Charles Blow at The New York Times writes Dangerous Divisiveness:
Our politics are now strung with tripwires of hypersensitivities and micro-aggressions. Every position is assumed to have a sinister subtext, made all the more complicated by the fact that some actually do have such subtexts.Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes Yes He Could—Health Care and Climate: President Obama’s Big Deals:
The phenomenon, more recently, is epitomized by views about President Obama, which, depending on which silo one is in, either read as blind allegiance or blind hatred. This robs him of the glory of his legitimate achievements and artificially shields his missteps.[...]
We must continuously audit our allegiances, not only to keep adversaries at bay, but also to keep allies loyal and true, and to understand that our friends and our rivals aren’t necessarily discrete and oppositional on every issue. Loyalties too freely given and too uncritically maintained become fertile ground for—and, in fact, issue license for—the corruption of conscience and the betrayal of principle.
Then there’s climate policy. The Obama administration’s new rules on power plants won’t be enough in themselves to save the planet, but they’re a real start — and are by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act. I’d add that this is an issue on which Mr. Obama is showing some real passion.Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station has had it up to his eyebrows with certain people, and he names names in Absolutely Nothing:
Oh, and financial reform, although it’s much weaker than it should have been, is real— just ask all those Wall Street types who, enraged by the new limits on their wheeling and dealing, have turned their backs on the Democrats.
Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed. There were huge missed opportunities early in his administration—inadequate stimulus, the failure to offer significant relief to distressed homeowners. Also, he wasted years in pursuit of a Grand Bargain on the budget that, aside from turning out to be impossible, would have moved America in the wrong direction. But in his second term he is making good on the promise of real change for the better. So why all the bad press?
Tragically, all we’ve fought for in Iraq, all that 4,500 American lives were shed to gain, is on the cusp, potentially, of vanishing.There are more pundit excerpts below the fold.
—Mitt Romney, “Ideas Summit,” 6/13/2014
All we fought for in Iraq.
All we fought for in Iraq is on the cusp of vanishing.
That’s what Mitt Romney says.
We fought for. We fought for. We.
Oh, so it’s we now, is it, Mitt?
I must have missed you over there, but it was a busy place. We. The guy who helped set up “pro-draft” rallies and yet somehow managed to avoid service in Vietnam is upset about losing what “we” fought for? We.
Yeah, fuck you, Mitt. [...]
What was it? What is it that we gained, according to Mitt Romney? And what is on the cusp of vanishing? What is that? No, really, somebody please explain it to me.
Because I’d love to know.
Richard Reeves at TruthDig asks What Can We Do in Iraq? Nothing!
As the ISIS, outnumbered about 15-to-1, has scared Iraqi soldiers into throwing away their American-supplied weapons and uniforms, Washington’s usual belligerent voices are raising calls for the president to "do something." He probably will. Burned by criticism for doing little or nothing in Syria’s civil war, he will almost certainly send in drones and planes to kill Sunni invaders, perhaps slowing them down for a while. But stop them we can’t—not without sending back the American troops who withdrew more than two years ago. Obama had wanted to leave 10,000 trainers there back then, but Maliki vetoed that. Now the conservatives are crying that all this was Obama’s fault.Bob Dreyfuss at The Nation explains (for those who forgot or never knew or knew but are lying about it now) How Iraq’s Crisis Got Started, and How it Didn’t:
But it was not the president. It is history in the saddle.
That is the way of the world. We have seen this before. In March of 1973, American troops withdrew from South Vietnam, leaving our local allies to take over that war. Two years later the North Vietnamese reached Saigon, as the ISIS has reached the suburbs of Baghdad. Do you think we should have gone back and resumed the war in Southeast Asia? That would have been nuts, and it is nuts to go back into Iraq.
[L]et’s first take on the despicable hawks, neoconservatives and George W. types who make the argument—like the one made by David Brooks in The New York Times [Friday], and which has been repeated over and over again since 2011 by the likes of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol and others—that President Obama cavalierly abandoned Iraq three years ago, pulling out too soon and leaving Iraq to its own devices.Robert Parry at Consortium News writes Why Take the Neocons Seriously?
Here are the facts. After being elected in 2008, Obama tilted to the advice of his more hawkish advisers on Iraq. The relative doves that provided advice to Obama’s campaign, including people like Brian Katulis from the Center for American Progress, who’d supported a rapid drawdown of US forces, were eclipsed by those, such as Colin Kahl, who wanted a slow, cautious, step-by-step drawdown. Indeed, that’s what happened. And the Obama administration tried its best to work out a plan for a long-term US-Iraqi security agreement, such as the one it’s implementing in godforsaken Afghanistan now. But those negotiations failed. [...] But the real reason that the talks stalled, and then collapsed, was because the Iraqis didn’t want the United States to stay. [...]
Meanwhile, it was W.’s neocons, and idiots such as Paul Bremer, who after 2003 obliterated Iraq’s social, political and military institutions, dissolved the armed forces, destroyed the Baath party and handed power to sectarian Shiites and the Kurds. The fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can have the support that it appears to have in Sunni areas of Iraq—despite its brutal history of summary executions, beheadings and onerous social diktats—is the result of putting in place a sectarian, Iran-linked Shiite bloc that viewed all Sunnis as apostates and would-be terrorists.
