On November 26, the Obama administration put forward new anti-smog regulations that should prevent thousands of premature deaths and heart attacks every year. About two weeks later, Obama’s appointees at the Federal Reserve implemented new rules curbing reckless borrowing by giant banks that will reduce profits and shareholder earnings but increase the safety of the financial system. Yet both of these were minor stories compared to normalizing relations with Cuba after decades and his sweeping plan to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Somewhere in the meantime, Democrats broke the congressional logjam and got a whole boatload of nominees confirmed.
It has been, in short, a very busy and extremely consequential lame-duck session. One whose significance is made all the more striking by the fact that it follows an electoral catastrophe for Obama’s party. And that is the Obama era in a microcosm. Democrats’ overwhelming electoral win in 2008 did not prove to be a “realigning” election that handed the party enduring political dominance. Quite the opposite. But it did touch off a wave of domestic policymaking whose scale makes Obama a major historical figure in the way his two predecessors won’t be.
Americans of all stripes were justifiably proud when the country elected its first black president in 2008, and again when he was reelected in 2012. The fact is that no other comparable democracy, in Europe or elsewhere, was then or would now be prepared to elect a leader from a minority group. But even as I watched the celebrations on election night in November 2008, I felt an undercurrent of unease. Heartening as it was, this was not a sign that we had broken the back of racism or of racially driven divisions in the country. The election of an African-American president could be seen by racists in America as a sign that they could be more blunt in expressing their views. After all, who could now say America is racist? And the same mindset could lead others to enable statements or actions that would otherwise be seen as over the line. And, of course, the inevitable harsh criticism of a president by partisans on the other side, something that comes with the territory, could easily take on a racial dimension for Barack Obama.
Over time, the hostility toward Obama grew dramatically, and so did racist statements. Actually, it did not take very long. One year into his presidency, ABC News catalogued an array of racially tinged and overtly racist statements or actions taken against Obama. They came from election and party officials and media figures, including Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. In the years since, the number of prominent figures using race as a wedge only grew. They include a New Hampshire police commissioner using the “N” word to refer to the president, a Montana federal district judge sending racist emails, and many others.
Most troubling is that some of the most loathsome comments have been enabled and legitimized. After Ted Nugent called the president of the United States a “subhuman mongrel”—a term CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted was used by the Nazis to justify the extermination of Jews—Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott welcomed this incendiary and hateful figure at a campaign event. And Colorado Senate candidate Tom Tancredo excitedly announced that he had gotten Nugent to contribute one of his assault weapons for Tancredo to auction off to help finance his campaign.
Race has always been, and probably always will be, a critical fault line in our society and democracy. It is a major challenge for Republican leaders to find ways—not with a few symbols or gestures, but through real sensitivity and policy reforms—to both reduce racial tensions and to appeal to more nonwhite Americans. And it is an immense challenge for Obama—a historic figure, the first African-American president, not simply the first president of and for African Americans—to build broad bridges and trust that keep the coming tremors low on the Richter scale.
Edited to add the related item below.
One of the most encouraging economic policy developments of the past few years has been Republicans’ newfound love of tax breaks for low-income people. Paul Ryan made an Earned Income Tax Credit expansion the centerpiece of his anti-poverty plan, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has championed a tax reform proposal greatly increasing the Child Tax Credit, which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has signed onto as well. Together, the EITC and CTC lifted about 10.1 million people out of poverty in 2012.
But these anti-poverty tax breaks are now in danger. Expansions to both credits are set to expire in 2017, and a deal to extend corporate tax breaks worked out by Republican House Ways and Means chair Dave Camp and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t have made the low-income tax breaks permanent. That prompted an Obama administration veto threat.
In which Dana Milbank proves that the weather’s lovely on the moons of Neptune, where he apparently has spent the past six years. Here’s the simple truth. The country doesn’t want a conversation on race, especially one led by the blah president whose simple legitimacy has been under assault since the moment his hand came off the Bible. The country doesn’t want a conversation on race unless it is sure from the outset that white people will “win” it. The idea that the president could jump-start this conversation, let alone “give voice” to black people’s complaints about (largely) white policemen who are killing them, and not be greeted with the shitstorm sharknado of all time, is so fantastical that it makes me wonder whether I even read Milbank correctly.
