August 17, 2011
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The masthead of the Washington Post contains these words: “An Independent Newspaper.”
Cokie’s mother, Lindy Claiborne Boggs, was born on a plantation in the segregated south before women could vote. When she died last week at 97, Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated “her legacy as a champion of women’s and civil rights [that] will continue to inspire generations to come.”
Republicans have long portrayed themselves as the party of faith, and religious practice is a reliable indicator of political behavior. Among voters who attend worship services more than once a week, 63 percent backed Mitt Romney last fall, while 36 percent supported President Obama. For those who never darken a church door, the numbers were exactly reversed.
Can democracy survive when voters choose a government that destroys democratic values and institutions? That’s the critical question posed by the turmoil in Egypt, where the military has ousted President Mohammed Morsi and arrested many of his supporters.
Who is a journalist? What rules should protect reporters from excessive government efforts to track down their sources of information and compel their testimony in legal proceedings?
It was graduation weekend at George Washington University, where Steve has taught for the last 23 years. At a brunch for students and their families, one group stood out: a half-dozen women in brightly colored hijabs, traditional Muslim headscarves. They were there to support and celebrate Aliya, an honors graduate who also headed the Muslim Students’ Association on campus.
Republican support for immigration reform focuses mainly on political self-interest. Since 71 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of Asians voted Democratic last November, it’s easy to see why smart Republicans are so concerned.
Women are now the primary earner in 40 percent of households with children, up from 11 percent 50 years ago, and that news was just too much for the men of Fox to handle.
Hardly anyone noticed when Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican turned independent, announced he was registering as a Democrat. His conversion, however, marked another significant step in the gradual extinction of an ancient and honorable political species: Progressive Northeastern Republicans or PNRs.
Compromise is one of the noblest words in the political lexicon. Especially when power is divided between the parties, as it is now, governing a country this vast and diverse is virtually impossible unless lawmakers bring a certain level of trust and flexibility to the bargaining table.
Barack Obama is a gifted storyteller, and he’s always used his own life as a text, a parable, a lesson. Often he’s told tales from his own past to transcend race, to identify with mainstream America, to claim common ground about hardships suffered and obstacles overcome.
Finally, an issue Republicans and Democrats can agree on: The Justice Department went too far in secretly obtaining phone records from the Associated Press that covered parts of two months and more than 20 separate lines.
"Nobody should self-publish,” says Philip Corbett, the standards editor of the New York Times. “Everything should go through an editor. Ideally, it should go through two editors.”
A group of rich Republicans is raising money to support same-sex marriage. By doing so, they reveal a fundamental split in conservative ranks between two very different philosophies.
On the popular TV drama “Downton Abbey,” the central character, Lord Grantham, turns to his dinner guests and smirks, “There always seems to be something of the Johnny Foreigner about the Catholics.”
Sen. John McCain posed that question to fellow Republicans who vow to filibuster any bill mandating universal background checks on gun purchases. There are three answers to McCain and the first is this: If it's put to a vote, the bill will probably pass.
As the debate over immigration reform reaches a climax, a troubling idea seems to be gaining traction. It is that annual limits on new visas should be severely restricted, and that America must choose between two groups of newcomers: high-tech workers with advanced degrees or family members of existing residents.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing about American students lagging their foreign counterparts in math skills.
When Dolley Payne Madison became first lady in 1809, she instituted Wednesday evening gatherings at the White House where political rivals could meet and talk. They were called “squeezes” because so many people showed up and crowded the room. As Cokie wrote in her book “Ladies of Liberty”: “All were welcome as long as they were appropriately dressed. And all went — skipping a Wednesday night might mean missing a vital piece of political information or being left out of a crucial deal.” We thought of Dolley when President Obama started implementing his own version of the “squeeze” — dinner with 12
Almost four out of five Americans say they have a close friend, relative or co-worker who is openly gay, according to USA Today.
President Obama keeps traveling the country to promote the highlights of his legislative agenda — tighter controls on weapons, clearer pathways for illegal immigrants, higher taxes on the wealthy. And Republicans keep getting more frustrated.
Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News Channel, is a very smart man. And he knows how to count, a skill that has apparently eluded many of his fellow conservatives.
The gathering debate over immigration reform is really about two different groups. One is the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally. The other was described by President Obama as “the folks who try to come here legally but have a hard time doing so.”
"We must stop being the stupid party," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned fellow Republicans recently. "It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults."
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Heroes come in all colors, sizes and genders. They speak different languages and overcome different obstacles, but they have one thing in common: They teach the old-fashioned virtues of courage, determination and self-reliance.
