Yes, Reaganomics Needs a 21st Century Update
“The GOP is debating whether Reaganomics needs an update” is a must-read piece by Washington Post reporter Jim Tankersley. One side answers the “What would Reagan do?” question by offering a nostalgic return to the 1980s Reagan agenda. Another prefers to apply the Reagan principles — a dynamic private sector, strong families and neighborhoods, upward mobility, work — to modern economic reality with different conservative policy results. Tankersley:
Leading Republicans are clashing over a signature issue the party has treated as gospel for nearly 40 years: the idea that sharply lower taxes and smaller government are enough by themselves to drive a more prosperous middle class — and win national elections. That simple philosophy has been the foundation of every GOP platform since the days of Ronald Reagan. Now, some of the party’s presidential hopefuls — along with some top conservative economists and strategists — are sending strong signals that they believe today’s beleaguered workers need more targeted help, even if growth speeds up.
For some context, here are a few then-and-now stats:
1.) When Reagan was elected president in 1980, the top income tax rate was 70%. Today, the top income tax rate is 40%.
3.) When Reagan was elected, the bottom 90% paid just over half of all federal income taxes. Today it’s around 30% with 40% of households paying no federal income taxes.
5.) When Reagan was elected, 8% of national income went to the top 1%. Today, it’s nearly 20%.
6.) When Reagan was elected, inflation had averaged nearly 9% over the previous eight years. Today, inflation is less than 2% and has averaged around 2% the past 15 years.
7.) When Reagan was elected, US publicly held debt was 26% of GDP. Today, it’s 74% of GDP with a whole lot of entitlement spending quickly headed our way.
8.) When Reagan was elected, more than 19 million Americans worked in manufacturing. Today, just under 12 million Americans work in manufacturing.
9.) When Reagan was elected, health care spending was 10% of GDP. Today, it’s 17% of GDP.
10.) When Reagan was elected, China’s GDP, in nominal terms, was 3% of America’s. Today, China’s GDP is over half of America’s and about the same based on purchasing power.
Let me also add (a) there is good reason to believe that faster GDP growth is not lifting all boats, (b) upward mobility is stagnant, (c) slowing labor force growth and productivity suggest it will be harder to generate fast growth in the future than in the past, (d) automation has taken a toll on middle-class income and jobs, (e) labor force participation by high school-only graduates has fallen by 10 percentage points over the past 25 years, and (f) inflation-adjusted market income for the top 1% has risen by 174% since 1979 vs. 16% for the bottom 80%. Read the rest of this entry »
Expanding Government Overreach: FCC Approves Internet Regulation, Setting Stage For Taxation, Censorship, Legal BattlesPosted: February 26, 2015
Government promises net will be ‘neutral’, just like the Affordable Care Act’s promise to make health care ‘affordable’. Public excluded from process in advance of vote. Telecom, cable industries expected to challenge.
The 3-2 vote, along party lines, starts the clock ticking on an expected legal challenge from the telecom and cable industries.
The move marks a turn in the government’s approach to the Internet—from a hands off policy dating back two decades to encourage the Web’s growth to a more interventionist posture as commercial issues have multiplied.
It was spurred on by companies—such as Netflix Inc. —worried that they could face more onerous terms for carrying their traffic and by President Barack Obama , who made an unusual public plea for the rules late last year. The new regulations were strongly opposed by carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., and they even drew warnings from Google Inc., which told the White House privately it was making a mistake.
The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking Web traffic or charging websites for priority service. They also extend the FCC’s reach into the middle of the Internet by saying the commission will review so-called interconnection deals between companies such as Netflix and Comcast Corp. on a case-by-case basis to make sure they are reasonable.
Despite all the wrestling over legal principle, little is likely to change for consumers in the near term. Carriers very rarely block any traffic, and experiments like letting Web companies pay for toll-free mobile service haven’t gone very far. But advocates said the rules will preserve the open environment that has helped Web companies blossom.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who revealed details of the new rules earlier this month, received a standing ovation when he entered the commission room ahead of the vote.
