It is long overdue for someone, anyone, to back up President Barack Obama.
Yes, it is easy to kvetch about the shortcomings he’s faced on both domestic and international fronts, and who can argue with the most recent Gallup poll that equated his approval rating to that of President George W. Bush, but as an early supporter of the president, I must admit, I am prouder than ever to call Barack Obama my president.
He’s smart, he’s pragmatic, and he’s black. Yeah, I said it. I’m a white Jew from the San Fernando Valley who grew up in an all-white and Asian neighborhood. Never in my life did I have an opportunity to demonstrate my unflagging support for a black man who clearly deserved the nation’s top spot, not because he is black, but because voting for President Obama demonstrated to the world that America values competence over race.
I am grateful that I have an opportunity to tell my son that I am responsible for helping elect the country’s first black president. And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal who thinks he’s saving the world by backing up a black president. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who brought the country’s most maligned terrorist to justice. It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who inherited a suck-wind economy that is a lot healthier now than it’s been in years. And it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who had the courage to fix a health care system that no other recent president dared to fix because they didn’t have the guts to do so.
And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal whose naiveté about how the world works is what gets the country into trouble in the first place. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who is dealing with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia, fallout from Ferguson, and every other red-hot world crisis that is happening at the same time. It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who believes gay people should be treated like everyone else. And it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who cares about the environment.
And I know what the pundits will say: There goes another self-righteous white liberal who is making excuses for the president and lacks any sort of moral fortitude. And all I have to say to you is this: It’s foolhardy to forsake what the president has accomplished.
It’s foolhardy to forsake the man who improved the image of Americans when traveling in foreign countries, it’s foolhardy to forsake the man who decided to tackle the inequities of student lending programs, and it’s foolhardy to forsake the man whose family values serve as an important role model.
Measuring the president’s approval rating is riddled with pitfalls. The Gallup poll feels more like a barometer for people’s take on how messed up the world is at the moment, and boy, does the world feel messed up at the moment.
And I know what the pundits will say: It’s the president’s fault. And all I have to say to you is this: The scale of what Barack Obama has accomplished as president has done more for this country in the long run than any pollster can measure, and if you realize this, hardly a fool that you can be called.
By: Evan Pondel, The Huffington Post Blog, September 24, 2014
After the 2012 elections, it was tempting to think Republicans would be a little more cautious about economic elitism and callous indifference towards those struggling to get by. But in 2014, many GOP officials have thrown caution to the wind and embraced elitism with both arms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, recently defended cuts to student aid by saying, “Not everybody needs to go to Yale.” As McConnell sees it, the nation’s elite institutions of higher ed should be within reach for students from rich families – and no one else. Soon after, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading U.S. Senate candidate, called those who rely on the safety net as “addicts.”
And then there’s House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who appeared at the American Enterprise Institute last week to discuss the economy. Asked about Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) anti-poverty plans, Boehner was quite candid about his thoughts on the unemployed.
“I think this idea that’s been born out the last – maybe out of the economy last couple of years that, ‘You know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this, I think I’d just rather sit around.’ This is a very sick idea for our country.”
The Speaker’s perspective is bizarre as a matter of public policy, but I’m glad he made these comments because his candor sheds light on an ugly ideology.
When GOP lawmakers cut off extended jobless aid, on a substantive level, it seems bewildering. In recent decades, neither party even considered such radicalism with high unemployment, if for no other reason because cutting jobless aid hurts economic growth. But Boehner has offered a peek behind the curtain – the Republican argument isn’t about economics, so much as it’s about personal animosity. The Speaker and his allies seem to think there’s something wrong, and perhaps even offensive, about families struggling to get by.
It’s part of the same phenomenon that leads GOP officials to demand drug tests for those relying on the safety net. If you need a hand keeping your head above water, it may very well be the result of a drug addiction. If you want a job and can’t find one, the argument goes, the problem is almost certainly your fault – it’s because you’d “rather sit around” than work.
It stems from a school of thought that says many social-insurance programs shouldn’t exist because struggling Americans are lazy and simply don’t deserve public assistance.
I realize that evidence and substance has very little effect in this debate, but Igor Volsky explained that laziness isn’t the real problem.
Currently, there are more than two job seekers for every job opening in the country and the severity of the recession has created a long-term unemployment problem that has made many job seekers almost unemployable. Research shows that being unemployed for nine months has the same impact on your odds of getting hired as losing four full years of experience from a résumé. As a result, many people who lost their jobs have gone back to school, retired early, or continue to look for work without success.
In fact, millions of unemployed people are having a harder time finding a job since Congressional Republicans allowed the long-term unemployment benefits program to lapse. Research – and real world experience – has found that the program’s job search requirements encourage people to spend more time job hunting and helps cover essentials like internet service for job applications or gas money for interviews.
