Well, Donald Trump finally said something I agree with 100%:
Donald Trump: “We are the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment.”
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) September 18, 2015
Here’s what I said about gun rights and American Exceptionalism back in July when the president told the BBC that his inability to enact reasonable gun regulations was his greatest frustration:
Any British audience would be puzzled by this phenomenon, but then the Brits aren’t exactly freedom-loving, are they?
Well, actually they are, as are people in a lot of other advanced countries where there’s no expectation of any right to set oneself up as a private army.
And that gets to one of the roots of the ideology of “American exceptionalism.” If you compare the U.S. to other nations where there are reasonably solid traditions of self-government, respect for law, and democratic accountability, in what respect do we enjoy more “liberty?” When people tearfully sing along with Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American,” what do they mean when they say “at least I know I’m free,” as compared, say, to a Canadian? The only thing readily identifiable is our unique freedom to pack heat. And so long as that is thought to be integral to American identity, and protected by powerful and wealthy interest groups, including maybe one-and-a-half major political parties, then efforts to take the most reasonable steps to keep guns out of the hands of potential shooters will continue to be “frustrated.”
I love my country, and I don’t want to live anywhere else. But I sure wish fewer of us thought of “freedom” as just another word for packing heat, and even fewer thought they had the right to stockpile weapons in case they decide it’s necessary to overthrow the government and impose their will on the rest of us.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 18, 2015
“Two Leaders, Two Countries, Two International Standings”: Are Republicans Ready To Admit Their Putin Adulation Was Misplaced?
For many Republicans, there are some basic truths about international perceptions. President Obama, they assume, is not well respected abroad, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin is seen as tough and impressive.
Last year, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wrote a column on how impressed he is with Putin, and argued, “Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours.”
With this in mind, the Pew Research Center has published a couple of helpful reports of late. In June, Pew’s “Global Attitudes & Trends” study found that impressions of the United States are up around the world – much improved over the findings from the Bush/Cheney era – and President Obama is an especially popular figure across much of the globe.
And this week, the Pew Research Center released related findings on Russia and Putin. Ben Carson may want to pay particular attention to the results.
Outside its own borders, neither Russia nor its president, Vladimir Putin, receives much respect or support, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A median of only 30% see Russia favorably in the nations outside of Russia. Its image trails that of the United States in nearly every region of the world.
At the same time, a median of only 24% in the countries surveyed have confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs, and there is far less faith in the Russian leader than there is in U.S. President Barack Obama.
If this makes it sound as if Republicans have described the entire dynamic backwards, that’s because they have.
Remember, it was just last year when American conservatives effectively adopted Putin as one of their own. Rudy Giuliani said of the Russian autocrat, “That’s what you call a leader.” Mitt Romney proclaimed, “I think Putin has outperformed our president time and time again on the world stage.” A Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted Putin to temporarily serve as “head of the United States.”
But by international standards, the GOP rhetoric seems quite foolish.
In all regions of the world, Putin’s image fares quite poorly compared with public perception of U.S. President Barack Obama. Three-quarters of Europeans have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 15% have such faith in Putin. By more than two-to-one, publics in Africa, Asia and Latin America trust Obama more than Putin.
So, what do you say, conservatives? Ready to admit your Putin adulation was misplaced?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 7, 2015
“The Same Priorities She’s Emphasizing Now”: What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago
Following Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech on Saturday, purveyors of conventional wisdom have assured us again that she is tacking toward the left to deflect her challengers and mollify her party’s liberal base. Such assertions usually hint that Clinton is not progressive herself, but merely swayed that way by polls and consultants.
On the evening before her big event in Four Freedoms Park, New York’s memorial to its favorite son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I picked up a copy of her 1996 bestseller, It Takes A Village. (While many journalists once thumbed through it, few seem to remember its contents.) Published during an era when the nation showed few signs of turning leftward, Clinton’s first book offered pithy arguments for the same priorities she is emphasizing now. Consider the views she expressed on family leave — and, in particular, the limitations of the law signed by her husband in 1993:
As I have mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave to employees in firms with more than fifty workers. That is a good beginning. Many parents, however, cannot afford to forgo pay for even a few weeks, and very few employers in America offer paid maternity and paternity leave….
Other countries have figured out that honoring the family by giving it adequate time for caregiving is not only right for the family and smart for society but good for employers, who reap the benefits of workers’ increased loyalty and peace of mind. The Germans, for example, guarantee working mothers fourteen weeks’ maternity leave (six weeks before and eight weeks after delivery) at full salary…
Other European countries provide similarly generous leave, some of them to fathers as well as mothers. In Sweden, for example, couples receive fifteen months of job-guaranteed, paid leave to share between them…
As First Lady, Clinton obviously was in no position to demand that her husband’s administration (or the Republican-dominated Congress) institute paid family leave, but her own opinion was clear enough. So was her view of early childhood education, another current issue that she highlighted on Saturday:
Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to “welcome” children into the larger community and “awaken” their potential for learning and growing.
It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not….More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles…
While I was in France, I had conversations with a number of political leaders, from Socialists to Conservatives. “How,” I asked, “can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. “How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?” was the reply I heard over and over again.
Finally, Clinton drew sharp attention to the social instabilities of the post-industrial American economy and the role of government in redressing what she called a “crisis.” Observing that “long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy,” she warned bluntly:
Too many companies, especially large ones, are driven more and more narrowly by the need to ensure that investors get good quarterly returns and to justify executives’ high salaries. Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments, and that they expend less and less concern on job training, employee profit sharing, family-friendly policies…or even fair pay raises that share with workers – not to mention their families and communities – gains from productivity and profits…
Despite record profits for many companies, the gap in income between top executives and the average worker has widened dramatically….This growing inequality of incomes has serious implications for our children.
She went on to again praise Germany, where “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system” — and where higher base wages, universal health care, and superb job training guaranteed “a distribution of income that is not so skewed as ours is.”
Writing 20 years ago, when President Clinton was running for re-election against the odds, Hillary hedged her message — and yet she was prescient in addressing the harms of an increasingly unfair economy. What she said then undergirds what she is still saying, more and more forcefully, in this campaign.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 15, 2015