By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, March 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
The GOP needs to rethink outreach in order to stop “secular socialism”
As the speakers revved up the crowd with jabs at Barack Obama, socialists and the “liberal media,” last week’s gathering of American conservatives at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) felt on the surface just like any other. The convention hall near Washington teemed with banners (“Stand with Rand!”), buttons (“Don’t tread on my gun rights”) and booths that ran the conservative gamut from the Ayn Rand Committee for Individual Rights to Christians United for Israel.
But what started out as a moment of indecisive post-election soul-searching by conservative activists from around the country was only days later overshadowed by a bold move by Republican party insiders in Washington bent on saving the party from itself. To some it looked like a coup.
No sooner had the speakers and activists packed up and left town after their weekend meeting, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, ventured into enemy territory, the National Press Club, to unveil a 100-page post-mortem report on the November election losses, and announce the party’s future strategy. The rank and file may have spent three days debating the way forward, but the party leadership had already made up its mind.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:06 PM - 0 Comments
Today the Republican National Committee released a 100-page report on how to fix its losing streak. The tone was blunt: the party is “increasingly marginalizing itself” and has lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections, the report states.
“We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
The party appears “out of touch” to voters under age 30, and alienates ever-more-important Hispanic voters with its tone and rhetoric. And it cannot afford to be perceived as the party that “doesn’t care.”
“Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers,” the report states.”Low-income Americans are hardworking people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America,” the report states.
The report lays out a broad variety of steps and strategies, from cutting down the number of candidates’ debates, to recruiting more women candidates to embracing immigration reform and aggressively courting Hispanic voters from the moment they take the citizenship oath. (Maybe they’ve been talking to this guy?)
Here is the 100-page report: 130960510-Growth-Opportunity-Project
The text of Chairman Reince Priebus’ speech announcing reforms is here.
Here are a few interesting bits from the report:
- Communicating, organizing, and winning the women’s vote should be part of all activities that the RNC undertakes. Women are not a “coalition.” They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections. While the Co-Chair of the RNC should continue, as has been the case, to lead the effort to create and implement programs to connect with female voters and help female candidates, this effort should not be restricted to the Co-Chair’s office. It should be a mandate for all relevant departments in the building.
- The RNC should implement training programs for messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. According to the liberal group Center for American Progress, the No. 2 issue for female voters this election was “a candidate who will fight for them.” Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.
- The RNC should develop a surrogate list of women based upon areas of policy and political expertise. The media affairs team at the RNC should be focused on booking more women on TV on behalf of the party and be given metrics to ensure that we aren’t just using the same old talking heads. This list should not be limited to outstanding national surrogates such as Governors Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte, and Congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Marsha Blackburn (among many other excellent surrogates), but should also include mayors, county officials, and state legislators.
- The RNC should hire field staff within Hispanic communities nationally to build meaningful relationships. This cannot happen every four years but needs to be a continuous effort.
- Promote forward-looking positive policy proposals to Hispanic communities that unite voters, such as the Republican Party’s support for school choice.
- The RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders.
- The RNC must rebuild a Hispanic surrogate list to promote a high-level presence in both Hispanic and mainstream media.
- Establish swearing-in citizenship teams to introduce new citizens after naturalization ceremonies to the Republican Party.
- Establish a presence in African American communities and at black organizations such as the NAACP. We are never going to win over voters who are not asked for their support. Too many African American voters have gotten in the habit of supporting Democrats without hearing anyone in their community making a case to the contrary.
- The RNC should create a program that is focused on recruiting and supporting African American Republican candidates for office.
- Engage historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with the goal of educating the community on Republican ideals and the Party’s history.
- On messaging, we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.
- We also need to communicate with young voters where they get their information. We can’t use old communication tools for young voters. Technology is second nature to young voters. Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram is important, but we also need to be actively looking for and utilizing the newest and most cutting-edge social media platforms to engage this generation.
- Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV and magazines such as People, UsWeekly, etc., as well as radio stations that are popular with the youth demographic.
Creating a Data Analytics Institute:
- Recruit and competitively compensate talented and committed long-term data staff at the RNC. The Data team at the RNC is too small to adequately provide strong data and analysis of data for all state parties, candidates and organizations. The RNC is a national party and must have the staff resources available in this area to assist all 50 states, not just battleground states. The RNC should immediately expand the strategic/data staff to prepare for upcoming elections in 2013. More staff will be needed in an election year.
- Conduct a national road show to ensure that state parties and campaigns at all levels of the ballot understand how data can benefit them, and train them in the tools made available to them. This is essential to building confidence throughout the Party and its consultant class and getting the most out of our investment.