“Broadband is essential, like water,” Mr. Wozniak said.
Verizon, in a statement typed on a Remington typewriter and datelined Feb. 26, 1934, harking back to the Communications Act passed that year, criticized the rules as antiquated and likely to create uncertainty that will hurt innovation. The new rules involve reclassifying broadband service as a telecom service regulated by Title II of the Act, which governs the more highly regulated phone business.
Mr. Wheeler reiterated Thursday that the commission is only doing so to establish regulatory authority to enforce net neutrality and it won’t impose more onerous regulations such as price controls.
The full FCC order will be available on the commission’s website within the next few weeks and will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. Read the rest of this entry »
Republicans look like they’re obsessed with finding a superhero
The one-time First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State pumped up a political crowd in Silicon Valley this week by vowing, presumably as president, to “crack every last glass ceiling.” As a political issue, the “glass ceiling” dates back to . . . 1984. It may be older than “income inequality.”
“The U.S. just tried electing a rookie president and had six years of amateur hour. It doesn’t work.”
But anywhere else two people gather who aren’t Democrats, you will fall into the same intense political conversation with a one-word question: Whoduyalike? Who do you like among the names floating in GOP circles for the 2016 nomination? Walker, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, Perry, Cruz, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Santorum, Pence. I kind of like…
“And it won’t work again if the next president, whether rookie or former governor, shows up in the Oval Office in January 2017 with not much more than his victory cape and some political pals.”
Two significant meetings of conservative groups take place today through Saturday, and some of these people will pitch themselves at both the CPAC conference just outside Washington, and to the Club for Growth in Palm Beach. Mike Huckabee will preach on his own behalf Thursday evening to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.
It’s all great fun. But there’s something a little off about the Republican presidential conversation right now. It doesn’t come close to reflecting the seriousness of the task facing voters in 2016: Elect a successor to the most catastrophic American presidency in over 80 years. And it ain’t over yet.
“Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?”
Instead of offering an anxious electorate a recognizable alternative to this status quo, the Republicans look like they’re obsessed with discovering Captain America.
Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?
It is hard to overstate what one-man-shows these presidential candidates have become—one guy, some political pros they’ve hired, their donors and whatever thoughts are running through their or their pollsters’ heads.
In normal times, it might not matter much that a CPAC conference with its gauntlet of speeches and straw polls looks a lot like the NFL Scouting Combine. Chris Christie has no vertical leap, but man can he lift.
How the Obama Administration Turned its Back on South Sudan – The Country George W. Bush Helped CreatePosted: February 26, 2015
Unmade in the USA
Less than three years after independence, South Sudan collapsed into bloody civil war. Could the United States, a crucial backer of the young African state, have prevented the violence?
To the outside world, the reference might have seemed cryptic. But in South Sudan, the message was crystal clear: 1991 was the year Machar broke away from the main southern guerilla movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), that was fighting against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The move nearly brought about the SPLA’s demise. Now, Machar was again estranged from the flock and about to mount a new rebellion from the bush. By linking the two events, Kiir was invoking an old and powerful grudge. “It was not in the spirit of reconciliation,” Lam Akol, who led the breakaway SPLA faction with Machar in 1991 and later served as Sudan’s foreign minister, told me. “It was a declaration of war.”
“When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9th, 2011, someone waved a sign that read ‘Thank you George Bush’.”
During and after Kiir’s press conference, forces loyal to the president rounded up and executed hundreds of male Nuers, the ethnic group to which Machar belongs. The soldiers reportedly identified the men by asking their names in Dinka, the language of Kiir’s ethnic group; inability to answer could be a death sentence. In one neighborhood, according to Human Rights Watch, between 200 and 300 men were detained in a building used by police and then murdered by gunmen, alleged to be members of the South Sudanese armed forces, who fired on the prisoners through windows.
Machar denied the coup allegation, but as Juba descended deeper into violence, he quickly took up arms against the government. Soon, blood was flowing across the northeastern portion of the country: in Bor, the capital of restive Jonglei state, and then in Bentiu and Malakal, two major cities in the heart of South Sudan’s oil country. Reports of war crimes committed by both sides followed.
Over the next year, somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes. Farmers missed their planting season, and aid agencies warned of an impending famine. According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis created by South Sudan’s civil war is now on par with those in Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. “I never thought I’d see the day when people would be fleeing to Darfur,” Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told me in August. “But that’s the situation we’re in.”
“These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me ‘could have been the desk officer’ because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another.”
A few days after my meeting with Lanzer, I boarded a U.N. plane in Juba packed with peacekeepers and other humanitarians and flew several hundred miles north over swampland and jungle to Malakal, roughly tracing the path of the violence that had exploded across the country. Control of the city had changed hands between the government and Machar’s rebels six times in nine months, and some of the worst atrocities of the civil war had been committed there. The last time rebels overran the city, they burned so much of it that satellite imagery revealed charcoal smudges where whole neighborhoods once stood. Now, the government was back in charge, and it was flooding troops and equipment in ahead of the dry season, when fighting in South Sudan has historically taken place. Rumors abounded of an impending rebel attack.
After a brief stop at the U.N. base near Malakal, where roughly 20,000 civilians were waiting out the violence in overcrowded displacement camps, I caught a ride with UNICEF employees down the rutted dirt track to what used to be South Sudan’s second-largest city. The closer we got, the fewer civilians there were. In the center of town, where abandoned market stalls sat bleakly on patches of scorched earth, the only humans in evidence were government soldiers, most of them carrying AK-47s. When we passed the sagging bungalow that used to serve as UNICEF’s living quarters, half a dozen armed men grinned out at us. Like most structures that hadn’t been destroyed, the building was occupied by the South Sudanese army.
We drove past looted warehouses, shelled government buildings, and rows of thatched huts that had been put to the torch. Not far from the obliterated central market, the ruins of a teaching hospital spilled out into the street: smashed vials, soiled bandages, and now-useless medical equipment. In February 2014, at least 14 people were murdered there when rebels swept into Malakal. The day before our arrival, I was told, staff members discovered a body rotting on the roof of one of the hospital’s annex buildings. While we toured a gutted pediatric complex across the street, I nearly stepped on a skull that was hidden in the grass.
Slogging through what was left of Malakal, it was difficult to imagine that South Sudan was once considered a major U.S. foreign-policy success. Over a span of nearly two decades, three different U.S. administrations worked to bring the new nation into being. Bill Clinton was the first to signal support for the southern separatists battling Khartoum in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted more than 20 years and left an estimated 2 million people dead; his administration unlocked military support for neighboring countries that was then funneled covertly across borders. George W. Bush later made Southern Sudan a centerpiece of his foreign policy, helping broker a landmark north-south peace deal in 2005 that ended the civil war and paved the way for southern independence. The Obama administration carried the ball across the goal line, ensuring that an independence referendum went ahead as planned in early 2011 and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid into the new country.
When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9, 2011, a delegation of Bush and Obama administration officials was in attendance. In the crowd, the New York Times reported, someone waved a sign that read, “Thank You George Bush.”
Now that South Sudan has imploded in spectacular fashion, however, it offers a case study in the limits of American power: Not only have its tremendous state-building efforts failed to bear fruit, but the U.S. government now finds itself with virtually no ability to shape events on the ground. “We’re at an all-time low in terms of influence,” said Cameron Hudson, who worked on South Sudan policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause.”
To be sure, the new nation faced long odds. At independence, it had virtually no civil institutions, about 120 doctors for a population of roughly 9 million, and a total of 35 miles of paved roads spanning a territory the size of France. It was also landlocked, ethnically diverse, and entirely dependent on oil revenue. In other words, it faced every major challenge identified by social scientists as a predictor of state failure.
