E.J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post writes—Chris Christie’s conservative problem:
If Christie has a base, it consists of Wall Street donors, a media fascinated by his persona and relative moderation, and some but by no means all members of the non-tea-party-wing of the Republican Party.Andrew J. Bacevich at the Los Angeles Times explores The misuse of American might, and the price it pays:
He does not have the committed ideological core that Ronald Reagan could rely on to overcome Iran-Contra. He does not have the Democratic base that stuck with Bill Clinton during his sex scandal because the excesses of a special prosecutor and then of a Republican House that impeached him came to enrage Democrats even more than Clinton’s misbehavior.
What of Christie’s base? Wall Street is fickle and pragmatic. The media can turn on a dime. And the Republican establishment, such as it is, has alternatives.
The U.S. military is like the highly skilled, gadget-toting contractor who promises to give your kitchen a nifty makeover in no time whatsoever. Here's the guy you can count on to get the job done. Just look at those references! Yet by the time he drives off months later, the kitchen's a shambles and you're stuck with a bill several times larger than the initial estimate. Turns out the job was more complicated than it seemed. But what say we take a crack at remodeling the master bath?Ana Marie Cox at The Guardian writes—Marco Rubio isn't the 'Republicans' Obama', he's a Latino Rick Santorum:
That pretty much summarizes the American experience with war since the end of the Cold War. By common consent, when it comes to skills and gadgets, U.S. forces are in a league of their own. Yet when it comes to finishing the job on schedule and on budget, their performance has been woeful.
Indeed, these days the United States absolves itself of any responsibility to finish wars that it starts. When we've had enough, we simply leave, pretending that when U.S. forces exit the scene, the conflict is officially over.
Senator Marco Rubio's office hyped his speech Wednesday as an "Address on the 50th Anniversary of the 'War on Poverty'", a rather grand billing given its familiar proposals. Rubio has slipped in and out of a few different presidential wrappers since he appeared in the US Capitol. He used to be "The Republicans' Obama". His proposals suggest that now he is the Latino Rick Santorum.More pundits can be found below the fold.
In 2012, Santorum outlined the exact same three-point anti-poverty plan: promote marriage, eliminate federal poverty programs in favor of block grants to states, and "something something America hope-dream-optimism something"
Paul Krugman at The New York Times goes for the heartless Republicans' jugular in Enemies of the Poor:
Suddenly it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of F.D.R. and L.B.J. It’s much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal seems to be a bit confused about heartless bloodsuckers in her praise of New Jersey's governor in How Christie Ended Up in This Jam:
And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it’s justified. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics.
Gov. Chris Christie acquitted himself well in his "Bridgegate" news conference, and emerged undead. He said he had "no knowledge or involvement" in the apparent scheme by his political operatives to take revenge on a New Jersey mayor who refused to back him in the 2013 election. He had "no involvement," in the four-day-long traffic jams they arranged on the George Washington Bridge. Learning of it left him feeling "blindsided," "embarrassed," "humiliated" and "stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here." He claimed personal responsibility, announced the firing of a top staffer, apologized to the state, and said he'd go to Fort Lee to apologize to the town and its mayor. Instead of leaving the podium at the end of his statement he stayed for a barrage of questions. The appearance went almost two hours. You can make mistakes, lose your focus and poise, when you let the press exhaust itself asking questions of you; it took guts and brains to pull it off.Seriously, he's "undead"? That could explain a lot of things.
Karen Coates at Al Jazeera English laments about Blood on our backs:
On the other side of the globe, five Cambodians had been shot and killed and more than 20 wounded as military police cracked down on a swelling demonstration of garment workers protesting for higher pay. I clicked on the wrenching photo of a body bathed in blood, his shirt and pants painted the same startling red as the dirt beneath him. As rocks, bricks and Molotov cocktails flew, armed forces responded with batons and bullets. The human-rights group Licadho called it the worst violence against Cambodian civilians in 15 years.David Sirota at TruthDig writes—Reefer Sanity Takes Hold in Colorado:
It’s a remarkably risky job, making clothes for Westerners. When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh in April, killing more than 1,100 people, we Westerners responded with a collective pause: How, exactly, should we think about the workers who make our clothes? But we didn’t think long or hard enough.Labor conditions in Cambodia won’t improve unless consumers in the West demand industrywide, systemic change — and companies commit to meeting those demands.[...]
