Archive for the ‘ajc’ tag
Maureen Dowd‘s assessment of how the more things change, the more they …
Of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker-to-be, she writes:
… the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America he grew up in. It only took two years to realize that their direction for the country was simply, as he put it, “a contradiction with the vast majority of Americans.”
No one gets to take America away from Americans — not even the American president!
“What the American people were saying is ‘Enough!’ ” the Speaker-to-be told me, as he savored his own win and his party’s landslide, which he said was “a historical tide, not just a partisan election.”
Washington had not been listening. Washington had been scorning the deepest beliefs of Americans. And now that would have to change.
“American people are clearly fed up with what they see as the decay of American society,” he declared.
The next Speaker felt that the humbled president should take the election as a cue to be conciliatory, and he proposed they talk in the next few days. He offered to reach out to Democrats who wanted to work with his side, but also noted that the president would not be wise to stand in the way of the conservative agenda.
“I prefer to believe that this president, who is clearly very smart, is quite capable of thinking clearly about a message sent by the American people,” he said.
He said that, contrary to what the media elite had been jabbering about, he would not use his subpoena power to rain down a series of investigations on the Democratic administration.
No “witch hunts,” he said. Only “legitimate” investigations.
Yeah, that all worked out for Newt Gingrich. He really came through. The quotes above came from Gingrich, when I covered his heady victory in Marietta, Ga., in the 1994 Republican landslide that made him Speaker.
And, obviously, the Republican House only pursued “legitimate” investigations of Bill Clinton. Sixteen years later, as a weeping John Boehner extolled the American values he learned at his father’s bar — in the moment he dethroned Nancy Pelosi — the new crop of anarchic conservatives are saying all the same things.
God help the Republic.
For Salon’s William Saletan, Boehner is a shell of his mid-1990s counterpart and offers a different perspective on the Gingrich-Boehner dichotomy:
Gingrich acknowledged Clinton’s authority but cast him as a responder to the new agenda. “At least half of our Contract With America are things that the president should be able to support,” Gingrich argued. He added: “We are bound, to some extent, by the contract. But within that framework, we’d like to work with the president.”
Boehner asserts no such mandate or central role. In his speech last night, he framed the referendum of 2010 in strictly negative terms: “Across the country right now, we’re witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the American people.”
As to his own agenda, Boehner offered only the vaguest boilerplate: “cutting spending,” “reducing the size of government,” and “giving government back to the people.”
Nor did Boehner proclaim a new relationship between Congress and the public, as Gingrich did. On the contrary, Boehner emphasized the centrality of Obama’s relationship with the public: “We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making changes that they are demanding. And to the extent that he’s willing to do that, we’re ready to work with him.”
Politically, Boehner’s deference makes sense. Voters are angry. They want the economy fixed, but it’s too messed up to be repaired before the next election. In these circumstances, the worst place to be, from an electoral standpoint, is in power. You want to be the linebacker, not the quarterback. You’re better off with Boehner’s vacuous Pledge to America than the substantial Contract With America.
But politics, too, has its price. Fear of electoral failure can make you impotent in office. You spend the years between elections ducking the risks of leadership. You wedgislate andhedgislate, but you never really legislate. For the sake of your career, you waste it.
That’s what I admire about Gingrich and Obama. Obama may lose more seats in Congress than Clinton did. He may be thrown out after one term. But he’ll have accomplished more than Clinton did, because he focused on doing the job, not keeping it.
The AJC’s Jay Bookman on supposed compromise between the Dems and Reps post election:
So to review what seem to be the major Republican themes:
GOP Talking Point 1: The Democrats lost because Obama refused to compromise.
GOP Talking Point 2 — Compromise? Hell no, we aren’t going to compromise!
In other words, our leaders can’t come to an agreement on whether it’s important to come to an agreement.
Ezra Klein with The Washington Post surmises that the final two years of Obama’s first term will be mostly focused on foreign affairs, rather than the domestic policies he took up in the first two years, and I’m inclined to agree, given that Obama barely got stuff done with a majority in both chambers, much less now with the House controlled by the Reps, who will do nothing if only to see Obama fail at every turn (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”). Shameful. \
I wouldn’t run the argument the same way Matt Yglesias does, but I definitely think you’ll see a more foreign-policy-focused White House over the next two years. In some ways, the domestic and economic focus that the financial crisis forced on the White House was a bit of a surprise, as Barack Obama’s candidacy was powered by his foreign-policy convictions, and that’s what he seemed most comfortable and enthusiastic about during the campaign.
And finally, The Times’ Paul Krugman on the “Whiny Center,” which, with their self-defeatest Blue Dog Democratic policies, some Dems shot their own party in the foot (Krugman says “in the face”) by first, blocking even stronger and needed measures from Obama and second, by losing half their seats in the process:
So, we’re already getting the expected punditry: Obama needs to end his leftist policies, which consist of … well, there weren’t any, but he should stop them anyway.
What actually happened, of course, was that Obama failed to do enough to boost the economy, plus totally failing to tap into populist outrage at Wall Street. And now we’re in the trap I worried about from the beginning: by failing to do enough when he had political capital, he lost that capital, and now we’re stuck.
