Posts by Matt Bai

  • Hello, Columbus

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 2 days ago

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why either political party really wants to have a convention anymore. What used to be a national drama filled with intrigue and soaring oratory is now more scripted and less watched than an episode of “Resurrection.” Maybe if they promised to let an anaconda swallow the nominee, we’d have something.

    But conventions, like phone books, just keep coming whether we want them or not. And sometime in the next few weeks, leading Democrats will choose the city where they’re expecting to host Hillary Clinton’s coronation in 2016. It’s down to three contenders: New York, Philadelphia and Columbus.

    To me, this isn’t even a close call. If you want to memorialize the last century’s economy and ideological orthodoxies, stick close to the Amtrak lines that connect New York and Philly. If you want to understand what urban America might yet become, then follow the freight lines to central Ohio.

    In this way, Columbus represents a far more interesting choice than either of the other finalists. It may not have Philadelphia’s history or Brooklyn’s music scene, but it’s well on its way to becoming something like the Philadelphia or Brooklyn of the next American age.

  • The ‘24’ Effect

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 9 days ago

    I have three vivid memories of watching television in the fall of 2001. The first, of course, is of seeing the twin towers fall, which is an image most of us will never shake. The second is of watching Mariano Rivera throw the wrong pitch in Game Seven of the World Series.

    And the last is of getting sucked helplessly into the premiere, just a few days later, of an innovative drama called “24.”

    It was that last moment I found myself revisiting this week, after I read excerpts from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s sprawling, heartbreaking indictment of American brutality around the world. It made me wonder, not for the first time, just how consequential a TV show can be at just the right moment in our national life, in ways we don’t always appreciate at the time.

  • Jeb Bush is right about 2016

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 16 days ago

    It’s become standard practice for presidential candidates to run away from the governing establishments of their parties. So it was a little odd this week to see the latest could-be candidate with the last name of Bush (you can’t get more establishment than that) sucking up to an audience of business execs and reporters at the Four Seasons in Georgetown (OK, maybe you can). It was like Jeb was readying to run for the presidency of Congressional Country Club instead.

    In case you missed it, Bush gave a speech extolling the virtues of pragmatism and practicality, which are more often insults in Republican politics these days, and said that a less extremist candidate has to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general.” His pitch strikes a lot of political analysts as hopeful bordering on naive — the kind of self-congratulatory thing you say just before you become the next Fred Thompson .

  • Uber, Gruber and underlying truth

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    Let's get a few things out of the way. Many years ago, I accidentally tried to carry a commemorative hunting knife onto a plane and was briefly questioned. I have forged my wife's name on countless checks. I once sat in the mayor's box at Yankee Stadium and accepted free ice cream.

    Since this column concerns a certain Uber executive, I figured I might as well disclose all the embarrassing stuff up front, just to save him the trouble.

    Of course, Uber's Emil Michael didn't know he was being quoted when he told an audience last week about his brilliant plan to expose the private lives of reporters. Neither did Jonathan Gruber, who helped craft the president's health care law, when he declared on video that voters were morons. Both men are just the latest victims, I guess, of the social-media culture I've often lamented, which routinely ruins good reputations by magnifying a few clumsy words beyond all proportion.

  • Challenging inequality, the Uber way

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    There's a lot of talk in Washington these days about economic inequality, but not much by way of constructive ideas for how to reduce it. The loudest voices call for steeply higher taxes on wealth, which would certainly feel like justice — except that even if you just transferred all those taxes directly to the poor, you might not actually do much to make middle-income Americans more secure.

    Others talk about reforming an educational system that was once the ladder for economic mobility, which probably gets us closer to an enduring solution, but that's politically divisive and will be a generations-long project, in any event.

    Now from the West Coast comes an intriguing idea: a business venture called Aspiration, whose mission is to give middle-income families access to the same variety of investment vehicles that richer Americans have. I don't know if that can work, but it does strike me that trying to democratize Wall Street might be a better strategy than sitting around and railing against it.

  • What happened to that Democratic turnout machine?

    Matt Bai at Yahoo 1 mth ago

    It'll be a while before we've all had a chance to go through the election data and draw any thorough conclusions, but what seems clear right now is that Republicans did a better job than Democrats of hitting their targets, just as they did in 2010. And this raises a pretty profound question about Barack Obama's ballyhooed turnout machine, which was supposed to be the baddest thing built by dudes with spreadsheets since the advent of the search engine.

