Blog Posts by Jeff Greenfield

  • Close encounters of the worst kind: Why the country doesn’t need a nail-biter election in 2012

    Judging by the rhetoric coming from the campaigns, this election pits a party that will dismantle the social safety net and put the rights of women, gays and African Americans on the endangered species list against a party that will drag the nation ever closer toward a socialist-inspired spending and regulation binge that will cripple the free enterprise system. Is there anything--anything--that partisans of every stripe can enthusiastically root for?

    Yes, all of us should be rooting for a decisive election outcome. Why? Because a close or contested election would deal a body blow to the nation’s political health. Right now, every poll, and just about every pol, says the same thing: that this is going to be very close. This isn’t written in stone, of course: We’ve seen close races become blowouts in the final days (think Reagan-Carter in 1980). If the political wisdom is correct, however, we can expect razor-thin margins in half-a-dozen states or more, any one of which could determine

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  • If Obama wants a fair playing field for America, he can start with college sports

    It is the premise of President Obama’s re-election: We have a choice to make between a candidate who favors the privileged, the comfortable, the powerful, and a candidate who wants a country where, as Obama has said repeatedly, “everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

    As Obama sees it, the more affluent should pay higher taxes; big banks should stop playing fast and loose with exotic, risky bets; tycoons shouldn’t be allowed to put their thumbs on the scale of political campaigns with unlimited, untraceable money.

    But there’s one arena, dominated by a privileged, insular few, where rampant hypocrisy and exploitation reign, where an obsession with conquest overrides the most basic standards of fairness, and where Obama has stood somewhere between indifferent and complicit. It’s the arena of big-time college sports. And therein lies a tale.

    [Related: End of the Penn State football season?]

    The Penn State horror, while unique

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  • The ‘carefully’ cliché: Why journalists should stop using their new favorite word

    Whatever your feelings about who the Republicans chose as their nominee, the primary campaign scored two clear achievements for the cause of rational politics. First, it demonstrated once and for all that the Iowa caucus process is a farce.

    Second, the battle buried one of the more noxious clichés in political journalism: “momentum.” Used most often in TV stand-ups in place of a more ungraceful uttering such as “uhh...,” “you know, like...” or “isn’t my time up yet?” its invocation this past season was a guarantee that shortly after it left the speaker’s mouth, egg would appear all over said speaker’s face. Rick Santorum’s Iowa surge led him to a devastating New Hampshire showing where Mitt Romney won in a landslide. That, in turn, begot him a double-digit defeat in South Carolina at the hands of Newt Gingrich. To further complicate the momentum game, Gingrich’s Palmetto State triumph was followed by a landslide loss in Florida, where victor Romney was battered a week later....OK,

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  • Why Obama and Romney won’t touch the Supreme Court in Campaign 2012

    A president’s most significant power is the real third rail of politics

    Last week brought another lesson that the most significant of all presidential powers--the making of war not excepted--is the power to nominate justices to the Supreme Court. A chief executive’s most ambitious domestic policies may be ignored or reversed by future presidents and Congresses; a new administration can end a war. By contrast, three justices appointed more than 20 years ago cast votes last week that would have struck down the current president’s key domestic achievement. Barring illness or injury to one of these justices, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush will be powerfully influencing public policy for at least another decade.

    And this fall will likely bring a different kind of lesson: If history is any guide, this most powerful of presidential prerogatives will be one of the least significant issues in deciding the presidential race.

    [Related: How the court took its fight to the media]

    Supreme Court decisions can certainly roil the political waters. Franklin Roosevelt and

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  • If the Supreme Court does decide to strike down any or all of the Affordable Health Care Act, the implications will range from the political to the medical to the economic.

    For me, such a decision will take its place among the more supremely ironic of unintended consequences: a law designed to avoid greater government intrusion into health care will have been invalidated as an unconstitutional overreach of government power, while a far more intrusive approach would have clearly passed muster.

    How could this be possible? Welcome to the wonderful world of constitutional interpretation.

    Let’s begin by imagining that Congress and the president decided to adopt a genuinely radical health care plan—the kind in place in most of the industrialized world. They decide on a  “single-payer” system, where the government raises revenue with taxes, and pays the doctor, hospital and lab bills for just about everyone.

    Put aside the question of whether this is a good idea, or an economically sustainable

    Read More »from Supreme Irony: Would a 'single payer' health care plan be less vulnerable to the court than the Affordable Health Care Act?
  • Why Obama’s attack on Gov. Romney won’t prevent President Romney

    Mark it as the least surprising aspect of the election: a $10 million ad buy on behalf of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, spread over eight battleground states, that seeks to undercut Mitt Romney’s key claim to the presidency.

