Posts by Matt Bai
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News2 days ago
Sometime this summer, probably when as many Americans as possible are tanning on a beach and not paying attention, the White House is expected to release a version of a classified report on torture during the Bush years. Actually, what's likely to become public is only the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report; the entire thing, five years in the making, clocks in at about 6,700 pages, making it the most exhaustive account yet of what really went on in secret CIA prisons around the world.
President Obama has repeatedly said he favors declassifying the report, which the public really ought to see. And should he release the summary in something close to the form in which it was sent to him, then his decision will likely end an unusually public standoff between top senators and the CIA, each of whom accused the other of spying illegally as the report was being compiled and written.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News9 days ago
About five months ago, just after the State of the Union address, I theorized that Barack Obama and John Boehner might still have a chance to do something big together. Both men badly wanted the legislative legacy that had eluded them on issues where there was already some consensus, like debt reduction and immigration. And Boehner appeared ready to put some distance between himself and the most rigid ideologues in his caucus.
I was wrong, of course. (It happens.) In the middle of a border crisis that cries out for a comprehensive solution, the House seems likelier to send Obama articles of impeachment than a compromise bill that would reform the immigration system. The next two years now seem almost certain to be as dark and vacuous as the previous four.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News16 days ago
Dear Dan Snyder:
I read with dismay the other day about the latest blow to your storied football franchise, the Washington Redskins. It seems you hired a liberal blogger named Ben Tribbett to defend the team against growing calls to change its controversial name, and this Tribbett quit the cause after just two weeks, citing personal attacks against him on Twitter and Facebook that distracted from the important business of protecting the Redskin tradition.
I have to tell you that this saddens me for our nation, Mr. Snyder. Who ever heard of a blogger turning down an actual paycheck? And if a guy can't turn to social media for reasoned, dispassionate debate without having it degenerate into name-calling and distortion, then, by God, where can he turn?
In any event, I am writing to respectfully offer myself up for the job. You need a strategy, Mr. Snyder, and I believe I can help.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News23 days ago
Believe it or not, it was 10 years ago this month that Barack Obama, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate, introduced himself to America with a speech that shook the Fleet Center in Boston. The main theme of that Democratic convention was the litany of George W. Bush's failures — an unpopular and unending war in Iraq, a faltering image abroad, a stagnating middle class. Obama gave eloquent voice to those frustrations, arguing that all of them could be addressed if only we reunited the electorate.
Probably Obama himself would not have guessed then that he would ascend to the White House just four years later. But he certainly wouldn't have imagined that a full decade on, nearing the halfway point in his second term, he would find himself dragged down by precisely the same set of issues that vexed his predecessor.
After a month that saw Iraq unravel and job growth continue to plod along, while the stock market soared, the central paradox of the Obama years, as historians will undoubtedly view it, has never been clearer. It's Obama's presidency, but he's still governing in Bush's world.
So you're a liberal member of the 1 percent, and you've decided to wrest control of the Democratic agenda from change-averse insiders. You want to free the capital from the grip of powerful interest groups. You want to inspire a new set of policies to help America meet the challenges of a fast-transforming economy. Where do you turn for leadership and innovation?
To the teachers union, of course!
At least that's how it seems to have played out at the Democracy Alliance, the group of superrich Democrats who have funneled more than half a billion dollars into liberal groups over the past decade. Earlier this month, the alliance announced that John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association, would become the chairman of its board.
The move went largely unnoticed by the Washington media and even most Democrats, who could think of nothing at that moment other than the Memoir That Ate Everything in Its Path. But it tells you something — more than Hillary Clinton's book does, certainly — about the direction of Democratic politics right now.
In all my years of covering election nights, through all the frustrations inherent in dealing with candidates and campaigns, I have never once resorted to chiding someone who ended up on the losing side. I will admit, though, that after Eric Cantor's stunning defeat Tuesday night, I was tempted to check back in with his press secretary, Megan Whittemore, who had informed me, when I decided to write about the primary a week earlier, that Cantor would not be granting me an interview on the substance of his record.
Whittemore told me that there really wasn't a story in Cantor's race against economics professor Dave Brat, that I'd just be wasting time on a fringe candidate, and that "real people" cared about the "real issues" in which I apparently had no interest. (This last bit involved a lecture on how families had to pay bills at their kitchen tables and whatnot — precious minutes I can never get back.)
In a lot of ways, Dave Brat is your typical tea party-style insurgent running in a Republican primary this year. He's an economics professor at a tiny college, a striped-tie, free market enthusiast who decries debt and immigration. He has the backing of the crankiest conservative bloggers and radio hosts, one of whom, Laura Ingraham, appeared with him at a rally this week.
But Brat isn't running to unseat some mush-ball moderate or no-name state legislator backed by the local chamber of commerce. No, Brat's opponent in next Tuesday's primary is Eric Cantor, the congressman from Virginia's 7th District and the second most powerful Republican in the House. Which highlights a question that's becoming more germane as this season of Republican disunion drags on:
Just how conservative do you have to be before these conservative activists will leave you alone?
While you were grilling burgers over the long holiday weekend, a cadre of academics were locked away in their studies, poring over data sets by lamplight and banging out blog posts about the French economist Thomas Piketty. Did somebody say "party?"
As you may know, Piketty's dryly titled but exhaustively compiled "Capital in the 21st Century," an analysis of trends in global inequality, is the surprising best-seller of the early beach season. Since late last week, it's been the topic of considerable and highly technical debate as well. At issue is whether Piketty's data holds up to scrutiny or whether he's just pushing an agenda.
For those of us who didn't get beyond a couple of semesters of economics, there's not much hope of understanding the mathematical minutiae of this dispute, let alone settling it, and I wouldn't try. But by endeavoring to make sense of the broader issues here, we can learn something not just about inequality but also about the limits of data generally.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News2 mths ago
America's college kids are back and resting at home this week, which is a good thing, because during the long months away they seem to have gone completely out of their minds.
Last weekend, The New York Times' Jennifer Medina reported on the latest bizarre demand on campus: "trigger warnings" to let students know if the text they're about to study will expose them to some version of misogyny or homophobia, so they aren't unexpectedly traumatized by visions of things that can never be unseen – like, say, every novel written by a white man before 1960. That followed the public floggings of several commencement speakers whose invitations had to be rescinded, including such evildoers as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the International Monetary Fund's Christine Lagarde and Robert Birgeneau, the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News2 mths ago
Perhaps you've noticed that Democrats in Washington get a little touchy these days where Hillary Clinton is concerned. A few weeks ago, I had the temerity to wouldn't be able to run unopposed for the Democratic nomination. This prompted in the Daily Beast from Bob Shrum, the venerable party strategist, who argued that of course Clinton would easily clear the Democratic field and waltz to the nomination, because her situation so closely resembles that of Ulysses Grant in 1868. I'm not making this up.
All this defensiveness leads me to think that a lot of commentators are confused about what's going on with Clinton's political future right now. We think what we're seeing is an elaborate campaign, directed by Hillary, to lock down the 2016 nomination and solidify her image as a leader. But in reality, this isn't emanating from Clinton, and it has nothing to do with voters. What we're really looking at is a campaign orchestrated by nervous Democrats and aimed at persuading Clinton herself.