The Week: Most Recent from Paul Brandus recent posts.en-usThu, 27 Mar 2014 09:00:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent from Paul Brandus from THE WEEKThu, 27 Mar 2014 09:00:00 -0400Forget Russia. America has a raft of more pressing problems.<img src="" /></P><p>Vladimir Putin once called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. He clearly wants to put the Soviet Union back together, in some form, and stick it to America whenever and wherever he can. We must do whatever it takes to stop him. (I worked in Russia for many years, am a student of the Cold War era and know how this guy thinks &mdash; I met him many years before his rise to international fame.)</p><p>But is Russia really America's No. 1 geopolitical foe, a claim Mitt Romney made in 2012, and which countless conservatives have recently latched onto...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Thu, 27 Mar 2014 09:00:00 -0400Why U.S. presidents are powerless to stop the Russians<img src="" /></P><p>Why is Vladimir Putin tossing away his $50 billion Olympic effort to polish Russia's international image by intervening militarily in Ukraine?</p><p>It helps to understand the mindset of this balding former KGB colonel who clawed his way up under Boris Yeltsin to become president 14 years ago. (I actually crossed paths with him when he was an unknown aide to the corrupt mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s).</p><p>This is a guy who has called the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the (20th) century." Like many Russians, Putin is deeply suspicious of what's called...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Sat, 01 Mar 2014 15:15:00 -0500Debunking 5 Keystone pipeline myths<img src="" /></P><p>On Friday, the State Department announced that it had no environmental objections to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would bring Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries. Predictably, that news is being cheered by the "drill, baby, drill" crowd, which sees the announcement as vindicating its pro-drilling position, and attacked by the greenies, who think Obama's talk of fighting climate change is a farce.</p><p>As usual, there's more to it than simplistic bumper-sticker opinions. Here are some of the biggest myths about Keystone:</p><p><strong>1. Keystone will define Obama's legacy on climate change. </strong>The...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 03 Feb 2014 09:50:00 -05005 things to be encouraged about in 2014<img src="" /></P><p>On New Year's Day, I wrote about five issues that we should all be worried about this year. But there are many things to be encouraged about as well. Here are five of them:</p><p><strong>1. Energy independence is on the horizon</strong><br />The United States exports gasoline by the boatload (literally) to the Middle East and the rest of the world. We now sell more than 3 million barrels a day of that and other refined energy products like diesel and jet fuel to foreigners &mdash; a figure that has tripled in recent years. Thanks to higher mileage standards for cars, along with other factors, we simply don't need as much...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Fri, 03 Jan 2014 06:06:00 -05005 things you should worry about in 2014<img src="" /></P><p><strong>1. The retirement crisis.</strong> Talk about a ticking time bomb: Some 38 million working-age households have next to nothing saved for their so-called "golden years": just $3,000, says the National Institute on Retirement Security. It used to be that retirement &mdash; a goal of every working American &mdash; was sort of like a three-legged stool: One leg was a pension, one was Social Security, and the third was your own savings. But pensions are vanishing, and Social Security is likely to be trimmed in the future. If there are 38 million households who haven't done anything about the third leg &mdash...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 08:45:00 -0500The 1st annual Tricky Dick Awards<img src="" /></P><p>Incompetence, sloppiness, greed, and outright dishonesty. As usual, 2013 saw more than its share of disappointing behavior by prominent public figures. And thanks to them, our trust in once-respected institutions like Congress and the media took yet another hit.</p><p>Who's responsible for this terrible, trust-shattering year? Well, without further ado, here are my, uh, winners, in alphabetical order, of the 2013 "Tricky Dick" Awards, named for our 37th president, Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon:</p><p><strong>John Boehner. </strong>The House speaker says he has a "zero tolerance" policy for ethics violations among members...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 30 Dec 2013 08:02:00 -0500Sandy Hook a year later: Our hopeless gun debate<img src="" /></P><p>This is where things stand. Twenty sets of parents and six other families in Newtown, Conn., on Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the unspeakable. For them, nothing has changed in the past year. Four seasons have come, four seasons have gone. The tears still flow, and grief that only a parent robbed of life's most precious gift &mdash; a child &mdash; can know has not diminished, and never will.</p><p>This is also where things stand: It has been, by most measures, a very good year for supporters of gun rights, and a year of dashed hopes and disillusionment for those who favor greater restrictions...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:45:00 -0500Why Republicans shouldn't get too excited over Obama's stumbles<img src="" /></P><p>One story line of the 2014 campaign (and no doubt the presidential race in 2016 itself) will go like this: ObamaCare, Republicans will shout, has been a disaster thus far and underscores the broader argument that big government programs &mdash; Democratic programs &mdash; can't solve complex social problems in 21st-century America. For this reason, they say, everyone should vote Republican.</p><p>Democrats will counter: Government can indeed solve big, complex problems, and the long-term success of Franklin Roosevelt's Social Security and Lyndon Johnson's Medicare proves it. And what of ObamaCare, then...