When a party suffers electoral losses, it often engages in a particular kind of internal debate. On one side are those who say, "We have to come up with some new policies to appeal to the voters who are rejecting us." On the other side are those who say, "The policies aren't the problem—we need to communicate better." Maybe it's the substance, or maybe it's the packaging. But what if it's both? What if voters dislike you not only because of what you're advocating, but of how you talk to them and who you are to boot?
Over the weekend, the New York Timespublished a comprehensive, deeply-reported look at the Internal Revenue Scandal. Far from finding evidence of a White House aiming to undermine its opponents, the Times uncovered a much more banal story—that of an understaffed and under-resourced agency, straining to do its job in difficult circumstances. Here’s the Times with more:
I've written before about the media's inability to talk about the issue of marijuana legalization without turning into eighth graders, peppering their stories with references to Cheech & Chong and making generally idiotic stoner references ("Put down those Doritos and turn down that Dead bootleg—a new policy statement from the Office of National Drug Control Policy could be a serious buzz-cruncher!"). Whether this is changing now that Washington and Colorado passed decriminalization schemes in the last election and momentum is building in other states for similar measures, I'm not sure. But Mark Kleiman, who has done extensive research on the potential consequences of drug legalization and is now acting as a consultant to the state of Washington as it finds its way toward implementing the law the voters there passed, found himself confronted with a smirking Erin Burnett on CNN, who wanted to know whether he's a pot smoker or not, and handled it perfectly. "I don't think there's any ill will involved in asking the question," he wrote afterward, "journalists simply want to 'place' their sources culturally on the hippie-to-jock spectrum. But I want to resist the whole idea that drug policy should be a clash of cultural identities rather than a serious discussion of harms and benefits." Lo and behold, once he set her straight she had actual substantive questions to ask him, so it worked out fine.
This raises an interesting question, though. Just how capable are we of divorcing our beliefs about the people involved in public debate from the content of their arguments? And should we?
The custom, I know, is not to speak ill of the recently dead, but it’s not a custom to which I’ve invariably adhered. Ronald Reagan’s death evoked so many hagiographic tributes I felt compelled to write a Washington Post column noting the damage he’d done to his country and to the liberal values that, when honored, made his country great.
In the political talent pool of of our great nation, governors have distinguished themselves by the boldness of their misdeeds, the depths of their malice, and the originality of their crimes and misdemeanors. Scott Walker’s recall election in Wisconsin topped the headlines for nearly a year, while John Kasich of Ohio engenders widespread ire in his state over his union policies. Arizona's Jan Brewer has attracted national attention for her combative style and dogged support for radical anti-immigrant legislation.
The Romney campaign has tried their darndest to divert the media and wipe their hands clean of Richard Grenell after the national security spokesperson abruptly resigned his post yesterday afternoon. When the news leaked to The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, it was immediately framed in terms of Grenell's status as an openly gay man in a party that advocates against LGBT civil rights. However Rubin didn't mince words in explaining Grenell's departure. "The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job," she wrote.
Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell—a long-time Republican and former staffer for the Bush White House—to act as a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security. Grenell received tough criticism from Democrats for a series of sexist tweets, but that wasn’t enough to spark reticience from the Romney team.
Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, "My So-Called Ex-Gay Life." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing.
A few weeks ago, Teresa Sayward did the unthinkable. The New York state Republican assembly woman told a state news program that she'd consider voting for Obama. "I really, truly think that the candidates that are out there today for the Republican side would take women back decades," she said on Capitol Tonight.
As Europe works toward bringing Greece back from the edge of default, the United States is trying to puzzle out how good of a partner we want to be to the eurozone. Lael Brainard, the Treasury's top international diplomat, told the Senate banking committee yesterday that the International Monetary Fund doesn't need an infusion of cash from the U.S. in order to create a buffer from whatever may happen with Greece and the other European economies. “The challenge Europe faces is within the capacity of the Europeans to manage,” she said.
Zombie politics—a play on Zombie Economics—refers to ideas about politics that have become so cemented in conventional wisdom that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them. It doesn’t matter what the data says, or what published research says, or what this blog or any blog says. Zombie politics means that even though the ideas are dead, they just can’t be killed. I regret using the by-now-hackneyed zombie metaphor, but it remains apt.
Perhaps the biggest political puzzle of our time is why, as the lives of working-class whites have descended from the stability and comfort of “All in the Family” to the chaos and despair of “Gran Torino” and “Winter’s Bone,” these same Americans have voted more and more reliably Republican.
One day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the nation appears on the brink of reverting to sectarian conflict. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered the arrest of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi for allegedly ordering and funding the assassinations of Shiite officials, and asked the parliament to pass a no-confidence vote that would enable him to dismiss Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak. Both Hashemi and Mutlak are Sunni politicians aligned with the Iraquiya coalition, which is largely made of Sunnis and such secular Shiites as the coalition’s leader, Ayad Allawi. Maliki’s Dawa Party and its allies (including the backers of Moktada al-Sadr) consist largely of more religious Shiites.