'We're really up the creek." That's professor Keith Poole of the University of Georgia talking to NPR, and he knows what he's talking about. His exhaustive study of congressional voting trends yields this clear conclusion: Republicans are now more conservative than they've been in 100 years. This is particularly true in the House, where the GOP is dominated by what Politico calls "the 'hell no' caucus."
"Peace on earth, good will toward men." That sentiment, so noble and hopeful, rings particularly hollow in Washington this holiday season. Just look at the last few weeks.
When members of the Newtown police force entered the school auditorium where President Obama was about to speak, the crowd rose and applauded. The officers' quick response to the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School had probably saved many young lives.
‘When so many GOP federal and state electeds ... engage in dog-whistle racism, these are always personal attacks equally on me. If Obama is not an American and does not legitimately belong, then they’re saying the same about me. I imagine I’m not alone, that people of color across the board see what I see, and the election results confirm this.”
"The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges.” That bit of wisdom came from Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, during his successful run for a U.S. Senate seat. Now a few of his more courageous colleagues are taking the same path and renouncing the politics of purity.
The presidential election could come down to this question: What's more important, enthusiasm or optimism?
Mitt Romney's stellar debate performance injected new energy, enthusiasm and money into his presidential campaign. National polls now show the race tied with less than a month to go. But have the fundamental factors governing this election changed? Not really. Not yet.
Are the polls biased in Barack Obama’s favor?
The most important word in American politics is trust. And that's why Barack Obama is maintaining a slight lead over Mitt Romney, despite a sputtering economy and a gloomy electorate.
On Sept. 5, Michelle Obama sent a message to her husband's email list with the subject line, "As always, thank you." It was the morning after her speech to the Democratic convention, and she wrote: "I know your life is full -- with work, or school, or family -- and yet you still find the time to help out when you can. You may have a tight budget, but you give what you can afford."
Two buzzwords are dominating the presidential campaign: middle class. In speeches, ads and interviews, both parties are saying virtually the same thing to this key audience: We're your friends, and the other guys are not. The tagline for a commercial sponsored by a pro-Obama group could have been scripted by either party: "If they win, the middle class loses."
The photos were heartening and heartbreaking. Thousands of young people lined up on a sweltering summer day, clutching the papers that chart their lives in America: diplomas and awards, pay stubs and rent receipts, bank statements and tax returns.
Romney and his new running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, have been far franker than the Democrats about the need to rein in runaway federal spending. Team Obama’s core argument — that raising taxes on the rich can avert “economic calamity” without cutting popular benefit programs such as Medicare — is simply false. But on an absolutely critical point, the Republican candidates are not telling the truth; they’re avoiding it. They will not admit an undeniable fact: Increased revenue has to be part of any serious attempt to deal with the nation’s looming fiscal crisis.
Leo Manzano is the son of an undocumented farmworker from Mexico. Meb Keflezighi and his family fled civil war in Eritrea. Danell Leyva's stepfather defected from Cuba's gymnastics team during a meet in Mexico and swam across the Rio Grande River to reach America.
When Catholic women religious meet next week in St. Louis, they will try to solve a problem tougher than any they assigned to generations of schoolchildren. The nuns will decide how to respond to an edict from the Vatican ordering them to toe a doctrinal line and assigning three bishops to oversee their orthodoxy.
In a recent speech to Latino leaders, Mitt Romney said: "If you get an advanced degree, we want you to stay here. So I'd staple a green card to the diploma of someone who gets an advanced degree in America." A year ago, Barack Obama said he was all for "encouraging foreign students to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy by stapling a green card to the diplomas" of those with advanced degrees in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math).
The political world is overheated and overtweeted. Every little blip and slip is treated as a decisive turning point in an election still almost five months away.
Incredibly boring white guy. Vanilla, wonky and unflappable. Bloodless technocrat. Dry as dust.
"Forward.” That is Barack Obama’s new campaign slogan, and it’s another way of saying, “Don’t look back, don’t judge me on my record, don’t think about the last four years.
Mitt Romney made an important speech at Liberty University, preaching the virtues of tolerance. But some members of the Republican Party he will lead next fall are not listening.
Occasionally a really bad idea gains currency and credibility. Here’s one: College students who work at unpaid internships are unfairly exploited by money-grubbing capitalists.
'The middle is getting squeezed," former Republican Rep. Tom Davis told The Hill newspaper. But his comment vastly understates the crisis in the capital. Activists in both parties have declared war on moderates. The ideological gap between the two parties is widening rapidly. Paralysis is pervasive.
