Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Clinton hosting jobs summit in Chicago -

Got Time for Solutions?


On July 16th and 17th, Change Nation is mobilizing people across the country to come together for house parties, where you and your friends will get the opportunity to discuss real solutions for fixing our economy. We’re looking for hosts and attendees—people who care about making our country a better place to live.

We're partnering with for this effort. When you click here to host a meeting, you'll be taken to the sign-up form on their site. 

We won’t tell you how to run these meetings. You can invite whomever you want and fashion the meeting to your taste. But we will give you the tools you need for the meeting to be successful. Our only goal is to emerge at the end of the day on July 17th with a lot of good ideas. 

We’ve heard what Washington has to say about fixing the economy. Now we want to hear from you. Sign up to host or attend a meeting. We need you.


Marvin Randolph 

empowered by Salsa

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Van Jones: I need help in Chicago

On July 16 and 17 people in neighborhoods across the country are gathering to share our stories, express our hopes, hone our best ideas, and craft a plan for working together to fix our broken economy. There's a meeting in Chicago. Can you make it?

Attend a Meeting
Dear Brian,

I'm Van Jones, and last week, I joined with MoveOn to launch Rebuild the Dream. This big new project is dedicated to creating an economy that works for ALL of us—and to stopping the attacks on the middle class and working Americans.

Since we launched last week, the question folks keep asking me is: "Why are you talking about the American Dream? Didn't we all give up on that a long time ago?"

Sadly, they're right. Too many of us have stopped talking about our dreams—stopped thinking in terms of what we're really capable of achieving in this country. I believe that's actually part of the problem.

That's why I am so excited to invite you to take part in the next step in building the American Dream movement. On July 16 and 17 people in neighborhoods across the country are gathering at more than 900 American Dream house meetings to share our stories, express our hopes, hone our best ideas, and craft a plan for working together to fix our broken economy.

There's a meeting in Chicago on Saturday, Jul. 16, 2011, at 4:00 PM. Can you join in?

Yes, I want to RSVP!

I promise it'll inspire you.

For me, the American Dream is something my dad instilled in me. He climbed out of poverty up the ladder of opportunity—then he put my sister and me through college.

As I've traveled around the country talking to thousands of people over the past year, it's become clear that we, as a country, are letting that ladder fall down. People have told me over and over that the American Dream is slipping further and further away for them and their families.

We need to stop reckless greed at the top from killing our dreams. That's the inspiration behind Rebuild the Dream.

Because the American Dream used to mean something in this country. That if you put in a hard day's work, you could expect good American wages, benefits, a dignified retirement, and a better life for your kids. Everyone wasn't in the middle class, but everyone believed that—given a fair shot—they could make it there. That's the American Dream I'm fighting for.

Our shared path to the American Dream begins with a conversation among concerned friends and neighbors at hundreds of American Dream house meetings on July 16 and 17. These simple house meetings will launch a grassroots agenda-creation process that we'll use to drive the American Dream movement forward.

Can you make it in Chicago on Saturday, Jul. 16, 2011, at 4:00 PM?

Yes, I'll be there!

Thanks for all you do.

–Van Jones 

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A Supreme Court win for political speech and political money - The Washington Post


The fate of Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which the Supreme Court on Monday declared unconstitutional, was foreshadowed March 28, during oral arguments. Lawyers defending the law insisted its purpose was to combat corruption or the appearance thereof. The court has repeatedly said this is the only constitutionally permissible reason for restricting the quantity of political speech. The law’s defenders insisted its purpose was not to “level the playing field” by equalizing candidates’ resources, which the court has declared an unconstitutional reason for regulating speech. But Chief Justice John Roberts replied: “Well, I checked the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Web site this morning, and it says that this act was passed to ‘level the playing field’ when it comes to running for office.” Game over.

Given the clarity and frequency with which the court has stressed the unconstitutionality of laws empowering government to equalize candidates’ speech by equalizing their resources, Monday’s ruling was predictable, but gratifying. Also predictable, but depressing, were four justices (Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor) finding no constitutional flaw in a law that did this:

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George Will

Will writes a twice-a-week column on politics and domestic affairs.
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It made public funding available for all campaigns for state offices — but did so in a way flagrantly punitive to persons relying on voluntary private contributions. Recipients of tax dollars were limited to spending such dollars — but they got extra infusions of them to match spending by candidates relying on private contributions, if such spending exceeded the amount Arizona’s government deemed proper.

So, these matching funds were a powerful incentive for privately funded candidates not to speak — not to solicit funds to disseminate their advocacy. Even spending by independent groups supporting a privately financed candidate trigger such infusions to opponents. This, even though the court has said that independent expenditures are core political speech and “do not give rise to corruption.”

There is evidence supporting what is intuitively obvious — that the matching funds provision was intended to suppress speech by candidates relying on voluntary contributions, candidates who knew their speaking would trigger tax dollars for their subsidized opponents. An internal memo for the Clean Elections Institute, which defends the law, contentedly noted that a privately funded candidate “may think twice about raising additional funds in a race against a Clean Elections candidate,” so “it can be argued that millions of dollars in spending never takes place.” Hence the law’s purpose is to curtail political speech.

When Arizona Democrat Janet Napolitano, now secretary of homeland security, was running for governor, she joked that President George W. Bush, in effect, held a fundraiser for her. When he spoke at a fundraiser for her privately funded opponent, she received $750,000 in matching tax dollars.

Roberts, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, noted that the “professed” purpose of Arizona’s law is to encourage candidates to accept taxpayer funding. However, “how the state chooses to encourage participation in its public funding system matters, and we have never held that a state may burden political speech — to the extent the matching funds provision does — to ensure adequate participation in a public funding system.”

The Arizona law’s fate was also foreshadowed in 2008, when the court held unconstitutional the “Millionaires’ Amendment” in the McCain-Feingold law regulating the quantity, content and timing of political speech. The amendment, written by incumbents to protect incumbents by punishing challengers wealthy enough to fund their own campaigns, said: When a wealthy candidate exceeds a particular spending threshold (the government’s opinion of the proper amount of political speech), the candidate’s opponent can receive contributions triple the size of contributions otherwise legal. Because wealthy candidates cannot be corrupted by their own money, the Millionaires’ Amendment mocked McCain-Feingold’s pretense of disinterested concern with corruption, and it illuminated the element of incumbent protection in most campaign regulations.

