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“Obama Legacy May Even Help Her”: Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need To “Distance” Herself From Barack Obama

For a number of reasons, it has proven extremely difficult in recent history for a presidential candidate to win after eight years in which his party controlled the White House. Only one candidate has done it since 1948—George H.W. Bush in 1988. This fact would make a Hillary Clinton victory next year an unusual event, and there will be lots and lots of discussion between now and next November about how her candidacy is affected by the complex legacy of the Obama administration. The early form that discussion is taking seems to be that Clinton’s essential challenge is to “distance” herself from Barack Obama, which will be difficult because she served in his administration for four years. Comparisons are being made to John McCain, who was dragged down by George W. Bush in 2008 despite the fact that McCain hadn’t actually worked for Bush, but was just a senator (and a “maverick” at that, an idea that was essentially bogus but ubiquitous), as well as to Al Gore, who never found quite the right way to describe how his candidacy related to the administration in which he served.

This is a topic that I’m sure I’ll be returning to, because how the electorate thinks about Barack Obama and feels about the last eight years is going to be a central theme of the campaign. But my feeling right now is that it might not be as much of a problem for Clinton as so many people seem to think.

First, let’s dispense with the two main comparisons everyone is making: 2008 and 2000. Barack Obama’s popularity right now is pretty middling, in the high 40s. Would it be better for Clinton if it were higher? Sure. But it’s still worlds away from where George W. Bush was in 2008. In Gallup’s last poll before the 2008 election, Bush’s approval was at 25 percent. His administration was judged by Democrats, independents, and even many Republicans as an abysmal failure, because of both the disaster in Iraq and the financial cataclysm that had just hit. McCain was one of the war’s biggest supporters, and was offering essentially the same economic policies as Bush. That’s why it was easy for Obama to say that McCain offered more of the same, while he offered change—not only was there substance to the charge, but “more of the same” was something almost everyone agreed they wanted to avoid.

Today, people are less than satisfied with the way many things are going, but we aren’t in the throes of a disaster. The economy is recovering rather nicely, and attention has turned to long-standing problems like inequality and wage stagnation. Republicans can say that Obama didn’t fix these problems and Clinton won’t either, but they’ll have much more trouble saying that their remedy—essentially a return to George W. Bush’s economic policies—will produce something better.

As for 2000, the comparison is even less apt. Al Gore struggled to get out of Bill Clinton’s shadow and prove he was his own man, and because of the Lewinsky scandal he had a certain reluctance to embrace the successes of the administration. But nobody is going to plausibly say that Hillary Clinton isn’t her own woman or would just reproduce everything about the Obama years.

Nevertheless, in many ways, a Hillary Clinton presidency would probably look like a combination of her husband’s and the one she worked in. If you’re a Republican you think that sounds dreadful, if you’re a Democrat you think it sounds great, and if you’re an independent there are probably some things you’d like about it and some you wouldn’t. But it isn’t some nebulous mystery onto which Republicans can project a bunch of fears. A Hillary Clinton presidency is, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, a known known.

Things can change, of course—maybe there will be another recession, or some huge scandal that covers Obama in eternal shame. But if we proceed along as we’re going now, I doubt the Obama legacy is going to prove much of a problem for Clinton. It may even help her.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 13, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Confused And Bitter Old Man”: Obama Reminds McCain How Foreign Policy Works

Late last week, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei took issue with the United States’ characterization of the recently negotiated nuclear framework, though the White House was dismissive of the Iranian leader’s posturing.

“The test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday.

But in a bizarre twist, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to endorse the Ayatollah’s credibility over the U.S. Secretary of State’s. “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had,” McCain said Friday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made similar remarks.

To put it mildly, it was an unexpected development. For months, Republicans insisted, “We can’t trust Iranian leaders.” And yet, on Friday, McCain and Graham suggested rhetoric from Ayatollah Khamenei should be accepted at face value – while arguments from the American White House should not.

During a press conference at the Summit of the Americas, President Obama seemed visibly frustrated by the GOP’s increasingly unhinged approach to international affairs.

“When I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran – that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries. And we’re seeing this again and again. We saw it with the letter by the 47 senators who communicated directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran – the person that they say can’t be trusted at all – warning him not to trust the United States government.

“We have Mitch McConnell trying to tell the world, ‘Oh, don’t have confidence in the U.S. government’s abilities to fulfill any climate change pledge that we might make.’ And now we have a senator suggesting that our Secretary of State is purposely misinterpreting the deal and giving the Supreme Leader of Iran the benefit of the doubt in the interpretations.”

Obama added this isn’t how the United States is “supposed to run foreign policy, regardless of who’s president or secretary of state.” The president concluded that this is “a problem” that “needs to stop.”

