Illustration by Matt Wuerker
After a hard-fought election campaign, costing well in excess of $2 billion, it seems to many observers that not much has changed in American politics: Barack Obama is still President, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate. With America facing a “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of 2013 that will most likely drive the economy into recession unless bipartisan agreement on an alternative fiscal path is reached – could there be anything worse than continued political gridlock?
In fact, the election had several salutary effects – beyond showing that unbridled corporate spending could not buy an election, and that demographic changes in the United States may doom Republican extremism. The Republicans’ explicit campaign of disenfranchisement in some states – like Pennsylvania, where they tried to make it more difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to register to vote – backfired: those whose rights were threatened were motivated to turn out and exercise them. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and tireless warrior for reforms to protect ordinary citizens from banks’ abusive practices, won a seat in the Senate…
The Republicans should not have been caught off-guard by Americans’ interest in issues like disenfranchisement and gender equality. While these issues strike at the core of a country’s values – of what we mean by democracy and limits on government intrusion into individuals’ lives – they are also economic issues. As I explain in my book The Price of Inequality, much of the rise in US economic inequality is attributable to a government in which the rich have disproportionate influence – and use that influence to entrench themselves. Obviously, issues like reproductive rights and gay marriage have large economic consequences as well…
…Here is what Americans should hope for: a strong “jobs” bill – based on investments in education, health care, technology, and infrastructure – that would stimulate the economy, restore growth, reduce unemployment, and generate tax revenues far in excess of its costs, thus improving the country’s fiscal position. They might also hope for a housing program that finally addresses America’s foreclosure crisis…
America – and the world – would also benefit from a US energy policy that reduces reliance on imports not just by increasing domestic production, but also by cutting consumption, and that recognizes the risks posed by global warming. Moreover, America’s science and technology policy must reflect an understanding that long-term increases in living standards depend upon productivity growth, which reflects technological progress that assumes a solid foundation of basic research…
Americans should hope for all of this, though I am not sanguine that they will get much of it.& More likely, America will muddle through – here another little program for struggling students and homeowners, there the end of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, but no wholesale tax reform, serious cutbacks in defense spending, or significant progress on global warming.
With the euro crisis likely to continue unabated, America’s continuing malaise does not bode well for global growth. Even worse, in the absence of strong American leadership, longstanding global problems – from climate change to urgently needed reforms of the international monetary system – will continue to fester. Nonetheless, we should be grateful: it is better to be standing still than it is to be heading in the wrong direction.
Optimist that I am – still as cynical as Joe Stiglitz the author of this piece – we have 2014 and 2016 to look forward to. Americans may just be bright enough, confident enough, to push the House back to solid enough Democrat control at the mid-term to enable progressive legislation to be funded. I expect no miracles from our voters or elected officials – but, I think we’ll have the market on our side.
At this moment, I’m confident in Hillary running in 2016 – and her added experience in foreign policy [as tawdry as that has continued to be] better equips her for the battles for the presidency.
Should be fun. We may get a little further along the road to solvency and modernity.
It’s over. After a year-long campaign costing $2.5-6 billion…President Barack Obama has won a second four-year term, with 49 states reporting their results on election night (Florida, for the second time in four presidential elections, did not). Obama now has a chance to define the United States’ role in the international system for years to come.
Second terms can often be productive times for US foreign policy, largely because presidents cannot seek a third. George W. Bush, for example, used his second four years in office to fix mistakes made during his first (his second-term team was busy).
Presidents in their second terms often apply old-fashioned American pragmatism to tough issues, which they often cannot do during their first terms, when reelection is their first priority. Obama’s infamous open-mike remark to Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after the election may have shocked some, but, for most foreign-policy experts, he was stating the obvious. The president’s challenge is to use his new freedom of action quickly, before the perception sets in (as it inevitably does) that he is a lame duck…
US policy in Asia requires a steady hand, and, in Obama, the US has just that. But it also needs effective communication that makes clear to the American people that the relationship with China truly is too big to fail and thus requires a long-term process of thoughtful engagement. Such messages must be issued more often by the president himself, and not only by officials several bureaucratic layers below. American policy in Asia in general, and toward China in particular, has enjoyed consistent bipartisan support. When a US president has bipartisan support on any issue, he should flaunt it.
