U.S. after 20 January 2010

Written by  //  December 21, 2010  //  Foreign Policy, Government & Governance, U.S.  //  1 Comment

See also PolitiFact.coma veritable U.S. political Snopes ; More on U.S. (Foreign Affairs, Energy & Environment, even Sarah Palin, etc.) ; U.S. post 20 January 2009 ; Q&A: Obama on His First Year in Office; U-S. Mid-term elections 2010
Obama! A Modern U.S. President (musical spoof)

New START treaty: Final vote could be Wednesday
(CSM) The Senate voted 67 to 28 Tuesday to move to a final vote on the new START treaty. Ratification would constitute a big political victory for a president who took a beating in the midterm elections. … If, as expected, “New START” is ratified, it will be the first time that an arms-control treaty negotiated by a Democratic president has garnered the required two-thirds vote of the Senate.
18 December
Senate Vote Repeals Discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy
Most opposition to repeal came from conservatives, the greater number of which were overwhelmingly Republican. Citing reasons such as distraction on the battlefield (worrying about one’s fellow servicemen’s sexual orientation and mentality under combat situations), many noted that the repeal of the policy would lead to organizational problems, not to mention deaths on the battlefield.
Proponents of the measure noted that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was simply a violation of gay service members’ civil rights, a matter of privacy being infringed upon for no good reason. They also argued that military preparedness was being impacted negatively with military dismissals, some in key areas like intelligence gathering, of highly qualified and well-trained individuals.
17 December
Could Lame Duck Be a Big Win for Obama Agenda?
(NYT) Far from being the legislative wasteland that some had predicted, this year’s Congressional lame-duck session has developed into an intense, make-or-break series of cliffhanger events for the president and his soon-to-expire Democratic majority in the House.
… the president is concluding 2010 by directly confronting issues that have come to define the sweep of his presidency – the economy, foreign engagement and questions of social justice.
In the early hours of Friday morning, the president won passage of the $858 billion tax deal he reached with Republicans and he appeared close to achieving approval of the landmark nuclear treaty he negotiated with the Russians. Both political parties have grudgingly agreed to do whatever is necessary to keep the federal government operating by approving an extension of the current budget authority into early next year.
And in something of a surprise, it appears there may be enough Republican support to provide Mr. Obama with a victory on a major promise: to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the armed forces.
1 December
Tom Friedman: From WikiChina
What if China had a WikiLeaker and we could see what its embassy in Washington was reporting about America? I suspect the cable would read like this:
22 November
The Economist on-line debate This house believes that America’s political system is broken.
Paul Krugman: There Will Be Blood
One of our parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing.
21 November
Frank Rich: Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha
… logic doesn’t apply to Palin. What might bring down other politicians only seems to make her stronger: the malapropisms and gaffes, the cut-and-run half-term governorship, family scandals, shameless lying and rapacious self-merchandising. In an angry time when America’s experts and elites all seem to have failed, her amateurism and liabilities are badges of honor. She has turned fallibility into a formula for success.
Republican leaders who want to stop her, and they are legion, are utterly baffled about how to do so. Democrats, who gloat that she’s the Republicans’ problem, may be humoring themselves. When Palin told Barbara Walters last week that she believed she could beat Barack Obama in 2012, it wasn’t an idle boast. Should Michael Bloomberg decide to spend billions on a quixotic run as a third-party spoiler, all bets on Obama are off.
18 November
One nation, divisible
As America undergoes dramatic, uneven changes, it may become harder to govern
(The Economist) AMERICA is getting used to political upheaval. Barack Obama’s election was, to many voters, a moment of transformation. His first two years, many others lamented, brought a dangerous expansion of government; now the right has arisen again. The new Congress will be more polarised than at any time since Reconstruction, reckon some political scientists. But these swings, however large and consequential, are arguably only symptoms.
… All these trends are enough to shake a nation. Just as important, however, is that they are playing out very differently from one part of the country to another. Of course, some variation is inevitable; but as the fault lines that criss-cross the country widen, finding political consensus becomes ever more difficult.
17 November
Nicholas Kristof: A Hedge Fund Republic?