    “I speak the language of business,” we see and hear Romney saying. “I know how jobs are created.”

    The words come from Romney’s 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts. Then come a barrage of charges: 40,000 manufacturing jobs gone; the state plummeting to 47th in job growth; jobs outsourced to India; $2.2 billion more in debt. “We’ve heard it all before,” the ad concludes.

    Indeed we have. With the return of a governor-as-presidential nominee2008 was the first time since 1972 without a nominee who had served as the chief executive of a statewe are hearing once again the opposition argument that the nominee’s performance as governor proves he is unfit for the White House. This is a tactic that has undergone a curious evolution, and one whose

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  • Romney’s Daffy Duck vs. Obama’s Bugs Bunny: Sufferin’ succotash! Is it rabbit season in 2012?

    What’s really at stake this November? The stark difference between the economic philosophies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? The choice between a headlong plunge into job-killing socialism and an enshrinement of heartless, predatory greed? The makeup of the Supreme Court for the next generation?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. But for me, that’s not what’s really at stake. For me, this election threatens to invalidate my most enduringmake that my only enduringcontribution to American political discourse. It is highly possible that this is the year that Bugs Bunny loses.

    Back in 2008, I presented to an anxiously waiting world a Meta Theory of Recent Presidential Elections, encapsulated by the idea that “Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck.”

    As drawn by the Warner Bros. legend Chuck Jones, “Bugs and Daffy represent polar opposites in how to deal with the world,” I argued. “Bugs is at ease, laid back, secure, confident. ... Daffy Duck, by contrast, is ever at war with a hostile world. He fumes, he

    Read More »from Romney’s Daffy Duck vs. Obama’s Bugs Bunny: Sufferin’ succotash! Is it rabbit season in 2012?
  • Don’t worry, Joe: It ain’t so. Why Obama won’t run with Hillary Clinton

    No.

    Not even if you see an airborne swine. Not even if they’re driving a Zamboni in Hades.

    When you read a rumination–or recommendation, or prediction–that President Barack Obama will replace Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket–the odds are overwhelming that its creator was inspired by two thoughts:

    1. My deadline is an hour away.

    2. I got nothing.

    Yes, the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol correctly notes that Clinton’s favorability ratings are very high–higher than those of Obama, Joe Biden, and Mitt Romney. And we should not lightly dismiss the predictive powers of Mr. Kristol, who asserted on Dec. 17, 2006: “Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.”

    Yes, the White House is all but publicly grousing about the way the vice president forced the president’s hand on gay marriage.

    And yes, Biden has proven to be a much juicier target for the late-night comedians than the more phlegmatic

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  • Take a step back from the “Mitt Romney, Teen Bully” dust-up, and ask yourself why The Washington Post spent 5,500 words delving into the details of Romney’s prep-school days, or why Barack Obama’s youthful romances garnered so much attention when excerpts from David Maraniss’ biography appeared in Vanity Fair.

    Apart from voyeuristic curiosity, these excursions into the past are justified because they are supposed to provide insight into the character of a president and his rival. That’s been a special focus of the political press ever since Duke political scientist James David Barber first published his ground-breaking work “The Presidential Character” 40 years ago, arguing that an understanding of a candidate’s psychological makeup was a guide to predicting presidential behavior.

    Coming as it did in 1972, just as the obsessions of Richard Nixon planted the seeds of his destruction and after the tormented presidency of Lyndon Johnson, Barber’s advice helped redirect the energies of two

    Read More »from Romney’s bullying, Obama’s girlfriends, and the character test: What can we know about a president, anyway?
  • Four reasons Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign had a bad week

    If you don’t believe rigid mathematical formulas can tell you who will win a presidential election—and I don’t—you should be even more dubious about hunches divined from a stray incident or two.

    So why do I have the feeling that just such an incident—OK, make it four—made last week a very bad one for President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects?

    Because they connect to much bigger problems that go to the heart of the Obama campaign’s arguments for a second term. Moreover, the time to repair these problems is rapidly running out.

    Let’s take the first event, which on the surface may seem ludicrous: the Empty Seats in Columbus.

    Obama semiofficially launched his re-election campaign—as opposed to the hundreds of “nonpolitical” appearances he has made over the past three years—at a rally Saturday at Ohio State University. Some 14,000 supporters filled the arena—or rather, did not fill the arena. Coverage of the event focused heavily on the 4,000 empty seats, and Obama’s senior campaign

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Pagination

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