We could start by accepting that we must pay more for our clothes — a difficult shift for many Americans who make minimum wages themselves. That’s why corporations need to step in, too. As consumers, we should insist that the stores and brands we patronize invest more in labor, both at home and abroad, and that factories increase workers’ wages. Multiple studies show that a happier, healthier, higher-paid workforce translates into less turnover and potentially greater company profits. Finally, we should ensure that our elected leaders hold other governments accountable.
Of course, this portrait of tranquility, normalcy and pragmatism is often downplayed by the sensationalist national media in faraway Washington, D.C. There, amid wild speculation about absurdly apocalyptic hypotheticals, the fist-shaking “get off my lawn!” fogies are negatively caricaturing legalization in a fit of reefer madness.Amitabh Pal at In These Times takes a whack at the former Secretary of Defense's new book in Robert Gates is in No Position to Criticize President Obama:
For instance, there’s been tripe like Ruth Marcus’s Washington Post screed that at once warns of the supposed “perils of legalized pot” and absolves herself for previously using the drug. There was also the lament from the New York Times’ David Brooks, in which he first fondly reminisced about his erstwhile pot smoking and then claimed that legalizing marijuana harms America’s “moral ecology.”
To these hypocrites, and others like them, it is apparently OK for media elites to have smoked weed as kids, but not OK for today’s adults to do the same (you also have to wonder how many of them chatted up the “perils of pot” this month while enjoying a post-workday cocktail).
Worse, in casting legalization as a hazardous experiment, these sententious moralizers ignore how the failed and destructive experiment isn’t legalization—it is prohibition.
Gates has an unwarranted reputation as a wise elder statesmen who has profound insights to offer on national security and foreign policy. But Melvin Goodman of the Center for International Policy, a former CIA analyst who worked with Gates for more than ten years (and eventually testified against him in Congress), says that Gates’s major motivation in life has been to please his superiors.The Editorial Board of the Miami Herald calls Guantánamo a national embarassment and challenges new restrictions of reporting about it:
“Gates has been a sycophant in all of his leadership positions,” Goodman states in an Institute for Public Accuracy press release. “For the most part, Gates has been a windsock when it came to policy decisions.” [...]
Bob Gates is hardly in a position to throw stones at anyone.
Under Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, institutional censorship has increased recently. Authorities no longer disclose the number of prisoners engaged in a camp-wide hunger strike, an embarrassment that once again focused unwanted attention on conditions at the prison.Emily B. Landau at Haaretz writes—Just don't upset the Iranians:
In addition, the command imposed new rules that prohibit most soldiers from giving their names to reporters they talk to. In another instance, a military staff attorney assigned to the camp for ex-CIA captives was allowed to testify under a pseudonym — a mockery of genuine trial proceedings. Meanwhile, long-promised parole hearings finally got under way (in secrecy), but more than one month later, only part of the promised transcript of the pleadings has been made public.
The existence of Guantánamo is a national embarrassment, but erecting new barriers against news reporting will only make matters worse. As long as the prison exists, maximum transparency should be the operative rule.
Iran continues ‘turning tables’ on the P5+1, hoping to further weaken international leverage by underscoring that any demands made of it will be answered immediately in kind, with Iran resisting being singled out for condemnation. So in direct response to pending U.S. sanctions legislation, Iranian lawmakers drafted a bill that would force the government to enrich uranium to 60% if new sanctions are imposed.
While these moves are perhaps understandable from Iran’s bargaining perspective, what is less comprehensible is why the Obama administration is buying into Iran’s narrative, thereby weakening its own bargaining position. The White House has lashed out at Congress for contemplating sanctions legislation, threatening a veto, and has sternly warned senators that supporting this legislation brings the U.S. closer to war. At the same time, the administration has not pushed back against Iran’s nuclear moves, nor has it reacted harshly to Iran’s extreme bad-mouthing of Israel and the U.S. itself. It is rather projecting the sense that the worst thing possible would be to upset the Iranians.