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
16 November
Soros: China has better functioning government than U.S.
(Foreign Policy) … Mr. Soros even went so far as to say that at times China wields more power than the U.S. because of the political gridlock in Washington. “Today China has not only a more vigorous economy, but actually a better functioning government than the United States,” he said, a hard statement for him to make because he spent much of his life donating to anti-communist groups in Eastern Europe.
6 November
Nicholas Kristof: Our Banana Republic
11 October
Christie Wins In Tea Party Straw Poll
The fact that every poll appears to have a new “surprise leader,” Mike Pence at the Value Voters Summit, Gov. Christie at the Tea Party convention, Mitt Romney leading the Gallup polls, shows exactly how divided the current Republican party is. And, oddly, the fact that Sarah Palin appears to poll fairly high within each of these groups makes the idea of her winning the 2012 nomination slightly less crazy. It is hard to believe that things can get much worse, but it seems that they do and will.
8 October
Paul Krugman: The End of the Tunnel
By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth. And why not? After all, this seems to be a winning electoral strategy. All vision of a better future seems to have been lost, replaced with a refusal to look beyond the narrowest, most shortsighted notion of self-interest.
Bob Herbert: Policy at Its Worst
The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It’s losing its soul. It’s speeding down an increasingly rubble-strewn path to a region where being second rate is good enough.
3 October
Thomas Friedman: Third Party Rising
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.
30 September
Jeffrey Sachs: America’s Deepening Moral Crisis
(Project Syndicate) America’s political and economic crisis is set to worsen following the upcoming November elections. An already bad situation marked by stalemate and vitriol is likely to worsen, and the world should not expect much leadership from a bitterly divided US public and political class
30 August
Jane Mayer: Covert Operations
The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.
25 August
Timothy Egan: Building a Nation of Know-Nothings
It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?
But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.
It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present?
12 August
The First Wave of Weary Aides Heads for the Exits
Eighteen months into President Obama’s term, some of the first-generation team that arrived with him at the White House are moving on. One by one, usually with little fanfare, they have turned in White House badges and BlackBerrys to rejoin the outside world, some eagerly seeking the exit, others unhappily shown the door.
Even in calmer times, the White House is a pressure cooker that can quickly burn out the most idealistic aides, but it may be even more so in an administration that inherited an economic collapse and two wars — and then decided to overhaul the nation’s health care system for good measure. Add to that the nonstop, partisan intensity of the e-mail-Internet-cable era, and it takes a toll.
11 August
The Mirthless Senate
Absent any structural change, what the Senate badly needs is a jolt of humor, a clown to shame fellow members of the circus. More ridicule, more mirth under the spotlight to fight a mildewed sense of entitlement, could have the ironic effect of forcing senators to act like adults.
30 July
The Politics of Stupidity Strike Again

(Truthdig) Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. … Our discussion of the economic stimulus is another symptom of political irrationality. It’s entirely true that the $787 billion recovery package passed last year was not big enough to keep unemployment from rising to over 9 percent. But this is not actually an argument against the stimulus.
… Then there’s the very structure of our government. Does any other democracy have a powerful legislative branch as undemocratic as the U.S. Senate? Because of the abuse of the filibuster, 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the nation’s population can, in principle, block action supported by 59 senators representing more than 89 percent of our population.
Doug Kendall: After Kagan, Lower Court Vacancy Crisis Looms
Senator McConnell and his allies have taken the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory — delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the President’s judicial nominees.
McConnell’s obstruction of uncontroversial nominees undermines the one part of the judicial confirmation process that was still working, until President Obama took office. Well-qualified nominees who enjoy bipartisan support should be able to count on a fair and relatively smooth Senate confirmation process. This is critical because, while they’re waiting, the careers of these nominees go on hold. Given the demands of the bench, and the gap between judicial salaries and what these individuals could earn in private practice, the Nation is already lucky that top candidates are willing to serve. If we throw in an unpredictable and lengthy confirmation process, the quality of the federal bench — and the dispensation of justice — will unquestionably suffer. If this continues, it will worsen an already serious problem of vacancies on the federal courts. And it will discourage from ever entering the confirmation process precisely the type of nominees both parties should want.
22 July
Shirley Sherrod “Very Pleased” After Phone Call with Obama
(CBS) Former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, who was fired over an out-of-context video of remarks she made about race posted to a conservative website, spoke with President Obama over the phone early this afternoon.
21 July
Critics Blast White House for Shirley Sherrod Firing
(CBS) There’s no excuse for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to fire former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod or for the White House’s endorsement of the decision, according to liberal commentators, who suggest the move has disquieting implications for the administration. (Politico) Media torches Vilsack, W.H. over firingand so they should!
28 June
(The Economist) THIS morning the United States Supreme Court produced a pleasingly narrow ruling on Sarbanes-Oxley. It is probably a good verdict from business’s point of view. Companies have spent millions on SOX compliance, and had just about got used to the legislation. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a broad reconsideration of SOX, in the current business climate, would produce better legislation.
Bob Herbert: When Greatness Slips Away
We’ve got all kinds of sorry explanations for why we can’t do any of the things we need to do. The Democrats can’t get 60 votes in the Senate. Our budget deficits are too high. Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck might object.
Meanwhile, the greatness of the United States, which so many have taken for granted for so long, is steadily slipping away.
17 June
Inside the Dire Financial State of the States
From Hartford to Honolulu, once sturdy state governments are approaching the brink of fiscal calamity, as the crash of 2008 and its persistent aftermath have led to the reckoning of 2010. Squeezed by the end of federal stimulus money on one hand and desperate local governments on the other, states are facing the third straight year of staggering budget deficits, and the necessary cuts will cost jobs, limit services and touch the lives of millions of Americans. Government workers have been laid off in half the states plus Puerto Rico. Twenty-two states have instituted unpaid furloughs. At least 28 states have ordered across-the-board budget cuts, with many of them adding deeper cuts in targeted agencies. And massive shortfalls in public pension plans loom as well.
6 June
Frank Rich: Don’t Get Mad, Mr. President. Get Even.
IT turns out there is something harder to find than a fix for BP’s leak: Barack Obama’s boiling point.
Obama can’t embrace his inner T.R. as long as he’s too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation’s meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.
3 June
As Oil Slips Away, So Do Chances for Obama
Now that engineers have given up trying to plug the leak and have turned their efforts to containing it until a relief well can be finished in August, Mr. Obama faces at least two more months of crisis management that will complicate his hopes of advancing his agenda in other areas. Every day he devotes to a spill that seems beyond his control, and every day it consumes attention in Washington, is another day that he cannot focus as much energy and resources on his own initiatives.
25 April
Democrats’ Long-Held Seats Face G.O.P. Threat
The fight for the midterm elections is not confined to traditional battlegrounds, where Republicans and Democrats often swap seats every few cycles. In the Senate, Democrats are struggling to hold on to, among others, seats once held by President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Democrats are preparing to lose as many as 30 House seats — including a wave of first-term members — and Republicans have expanded their sights to places where political challenges seldom develop.
8 April
Power Struggle: Inside The Battle For The Soul Of The Democratic Party
The Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions emerged in the 1990s in the wake of the successful Republican campaign to take control of Congress, and have continuously expanded their membership ever since. The prototypical Blue Dog comes from a socially conservative, rural district; New Democrats are more likely to represent pro-choice bankers from the suburbs. Both groups offer automatic protection against accusations that their members are too liberal.
31 March
Sarah Palin is the face of the GOP, Democrats say with a smile
(CSM) Two top Democratic strategists who spoke at Wednesday’s Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters said Sarah Palin is the GOP poster girl – and that is good for Democrats.
Robert Scheer: Sarah Palin, Neocon Messiah
(Truthdig) Judge them by their enemies. More evidence that Barack Obama might be shaping up as a good president is that Norman Podhoretz hates him so much. In a Wall Street Journal column Monday the guru of the neoconservatives declared: “I would rather be ruled by the Tea Party than by the Democratic Party, and I would rather have Sarah Palin sitting in the Oval Office than Barack Obama.” … it is somewhat reassuring that the surviving father of the neocon movement should be left so totally unglued.
28 March
Obama throws out the political rules
The passage of US healthcare reform is enormously consequential, and not just for the things the new law aims to affect. The manner of its passage, as much as its substance, makes November’s mid-term elections pivotal. They may decide the political trajectory of the United States for the next several decades. To see why, you must understand the improbability of what has happened. Barack Obama just tore up the US political rulebook.
Frank Rich: The Rage Is Not About Health Care
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
26 March
Robert Creamer: Taking Responsibility for Political Violence
Right wing talk show hosts, Republican leaders and insurance company executives may not personally throw the bricks, shoot the bullets, make the hate-filled threatening calls, or break the gas lines — but they must shoulder the responsibility for the outbreak of threats and violence that has accompanied this week’s passage of health insurance reform.
25 March
Paul Krugman: Going to Extreme
The wild response to health care reform becoming law has exposed the dangerous state of the Republican Party.
… one Republican talking point has been that Democrats had no right to pass a bill facing overwhelming public disapproval. As it happens, the Constitution says nothing about opinion polls trumping the right and duty of elected officials to make decisions based on what they perceive as the merits. But in any case, the message from the polls is much more ambiguous than opponents of reform claim: While many Americans disapprove of Obamacare, a significant number do so because they feel that it doesn’t go far enough. And a Gallup poll taken after health reform’s enactment showed the public, by a modest but significant margin, seeming pleased that it passed.
The Break-Up: Frum Quits AEI
(WSJ) David Frum isn’t the most popular guy in conservative circles this week. On Sunday, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush lambasted his party for what he argued was misguided opposition to the health care overhaul that resulted in the party’s “most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”
Today, Frum announced that he was parting ways with the American Enterprise Institute, a seminal Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank where he has been a resident fellow since 2003. In a statement posted on his Web site, Frum said the decision was made over lunch with AEI President Arthur Brooks.
24 March
Tom Friedman: A Tea Party Without Nuts
I write often about innovation in energy and education. But I’ve come to realize that none of these innovations will emerge at scale until we get the most important innovation of all — political innovation that will empower independents and centrists, which describes a lot of the country.
Larry Diamond, a Stanford University democracy expert, put it best: “If you don’t get governance right, it is very hard to get anything else right that government needs to deal with [italics added]. We have to rethink in some basic ways how our political institutions work, because they are increasingly incapable of delivering effective solutions any longer.”
23 March
TIMOTHY EGAN: House of Anger
Having welcomed Tea Party rage into their home, and vowing repeal, the Republicans have made a dangerous bargain. First, they are tying their fate to a fringe, one that includes a small faction of overt racists and unstable people. The Quinnipiac poll this week found only 13 percent of Americans say they are part of the Tea Party movement.
David Frum:  Republicans can blame themselves
points to the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters –but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead.
Republicans Face Drawbacks of United Stand on Health Bill
Passage of the health care legislation challenges the heart of the Republicans’ strategy this year: To present a unified opposition to big Democratic ideas, in this case expressed in a stream of bristling anger and occasional mischaracterizations of what the bill would do. From a legislative perspective, the Republican strategy did not work, despite months of predictions from Republicans that the bill would fail and that that would cripple the Obama presidency.
19 March
Bruce Bartlett: The Misinformed Tea Party Movement
For an anti-tax group, they don’t know much about taxes.
(Forbes) Whatever the future of the Tea Party movement in American politics, it’s a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions about the burden of federal taxation. It only takes a little bit of time to look at one’s tax return to see what one is actually paying the Treasury, calculate the percentage of one’s income that goes to taxes, and compare it with what was paid last year and the year before. People may then discover that their anger is misplaced and channel it into areas where it is more likely to bring about positive change.
Bruce Bartlett is a former Treasury Department economist
15 March
The End of an Illusion
Robert Kuttner, Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The American Prospect
Obama has begun to sound more like the bold figure who won the hearts of voters during the campaign. The health care reform showdown is expected late next week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi seldom schedules a vote without having a majority in her pocket. With all the bill’s deficiencies, winning its passage would be a triumph, not just for expansion of health coverage, but for Obama’s capacity to learn and grow in office and defeat Republican obstruction.
