By macleans.ca - Saturday, August 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
News, photos, tweets, reaction and instant analysis from the pundits. Plus … another video blooper
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected his running mate this morning. Here’s how he announced his decision on Twitter:
Just prior to the announcement, Mitt Romney’s campaign gave the media a sneak peek at Paul Ryan’s speech:
Mitt Romney is a leader with the skills, the background and the character that our country needs at a crucial time in its history. Following four years of failed leadership, the hopes of our country, which have inspired the world, are growing dim; and they need someone to revive them. Governor Romney is the man for this moment; and he and I share one commitment: we will restore the dreams and greatness of this country.
… For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress. There, I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, and turning ideas into action; and action into solutions.
I am committed, in mind and heart, to putting that experience to work in a Romney Administration. This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation; and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness.
That man is standing next to me. His name is Mitt Romney. And he will be the next president of the United States.
Let me say a word about the man Mitt Romney will replace. No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation. And, in his first 2 years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn’t make things better.
In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair.
This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years.
Unemployment has been above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression. Families are hurting.
Romney stumbled as he announced his running mate, introducing Ryan as “the next president of the United States …”
Some photos from the announcement:
Even before Romney had made it official, there was much talk of how the pick would play. Here is just a sampling of the instant analysis:
“He’s a transformative choice—and a seriously, seriously risky one.”
“Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career.”
“You make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals don’t favor your candidate.”
“It also sets up more than a few potential tripwires.”
“The best looking ticket since Clinton/Gore in 1992.”
Here’s what Barack Obama had to say this afternoon:
And speaking of Twitter, as of this typing, @PaulRyanVP now has 52,126 follows and … one tweet:
Last but not least, for now, anyway, there was this analysis from BuzzFeed:
21 of the Best Pictures of Paul Ryan’s Very Serious Hair.
By macleans.ca - Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Some instant analysis in response to news today from the Romney camp
“He’s a transformative choice—and a seriously, seriously risky one.In the selection of a running mate as in the practice of medicine, there has long been the edict that you “first do no harm.” Ryan could do enormous harm. With glee and persistence, he has laid out an entitlement reform plan that is indisputably an entitlement reduction plan, and while that speaks to a concern for federal budgets and for a ballooning debt that many Americans share, it comes at those fiscal challenges with a scythe when many Americans would prefer a scalpel.”
“Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career.
After spending weeks looking into Ryan’s history for The New Yorker, visiting his home town, and interviewing him twice, I am genuinely surprised that Romney chose him. First, let’s tally the risks of a Ryan pick.”
“You don’t make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals favor your candidate. You make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals don’t favor your candidate.”
“Choosing Ryan would be an unusually bold move by Romney’s mostly cautious campaign, but the kind of decision some party insiders say will be required to defeat President Obama in November. But it also sets up more than a few potential tripwires.”
“Because here’s the thing about Paul Ryan: He skyrocketed from intern to VP nominee in two decades, and yet — even among old Senate coworkers — I haven’t heard anyone express resentment of him. That speed of ascent is something that would provoke resentment in most lines of work, and all the more so in an ugly and creepy hothouse of egotism and ambition like Capitol Hill.”
“One request: I hope that when reporters are writing or talking about Paul Ryan’s budget plans and his overall approach, they will rig up some electro-shock device to zap themselves each time they say that Ryan and his thoughts are unusually “serious” or “brave.” Clear-edged they are, and useful in defining the issues in the campaign. But they have no edge in “seriousness” over, say, proposals from Ryan’s VP counterpart Joe Biden.”
Mitt Romney’s apparent decision to add Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan to the Republican ticket portends a fierce debate in the fall campaign over the size and role of government in America.
“Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate. Together they will surely create the best looking ticket since Clinton/Gore in 1992. Ryan has long been the conservative movement’s heartthrob, the star of a series of online Hey Girl ads that have turned “quantitative easing” and “interest rates” into provocative suggestions. But he doesn’t just bring smouldering charm to the election: Paul Ryan neutralises some of Romney’s weaknesses and solidifies the ticket’s intellectual heft. His nomination is a cautious but smart move.”
