Paul Blumenthal writes: The issue of big money in politics is receiving increased attention as the country barrels toward a presidential election cycle where all spending records are expected to be smashed. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have spoken out on tackling the problem, as have a handful of Republican candidates.
What is this problem, exactly? Represent.Us, a group that supports campaign finance reforms and is advocating for them at the city, municipal and state levels, presents an answer in a new video.
Pulling from a study by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, the video explains how legislative actions taken by politicians in Washington do not reflect the priorities of the broader population, but instead are moved by the opinions of the wealthy elite.
These elite have the means to influence government through lobbyists, campaign donations and public relations campaigns. And studies by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics have shown that wealthy elites dominate political spending. A study released Thursday by these two groups found the percentage of donations made by the .01 percent rose to nearly 30 percent in the 2014 elections, up from 25 percent in 2012. [Continue reading…]
In “An open letter to the President from a bereaved sister,” Abby Okrent writes:
Dear Mr. President,
My younger brother was an early believer in you. He worked for your Senate campaign. At the age of 25, he ran the GOTV campaign in North Carolina, delivering an improbable victory for you in a Southern state that helped give you your first term. This year, slightly less bright-eyed but nonetheless a believer, he was working on your campaign again when he died suddenly, a brilliant, energetic 29 year old, dead in his tracks. You know this. You called my parents. Your campaign, to my greatest appreciation and respect, brought grief counselors for his coworkers, dedicated a corner of the office and much of your fundraising efforts to him, and bussed his coworkers to join the hundreds of others at his funeral.
You may not know that after his sudden passing, many of his friends quit their jobs, moved, changed their lives to continue working on your campaign in his memory. One of these friends ran your GOTV effort in Ohio, delivering a close swing state that resulted in the race being called for you early. My mom and I joined these efforts in Ohio, door-knocking until right before the polls closed, pounding the pavement in Alex’s memory and in hopes of your next presidency. Despite my disappointment in some of your stances, I proudly kept my Ohio for Obama sticker on my jacket.
Until yesterday. Mr. President, when the bombs began raining on Gaza again and you reiterated Israel’s “right to defend itself”, I took that sticker off my jacket. Later, you called Prime Minister Netanyahu and asked him to “use restraint,” as though he were a glutton at a feast, rather than an elected official of a powerful military nation, using your own country’s weaponry to engage in a one-sided assault. Mr. President, you are the most powerful man in the world. You do not need to politely request anything of Mr. Netanyahu; you can stop him by ending U.S. military aid to Israel until Israel complies with international and U.S. law. Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies in the U.S. actively campaigned against your re-election, assuming that Governor Romney would be better positioned to give them carte blanche to violate Palestinian human rights and start regional wars. It is not to them that you now need to prove your allegiance, but to we the people who knocked doors for you, who made phone calls for you, who died getting you this 4 years more of opportunity. [Continue reading…]
CNN: Israel is signaling a major change in tone toward U.S. President Barack Obama now that he has won reelection.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, gave what could only be described as a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program. It has been a very contentious issue between the two allies, with the U.S. fearing Israel might unilaterally strike Iran’s nuclear sites and drag the U.S. into an regional war.
But Ayalon told Amanpour that despite past differences with the Obama administration over Iran, “I think today we can safely say that we are very much on the same page and will continue to follow the lead of the U.S.”
Over the course of his first term in office, Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a fraught relationship. They have disagreed on major issues, ranging from the Iranian nuclear program to a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama’s challenger, Mitt Romney, dates back to the 1970s, when they worked at the same company in the United States – Netanyahu’s preference for a President Romney had been an open secret.
Ayalon admitted “there was a special kinship between Mr. Romney and Mr. Netanyahu,” but said Israel cannot afford to be meddling in U.S. politics.
Still, many Israelis are worried about payback against their leader for backing the wrong horse in the U.S. presidential sweepstakes. On Thursday, the leading Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth even carried the headline “Bibi gambled. We’ll pay.”
But Ayalon expressed no doubts that the relationship would get back on track. “I have full confidence knowing not only the president’s commitment, but also his team” he said. “In a way I see an advantage by the continuity of the administration being very seasoned, knowing very well the Iran file and portfolio, to continue and make sure Iran won’t become nuclear.”
Gary Younge writes: As a community organiser in Chicago’s south side, Barack Obama once managed to secure an event with the city’s first and only black mayor, Harold Washington. He primed the women he was working with to press the mayor to attend their forthcoming rally to improve conditions in the run-down area.
But instead they fawned and got their picture taken with him. Afterwards he asked if they had extracted a promise about the rally. “What rally?” said one. Obama stormed off in frustration. “Here we are with a chance to show the mayor that we’re real players in the city,” he told a colleague. “A group he needs to take seriously. So what do we do? We act like a bunch of starstruck children.”