- Related to this concern was a strong belief that we must develop a deeper talent pool that understands and can deploy data and technology/digital campaigning in decision-making processes and targeting efforts. More active recruiting on college campuses, providing internships and scholarships, and recruiting from commercial firms that may harbor talent with relevant skills sets is critical in providing the talent for future campaigns. The RNC should strive to establish working relationships and open lines of communication with thought leaders in Silicon Valley to ensure the Party is at the forefront of new developments and trends in digital technology. The Party can and should play an important role in building bridges between its digital operatives and the best minds in the Valley and elsewhere.
Reforming debates and primaries:
- Identify a team of strategists and funders to build a data analytics institute that can capture and distill best practices for communication to and targeting of specific voters. Using the GOP’s data, the data analytics institute would work to develop a specific set of tests for 2013 and 2014 — tests on voter registration, persuasion, GOTV, and voter mobilization — that will then be adopted into future programs to ensure that our voter contact and targeting dollars are spent on proven performance. These tests should be the first order of business of the analytics team and should incorporate pollsters, data managers, and messaging professionals at the table developing a variety of approaches that would be subject to measurement.
- The number of debates should be reduced by roughly half to a still robust number of approximately 10 to 12, with the first occurring no earlier than September 1, 2015, and the last ending just after the first several primaries (February – March 2016).
- To facilitate moving up primary elections to accommodate an earlier convention, the Party should strongly consider a regional primary system or some other form of a major reorganization instead of the current system. The current system is a long, winding, often random road that makes little sense. It stretches the primaries out too long, forces our candidates to run out of money, and because some states vote so late, voters in those states never seem to count. Such a change would allow for a broader group of Republicans to play a role in selecting our nominee.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The next steps for New York City’s ambitious three-term mayor
There is perhaps no other politician in America as enterprising, as meddling, or downright ballsy, as Michael Bloomberg. And certainly none are as wealthy.
The New York City mayor, who made a fortune providing financial data to Wall Street, is worth $27 billion and is ranked by Forbes as the 13th wealthiest man in the world.
He’s pouring his personal fortune into a public policy agenda that can perhaps best be summed up as saving Americans from themselves. It’s a hard task, even for a billionaire who has run America’s largest city for three terms, and dispensed $2.4 billion to date through Bloomberg Philanthropies, on everything from eradicating polio to road safety to climate change, making him one of the top five charitable spenders in the U.S.
As mayor, Bloomberg, 71, has spent three terms trying to regulate, inconvenience, and shame New Yorkers out of a long list of vices. He banned smoking from workplaces, public parks and beaches; banned trans fats from restaurants; required chain restaurants to post calorie counts of their meals; posted letter grades in restaurants based on their sanitary practices (which he says reduced salmonella poisonings by 14 per cent in one year); and he has vowed to ban Styrofoam containers from stores and restaurants. He launched a controversial campaign aimed at guilt-tripping teenagers into avoiding pregnancy, featuring large posters of frowning toddlers saying things like, “Honestly, Mom . . . Chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Perhaps the elusive Mrs. O should pull a Hillary, and run herself
When Lexie Croft, a Wyoming mother, had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to video chat with the first lady of the United States this week, her complaint was corn dogs. The deep-fried hot dogs on a stick were being offered for lunch at her child’s public school, where, she said, “meal options include nachos with cheese sauce!”
Michelle Obama offered more than sympathy: she had a plan. Call her husband’s Department of Agriculture, which had just come out with new nutritional standards for public schools, she instructed. “They have people on staff” to help schools fix their menus. She encouraged the mother to “work with” like-minded parents and teachers if “your school lunches are not improving.”
This is what Obama does when she’s not donning couture gowns: her “Let’s Move!” campaign goes after the corn dogs, couch potatoes and the one-third of American kids who are overweight or obese. She does so with the carefully calibrated ferocity she brought to helping her husband get elected: just enough to be effective, but not so much that she’d look pushy, or worse, angry.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is in Washington today to press the case for the Keystone XL pipeline and to try to burnish Canada’s green credentials.
“We’re here principally to make the environmental case,” said Wall, who has been meeting with U.S. officials and lawmakers. The premier is giving speeches promoting Canada’s environmental record and touting Saskatchewan’s clean-coal project which will capture carbon emissions from a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and pump it underground. (Carbon emissions from coal-fired plants are a leading source of carbon emissions in the U.S. “There is one coal-fire plant in Georgia that media reports say generates as much greenhouse gases as three-quarters of the oil sands,” said Wall.)
