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November 1, 2012, at 3:20 PM

Right now, the consensus of the political cognoscenti has President Obama winning re-election, although his margin of victory will be smaller than it was in 2008. There is a chance that he'll lose the national popular vote, in which case Republicans would immediately and without any historical reflection brand him as an unelected president with no mandate, and Democrat might wryly remark that Americans got the president they deserve.

But let's say Gov. Mitt Romney ekes out wins in virtually every battleground state. What will Democrats say to make themselves feel better about themselves the next day?...  More»

 
November 2, 2012, at 7:38 PM

On Sunday, the Discovery Channel will air a documentary I helped produce and appear in. Called America's Doomsday Secrets, its subject is the classified history of the government's continuity programs. 

Originally, the classified programs, known informally as COG programs, for Continuity of Government, were designed to reconstitute the government after a Soviet nuclear missile attack. It was as if the U.S. government had become self-aware, realizing that without an operating central government, America as we know it would not exist. This wasn't a problem until the early part of the 21st century because most important functions could be handled by states and cities and towns without direction, coordination, and funding.

The programs ramped up during the Cold War, atrophied during the 1970s, were revived with a vengeance in the 1980s —...  More»

 

In Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere, President Obama finds himself doing unusually well among white males, the result, we are told, of the after-effects of his support for the auto bailout in 2009. And that's true, to a point. The renaissance of the American auto industry is the access point for voters there who feel better about their economic lot and prospects. 

But there's a deeper reason why the big auto companies and their suppliers are doing well, staying put, and are not moving their jobs to China and elsewhere (despite the claims of Mitt Romney's advertisements).

It's because manufacturing in the American Midwest is more attractive now than it's been since the mid 1990s. An analysis by T. Rowe Price of unit labor costs compared to key U....  More»

 
November 5, 2012, at 4:15 PM

Because he's a male, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is not going to become a garish caricature on Saturday Night Live after tomorrow's election the way Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was in 2000. But SNL might want to keep some room in its show for a sketch anyway. Mr. Husted seems determined to make a name for himself, and not in a way that will please those of us who want the election to end on a peaceful and lawsuit-free note.

First, some background. Husted, 45, went along with national GOP efforts to try and eliminate early voting in the state....  More»

 
November 5, 2012, at 6:00 PM

1. Mitt Romney uses the word "self-deportation" in a presidential primary debate, sealing his fate with Latino voters. In Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and elsewhere, a Republican candidate who manages to attract 35 percent of the Latino vote is a presidential candidate who is broadening the tent and building a solid foundation for a GOP electoral majority in the future. That candidate is not Mitt Romney. When GOP strategists euphemistically say that the GOP needs "new language" to bring in minority voters, they're actually talking about stuff like this: The inability of standard-bearers to accept reality and change their minds on immigration policy. Self-deportation was Romney's way, in January, of telling the GOP primary audience that he didn't favor amnesty....  More»

 
November 6, 2012, at 8:59 AM

Based on the final round of polls, conversations with Republican and Democratic insiders, the calculations of all those statistical folks, and peer pressure, here is my 2012 United States presidential election projection.

President Obama: 332 electoral votes

That is, subtract North Carolina and Indiana from his 2008 accumulation. My outlier state is Florida. I think Obama will win Florida.

Mitt Romney: 206 electoral votes.

Popular vote estimation: Obama: 50.4 percent. Romney: 48.1 percent. Other: 1.6 percent.

How will we know if this scenario is likely?

If President Obama wins Virginia, something that the networks will probably be able to project around 8 pm ET, then ... well, it's probably going to be a long night for Governor Romney. Remember, polls in Florida's panhandle close at 8 pm ET....  More»

 
November 6, 2012, at 5:50 PM

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are the headliners, but the rest of the card is pretty interesting too. 

Three states have initiatives that would decriminalize the casual use of marijuana — Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. The language of each measure violates federal law, which takes precedence; will Romney/Obama's Justice Department enforce the law? Or will the first state to actively legalize recreational use open the door to a new way of dealing with drugs? NB: Washington state's measure has the best chance of passing.

Medical marijuana legalization is on the ballot in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Montana.

As always, California has a plethora of ballot initiatives and referenda. Prop 36 would give judges more discretion to impose less harsh terminal sentences for third strike offenders; Prop 34 would kill the death penalty....  More»

 

My former boss, National Journal Editor-In-Chief Ron Fournier, gives five reasons why the next president won't have a mandate after this election. I respectfully disagree.

