Punahou School alumni

2012 Is a Real Big Deal

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Ruth Marcus is bored by the 2012 presidential election and wants us to turn our attention to 2016 which, she argues, will be a lot more interesting: Enough about the 2012 election already. Let’s talk 2016, which promises to be far more interesting — and consequential. The precise contours of that election, of course, will be shaped by what happens this November. Yet either way, the 2016 campaign will be, much more than 2012, a battle for the ideological soul of one or both parties. Two things. First, for as much as political observers have a sports-like obsession with the back-and-forth of politics, it’s important to remember that there are stakes involved in the outcome of a presidential election. From the future of health-care reform and the welfare state, to the environment and foreign policy, presidential elections have a profound effect on the lives and livelihoods of countless people. That Marcus is bored with 2012 is a sign that she doesn’t take that seriously enough. That...

What Does the ACA Do for You?

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the landmark piece of policy for Obama's first term. Save perhaps his response to the Great Recession, the ACA is likely to be the primary measure by which his presidency will be judged in the history books. As long as it is fully implemented, it should help millions of uninsured Americans by shifting more people onto Medicaid, providing subsidies for low-income workers, and forbidding insurance companies from excluding customers based on past illness. The Obama campaign released an interactive flow chart yesterday. One inputs their demographic data—age, sex, and income, for example—and the program spits out various ways the ACA has improved your health-care coverage. As someone who has private insurance, it showed me a list of services my insurance will now be required to cover at no extra charge and highlighted the fact that 80 percent of my monthly payments must be used on funding health service. It also informed me that, thanks to my salary level,...

Is Obama Unpopular, or Have the Polls Gone Crazy?

(White House/Flickr)
Polling on the president has been a little weird lately. According to yesterday’s The Washington Post /CBS News poll, 46 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance, while 50 percent disapprove. This is on the lower bound of polling for the president, but well within the range we’ve seen over the last several months. Likewise, over the weekend, Gallup found that Obama’s approval rating rose to 49 percent—mostly on the strength of last week’s job report, which saw the economy grow by 227,000 jobs. The New York Times and CBS News registered the most dramatic change in Obama’s standing with the public. In its poll, released yesterday, Obama’s approval rating dipped to 41 percent, the lowest since last summer, when the debt ceiling debacle damaged his standing with Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Jonathan Bernstein says that this is all statistical noise, while Jonathan Chait insists that there is something here; namely, that President Obama’s message—“America...

When Do We Get to See Obama's Radicalism?

So this is the plan to dismantle capitalism? Excellent.
Last week I wrote a post mocking conservatives for their relentless search for the next secret videotape that will expose Barack Obama as a dangerous radical, the latest of which was the shocking revelation that as a law student, he supported his professor Derrick Bell's efforts to diversify the Harvard Law School faculty. Unsurprisingly, conservatives reacted by saying that I just didn't get it ( here 's a sample). It's worth saying a bit more about this phenomenon, because we surely haven't seen the last of it, both in the campaign and in Obama's second term, should he win one. The search for the radical associations in Obama's pre-political history began almost as soon as Obama's presidential candidacy began in 2007. Some conservatives (and that's an important qualifier; many conservatives understand that this stuff is nuts) have been positively obsessed with uncovering Obama's radical associations. They have also insisted that those associations are closer than anyone thinks. So...

The Future Is Far from Certain

(The White House/Flickr)
For Democrats, the last month has been filled with Schadenfreude and glee. Beginning with their opposition to the administration’s contraception mandate—which bled into a general opposition to contraceptives—Republicans have done everything they could to alienate women voters, from dismissing birth control as an integral part of women’s health care, to standing on the sidelines as key conservative activists unleashed vitriolic rhetoric against contraception advocates—and women who use birth control in general—attacking them as “sluts” who need to keep their legs together. If it sticks in the public consciousness—and if they refuse to back down from their anti-contraception stance—this incident promises to be a disaster for Republicans in the fall. On the gleeful side, Democrats are clearly excited about President Obama’s improved standing with the American public. Job growth has exceeded 200,000 for the last three months, and Obama’s approval rating has been on the upswing , reaching...