In theory, Boehner and his allies would be taking a huge risk by making comments like these in an election year. After all, if every unemployed and underemployed American turned out in the fall, furious by the implication that they’re lazy, Republicans would be in pretty big trouble.
But the Speaker and his party are confident that those struggling most probably won’t participate in the elections – and those assumptions are probably correct – so remarks like these won’t come with any consequences.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 22, 2014
“If GOP Is So Right, Why Are Red States So Far Behind?”: Red States Are The Poorest States In The Country
I have a question for my Republican friends.
Yes, that sounds like the setup for a smackdown, but though the question is pointed, it is also in earnest. I’d seriously like to know:
If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?
You may recall that Bill Clinton touched on this at the 2012 Democratic Convention. He claimed that, of all the private sector jobs created since 1961, 24 million had come under Republican presidents and a whopping 42 million under Democrats. After Clinton said that, I waited for PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization, to knock down what I assumed was an obvious exaggeration.
But PolitiFact rated the statement true. Moreover, it rated as “mostly true” a recent claim by Occupy Democrats, a left-wing advocacy group, that 9 of the 10 poorest states are red ones. The same group earned the same rating for a claim that 97 of the 100 poorest counties are in red states. And then there’s a recent study by Princeton economists Alan Binder and Mark Watson that finds the economy has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. Under the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush they say we averaged an annual growth rate of 2.54 percent. Under the likes of Kennedy, Clinton and Obama? 4.35 percent.
Yours truly is no expert in economics, so you won’t read any grand theories here as to why all this is. You also won’t read any endorsement of Democratic economic policy.
Instead, let me point out a few things in the interest of fairness.
The first is that people who actually are economic experts say the ability of any given president to affect the economy — for good or for ill — tends to be vastly overstated. Even Binder and Watson caution that the data in their study do not support the idea that Democratic policies are responsible for the greater economic performance under Democratic presidents.
It is also worth noting that PolitiFact’s endorsements of Occupy Democrats’ claims come with multiple caveats. In evaluating the statement about 97 of the 100 poorest counties being red, for instance, PolitiFact reminds us that red states tend to have more rural counties and rural counties tend to have lower costs of living. It also points out that a modest income in rural Texas may actually give you greater spending power than the same income in Detroit. So comparisons can be misleading.
Duly noted. But the starkness and sheer preponderance of the numbers are hard to ignore. As of 2010, according to the Census Bureau, Connecticut, which has not awarded its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, had a per capita income of $56,000, best in the country, while Mississippi, which hasn’t gone Democrat since 1976, came in at under $32,000 — worst in the country. At the very least, stats like these should call into question GOP claims of superior economic policy.
Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?
It seems to suggest Republican claims are, at best, overblown. If that’s not the case, I’d appreciate it if some Republican would explain why. Otherwise, I have another earnest, but pointed question for my Democratic friends:
How in the world do they get away with this?
NOTE: In a recent column, I pegged the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to his “Democratic opponents.” Though the indictment did come out of Austin, which is a blue island in the red sea that is Texas, I should have noted that the judge who assigned a special prosecutor in the case is a Republican appointee and the prosecutor he chose has, according to PolitiFact, ties to both parties.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 3, 2014
Meanwhile, back at the ranch — as foreign events hog the spotlight — why haven’t Republicans sealed the deal on the coming election?
When summer began, the conventional wisdom was that the GOP sorta kinda probably maybe would take control of the Senate in November. As summer ends — and it hasn’t been great for President Obama, which means it also hasn’t been anything for the Democratic Party to write home about — that same equivocal assessment still holds.
The Real Clear Politics Web site, which aggregates polls, rates nine Senate races as tossups. If incumbents Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas manage to scrape out wins, the Web site calculates, Democrats will retain a 51 to 49 edge and Harry Reid gets to keep his job as majority leader.
Let’s say that one of those Democrats falters — or even two. It seems entirely possible that Bruce Braley could defeat Republican Joni Ernst in an Iowa race that polls show as a dead heat. Democrat Michelle Nunn may be gaining ground on David Perdue in Georgia, although a recent poll showing Nunn in the lead is probably an outlier. And the man who wants Reid’s job, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is in a surprisingly tough race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
All in all, you still have to give the edge to the GOP. But it is a surprisingly narrow and tenuous advantage in a year when some analysts were predicting a wave election in favor of Republicans.
So far, just ripples. Why could that be?
