With the reelection of President Barack Obama on Tuesday night along with the election and in some cases reelection of a number of notable women including Tammy Duckworth, Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill, and Maggie Hassan, the US electorate displayed quite a split in sentiment about the direction of the nation. A nation struggling in the depths of an economic meltdown expressed intense dissatisfaction with both major Presidential candidates—the President actually lost vote share from 2008, which is unusual—while still sending a message that it was fed up with the tone of politics in the US.
On 18 May 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to to publicly encourage a Palestinian/Israeli accord based on the 1967 borders. Not only that, but he did so in the context of a speech about freedom and self-determination throughout the Middle East before a largely unsympathetic audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the notoriously hawkish pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States. His words were measured, even conservative, but it is worth revisiting them here:
…a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
It was a surprising speech, one that Obama may never have given if not for the death of Osama bin Laden and the resulting uptick in his approval ratings. Perhaps he learned in the first two years that political capital is a terrible thing to waste. Whatever the reason for his time, this was a speech with great symbolic import. A U.S. president mired in racialized conspiracy theories about his own origins and his own beliefs at home is not the most likely candidate to offer criticisms of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. And he’s certainly not likely to do it before an audience at AIPAC, through a televised address. The speech means something, and it’s important to consider both what it does and does not do.
Two years and some change (or, depending on who you ask, nearly three years and NO change) into his presidency, Barack Obama’s policies have upset and disappointed me.
I had high hopes for a President who had spent so much of his youth abroad, who was brilliant and refined, an elegant and unapologetic intellectual. In spite of Obama’s initially robust and repeated promises, my government is still heavily embroiled in simultaneous wars for profit in the Middle East and only recently began military pull-out in Iraq. Military drone strikes – part of the increasingly nebulous Bush Administration legacy dubbed the”War on Terror” – continue in Pakistan, killing civilians and allies. Guantanamo Bay is still open, and doesn’t appear to show any serious signs of closing, either. Continue reading
For those of us who read John Le Carré novels and fancy ourselves to be espionage buffs, the FBI’s dramatic bust of an alleged Russian spy ring last week provided an opportunity to show off our knowledge of terms like dead drops, brush-passes and tradecraft. It also confirmed rumors that Moscow had sharply stepped up its foreign intelligence activities after they practically came to a halt with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
You’d think that spy-fiction fans like myself would be thrilled by the exposure of 11 alleged Russian secret agents operating under false identities in the northeast United States. And I have to admit that it has been gripping to follow the story as prosecutors and the media have shed light on the methods of the SVR, Moscow’s shadowy foreign intelligence service. Continue reading
President Obama has received significant criticism over his handling of the BP oil spill. Some of the criticism lacks much legitimacy; after all, Obama can’t personally go stop the oil spill. Obama has to rely on the oil industry to fix the leak because no one else has the ability to complete the task.
However, a good portion of the criticism strikes home because it addresses problems with Obama’s leadership. James Carville, the long-time Democratic political consultant and Louisiana native, lambasted Obama last week. Carville said on Good Morning America, “You got to get down and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this and get this thing moving. We’re about to die down here.” He continued, “These people are crying, they’re begging for something down here. It just looks like he’s not involved in this.”
People might expect too much of Obama. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows 42% of Americans disapproving of Obama’s handling of the oil crisis, with only 39% approving. However, Obama has an odd unwillingness to create political capital for himself outside of elections. Why not go to Louisiana and show empathy? Why even allow critics to compare him to Bush’s actions after Hurricane Katrina? Continue reading
Oil has been flowing into the gulf for over a month now and it seems that a resolution continues to remain just out of reach. The disaster is now openly being compared to Hurricane Katrina – and while both of these events have caused a tremendous amount of damage, they are vastly different. In an effort to assign blame, politicians as well as the public have lashed out in anger at the Obama administration. The president has answered his critics in a recent press conference by stating that, “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.” This statement is in line with his pledge to increase accountability and transparency in U.S. government. Continue reading
On TV this morning, I heard a talking head say President Obama might have selected Elena Kagan as the Supreme Court nominee because, like Obama, Kagan is a good mediator.
The former dean of Harvard Law School probably did have to quell mutinies every few minutes. Of course, it appears the victors of these mediations were “largely white men,” but nevermind. At some point, she probably threatened to saw a baby in half, thus saving the very fabric of Harvard Law School, Queen Kagan-style.
The talking head is right about one thing. Continue reading
The state of Arizona’s new anti-immigration law shines a spotlight on the racism of large swaths of American society. It also gives President Obama a chance to take a politically smart and morally righteous stand in favor of immigration reform and civil rights for immigrants.
On April 23, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a new law that would require police officers to question someone about their immigration status if they believe the individual might be an illegal immigrant. Officers can require suspects to provide identification to determine immigration status. Continue reading
April 19th marked the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Timothy McVeigh was spurred to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by what he deemed to be the mishandling of Waco and the Ruby Ridge incident. Initially, after the bombing, the American media was quick to suggest that this was the work of Middle East Jihadists; however, it would ultimately prove to be an act of domestic terrorism. Since this bombing, the U.S has engaged in two wars in the Middle East. Yet the threat of domestic terrorism has steadily increased to the point where it is reasonable to wonder whether or not another domestic incident is perhaps more imminent than an outside threat.
In February of this year, Joseph Andrew Stack set fire to his home and then flew a Dakota-236, 235-horsepower single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee aircraft into an IRS office in Austin Texas, killing two and severely injuring 13 people. Stack left a rage filled suicide note on the internet. According to the Vancouver Sun, Stack wrote:
“I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at ‘big brother’ while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.”
The most disturbing thing about reading Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland is how little has changed. Even the names of the players themselves–some are still around, like Charlie Rangel, Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Buchanan, G. Gordon Liddy, and Jerry Brown. Others, like George Romney, George H.W. Bush and Birch Bayh, bequeathed us their progeny. A few more recently passed away but leave long shadows over the Senate—Ted Kennedy and Strom Thurmond. Continue reading