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Why the Cuba Issue Will Not Help Marco Rubio Become President

Yeah, maybe not so much.
At least publicly, Republicans have been nearly unanimous in their condemnation of the Obama administration's decision to normalize relations with Cuba. In and of itself this isn't surprising, given their party's long history of vigorous anti-communism and the fact that this move was taken by Barack Obama, which makes it wrong by definition. As I wrote over at the Post this morning, the presidential contenders in particular are trapped by their older voters, for whom the Cold War is a living thing, not something they read about in history class. For decades, opposition to communism was one of the key pillars of conservative identity, and so for them doing something that feels in any way like being nice to Castro is tantamount to raising taxes or changing your position on abortion. But nobody was as outraged yesterday as the cherubic Marco Rubio: "Absurd," the Republican called the Cuba plans during a spot on Fox News, one of more than a dozen television appearances he made Wednesday...

Barack Obama, Set Free

President Obama on the phone yesterday with Cuban president Raul Castro. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
Here's a little blast from the recent past, a meeting of the minds between Bill O'Reilly and Brit Hume in October 2013: O'Reilly asked Hume, "Is he just not interested? Is he bored with it? Is it deniability?" Hume said that unlike some past presidents, Obama is "not a micromanager" and prefers to rely on others. O'Reilly charged that right now, Obama's performance is so bad, he's in "major trouble on the history front" and has to be "in the bottom ten" in a ranking of all the U.S. presidents. This was a major theme in conservative and not-so-conservative media for quite some time: Obama is passive, he's bored, he just doesn't care anymore, he's like a senior two weeks from graduation who just can't wait to get it over with. Here's a piece from June by Ron Fournier passing on complaints about Obama from anonymous Democrats, including "his disengagement from the political process and from the public." "He's bored and tired of being president," Fournier cites one as saying. Not long...

Is Barack Obama's Revival On the Way?

White House photo by Pete Souza
Is Barack Obama about to have a revival? Peter Beinart argued the other day that he is, for three reasons: his actions on immigration have improved his standing among Hispanics, the economy is picking up steam, and there's a natural swing of the pendulum in press coverage as reporters tire of writing the current story after a while and look for change and new developments. An Obama comeback would fit the bill. I think Beinart is probably right, and the economy is the main reason; it swamps every other consideration in evaluating the president. We could have some major shock that upends the momentum it has been gaining, but if things proceed for the next two years on the trajectory they're on, the Obama presidency will be one of the best for job creation in recent history. But it's also important to understand that an Obama revival, should it happen, is going to look different than that of other presidents. Among recent two-term presidents, George W. Bush left office with approval...

Policy Shop

Policy as if people mattered

Brinksmanship and the Return of Financial Crisis

A government shutdown once again loomed, and familiar deadlines and ultimatums flew around Washington. And Congress just used the threat to loosen the rules created in the wake of the financial crisis, a victory for Wall Street banks in their constant and well-funded campaign against reform. The rules they have targeted are designed to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown, like the one that drove us into the Great Recession and could have been much worse. Though the repeal has been styled by some as a technical amendment, nothing could be farther from the truth. Think about the best way to decide legislative policy in the devilishly complex and risk-laden area of derivatives. These are the financial contracts that brought down AIG, the event that triggered the crisis. You might imagine careful deliberation and debate, leading to a thoughtful vote in Congress in which elected representatives must stand up and be counted so that they could be held responsible for a difficult...

A Modest Proposal: The Universal Christmas Bonus

Wikimedia Commons/Square87
L ast year, Paul Ryan passed along this made up story: This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. Insofar as the point of this story is to push against free lunches in school, it's obviously a rather craven sentiment. The opponents and critics of free school lunch are an odd bunch. They seem to think it's basically alright to send over 90 percent of children to these big welfare programs called public schools, but that feeding them while they are at these welfare schools is over the line. It's not hard to see what's going on: public school is so commonplace and nearly...

Detroit Moves to the Next Phase

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
The largest municipal bankruptcy in history has come to a close in Detroit after a year of proceedings, ending in a flurry of compromise. Yet there was plenty of conflict in the last year, far more than could have been predicted. In November 2013, Detroit became the largest city in the country to file for bankruptcy. When the proceedings started, the negotiation of the settlement—and that is really what the bankruptcy became—was a discussion between an emergency manager, from a law firm dedicated to the financial sector, and the financial sector. The people tried to get a seat at the table, but the emergency manager had a monopoly on the information and for the first four months of the process his was the only story available. The people were long on outrage and short on evidence. That all changed when the public became empowered to express its views based on data and analysis. Raw emotion and outrage was the most important factor, but engaging on the issues was essential as a way...