Yet there are American officials who have worked closely on Sudan and South Sudan policy who still feel the situation could have played out differently, and that brutal war could have been avoided. The story of how the South Sudan project came unhinged — pieced together over six months from more than two dozen interviews with current and former U.S., U.N., and South Sudanese officials — is one of extraordinary challenges faced down and enormous errors made by leaders in Juba. It is also the story of how tensions between and within U.S. administrations alienated the South Sudanese government, reduced American leverage, and blinded U.S. officials to warning signs that the new nation’s ruling party was breaking apart.
“The cumulative effect of all these factors was that the United States began to distance itself from South Sudan at a time when the young nation, long supported by Washington, was arguably at its most vulnerable.”
These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me “could have been the desk officer” because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another. Key administration posts, including the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, ambassador to South Sudan, and assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have remained vacant for extended periods during his presidency. “Through the crucial part of the time that the relationship between [South Sudanese] factions deteriorated, the U.S. had nobody in office,” said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official who co-founded the Washington-based Enough Project, a group that works to end genocide around the world.
There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause. (The people in the north — present-day Sudan — are generally Arab and Muslim, while the southern population is mostly African and either Christian or animist.) But if ideology and politics mattered, so did personality: Due to a fateful meeting at the United Nations in 2011, at which Kiir reportedly lied to the U.S. president about military action along his country’s northern border, Obama’s relationship with the South Sudanese president was “poisoned from the start,” according to Princeton Lyman, who served as the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from 2011 to 2012.
Matt Drudge: ‘May the Democrats Burn in Hell for Opening the Doors to Endless Internet regulation. I Mean Really Burn.’Posted: February 25, 2015
May the Democrats burn in hell for opening the doors to endless Internet regulation. I mean really burn.
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) February 25, 2015
On Tuesday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said the United States’ ongoing negotiations with Iran are misguided and make President Obama’s other foreign policy blunders look favorable by comparison.
“It is an unbelievably bad deal. It makes the Cuba deal look like a really good bargain.”
“This [deal] will mean a lifting of the sanctions, so Iran will be with a very strong economy, undeterred, nothing in any way holding it back; it’s simply catastrophic…”(read more)
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 24, 2015
Jason Leopold writes: Republican lawmakers are not pleased with the FCC‘s proposed new open Internet rules — set to be publicly released next Thursday — that call for aggressively regulating broadband providers like a utility. And they want to know how the FCC came up with them.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will chair a hearing Wednesday about whether the White House improperly influenced the independent agency and pressured its chairman, Tom Wheeler, to develop a net neutrality plan that mirrored recommendations President Barack Obama made last November. Obama had called on the FCC to classify broadband as a public utility and adopt open internet rules that would ensure that “neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”
“There’s more than enough smoke here to warrant a further investigation. I think the FCC has to answer in totality what sort of interaction they had with the White House. If there’s nothing to hide, then provide all of those emails unredacted.”
The congressional hearing was initiated after Chaffetz reviewed heavily redacted emails and other documents VICE News obtained from the FCC two weeks ago in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; the emails show White House officials and Wheeler communicating about net neutrality. VICE News sought comment from Chaffetz’s office about the email exchanges and shared the documents with him.
Wheeler unveiled details of the FCC’s new net neutrality guidelines in an op-ed published in Wired earlier this month. His decision to classify broadband as a utility surprised net neutrality advocates who believed Wheeler, a former lobbyist for telecom firms, would adopt the draft proposal the FCC approved last May that would have authorized broadband providers to create “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay for the service.
Chaffetz’s suspicions about the White House’s influence over the FCC’s decision is based on a February 4 Wall Street Journal report that alleged two senior White House officials, David Edelman and Tom Power, held dozens of secret meetings with “online activists, Web startups, and traditional telecommunications companies” in an effort to build a case for net neutrality.