As a community organiser Obama was well aware that it was only by making demands on the powerful that the powerless could further their interests. As president he must be delighted to realise that all too few of his progressive supporters have grasped that reality.
The last week has felt very familiar. Just like four years ago, black people in Chicago have been swapping knowing smiles, liberals are watching Fox News to gloat and Democrats have been revelling in the charisma, eloquence and intelligence of their candidate. Their affection for him is rooted in politics but their assessment of him owes more to psychoanalysis. At the celebrations in Chicago on Tuesday most believed he would be more radical in the second term. Ask them what that expectation is based on and they shrug. Ask them what they will do to make sure he meets it and they shrug again. If the devotion is not blind then, at the very best, it is not clear-sighted. [Continue reading…]
Time magazine reports: In late spring, the backroom number crunchers who powered Barack Obama’s campaign to victory noticed that George Clooney had an almost gravitational tug on West Coast females ages 40 to 49. The women were far and away the single demographic group most likely to hand over cash, for a chance to dine in Hollywood with Clooney — and Obama.
So as they did with all the other data collected, stored and analyzed in the two-year drive for re-election, Obama’s top campaign aides decided to put this insight to use. They sought out an East Coast celebrity who had similar appeal among the same demographic, aiming to replicate the millions of dollars produced by the Clooney contest. “We were blessed with an overflowing menu of options, but we chose Sarah Jessica Parker,” explains a senior campaign adviser. And so the next Dinner with Barack contest was born: a chance to eat at Parker’s West Village brownstone.
For the general public, there was no way to know that the idea for the Parker contest had come from a data-mining discovery about some supporters: affection for contests, small dinners and celebrity. But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means. “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign,” he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation, with an official “chief scientist” for the Chicago headquarters named Rayid Ghani, who in a previous life crunched huge data sets to, among other things, maximize the efficiency of supermarket sales promotions. [Continue reading…]
Although this article claims to pull back the curtain on the Obama campaign’s data-mining operation, what’s revealed is actually less informative than what appeared in a Mother Jones report by Tim Murphy who dug up the information himself rather than having it spoon fed by campaign officials.
Murphy described his findings on Democracy Now! last month:
Haaretz reports: Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s victory in the American presidential elections, on Wednesday former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of blatantly interfering in favor of Republican nominee Mitt Romney, adding that he did so in the name of Netanyahu and Romney-backer Sheldon Adelson.
“This represents a significant breach of the basic rules governing ties between nations, made worse by the fact that these are allies like Israel and the United States,” Olmert said during a meeting with the heads of New York’s Jewish community.
Olmert, who’s weighing whether or not to make a return to politics and run in the upcoming elections opposite Netanyahu, was asked by one of those attending the meeting whether or not the Israeli public was disturbed by the fact that the premier intervened in the U.S. presidential campaign.
“The prime minister has a right to prefer one candidate over another,” Olmert said, adding, however, that it was “better, obviously, if he kept it to himself. What took place this time was a breaking of all the rules, when our prime minister intervened in the U.S. elections in the name of an American billionaire with a clear interest in the vote.”
During the U.S. presidential elections, Adelson donated over $100 million to Romney’s campaign, announcing that it was his goal to take Obama out of the White House. “The very same billionaire used Israel’s prime minister to advance a nominee of his own for president,” Olmert told Jewish leaders in New York. [Continue reading…]
AFP reports: Taliban insurgents told re-elected President Barack Obama Wednesday to admit that the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan and pull its troops out now.
“Obama must by now know that they have lost the war in Afghanistan,” spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on the Islamists’ website.
“So, without further lying and delays, they should leave our sacred land and focus on their own country instead.”
Accusing Americans of committing war crimes, he added: “The American administration should stop acting like police in the world and focus on solving their own people’s problems, and don’t make the world hate Americans even more.”
Carol Rosenberg reports: The American Civil Liberties Union chief congratulated President Barack Obama, and in the same breath early Wednesday called on him to make good on his first-term promise to shut down the prison camps at Guantánamo.
“We urge President Obama to dismantle a national security state where warrantless surveillance, extra-judicial killings of American citizens by drones and other attacks on our personal freedoms have been deemed acceptable,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a pre-dawn statement.
Obama ordered his administration on his second day in office in January 2009 to empty the detention center within a year. He’s been able to cut the population to 166 but has been repeatedly was thwarted by Congress in his goal of closing the controversial camps by moving some of the captives to U.S. soil.
Romero’s remarks came hours after the detention center disclosed that two cellblocks of cooperative captives were “watching the elections on TV in Camp 6,” the main prison building at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, where the Pentagon confines more than 100 of the 166 captives.
