Paul Waldman

The Obama Campaign Takes on Health Care

Obama campaign video
The Obama campaign has decided to make the case for the Affordable Care Act, with a series of videos and ads highlighting people who are being helped by the provisions already in effect. They are, unsurprisingly, expertly produced and extremely moving. Take a look at this one: I'm sure Republicans will object that this is too emotional and manipulative. But guess what? There actually are real people's lives at stake. This issue isn't just about ideological principles, or about a political calculation of how the ACA will affect the two parties over the coming decades. Those things aren't completely irrelevant, but much more important are the costs and benefits to living human beings. How persuasive will this be? Well, it isn't as though every voter is going to be sat down and shown John Boehner or somebody saying "If the government mandates that you buy health insurance, you might as well be living in the Gulag!" then get shown this video. If that were the case, it'd be no contest. But...

Is Barack Obama the First Jewish President?

The White House seder in 2010 (Pete Souza)
If Bill Clinton was the first black president, as Toni Morrison famously observed, then could Barack Obama be the first Jewish president? That's the interesting case Jeffrey Goldberg makes at The Atlantic . Goldberg tells how he gave Obama a copy of a new Haggadah he contributed to: When I handed him the Haggadah, President Obama, who famously stages his own seders at the White House, (which is a very nice philo-Semitic thing to do, IMHO) spent a moment leafing through it and making approving noises. Then he said (as I told the Times): "Does this mean we can't use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?" George W. Bush was, in his own way, a philo-Semite, but he never would have made such an M.O.T. kind of joke (see the end of this post if you're not sure what M.O.T. means). Once again, Barack Obama was riffing off the cosmic joke that he is somehow anti-Semitic, when in fact, as many people understand, he is the most Jewish president we've ever had (except for Rutherford B. Hayes). No...

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...

Talk Radio Troubles

(Flickr/Jonathan Gill)
The controversy over Rush Limbaugh's venomous attacks on Sandra Fluke appears to have done what a dozen prior Limbaugh controversies could not: affect his bottom line. As John Avlon reports , advertisers are fleeing not only from Limbaugh, but from other hosts like him: Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on "programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity)." This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are "carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald's, Subway...

Friday Music Break

For today's edition of Well-Meaning Pop Songs From the 70's That Make You Cringe, I could have gone with Elvis doing "In the Ghetto," but that would have been too easy. Instead, we've got Cher, with "Half Breed." This particular performance comes from the Sonny & Cher show, and allow me to suggest that the sensitivity the song displays toward people of mixed racial heritage is undermined just a smidge by the fact that they've got her sitting atop a horse in some kind of Indian-themed bikini, with—you guessed it—a headdress atop her head. Toss in a totem pole (which they do), and she's good to go:

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...

The Top-Down Romney Campaign

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Much of the coverage of the moment is about the problem Mitt Romney is having with Republican base voters, who seem to neither like nor trust him. Their hesitation doesn't seem to be enough to stop Romney from becoming their nominee, but it has, and will continue to have, a multitude of consequences for the Romney campaign. Today, the New York Times points to another one: the shockingly small amount of Romney's fundraising that has come from small donors. You might say, well, money is money, right? And Romney has raised a lot more than his opponents, so what does it matter? The answer is that it has a series of implications for the fall campaign, none of which bode well for him. Some of it is about the practical necessities of a campaign, but perhaps more importantly, it's about the spirit the campaign embodies. But before we get to that, let's look at the numbers: It may be harder to find a hundred people who'll give $25 than that one donor who'll give the legal maximum of $2,500,...

Let the VP Speculation Begin!

Romney's VP won't be nearly this interesting. (Therealbs2002)
Let's face it: never in our lifetimes will we see as disastrous/awesome a vice-presidential choice as John McCain made four years ago when he plucked Sarah Palin from the wilds of Wasilla and set her before the nation. Whoever Mitt Romney chooses to be his running mate, he (yeah, it's going to be a he) is not going to be anywhere near as interesting, maddening, or costly to the GOP ticket. Unlike McCain, Romney is not a gambler. We can be fairly sure that his choice will be vetted a lot more closely, and the ultimate pick will be, above all, safe. This is bad news for people like me who write about politics for a living. I'd go back and see how many words I've spilled over Sarah Palin in the last four years, but I'm afraid of what I'd find. I'm fairly certain I won't be anywhere near as inspired by the person Romney chooses. Will it be repellent white guy Rick Santorum ? No! Will it be boring white guy Rob Portman ? Maybe! Will it be some other boring white guy? Probably! And if...