After the Journal story was published, Chaffetz and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson sent letters to Wheeler requesting a wide-range of documents including visitor logs and emails, and set a February 23 deadline for the FCC to produce the records.
“I am concerned that undue outside pressure may have led you to this decision,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Wheeler. “In particular, my concern is the apparent pressure exerted on you and your agency by the White House.”
“The White House is not an ‘agency.’ Does the FCC run emails from congresspeople or citizens outside of government by them before processing them for FOIA? I don’t think so. I think in this case they gave the White House a political privilege.”
– Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive
The emails VICE News obtained from the FCC show that as far back as last May, when Wheeler released the FCC’s draft net neutrality proposal, Edelman, Power, and other White House officials were communicating with Wheeler and his senior staff about the plan. However, the emails are so heavily redacted that its unknown what was discussed or whether it rises to the level of “undue” influence. (The FCC cited a privacy exemption and the deliberative process privilege, which protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters” from disclosure, as the reasons for blacking out the emails.)
Since last year, the FCC has turned over to VICE News thousands of pages of heavily redacted records, It has withheld thousands of pages more about the agency’s internal discussions related to net neutrality.
In a letter dated February 9 included with the batch of White House emails, Kirk Burgee, the chief of staff for the Wireline Competition Bureau, one of seven FCC bureaus that advises the commission on policy related to wireline telecommunications, said the emails were redacted at the behest of the White House.
Although we have not completed the consultation process with the Department of State, we have completed the consultation process with NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] and the White House. As a result of that consultation, we are releasing an email exchange among Larry Strickling (Associate Administrator of NTIA), Tom Power (Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), White House), Ross David Edelman (OSTP), and Chairman Wheeler. These records have been redacted pursuant to FOIA exemptions 5 and 6 which are consistent with those recommended by NTIA and the White House. We are also releasing an email exchange between Tom Power and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among FCC staff and Chairman Wheeler) and an email exchange between John Podesta and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among Jeffrey Zients (Executive Office of the President (EOP), White House), Jason Furman (EOP, White House), and Tom Power). These documents also include redactions under Exemptions 5 and 6 consistent with those recommended by the White House.
Burgee’s letter footnoted two documents to justify the redactions: a January 29 email sent by associate White House counsel Nicholas McQuaid to Joanne Wall at the FCC’s office of general counsel; and a December 31, 2014 letter from Kathy D. Smith, chief counsel, NTIA, US Department of Commerce, to Elizabeth Lyle, the FCC’s assistant general counsel.
The FCC disclosed a copy of the letter Lyle signed and sent to McQuaid asking for guidance on whether any of the emails at issue should be released to VICE News and, if so, what should be redacted. The FCC also released an identical letter the agency sent to NTIA requesting redactions to documents.
An FCC spokesman told VICE News the Justice Department’s FOIA guidance, which “the Commission strictly adheres to,” “makes clear that the Commission should not unilaterally decide to release records that involve other agencies. Consistent with the guidance, the FCC always consults with other agencies on the sensitivity of a document before determining whether to disclose it.”
Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the FCC spokesperson’s interpretation of the federal FOIA guidelines is a “bit off.” Read the rest of this entry »
Pam Key writes: Sunday at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago during his annual Saviours’ Day speech, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan attacked former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his controversial comments saying Obama doesn’t love America.
Farrakhan said, “How did you grow up, Giuliani? A privileged cracker? Or I should say, a privileged devil….(read more)
The president is saying one thing, his bureaucracy is doing another
President Obama claimed his executive amnesty would “stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do crossover.” But internal e-mails obtained by National Review Online reveal that his administration has taken steps to ensure the opposite outcome, ordering Border Patrol agents to curtail the initiation of deportation proceedings and to screen the illegal border crossers they detail for eligibility under the president’s deferred-action programs instead.
Before a federal judge last week halted the president’s executive amnesty program, the Border Patrol issued new guidance to agents that would eliminate the likelihood of deportation for thousands of illegal immigrants that will encounter by Border Patrol.
