Posts Tagged ‘monthly



13
Apr
11

reaction: ‘a spirited defense of a progressive vision’

President Barack Obama reviews his fiscal policy speech with advisors in the Oval Office. Pictured, from left, are: Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Steve Benen: …. As heartening as it was to hear President Obama’s full-throated condemnation of the House Republican budget plan – he didn’t pull any punches – what made his remarks this afternoon especially satisfying was his defense of the progressive vision.

…along the way, the president made a point of reminding his audience that government, the institutions of the modern welfare state, and the modern social compact are worthy of a spirited defense. Indeed, to hear Obama tell it, the progressive vision is the American vision.

See here for extract

There’s a word to summarize this approach to government. It’s called “liberalism.”

Jonathan Bernstein put it this way: “Liberals have wanted a full-throated affirmation of why government is a good thing? Obama delivered, with perhaps his strongest case for a liberal vision of government that he’s given so far during his presidency.”

The “sellout of the left” this wasn’t. What we saw today was an unapologetic defense of a progressive vision of government, cased in terms that were equal parts moral and pragmatic. America doesn’t hear it often enough, and Obama delivered it with passion and conviction today.

Read the full post here

Steve Benen: The President’s rousing rejection of Republican radicalism …. President Obama’s speech on the nation’s fiscal future was one of my favorites in a long while. It was exactly the sort of spirited defense of government and progressive values the nation desperately needed to hear right now.

…Last week, when the White House was criticized from the left for not having said more about the GOP vision, I wrote about my expectations for this week’s message: “I want to see a forceful, unapologetic response. I want a hearty defense of government. I want officials explaining why Paul Ryan’s plan is dangerous and ridiculous.”

This afternoon, in Obama’s address, I got all of those things …There were concerns among some of my fellow progressives going into this speech that the president may accept parts of the GOP plan or express some sympathies for the Republican vision. The opposite happened – this was a full-throated condemnation, not just of the radical Paul Ryan plan, but of the far-right goals it intends to pursue.

I know many hoped to hear this message from the White House last week, but from where I sat today, it was worth the wait.

Full post here

Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Obama made the moral case for what it means to be a democrat … For some time now, a bunch of us have been wondering when – or whether – Obama would step up and make a strong case for an expansive vision of Democratic governance … it’s fair to say Obama delivered.

Sure, the speech had flaws …but Obama did offer perhaps the most ambitious defense he may have ever attempted of American liberalism and of what it means to be a Democrat.

Crucially, right at the outset, Obama cast the battle with the GOP as one over whether we are going to maintain the social safety net and the national social contract as we’ve understood it for decades — and cast this question as central to our national identity. He used a key word — “commitments” — to describe Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, insisting: “We would not be a great country without those commitments.” In other words, the social safety net and the liberal social contract are indispensable components of America’s greatness.

…We cannot know right now whether the steadfastness of Obama’s rhetoric in defending core liberal and Democratic ideals will be matched by equal resoluteness in practice when the battles heat up and the temptation to make deals and jettison core priorities intensifies. But Obama did tell us in clear and unequivocal moral terms what he thinks it means to be a Democrat, and those who have been waiting for him to do so should be quite satisfied by what they heard.

Full post here

04
Apr
11

laying the blame ….. in the wrong place

Steve Benen: Many in the media, and many more of President Obama’s detractors from the left, are hitting his administration pretty hard today for this reversal (the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his role in the attacks of Sept. 11 before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and not in a civilian courtroom). The development is obviously disappointing, but if we’re assigning blame, let’s at least direct at those responsible.

…Attorney General Eric Holder … told reporters this afternoon that his original decision was still the right one, but blamed Congress for “tying our hands.”

He happens to be right. Even today, Holder wants to do the right thing, and so does President Obama. And yet, Gitmo is open today, and KSM will be subjected to a military commission in the near future, not because of an administration that backed down in the face of far-right whining, but because congressional Republicans orchestrated a massive, choreographed freak-out, and scared the bejesus out of congressional Democrats. Together, they limited the White House’s options to, in effect, not having any choice at all.

There’s plenty of room for criticism of the administration, but those slamming Obama for “breaking his word” on this are blaming the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

More here

20
Mar
11

when they think “brazil,” they think “carnival”

Steve Benen: ….The good news is, the right has stopped obsessing over President Obama picking his favorites in the NCAA tournament. The bad news is, conservatives have moved onto something nearly as silly … President Obama landed in Brazil Saturday to learn about its booming economy, but conservatives called the trip a distraction from worldwide turmoil.