12 March
David Brooks: Getting Obama right
In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.
Resurgence on the Right Puts Gingrich Back in Style
Like Sarah Palin and others who have discovered that they can command a political platform and a good income without running for office, Mr. Gingrich remains relevant by having built himself into a one-man industry churning out speeches, books, films and policy positions. And as the architect of the Republican takeover of the House in 1994, he is much sought after for advice on how to replicate that feat this year.

Do You Miss Him Yet?
Bush’s policies came to seem less obviously reprehensible as the Obama administration drifted into embracing watered-down versions of many of them. Guantanamo hasn’t been closed. No Child Left Behind is being revised and perhaps improved, but not repealed. The banks are still engaging in their bad practices. Partisanship is worse than ever. Obama seems about to back away from the decision to try 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, a prospect that led the ACLU to run an ad in Sunday’s Times with the subheading “Change or more of the same?”
The Tea Party is a dynamic force, but it is still unruly and incoherent
This angry and leaderless movement is a potential liability for the Republican party, and its importance is often exaggerated
(The Guardian) At the Tea Party convention a few weeks ago, large numbers stayed away in protest at everything from Palin’s speaking fee to the costs of registration. Luntz has advised them to stop comparing Obama to Hitler and be more strategic in their choice of enemies and allies, but to little avail. “They don’t want to be told,” he says. “They don’t want to be lectured, they don’t want to be advised, educated, informed.” … So the question is not how much influence the Tea Party will have, but what that influence will be. Obama’s ability to be cool under pressure doesn’t make that pressure disappear. These are volatile times in American politics, and the Tea Party movement is both a product and an expression of that volatility.
4 March
Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on ‘fear’
(Politico) The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to “save the country from trending toward socialism.”
The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”
27 February
Frank Rich: The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged
The distinction between the Tea Party movement and the official G.O.P. is real, and we ignore it at our peril. While Washington is fixated on the natterings of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Michael Steele and the presumed 2012 Republican presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney, these and the other leaders of the Party of No are anathema or irrelevant to most Tea Partiers … The old G.O.P. guard has no discernible national constituency beyond the scattered, often impotent remnants of aging country club Republicanism. The passion on the right has migrated almost entirely to the Tea Party’s counterconservatism.
The leaders embraced by the new grass roots right are a different slate entirely: Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. Simple math dictates that none of this trio can be elected president. But these leaders do have a consistent ideology, and that ideology plays to the lock-and-load nutcases out there, not just to the peaceable (if riled up) populist conservatives also attracted to Tea Partyism. This ideology is far more troubling than the boilerplate corporate conservatism and knee-jerk obstructionism of the anti-Obama G.O.P. Congressional minority.
23 February
(CBS) Scott Brown’s Jobs Vote Spurs Angry Online Backlash A sad commentary on current political opinion.
(HuffPost) “It’s a small step, but it’s still a step,” Brown told reporters after casting a procedural vote in favor of the Democratic jobs bill, bucking his party leaders and the strategy of opposition they have carried out since President Obama took office. (Reuters) New senator helps Democrats advance jobs bill
CPAC, The Tea Party And The Remaking Of The Right
At CPAC — held last weekend — attendees discussed the future of the conservative movement and listened to keynote speaker Glenn Beck call progressivism “a cancer in America … [that] was meant to eat our Constitution.”
(The Economist) Upward and rightward – America’s conservatives are in ebullient mood
20 February
CPAC Convention is Open Season on Obama
Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich Bash President at Conservatives’ Meeting
(ABC) Big-name conservatives from all parts of the spectrum levied criticism against the administration, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who told the crowd that it’s time to “defeat the radicals and put the country back on track.”
Alexander M. Haig Jr. Dies at 85, Commanding White House Aide
Mr. Haig was a rare American breed: a political general. His bids for the presidency quickly came undone. But his ambition to be president was thinly veiled, and that was his undoing. He knew, the Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger once said, that “the third paragraph of his obit” would detail his conduct in the hours after Mr. Reagan was shot and wounded on March 30, 1981.