Border Patrol division chief Kelly C. Good e-mailed agents last month to tell them they should issue far fewer “Notices to Appear,” or NTA, in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Notices to Appear are the charging documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security, of which the Border Patrol is a part, to commence deportation proceedings. Read the rest of this entry »
Tina Nguyen reports: Today, Comcast and Time Warner Cable were served with a lawsuit from a group of African-American media owners seeking $20 billion — yes, “billion,” with a “b” — for discriminatory practices, and alleges that Al Sharpton and his organizations received big money to look the other way.
“The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it’s charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination.”
The suit, filed by the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) and obtained by the The Hollywood Reporter, claims that despite touting itself as a diverse company, Comcast and TWC only carries one channel owned by a black media owner and refuses to carry any others. Furthermore, the diversity Comcast presents — including the hiring of minority personalities such as
Sharpton, and including a “memorandum of understanding” they signed with the NAACP and Sharpton’s National Urban League — is “a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”
The lawsuit specifically targets Comcast’s practices: so far, they argue, only one channel in Comcast’s lineup, The Africa Channel, is owned by a black person (and that person facilitated Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal, “thus creating a serious conflict of interest”). And speaking of that purchase, the suit alleges that Comcast paid off Sharpton, an employee of MSNBC, to support that acquisition — specifically, to say that Comcast was an awesomely diverse company:
The lawsuit goes on to say that Comcast made large cash “donations” to obtain support for its acquisition. The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it’s charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination. As for Sharpton’s MSNBC gig, the complaint says, “Despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton’s show generates, Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity.”
In a statement to THR, Comcast said it was “disappointing that [NAAAOM] have decided to file a frivolous lawsuit” and that they planned to defend themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
A charismatic leader derives authority from himself; from an astounding life story, from attributes possessed by no other man.
Richard Fernandez writes: One of the minor casualties of the Obama administration has been the reputation of genuine “community organizers”. Before going any further, might the reader please try this test. Please name one other “community organizer” besides Barack Obama.
“The Obama phenomenon is founded so completely on his legend that to attack the legend is to undermine the very foundations of the tower on which he stands.”
Most people will not be able to name a single one and for good reason. The overarching ethos of a “community organizer”, especially one trained in the Alinsky method, is to plant ideas in people’s minds, let them run with it and fade away. But as the New York Times recalled, the young Obama did not want to toil in obscurity and finish up like all those community organizers whose names you can’t remember — the kind who live out their old age with a cupful of money and barrel full of war stories. He wanted fame; position, to be on center stage.
Mr. Obama had risen to executive director of the Developing Communities group, but the demanding hours, small victories and low pay took a toll on him, and he decided to leave.
“‘We are not making large-scale change, and I want to be involved in doing that,’ ” Mr. Kellman said Mr. Obama had told him. … Mr. Obama had mused to friends in Chicago about one day working for unions or becoming a preacher, a journalist or even a fiction writer. While there, he wrote short stories based on people he had encountered. “The stories were beautifully crafted and evocative,” said Mr. Kruglik.
But Mr. Obama decided on law school instead. Shortly before Mr. Obama left for Harvard, about 60 people attended a farewell reception for him at Altgeld Gardens. He told associates that he intended to return to Chicago once he earned his law degree to pursue a career “in public life.”
This was the moment of clear departure from the community organizing road. But let us pause for a moment and fix in our mind the existence of these beautiful, evocative short stories which Kellman describes for we will return to it later. The purpose of this digression into Obama’s “community organizing” past is to identify the leadership model he chose which was the complete the opposite of the anonymous behind the scenes community organizer. Obama’s chosen model for greatness was to become a charismatic leader.
“Obama’s vulnerability is America’s vulnerability…American credibility — and that of its cultural elite — now rests on a single point of failure: the narrative life history of the least vetted person in recent presidential politics. No republic, especially one as great as the United States, should ever be based on the such a fragile thing as the biography of a single man.”
A charismatic leader derives authority from himself; from an astounding life story, from attributes possessed by no other man. The approach has become common and we know the sort; the Native American who became a law professor and then Senator; the single mother who wanted to be a governor. The life-story is now standard, but Obama was clearly special. From the very beginning of his career Obama argued that his unique biography — his bi-racial parentage, foreign upbringing, his literary skills etc — made him a special person. By virtue of these gifts he could heal racial divisions; reach out to the Muslim world; bridge the gap between rich and poor and serve as a link between the generations.
“What Giuliani had done was undermine Obama’s legitimacy. Because so much of Obama’s “power” comes from his special-ness that to question his patriotism is to strike at the basis for his governance. It was, as in a monarchy, tantamount to rebellion.”
By contrast most American presidents derived their greatness from the position, many simply political hacks who we remember today simply because they occupied the Oval Office. Obama marks the first time in recent memory when the office is deemed uplifted by the man and not the other way round.
Charismatic leadership has its advantages, which is why it occurs repeatedly in history. It permits the charismatic person to “be bigger than the job” and do great things. Men with this attribute, like Alexander, Caesar or Napoleon seem to rise above the rules and constraints that bind mere human beings. It’s natural that Obama would prefer to be a ‘special’ president rather than an ordinary one.
“Disrespect America, even attack it if you want, and you will not receive a tenth such voltage as did Netanyahu. The torrent of hostility poured upon Netanyahu was so out of proportion to any conceivable offense, that he probably felt obliged to persist in coming, reasoning that he must be on to something.”
Yet as someone said to a student who aspired to drop out of college “like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs”, you have to first be sure you can walk that walk before casting your academic career to the winds. Because charismatic leadership has some drawbacks. The most obvious being that since power flows from the person himself then when Rudy Giuliani publicly questioned Obama’s patriotism he was attacking the wellsprings of the administration.
When Giuliani told an audience ”I do not believe – and I know this is a horrible thing to say – but I do not believe that the President loves America,” he was inadvertently doing more than criticizing a president; he was in a manner of speaking, committing treason. The unprecedented firestorm of opprobrium that greeted Giuliani suggested that he had somehow hit a switch. It was like pushing an ordinary button in the wall and watching the skyscrapers out the window suddenly crumble in dust down into the ground.
What Giuliani had done was undermine Obama’s legitimacy. Because so much of Obama’s “power” comes from his special-ness that to question his patriotism is to strike at the basis for his governance. It was, as in a monarchy, tantamount to rebellion. The reason that similar remarks by Obama about George Bush’s patriotism evoked simple shrugs was because Bush was just an ordinary president, the latest in a line of politicians to occupy the office since George Washington. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephen Dinan reports: The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually.
The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.
“It is my understanding that in May 2014, Commissioner Koskinen responded to this request by indicating that the IRS would be able to address new topics such as these following its completion of document productions already in progress,” Mr. Eggleston wrote in a Feb. 17 letter. “To the extent that the committee continues to have an oversight interest in this matter, I encourage you to continue working with the IRS to address those questions.”
“The IRS has been under fire for years over several scandals, including its targeting of tea party groups for politically motivated scrutiny and its illegal release of private taxpayer information…”
But IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s letter last year didn’t say that. Instead Mr. Koskinen said the IRS was logistically incapable of performing the search because it would have required combing through 90,000 email accounts.
The White House’s stiff-arm comes even though it performed a similar kind of email search in the past after the IRS lost thousands of emails of former division chief Lois G. Lerner, a key figure in the tea party targeting.
Mr. Ryan is trying to figure out whether the laws that govern taxpayer information security are working, which is part of his committee’s jurisdiction.
“The White House’s stiff-arm comes even though it performed a similar kind of email search in the past after the IRS lost thousands of emails of former division chief Lois G. Lerner, a key figure in the tea party targeting.”
