Archive

November 23rd, 2015

Clinton's real answer to that Wall Street question

    The criticism poured in from friend and foe alike when Hillary Clinton invoked 9/11 on Saturday night to justify Wall Street's generosity to her presidential campaign.

    Yes, it was a weird moment in the Democratic debate. But her real mistake wasn't in clumsily trying to turn the attention to her role as a senator in rebuilding downtown New York after Sept. 11, 2001.

    It was in not using the opportunity to make a stronger case for her proposals to update the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law. With one exception, her reforms go to the heart of what more needs to be done to keep the financial system safe.

    But, first, let's look at how the financial sector spends its money on politicians. Wall Street's contributions, which are by far the largest source of funding for candidates in both parties, have historically swung between favoring Democrats and Republicans.

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America has never actually welcomed the world's huddled masses

    For a growing number of politicians, this month's attacks in Paris mean it's time to stop bringing Syrian refugees to the United States. The risk that the Islamic State might send infiltrators in disguise, the theory goes, outweighs America's usual attitude toward taking in desperate people from around the world. "Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion," House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said Tuesday. "This is a moment where it's better to be safe than to be sorry." By the middle of this past week, more than half the country's governors had declared that their states wouldn't accept any resettled Syrians. Things had changed after Paris.

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The Farce Awakens

    Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the website RedState.com, is a serious power in right-wing circles. Speechifying at RedState’s annual gathering is a rite of passage for aspiring Republican politicians, and Erickson made headlines this year when he disinvited Donald Trump from the festivities.

    So it’s worth paying attention to what Erickson says. And as you might guess, he doesn’t think highly of President Barack Obama’s anti-terrorism policies.

    Still, his response to the attack in Paris was a bit startling. The French themselves are making a point of staying calm, indeed of going out to cafes to show that they refuse to be intimidated. But Erickson declared on his website that he won’t be going to see the new “Star Wars” movie on opening day, because “there are no metal detectors at American theaters.”

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Roanoke, Virginia, mayor goes nativist

    It's truly shameful that xenophobia and ignorance are playing such powerful roles these days in Virginia when it comes to Syrian refugees.

    It gives new meaning to the "No Nothing" movement of nativist Americans who dogged Catholic immigrants in the 19th century.

    Virginians are shocked, as are people everywhere, by the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. That somehow has led Roanoke Virginia Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, to call for blocking any Syrian refugees from coming into his city until "normalcy is restored."

    Adding to the fire, Bowers added incredibly thoughtless allusions to the internment of Japanese Americans, who, although they were U.S. citizens, were forced into concentration camps during World War II. The vast majority were loyal Americans who endured a huge racial insult.

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Obama's critics stop making sense

    The impact of the Paris attacks on the Republican presidential race may turn out to be minimal, especially since the establishment candidates aren't making any more sense than outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

    Theoretically, a deadly rampage by Islamic State terrorists ought to make Republican voters think twice about presidential hopefuls who have zero experience in government and no expertise in foreign or military affairs. But the contenders who hold or held high office are offering little more than bellicose rhetoric and overblown pledges of toughness.

    Not that it's easy to match Trump for hyperbole. "Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country," he said on Twitter. "Who knows who they are -- some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?"

    But Chris Christie, who should know better, went not just over the top but around the bend. He said all Syrian refugees should be turned away, including "orphans under 5." As governor of New Jersey, maybe he'll order a security sweep of the Garden State's elementary school playgrounds.

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November 22nd

The Republicans’ Rhetoric of Hate and Fear

    Fear, laced with paranoia, is driving the American response against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

    President Obama has said he would accept 10,000 refugees, all of them subjected to intense scrutiny before being admitted to the country. France, with a population about one-fifth that of the United States, despite the worst attack on its soil since World War II, will accept 30,000 refugees.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the Senate, “We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS because some politician doesn’t like their religion.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), a Jew, said the nation should “not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia,” and that when “thousands of people have lost everything—have nothing left but the shirts on their backs—we will not turn our backs on the refugees.”

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Response to refugees: How ugly can it get?

    We live in a great country; most of the time we can be proud to be Americans. However, nobody is perfect. No nation is perfect. There are also times we can be ashamed to be Americans. And this is one of them.

    In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, we should all be ashamed of the ugly rhetoric we've heard, mainly from Republican politicians and conservative talk-show hosts, about Syrian refugees.

    We're not talking political outliers, either. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several Republican senators have demanded at least a pause, if not an outright ban, on accepting refugees from Syria in the United States. By last count, 25 governors (24 Republicans and one Democrat) have announced they will shut their borders to anyone from Syria, even though they have no constitutional authority to do so.

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Republican campaign on refugees is just beginning

    On Thursday, the House approved a bill to severely restrict the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq, defying a veto threat from President Barack Obama. Behind the scenes, Republicans are preparing several bills that are more drastic, aiming to close American borders to asylum seekers. These measures set up a much longer political battle.

    The most severe of the Republican proposals would suspend all U.S. government support for resettling refugees in the U.S. and would aim to guard against certain refugees entering the U.S. through the southern border who are suspected of ties to terrorism, designating them "special interest aliens."

    The four sponsors said in a press release that all services in the Office of Refugee Resettlement should be suspended, including the health services, legal services and social services "that help refugees become self-sufficient as quickly as possible after their arrival in the United States."

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Fear as a trump card

    Politics is not only about competing views on issues. It is also, and often most importantly, about which problems come to the forefront in the public conversation and in the minds of citizens and voters.

    The battle over what matters most could determine the outcome of the 2016 election. One set of concerns, related to race, immigration and attitudes toward Islam, divides the country deeply. Another group of issues, involving economic inequities and the difficulties many Americans are having getting ahead, has broad reach across party lines.

    Republicans want the first agenda to be paramount. This reflects both the attitudes of their supporters and a rational (if debatable) assessment of how they might win. It also explains the eagerness of Republican politicians to make blocking Syrian refugees from our shores the centerpiece of their initial response to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Casting Democrats as insufficiently mindful of the nation's security -- and charging them with being too responsive to the rights of religious and racial minorities -- are among the oldest calls in the GOP political playbook.

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Can we agree on ISIS?

    Right after the massacre in Paris, the question on many a pundit's lips was: How will the struggle against Islamic State terrorism affect the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign?

    Now, almost a week later, the more pertinent, and worrisome, question is: How will the 2016 campaign affect the struggle against Islamic State terrorism?

    To put it more broadly, can the United States actually wage an effective fight against the Islamic State, as many both at home and abroad expect, much less meet broader global responsibilities, when our leaders are obsessed with short-term advantage in domestic politics?

    To be sure, Americans have never achieved perfect consensus, even amid the greatest national security crises. Abraham Lincoln faced serious opposition in the 1864 election; Woodrow Wilson battled dissenters during World War I; the Cold War was a time of broad anti-Soviet consensus but also domestic turmoil.

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