Posts by Matt Bai
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News5 days ago
If you missed Mark Sanford's tortured, meandering Facebook post about his various relationship and family troubles last weekend, I'm afraid you're out of luck. The Republican Party's Lord Byron apparently thought better of it and decided to take the post down.
Maybe Sanford's sons impressed upon him that he had become the single most embarrassing parent in America. Or maybe the South Carolina congressman suddenly realized that he wasn't actually 15 and was under no compulsion to vent his conflicted emotions on social media. (If I knew how to do it, I'd insert a little "unamused" emoji face here.)
Or perhaps Sanford took down the post because it occurred to him, too late, that his digital soliloquy constituted a thoroughly reckless act — not just for himself or for his family, but also for all of Washington, where the last thing any of us really needed was to further erode the boundary between private lives and political careers.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News12 days ago
Maybe as the midterm elections grow closer this fall, we'll see the signs of another electoral wave. Such waves, which sweep one party into power while washing the other one out to sea, have become almost routine over the past decade, and the swamis who obsess over such things have long predicted that another one would deliver the Senate solidly into Republican hands this November.
And yet, to this point anyway, the anti-Obama wave looks more like a gently rolling surf. In states where the president's standing has plummeted, a bunch of Democratic senators have managed to at least stay close into this pivotal phase of the campaign, raising hopes among party leaders that somehow they may yet be able to ride this one out.
The question is what's keeping these Democrats afloat. And a big part of the answer is that in a lot of states, as in presidential politics these days, it turns out there's still plenty of power in a family name.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News19 days ago
It's past Labor Day in a midterm election year, which means we've reached the point when chaired foreign policy professors at our finest universities are urgently summoned by governors and junior senators eyeing the presidency so they can answer all kinds of questions like "What is ISIS?" and "Where is Gaza?" and "Is it true the Soviet Union no longer exists?"
According to The New York Times, Chris Christie is getting tutorials after causing a minor calamity by using the term "occupied territories" in a speech. (What's he supposed to know about Jewish voters? He's only the governor of New Jersey.) Rick Perry's been boning up on the various terrorist groups, too, which is impressive for a guy who struggled so mightily to remember the Energy Department.
- Matt Bai at Yahoo News26 days ago
If you've been at the beach and missed the latest world news, let me briefly catch you up. Terrorists in Syria and Iraq have been overrunning the countryside, pausing to savagely murder an American journalist. Pakistan is reeling from political crisis. The Russians just made an incursion into Ukraine, the Israelis have been blowing up every other building in Gaza, and Ebola's rampaging through West Africa.
All of which has led to some of the most blistering criticism of Barack Obama's presidency — and not just because he found time to golf. Republican leaders have called Obama feckless and incompetent, a man without a grand plan. Hillary Clinton dismissed Obama’s internal mantra of "Don't do stupid stuff" — "stuff" being the G-rated term — as a lame excuse for a foreign policy.
There's some politics at work here, of course, but at the core of these criticisms is a much deeper question that divides Republicans from Democrats, and some Democrats from one another. Should such a thing as a foreign policy even exist? Or do world events defy some unifying theory?
The problem with Barack Obama, people are always telling me these days, is that he just doesn't love the full contact sport of politics. He has no capacity for the inside machinations or tactical brutality we associate with a more sophisticated and celebrated president like Lyndon Johnson.
What we really need, I guess, is an executive in the mold of a Chris Christie or an Andrew Cuomo or a Rick Perry, all of whom are more extroverted and more brazen about wielding their power as governors than Obama is — and all of whom, not incidentally, are now fending off prosecutors and investigations while scrambling to keep their national ambitions afloat.
And this illustrates an interesting paradox of modern politics: We love this idea of the ruthless and effective political operator, right up until the moment we're confronted by the reality.
The most corrupting force in politics, we are repeatedly told, is big money — super PACs, corporate lobbyists, rapacious oligarchs. And there’s plenty of evidence to support the claim.
But let’s be clear: It wasn’t big money that drove Republican House members, before they left town last week, to approve the first-ever Congressional lawsuit against a sitting president, when they should have gotten serious about a pressing border crisis. And it wasn’t big money that had gleeful Democrats doing backflips in the streets at calls from the conservative fringe to impeach Barack Obama.
What’s really fueling the hyperbole and dysfunction in Washington now isn’t one privileged special interest or another, but rather the mouse clicks of ordinary, angry Americans whose $25 contributions add up to a mountain of influence. And in this way, at least, American politics has finally caught up to where the rest of society is going.
We have met the true enemy of rational debate, and, what do you know: It’s us.
You've got to give this much to Rand Paul: Kentucky's junior senator is willing to do something almost unheard of in modern presidential politics, which is to make arguments that not everyone in his party already cares about. For this reason alone, Paul is probably the most interesting presidential hopeful out there, if not the most likely to succeed.
Paul's latest gambit, as you may have seen, involves an appeal to black voters, who generally have about as much attachment to the Republican Party as Donald Sterling has to his wife. This unusual courtship, which included a speech to the Urban League in which Paul actually quoted Malcolm X, led to a spate of media stories in the past week about a new contest between the parties to win over black voters in closely divided states.
All of which raises a couple of questions. First, do Democrats really have anything to worry about when it comes to the African-American vote? And second, is Paul really trying to steal those voters away?
The answers are yes and no, for more complex reasons than most of the analysis would have you believe.
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.
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.
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.