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:15:00, Obama's cratering popularity, and the Democrats' big 2014 problem<img src="" /></P><p>Upgrades, patches, and fixes. If only President Obama could do the kind of quick repair job to his flailing administration that has been done over the last few weeks to the markedly less wobbly</p><p>Yes, the site is indeed less wobbly than it was a month ago. But don't be fooled: still has problems. Anyone who thinks Team Obama is breathing a sigh of relief, who thinks the administration is out of the woods, needs to know this: The administration has quietly canceled a big December ad campaign to encourage Americans to visit the site, out of fear that a new wave of visitors...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 02 Dec 2013 10:25:00 -0500Is the Iran deal Obama's 'Nixon goes to China' moment?<img src="" /></P><p>American presidents have a habit of blundering big time on Iran. The worst was Dwight Eisenhower, who in 1953 went along with a CIA plan to overthrow a democratically elected government and install our man the Shah &mdash; leading to six decades of Iranian resentment toward America that hurts us to this day.</p><p>Oops.</p><p>Then there was Jimmy Carter, who, on New Year's Eve 1977 in Tehran, called Iran "an island of stability." Toasting the Shah, Carter noted "the respect and admiration and love your people give to you." The Shah was overthrown a year later by Islamic hardliners.</p><p>Double oops.</p><p>So what...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 25 Nov 2013 11:42:00 -0500Did JFK predict his own death?<img src="" /></P><p>As utterly shocking and traumatic as the assassination of John F. Kennedy was, the one person who might not have been surprised that it happened was JFK himself.</p><p>It's worth remembering, as the 50th anniversary of JFK's death approaches, that the young president had a morbid fascination with sudden death &mdash; and sometimes speculated that he would die at the hands of an assassin.</p><p>"Thank God nobody wanted to kill me today," he said to a friend half a century ago tonight while flying from Florida to Washington. How would it happen? By someone firing at his motorcade from a high window, he thought...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 18 Nov 2013 10:32:00 -0500Obama's approval is drooping. But it's the GOP that should worry.<img src="" /></P><p>The rollout of ObamaCare &mdash; the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency &mdash; has been a sputtering embarrassment. Republicans have pulled out all the stops in an effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act, but in the end, it was Democrats who did the damage. The horrible website has gotten the most play, but that's actually the least of it. A few lines of code here, some additional servers there, and the site will probably be up and running in a few weeks.</p><p>The more serious problems haven't gotten nearly as much media attention because they're more complex, harder to explain...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Wed, 30 Oct 2013 09:10:00 -0400Uncle Sam is actually good at building websites<img src="" /></P><p>The end of the shutdown has switched attention from the Republicans' incompetent attempt to kill ObamaCare to the Democrats' incompetent attempt to implement it.</p><p>"We're bringing in the A-team," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN in response to questions about when the horribly glitchy Affordable Care Act (ACA) website will be fixed. The unflattering implication: Up until now, the administration has been using a B-team to design and build the most visible part of President Obama's most important domestic achievement.</p><p>But really, who would have guessed that a bunch of government bureaucrats...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:12:00 -0400JFK's murder was not a conspiracy<img src="" /></P><p>The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, is fast approaching. The murder of America's 35th president was a monstrously traumatic, instantly unforgettable event. It was over in about six seconds. And we've been arguing about it ever since.</p><p>Today, 59 percent of Americans believe the president's murder was the result of a conspiracy. That's actually down from 75 percent a decade ago. But the fact is, after half a century, such conspiracy theories have never been conclusively proven. These theories are fueled by shadowy photos, odd coincidences,...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 14 Oct 2013 06:04:00 -0400Who will 'win' the government shutdown?<img src="" /></P><p>The fight over ObamaCare and a government shutdown is being driven by confusion, arrogance, political opportunism, and history. It is most definitely not being driven by principle. Really, principle? In Washington? Please.</p><p>So which side has the upper hand in this embarrassing circus? Let's examine each of the motivators:</p><p><strong>Confusion</strong><br />Many Americans say ObamaCare is horrible, according to a CNBC poll released on Thursday. But they also believe the Affordable Care Act is pretty good. (Spoiler alert: They're the same thing, folks). It's the name "Obama" that is driving opinion here, not detailed knowledge...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 30 Sep 2013 10:31:00 -0400The GOP's stunning hypocrisy<img src="" /></P><p>How was your weekend? Maybe you talked to a friend or two you haven't seen in a while? That's what President Obama did. He called his good buddy John Boehner Friday night. But it didn't appear to be a very friendly chat. The president informed the House speaker that he wasn't going to negotiate with him on the debt limit. Boehner said he was disappointed. The call was described by an aide to Boehner as brief.</p><p>The government's new fiscal year starts in just nine days. There's no budget. We've already hit our debt limit. The only reason Uncle Sam hasn't defaulted yet is because the Treasury Department...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/paul-brandus" ><span class="byline">Paul Brandus</span></a>Mon, 23 Sep 2013 12:30:00 -0400