Wall said the U.S. State Department’s environmental report released Friday suggested “we are close to approval,” adding that Canada could give the president more leverage.
“We need to give them as much environmental elbow room as possible,” he told reporters at a breakfast near Capitol Hill this morning. “So to help with that elbow room, we are talking about our record in Saskatchewan.” He also mentioned Alberta’s carbon tax and the federal government’s promised emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector, which have not yet been announced.
He said Canadian advocates should shift from making economic and energy security arguments for the pipeline. ”We really need to make more of an environmental case for this project,” he said. “There is a record that I would argue that is as aggressive, or maybe more than you would find here, in terms of energy and the environment, but we haven’t talked about it much.
“If the president can’t point to the fact [and say,] ‘Look, here’s what Canada’s doing. In many respects it’s more than is happening here, and more than what is happening in many countries in the world,’ then I think it helps the administration make a decision that I think now is lacking a lot of barriers,” he said. “I think that’s maybe some of the environmental elbow room we can give to the administration to make the decision; [that is,] to say we care about the issue — and we are putting our money where our mouths are,” said Wall.
Saskatchewan doesn’t have oil sands, but Wall says the province is directly affected by the project because it produces conventional oil that would be carried in the pipeline. Without access to the pipeline, Saskatchewan oil currently sells at a discount of 19 per cent, costing the provincial Treasury $300 million in lost revenue, Wall said. He emphasizes that up to 15 per cent of the oil in the proposed pipeline would be conventional oil.
But linking the decision to Canadian environmental policy is a delicate task. Afterall, it was Wall who responded with indignation when U.S. ambassador David Jacobson gave a speech implying Canada could make the decision easier for Obama by taking more climate action of its own. Wall penned a letter to Jacobson questioning those remarks. Today Wall said the ambassador’s comments seemed to imply a “quid pro quo” exchange of pipeline approval for tougher domestic regulations. “That kind of linkage — I don’t think it’s helpful,” he said. “We got a response back from ambassador and we’ll take them at their words that is not the case.”
Wall added that Canada must do more to publicize existing policies. “It’s not a quid pro quo. This is what we’re doing already. (…) These things are happening not because we’re trying to get Keystone approved,” he said. “We haven’t done a good job of talking about them. I freely admit we should have been doing a better job in this city, this country [saying] — here’s the economic case, here’s the energy security and oh, by the way, we care about the environment and here’s what we’re doing with respect to the environmental piece of this. We should have been on it sooner, but we’re on it now.”
Yesterday, he met with members of Congress, mostly Republicans who support the pipeline. But he did have a 10-minute “hallway meeting” with Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, a leading Democratic climate hawk in the House of Representatives. He said Markey asked if the pipeline was really aimed at exporting Canadian oil beyond the U.S. (Wall says most of the oil would stay in the U.S. but some refined products would be exported.) Today, Wall gives a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center (video), and meets with Democratic senators and Kerry-Ann Jones, the assistant Secretary of State, who has been leading the Keystone XL review. He’s inviting them all to Saskatchewan.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM - 0 Comments
Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones just wrapped up a briefing for reporters on the latest Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL. Here are a few highlights:
1. This is not a decision:
“This draft SEIS is a technical review of potential environmental impacts,” she said. “This draft is not a decision on presidential permit application.”
In about a week, the department will begin a 45-day public comment period on the draft, she said.
During that time, State will hold another public meeting in Nebraska, where an alternative route has been proposed. Then, after reviewing comments, the department will write a final version of the report. Then the State Department will begin to consider whether the project is in the “National Interest.”
TransCanada will be waiting a few more months for a final decision on whether or not there will be a presidential permit to go ahead with the construction of the cross-border section of the pipeline.
2. State concludes that Keystone XL itself will not drive growth of oil sands production.
Asked about how the project would impact greenhouse gas emissions, Jones said that contrary to what many environmentalist critics of the project have been arguing, ”We find that approval or denial of any one transport project really remains unlikey to significantly impact development of oil sands.”
3. This conclusion is not set in stone.
“But let me reiterate this is a draft document and we are anxious to get input from the public,” she said.
4. State did not reach conclusion on environmental soundness of project.
Asked how Keystone XL would impact greenhouse gas emissions, she said: ”It’s premature at this point to come down with strong conclusions as we want to make sure we get a lot of comments on this and have a full public debate on this document.”
