Posts Tagged ‘The Washington Monthly’

Must-Reads of the Week: Ezra Klein, Sleeper Issue of 2010, Success, Virtual Insanity, Abdulmutallab, Obstruction, and Madden

Friday, February 5th, 2010

1. Ezra Klein on Rep. Paul Ryan, Health Care, and the Deficit. If you want a serious, policy-oriented daily take on health care and fiscal issues, turn to Ezra Klein. This week, he began the opinionosphere’s discussion of Rep. Paul Ryan’s serious attempt to balance the budget (which has no chance of being embraced even by the Republicans or Democrats.) Later, he interviewed Rep. Ryan – though it read more like a discussion between two serious people about fiscal policy and health care reform. Klein later attempted to see where along the political spectrum the Senate health care reform bill fell:

Take Rep. Paul Ryan’s health-care plan…as the conservative pole on this issue. Then take single-payer and place it on the other side of the spectrum. Where does the Senate bill fall?

It’s closer to Ryan’s plan than to single-payer. A lot closer, in fact.

Yet this basic fact – that Obama has taken a rather conservative approach to health care substantively similar to the 1994 plan Republicans counter-proposed to Bill Clinton – has been obscured by a Republican Party intent on obstructing Obama’s agenda to gain partisan advantage. As Klein explains, the problem is that the incentives for each party don’t line up:

[T]hat’s the underlying reality of health-care reform. Substantive compromise is easy. In fact, the bill is a substantive compromise. It’s a deficit-neutral, universal-coverage scheme that relies on the private insurance market and looks like one of the Republican alternatives from 1994. What’s hard is political compromise. Because there, the two positions are that Democrats are helped if a bill passes and Republicans make gains if a bill fails. There’s no way to split the difference between those positions.

At the same time, however, Klein castigates Democrats as well as Republicans for failing to put the national good over their own political situations:

The distinguishing feature of the budget conversation, however, is that it happens at a very abstract level. This red line needs to come down to meet this black line, and this huge number needs to eventually become this slightly-smaller number. That’s all fine for a floor speech, but when you start trying to muscle the red line into position or subtract from the very big number, things get real specific, real quick. Suddenly, you’re telling seniors that there are treatments they just can’t get and you’re telling workers that the insurance system is going to have to change. And just as Conrad doesn’t have much appetite for doing that to his constituents on the small things that most of them don’t notice, very few legislators have demonstrated much appetite for doing this to the country on the big things that pretty much everyone notices.

2. I do not accept second place for the United States of America. Edward Alden and E. J. Dionne comment on what is brewing to become the big issue of the 2010 elections, not coincidentally countering the main narrative put forth by the right wing.

3. A successful first year. Norm Ornstein and John P. Judis explain some of the significant accomplishments of Obama’s first year in office.

4. Virtual insanity. Andrew Sullivan’s main theme this week has been the virtual insanity of the Republican Party. He writes: “On every single major issue of the day, they are incoherent.” He quotes Daniel Larison:

Republicans have been treating temporary, tactical political victories as if they were far more significant, strategic victories, when, in fact, they have no political strategy worth mentioning.

Then of course are the highlights from that Daily Kos poll in which – for example – 59% of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached for something-or-other.

5. Reid v. Abdulmutallab. Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly gets some hard hits in on the ridiculousness of the Republican response to Obama’s handling of the panty-bomber. And Benen doesn’t even get into the fact that Abdulmutallab is now cooperating.

6. Obstruction. I examined some of the theories of why the Republicans are so uniformly obstructionist.

7. Madden vs. Real Life. As a football-related article for this Super Bowl weekend, Chris Suellentrop for Wired explored how the video game Madden is affecting the real game of football.

[Image by Doug Kim, used with permission of the creator, and in anticipation of the snowstorm that might rock Manhattan today as I’m commuting home.]