This time, the GOP managed not to nominate candidates whose views are so extreme — or so wacky — that they might effectively concede what ought to be safe seats. The party establishment made ideological concessions to the tea party wing, but managed to insist on nominees who have a chance of being elected. No Republican candidate has spoken of solving problems with “Second Amendment remedies,” as Sharron Angle did in 2010, or run a television ad to declare “I’m not a witch” a la Christine O’Donnell that same year.
The candidates may be plausible, but they’re running on the wrong issues. Rather, the wrong issue: the Affordable Care Act.
“Repeal Obamacare” remains a rallying cry for the GOP’s activist base — perhaps less for the law itself than the president for whom it is named. But for independent voters, undoing health-care reform is not the sure-fire issue Republicans hoped it would be.
The program is in effect. Some people who previously could not obtain health insurance now have it. Most people are unaffected. Despite all the dire GOP predictions, the sky has not fallen.
Yet Republican candidates say otherwise, describing a dystopian breakdown of the nation’s health-care system that simply has not occurred. And they go all tongue-tied when asked how they could manage to repeal Obamacare in the face of a certain veto by Obama — or, more tellingly, just what they would put in place if they somehow succeeded.
Much of the news dominating the headlines this summer has been taking place overseas — Russia’s slow-motion invasion of Ukraine, the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, whatever it is that seems to be happening in Libya. Blasting Obama for failed leadership is a guaranteed applause line, but GOP candidates are not even trying to articulate what the president should be doing differently. Airstrikes in Syria? Ground troops back to Iraq? Anybody want to speak up?
Nor has the party developed an economic message that goes beyond the familiar standbys: tax cuts, spending cuts, deregulation. The public is clearly not thrilled with the state of the economy — as reflected in Obama’s low approval ratings — but growth is up and unemployment is down. The claim that Democratic policies inevitably lead to ruin rings hollow.
Still, Democrats have an uphill fight, even if it’s not nearly as steep as the GOP hoped. To hold the Senate, segments of the Democratic coalition who often skip midterm elections — African Americans, Latinos, younger voters — will have to turn out. And polls show that Republicans maintain an edge in enthusiasm.
Which brings me to the wild card: immigration.
Obama is considering executive action that could give legal status to thousands or even millions of undocumented immigrants. Would that inflame conservatives and drive Republican turnout through the roof? Would it excite the Democratic faithful, especially Latinos, giving them a reason to vote?
This thing is unpredictable. And that’s a surprise.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post,September 1, 2014
Political commentary on President Obama’s clothing choices started almost immediately after his inauguration. Just two weeks after the president took the oath of office, Republican critics started complaining about photographs showing Obama in the Oval Office without a jacket on. Democrats responded by showing pictures of Reagan dressed in similar Oval Office attire, and the right quietly moved on.
Yesterday, interest in presidential attire reached a level that was hard to believe, with the political world going a little bonkers over Obama’s tan suit. Andrew Kaczynski flagged the latest from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) whose apoplexy about the color of the president’s suit was so over the top, it’s tempting to think this is satire.
“There’s no way any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday,” King said of President Obama on NewsMaxTV. “When you have the world watching … a week, two weeks of anticipation of what the United States is gonna do. For him to walk out – I’m not trying to be trivial here – in a light suit, light tan suit, saying that first he wants to talk about what most Americans care about the revision of second quarter numbers on the economy. This is a week after Jim Foley was beheaded and he’s trying to act like real Americans care about the economy, not about ISIS and not about terrorism. And then he goes on to say he has no strategy.”
King said Obama’s comments and actions showed “foreign policy was not a major issue” for President Obama.
Note, this isn’t a joke. Kaczynski posted the clip of King’s remarks, which seem to be entirely sincere.
An actual member of Congress – the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s panel on counter-terrorism, no less – believes there’s “no way” to “excuse what the president did.” And in this case, what the president did was put on a tan suit.
I especially like the part in which King says he’s “not trying to be trivial here.” No, of course not. Perish the thought. All he’s doing is launching a tirade about the color of the president’s tan suit. Why would anyone think that’s trivial?
Also note, King was outraged by Obama’s suggestion that the economy is “what most Americans care about.” The nerve!
As for “he has no strategy,” this is pretty cheap rhetoric given the context of what the president actually said, as the congressman probably realizes.
As for the suit, I can appreciate why it raised eyebrows, at least a little. When I watched the press conference, I noticed the suit, too, and thought to myself, “Huh, that’s different.”
But then the press conference started in earnest and it was time to focus on substance. That is, unless you’re a congressman who believes there’s just no “excuse what the president did” when he put on the suit.
Postscript: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the start of today’s briefing that the president ”feels pretty good” about his fashion choice, adding, “The president stands squarely behind his decision he made yesterday to wear his summer suit.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 29, 2014