Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ohio's Abominal Congressional Map: Final 2011 Edition

 

I have written here previously about Republican attempts to gerrymander Ohio's U.S. congressional districts to the extreme. At the time, Democrats blocked the effort promising to put the map before the voters in the form of a November 2012 referendum ballot issue. Well, that effort is dead as Ohio Democrats caved to the GOP, agreeing to a map that had roughly the same ratios as the original proposed map: 12 safe GOP districts and 4 safe Dem districts.

What happened? Well, it appears that the GOP was able to buy some support by consolidating urban areas in Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus. That, and serious questions arose as to whether Dems would be able to collect enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

According to the Plain Dealer:

"The legislative deal came Wednesday as lawmakers adopted an alternative congressional map offered by Republicans last month, which replaces a map Republicans approved in September that Democrats opposed. Democrats had originally rejected the revised map when it was offered by GOP lawmakers last month because they said it did not go far enough, and they threatened to take the issue to a referendum. The new map creates what appear to be 12 solidly Republican districts and four Democratic ones....The revised congressional map incorporated some changes sought by black Democrats, drawing districts that keep urban areas in Toledo, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati together. It also squeezed U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland by adding more than 90,000 Lucas County voters into a solidly Democratic district that follows the Lake Erie shoreline from Westlake to Toledo, resulting in more-favorable turf for Toledo Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Kucinich and Kaptur have filed to run against each other in a Democratic primary because their districts were consolidated in the original map."

Regardless of what party made out with this map, it is a tragedy that in a 50-50 state like Ohio, one party will have 75% of the Congressional seats. Ohio is not alone as most state congressional districts are gerrymandered if that state has one party control. It's a system begging to be fixed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sherrod Brown to Speak to Akron Press Club as Josh Mandel Reneges


In 2009, the Akron Press Club invited the declared candidates for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat to be vacated in 2010 by the retiring George Voinovich to come to the Martin University Center at The University of Akron to speak. It was a joint venture with the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and all four candidates from both sides of the aisle visited the Akron Press Club that autumn. With another U.S. Senate seat on the line in Ohio in 2012, we decided to try again and this time we added the League of Women Voters of the Akron Area as another co-sponsor. I'm pleased to announce that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is running for a second term, will be speaking to the group January 6.

Unfortunately, his Republican opponent, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, will not be. Despite the fact that I have attempted to schedule Mandel for a separate appearance since May, and despite the fact that his staff indicated in September that he was willing to come in, his political director informed me last week that he is too busy.

There was a time when a candidate running for a major political office would do anything for free media--the kind generated by appearing in front of a group like the Akron Press Club, giving a speech, and opening themselves up to questions from the media and public. Those days are rapidly coming to an end as candidates prefer fund-raising events and controlled-message venues to the unpredictability of an open forum. Well, at least the sitting Senator is willing to show, speak his mind, and open himself up to questions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Payroll Tax Politics: Playing With Political Dynamite

Politico Arena Topic: Payroll Tax a Winning Issue for Dems?


Support for extension of the payroll tax cut really isn’t a role reversal because the Obama administration has always been for middle class tax cuts which the GOP is not very interested in (I believe Paul Ryan used the term “sugar high” to describe the payroll tax cut). Republicans have begun to realize, however, that opposition to middle class tax relief heading into an election year is not only political dynamite, it is hypocritical and paints the GOP as a party only interested in helping the rich.

Once the GOP decides it cannot withstand the political backlash, the argument will shift to how to pay for the payroll tax cut extension. The Obama White House and Congressional Democrats make the case that it should be paid for by the ultra-rich—a popular method according to polls—and force Republicans to go on the record against that offset. Republicans will likely counter with offsets via entitlement reforms or other spending cuts. It is interesting though—what offsets were used to pay for the Bush tax cuts? Or how about the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq? Or the Medicare prescription drug benefit? None. These were very expensive programs which were simply added to the national debt yet the GOP jumped at the chance if it meant their priorities would pass.

In the end, an extension of the payroll tax cut is inevitable—it is too politically damaging to the GOP brand for it not to pass. I expect Congress and the President will have something worked out by the end of the year otherwise the GOP will be handing Democrats and the Obama campaign a big fat Christmas present to campaign on.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cain Cain't

Politico Arena Topic: Cain't Gonna Happen?


I am less troubled by the accusations of a long-standing extramarital affair between two consenting adults than I am by the multiple allegations of sexual harassment. A Herman Cain nomination was already a long shot; this new allegation amplifies questions of character and will probably be the final stake in the heart of his candidacy (though this doesn't mean he'll necessarily drop out).

Of course, all this overshadows the fact that Cain is not well versed on important policy matters and is completely ill-equipped to be president. Besides his 9-9-9 plan, which is nothing more than a scheme cooked up on a cocktail napkin, Cain, like Sarah Palin before him, shows little interest in or ability to grasp the important policy challenges facing the country, particularly foreign policy. These allegations in their totality will also disqualify him from consideration as a VP running-mate or for a spot in a future GOP president's cabinet.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Thursday, November 17, 2011

President Obama and Lazy Americans: There is No There There

Politico Arena Topic: Will Obama's 'lazy' comments haunt him?

Well, the comments would be devastating if at all true; however, they were completely taken out of context. Even the Politico article splices up the President’s actual comments. Here is what he said verbatim in response to a question about impediments to investment in the United States:

“I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity: our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture. But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted—well, people will want to come here, and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the Government agencies to work with State and local governments where they're seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America. And we think that we can do much better than we're doing right now. Because of our federalist system, sometimes a foreign investor comes in and they've got to navigate not only Federal rules, but they've also got to navigate State and local governments that may have their own sets of interests. Being able to create if not a one-stop shop, then at least no more than a couple of stops for people to be able to come into the United States and make investments, that's something that we want to encourage.”

So, there is no there, there. He’s not calling America or Americans lazy. He is not questioning the character of the American people. He is calling out the American government for not being proactive enough in attracting foreign investment and explaining that the rules and regulations of the American federalist system sometimes create disincentives for foreign business and industry to set up shop in the U.S. Of course the opposition party will try to distort his words for political gain. That’s just part of the game. But an honest reading of his remarks reveals there is absolutely no controversy except in the minds of the consultants and presidential wannabes of the GOP.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Friday, October 28, 2011

Skipping a Presidential Rite of Passage

Politico Arena Topic: Perry's Debate Skipping a Bad Move?

Dictionary.com defines “coward” as “a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.” These are not exactly the qualities one looks for in a president and Rick Perry’s opponents will label him a coward should he skip future GOP primary debates. And with good reason. Debates matter. They are an important showcase for a candidate’s intellect (or lack thereof), their knowledge of important policy issues, their ability to think under pressure, and their temperament. Few people, if pressed to answer honestly, look forward to debating on a large public stage. The pressure is immense and the stakes couldn’t be higher—one flub can sink a campaign. But it is a rite of passage every presidential candidate must go through.


As someone who has spent the last several election cycles organizing debates for statewide office and Congress, I can attest first hand that campaigns and candidates frequently refuse to debate, or at least are very, very reluctant. This was especially a problem in the 2010 election cycle when internal polling showed that many of these candidates had large leads and were coasting to reelection. But the key is that the candidates knew they were ahead in the polls and did not need to debate to win. Rick Perry does not enjoy that luxury. Though expected to be the frontrunner if he got into the race, Perry is anything but and his lackluster debate performance has been one of the reasons for this. However, skipping debates is not the answer to Perry turning around his campaign—improving his performance in the debates and demonstrating to America and the punditocracy that he has the qualities we look for in a president. Just having “governor” on your resume is not proof that you are qualified (just ask Sarah Palin)—you have to earn the public’s and media’s respect and trust that you could handle the job. Cutting and running from the debate stage simply destroys that credibility.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marco Rubio and the Klieg Lights

Politico Arena Topic: Is Marco Rubio Still VP Material?

Sen. Marco Rubio will be a top contender for a VP slot. He is a Republican young gun who is a darling of the tea party. He is a first-generation American whose parents came from Cuba and Republicans are desperate to make inroads in the Hispanic community - the second largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. Florida is a must-win battleground state and Rubio would give the GOP ticket an edge there. And if Mitt Romney is the nominee, Rubio would add some conservative credibility that Romney lacks.

The big question is: would this freshman senator be ready for the bright lights and hyper-scrutiny of a presidential campaign? After all, he is only 40 and hasn’t spent even a year in the U.S. Senate. The last time a presidential nominee picked a young, inexperienced, firebrand for the number two slot (Palin), it didn’t go so well as a candidate’s shortcomings are quickly exposed during the harsh glare of the klieg lights of the national stage. Rubio’s embellishment of the story of his parents journey from Cuba indicate that he may not be ready for prime time. Thus, the selection of Rubio as a running mate could be stroke of genius or utter disaster.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Building a Sleazier Ohio

What the "Building a Better Ohio" group did to Ohio great-grandmother Marlene Quinn is one of the most blatant, under-handed, dirty tricks I have witnessed in recent politics.

From Cincinnati.com: "[Marlene Quinn's] appearance in a television ad suggesting she supports a cause she doesn't continued to swirl in the hard-fought campaign over Senate Bill 5. Meanwhile, more than two dozen television stations serving the Ohio market, including two in Cincinnati, pulled the controversial ad produced for Building A Better Ohio, the Republican- and business-dominated group that supports SB 5. Quinn opposes SB 5 and agreed to be part of an ad produced by We Are Ohio, a Democratic- and union-dominated group fighting enforcement of the legislation. In it, she thanks Cincinnati firefighters for saving the lives of her great-granddaughter, Zoey, and son, Jan, in a November fire. Building A Better Ohio took sections of Quinn's audio and video from the We Are Ohio ad and used them in their own, leaving the impression that Quinn supports SB 5."

View both ads below:





I am no legal expert but it seems to me that legal action could and should be taken in this case. It is politics at its worst. It does beg the question: are the arguments in favor of SB5 that tenuous that forces supporting the law can only resort to this type of underhanded tactic? My hope is that the controversy goes viral and this type of sleazy tactic backfires.

Disclaimer: I am a union member of AAUP. Regardless, had We Are Ohio used this type of tactic I would have decried it as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taxation, the Ultrarich, and Shared Sacrifice

Politico Arena Topic: Is the Surtax Suicide for Dems?

Taxing the rich is anything but a suicidal proposition. Polls are consistent in showing that Americans want shared sacrifice. One need only look at the compensation packages of America’s Fortune 500 CEOs (you know - the job creators that aren’t creating jobs) during this time of economic hardship and high unemployment to see that something is out of whack. As the gap between rich and poor widens and as the middle class struggles to stay middle class, moves to increase taxes on the very wealthy in this country is smart politics.



Monday, October 10, 2011

Playing the Mormon Card

Politico Arena Topic: Will Mormon Attacks Help Mitt?

Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion shouldn’t be an issue but it is and will continue to be. Many religious conservatives do view Mormonism as less than a religion and will never accept Romney as their party’s nominee. Romney will be challenged especially in any number of Southern primaries.

For the Religious Right, it’s not an issue he can overcome simply with a speech. Absent a full-scale conversion, Romney will be forced to write off many of these voters and hope he can dominate in primary states where religion is a less important variable.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Ohio's Abominable New Congressional Map

Republicans did not invent gerrymandering and Democrats certainly engage in it as well (see Illinois 2011); however, Ohio's new congressional map is an abomination. For a state that is roughly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and which went to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the overly gerrymandered districts are an embarrassment. Because Ohio has not grown as quickly as other states, Republican lawmakers who control the Ohio Statehouse did face the difficult task of eliminating two U.S. congressional districts. But not one of the 16 redrawn districts could be called a true toss-up, swing district; they all lean--and most lean hard--toward the GOP. 12 of the 16 districts are red Republican districts leaving only 4 as blue Democratic districts (see comparison of the current and future maps below).

