From "Going the Distance," David Remnick's interview and article with President Barack Obama, The New Yorker, January 27, 2014:
From "Going the Distance," David Remnick's interview and article with President Barack Obama, The New Yorker, January 27, 2014:
I was intrigued by a recent segment on Up w/ Steve Kornacki that was a retrospective on Rep. Jack Kemp (1935–2009) within the context of new Republican Party outreach efforts to racial minorities.
I met Jack Kemp three or four times in 1988 in Iowa while he was campaigning for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. I was the founding President of the Kossuth County Teenage Republicans and wanted the GOP's nomination to go to either George H. W. Bush, then Vice-President under Ronald Reagan, or Congressman Kemp who represented New York's 38th District, a long-standing GOP New York "Eastern Establishment" stronghold (since 1939). It was represented in 1959–1963 by Jessica M. Weis (in 1948 she was the first woman to second the nomination for a presidential candidate by doing so for Thomas E. Dewey at the national convention in Philadelphia) and in 1963–1968 by liberal Republican Charles Goodell.
I went from teenage Republican to Democrat by the time I was old enough to register to vote and in less than a handful of years. In the late 1980's, my interest in politics was an end in and of itself. Politics for me wasn't entirely or even mainly about ideology except insofar as I was something of a Cold War warrior in mentality. I liked realpolitik internationalist types who fit a sort of JFK-shaped mold I had in mind. To me, Bush and Kemp fit that mold. Certainly, one of their competitors for the party's nomination did not: Pentecostal television preacher Pat Robertson. I found him totally off-putting. But Robertson would go on to place second in the Iowa Caucuses with 25% of the vote behind Rep. Bob Dole with 37%. Bush and Kemp garnered 19% and 11% respectively.
Robertson's success, though short-lived within the '88 nomination cycle itself, was a sign of things to come for the GOP. I know exactly when I started to dislike Pat Robertson and it pre-dated his run for office. Though I couldn't have known it at the time, the moment that I came to thoroughly dislike Robertson was also a small but very sure step--perhaps the first--along a path to Democratic Party membership. It was when I heard Robertson gravely warn of the Satanic nature of the game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Yep.
It was during a broadcast of the 700 Club, a religious television show he hosted on his own network. The show usually included a heavy emphasis on politics, human interest stories, and Robertson's prophecies. He also miraculously healed unnamed people through their television screens, sometimes of hemorrhoids.
It's an unlikely sort of political consciousness-raising moment. But, it was telling: Robertson was a public political figure, a leader of the religious right-wing, and therefore strongly focused on societal issues...even tabletop games. I had played role-playing games similar to D&D, and what Robertson said that evening on the 700 Club, like countless other of his comments before and since, was asinine. But, stunningly, Republicans in the future would later beat Robertson on the asininity scale: charges of Bill Clinton "body counts," cries of Affordable Care Act "death panels," conspiracy theories of Barack Obama being a foreign-born crypto-Muslim, and--along the way--other everything from Tinky Winky's purple triangular antenna to SpongeBob SquarePants's supposed gay agenda.
Robertson was the future of the GOP mindset that would be fuelled further by conservative PACs and think tanks as well as a conservative media echo chamber that includes sermons and conversations in conservative evangelical churches and Bible studies, and the massive conservative Christian media empire spanning radio, television, print, and online. The likes of Jack Kemp would become fewer. And not because Kemp was liberal, either. He was no liberal. But because Kemp's social conservatism was actually interested in governance, policy, and notions of community. He was comfortable with racial diversity. He understood the importance of America's cities. He was also a happy warrior. His work for conservative ideals was not based in anger or resentment. These qualities certainly wouldn't sit well with today's Tea Party.
From the religious right of the 1980s to the Tea Party of today is not as long or as complicated of a political evolutionary path as you might think. Studies by Pew and other institutions and academics have revealed the close connection between the Tea Party and the religious right-wing.* Tea Party leaders stress that the movement is about libertarianism. Maybe it is, to a point, but look just under the surface and it's often much about social conservatism, too.
Before Kemp, liberal Republican Charles Goodell had been ousted from that same Congressional seat by a challenger from the right. Kemp's election solidified the district's solidly conservative Republican reputation. But, nowadays, Kemp himself would probably be in the cross-hairs of the Tea Party. Kemp just wasn't the sort to despise a president or government so much as to shout "You lie!" during our republic's head of state's annual address to Congress.
Maybe the religious right's best days are behind it, and maybe the Tea Party movement has crested, too. John Boehner certainly seems fed-up with it. And Politico is asking, "Is Paul Ryan the GOP's Next Jack Kemp?" We'll see.
Photo: Jack Kemp, former Congressman and United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The New York Times endorsement of Scott Stringer:
Scott Stringer has done an outstanding job as Manhattan borough president and would make a fine New York City comptroller.... The comptroller sits on many boards, committees and commissions. The ideal candidate is politically astute and ethically impeccable, and works well with others. Mr. Stringer has shown all those qualities as a public servant. As a state assemblyman, he was committed to the principles of good government. In his nearly eight years as borough president he has improved the scope, effectiveness and reputation of that sometimes marginal office. He has been a strong voice for civil rights and marriage equality, a defender of immigrants and the poor.
Mr. Stringer’s opponent, Eliot Spitzer, has intellect and cunning, but he lacks the qualities critical for this job.
The New York Daily News endorsement of Scott Stringer:
Scott Stringer [is] a steady, serious, well-prepared public official with an unblemished record of accomplishment. [Conversely, Spitzer, while] meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board for an endorsement interview, made definitively false statements in response to long-unanswered questions about the actions that put him at the heart of a federal criminal investigation.
The New York Observer endorsement of Scott Stringer:
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer showed that he was ready for citywide office just a few weeks ago, when he announced his support for Mayor Bloomberg’s rezoning plan for Midtown East. With a Democratic primary looming, it would have been easier for Mr. Stringer to pander to the ideologues and critics; instead, he stood up for visionary change. That’s good.
Mr. Stringer is a capable public servant. He represented the Upper West Side in the State Assembly for 13 years, earning a reputation as an irrepressibly earnest advocate for good government.... As the chief monitor of the city’s finances, Mr. Stringer would bring energy, independence and diligence to an office that requires all of those virtues.
am New York endorsement of Scott Stringer:
New York City Democrats who value good government and solid performance have a great choice in the Sept. 10 primary race for city comptroller. Scott Stringer, an Upper West Sider, has spent 20 years in office, first as an assemblyman and now as Manhattan borough president. In both positions he has built a strong reputation for thoughtfulness, attention to detail and solid constituent service.
As borough president, for example, he backed Columbia University's proposal to rezone 17 acres north of 125th Street for academic buildings -- after the school agreed to contribute $33 million for affordable housing and other public benefits.
But most important, as he runs for comptroller, Stringer shows a keen grasp of that office's nuances. The same can't be said for his opponent, [Eliot Spitzer].
The problem lies with Spitzer's expansive view of the comptroller's job. Sometimes he seems to yearn for a nostalgia tour as state attorney general. [Spitzer's] candidacy is more about Spitzer and less about New Yorkers.
[T]he comptroller must be able to sit at the table with the mayor and play an effective advisory role as City Hall hashes out the details of contracts with an army of private vendors who do business with the city.
It means the city must hold Wall Street to the highest standards of honesty and service as it invests the pension money of municipal workers. Yet it also means that the comptroller must work well with the financial industry to reduce, for example, the costs of investing.
The job requires a grown-up -- with sound judgment, unquestioned integrity and a talent for working well with others when the public interest demands it. We endorse Scott Stringer for comptroller in the Democratic primary.
A few years ago, when Barack Obama visited one Silicon Valley campus, an employee of the company told a colleague that he wasn’t going to take time from his work to go hear the President’s remarks, explaining, “I’m making more of a difference than anybody in government could possibly make.”