However, she did make a point that the Canadian government has been stressing in support of the pipeline — that the Alberta bitumen would be replacing heavy crude from other countries: ”In some cases the oil is coming in and replacing oil already in US system from other sources so the question is, so how much difference does it make?”
5. This fight is hardly over.
“We’re not going to come out and make conclusions at this point until we engage with public and get some feedback,” she said.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:48 PM - 0 Comments
To read the U.S. State Department environmental impact statement on Keystone XL click here.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 5:15 PM - 0 Comments
Nobody knows whether anything will be done to avert the scheduled $85-billion-over-7-months federal government spending cuts (“the sequester”) that are supposed to kick in tomorrow. So the Washington conversation has turned to this:
“You’ll regret this.”
Those are the words that the director of Obama’s National Economic Council emailed to legendary journalist Bob Woodward last Friday. Was it a threat?
Here is the tick-tock:
Earlier that day, Woodward published an opinion article in the Washington Post arguing that President Obama misled the public by saying the sequester idea (the now-looming across-the-board spending cuts of more than one trillion dollars over 10 years, split between domestic and defence spending) was an idea hatched by House Republicans. Instead, Woodward said, it came from the White House.
Moreover, Woodward wrote that in the original deal to create the sequester – which was supposed to be a way to push both sides to come to agreement about how to achieve $1.2 trillion in spending cuts to reduce the deficit, in exchange for Republicans agreeing to increase the debt ceiling (remember the not-so-super Super Committee?) – there were to be no tax increases.
Woodward accused Obama of now “moving the goalposts” by calling for tax increases or “closing tax loopholes” as part of an agreement to avert the scheduled sequester cuts:
In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.
So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.
(Later came a TV appearance in which Woodward accused Obama of “madness” for deciding not to deploy a Navy ship to the Persian Gulf because of the cuts.)
Woodward then went on television to complain about the email. Woodward told CNN about the email, adding that “It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters” that they’ll regret what they write
In the email, which has since been published in full by Politico, Sperling apologizes to Woodward for having raised his voice in a conversation about his article. He goes on to say:
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start.
Was it a threat? In the context of apologetic tone of the email, it’s hard to construe the words as a threat to Woodward – more like a warning that Sperling believes Woodward will regret portraying the issue incorrectly as a journalist.
At a press briefing today, White House spokesman Jay Carney, was asked about the language used by Sperling, and he replied:
“Don’t you think it would be a responsible thing to ask that question in the context of the full email since we know what the full email said, where Gene Sperling, in keeping with a demeanor I have been familiar with for more than 20 years, was incredibly respectful, referred to Mr. Woodward as his friend, and apologized for raising his voice? I think you cannot read those emails and come away with the impression that Gene was threatening anybody, as I think others have observed.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
Bloomberg reports that Caroline Kennedy will likely be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
All the speculation about her coming to Canada was based on little more than, well, speculation by a person who admits he was merely speculating and was dumbfounded that people took the idea so seriously.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
Unless President Obama can reach a deal with congressional Republicans before Friday, $1.3 trillion in across-the-board federal government spending cuts will begin to take effect March 1. The cuts, known in Washington-speak as the “sequester” were never meant to happen. They were supposed to be the stick that was going to get Democrats and Republicans to agree to a long-term deal to reduce the deficit through a combination of taxes and spending. The sequester was the price of the August 2011 deal that got Republicans to agree to raising the limit on how much the federal government could borrow.
The idea was that both parties would be forced to agree to policies they did not like – because the alternative – cuts by “meat cleaver” rather than scalpel – would be much worse. The cuts were intentional divided between defense spending cuts (which Republicans oppose) and cuts to domestic spending and social programs (which Democrats oppose.)
The trouble is, so far, it hasn’t been enough of an impetus for both sides to come to a deal. President Obama says he wants more revenue increases so that the burden of deficit reduction will be “shared” through society – while Republicans have already agreed to increases on capital gains, dividend, and income taxes for high-income earners in January (as part of a deal to make permanent the bulk of the Bush tax cuts), say they have no stomach for more.
In addition, many Republicans in the House are now more interested in shrinking government, than they are maintaining defense spending. So the threat of Pentagon cuts ($43-billion in 2013) may not be as effective at getting them to the table as the president may have believed. Fiscal hawks such as senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have called the cuts disastrous – but other Republicans believe any kind of tax hike would be worse.
Critics note that the federal budget will still grow under the sequester, though not as much as it would have otherwise. But the Obama administration is making the case that the impacts will be severe:
- The Congressional Budget Office predicts one million or more jobs will be lost in the U.S. this year due to the scheduled cuts, at a time when the U.S. economy is still struggling.