There is no question that dealing with China, which is in an anxious mood of its own, has become increasingly difficult. But the way to address China’s internal tensions and emerging nationalism, and the resulting strains in its relationships with its neighbors, is not to put the region’s countries in the position of having to choose between China and the US. The right approach is to be constant, to stress long-term commitments, and to speak in a calm and measured way, understanding that good China policy is about relationships, not transactions. No one does that better than this president…
No president in recent decades has had a better temperament and a clearer vision for facing the world’s challenges than the one that Americans have just reelected. Obama now has an opportunity to put that talent to work in ways that he could not in his first term.
RTFA for the broader range of issues and question Christopher Hill includes in this article. Between his career in foreign service to the United States and his understanding of education and administration – his present gig at the University of Denver – he brings a boatload of common sense to one of America’s most anachronistic political venues.
About 10,000 opponents of a proposed pipeline for carrying oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast surrounded the White House on Sunday – exactly a year before the 2012 election – seeking to pressure President Barack Obama to reject the project.
If approved, the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, to be built by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., would carry crude from the tar sands region in Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas, passing through six states.
Supporters such as oil industry groups and some labor unions say the pipeline would reduce U.S. reliance on oil from the volatile Mideast and create 20,000 jobs in a U.S. economy that desperately needs the boost.
Environmental groups despise the project and call it a needlessly risky method of producing dirty energy. They say the pipeline could leak, endangering drinking water. They say extracting the thick crude from tar sands is itself a greenhouse-gas producing, wasteful process. And they say the promise of jobs is a false one, claiming it would produce only about 6,000 temporary jobs…
The Keystone decision poses a political dilemma for Obama, with an approaching election that likely will hinge on the economy. He will inevitably anger one of his constituencies – either the unions supporting the project or environmentalists and others opposing it.
The Obama administration must issue a permit to approve Keystone because it would cross the U.S.-Canada border. Though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she’s “inclined” to approve the project, the final verdict rests with Obama, who recently said he will wait until after the State Department finishes its review of the proposal.
I support a couple of the environmental groups involved in this political battle. Doesn’t mean I think they’re completely in the right. When they stretch facts and presume statistical likelihoods of pipeline failure, oil spills resulting from pipelines transiting the United States north-to-south, they haven’t a leg to stand on. The number of failures in the lower 48 over the decades [and miles] of pipeline is negligible.
Similarly, the case for greenhouse gases expanding dramatically is grounded on the Canadian government deciding against building a nuclear powerplant to generate electricity for the production of oil from the Alberta sands.
The issue has to be decided on sound environmental practices. Whether or not you can have confidence on both governments doing the right thing on behalf of citizens of both countries? Can they be trusted to work to standards sufficiently high to protect the environment in Canada and the United States?
Pakistan needs to to understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make their problems disappear, according to Hillary Clinton.
Her warning came as US officials said documents seized during the raid to kill Osama bin Laden suggested the al-Qaeda leader and his aides were considering striking a deal with Pakistan to guarantee them a safe haven.
In return, the terror group would have reined in terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil.
Mrs Clinton, the US secretary of state, became the first member of the Obama administration to visit Pakistan since the death of bin Laden…
After meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Mrs Clinton also met General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, and General Shuja Pasha, director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. A US official described the meetings as “difficult”…
Mrs Clinton, looking stony-faced at a press conference afterward, said: “This was an especially important visit because we have reached a turning point. Osama bin Laden is dead but al-Qaeda and his syndicate of terror remain a serious threat to us both.”
“America cannot and should not solve Pakistan’s problems. That’s up to Pakistan. But in solving its problems, Pakistan should understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear,” Mrs Clinton said.
“Anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear”? Why not?