The Arizona law’s fate actually was sealed in 1791, when the First Amendment was ratified; 220 years later, one wonders: When will people eager to empower government to regulate speech about itself abandon the fiction that political money can be regulated without regulating political speech? Will their long losing streak in the Supreme Court ever convince them that the First Amendment requires debate about government without government’s regulatory intervention?

During oral arguments last March, a frustrated Breyer, who is permissive regarding regulations restricting political speech, said: “It is better to say it’s all illegal than to subject these things to death by a thousand cuts.” Yes. Because it all is illegal as long as the First Amendment exists.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

John Kass: Blagojevich's telltale hand

Rod Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, drive away from the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago following Monday's verdict. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune photo / June 28, 2011)

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Convener in Chief

This is a column about management styles. What sort of leader can get things done in an age of austerity? Josh Haner/The New York Times David Brooks Go to Columnist Page » David Brooks’s Blog The intellectual, cultural and scientific findings that land on the columnist’s desk nearly every day. Go the Blog » Related Times Topics: Rahm Emanuel | Chris Christie | Barack Obama Readers' Comments Readers shared their thoughts on this article. Read All Comments (193) » Our first case study is what you might call the Straight Up the Middle Approach. When Chris Christie ran for governor of New Jersey, he campaigned bluntly on the need to reduce the state’s debt. After he was elected, he held 30 contentious town meetings with charts to explain how the debt would crush homeowners in each municipality. Christie makes himself the center of the action and is always in the room. He sat down with Democratic leaders at meeting after meeting and hammered out compromises, detail after detail. The bipartisan pension reform bill Christie signed this month is controversial, but it is a huge step toward avoiding fiscal catastrophe. Christie, needless to say, quotes Springsteen to describe his approach: “No retreat. No surrender.” Our second case study exemplifies the Insurgent Approach. While campaigning to be mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel also spoke bluntly about the tough steps he would take to reduce the city’s $650 million deficit. But, in office, he hasn’t led a single frontal assault. Instead, Emanuel has introduced a flurry of initiatives in all directions. He took away credit cards from many city officials. He’s moved to lengthen the school day. He redeployed 650 cops from offices to the streets. He cut $75 million from the 2011 budget. He induced United Airlines to bring 1,300 jobs. At any given moment there seems to be six Mayor Emanuels announcing six different initiatives. The measures to reduce spending are submerged in a frenetic reinvigoration agenda. The key for Emanuel is to know which fights to pick (making it harder for teachers to strike, for example), and sequencing those fights within broader narratives about city growth. It’s almost physical. Christie relies on power and mass. Emanuel relies on dexterity and speed. Both have begun their administrations in spectacular fashion. The third case study is the most unexpected: President Obama’s Convening Approach. First, some context: In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave an Inaugural Address that did enormous damage to the country. It defined the modern president as an elevated, heroic leader who issues clarion calls in the manner of Henry V at Agincourt. Ever since that speech, presidents have felt compelled to live up to that grandiose image, and they have done enormous damage to themselves and the nation. That speech gave a generation an unrealistic, immature vision of the power of the presidency. President Obama has renounced that approach. Far from being a heroic quasi Napoleon who runs the country from the Oval Office, Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget. As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end. All his life, Obama has worked in nonhierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a nonhierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favors a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view. Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern. But this is who Obama is, and he’s not going to change, no matter how many liberals plead for him to start acting like Howard Dean. The Obama style has advantages, but it has served his party poorly in the current budget fight. He has not educated the country about the debt challenge. He has not laid out a plan, aside from one vague, hyperpoliticized speech. He has ceded the initiative to the Republicans, who have dominated the debate by establishing facts on the ground. Now Obama is compelled to engage. If ever there was an issue that called for his complex, balancing approach, this is it. But, to reach an agreement, he will have to resolve the contradiction in his management style. He values negotiation but radiates disdain for large swathes of official Washington. If he can overcome his aloofness and work intimately with Republicans, he may be able to avert a catastrophe and establish a model for a more realistic, collegial presidency. The former messiah will have to become a manager.

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Immigration: Out of White House, Rahm Emanuel pushes hard for DREAM Act

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, shown here at a charity event last week, was criticized by Hispanic activists for not doing more to advance immigration reform while in the White House. (Brian Kersey/Associated Press)

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Hermene Hartman: Walmart in Chicago -- Margaret Garner's Saga

The business of Margaret Garner, the first Black woman contractor to ever build a Wal-Mart store was recently "revealed" in detail by Crain's Chicago Business.

The story was an attack rather than an investigation. This is often the case as Crain's discusses the business of Black business. The most damaging statement is that they suggest Garner was a front.

Garner was the toast of the town as she was showcased by Wal-Mart in 2005 in national print ads and on the banquet circuit and while speaking to the general public about the good corporate citizenship and responsibility of Wal-Mart, as they ventured into urban America for new growth.

They made their case very well, stating there were food deserts and no retail outlets concentrated in African-American communities.

Unions, local politicians, other retailers and even some clergy resisted them. Mayor Richard Daley saw the economic reason for Wal-Mart. He played hardball. He rallied the African-American community for support and pointed to double business/wage standards in the city on the south side versus the suburbs. I admired his courage because he took a political chance with the unions. He made sense and I jumped on board with all fours.

I think bringing Wal-Mart to Chicago was one of the best moves Daley ever made. Wal-Mart came with their problems, but most of all, they came with solutions.

The entry of Wal-Mart represents the first massive rebuild in some of these selected communities since the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death where land has been left vacant, dormant and simply idle with no business activity whatsoever for the past 40 years.

Wal-Mart created a perfect storm.

Margaret Garner brought business people together. She introduced me to the Wal-Mart representatives and I was early on convinced that Wal-Mart made sense for Chicago, particularly the African American community. Wal-Mart advertised in Black newspapers including N'DIGO. They have been supporters of community events, including ones I have produced. I became an advocate for Wal-Mart.

