The Obama Administration

Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?

The picture alone filled me with dread: a baby in a briefcase. (Do go look at Jessica Valenti’s hilarious compilation of images from this genre.) That sick feeling only increased when I got to the hideous ­headline: “ Why Women Still Can’t Have It All .” There they go again! Once again, The Atlantic has put on its spike heels to gleefully dance on feminism’s head, this time reviving the imagery of the “ mommy wars ” while trotting out an astounding successful woman to bemoan her failure. Veteran journalist Caryl Rivers has accurately diagnosed this as “ The Atlantic ’s Woman Problem .” Someone there doesn’t like us, except when we’re agonizingly single, or home with our babies, or killing off men’s careers. Someone there got stuck on some 1980s Time magazine misinterpretation of feminism as exhorting us all to be “career women” (does anyone really use that term?) in shoulder pads and sad little bowties, leaving our babies home alone, refrigerator open, to fend for themselves while we...

Issa's Contemptible Vote

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
If contempt of Congress ( current polls show a whopping 17% approval) is a crime, we are a nation of criminals. That thought leapt to mind at the news that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA.) has voted to ask the full House to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt because of his refusal to turn over internal records relating to the administration’s response to the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal in Arizona. In response to the prospect of that vote, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced that President Obama had asserted executive privilege over the documents requested. The cable news channels are crackling with faux outrage on both sides. Republicans are shocked that the Attorney General and the White House are covering up what must surely be dreadful misdeeds. Democrats are outraged at this partisan attempt to besmirch the administration by baselessly suggesting misconduct and a high-level cover-...

Romney’s Worsening Latino Headache

Mitt Romney’s Latino problem just got a lot worse. President Obama’s executive order to the immigration service to cease deportations of immigrants who came here without documentation before they turned 16 has gone as far as a president can go without bringing Congress along with him. A president can’t change the legal status of the undocumented by himself, but he can issue orders to Homeland Security, which is precisely what Obama did. This means that should Romney win the fall election, it’s entirely a matter of his discretion whether to continue, amend or revoke Obama’s order. It also means he has to take a position on the order while campaigning—and given the importance of the order, he has to take a position damn quick. Many Republicans will pressure him to announce he’ll rescind it. The nearly all-white Republican base, certainly its Tea Party wing, will want him to rescind it. But announcing that will not only reduce Romney’s already meager Latino support, it will likely...

Obama: Romney Equals Bush

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Back in April, President Obama gave a speech to the American Society of News Editors, where he excoriated Mitt Romney—and the Republican Party—for its adherence to the “roadmap” devised by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. In the speech, Obama presented the Ryan roadmap as modern Republicanism, distilled to its essence. He attacked the plan for its large, across-the-board tax cuts, its complete extension of the Bush tax cuts, and its plan to privatize Medicare. More importantly, he spelled out the implications of Ryan’s budget: to pay for his tax cuts, the federal government would have to suck the marrow from its social services. Everything from food stamps to Pell Grants would see the chopping block, and the federal government would be reduced to a mechanism for upward redistribution, defended by a standing army. Since then, Obama has adjusted his message with attacks on Bain Capital and Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts, in an attempt to present the Republican nominee as...

Obama, Post-Post-Partisanship

(Flickr/Matt Ortega)
Over the past month or two, as the president’s political position has continued to erode and he becomes more vulnerable, an extraordinary and vaguely preposterous conversation has taken shape. Variations on it have been advanced by everyone from former presidents chatting with Hollywood moguls on news cable TV to esteemed Sunday-morning newspaper columnists picking their way through the racial bric-à-brac of the presidential psyche. In a way, it’s the corollary of the birther discussion at the other end of the spectrum, which is to say that it’s a conversation we’ve never had about any other president. The upshot of this conversation is whether it would be a betrayal of everything for which the president has been a metaphor, and of all the attendant mythologies that have accompanied his election and time in office, if he should offer a critique of the record of the man running against him who is running on that same record. In short, as we debate fundamental matters having to do with...

Should Obama Have Abandoned Health Care Reform?

Princeton University Press
I've just finished George Edwards's Overreach . In essence, the book applies the lessons of On Deaf Ears and The Strategic Presidency to the Obama administration. If you've read the two earlier books you needn't make it a high priority, but if you haven't it's as good an introduction to the work of the most important contemporary scholar of presidential politics as anything. The Obama administration reconfirms a lot of what we already know—presidents have essentially no demonstrable ability to shift public opinion in their favor and only a very limited and contingent ability to shift marginal votes in Congress (which is become more attenuated because of increased polarization in Congress—especially for a Democratic president getting opposition support for a major initiative is nearly impossible, which in turn increases the leverage of marginal Democrats in Congress). As the title suggests, the main thrust of the book is that the Obama administration made the same mistakes most...

Inconsistent Mandate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's stances on health insurance mandates stand as one of the great ironies of the 2012 presidential race. At various points both have opposed the mandate and both have advocated for the idea, successfully forcing the measure into legislation. The only problem is that they have evolved in opposite directions. The Obama campaign made the strategic decision to carve out a niche as the anti-mandate candidate during the 2008 Democratic primary. "It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don't," said one ominous ad from the 2008 campaign that Obama used to attack Hillary Clinton. That staunch opposition of course changed once Obama assumed office and faced the realities of crafting legislation. His team realized any measure that prevented insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions would collapse without a mandate, as healthy individuals would flee the market, leaving only the...

A Gun to the Debt-Ceiling Fight

(Flickr/zieak)
If Barack Obama turns out to be a one-term president, historians may mark the summer of 2011 as the moment his failure became inevitable. At that point, the new right-wing Republican House majority declared the national debt hostage and demanded Obama’s surrender to them on all points of domestic policy. When the debt-ceiling statute required authorization of a new federal borrowing limit, they refused to vote on the measure without massive cuts in federal spending and no increase in federal revenue. The crisis was averted by the appointment of an idiotic congressional “supercommittee” that was supposed to identify future cuts, matched with a set of “automatic” cuts that were to take effect if the “supercommittee” failed to come up with a compromise aimed at reducing federal debt. Not surprisingly, the “supercommittee”—perhaps better known as the “Clark Kent committee”—was unable to produce a compromise. The debt showdown, which paralyzed Washington for much of spring and early summer...

How the Attack on Massachusetts Could Backfire

This morning, the Obama campaign released its first video on Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts: There are a few obvious problems with this line of attack. Even with its fiscal problems and slow job growth, Massachusetts wasn’t a terrible place to live under the Romney administration. The point is to show that Romney is offering the same “robotic” line to voters, but how does that resonate when few people associate Massachusetts with “bad governance?” The big problem for this attack is health care reform. Not only was Romney’s health care bill the signature accomplishment of his administration, but it formed the basis for the Affordable Care Act, which may become the signature accomplishment of President Obama’s administration. Romneycare remains popular with Massachusetts voters, and it’s a genuine achievement for the Republican nominee, even if he can’t present it as an asset in his campaign. By attacking Romney’s tenure, the Obama campaign could put itself in the odd...

Why Democrats Support the Drug War Status Quo

Medical marijuana for sale in California. (Flickr/Dank Depot)
Later today, I'll have a post up at MSNBC's Lean Forward blog explaining why the "Choom Gang" revelations from David Maraniss' new biography of Barack Obama didn't seem to make anybody mad (with the exception of libertarians who took the opportunity to make the entirely accurate point that Obama's Justice Department is vigorously prosecuting people for doing pretty much the same thing Obama did as a teenager, and if he had been caught he might have gone to jail and certainly wouldn't have grown up to be president). Briefly, it comes down to a couple of things: Obama had already admitted he smoked pot "frequently," so it wasn't much of a revelation; and around half of American adults have too, meaning they weren't going to be outraged. Furthermore, most of the reporters who would write about the story are probably in the pot-smoking half, making them less likely to treat it as something scandalous. But this raises a question, one posed by Jonathan Bernstein: Why do Democratic...