Seems to work in the little minds of some members of the Kool Aid Party and other right-wing Republican religious sects. Why shouldn’t the same effect carry over into a theocratic nation led around by the nose by ultra-nationalist parties and dedicated, demented sectarian religious bozos? Did I mention Israel?
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
PJ Crowley, the official spokesman at the state department, has fallen on his sword after calling the treatment of Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the WikiLeaks files, “counterproductive and stupid”.
The resignation followed Crowley’s remarks to an MIT seminar last week about Manning’s treatment in military prison.
Crowley had said: “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”
The remarks forced President Obama to address for the first time the issue of Manning’s handling at Quantico marine base in Virginia. Obama defended the way Manning is being treated, saying he had been reassured by the Pentagon that his confinement was appropriate.
In a resignation letter, Crowley said he took full responsibility for his remarks. Though he attacked the leaking of classified information, which he called “a serious crime under US law”, he stood by his earlier criticism of the Pentagon.
In words that could cause further difficulty for Obama, Crowley said his comments “were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.”
Obama promised transparency, adherence to the standards of the Geneva Code, bring our government up to the standards of our own constitutional and libertarian history. That has not happened.
Not only has it NOT happened; but, the worst example of corrupt practices introduced by George W. Bush and his Republican administration have been retained and reinforced.
Crowley simply stuck to the principles our elected officials said they stood for – and obviously don’t.
Secretary Robert Gates heading home from Afghanistan, once again
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
President Obama’s compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for the wealthy, which his self-described progressive critics see as a profound betrayal, is bound to intensify a debate that has been bubbling up on liberal blogs and e-mail lists in recent weeks — whether or not the president who embodied “hope and change” in 2008 should face a primary challenge in 2012…
Just last weekend, three liberal writers made the case for taking on Mr. Obama in 2012. Michael Lerner, longtime editor of Tikkun magazine, argued in The Washington Post that a primary represented a “real way to save the Obama presidency,” by forcing Mr. Obama to move leftward. Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and one of the party’s most scathing populist voices, issued a similar call on The Huffington Post, suggesting Iowa as the ideal incubator.
On the same site, Clarence B. Jones, a one-time confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., suggested that liberals should break with Mr. Obama now, just as Dr. King and others did with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. “It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected president of the United States,” Mr. Jones wrote. “But, regrettably, I believe the time has come to do this.”
Meanwhile, in Iowa, a group known as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, originally founded to aid Democratic Congressional candidates in 2010, has started broadcasting an advertisement that shows Mr. Obama, in 2008, promising to reverse the tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The group isn’t advocating a primary challenge just yet — but then, the choice of Iowa as a market seems intended to send a pretty clear warning to the White House.
“On issue after issue, when the public is on his side, this president just refuses to fight,” says Adam Green, the group’s co-founder. “At this point, the strategy is to shame him into fighting.”
All of this would have seemed unthinkable in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s red-white-and-blue visage seemed omnipresent on campuses and along city streets, a symbol to many of liberalism reborn. That, of course, was before the abandonment of “card-check” legislation for unions and of the so-called public option in health care, the escalation in Afghanistan and the formation of the deficit-reduction commission…
And how did someone at the TIMES manage to write a piece like this without mentioning Hillary?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy believes the idea of Russia and Europe building up defenses against one another is something that should remain in the past.
The announcement came during Sarkozy’s speech at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
“The idea that Russia should protect itself from Europe and that Europe should protect itself from Russia is a thing from the far past,” Sarkozy said, adding: “We must believe that we are fighting against one and the same threats.”
He said that terrorism and mafia are identical threats and that Russia and Europe must jointly fight against them.
Russian President Medvedev announced his initiative to draw up a new pan-European security pact in May 2008, and the first real draft was presented by the Kremlin in November 2009. It got responses from more than 20 governments and their administrations. The European Union and NATO have also studied the draft.
Her position was echoed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who has stated repeatedly that the West is no threat to Russia and that extra security guarantees are uncalled for.