….This may be hard for conservatives to understand – when they think “Brazil,” they think “Carnival” – but Latin America has many quickly growing economies, and Obama is visiting the region to promote trade and open markets. The point is to take steps that will strengthen the U.S. economy, which the right should at least pretend to care about.

What’s more, the visit was scheduled months ago. It’s not as if the president woke up Friday morning and thought, “Fire up Air Force One; I’m in the mood to see Rio.”

I can appreciate why the timing of the trip may seem inconvenient, but the logistics of presidential travel abroad are laborious, and canceling would have proven problematic. Besides, there’s always weighty issues on a president’s to-do list, and if the White House had pushed off the Latin American visits until later in the year, there’d very likely be important developments going on then, too.

What we’re seeing from the right, then, is criticism for the sake of criticism. The discourse has reached the point at which Republicans and their media figures have to be whining about something at all times. Obama is stopping in Chile, Brazil, and El Salvador as part of a broader economic agenda, so the right feels the need to pretend to be outraged.

It’s quite sad.

Full article here

05
Mar
11

by george!

Freedom-crushing automobile-hating authoritarian

Conservative columnist George Will wrote a piece for right-wing comic Newsweek recently attacking President Obama’s support for high-speed rail.

Now, if Georgie’s main concern was cost, then you might say, ‘okay, that’s an argument’.

But no, as Steve Benen (Washington Monthly) put it, the column, which “featured a variety of errors of fact and judgment”, suggested that “liberals support high-speed rail (as) part of some elaborate, freedom-crushing, Ayn-Rand-inspired conspiracy.”

Seriously.

Okay, deep breath, here are a couple of extracts:

George Will: High Speed to Insolvency – Why liberals love trains.

“Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…..

… Only an administration blinkered by ideology would persist … the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends …. automobiles encourage people to think they – unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted – are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make…….”

I know, I know.

Paul Krugman, who described the column as “truly bizarre”, made a similar point to Benen: “….it’s amazing to see Will – who is not a stupid man – embracing the sinister progressives-hate-your-freedom line, more or less right out of Atlas Shrugged; with the extra irony, of course, that John Galt’s significant other ran, well, a railroad.”

So, you’d imagine Georgie would disagree with this columnist who, in 2001 (after 9/11), wrote:

” ….Americans are impatient problem-solvers, so here are three things that should be done, the doing of which will assuage any sense the nation is having trouble gaining traction in the tasks at hand.

…..Third, build high-speed rail service.

…..A government study concludes that for trips of 500 miles or less – a majority of flights; 40 percent are of 300 miles or less – automotive travel is as fast or faster than air travel, door to door. Columnist Robert Kuttner sensibly says that fact strengthens the case for high-speed trains. If such trains replaced air shuttles in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, Kuttner says that would free about 60 takeoff and landing slots per hour.”

Who wrote this? A liberal trying to take away your automobile freedom? Eh, no. Ready for this? Those are Georgie’s very own words, as reported by Sarah Goodyear (Grist).

Benen: “I don’t care that Will changed his mind; I care that he casually dismissed the substance of the debate in order to make the truly stupid case that high-speed rail is part of a liberal crusade to “diminish Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”

On the merits, he was right the first time. To agree with Will circa 2001 is not to be a freedom-crushing authoritarian.”

****

So, Georgie was an enthusiastic supporter of high-speed rail….until he found himself on the same side of the issue as President Obama??

The amazing part is that this guy displays sense, occasionally – as Krugman said, “he is not a stupid man”, he has supported the President at times and has attacked the extremes of the GOP/Tea Party.

So what’s this nonsense and hypocrisy all about??

25
Feb
11

fair and balanced?

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): We talked a few weeks ago about the very different ways in which the media responds to court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Those upholding the constitutionality of the health care law get very little attention, while conservative rulings against the law are literally treated as front-page news.

Now that there’s a new federal court ruling – Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in support of the law on Tuesday, becoming the fifth to rule on the merits – let’s take a moment to reevaluate this.