Four years ago, word of Obama’s victory spread through the 240 or so prisoners on election night and detainees taunted their guards with chants of “Obama, Obama, Obama” because his campaign promise of closure was widely known.
Tuesday night, the captives were more subdued, said Army Capt. Jennifer Palmeri, a Guantánamo detention center spokeswoman.
“They are watching quietly — no chanting,” Palmeri reported by email.
Nobody cheered exactly when Obama was declared a winner, said Palmeri. But there were smiles and “the overall mood was of happiness.” [Continue reading…]
Uri Friedman writes: Yes, this year’s presidential election may have featured a fair amount of talk about America’s defense spending, China’s trade practices, Iran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration’s response to the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But when you crunch the numbers, the truth is that foreign policy didn’t matter much in ushering Barack Obama to reelection in 2012.
When George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in the first U.S. presidential election since 9/11, exit polls showed that terrorism, moral values, and the economy were the most decisive issues in the campaign, with roughly one-fifth of voters citing each as their top concern in the race (the war in Iraq was not far behind). It’s particularly difficult to defeat an incumbent “when the country’s perceived to be in some level of a war,” a Kerry strategist mused after Election Day.
In retrospect, the 2004 election was an outlier in recent political history — a contest that revolved around foreign rather than domestic policy. This year’s race, by contrast, was no such exception. A CNN exit poll on Tuesday found that 60 percent of voters cited the economy as the most important issue on their minds, compared with 4 percent who mentioned foreign policy. A Fox News exit poll arrived at a similar finding, with 59 percent of respondents selecting the economy, 18 percent choosing health care, 15 percent referencing the federal budget deficit, and just 5 percent citing foreign policy.
Sure, we vote on intangibles and personal qualities, not just issues. And sure, those who mentioned foreign policy as their top issue in the Fox poll voted for Obama by a 56-33 margin — suggesting that the Democrats ultimately retained their rare foreign-policy advantage even though Mitt Romney managed to chip away at Obama’s edge on international affairs in the campaign’s final weeks. But as a pivotal campaign issue, foreign policy barely registered. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an even more awkward time with Washington and re-energized critics at home who accused him on Wednesday of backing the loser in the U.S. presidential election.
With Iran topping his conservative agenda, Netanyahu will have to contend with a strengthened second-term Democratic president after four years of frosty dealings with Barack Obama and a rift over how to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
Facing his own re-election battle in January, polls give Netanyahu little chance of losing but perceptions that he has mishandled Israel’s main ally have been seized on by opponents.
“I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the interests that are vital for the security of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said in a short, congratulatory statement hailing what he called strong strategic relations with Washington.
But in remarks underscoring a rift with the United States over possible Israeli military action against Iran, Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 this week: “If there is no other way to stop Iran, Israel is ready to act.”
Relations between Netanyahu and Obama hit a new low two months ago after the Israeli leader said nations which failed to set “red lines” for Iran – which denies seeking atomic arms – did not have the “moral right” to stop Israel from attacking.
Such comments, along with financial backing for Republican candidate Mitt Romney from a U.S. casino magnate who is also one of Netanyahu’s biggest supporters, were seized upon by critics as evidence the Israeli leader was trying to undermine Obama.
Netanyahu denied he was interfering in U.S. politics.
But former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, suggested that Obama would not easily forget that Netanyahu had created a perception that Israel wanted Romney to defeat him.
Obama is “very strategic, very disciplined”, Meridor said during a panel discussion on the U.S. election at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
“But I don’t think we can just assume that what happened between them over past four years will have just evaporated,” he said. “When people fight for their political life and have the perception that their partner is trying to undermine their chances, it’s not going to disappear.”
One of the Israeli prime minister’s own leading coalition allies, Eli Yishai of the religious Shas party, said simply: “It’s not a very good morning for Netanyahu.” [Continue reading…]
Howard Fineman writes: President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition.
Obama, the mixed-race son of Hawaii by way of Kansas, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, won reelection in good part because he not only embodied but spoke to that New America, as did the Democratic Party he leads. His victorious coalition spoke for and about him: a good share of the white vote (about 45 percent in Ohio, for example); 70 percent or so of the Latino vote across the country, according to experts; 96 percent of the African-American vote; and large proportions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The Republican Party, by contrast, has been reduced to a rump parliament of Caucasian traditionalism: white, married, church-going — to oversimplify only slightly. “It’s a catastrophe,” said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. “This is, this will have to be, the last time that the Republican Party tries to win this way.”
The GOP chose as its standard-bearer Mitt Romney, whose own Mormon Church until recent decades discriminated officially against blacks. His campaign made little serious effort to reach out to Hispanics voters, and Romney hurt himself by taking far-right positions on immigration during the GOP primaries. He made no effort whatsoever in the black community.