Romney's Ambitious First Day

(Screenshot from campaign ad)
Perhaps Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign wasn't meaningless after all. During the Florida primary, I tracked Gingrich and his ludicrous proposals to overhaul the entire federal government so quickly upon taking office that he would barely have time to change into a tux for the inauguration parties. His extensive list of promises for day one was absurd, yet it seems to have influenced Mitt Romney. Romney's first general-election ad was titled "Day One," and now the Republican nominee revisits the same idea in a new ad, unimaginatively called "Day One, Part Two." Between these two ads, Romney has promised a first day that will include: Immediate approval to construct the Keystone Pipeline Executive orders to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act The introduction of tax cuts for "job creators" Deficit reduction "Ending the Obama era of big government" (this one is left up to the viewer's interpretation) Threatening China on trade to "demand they play by the rules" A...

Obama Brings Conservatives Out of the Closet

(Flickr/dfarber)
Call it the Obama effect. Since Obama's pitch- perfect announcement about same-sex marriage, supporting marriage equality is becoming practically chic. A cascade of voices has come out of the closet in favor of it, and hardly anyone has noticed. Obama gave cover—and a little push—to anyone who'd been on the fence. Really, once the president of the United States has gone there, why should the news media pay attention to the thoughts of minor political figures like, oh, Senator Harry Reid , the highest-ranking Mormon in the U.S. government and someone who has just a teensy bit of power to decide whether the Respect for Marriage Act (which would repeal DOMA) moves through the Senate? Or to the fact that the NAACP, an organization with a little bit of history on civil rights, has declared that equal marriage is a just and urgent civil-rights cause, required under the Fourteenth Amendment? (By the way, I loved the fact that the NAACP got out in front of any black church leaders who might...

Clinton as Veep Wouldn't Change the Election

(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
Polls remain essentially tied between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the campaign heads into the pre-convention summer slog. That gives pundits plenty of time to chew over various scenarios for how each candidate could reconfigure their campaigns before the general election. The veepstakes is already the dominant story on Romney's side, but some have also begun speculating about Obama's running mate. At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky says the way for Obama to win in November is by dumping Biden and adding Hillary Clinton to the ticket: Now bring in Hillary. Forget about it. The most consistently admired woman in America over the last 20 years? The gender gap would be 20 points. And the Obama and Clinton machines fused like that—it’s like Secretariat and Zenyatta breeding. And the signal sent to Democrats and women across the country that the whole thing is being teed up for her in 2016. This would be a blowout. Tomasky's argument is predicated on a recent New York Times poll that...

Supporters of Marriage Equality Need to Quit Whining

(Flickr/rudisillart)
You know how I felt about President Obama declaring himself in favor of same-sex marriage. I was gobsmacked . It’s politically risky . It’s symbolically powerful , in ways that Melinda Hennenberger noted sharply at the Washington Post . It pushed Senator Harry Reid, the next-highest-profile Democratic laggard on the issue, to support marriage equality, making full marriage rights pretty much the official platform of the entire Democratic Party. So I've been surprised by the number of people declaring that the announcement was too little, too late. Maybe, yes, it would have been better for him to have made his declaration a few days before, when his opinion might have influenced the appalling vote in North Carolina, which on Tuesday joined all the rest of the former Confederate states—and, actually, most of the country —in writing its opposition to marriage equality into its constitution . Okay, it's worse than that: The North Carolina law bans any recognition of same-sex partners or...

Bring On Less Democracy

(Flickr / afagen)
Is anybody else as depressed as I am about the next four years? No matter who wins, we face the prospect of bitterly divided government, savage partisanship in Congress, and increasing executive desperation. Even if Republicans win the Senate and retain the House, they will not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; even if Obama holds on to the White House, he will face filibusters in the Senate and outright defiance in the House. A Congress that cannot deal with the tiny student-debt problem in orderly fashion is unlikely to be able to tackle big problems at all. The response to legislative paralysis is, of course, executive aggrandizement. Charlie Savage of The New York Times laid out recently the turn by the Obama administration to executive authority as its means of governing the country. It’s entirely predictable; legislative fecklessness has led to presidential power-grabbing for more than a century. And if Mitt Romney becomes president, he is already poised to follow...

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