I think even the most ardent Republicans, if they were to pause and think about this objectively, would be hard pressed to disagree with the underlying principles Obama presented. Put aside the GOP’s bitter, often ugly, contempt for the president and consider a more fundamental question: has American foreign policy ever worked this way?

Is there a scenario in which it can work this way? What signal does it send to the world when the legislative branch of the United States tries to undermine the executive branch of the United States on matters of international affairs?

For his part, McCain expressed a degree of dismay over Obama “attacking” him. I suppose that’s one way to look at it. The other way is that the president defended American foreign policy and America’s chief diplomat against ridiculous criticisms from a confused senator.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 13, 2015

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, John McCain, President Obama | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Security To Take Risks”: Secure Enough To Explore The Possibilities Of Our Ideals

In his interview with Tom Friedman, President Obama discussed how his foreign policy is guided by a principle I haven’t heard him articulate before.

What struck me most was what I’d call an “Obama doctrine” embedded in the president’s remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that “engagement,” combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-à-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities — like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.

We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naive — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

I say that I haven’t heard him articulate this principle before – but that’s simply because I haven’t heard him apply it to foreign policy. But the minute I read this portion of the interview, I thought of something a young Barack Obama told Tammerlin Drummond back in 1990 not long after he’d been elected the first African American President of the Harvard Law Review.

The post, considered the highest honor a student can attain at Harvard Law School, almost always leads to a coveted clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court after graduation and a lucrative offer from the law firm of one’s choice.

Yet Obama, who has gone deep into debt to meet the $25,000-a-year cost of a Harvard Law School education, has left many in disbelief by asserting that he wants neither.

One of the luxuries of going to Harvard Law School is it means you can take risks in your life,” Obama said recently. “You can try to do things to improve society and still land on your feet. That’s what a Harvard education should buy – enough confidence and security to pursue your dreams and give something back.”

I believe that what the President is talking about is something we all know deep inside ourselves but rarely allow to take hold. Too often our fears feed our sense of insecurity and keep us from taking the kinds of risks that could improve things. We embark on a never-ending quest to find more (money, power, etc) and never recognize that the ground we are standing on is already secure enough to allow us to let go and explore the possibility of our ideals.

The damage that kind of cycle does to an individual is very similar to how the fear-mongering from Republicans is affecting our country right now. It is in this way that President Obama embodies what is truly exceptional about the United States. He knows that just as a young man with a degree from Harvard Law School could afford to take some risks with his career (and look where that got him!), the richest and most powerful nation on this earth is secure enough to be able to take some risks to promote engagement and the potential for peace.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 7, 2015

April 8, 2015 Posted by | Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, President Obama | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“President Obama’s Impact On Racism”: Exposing The Reality Of The Continued Normalization Of Racism Ignored For The Last 40 Years

A lot of pundits have suggested that the presidency of Barack Obama has polarized the racial divide in this country. And there’s some truth to that. At no point in my adult life has race been more front and center as an issue than its been over the last 6 years. And so the question becomes whether this President has moved us forward or backwards when it comes to the racial divide in this country.

From the 1970’s through the early 2000’s, most white people could simply ignore the question of racism. There were times it came out of the woodwork and surprised us – like the reaction to the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trail. But if we were successfully able to segregate ourselves from the every day lives of black/brown people, we could reach the conclusion that the Civil Rights Movement had tackled that problem and it was time to move on. When it came to politics, that included both white conservatives and liberals.

Then we elected our first black president. Leonard Pitts suggests that has led us to a moment that resembles something in our recent past.

Six years ago, there was wistful talk of a “post-racial America.” But today, we find ourselves in the most-racial America since the O.J. Simpson debacle. It’s not just income inequality, voter suppression and the killing of unarmed black boys. It’s also the ongoing inability of too many people to see African Americans as part of the larger, American “us.”

Most of them no longer say it with racial slurs, but they say it just the same. They say it with birther lies and innuendo of terrorist ties. They say it by saying “subhuman mongrel.” They say it by questioning Obama’s faith. They say it as Rudy Giuliani said it last week. They say it because they have neither the guts to say nor the self-awareness to understand what’s really bothering them:

How did this bleeping N-word become president of the United States?…

The day the towers fell, Giuliani seemed a heroic man. But he has since made himself a foolish and contemptible one, an avatar of white primacy struggling to contend with its own looming obsolescence.

And the question once famously put to Joe McCarthy seems to apply: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Those same events led Ezra Klein to write about Obama Derangement Syndrome.