“You’re going to hear a lot about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) being an intellectual heavyweight with a bold, fiscally conservative vision for America. As a former Clinton Office of Management and Budget aide who has looked closely at Ryan’s plans, I can tell you he is not a fiscal conservative, not a truth-teller on America’s fiscal challenges, and not a man with a plausible plan to renew the country.”
“Well so much for the long-awaited Etch A Sketch moment and general election return of Mitt Romney, Massachusetts moderate. His announcement of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick brings a sharp ideological focus to Romney’s muddled political persona. The general election Romney will be as “severely conservative” as primary campaign Romney wanted to be. It’s a bold pick. But I’m not sure it’s a sensible one. It even has a whiff of desperation about it.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 5:52 PM - 0 Comments
Betting on politicians doesn’t seem any dumber than betting on small dogs chasing fake…
Betting on politicians doesn’t seem any dumber than betting on small dogs chasing fake rabbits. But for fairly obvious reasons, it is illegal in Canada and the U.S. to gamble on political races.
Not so in the United Kingdom, where gamblers are placing bets on the U.S. presidential election.
Right now the talking money says Obama has a 70 per cent chance of winning, Smart Money reports. American polls routinely place the candidates neck and neck. But perhaps British bookies know something American voters don’t.
As for Romney’s forthcoming Vice-Presidential pick, the bookies say Rob Portman (2/1) and Tim Pawlenty (9/4) have the best odds.
And as for Wesley Snipes, we know how he’d bet if politics were a roulette game.
By John Parisella - Monday, August 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Nothing works like a baseball analogy to explain U.S. politics in an election year.
Nothing works like a baseball analogy to explain U.S. politics in an election year. In a few days, Mitt Romney will use a smart application phone device to announce his running mate. Many are called but only one is chosen.
You can bet Romney has been meticulous, so don’t expect some far-out surprise like Sarah Palin in 2008. Dick Cheney: Where were you when the GOP needed you?
Last week, Cheney inadvertently set the table when he criticized John McCain’s choice of the former Alaska governor. Romney is a much more thoughtful politician than McCain and his choice will be more conventional. He will choose someone competent, compatible and capable of stepping in should circumstances dictate it.
And so to baseball. Although Romney should try for a home run, he’ll probably go for a double.
The Republican candidate’s campaign is strong on money but not much else. If the economy were robust, the race would already be over. As it is, Romney is within the margin of error against Obama with less than 100 days to election day. So the choice of running mate is all important. Romney’s campaign has yet to convey an appealing or compelling personal narrative. By most standards, his recent foreign trip was a failure. On policy, he is nowhere.
The tax-returns issue lingers and will be back when Romney’s would-be veep is asked to divulge his returns. The demand may be questionable, but just four years after the Wall Street debacle, people want to know more about their future president. Right now, Mitt is banking on “it’s the economy, stupid.” But it will take more than, “I’m rich and successful, now trust me.”
Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Condeleeza Rice would be home-run choices for running mate. Each is a personality and, ironically, Americans seem more comfortable with each than they are with Romney. Each is more moderate and mainstream than the average GOPer and would appeal to the political centre while help deliver women and minorities, constituencies the far right has consistently alienated. But, in turn, such candidates could alienate the Tea Party and social conservatives, which explains why Romney won’t go there. And yet any one of the three could be a gamechanger.
Less spectacular names in play include Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, Marco Rubio from Florida and New Mexico governor Susan Martinez. A more controversial choice would be Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Portman and Pawlenty are the most predictable choices at this writing. Portman could help in a swing state and in the ways of Washington. He could probably hold his own in a debate with VP Joe Biden. Pawlenty is newer, fresher and his recruitment would remind me of when Clinton chose Gore. Compatibility, conformity, and the political calculation of a swing state may be hard to resist.
Ryan’s deficit-cutting plan makes him an interesting choice, but his medicare reform could focus the campaign on issues favorable to the Democrats.
