Politics

Politics

Blowing Up Hawaii

By From the April 2010 issue

America's motto is "E Pluribus Unum," Latin for "Out of many, one." But Congress is in danger of reading it backward, as the Senate prepares to vote this spring on creating an independent, race-based government for Native Hawaiians.

The House has already passed the bill, which would create a racial spoils system that would hand special privileges to up to one-fifth of Hawaii's population -- including many with only a trace of Hawaiian blood. It could inspire mainland groups such as Hispanic separatists to seek similar spoils, should they ever gain enough political leverage.

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Politics

Swiss Stunner

By From the February 2010 issue

BERN, SWITZERLAND
Europe was stunned late last year when 58 percent of Swiss voters banned the construction of minarets. The vote was roundly condemned as intolerant and xenophobic. No doubt such sentiments were in play, but the vote's significance shouldn't be exaggerated -- it doesn't affect the operation of mosques or the ability of Islamic believers to practice their faith. The vote does appear to reflect, however, the frustration of Swiss voters that their fears about Islamic radicalism are being ignored in a climate of political correctness.

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Ronald Reagan’s Berlin

By From the December 2009 - January 2010 issue

BERLIN
Who brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the end of the Cold War? Lots of candi-dates for the credit were being proposed as this city commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Wall's end.

A dinner held at the posh Adlon Hotel by the Atlantic Council featured a set of awards for the contributions made by the brave people of Eastern Europe, the Western allies, and NATO. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to show her tough side as she hailed the end of Soviet Communism's "tyranny and oppression," words I suspect didn't drip off her tongue in the 1980s. Several people at my table credited Mikhail Gorbachev with ending the Cold War by not sending in troops to keep the Soviet empire intact.

Curiously, with the exception of one brief reference in a video presentation by NBC's Tom Brokaw, the name of Ronald Reagan was never mentioned during the three-hour dinner. It was almost as if the man who stood at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and declared "tear down this wall" didn't exist.

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Politics

Losing It

By From the November 2009 issue

CHICAGO
It was one of the most bizarre squanderings of presidential power and prestige in memory.

In a last minute decision, President Obama flew off to Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 1 to lobby for his adopted hometown of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. Only a few days before he had lamented that he wouldn't be able to go because of his urgent commitment to fight for his health care bill. Then suddenly he reversed course and made a frenzied flight to appear before the International Olympic Committee as Pitchman in Chief for Chicago.

It ended badly. Chicago didn't even make it past the first round of voting, garnering only 18 of the 94 votes cast on the first ballot. The president was stung by criticism that he was taking time out of his schedule to flack for the Olympics even though at this critical juncture he had had only one telephone conversation with General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. So Obama hastily convened a 25-minute meeting with General McChrystal on board Air Force One on the tarmac of the airport in Copenhagen.

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Race to the Finish

By From the October 2009 issue

I recently attended Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of America's liberal bloggers, to see how they were reacting to the first 200 days of the Obama administration and Democratic dominance of Congress.

As I wandered the hallways of the cavernous Pittsburgh Convention Center, I expected to find liberals happy that their political dream of complete control of the federal government had been realized. But I was wrong. Over and over again, I heard complaints that President Obama was retreating on their key issues, and where he was pursuing a liberal agenda it was being blocked by "reactionary throwbacks to a darker time in America." "Howling mobs" were showing up at town-hall meetings and attacking the president's health care plan. "They may cloak their rhetoric using anti-government and anti-tax rhetoric but racial concerns are at the heart of their objection to Obama," said James Rucker, the executive director of Color of Change.

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Toxic Nancy

By From the September 2009 issue

GROWING UP IN SAN FRANCISCO, I met Nancy Pelosi when I was a young reporter. She was then chair of the California Democratic Party, and I will always remember her gracious manner and patience toward me. But that "gentle lady" bears little resemblance to the hard-nosed House Speaker who treats her Democratic colleagues like soldiers in a boot camp and brooks no criticism. Power may corrupt, as Lord Acton told us, but it can also coarsen.

Republicans may chafe under Pelosi's iron rule, but they also optimistically think she is politically toxic for Democrats. A late July Rasmussen poll found her with a favorable rating of 35 percent and an unfavorable rating of 57 percent, for a net deficit of 22 points. What's more, those who have a very unfavorable opinion of Pelosi overwhelm those who regard her very favorably-by a five-to-one margin- 45 percent to 9 percent. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of the most despised political figures in the country," Politico concluded in July. "Month after month of polling shows that the Speaker is neither trusted nor liked by the general public."

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Cowards on Race

By From the July 2009 - August 2009 issue

Bartle Bull couldn’t believe his eyes. The former civil rights lawyer had been arrested in the South during the 1960s. He once forced local officials in Mississippi to remove nooses that were hanging from tree branches outside polling places.

But until Election Day 2008 in Philadelphia he had never seen a man brandishing a weapon blocking the entrance to a polling place. He now can’t understand why the Obama Justice Department has dropped its case against the New Black Panther Party, the hate group the thugs he saw in front of the polling place belonged to.

Bull, who was once Robert Kennedy’s New York presidential campaign manager and is a former publisher of the left-wing Village Voice, has moderated his politics, going so far as to join Democrats for McCain last year. It was in that capacity that he traveled to Philadelphia on Election Day. When he visited a polling place at 12th and Fairmount he found two men dressed in black combat boots, black berets, and black uniforms blocking the door. One was brandishing a large police-style nightstick.

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Senator Survivor

By From the June 2009 issue

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg once said of Arlen Specter: “He’s an intimidating senator and very successful at any game of ‘Survivor.’” Indeed, Arlen Specter might as well have been born to be champion of that reality show. He’s beaten cancer, a brain tumor, and overcome long odds to win five terms in the U.S. Senate. In April, faced with the almost certain prospect of losing to Pat Toomey, his 2004 GOP primary challenger, Specter pulled his ultimate Houdini trick and switched parties to once again become the Democrat he used to be.

The good news for Democrats is that they certainly got some assurances from Specter that he would be more cooperative with their agenda than he has been to date. “We don’t know what assurances he got from the Democratic leadership,” Democratic consultant Richard Goldstein told Fox News. Indeed, I’ve no doubt that Democratic leaders offered to help clear the field for him in the 2010 Democratic primary as well as direct key contributors to him.

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Screen Savorer

By From the May 2009 issue

Politico.com opened a rich vein of controversy in March when it reported that “President Obama doesn’t go anywhere without his teleprompter.… No other president has used one so consistently and at so many events, large and small.” Indeed, I have learned Obama sometimes brings a teleprompter to the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and uses it to speak to as few as 15 people.

Obama’s reliance on the device has led some to assert it has become a crutch he can’t throw away—much like the cigarettes it’s been rumored the chief executive still sneaks puffs on. “After the teleprompter malfunctioned a few times last summer and Obama delivered some less-than-soaring speeches, reports surfaced that he was training to wean himself off of the device while on vacation in Hawaii. But no luck,” noted Politico.com.

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Making Every Census Count

By From the April 2009 issue

The census—the supposedly objective counting of every inhabitant of a country—has always had politics lurking in the background. Jesus was born in Bethlehem because the Romans insisted Joseph and Mary go back to the town of their birth to be counted for tax purposes. The 1937 Soviet census was annulled because it showed a sharp drop in population due to the famines and killings of the Stalin era; a “correct” census was held in 1939 after the administrators of the first one had been shipped to the Gulag.

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