Category Archives: Politics

Election decompression

I got home to New York late last night after spending a whirlwind month in Europe. But the high point of the last few weeks was back here in America on Tuesday night, the culmination of years of hard work and a long national discussion.

I knew I wanted to participate in President Obama’s re-election for a long time, but the timing wasn’t great for me to take a more substantial role (couldn’t miss this!). I was lucky to have friends who stayed involved with the campaign and allowed me to jump right into the effort when I got back. I joined friends and Grinnell alumni in visiting poor, black and Democratic-leaning areas of Richmond, Virginia to encourage folks to vote in the election. It was a special feeling to knock on the doors of perfect strangers and see their expressions change from suspicion to hope when they saw the blue Obama/Biden buttons pinned on our coats.

Virginia was a toss-up state where a handful of votes could make the difference. Not only was it incredible to see the President re-elected and his progressive vision re-affirmed, it was especially gratifying to see Virginia, the heart of the old Confederacy with major highways named after Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, vote for a black leader. Whatever impact I had was trivial, but it made me feel like part of something, part of a movement to push our country toward a fairer, more just and equal ideal.

Though it was a triumphant moment, I recognize that it isn’t during these times that change is wrought and our national character is defined. It’s the aggregate sum of our actions and decisions on a daily basis in both our private and public lives. And as the time to celebrate passes, the time to carry on the hard work of progress persists. Forward.

After a full day of canvassing in Richmond and Petersburg on Sunday 11/4. John Howard, myself, Sarah Labowitz, Julia Kent and Christina Sass.

Driving duty on our way to Richmond on election day (11/6).

All in good spirits – John Tye, Sébas and David Gearey out of frame.

John Tye and Sébas doing some planning at a volunteer coordinator’s house in Richmond.

Sarah and a very cheerful volunteer.

One of many canvassing maps.

Regrouping at the South Richmond campaign office. At 6:40PM we went to gas stations and 7/11’s to find last-minute stragglers we could drive to the polls. Sarah, Sébas and John Tye.

At the last door knocked! Sébas, Sarah Labowitz, myself and David Gearey. John Tye was kind enough to take the photo.

Watching returns come in back in Washington. A euphoric feeling when CNN called it for Obama and Fox followed suit. Karl Rove’s face above the “Barack Obama Re-elected President” banner was priceless.

CNN calling Virginia for Obama. Obama went on to win by about 3%.

Obama’s speech at the U-Street field office. An incredible night.


Kind note from a decent man

I was going through some old letters a few days ago and rediscovered this – an acknowledgement letter from Drew Littman, then Chief of Staff for Senator Al Franken, in response to a job application I had submitted. It was summer of 2009 and I was fresh out of college, sending out hundreds of job applications and hearing nothing in response. I can’t tell you how great this made me feel when it came in the mail. Though I went on to work for another Senator on Capitol Hill, I remember the joy of just being acknowledged and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Weiner will survive. Clinton did.

Jun 7, 2011 11:28 AM

It’s been incredibly sad and frustrating to watch the Weiner tale unfold over the past couple weeks. Not only did Weiner commit embarrassing and foolish actions, he doubled back and attempted to cover his trail, contacting some of his online mistresses and offering PR help if they kept their mouths shut. Everyone knew something was fishy ever since the “I can’t say with certitude” bit. Those of us sympathetic to him and his championing of progressive causes tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, searching for plausible explanations (see his close friend Jon Stewart’s monologue from The Daily Show). But the truth came out and Weiner had no choice but to fess up. Though his embarrassment and regret are genuine, the cynic in us suspects he doesn’t regret the online trysts as much as he regrets getting caught.

In a similar case of incriminating photos and online philandering, Rep. Chris Lee’s case stands in contrast; Lee immediately apologized, resigned, and went home to his wife and family, realizing immediately what was most important in his life. Weiner had more to lose – a lifelong career in politics and a promising future, perhaps as a New York City mayor. So he stonewalled and attempted to escape with both his reputation and his marriage. Chris Lee barely finished his first term.

Weiner has come clean and apologized to Huma, his friends, and his associates. And though his actions and lies were egregious, his position is not without precedent. President Clinton had an actual physical affair, lied about it for sometime, endured public impeachment proceedings and ultimately left office with the highest approval ratings of any end-of-term president.