Apportionment and redistricting are processes which occur every 10 years and essentially determine party fortunes for that decade before an election ever takes place. The result is a Congress packed with ideologues more worried about a future primary challenge than attempting to bargain and compromise in the middle for the good of the country. Gerrymandering is one of the primary reasons the American political system suffers from excessive gridlock and a poisonous political environment. It is time for Ohio and all states to move away from party-driven redistricting and embrace independent electoral commissions to draw the lines.

Ohio's new map sailed through the Ohio legislature and is awaiting Governor Kasich's signature. Because an appropriation's measure was attached to the legislation, the map is not subject to a potential statewide referendum. Expect the Ohio Democratic Party to challenge it in the courts, though overturning it is a long shot.



CURRENT MAP ABOVE, NEW MAP BELOW


Monday, September 19, 2011

Obama's Smart Buffett Move



Politico Arena Topic: Will Obama's "Buffett Tax" Fly with Voters?

The deficit plan is a smart move politically, especially heading into a general election year. President Obama needs to shore up a base that has been eroding since the midterm elections and that is still reeling from the GOP-favoring debt ceiling deal agreed to last month. The plan forces Republicans into a box of either supporting deficit reduction with shared sacrifice or siding with the very wealthiest interests in the country.

Raising taxes on the wealthy—especially millionaires—is popular among a significant majority of Americans and most citizens would embrace the Buffett rule. It has little chance of getting through the Congress but the plan is more of a campaign document anyway.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playing Politics With Disaster Relief


Politico Arena Topic: Should disaster aid be conditional?

It is an accepted norm that the Federal Government aid state and local government when a major calamity occurs as those incidents overwhelm their capacity to respond in the short term and recover in the long term. That is the purpose of the Disaster Relief Fund and the intent of the Stafford Acts. There are years such as 2011, the most devastating tornado season in the U.S. in a lifetime, when the number and costs of disasters depletes that fund.

It is outrageous that members of the United States Congress are playing politics with communities and people directly affected by these devastating events. As was the case with the debt ceiling, many Republicans are willing to hold communities hostage in an effort to shrink the size of government. Where were these budget-balancing Republicans when a Republican president and Republican-led Congress, blessed with a balanced-budget after the Clinton years, passed Medicare Part D without paying for it? What about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were similarly not paid for? How about the massive tax cut that benefited mainly the wealthy that has added to the country’s debt? I’ll tell you where they were: on the floor of the Congress voting for these massive government programs without any offsetting spending cuts.

Real citizens and communities are hurting from Hurricane Irene as people in Joplin, Missouri continue to wait for Federal assistance to help recover from one the deadliest and costliest tornados in American history. Americans expect the Federal Government to act in these situations and if the GOP continues to be an obstacle, there will be electoral consequences down the road.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Throwing Kisses While The Ship Sets Sail



Politico Arena Topic: Has Sarah Palin been eclipsed?

The ship has left the port and is sailing out to sea. Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and others boarded awhile ago. Rick Perry, realizing the ship was leaving, finally jumped from shore and climbed aboard. Sarah Palin, though, is still waving and throwing kisses to the crowd even while the TV crews keep reminding her the ship is moving towards the horizon.

We all know that she claims to live by her own rules, but there are some rules you can’t invent—real tangible ballot deadlines and intangible fundraising windows. A serious candidate for the presidency pays attention to such things. And frankly, even if she were to somehow get on that ship, there may be nowhere for her to stand at this point.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Nirvana: Green Bay Packers at the White House

Two of my favorite things in life: the Green Bay Packers and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On August 12, 2011, those two personal loves met as President Barack Obama invited the Packers to come their NFL Championship. And here is the video from that momentous occasion. I just wish I could have been there in person...




Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time to Convene the Do Nothing Congress


Having survived a torturous process and passed legislation that raises America's debt ceiling, Congress has decided to go on vacation. One problem: the debt ceiling nightmare pushed nearly all other important work to the back burner and Congress recessed before accomplishing some important matters such as continue funding the Federal Aviation Administration. So because of yet another political stalemate, Congress went home and their negligence has left 74,000 FAA workers out of work--not exactly a stimulus to the sagging economy.

There is one thing that one person could attempt to do about all this: President Obama has the constitutional authority to order Congress back to town to deal with this issue. According to Article II, Section III, of the U.S. Constitution, the President "may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses." The partial shutdown of the FAA would certainly qualify as an "extraordinary occasion" which potentially puts public safety and the health of the economy at risk.

Convening Congress via the extraordinary occasions clause has not been done since 1948 when Harry Truman ordered the do-nothing 80th Congress back to Washington to deal with the issues of the day--a tactic many credit with allowing Truman to embarrass Congress and win a close reelection. Truman had it right and today's 112th Congress can similarly be described as do-nothing. It is time for this President to act boldly, especially when many Americans, his base most of all, view this President as too willing to capitulate to his political enemies. This President should bring Congress back to town and keep them there until they carry out their responsibility and fund the FAA.

Obama's Reelection Chances...Fifteen Months Out


Politico Arena Topic: Will President Obama Lose the 2012 Election?

President Ronald Reagan was at 43 percent in the Gallup Poll at the beginning of August 1983 (the exact point in his presidency that Barack Obama is at now). Fifteen months later he won a landslide victory for reelection. Lesson: if twenty four hours is a lifetime in politics, fifteen months is an eon.

Although things look bad for President Obama’s reelection at this moment in time, fortunately for him the election is not next week. It is impossible to predict what will happen over a year from now or to predict whether or not President Obama will be reelected. One thing that political scientists are sure of, however: if the economy improves substantially and unemployment falls, this will help the president immensely. If the economy continues to stagnate or worsen, President Obama is in huge trouble.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Invoke the 14th Amendment--Political Consequences Be Damned

Politico Arena Topic: Should Obama Invoke the 14th Amendment?

In the event that Congress is unable to come to agreement on a balanced deficit reduction bill or a clean bill which simple raises the debt ceiling, President Obama should absolutely utilize his unilateral powers to raise it. During George W. Bush’s presidency, Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times with little fanfare. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Congress raised the limit eighteen times. I have little doubt that Presidents Reagan or Bush would have raised the ceiling unilaterally had Congress pulled the kinds of political shenanigans we are seeing today—consequences be damned.

