Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
You really couldn't script this race any better: Jon Powers is a 29-year-old Iraq Veteran and substitute teacher who founded a nonprofit to serve Iraqi orphans. He's running to fill the just-vacated seat of Tom Reynolds (R-New York) -- who, among the many blushes of his career, voted for the Iraq War, voted against a series of 9/11 Commission recommendations to improve homeland security, and for years turned a blind eye to Mark Foley's proclivity for underage pages.
Powers faces a likely opponent in the self-financed millionaire, Jack Davis, who dismisses Powers' chances accordingly: "He's 29 years old, and he's never had a real job." (Because serving in Iraq and working as a substitute teacher don't count.)
With Reynolds' retirement, the tally of Republicans who have declined this year to run for reelection has hit 29.
Run, Powers, run!
"Moost unusual." That was how CNN chose to headline its coverage of anti-war coverage last week--a slightly more subtle variant of the newscast's ultimate message: "Wow, get a load of these freaks."
"There was a lot of dress-up among protesters," the anchor intones sardonically. And later, bemusedly: "This bike-riding protester played chicken with a bus!" Much of the footage is trained on one woman in New York, who is seen alternately engrossed in a sing-song chant, "Shock and awe!" and haranguing protesters for their opposition to the war.
No sign of the veterans who came out in force to protest, or the many family members who have lost loved ones in the conflict.
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney reminded the country yesterday that while a $3-trillion war is hard--especially for those who have sacrificed family members--it's "obviously" hardest for President Bush. After all, said Cheney, "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans...the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."
In related news, the film Stop Loss debuts in theaters this week.
That's what Paul Krugman rightly wants to know. For months I've been struck by the jarring disconnect between the finance blogs I read, where people are basically screaming at the top of their lungs that the sky is falling, and the campaign blogs, where the financial crisis hardly makes an appearance. I think there are three (non mutually exclusive) reasons. One, which Krugman mentions, is that the crisis is deeply bewildering and the optimal policy is incredibly unclear. Two, there's probably some legitimate concern about the negative effect of a presidential candidate pointing out that the sky is in fact falling. Three, the candidates are largely funded by Wall St. and don't want to bring up the dreaded R word, regulation.
Elizabeth Spiers argues the Fed had to bail out Bear Stearns, because "the psychological repercussions of a Bear bankruptcy would have been even more devastating than the financial ones." Similar arguments proliferate: we had to bail out Wall Street to head off a "crisis of confidence."
Like most Americans, the contours of the current financial tailspin are many stories over my head. But that doesn't make the fact that our government just pumped in $200 billion in taxpayer money to secure Wall Street, then threw another $30 billion at Bear Stearns--after blocking the creation of tools for bankruptcy judges and states to address the mortgage crisis all last month--any harder to appreciate. Evidently, the psychological repercussions for the millions of Americans who have lost their homes don't really count.
This week, the scope of this disjunction left even the White House press corps incredulous. From a recent press briefing (and the transcript is worth reading in full):
Reporter: "But people who are facing, say, foreclosures, individuals, the little guys who are facing their foreclosure, are looking at the big guys getting government, if not brokered, certainly they're overseeing deals that are engineered to sort of keep the big picture financial community afloat, and they're saying, well, where's my boost of liquidity?"
Dana Perino: "They're going to get that boost of liquidity in the form of a stimulus package and a tax rebate that's coming to them the second week of May."
Reporter: "But that's not going to save their houses."
This is a moment where I really miss John Edwards.
As far as I can tell there are two main questions that need to be answered about the last eight years of American politics:
1) How was it that all of the institutions (the mainstream media, congress, the Fed, regulators) that should have prevented disaster (war, financial crisis) failed at the same time?
2) Why is it that now, particularly as regards to the war, but more broadly on a host of issue, the majority will of the people is not being translated into policy?
A few days ago, Dick Cheney caused a bit of a flap when asked by a reporter about the overwhelming public sentiment against the war. He responded, "So?"
Yesterday, the press corps followed up with Dana Perino and she had this to say:
Q So at what point -- I mean, I guess I just -- there is the impression that the Vice President doesn't care about what the American people think in policy like that. Is that a wrong impression? And does the President share that impression?
MS. PERINO: I think that is the wrong impression. I think that the Vice President and the President both, together, all of us across the administration, would like for people to support the President's decisions. We realize that that's unrealistic, especially in a time of war -- and in particular this war. And while we're not able to change public opinion, we also have to follow a principle and stand on principle. And you have to ask yourself, what kind of a person do you want in the Oval Office? And America will have this choice to make in November of 2008 -- before I get ahead of myself.
So we believe that the President stood on his principle. He hasn't chased public opinion polls. He's aware of them, but he hasn't made decisions because of them, and I think there's a distinction. Just because you don't make decisions based on opinion polls doesn't mean you don't care what people think. We are all Americans. We care deeply about what people think.
Q The American people are being asked to die and pay for this, and you're saying they have no say in this war?
MS. PERINO: I didn't say that, Helen. But, Helen, this President was elected --
Q Well, what it amounts to is you saying we have no input at all.
MS. PERINO: You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that's the way our system is set up.
Obviously this doesn't answer question two, but it provides some insight into just how insulated from public opinion this lame duck administration feels it is.
Turns out the original seven deadly sins were just the tip of the iceberg. In a globalized era, says the Vatican, we have to consider that sin isn't only individual, but societal. According to the updated list just released at a seminar hosted by the Apostolic Penitentiary (fun name, no?), these sins include new vices such as violating others' fundamental human rights, inflicting poverty, accumulating excessive wealth and environmental pollution.
That's not to say that the original sins aren't still relevant. As the Papal University's Father Gerald O'Collins notes, "One of the original deadly sins is sloth--disengagement and not getting involved....People collaborate simply by doing nothing."
Should make for some interesting conversational fodder when Benedict XVI arrives at the White House this April.
Matt thinks so. (Though it's also worth noting that the entire Wright controversy was set in motion via a few choice soundbites.)
Speaking of which, years ago, Mitchell Stephens observed that the catch-all critique of soundbites frequently obscures the real issue at hand: the media's habitual brevity and lack of depth in its analysis. Yes, in 1968, presidential candidates got an average of 43 seconds to uninterruptedly expound their views, while in 2004, the candidates got an average of 7.8 seconds. But Stephens argues that rather than attacking soundbites alone, it might make more sense to focus on the need for reporters' greater rigor in their question-asking. Longer soundbites "would not necessarily elevate television news or political discourse in general, and better use of short ones might." After all, it's as easy for a politician to drivel on without saying anything for 43 seconds as it is for eight.
A friend of mine just sent me some new (graphic) photos from Tibet, including additional images from Monday protests in Kathmandu.
While sometimes Chinese attempts at suppressing information are goofy (for example, putting white stickers over the section of Lonely Planets sold in Beijing that describes the Tiannamen Square massacre), in the case of domestic information about Tibet, such efforts have been effective and nearly monolithic. Accordingly, what's frightening here is the fact that as much as China has changed in recent decades, on territorial--and highly emotional--issues like Tibet and Taiwan, the conversation has not budged.
Last fall for a brief moment during Burma's "saffron revolution," we heard a lot about the power of the Internet to undermine repressive regimes. Yet the lesson of cases like Burma and Tibet is, more than anything, that the flowering of the Internet is hardly a proxy for some kind of velvet coup from within. Fiberoptic cables can't stop dictatorships; major trading partners can (or can try).
Meanwhile here in the United States, the State Department has responded accordingly: "This is an issue that is...longstanding in China and it's one that's going to have to be resolved internally between the parties.