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Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Justice for Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden (AP Photo)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous US citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as The New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”

In an interview that The Nation magazine is publishing this week, Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen and I asked Snowden his definition of patriotism. He sensibly argues patriotism is not “acting to benefit the government,” but to “act on behalf of one’s country…. You’re not patriotic just because you back whoever’s in power today…. You’re patriotic when you work to improve the lives of the people of your country,” including protecting their rights.

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That requires hard choices. When a government is trampling the rights of the people in secrecy, patriots have a duty to speak out. Snowden notes that there is no “oath of secrecy” for people who work for the government. Contract employees like Snowden sign a form, a civil agreement, agreeing not to release classified information, opening themselves to civil or criminal prosecution if they do. “But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy, but to the Constitution—to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept.”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

In North Carolina, Populist Mobilization Buoys Democrat Kay Hagan

Hagan Tillis

Senator Kay Hagan, left, D-NC, and North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Pool)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

If Democrats hold onto their Senate majority this year, the North Carolina Senate race may be their life raft. Incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D) has managed to maintain a small lead over Republican Thom Tillis in all of the five most recent polls.

Hagan was considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats. She was first elected in 2008, when President Obama drove massive turnout and carried the state. Since then Obama’s approval has plummeted. In 2012, conservatives—fueled by massive contributions from multimillionaire Art Pope—took over the governor’s mansion as well as both chambers of the legislature. One of their first acts was to push through restrictions on voting, including ending same-day voter registration and curtailing early voting, in an effort clearly designed to suppress the votes of poor and minority voters. (The Supreme Court just overruled the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had stayed implementation of the measures under the Civil Rights Act.)

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Almost two-thirds of US voters surveyed think the country is on the wrong track. Mitt Romney won North Carolina in 2012 by a small margin. And the state hasn’t re-elected a Democratic senator since Sam Ervin in 1968.

Not surprisingly, Hagan was targeted early by the deep-pocket right-wing PACs. Americans for Prosperity dumped a staggering $7 million in adsagainst Hagan by March of this year. Karl Rove’s fronts—American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS—plan to spend $1 million a week in the last month of the campaign. (Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, was Rove’s candidate in the Republican primary.)

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Eric Schneiderman Is Still Seeking Justice for the Financial Crisis

Eric Schneiderman

Eric Schneiderman (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

After six years in office, departing Attorney General Eric Holder will leave behind a strong legacy of defending civil rights. As the first black American to lead the Justice Department, Holder fought to stop voter suppression, to change unfair sentencing policies, and—by refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act—to end discrimination against LGBT couples. Holder’s resignation announcement last month, understandably, has prompted a wave of speculation about who will replace him. That’s an important conversation, but we should be paying equal attention to the states, where attorneys general are elected and have significant influence over the application of the law.

For instance, while progressives were rightly disappointed by Holder’s failure to punish Wall Street for financial crimes leading up to the economic crisis, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been almost single-handedly fighting an uphill battle to hold the banks accountable. Now running for reelection, Schneiderman has devoted much of the past four years to delivering some measure of justice to millions of Americans, in New York and across the country, who suffered as a result of Wall Street’s destructive behavior.

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Upon taking office in 2011, Schneiderman took a principled stand in the negotiations between 50 state attorneys general and the banks over their illegal use of “robo-signing,” a loathsome practice that accelerated the foreclosure process by falsifying signatures on paperwork that bank employees had not read. With the parties nearing a settlement that would have cost the banks a paltry $20 billion, Schneiderman refused to give his consent to any deal that released the banks from liability for their misdeeds prior to the 2008 crash. Resisting pressure from his fellow attorneys general and the Obama administration, Schneiderman held firm, while also demanding a sweeping investigation of the banks’ actions. “I said you can’t release the banks from claims that haven’t been investigated,” he later explained.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Read Next: Congress’s Sorry Dereliction of its War Powers Duty

Congress’s Sorry Dereliction of Its War Powers Duty

Capitol

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

In a Washington paralyzed by partisan division, there is apparently one area of bipartisan agreement: Congress should ignore its constitutional mandate to vote on war with the Islamic State, a conflict that President Obama admits will take years.

The president says he’d “welcome” congressional support but doesn’t need it. Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (NV) agree. Republican House Speaker John Boehner (OH) argues Congress should postpone any debate until next year. He allows it might be in the “nation’s interest” for members of Congress to weigh in, but it certainly isn’t an imperative. The leaders of Congress treat their own body as vestigial, offering little beyond symbolic gesture on the vital question of war and peace.

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This bipartisan consensus about expanding the executive’s war-making powers directly contradicts the Constitution of the United States. The founders gave Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. Their purpose was clear. War was the instrument by which kings and dictators consolidated power and impoverished nations. They feared that the executive by its nature was more given to war. James Wilson, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, summarized the consensus: Giving the power to Congress “will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

 

Read Next: We cannot win in Iraq

New Deal Liberalism Lives On

FDR

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

In the age of trickle-down economics and unrelenting attacks on the social safety net, there have been few greater champions of progressive values than Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who hosted his final Steak Fry this year as the senior senator from Iowa. Throughout his storied career, Harkin has remained a “prairie populist.” From his landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, to his principled vote against Clinton-era financial deregulation, to his recent sponsorship of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, Harkin has always been unapologetically loyal to the fundamental belief that government can—and should—play a role in improving people’s lives. And for Harkin, who proudly displayed his father’s Works Progress Administration card on his office wall, this brand of progressivism was deeply rooted in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal philosophy.