- Transportation secretary Ray LaHood has warned that the almost one billion dollars of scheduled cuts to his department includes $600-million to the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration, and will lead to furloughs for air traffic controllers. He has predicted 90-minute take-off delays at major U.S. airports that will ripple through the country. Air traffic control towers in smaller airports may be shuttered. He said the airport delays would begin being felt around April 1.
- The secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, warned that border management would be hard hit by the cuts, as border patrol officers would be furloughed. “It would have serious consequences to the flow of trade and travel at our nation’s ports of entry,” she said. The U.S. will have to accept fewer international flights, and increase delays for clearing customs. Average wait times could increase by 50%. At seaports, container inspections could take up to 5 days longer, she said. The Coast Guard would reduce its presence in the Arctic by a third. Asked how the sequester would affect border wait times, Napolitano said: “All I can tell you is that with sequestration, that situation is not going to improve, it’s going to go backwards.”
- Education secretary Arne Duncan said 10,000 teachers would lose their jobs, and some 70,000 poor kids would be kicked out of “Head Start” early education programs.
Republican leaders are under pressure to hold their ground on taxes. A conservative senator is warning that the Republican caucus would oust John Boehner as Speaker of the House if he agreed to any more tax increases in order to avert the sequester.
Meanwhile, the president has been traveling the country making the case that the cuts will be disastrous for various sectors of the economy. Today he travels to a shipyard in Virginia.
In response, congressional Republicans have proposed a plan that would give the president more discretion in deciding what programs will be cut – a move opposed by the White House.
A new poll suggests that more Americans would blame Republicans (45%) is not deal is reached to avert the cuts, than would blame Obama (32%).
But perhaps the two side will find a way of delaying, yet again, the impacts. The track record in this town lately has been one of last-minute deals that avert disaster — but only by kicking it down the road, and keeping the economy in the grip of uncertainty.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 3:44 PM - 0 Comments
We had a great cross-border conversation on Canada-U.S. relations last night at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The discussion shows how the same event or sentence in a speech can be interpreted so very differently on both sides of the border. Our co-host CPAC-TV has archived the broadcast here.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 3:28 PM - 0 Comments
If you’re in Washington tonight, please join us at 7-9pm ET a great event at the gorgeous Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.
On the heels of massive climate and anti-Keystone XL rallies in Washington, DC, and as the Canadian government prepares to announce new environmental regulations for the oil and gas sectors while the Obama administration mulls a decision on permitting a pipeline from Canada, we have brought together a panel with expertise in energy, climate, trade and Canada-US relations, to discuss the issues. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, will be there, and Peter Van Dusen of CPAC-TV will moderate. Maclean’s political editor, Paul Wells, and I will also take part.
And if you are in town, we look forward to meeting at the reception after the event. (Tickets and reception are complimentary.)
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 9:18 PM - 0 Comments
On today’s U.S. politics panel on the CBC, Paul Brandus and I discussed Obama and the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as speculated about the next U.S. ambassador to Canada:
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM - 0 Comments
The GOP chooses a fresh face to deliver a new message
Down a flight of stairs, past a burly bouncer with a guest list, a crowd of twentysomethings nursed craft beers and whisky sodas at an underground bar near the Capitol. The host was Buzzfeed, a website that traffics in pop culture and Internet memes like “10 Tips for Perfecting the Music Section of Your Online Dating Profile,” and “The ‘Unflattering’ Photos Beyoncé’s Publicist Doesn’t Want You to See.”
At the far end of the bar, behind a huddle of TV cameras and flashes of iPhones, the website’s editor interviewed Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida.
A week later, Rubio, a 41-year-old Cuban-American, delivered the nationally televised Republican response to President Barack Obama’s state of the union speech, one of the highest-profile assignments for a U.S. lawmaker. (Two years after being tapped for the same task, congressman Paul Ryan was the GOP vice-presidential nominee.) But on this evening in early February, Rubio was meditating on the relative merits of the deceased rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. (“Tupac’s lyrics were probably more insightful”), comparing gangsta rap to journalism (“A lot,” he mused, was “reporting about what life was like in South Central L.A.”), and defending his view that Miami rapper Pitbull is no poet (“He largely caters to a party audience,” Rubio declared, impressing the crowd by referring to Pitbull by his given name, Armando).
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:22 PM - 0 Comments
During his State of the Union address, Obama made the case for action on climate change but proposed few concrete plans. The president said his administration would speed up approvals of domestic oil and gas permits to take advantage of America’s domestic energy boom.
He called for a “market-based solution” to climate change and referred to a past attempt at cap-and-trade legislation. But such legislation is likely a non-starter in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — so Obama also said he willing to take unilateral executive actions “to reduce pollution.”
He didn’t give specifics about what unilateral steps his administration could take without legislation passed by Congress, but environmentalists have been asking the administration to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants — especially those that burn coal — currently the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S.
Industry says that the costs of upgrading existing plants will be too high — but there is speculation a carbon rule or standard could be the trade-off for an eventual decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline (which was not mentioned at all in his speech).
Here is what Obama said about energy in his speech:
“After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.
“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
“Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.
”Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 4:12 PM - 0 Comments
The newly minted Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with foreign affairs minister John Baird today. They held a joint press conference at the State Department in Washington, Here are a few highlights:
Kerry on Baird:
“He was one of the first calls that I made after I officially came into the building and started and was sworn in, and he is my first guest as foreign minister.”
Kerry on their discussion:
“We dove right into the toughest issues… we began with hockey. I grew up playing a little big, and since I’m a Bruins fan, we clashed in many ways. But he, from Ottawa, is a fan of the Senators. And I want you to know it’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone talk well of senators, so – I’m grateful for it.”
Kerry on his relations with Canada:
“Today was the first of what I know will be many very productive sessions. And the reason for that is that Canada and the United States share the same values. We have a history and a heritage of our people that is unbelievably connected. We have the same entrepreneurial spirit. We have the same core beliefs that everybody ought to be able to find their place in life to do better.”
Kerry on Canadian energy:
“Canada is the largest foreign energy supplier for the United States of America. And many people in America are not aware of that. They always think of the Mideast or some other part of the world. But Canada is our largest energy supplier, and our shared networks of electrical grids keep energy flowing both ways across the border. As we move forward to meet the needs of a secure, clean energy future on this shared continent, we are going to continue to build on our foundation of co-operation.”
Kerry on trade with Canada:
“We also share something else that’s pretty important: a trillion dollars of bilateral trade relationship, and that is hugely important to both of our countries, to our economies and to our citizens. Canada’s one of the largest, most comprehensive investment relationships that we have in the world. It supports millions of jobs here in the United States. And today the foreign minister and I agreed to try to discuss ways that we can grow that and even make it stronger, and there are ways to do that. Our border with Canada, happily, is not a barrier. It’s really a 5,000-mile-long connection between us.”
Kerry on their conversations regarding violence in Syria:
“The foreign minister and I talked about this at length, at length. We both share a deep concern about what is happen there. I am going to focus on it quite considerably.
Kerry, on being asked by a Canadian reporter to speak un peu de français:
“Not today. I’ve got to refresh myself on that.”
Kerry, on whether Obama’s emphasis on climate change in his inaugural address bodes badly for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline:
“With respect to the Keystone, Secretary Clinton has put in place a very open and transparent process which I am committed to seeing through. I can guarantee you that it will be fair, transparent, and accountable.”
Kerry on when a decision will be made:
“I hope we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term. I don’t want to pin down exactly when, but I assure you, in the near term. I’m not going to go into the merits of it here today. I pay great respect to the important of the energy relationship with Canada, and the importance of the overall relationship. We have a legitimate process that is underway and I intend to honor that.”
Baird on Keystone XL:
“We had a good discussion with regard to Keystone. We appreciate the secretary’s comments at his confirmation hearings.
We spoke about making a decision based on science and based on facts. Obviously when it comes to the environment, I think we have like-minded objectives. Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have both set a 17% reduction in GHG emissions. We have worked well together on reducing vehicle emissions for cars and light trucks. Canada is aggressively moving forward on our plan to ban and phase out dirty coal-fired electricity generation. And we’ll continue to focus on that. We all share the need for a growing economy to create jobs, we share the desire on energy security in North America, and we also share the objective of protecting the environment for future generations. Those will be areas where we will continue to work together.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hillary Clinton stepped down today as Secretary of State. In an emotional speech to employees, she said she leaves the job “optimistic” about the world. She said she will miss the job — and joked that she might be calling into the operations center “just to talk.”
My earlier take on Clinton’s legacy at State is here.
The Washington Post rounded up some memorable photos (and gifs) from her tenure here.