Obama reached out not only racially and ethnically, but in terms of lifestyle. Analysts made fun of, and Republicans derided, his campaign’s focus on discrete demographic and social slices of the electorate, including gays and lesbians. But the message was one about the future, not the American past.
BuzzFeed: Puerto Ricans voted Tuesday to adjust the relationship between the territory and the United States and pursue statehood, advancing the quest of many on the island to become the nation’s 51st state.
In a two-part referendum, voters supported abandoning the status quo and embracing statehood — the first time such an effort has received a majority.
President Barack Obama pledged in 2011 to respect “a clear decision” of the people of Puerto Rico on statehood. It is unclear if the 60 percent margin on Tuesday meets that test.
Under Article IV the Constitution, Congress would have to approve statehood for the territory — though it is not clear where congressional leaders stand on the issue.
The Forward reports: It’s been a tough night for Jewish political mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate who was the biggest political donor of the election cycle.
Adelson and his wife had backed Mitt Romney with $20 million in donations to the pro-Romney super PAC. But his spending on failed Republican candidates went well beyond the top of the ticket.
Three additional Adelson-backed candidates lost their races tonight. In Virginia, Tim Kaine won the governorship over George Allen, whose super PAC had received $1.5 million from Adelson. In Florida, Bill Nelson won the Senate seat over Connie Mack, who Adelson had backed with $1 million. And in New Jersey, Adelson-backed Orthodox Jewish Republican Shmuley Boteach lost to Democratic incumbent Congressman Bill Pascrell.
One bright point for Adelson on a grim evening could be Florida’s 18th Congressional District, where Adelson-backed Republican Allen West is holding on to a slim lead over Democrat Patrick Murphy.
But that glimmer appears already lost. As of 7AM Eastern, Murphy is the projected winner.
The New York Times reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reiterated his willingness to attack the Iranian nuclear program without support from Washington or the world, returning to an aggressive posture that he had largely abandoned since his United Nations speech in September.
“When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” Mr. Netanyahu asked in an interview broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 on Monday night. “When Levi Eshkol was forced to act in order to loosen the siege before 1967, was it done with the Americans’ support?
“If someone sits here as the prime minister of Israel and he can’t take action on matters that are cardinal to the existence of this country, its future and its security, and he is totally dependent on receiving approval from others, then he is not worthy of leading,” Mr. Netanyahu added. “I can make these decisions.”
Though American officials, including President Obama, have always acknowledged that Israel ultimately has the right to decide how to defend itself, Mr. Netanyahu’s tough tone and timing — on the eve of the American presidential election — are sure to reignite rifts with Washington over how best to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
As has been the case over the past two years, however, it is impossible to know whether his hawkish words are harbingers of deeds or part of a strategic campaign to scare nations into increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran.
“I am not eager to go to war,” Mr. Netanyahu said in the seven-minute interview. “I have been creating very heavy pressure, and part of this pressure comes from the knowledge some of the most powerful nations in the world have that we are serious. This isn’t a show, this is not false.”
Besides the creation of diplomatic tensions if Israel were to act alone against Washington’s wishes, there is a more practical concern: the Israeli military lacks the capacity to penetrate all of Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, and thus could most likely only delay the potential development of a nuclear weapon by a few years. The United States has bunker-busting bombs that could do far more damage.
The interview was broadcast on “Fact,” a program often compared to “60 Minutes,” at the end of an hourlong documentary on Israeli decision making regarding Iran over the past decade. The program highlighted the opposition of Israel’s own security establishment to a unilateral strike, saying that Mr. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for an imminent operation in 2010 but were rebuffed by the chiefs of their military and international intelligence service.
Among those interviewed was Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister currently contemplating a political comeback. He accused Mr. Netanyahu of “spitting in the face” of Mr. Obama and “doing anything possible to stop him from being elected president of the United States,” a harsh critique in a country that regards safeguarding its special relationship with Washington as a sacred priority. [Continue reading…]
By Cora Currier and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica, November 1, 2012
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo linked the storm to a broader change in the weather. “I don’t call it ‘global warming’ because you trigger a whole political debate,” Cuomo said. “But the frequency of extreme weather is going way up.”
President Obama and Mitt Romney have been even more reluctant to utter the words “global warming.” Neither candidate mentioned climate change over four presidential debates and none of the moderators asked about it — the first time that’s happened since 1988.
Obama has barely spoken of it on the campaign trail, while Romney has mocked the president’s earlier promise to address climate change.
As reporters and scientists discuss what role climate change may have played in fueling the storm, we’ve looked beyond the candidates’ rhetoric — or lack thereof — to find out where they actually stand: