June 30, 2009
The John Roberts Method
Tom Goldstein is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and lecturer at Stanford and Harvard Law Schools. He is the founder of SCOTUSblog. It’s always perilous to try and generalize about a Supreme Court Term. Roughly 80 cases on diverse topics decided by 9 different people don’t collectively produce clear themes. When they do appear to, it’s often a mirage that reflects the coincidence of cases that happen to fall together by chance within a single term.But that never stopped me before.Here is what strikes me most about this Term.
Health Care Deform
The issue sucking up the oxygen in Washington today is whether to have a public health insurance plan compete with private insurers for the business of Americans without secure workplace coverage. Americans overwhelmingly back the idea, President Obama strongly supports it, and House Democratic leaders have drafted legislation that shows how it can be done.
Last month, I reported that Bob Woodward is at work on a new book about the Obama administration, which has been a cause of concern at the White House. At the time, sources told me that Woodward would likely focus his efforts on Obama's foreign policy, and the high-level debates that play out inside the West Wing. A favorite parlor game in Washington is guessing the identities of Woodward's (many) anonymous sources. This time around, speculation is that Woodward will turn to national security adviser Jim Jones, whom Woodward forged a relationship with.
Biden And Iraq
Speaking of Iraq, Newsweek has an interesting nugget I hadn't seen anywhere else. Apparently Obama has asked Joe Biden to take a lead role in managing Iraq as the U.S. slowly withdraws from the country in the coming months: Vice President Joe Biden's official portfolio is expanding. NEWSWEEK has learned that President Obama has asked Biden to take the lead role on Iraq as the U.S.
Should the government require that employers either provide their workers with health insurance or pay some money to help defray the cost? Wonks call this an "employer mandate" and it's among reform's more controversial notions. Most reform advocates support the idea, arguing it's necessary both to raise the money necessary to finance universal coverage in the early years and to protect existing employer coverage for people who already have it.
Failed States, Dubious Rankings
I spent some time yesterday and today trying to figure out Foreign Policy magazine's ranking of failed states. Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan got first, second, and third place--no surprises there. But what initially piqued my interest was the high ranking given to Kenya, a country where I just spent two weeks (on a trip sponsored by the International Reporting Project, based at Johns Hopkins).
Barry Friedman is the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. His book, The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Constitution, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in September. The Supreme Court's Ricci decision looks to be a double blessing for conservatives, who not only adore the result, but may also get two extended opportunities to pound on the issue. The first will be the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor to fill Justice David Souter's seat on the Supreme Court.
Roger Altman's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal strikes me as slightly off in its focus on medium-term deficits: [F]ederal deficits may average a stunning $1 trillion annually over the next 10 years. ... The poor budget outlook may impel the administration to follow up health-care legislation with an effort to fix Social Security. The shortfall in Social Security's trust funds -- which adds to the long-term deficit -- is much smaller than the companion problem in Medicare funding. Public anxiety over deficits may make this fix possible now even though it has been elusive for years.
Global climate talks tend to involve all sorts of peer pressure. Europe urges the United States to do more. The United States presses China to do more. Developing countries ask wealthy countries to do more. But does all this nagging ever work? Sometimes yes, sometimes not at all. Consider Japan and Russia. Earlier this month, the Japanese government divulged its plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, an announcement that was greeted with… near-universal derision. After all, those goals are even weaker than U.S.
June 29, 2009
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
WASHINGTON--Every general studies the mistakes of the last war, and President Obama's style has been much influenced by the difficulties of Bill Clinton's presidency.In particular, Obama has shied away from handing Congress his own plans on "stone tablets," a phrase much loved by senior adviser David Axelrod, and instead allowed it room to legislate.The president has won a lot, including a decent stimulus bill and laws on children's health coverage, tobacco regulation and employment discrimination that, in less exciting times, would have been seen as landmarks.But the stimulus bill was neither