Meanwhile, incoming Secretary of State John Kerry told the Boston Globe that the president had offered him the job before presumed frontrunner and embattled UN ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 1:30 PM - 0 Comments
The U.S. president has chosen the architect of his controversial, covert war against terrorists
He doesn’t have the profile of John Kerry, President Obama’s new secretary of state, nor the affability of the outgoing defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who was played by James Gandolfini in the film Zero Dark Thirty. But James O. Brennan, nominated by Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency, has already been playing one of the most controversial, behind-the-scenes roles in the administration.
As Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Brennan, 57, oversees the targeted killing of terrorism suspects and the escalating use of armed, unmanned drones, which by some estimates have killed thousands of people, primarily in Pakistan.
Brennan leads the process by which national security officials decide who gets marked for assassination, how the evidence against them is weighed, and how legal principles are applied. He’s the one who takes the recommendations to the President. And he has been reportedly writing an internal counterterrorism playbook—guidelines for lethal strikes, whose use he has described as “ethical and just.” Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 1:39 PM - 0 Comments
A bipartisan groups of U.S. senators today unveiled a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. Most of the attention is focused on the fact that they would create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
But of particular interest to Canada may be a provision that was first proposed by Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign: awarding automatic permanent residence (including the right to work in the U.S.) to students who earn advanced degrees in certain fields at U.S. universities.
The senator’s “framework” says:
The United States must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world’s best and brightest. As such, our immigration proposal will award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university. It makes no sense to educate the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy.
I wrote about this when Romney first proposed it. Some analysts say the move could create a new challenge as Canada competes for skilled immigrants around the world — and seeks to keep its own skilled labour at home:
A policy of automatic permanent residency to foreign students would have “fairly large implications for Canada,” which has sought to attract skilled workers from around the world by taking steps to help foreign students settle permanently in Canada after graduation, says Christopher Warwick, an immigration economist at Carleton University. For foreign students choosing between the U.S. and Canada, “the knowledge that you could get permanent residency and a path to citizenship makes the U.S. more attractive,” he says.
It could also mean more Canadian students would seek to study and stay in the U.S., sparking a “brain drain.” Already, the largest source of foreign-born, masters and PhD students in the U.S. come from Canadian schools, says Don DeVoretz, an economics professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University who specializes in immigration. “This,” he says “would accelerate it.”
Worth watching this one.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Luiza Ch. Savage
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in Washington this week to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. As Americans gathered for the public ceremony and the black-tie galas, the minister attended the Canadian Embassy’s invitation-only inaugural “tailgate” party at its plum location on Pennsylvania Avenue, which featured Beavertails, Tim Hortons coffee and some of the best views in the U.S. capital.
Q: You’re here for the second inauguration of Barack Obama. Are you going to any balls?
A: No, I’m not. I’m not a ball guy.
Q: Can you imagine a million Canadians coming to Ottawa because a Prime Minister was taking the oath of office?
A: I was just telling someone that I remember when the Prime Minister was sworn in. I think we had cookies and coffee afterward. Then there was a dinner for the cabinet that evening, with the food prepared in the parliamentary restaurant. They certainly do things much grander here in the United States. The sense of national pride is exciting. One thing that is bittersweet for me is Hillary leaving. We had a great relationship. Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Anyone who thought Hillary Clinton wouldn’t testify to Congress on the Benghazi attacks—and that she “faked” a concussion to avoid doing so—was misguided. Throughout a long day of being grilled by lawmakers, first before a committee of the Senate, and this afternoon before House members, the outgoing Secretary of State seemed to relish the opportunity to confront her critics over the September terrorist assault that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Clinton admitted that diplomatic security was inadequate but said the department held an investigation and has taken various steps to improve, and quickly turned the tables on Republicans who grilled her by making the case that Congress has repeatedly underfunded her department, including diplomatic security.
Republicans pressed her on why UN ambassador Susan Rice—who delivered the administration’s talking points on TV talk shows—said the attacks grew out of a protest, instead of describing them as part of a pre-planned terrorist attack. Clinton said she did not choose Rice to deliver the comments, and did not know why the official talking points did not describe the violence as terrorism:
“I wasn’t involved in the talking points process. As I understand it, as I’ve been told, it was a typical interagency process, where staff, including from the State Department, all participated to try to come up with whatever was going to be made publicly available. And it was an intelligence product, and it’s my understanding that the intelligence community is working with appropriate committees to kind of explain the whole process.”
When Republican senator Jeff Flake complained that the administration did not give the public a clear picture of what went on, Clinton responded that they did not know themselves:
“We didn’t have a clear picture. I wish I could sit here today and tell you that within days, within a week, by September 20th, when we came up here, we had a clear picture. We did not have a clear picture.”
