Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ten Arguments Gun Advocates Make, and Why They're Wrong

Flickr/SpecialKRB
There has been yet another mass shooting, something that now seems to occur on a monthly basis. Every time another tragedy like this occurs, gun advocates make the same arguments about why we can't possibly do anything to restrict the weaponization of our culture. Here's a guide to what they'll be saying in the coming days: 1. Now isn't the time to talk about guns. We're going to hear this over and over, and not just from gun advocates; Jay Carney said it to White House reporters today. But if we're not going to talk about it now, when are we going to talk about it? After Sandy hit the East Coast, no one said, "Now isn't the time to talk about disaster preparedness; best leave that until it doesn't seem so urgent." When there's a terrorist attack, no one says, "Now isn't the time to talk about terrorism." Now is exactly the time. 2. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Maybe, but people with guns kill many, many more people than they would if they didn't have guns, and guns...

Obama, Crying

White House
While plenty of people criticized President Barack Obama’s speech yesterday—“I react not as a President, but as anybody else would—as a parent"—I was less bothered by what he said than I was relieved by what he did: choke up, take a minute to gather himself and, through the rest of the press conference, wipe back tears. Of course, I thought. Crying is the appropriate response to have to a day like this. Mia Farrow tweeted that it was the first time she’d seen an American president cry, and she might be right. It’s a significant step. In most of politics, and most of public life, we’ve been taught that emotion is the opposite of reason, that our feelings will cloud our judgment, and that the last thing an American president should ever do is trade swagger for sentiment. It was this view of emotion, of course, that helped justify the barring of women from public office. She just can’t handle it, was the refrain. The view of women as inherently more emotional than men is one feminists...

Why Obama Needs to Be More than a Parent Today

When an event like today's mass shooting in Newtown happens, there are words we hear over and over, like "unbelievable" and "unthinkable," as people struggle to find a way to describe the horror of what has occurred. But the truth is that what happened today isn't unthinkable at all. In fact, no one is surprised when such shootings happen, because something like it—perhaps not with quite as many killed, and perhaps with the victims not children—happens so often in America that we are barely surprised when the news brings another one. A few relevant facts: Six of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have occurred within the past five years. The vast majority of the world's worst mass shootings have taken place in the United States. There have been 65 mass shootings since Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2009. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Illinois' ban on concealed handguns is unconstitutional. On Wednesday, a masked man entered a Portland, Oregon...

Rice Takes Herself Out

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Here is the lead of The New York Times' two-column front-page story today: Washington—President Obama knew before he picked up the phone on Thursday afternoon what Susan E. Rice, his ambassador to the United Nations, was calling about: she wanted to take herself out of the running for secretary of state and spare him a fight. Really ? Are you kidding? I have no inside sources, but this just not how things work. Does Times reporter Landler truly think that President Obama left this decision to Rice? More likely, the president and his political strategists and vote counters have been agonizing for weeks about whether a good dogfight with Republicans over Rice’s confirmation would be a net plus or a net minus. Ultimately, they decided it was better to get someone else. If Obama really did leave this to Rice herself, he is even more of a wuss than his worst detractors contend. Landler continues in the second paragraph: By acceding to Ms Rice’s request, which she had conveyed to White...

Hillary's Burden

Hillary Clinton is basking in the warm glow of public affection. Her approval ratings have risen steadily since the 2008 campaign ended, and now stand at around 65 percent. She has gotten high marks from members of both parties for her work as Secretary of State. So naturally, since she'll be stepping down soon, speculation has begun about whether she'll run for president. I could add one more uninformed guess about whether she'll run, but what's the point? Nobody knows right now, maybe not even Clinton herself. One thing's for sure: 2016 is her last chance. She'll be 69 on election day, as old as Reagan was when he was first elected. But she's smart enough to know that the current esteem she enjoys will be cut back severely the instant she becomes a candidate. As Nate Silver has detailed , over the years her approval ratings have gone up and down in direct relation to how close she has been to the battle of partisan politics. It's also tempting to forget, when looking at her today,...

Drinking the Deficit-Reduction Kool-Aid

It was the centerpiece of the president’s re-election campaign. Every time Republicans complained about trillion-dollar deficits, he and other Democrats would talk jobs. That’s what Americans care about—jobs with good wages. And that’s part of why Obama and the Democrats were victorious on Election Day. It seems forever ago, but it’s worth recalling that President Obama won re-election by more than 4 million votes, a million more than George W. Bush when he was re-elected—and an Electoral College majority of 332 to Romney’s 206, again larger than Bush’s electoral majority over Kerry in 2004 (286 to 251). The Democratic caucus in the Senate now has 55 members (up from 53), and Republicans have eight fewer seats in the House than before. So why, exactly, is Washington back to obsessing about budget deficits? Why is almost all the news coming out of our nation’s capital about whether the Democrats or Republicans have the best plan to reduce the budget deficit? Why are we back to...

The Case for "Four More Years"

AP Photo/Jerome Delay
AP Photo/Jerome Delay President Barack Obama and wife Michelle hold hands with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill following Obama's victory speech to supporters. I t’s the policy idea that just won’t die, and seems to reanimate whenever legislators have run out of substantive issues to push. Case in point: Last week’s appallingly thin op-ed by 2016 hopeful Bobby Jindal , which argues that “structural reforms” are needed to get the United States back on the right path, and suggests term limits as one of, well, two structural reforms that would do the trick (the other is a multi-part budget plan). Term limits for Congress, whatever its utility in chasing after the Republican nomination for president, is still an absolutely terrible idea on the merits. To begin with, the idea that Congress is in desperate need of new blood is ridiculous. As it happens, we’ve been in a cycle of considerable change for some time now, with “wave” elections strongly favoring one party in 2006, 2008,...

