The Obama Administration

Elizabeth Warren: Bailout Queen

Karl Rove’s latest ad has to set an all-time record for hypocrisy and factual inversion. The ad actually manages to blame Elizabeth Warren for the bank bailouts. As anyone who hasn’t spent the past three years in a cave must know, Warren has been the nation’s single most effective, relentless, and brave critic of the bailouts. It was that service as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel that made her one of America’s most admired public leaders. The ad slyly begins with Warren speaking, leading the viewer to imagine that this is a Warren ad. Warren says, “The first thing I’m going to promise is that I’m going to be a voice in the room on behalf of middle-class families.” Then a sneering female voiceover cuts in, and asks, “Really? Congress had Warren oversee how your tax dollars were spent bailing out the same banks that caused the financial meltdown, bailouts that helped pay big bonuses to bank executives while the middle class lost out.” The ad concludes, “Tell Professor Warren...

B Is for Betrayal

At a time when women's reproductive rights are under attack on many fronts, the last thing we need is for the Obama administration to join in.

Less than a day after President Barack Obama’s soaring speech on restoring the American middle class, progressives who felt that the administration was finally heading in the right direction stumbled back to reality Wednesday with a baffling decision from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius overruled the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on its recommendation to make the contraceptive Plan B—a morning-after pill that reduces the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex—available over the counter alongside contraceptives like condoms. Even girls younger than 16 would have had access to Plan B under the FDA's recommendation. In a statement explaining her decision, Sebelius argued that the FDA had not studied the potential impact on girls as young as 11 who could misunderstand the effects of the pill. As a result, she determined it was premature to make the pill available over the counter. "After careful consideration of the FDA summary review," Sebelius...

Starving Homophobia

Is it right to deny foreign aid to countries that discriminate against gays and lesbians?

AP Photo
Yesterday the Obama administration brought LGBT rights to the top of its foreign-policy agenda, announcing it would tie the receipt of foreign aid to a country’s treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. “Gay rights are human rights,” Hillary Clinton said in a rousing speech to the United Nations in Geneva. “It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.” As one would expect, the GOP quickly jumped on the opportunity. Rick Santorum assailed the president for "promoting gay lifestyles" around the globe, and Rick Perry quickly followed with a statement denouncing the administration's "war on traditional American values." By now the right’s sky-is-falling alarmism on gay issues has come to seem quaint. The new policy puts some bite behind the administration's effort to promote LGBT rights worldwide. While it may not cause an immediate about-...

Will Latinos Help Re-Elect Obama?

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama greets the crowd after speaking about immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, Tuesday, May 10, 2011, during his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. D emocrats have long been able to play good cop to the Republican bad cop on immigration reform and border security, which in effect has put minorities and those who care about these issues in the bind of voting for the lesser of two evils. But whether Barack Obama is trying to appeal to conservatives on immigration or is actually conservative at heart, his administration has proved that little, in fact, differentiates the two parties. Let’s take a look. Since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the issues of immigration and counterterrorism have been conflated. Much of the pressure to deport more and more undocumented immigrants comes from a fear that those immigrants could endanger the American people. As a result, Obama has dealt with immigration as a...

Pardon Me

Instead of forgiving cronies and crooks, the president should use his executive authority to pass the DREAM Act.

One of the little joys of teaching a presidency class in the fall is that my session on presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey . However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains. Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions. While the possibilities are vast, modern presidents use the power to pardon sparingly . Other than a few political cronies, moonshiners , and fowl friends, presidents have been reluctant to appear “soft on crime” and slow to use the pardon power. And since 1980, almost all pardons have been for specific individuals after the president and his staff have weighed the merits of each person’s case. But it is also possible for presidents to pardon entire...

Are Republicans Stuck?

For a member of the conservative establishment, the last two weeks have not been ideal. Your nominal candidate — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — has not been able to consolidate his position among Republican voters, and has hit a wave of intense criticism as Democrats and Republicans begin to wonder about his core beliefs, or lack thereof. Under normal circumstances, you might switch your vote to another candidate, but the emerging alternative is Newt Gingrich, whose poor record as House Speaker is tarred by affairs, adultery, and a series of shady business ventures. Democrats are gleeful over the possibility of a Gingrich nomination, and for good reason; it would give President Obama a huge advantage in the general election. In other words, you’re stuck between two least offensive options on an otherwise terrible menu. Or are you? Writing for The Washington Post , George Will argues that are other choices for Republicans who want that (seemingly) elusive combination of...

Madisonianism or Opportunism?