Their slogan, "Save Money. Live Better" could have had one more line: "Bring Jobs."

They brought jobs. They brought stores. They brought contracts. They brought economics and all of what that represents. Wal-Mart is a magnet. I engaged in a public rally for Wal-Mart with high-level meetings to local community citizens. They made sense, and most of all I saw Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, being held to a higher standard than other retailers. The hourly wage was contested. Margaret Garner was under a microscope and she knew it.

She was truly a role model by which the standard would be set. She was establishing the model for urban America and minority businesses. She was a Wal-Mart spokesperson and did an excellent job in hiring local unemployed neighborhood people. She even hired ex-offenders to work as laborers on the building of the West Side Store, in Austin, America's first urban Wal-Mart. The Community Male Empowerment Project Black laborers did 95 percent of the landscaping.

The Black business community watched closely. Many minority business people received Wal-Mart contracts from ad agencies, technology, vendors, professional services, financial services and others.

A Wal-Mart contract is significant. It went beyond Black history month. It went beyond a 15 percent or 20 percent share. Contracts were based on pure performance. I thought Wal-Mart would be a model company for the America of inclusion. A new Chicago was being crafted, and I was excited.

Most of the minority businesses that did business with Wal-Mart lost their contracts after the urban store was built and after the hype, people from Bentonville didn't necessarily get the good old Chicago way. Wal-Mart came and they faded away. They didn't always listen to those on the ground. Six years after the store was up and running successfully, Garner filed bankruptcy. The overruns and the urban environment didn't match the Wal-Mart magic formula.

Did Wal-Mart speak with forked tongue?

Did they not live up to the promise? The Crain's story suggests that the project was too big for Garner's firm.

The Wal-Mart Chicago initiative represents 36 stores with a focus on the south side of Chicago in the communities of Pullman, West Chatham, West Loop, Auburn/Gresham and West Englewood over the next five years.These are African American communities. Is Wal-Mart re-engineering the urban landscape? It means 10,000 jobs and 2,000 unionized construction jobs and will generate more than $500 million in sales and property taxes.

The Garner story is much bigger than her construction contract. She was the envy of many. The Black male contractors tried to figure how she was awarded the contract. The White contractors see the gold and will surely try to buy the black contractors and pose them as fronts. There is a lot of building in 36 stores.

The larger question is, how will Wal-Mart really do business in Chicago? Will Garner build other stores? What is the Wal-Mart business model for urban America? Will it represent advertising, professional services, technology, merchandising, and the like?

The Margaret Garner story is not the end. It really is the beginning.

How will Wal-Mart measure?

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Harry S. Truman 1948 Campaign Speech

Harry Truman gives inspired speech

Who knew Harry Truman could see the future?

Harry S.  Truman 1948 Campaign Speech (Give Them Hell!)

Address in Charleston, West Virginia October 1, 1948
By President Harry S Truman:

Mr.  Chairman, Governor of West Virginia, distinguished guests:

For the past 2 weeks I have been visiting the people of this country.  I have met thousands of people and spoken to hundreds of thousands.  I think I have been seen by at least 22 million people in this country.

I have a vital message to bring to the people of the United States, and tonight I want to bring that message to you.

The heart of my message is this: The national election this fall will decide matters of grave importance to every man, woman, and child in the United States.

It will affect the security of your jobs, your homes, and your future.

You have a choice between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Within the memory of most of us here, a clear record has been written that shows how much difference that choice can make.

The Republicans wrote part of their record from 1921 to 1933.  They led the country to depression, poverty, and despair.

It is easy to forget what the black days of the depression were like.  Let us recall a few, just a few of the bitter facts.

In 1932, after 12 years of Republican bungling, more than 12 million men and women were unemployed.

In 1932 the average worker in manufacturing industries was making 45 cents an hour -- if he was lucky enough to have a job.  In coal mining, the most hazardous of all occupations, miners were making 52 cents an hour -- if they were lucky enough to have jobs.

The working men and women in this country could not do much to help themselves, because the strength of their unions had been broken by the reactionary labor policies of the Republican administration.

The Republican bubble burst in 1929, and when it burst:

-- There was no minimum wage to cushion the blow.

-- There was no unemployment compensation to carry the working man's family along.

-- There was no work relief program to help people through the crisis.

-- But the party of privilege was ready to carry big business through the crisis.  It created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for that purpose.  The banks, the railways, the insurance companies -- they got relief, but not the American people.

-- For the unemployed, it was Hoovervilles and soup kitchens.  Veterans were encouraged to go into business for themselves -- selling apples.

That is the Republican record.  Most of us well remember it.  The Democratic part of the record begins in 1933, when the Democratic Party began to build prosperity for business, labor, and agriculture.

We wrote into law the right of the working men and women to organize in unions of their own choice, and to bargain collectively.

We put a floor under wages.

We outlawed child labor.

We created a great insurance system to protect working men and women against the hazards of unemployment and old age.

We wrote into law a system of price supports for farm products, so that the bottom would not drop from under the farmer's income the way it did in the 1920's.

We put a curb on Wall Street speculation, and stopped the money changers from gambling with people's savings.

With these reforms and many others, the Democratic Party brought the country to the greatest period of prosperity ever known in the history of the world.

Things are far different now from what they were in 1932.

The average farm income of the farmer in 1947 was $725 per person, nearly ten times as great.  In 1932 it was $74 per person.

The coal miner who got 52 cents an hour in 1932, gets $1.94 an hour in 1948.  He deserves every cent of it, too; and I'm glad to see him get it.

And business hasn't suffered too much under the New Deal!  Corporations had a loss of $4 billion in 1932.  But in 1947 they had a profit of $17 billion, after taxes.

These same corporations -- these same corporations now claim the Democrats are hostile to business.  If I were in their shoes, I would want some more of that kind of hostility.

Today, signs of prosperity are all over the country.  I have been all over the country, and I know what I am talking about!

Farm production is greater than it ever was.  Industrial production is greater than it every was.  Everybody who wants a job can get one.

That's the way America is today.  The real question facing us in this election is whether or not we are going to keep it that way.