At the end of the day, I’d give the edge to Portman, but he and Pawlenty are more likes doubles than home runs. Of course in baseball you can still score from second base. Play ball!
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
A raft of new shows appeals to the broadest audience possible by getting rid of the parties
“What’s going on in the real world of politics is really nutty,” says Greg Berlanti, co-creator of the new show Political Animals. “That allows us in the fictional world to be even nuttier. So we thank the real world for that.” The show, a miniseries that will lead to a full series if it does well enough, stars Sigourney Weaver as a female secretary of state and former first lady who is absolutely nothing like Hillary Clinton. It’s the culmination of a year when TV has been dealing non-stop with politics, a subject that most TV characters never discuss under any circumstances. The dean of cable networks, HBO, has introduced Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a gaffe-prone female vice-president, and The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s talky tale of a cable news commentator (Jeff Daniels) who decides to fix America by taking on the Tea Party and other political ills. Boss, returning for a second season in August, has Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt mayor, and ABC gave a second-season pickup to Scandal, about a former White House official who devotes her life to helping politicians with dark secrets. If, as people used to say, politics is show business for ugly people, then today’s TV is politics for pretty people.
Even shows with a small political component can find themselves taken over by that story. The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced politician, originally focused on her life as a lawyer and intended to make her husband (Chris Noth) only a minor character; three seasons later, much of the show is about politics, and one of the most popular characters is a political operative (Alan Rickman). The Emmy-nominated Parks and Recreation started out as a story of small-town bureaucracy, and got a lukewarm reception. It soon began incorporating more political stories—including parodies of real-life scandals—and when the show’s fifth season begins in September, the lead character will become an elected official.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM - 0 Comments
In the United States, Republicans and Democrats can finally agree on something—candidates for both…
In the United States, Republicans and Democrats can finally agree on something—candidates for both parties are tired of debating the merits of Obamacare. They only wish their constituents felt the same way.
President Obama’s plan to extend health care coverage to uninsured Americans, which was tabled in 2009 and upheld in a Supreme Court ruling last week, has been galvanizing voters and fundraisers on both ends of the political spectrum. Candidates, however, say the issue is simply too polarizing, and Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to keep the controversial ruling out of their stump speeches as they fight to win over independents.
With the two presidential candidates polling closely together, and seats in Congress up for grabs, appealing to independent voters is becoming more and more vital as November draws nearer.
Americans, however, are still riled up about health care. Try as they may to sideline the debate, it’s become clear to candidates that, for voters, Obamacare is the defining issue of the 2012 election.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
Congress members in the U.S. announced this morning they had reached a bi-partisan deal…
Congress members in the U.S. announced this morning they had reached a bi-partisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut that affects 160 million middle class Americans. The cut, which reduced the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, had been intended as a way to stimulate the sagging economy and was due to expire at the end of February.
The deal is expected to be passed by this Friday. It also includes an extension of unemployment benefits, though an earlier proposal to reduce the pay of doctors who treat elderly patients covered by Medicare did not make it in the final version.
While this is widely seen as a victory for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress, the agreement also benefits Republicans. Their decision to support the bill stands in stark contrast to their “Party of No” approach, which had been the norm so far. Whether this conciliatory approach marks a shift in strategy ahead of the November election remains to be seen, but it certainly limits the Democrats’ ability to decry the Republicans as the party of evil, at least for this one time.
By Richard Warnica - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM - 0 Comments
New book reveals sordid details of JFK affair
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum haven’t yet given yet up their bids for the Republican presidential nomination, but backers of President Barack Obama have long since turned their undivided attention to the man they assume will be the nominee: Mitt Romney. The Times has a story Monday on the unofficial team of Romney-gaffe watchers in the Obama camp, who scour news and social media for the former Mass. governor’s frequent tonal flubs—“I’m not concerned about the very poor”; “I like to be able to fire people”; “I have more money than an Incan King.” (I may have made that last one up.)