Matt Dickinson’s blog Presidential Power over the weekend updated us on an important legislative development (hard though it is to believe there could be a legislative development at present): the Senate’s odd bipartisan effort to require that all terrorism suspects be detained by the military and tried, if at all, by military tribunals rather than the civilian courts. As Matt notes, this would be true even if the suspect was an American suspect, captured on American soil. President Obama has threatened a veto. A New York Times editorial urged that he do just that about a month ago, on the grounds that it was a bad idea, but also that Congress was committing “an outrageous usurpation of executive authority.” Two quick thoughts. One, for nearly a decade – and as recently as the NATO intervention in Libya (though an “all’s well that ends well” attitude towards that adventure seems to have kicked in) – the left’s accusation has been that the president was usurping legislative authority...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

Jonathan Chait wrote a truly excellent essay in this month’s issue of New York that refuses to sympathize with the liberal journalists and scholars who have been writing damning commentary on Democratic presidents since the early 20th century. Instead of adding to the journalistic canon of how Obama is a traitor to his 2008 campaign, he turns his sight back on the Drew Westens and Patrick Caddells and Doug Schoens of the world and tries to explain why liberals are never satisfied with the people they elect: For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage. When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada; it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways: He is too accommodating, too timid, too unwilling or unable to inspire the populace. No one should be surprised that the...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

Rejoice! Congress won at not ruining the Constitution today! The Super Committee won at doing nothing . NERD FIGHT. Round Two. Or three. This has been going on for a while. The Monkey Cage’s John Sides added his two cents to the Economics v. Campaigns election forecast debate, saying that it’s difficult to assess how effective campaigns are while we’re watching them unfold. Maybe it’s time to bench this topic and bring it back for round three after next November. Nate Silver also tried to find out which economic factors have been most consistent in predicting electoral outcomes. Turns out the ISM manufacturing index is a better predictor of whether an incumbent will re-win the White House than the change in unemployment rate or GDP. Yay data. As an addendum to the “Do Campaigns Matter” debate, the “Do Debates Matter” debate might also become a thing soon, followed inevitably by the, “Do the Party Elite matter” and “Do Superdelegates matter” debates that close every primary season. I’m...

Evidence Tampering

There’s apparently a meme developing in the early general election reporting that goes like this: I know Obama is in a difficult position heading into 2012, but I can’t just report on the poll numbers or the fact that everyone knows incumbents have a difficult time getting re-elected when the economy is doing poorly , so I’m going to seize on some piece of information that’s out of context to be “another sign” that Obama is in trouble. My post last week in regard to the AP’s claim about supposed fund raising problems for Obama was a good example of this type of reporting. Today’s nominee comes from Adam Nagourney’s NY Times article about the fact that college students who volunteered a tremendous amount of time to campaign for Obama in 2008 do not plan to devote the same amount of time to volunteering for him in 2012. How does he know this? By citing polls among college students in 2011 and comparing them to polls among college students in 2007? Of course not—he interviews a number of...

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 2, Executive & Legislative Challenges

Executive. There’s a campaign under way to get President Obama to say he supports marriage equality; he hasn’t gone that far, claiming instead that his position “continues to evolve.” He has said that he opposes DOMA—which means little, in practice, for all the reasons we know from middle-school civics classes. Because it’s Congress’s job to make laws and the executive branch’s job to enforce them, the president can’t just stop enforcing DOMA: Same-sex couples still have to file taxes as single, and so forth. However, the executive branch does have some discretion. To wit: In February 2011, Obama’s administration made big news when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his office would no longer defend DOMA in court—because they believed it was unconstitutional, for the reasons listed in the lawsuits below. This was controversial. However: The U.S. has stopped some deportations of a binational married couple’s foreign-born spouse, saying that getting rid of people who are here...

Health Care Supreme

The Supreme Court, as expected, has decided to take up the question of whether the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution, and has allotted five and a half hours for oral argument. This is far longer than the typical 30 minutes lawyers get to argue before the Court, but it represents the magnitude of the case. Supreme Court opinions striking down acts of Congress are rare. To find a case where the Supreme Court struck down the centerpiece of a sitting president’s legislative agenda, you would have to go back to the New Deal, when reactionary holdovers like Willis Van Devanter and James McReynolds—the latter a justice so racist and anti-Semitic he would refuse to shake the hands of Jewish colleagues and turn his back on African American lawyers making oral arguments—created a constitutional crisis by repeatedly striking down key New Deal legislation. The Supreme Court's decision to hear the ACA challenge raises three key questions: Should the Supreme Court strike down the...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Prospect ’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end ) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.” Other big story of the day: The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in March. In light of this announcement, it’s a good time to revisit Garrett Epps’ post from last week on notoriously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman upholding the law. GQ just published its pizza-party interview with Herman Cain, which is a must-read. Not for the insight it lends into the pizza professional’s political acumen but simply because it is a terrific character study of a man who says incredibly interesting things but who just shouldn’t be elected president. A man who thinks Godfather’s Pizza...

The Court Will Rule—and Then?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform in this session—they’ll hear oral arguments in March and rule by session’s end in June— means that the issue will be revived for voters just a few month before next November’s presidential election. This is probably good for Republicans no matter which way the justices rule. And, no matter which way the justices rule, I can’t see how this helps the Democrats. There are basically three ways the court could go. They could uphold the individual mandate; they could strike it down, which would essentially negate the rest of the law; or they could rule the issue can’t be litigated until 2015, when the federal government would levy the first penalties on persons who refuse to purchase insurance. Additionally, the court will rule on the important but still subsidiary issue of whether the feds can require the states to pick up additional Medicaid expenditures starting in 2016—but the...

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