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July 2, 2013, at 7:00 PM

In 1971, Greg Gude’s outrage over wild horses being hunted down, slaughtered, butchered, and sold as pet food led to his lobbying of a key lawmaker to get a federal law passed to protect them.

Gude was just 11 years old at the time. But his father, Gilbert Gude, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland.

Said Gude: "I lived with my Congressman. I could lobby at the dinner table."

The young boy even made the evening news with Walter Cronkite telling viewers how an 11-year-old had persuaded his father "to introduce a bill to protect wild horses and burros on the western plains."

Gude even testified at House hearings on the legislation. Some months later, President Nixon signed a bill into law to protect the wild horses and halt the commercial capture and slaughter of wild horses roaming federal lands....  More»

 
July 2, 2013, at 7:50 PM

Reports of my early retirement are premature. I made the editorial decision that blogging at The Week about the political affairs of Morocco on vacation might not meet readers' expectations. But perhaps I should have at least sent a postcard!

Nonetheless, it's good to be missed. Here’s a quick report of what I learned on my summer vacation.

Several years ago, friends canceled their Moroccan trip due to the Arab Spring uprisings sweeping across much of North Africa. Massive protests had forced rulers from power in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. And it looked like they might do the same in Morocco, with angry crowds growing in Casablanca and the capital city of Rabat.

But the protests failed to gain steam and King Mohammed VI remained safely in power and in possession of his 52 palaces....  More»

 
July 3, 2013, at 8:38 AM

If you're still looking for a good book to read on the beach this summer, you can stop looking.

Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America by Dan Balz is an incredibly interesting and fun look back at last year's presidential campaign.

The book doesn't go on sale until next month, but many news outlets got early copies and are already leaking some of the better stories.

The Huffington Post and USA Today describe a story from Christmas 2010 when Mitt Romney's family overwhelmingly voted against the idea of a presidential campaign by a landslide margin, 10 to 2....  More»

 
July 3, 2013, at 11:30 AM

Implementing President Obama's health-care reform law was never going to be an easy. Its complexity makes it one of the biggest domestic policy challenges ever undertaken by the federal government.

And Republican opposition to the law at every turn has only made implementation harder. The GOP will stop at nothing in its attempts to derail the law.

But yesterday's surprise announcement delaying the large employer mandate until after the 2014 midterm elections was a political earthquake inside the Beltway.

Said Speaker John Boehner in a statement: "This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."

Making matters worse, the Treasury Department made the statement while President Obama was on Air Force One returning from Africa....  More»

 

As the United States celebrates Independence Day, a new Gallup poll finds that 57 percent of Americans are "extremely proud" to be a citizen while 28 percent are "very proud.” That's a total of 85 percent of adults who say they are proud to be an American on the nation's birthday.

Interestingly, Gallup notes this high level of pride in being an American "has varied only moderately over the past 12 years since the question was first asked."

However, Americans are much less sure that the signers of the Declaration of Independence would actually be pleased by the way the United States has grown as a nation over the last 237 years. A whopping 71 percent of Americans say the signers would be disappointed, while 27 percent say they would be pleased.

This is almost certainly a reflection of the extreme negativity Americans feel toward their government ...  More»

 

A new Pew Research survey finds that when asked for one-word descriptions of President Obama and former President George W. Bush, the word incompetent seems to resonate loudly with many Americans. Near equal numbers chose the word as the best description of the two men.

Lloyd Green suggests it's not a coincidence because the signature policies of both — bringing democracy to the Middle East for Bush and universal health care for Obama — have run aground.

Writes Green: "Bush's incompetence was born of excess idealism. Rather than seeing a region mired in muck, he envisioned a world created anew and ignored the question of what happens the day after? As for Obama, he has treated legislative victory as an end in itself, while ignoring the reality of actual implementation....  More»

 

Even though the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report after the 2012 presidential election urged the party to repair its relationship with Hispanic voters, few in the rank-and-file are paying attention.

In fact, it seems they’re on their way to making the problems for their party worse.

Top Republicans on Capitol Hill tell Politico that the comprehensive immigration reform bill — which overwhelmingly passed the Senate last month — “will die a slow, months-long death in the House."