Meanwhile, the New York Post (via Slate) has an excerpt from a new memoir by JFK’s one-time intern and mistress Mimi Alford. According to the book, Kennedy took the then 19-year-old’s virginity days after meeting her, pressured her to take drugs and perform oral sex on an aide while he watched, and once asked her to “take care” of Teddy Kennedy. He also never kissed her on the lips. (Rich people are the best, right?)
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 1:32 PM - 5 Comments
Texas governor stumbles in latest Republican debate
An embarrassing brain freeze during the latest Republican presidential debate on Wednesday raised serious questions about Rick Perry’s chances in the race to win his party’s nomination to challenge U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012, the Washington Post reports. “It is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” the Texas governor said, laying out his plan to eliminate a number of U.S. government agencies. “Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see,” Perry added. He was unable to recall the third agency. The governor later described his own performance as “embarrassing” in a later media appearance.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 1:44 PM - 14 Comments
The Pew Research Center released a survey of which U.S. candidates have received the most positive and negative coverage during the primary season so far, with Rick Perry and now Herman Cain getting particularly positive coverage and Newt Gingrich getting a particularly tough time. But the big news from the survey is this bit of information, which has people arguing over what exactly “positive” and “negative” means in this context: Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
White House takes its employment plan back to Congress despite Republican resistance
After seeing his jobs plan blocked in the Senate last week, U.S. president Barack Obama is trying to force feed it to Congress by slicing it into smaller parts. “Maybe they [Congress] just couldn’t understand the whole all at once. So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation,” he told a cheering crowd on Monday during a campaign-style tour of North Carolina and Virginia, two key swing states in the 2012 presidential election. This week, for starters, the Obama administration is preparing to push through Congress a measure to give states money to hire teachers, firefighters and police, one of the many proposals contained in the president’s original jobs plan. The strategy is aimed at jumpstarting the faltering economy as much as embarrassing Republicans for repeatedly blocking jobs bills in the run up to next year’s poll.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 11 Comments
The former head of Godfather’s Pizza is spicing up the Republican presidential campaign
Herman Cain is the rare presidential hopeful with a healthy sense of humour about himself. The former CEO of the Godfather’s Pizza chain recently quipped: “If you vote for me, America, I will deliver.”
Now Cain is becoming less of a punch-line. He has soared from barely registering in the polls to a tie for second place in the Republican race. The 65-year-old African-American businessman from Atlanta has drawn support away from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has ceded his front-runner status back to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 2 Comments
Scott Feschuk on the ‘firebrand’ and the pizza man taking on America’s killer debt zombie in the GOP debate
This week’s debate among Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency was sponsored by Tea Party Express, which sounds like something you’d find next to the Orange Julius but is in fact an umbrella organization for grassroots groups dedicated to the pursuit of low taxes, small government and—to judge from the debate audience—$8 haircuts.
Broadcast on CNN, the debate began with a display of the gravitas we’ve come to expect from American politics—a snazzy video montage in which each candidate was assigned a cute nickname. Michele Bachmann was introduced as The Firebrand. Newt Gingrich? The Big Thinker! One immediately lamented the absence of Sarah Palin, if only to discover which nickname she’d have been given. (The Little Thinker?)
The frontrunner in the Republican field is Rick Perry, who has the look of a man who’s just returned from hoodwinking J.R. Ewing in an oil deal. The Texas governor scored big with his opening line, in which he vowed to “make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.” He should consider hooking up with a specialist in making things inconsequential, such as the person who wrote the final four seasons of Entourage.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 12:49 PM - 1 Comment
Democratic stronghold includes parts of Queens, Brooklyn
U.S. Democrats lost a New York stronghold for the first time since the 1920s on Tuesday as a Congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner fell to a Republican challenger. Weiner resigned his seat in June after admitting he sent nude pictures of himself to women on Twitter. His district, which includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn, had been been Democratic for nearly 90 years. Republican Bob Turner won the seat over David Weprin, a state assemblyman, in a special election held Tuesday.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 3 Comments
The gun-carrying Texas governor is suddenly the top Republican contender
Barack Obama’s approval ratings of 43 per cent are the lowest of his presidency—as low as George W. Bush’s in his second term. The number of net new jobs the gasping American economy created in August was exactly zero. And on a sunny afternoon in a meticulously manicured suburb of Manchester, N.H., a state that plays a key role in picking presidents, several hundred Republican voters have gathered to hear from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man who has vaulted to the lead of a raucous race to oust the President. The crowd skews somewhat grey-haired and more than a little country-clubby. Men sport khakis and button-downs, the women tailored dresses and high heels. Tidy white golf carts shuttle guests from their cars to a white tent that has been set up on grounds studded with American flags.