18 February
A study in paralysis
(The Economist) The fate of health-care reform is a test-case in how initiatives fail. Is it also a sign of much deeper trouble in America’s political system?
16 February
Robert Wright: Zuckerman Unbound
Mort Zuckerman, owner of The New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, is said to be pondering a run for the United States Senate from New York.
I’d rather live in a world in which a person could spend a life candidly expressing serious opinions without fear that their eventual distortion would preclude public service. Then again, I’d rather live in a world in which a person’s having been wrong on the biggest foreign policy question of the past decade would reduce his or her chances of winding up in the Senate. For that matter, I’d rather live in a world in which it wasn’t easy for people to convert money into power, whether the power of the pen or the power of politics.
15 February
Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right
The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the Tea Party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement, a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.
14 February
Palin’s Cunning Sleight of Hand
Liberals had a blast mocking Sarah Palin last weekend when she was caught addressing the Tea Party Convention with a cheat sheet scrawled on her hand.[But] She knows all too well that the more the so-called elites lampoon her, the more she cements her cred with the third of the country that is her base. The Palin shtick has now become the Republican catechism, parroted by every party leader in Washington. Their constant refrain, delivered with cynicism but not irony, is this: Republicans are the anti-big-government, anti-stimulus, anti-Wall Street, pro-Tea Party tribunes of the common folk. “This is about the people,” as Palin repeatedly put it last weekend while pocketing $100,000 of the Tea Partiers’ money.
10 February
Paul Krugman: Clueless
I’m with Simon Johnson here: how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless? We agree and are dismayed.
The lead story on Bloomberg right now contains excerpts from an interview with Business Week which tells us:
President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.
8 February
Paul Krugman …given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session. More
7 February
Obama Plans Bipartisan Summit on Health Care
President Obama said Sunday that he would convene a half-day bipartisan health care session at the White House to be televised live this month, a high-profile gambit that will allow Americans to watch as Democrats and Republicans try to break their political impasse.
Welcome to Palinland
6 February
Frank Rich: Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet
A funny thing happened after Adm. Mike Mullen called for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military: A curious silence befell much of the right.
5 February
Robert Reich: Who’s Killing Financial Reform?
(HuffPost) Congress isn’t doing a thing about Wall Street because it’s in the pocket of Wall Street. Chris Dodd’s outburst at bankers this week was like the alcoholic who screams at the bartender.
4 February
Tea Party Fireworks: Speaker Rips McCain, Obama, ‘Cult of Multiculturalism’
(ABC News) Ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo Suggests ‘Civics, Literacy Test’ Would Have Foiled Obama’s Election; High-Priced National ‘Tea Party’ Convention Stirs Debate Among Factions (NYT) Tea Partiers to Form PAC
29 January
Charles M. Blow: Lost in Translation
(NYT)The president must communicate within the environment he inhabits, not the one he envisions. The next time he gives a speech, someone should tap him on the ankle and say, “Mr. President, we’re down here.”
Obama has to accept that today’s information environment is broad and shallow, and we now communicate in headline phrases, acerbic humor and ad hominem attacks. Sad but true
According to a survey released this week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 1 person in 4 knew that 60 votes are needed in the Senate to break a filibuster and only 1 in 3 knew that no Senate Republicans voted for the health care bill.
And, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released this week, while slightly more Americans blamed Republicans than Democrats for the political impasse in Washington, the percentage of people with negative feelings about the Republicans was the same as it was for the Democrats.
The message that voters take away is not nuanced: Democrats in control. Bill complicated. Republicans oppose. Politicians bicker. Progress stalls. Democrats failing.
28 January
Obama takes retooled agenda on road after speech
(Reuters) President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday he would not rest until U.S. businesses were hiring again, as he took his recast agenda on the road and sought to dig out of his deepest political rut since taking office
27 January
The limits to verbiage
The president’s speech was underwhelming, which was probably better than the alternative
(The Economist) There were alternatives to the middle course he chose. He might have tacked to the right, in the hope of winning over Republicans, but he would probably have failed. He might have lurched to the left, embracing the sort of populism that seemed presaged by his post-Massachusetts declaration that he was “ready for a fight” with the banks, but that would have alienated the centre. So he chose to remain, just about, the pragmatist whom this newspaper endorsed back in November 2008. But he gave no sign of how he plans to pursue his agenda or solve the problems that are piling up around him.
