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Showing posts from March, 2016

President Obama's Focus on the Nuclear Threat

We know that when Barack Obama was a student at Columbia University, he was vocal about the issue of a nuclear threat. In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world.” He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads. The student was Barack Obama, and he was clearly trying to sort out his thoughts. In the conclusion, he denounced “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.” But his article, “Breaking the War Mentality,” which only recently has been rediscovered, said little about how to achieve the utopian dream. Less than two months after he was inaugurated as President of the United

The Nexus of Trump's Racism/Sexism: Dominance

Recently Greg Sargent posited a reason for Donald Trump's appeal among his supporters. But what if Trump’s efforts to court white backlash constitute one of the essential ingredients of his success among Republican voters? A new analysis of Washington Post/ABC News polling strongly suggests this may be the case. A Post/ABC national poll this month asked: “Which of these do you think is a bigger problem in this country — blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites, or whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics?” A large plurality of Republican respondents nationally say that the bigger problem is whites losing out, by 45-19...and it turns out that Trump supporters believe this in far larger percentages. That is something a lot of people have been noticing. There is a reason why white supremacists have embraced the candidacy of Donald Trump . Here is how one of them put it: “Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is abo

Democrats Need to Have a More Thoughtful Discussion About Trade

There is a reason why I have been saying that the Democrats need to have a more thoughtful discussion about trade. The party is not as unified on the issue as we are often led to believe. As I've written previously , the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which is overwhelmingly Democratic), endorsed TPP. The reason, as Ron Brownstein pointed out, is clear. New data released May 13 by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program helps explain the mayors’ tilt toward trade…Brookings found that fully 86 percent of U.S. exports now originate from urban areas. Moreover, exports drove more than one-quarter of all metro area economic growth from 2009-2014. Here is how Christopher Cabaldron , Mayor of West Sacramento and chair of the Mayor's Conference committee on jobs, put it: Blocking trade agreements, Cabaldon notes, won’t stop the changes powered by the unrelenting forces of technological advance and global competition. “The notion that you can just freeze your metropo

The Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice

Because of our media's fixation on superficial optics, what most Americans will hear about President Obama's time in Argentina is that he and the First Lady danced the tango at a state dinner. But for the people of Argentina, the optic in the photo above is likely to be the focus of their attention. That is because today is the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup in that country that led to the brutal massacre of approximately 20,000 people. In Argentina, this is the "Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice." To understand the significance of the photo above, you have to know that the ruling junta that came into power in 1976 organized death camps with methods that were reminiscent of the Nazi's. One of the most common of these came to be known as "death flights" where prisoners were injected with sedatives before being dropped from airplanes, still alive, into the Rio de la Plata. Today, President Obama and Argentine President Mauricio Macri paid

What Republicans Could Learn From President Obama

As I was writing this morning about the short-sightedness of establishment Republicans , it struck me that they could learn something from President Obama. What we're witnessing right now in the GOP presidential primary is a party that has been captured by its angry extremist wing. To a lesser extent, President Obama has been pressured by liberal activists. But while he shares many of their goals, he has consistently embraced a long view of how real change actually happens. One of the ways we saw this tension early on in the Obama presidency was when activists in the LGBT community became angry with him for not signing an executive order to end DADT. You might remember that some of them chained themselves to the White House fence and made headlines for telling gays and lesbians that Obama " just wasn't that into them ." What those folks missed was that this President was playing the long game. Here is how he explained it in 2013 to Franklin Foer and Chris Hughes :

President Obama's Challenge to the People of Cuba - and All of Us Here at Home

The visual in the still shot of the video above is a powerful statement on its own: The President of the United States standing in front of both the Cuban and U.S. flag speaking to the people of Cuba. Who thought something like that could happen in our lifetimes? But the words President Obama spoke were not merely symbolic - they dealt with the hard truths of reality both past and present. There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps. It’s up to you. And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection. But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas. If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential. And over time, the youth will lose hope. I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President. Before 1959, some Americ

Donald Trump is a One-Trick Pony

I suspect you've read pundits who have suggested that once Donald Trump secures the Republican nomination he'll do the proverbial pivot and become a more substantial candidate. A lot of this is based on his expertise in playing the media game. But the truth is, he's very good at playing the media "shock" game - the kind that wins ratings with things like "reality TV shows." But when it comes to actually being serious and thoughtful...not so much. If ever there was a moment when Trump should have made the kind of pivot folks talk about, it was when he sat down with the editorial board of the Washington Post . He had to know that they would go after him if he failed to perform. And yet he simply repeated all the same bluster we've been hearing from him for months. Here is how the editors summed up that meeting. As Donald Trump observed during a visit to The Post on Monday, we have been critical of his candidacy, so give him credit for agreeing to

"Capitalism Has To Be Attended To"

With all the focus on trade agreements from both the Sanders and Trump campaigns, there are a lot of issues that are being overlooked. The graph above is from an article by Ben Casselman titled: Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back . It shows that, while manufacturing output in this country has increased over the last 7 years, jobs have been slow to return. The reason: automation. Here’s the problem: Whether or not those manufacturing jobs could have been saved, they aren’t coming back, at least not most of them. How do we know? Because in recent years, factories have been coming back, but the jobs haven’t. Because of rising wages in China, the need for shorter supply chains and other factors, a small but growing group of companies are shifting production back to the U.S. But the factories they build here are heavily automated, employing a small fraction of the workers they would have a generation ago. The story Abha Bhattarai tells about Thomaston, GA is an example of what

"A Different American President"

As the Obama family continues their historic visit to Cuba, Jeffrey Goldberg relates a story from national security advisor Ben Rhodes that might have provided the moment that made the opening between our two countries possible. “The president was going to the funeral of Nelson Mandela—his personal hero—and I remember on the plane to South Africa I raised with him—we had a list of the leaders who were going to be up on the dais where he’d be speaking—and one was Raul Castro, and I said, ‘Look, inevitably it is going to come up as to whether or not you shake his hand.’” Obama’s response was not necessarily the response of a typical American president. According to Rhodes, Obama said, “‘Look, the Cubans, given their history with Mandela, with the ANC, they have a place at this event, and I’m not going to, essentially, cause an uncomfortable situation for the Mandela family, for the South African people, by snubbing the president of Cuba who has a right to be on that dais.’” The Cuba

What Happened to the Revolution?

Not too long ago, all the talk about the Democratic presidential primary focused on two issues: electability and theories of change. On the latter, the Sanders case was that he would ignite a revolution that would overthrow the monied interests that currently control both the Republican and Democratic Party establishments. Now, with Clinton's commanding lead in the popular vote as well as elected delegates, Bernie Sanders is making an interesting case for why he should stay in the race. It starts with a suggestion that the primaries are now moving into states that are more favorable to him. Here is what Sanders told Rachel Maddow last night: Well here’s the scenario. Secretary Clinton has done phenomenally well in the deep south and she has picked up a whole lot of delegates there. We are now moving beyond the south. We are moving west where we think the terrain favors us. West coast is probably the most progressive region of the united states of America. We think we have a g

"The Most Radical of Political Faiths - Democracy"

As I read the reaction from some liberals to President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, I am reminded of what Hillary Clinton wrote about Saul Alinsky in her honors thesis at Wellesley College. If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution. Ironically, this is not a disjunctive projection if considered in the tradition of Western democratic theory. In the first chapter it was pointed out that Alinsky is regarded by many as the proponent of a dangerous socio/political philosophy. As such, he has been feared — just as Eugene Debs or Walt Whitman or Martin Luther King has been feared, because each embraced the most radical of political faiths — democracy .” What many liberals were looking for in a Supreme Court nominee was someone who has a track record of supporting liberal causes. For example : The liberal grassroots group CREDO noted that “Garland’s background does not suggest he will be a progressive champion.” While that

Five Million Americans Could Get a Raise This Summer

One of the lingering issues with this country's recovery from the Great Recession has been that wages have been slow to increase. That is why Democrats have been pushing to raise the minimum wage while Republicans in Congress (and their presidential candidates) have refused to take the matter up. You might remember that in January 2014, President Obama announced his " pen and phone " strategy by which he would do what he could with executive orders and persuasion where Republicans refused to act in Congress. He opened his first Cabinet meeting that year with a request for proposals. President Barack Obama offered a brief preview Tuesday of his State of the Union address, telling his Cabinet that he won’t wait for Congress to act on key agenda items in 2014... “Overall, the message to my Cabinet, and that will be amplified in our State of the Union, is that we need all hands on deck to build on the recovery that we’re already seeing. The economy is improving but it’s

President Obama Prefers the High Ground

I certainly would have liked to see a Supreme Court nominee who is not another white male. It is also of note that Merrick Garland is 63 years old and is considered by many to be a "centrist" judge. But from everything I hear, it sounds like he is extremely well-liked and respected by people who know him and have argued cases before him. That sounds like the quintessential kind of pick for President Obama...a lawyer's lawyer. Anyone who has watched this President over the years will recognize this kind of analysis of what Garland would bring to the Supreme Court. On a circuit court known for strong-minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law. He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions. And this record on the bench speaks

