LOS ANGELES -- Just about 30 years ago, I wrote a "Reporter at Large" article for The New Yorker magazine about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living, illegally and legally, in Southern California. The Mexican and Chicano population of Los Angeles was the second-largest Mexican city in the world, behind only Mexico City itself.For a New Yorker, a stranger in a strange land, the reporting launched fireworks of new ideas and revelations. ... More »WE ARE FAMILY
Opinion - Richard Reeves
LOS ANGELES -- Times are tough. Do the numbers: Chief executive officers (CEOs) of the country's biggest companies experienced pay increases of a minuscule 15 percent in 2012, compared with the 28 percent their pay rose in 2011.Only 15 percent. Ah! I'm sure they'll make it up in bonuses and stock options this year. The rich will get richer and the poor will get porridge, cold porridge.Those statistics are from GMI, Global Market Insite. Meanwhile, the earnings of workers (adjusted for inflation) declined by 2 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. ... More »BIPOLAR NATION: THE RICH GET RICHER
LOS ANGELES -- A very wise man, Harvard philosopher George Santayana, said more than a hundred years ago: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."A bit less famously, he also said: "A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world."Last Monday morning, I brought a copy of The New York Times to a government class at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. I'm on the faculty there. ... More »LEAVING BEHIND OUR LOYAL AFGHANS
LOS ANGELES -- When ATMs, the cash machines, began to appear on the outside walls of banks in the 1970s, I refused to go near them. My mother was a teller at the Trust Company of New Jersey on Journal Square in Jersey City, and I knew the machines were designed to eliminate her job.When I was at The New York Times, I went one day to what we called the "morgue," the library of old clippings. The guy behind the counter, whom I remember as "Bob," kept pointing down until I lifted myself up and peeked under the counter. ... More »THE NEXT BIG ISSUE: WORK
LOS ANGELES -- I thought I had said all I had to say last week about the accelerated change in American attitudes toward gay marriage and "illegal" immigration. But there are a lot of other folks out there examining the accelerated politics of the day and generally coming to the conclusion that, after years of moving right, Americans are moving left again. ... More »A NEW AMERICAN REBELLION, PART II
LOS ANGELES -- As the Supreme Court debated last week over the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 17-year-old law barring same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia noted the number of states that are permitting gays and lesbians to marry. "There has been a sea change," he said, "between now and 1996."He was right about that, but it's not just gay marriage. A range of change is taking place socially, culturally, legally in the United States. Thomas Jefferson, in a 1787 letter, advocated "rebellion" every 20 years for the nation to keep up with itself. That may be too strong a word. ... More »A NEW AMERICAN REBELLION
LOS ANGELES -- If you Google "Afghanistan," you get your choice of occupiers. There's "Occupation of Afghanistan by British," "Occupation of Afghanistan by Russians" and "Occupation of Afghanistan by United States."The British occupation began in arrogance in 1878 and ended in 1880 in massacre. The occupation by the Soviet Union ended in defeat and humiliation. The American occupation, officially an operation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, goes on and on toward another bad ending. ... More »GET THE HELL OUT OF AFGHANISTAN
LOS ANGELES --- "What if they gave an election and no one came?" That's a paraphrase of a war or anti-war cry of the 1960s. More than 40 years later in Los Angeles, the nation's second city, the cliche came alive in reports of last Tuesday's municipal election, where turnout has dropped to 16 percent, half the number of people who turned out for local elections only eight years ago.At my polling place, I walked in and found the ballot watchers reading books. They had already finished the newspapers -- the folks there were old enough to read papers. And I was the only non-official there. ... More »AS GOES LOS ANGELES, COMES NOBODY
LOS ANGELES -- I do have an office, at the University of Southern California, but except for actually teaching, I have been working at home for most of my life. Naturally, I'm interested in the controversy generated by Marissa Mayer, the new boss at Yahoo, when she ordered all that company's employees to report to a regular company office.I am not surprised that many commentators and ordinary Americans are reacting to her with a lot of anger and few cheers. I think I know something about all this. I also think she did the right thing in her circumstances and moment. ... More »THE AMERICAN WAY OF WORK
LOS ANGELES -- If I were a Republican activist, I think I would give up reading political journalism for a while. I might even turn to reading history, say the history of whatever happened to the Whig Party.The Whigs, as most of us have almost certainly forgotten, begat the Republicans in 1856, and now the Republicans sometimes seem to be trying to beget (or repeat) Whig history. Once upon time there was a Whig Party. It elected four presidents in the 19th century and controlled both houses of Congress for a time. ... More »ARE REPUBLICANS GOING THE WAY OF THE WHIGS?
LOS ANGELES -- President Obama said "jobs" 47 times in his State of the Union message last Tuesday night, so we know what's on his mind.Whether he has the political strength and will to make those ideas -- some pretty good -- into policy and law is the question of the coming year, maybe the coming four years. Press reaction from coast to coast was generally, but cautiously, positive. The New York Times editorial reaction was under a generous headline:"The President's Challenge to Congress -- In the State of the Union address, Mr. Obama points to a way out of austerity and stalemate. ... More »OBAMA IS MAKING MORE SENSE THAN THE LOYAL OPPOSITION
LOS ANGELES -- I was standing in line for a movie years ago on Lexington Avenue in New York, when an unmistakable voice came from near the front of the line. "Hey, Dick! Hey, Dick! It's Ed Koch!" Who else? He kept on speaking at the top of his voice -- he did not have a bottom -- over a couple of dozen people, asking me or telling me about some problem at City Hall or maybe complaining about the newspaper, The New York Times, of which I was then City Hall bureau chief. ... More »WHY ED KOCH NEVER BECAME PRESIDENT
LOS ANGELES -- The 30th president of the United States, who was not such a bad guy, sometimes seems to be remembered only for a single quote: "The business of America is business."If Calvin Coolidge of Vermont were alive and awake now -- he was noted for taking long naps -- he might want to change that to, "The business of America is show business."After all, if he read the news last Monday, he would see that both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times had major stories analyzing the impact of two new films moving, or trying to move, the national debate on critical issues. ... More »WHAT IS REAL AND WHAT IS REALITY
LOS ANGELES -- On Feb. 1, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially signed an order allowing Japanese-Americans to fight in the U.S. Army. Only a year earlier, the same president had signed an executive order to evacuate 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans living near the West Coast into "relocation camps" in desolate, barren areas from east of the Sierra Nevada to Arkansas.The military estimated that at least 3,000 Nisei -- people of Japanese heritage born in the United States -- would volunteer for active duty along with another 1,000 born in Hawaii. ... More »AN AMERICAN STORY: DANIEL INOUYE
LOS ANGELES -- Is there a wave of nostalgia for the 1930? I wouldn't have thought so, at least not until the Republicans of Michigan passed the bucket of anti-union legislation last week. The procedure they used to pass "right-to-work" was pretty sneaky: no hearings, no public readings, voting by a lame-duck legislature and signature by a governor who had given the impression that such doings and law were not part of his agenda.I was surprised at what Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, and his boys did. ... More »'WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON, BOYS?'