Three federal district courts have said the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster; two have reached the opposite conclusion. Here’s how four major media outlets have covered the rulings, in the order in which the decisions came down: See here for statistics

…the discrepancy is overwhelming. In every instance, conservative rulings get more coverage, longer articles, and better placement ….  the Washington Post couldn’t bother to run a single article – not one – about the Kessler ruling…

…it seems very likely the public has been left with the impression that the health care law is legally dubious and struggling badly in the courts because that’s what news organizations have told them to believe.

Read full article here

24
Feb
11

making the economy worse, on purpose

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): If federal policymakers want to make the economy worse, on purpose, all they have to do is approve the Republican agenda. The Financial Times has this report today:

“The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned……”

…Remember, this analysis comes a week after additional research found that the Republican spending cuts could lead to roughly 1 million job losses. (Asked about this, Speaker John Boehner replied last week, “So be it.”)

…We now have independent analyses showing that the Republican spending measure would push the economy back towards a recession and would deliberately make unemployment worse. If Democrats balk, the GOP will shut down the government.

Why this isn’t the lead story in every news outlet in the country remains unclear.

Update: I suppose the next question is why Republicans would pursue a plan they know would slow the economy. Among the possibilities … they have to hurt the country on purpose to undermine President Obama’s re-election chances … I’d love to understand the GOP’s motivations, but just as importantly, I’d love for the media to press the GOP on its motivations.

Read the full article here

13
Jan
11

there’s just no limit to the depths to which they sink

Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): To the delight of the audience at last night’s memorial service, President Obama told attendees that he’d just come from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ bedside. “And I want to tell you – her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you – right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time,” the president said.

In yet another disheartening display, some on the right would have us believe Obama wasn’t telling the truth. He was, but the accusation itself is a reminder of just what’s become of our discourse.

In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several conservative websites … suggested that President Obama lied last night…

In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords’ doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was “true” … the “lie” the right had uncovered wasn’t a lie at all.

…. Obama had heartening news about a congresswoman who very nearly died, and that news happened to be true. For some conservatives, however, this was not only an opportunity to catch the president in some kind of “gotcha” moment….

Is the right really this desperate? Do they hang on the president’s every word, wondering how to manipulate his every remark into some kind of cheap attack?

Good lord, these guys really need to grow up. This is just pathetic.

Full article here

09
Jan
11

‘surveyor’s symbols’

The Atlantic: Sarah Palin new media aide Rebecca Mansour sought to deflect attention from an electoral map Palin posted on her Facebook page last March in an appearance on Tammy Bruce’s radio show Saturday. The images long described as crosshairs or rifle sights were actually just surveyor’s symbols, Mansour said.

MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn’t done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it’s basically – we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.

BRUCE: Well, it’s a surveyor’s symbol. It’s a surveyor’s symbol.

MANSOUR: It’s a surveyor’s symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house – we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.

While there is no evidence the alleged Tuscon shooter ever saw the electoral target list – let alone took it to heart as an instruction – what is clear is that Palin’s history with weaponized rhetoric and imagery will be – and already has been – cast in a new light by the shooting in Arizona….

….the same day Palin posted the image with the scopes over congressional districts on her Facebook page, she tweeted, “Don’t retreat, Instead – RELOAD” and asked her followers to check out her Facebook page for details.

As well, there has been no national political figure in American life more eager to correct media misconceptions in real time that Palin, raising questions about why she did not object in the spring of 2010 when controversy erupted over her imagery, which even Giffords described on national television as representing gun “crosshairs.”

Thank you Ladyhawke for this link:

Washington Monthly: A ‘SURVEYOR’S SYMBOL’? …. the two did not discuss the fact that the image was immediately followed by Palin urging like-minded folks to “reload.” Of course, everyone knows surveyors’ equipment needs to be reloaded, too, right? Oh wait….

It’s worth emphasizing that the website for Palin’s political action committee was scrubbed yesterday, and offending materials related to Giffords and crosshairs were removed.

So, I have three related questions. The first is, if Palin’s materials were entirely defensible, why scrub the website? Isn’t this an implicit acknowledgement of an offense?

The second is, if the crosshairs were unrelated to guns – “Surveyor’s symbols”? Seriously? – why did Palin’s team wait to come up with this alternative interpretation until yesterday?

And the third question is, I wonder just how difficult it would be for Palin to simply acknowledge, “In retrospect, those crosshairs were inappropriate. I regret it.”