Ironically, Huma is Secretary Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff. She will find Hillary’s example instructive in the weeks to come. Hillary knew she could leave Bill and exit the public eye, or she could endure and possibly continue a life of public service. Which is closely tied to President Clinton’s remarkable rehabilitation; the Lewinsky affair has become an afterthought in light of his work with the Clinton Global Initiative and worldwide humanitarian endeavors. The Clinton brand has regained its luster and Bill is practically a saint in Democratic circles.

Weiner is a multi-term congressman from solidly Democratic Brooklyn. The GOP has zero chance of winning the district. The NY pols that Weiner has worked with throughout the years will circle the wagons and fend off a meaningful primary challenge. Weiner will survive, but will face years of hard work rebuilding his reputation and his marriage.

All but the most hard-hearted of us believe in the possibility of redemption, the belief that people can change and deserve a second chance. Weiner’s going to stay and he will get his second chance. The firestorm will fade, as it inevitably does, and a newly humble Anthony Weiner (gasp!) will have his work cut out for him.

Romney talks sense on climate

Jun 4, 2011 11:46 AM

Mitt Romney surprised a lot of folks this weekend by jumping off the climate-denial bandwagon. This probably makes him more appealing to independents, but might give candidates like Newt Gingrich (climate change is “the newest excuse to take control of lives” by “left-wing intellectuals”) more room with right-leaning primary voters.

On a similar note, voters on the left are getting upset with Obama’s continual giveaways to the coal and oil industries. Creating a huge coal export market to China and domestic offshore drilling presence will only make it harder to go cold turkey when we need to.


“The world is getting warmer”: Romney

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy on Friday by saying he believes that humans are responsible, at least to some extent, for climate change.

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

The former Massachusetts governor fielded questions on topics ranging from the debt ceiling to abortion on his first full day of campaigning for 2012 Republican primary nomination.

Romney leads opinion polls in New Hampshire by a wide margin, and is among the top contenders nationally to win the Republican primary.

But the candidate lost the publicity battle on Thursday when his campaign launch in New Hampshire was overshadowed by Republican star Sarah Palin, who swooped in as part of her East Coast bus tour to dominate local media coverage.

In addressing climate change and energy policy, Romney called on the United States to break its dependence on foreign oil, and expand alternative energies including solar, wind, nuclear and clean coal.

Read more at Reuters.

CAPper Kate Gordon gets big love from Nat Geo

May 26, 2011 1:47 PM

Kate Gordon got a huge shout out from National Geographic’s The Great Energy Challenge today. Mike Casey essentially casts her debate as the definitive blueprint for the defense and advocacy of clean energy.

My time at CAP ends tomorrow and being here for the inception of this coherent platform has been a tremendous privilege. The world is on the verge of something big in clean energy and CAP is going to be at the forefront of articulating its potential.

The video of Kate’s debate at Cato:

Here’s an excerpt from Casey’s post:

Clean Energy Advocate Gives a “How to” Clinic on Rebutting Fossil Energy Disinformation

Over the past few months, I’ve made the case that dirty energy lobby plays a full contact game against clean energy, using lobbying and disinformation as business weapons to drive the idea that clean energy is “expensive, unreliable and not ready.” Cleantech, I’ve said, needs to step up its advocacy game dramatically, including driving an honest debate about who is really “expensive.”

At the WINDPOWER International trade show this week, I spoke on a panel that fielded a number of questions about how to do that. It’s hard to find a better place to start by highlighting the clinic put on by Kate Gordon of the Center for American Progress at a recent “debate” at the fossil-funded front group, the Cato Institute.

Gordon faced off against a rising star in the dirty energy experts-for-rent stable, Andrew Morris, whose disinformation platform is the Koch-funded (and Koch-founded) “Mercatus Center.”

Gordon faced Morris on his home turf, a forum completely stacked against her and the clean energy side. Cato named the debate, “The false promise of green energy,” (I’m not making this up) and “moderated by anti-cleantech Cato Institute “Senior Fellow”Jerry Taylor (typical quote: “if wind energy were a sensible economic investment, it would not need the lavish federal and state subsidies already in place”). There’s got to be an operations manual for fossil fuel front groups to do this sort of thing: functions like a propaganda machine, but sport a neutral, benign and thoughtful name. Position yourself as good guys who just happen to come down on the side of the dirty energy interests that fund them. Invite clean energy advocate who can be counted on to bring a bunch of numbers, armload of facts and a strong belief in intellectual honesty and a reasonableness. Frame the conversation against clean energy advocate, put in well-trained mouthpiece, and route clean energy advocate. Claim victory and intellectual triumph.