Even among this well-heeled group there is fear about where the country is headed—financially, politically, and even metaphysically. “The country, the people have lost their faith,” says Joyce Gardiner, a 68-year-old retired marketer from Londonderry. “Obama,” she purses her lips, “is inept.” James Shephard, 57, who says he lost his job at a plant that manufactured bomb-disposal equipment, is here to take pictures of the event for a Tea Party group he recently joined. “The vice is squeezing tighter and tighter,” he says. “People say they have to do something before the boat goes over the cliff.”
A murmur of excitement runs through the crowd as the governor arrives. Perry is tanned, square-jawed and sporting the salt-and-pepper mane that gave him the nickname Governor Goodhair. Along with his blue shirt and khakis, he sports some Texas flair: black ostrich leather shoes and a gold-tipped belt bearing a buckle embossed with a large “R.” Perry smiles broadly with a wink here, a thumbs-up there, as a glowing introduction is read out: the son of tenant farmers, Air Force veteran, still married to his high school sweetheart, and governor of the state that created 40 per cent of all the new jobs in America since 2009. “A person of action,” sums up the host. Perry takes the podium with the swagger of a man who has been governor for a decade (he took over when George W. Bush moved to the White House), who has never lost an election (he switched his affiliation from the Democrats to Republicans in the 1980s as they ascended in Texas), and who carries a concealed weapon (the .380 laser-sighted Ruger came in handy last year when, while jogging, he shot and killed a coyote who threatened the family dog.)
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 11:43 AM - 5 Comments
Are pro-life attack ads targeting Ohio Democrat Steve Driehaus based on lies?
What’s the line between a negative political ad and actionable slander? Former U.S. congressman Steve Driehaus is trying to find out. The Ohio Representative, a pro-life Democrat, lost his seat in 2010 due in part to ads in his district attacking his vote for President Obama’s health care plan: the ads called the plan “taxpayer-funded abortion.” Now, Driehaus is suing the independent group that placed the ads, the Susan B. Anthony List, “because I think the truth matters.”
Throughout the controversy over “Obamacare,” many groups argued that the bill would indirectly lead to the funding of abortion, even though Obama issued an executive order ruling out such funding. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, argues that its ads represented a valid interpretation of the law’s effects and were therefore “protected opinion.” But last week, a federal judge ruled that Driehaus has standing to sue the SBA because “the express language” of the health care bill “does not provide for taxpayer-funded abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”
If other politicians follow Driehaus’s lead, some fear a chilling effect on independent advocacy groups, which have been amping up their ad spending since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted restraints on political advertising. Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA president, told a reporter she worries that free speech may be imperiled. Driehaus’s attorney Paul De Marco retorted that liars can’t “hide behind the First Amendment.” Whatever the case, if the SBA and similar groups are concerned about possible lawsuits, attack ads may be a little less hostile in 2012—good news for Democrats like Driehaus.
By John Parisella - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 4:43 PM - 38 Comments
Even though we have heard countless references and discussions about the risks associated with…
Even though we have heard countless references and discussions about the risks associated with rising the US debt ceiling, we should not be surprised that there is still no deal as the supposed deadline of August 2 looms. The debate over a compromise solution has become so politicized both sides are now hardening their positions rather than looking for compromises.