At one point, she seemed to tear up, talking about her conversations with the families of those killed. Later, when pressed by senator Johnson who said the administration had “misled” the public about the assault springing out of protests, she lost her cool:
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”
(If Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, Republicans have made clear that the Benghazi issue will dog her. Some are already speculating that the “What does it matter?” clip will make it into campaign ads.)
Clinton said key questions about what triggered the attack remain unanswered to this day. “There’s evidence that the attacks were deliberate, opportunistic and pre-coordinated but not necessarily indicative of extensive planning,” she said.
She added that she had other pressing concerns at the time:
“I would say that I personally was not focused on talking points. I was focused on keeping our people safe, because as I said, I have a very serious threat environment in Yemen. It turned out we had people getting over that wall in Cairo, doing damage until we got them out. We had a serious threat against our embassy in Tunis. I had to call the president of Tunisia and beg him to send reinforcements, which he did, to finally save our embassy, which could have been a — disastrous. They burned and trashed our school.”
Clinton also asserted that she had no role in defining the level of security for the consulate, or denying requests for additional security that were made by diplomats in Libya:
“I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. I take it very seriously. But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn’t see those requests. They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them.”
Senator John McCain criticized her answers as inadequate, and faulted the Obama administration for not doing more to provide Libya with security after the fall of Gadhafi—to which Clinton retorted that Congress had held up the funds for security assistance. “So we’ve got to get our act together between the administration and the Congress,” she said.
Clinton was also pressed on whether the attacks contradict President Obama’s statement that Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been “decimated.” She responded:
“Well, core al-Qaida certainly has been. I think you would hear the same from the intelligence community or DOD. The work that has been done in Afghanistan and the border areas between Afghanistan, Pakistan certainly has taken out a whole cadre of leadership. What we’re seeing now are people who have migrated back to other parts of the world — where they came from, primarily — who are in effect affiliates, part of the jihadist syndicate. Some of them, like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, use that name. Others use different names. But the fact is they are terrorists. They are extremists. They have designs on overthrowing existing governments, even these new Islamist governments, of controlling territory. So although there has been the decimation of core al-Qaida in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, we do have to contend with the wannabes and the affiliates going forward.”
The hearings grew heated at time when some lawmakers denounced her. A Republican senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, was blunt: “I’m glad that you’re accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately, with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that. Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable.” But Clinton later told the House committee that 1.4 million cables come into the State Department, addressed to her, but she does not read them all.
Paul also berated Clinton for not sending U.S. Marines in to guard the diplomats, but Clinton said Marines are used only to guard classified materials and there were none in Benghazi. She said that the transitional government in Libya required that a particular private security company be used.
Clinton also used the hearings to deliver a warning about the growing threat in Mali:
“This is going to be a very serious ongoing threat because if you look at the size of northern Mali, if you look at the topography, it’s not only desert, it’s caves — sounds reminiscent. We are in a for a struggle. But it is a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM - 0 Comments
1. Surprisingly strong emphasis on climate change
I spoke recently with a Canadian politician who remarked that the words “climate change” had not come up in the presidential campaign. I noted that Hurricane Sandy, which hit at the very end of the campaign, has since changed the context and the public conversation in the U.S.. Today, Obama devoted a surprising amount of attention to the issue:
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
What will that broad statement add up to in the context of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives? Regulations out of the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing emissions from power generating plants, especially coal-burning plants, are the most likely outcome. And the fiscal cliff negotiations preserved some tax breaks for renewable energy. Obama has also nominated a new Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has been an advocate for climate change policy and is expected to take a more aggressive role in international climate talks. What all this means for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline remains to be seen. In his first press conference after the campaign, Obama said he’d be doing more on climate change, but added, “If the message is we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM - 0 Comments
The second inauguration of Barack Obama lacks the historical drama of four years ago when he became the first African American to take the presidential oath. But to the hundreds of thousands of Americans descending on Washington, DC, it is still a piece of history they want to see with their own eyes.
Renee Walker-Richard, a 50-year-old realtor from Houston, Texas, explains: “We will not be getting another black president any time soon.”
Walker-Richard, who is African American, has shelled out several thousand dollars on the inauguration. That includes roughly $1,000 on tickets to several black-tie balls — including the Texas State Society’s “Black Tie and Boots Ball,” one of the official events the Obamas will attend. On top of the tickets, there was airfare, car rental fees and a hard-to-find and over-priced hotel room. Since arriving in Washington, she’s stood in lines, and more lines, only to be sent to other lines, to collect various tickets.
It’s worth the hassle, she says.