Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

Why The California Tenure Decision Is Wrong and Will Hurt Disadvantaged Students

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. E arlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Rolf Michael Treu held that California's teacher tenure system violated the state constitution. Treu's June 10 decision in Vergara v. California has been widely praised by education "reformers," up to and including President Barack Obama's worst cabinet...

Back to the Land

Flickr/Michael Wifall
Today the Pew Research Center released a gigantic and fascinating report on increasing levels of political polarization in America, and while many people will be picking over the data, there's one particular thing I want to point to. One of the questions they asked was this: "If you could live anywhere in the United States that you wanted to, would you prefer a city, a suburban area, a small town or a rural area?" The results were stark: Everyone has their preferences, of course. But I find it remarkable that a full 76 percent of consistently conservative respondents say they'd rather live in a rural area or a small town, as do 66 percent of those who are mostly conservative. And only a tiny 4 percent of the consistently conservative said they'd like to live in a city. Among Republicans as a whole , 34 percent said they'd prefer to live in a rural area, and another 31 percent in small towns. So my question is, what's stopping them? If you want to move to someplace in the middle of...

Why Republicans Hate Their Leaders: Eric Cantor Edition

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
T here have been a lot of analyses of What Eric Cantor's Loss Means in the last 36 hours, all of which run the risk of over-generalizing from one off-year primary election in one particular district. But as I've said before, the internal conflict within the Republican Party is the defining political dynamic of this period in history, and it's as good an opportunity as any to assess its latest quivers and quakes. As a liberal, I'm at something of a disadvantage when examining this conflict, because although I can look at what conservatives do and what they say publicly, I don't have access to the things they say when they talk to each other. So it's always good to hear from those who do and can remind the rest of us of what conservatives are actually feeling. Sean Trende offers an important perspective : First, analysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I've...

Four Fundamental Econ Facts Missed By Economist Cantor-Slayer David Brat

AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch
AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch Dave Brat speaks to hundreds of supporters after beating Republican Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, June 10, 2014. O n MSNBC Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked David Brat, the Eric-Cantor-slayer, Ayn Rand acolyte, and chairman of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College, about his viewpoint on the minimum wage. Here’s their exchange: TODD: S hould there be a minimum wage in your opinion? BRAT: I don't have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example— children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can't assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage...

Should We Be Concerned About Privatization of the V.A.?

Flickr/Coast Guard
Yesterday, the House passed a bill to address problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs on a 421-0 vote, a kind of unanimity usually reserved for resolutions honoring astronauts or declaring Necrotic Hangnail Awareness Week. The Senate's version is likely to be voted on in the next couple of days. It happened because of some features of this particular scandal : that both sides sincerely wanted to fix the problem, and that the opportunities for demagoguery were limited. While the bill has a number of provisions including steps to replace the outdated intake system and to hire more doctors and nurses, the one most directly intended to address the backlog of patients would allow veterans who haven't been able to get an appointment, or who live 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, to get care at private medical providers. Is this something for liberals to be worried about? Since we embrace nuance here at the Prospect , the answer is: maybe. It's important to remember that...

Beth Schwartzapfel Wins Sidney Award for Prospect's Prison Labor Exposé

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which "honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good," bestowed its monthly Sidney Award for June on Beth Schwartzapfel, author of The American Prospect magazine's longform investigation of prison labor, " The Great American Chain Gang ," in our May/June issue. "[E]xcluding prisoners from employment statistics skews our picture of unemployment," Schwartzapfel tells Lindsay Beyerstein of the Hillman Foundation, in an interview at the foundation's website. "If you include prisoners, and count them as unemployed, the already-dismal employment rate of young black men without a college education plummets fifteen percentage points, from 65 percent to 50 percent. I was—and still am—stunned by this information. But then I thought, wait a minute: Inmates aren't really jobless. It's just that no one is counting their jobs. " Schwartzapfel's exposé was assigned and edited by executive editor Bob Moser. "Beth is one of the finest criminal-justice...

Eric Cantor Defeated and Nothing Changes -- Not Even Prospects for Immigration Reform

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia listens at right as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Cantor lost his congressional primary to David Brat, a political newcomer backed by Tea Party groups, among which Cantor was once popular. J ust a few weeks ago, I described the Tea Party challenge to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as "pesky," because that's what it seemed like—unpleasant for Cantor, but ultimately futile. Well it turned out to be something more, as Cantor lost his primary yesterday to the colorfully named David Brat, a professor at Randolph Macon College. As of their FEC filings in the middle of May , Brat had spent $122,793, while Cantor had spent $5,026,626, or over 40 times as much . Brat won easily, which can happen when you have a low-turnout primary in which angry people are more likely to turn out than contented people. But since the second-highest-...

Republican Rhetoric and Right-Wing Terrorism: 10 Troubling Incidents

Flickr/Andrew Partain
On Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller killed two Las Vegas police officers and a shopper at a nearby Walmart, then took their own lives. When authorities investigated, they found that the two were likely motivated by their hatred of government. " There is no doubt that the suspects have an ideology that's along the lines of militia and white supremacists," said an assistant sheriff on Monday. After shooting the officers, they draped the bodies with Gadsden flags; the Millers had also spent time at the standoff at the Bundy ranch. Yesterday, I asked in a piece at the Washington Post how much the hyperbolic rhetoric of which we've heard so much from so many on the right in recent years contributes to creating an atmosphere in which this kind of violence becomes more likely. After hearing some reactions and having a little more time to think about it, I have some more to add. But first, what I said was that the problem isn't just the violent rhetoric we sometimes hear from the likes of...

The American Prospect Continues

When we started The American Prospect with Robert Reich in 1990, our aim was to foster a “plausible and persuasive liberalism” by bringing together journalists and scholars into a public conversation about the future of American society and politics. In nearly 25 years, the Prospect has undergone numerous changes both in print and online, but as we return to a more direct role than we have had in recent years, the Prospect ’s mission remains the same—cultivating the ideas and the reporting needed to help build a democratic politics and a decent society. We are committed to keeping the Prospect as a strong and vital voice, both as a magazine (in both print and digital forms) and as a website. The magazine will continue its blend of analytical essays and deeply reported articles on politics, economics, and culture. The website will continue with fresh material to be updated daily. We will maintain our writing fellows program, which has helped to launch the careers of many of the best...

Why the GOP Is the Party of Creative Thinking

Flickr/opensource.com
Over the weekend, Republicans in Virginia pulled off an extraordinary feat. Faced with a state senate deadlocked at 20-20 and a battle with Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe over whether to accept the expansion of Medicaid, they apparently persuaded a Democratic senator from a conservative district to retire, thus giving them a majority and making it even less likely that McAuliffe will be able to get 400,000 low-income Virginians health insurance. And all it took was delivering a couple of jobs : RICHMOND — Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy...

Twelve Years Later, Hillary Clinton Still Struggles to Explain Her Iraq War Vote

Flickr/Marc Nozell
Back in 2002, many liberals (myself included) thought that all the Democrats who voted for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq did so out of a simple craven fear of being tarred as soft on terror, not because they actually believed Iraq was a terrible threat to the United States. Whether that is true of Hillary Clinton is something we'll never know, but when she ran for president in 2008, she struggled mightily to explain her vote in favor of the war. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was pure in voters' eyes on this question—not only hadn't he been in Congress to vote on it, he had opposed it as a state senator. I'm guessing that Clinton didn't expect she'd have to revisit this question over and over as she approached a 2016 presidential run, but with Iraq now mired in a new civil war (can we call it that yet?), it's coming up again. And yesterday, she gave this answer to a question about when she decided to finally declare her vote for the war to be a mistake: I...

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