For all this did not come about by accident.  Some people would like to make you think it did.  The leaders of the Republican Party would like you to believe that the country just drifted into the great depression, and that it just drifted out again into prosperity.  They would like you to believe that the Democratic New Deal had nothing to do with recovery -- and that the Republicans had nothing to do with the Hoover panic.

That is not true and the people know it is not true.

The country was driven into depression by the policies of a Republican administration and a Republican Congress that served the selfish interests of the rich and powerful business groups.

The country was brought out of the depression by the intelligent foresight and planning of the Democratic Party -- and above all by following the fundamental belief of the Democratic Party that the true road to prosperity begins with looking after the little fellow.  The Republicans believe in taking care of big business first and letting the little fellow take care of himself.

The Republicans would like you to forget these fundamental differences between the two parties.  But during the past 2 years we have been given a sharp warning that these differences still exist, and these differences are wide and deep.

That has been made completely clear by the record of this Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress.

No matter what the Republicans do or say, the Republicans cannot escape responsibility for that black record.

I know, of course, that there are many fine people throughout the United States, who from habit or choice are members of the Republican Party.  To them I say that the national leadership of their party has failed them miserably.

I know, too, that among the Republicans of the 80th Congress there were a few liberal men who joined the battle against special privilege.  You can pick these men out by their votes.  They voted with the Democrats in the Congress more often than they did with their own Republican leadership.  When these men went to their party caucuses they must have felt very lonesome.

The record of the 80th Congress was made by the forces that dominate the Republican Party.

I thank God that the men who held positions of leadership in dealing with foreign affairs were of a character which made it possible for us to work together in carrying out our foreign policy on a bipartisan basis.

But on domestic issues it was a different matter.  The Republican leadership started out to follow the same policies that nearly wrecked the country under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

Some people have accused me of failing to cooperate with the Republican leadership in carrying out those policies.  Now, I must confess to you that I am going to plead guilty to that charge.  Of course, I did not cooperate in carrying out policies that I knew would bring disaster on the American people.

But I will tell you how you can get some cooperation in carrying out those policies -- if that's what you want.  I will tell l you how you can achieve unity in a headlong dash toward another depression.  Just elect a Republican President to go along with a Republican Congress.

Just elect a man who said -- and I quote: "I am proud of the record of my party and of the 80th Congress."

Just elect a man who said: "The 80th Congress delivered as no other Congress ever did for the future of our country."

Apparently he will be glad to help deliver a lot more of the same kind of blows you got from the 80th Congress.  But bigger blows -- and faster and more of them.

What did this Republican Congress deliver for the future of the country?

For one thing, it delivered a body blow at labor in the form of the Taft-Hartley Act.

The fundamental purpose of the Taft-Hartley Act is to weaken organized labor.

Its supporters want management to have the upper hand in collective bargaining.

Do you know why?  They want management to have the upper hand so that wages can be driven down.

What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country?

It delivered a body blow at nearly a million workers by taking away their social security rights.

It delivered a body blow at millions of our veterans by refusing to provide a decent housing program.

It delivered a blow at every family in the Nation by failing to act on high prices.

What else did the Republican Congress deliver for the future of our country?  It delivered a whole long list of blows at every foundation of our present prosperity and at our hopes for progress in the future.  I can't cover them all tonight, but I will tell you about just one more.

That is the rich man's tax relief bill.

The Republican Congress passed a tax bill that reduced the revenues of the Government by more than $5 billion.  That Congress passed it three times and I vetoed it every time.  But on the third try, they passed it over my veto.

I believed that the safety of our national finances required that we make large payments on the public debt in times of prosperity.  I still think so.

But the Republican rich man's tax relief bill has brought us face to face with the prospect of going into the red again.

I believed that when the wartime taxes were reduced, the poor man should be relieved first and most.  I still think so.  But the Republican tax bill doesn't work that way.

I warned that the tax reduction bill would add to the inflationary pressures and make prices go even higher.  And it did.

For most of you, the tax bill hasn't helped a bit.  If you make $60 a week, your taxes were reduced about $1.50 a week.  But since May, when that $1.50 began to show up in your pay envelope, prices have gone up so much that the $1.50 is already wiped out.

The rich man fared much better under the tax bill.  A married couple with an income of $100,000 a year got a tax cut of $16,725 a year -- $16,725 a year!

That's about $12,000 more than my net salary as President of the United States.

Of course, prices haven't gone up for them any more than they have for you.  So I would say that they came out pretty well.

Is it any wonder that we call this a rich man's tax relief bill?

That's typical of the way the Republican 80th Congress delivered for the future of the country.  Some time later, I am going to elaborate on just exactly what they did with the budget this year.  And it fits in with this rich man's tax relief bill.  It's outrageous what they did to the country on that.

That Congress delivered for the interests that had their lobbyists swarming all over the Capital.  It delivered for special privilege groups that put up the big money at election time.

They are doing that right now in this election.  That same bunch of lobbyists and people whom they represent are paying for the Republican campaign right this minute.

Now, they passed a great many bills, which I vetoed.  There is only one President who has a greater veto record than I have, in the short time that I have been President, and that is Grover Cleveland; and I am proud of that veto record, because I was standing there working for the people, when I was signing those vetoes.

But they passed a great many -- not a great many, but several -- among them this tax relief bill and the Taft-Hartley bill.  They passed those bills over my veto.

But when a bill becomes the law of the land, the President of the United States has sworn to enforce the law, and as President of the United States, I have lived up to that oath which I took to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

But if you want these bad things remedied, you had better give me a Congress for the next 4 years that is working for the people and not for the special interests.

Now, if you want unity and harmony and sweetness and light in getting more deliveries of the kind I have been describing, just shut your eyes and vote Republican.

But if you want something delivered for labor, if you want something delivered for the farmers, and if you want something delivered for the small businessmen, and for the white-collar worker -- there is just one way you can make your vote count.  Vote the Democratic ticket.

Today, the Democratic Party is the party of the American people.  It was the party of the people under Jefferson and Jackson.  It was the party of the people under Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Today, we of the Democratic Party express the will of the American people to move forward, under liberty, yielding neither to communism nor to reaction.

Today, the Democratic Party stands before the country a living force for peace and freedom.