LOS ANGELES --- It was Yogi Berra who supposedly said, "It's very hard to predict things, especially about the future." But then he also said, "I never really said all the things I said." He even talked about politics and the presidency: "You know Texas has a lot of electrical votes."A group of five students at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where I teach, took up the challenge when they chose to do a project on what election coverage would look like 50 years from now. ... More »THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT: 2062
LOS ANGELES -- I did not always agree with her politics and most of her policies, but I must say that I always felt a thrill when I saw television pictures of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arriving in some capital, the name of which most Americans could not pronounce. This gigantic jet would roll to a stop and various local leaders would stand in all their military finery at the base of the stairs. The door to the big bird would swing open and out would pop what the Irish would call "this mere slip of a girl."U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S. ... More »THE NEW CENTURY OF WOMEN
LOS ANGELES -- The 2012 election is all over but the shouting, and the shouting this time seems extraordinarily loud and revealing of the future of American politics.Do you hear what I hear? Any way you slice and dice the data, beginning with the fact that digitalization has produced more and more accurate and actionable data, they point toward inevitable political change over the next couple of decades. In 1970, in another century, Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg co-authored a book called "The Real Majority. ... More »IT'S A BRAVE NEW (POLITICAL) WORLD
LOS ANGELES -- Mike Allen, for those who don't know, is Washington's insiders' insider. Every morning, sometimes as early as 4 a.m., the Politico.com editor sends out, via e-mail, a newsletter called the Political Playbook, a heads-up for the capital's political junkies.The Playbook summarizes what Allen considers the top-of-the-morning news and analysis from inside and outside the Beltway, original interviews, and a schedule of what's happening around town during the day. ... More »THE ELECTION -- IN A WORD
LOS ANGELES -- It was a dark and stormy night over most of the Eastern states, and all through many houses, not a creature was stirring. Water rushed around and nasty politics were forgotten for a bit. In New Jersey, the sting-tongued Republican governor, Chris Christie, said only good words about Democratic President Barack Obama and the federal response to the hurricane invasion of his state. It seems the president called him at midnight Monday and said: "Anything you need. Just call."Nice. Civilized. We're all in this together, for the moment. At least in the East. ... More »TIME TO PLAY THE RACE CARD -- AGAIN!
WASHINGTON -- Beneath his cool exterior, there is passion and a trash-talking crudeness hidden in President Obama.For weeks, even before the first debate, he worried that Mitt Romney might defeat him in November. What bothered him is that he reckons the economy will be bouncing back and strong about two years into his second term. But if Romney is president, he will take credit for the hard work and intelligence Obama marshaled to brake the decline in the country's economy and start the slow road back to recovery. That makes the cool one crazy.Two weeks ago, according to Mike Allen of ... More »THE FINAL DAYS OF A BAD CAMPAIGN
LOS ANGELES -- Assuming that neither man faints on the stage at their final debate on Monday, the Obama-Romney race now depends on three smoking guns rarely discussed by candidates: geography, demography, and getting out the right vote.Geography first. There is much fundraising but little campaigning in person or even on television in the three largest of the United States. Why? Because California is safely Democrat, and so is New York. Texas is safely Republican. ... More »THE NEXT AMERICA
LOS ANGELES -- For at least the last couple of decades, the Republican Party has been anti-modern, but Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, is modern, even post-modern. I don't mean that as a compliment. The man is a serial liar in a society that increasingly tolerates lying and cheating.Maybe Romney and his lying-mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are on to something about the American character these days. One example of that is the ludicrous belief held by many that President Obama is "the other," not born in the United States and a secret Muslim. ... More »SO ROMNEY LIES -- SO WHAT? WHO CARES?
