“Change We Can Believe In”

My brother and I both want a certain candy bar, but he just won’t give it up. So, I tell him that I’ll do his chores for a week if he hands over the candy bar. I get the candy bar and he doesn’t have to do chores. It’s an entirely ethical win-win situation. Right?

There was a similar contest going on in Pennsylvania: incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter faced unprecedented competition leading up to the May 18 Democratic primary. Congressman Joe Sestak was on his tail all the way up to election day, on which he defeated the octogenarian.

Rep. Sestak confirmed, weeks ago, that the White House offered him an administration-level job, on the condition that he would drop out of the PA Democratic race. (He would give no specific details.) Pundits have alluded to this being an unethical and/ or sly move on the part of the Obama administration. I think, however, that if any type of move of this sort is carried out in the absence of law breaking, dishonesty, or some kind of irrefutable transgression, this is just your run-of-the-mill quid pro quo; it’s just like the candy bar swap. If Sestak was qualified for the admin job, then the move was just political and could ultimately have also been a win-win.

With all that said, Barack Obama spent two years campaigning on the platform of “change” and promised a break from “politics as usual

This is politics as usual. It may not be particularly devious or cunning, but it embodies the kind of politics (for better or for worse) that Obama claimed to have been so vehemently opposed to.

I extend to President Obama the same principles he extended to us, the American people, on the night of the South Carolina primary:

“We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington. It’s a status quo that extends beyond any particular party and right now that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got, with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face.”

You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. You’ve got to work on the problems. So, yes, President Obama, we appreciate that you do your job ethically.

But there’s always a little bit more you can do to ensure that we’re in good hands and that our government is focused on solutions, not opportunism.

Elena Kagan

There are a few things that make Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court, a more easily-confirmable nominee than others may have been:

  • She has never been a judge before. In terms of confirmation, this is highly beneficial and eases the process. During Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings– as well as those of quite a few other SCOTUS nominees– Republicans hammered her on controversial decisions that she had made. Kagan has made some controversial comments, but has never had to publicly make a major political/ judicial decision. She’d be the first justice in thirty eight years to be confirmed without having had previous judicial experience (William Rhenquist was the last one).
  • She’s a woman. Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will make women 1/3 of the supreme court. While this is unprecedented, it should be, because women make up more than 51% of the population of the United States. (Also, she Jewish, which breaks the mold, as well.)
  • She’s procured bipartisan support. As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan re-shaped what had been widely recognized as a very liberal faculty. She tenured twenty new professors, many of them conservative. Since her nomination (and during the time she was being considered), several prominent conservative legal minds have spoken out in support of her and expressed their strong beliefs that Elena Kagan would be an excellent, honorable Supreme Court justice.
  • She’s brilliant and overqualified. She went to Princeton for undergraduate, and received an A.B. in History. Went to Oxford and received a Masters degree in Philosophy. She went to Harvard Law and received her J.D. She clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall. She was a tenured law professor at the University of Chicago (coincidentally, right around the same time Barack Obama was there). She was Bill Clinton’s associate White House Counsel. Now, she serves as the United States Solicitor General, representing the United States Government in cases before the Supreme Court. She’s known to be one of the sharpest legal minds in the country.

He’s Reached the Dark Side

To me, John McCain’s story is a sad one. As the Arizona GOP’s primary draws near, the difference in the polls– between McCain and J.D. Hayworth (his GOP contender)– have begun to close drastically. An April 17th poll concluded that Hayworth is within five points of catching up to McCain (and most political strategists would conclude that McCain’s chances of winning the primary are slim).

During the campaign, there was some truth to John McCain’s constant “maverick” rhetoric. He had been, at one point, a truly open-minded and progressive Republican. But as time has come and gone, he’s felt forced to move further and further to the right. His state is really a hot-spot right now because of its sudden ramp-up in anti-immigration law, and has triggered radical responses from both sides of the spectrum, all across the country.

In 2006, at a point in time when he was revving up for presidential race and really trying to appeal to the conservative base, he had still not compromised all his values. With Sen. Ted Kennedy (the Liberal Lion), he proposed a bill (S1033) that would– in time– put illegal immigrants on the road to legal citizenship. Yet, now, in a sad, desperate attempt to get one, last term in the Senate, his ideology has weakened.

Watch this brand new campaign ad and express your thoughts below.

Crist the Cunning

On April 29, the Governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) declared that he will run as an Independent in November’s Senate race, and encouraged Florida Independents to support and vote for him. After lagging in the polls against his Republican primary opponent, he quickly transformed into an opportunist. He shifted his ideology and party allegiance, and began catering to a fresh and separate demographic.

Charlie Crist should take a lesson from Joe Lieberman.

People don’t like flip floppers. People like their politicians when they are committed to solving major problems with wholehearted conviction, not when they make politically convenient U-tuns. When Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary and ran as an independent, he began losing Democratic support. When he beat his Republican opponent, he began to lost Republican support. When he sabotaged the public option through Machiavellian tactics, he lost more democratic support, and when he does vote with the Democrats, he loses Republican support. Joe Lieberman is a highly disliked politician, and it’s because he’s an opportunist. After his healthcare maneuver last winter, 81% of Democrats in Connecticut did not approve of his job performance. Republicans disapproved of him by a “48/39 margin or with independents who do so by a 61/32 spread” according to a poll by Public Policy Polling. It ends up totaling to about a twenty-five percent approval rating with the state he “represents”.

Charlie Crist seems to have one constituent: Charlie Crist. ___________________________________________________________________________________

P.S. John McCain, if you lose your Republican primary, please don’t pull the whole country through a battle you know you’ll ultimately end up losing. Retire with dignity.

Breaking the Mold

Oh, how the tables have turned.

In light of Justice Stevens’ retirement announcement, the White House will begin to determine a nominee to be approved by the US Senate. Whereas in the not-so-distant past, only a white male nominee would ever be considered acceptable, the pressure has increased for President Obama to choose someone who does’t fit that mold. That pressure is, of course, lessened by Justice Sotomayor’s ascension to the bench. However, President Obama’s first term in office marks the first time in American history that the white, Christian, male candidate is at a disadvantage.

“Fortunately, the supreme court is a more diverse place than it has been…there is the possibility that there could be the first Asian-American justice, but i suspect there may well be another woman on the court,” Jeffery Toobin said this morning on CNN.

Elena Kagan, who is considered the leading candidate for Stevens’ position, would be the first Justice in a long time who was not a judge prior to her appointment.

It seems like whoever Obama chooses– regardless of their political standpoint– will be somehow breaking the mold.

Once Obama’s done, will there still be a “mold”?