June 16, 2009
Between Idealism And Realism In Iran
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them, which is now out in paperback. Like my colleagues, I am rapt by the sight of the Iranian protests. In fact, listening to NPR's coverage from Tehran this morning, I found myself rapt by the sound of the protests, the kind of roar that only a stadium-sized group of people can produce. It's an inspiring moment in Iranian politics.
Earlier this afternoon, the White House held a press conference to talk up a major new NOAA report on likely climate-change impacts in the United States. I don't know if this is a first step in a concerted new push by the Obama administration to build support for action on global warming (the White House has stayed remarkably quiet on this issue so far), but the report vividly illustrates why the country can't just ignore climate change.
Khamenei On The Ropes?
Robert Baer served in the CIA as a field operative from 1976 to 1997. His latest book is The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (Crown Publishers, 2008). In Iran nothing is ever as it seems, including presidential elections. It's arguable that Friday's election had less to do with a vote for or against Ahmadinejad than it did with a vote for or against Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. And if the elections were stolen, it was likely in an effort to maintain Khamenei's hold on power rather than Ahmadinejad's. Iran is not a theocracy.
Does Bank Regulation Even Work?
With the administration set to unveil plans for regulating the securitization process (details of which are available here), it's worth taking a look back at how already-regulated banks performed during the subprime boom. In a paper put out earlier this year, a group of economists compared the quality of loans originated by regulated vs. non-regulated mortgage lenders. In the former group were megabanks and thrifts while in the latter were independent lenders like the now-defunct Ameriquest.
Why Is Obama Ditching Obamaism?
One of the early hallmarks of the administration's governing style is to make Congress a partner (sometimes even the senior partner) in policy development rather than submitting fully-formed legislation and trying to whip up votes for it. Part of this derives from Obama's personal style, which prizes consensus. And part of it is just shrewd politics and a willingness to learn from past presidential failures, as Matt Bai pointed out in this recent Times magazine piece.
Yesterday I wrote about how the 2004 election should have taught conservatives about the vulnerabilities liberals face in being associated with foreign influence. Today, via the Lede, I see a terrific example of an Iranian propaganda commercial. It involves a White House plot to subvert Iran, involving John McCain and... Republican bogeyman George Soros! (Are there any foreign plots that don't involve Soros?) The video has to be seen to be believed.
June 15, 2009
From Kiev To Tehran?
As I watched events in Iran unfold at the end of last week, I couldn’t help but note the similarities to the “Colored Revolutions” that swept through the post-communist region in the middle of this decade. Pre-election polls predicted a surprisingly competitive election in an erstwhile authoritarian country. Following the election, both sides claimed victory amid allegations of serious electoral fraud.
To The Mattresses
WASHINGTON--Business has been on the ropes since last fall's financial collapse, but the first glimmerings of recovery are calling forth a capitalist counteroffensive. It's one thing for President Obama to face off against Fox News, the right-wing radio empire, and Republican congressional leaders whose names are unfamiliar to much of the public. It's quite another to confront organized business. That's why last week's announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of a new "Campaign for Free Enterprise" could be one of the year's most consequential political developments.
The Return Of Idealism
The past few years haven't been kind to foreign policy idealism--the belief that when authoritarian states mistreat their own people, it is a matter of concern for all of us. We idealists can largely blame ourselves for this. The biggest reason idealism fell out of favor was Iraq--a disastrous war that many of us foolishly supported in the naive belief that substituting liberalism for totalitarianism in the heart of the Middle East would be a relatively simple thing. We made mistakes beyond Iraq, too.
Dennis Ross To Nsc
It seems that Ha'aretz report wasn't totally off base. Says Time: Dennis Ross, the Obama Administration's special adviser on Iran, will be leaving his post at the State Department to become a senior adviser at the National Security Council with an expanded portfolio, Administration officials tell TIME. The new White House position puts him closer to the center of foreign policy power, placing him in the top ranks of Obama's in-house aides, said an Administration official. "He is closer to being able to provide advice to the President," the official said.