president

The Obama Factor

WASHINGTON--Memo to Democrats: You will be defined by President Obama whether you like it or not, so you might as well embrace him for the benefits he can bring you. Memo to Republicans: Talk a right-wing game in your ideological magazines and at your tea parties if that makes you happy. But to win elections, your candidates had better look like middle-of-the-road problem-solvers. Those are the two outstanding lessons from the campaigns for next Tuesday's governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia. Both parties would be smart to apply them in 2010. In Virginia, Democrat R.

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President Obama’s choice about Afghanistan isn’t getting any easier. Last week Matthew Hoh, a senior State Department official in the country, resigned to protest U.S. policies there. Hoh said he didn't "see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war." This is not the first time a policymaker stepped down over choices made in Washington. Click through this TNR slideshow to see some historical wartime resignations.

Obama and the Veil

Let me be clear: I don't doubt for a moment that Barack Obama genuinely believes that he can calm the roils that trouble the United States in its relationship with the Muslim world and the Arab orbit within it. The problem is, alas, that he hasn't a clue. Moreover, he hasn't had the chance to learn. And maybe--just maybe--he is not inclined to learn because in his generation wisdom doesn't come from study but from ideological narrative. George W. Bush had his own favorite narrative.

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'Smart' Stimulus

Over the last year, Japan’s long economic doldrums have been used as a cautionary lesson for stimulus spending in Washington policy circles. While there is little doubt that Japan has overspent on public works projects, it is also clear that Japan invested mainly in the same old projects: dams, roads, and airports.

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Hmm, maybe this is why John Kerry didn't want to badmouth him: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. You have to wonder what other unsavory things the CIA is up to in Afghanistan. Which may also be a reason why Barack Obama isn't too keen on digging deep into Bush-era agency practices. P.S.

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In the Tank

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President By Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 707 pp., $35) In her infamous first sentence of The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm swings for the fences and proclaims that "every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." She means that journalists use their human subjects and then dispose of them; that we con them in person by "preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness"--it occurs to me to note that however bleak print's future seems

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Topic number one in health care reform right now is the public option--and, in particular, Senator Harry Reid's decision to push a bill that includes an "opt-out" proposal. But Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, had relatively little to say about it on Tuesday, when she appeared at TNR's health reform conference. Her keynote address barely touched upon the subject.

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James Gardner, formerly the architecture critic of the New York Sun, now writes on culture for several publications.  It must be nice to be the president.

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I've been thinking for a couple weeks that Joe Lieberman is the Democrats' biggest potential problem. The rest of the party has a strong incentive to pass health care reform and avoid a 2010 catastrophe. But Lieberman? He's not a Democrat and won't be running on the Democratic ticket in 2012. Moreover, my read on him is that he's furious with the party, resentful of President Obama (who beat his friend in 2008) and would relish a Democratic catastrophe. Of course, I can't prove this.

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This week I've been attending the first national conference of J Street, the "pro-Israel, pro-Peace" group which I first wrote about last year. I'm working on a longer piece about the organization's identity crisis that should appear sometime soon, but there have been two events thus far worthy of special note. First was the speech delivered by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism and one of the most prominent liberal Jews in the country.

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