Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Can the U.S. Stop Drones From Creating a More Dangerous World?

A drone launches from the USS Lassen (U.S. Navy photo)
In an op-ed in today's Washington Post , retired Army general John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official, warn that "[t]he United States' drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent—one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit." Their argument, which comes from a report they produced for the Stimson Center together with a task force of former defense and intelligence officials, is essentially that unmanned aerial vehicles make the use of lethal force across borders too easy, and we need to establish strict policies limiting their use. True enough. But the question I'm left with is, how much will the United States' policies really determine the worldwide future of drones and their use? Before we get to that, we should acknowledge that President Obama has declared his intention to establish rules restraining his own and future presidents' use of drones. In...

In Dramatic Pointless Gesture, Boehner to Sue Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress to discuss the fiscal cliff and a balanced approach to the debt limit and deficit reduction, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 16, 2012. Participants included: House Speaker John Boehner at left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling. P retty much since the moment Barack Obama finished speaking the oath of office in January 2009, Republicans have been charging that he was abusing his power, exceeding his authority and acting like a tyrant. You might remember that for a time in those early days, conservatives (led by Glenn Beck) were obsessed with the idea that Obama had appointed a group of "czars" who were wielding unaccountable power...

Important 4th Amendment Victory on Warrants and Smart Phones

Wikipedia:Upload/Flickr
Last year, there was a split between state and federal appellate courts on the question of whether the mobile phones of people being arrested can be searched without a warrant. The California Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not require a warrant for searches of mobile phones incident to a lawful arrest. In another case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Today, the Supreme Court sided clearly and convincingly with the latter: "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is ...simple—get a warrant." This is a significant victory for the Fourth Amendment. Warrantless searches are presumptively considered "unreasonable" under the Fourth Amendment, but there are some exceptions to this general rule. One of these excpetions pertains to arrests. Typically, the police are permitted to conduct a warrantless search of a suspect's person during an arrest. As I argued earlier this year , however, there is...

Thad Cochran Runoff: For Once, Republican Outreach Works

Flickr/Sparky
For some time now, Republicans have expressed a desire to "reach out" to voters who aren't the prototypical Republican. If their party is made up almost entirely of white Christians, and largely older white Christians at that, they can continue to win congressional elections but have no hope of winning the White House any time soon in a country that grows less white and less Christian by the day. Well, yesterday we had an example of a Republican successfully reaching out to voters who aren't traditionally Republican. Sen. Thad Cochran, who has been in Congress approximately since mastodons roamed the Gulf Coast, won his runoff election against angry Tea Partier Chris McDaniel in part by convincing Democrats to vote for him in the run-off election. And in Mississippi, Democrats means black voters (in 2008, the last presidential election for which we have Mississippi exit poll data, 88 percent of the state's whites voted for John McCain). So we had the rather unusual spectacle of a...

Annals of Hillary-Hating: What's Wrong With Ambition?

Flickr/Paxson Woelber
If I asked you to describe the things you dislike about a prominent politician from the other party, you could surely come up with a long list, and "I disagree with him on issues" would be only one. You'd doubtless be able to describe a series of character flaws and disturbing tendencies that could in theory could apply to even members of your own party. But certain traits that we sometimes associate with politicians generally—pathological ambition, dishonesty, ruthlessness—we almost always ascribe to the those in the other party, while forgiving them in those who seek the same goals we do. To a degree, that's natural and almost everyone does it. But it becomes analytically problematic when you convince yourself that everything a particular politician does or says is a lie, nothing they say can be taken at face value, and their every motivation is dark and sinister. For instance, here's something Charles Krauthammer, who gets more admiration for his intelligence and insight from his...

What President Obama Could Do Today to Help Working Families

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day, in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post . O n Monday, the White House held a summit on working families. The summit is intended to call attention to the fact that President Barack Obama wants to raise wages and job opportunities for working Americans, especially for working women. This is a welcome initiative, though there is a great deal that the president could do by executive order without waiting for a deadlocked Congress to act. The grotesque income inequality in our economy has at last some in for some overdue attention. For the vast majority of working Americans, there is only one source of income -- wages and salaries. Since the late 1970s, earnings for most working people have been flat, while the economy's productivity and the pay of...

Supreme Court Hampers EPA on Greenhouse Gases But It Could Have Been Worse

Photograph by Joseph E.B. Elliot/Library of Congress
Today, the Supreme Court failed to release almost all of the term's outstanding opinions for another day (or two, or three.) But it did issue an opinion dealing with the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with one the most pressing problems facing the world: climate change. Justice Scalia's opinion unnecessarily restricts the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, but the opinion could have been much worse. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency does deal with a real issue in the Clean Air Act. The act calls for the EPA to require permits from stationary sources that emitted between 100 and 250 tons or more per year of a pollutant covered by the act. In the context of carbon emissions, however, the quantities produced are much greater than for the typical pollutant, which would turn a statutory provision intended to exclude minor sources of pollution into a requirement to regulate these relatively small sources. Sensibly, the EPA...