The Difference a Different Decider Makes

Two different guys.
Two different guys. As the bleating of the Republican war caucus gets louder and louder, it's beginning to sound a lot like 2002, when the Bush administration was treating us to daily news about the terrifying threat posed by Saddam Hussein's vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, ready to incinerate us all in weeks if we didn't launch a war. Some of the same people who made the case then are making the case now that we need to start bombing Iran. As you're watching them, it's hard not to shake your head and say, "Are these people insane? Do they actually believe that it's a good idea for America to start another war in the Middle East? My god, are we getting on this train to disaster again?!?" But before we all get too frustrated, it's important to remember one thing: now matter how loud people like Liz Cheney may shout (and somebody please remind me why anyone should give a crap what she thinks), no matter how much infantile chest-beating we get from the Republican candidates...

Romney's New Health Care Problem

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
When this campaign started a year or so ago, a lot of people said that whatever his virtues, Mitt Romney simply could not become the presidential nominee of the Republican party, for one reason above all others: health care. He had the misfortune of having passed a popular, successful plan to reform health insurance in Massachusetts, only to watch a nearly identical plan become, in the eyes of his party, the most abominable freedom-destroying monstrosity since the Alien and Sedition Acts. Many smart people thought there was just no way Romney could get past it. Yet here we are, in the wake of Super Tuesday, and Mitt has a healthy delegate lead. No one seriously believes that he isn't going to be the nominee. Throughout this race, health care has certainly been an irritant for him, the cause of many an unpersuasive explanation and absurd protestation. But it hasn't stopped his march to the nomination. The problem Mitt now has is that health care is about to go from being a primary...

His Heart Will Go On

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In the past couple of weeks, I've probably heard a dozen different Republican operatives say utterly unconvincingly that a lengthy primary season is good for the party. Their nominee will emerge stronger! They get to talk about their issues! No one buys it, particularly since all the evidence (see, for instance, this poll ) suggests that the longer the primary goes, the less popular the Republican party in general and these particular Republicans in particular become. For a long time, Mitt Romney had hoped that Super Tuesday would put an end to all this, and he could stop spending his time pandering to his party's extremists and get on with the more serious business of pandering to independent voters. But after last night, Rick Santorum is going nowhere. And why should he? We can all agree that Santorum, possibly America's most unpleasant politician, will never, ever be president. Whether he knows that I can't say for sure, although I doubt it. But even if he did, is there a reason in...

Self-Driving Cars Can't Come Soon Enough

A thing of the past, eventually. (Flickr/huggs2)
So how long will it be before this whole "driving ourselves around in cars" thing is done with? Atrios predicts that "a whole lot of public money will be spent setting up a 'driverless car' system that will never actually work." Kevin Drum is much more optimistic — he predicts that "There will be a transition period that's likely to be messy—though probably no messier than today's all-human traffic nightmare—but eventually you won't even be allowed to drive a car. Every car on the road will be automated, and our grandchildren will be gobsmacked to learn that anything as unreliable as a human being was ever allowed to pilot a two-ton metal box traveling 60 miles an hour." I'm with Kevin on this — technologically speaking, the ability for cars to drive themselves is coming really soon (see this recent article in Wired for a primer). Yes, it will be difficult to get to the fully automated system where the cars speak to the roads and to each other, but between here and there, there are...

When Do Reporters Start Calling Mitt Romney a Liar?

(Flickr/PBS NewsHour)
Two days ago, Barack Obama went before AIPAC (which is commonly known as "the Israel Lobby" but would be better understood as the Likud lobby, since it advocates not Israel's interests per se but the perspective of the right wing of Israeli politics, but that's a topic for another day), and said , among other things, the following: "I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table , and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon . And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency...

Chuck Todd Decides Heartland Hasn't Been Sufficiently Pandered To

Aspen Institute
NBC News political director Chuck Todd, singing the oldest self-flagellating hymn in the media book, laments his colleagues' lack of awareness of the good people between the coasts. Todd is ordinarily a smarter and more reasonable guy than your typical pundit, but this is just about the dumbest thing I've heard all week: Nothing chaps my ass more than New York-centric coverage of American politics. Because its through the New York prism that we incorrectly cover American politics 60% of the time. To me, the ideological bias in the media really hasn’t been there in a long time. But what is there that people mistake for ideological bias is geographic bias. It’s seeing everything through the lens of New York and Washington. So, for instance, I’ve always thought we collectively as the media covered this recession horribly, because the two markets that actually weathered it better than almost any in the country were New York and Washington. That didn’t mean we didn’t cover it, but we only...

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