Politics

Politics

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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Politics

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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Politics

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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Politics

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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Politics

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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Politics

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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Politics

LaHood’s Neighborhood

By From the March 2009 issue

Barack Obama made a campaign pledge to appoint Republicans to his cabinet in order to transcend old political divisions. In retaining Defense Secretary Bob Gates, a registered independent who has  served GOP presidents, Mr. Obama picked a skilled technocrat.

His choice of retiring GOP Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois to be transportation secretary is more intriguing and offers clues to the kind of Republican Obama likes on domestic issues—one who goes along with his taste for big government. As a congressman, LaHood was named "Porker of the Month" by Citizens Against Government Waste for the countless "earmarks" he stuffed into legislation. Teamsters president James Hoffa is a big booster of LaHood, issuing a statement when the latter was named by Obama that said it all: "As a moderate Republican, he has been a friend of the Teamsters Union on a number of important issues."

As we've learned from the Blagojevich scandal, Illinois politics is a rich stew often seasoned with corruption. Traditional ideological differences aren't nearly as important as raw political horse trading.

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Hide the Amendments

By 2.27.09

Will restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion disappear during the congressional appropriations process?
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S.O.S. at the BBC

By From the February 2009 issue

LONDON -- When a couple years ago I met Vladimir Bukovsky, the former Soviet dissident who spent a decade in the Gulag before being released in 1976, I asked him how he liked living in Britain. He said he loved it, pointing to the sense of fair play, intellectual curiosity, and good manners he found in his adopted Cambridge.

But a shadow crossed his face when he discussed British media. He said that while the British Broadcasting Corporation had once spoken for the entire nation and epitomized the highest of news standards, that was no longer the case. It was now slavishly in favor of European union, worshipful of climate change extremists, and opposed to Israel. “It now unfairly competes with private channels and has sunk to juvenile levels in much of its programming,” he told me. He revealed he hadn’t paid his annual $210 license fee--a fee required of every British television owner and which subsidizes some 75 percent of the BBC’s budget.

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