Blog

Presidents don't often get credit for what they don't do, but it's among the most important ways to judge their tenure. High on the list of things to avoid is unnecessary war.

If President Bush had chosen not to go to war in Iraq, and instead kept our military focused on Afghanistan, it would rank as his greatest achievement in office. Consider the thousands of lives and trillions of dollars that would have been saved, and the international alienation America would have avoided. Of course, our policy in Iraq is a complicated question -- it...

April 30, 2013

You often hear that your character is defined by "what you do when no one is looking."  It's a line that is often quoted by conservatives, perhaps because they tend to stress that morality is determined by strict rules unrelated to circumstance. And I think it's a reasonable definition -- certainly those who make decisions based on what they believe is correct will act the same whether there is an audience or not.

But my definition is one that I think more progressives would share: Character is defined by how you treat people who are less...

April 23, 2013

Over the weekend there were news stories suggesting that the bombing in Boston would complicate efforts to pass immigration reform legislation. It proves how much our political debates can be captured by the news of the moment – and by people willing to use it manipulatively. 

It is clear that the Boston bombing should have nothing to do with the immigration debate. The suspected bombers were legal immigrants, whereas the controversial parts of the bill deal with those here illegally. To suspect all immigrants of wrong-doing would be like...

April 22, 2013

I have a lifelong habit, when I hear about a tragedy, of imagining the least bad outcome.

In college, someone told me there had been an explosion on the space shuttle, and I pictured a small fire on board.

When I heard a federal office building in Oklahoma City was bombed, I imagined some broken glass near the doorway.

Someone interupted a meeting I was in to say that a plane flew into the World Trade Center, and I thought of a Cesna. Then  they said another plane hit the other tower -- I knew something was really wrong, but...

April 17, 2013

For months, as Washington has lurched from one fiscal crisis to another, Republicans in Congress have demanded that President Obama "show leadership" on the budget. This was code for wanting the President to propose cuts to the big entitlement programs, like Social Security or Medicare.There were two responses from the White House. First, they pointed out that the President has repeatedly said he'd be willing to accept those cuts as part of a larger deal to set the government on a sustainable path for the future. And, in fact, several times he...

April 11, 2013

Immigration reform legislation will be proposed in the Senate soon and there's a debate within the Republican Party about whether it makes sense to support it.  I think it's politically smart for the GOP to do so, but not for the reason most commonly cited. One of the biggest lessons of the 2012 election, according to many commentators, was the Republicans’ failure to attract more minority voters. President Obama crushed Governor Romney among Hispanics, so there has been a rush among conservatives to figure out how to win more of that vote....

April 09, 2013

Who are going to be the presidential nominees in 2016?  If you’re not a deeply obsessed political junkie, you probably wonder why this question is being asked at all in 2013, at the start of President Obama’s second term.  But it is being asked, and the pre-race is being covered pretty regularly by sites like The Washington Post’s The Fix, NBC’s First Read, and ABC’s The Note. 

It’s happening for about the same reason they broadcast the NFL Combine on NFL Network.  The year-round, 24/7 political outlets need content.  And in the era of...

April 08, 2013

I like the governor of my state more than I thought I would when he was elected, and that’s a problem for him. When Bob McDonnell was running for governor, I had the impression he was a hard right apostle of the worst elements of the Virginia Republican Party.  Just about all I needed to know was that he did his graduate work at Christian Broadcasting Network University, which has since changed its name to Regent University.  In a state that is home to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that is a telling marker.  I assumed the worst. But, in my...

April 02, 2013