Kansas

The explosive exchange between Greek politicians earlier this week—peaking with Ilias Kasidiaris of the far-right Golden Dawn party throwing water on one of his female opponents before slugging another—was certainly jarring. But it’s hardly an isolated example of politicians forgoing verbal sparring for the satisfaction of the real thing. In fact, it’s not even exceptional. So what kinds of outbursts put this shameful, and completely inexcusable bout of violence to, well, shame?

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Eisenhower in War and Peace By Jean Edward Smith (Random House, 950 pp., $40) The histories we write say as much about our own times as about those we study. The current polarization in Washington has prompted a nostalgia for parties that were less ideologically uniform and more prone to compromise. Fashionable “pragmatism” has similarly infected thinking about foreign policy, as the fallout from the Iraq war lingers in the air a decade on.

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Two days ago, I noted the element of nostalgia for the post-World War II era  in President Obama's State of the Union address and its precursor, his much-hyped speech last month in Kansas. In his call for restoring the public investment and middle-class stability of those years, I wrote, Obama seeks to "demonstrate that more broadly shared prosperity, with higher marginal tax rates, is not incompatible with strong economic growth, and is in fact inextricably linked with it.

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In 1985, shortly after Sen. Bob Dole, R.-Kan., became majority leader of the upper body, a little creep called Newt Gingrich publicly branded him "the tax collector for the welfare state." Dole had previously been chairman of the finance committee, in which capacity he had overseen a tax cut in 1981 and a tax increase in 1982. In those days Republicans were allowed to be in favor of tax increases if circumstances warranted it, as they certainly did in 1982. President Ronald Reagan, before whose graven image every contemporary conservative must genuflect, signed the bill into law.

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I was surprised by how little coverage White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger got for his speech yesterday about income inequality (text, video). It was the second major White House speech on income inequality, the first of course being President Obama's widely covered Dec. 6 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas (which I wrote about here).

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President Obama’s much-heralded speech in Osawatomie, Kansas focused on inequality, which, he argued, is undermining our prosperity, weakening our democracy, and shrinking our middle class. While there’s a serious data-based argument to be made in favor of that view, recent surveys suggest that most Americans don’t share it.

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In his speech last Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kansas, President Obama initiated a new campaign to pressure Senate Republicans to drop their filibuster against Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray and actually vote on his confirmation.

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Mitt Romney's response this week to President Obama's populist speech in Kansas was to warn that Obama "seeks to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society." Daniel Henninger went even further in his op-ed yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, declaring the speech "what you'd expect to hear in Caracas or Buenos Aires." It's funny that Henninger should make the South American comparison.

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The GOP vs. TR

One of the reasons that it was clever for Obama to give his Dec.

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The ghost of Theodore Roosevelt presided over President Obama's speech yesterday afternoon in Osawatomie, Kansas. Indeed, in the week leading up to the president’s Osawatomie address, the White House made clear that the President was deliberately courting analogies with Roosevelt. TR, after all, had traveled to the very same town nearly 100 years earlier to give his famous “New Nationalism” address, calling for the federal government to ensure that the prerogatives of private property did not trump the rights of the commonwealth.

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