Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Benghazi Fizzles

A New York Post cover from back when Benghazi was hotter.
Conservatives want, so very desperately, for Benghazi to be Barack Obama's undoing. And you have to give them credit for trying. Yesterday's hearing, hyped like it was the Super Bowl by Fox News, wasn't the first or the second or the fifth on the topic, and each one is supposed to deliver the blockbuster revelation that will finally show America just how evil the Obama administration is. But if you look at the way they've been talking about it, you can see some faint glimmers of doubt. Sure, you can always find somebody to come on Fox and take the speculation to an absurd level ("Did Hillary Clinton order the consulate to be unprotected because Ambassador Stevens knew she's an al Qaeda operative and she wanted him killed? We just don't know"). But I think all that speculation is sapping their spirits. After a while it gets tiresome to keep harping on what might have happened or why, when it would be so much more satisfying if there were some actual incriminating facts you could bring...

That Time Mitt Romney Lost 83 Percent of Minority Voters

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect The Pew Research Center has done its full analysis of the Census Bureau’s report on the diversifying American electorate, and it confirms the big takeaway from the 2012 elections—Republicans are in trouble with minority voters. Mitt Romney won just 17 percent of nonwhite voters in the 2012 election. That includes African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and all other groups that fall under the umbrella of “nonwhite.” If last year were an aberration—if nonwhites were projected to fall as a share of the electorate—this would be a concern, but not a huge one. But the trend is moving in the opposite direction. Nonwhites were 26.3 percent of all voters last year. This is a record high, but it’s still below their overall share of the adult population—33.9 percent. By 2020, minorities will comprise 37.2 percent of all voters, and by 2060 it will be 54.8 percent, according to the Census Bureau. What makes this even more significant is that the fastest...

Unions to Banks: Pay Up

AP Photo/Dominic Lipinski,
AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt R ebecca Sandoval hasn't had a raise for six years. She and other home-care workers who work for the state of Oregon and are represented by Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) make $10.20 an hour to assist people with disabilities and senior citizens, like the 99-year-old woman Sandoval cares for. The state froze wages at 2007 levels to help offset a yawning $855 million budget shortfall caused by the financial crisis. Almost every year since then, Sandoval says, it has further cut back hours, leaving workers with the choice to leave some of their clients' needs unmet or to work for free. “You can't rush a 99-year-old woman with any aspect of her daily living,” she says. Members of Local 503 in different professions have seen similar wage freezes and cutbacks. James Jacobson got a layoff notice after 16 years as an office worker at the University of Oregon's college of education; budget cuts, it explained. He's one of the...

It’s All about the Primaries

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt
He’s already given political culture one of the great euphemisms ever for having an affair. And now the Appalachian trail walker, Mark Sanford, has become a terrific example of one of the core ideas of political parties and democracy: It’s all about the primaries. Sanford won back his old House seat in a special election on Tuesday. Smart liberal commentators noted that Republicans had little choice. Paul Krugman : Given their preferences, this was the right thing to do. Look, we have an intensely polarized political system, and in Congress, at least, party affiliation is basically all that matters. Kevin Drum concurs : “For all practical purposes, we live in a pseudo-parliamentary system of governance, and the only thing that matters in Congress is what party you belong to.” Party affiliation is so important that indeed, in almost all circumstances voters are smart to support their party’s nominee in general elections, who will represent their interests in a predictable and...

No, Syria Is Not Iraq

AP Photo/Hussein Malla
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit F or those advocating greater intervention in Syria by the United States, the memory of Iraq has turned into a real inconvenience. “Iraq is not Syria,” proclaimed the headline of New York Times editor Bill Keller’s op-ed on Monday, by way of arguing for greater U.S. involvement in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Because of Iraq, Keller wrote, “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.” Let’s grant that it’s possible to over-learn the lessons of Iraq. The Iraq war, as costly a blunder as it was, should not discredit any and all military interventions, but it should—and has—raised the bar for when such interventions are necessary. What appears to persist, however, is the belief that “bold” U.S. moves—nearly always assumed to be military action—can change the situation for the better, and produce the outcomes that we would like to see. And if those outcomes...

Fast Food, Slow to Change

AP Images/Rui Viera
The strikes of fed-up fast-food workers move westward with the sun. On Wednesday evening, fast-food employees in St. Louis, like their peers in New York and Chicago earlier this spring, staged a one-day strike to dramatize the low wages they, and millions of American workers in the restaurant and food sectors, take home. The job action is one of a series of short strikes that the Service Employees International Union, in conjunction with a range of local community groups, is helping to organize. Similar actions in other cities are slated in coming weeks. The goal of these actions is to catalyze a broader movement of workers in the sector—not with the intent of winning contracts from corporations like McDonald (that’s far beyond the labor movement’s capacity, alas), but in hopes that such a movement could spur city councils and state legislatures to enact higher minimum wages or living wage provisions for workers in specified sectors. At Tuesday’s night annual Hillman Prize...

Ringside Seat: The American People Will See!

Yet again, congressional Republicans have devoted time and energy to hitting the Obama administration over the incident in Benghazi, Libya, where a diplomat and several other State Department employees were killed in an assault by a heavily-armed group. The administration insists that this was a tragic accident, and an investigation has cleared officials of wrongdoing or serious mistakes. But Republicans continue to believe that this was mishandled, to the extent that administration officials are covering up key information. They point to inconsistent talking points from the White House—originally, the attacks were blamed on a video—and the question of security around the compound. For the last nine months, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have tried to prove this point with constant hearings, each aimed at a different facet of the alleged cover-up. And each time, they find nothing. There’s no doubt the administration made mistakes in handling Benghazi, but there’s no...

When Bad Intentions Meet Bad Data

Numbers!
When the Heritage Foundation released that study showing immigration reform would cost American taxpayers a gajillion feptillion bazillion dollars, people were obviously going to pick it apart and reveal its flaws and tendentious assumptions, which they did. But today came something else interesting. Dylan Matthews read the dissertation written by one of the authors, Jason Richwine, in which Richwin writes that "The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations." In order to deal with the problem, Richwine suggests IQ-testing everyone who wants to immigrate, and taking only the smart ones. As Matthews describes it, "Richwine's dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races ... He writes, 'No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have...

Today in Hostage Taking

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
At some point this year, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling, as well as deal with a host of out-standing budget issues. But rather then try to discuss them in good faith—free of a manufactured crisis—Republicans have all but announced their decision to take some kind of legislative hostage, as soon as they can find one. Here’s Lori Montogomery, reporting for The Washington Post : Democrats are urging Republicans to initiate talks well before the next deadline and at last resolve the long-standing dispute over whether to tame the debt solely by cutting spending, as Republicans demand, or also by raising taxes on the wealthy, as Obama insists….But senior Senate Republicans, including several who recently dined with Obama and huddled with administration officials, conceded that it may be tough to bring their colleagues to the table too far ahead of the debt-ceiling deadline….“We need to realize this debt ceiling is out there. It’s inevitable. It’s coming. And [the later...

Try to Find the Heritage Foundation's Anti-Immigration Study on its Spanish-Language Site

*/ You'd think, based on the media blitz promoting the conservative Heritage Foundation's recent study—which claims immigration reform will cost the country $6.3 trillion dollars—the organization would be using its full web presence to promote their work. Not so on the think tank's Spanish-language site, Heritage Libertad . Whereas the study, " The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer ," is touted at the top of the Heritage Foundation's English-language website with the blazing headline "The Cost of Amnesty to You," on its Spanish-language site the report is buried well below the fold (on my browser, it's two screen-lengths deep). This may all be a coincidence, but with content like " Why Does America Welcome Immigrants? " the site gives the general impression the organization in fact supports immigration reform. "Looking at the Heritage foundation libertad webpage, they put information that gives the impression that they support immigration reform, or...

Does Terry McAuliffe Stand a Chance?

mou-ikkai/Flickr
mou-ikkai/Flickr I argued yesterday that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—the Virginia GOP’s right-wing nominee for governor—is likely to win the state’s gubernatorial election, for reasons of turnout. Barring a strong mobilization effort from Democrat Terry McAuliffe, there will be far fewer voters in November’s election, and the majority will Republican. If Cuccinelli can avoid serious mistakes, he’ll have an easy path to victory. If the latest poll from NBC News is any indication, this judgment may have been premature. NBC finds a tight contest in the commonwealth, with McAuliffe winning 43 percent of registered voters to Cuccinelli’s 41 percent, and 16 percent saying their undecided. McAuliffe has relatively poor name recognition, which gives him room to grow—with a strong campaign, he can overcome the built-in disadvantages of the landscape. Likewise, McAuliffe may also benefit from the GOP’s poor approval ratings in Virginia—53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of the...

The Return of Mark Sanford

Wikipedia
If there’s a lesson from yesterday’s special election in the first district of South Carolina—which covers most of Charleston, as well as small towns like Summerville and Goose Creek—it’s that Republican voters in the state are willing to do anything but vote for a Democrat. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (sister of Stephen Colbert) ran a well-funded campaign to take the seat, but couldn’t prevail over disgraced former governor Mark Sanford, who won by a comfortable nine-point margin . Not that this comes as a surprise. Not only does Sanford have a long-standing relationship with the district—he held the seat for three terms before becoming governor—but it’s also a deeply conservative area which Republicans routinely win by double-digits or more. Yes, one early poll from Public Policy Polling gave Colbert-Busch a large lead over Sanford, but at every point, the most likely outcome was a win for the former governor. It’s tempting to read a broader narrative into this race, but the truth is...

Chris Christie and GOP Primary Voters, Not So Perfect Together

Flickr/Bob Jagendorf
As an aficionado of American regional resentment and distrust, not to mention someone who grew up in the Garden State, I find the question of whether Chris Christie could take his Jersey style national and win the hearts of Republican presidential primary voters to be quite interesting. Would a party whose center of gravity lies firmly in the South being willing to seriously consider not just a guy from New Jersey, but a guy who is obviously from New Jersey? Christie recently told the New York Post that he had lap-band surgery a couple of months ago, so by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around, he could look a little less like Bobby Bacala and a little more like the kind of rugged outdoorsman Republicans favor. But will that be enough? Yesterday, Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner argued that the answer is going to be no: Also, beyond any given issues, it’s questionable how Christie’s brash New Jersey style will play out beyond the Northeast. When Rudy Giuliani ran for president...

LLM: Lawyers Losing Money

AP Images/Chitose Suzuki
American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) is in crisis. Situated in the toughest job market for lawyers in the United States, the Washington, D.C. school has fallen 11 spots in the U.S. News rankings since the class of 2013 applied. This is in part due to the release of detailed employment statistics that show the schools’ full-time, long-term legal employment rate of 39 percent ranks 5th out of 7 area law schools. A group of students have started a petition to fire Dean Claudio Grossman and a WCL theatrical troupe staged a play, “Grossman’s Eleven,” alluding to the 2001 heist movie starring George Clooney. The school is undergoing a $130 million expansion and has moderately grown its LLM program—a once rare post-graduate degree whose recent proliferation is becoming to critics a symbol of unscrupulous law school practices. American is not alone in growing its LLM program. From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, the LLM was a marginal degree aimed primarily at foreign...

Underfunded and Under Five

AP Photo/The Hawk Eye, John Lovretta
AP Photo/The Winchester Star, Jeff Taylor A s we contemplate the possibly bright future of pre-K laid out in Obama’s state of the union address this year, in which the feds work together “with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” along comes a sobering glimpse of what public preschool looks like now. It’s not quite as rosy. Rather than charting progress toward getting all four-year-olds ready for kindergarten, the National Institute for Early Education Research’s annual survey of programs, just issued last week, shows a system in disrepair—or perhaps even retreat. Even as recognition of the benefits of preschool for four-year-olds has grown, the actual implementation of it has stalled—and, in places, lost ground. Meanwhile state funding for pre-K has gone down by more than half a billion dollars in the last year, according to NIEER. In 2012, state spending per child fell to well below what it was ten years ago. The backsliding, which can...

Pages