Like industries that preceded it, Silicon Valley is not a philosophy, a revolution, or a cause. It’s a group of powerful corporations and wealthy individuals with their own well-guarded interests. Sometimes those interests can be aligned with the public’s, sometimes not. Though tech companies promote an open and connected world, they are extremely secretive, preventing outsiders from learning the most basic facts about their internal workings.
Evgeny Morozov....: “They want to be ‘open,’ they want to be ‘disruptive,’ they want to ‘innovate'.... The open agenda is, in many ways, the opposite of equality and justice. They think anything that helps you to bypass institutions is, by default, empowering or liberating. You might not be able to pay for health care or your insurance, but if you have an app on your phone that alerts you to the fact that you need to exercise more, or you aren’t eating healthily enough, they think they are solving the problem.”
There are fifty or so billionaires and tens of thousands of millionaires in Silicon Valley; last year’s Facebook public stock offering alone created half a dozen more of the former and more than a thousand of the latter. There are also record numbers of poor people, and the past two years have seen a twenty-per-cent rise in homelessness, largely because of the soaring cost of housing. After decades in which the country has become less and less equal, Silicon Valley is one of the most unequal places in America.
Joshua Cohen, a Stanford political philosopher who also edits Boston Review, [founded Stanford's Program on Global Justice and is a half-time professor at Apple University for Apple execs] described a conversation he had with John Hennessy, the president of Stanford, who has extensive financial and professional ties to Silicon Valley. “He was talking about the incompetent people who are in government,” Cohen recalled. “I said, ‘If you think they’re so incompetent, why don’t you include in a speech you’re making some urging of Stanford students to go into government?’ He thought this was a ridiculous idea.”
In his office, Cohen freely criticized the tech industry for its casual optimism in assuming that its products can change the world. He said, “There is this complete horseshit attitude, this ridiculous attitude out here, that if it’s new and different it must be really good, and there must be some new way of solving problems that avoids the old limitations, the roadblocks. And with a soupçon of ‘We’re smarter than everybody else.’ It’s total nonsense.”
But, when it came to Apple, he insisted that anything he said about the company had to be off the record, including the titles and the content of the courses he teaches. When I asked how he viewed the relation between the information revolution and inequality, he hesitated. He started to answer, then hesitated again: “Um. I don’t have any deep thoughts about it. I wish I did.” This seemed surprising, since Cohen, an expert on democracy and justice, co-edited a book called “The New Inequality,” in the late nineties, before it was a hot topic, and has devoted many pages of Boston Review to the subject. I had imagined that his perch at Apple University would give him the perfect vantage point to think about just this problem.
[Nate Levine of start-up Delphi:] “They’re ignorant, because many of them don’t feel the need to educate themselves outside their little world, and they’re not rewarded for doing so.... If you’re an engineer in Silicon Valley, you have no incentive to read The Economist. It’s not brought up at parties, your friends aren’t going to talk about it, your employers don’t care.” [Levine] found that college friends who came out to the Valley to seek their fortune subsequently lost interest in the wider world. “People with whom I used to talk about politics or policy or the arts, they’re just not as into it anymore. They don’t read theWall Street Journal or the New York Times. They read TechCrunch andVentureBeat, and maybe they happen to see something from the Times on somebody’s Facebook news feed.” He went on, “The divide among people in my generation is not as much between traditional liberals and libertarians. It’s a divide between people who are inward-facing and outward-facing.”
Photo by Bruce Damonte; click to enlarge.
Hear me ask my question to the panel of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? this week. It will be broadcast online and on UK radio at 3:00 p.m. EDT (New York), 20:00 in the UK and available as a free podcast for download.* (Also available for free via iTunes.)
This week's panelists:
Sir Harold Evans of The Sunday Times, US News and World Report, The Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Daily News. In 1986 he founded Conde Nast Traveler. His book The American Century (1998) receiving particular acclaim. He is editor-at-large of The Week Magazine.
Former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY 19th Congressional district) who may be considering a re-entry into politics. She was defeated in 2012 by Sean Patrick Maloney (who I've met several times over the course of years, as well as his partner Randy who is a fellow Hawkeye).