Rick Klein sees the same dynamic forming: "As unfathomable as it seems that a bill supported by two-thirds of senators never comes up for a vote in the House, that's now clearly the path we're on."

The conventional wisdom suggested Republicans would pass immigration reform to improve their political position with Hispanics....  More»

 
July 10, 2013, at 10:30 AM

The frustration Americans feel towards their government and their elected officials is well-documented. But an interesting new Gallup survey shows large majorities backing three political reforms they think could turn things around:

1. 68 percent of voters support a national referendum on key issues as long as enough voters sign a petition requesting a popular vote.
2. 61 percent want to shorten the presidential campaign to just five weeks — stretching from late September to the November election.
3. 58 percent support a national primary day to choose the presidential candidates.

Gallup notes that at various times this year, it has retested public support for the three reforms using slightly different question-wording and format, and each time found that half or more of Americans still favor each of them....  More»

 

It wasn't pretty but progress was made in Washington this week.

Senate Democrats and Republicans engaged in some brinksmanship over the filibuster, but after looking over the edge, both parties decided it wasn't worth the threat of the "nuclear option" to continue to block President Obama's nominees.

This led to the relatively quick confirmation of the president's picks to head the Labor Department and the Environment Protection Agency. It also led to confirmation of his choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key agency created to fix weaknesses in the country's financial regulatory system that many believe led to the economic crisis five years ago.

In addition, Senate Democrats and Republicans also reached a deal to reduce interest rates on student loans, with a vote promised early next week....  More»

 
July 24, 2013, at 11:14 AM

We’ve known for years that most Americans have grown tired of their representatives in Washington, D.C., but a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows their disaffection hitting new highs.

A stunning 83 percent now disapprove of the job Congress is doing, which is an all-time high in the survey. In addition, 57 percent would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if given the option.

President Obama doesn’t escape the disdain of Americans either. His approval rate is now just 45 percent, it’s lowest level since the August 2011 debt-ceiling fight, which wounded nearly every politician.

When asked to explain why they don’t like what’s going on in the nation’s capital, survey respondents cite the following:

1....  More»

 
July 24, 2013, at 4:38 PM

When the House Republican leadership found out that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) claimed that for every undocumented high school valedictorian there were another 100 "hauling…marijuana across the desert," they correctly reacted in horror.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the comments "hateful," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said they were "inexcusable."

But King refuses to back down. In fact, he thinks he’s winning the debate.

King gave this explanation to Breitbart News: "You know when people attack you — in this business, when you're in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, they're diverting from the topic matter. You know they've lost the debate when they do that. We've talked about it for years....  More»

 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said in an interview on WTOP that he is working with his lawyers to arrange the return of many gifts he accepted from a political donor, Jonnie Williams Jr., including a $6,500 Rolex watch.

This follows his announcement last week that he would repay approximately $120,000 in loans to Williams.

Said McDonnell: "My intent is everything I have received from this particular donor... that those gifts that I have in my possession, I am working with my counsel to be able to return."

But as TPM reports, McDonnell also threw his wife under the scandal bus claiming that it was her office that organized a 2011 event for Williams and his company at the governor's mansion. He claims to have known nothing about it.

McDonnell could have learned a few things from another politician with presidential aspirations who faced a similar...  More»

 

When Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) announced his intention to not run for Congress next year — he's taking a post in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration — he stressed that it was the "brutal party politics in Washington and fundraising" that contributed to his decision.

In just about six months since they were sworn in, we’ve already seen three retirements and two resignations from the House of Representatives. In the Senate, there have been seven retirements.

You can hardly blame them. Congress has never been more unpopular. Approval ratings for Congress are regularly in the single digits.

And they don’t get much done either. With just 22 pieces of legislation passed so far this year, lawmakers are easily on track to set new lows in productivity....  More»

 

The Republican National Committee voted to exclude CNN and NBC from sponsoring debates featuring Republican presidential candidates because of their plans to air shows about Hillary Clinton.

The measure got plenty of headlines over the weekend but ignores an important part of the modern presidential primary process. The national parties actually have little to do with the debates. It's up to candidates to decide whether to accept or reject invitations. When faced with an offer of free airtime on a major network, it might be hard for the candidates to say no.