The president’s most important responsibility is to protect the American people—allowing the country to default on its obligations would do irreparable harm to the economy and the citizenry. The President—any president—has a duty to not let that happen. Even without the 14th Amendment, President Obama would be justified in using his prerogative powers just as Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, and other presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and FDR did during times of crisis.

There would certainly be a political cost to using unilateral powers to end this congressionally contrived crisis; however, the costs of doing nothing would be much steeper. The House would likely move to impeach the President but even if successful, a conviction would be unlikely in the Senate where a 2/3 majority is necessary for removal. For many, President Obama would be a hero as he moved decisively to save a country held hostage by Tea Party radicals in the House of Representatives.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama, the Bully Pulpit, and Irrational Lawmakers

Politico Arena Topic: Are President Obama's Public Appearances Helping the Debt Talks?

I don't know if President Obama's public appearances will spur most House Republicans to compromise because nothing has moved them yet--not even their own Speaker who seems more like a hostage than a leader. Perhaps the bully pulpit will prod the American people to slap some sense into these recalcitrant lawmakers but I don't think so. This is not a rational bunch and they seem hell-bent on driving this economy off a cliff.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment



Friday, July 22, 2011

The Only Pledge Worth Signing is a Pledge Not to Sign Pledges


Politico Arena Topic: Is Tax Pledge Helping or Hurting Debt Talks?

I’m sure the conservatives in the Arena will argue that the Norquist pledge has been helpful in focusing the debt ceiling debate on tax cuts. I disagree. The Norquist pledge added another layer of complexity to an already difficult process of cutting a balanced deal as Republican lawmakers openly fear breaking their pledge and incurring Norquist’s wrath.

Read my lips: pledges suck. As the country hurtles toward default, I hope candidates will rethink signing pledges offered up by special interests. Pledges may help candidates get elected but they destroy the ability to govern effectively once in office. Pledges prevent politicos from negotiating, bargaining, and compromising on policy — crucial ingredients to governing in a representative democracy. The only pledge worth signing is a pledge to not sign pledges.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Congress to My Classroom: Zack Space



One of the perks of my job is that from time to time I get to have some great guest speakers come talk to my classes. Today was no exception. Former U.S. Representative Zack Space (D-OH) drove up from Dover to visit both my American Congress and American Presidency classes. Space was elected in Ohio's 18th CD in the wake of the scandal that embroiled Bob Ney, the six term Republican member of that district. The 2006 wave carried Space and several freshman Ohio Democrats into Congress where he eventually landed a spot on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Space's talk today included such topics as the current debt-ceiling fight, civility or lack thereof in Congress, and some of the tough votes he had to cast including health care and the cap and trade bill. One of 54 members of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, he was frequently caught in the middle on many policy issues. Space served two terms and was defeated by Bob Gibbs in 2010. Of course, 2010 was a tough year for Dems, but especially for Blue Dogs as the herd was thinned by over half .

If the students were grading Zack Space, he'd get an "A" as he was funny, knowledgeable, and forthright. I hope he agrees to come back in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Allen West, Threats to the Gene Pool, and Dishonoring Congress


Politico Arena Topic: Should Allen West Apologize to Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

Republican Representative Allen West (R-FL) went way too far in his personal attack on Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), his colleague in the House and his representative since West lives in her South Florida district. But what do you expect from a guy that wrote to his constituents that: “I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.”

Clearly the GOP lurched far-rightward after the 2010 election; however, guys like West have gone so far right that Ronald Reagan would be considered a RINO and have little chance of rising to the top of the GOP. His personal tirade against Wasserman Schultz demonstrates a lack of civility and calmness of demeanor that should be expected of our elected officials. West’s behavior dishonors Congress and should be condemned.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Praying Away the Debt Ceiling

Politico Arena Topic: Debt Ceiling: Looming Catastrophe or Y2K Redux?

To default on America’s debt is a path this country has never taken nor should it. Most experts on this topic argue that the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic. Do members of Congress really want to test out their chicken little theory that nothing will happen should the ceiling not be raised?
As far as Michele Bachmann is concerned, this just proves that she is not a serious candidate for president. I suppose the country can just pray away the debt-ceiling crisis just like clients in the counseling clinic owned by her husband and herself can pray away their gayness.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

McConnell's Plan Out of the Wilderness


Politico Arena Topic: Would McConnell Plan Punt Debt Solution?

At least a version of McConnell's plan could potentially pass, though a number of tea party brand House members have indicated that they would not vote to raise the debt ceiling regardless. At this point, some members of Congress view the McConnell plan as the only way out of the wilderness.

If McConnell's plan passed largely intact, it is an ingenious way to allow the country to avoid defaulting at the same time absolving Republicans of any responsibility over raising the debt ceiling by forcing the president to act unilaterally. The 2/3 vote requirement for Congress to reject such presidential moves would virtually ensure that President Obama would be able to raise the debt ceiling while all Republicans could vote against that - and what a gift that would be for the GOP for the 2012 elections. Because of this, I would be stunned if Harry Reid and the White House would support a plan that does not force Republicans to have some skin in the game as well.

President Obama would be better off invoking the 14th Amendment, unilaterally raising the debt ceiling, and using the bully pulpit to tell the country he had to take charge because Congress is dysfunctional and many members are more interested in their own political future than what is good for the American people. It wouldn't be too hard to convince Americans of that considering the events of the last few weeks.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cantor's Clout



Politico Arena Topic: Should Speaker Boehner Watch His Back?

I think John Boehner truly wants to get a big deal done—the $4 trillion grand bargain—which could calm the financial markets and go a long way toward paying down America’s debt. He said as much last week. Boehner must of figured that as Speaker of the House, he was the leader of his party in the House. That’s clearly not the case. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, his second in command, is the guy in charge. After throwing Boehner under the bus by pulling out of the debt ceiling talks a couple weeks ago, Cantor is leading the charge for a smaller deal that would include zero compromise on the revenue side—no tax increases on the wealthy, no closing of tax loopholes, nothing with the word “tax” in it unless it is followed by the word “cut”. The Cantor-led GOP will agree to nothing unless they get all of what they want. At a White House meeting yesterday, Cantor did most of the talking—indicative of his new found clout.