Today, we are rallying our forces for the greatest struggle in our history.  In that struggle, I ask your support.

Just give us the votes on election day, and we will do the job.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Obama shifts from consensus to instincts on key calls

The Obama administration's top national security officials were gathered around the polished wooden table of the White House Situation Room to hear Army Gen. David H. Petraeus argue for a slow drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The military needed time, he said, to secure the eastern part of the country as it had done in the south.

President Obama quickly made clear his disagreement. More important, he said, was the administration's goal of shifting responsibility for the country's security to the Afghan government, which would let him bring home troops.

As a senior administration official put it: "He asked everyone, if we're serious about transition, then when? When are we going to do it?

"Everybody came out of that meeting knowing the president wanted to go this direction," said the official who described the scene, "even though it wasn't the pace that Gen. Petraeus was recommending."

A week later, last Wednesday, Obama announced plans to withdraw the 33,000 "surge" troops he sent to Afghanistan.

To some who had attended the meeting, the encounter — and the president's willingness to overrule key advisors — brought to mind another meeting four and a half months earlier.

On that occasion, Obama and his top advisors were discussing the rapidly unfolding events in Egypt. Most top administration officials had been advising the president against calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

But as the discussion went along, the television monitors in the Situation Room showed an angry crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square yelling, "Leave! Leave! Leave!" in response to Mubarak's televised speech refusing to resign.

Obama watched, and then told his aides, "Look, guys, this is not going to go back into the box." The president said he would call Mubarak and tell him to step down, and he would deliver a public statement calling for a transition to begin immediately.

The decision took aides by surprise. In retrospect, it seemed a sign of things to come.

In the first two years of Obama's presidency, his top aides had grown accustomed to a process in which Obama drew out and explored the views of his full team and searched for a consensus — decision by ballot, some called it.

Increasingly, however, that process has changed, according to a wide group of Obama's personal friends, informal advisors and top aides interviewed during the spring. In recent months, they say, the president has been relying more heavily on his own instincts and feeling less impelled to seek accord among advisors.

The change, which came into view with the Egypt decision in February, was vividly on display in the meetings that led to the decision to send a team of Navy SEALs to raid Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

The success of the Bin Laden raid reinforced Obama's security in his own judgments, aides said.

"I think he reached a point where he had to trust his instincts, and there was nothing left to inform his decision except to do that," said one advisor who is intimately familiar with the president's thinking on foreign policy matters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"And he saw that trust borne out in what happened. … To make that risky a judgment based not just on your instincts but on your experience as commander in chief, and have it succeed, does something important psychologically that's hard to quantify."

When judging Obama's decision-making style, an obvious baseline for comparison is his Afghanistan war policy review in fall 2009. It took five months, befitting his personal craving for information, before he decided on an increase of 33,000 troops.

At the end of the review, Obama laid out his decision for his team in writing. If they could accept it, he told them, he wanted their support in public.

Much has changed in the interim.

Over the winter, Obama told advisors he wanted to move away from minutiae and focus on "the big things." The choice of former business executive William Daley as his chief of staff was aimed at streamlining operations and cutting down on meeting time.

"Everyone in the administration is dealing with consequential things," said David Axelrod, the president's longtime friend and political advisor, "and they all want to engage the president on them."

Obama was also learning how to renew himself, said Valerie Jarrett, a family friend of many years and a senior White House advisor. Being in the "bubble" of the presidency has sometimes sapped his energy. But personal interactions outside the White House — delivering the Bin Laden news personally to Sept. 11 survivors in May, drinking a Guinness in an Irish pub later that month — have the opposite effect.

"That connection fuels him," Jarrett said.

His scheduler now knows to expect directives for travel, especially when there is disaster somewhere in the U.S. Figure out the earliest he can go without disrupting recovery, he tells his staff, and then "get me there."

By the time of the Afghanistan troop decision this month, Obama had a new template. He didn't want a battery of meetings in the style of the 2009 review, with all the "leaks and noise," as one aide characterized it. He said that after two years of intensive written reports, discussion and weekly updates from Petraeus and Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, "I am up to speed on what's going on in Afghanistan."

Throughout the year, Obama had built his deliberations into other meetings, starting in January with his regular talks with national security advisor Tom Donilon, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. By June, the calendar was filled with meetings on the subject, including one with the National Security Council staff on June 9, in which he made one idea clear.

"He said we have to send a clear signal that we're serious about transition," one senior administration official said, recalling the president's words. He said Obama added, "If we're going to transition, we're going to have to have reductions."

That would become the key point of the June 15 meeting, when Gates, Clinton and the other principal advisors would gather around the polished wooden table to hear the Petraeus presentation. The general's preferred option: Pull as few as 3,000 troops out this year and fully remove the surge troops only by the end of 2012.

The military wanted more time for U.S. troops to "partner" with Afghan security forces as they rose to the task of securing the country themselves. Military officials raised concerns that the progress to date could backslide, according to one official familiar with their point of view, but they never questioned the importance of transition.

Still, Obama kept returning to the priorities the group had laid out together in 2009. They set goals of defeating Al Qaeda, stopping the Taliban's momentum, clearing out safe havens for terrorists and training Afghan forces. The job, in his view, is not to eradicate the Taliban and "secure the entire country of Afghanistan," said another official familiar with the talks.

The remaining work can be done while withdrawing 33,000 troops by next summer, Obama said. When he explained that idea on June 21 to top appointees, he asked their opinions. All said they could support the plan, although Petraeus and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stipulated that it was against their recommendation.

This time, Obama did not ask for any promises about what they would say in public. He announced his decision the next day.

David S. Cloud in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Obama election invigorates black lives, but doesn't end struggles, some caution

College Degrees Are Valuable Even for Careers That Don’t Require Them

ALMOST a century ago, the United States decided to make high school nearly universal. Around the same time, much of Europe decided that universal high school was a waste. Not everybody, European intellectuals argued, should go to high school. It’s clear who made the right decision.

The educated American masses helped create the American century, as the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have written. The new ranks of high school graduates made factories more efficient and new industries possible.

Today, we are having an updated version of the same debate. Television, newspapers and blogs are filled with the case against college for the masses: It saddles students with debt; it does not guarantee a good job; it isn’t necessary for many jobs. Not everybody, the skeptics say, should go to college.