Unless, John McCain had won the 2008 election and appointed George W. Bush secretary of state and Dick Cheney secretary of war. All bets would have been off.
A firm affiliated with the former Blackwater security company has been awarded a contract to provide protection to U.S. consulates and diplomats in the Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-e Sharif, a U.S. State Department official has confirmed.
The official said U.S. Training Center got the contract on Friday. It is part of Xe, the new name of Blackwater Worldwide.
Blackwater became the target of widespread outrage in Iraq after its contractors were involved in the September 2007 shooting at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that left 17 civilians dead and 24 wounded, straining relations between Iraq and the United States.
The deal is a one-year contract with an option to extend up to 18 months. If the contract is fulfilled for that entire period, it would be more than $120 million.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said on Saturday she was “extremely disappointed” over the deal and that the former Blackwater shouldn’t be receiving more U.S. contracts.
“This is a company whose cowboy-like behavior has not only resulted in civilian deaths; it has also jeopardized our mission and the safety of U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel worldwide. Instead of punishing Blackwater for its extensive history of serious abuses the State Department is rewarding the company with up to $120 million in taxpayer funds,” she said in a statement.
The congresswoman has introduced legislation that would phase out the use of private security contractors.
“Though the name Blackwater has become synonymous with the worst of contractor abuses, the bigger problem is our dangerous reliance on such companies for the business of waging war.”
Sooner or later, the easy rationale for the Obama Administration – things at the departmental level are still being run by Bush leftovers – will have to run out.
Responsibility for stupidity like this will have sit alongside Obama and Hillary at one of their press conferences. Presuming someone from the Washington Press Corps will ask the question.
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
A war of words between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the White House has escalated with Washington expressing frustration that an attempt to smooth over the feud had so far failed.
Karzai said he stood by remarks from last week accusing the West of carrying out election fraud in Afghanistan, and appeared to sharpen the criticism still further by singling out the United States specifically for blame.
The White House said it was frustrated on behalf of the American public, and invoked the sacrifice made by families who send their loved ones off to fight. There are more than 120,000 Western troops in Afghanistan, including more than 80,000 Americans, set to rise to 100,000 Americans this year.
Karzai’s continued defense of his anti-Western remarks could signal that he is pursuing a deliberate new policy of distancing himself from his Western backers, rather than simply having expressed frustration in a one-off outburst last week.
That could complicate U.S. counter-insurgency war strategy, which depends on showing a united front with Karzai’s government and persuading Afghans that troops are there to support it.
Karzai phoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday to smooth over the quarrel, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that since that phone call “it obviously didn’t get any better.
“The remarks are troubling and the substance of the remarks is simply just not true,” Gibbs said…
Gibbs said a May 12 visit by Karzai to Washington was still on and Washington would continue to work with Karzai, but had set benchmarks for his government. He did not expect Karzai’s remarks to affect consideration in Congress of the Obama administration’s request for funds to pay for the war.
Of course. Has the course of war ever affect Congress’ willingness to lay out taxpayer dollars?
Hillary Clinton unveils Walt Whitman statue on Moscow campus
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
An impassioned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to students at Moscow State University, admonished those in the U.S. and Russian governments who haven’t moved beyond a Cold War mentality.
Clinton said such people are “living in the past” and aren’t able to cooperate on issues such as missile defense because they “don’t trust each other.” She also called on the nations to find common ground, saying they “shouldn’t end all cooperation” just because they can’t agree on everything.
“Let’s be smarter than our past,” Clinton said, offering to bring a “new attitude bring to the relationship.”
Clinton spoke about surmounting historical difficulties in U.S.-Russian relations, changing a relationship “once defined by the shadow of mutually assured destruction into what is based on mutual respect and, over time, increasingly mutual trust.”
“We are different countries; we have different historical experiences, different perspectives,” she said. “But we are planting those disagreements in a much broader field of cooperation, and hopefully we are enriching the earth in which this cooperation can take root.”
On a related note, The Cheney Troika is founding an organization to lead American Jihadists further into the past.