Archive

January 11th, 2016

N.Korea wrecks Obama's nuclear dream

    Wednesday's North Korean nuclear test was a harsh reminder that President Barack Obama's drive to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is still very much a dream.

    Even as Iran begins implementing its side of a deal to reduce nuclear stockpiles, disconnect existing centrifuges and provide more transparency of its research, many of Obama's nuclear nonproliferation goals have been scrapped. His arms control agenda with Russia has stalled. The nuclear nonproliferation treaty remains in perilous shape. And North Korea is amassing a nuclear stockpile that could one day rival that of major nuclear powers.

    From Obama's perspective, things were not supposed to turn out this way. On April 5, 2009 from Prague, the new president declared: "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." He acknowledged that this goal would take time and persistence, but said, "we must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, 'Yes, we can.' "

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Making the decision to let an 8-year-old play tackle football

    "You're killing my dream!" my almost 9-year-old son wailed after I told him I wasn't sure if he would be allowed to play football in the fall.

    "Killing your dream?" I asked.

    "Don't you know the only thing I want to do is play football in the NFL, someday?" he moaned.

    "Don't you know how few players actually make it to the NFL?" I retorted.

    "YES! That's why I need to start practicing now! You're killing my dream!"

    Over the next few weeks, my son continued to lobby for permission to play football, and my husband and I responded by telling him all the reasons we were hesitant to give that permission, namely safety concerns, the time commitment, and more safety concerns.

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I got a second chance to fight gun violence

    The new year is a time of optimism and new commitments. For me, it's also a powerful time for an additional reason: Every Jan. 8, I think about how close I came to losing my life on a bright winter morning five years ago in Tucson, Arizona, when a would-be assassin opened fire on me and a group of my constituents, injuring 12 others and killing six.

    I was shot in the head from three feet away, but somehow I survived.

    I made a decision that my new life would be lived as my old life was: in service of our country. One thing that means for me today is using my second chance to do everything I can to make this great country safer from the kind of gun violence that took the lives of those around me and changed many others', and mine, forever.

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How Trump can still lose the nomination

    Some of us keep explaining why Donald Trump's poll results so far don't make him a likely Republican nominee, yet others keep saying they do. So here we go again.

    True, turnout for primaries is better than in caucuses, but it's still not high. New Hampshire has higher turnout figures for its primary than most states. Yet in 2008, the total primary tally (about 527,000) was still lower than the general election vote (about 708,000). Trump is reportedly relying on first-time voters and others who don't regularly vote in Republican primaries. We don't know yet if they'll show up, but habitual voters are disproportionately the ones who usually take part in primaries.

    Next issue: Early polling leads, defined as surveys taken before the first voting event, the Iowa caucuses. Princeton's polling prognosticator, Sam Wang, dismisses recent arguments that polls, especially national polls, have limited predictive value at this point. He contends that those candidates who are far ahead by now usually win the nomination.

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Alabama's obstruction of gay marriage must stop

    Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is at it again, grandstanding to block implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision in his state. This time his legal arguments are much weaker than they were last January and February and March, before the nation's highest court ruled in June. And this time Moore is flirting with outright defiance and the potential loss of his post. That's an experience he's had before: In 2003, he was removed from office after defying a federal court order to uproot a granite statue of the Ten Commandments in front of the Alabama Supreme Court.

    The legal order Moore issued Wednesday to probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in the state, is a piece of obfuscation, but not a masterpiece of it. Moore acknowledges that after the Alabama court upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage in March, the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently decided Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Action on guns: Long overdue, still not enough

    Real presidents don't cry. But this one did, and with good reason.

    On January 5, while announcing in the East Room of the White House the executive actions he was taking on gun safety, President Obama ticked off the examples of gun violence this nation has suffered in the last few years. When he got to Sandy Hook, he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and paused to take a breath, while tears flowed down his cheeks.

    The memory of those 20 first-graders, mowed down in their classroom, is enough to make anyone weep. That, and the cowardly refusal of Congress to act -- even after mass murders at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, Roseburg, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, and countless daily victims of gun violence. Finally -- finally, what took him so long? -- Obama gave up on Congress and decided to do whatever he could under his own executive authority to keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business having them.

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Why I just can't figure out the 2016 Republican race

    Here's how the modern Republican presidential primary race plays out: Conservatives (social and tea party) eventually unite behind a single candidate. The "establishment" unites behind some other candidate. The two face off -- with the establishment candidate winning.

    Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum in 2012. John McCain over Mike Huckabee in 2008. In 2000, George W. Bush was the establishment candidate but was challenged not from the social/tea party right but from the sort-of rebel center in the form of McCain. (That center no longer exists in the party -- and hasn't since at least 2004.)

    This understanding of the race is based on an underlying "lane theory" of the party. The candidates are all running for the same nomination, yes, but until the very end of the race they are effectively clumped in distinct lanes -- trying to climb over a smaller number of opponents to win that lane and make the final two.

    Back in February 2015, I channeled an at-the-time unaffiliated Republican consultant's view that there were four lanes in this race. Here's how I laid it out:

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We regulate lead paint - so why not lead bullets?

    When I chaired the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, I was grateful that we had authority to regulate lead in household paint. Banning the use of lead-based paint in homes has prevented brain damage in countless children over the years.

    So why wouldn't Congress allow us authority over another dangerous consumer product often made with lead?

    Specifically, why not bullets?

    On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a package of executive actions that he hopes will reduce gun deaths in the United States. I urge him to put one more proposal on the table: regulating ammunition. The idea is workable, and Americans could support it.

    This idea isn't new. In 1974, the CPSC's first chairman made clear his belief that the agency could probably regulate ammunition, and a court agreed - whereupon a frightened Congress passed laws making it impossible even to try. Now is the time for the president to begin pushing to correct that mistake.

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The 'four freedoms' are under assault

    In her syndicated newspaper column on Jan. 6, 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, "America is not a pile of goods, more luxury, more comforts, a better telephone system, a greater number of cars. America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing."

    That afternoon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union address and elaborated on what America is and is not. He spoke powerfully about the fundamental values at the heart of American democracy, which he portrayed as a potent antidote to the tyranny overtaking Europe. He envisioned a world with "four essential human freedoms" at its core: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. And he proclaimed that such a world could be "attainable in our own time and generation."

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January 10th

Cruz is not disqualified from the presidency

    The issue of whether Ted Cruz is constitutionally eligible to be president could not be more bogus. He is. Case closed.

    I say this as someone who could scarcely be more concerned about the prospect of President Cruz. So concerned, in fact, that I have concluded, after much angsting, that President Trump would be preferable, given that nightmare choice. But notwithstanding Trump's typically ill-informed and situational insinuations (he didn't see any problem with Cruz having been born in Canada before Cruz posed a real threat), the constitutional requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen does not disqualify Cruz.

    Article II, Section One, Clause 5 of the Constitution, setting out minimum requirements for the presidency, does not define the meaning of "natural-born citizen," a limitation intended, as John Jay wrote in a letter to George Washington, to "provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government."

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