The argument has the lure of counterintuition and does have grains of truth.

Too many teenagers aren’t ready to do college-level work. Ultimately, though, the case against mass education is no better than it was a century ago.

The evidence is overwhelming that college is a better investment for most graduates than in the past. A new study even shows that a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers and cashiers. And, beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.

“Sending more young Americans to college is not a panacea,” says

The most unfortunate part of the case against college is that it encourages children, parents and schools to aim low. For those families on the fence — often deciding whether a student will be the first to attend — the skepticism becomes one more reason to stop at high school. Only about 33 percent of young adults get a four-year degree today, while another 10 percent receive a two-year degree.

So it’s important to dissect the anti-college argument, piece by piece. It obviously starts with money. Tuition numbers can be eye-popping, and student debt has increased significantly. But there are two main reasons college costs aren’t usually a problem for those who graduate.

First, many colleges are not very expensive, once financial aid is taken into account. Average net tuition and fees at public four-year colleges this past year were only about $2,000 (though Congress may soon cut federal financial aid).

Second, the returns from a degree have soared. Three decades ago, full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree made 40 percent more than those with only a high-school diploma. Last year, the gap reached 83 percent. College graduates, though hardly immune from the downturn, are also far less likely to be unemployed than non-graduates.

Skeptics like to point out that the income gap isn’t rising as fast as it once was, especially for college graduates who don’t get an advanced degree. But the gap remains enormous — and bigger than ever. Skipping college because the pace of gains has slowed is akin to skipping your heart medications because the pace of medical improvement isn’t what it used to be.

The Hamilton Project, a research group in Washington, has just finished a comparison of college with other investments. It found that college tuition in recent decades has delivered an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than 15 percent. For stocks, the historical return is 7 percent. For real estate, it’s less than 1 percent.

Another study being released this weekend — by Anthony Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose of Georgetown — breaks down the college premium by occupations and shows that college has big benefits even in many fields where a degree is not crucial.

Construction workers, police officers, plumbers, retail salespeople and secretaries, among others, make significantly more with a degree than without one. Why? Education helps people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with better-paying companies or open their own businesses.

This follows the pattern of the early 20th century, when blue- and white-collar workers alike benefited from having a high-school diploma.

When confronted with such data, skeptics sometimes reply that colleges are mostly a way station for smart people. But that’s not right either. Various natural experiments — like teenagers’ proximity to a campus, which affects whether they enroll — have shown that people do acquire skills in college.

Even a much-quoted recent study casting doubt on college education, by an N.Y.U. sociologist and two other researchers, was not so simple. It found that only 55 percent of freshmen and sophomores made statistically significant progress on an academic test. But the margin of error was large enough that many more may have made progress. Either way, the general skills that colleges teach, like discipline and persistence, may be more important than academics anyway.

None of this means colleges are perfect. Many have abysmal graduation rates. Yet the answer is to improve colleges, not abandon them. Given how much the economy changes, why would a high-school diploma forever satisfy most citizens’ educational needs?

Or think about it this way:

People tend to be clear-eyed about this debate in their own lives. For instance, when researchers asked low-income teenagers how much more college graduates made than non-graduates, the teenagers made excellent estimates. And in a national survey, 94 percent of parents said they expected their child to go to college.

Then there are the skeptics themselves, the professors, journalists and others who say college is overrated. They, of course, have degrees and often spend tens of thousands of dollars sending their children to expensive colleges.

I don’t doubt that the skeptics are well meaning. But, in the end, their case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee. And that’s rarely good advice.

David Leonhardt is a columnist for the business section of The New York Times.

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Army worries about “toxic” leaders in ranks - The Washington Post

(Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES) - Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, shown here in May, has led a series of initiatives aimed a producing quicker-thinking and more flexible Army leaders.

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Darrell Issa’s dangerous job cut proposal - Light on Leadership - The Washington Post

Posted at 06:17 PM ET, 06/13/2011

Darrell Issa’s dangerous job cut proposal

Darrell Issa has jumped into the deficit debate, proposing a 10-percent cut, through attrition, in the number of federal employees. (Tim Sloan)
Darrell Issa, the House Government Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, finally introduced his own contribution to the deficit debate last week. His proposal, Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act of 2011, would reduce the number of federal employees by at least 10 percent – or roughly 200,000 total positions.

The bill uses a classic blunt ax to achieve a disingenuous "reshaping" of the federal workforce, and would be better titled the Eviscerating the Faithful Execution of the Laws Act. Having set its target for an overall cut, the bill would order federal agencies to hire just one new employee for every three that leave through retirement or separation. 

The bill is flawed in at least three respects.

First, Issa's proposal requires implementation on an agency-by-agency basis. Although the bill does allow the president to certify that a given job affects performance of a "critical mission," it is entirely possible (indeed probable) that the cuts would weaken the government's ability to regulate the banking industry, protect the environment, guarantee food and drug safety, conduct disability reviews, monitor the borders, collect intelligence or continue, let alone start, needed research studies. 

"Critical mission" is never defined, and would no doubt quickly become a contentious issue and an opportunity for congressional grandstanding, even as it drowns the president in paperwork. Nor is there any exemption for jobs that will soon fit the new criteria established under Sen. Mark Warner's (D-Va.) Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which finally demands that the federal government declare its top strategic priorities.

Second, Issa's proposal does not distinguish between types of jobs. Issa should have taken this opportunity to make the case that the federal hierarchy needs a long overdue reduction in the number of managers and the layers they occupy. Many are no doubt essential for making regulations; but many are also engaged in less-than-essential oversight.  The bill has no provision for targeting the cuts to distinguish between the two. It should have taken aim at the excess layers, making government more effective by reducing the distance between the top and bottom of the hierarchy.

Third and finally, the act fails to address the very real shortages on the frontlines of government. All turnovers are not equal. Although the federal government's 6-percent separation rate is slightly lower than the private sector, it does not fall equally down the hierarchy. According to recent data from the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, the bill would almost certainly hit new hires hard, most of whom are directly – and crucially – involved in implementing the laws on security and passport violations, shoddy oil drilling, dangerous food processing plants, Medicare fraud and a host of other agreed-upon goals of recent legislation.