LOS ANGELES -- While President Obama was talking tough at the United Nations and being charming "eye candy" with Barbara Walters and her gang on "The View," the former prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, was being wise on a round of appearances on American political shows. His message: "The United States ... should sort of give up on being loved.""If that's your ambition as still the world's greatest power," Blair said on MSNBC, "give up on it, because it's not going to happen."Respect, he said, should be the American goal abroad -- and we already have that. ... More »THE 'UNLOVED AMERICA'
LOS ANGELES -- I once wrote, about Gerald Ford, that an honest politician is one who lies only when he has to. Ford, a pretty straight shooter, is gone now. He has been replaced by Mitt Romney the ignorant and Paul Ryan the liar.Last week's Republican National Convention may be the last in the line going back to 1832, when President Andrew Jackson called a convention in Baltimore because he needed a plausible arena to bump his vice president, John C. Calhoun, in favor of a more compatible Martin Van Buren. It worked.It doesn't anymore. ... More »ROMNEY'S LIES AND LIARS
As he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan called in a 34-year-old congressman from Michigan named David Stockman, considered by many to be the most articulate and intellectually imposing Republican of the moment.Stockman had impressed the new president by humbling the old man in practice debates before Reagan took on President Carter back in September."Dave," said Reagan, "I've been thinking about how to get even with you for that thrashing you gave me in the debate rehearsals. So I'm sending you to the OMB (Office of Management and Budget). ... More »STOCKMAN REDUX
LOS ANGELES -- Some days, I feel I have seen it all. Other days, I just don't want to get out of bed. Over eight years my family has been hit with lung cancer, brain cancer, strokes and various other medical calamities. My wife has had eight operations, in the United States and in France.For what it is worth, my wife and I have the best medical insurance money can buy. But it adds up, and soon or later you are broken, as the bills, the "incidentals," pile up and up. One day, you give up your club membership here and the next you cancel your subscription to The New Yorker. So it goes. ... More »TRAIN DOCTORS AND NURSES, NOT SOLDIERS
LOS ANGELES -- Scene I: When David Halberstam, possibly the best journalist of his generation, was assigned to Poland by The New York Times, he ended up marrying a beautiful Polish actress named Elzbieta Czyzewska. And as you can guess, American politicians with large numbers of Poles in their districts flocked to Warsaw to meet the great Halberstam and his glamorous wife.Scene II: After one long dinner with American congressmen, she asked David whether all American leaders spoke like peasants. ... More »A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS, YES!
LOS ANGELES -- The headline of the Los Angeles Times editorial page on the day after the state's primary on June 5 was: "What Tuesday Told Us: The top-two primary was held and the world kept turning."As it has many times over more than a century, the Golden State again tried to reform its politics. This time the state is trying to break the partisan deadlock that has made governing almost impossible. No one is sure how the new reforms are working or will work. ... More »CALIFORNIA TRIES A NEW WAY
LOS ANGELES -- The word "takeaway" was first used in 1961, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. And then it was about Chinese restaurants. Now it is about everything, including elections."Three Takeaways From the Recall Vote" was the headline over the election analysis of Sean Trende, the senior election analyst of Real Clear Politics.On Politico.com, the headline over Glenn Thrush's analysis was, "Only One Takeaway From Wisconsin: Money Shouts."Trende, a great name for a political writer, began his piece on Wisconsin Gov. ... More »COUNTRY FOR SALE
I heard the name of Michael Dukakis, the three-time governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic candidate for president, only once during the endless debates for this year's Republican nomination. Mitt Romney, another former Massachusetts governor, was bragging about how many jobs he had brought to the state. Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran out of patience and said, "Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt. ... More »IMPEACH THE SUPREME COURT?
LOS ANGELES -- Uh, oh! Some people are looking over the right shoulders of the Republicans who rode into the House of Representatives on the tea party wave of 2010. And they don't like what they're seeing.The Club for Growth is fundamentally a conservative lobbying and research group pushing for lower taxes and reduced government spending, which positions itself well to the right of Republican elected officials and even to the right of tea party rhetoric. The club's basic goal is a flat tax to replace graduated income taxes or a national sales tax. ... More »THE TEA IS GETTING WEAKER
NEW YORK -- After Richard Mourdock defeated Sen. Richard Lugar by 20 points in last Tuesday's Indiana Republican Senate primary, he called, more or less, for one-party government. Asked by CNN's Soledad O'Brien his definition of "compromise," he answered:"What I've said about compromise and bipartisanship, I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes and get America moving again. ... More »THE REPUBLICAN CIVIL WAR
GRANADA HILLS, Calif. -- In 1921, Lincoln Steffens, among the greatest of American journalists, visited the new Soviet Union and came back to the United States to say, "I have seen the future and it works."He was of course, quite wrong. I may be, too, after chronicling the triumphs of Granada Hills Charter High School here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. For the second straight year, it has won the National Academic Decathlon. ... More »BRIGHT IMMIGRANTS PROMISE BRIGHT FUTURE FOR AMERICA
LOS ANGELES -- Once upon a time there was a political tribe called "liberal Republicans," led by chieftains named Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Mac Mathias and others. They were generally liberal on social issues and relatively conservative on fiscal issues.They are extinct now. They were caught in a kind of pincer movement between conservative Republicans demanding ideological purity in their own party and more liberal Democrats, who were able to replace them by attacking them for not being liberal enough, particularly on issues like Vietnam and welfare. ... More »THE NEXT REPUBLICAN PARTY
LOS ANGELES -- The 2012 presidential election is not only about who votes for Barack Obama and who votes for Mitt Romney. It is also about who votes.In a national campaign that does not get much national publicity, at least 41 states have passed laws or are considering new laws making it more difficult to vote in November, or legislation designed to discourage people from even trying to cast ballots, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. ... More »THE QUIET CAMPAIGN: VOTER SUPPRESSION
LOS ANGELES -- If Mitt Romney had walked by a room called The Forum at the University of Southern California last Wednesday, he would quit his presidential race right now.The speakers were a retired but still partisan Democratic political consultant, Robert Shrum, and his wife, Marylouise Oates, who describes herself as "a recovering journalist. ... More »ROMNEY AND LOSE-LOSE POLITICS
LOS ANGELES -- I went into teaching not because I enjoy it -- though I do -- but because I needed a health plan. I was a lucky man to have skills, particularly writing, that were in demand at universities.For years as a freelance writer, that is, working for myself, I carried only "catastrophic" coverage with a large deductible. I figured I was a pretty healthy young guy who could handle the bills that came with the ordinary maladies of the day. Also, for years, because my wife has Irish citizenship, we lived outside of the United States. ... More »HEALTH CARE: WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
LOS ANGELES -- Doyle, how could you?Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, one of the best political reporters around, wrote a column last Thursday, beginning with this lead:"We in the mainstream media harbor a dirty little secret: Most of us are rooting for Rick Santorum. It's nothing personal, although Santorum is a reasonably appealing guy. And it's not ideological; most of us aren't yearning for Bible-based social conservatism to become the law of the land. It's worse than that. We're just hoping to see the gaudy spectacle of this primary campaign continue as long as possible. ... More »ODE TO THE ROAD
LOS ANGELES -- In the 1980s, I lectured on American politics at Sciences Po (l'Institute d'Etudes Politique) in Paris, the elite French school of political science. When the time came for questions, the first one from students was always the same: "How can you tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans in the United States?"I would answer that Republicans smell better.A joke, rather than an answer.To the French students it was barely possible for them to see the difference. ... More »THE FRACKING OF AMERICAN POLITICS
LOS ANGELES -- Odds are that Mitt Romney will still be the Republican nominee for president, but you have to feel sorry for him because he clearly has no idea what his party stands for and is running against. His principal opponent, Rick Santorum, does understand and has been able, so far, to hang in there against all of Romney's money, breeding and accomplishment.Santorum can be called a nut, legitimately, but he knows what he and the party are running against: sex and the Sixties. Quotes from former senator Santorum: -- "Woodstock is the great American orgy. ... More »SEX AND THE SIXTIES
LOS ANGELES -- If this was the last Republican debate, or the last important one, it was as entertaining and revealing as most of the previous 19. And scary.Politically, Mitt Romney did what he wanted to do. With help from cranky old Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, who seemed engagingly detached from the whole thing, Romney hung Washington, the Republicans' favorite punching bag, around his new principal opponent, Rick Santorum. ... More »ROMNEY AND SANTORUM: THE WARMONGERS!
LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of Breitbart.com and a couple of other popular websites, set the tone for a program at the University of Southern California last Wednesday by calling George Stephanopoulus of ABC News, a little rat with a runny nose. He continued by equating mainstream newspapers and television news, National Public Radio, Hollywood and American universities with totalitarians around the world, citing Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, cultural Marxism and storm troopers.He was joined by Jon Fleischman, founder of FlashReport. ... More »COMES THE REVOLUTION
LOS ANGELES -- Now that Mitt Romney has about wrapped up the Republican nomination for president ... What? He hasn't? They changed the rules?The Republican Party, which did indeed change its nomination rules and has had to try to deal with new campaign finance circumstances, is a classic example of being careful what you ask for -- or is it unintended consequences? By the old rules, Romney would be a lock. Now, he will still probably win, but the party may be the focus of weeks or months more of the ugliness many of us have enjoyed watching through these past months. ... More »ROMNEY THE WINNER? NOT YET!
WASHINGTON -- I first met Barney Frank in 1979, when he was a state legislator in Massachusetts. We spoke the same language, Jersey cynical, because we grew up a couple of miles from each other. He was from Bayonne and I was from Jersey City, the jewel of Hudson County.He got to Boston by way of Harvard and Harvard Law School, but he always sounded the same."Who runs Massachusetts?" I asked that day."The businesses who threaten to move out of the state," he said. "They have a chokehold on us. ... More »THE SAYINGS OF CHAIRMAN BARNEY
LOS ANGELES -- The good news of the day is that Bill Moyers is coming back to television next January. The bad news is that Coca-Cola seems to be winning its battle to fill the Grand Canyon with empty plastic bottles.The two stories came together last week. In a speech celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, among the things Moyers, a credible voice of the people, had to say to the Nader group were these: "Why New York's Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. ... More »IT SEEMS WALL STREET IS OCCUPYING US
LOS ANGELES -- By chance, the three things that landed in my inbox -- that's a polite euphemism for "pile" -- on Tuesday were these:The Hill, one of Washington's all-politics-all-the-time journals, with a headline that read: "Most Voters Say the U.S. Is in Decline."Under that was Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum's new book, "That Used to Be Us -- How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented."And there was a tear sheet from the Los Angeles Times that hit me especially hard. ... More »AMERICAN DECLINE; CRUSHING THE MIDDLE CLASS
LOS ANGELES -- I was pleasantly surprised last Wednesday when I asked a roomful of students at the University of Southern California how many had watched the Republican candidates' debate the night before and dozens of hands went up, more than half the students, maybe two-thirds.Admittedly, it was a group of political junkies, but still, it was good to see people cared. Their reward is that there will not be another debate until Nov. 3. But we all learned a lot these last few weeks about a party in (to be polite) transition -- and about television.Television first. ... More »NICE DEBATES, GUYS, BUT YOU'RE IN TROUBLE
LOS ANGELES -- Who's left? Is there a good-looking, smart state legislator out there somewhere whom the Republican parties could agree on as their candidate?And that is the problem. There are two Republican parties these days, and they seem to be about the same size -- and they hate each other. If there were one party, they could settle on a candidate (probably Mitt Romney) and go about the business of trying to defeat President Obama next year.He seemed to have a lot of fun with it, but Chris Christie of New Jersey was never going to be the candidate or the solution to the party's problem. ... More »THE REPUBLICAN CIRCUS
LOS ANGELES -- President Obama came out here last Tuesday to proclaim himself a "warrior for the middle class." Would that it were true.In a similar situation to what we have today -- that is the rich get richer and the poor (and middle class) get poorer -- President Franklin Roosevelt said of what used to be called plutocrats: "I welcome their hatred."I'm not sure that Obama, the rationalist beloved, is capable of talking that way or acting that way. ... More »CLASS WARFARE: BRING IT ON!
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Democrats should be building statues of former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, or at least giving away copies of her new book, "A Governor's Story."It's not that her eight years in Lansing were a roaring success. After all, the state was falling apart in the center of a national disaster, manufacturing jobs disappearing or moving overseas. ... More »AMERICA THE PASSIVE
LOS ANGELES -- "Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on 'Lost Decade'" was the lead headline in last Wednesday's New York Times.The story, by Sabrina Tavernise, got worse, paragraph by paragraph. More than 46 million Americans were living under the government's official poverty line. That was the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has recorded such data."This is truly a lost decade," said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economics professor. ... More »LOST DECADE ... LOST GENERATION?