Put simply, in so many areas, the president is putting the responsibility of governing — of Leadership (!)tm — on us, which is where it should be. We shouldn’t need a president to start a conversation on race. We should start it ourselves, in thousands of town halls and church basements and radio talk-shows. But, as a self-governing democracy, we are too cowardly to do it honestly, because it rubs up against the comfortable myth of American exceptionalism. We should make him do things, not the other way around. That’s been the fundamental challenge of him from the outset. He’s left the hard and necessary work of self-government to a country that simply is no longer up to the job. If all Barack Obama’s administration has done is to become the mirror in which we see that basic fact about ourselves, that’s all the Leadership (!)tm we should expect from any president. He’s not the 98-pound weakling. America is.
As near as I can tell, both liberal and conservative legal scholars—as opposed to TV talking heads and other professional rabble-rousers—agree that Obama has the authority to reshape immigration enforcement in nearly any way he wants to. Here are answers to five key questions about the legality of the immigration plan Obama announced tonight:
BEIJING: US President Barack Obama announced Monday (Nov 10) a deal to extend visas for Chinese nationals going to the United States to work or study, insisting he wants China “to do well” despite simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
“The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China,” Obama said in a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. But he urged China to free up its markets and its tightly controlled exchange rate, and respect human rights and media freedoms.
The visa deal will see student and exchange visas extended to five years, with business and tourist visas’ validity stretched out to a decade.
There were 1.8 million Chinese visitors to the US last year, Obama said, contributing US$21 billion to the economy and supporting more than 100,000 jobs. “This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers,” he said, describing it as an “important breakthrough which will benefit our economies, bring our people together”.
The arrangement is supposed to be reciprocal, so I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t need to go through my annual work visa renewal after next year.
The truth is, Obama and Powell’s political views owe more to their blackness than to their respective parties. Though one is a Democrat and the other a Republican, they are cut from the same political cloth that adorns many black American voters. It is stitched from a black American culture that values the traditional Republican-platform tenets of social conservatism, fiscal responsibility and a strong national-security posture. And then it’s dyed in a black American experience that supports the Democratic principles of civil rights protections and a communal responsibility for equal access to economic opportunities. The result is a black politician who’s sometimes liberal and sometimes conservative.
The nuanced views of black politicians with national appeal often invite analysis of whether they truly adhere to the ideology of their chosen parties. For example, in 2010 The Root’s David Swerdlick noted that Obama actually governs like a moderate Republican. More recently, in the American Conservative, former Ronald Reagan appointee Bruce Bartlett argued that Obama is essentially “what used to be called a liberal Republican before all such people disappeared from the GOP.” Conversely, others have opined that Powell is principally a Democrat, or worse, lobbed tacit accusations of duplicity at him.
Those old enough to remember the Vietnam War during the period of 1963-65 or so may experience deja vu.
In the strongest sign yet of U.S. doubts about the Iraqi government’s ability to stabilize the strife-torn country, President Barack Obama questioned the future leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying the country’s political elite needed to rise above sectarian differences and find an “inclusive agenda.”
“Whether he is prime minister, or any other leader aspires to lead the country, it has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shia and Kurds all feel they have the opportunity to advance their interests through the political process,” Obama said at a White House briefing Thursday.
He added that the “test was before” Maliki, and that “the future of Iraq hangs in the balance.”
Obama’s statement comes amid reports that the White House is weighing whether to press the Iraqi prime minister to step down in a last-ditch effort to avert a full-scale civil war.
Obama also announced Thursday that the U.S. would increase the number of “military advisers” in Iraq, while still holding out the possibility for “targeted and precise” airstrikes in the country.
Submitted without comment.
O decision on Iraq is right one. I was open 2 staying if he made the case it wld help w Iran, but Iraq war is over. It's time
Last American combat troops leave Iraq. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory.