Richard Wolffe & Revival Fail to Revive Obama

A month after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law, Nancy Pelosi gave the Mills College graduation speech in Oakland, California. At an intimate luncheon following (I was there because my husband is a Mills trustee), she reminisced about her phone conversation with President Obama upon the passage of the health care bill. In a few strokes, with simplicity, she opened a window for her listeners into a world of which we ordinary Americans are not part but which nevertheless shapes our lives.

In Pelosi’s telling, palpable was the deference with which she addressed Obama.  “Mr. President.”  She conveyed to us her sense that the courtesy of a mere phone call (old-fashioned, at that–not an email or text message or tweet) suddenly became a realization, on the part of both the President and herself, of the limit of his and her power–an instant suffused with held emotion, crystalized by the larger awareness of historic moment. (more…)

The Myth about Those Jobs Gone Missing

Sometimes I feel like only Bob Reich and I, along with much of the working class at loose ends these days, understand that the jobs are not coming back.  In one of his rare perceptive moments, for MSNBC election night, Chris Matthews said, “Those older guys in Pennsylvania, out of a job–they’re not going to be retrained!”  Right you are, Chris.  The people who are fucked know it.  And that awareness undercuts the current fixation in media & politics on jobs as the root cause of current American discontent, as well as the Republican tsunami that it unleashed November 2, 2010.  The paucity of good jobs is only one part of a much larger reality for many Americans.

Curiously, President Obama gets it, too.  I say “curiously” because for reasons about which I can only speculate (but am happy to oblige) Obama never shares the totality of his vision with us constituents.  But so often now I think back to a late afternoon in the Strathhaven High School gym, Wallingford, Pennsylvania and candidate Obama’s reply to a woman who had lost her job at a calling center.  This was early April, 2008, and Obama was still trying to quell Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.  I had seen Clinton often enough by then to know that she would have used her contacts and clout to find a job for this individual.  That was the Clinton way.  Her team waited at the end of every event, ready to problem-solve for the attendees who had raised their hands with hard-luck stories.  The extent of her influence and reach–I recall one afternoon on a North Carolina army base with military families, in particular–was astonishing. (more…)

Democrat Demolition Derby

What happened last night?  How to make sense of the voters’ decisions, when so many Democrats went down to defeat but some survived, when a few flamboyant Tea Party candidates won but others crashed and burned.

Here is one of the much-touted events that did not occur.  On CNN, John King dramatically flipped his map of the United States back and forth between 2008 and 2010, from a patchwork of blue-and-red to a sea of red pimpled with the occasional dot of blue.  In fact, however, the American heartland has not gone all crimson.  Even in Tennessee, which CNN painted one color, two of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Jim Cooper from Nashville and Steve Cohen from Memphis, have lived to fight another day.  The Tennessee legislature still has a few Blue Dogs.  History unfolds in small much more than in large.  So the seemingly picky detail that Democratic legislators here and there everywhere have survived yesterday’s Demolition is important. (more…)

Midterms: Where Do the Stories Go from Here?

Three big stories will be rushing out of the midterms’ gate.   Before I tell you what they are, a caveat.  To date, I have called the 2010 Elections all wrong.  I wrote last winter at The Huffington Post that Meg Whitman had a good chance to best Jerry Brown in the California gubernatorial race.  I concluded that well-connected, well-funded, well-run Kamala Harris would easily beat Steve Cooley for California Attorney General.  More to the point for you national readers, I thought that the Democrats could hold on to the House of Representatives.  Until the end of the primaries, I put the Senate in the Republican bag.  Tom Campbell could have trumped the unpopular Barbara Boxer in my state.  And wasn’t Delaware supposed to be a no-brainer for a Republican senatorial candidate this season?

I still maintain that Sestak (D) is going to beat Toomey (R) for that Pennsylvania Senate seat. (more…)

Sanity, Fear and the Fool

Saturday a gripping American story unfolded.  No, I am not talking about Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall in Washington, D.C. that attracted 200,000 people.  I am talking about the retiring of the jury of 7 in the Omar Khadr trial at Guantanamo.  Even though I resist magical thinking, I can’t help but wonder if in some historically synergistic way these two events are connected.  Why?  Because the trial of the al Qaeda foot soldier who was fifteen years old in 2002 when he killed an American soldier in Afghanistan demonstrates vividly that “sanity” is much too simplistic a prism for our politics.

What is and was our sane choice in meting out justice at Khadr’s trial?  Do we turn him over to Canada? Omar Khadr is in fact a Canadian citizen; Canada is eager to have him back.  He will go to school.  The University of Ottawa wants to enroll him; Khadr is eager to study there.  During his trial, the defense presented convincing evidence that Khadr already has been and will continue to be rehabilitated back into western culture.  Isn’t this the sane decision for an enlightened society like ours to make?  After all, the young man was only a teen when he killed one of ours.  Furthermore, if he had been fighting in uniform for a nation state, he would have been covered by the rules of engagement laid down in the Geneva Convention.  He would never have been tried in the first place.  After all, soldiers on opposing sides do kill one another in war.  Isn’t that the point? (more…)

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