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (MD 4th Congressional district) who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and sits on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
I attended a recording on the evening of April 18th, 2013, of one of my favorite radio shows, BBC Radio 4's Any Questions?, the world's longest-running radio panel discussion program, begun in 1948.** The show traveled across the pond to NYC this week to Columbia University's School of Journalism. Usually the show is broadcast live in the UK, and broadcast from a different location each week.
Attendees' questions are submitted ahead of time and selected by BBC staff. Panelists don't know ahead of time what the questions will be. For this taping, my question was one selected. I got to read my question aloud to the panel. For me this was very exciting.
The show has 3 million listeners a week, and it is part of my BBC Radio 4 triumvirate podcast I listen to each weekend--the other two programs being Friday Night Comedy (The News Quiz hosted by Sandi Toksvig and The Now Show with Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt) and In Our Time with host Melvyn Lord Bragg of Wigton.
*It's rebroadcast at 8:10 a.m. EDT on Saturday, 13:10 in the UK, too. Once archieved, it will be here.
**Technically, Gardeners' Question Time was founded a year earlier, in 1947, but it's a niche program really. ;)
PHOTOS, top to bottom: The panel (in the Pulitzer Building's lecture Hall on campus); me with Congresswoman Donna Edwards; me with Jonathan Dimbleby after the recording.
In Canada, the Liberal Party elected its new leader on January 26, 2013, replacing Dalton McGuinty--who announced back in October that he would be resigning--with Kathleen Wynne, a Cabinet minister and member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Don Valley West.
The Premier-designate of Ontario will be be appointed premier by Lieutenant Governor David Onley on February 11, 2013. She will be both the first woman to lead Ontario and the first openly gay provincial premier in Canada's history.
"On top, for now", The Economist:
When Ms Wynne, a former federal cabinet minister, takes over in Ontario, she will head a minority government at a difficult time. She must grapple with a budget deficit forecast at C$11.9 billion ($11.9 billion) this year, while finding a way to satisfy teachers and civil servants angry at Mr McGuinty’s austerity measures.
Ms Wynne echoed other women premiers when she spoke of finding a new way to do politics, seeking common ground and free from “rancour and viciousness”. But sisterly spirit has not been much in evidence in the spat between Alberta and British Columbia over building the Northern Gateway oil pipeline; nor in the dispute between Ms Marois in Quebec and Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland & Labrador over a hydroelectric project on the Churchill River.
I met Ed on several occasions and attended some of this birthday parties in recent years--first at Metropolitan Pavilion (I even designed the invite one year) and, by riding the coattails of my friend Jim Capalino, Commissioner of General Services in Ed's Administration, at Gracie Mansion during the Bloomberg years. Ed was always gracious and also humorous. Alas, the best stories he told aren't for publication on Isebrand.com.... Let's just say that Ed was an expert at the effective comedic use of flowery language!--a trait not uncommon among native New Yorkers.
I last saw him late one evening in Fairway about a year ago. I said hi, but I didn't want to hold him up; so I just told him it was good to see him up and about. A young couple were standing by, iPhone at the ready, eager to ask for a photo. Lots of shoppers said hi--everyone called him Mister Mayor or Your Honor.
I know his record as mayor is mixed. His handling of the emerging AIDS crisis at a time of severe shortages of hospital beds will be rightly criticized. It was a profound, tragic missed opportunity with horrible consequences. It might be noted that he also signed into law the City's first sexual-orientation non-discrimination statue, and before that, as Congressman he had introduced with Rep. Bella Abzug a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And though elements of his Administration were tinged with racism, without Ed's endorsement and support, Democratic mayoral nominee David Dinkins, after unseating Ed as the Party's candidate following Ed's third term as Mayor, would have undoubtedly lost to his Republican opponent. I knew Ed only after he was mayor, and some of his political choices of the last decade infuriated me. Though, to be sure, if there was one thing Ed didn't mind, it was being infuriating.
Today, though, I'll remember Ed in his overcoat and flat cap, standing at the meat counter at Fairway, waiting for his turn, tall among the rest (Ed was a very tall guy), surrounded by a respectful, extremely subtle deference. It's a very New-York-moment image, and I think Ed would have liked it.