Read the full post here

31
Dec
10

‘quietly executing a national security triumph’

Thank you cat48 for passing on this GREAT news

‘Quietly Executing A National Security Triumph’

Washington Monthly – One of the year’s biggest national security developments actually gets overlooked. In April, at the kickoff of the Nuclear Security Summit, the Obama administration reached an agreement with the Ukrainian government on the country giving up its entire stockpile of highly enriched uranium, inherited after the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those concerned about the security of the most dangerous material on the planet, this was quite a breakthrough. What we didn’t know until last night is that the process of moving more than 110 pounds of highly enriched uranium — enough to make two nuclear bombs — was quietly completed this week.

….The result, of course, is a safer world.

…President Obama established a goal early on of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years — a task that encompasses locking down materials in 35 countries. Less than two years later, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has completed its work in 19 of those countries, and D’Agostino believes the agency is on track to meet the White House’s deadline.

The political world covers quite a bit of ground, but arguably nothing is quite as important to global security as this. The developments in Ukraine are a triumph to be celebrated.

December 31, 2010 – Statement by President Barack Obama on Removal of HEU from Ukraine: “I congratulate President Yanukovych on the recent shipment of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine for secure disposal in Russia, which advances a top priority for my administration and for global security. This action brings us all one step closer to securing all vulnerable nuclear materials, as President Yanukovych and I and 45 other world leaders pledged to do this April at the Nuclear Security Summit. The low enriched uranium and nuclear safety equipment provided to Ukraine in connection with this shipment will support Ukraine’s development of safe and secure nuclear energy. These actions represent continued Ukrainian leadership in making sure that nuclear weapons never fall into the hands of a terrorist, and working toward a world without nuclear weapons.”


MSNBC: The United States has helped Ukraine send two atomic bombs’ worth of weapons grade uranium to Russia during a secret operation over the holidays, the Obama administration confirmed Thursday on msnbc’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

The removal of more than 111 pounds of highly enriched uranium followed a pledge by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to get rid of all of his country’s highly enriched uranium by April 2012 ….The material will be blended down in Russia, rendering it useless for bomb making.

Yanukovych agreed to give up the uranium in a multinational deal announced at a nuclear security summit hosted by President Barack Obama in April.

Shipments like the one recently completed from Serbia result in permanent threat reduction because they eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material at civilian sites…. as an incentive, the United States is providing replacement low-enriched uranium that can be used for Ukraine’s research reactors.

…The removal operation involved 21 specially designed casks for the uranium to be flown on five flights from three cities … the U.S. also helped deliver some of the replacement fuel to Ukraine.

Read the full article here

Interesting article from the NYT last year – ‘Obama’s Youth Shaped His Nuclear-Free Vision’


In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus news magazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world”. He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.

The student was Barack Obama….

…Twenty-six years later, the author, in his new job as president of the United States, has begun pushing for new global rules, treaties and alliances that he insists can establish a nuclear-free world … no previous American president has set out a step-by-step agenda for the eventual elimination of nuclear arms.

…When he became a senator in January 2005, Mr. Obama zeroed in on arms control, an issue with little traction in the Republican-controlled Senate … he found a mentor in Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime star of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Later that year, Mr. Obama asked to accompany his Republican colleague on a trip to monitor Russian efforts to scrap nuclear arms and secure atomic materials from theft or diversion.

“When we got there, he was clearly all business — a very careful listener and note taker and a serious student,” Mr. Lugar recalled.

…“I don’t think I was that unique at that time,” the president said of his Columbia days, “and I don’t think I’m that unique today in thinking that if we could put the genie back in the bottle, in some sense, that there would be less danger — not just to the United States but to people around the world.”

Full article here

Thank you hgerhard for this comment and link to Global Zero:

As a long-time advocate of a “world without nuclear weapons”, I am delighted to find out about this latest action. I am so proud of our President. I remember his speech in Berlin when he first mentioned the importance of nuclear disarmament and securing all loose nuclear materials within a period of four years. Then again in Prague, he reiterated this goal and ever since becoming President, he has worked tirelessly to bring this issue to the U.N. Security Council and start negotiations with Russia and other nations. The new START Treaty is one major result of these efforts; the removal of enriched plutonium from many countries does not get the notice this important issue deserves. To bring about a “world without nuclear weapons” and eliminating materials that can be used to make new ones is the greatest gift we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. History will record that President Obama was the most instrumental leader in moving this goal closer to reality.

For more information about the world-wide movement to achieve this goal, please go to www.globalzero.org




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