May 08, 2009

More Sotomayor
12:00 AM

I’ve just returned from London to find that my piece on Sonia Sotomayor has provoked an energetic response in the blogosphere. Many people have mischaracterized my argument, and I can understand why. The headline--“The Case Against Sotomayor”--promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver. As soon as the piece was published, I regretted the headline, which I hadn’t seen in advance. The piece was not meant to be a definitive “case against” Judge Sotomayor’s candidacy.

Game On
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- The coming battle over President Obama's first Supreme Court nomination could be an enlightening debate over what direction the court should take. It could also be a nasty and hypocritical fight that obscures more issues than it clarifies. Which will it be?When George W. Bush was president, Senate Republicans who are now proposing to raise an ideological ruckus said that Democrats were wrong to use judicial philosophy as a benchmark for confirming a nominee.

Disputations: A Case Of Misrepresentation
12:00 AM

Professors Akerlof and Shiller, in their letter about my review of their book, attribute to me (by implication) views quite different from what I hold. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself clearly enough in my review.

Everybody Loves Arne
12:00 AM

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a bona fide celebrity--at least as far as Cabinet members go. He made Rolling Stone's "100 People Who Are Changing America" list, and he's Katie Couric's date to the White House Correspondents' Dinner this Saturday. He recently introduced Neko Case at D.C.'s popular 9:30 Club, and he's appeared on almost every major TV network promoting education reform. People can't seem to get enough of the former pro-basketball player and CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Loyalty To Obama
12:00 AM

Here in Massachusetts, support for Governor Patrick is seen as an expression of loyalty to President Obama. (Patrick campaigned widely for the Obama in the 2008 campaign.) But the fact is that Patrick has been a flop from the moment he entered the State House. Then it was mostly symbolics. Since then, it has been real politics. Over gambling, over highways and by-ways, over budgets and over a series of sleazy appointments to offices that have not been filled for years and have no function.

My Stress Test Ambivalence
12:00 AM

It's hard not to be a little mystified by the long-awaited stress-test results. A few weeks ago we worried that several big banks might be insolvent; yesterday the government told us that the 19 stress-tested banks collectively need a meager $75 billion (a substantial portion of which they can generate simply by converting the preferred shares the government currently owns to common stock). One struggles to make sense of it. But if you actually read the government's stress-test report, you come away thinking the numbers are defensible.

May 07, 2009

Speech! Speech!
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON--You have heard the expression "more Catholic than the pope." We now know that the reaction of right-wing Catholics to Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama falls into this category.     To the dismay of many conservatives, the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has offered what one anti-abortion Catholic blog called "a surprisingly positive assessment of the new president's approach to life issues"--so positive, in fact, that a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee was moved to criticize Pope Benedict XVI's daily. The Vatican newspaper offered its anal

So Many Secrets
12:00 AM

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced that his administration intends to engage in an “overarching reform” of the state secrets privilege, a legal tool exploited during the Bush era to shut down lawsuits that challenged warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and other unlawful government practices. This was a welcome announcement from the president, but also a puzzling one.

Don’t Nominate Her Because She’s Gay. Do It Only If She’s Worthy.
12:00 AM

My colleague Richard Just presents a provocative case not only for why President Obama should appoint an openly gay Supreme Court Justice, but also how such a move would be a political point-scorer for Democrats. I respect Richard's argument and agree that an openly-gay appointee would do wonders for the visibility of gay people in America. But I want to use the opportunity to make a broader, related point.

Understanding Jeff Sessions
12:00 AM

I'm trying to figure out what exactly Jeff Sessions meant when he said he could support a Supreme Court justice who had "gay tendencies." Clearly he is making a concession of sorts. But precisely what he is conceding is not clear. Here is Sessions' exact formulation: "I don't think a person who acknowledges that they have gay tendencies is disqualified per se for the job.”  It's as if Sessions wandered into his answer intending at first to say that a justice's sexual orientation shouldn't matter, but then thought better of it and tried to walk back the sentiment in mid-sentence.