For the past generation or two, Washington has been the not so hallowed ground for a political war. This conflict resembles trench warfare, with fixed positions, hourly exchanges of fire, heavy casualties on both sides, and little territory gained or lost. The combatants wear red or blue, and their struggle is intensely ideological.
Before the nineteen-seventies, most Republicans in official Washington accepted the institutions of the welfare state, and most Democrats agreed with the logic of the Cold War. Despite the passions over various issues, government functioned pretty well. Legislators routinely crossed party lines when they voted, and when they drank; filibusters in the Senate were reserved for the biggest bills; think tanks produced independent research, not partisan talking points. The "D." or "R." after a politician's name did not tell you what he thought about everything, or everything you thought about him.
To Phyllis Schlafly and the New Right, this consensus amounted to liberalism, and in the nineteen-seventies they began to use guerrilla tactics--direct mail, single-issue pressure groups, right-wing think tanks, insurgent campaigns. By the nineties, conservatives had begun to take over the institutions of government. Liberals copied their success: the Heritage Foundation led to the Center for American Progress, the Moral Majority to People for the American Way, Bill O'Reilly to Keith Olbermann. The people Washington attracts now tend to be committed activists, who think of themselves as locked in an existential struggle over the fate of the country, and are unwilling to yield an inch of ground.
Meanwhile, another army has invaded Washington: high-priced influence peddlers working on behalf of corporations and the wealthy, seducing officials of both parties and daily routing the public interest. The War of Organized Money goes on almost unnoticed outside the capital, but the War Between the Colors reflects a real divide in the country, the sorting of Americans into ideologically separate districts and lives. From time to time, a looming disaster--such as the upcoming budget crisis--leads to negotiations and a brief truce. But the fighting never really stops.
-- George Packer, "Adversaries," The New Yorker, Oct. 29 & Nov. 5, 2012, p. 88.
Jill Lepore's "The Lie Factory" in the September 24, 2012, issue of The New Yorker is facinating. Baxter and Whitaker were California Republicans. They represented many clients, not just politicians. They used their knowledge, savvy, and insights to successfully thwart attempts to create government administration and expansion of health care.
Camapign operatives and political consultants, take note! Here are some nuggets from Campaigns, Inc.
“In a typical campaign they employed ten million pamphlets and leaf-lets; 50,000 letters to ‘key individuals and officers of organizations’; 70,000 inches of advertising in 700 newspapers; 3,000 spot announcements on 109 radio stations; theater slides and trailers in 160 theaters; 1,000 large billboards and 18,000 or 20,000 smaller posters.”
In 1940, they produced materials for the Republican Wendell Willkie’s Presidential campaign, including a speaker’s manual that offered advice about how to handle Democrats in the audience: “rather than refer to the opponent as the ‘Democratic Party’ or ‘New Deal Administration’ refer to the Candidate by name only.”
An example of that? Campaigns, Inc. had a candidate who was "a grave, resolute man." So, their strategy involved stressing that such qualities are strengths at a time of war.
I have long been baffled as to why people said my preference over Obama was some kind of shift to the ideological left. Nope. Against a radical right, reckless, populist insurgency, Obama is the conservative option, dealing with emergent problems with pragmatic calm and modest innovation. He seeks as a good Oakeshottian would to reform the country's policies in order to regain the country's past virtues. What could possibly be more conservative than that? Or less conservative than the radical fusion of neoconservatism, theoconservatism and opportunism that is the alternative?
For thinking conservatives of a classic variety, Obama is the best president since Clinton and the first Bush. We need him for the next four years if we are to avoid the catastrophes that always follow revolutionary ideology. Like another Iraq; or another Katrina; or another Lehman.
(Image: Edmund Burke, PC, (1729-1797), by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), National Portrait Gallery, London, an Anglo-Irishman in the conservative Whig faction in the British House of Commons during the American Revolution and widely considered a representative of classical liberalism and the philosophical founder of modern Conservatism.)