LOS ANGELES -- Karl Rove, pundit for now, continued to pound away at his favorite target, Sarah Palin, over the summer, saying this time she was too "thin-skinned" to be president.That was at least his second attack on her skin. The first, last year, was funnier.In case you've forgotten, the first one was when she did an eight-part Discovery Channel show on the wonders of Alaska and herself. That time Rove, the Republican Party's ranking philosopher prince, did a pretty good imitation of of her out there fishing:"Did you see that?" he asked an interviewer when the show began. ... More »DOES KARL ROVE KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T?
LOS ANGELES -- The phrase "the general welfare" of the people is part of the U.S. Constitution that so many political folk wave around these days -- arguing basically that the problems and assumptions of 1789 remain inviolate in the 21st century. Of course no one knows exactly what is to be defined as the general welfare. Thomas Jefferson said it this way: "The laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised."Parts of the Republican Party and parts of the Democratic Party will debate forever the meaning of the phrase. ... More »WHO PAYS FOR GOD'S REVENGE?
LOS ANGELES -- Stating the obvious: Politicians know politics; that's their business. Business is not their business, and any discussion about American presidents and economics has to begin with this discouraging word: American politicians, with a very small number of exceptions, don't know anything about economics. In Washington, during the deficit debates for the past few weeks, politicians are guessing -- as I think most economists and pundits are -- and they seize on almost any deficit idea that sounds good at the time. ... More »THE MONEY MELODRAMA IN WASHINGTON
Voters Focus on Spending at Just the Wrong TimeSAN DIEGO--Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist who elevates bland to middle-brow art for The New York Times, thinks Republicans have overreached in their showdown with Obama over the debt ceiling. "[The Republicans'] inability to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into losing one," he says. Advantage, according to Douthat, representing the mainstream media: Obama.Of course, Obama had already agreed to begin dismantling Social Security and Medicare, surrenders Republicans have craved for decades. ... More »THE GOP BETS ON BAD JUDGEMENT
Many Foreclosed Houses Are Infested by MoldNEW YORK-The next time someone tells you that capitalism is efficient, remember the mold houses.I used to be a banker. Some of my customers had trouble making their loan payments. We usually had recourse to some sort of collateral-often real estate. But my bank really didn't want to foreclose."We're bankers," my boss told me the first time this issue came up. "Not landlords."Back in the 1980s most banks held this view. Bankers sat on their butts in air-conditioned offices. They didn't want to manage vacated properties, much less try to sell them. ... More »TOXIC ASSETS
Make DSK Whole--Then Jail HimSAINT PETERSBURG, FLORIDA--"Innocent until proven guilty." We say it. We teach it to our children. But we don't believe it.Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with ambushing a hotel cleaning person at a hotel in midtown Manhattan and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, has been released. This was not the usual case of a well-heeled defendant wielding money and influence to weasel out of responsibility for his crime. ... More »GUILTY AFTER PROVEN INNOCENT
LOS ANGELES -- For years, since I moved there to cover Watergate, I have wanted to write a column about how Washington really works -- a checklist of sorts. But I never got around to it.The closest I ever got was quoting the late San Francisco humor writer Arthur Hoppe. Writing from 3,000 miles away, he said, if I remember correctly: Washington is 67 square miles, about as high as the Washington monument, and surrounded on all sides by reality. Last week, Joe Scarborough, former Florida congressman, talking head on MSNBC, and now guest columnist for Politico. ... More »GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN
Political Scientist Argues the U.S. is a Police State NEW YORK--The United States is a police state.Not in danger of becoming one.Is.And it's too late to restore democracy.That's the stark message of Andrew Kolin's brave, lucid and important book "State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush."Kolin comes out swinging like Joe Frazier. Illusions and delusions about America as a democracy, much less one that is benevolent, don't stand a chance.The U.S. ... More »BRAVE NEW BOOK
LOS ANGELES -- What is the most frequent question I've been asked recently?What is it with Michele Bachmann's 23 foster children?Well, calling her congressional and campaign offices, I didn't get very far. They don't talk about it and say they really don't know anything about it. Not surprising on a couple of counts: It is pretty personal business, and Rep. Bachmann is a very demanding boss who has had six changes at chief of staff in just the last four years. ... More »MEET MICHELE BACHMANN
Oct. 6th: Will Tahrir Square Come to Washington?LOS ANGELES--I used to work for Democratic candidates. I was campus activist. I marched in protests.But, in the 1980s, I quit politics. I was fed up. The Left was impotent and inept. They didn't want to change things. They were content with theater. Bad theater at that: dorks on stilts, boring speakers, stupid slogans, the same old chants. "The people, united, will never be defeated!"Except--we were defeated. We didn't even fight. Our protests were poorly attended. The media ignored us. And we always lost. ... More »THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE DEACTUALIZED
The Decline and Fall of an American IconNEW YORK--Why did our political system become so corrupt and unresponsive? How did we end up with such a rigid, Old European-style class system--in which you can't get ahead unless you were born that way? America: What Went Wrong?, a 1992 paperback by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, went a long way toward answering those questions.It may be, however, that America was doomed long before then.The historian Edmund Morris recently published the final entry of a magisterial trilogy about the life of Theodore Roosevelt. ... More »TEDDY ROOSEVELT SAW THIS COMING
CHICAGO -- It seems that I only see American soldiers at airports. Walking forever through O'Hare here, every man and woman in uniform is greeted by the same line: "Thank you for your service."At American Airlines, military personnel are allowed to board before other economy class passengers, after first class and business class passengers are comfortable in their big chairs.It all makes me cringe. The reason for all this small courtesy is the guilt felt by the rest of us. This small band of brothers and sisters are doing our most difficult work, much of it as unnecessary as it is dangerous. ... More »THE NEW AMERICAN SEGREGATION: THE MILITARY