Issa's proposal would wreak havoc on new hires, a group the government is already trying desperately to keep hold of; 69 percent leave within the first five years of service, and 22 percent within the first year. Anyone who has been through airport security lines on a Saturday and Sunday know what happens when only three or four frontline screeners and passport inspectors handle hundreds of international travelers. 

Attrition-based downsizing has been tried before, most notably during the Clinton administration's effort to cut more than 400,000 jobs from the federal workforce. Although many of the cuts were already in the pipeline under the post-Cold War defense downsizing, anecdotal evidence shows increased contracting out and a broad weakening of the federal frontlines. 

Issa should reconsider his strategy. The 10-percent cut is both arbitrary and damaging, while the one-to-three ratio is unsophisticated and hardly an exercise in thoughtful and long overdue reshaping.  Reshaping is intensely necessary, and should be done with deliberation and great care. This is not the time for a blunt axe but a laser focus.  Staffing the frontlines of government, while at the same time de-layering the hierarchy, might not save a single job. But what it would do is produce better government.

And if the goal is to save real money, replacing high-cost management and senior-level posts with lower-cost frontline posts would save plenty. With nearly 30 percent of federal baby boomers now eligible for retirement, Congress and the president would do well to subject each vacancy to a careful review. If it is no longer fully essential, it should be cut. If it plays a substantial role in creating high-performance government, it should be filled.  If the private sector rule of thumb holds, half the jobs would be eliminated.

Issa should shelve his bill and draft a much more nuanced approach, one that drops the one-to-three ratio. This is no time to weaken the federal government's ability to honor the promises Congress and the president make.

Related reading:

Is it doomsday for a debt compromise?

Fixing the presidential appointments process

Boehner’s offer to Obama on U.S. debt

Be in the know on everything we’re covering here at The Post’s On Leadership section. Follow us on Twitter (@post_lead) and “like” our page on Facebook (On Leadership at The Washington Post).

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Five wounded in shootings during bloody 20 minutes on South Side - Chicago Sun-Times

Five wounded in shootings during bloody 20 minutes on South Side

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE June 26, 2011 12:18AM

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  • Five men were wounded in four separate shootings during a violent 20-minute period Saturday night on the South Side. Three of the shootings happened within a mile of each other.

    The shootings started at 10:30 p.m. when two men were shot in the 4700 block of South Ada Street, said police News Affairs Officer Ronald Gaines, citing preliminary information.

    Both men were taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in an unidentified condition, police said.

    About 11 p.m., a man was shot in the 4400 block of South Marshfield Avenue, Gaines said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in “stable” condition.

    Around the same time, a man was shot in the abdominal area four blocks west in the 4400 block of South Honore Street, police said. He was taken in “stable” condition to Mount Sinai Hospital.

    Further south, a man was shot near South Laflin Avenue and West Marquette Road about 10:40 p.m., Gaines said. He was taken to Christ hospital in an unidentified condition.

    Wentworth Area detectives are investigating all the shootings, but nobody is in custody late Saturday.

    Copyright "+yr+" Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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    Atop TV Sets, a Power Drain Runs Nonstop

    There are 160 million so-called set-top boxes in the United States, one for every two people, and that number is rising. Many homes now have one or more basic cable boxes as well as add-on DVRs, or digital video recorders, which use 40 percent more power than the set-top box.

    One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.

    These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use. The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months.

    “People in the energy efficiency community worry a lot about these boxes, since they will make it more difficult to lower home energy use,” said John Wilson, a former member of the California Energy Commission who is now with the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation. “Companies say it can’t be done or it’s too expensive. But in my experience, neither one is true. It can be done, and it often doesn’t cost much, if anything.”

    The perpetually “powered on” state is largely a function of design and programming choices made by electronics companies and cable and Internet providers, which are related to the way cable networks function in the United States. Fixes exist, but they are not currently being mandated or deployed in the United States, critics say.

    Similar devices in some European countries, for example, can automatically go into standby mode when not in use, cutting power drawn by half. They can also go into an optional “deep sleep,” which can reduce energy consumption by about 95 percent compared with when the machine is active.

    One British company, Pace, sells such boxes to American providers, who do not take advantage of the reduced energy options because of worries that the lowest energy states could disrupt service. Cable companies say customers will not tolerate the time it takes to reboot the system once the system has been shut down or put to sleep.

    “The issue of having more efficient equipment is of interest to us,” said Justin Venech, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable. But, he added, “when we purchase the equipment, functionality and cost are the primary considerations.”

    But energy efficiency experts say that technical fixes could eliminate or minimize the waiting time and inconvenience, some at little expense. Low-energy European systems reboot from deep sleep in one to two minutes.

    Alan Meier, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said of the industry in the United States, “I don’t want to use the word ‘lazy,’ but they have had different priorities, and saving energy is not one of them.”

    The Environmental Protection Agency has established Energy Star standards for set-top boxes and has plans to tighten them significantly by 2013, said Ann Bailey, director of Energy Star product labeling, in an e-mail. The voluntary seal indicates products that use energy efficiently. But today, there are many boxes on the list of products that meet the Energy Star standard that do not offer an automatic standby or sleep mode.

    “If you hit the on/off button it only dims the clock, it doesn’t significantly reduce power use,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the natural resources council.

    Energy efficiency is a function of hardware, software, the cable network and how a customer uses the service, said Robert Turner, an engineer at Pace, which makes set-top boxes that can operate using less power while not in active use.

    Sometimes energy efficiency can be vastly improved by remotely adjusting software over a cable, Mr. Turner said. In this way, Pace reduced the energy consumption of some of its older boxes by half.

    Cable boxes are not designed to be turned completely off, and even when in deep sleep mode, it takes time to reconnect and “talk” with their cable or satellite network, though that time is highly variable depending on the technology.

    Mr. Wilson said he routinely unplugged his set-top boxes at night and waited only 45 seconds for television in the morning. But Dr. Meier said that when he tried to power down his home system at night, it took “hours” to reboot because the provider “downloaded the programming guide in a very inefficient way.”