The Republicans have staked their positions: no new taxes and massive spending cuts, in particular to entitlement programs. The presence of a vocal and uncompromising Tea Party contingent makes it difficult for the more moderate Speaker of the House, John Boehner, to deliver votes on a compromise deal with Barack Obama. Consequently, the odds of an historic deal between Obama and the Republicans appear very remote. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
Texas Representative thinks “the time is right”
Texas Representative Ron Paul will run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, he announced Friday. Paul, 75, first ran for the presidency as a Libertarian in 1988; this will mark his third attempt. “Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years. So, I think the time is right,” said Paul, who is known as “Dr. No” on Capitol Hill for bashing runaway spending and government overreach. He is the second Republican to announce his candidacy—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced he is running for the 2012 nomination via Twitter on Wednesday.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 5:40 PM - 4 Comments
As Econowatch readers probably already know, yesterday marked a historic event in Federal Reserve annals: Ben Bernanke fielded questions from reporters in the first of what will now be regular meet-the-press events to be held four times a year.
The general consensus among the 60-something journalists the Fed managed to fit in the top-floor conference room of its Washington headquarters was that Big Ben managed an impressively unremarkable performance. There were no slips of the tongue, and absolutely no novelties.
Bernanke “mostly retraced familiar ground,” wrote the New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum. He “avoided saying anything yesterday at his first press conference that shocked or confused investors. In other words, economists said, his appearance was a success,” quipped Scott Lanman and Steve Matthews, reporting for Bloomberg. Continue…
By John Parisella - Monday, April 11, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 17 Comments
The similarities between sports and politics are almost always most apparent at the end…
The similarities between sports and politics are almost always most apparent at the end of a battle. The only things missing from last Friday’s celebrations after the budget deal, for instance, were high fives, a Gatorade shower, and champagne. Obama correctly hailed it as good for the country, Harry Reid called it historic, and John Boehner was being described as a near miracle worker by his caucus. True, a government shutdown was averted. But is this really an historic achievement? The voter might very well disagree.
The assembly of the deal was anything but endearing, as partisan considerations held sway for the past 10 days. While the result was acceptable, the process was messy. This does not augur well for the next two battles—the vote on raising the debt ceiling due between the end of May and early July, and the budget battle for 2011-2012. The stakes will be just as high and will only get higher the election draws closer. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 5:38 PM - 2 Comments
Issue of federal funding for abortion hindering bi-partisan compromise
Budget talks in the U.S. enter their final minutes on Friday as a government shutdown deadline approaches, with Democrats and Republicans unable to come to a compromise over federal spending cuts, particularly in the area of women’s health. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that while both sides had agreed to $38-billion in spending cuts, they were unable to come to a consensus on federal funding for abortion. “This has been a moving target but now we’ve come to realize that the moving target is now focused on a bull’s eye on women in America,” said Reid. Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have been pressured by the conservative Tea Party movement to secure at least $60-billion in spending cuts, but Democrats, who initially accepted only $33-billion in cuts, say the amount demanded by the Republicans would hinder U.S. economic growth. Should talks stall and the government shut down, 800,000 government employees, including U.S. troops, would have their pay suspended. The last government shutdown happened in 1995, when the Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich, in a dispute with President Bill Clinton, forced a 20-day shutdown.
By John Parisella - Monday, March 7, 2011 at 9:12 AM - 4 Comments
The coming March 20 will mark the 8th year anniversary of the second Iraq…
The coming March 20 will mark the 8th year anniversary of the second Iraq war. While combat operations have been scaled back, the presence of American troops on Iraqi soil is not about to end soon. Listening to the cable news pundits debate how Obama should respond to Tunisia and Egypt—and lately Libya—you would think very little has been learned either there or in Afgghanistan.
The events in Libya are more complicated because of the violent repression, but they show the administration has resisted a march to war. Compare the comments of current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to those of Donald Rumsfeld in the buildup to the war in Iraq, and you will see the U.S. will now exhaust all the diplomatic efforts before ever engaging militarily. And well it should.
By John Parisella - Friday, February 25, 2011 at 7:04 PM - 63 Comments
The battle lines over public sector wages and benefits are being drawn in the…
The battle lines over public sector wages and benefits are being drawn in the state of Wisconsin and there is every indication the outcome will be messy. At issue is how government employees affect public finances. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker not only wishes to tackle this issue, but has gone a step further in wanting to permanently change how the state will conduct collective bargaining in the future.