‘Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress?” President Obama asked recently. Then he answered: “I think it’s fair to say. That is almost guaranteed.”
Voters don’t make decisions based on a candidate’s spouse. But when a man runs for president, his wife plays an important role as validator, as character witness, testifying to the human qualities behind the poll-tested speeches and slickly produced videos.
Republicans talk too much about religion, and Democrats don't talk about it enough. That's one way to read two new polls examining the connection between religion and politics in this year's election.
Two words help explain why Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008: organization and engagement. Mitt Romney's team has closely studied Obama's model in setting up his campaign structure.
It's the women, stupid! Barack Obama cannot win re-election without piling up a sizable majority among female voters. Sorry, fellas, but the ladies will pick the next president.
Olympia Snowe and Sandra Fluke don't have much in common. One is a 65-year-old Republican senator from Maine, the other a 30-year-old feminist law student at Georgetown. But their stories reflect a similar theme: the growing dismay and disgust over the toxic political climate in Washington today.
Candidates say nutty things, but usually they're accidental, unscripted remarks. No adviser or focus group ever suggested to Mitt Romney that he mention his wife's two Cadillacs or bet Rick Perry $10,000. While those comments revealed Romney's isolation from the realities of kitchen-table America, they were not part of his game plan.
‘Religious liberty in our country is in jeopardy.” Catholics in the Washington, D.C., area heard those ominous words from their archbishop read during Masses last Sunday. With similar statements echoing through churches around the country, the Republican candidates for president have taken up the cry.
The Gipper. The Boy From Hope. The Reformed Drinker. The Commander of PT-109. Running for president is often about telling stories that convey a candidate's character, values and experience.
Now that real voters in Iowa have actually made real choices, two things are increasingly clear about the Republican race. Mitt Romney has the organization, money and ruthlessness to win the nomination. He also has alienated Hispanic voters and failed to generate enough electricity to light up even an energy-saving bulb.
Here’s a tale of two photographs distributed recently by news agencies. In one, two sailors embrace on a pier in Virginia and exchange the traditional “first kiss” as one of them completes an 80-day sea voyage. In the other, two Marines in full battle gear walk patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. All four of the soldiers are women.
Here’s a last-minute holiday gift idea: food.
But an election is not a business school seminar, and in politics, a balance sheet is not the only measure of success. Voters want a candidate who has a heart as well as a brain; they are looking for compassion, not just calculation. And that’s why Romney has to fear the workers of Marion.
We were talking to a group of senior Republicans recently about the election, and here’s the essence of what they said: Damn it. We should have gotten Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan to run.
In 1964, two years after graduating from Harvard, Barney Frank went to Mississippi as a civil rights worker. That August, at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., a group of blacks calling themselves the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party asked to be seated as the state’s official delegation.
Here’s something you don’t hear the presidential candidates talking about: the increase in poverty in America. On President Obama’s weekly trips to swing states and in what seems like daily debates among Republican candidates, it never comes up that the numbers of poor and hungry people in this country are growing and that too many of them are children. And if no one is talking about that fact, you can be sure no one is acting on it, either.
Here’s a profound paradox: Republican candidates for president are competing for conservative votes by advancing increasingly radical proposals for eviscerating the federal judiciary.
Barack Obama clearly faces an “intensity gap.” His poll numbers hover in the low 40s, and a tangible sense of disappointment muffles the enthusiasm of even his loyal supporters. Hope and change have been replaced by a far less compelling slogan: Hang On. Don’t Change.
Rick Perry says a lot of things that don’t make sense.
Few in the media noticed when, despite this capital city’s extended season of vitriol and vituperation, political opponents joined hands to launch a major women’s health initiative that could save thousands of lives.
In endorsing Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called him the “most capable, most electable” candidate left in the race. GOP strategist Alex Castellanos dismisses Perry: “The suburbs won’t put Elmer Gantry in the Oval Office.”
All regulations have both costs and benefits, and an all-or-nothing approach defies logic. The better course is to strike a reasonable balance between competing priorities. But in today’s Washington, anybody who tries to do that, to occupy a pragmatic middle ground, is immediately caught in an ideological crossfire.
Whenever natural disaster strikes, the nation’s governors always have the same response. Where are the Feds? When will help from Washington arrive?
During the last 800 years, this tiny nation on the shores of the Baltic Sea has been independent for only 40. Yet today, Estonia is an astounding success story.
Steve and Cokie Roberts contemplate the lifestyles of women in today's America.