    Cable providers and box manufacturers like Cisco Systems, Samsung and Motorola currently do not feel consumer pressure to improve box efficiency. Customers are generally unaware of the problem — they do not know to blame the unobtrusive little device for the rise in their electricity bills, and do not choose their boxes anyway.

    Those devices may cause an increase of as little as a few dollars a month or well over $10 for a home with many devices. In Europe, electricity rates are often double those in the United States, providing greater financial motivation to conserve.

    Cisco Systems, one of the largest makers of set-top boxes, said in an e-mail that they would offer some new models this year that would cut consumption by 25 percent “through reduced power used in ‘on’ and standby states.” There will be no deep sleep or fully “off” setting.

    But Cisco said that taking advantage of the potential energy savings for a box would also depend on “how it is operated by the service provider.” Cable and satellite providers will have to decide whether the boxes can automatically go to standby, for example, and whether customers will be able to adjust their own settings. Currently, providers often do system maintenance and download information at night over the cable, so an ever-at-the ready cable box is more convenient for them.

    Cable companies can become Energy Star “partners” if they agree to install or upgrade boxes so that 25 percent to 50 percent of the homes they serve have “energy star qualified” equipment. The E.P.A. merely encourages providers to use units that can automatically power down at least partly when not in use.

    But as of Sept. 1, typical electricity consumption of Energy Star qualified products would drop to 97 kilowatt hours a year from an average of 138; and then by the middle of 2013, they must drop again to 29 kilowatt hours a year. Companies have fought the placement of the “Energy Star” seal on products and the new ambitious requirements, which may still be modified before enacted.

    Mr. Wilson recalled that when he was on the California Energy Commission, he asked box makers why the hard drives were on all the time, using so much power. The answer: “Nobody asked us to use less.”

    The biggest challenge in reducing energy use is maintaining the rapid response time now expected of home entertainment systems, Mr. Turner said. “People are used to the idea that computers take some time to boot up,” he said, “but they expect the TV to turn on instantly.”

    “The issue of having more efficient equipment is of interest to us,” said Justin Venech, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable. But, he added, “when we purchase the equipment, functionality and cost are the primary considerations.”

    But energy efficiency experts say that technical fixes could eliminate or minimize the waiting time and inconvenience, some at little expense. Low-energy European systems reboot from deep sleep in one to two minutes.

    Alan Meier, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said of the industry in the United States, “I don’t want to use the word ‘lazy,’ but they have had different priorities, and saving energy is not one of them.”

    Posted via email from Brian's posterous

    Why Is He Bi? (Sigh)

    HE was born this way.


    Not bisexual. Not even bipartisan. Just binary.

    Our president likes to be on both sides at once.

    In Afghanistan, he wants to go but he wants to stay. He’s surging and withdrawing simultaneously. He’s leaving fewer troops than are needed for a counterinsurgency strategy and more troops than are needed for a counterterrorism strategy — and he seems to want both strategies at the same time. Our work is done but we have to still be there. Our work isn’t done but we can go.

    On Libya, President Obama wants to lead from behind. He’s engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi while telling Congress he’s not engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi.

    On the budget, he wants to cut spending and increase spending. On the environment, he wants to increase energy production but is reluctant to drill. On health care, he wants to get everybody covered but will not press for a universal system. On Wall Street, he assails fat cats, but at cocktail parties, he wants to collect some of their fat for his campaign.

    On politics, he likes to be friends with the other side but bash ’em at the same time. For others, bipartisanship means transcending their own prior political identities. For President Obama, it means that he participates in all political identities. He does not seem deeply affiliated with any side except his own.

    He was elected on the idea of bold change, but now — except for the capture of Osama and his drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen — he plays it safe. He shirks politics as usual but gets all twisted up in politics.

    The man who was able to beat the Clintons in 2008 because the country wanted a break from Clintonian euphemism and casuistry is now breaking creative new ground in euphemism and casuistry.

    Obama is “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage, which, as any girl will tell you, is the first sign of a commitment-phobe.

    Maybe, given all his economic and war woes as he heads into 2012, Obama fears the disapproval of the homophobic elements within his own party. But he has tried to explain his reluctance on gay marriage as an expression of his Christianity, even though he rarely goes to church and is the picture of a secular humanist.

    While picking up more than three-quarters of a million dollars from 600 guests at a gay and lesbian fund-raising gala in Manhattan on Thursday night, the president declared, “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” even as he held to his position that the issue should be left to the states to decide.

    He’s not as bad as New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who gave another grumpy interview on Thursday, this time to The National Catholic Register, asserting: “You think it’s going to stop with this? You think now bigamists are going to want their rights to marry? You think somebody that wants to marry his sister is going to now say, ‘I have a right’? I mean, it’s the same principle, isn’t it?”

    The archbishop concluded: “Next thing you know, they’re going to say there’s four outs to every inning of baseball. This is crazy.” (He’s beginning to sound like Justice Scalia.)

    Still, Obama’s reluctance to come out for gay marriage seems hugely and willfully inconsistent with what we know about his progressive worldview. And it is odd that the first black president is letting Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through a gay-marriage bill in Albany on Friday night, go down in history as the leader on the front lines of the civil rights issue of our time.

    But for the president, “the fierce urgency of now” applies only to getting checks from the gay community, not getting up to speed with all the Americans who think it’s time for gay marriage.

    As with “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama is not leading the public, he’s following. And worse, the young, hip black president who was swept in on a gust of change, audacity and hope is lagging behind a couple of old, white conservatives — Dick Cheney and Ted Olson.

    As a community organizer, Obama developed impressive empathetic gifts. But now he is misusing them. It’s not enough to understand how everybody in the room thinks. You have to decide which ones in the room are right, and stand with them. A leader is not a mediator or an umpire or a convener or a facilitator.

    Sometimes, as Chris Christie put it, “the president has got to show up.”

    With each equivocation, the man in the Oval Office shields his identity and cloaks who the real Barack Obama is.

    He should draw inspiration from the gay community: one thing gays have to do, after all, is declare who they are at all costs.

    On some of the most important issues facing this nation, it is time for the president to come out of the closet.

    Wow, Maureen Dowd.

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