FROM John Mercurio
A Grim Backdrop Ahead of the State of the Union With all that's happened during the past year, it's hard to believe that Barack Obama has yet to deliver his first address on the State of the Union . One day before that address, Obama faces a grim outlook on the economy and the mid-term elections. Wall Street's not lending, and unemployment threatens the middle class. The benefits from the stimulus package get less attention than the deficit. The Republican upset in Massachusetts has healthcare reform on life support, and Democrats from other states are declining to stand for re-election. With his own approval ratings on the decline, can one of America's most gifted orators turn things around?
Looming Deadline for Healthcare Reform The President and Democratic leaders have an agenda for healthcare reform. Pass the Senate version by Christmas Eve; pass a compromise out of both Houses for a White House signing ceremony before the State of the Union Address in late January or early February.
The Looming Deadline for Healthcare Reform The President and Democratic leaders have an agenda for healthcare reform . Pass the Senate version by Christmas Eve, and a compromise out of both Houses for a White House signing ceremony before the State of the Union Address in late January or early February. Supports call the Senate version the most important social achievement in decades, but Progressives call it "an insurance company's dream," with a legal mandate to buy their product with no regulation. Big Labor calls it a "catastrophe." Has former Democrat Joe Lieberman sabotaged real reform? Has President Obama abandoned core Party values to get it passed? If he can't pull it off by next week, will that produce further delays and further declines in public approval in an election year?
Is GOP Victory in Governors' Races a Warning to Democrats? The New York Times and even the Times of London have warned about over-interpreting America's off-year elections. Then they've gone right on to do it themselves. That's according to the Columbia Journalism Review , which says, "it just makes politics more fun…[and makes] elections more meaningful by threading them into a broader narrative."
Local Elections and National Politics Most voters in New Jersey and Virginia said Barack Obama's performance was not a factor when they elected Republicans over Democrats to run their states. But the chattering class is still looking for signs of meaning. Will GOP wins make moderate Democrats in Congress think twice about the Obama agenda? Did Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck show conservative muscle in upstate New York or sabotage the Republican Party? What do results from Maine and Washington State reveal about efforts to legalize same-sex marriage?
Incivility and the Race Card in US Politics At town halls and tea parties, on cable TV and on the Internet — even in Congress --America's political discourse is increasingly angry and vitriolic. With the first black president in the White House, Republicans and the media are accused of inflaming racial anxieties. At the same time, massive new government programs in times of economic distress are legitimate subjects for heated debate. We talk about the roots of the outrage and the consequences for the Republican and Democratic parties. America's political discourse is increasingly angry and vitriolic, across the country and in the halls of Congress.
Incivility, Racial Hostility and Dissent in America At town halls and tea parties, on cable TV and on the Internet — even in Congress --America's political discourse is increasingly angry and vitriolic. With the first black president in the White House, Republicans and the media are accused of inflaming racial anxieties. At the same time, massive new government programs in times of economic distress are legitimate subjects for heated debate. We talk about the roots of the outrage and the consequences for the Republican and Democratic parties. America's political discourse is increasingly angry and vitriolic, across the country and in the halls of Congress.
Specter Switches Parties to Democrats Pennsylvania's US Senator was elected as a Reagan Republican in 1980. Today Arlen Specter said the party's moved so far to the right that Republicans in his state are becoming Democrats, so he is too . John Mercurio is Executive of The Hotline , National Journal's daily briefing on politics.
Candidates Vow to Help Swing Voters on Eve of Last Debate John McCain and Barack Obama both know that when it comes to the economy, the next president will have to hit the ground running. But the ground keeps shifting and the crisis has produced demands for detailed proposals from both candidates. On Monday, Obama outlined a rescue plan worth about $110 billion. Yesterday, McCain countered with about $52 billion. After a day when stocks have been falling again, voters will see the candidates under pressure tonight in unpredictable circumstances. We compare what they've come up with so far on foreclosures, investments, home mortgages and all kinds of taxes. With three weeks until election day, which constituencies are they aiming at? In the debate, will McCain attack as promised? Will Obama dare to be dull?