So what we see today is the harvest of those errors, and they can’t be fixed now by the United States.
It seems that the go-to guys for commentary continue to be the likes of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of the horsemen of this apocalypse, while many of the same editorial writers at the Washington Post and elsewhere who paved the way to this Iraqi hell still chastise Obama for pulling out the U.S. troops in 2011 and demand that he reinsert the U.S. military now.Michael Cohen at the Guardian writes Iraq crisis: even if Obama wanted to fight, America's too weary:
Overall, Official Washington’s commentary on the advance by several thousand fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has bordered on the hysterical, with the panic being used to push Obama to commit U.S. air assets to Iraq and to expand U.S. intervention into Syria.
That’s the case although the ISIS offensive could be explained as more the result of the group facing pressure inside Syria from President Bashar al-Assad’s rejuvenated military and from al-Qaeda-backed militants of the rival Nusra Front than some “breakout” of the ISIS goal of carving a fundamentalist caliphate out of Syria and Iraq. [...]
Nevertheless, the result is that we are back to the neocon agenda of “regime change” across the Middle East, ousting governments that Israel finds objectionable, a strategy that evolved in the 1990s and led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If the Iraq War had not gone so badly, it was expected to set the stage for additional interventions in Syria and Iran.
only two weeks ago at the US Military Academy at West Point, Obama reminded the graduating cadets that "some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences… tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans".Rebecca Burns at In These Times asks Why Can’t College Be Free?
These words, however, are not just a reflection of Obama's thoughts about war and peace; they reflect the views of the nation he leads, which is exhausted and weary from 12 years of almost constant war. Americans want no part of another fight and especially not in Iraq. [...]
This is Iraq's most useful and oddly counterproductive legacy. It has so poisoned the well for US military action that even when the use of force can be justified, the political constraints are, well, simply too constraining. Moving forward – aided and abetted by Obama's own failures in Afghanistan and Libya—it will be that much more difficult to fight dumb, rash wars. But make no mistake; it's going to be hard to fight smart ones, too.
Others have asked a more fundamental question: Instead of reforming student loans, why not eliminate student debt altogether?David Sirota at In These Times writes The Problem with Philanthropy—The occasional $120 million check doesn’t offset tech billionaires’ erosion of the public sector.:
Free higher education in the United States may sound like a fanciful idea. But it’s not a new one—for nearly a century after federal land-grant colleges were first established in 1862, many public institutions were free, or nearly so. Now, with more than $1 trillion in U.S. student loan debt hobbling both young people’s futures and the economy at large, some state governments are again giving the idea serious thought. Last year, the Oregon Legislature passed the Pay It Forward plan, which offers students a tuition-free degree in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. The state is developing a pilot program, and Florida and Michigan are considering a similar approach. Meanwhile, Tennessee is investigating the use of lottery proceeds to eliminate community-college tuition for all graduates of state high schools.
Some education advocates, however, believe these plans don’t go far enough, and that all public colleges and universities should be free.
Inequality and democracy are the kind of topics you may expect to hear about at a political convention, but not necessarily at a tech industry conference. And so former Vice President Al Gore’s discussion at Nashville's tech-focused Southland Conference this week could be viewed in context as a jeremiad spotlighting taboo truths about tech culture and philanthropic traditions. [...]John Judis at The New Republic issues a warning Democrats, Don't Dance on Cantor's Grave—Because you'll be digging your own in November:
Later in his discussion, Gore said that “democracy has been hacked” by moneyed interests. Then, in response to a question about tech billionaires spending big on allegedly philanthropic enterprises, he said: “That’s a good thing, as long as the rest of us don’t ever fall prey to the illusion that charity is going to do the job of what democracy needs to do.”
Those latter comments come only a few weeks after Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a $120 million donation to San Francisco-area schools. That donation came only a few years after California considered a ballot measure to increase funding for its schools. Zuckerberg was notably absent from the campaign to pass the measure.
That detail is germane to Gore’s point about charity and democracy. Indeed, there seems to be a trend of billionaires and tech firms making private donations to public institutions ostensibly with the goal of improving public services. Yet, many of these billionaires are absent from efforts to raise public resources for those same institutions. Zuckerberg is only one example.
Obama’s climate initiative may help Democrats in 2016 and is popular in some states that the president carried in 2012, but it will probably not be popular in some of the crucial swing states this November. As the National Republican Senate Committee has noted, Arkansas, Colorado, West Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky and Montana—all except Kentucky with Democratic incumbents—depend on coal for more than half their energy needs. Obama’s other initiatives are also not popular in some swing states. In Colorado, 56 percent of voters now oppose the state’s strict gun control laws. In Michigan, a plurality opposed Obama’s gun control proposals. [...]
The Democrats have not developed a national theme—comparable, say, to the Reagan administration’s “staying the course” in the 1982 election—to rally voters to their cause. Many of the Democratic candidates are trumpeting the party’s support for boosting the minimum wage and for women’s rights—two issues that are popular with voters—but few of the embattled Democrats are running on the White House’s record. With Obama and his programs so unpopular in the key election states, the Democrats in these states are desperately trying to distance themselves from the national party. Congressman Travis Childers, who is likely to face Tea Party favorite McDaniel in Mississippi’s senate race, actually has a very small chance of winning only because he voted against the Affordable Care Act.