    Was it all just a mirage or what?

    The answer here has implications far beyond what happened with the Senate this week, or even for 2016. It's really about the party's entire theory of success.

    Remember that Obama's strategists didn't simply assume control of the Democratic Party when they won in 2008; they actually supplanted it. The idea was that his field operation, rechristened Organizing for America (as opposed to Obama for America) after the campaign, was far more sophisticated and space-age than anything Democrats already had in-house. So OFA moved into the Democratic National Committee and effectively took it over.

    Six years and three election cycles later, I think we can say: Yeah, maybe not.


  • What Obama’s loss of Congress means for 2016 candidates

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    Lost in all the headlines about a Republican takeover this morning is a single salient fact about where we are as a country politically: Barack Obama will now become the third consecutive president to come into office with governing majorities in both houses of Congress and leave office having fumbled away control of both of them. This kind of streak hasn’t happened before. Like, ever.

    What that suggests is that for all the perennial talk about the system being rigged in favor of one party or the other by money or redistricting or demographic shifts, our recent politics is defined mainly by unprecedented swings in power. And if the potential 2016 candidates who will soon face decision time haven’t though much about this volatility and what it might mean for their potential presidencies (and, more immediately, for their campaigns), then they probably should.

    And somehow, as implausible as it might have seemed, all three of our most recent presidents will likely end up having left Washington — and, by extension, the rest of the country — even more divided than it was when they got there.

  • Obama, Christie and Ebola

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    And now, with the midterm elections just a week away, Christie finds himself at the center of another storm as he stares down the federal government over the question of what to do with aid workers returning from West Africa. Christie has decided he can forcibly quarantine travelers at risk of Ebola, with or without working toilets. Obama thinks it's fine to send them home with a request not to go around potentially exposing everyone to one of the planet's deadliest viruses (if it's not too much trouble).

    The flare-up highlights, yet again, the sharply contrasting leadership styles of the two men in a crisis. And it demonstrates why the pugilistic governor of New Jersey, whether ally or adversary, has emerged over these years as the yang to Obama's yin, the closest thing this president has to a genuine foil.

    And although he would never say so, it's a good bet that Christie would have taken the debt-cutting deal with entitlement cuts that Obama offered congressional Republicans in 2011, even with the added tax revenue that Boehner couldn't sell to his caucus. Christie hammered out similar compromises with Democrats in his own legislature.

  • On Politics: The silliest emails of the week

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    Fortunately, I have a pretty good sense of what I've been missing, thanks to the endless stream of political emails that keep repopulating my iPhone inbox, like brain-eating bacteria. And so this week I inaugurate what may become a new, recurring feature of the "On Politics" column: the silliest emails of the week.

    Here they are, in no particular order:

    From: Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Re: Everything's TIED! "All of the year's top battlegrounds are tied right now. ALL OF THEM."

    Really? ALL of them? As in, like, 50-50? Not even 52-48? No one is winning anywhere ? I really don't think that's true. _________________________________


    From: Republican National Committee Re: ICYMI: RNC and LAGOP Chairmen Hold Conference Call on Anniversary of Landrieu's Keystone Show Vote "Tomorrow marks the four-month anniversary since Mary Landrieu's politically motivated show vote on the Keystone pipeline in the Senate Energy Committee."


    OK, first of all, $13,580 is an awfully specific number. Are you sure $13,575 won't get it done? How exactly has this been calculated?









  • Let's change the way we choose the vice president

    Matt Bai at Yahoo News 2 mths ago

    Hillary Clinton gave a political speech in Pennsylvania last weekend, which, in case you missed the coverage, pretty much locked up the 2016 nomination. Don't be surprised if they hold the Democratic convention over Skype sometime this month, just to dispense with the tiresome formalities of an actual campaign. Maybe they'll throw in the 2020 nomination, too, while they've got everyone on the line.

    I've written many times now that I'm less convinced of Clinton's inevitability than, you know, everybody. But leaving that aside for the moment, assuming she runs, the talk in Washington is about to pivot to the question of who runs with her. The elbowing for second position has already begun with a series of high-profile endorsements, most recently by Joaquin Castro, the Texas congressman whose brother, Julian, is considered a vice presidential contender.