First, Fournier cites history. "More often than not, Congress trims the president’s sails, leaving both the leader and his followers disappointed. "Presidential claims to a mandate, such as President G. W. Bush in 2004, are misleading to the public and the office-holder," said Anthony Brunello, professor of political science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla."

But the point about 2004 counters the evidence. Bush acted like he had a mandate and he was able to govern as if he did, even though he didn't. External events after 9/11 and his swagger after he LOST the popular vote in 2000 shunted a lot of energy into the executive branch....  More»

 
November 6, 2012, at 11:13 PM

Congratulations, Democrats. You won a presidential election with your candidate having campaigned for:

(a) gay marriage

(b) higher taxes on the wealthy

(c) entitlement reform (of some sort)

(d) common-sense regulations

(e) cutting the defense budget

... in a year in which millions of Americans are looking for jobs and the economy is on shaky footing. 

 

 
November 6, 2012, at 11:28 PM

Winners:

The exit poll consortium and pollsters: The exit poll consortium put money into improving the way it interviews voters and how it tabulates them. Their exit polls (waves 2 and 3) were accurate and insightful. Pollsters also generally acquitted themselves well. All the technological changes make it hard to survey, but pollsters are keeping up.

The Obama coalition: With Latino and young voter turnout keeping and maybe even increasing their percentages over 2008, the president has built a durable foundation and has provided a roadmap for Democrats in the future....  More»

 
November 7, 2012, at 5:05 AM

1. Not only did voters in three states (Maine, Maryland, Washington State) legalize same-sex marriage, and voters in one state refuse to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — the first openly gay person was elected to the U.S. Senate (Rep. Tammy Baldwin), North Dakota elected its first openly gay state legislator, and gay or gay-friendly candidates prevailed in the more than a dozen races targeted by the Human Rights Campaign. 

2. As one wag put it, Koch Zero: California Proposition 32, which would have banned unions from automatically deducting dues from worker paychecks but left loopholes for corporations, was defeated....  More»

 
November 7, 2012, at 6:27 PM

Here's what is in your gut if you're a Republican. You know you should have won this election. You know that this election might have been the last election you should have won with the current collection of interests that make up your party.

While your elites will twist their wrists to the point of breaking and the media will write about the Coming Civil War inside your party that you know ain't going to be civil, what is to be done?

One piece of advice: Reject magical thinking. It is magical to think that the big problem with the GOP has to do with "narrative" or message or words....  More»

 
November 8, 2012, at 6:35 PM

President Obama's second term may be anticlimactic. His slate is already full of to-dos and none of them are easy. He must oversee the regulations that will implement health care reform. He'll continue to manage the draw-down in Afghanistan, the "pivot" to Asia, the "reset" with Russia, and the struggle with Iran.

He can do most of these without Republicans. But to avoid being mired in the quagmire that helped produce Tuesday's status quo election, he'll need to stimulate the economy, reduce the deficit, reform entitlements and the tax code, and begin to tackle climate change. All will require a somewhat more compliant Republican Party.

Whether Republicans will make more than rhetorical flourishes toward Middle C depends on the demographics of the House of Representatives and on what lessons the party decides to learn from the election....  More»

 
November 9, 2012, at 4:02 PM

Should we care one whit about David Petraeus' sex life? Is an extramarital affair disqualifying? Should it be? Instead of drooling over Washington's latest scandal, maybe we can begin a debate about these important questions instead.  

First thoughts: Instinctively, my answer is that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency has extraordinary powers and has access to virtually every deeply held secret the nation has. Also, the CIA has its own code of conduct. Affairs are not grounds for termination, or else a third of the National Clandestine Service would be out of a job, but they do become the currency of internal agency politics....  More»

 
November 12, 2012, at 5:38 PM

In three days, the saga of CIA Director David Petraeus' extramarital affair has taken more turns than a season's worth of a soap opera. But even if you find yourself gawking at the unseemly melodrama, this bizarre story raises important questions that go beyond the dirty details of the private lives of powerful people.