Indeed, as Ken Burns’s remarkable fourteen-hour PBS documentary The Roosevelts reminds us, we are, in so many ways, living in a country shaped by FDR. “Maybe you know somebody who went to college on the GI Bill. Maybe you’ve flown out of LaGuardia Airport or through the Lincoln Tunnel. Or you can turn on a light switch and have power and build planes at Boeing,” Burns said recently. “That’s all Franklin Roosevelt.” Our modern debate on inequality mirrors “the central questions of Roosevelt’s day,” the filmmaker said in another interview. Burns also noted that Eleanor Roosevelt’s vital legacy of fighting for social justice remains especially relevant now. “She understood the issues of the day about health, about race, about women, about poverty, about immigration, all of the issues that we still grapple with today.”

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Our current political battles, as they have been for the past seventy years, are largely defined by the right’s bitter desire to roll back the gains of the New Deal and the Great Society. And as Harkin prepares to retire next year, many have been writing obituaries for his brand of progressive politics. “Today he is seen as one of a dying breed of Democrats,” the Post’s Dan Balz observed. “[H]e remains an unabashedly and old-fashioned liberal.”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Read Next: PBS Loves Its ‘Roosevelts’—and Its Kochs, Too

Why Has Obama Caved to the ‘War Party’?


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On Sunday, Katrina vanden Heuvel joined ABC’s This Week for a roundtable discussion on President Obama’s plan to use air strikes against ISIS and whether he even has the authority to unilaterally make that decision. “I think the president has surrendered to the war party, in both parties, to a media that has lathered up hysteria about a threat that is not an immediate threat to this country,” vanden Heuvel said. She praised Obama’s previous declaration that our foreign policy should be “don’t do stupid stuff,” but also observed that “too often in this country we equate doing something with doing something militarily.”
—Jessica McKenzie

Why Hillary Clinton Needs Competition

The Ed Show

On Monday, Katrina vanden Heuvel joined The Ed Show to discuss Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential run and whether progressives are ready to embrace her candidacy. “I don’t think it’s settled,” vanden Heuvel told Ed Schultz. “In fact, her candidacy might be sharpened and might be better if there is competition. After all, primaries are about expanding debate, about bringing new ideas into the process, about allowing citizens to be participants, not just spectators.” We are living through a populist moment, vanden Heuvel says—visible around the country in city and state elections—and there is a real hunger for alternative options.
Jessica McKenzie

Obama Reneges on His Foreign-Policy Promises

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

President Obama’s commitment to go into Iraq and Syria to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, the brutal terrorist group that vows to carve a “caliphate” out of Iraq and Syria, should be seen for what it is: a capitulation to bellicose folly.

Obama was elected in no small part because he challenged the catastrophic “war of choice” in Iraq, and pledged to bring an end to US entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Slowly, against the bluster and macho posturing of the opposition, he tried to introduce a modicum of common sense and prudence into our foreign policy.

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The United States, the president has explained in the past, faces few genuine threats to its national security. Many of these—catastrophic climate change, global economic stagnation—aren’t susceptible to military solution. Nor can the United States afford to police the world. “Why is it,” he observed in April, “that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Can the US Defeat ISIS Without Bombs?

ISIS fighter with flag.

(Reuters)

What’s the best US response to ISIS? That’s the question that Katrina vanden Heuvel and Rich Lowry of National Review tackle on this episode of the radio program Both Sides Now. Vanden Heuvel explains that “when there are no military solutions the alternative is not nothing.” For vanden Heuvel, patience and diplomacy have fallen out of favor—yet she affirms the fact that there are voices of dissent going against the current jingoistic, hawk-like calls for increased militarism.
—Muna Mire

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Read Next: Time to end the bloody Ukraine conflict

Time to End the Bloody Ukraine Conflict

pro-Russian separatist

An armed pro-Russian separatist (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

If the United States and Europe were thinking rationally, the NATO summit in Wales last week would have been an opportunity to discuss a lasting resolution to the violent crisis in Ukraine, which has claimed thousands of lives and crippled the country’s economy. Instead, amid a fragile cease-fire agreement between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in the east, the assembled world leaders used the summit for more belligerent talk and reckless saber-rattling, with their ultimate goal increasingly unclear. The goal seemed more preparing the NATO alliance for a new Cold War with Russia than exploring how to make peace, even as Moscow was helping to bring about the cease-fire agreement.

The meeting was just the most recent disturbing example of how cavalierly and cynically the NATO leaders—including President Obama—have escalated tensions, while dismissing opportunities to bring the conflict to a reasonable conclusion quickly. Absent from the discussion in Wales, among other things, was any recognition of NATO members’ own roles in triggering the crisis. Despite the dominant narrative that Russia is to blame for Ukraine’s uncertain future, history tells a different story—one in which the West’s provocative behavior has had predictable repercussions.

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There would have been no civil war if the European Union’s leadership had not insisted on an exclusive association agreement that prejudiced Ukrainian industry in the east and trade with Russia, or if the United States and European nations had used their influence with the demonstrators to abide by the February 21 agreement then-President Viktor Yanukovych signed, which would have handed more power to parliament and called for elections in December, or if the United States and Europe had been willing to work with Russia to restore the February 21 agreement and calm worries in Crimea and the east about the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

 

Read Next: The 2014 NATO Summit: Giving war a chance.

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