Gail Collins: United We Rant
In his speech on Wednesday night, President Obama actually dropped that traditional state-of-the-union-is rhetoric completely in honor of the new irascibility. “We all hated the bank bailout,” he said in one of his first big applause lines.
State Of The Union: HuffPost Bloggers (including Arianna) Reactions; (NYT) Voices of Voters: Few Minds Were Changed
27 January
Text of the State of the Union address
Robert Scheer on Obama’s Big Speech
The Sorry State of the Union” — The state of the union is just miserable, no matter how President Obama sugarcoats it. He will claim that progress has been made in stabilizing the markets, increasing national security and advancing toward meaningful health care reform, but he will be wrong on all three counts.
25 January
Obama’s Measures for Middle Class
President Obama … stepped up his efforts to reconnect with Americans suffering from a weak economy and high unemployment.
Previewing a theme that is sure to dominate his State of the Union address this week, Mr. Obama unveiled a package of modest initiatives intended to help families pay for child care, save for retirement, pay off student loans and care for elderly parents.24 January
24 January
Frank Rich: After the Massachusetts Massacre
It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet.
Obama’s plight has been unchanged for months. Neither in action nor in message is he in front of the anger roiling a country where high unemployment remains unchecked and spiraling foreclosures are demolishing the bedrock American dream of home ownership. The president is no longer seen as a savior but as a captive of the interests who ginned up the mess and still profit, hugely, from it.
22 January
John Moore: The new intolerance. Lose one lousy Senate seat and your presidency is finished
Barack Obama’s presidency is over. We know this to be true just as we know that there is no climate change and that Nancy Pelosi is a shrew: because the right wing noise machine says it is so.
Of course these are the same people who not only wanted failure but have been actively cheering for it. Rush Limbaugh declared almost immediately after Obama took office that he hoped he would fail. As early as August the Drudge Report’s daily on-line poll was asking “Can Obama’s presidency be saved?” (91% replied “no” in case you were wondering).
Obama Moves to Limit ‘Reckless Risks’ of Big Banks
The changes would prohibit bank holding companies from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge fund or private equity funds and from engaging in proprietary trading — what Mr. Obama called the Volcker Rule, in recognition of the former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul A. Volcker, who has championed the restriction. In addition, Mr. Obama will seek to limit consolidation in the financial sector, by placing curbs on the growth of the market share of liabilities at the biggest firms. (NYT)  Obama’s Move to Limit ‘Reckless Risks’ Has Skeptics 01/22
21 January
Obama Weighs Paring Goals for Health Bill
President Obama signaled on Wednesday that he might be willing to scale back his proposed health care overhaul to a version that could attract bipartisan support, as the White House and Congressional Democrats grappled with a political landscape transformed by the Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.
Arianna Huffington: How Massachusetts Can Turn Out to Be a Blessing for Democrats
If the White House learns the right lessons from this stunning loss, it will turn out to be a blessing. First, the Obama White House has to admit it is heading in the wrong direction. Then it needs to bring all hands on deck, toss overboard a few who currently have their hands on the wheel — and turn hard to change course. The course the Obama White House needs to chart … leads directly to the priorities of America’s middle-class families, who are worried about jobs, foreclosures, mounting credit card debt, are convinced that the fix is in — and are looking desperately for someone on their side.

One Comment on "U.S. after 20 January 2010"

  1. Guy Stanley February 9, 2010 at 12:50 am ·

    Re Paul Krugman 8 February: I think PK is right on the issue. But the political equation takes one to a different zone: Lieberman is still a nominal democrat, the tea party movement outpolls both parties and key Senators stand to rack up big gains in local constituencies for obstructing appointments (e.g. Shelby). McCain is going to his right to win in Arizona, and a number of Dems are retiring this year. Democrats never built the network of think tanks and talk radio comment that fuel the right wing; what’s more they seem unable to break out of a self-imposed inability to escape the beltway….

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