That said, it was a smart move by RNC chairman Reince Priebus to attempt to limit the number of primary debates. In 2012, Republicans debated an astonishing 20 times and amounted to a clown show....  More»

 
August 21, 2013, at 9:47 AM

A new Gallup poll finds the summer has once again not been kind to President Obama, with his approval rate dipping yet again. In fact, August has historically been the worst month for his approval rating throughout his presidency.

But there's a big difference this year: Republicans have had a worse summer.

Halfway through the August recess, congressional Republicans are still fighting with each other over the direction of their party. While they're united in hating ObamaCare, they have no coherent strategy for confronting Democrats and the president. Some want to shut down the government in an attempt to defund ObamaCare, some want to use the debt ceiling as leverage, and some think both ideas are nuts.

Newt Gingrich even slammed Republicans for having "zero answer" when it comes to an alternative health care plan....  More»

 

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) voted against the authorization of military force in Syria earlier this week in committee, he joined the other leading GOP contenders for president in 2016 — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — in opposing military intervention.

It's an interesting and stunning reversal that it's now considered the politically safe decision for Republican lawmakers to vote against war. They may have noticed how Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes were dashed in 2008 after she voted to authorize the Iraq war.

They may also have seen how Paul has pulled much of the party toward his non-intervention philosophy. In the process, he's won the support of many younger voters.

However, with three lawmakers lining up against intervention, it does create a rather big opening for another Republican from the Establishment-side...  More»

 

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman points out that President Obama's landmark health care reform law is already pushing down health insurance premiums.

He explains: "Until now there has been sort of a market — but one that…is riddled with problems. It was very hard for individuals to figure out what they were buying… Price and quality comparisons were near-impossible. Under these conditions the magic of the marketplace couldn't work — there really wasn't a proper market."

The main result of ObamaCare is that we have real market competition for health care insurance — something that didn't exist before....  More»

 
September 12, 2013, at 1:57 PM

The Republican Party's obsession with trying to block President Obama's health care law now threatens to shut down the federal government in just a few weeks.

Let's look at the facts:

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to stop ObamaCare when it passed the House and Senate in 2010.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to repeal the law on any of their 40 attempts to do so.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes on the Supreme Court to overturn the law or find it unconstitutional.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to elect a new president in 2012 who would repeal the law.

...  More»
 
September 16, 2013, at 11:43 AM

As Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill seek to repeal or defund ObamaCare, many Republican governors are actually actively embracing it — and seeing a lift in their political fortunes as a result.

Specifically, GOP governors are actively taking the funding through Medicaid expansion that the law provides even while members of their own party are proposing to take it away.

Some interesting developments:

  • In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) had been trailing likely challenger Mark Schauer (D), but after Snyder twisted his fellow GOP legislators to pass Medicaid expansion as a part of ObamaCare, Snyder now tops Schauer by 8 points.

  • Gov. John Kasich (R) has long embraced Medicaid, even chiding the GOP-controlled legislature, and his poll numbers remain high.

...  More»
 

Though regional differences are common in politics, Democrats from all parts of the country have embraced increasing the minimum wage. While conservative Democrats stay away from issues like marriage equality and gun control, liberal Democrats from California to conservative Democrats from Arkansas have found an issue that unites them.

Consider the facts:

California: The legislature, which now has a Democratic supermajority, passed and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has said he will sign legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.

North Carolina: Democrats have found themselves in the minority in the legislature. They introduced legislation tying the state's minimum wage to the consumer price index, which Republicans promptly killed....  More»

 

With the the federal government reopened and the debt ceiling lifted, we're just starting to see the political ramifications of the three-week stalemate.They're mostly negative for Republicans. But it's more than a year until the 2014 elections, which is a very long time in politics. We're not going to know for several months how much electoral damage Republicans inflicted on themselves.

Here's what I'll be looking for over the next few months:

1. Will Democrats be able to recruit stronger House candidates?

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt (D) announced he would run for Congress in Arkansas for the seat currently held by Rep....  More»

 
October 21, 2013, at 3:03 PM

When he is sworn in later this month, Cory Booker will be a celebrity in the U.S. Senate. He has over a million Twitter followers, is known nationally, and was even the star of an Oscar-nominated documentary in 2005 called Street Fight.