1. The FBI has backgrounded its version of events to several reporters, but there are still some gaps. The relationship between the FBI and the CIA is historically fraught with tension, and so one would think the FBI would take extra measures to make sure that its investigation was pure and uncompromised. Jill Kelley, the recipient of the threatening emails, complained about them to a friend who was an FBI agent. That FBI agent helped initiate an investigation....  More»

 

1. This is an easy story to understand. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart had a great summary of it last night, and here is mine: A powerful man has an affair with a woman who got jealous of another woman's Facebook postings and sent vaguely worded emails ordering her to step back from her man. The other woman contacted an FBI agent, her friend, who helped start an investigation that was quickly taken out of his hands because he seemed too closely intertwined with the complainant; the investigation was treated carefully by the FBI once the link to the sitting CIA director was identified as a paramour....  More»

 
November 13, 2012, at 6:31 PM

If there is any upside to the scandal that brought down the CIA director, it is probably that Americans have an extremely memorable reason to be careful about what they put in an email. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has exposed the techniques its cyber forensics unit uses to track down the sources of emails, and even, indirectly, has given the public a glimpse of the assumptions or thresholds they use to widen the scope of any particular investigation. Some of the details are technical, but everyone should avail themselves of the opportunity to learn about them....  More»

 
November 14, 2012, at 4:29 PM

Having had the chance to digest the election, the results, and President Obama's first news conference, it's time to take a step back and clarify some myths that the political elite has been building.  

Myth 1: Immigration reform will save Republicans from the curse of demography.  

Truth: Not likely. The day after the election, even Sean Hannity, the Republican Party's most pugnacious popular hand-trembler-sentence-repeater, endorsed comprehensive immigration reform. His reasoning was straightforward: The GOP's stance on the subject of amnesty for undocumented workers had cost Republicans votes. A few prominent GOPers joined him; in the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are suddenly back on the immigration reform bandwagon....  More»

 
November 15, 2012, at 5:52 PM

When he admitted having an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, CIA Director David Petraeus, as a senior civilian in the presidential chain of command should something go catastrophically wrong in Washington, violated special behavior codes for officials who might one day be forced to execute nuclear strikes.  

In classified presidential emergency action documents, the CIA director is among the dozens, if not hundreds, of officials who are listed as National Command Authority successors in the event that higher-ranking officials are no longer able to do their jobs. 

Because under certain circumstances he'd have ready access to the nuclear satchel, Petraeus was indoctrinated into the Personnel Reliability Program, which evaluates and monitors the lifestyle and behavior of Americans with access to nuclear command and control mechanisms....  More»

 
November 19, 2012, at 5:20 PM

It sure seems like Congress will enter the whirlpool of immigration reform next year. The surface debate is about undocumented workers and how to bring them from the depths. But the currents are pushing along several other issues, some of which may be more consequential in the long run for both the American economy and for the dignity of those people touched by legislation. 

Writing for the blog of the Brookings Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program, Neil Ruiz, who is doing some of the most interesting scholarly work on visas and workforce development these days, sketches out the other areas that the first wave of reform is likely to tackle.

A casualty of legislative deadlock has been the STEM Act, which would significantly increase the number of green cards given to foreign students who get degrees from the United States....  More»

 

Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida and early favorite to enter the Invisible Primary ahead of the 2016 presidential election, is a creationist. He fell into the trap laid nicely by GQ, telling a reporter that the age of the Earth is up for debate. A mystery, he said.

Well, it's not. It's about 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few million.

Sadly, many Americans don't know how old the Earth is. Interestingly, many of them, including a lot of Democrats, seem to be tugged by their religious tradition, even if they are not orthodox about their beliefs....  More»

 
November 21, 2012, at 4:49 PM

Luckily for him, Masao Yoshida, 55, was on watch.

He was Fukushima's plant manager, and he was among the 50-odd employees who stayed in the hot zone as radiation levels rose well above toxic levels. He was already a hero, although at that point only a foolish one. Yoshida knew that the reactor was vulnerable to seawater, and in the absence of emergency power or viable containment rods, that natural salty fluid was the only weapon he had. At the same time, he knew that the moment the reactor core came into contact with sea water, the plant itself would be effectively inoperable forever. His bosses at TEPCO ordered him to do nothing while they modeled the potential consequences of injecting seawater into the reactor core. An early attempt to flood part of the core was done improperly, and engineers worried that the contaminated seawater would...  More»

 

Even from Los Angeles, it's easy to get wind of the conventional wisdom in Washington about the future of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: No doubt about it... she's going to be our next president. Even many Republicans believe this. The CW rests on several assumptions that may well be true but are fairly useless so far as augury is concerned. Here are five truths to consider about Hillary Clinton.