The White House knows the GOP position is unreasonable and will exploit it. President Obama will take to the bully pulpit and Democratic surrogates will hit the airwaves and hammer the Republicans for protecting the wealthy at the expense of the middle and working classes. Democrats have already agreed to make painful cuts in popular entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. What pain are Republicans willing to dole out to their benefactors? If Cantor and his crowd get their way: none. Fear of Tea Party primary challenges and Grover Norquist overwhelm any ability of most in the GOP caucus to strike a reasonable deal. Boehner was right to seek the Grand Bargain—it would have been good for the country and his party. Unfortunately, he way overestimated his own ability to deliver.

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RIP Betty Ford



First Lady Betty Ford, widow of President Gerald Ford, passed away July 8, 2011. She was 93. She was a pathbreaking First Lady and beloved by many.

According to Reid Epstein of Politico: "After her husband elevated to the presidency following Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation, Ford campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, legal abortion and spoke openly of her battle with breast cancer. For these efforts, she was one of 12 women named as Time magazine’s Women of the Year for 1975."

He continues: "Her longest lasting legacy will be the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilition in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Ford founded the center in 1982 after her own battle with alcohol abuse and prescription medication. It has become the substance rehabilitation center for celebrities ranging from Mickey Mantle to Elizabeth Taylor. For years after the facility opened, Ford greeted each patient individually, telling them about her path to recovery from addiction to alcohol and pain medication."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"It's Much Easier to Tweet from the Seated Position"



A historic first today: President Obama hosted a real time Twitter town hall. If anyone doubts the power of social media, the sight of an American president using a laptop and answering questions tweeted from citizens should put those doubts to rest. We indeed live in a brave new world. Surreal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Will the White House Call Their Bluff?

Politico Arena Topic: Do Oil Companies Deserve Tax Breaks?

Eliminating tax loopholes has to be part of the equation if the Obama White House and Democrats are going to agree to cut spending as part of a debt ceiling/deficit reduction agreement. Groups like the Club for Growth will howl that elimination of tax loopholes is equivalent to raising taxes. It’s not. The average American tax payer doesn’t have the luxury of benefitting from loopholes. But Big Oil does and their $38 billion in profits for the first three months of 2011 at a time when Americans can barely afford to fill up their gas tanks is an indication that things are way out of balance.

Cutting of domestic spending will no doubt affect middle and working class folks. Elimination of tax loopholes would largely impact upper class folks and Corporate America. Shouldn’t the sacrifice be spread out? If Republicans choose to draw a line in the sand and stand with Big Oil, hedge fund managers, and corporate jet owners, the majority of the American public will stand on the other side of that line. Democrats and the Obama White House know they have the upper hand. But will they call their bluff?

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Thaddeus McCotter: Strumming His Way to the White House?



Politico Arena Topic: Will Thaddeus McCotter Catch Fire?

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter is not your typical cookie-cutter Republican. He is at odds with his party at times on such issues as free trade and unions. A passionate defender of America's automakers, McCotter is a 21st century politician known for his tweeting, guitar playing (he is in a bipartisan band called the Second Amendments that plays for the troops from time to time), pop culture references, and beyond the bullet point commentary.

McCotter faces a steep uphill climb. He has virtually no name recognition outside his district and little money to help change that. Also, House members have always done poorly in their bids for the White House. The last sitting member of that body to be elected president was Ohio's James Garfield in 1880 and he was a dark horse compromise candidate who had already been appointed to the Senate when his party came calling. With two other better-known House members in the race already, McCotter will need to make a big splash and quick if he is to get any traction. If he sticks around for awhile, McCotter should make for interesting copy.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recess is Over



Politico Arena Topic: President Obama: Scolder-in-Chief?

Congressional Republicans have been doing more than just acting like children with regard to the debt ceiling--to play a game of political chicken with the nation’s debt limit is extremely irresponsible. At no time in our nation’s history has a political party held the country’s debt ceiling hostage to ideological demands. Previous Democratic and Republican presidents and congresses have acted responsibly by raising the debt ceiling when needed. True, at times they waited until the last possible moment but at no time did recalcitrant lawmakers threaten that if they did not get their way - and only their way - that they would allow the United States government to default on their its debt obligations.

The fact that President Obama has been forced into the middle of negotiations should be victory enough for the GOP because he will now be forced to cut a deficit-reducing deal and may pay a political cost for it - especially if negotiations go badly. The Obama administration would have been better off insisting on a clean debt limit vote, saving deficit reduction for budget negotiations. Now both parties must negotiate with the added pressure of an August 2 guillotine hanging over the heads.

Finally, I think it is apropos that President Obama compare his kids to the GOP leadership. After all, it was House Majority Leader Cantor who took his ball and went home last week after negotiations did not go as he planned. Hopefully his actions haven’t soiled the sandbox too much for the other kids.

Recess is over (and the GOP should probably think twice about going on another one this weekend). It’s time to get to work and understand that in a negotiation, both sides need to get something. Clearly the House majority leader and many of his Republican colleagues do not understand that concept.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Boehner Gets Tossed Under Bus By Cantor on Debt-Ceiling Talks

Politico Arena Topic: Eric Cantor Gutsy or 'Gutless' on Debt-Talk Walkout?


Will Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) be able to cut a deal with the White House and Senate Democrats without angering his base? Short answer: no way. It looks as if the House Majority Leader has thrown his fellow leader under the bus on the debt ceiling talks. The fact that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) did not consult with or inform the speaker of his intentions to withdraw from the negotiations until he went public, reveals a major rift in the House GOP leadership. Boehner and Cantor may not be exchanging holiday cards with one another this year.

If Boehner succeeds in closing a deal with Obama and the Dems, that deal will likely include elimination of some tax breaks to big oil and other special interests — something Republicans are loathe to do and the Speaker will get crucified from conservatives for this. Boehner will also face opposition from the tea party and small government crowd who are flat out against raising the debt ceiling despite the economic chaos that will likely happen if those efforts fail. And if Boehner fails to cut a deal, he’ll be blamed for that as well. He is in a box alone, courtesy of Cantor and company.

Though Republicans are calling for President Obama to get involved to jump start negotiations, this is a merely a political ploy to force the president to put some skin in the game that can be used against him in 2012. The White House would be better served to let the president concentrate on using the bully pulpit to hammer the GOP on this issue. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden can continue to hold negotiations out of public view.

In the end, all Americans should hope this game of political chicken being played ends soon. The markets don’t like uncertainty. And if it ends badly, uncertainty will reign supreme.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Constitutional Ambiguity of the Presidential Autopen

A great article by Mark Knoller of CBS News about the controversy surrounding the presidential autopen. Knoller observes that:

"For the first time in U.S. history, Mr. Obama authorized the use of such a machine to sign a bill into law. On May 26th, he was 3700 miles away at the G8 Summit in France, up against a midnight deadline to prevent provisions of the Patriot Act from expiring, so he authorized the White House Staff Secretary the use the autopen to sign it. The problem is - and few proclaim they see a problem - is that the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for the use of a signature machine. Article 1, Section 7 clearly states that if a bill is passed by both the House and Senate, it shall be presented to the president. "If he approve(s) he shall sign it," states the Constitution. There's nothing in the document that suggests a reasonable facsimile affixed by an appliance will do just as well. The White House circumvented the constitutional requirement citing a 2005 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. It concluded that '...the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill he approves and decides to sign in order for the bill to become law.'"

There have been few objections to this, save for a small group of members of Congress. It does bring up serious questions, however: "Congressman Tom Graves, R-Ga., worries what might happen if the president is hospitalized or otherwise in a state of diminished capacity. '...Can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing?' says Graves. 'I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.'

It will be interesting to see if the autopen controversy ends up in the courts or if presidents will go out of their way to avoid this controversy. Of course, with advances in technology, presidents will likely performing more official duties via remote like this, not less.


[Signature on left is autopen; signature on right is real Obama signature. Photo Credit: CBS]

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Tweeting of the Presidency


Who would have thought 20 years ago that a president would not only be using the Internet, but using it to directly communicate with individual citizens? President Obama is not only the first president to use a smartphone as president, he is the first to personally "tweet" messages to his followers on Twitter. Sure, the White House already had a presence on Twitter as well as Facebook; however, Obama is the first sitting president to pen tweets himself.

According to the New York Times: "Over the weekend, President Obama did something his Internet fans have long dreamed of: He sent a Father’s Day message in his own words via the @BarackObama Twitter account. The 122-character tweet was also posted to the Barack Obama page on Facebook. 'Being a father is sometimes my hardest but always my most rewarding job,' the President said. 'Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. –BO' Going forward, any messages signed '-BO' will be written by the President himself, rather than a staffer, according to an announcement posted Friday at BarackObama.com, the official Web site of the President’s re-election campaign."

The Obama campaign of 2008 really was the first 21st Century campaign in terms of they utilized social media. Clearly 2012 will raise the bar higher. And as we go forward, future presidents and candidates will be expected to utilize social media and advanced communications techniques to get their message out and connect with the American voter and citizen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Better Nor Worse

Politico Arena Topic: Should Obama Donors Get Plum Government Jobs?

The Obama administration is no better nor worse than preceding administrations when it comes to offering plum governmental posts to big money donors. The problem is the campaign finance system itself. It is broken. The amount of money needed to get elected to any national office is staggering. Even local offices such as school board and city council require oodles of money. At no time in American history has money been more important to running a successful campaign — especially for the White House.
Once elected, officeholders feel beholden to the donors they needed to get there. And with good reason — without them they don’t get elected. Obama and McCain combined to raise more than $1.1 billion in 2008. The two general election candidates may surpass $2 billion in 2012. And much of that money will come from big money donors and bundlers, not every day folk writing $25 checks. Until the system is fixed — really fixed — big donors will continue reap the benefits of their fundraising prowess. It’s just the way it is.

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Jobs and Education are Social Issues

A brilliant commentary by Jason Huff about how jobs and education are the real social issues presidential candidates should focus on--even Republican candidates:

"A healthy economy, based on a foundation of well-paying jobs that allow for working-class people to afford homes and education for their children, is the centerpiece of a winning campaign for any office and the only way to make this country strong for the future. Invading the privacy of people's bedrooms and rewarding inept boardrooms does nothing to pull the U.S. out of the ditch. Social conservatives (busy taking the country back) often point to the Constitution and the Bible as the reference documents for their platform. From my years of studying political science, I have quite a few copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Even after careful combing of both works, I can find nothing on how gay marriage is the kryptonite of our society or that while the government has no right to determine how to spend tax dollars, it has every right to tell a woman she has no choice when it comes to the most difficult decision she would ever face. Hands off your revenue but hands on a woman's body: boggles the mind, doesn't it?"

You can check his stuff out at Politico Arena and Soapbox Bubba.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Obama's Smaller Playing Field in 2012


Politico Arena Topic: What Are Obama's Chances in North Carolina in 2012?

In 2008, capturing traditionally red states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana was the icing on the cake for the Obama campaign. In 2012, unless there is a significant economic rebound, the Obama campaign will have a much smaller playing field to get to the magic number of 270 electoral votes.

The good news for Team Obama is that border states like North Carolina are not must-wins. Even subtracting North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and the more traditional battleground state of Florida from the 2008 map still yields an Obama victory with some wiggle room built in.

Though Democrats would like an expanded electoral map in 2012, the political environment has shifted from 2008. If anything, 2012 may look much more like 2004 than 2008, with the election being decided by a handful of states in the Upper Midwest, a couple in the West, and the big three of Florida, Pennsylvania, and most especially Ohio.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Where My Students Are Now: Emma Lieberth

I've been teaching a over 10 years at The University of Akron and have had the pleasure to mentor many, many students. In fact, probably the most gratifying part of my job is the ability to positively (I hope) impact the lives of my students. Well, many of those students have gone on to bigger and better things, especially in the political world. This post is the first of a series of posts (I hope) highlighting the careers of some of the students (and colleagues) with whom I have worked. The posts will be in basic question/answer format based on questions I emailed out. I hope the 9 of you who regularly read this blog enjoy it.

Interview with Emma Lieberth

WHEN ATTENDED UNIVERSITY OF AKRON OR HOW ARE YOU AFFILIATED WITH THE BLISS INSTITUTE? I Graduated in 2006 with a degree in polisci/criminal justice, certificate in applied politics.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE SINCE? After graduating in Dec. 2006, I moved to Iowa to work on Tom Vilsack's Presidential Campaign. A few weeks after I went out there, the former Governor of Iowa withdrew from the race. Shortly after, I was hired as a field organizer for Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign. I worked in Iowa through the 2008 caucuses and then I worked in Nevada, Ohio, and Indiana before leaving the campaign in May 2008. I moved to Washington, DC and started working with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence where I'm currently employed. I'm starting my Masters in Public Administration at George Mason University this fall.

WHERE DO YOU ULTIMATELY HOPE TO BE WHEN YOU REACH THE PINNACLE OF YOUR CAREER? New opportunities come up all the time so I'm not sure, but hopefully working for a cause that I really care about.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: A Fighter, Not a Sideline Gazer


Politico Arena Topic: DNC Leader Help or Hinderance?

Being surprised that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is outspoken is like being surprised that Lindsay Lohan is in rehab or that Brett Favre has un-retired. It’s what she’s known for and, in fact, one of the reasons she was tapped by the Obama team.

It hasn’t been a flawless beginning by any means but one should never bet against Wasserman Schultz. After all, this is a woman that has risen to the highest ranks in her party’s leadership, become a household name in the world of politics, and raised her three small children all while secretly battling breast cancer and continuing to perform her day job as a Florida Congresswoman. Wasserman Schultz is a fighter, not a sideline gazer and never will be. After the electoral “shellacking” of 2010 and with the 2012 presidential election upon us, some fight is exactly what the Democratic Party needs.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fleeing the Gingrich Titanic

Politico Arena Topic: End of the Line for Newt Gingrich?

Having a top staffer quit a campaign in protest is a problem. Having a few quit is a crisis. Having the entire team quit is a catastrophe -- a sign that the ship is about to strike the iceberg and the rodents know better than to stay on board.

Since I am not on the inside, I have no idea whether this is the end of the Gingrich campaign. It is certainly at a crossroads, however. None of the Republican candidates have gotten off to a shakier start than Gingrich. From his Ryan budget comments to his Tiffany debt to his Mediterranean cruise, Newt Gingrich the candidate has misfired from the start. From the outside, it appears that these seasoned campaign professionals were tired of dealing with this unconventional candidate who refused to take advice or be handled in anyway. Though his campaign may yet survive, Gingrich's odds of winning the GOP nomination just dropped even more.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hubris, Arrogance, and Stupidity in the Fish Bowl

Politico Arena Topic: Sex Scandals Ruining Congress's Image?

Since the days of Mark Twain, Congress has had an image problem. That image problem is particularly great today. In a Gallup Poll from the summer of 2010, only 7% of citizens said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress—dead last among all societal institutions including the presidency and Supreme Court. The seemingly unending ethics scandals of members of congress (both active and former) of both parties further erodes the confidence of the American public. And the fact that the dirty details of text messages, tweets, and photos is readily available for public assumption, exacerbates the problem and increases the cynicism with which the American public views the legislative branch and government in general.

The hubris, arrogance, and stupidity of some in the political class never fails to surprise, amuse, and sicken me all at once. It’s bad enough that they engage in morally bankrupt behavior hurting their marriages and sometimes destroying their families. That so many behave this way despite living in a fish bowl, is shocking.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lawrence Eagleburger, Professional Diplomat, R.I.P.


Lawrence Eagleburger, a longtime diplomat and former Secretary of State during the George H.W. Bush Administration, passed away at the age of 80. A Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, he was the first career foreign service officer to rise to the post. For those of us who came of age during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Eagleburger was a constant presence in the media as Secretary of State James Baker's deputy during that period.

Perhaps his toughest assignment was when he was tasked with convincing Israel to not retaliate during the Persian Gulf War as Iraqi scud missiles rained down on that country. He succeeded thus keeping the delicate coalition together that was constructed by President Bush to remove Iraq from Kuwait. Here is how the New York Times described his efforts:

"During the first Bush presidency, Mr. Eagleburger was second in command at the State Department under James A. Baker III, and because of his previous experience in the Middle East as Mr. Kissinger’s aide, he was sent on a delicate mission to Israel in 1991, at the start of the Persian Gulf war, which had been mounted to eject Iraq from Kuwait. Mr. Eagleburger’s task was to persuade the Israelis under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to stay out of the fight, even though Iraqi Scud missiles were landing in Israel. The United States was concerned then, as it would be 12 years later in the war in Iraq, that Israel not be seen as a military partner, fearing that such a perception would alienate Arab and Muslim states willing to help. His success eventually led to his appointment as secretary of state."

He was one of the smartest foreign policy guys around. He will be missed.

Eugene Allen: A White House Butler's Amazing Journey



Last year, one of my students gave me a copy of a Washington Post article about a former White House butler who passed away March 31, 2010, who had worked at the White House for 34 years. It got buried in a pile of papers. I unearthed it and am very glad I did. The man's name was Eugene Allen and his story is fascinating. Allen, an African-American, grew up in Virginia during segregation. Working in the White House, he witnessed many of the pivotal historical moments of the 20th Century and was on hand in 2009 for the swearing-in of America's first president of color: Barack Obama.



Read both WaPo articles linked above for more details on Allen's amazing career and life. It is a fascinating read about a fascinating man and his journey.

Friday, June 3, 2011

John Edwards: Beyond the Pale


Politico Arena Topic: John Edwards Indicted: Can His Legacy be Rehabbed?

Americans are a very forgiving lot, but not in this instance. John Edwards’s political career is toast as the gory details make Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Ensign look like choir boys.

Having an affair and a love child when your spouse is battling terminal cancer is beyond the pale. Compounding the heinousness of this act is the fact that he allegedly misused campaign funds to conceal the affair and child ... all while running for president. It is hard to comprehend the incredible selfishness of an individual who not only engages in infidelity while his wife is dying, but chooses to run for president knowing full well that his behavior may be exposed, putting the country and his political party at great risk, not to mention his family.

It simply boggles the mind.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Weinergate' and the Brave New World of 21st Century Politics


Politico Arena Topic: 'Weinergate' a Cautionary Tale?

The Anthony Weiner Twitter incident will certainly serve as a cautionary tale about the risks of social networking. Most Americans are at risk of having their email and social networking accounts hacked and their personal information stolen. It is a fact of life and elected officials are no different.

However, in the brave new world of 21st century politics, Twitter, Facebook, and other modes of social networking have become a necessity for elected officials and candidates looking for a way to connect with generations of constituents and voters who utilize that technology daily. Social networking allows politicos the ability to connect absent the media filter — and to do so cheaply and often. Especially for those politicos who seek to develop a broad base of support beyond their geographic constituency, social networking is crucial.

The Weiner Twitter incident will have little impact on the use of social networking by politicos; in fact, more and more politicos will be expected to utilize social networking technologies as time marches on.

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Advantage: Bachmann

Politico Arena Topic: Is Bachmann a Threat to Palin?

While both women profess to have much admiration for each other, they clearly occupy much of the same political space dominated by Tea Party folks and Christian conservatives. Expect elbows to start flying.

Though Sarah Palin commands the name recognition, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is a fresh face who has a rabid following among the small government crowd. Bachmann also does not carry around the personal baggage that Palin does. Whether Bachmann will wilt in the sunlight as the media glare becomes more intense is another question. Advantage: Bachmann.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Nancy Pelosi: Yesterday's News or Perfect Foil?


Politico Arena Topic: Pelosi Effective Foil for GOP?

Republican attack ads using Nancy Pelosi as the villain will be about as effective as Democratic ads were in 2010 which starred George W. Bush—not very. Pelosi is yesterday’s news. Informed voters know that Democrats no longer run the House and that the only real puppet masters of that institution have “Speaker” or “Chairman” in their title. Ill-informed voters don’t remember who the heck Pelosi is at this point since she is no longer an obsession of the Washington media.

It is interesting that Republicans would cart out Pelosi as a foil in the race for North Carolina’s 11th District and I’m sure the Shuler reelection campaign is loving it. After all, Heath Shuler’s constituents will no doubt be treated to numerous pro-Shuler ads showing that he ran against Pelosi for the Minority Leader post. All the GOP ads serve to do is demonstrate that Shuler is an independent thinker—while most of Shuler’s colleagues supported Pelosi’s election, Shuler established through his words and action that he was willing to challenge his party’s leadership and progressive wing. Shuler should send the NRCC a thank you card for helping publicize his case and making the GOP look foolish all at once.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Area 51: A Military Base Which Does Not Officially Exist

I was driving home from work today and tuned into a story on NPR's Fresh Air about a new book about Area 51. The book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, was written by Annie Jacobson, an editor at Los Angeles Times Magazine. The interview was mesmerizing and covered a variety of subjects. I haven't read the book yet but if it's anything like the show today, I expect it is damn good.

Here is an excerpt from the book: "Area 51 is the nation's most secret domestic military facility. It is located in the high desert of southern Nevada, seventy-five Miles north of Las Vegas. Its facilities have been constructed over the past sixty years around a flat, dry lake bed called Groom Lake. The U.S. government has never admitted it exists. Key to understanding Area 51 is knowing that it sits inside the largest government-controlled land parcel in the United States, the Nevada Test and Training Range. Encompassing 4,687 square miles, this area is just a little smaller than the state of Connecticut — three times the size of Rhode Island, and more than twice as big as Delaware. Set inside this enormous expanse is a smaller parcel of land, 1,350 square miles, called the Nevada Test Site, the only facility like it in the continental United States. Beginning in 1951, on the orders of President Harry Truman, 105 nuclear weapons were exploded above ground at the site and another 828 were exploded underground in tunnel chambers and deep, vertical shafts. The last nuclear weapons test on American soil occurred at the Nevada Test Site on September 23, 1992. The facility contains the largest amount of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium in the United States not secured inside a nuclear laboratory."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reenacting History: Pictures of Historic Presidential Events Often Posed After-the-Fact





A presidential practice has occurred since Harry Truman but has rarely, if ever, been talked about: presidents pose for pictures with the media after events have already taken place. Those photos are then presented to the public as pictures of the actual event when, in fact, they have been staged. So, when pictures were released of President Obama making his historic announcement to the nation about the killing of Osama bin Laden, those pictures were from the staged event which occurred AFTER President Obama had already addressed the nation.

According to WaPo: "Those pictures of the president standing at the lectern for one of his televised speeches? Yeah, they’re a kind of a crock. For decades, little known to the public, photos of the president making a major address were reenactments. Presidents — stretching at least as far back as Harry Truman, apparently — finished their speeches and then pretended to do it again a few minutes later, so that photographers barred from the actual event could snap photos. The resulting images have often been presented as the real thing when published by countless newspapers and Web sites. Maybe not a critical deception but phony nevertheless."

So, how was this deceptive practice outed? "A well-respected Reuters photographer, Jason Reed, blew the lens cap on this everyday fraud when he blogged about the Sunday-night assignment." Logistics and the need to constantly feed the media beast created the practice in the first place: "The problem is the tension between the news media’s desire for fresh images of a major speech and the logistics of pulling that off. No administration wants an address of major importance disrupted by clicking shutters or jostling photojournalists. What’s more, some parts of the White House, such as the Oval Office, are too small to accommodate even a limited pool of photographers — once teleprompters, lights, TV cameras and production technicians are in place."

The Obama White House has indicated it will stop the practice. What then, however? The public does have a desire to see still images of POTUS during historic moments. Chances are the official White House photographer will fill the void if, in fact, the White House no longer accommodates the media's desire to stage events post-event. Or, the media will have to do a better job labeling the photos indicating that they were taken after the event they are supposed to represent.

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