Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
The Bush Administration continues to aggressively push its Wall Street bailout plan on Congress, where it's reaching a surprising amount of resistance. Congressional Leaders in the House and Senate are still trying to cut a deal with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, but the bailout seems to be getting more unpopular by the day with rank-and-file members of Congress from both parties.
Democrats are unhappy because the bailout favors Wall Street over Main Street. Republicans are unhappy about the $700 billion cost and expansion of "big government."
Matt Stoller of Open Left has been doing an excellent job of monitoring how members of Congress are reacting. Here's a great clip from Ohio Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur:
Gary Hart was a groomsman at John McCain's wedding to Cindy Lou Hensley, so he knows a thing or two about the Arizona Senator.
On the day of Sarah Palin's visit to Colorado, Hart--who represented the Centennial State in the Senate for twelve years--had a message for Palin and McCain: now is not the time for political ignorance to be rewarded.
"It's more than a little concerning that one of four people who may take up the highest national office is unwilling to engage in any serious questions or real discussion," Hart said on a conference call organized by the group ProgressNow. "I hope that this attention she is getting now is a bubble of sorts. Given the financial markets and what has happened just this weekend, stakes are even higher than they were 72 hours ago. This is not just another national election."
In 2004 Republicans had a strategy: turn John Kerry's biggest strength into an electoral liability. Democrats nominated Kerry largely because of his decorated military service in Vietnam, believing that Kerry's Purple Hearts would insulate him from Republican attacks on national security.
Kerry's military service was indeed an asset, until the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked both his combat experiences in Vietnam and his antiwar activism after.
Now what Wesley Clark said about John McCain is being compared to what the Swift Boaters said about John Kerry. I can't imagine a more ludicrous comparison. Clark, a retired four star general and former commander of NATO, was offering his opinion about whether McCain is supremely qualified to be commander-in-chief. As my colleague Ari Melber wrote today, others who wore the uniform have made similar points (including McCain!), without inciting the least bit of controversy.
Last winter, in the early stages of his run for the presidency, Barack Obama said he'd consider accepting public financing for the general election if his Republican opponent would do the same and agree to a set of ground rules, including limiting spending by party committees and outside 527 political advocacy groups.
That statement by Obama came before he assembled the most impressive fundraising juggernaut in modern political history, thanks in large part to an explosion of small donors giving over the internet. If Obama accepted public financing in the general, he'd have $85 million to spend between the end of his party's convention in late August and November 4. Obama realized he could raise far more than that for the late stages of his campaign and do so in a generally honorable way. (John McCain, in turn, refused to limit spending by the RNC or referee 527 groups active on his behalf). So today his campaign announced it would opt out of public financing in the general. As the great economist John Maynard Keynes once said, when accused of inconsistency: "When the facts change, I change my mind -- what do you do, sir?"
The facts changed for Obama. "It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama said in a message to supporters today. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."
The state of Iowa was the star of this political season for over a year. The Hawkeye state launched Barack Obama's candidacy, derailed Hillary Clinton's and turned Mike Huckabee into a GOP power-broker. All eyes were on Iowa--and then the political circus left, on to New Hampshire and the 48 caucuses and primaries that followed.
Now Iowa needs your attention again. Key parts of eastern Iowa, in case you haven't heard, are underwater, the result of catastrophic flooding. Nearly half of the state is considered a disaster area. "The economic costs of the devastating floods were also beginning to seep in," the New York Times reported today, "tourism officials, who depend on the short summers, were bracing for washed-out seasons; farmers in many states stared out at ponds that had once been their fields of beans and corn; and officials were preparing to shut down 315 miles of the Mississippi River, a crucial route for millions of tons of coal, grains and steel."