Hold Off on the Obama Victory Dance

The president's re-election chances have improved, but Obama faces severe tests on energy and national security.

(Flickr/Tyler Driscoll/Obama for America)
Things have been breaking well for President Obama. Economically, job growth has outperformed expectations. The unemployment rate could be below 8 percent by Election Day. Politically, Republicans are engaged in the sort of demolition derby once reserved for Democrats. The protracted Hillary-Barack duel of 2008 seems like a love feast compared to the Mitt and Rick slugfest. All this is reflected in the president’s rising approval ratings. However, Obama faces a daunting two-part challenge related to Iran’s nuclear assertions, with implications for both national security and sustainable energy. A misstep could cost him the presidency and cause the country to take a disastrously wrong turn in these two critical areas. Iran’s threat to mine the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s crude oil passes, is roiling oil markets. Five--dollar gas this summer will help neither the economy nor the president’s re-election. Obama has used the gathering Iranian crisis to redouble...

The Race-Baiting Continues

(Still from video obtained by Buzzfeed.com)
I've been holding off on writing something about the bizarre spectacle of the Derrick Bell "exposé" that has consumed the nuttier corners of the right in the last couple of days, simply because it's so weird and pathetic that I wasn't sure exactly how to talk about it beyond simple ridicule. In case you missed it, here's the story, briefly: Just before he died, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart said his web enterprises would soon release an explosive video that would transform the 2012 election by revealing Barack Obama's radical ties. The video turned out to be of something that was not only utterly unremarkable, but had been reported before. In 1991, when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, the school was embroiled in a controversy over the under-representation of minorities on the faculty. Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the school and a widely admired figure in legal circles, announced that he would take a leave until the school made efforts to...

"Repeal and Replace" Goes By the Wayside

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act.
Remember that whole "Repeal and Replace" thing Republicans were going to do about the Affordable Care Act? As Steve Benen tells us , turns out, not so much. Not only have congressional Republicans not bothered to come up with something to replace the ACA with, they're not even going to try the "repeal" part anymore either. Some conservative groups are outraged , since they appear to have been laboring under the impression that those congressional Republicans had a genuine, deeply felt hatred of the ACA and would try to kill it even if the politics didn't look so favorable for such a move. But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell—perhaps the most practical, unsentimental politician in Washington—says no. Why? Because there's just no margin in it. The attempt would fail in both houses, and would only reinforce the idea that the GOP is nothing but a bunch of grumpy old men who care more about taking things away from people than about helping the country. So the Republican legislative...

Halftime

Scott Lemieux explains why the bully pulpit isn’t nearly as effective as everyone thinks. President Obama : “I recommend you watch the recent debates. I’m thinking about just running those as advertisements. Without commentary; here you go.” The real concern, for Democrats at least, isn’t that Latinos vote for Republicans , it’s that they don’t vote at all. I really wish this journal article weren’t behind a locked gate. Lex Luthor explains why he’s evil:

Obama Smash!

(Pablo SSt./Flickr)
On paper, President Obama’s speech to the United Auto Workers this morning isn’t any different than the speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kansas at the beginning of the year, or the one he gave announcing the American Jobs Act last fall. Boiled down, each is a populist call to reject tax cuts for the wealthy, and push for greater fairness and mobility in the economy. Where today’s speech stands apart is in the actual presentation; this stands as one of the most aggressive speeches Obama has delivered, with a barrage of attacks on the Republican Party and its presidential candidates. The president ripped into Mitt Romney’s position on the automobile bailout calling him out for his opposition—“Some even said we should 'let Detroit go bankrupt.'”—and then ridiculing him for his refusal to accept its success. He inveighed against the GOP’s hostility to labor unions, calling it “a load of you-know-what,” and used the auto-bailouts as a departure point for his larger argument: that this is an...

The Obama-ization of Everything

Man, those guys really don't like me.
For the last few years, liberals have been pointing out that conservatives radically shifted their opinions about certain ideas once those ideas were embraced by Barack Obama. The two biggies are an individual mandate for health insurance, which was conceived by conservatives at the Heritage Foundation as a way to get (nearly) universal coverage while maintaining the private insurance system; and a cap-and-trade system for reducing harmful emissions, which was conceived as a way to use market forces instead of government regulations to achieve an environmental good. All kinds of conservatives liked those ideas, but once Obama advocated them, the ideas became not just disfavored but presented as something so vile and socialistic they could only have been coughed up by Joe Stalin's decaying corpse. That happened a couple of years ago, but now we're in an election year, so it's only going to get worse. And watching the entire conservative universe get pulled toward opposition not just to...

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

(IslesPunkFan/Flickr)
Under President Obama, judicial vacancies—and “judicial emergencies”—have become a common feature of the federal bench. Vacant seats have gone unfilled for years, and as a result, district courts around the country have been unable to operate at full capacity. Liberals are quick to blame Republicans, and for good reason; from the moment Obama entered office, GOP senators were committed to an unprecedented campaign of obstruction. Legislation and nominees were held up for the most trivial of complaints, and sometimes, no reason at all. But the president bears responsibility as well; neither judicial nor executive branch nominations were ever a priority for his administration, and at this point— reports the Chicago Tribune —Obama is on track to have an incredibly ineffectual presidency when it comes to filling the federal bench: Barack Obama is close to becoming the first president in at least half a century to finish a full term without making an appointment to a U.S. appeals court,...

Obama's Tax Code Spring Cleaning

Today's Balance Sheet: The White House vacuums out the corporate tax code. 

Obama is stealing the spotlight from Mitt Romney—who plans to announce a new economic plan on Friday —by announcing his framework for simplifying the corporate tax code. The White House is asking Congress to lower the top corporate tax rate to 28 percent, while ridding the code of any loopholes and subsidies. Manufacturers will get special breaks, in accordance with Obama's push to spur domestic manufacturing jobs, and their maximum effective tax rate would be set at 25 percent. Republicans have long argued that the U.S. has one of the steepest corporate tax rates in the world. But, while the U.S. does have a high tax rate, after factoring in all the loopholes, many U.S. businesses end up paying taxes that are even lower than businesses in other rich countries., according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Latest Fed’s Push on Housing Crosses a Line, Critics Say The Washington Post Watchdog Targets Overdraft Charges The Wall Street Journal Euro-Area...

Obama's Fact-Checkers

(Flickr/The White House/Pete Souza)
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true." The new website is subdivided into three sections: AttackWatch, KeepingGOPHonest, and KeepingHisWord. The first blog item criticizes Romney's economic plan as one that "helps millionaires and hurts the middle class" (filed under KeepingGOPHonest), followed by a string of favorable Obama accomplishments, such as sanctions on...

Wall Street's Third Party

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) T his November, when Barack Obama faces off against his Republican opponent, there will be a third candidate in the race, too. This candidate has already qualified for the ballot in 14 states, including California. The campaign to ensure the candidate’s ballot access in all 50 states has raised $22 million (more than the campaigns of every Republican presidential candidate except Mitt Romney), with which it has employed 3,000 paid signature gatherers and enlisted 3,000 volunteers. This third candidate probably doesn’t have to do all that well to affect the outcome of the presidential election. Most polling shows that the general election will be close, both nationally and in a number of swing states. It takes no great imaginative leap to envision a scenario in which this third candidate tips a key state to Obama or his GOP opponent, much as Ralph Nader tipped Florida to George W. Bush in 2000. Only this time around, there’s one signal difference:...

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