A Double Standard

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]From Michael Isikoff’s profile of Thomas Tamm in Newsweek:

Tamm’s story is in part a cautionary tale about the perils that can face all whistleblowers, especially those involved in national-security programs. Some Americans will view him as a hero who (like Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps Mark Felt, the FBI official since identified as Deep Throat) risked his career and livelihood to expose wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. Others—including some of his former colleagues—will deride Tamm as a renegade who took the law into his own hands and violated solemn obligations to protect the nation’s secrets. “You can’t have runoffs deciding they’re going to be the white knight and running to the press,” says Frances Fragos Townsend, who once headed the unit where Tamm worked and later served as President Bush’s chief counterterrorism adviser. Townsend made clear that she had no knowledge of Tamm’s particular case, but added: “There are legal processes in place [for whistle-blowers’ complaints]. This is one where I’m a hawk. It offends me, and I find it incredibly dangerous.”

As Hilzoy points out, Townsend was one of the people responsible for making sure that the whistle-blower process worked for Tamm:

Saying that whistleblowers ought to work within the system without adding “if the system is in fact functional” is odd in itself. But saying that when you are one of the people who could have helped to make it functional amounts to saying: well, I and my colleagues have failed to do our jobs, but never mind that: we should expect whistle-blowers to work within the system, even if our own failure means that they have no reason to believe that doing so will actually accomplish anything other than the destruction of their careers.

In a CNN appearance attacking Scott McClellan when he released his book, Townsend seemed to make the exact opposite point of Hilzoy – suggesting that career destruction is the price you must pay:

You know, if there’s policy issue that you think violates your personal values or your integrity and ethics, you do have an option. You can voice it and if you lose, you leave.

Which is probably why Townsend was relieved to have been deliberately marginalized on sensitive national security issues by Vice President Cheney and his staff while she served as a counter-terrorism adviser. (Her very appointment was also opposed by Scooter Libby and was apparently somehow tied in to the Valerie Plame leaking.)

The great irony is the clear double standard applied by people like Frances Fragos Townsend to condemn only those who politically opposed them for acting as renegades who take the law into their own hands thereby violating solemn obligations to protect the nation and its values while giving other a free pass. Yes – Thomas Tamm, a lone individual with few powers, unable to affect what he believed to be flagrant law-breaking (and what later events have proved to be at minimum felony crimes), took it upon himself to protect the Rule of Law, thus breaking one law to uphold the many. And yes – George W. Bush, the most powerful man in the world, unwilling to concede that his powers had limits when he feared bad things would happen, broke many laws and ordered many more laws to be broken, to such a degree that he challenged the very concept of limits on the executive itself, corrupting the entire system that was designed to check his powers. Both men broke the law to protect America.

One man corrupted the system designed to check him; the other took on that corrupted system. Yet Townsend – and many like her – argue that the petty criminal who broke the law (for the common good) should be prosecuted while the master criminals who broke many laws (for the common good) should not be. This demonstrably creates two classes under the law – those above it and those subject to it.

John Adams described the definition of a republic as “a government of laws and not of men.” Thomas Paine declared in Common Sense that “in absolute governments the king is law, [while] in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.” It is this fundamental American principle which Frances Fragos Townsend and other Bush administration apologists attack when they insist that only the dissenters and the powerless be punished for breaking the law.

Bringing Back the Fairness Doctrine

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Marin Cogan in an investigative piece in The New Republic has trouble finding any media-reform liberals or Democrats who are actually want to bring the Fairness Doctrine back or are trying to do so.

As Kevin Drum points out at The Washington Monthly:

Given the collapse of the Republican Party’s electoral fortunes, folks like Limbaugh and Michael Gerson have to create a rallying cry, and there’s no better way to whip up the Republican base than to make far-right activists feel like victims. “Liberals are coming to take away your talk radio!” is, obviously, pretty effective.

At the same time, a conservative effort is underway to label legislation protecting net neutrality (which prevents the internet from being structured to favor certain sites over others and was one of the founding principles of the internet) a “Fairness Doctrine for the Internet,” which may be the only chance the big corporations who oppose net neutrality have to stop it – as Adam Reilly of The Boston Phoenix pointed out, citing me.

It seems the Fairness Doctrine is one of the key components conservatives will be using to keep their partisan backs up in the coming lean years – as well as being a potential fundraising tool.

  • Larger Version (Link now works.)
  • Tags

  • Archives

  • Categories