Many new senators with celebrity status put their heads down and get to work. Examples include then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). Both freshman lawmakers did very few national interviews and focused mainly on establishing themselves in a legislative chamber that prizes seniority over notoriety....  More»

 
October 21, 2013, at 6:08 PM

Perhaps Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was onto something when he was busted playing video games during a Senate hearing?

Conversations with Thinkers interviews defense policy expert Corey Mead about the deep connections between video games and the U.S. military. He calls it the "Military-Entertainment Complex."

From single shooter games to specially customized, near-real-life military scenarios, video games have become an incredibly important tool in how we recruit, train, and even heal U.S. soldiers — important to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

One example is FlatWord, which Mead calls "the military’s ultimate vision for the future." Outfitted with 3D glasses, the ground “moves beneath you,” while the programmer dials up scenes from Afghanistan or Iraq or any other location....  More»

 

President Obama admitted his frustration with the technical problems plaguing the health care insurance exchanges which launched earlier this month.

Said Obama: "Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed... There's no sugarcoating it."

But the takeaway from two new polls is that the rocky rollout hasn't hurt public support for the law — at least not yet.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds the "bungled rollout has not soured support for the health law overall."

Key findings: 46 percent now support the law while 49 percent oppose it, slightly better than the 42 ...  More»

 
October 22, 2013, at 9:29 AM

Although many pundits describe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as on the fringes of the Republican Party, a new Democracy Corps poll finds he's actually right in the ideological middle.

Tea Party and evangelical segments of the party make up over half of all Republicans, and these groups think very highly of Cruz. He scores an 81.8 positive rating among Tea Partiers and a 75.9 rating among Evangelicals.

Among moderate Republicans, who make up just a quarter of the GOP, Cruz scores a 51.0 rating.

Among voters nationwide, Cruz gets just a 39.7 favorable rating....  More»

 
October 25, 2013, at 12:48 PM

If you look at any recent poll, Americans are desperate for their government to work better. They're not happy with anyone — from President Obama to both parties in Congress.

In fact, a new USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll finds that just 4 percent of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — think Congress would be worse if every member replaced in the elections next year. More striking is that nearly half — 47 percent — think Congress would work better if that happened.

The events of this month — highlighted by a 17-day government shutdown and a bungled rollout of the ObamaCare insurance exchanges ...  More»

 
October 28, 2013, at 8:48 PM

It's easy to overstate the impact of one race for governor but, as Mark Murray points out, Virginia is a state that increasingly looks very much like the United States as a whole.

"In the last two presidential contests, the state's popular vote (Obama 53-46 percent in '08; Obama 51-47 percent in '12) exactly matched the national popular vote... And Virginia, demographically, looks like the country at large — whites near 70 percent of the population, African Americans in the double digits, Latinos at 8 percent, Asian Americans at 6 percent. It also has a fairly even mixture of urban, suburban, and rural areas....  More»

 

President Obama created a major public relations headache for himself when he declared — repeatedly — over the last several years that people who like their health insurance plan would be able to keep it under the Affordable Care Act.

However, NBC News reported last night that millions of Americans will actually lose their existing insurance coverage and the White House knew this was coming.

The problem is that the health care system is much complicated and more nuanced than Obama's convenient sound bite. He probably shouldn't have said it....  More»

 

With the government shutdown and debt ceiling battles behind us — at least until January — focus has turned to what in politics passes for the long term: Next year’s midterm elections.

It’s tempting for Democrats to say the government shutdown put Republicans on a course to lose the House of Representatives.

It’s also tempting for Republicans to say the bungled ObamaCare website will haunt Democrats through next November.

The reality is that there’s still more than a year before the midterm elections and the storyline is still being written.

Chris Riback had a very interesting and revealing conversation with Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report on how he sees next year’s political battle lines forming....  More»

 
October 30, 2013, at 10:21 AM

After weeks of dealing with the bungled rollout of the ObamaCare website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for the first time apologized as she testified before Congress today.

She told lawmakers the HealthCare.gov experience was "miserably frustrating," and said she was sorry: "You deserve better. I apologize."

The apology was disarming in its sincerity. But it was also striking because so few politicians ever apologize for their mistakes in office.

It’s odd because apologies can be very effective.

As the American Prospect notes, people "are very reluctant to reject apologies, and people who do reject one are viewed negatively ...  More»

 
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