the Republican alternative?

I see that David Brooks is taking a lot of heat today from liberals for suggesting that President Obama doesn't have a plan to replace the sequester  - even though he actually does. Of course its accepted by everyone that the Republicans have an alternative because they passed one last year in the House. As everyone is putting all their ink into the stupid task of arguing over who is to blame for the sequester in the first place, I don't see many folks comparing the two plans. So perhaps it might be helpful to have a little reminder about just how draconian the Republicans are prepared to be. Their replacement plan was called the Spending Reduction Act of 2012  and of course it eliminated the cuts to Defense spending. They replaced them with the following: It entirely eliminates the Social Services Block Grant , which serves 1.7 million seniors through programs like Meals on Wheels. This would also cut federal funds for child care and related assistance for 4.4 million c

GOP: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

E.J. Dionne sums up the Republican's problem. On the merits, Obama has public opinion in his corner. His proposal to avoid the economic drag of the sequester with a reasonable amount of deficit reduction built on a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases through tax reform occupies the debate’s broad middle ground. If the GOP wanted, based on its past positions, it could take a deal of this sort and declare victory , given all the cuts that have already passed. But that is not the victory the Republicans seek. It reminds me of the question President Obama asked in a news conference during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations..."Can Republicans say 'yes' to anything?" But it was David Frum who nailed it two years ago when he suggested that the Republican approach to health care reform would be their Waterloo . Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s... A huge part of the blame for today’s di

Boehner's dilemma and why Dems won't deal on the sequester

I've seen people trying to figure out what Speaker Boehner's game plan is on the sequester and other budget issues. A few people have pointed back to something an anonymous GOP leadership advisor was quoted as saying last month in an article at Politico . GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system, ” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “ We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.” If there's any truth to that (remember, its Politico), his strategy is to appease the lunatics in the House and hold on to his job. End.of.story. It has nothing to do with any concerns about actual governing o

Mr. "I got 98% of what I wanted" Boehner (updated)

Let's take a trip into the way back past with our time machine...all the way back to August 2011.  I know that was such a long time ago that our memories fade. But we have this thing called the internet where we can almost magically refresh our memories. The Republicans had created a hostage situation where - for the first time in the country's history - they were threatening the full faith and credit of the United States if they didn't get the spending cuts they wanted. On the brink of a global financial collapse, a deal was finally struck - including the sequester which is about to go into effect in a week and a half. Here's what Speaker Boehner had to say about that deal. "When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy," Boehner said in an interview with CBS News on Monday evening. Either Mr. Boehner is losing his mind or he is a congenital liar. Because yesterday, he

Obama stole all the GOP's good ideas

Jonathan Bernstein nails it with this commentary on the current GOP. The problem with Republicans today on public policy isn’t that they’re stuck in the 1980s; it’s that they’ve given up entirely. More often than not, what passes for Republican “policy” is just symbolic, not substantive... The first step out of the policy wilderness for Republicans, then, is for them to decide that developing substantive public policy ideas is a good idea at all.  But lets take it a step further and understand WHY they don't have an substantive policy ideas. Remember a few weeks ago when several Republicans and conservative commentators were suggesting that President Obama was trying to destroy the Republican Party. Well, they had a point. If you look at what the President has embraced in terms of policy - he's stolen all the good ideas the Republicans had and turned them into pragmatic solutions. For example: On national security - he targeted al Qaeda, killed bin Laden and negoti

My worst nightmare...Clinton II vs Bush III 2016

I have vowed to myself that I will not write about the 2016 presidential race for at least two years. But today I just can't help it. This week we heard rumors that there are Clinton insiders saying that running in 2016 is a done deal. And Jeb Bush gave a speech where he certainly sounded like someone who has decided to run. Personally I can't think of anything that would kill the buzz created by 8 years of President Obama more than to have it followed up by a Clinton II vs Bush III campaign. Been there...done that doesn't even begin to describe it. The whole idea of "going forward" instead of "taking our country back " would be stood on its head. Please Goddess...don't let that happen. OK, that's it. I'm done with 2016 and will corral myself back to the present.

No, Obama isn't like Clinton either

Just as some on the left try to make the ridiculous argument that Obama = Bush, some lovers of centrism can't stop themselves from suggesting that the President is following in the path set by Clinton. Case in point... Doyle McManus . We got a good long look at the second-term edition of Barack Obama last week, and he's sounding more like Bill Clinton every day. It's not all that surprising. Over the last two years, Obama has turned repeatedly to Clinton for counsel... Obama's rhetoric still aims high; he hasn't given up all hope of transforming American politics. But his concrete proposals these days are smaller and more Clintonian, a necessary adjustment in the face of entrenched Republican opposition. Was this guy watching the same SOTU I was? Because Jacob Weisberg knocked this one so far out of the park, I'm simply going to quote him. Looking beyond what he was right to call the “manufactured” fiscal crisis that continues to preoccupy Washingto

For those who think I never criticize Obama

What they did to Bo in this photo is inexcusable. ;-)

Dear Melissa: Its about fatherhood

Visit for breaking news , world news , and news about the economy In case you missed it, Melissa Harris-Perry stepped into quite a storm in reaction to President Obama's speech in Chicago on Friday.  Watching the clip up above should get you caught up on why. I have very often praised Melissa on this blog - but I have to say that I disagree with her take on this one completely. Overall, I think its important to say that what President Obama was talking about was fatherhood - not marriage. He did mention marriage, but only in saying that we should remove obstacles for those who want to get married. I think that's an important distinction to make because not all dissolutions of a marriage end in an absent father and not all marriages result in a present father. As someone who grew up in a family where my father was physically present but emotionally absent, I'll claim to have "daddy issues" myself. In some ways, this might be the tie that bi

Hold onto your hats and strap on the safety belt for a bumpy ride!