The Bailout That Wasn't and What Might Be Next The Wall Street rescue would have cost $700 billion taxpayer dollars. Its failure in Congress cost $1.2 trillion in private investment in just one day. President Bush warns that millions of Americans face " the real prospect of financial hardship " if the government doesn't take action. More important than stocks is the tightening of credit. A lot of the votes against the rescue came from members of Congress who feel vulnerable in next month's election. They were swamped with phone calls, letters and e-mails from both the Left and the Right. Are the interests of Wall Street and Main Street fundamentally different or really the same? Would any government action be better than none? Are we seeing " a political version of climate change " and a "new era of class warfare?"'
Day Two for the Democrats Last night, Teddy Kennedy passed the torch to a new generation, and the Obamas were the all-American family. Tonight, Hillary Clinton will address the convention, and the world will learn how serious the split with Barack Obama supporters really is. The National Convention is supposed to unify Democrats around Obama's presidential candidacy, but media coverage continues to emphasize the continuing tension with Clinton supporters. We talk with delegates in both camps. Are the media fanning a controversy that's only skin deep? Keynote speaker Mark Warner says he's not an attack dog. Are the Democrats missing their chance for an offensive against John McCain and George Bush?
With a Split Decision in Tonight’s Election Returns, Who is the Real Winner? Barack Obama won a double digit victory in North Carolina tonight. Hillary Clinton is on her way to a narrower victory in Indiana. With Obama now within 200 delegates of securing the nomination, does Clinton still have a chance to catch up?
The Democratic Party: Stuck in the Mud? The Democrats will make history by nominating either the first black or the first woman to run for President of the United States, generating more political energy than America has seen for decades, but as one writer has it, " the Democrats are stuck in their own mud ." Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have enough votes and delegates to go all the way to the August convention , and the campaign gets nastier by the day. Is it all about who gets the power? What are the roles of race and gender? Is the party itself so divided that unity in November is at risk? Will all those new voters and Independents go to John McCain or just stay home?
Nothing Quiet on the Midwestern Front Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton face off tomorrow in Ohio and Texas , which is billed as the possible last day of their nominating campaign. Clinton may be increasing her lead in Ohio, while Obama's lead in Texas is within the margin of error. That's according to averages of the latest polls, which made predictions harder than ever. But Hillary Clinton says she's just getting started, and the Republican governor of Florida says his state might finance another Democratic primary. John Mercurio is executive editor of the Hotline, National Journal 's daily online briefing on politics.
Clinton Passes on Playing Hardball Last night's debate was billed as a showdown between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton , but it was more polite than it was confrontational. The presidential campaign rivals engaged mostly on familiar territory, with occasional smiles and occasionally clenched teeth during exchanges about healthcare, the use of words and preparation for leadership. One Obama supporter said that sounded almost like a concession. This morning, Clinton called it "a recognition that both of us are on the brink of historic change." John Mercurio is executive editor of The Hotline. Note: KCRW will rebroadcast last night's debate from today, Friday, from 1-3pm.
Mixed Messages from US diplomats on the new hard line on Syria Since President Trump's surprise retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has used the same airport to launch conventional attacks on his own people. It's not clear what the US, its allies — or Vladimir Putin's Russia -- plan to do now.
White House flip flops: NATO, Syria and China In less than 100 days, President Trump has contradicted himself on a host of foreign policy issues — Syria, NATO, China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Is it a strength — or a weakness — for the United States when the world of power politics never knows what to expect?
The flight bumping heard around 'round the world Recent video of a passenger forcibly removed from a United Airlines plane is a worst-case example of what's happened since consolidation into just four US-based carriers. Management seems to be tone-deaf to a decline in service — and even abuse — of passengers.
"Tough on crime" rhetoric sees a revival at Sessions' DOJ The pendulum swings between treatment-focused approaches to drug abuse and tough law enforcement. Now, after years of Obama-era "reforms," President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions wants local police freed from federal restrictions to fight another "war on drugs."