Hillary Clinton Gets Tripped Up By the Blue-Collar Imperative

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Steven Senne HiIlary Rodham Clinton holds a copy of her new book "Hard Choices," at the start of a book signing at Harvard Book Store, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. W e—and by "we" I mean both journalists and voters—ask politicians to do and say a lot of preposterous things. But few are as absurd as the requirement that every candidate, no matter who they actually are, pretend to be a regular fella or gal. Sure, she may walk with the wealthy and powerful now, but rest assured, she grew up amidst the common people, so she understands their travails. Not only that, she retains her love of the simple pleasures enjoyed by all—woe be to the candidate who sips wine or takes in a classical music concert instead of downing a Bud and watching football. If she is actually wealthy, the candidate must wear that wealth so lightly you barely know it's there. Any mention of it must be accompanied by a furious denial that she is actually one of those snooty rich people who do...

How Many Gun Deaths Are There In Your State?

Your charty goodness is inside.
Since Washington is a fetid swamp of moral compromise and soul-sucking humidity, my family and I sometimes debate where we might go if we decided to move elsewhere. One of the possibilities that comes up is Colorado, since we have friends there and the state features lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. But I'm given pause by the fact that Colorado seems to have more than its share of gun massacres, and even if statistically speaking they aren't something to spend too much time worrying about, it's natural to have it weigh on your mind. Americans increasingly want to live around people who think like them , and that can extend beyond political beliefs to politically-tinged behaviors, particularly those meant to terrify people who have opinions different from yours. Like many a bleeding-heart liberal, I'd prefer to be able to stop in at my local Target and not have to share my shopping experience with a bunch of nutballs toting AR-15s . Call me crazy. If you're considering a...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Schweitzer #FAIL: Live By Authenticity, Die by Authenticity

Authenticity, thy name is bolo tie. (Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
Did former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer's presidential ambitions just go down the tubes? I've been criticizing the press' focus on "gaffes" for a long time , but there are some things that, once you say them, are hard to put behind you. Schweitzer, who has always been known for being unfiltered, invited National Journal reporter Marin Cogan up to his house in Montana , and the result was rather interesting: This was the week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency's treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. Schweitzer is incredulous that Feinstein—considered by her critics to be too close to the intelligence community—was now criticizing the agency. "She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, 'I'm a nun,' when it comes to this spying!" he says. Then, he adds, quickly, "I mean, maybe...

Should We Listen to Those Who Were Wrong on Iraq in 2002?

Dick and Liz Cheney announcing their new pro-strength organization.
Last week, I wrote a post over at the Washington Post expressing amazement that so many of the people who were so spectacularly wrong on Iraq in 2002 are now returning to tell us what we should do about Iraq in 2014. While it went out under the headline "On Iraq, let's ignore those who got it all wrong," I didn't actually argue specifically that they should be ignored, just that we shouldn't forget their track records when we hear them now (although I did allow that seeking out John McCain's opinion on Iraq is like getting lost and deciding that Mr. Magoo is the person you need to ask for directions). Then yesterday, after Dick Cheney popped up with a predictably tendentious criticism of Barack Obama, I wrote another post on the topic of our former vice president, and here I did get a little more explicit about how his opinions should be greeted, after running through some of his more appalling howlers: There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz,...

Weak Weakling Continues Weak Policies of Weakness

Flickr/National Guard
Conservatives are struggling to get over their disappointment that the Obama administration captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, but don't think they can't come up with another way to argue that Barack Obama is screwing everything up. If there's one thing they're certain of, it's that Obama is weak, and while until this weekend he was too weak to nab Khattala, now he's too weak to do what needs to be done with him. I'm pretty sure many on the right really wish we could torture Khattala, even if you can't say that in polite company anymore. In the absence of that, they'll demand that we take Khattala to Guantanamo, where presumably he will spill what he knows forthwith. Marco Rubio demanded that we "immediately" transfer him to Guantanamo. " In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence," said the senator, apparently under the impression that...

Why Are the Democrats So Unified?

This is not a mass movement. (Flickr/cool revolution)
Although you may not have heard about it yet, some people on the left are trying to organize opposition to military action in Iraq. Democracy for America, the group started by Howard Dean, is starting a lobbying campaign against any action. MoveOn has told its members to share a statement saying: "President Obama should reject the use of military force in Iraq, including air strikes. We must not be dragged back into yet another war." CREDO has gathered 80,000 signatures on a "Don't Bomb Iraq" petition . It's safe to say that if the White House is even aware of this organizing, they are utterly unconcerned about it. It's partly the old story of mainstream Democrats paying no attention to their left flank unless it's to dismiss it. (As the aphorism has it, Republicans fear their base while Democrats hate their base.) But it's also an indicator of a phenomenon that hasn't gotten as much attention as it should: the extraordinary unity of the Democratic coalition at this point in history...

Beware Simple Solutions On Iraq

The aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad. (Flickr/Salam Pax)
With the situation in Iraq growing more grave by the hour, we're going to be hearing a lot from the gang of cretins who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who will now be emerging to tell us that it was all a splendid American victory until Barack Obama came along and screwed the whole thing up. (I can't wait to see what Bill Kristol has to say when he appears on ABC's This Week on Sunday.) More than anyone else, we'll be hearing endlessly from President McCain, a man so uninformed he is unaware that ISIS, the group now controlling large parts of the country, is not actually the same thing as Al Qaeda. ("Al Qaeda is now the richest terrorist organization in history," he said after ISIS raided the bank in Mosul.) But reporters and TV bookers are beating a path to his door, so important is it that the American people hear his wise counsel. If there's one thing you should keep in mind as this develops, it's that anyone who says there's a simple solution to the problem of Iraq is...

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