Unions see this as a full frontal attack on the labour movement. The fact 36 per cent of union members work in the public sector, while only 7 per cent work in the private sector has made this an easy Republican versus Democratic battle about the role and size of government.
By John Parisella - Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 9:32 PM - 12 Comments
Every third monday in February, the U.S. celebrates a national holiday honouring George Washington…
Every third monday in February, the U.S. celebrates a national holiday honouring George Washington and his successors as president. The presidency was not originally meant to be the most important elected office in the world. The separation of powers between the exceutive and legislative (Congress) branches made sure that American Revolution would not replace a royal monarch with a civil one. Also, at the time of the founding Constitution, the new nation was far from being the superpower it would become less than 200 years later. Yet, no one today would dispute that the American president, despite the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution, is the most consequential political actor in the world.
Whether it is FDR announcing direct U.S. involvement in WWII after Pearl Harbour, Truman dropping the bomb at Hiroshima to end the war, JFK confronting the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis and deciding to launch the program to put a man on the moon, Nixon going to China, Reagan telling the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall, or Bush choosing to go to war after 9/11, a president’s decisions can go a long way to steer the course of history. As a Canadian living in the United States, I choose to honour this February 21st holiday by highlighting those inspirational presidents who made an impact on me and otherwise made a significant contribution to improve the human condition:
-Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery;
-Franklin D. Roosevelt for social security;
-Lyndon B. Johnson for the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and the War on Poverty;
- and Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton for active, inspiring and productive post-presidencies.
I know there have been many other significant presidencies and they deserve to be highlighted. It is also too early to draw conclusions on the current presidency of Barack Obama (although healthcare reform, if it lasts, and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will be historic). Fifteen presidents governed a nation that condoned slavery, and women did not have the right to vote until the 28th president. But the rhetoric and vision of Jefferson and Adams, as well as the contributions of Andrew Jackson, have contributed to making Presidents Day a worthwhile celebration.
Tough presidential decisions have been made in the course of history around the world that have improved the lot of many in the world. Overall, the two-party system has produced men (and, hopefully soon, women) of stature, though only few of true greatness out of the 44 who have served.
What is truly inspiring and worth honouring this President’s’ Day is the stability and vibrancy of the world’s most successful democracy, and the importance of role the occupants of the office of the presidency have played in building it. Happy Presidents Day to my American friends.
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 9:11 AM - 63 Comments
Why are no U.S. leaders willing to tackle the fiscal crisis?
Standing before Congress and 43 million TV viewers last week for his state of the union address, President Barack Obama reached half a century into the past to convey the challenges facing his country in the future. “This,” he said, “is our generation’s Sputnik moment.” But if the space race, kicked off by Sputnik’s launch in 1957, was the signature challenge of a generation, it’s the rebuilding of American economic might that is the challenge now. And the enemy isn’t the Soviets, it’s the country’s towering mountain of debt: US$14 trillion and counting.
Whether Obama’s speech writers realized it or not, something else quite remarkable happened in 1957 that, while long forgotten, is far more relevant to the debt debate today. That year America balanced its books for the second year in a row. It would mark the last time the U.S. would post back-to-back budget surpluses. Instead, the U.S. has sunk deeper into debt with every passing year, save two rare exceptions: 1961 and 2001, when the dot-com bubble artificially boosted tax revenue that year.
For half a century America has lived far beyond its means. In the same way overextended households, which recklessly used the equity in their homes as ATM machines, finally collapsed under the weight of their mortgages and triggered the Great Recession, the U.S. has mortgaged its future to pay for wars, lavish health care and social security programs, government employee pensions and ever lower taxes. But many economists believe there’s a limit to how long Washington can go on borrowing before it faces a sovereign debt crisis of its own, plunging markets into chaos and triggering a crisis that will make the Great Recession look like a minor stumble. We’re already seeing several heavily indebted U.S. states like Illinois, California and New Jersey pushed to the brink—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has talked openly about the state going “bankrupt.”