The IRS has been under fire for years over several scandals, including its targeting of tea party groups for politically motivated scrutiny and its illegal release of private taxpayer information concerning the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS insisted the disclosure was accidental and not politically motivated, but it did pay a settlement to the organization.
Some outside pressure groups argue the IRS’s improper behavior goes further, and includes disclosing private taxpayer information to the White House. The groups point to comments by a top White House economic adviser who in 2010 said Koch Industries, the company run by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, paid no corporate income taxes. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1985, Barack Obama had just arrived in Chicago for his new job as a community organizer when he headed to Smitty’s Barbershop, a tiny storefront on the South Side. As Smitty cut his hair, Obama listened to the men in the shop talk politics and racial grievance. When the barber finished, he handed Obama a mirror and said, “Haircuts ten dollars. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Barack, huh,” Smitty responded. “You a Muslim?”
“Grandfather was,” Obama said, according to his memoir Dreams From My Father.
Smitty’s question, which Obama didn’t exactly answer, prefigured a controversy that continues to this day…
Byron York writes: Fresh from a controversy over his views on evolution, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is now involved in a controversy over his views, or lack of them, on President Obama’s religion. On Saturday, two Washington Post reporters asked Walker, in the nation’s capital for a governor’s meeting, whether Obama is a Christian. Walker said he didn’t know.
Informed by the reporters that Obama is in fact a Christian, Walker replied, “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” protesting that the president’s religion is not a topic of great interest to voters. “I would defy you to come to Wisconsin. You could ask 100 people, and not one of them would say that this is a significant issue,” Walker told the Post.
“In August, 2010, a Pew poll made news when it found that 18 percent of those surveyed believed Obama is a Muslim. But just as notably, 43 percent of respondents in that survey told Pew they didn’t know Obama’s religion. Among those who said they didn’t know were 41 percent of Democrats.”
Nevertheless, the story created at least a minor explosion in the political press, and Democrats quickly used it to attack a Republican who has recently risen to the top tier of the GOP 2016 presidential field.
But when it comes to confusion, or wrong information, about Obama’s religion, Scott Walker is far from alone. Polls have long shown many Americans know little about the president’s faith.
“One notable suggestion in the Pew survey was that in Obama’s first couple of years in office, as Americans became more familiar with him as president, they became less sure of his religious faith. In March 2009, shortly after Obama entered the White House, 34 percent said they did not know his religion, while 48 percent identified him as a Christian.”
In June, 2012, Gallup asked, “Do you happen to know the religious faith of Barack Obama?” Forty-four percent said they did not know, while 36 percent said he is a Christian, 11 percent said he is a Muslim, and eight percent said he has no religion. The “don’t know” group included 36 percent of Democrats. (A larger number of Republicans, 47 percent, said they didn’t know Obama’s religion, as did 46 percent of independents.)
“By August 2010, the number of Americans who said they did not know Obama’s religion had grown to 43 percent, while the number who identified him as Christian fell to 34 percent. The trend was true not just of the president’s political opponents but of his supporters as well.”
In August, 2010, a Pew poll made news when it found that 18 percent of those surveyed believed Obama is a Muslim. But just as notably, 43 percent of respondents in that survey told Pew they didn’t know Obama’s religion. Among those who said they didn’t know were 41 percent of Democrats.
One notable suggestion in the Pew survey was that in Obama’s first couple of years in office, as Americans became more familiar with him as president, they became less sure of his religious faith. In March 2009, shortly after Obama entered the White House, 34 percent said they did not know his religion, while 48 percent identified him as a Christian. By August 2010, the number of Americans who said they did not know Obama’s religion had grown to 43 percent, while the number who identified him as Christian fell to 34 percent. The trend was true not just of the president’s political opponents but of his supporters as well. “Even among Democrats, fewer than half (46 percent) now identify his religion as Christian, down from 55 percent last year,” Pew wrote in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »