The Obama Administration

John Boehner Already Making Excuses For His Failure

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
It only took a couple of days before John Boehner made clear that when it comes to his approach to legislating in the wake of the Republicans' victory in the midterms, absolutely nothing has changed. All that talk about "getting things done" and "showing they can govern"? Forget about it. In his press conference the day after the election, President Obama got asked about immigration reform and repeated what he's been saying all along—that if Congress doesn't pass anything, he'll take some (as yet undisclosed) actions based on executive authority. He also noted for the umpteenth time that the Senate already passed a reform bill, one that included lots of gettin'-tough provisions demanded by Republicans, which Boehner refused to bring to a vote in the House even though it would have passed. He also emphasized that if Congress does pass a bill, it would supplant whatever executive actions he might take, so taking some executive actions might provide a nice inducement for them to do...

The Next Attempt By Republicans to Mislead On the Affordable Care Act

Mitch McConnell is deeply concerned about these women. (Flickr/Swampler)
If you were paying close attention, you would have heard a new phrase being repeated by Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell, over the last few days: "restore the 40-hour workweek." You may have said, "Wait, is the workweek not 40 hours anymore?" If you had no idea what McConnell is talking about—and I'm pretty sure he's hoping very few people do—it sounds like he's advocating some kind of pro-worker initiative. And indeed, that's how he and John Boehner put it in their op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal , saying that one of the top items on their agenda is to "restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010." Now we're getting closer. The government, with that damn Obamacare, is cutting your hours and pay! As Boehner put it , we have to "restore the 40-hour workweek for American workers that was undone by Obamacare." Since we're...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Top 5 Senate Races Where Dark Money and Outside Spending Ran Wild

Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever.

Shutterstock.com
This article has been corrected. G et ready for a week of pundits making claims of just what was proven by the results of the 2014 midterm elections. But one thing is already quite clear: Money is indeed a deciding factor. Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever. Much of that money was used by non-profit issue groups for what is known as “outside spending”—meaning money used for advertising and other forms of communication ostensibly to support an issue, but most often an issue that is framed in such a way to lend support to the group’s favored candidate. (These are the ads that often say something like: “Call Senator X and tell him to stop [supporting some allegedly terrible thing].") The 2014 cycle also shows how effectively outside spending groups can sway elections: When conservative groups outspend liberal groups (and sometimes even when they don’t), conservative candidates win. North Carolina,...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

What We Talk About When We Talk About a Republican Senate

Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there's going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I'm ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it's just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there's a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for. For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn't catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we're likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place. This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine...

U.S. Supreme Court Could Decide Nation Status of Jerusalem

United States policy on the disputed city is illogical—for pragmatic reasons. The Supreme Court shouldn't interfere.

(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Israelis dance and wave national flags during the Jerusalem Day march on May 28, 2014, in a celebration marking the "unification" of Jerusalem after Israel took the city's east side from Jordan during the Six Days War in 1967. M y children were born in Jerusalem—to be precise, in West Jerusalem. As dual citizens, they each have an Israeli passport and an American one. In the Israeli documents, their birthplace is listed as Israel. On their U.S. passports, on the line for place of birth, "Jerusalem" appears instead of the name of a country. They applied for their passports at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem—which, unusually enough, is not under the auspices of an embassy but reports directly to Washington. The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as being a de jure part of any country. Occasionally, I get a chuckle out of the absurdity of this policy. But then, I think of the pride and wonder that my great-...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

Barack Obama, the Veto-Less President

This chart and more can be yours if you click inside.
If the Republicans take over the Senate in this year's election, as now looks likely, one thing seems certain: President Obama will be issuing a lot of vetoes in the next two years. Or maybe not over the whole two years, but certainly at first. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006, there would be an initial spasm of pointless legislating , as they set about to fulfill the promises they've made over the course of Obama's presidency: repealing the Affordable Care Act, slashing environmental protections, cutting taxes, establishing "the Reagan" as the new currency to replace the dollar, and so on. The prospect of future veto fights highlights an extraordinary fact: Obama has issued fewer vetoes than any president in modern (and even not-so-modern) American history. He has vetoed a grand total of two bills: the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, which had to do with home foreclosures , and a continuing resolution that had...

Did Austerity Abet the Ebola Crisis?

A conversation with Terry O'Sullivan, an expert in the dynamics of catastrophic disease outbreaks, on the high human cost of cutbacks to public-health funding.

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) Licensed clinician Hala Fawal practices drawing blood from a patient using a dummy on Monday, October 6, 2014, in Anniston, Alabama. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an introductory training course for licensed clinicians. According to the CDC, the course is to ensure that clinicians intending to provide medical care to patients with Ebola have sufficient knowledge of the disease. T erry O'Sullivan is a professor of political science at the University of Akron. His research focuses on "the risk and dynamics of catastrophic infectious diseases threats from naturally occurring infectious disease outbreaks such as influenza and SARS, and from biological terrorism." In this special podcast (transcript below) from Politics and Reality Radio , O'Sullivan makes two important points in his conversation with host Joshua Holland: First, Ebola poses a minimal threat to a country like the United States, with a functional health-care...

Whether Lies or B.S., Netanyahu's Interviews Pose Special Challenges for Journalists

The storyline and most of the details of a tale told by the Israeli prime minister on American television were deliberately untrue.

Face The Nation/CBS News
Face the Nation/CBS News Benjamin Netanyau, prime minister of Israel, is interviewed by Bob Schieffer of CBS News on the October 5, 2014, edition of Face the Nation . A journalist colleague in Jerusalem sent me a link to the prime minister of our land speaking to a faraway audience on CBS News’s Face the Nation . She expected the video clip to make me laugh and choke at the same time. She was right. It also made me think of philosopher Harry Frankfurt's immortal essay , "On Bullshit," because the unavoidable question, while watching Benjamin Netanyahu responding to White House criticism of settlement activity in Jerusalem, was whether he was deliberately speaking untruths, or was spinning words with absolutely no concern about whether they were true or not. As Frankfurt demonstrated, this is the difference between lying and bullshitting. (Understand that I follow Frankfurt in using the latter word strictly as a philosophical category. In contrast to the New York Times , therefore, the...

More Trade Agreements Won't Fix the Mess Made by Austerity

Even T-TIP's supporters know it will have little more than a trivial effect on growth.

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) A demonstrator holds a banner in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, October 11, 2014. The demonstration was one of many across Europe against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post. T he U.S. economy is growing slowly and Europe's hardly at all. The stock market lurch last week is a belated acknowledgement that our two economies share a common affliction, and Europe suffers more seriously. The affliction is austerity. And yet the main remedy being promoted by the U.S. government and its European allies is a trade and investment deal known as T-TIP, which stands for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. According to the deal's sponsors, T-TIP would help stimulate recovery by removing barriers to trade and promoting regulatory convergence and hence investment. The proposed deal is not popular in the U.S. Congress, which has to approve negotiating authority...

Sex, Lies and the Secret Service

MSNBC
Paul Waldman talks with MSNBC's Chris Hayes about the likelihood that someone either in or close to the Secret Service leaked the story of a White House volunteer's alleged dalliance with a sex worker in Cartagena while working advance for President Barack Obama's visit there in 2012—and the implications of a rift between the president's staff and the people sworn to protect his very life.

Why Your New iPhone Has Law Enforcement In a Tizzy

Apple’s move won’t lead to terrorist attacks or unsolved kidnappings; it will simply make FBI investigators’ jobs a bit harder.

iStock/07-12-09 © billyfoto
07-12-09 © billyfoto T he debut of a new iPhone is always big news, but this time it’s surrounded by unusual controversy. That’s because the iPhone6 automatically encrypts the phone’s contents. Decrypting requires a code that the user sets and does not share with Apple—which means that, if the FBI orders Apple to turn over data kept on the customer’s phone, the company will produce data that amount to “gibberish” (as the New York Times reported ). The FBI then will have to decrypt the data—a process that could take years—or try to compel the user to reveal the code. FBI director James Comey responded with outrage, claiming that companies like Apple are “marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” Other law enforcement officials have made similar pronouncements. Yet the law doesn’t give the government any right to the contents of your phone. It’s more accurate to say that, in recent years, the advent of widespread third-party data storage has...

Why President Obama Can't Get Any Love From the Public On the Economy

White House photo by Pete Souza.
One common axiom about presidential popularity is that presidents get more credit than they deserve for the good times and more blame than they deserve for the bad times. But Barack Obama is probably wondering why he can't get any credit at all. Today job numbers for the month of September were released, and the news looks excellent: 248,000 jobs were created, and the unemployment rate is now 5.9 percent. Since Steve Benen regularly updates his chart on job growth during the Obama administration, we'll use his : That looks pretty good. In fact, we've now had 55 consecutive months of private sector job growth, the longest stretch on record (weirdly, that job-killing Obamacare hasn't actually killed all the jobs). But now let's look at another chart, this one from Huffpost Pollster : Not so good! Not good at all, in fact. Obama crossed from net approval to disapproval in October 2009, and never got back into positive territory. The latest polls have his approval on the economy at around...

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