But he did have help in getting it wrong: at every stage there was a faction of Democrats standing in the way of strong action, demanding that Obama do less, avoid spending money, and so on. In so doing, they shot themselves in the face: half of the Blue Dogs lost their seats.
And what are those who are left demanding? Why, that Obama move to the center.
Scoping the net tonight (late tonight) for something to write about, mostly for no other reason than the fact that I haven’t written in a few days, and I like to keep some level of consistency, I came across this guest column on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Web site about gun control. The gist of the story is that an autoshop owner, with a wife and two kids, was shot in the head over an $800 bill.
The writer was angry and remorseful over the man’s death and used it to briefly speak his mind on the need for more gun regulations, noting that
The only thing that could have saved George was the irrational man’s inability to access a gun.
But, we’re unwilling to address that issue, right? Because people kill people, not guns.
Well, if we’re unwilling to somehow curtail the development of irrational people with things like first-rate education and mental health services — which we’re clearly averse to — then we better address the guns. If not both, it has to be one. — AJC, Oct. 13, By Steve Reba
I want to be on board with his thoughts, I really do. Needless killing, with guns or knives or broad swords or cannon fire should never be Ok. But I do have a couple bones to pick with this argument, and frankly (I’ll go ahead and get it out of the way), I can’t say that I’m totally sold on the idea of gun control or ridding the country of guns altogether. My reasons are not moral or ethic, but purely logical.
To address the above statements from the writer, first, we have no way of knowing whether the shooter was rational or not. He, in fact, could have been quite a rational person in thinking he was being being ripped off. True, typically the unethical action of ripping a person off doesn’t license the “victim” to wield a Magnum and start shooting. The shooter could have been insane, or not. We don’t know. Mass murderers have often been quite calm and collected, in the case of Dennis Rader, aka BTK, of whom, after watching the chilling BTK Killer movie awhile back, I could make the case Radar was cool as a salamander as he violently binded, tortured and killed at least 10 women over about a 17-year stint in Kansas and then disposed of the ravaged bodies. One could say Radar was deranged and perverted, but as he carried on his charade (He was also a leader in his church) for such a long time, one could hardly call him irrational. He was smart and one step ahead of investigators nearly the entire way, meanwhile carrying on his “real life” as if he was as innocent as the candy man.
But back on point. I do agree with Reba’s tongue-in-cheek facetious-point: “people kill people, not guns.” If we magically took all the guns in the United States (and it would have to be by magic), we would not end violence in America. Killers half their weight in salt would find other ways to kill. We may hope to reduce the number of deaths initially by eliminating guns, but to say that atrocities like the death of a guy with a family wouldn’t take place in a world without guns misses an important point about human nature: we will never inhabit a world where desperation, irrationality, psychosis, dementia, revenge and evil do not exist (I use the last word as a blanket term for anything else that may motivate someone to kill). I suppose it would be possible to imagine a society that has evolved to some higher order where we have, by no small measure, eradicated the tendencies that cause people to kill or to want to kill, for instance, by increasing the scale and efficiency of education and increasing (by leaps and bounds) the standard of living in even the most slum-like neighborhoods. But these high notions are far, far into the future, farther away in America’s future, less far away in more progressive countries.
I cringe, and yes, cringed even today, upon seeing a “right to keep and bear arms” bumper sticker on the back window of some super-sized tank of a truck, likely owned by a hunter or gun nut who has no notion of the Second Amendment or the context in which it was written. For a detailed discussion of the amendment, see here. We must understand that the Second Amendment was ratified just 15 years after the country declared its independence from an invading country. At the onset, before Congress officially made Washington general of the army, a state militia, mostly Massachusetts’, was fighting against the British invaders. The right to keep a “well regulated Militia” was a very real and necessary concern in those days, as was likely the right of every man to possess a gun to protect his family, as there was, very real in most people’s memory, once an invading army just around the bend. The full force of Britain’s army, was, indeed, at one time, just five miles from John Adams’ homestead, and Abigail, indeed, kept one of John’s guns in easy reach in case the British cut through the state’s militia. So, both the personal right to possess a gun and the corporate, or state’s right to form a militia (I think I would read: the nation’s right) are probably intrinsic in the amendment.
Also, in one important sense, the “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” given the context of the words before, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” do suggest that “the people,” could mean, not each individual person (for it certainly says nothing of the sort), but the people as a whole of the state (nation).
The Supreme Court has ruled on the amendment, and I could elaborate further, but I suppose my grander point here is that we simply don’t know for sure what they meant by the “right to keep and bear arms.” If the full body of the Congress were before us today, maybe they could enlighten us on what they meant. But we don’t know for sure, and impassioned, to use the term here, “irrational,” voices on both sides of the issue of gun control gets us nowhere because they only add to the babble and cacaphony of polarization.
The larger point, I think, is that crime is not going to go away in a gun-free world, and we must succumb to this bitter fact: to erase guns is not to erase the will in some to kill or harm others. They will find other ways. We’re a very inventive species, and the last 200 years has told us that much. The irrationality and non-erudition on both sides, in my opinion, cancel each other out (and this can apply to other issues). The actual truth, as it does on so many questions, likely lies somewhere in the middle.