1. She hasn't made up her mind yet — indeed, far from it. People who have spoken to Clinton about her future and, importantly, who have spoken with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are not ready to bet on odds any greater than 50:50...  More»

 

What should a war-weary public think of a whole new spy service for the Pentagon? The brain-child of two wunderkinds of intelligence, the Defense Clandestine Service will ultimately field 1,600 personnel across the world. This sounds like a lot of new spooks. But the reality is a bit different. There is a primer of sorts of what this new spy service will do, and what it won't do.

(1) There won't really be 1,600 new spies. There are already about 600 or so Defense Attaches attached to embassies and consulates. They collect intelligence openly. They will now work more closely with their covert counterparts and are included in the figure that Congress has been given for the size of the DCS. Of the remaining 1,000 personnel, a bunch will come from existing Department of Defense intelligence collection agencies....  More»

 

As you wade through the often confusing political posturing over the impending expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the automatic budget "sequester," consider the following political dynamics that will determine the outcome.

1. President Obama's swagger. More than just a post-election glow, Obama has actual leverage over Republicans, and he is not going to waste it. Some pundits say that Obama's newly confident negotiating posture is the result of lessons learned during the first term wrestling over the debt limit and budgets: He could offer the farm for free and Republicans wouldn't accept it....  More»

 

It remains the archetypal tale about how far governments will go to protect their intelligence secrets, even at great cost to civilians. 

But even though people at the top of our intelligence establishment have told me this story, there is clear and convincing evidence that it's not true. Did Winston Churchill, nervous about the Germans discovering that U.K. cypher-crackers had broken their Enigma codes, fail to act on intelligence warning of a Luftwaffe raid against Coventry in November of 1940?

By that time, the small huts full of men and women and Bletchey Park in England were routinely breaking the cypher that encrypted traffic...  More»

 
December 6, 2012, at 3:05 AM

Greetings from the (according to a website that I had never heard of before this week) most promiscuous city for gays in the United States.

Having lived here for six months, I confess I had not thought of our beautiful less-than-two-miles square haven of homosexuality in those terms.

But now, thanks to an entirely unscientific and vapid self-promotional study by a website for sugar daddies, the hoary(!) stereotype of WeHo's gay promiscuity has now gone viral. All the big sites picked up the "news" without comment. And to be frank, a bunch of people here, a bunch of fellow West Hollywood gays, laughed.

This should be a big week for gays in California. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant cert to the appellate court decision overturning Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California....  More»

 
December 7, 2012, at 3:35 PM

The U.S Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two gay marriage cases, including one in which federal benefits for a Massachusetts couple were denied under the Defense of Marriage Act, and another that overturned California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The court said it will hear oral arguments in late March. 

The case that has attracted the most attention from advocates and opponents alike is Windsor v. United States. The plaintiff, Edith Windsor, was required to pay a significant federal tax on the estate that she had inherited from her partner, who died in 2009....  More»

 
December 11, 2012, at 1:30 AM

The most compelling show now on television premiered last night, and all it took was a few minutes to hook me in. Luckily, I happened to catch the final few minutes, but that's when the drama really got good. I'm talking about Take It All, Howie Mandel's ingenious new game show, which is getting a trial run this week on NBC.  

Mandel calls the show a mix of Jerry Springer and Deal or No Deal, but he undersells it. It's actually the televised incarnation of one of the most wrenching and well-considered problems in ethics: the Prisoner's Dilemma. There are many variants, but the essence is this: Imagine two accomplices, arrested and charged with a crime. The district attorney separates the two mopes and gives each the same spiel: If they confess and the other prisoner doesn't, they'll go free and the other guy will do hard time....  More»

 
December 11, 2012, at 11:04 PM

Rarely has a small decline in the rate of an increase caused so much commotion. But the news, confirmed this past week, that obesity rates are not growing in certain cities, is an essential and necessary moment for public policy. The dirty little secret among obesity researchers is that many of them will tell you in private that no intervention short of the type of government intrusiveness that is intolerable for most Americans would actually have an impact on the problem. In that, they sound a lot like climate change researchers who despair that the damage done so far to the mechanisms of climate is beyond repair and that mitigation of future...  More»

 
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