It looks to me like the Republicans have decided to let the sequester go into effect in 11 days - unless their defense hawks can pull off a magic trick before then. That could explain some of the incoherent ramblings coming from the likes of McCain and Graham lately. And so the media will howl with attempts to decipher who is to blame for this least until the next crisis shapes up around mid-April. That's when Congress needs to either pass a budget or a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running. And in order to delay another round about the debt ceiling until May, Republicans insisted that each Chamber of Congress pass a budget or have their pay withheld. In the Senate, that job will be in the very capable hands of Senator Patty Murray. Murray promised a budget that would pursue a “balanced approach” that protects programs for the middle class. The task of coming up with a House budget has been given to Paul Ryan. And in order to appease

What happens when a politician actually believes that "Children are our future"

I would suggest that the second most common thing for a politician in any party to say on the campaign trail is "Children are our future." Its likely that the only thing more ubiquitous would be "God bless the United States of America." But we all know that since children can't vote, that kind of verbal commitment to children usually disappears once they get into office. Politicians like to pretend that they care about children, but its usually a lie. That lie is exposed in a report from the Urban Institute  (pdf) that was highlighted yesterday by Ezra Klein. Looking solely at the federal budget, an elderly person receives close to seven federal dollars for every dollar received by a child. Via FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society, this country took great strides in lifting our elderly out of poverty . Between 1960 and 1995, the official poverty rate of those aged 65 and above fell from 35 percent to 10 percent, and research has documented s

Why President Obama went to Chicago today

In the push to pass sensible measures to prevent gun violence - the face of the problem has become the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT. And that is understandable. But it doesn't end there. As President Obama said today: ...last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city [Chicago], and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months. If we're going to do something meaningful about gun violence, it has to have an impact on the lives of those children as well. President Obama then said something that was reminiscent of part of his speech to the Urban League last summer  (almost 5 months before the Newtown shooting). Here's how he talked about it today: When a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can't fill -- only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole. In too many neighborhoods today -- wheth

The moral argument

Just after I finished writing about the argument this morning, I read a wonderful article by George Lakoff that outlined exactly how President Obama tied his moral vision to specific policies in his State of the Union speech. That moral vision has always been at the core - not simply of our President - but of the man  Barack Hussein Obama.  Throughout his career, Obama has refused to demonize his opponents. Instead, he has sought them out and listened to them. He has tried to understand how they think and why they see the world as they do. His mother encouraged this sense of empathy, and it’s a lesson Obama learned well... Although Obama’s reform agenda echoes aspects of those advanced by many Democrats over the last century, he has admitted—and this is the decisive point in understanding his outlook—that his opponents hold principles rooted as deeply in American history as his own. “I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes, no matter how much I may dis

"First you win the argument...then you win the vote"

Over the last few weeks I've noticed that something is changing in me in terms of what I want to pay attention to and what kind of political conversation I'm interested in having. I think it had something to do with Inauguration Day and the speech the President gave. But I haven't been able to pinpoint it exactly. What I do know is that if feels like - at a deeper level - I've incorporated something Michelle Obama said about the President. Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is

Photo of the Day: For better or worse

I just have to say a word about this one. It wasn't taken today, but I can't think of any better picture to highlight on Valentine's Day. We all know that Gabby has been to hell and back over these last couple of years. What any human being needs for a journey like that is someone to be by their side. Its clear that Mark has been that someone - for better or worse.

Michelle Obama goes bold for Black History Month

Yesterday First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a workshop at the White House for 80 middle/senior high schoolers from the D.C. area and New Orleans to view and discuss the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild in honor of Black History Month. Because I recently watched the movie, I was a bit surprised. It is a tough gritty tale - told through the eyes of 6 year old "Hushpuppy" - of life and survival in the Louisiana bathtub . Here's how Ms. Obama described the movie yesterday. But it's rare these days to find a movie that can so completely and utterly captivate such a broad audience, and that was one of the things that struck me about this movie. It managed to be beautiful, joyful and devastatingly honest. It's a movie that makes us all think deeply about the people we love in our lives who make us who we are. It shows us the strength of our communities, no matter what they look like. It shows us that those communities can give us the power to overcome any

Rubio's desperate play on immigration reform

Give him some credit - Sen. Rubio is trying desperately to balance the impossible tension between the need for Republicans to appease Latino voters and the rabid nativist base of his party. But the truth is that his game-playing in an attempt to do that is totally transparent. Rubio knows that kiss of death on immigration reform for his base is the "path to citizenship" for the 11-12 million undocumented people currently in this country - what they refer to as "amnesty." He also knows that Latino voters committed to immigration reform won't accept a plan unless it includes a path to citizenship. In the Senate bi-partisan plan that Rubio signed off on - he's already caved on that one. So he's trying a bait and switch. What Rubio also knows is that what the base of his party wants more than anything is a knock-down battle with President Obama. With a cave on the big one already done, he wants to distract them with another one. Thus...the "trigge

The long game of President Obama's transformational politics

While many of us on the left extolled the boldness of President Obama's State of the Union address, it also spurred a reaction by pundits and ideologues that basically amounted to "can't get it done." There might be some truth to that. Most of the ideas are likely to face something we've all become used to - a Republican commitment to obstruction. But its also likely that there's a method to President Obama's "madness" on that front. First of all, as Jacob Weisberg says, the Republicans will have to consider the impact of their obstruction on the 2014 election. While a few Republicans have signaled flexibility on immigration, the current House leadership is unlikely to take up a minimum-wage law or new spending programs. Obama knows that and has incorporated the reality of obstructionism into his political strategy. His big speech set what he hopes will become a lose-lose trap for Republican legislators: accede to his agenda, or face his mob