But then, that’s why Obama Derangement Syndrome is different than Bush Derangement Syndrome: it’s not really about Obama’s presidency. It’s about Obama himself. It’s about his blackness, his father’s foreignness, his strange name, his radical pastor. Obama’s presidency is in many ways ordinary, but the feelings it evokes are not. There is something about seeing Obama in the White House that deeply unsettles his critics. Obama Derangement Syndrome rationalizes those feelings.

I don’t know that much about Klein’s personal life other than that he’s young, smart, liberal and wonky. So I don’t want to make this all about him. But for the cohort he represents, it’s obviously pretty difficult to continue to ignore the reality of racism in this country as we watch the reaction to this President.

And so I am reminded of what Derrick Jensen wrote in The Culture of Make Believe.

Several times I have commented that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, religion, what have you. It is when those traditions are challenged, when the entitlement is threatened, when the masks of religion, economics, and so on are pulled away that hate transforms from its more seemingly sophisticated, “normal,” chronic state—where those exploited are looked down upon, or despised—to a more acute and obvious manifestation. Hate becomes more perceptible when it is no longer normalized.

Another way to say all of this is that if the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remains underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.

The presidency of Barack Obama has threatened the normalization of racism that allowed too many white people in this country to ignore it for the last 40 years. It’s now out in the open and time for us to reckon with it.

And so I’ll repeat the question Pitts asked: “Have you no sense of decency, sir/madame?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 1, 2015

March 2, 2015 Posted by | President Obama, Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rudy Giuliani’s Raging Bull”: Another New Yorker Who Held Onto The Spotlight For Too Long

So here we are at the start of a week after the country witnessed Rudy Giuliani doing a backstroke through the gutter of American politics. Apparently desperate for attention, the former mayor of New York jumped out of his seat at a gathering of wealthy Republicans who had assembled at the 21 Club in Manhattan in order to do a loud, please notice me, clown act.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say,” Giuliani began his wrecking ball speech, “but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

(Let’s pause right here in this off-the-cliff assault by the former mayor to remind everyone of something Obama’s loudest critics always insist is the case: This is not about race because it’s never about race when it comes to nut-boys attacking the President of the United States. Sure!)

“Going after patriotism is one thing,” Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, was saying, “but the really, really bad stuff is, ‘He wasn’t raised the way you and I were.’ There’s only one connotation for that kind of stuff and that’s directly out of what some people were saying in the Alabama of the 1960s.”

From mid-morning September 11, 2001, and for many days to follow Giuliani was an admirable figure. He provided his city and his country with a wall of courage, resolve and determination to stand straight and move forward through the shock, the death and the ashes of what terror had done to America’s most visible city.

He behaved nobly. Attended hundreds of funerals for the fallen. Stood like a sentry, a permanent reminder in those awful days of that awful Fall that America would not–could not–be defeated by a cult of religious zealots who prayed for the death and demise of the United States.

Now, all these years later, he has evolved into a pathetic, political version of Jake La Motta.

La Motta, another New Yorker out of an earlier time, was “The Raging Bull” who fought his way to the world middleweight championship. He lost his middleweight title to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 after one of the great prize fights of all time.

So La Motta decided to jump up one division in the hope of greater success. He joined the light heavyweight ranks. He was out of his league, out of his class and, soon, out of the ring completely.

But he loved the lights, the publicity, the attention, the fleeting fame that still surrounded him in New York. With some of the money he made with his fists, he bought a couple bars and ended up entertaining friends at bar-side and acting as both owner and bouncer too.

Punch drunk and clinging to a sad celebrity, he tried to be a stand-up comic but his act was sad, stale, and simply not funny. He was married seven times. He was a grifter, his best days all in history’s rear-view mirror.

Now, in this corner, wearing completely contemptible trunks, from the village of his own mind and memory, we have Rudy Giuliani wallowing in a bucket of resentment. He too is out of his league, punching way above his class.

In the other corner, we have the President of the United States, who emerged in the big ring on the evening of July 27, 2004. Then, Obama had been chosen to give the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention held in Boston.

“Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, “ Obama told the crowd, “America, that’s shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.”

“…My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ‘blessed,’ believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.”

“…I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

Four years later he won the presidency and four years after that he was re-elected President of the United States. His judge will be history. The verdict of his daily fight against constant opponents named global terror, fear, economic inequality, global warming, inequitable tax codes, inadequate health care, an incompetent Congress and a claque of politicians determined to destroy rather than simply defeat him will be rendered on some day down the road.

The clock on Rudy Giuliani’s end of days began ticking as soon as he walked out of City Hall. He ran for president once, his candidacy going up in flames nearly the moment he first opened his mouth. Now he’s opened it again and all that emerges is bitterness and a contempt that borders on hate. What a brutal end; a self-inflicted TKO.

 

By: Mike Barnicle, The Daily Beast, February 22, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Politics, President Obama, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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