Two-Party System Is Not Democracy NEW YORK--We get the government we deserve.Don't get mad at the politicians! It's your/our fault. You/we elected them.Most Americans accept these aphorisms. Yet they are lies--lies that distract us from the fact that our political system is a farce. Really, we should get rid of this phony two-party "democracy." And we will. In the meantime, we ought to ignore it.The two-party system made simple:Two worthless scoundrels are on the ballot.If you vote for one of them, a worthless scoundrel will win.If you don't vote, a worthless scoundrel will win. ... More »THE EVIL OF TWO LESSERS
PARIS and NEW YORK -- One of the most important men in the world, Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, was on his way to meet with prime ministers and finance ministers from around the world on May 14 when he was pulled off an Air France flight to Paris by New York cops and treated exactly the same way any alleged felon is around New York -- that is, badly. The next morning he was on most every television screen in the world, silent, unshaven and handcuffed.That is standard New York Police Department procedure, seen everywhere because the State of New York allows television cameras in courtrooms. ... More »CRIME SEEN FROM TWO CITIES
Stifling Liberal Dissent Under Obama NEW YORK--After they called the presidency for Obama, emails poured in. "You must be relieved now that the Democrats are taking over," an old college buddy told me. "There will be less pressure on you."That would have been nice.In the late 1990s my cartoons ran in Time, Fortune and Bloomberg Personal magazines and over 100 daily and alternative weekly newspapers. I was a staff writer for two major magazines. Then Bush came in. And 9/11 happened.The media gorged on an orgy of psychotic right-wing rhetoric. Flags everywhere. Torture suddenly OK. ... More »RISE OF THE OBAMABOTS
Reimagining the Assassination of Bin LadenNEW YORK--President Obama murdered Osama bin Laden. I am surprised that the left has been so supportive--not of the end result, but of the way it was carried out. Imagine if the killing had gone down the same exact way, but under Bush. Armed commandos invade a foreign country, storm into a suburban neighborhood, blow a hole in a house and blow away an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter. The guy is a murder suspect. Mass murder. But there's no attempt to arrest him or bring him to justice. ... More »WHAT IF RIGHT MADE MIGHT?
NEW YORK -- The funniest political debate I ever saw (and moderated) was between a half-dozen minority party candidates for governor of New Jersey. I was doing that sort of thing for WNBC-TV here, fairness rules and all that. My first question had to do with the traffic problems in Jersey cities after a thruway was built from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn, dumping miles of cars across Staten Island onto the streets of Perth Amboy, N.J.The candidate to my left was on the ballot as "The King of the Gypsies," which apparently he was. His answer: "I could take care of that in a day. ... More »NEW REPUBLICAN FRONT-RUNNER: HERMAN CAIN
LOS ANGELES -- The last time I saw Abbottabad, I was in a crowd of a couple of hundred men watching a dancing bear hopping up and down and then wrestling in the dust with the owner's son. The crowd enjoyed it and stayed for the end, the collecting of coins. There was not a lot of entertainment around there; people looked and stopped at anything out of the ordinary. ... More »PAKISTAN AND AMERICA: THE BAD MARRIAGE
LOS ANGELES -- As far as news is concerned, these are the best of times, these are the worst of times. It hurts your head to open a newspaper like the The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or flip through your favorite websites. Television, I admit, is giving us a bit of the break because all those folks care about is the royal wedding.But it seems to me there are only two stories (or questions) that are worth as much time as we have to think about them:1. What, post-Cold War, is the United States' role in the world?2. ... More »THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES
Culturally Clueless and Politically Tonedeaf, U.S. Gave Bin Laden the Martyrdom He CravedNEW YORK--The assassination of Osama bin Laden was masterfully orchestrated to appeal to American media consumers. But it will play poorly overseas.President Obama's Sunday evening announcement, timed to fill Monday's papers with a sickening orgy of gleeful triumph but little information, prompted bipartisan high-fives and hoots all around. "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chanted a mob of drunken oafs in front of the White House. ... More »OSAMA BIN LADEN'S ULTIMATE VICTORY
Like Their Government, Americans Live on DebtNEW YORK--During his State of the Union address President Obama repeated this ancient canard: "We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in," he said. "That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same."Republicans have used this "families balance their budgets, so should government" line for years. Now Democrats are doing it too. Everyone is jumping aboard the pseudo-austerity bandwagon. ... More »THRIFTY FAMILIES AND OTHER LIES
The Statue of Liberty Stamp Error and the End of AmericaLook at U.S. stamps and paper money from 100 or 50 or even 30 years ago and you'll see my point. Quarters were nearly sterling silver; now they're mystery metal (nickel-copper-zinc alloy). America: we're not what we used to be.A century ago President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the famous Beaux Art sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign the nation's coinage. Among the results were Saint-Gaudens' breathtaking $20 gold "double eagle"; numismatists consider it one of the most elegant coins of the 20th century. ... More »STAMPED OUT
LOS ANGELES -- The lead of the week out here was written by Tom Barnidge of the Contra Costa Times: "There is something terribly wrong with my television set. Every time I turn it on, Donald Trump appears on the screen."The headline of the week appeared in a slightly larger newspaper, The New York Times: "Gross? Maybe. But It Got Me on TV, Right?"Actually, the Times (New York) headline was not about Trump. It was about gigolos in "Gigolos," a reality series on Showtime about men who hire out their bodies (or parts of them) to ladies of wealth in Las Vegas. ... More »TRUMP'S OUR MAN! IF HE CAN'T DO IT, NOBODY CAN
Why Not Link Pols' Pay Level to Ours?MIAMI--Most Americans don't like Moammar Kadafi or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. But that might change if they knew their paychecks. The leaders of Libya and Iran get $9,516 and $3,000 a year annually, respectively.Obama collects $5,505,509--a whopping $22,022 per day.Who's the real out-of-touch dictator?As the U.S. enters its third year of economic collapse, real unemployment has surged past levels that triggered revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Yet neither the President nor members of Congress seem worried. ... More »ZERO SALARY FOR CONGRESS
Can Obama Get Reelected?NEW YORK--Usually I don't care about political horseraces. Yet I am fascinated by Obama's reelection bid. Never mind what's good for the country. I'm dying to hear him make his case for another four years.I don't pretend to be able to predict the future. But I have a rich imagination--and I still can't begin to guess how the president can convince a majority of voters to choose him over the Republican nominee whether he be Mitt Romney or she be Michele Bachmann.Obama is good with words. ... More »FOOL US TWICE?
WASHINGTON -- In early November of 1963, the Gallup Poll gave President John Kennedy a 55-to-39-point lead over his probable 1964 Republican candidate, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.Good news for the White House. Very good news."This could be fun, if it's Barry," said Kennedy, who liked Goldwater a lot. Everybody did. A lot of them, specifically Kennedy, thought the Arizona senator was too conservative or just too dumb to become president. "Give me Barry. I won't even have to leave the Oval Office." Then he told his staff and political people: "Don't waste any chance to praise Barry. ... More »WHY NOT BACHMANN?
Who Are the Libyan Opposition?SAN FRANCISCO--Hi. You don't know me. See that big guy over at the bar? I'm going to pick a fight with him. Wanna back me up?That's what we, the American people, are being asked to do in Libya. We're not picking sides. Picking sides implies that we know what's going on. We don't.Give George W. Bush this: he respected us enough to lie us into war. Obama wants us sign a blank check, no questions asked."We do not have any information about specific individuals from any organization that are part of this [war]," Hillary Clinton said on "Meet the Press. ... More »THE DEVILS WE DON'T KNOW
LOS ANGELES -- One historic purpose of presidential speeches has been to buy time to give presidents' policies a chance to work out. That's what President Obama did last Monday night with a well-crafted and appropriately tough (or belligerent) speech defending his policies in Libya.The man gives a great speech."The president spoke to the nation and made a strong case for why America needed to intervene in this fight -- and why that did not always mean it should intervene in others," said The New York Times in its lead editorial. "Mr. ... More »WHAT ABOUT SYRIA?
NEW YORK --- This is your basic "bait and switch" column. I am going to begin by talking about the fanciful story that strong and talented women, beginning with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security staffer Samantha Power, have taken over the government and pushed the president of the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League into trying to overthrow the Libyan gorilla Gadhafi.That titan of tubby masculinity, Rush Limbaugh, has said this is because the president, his generals and all male advisers are "the new castrati ... ... More »HOW AMERICA DOUBLED ITS BRAINPOWER
Why Won't Obama Explain His Third War?NEW YORK--U.S. forces fired 110 cruise missiles at Libya on the first day of the war. Each one cost $755,000 to build; $2.8 million to transport, maintain and shoot. Austerity and budget cuts abound; there's no money for NPR or teachers or firefighters. Note to union negotiators: the government has lots of money. They're spending it on war.For people too young to remember Bosnia, this is what a violent, aggressive, militarist empire looks like under a Democratic president. Where Bush rushed, Obama moseys. ... More »LIBYA: A WAR WE SHOULDN'T BELIEVE IN
Apocalypse Looms in Landlocked Central AsiaNEW YORK--The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last week has killed at least 10,000 people. It is terrible. It may be a sneak preview of something 100 times worse.The next Big Flood will probably be the worst natural disaster in history. It could easily be avoided. Yet no one is lifting a finger to save the lives of one to five million people.Lake Sarez, in the eastern Pamir mountains of eastern Tajikistan, is known to Central Asians as the region's "Sword of Damocles. ... More »A TSUNAMI 100 TIMES WORSE THAN JAPAN
NEW YORK -- It was in the spring of 1966 that Time magazine shocked a lot of readers with a black cover with the white question: "Is God Dead?" The article, much debated, defined a new and more secular world.Wrong! It turned out He was only resting. And not for long. In the 1970s came "La Revanche de Dieu" -- "The Revenge of God" -- the title of a book by a French political scientist, Gilles Kepel.Kepel, whose work was published in 1991 and translated into English three years later, began by chronicling the events of the 1970s, a decade many of us remember only for bad hair and polyester ... More »THE REVENGE OF GOD
Labor Leaders to Blame for Workers' WeaknessNEW YORK--I will never understand why the people who are jealous of unionized workers who earn $50,000 a year give a pass to the incompetent bank executives who get $5,000,000. Resentment is a terrible thing to waste.Given how terribly companies have treated workers in recent years--mass layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages, piling on the work, while they pay their executives seven-figure salaries--you'd think Americans would be more receptive to unions. But organized labor's bad rep isn't surprising. ... More »UNION YES? WHAT UNIONS?
LOS ANGELES -- Adam Zyglis, the editorial cartoonist of The Buffalo News, did a portrait of President Obama sitting on an oil drum in the classic chin-on-hand pose of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker." Behind him, war raged in the Middle East and "Freedom" was under a tank and rubble. Zyglis' caption was "The Overthinker."Well, although Obama may be a touch too thoughtful to be a president in the decisive mold of a Harry Truman, he does have a lot to think about. I count at least 11 options in Libya, all of them risky.1. Invade Libya and get rid of Moammar Gadhafi once and for all. ... More »THERE ARE NO EASY CHOICES IN LIBYA
BOSTON -- Mitch Daniels, the new governor of Indiana, is probably the smartest of the new crop of Republican governors determined to bring public employee unions to heel. This is the way he puts it:"Public jobs grew while private jobs were lost. Public salaries went up while private sectors are shrinking. It's time to interrupt that loop, in the public interest."You can read that a couple of ways. Perhaps the reason private sector jobs are shrinking -- in numbers and compensation -- is precisely because corporations have broken most of the unions in the country. ... More »GOP TACTIC: INTRAMURAL CLASS WARFARE
Forget Austerity. Tax the Rich.NEW YORK--Everywhere you look, from the federal government to the states to your hometown, budget crises abound. Services are being slashed. Politicians and pundits from both parties tell us that the good times are over, that we've got to start living within our means.It's a lie. ... More »THE PHONY BUDGET CRISIS
Turmoil from Mideast to MidwestNEW YORK--If irony were money we'd be rich."You've got to get out ahead of change," President Obama lectured a week ago. "You can't be behind the curve." He was, of course, referring to the Middle East. During the last few weeks there has been a new popular uprising every few days: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya.And now, Wisconsin. ... More »HOPE AND CHANGE? NOT FOR AMERICANS
Borders Goes Bankrupt. Will Books Survive?NEW YORK--Borders Books and Music, which once employed 30,000 workers at more than 600 stores, is bankrupt. Those numbers have been halved. And even after these massive cuts, analysts say, Borders is probably doomed.The next time you walk past the empty ghost store where your local Borders used to be, you may ask yourself: Are we becoming a post-literate society?Everywhere you look the printed word is under economic siege. Despite a 20 percent increase in demand in recent years, libraries are laying off, closing branches and reducing hours. ... More »PIRATE THIS BOOK
BOSTON --- As I remember my American history, our revolution began on April 19, 1775, when 700 British regulars, the Redcoats, left here to march west to the small villages of Lexington and Concord to destroy weapons caches they knew were hidden there by American rebels. The British column encountered 80 or so members of the local militia on Lexington Green and routed them, killing eight locals.The Redcoats reached Concord and found some buried cannon and balls, but most of the rebel weaponry had been hidden again farther away. ... More »FROM CONCORD TO CAIRO: FREEDOM
Why Is Obama Coddling Egyptian Dictator?NEW YORK--Here is Egypt, America's neo-con dream come true. Democracy! In the Middle East! And it isn't costing us a single soldier. You'd think American policy makers would be pleased as punch. So why are they messing it up?At first glance the uprising in Cairo and other Egyptian cities puts the United States in an awkward spot. We've propped up Hosni Mubarak for three decades. If we cut him loose, our other pet dictators will stop trusting us. If we don't, all that yapping about democracy and freedom rings hollow. ... More »AMERICA AGAINST THE PEOPLE
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- When President Reagan left office in 1981, his legacy did not seem Mount Rushmore quality. He left office with a good approval rating, over 50 percent. People always liked him. But there was limited enthusiasm for his record in office. Many of his own ideological soul mates were disappointed with the Gipper, thinking he was a tired old man. They thought he was being manipulated by younger aides in such capers as the Iran-Contra scandal and losing the Cold War to a new, younger Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. ... More »THE LAST REAGAN CAMPAIGN: LEGACY
After Tunisia and Egypt, the WorldNEW YORK--From the British newspaper the Independent: "Like in many other countries in the region, protesters in Egypt complain about surging prices, unemployment and the authorities' reliance on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet."Sound familiar?Coverage by U.S. state-controlled media of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is too dim by half: they say it's an Arab thing. So it is. But not for long. ... More »THE NEW FACE OF REVOLUTION
WASHINGTON -- Over the years, more than one Kennedy in-law has told me that there were obvious advantages to marrying into that blood-bonded family ever ready to take on the world, but that living with them was no picnic at the beach and you could get buried pretty deep in all that Irish mythology. R. Sargent Shriver was not one of the complainers; he was a man who would have made his own mark whatever his name or family. ... More »IF ONLY WE HAD MORE SARGE SHRIVERS
LOS ANGELES--Americans don't mourn right.We are tacky.We are gauche.We turn tragedy into kitsch.Last week's news was dominated by the aftermath of the Tucson massacre: the memorial service, the funerals, even the reopening of the Safeway supermarket.A memorial service at a sports arena. What is wrong with us? I say "us" because this is not a Tucson thing or an Arizona thing. It's all too American.Thousands of cheering fans--er, mourners--donned "Together We Thrive: Tucson & America" T-shirts, handed out by Arizona State University. ... More »IT'S MOURNING IN AMERICA: TACKY AND WEIRD
WASHINGTON -- Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. He gave a stirring inaugural address and then took over a job for which he was unprepared. No one is ever prepared. The presidency is essentially a reactive job, with a man standing alone facing crises unforeseen.As good as Kennedy's inaugural was, the speeches that define him historically were given within just over 50 hours in June of 1963, one of them prepared secretly over months, the other practically ad-libbed.This is the story of those hours and those speeches:At 9:15 a.m. ... More »WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE JOHN F. KENNEDY
NEW YORK--The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 11 other people is tragic. But it is not shocking. It isn't even surprising.What is surprising--weird, even--is the response of the corporate-owned political and media establishment. They're coming out against violent rhetoric. Not real violence. They want to stop talk about violence.Liberals accuse right-wingers of creating an atmosphere of hatred that fuels incidents like the Arizona shootings."We need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently," urged MSNBC's Keith Olberman. ... More »POLITICAL VIOLENCE? STOP VIOLENT POLITICS
NEW YORK--Everyone talks about income inequality, but no one does anything about it.Lately they've been talking more than ever."The United States is the rich country with the most skewed income distribution, " Eduardo Porter asserts in his upcoming book "The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do."Porter continues: "According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average earnings of the richest 10 percent of Americans are 16 times those for the 10 percent at the bottom of the pile. ... More »SOME WEASELS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
LOS ANGELES --- I do not believe that Sarah Palin and her blather about "reloading" or Sharron Angle, she of "Second Amendment solutions," have anything to do with the gunning down of innocents in Arizona. You can't blame a third of a huge nation, who love simplistic hyperbole, for the actions of one crazy person in Tucson.What bothers me is people, sane and insane, with guns, better ones, another manifestation of technological revolution. ... More »WORDS DON'T KILL PEOPLE; BULLETS DO