Joe Lieberman Does Not Deserve Your Sympathy

Wikipedia
Joe Lieberman left the Senate for the last time today, and the Washington Post ‘s Dana Milbank was there to witness his lonely departure. For Milbank, Senate Democrats’ clear disdain for the Connecticut senator is further evidence of the polarization and incivility that mark modern Washington: A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it. Lieberman was excommunicated by his party (he won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary) and retired this year rather than face probable defeat. Yet he received little love from the Republicans, either, because despite his apostasies on key issues — the Iraq war, above all — he remained a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats. This is fantasy history. The actual reason Lieberman was disliked by...

Susan Rice Withdraws

Wikipedia
After weeks of attacks from Senate Republicans, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn herself from consideration for Secretary of State. Here’s a portion of her letter to President Obama: I am highly honored to be considered by you for appointment as Secretary of State. I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time. This, obviously, is a big victory for Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, who spearheaded the opposition to Rice, using the attacks in Benghazi as pretext for what seems to be a petty partisan spat. Graham, in particular, will have a nice soundbite for his 2014 reelection fight—and any potential primary...

Things Change

Liberals often joke about how all it takes is one backbench Democratic member of Congress looking at another one funny to produce a "Dems in Disarray!" headline. But today the Republicans truly are in disarray. They just got whupped in a presidential election; they can't quite seem to figure out how to handle the current fiscal negotiations; their leading figure is a not-particularly-appealing House Speaker terrified of his own caucus; their agenda is clearly unpopular; they can't escape their image as the party of the rich; and they represent, almost exclusively, a demographic (white people) that is rapidly sliding toward minority status. It's not a good time to be a Republican. Which is why, as a public service announcement, I thought I'd offer a little reminder. Just a few short years ago, plenty of smart and informed people were contemplating how successful Karl Rove and George Bush would be at creating a "permanent Republican majority." There were books written like Building Red...

The Federal Reserve Gets Down to Business

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
At a press conference in April 2012, New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to respond to criticism that he wasn’t doing enough to bring down unemployment. Bernanke responded: “[T]he question is: Does it make sense to actively seek a higher inflation rate in order to achieve a slightly increased pace of reduction in the unemployment rate? The view of the committee is that that would be very reckless. We have … spent 30 years building up credibility for low and stable inflation." Bernanke was putting a limit on how much he would do to get the economy growing faster and unemployment down. Accepting inflation above the target rate of 2 percent, either directly through active policy or implicitly by temporarily tolerating higher inflation without raising rates, wasn’t worth it. By this point a serious critique of Federal Reserve policy had been developed by those who thought the Federal Reserve should be doing more. This held that the...

The Strange Republican Shift on Taxes

Flickr/401(K) 2012
There's been an odd change in Republican rhetoric in the last few weeks about taxes. As we all know, for a couple of decades now, particularly since George H.W. Bush went back on his "Read my lips" promise and agreed to a tax increase to bring down the deficit, Republicans have been uncompromising and dogmatic that taxes must never be raised in any form, ever. That's part of the pledge Grover Norquist has made nearly all of them sign—not just that rates should only ratchet down, but also that they will "oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." With the bitter taste of defeat still lingering in their mouths, many have realized that there is going to be some increase in the wealthy's taxes. But to hear them talk now, you'd think that they don't much care how much people pay in taxes, so long as the top marginal income rate doesn't go up. Here's Karl Rove writing in The Wall Street Journal ,...

Whether Scalia Likes It or Not

Flickr/U.S. Mission Geneva
Last week, when the Supreme Court decided to take both the Proposition 8 case, which challenges California's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barrs the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, my inner Eeyore got a little carried away. I realized that when Brian Brown—head of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the chief opponent of marriage equality, started quoting me in his fundraising e-mails. While I’m honored he would notice, that made me recognize I should explain my thinking more clearly. So here it is: Within ten years, most American states will be marrying same-sex couples. Within 15, the Supreme Court will knock down the remaining bans on marriage equality. All of that could come sooner if the Court rules with us this year in the two gay-marriage cases. But marriage equality is going to win within our lifetimes. (Here, I am morally obligated to...

Jim Moran: How Not to Respond to Domestic Violence

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite Representative Jim Moran during a 2011 news conference on Capitol Hill W ednesday afternoon, the news broke across D.C. media and disconcertingly excited right-wing blogs that Patrick Moran, the son of Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, had pled guilty to assaulting his girlfriend of six months . The police report stated that two officers saw Moran grab his girlfriend by the back of the head and smash her head into a metal trash can, breaking her nose and fracturing her skull. Sadly, the aftermath of this crime has followed a pattern that prosecutors, police, and anti-violence activists know well: Moran successfully pled down to a slap on the wrist, in this case probation. Moran’s girlfriend is sticking by him , claiming she tripped and fell and that all this is a mistake. This entire pattern of events is what activists call the “cycle of violence,” which is not—despite the inevitable media blather after any domestic-violence incident—the...

Will Defenders of DOMA and Prop. 8 Have a Leg to Stand On?

Wikimedia Commons
The most hotly-debated issue with respect to the Supreme Court's announcement that it will hear two major gay-rights cases is whether it will decide the cases at all. In addition to the crucial substantive issues relating to the constitutional status of sexual orientation, the Court has asked the parties in both the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases to brief questions of "standing." Because the source of the Court's power of judicial review is their authority under Article III to resolve "cases and controversies," parties have to demonstrate that they have a direct stake in the case for the courts to have jurisdiction. In both the the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases, the executive branch—either the White House or the California governor's office—whose law has been held unconstitutional by lower courts has refused to defend it, so there's an argument that nobody has an interest in appealing the decisions. There are two questions about standing and these cases: 1) should the Court find standing, and 2)...

Pages