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Saul Alinsky

Oftentimes when Republicans want to paint Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as a kind of threatening "other" in America, they link these two politicians to the person many consider to be the father of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. That is because Clinton wrote her honors thesis at Wellesley College on his work and Obama's first years in Chicago were spent as a community organizer with a group that based their methods on his teachings. What is almost amusing about these Republican critiques is that they avoid any description of the actual work and teachings of Alinsky and assume that simply saying his name while combining it with the words "radical community organizer" is enough to demonstrate the threat he posed. Recently a friend of mine pointed to an article by Bill Dedman that was written in 2007 after he had actually read Clinton's thesis. Perhaps Republicans would be interested in hearing what Alinsky actually believed. In her paper, she acce

From Reagan Democrat to Trump Republican

Heather Digby Parton took a look at some data from Alan I. Abramowitz, Ronald Rapoport, and Walter Stone about Trump supporters and reached a conclusion that has seemed obvious for a while now. Parton zeros in on the fact that these voters display an embrace of nativism, authoritarianism and economic populism. She adds nationalistic militarism to the list. I guess I don't really understand why this is such a mystery. This the profile of Republicans who used to be called Reagan Democrats. They've been part of the GOP coalition or more than 30 years. And their views have always been the same. Nativism/racism, authoritarian/lawandorder, nationalist/militarist, economic populists. These are blue collar white people who used to vote for Democrats until Democrats became the party of civil rights, civil liberties and anti-war protests. In other words, the party of black and brown people, gays, and feminists, globalists and critics of authoritarian police agencies and military adve

The Challenge of Trumpmania Won't End in November

Let's stipulate a couple of things. First of all, it has been pretty well established that the Republicans have long been laying the groundwork that led to a Donald Trump candidacy. Secondly, even more of a concern the man himself is the fact that so many people are lining up to support Trump in this presidential race. With that in mind, it is still not a foregone conclusion that Trump will be the Republican nominee and much less likely that, if he is, he will be elected president this November. And yet I agree completely with Leonard Pitts, this thing won't end there. Assuming his rebuke in November, the natural tendency will be to mop the brow and sigh in relief at the bullet we just dodged. This would be a mistake. Defeating Trump would not erase the forces that made him possible. As the last few years have shown, those forces, like some virulent cancer, tend to redouble after a setback and return stronger than before. You thought George W. Bush was a piece of work?

The Two Stories of America on Display in This Election

From Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with President Obama, I've already written about how he isn't enamored with " free riders " and how his foreign policy is a challenge to the Washington playbook . The president also talked about how tribalism is the root of the problem in the Middle East right now. One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father , concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts. “It is literally

Some of Us Remember When There Were Consequences to Protesting

In an attempt to justify violence by his supporters against protesters at his rallies, Donald Trump said: “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long [to kick them out] is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” Trump said during a speech at the Peabody Opera House — around 12 miles from Ferguson, Mo., the site of racially charged mass protests in 2014. “There used to be consequences. There are none anymore,” Trump said. The truth is, Donald, there are some of us who are old enough to remember those consequences. And we have NO interest in going back to those days. Birmingham, Alabama Kent State Selma, Alabama Stonewall Inn

Rubio Is Asked About Climate Change: Ignorance Ensues

I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which Marco Rubio becomes the Republican nominee. That is likely to be completely obvious if he fails to win his home-state primary in Florida on Tuesday. That's why I'm reluctant to even talk about him. But his performance in last night's debate has me scratching my head at his ignorance and/or deceit. Since the beginning, Rubio has been assumed to represent "moderate" Republicans and people have posited that he has a chance of appealing to young people - perhaps simply because of his age. But at last night's debate, he was finally asked to talk about climate change, something that is of great importance to young people. And it's hard to overstate how ignorant his response was. For example, how about this whopper: But as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there's no such thing. That misses on so many levels for such a short sentence! Of course there's "no such thi

Obama's Challenge to the Washington Playbook

President Obama said something to Jeffrey Goldberg that strikes me as critically important to understanding the way he has defined his approach to foreign policy. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence. He made that statement when addressing the critique some have made that - by invading Crimea and engaging militarily in Syria - Vladimir Putin is gaining credibility on the world stage. But Obama's statement is also a direct challenge to what he calls the "Washington playbook." “Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be

President Obama Doesn't Like "Free Riders"

Over the course of Obama's presidency, no one has done a better job of digging deep into his thoughts and strategy on foreign policy than Jeffrey Goldberg. There was the interview in March of 2012 that focused on the President's relationship with Iran and Israel and laid out his thinking on a strategy to negotiate with the former on ending their nuclear weapons program. One of the things I noticed from that interview is that this President prefers a strategy to co-opt his adversaries rather than an attempt to dominate and/or defeat them. That is where many of us see the influence of his Asian background . In May 2015 , Goldberg published a report on his interview with President Obama following the announcement of the Iran agreement. But perhaps the most powerful segment came in the President's heartfelt empathy with the Jewish people. Now today, the Atlantic cover story is an article about President Obama's foreign policy based on several interviews Goldber