Except, it was Gordon put on a clinic of not just how to stand up to dirty energy “experts,” but that you have to stand up to them in the first place.

Read the rest at National Geographic’s The Great Energy Challenge.

Huntsman on climate science

May 17, 2011 10:32 AM

Finally, a GOPer with a rational view on climate change and the science behind it. From an interview with TIME:

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community – though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Huntsman won praises from Jimmy Carter. On CNN, Carter said that Huntsman is “very attractive to me personally.” It’s weird seeing the President considered the most liberal of the past century professing stirrings for a center-right politician.

But I suppose it’s a sign of the times. It’s and indicator of how extreme the GOP has become when a candidate decides to have a debate about policy rather than science. Frankly, we’re all pleasantly surprised.

“He said, she said” journalism and the novelty of Politifact

May 13, 2011 4:29 PM

While cruising my morning blogs it struck me how much of political journalism has be come a recounting of statements. Boehner says one thing, Schumer counters with another, and the debate ends there.

The press is meant to be a check on government so abuses of power don’t go unpunished. Abuses occurring in secrecy will eventually be found out and abuses cloaked in lies will be exposed as such.

But under the current model, the reporting of facts is so devolved from the press’s historical role as a referee of facts and honest statements. Edward R. Murrow became a saint of American journalism because he called Joe McCarthy out on his lies.

Which makes it weird to see websites like Politifact actually putting the time in to get to the bottom of the story. Do the facts match politicians statements? After all, isn’t that their function? If not, what purpose do they serve?

I was happy to see this refreshing piece of journalism from Bloomberg, a fairly new news org that’s been stepping it way up lately.

Boehner’s Views on Economy Contradicted byIndicators, Studies

House Speaker John Boehner, giving Wall Street leaders his prescriptions for growing the U.S. economy and reducing the nation’s debt, built his case on several assertions that are contradicted by market indicators and government reports.

Boehner said in his May 9 speech to the Economic Club of New York that government borrowing was crowding out private investment, the 2009 economic-stimulus package hurt job creation, and a Republican plan to privatize Medicare will give future recipients the “same kinds of options” lawmakers have.

With Democrats and Republicans sparring over legislation to extend the government’s $14.29 trillion debt limit and trim budget deficits, negotiations are being complicated by disputes over basic economic facts.

“We’re in this Alice-in-Wonderland world around government-shutdown conversations, the debt-ceiling conversations,” Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, said yesterday at a breakfast at the Bloomberg News Washington bureau. The debate “has not established a shared understanding of the facts” about the nation’s economic problems, he said.

Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, rejected the premise that the speaker’s economic analysis was incorrect, saying in an e-mail that “reality” doesn’t support the criticism.

Boehner’s statement in his Wall Street speech that government spending “is crowding out private investment and threatening the availability of capital” runs counter to the behavior of credit markets.

Loves it. Read the rest at

Oil CEOs testify before Senate Finance Committee

May 12, 2011 1:34 PM

Some sharp words exchanged here. Apparently Conoco put out a statement saying the removal of oil subsidies is “un-American.”

Schumer and Menendez asked the CEO to apologize but he refused to do so.

Lots of CAP research cited by Dems and serious spin by R’s. I almost feel bad for the CEOs – all of their Republican defenders are leaving for a deficit reduction meeting at the White House. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Rockefeller said that the CEOs are out of touch because they can’t identify with the average person at the pump (Said the pot!). Besides Schumer’s well-rehearsed populist outrage, I think the discussion is getting too wonky and the CEOs are winning by throwing out confusing numbers.

Regulatory capture: FCC Commissioner joins Comcast-NBC

May 11, 2011 11:39 PM

No matter how strongly I feel about an issue, I try to keep my discussions civil. Things like this really strain the standards of common decency.

Regulators are tasked to serve the public interest, but for Atwell to play a major role in approving the Comcast/NBC merger and then accept a fat paycheck from them months afterward is absurd. The American people have forgotten the meaning of “conflict of interest” and regulatory capture rules the day.

I really hope people get worked up about this.

F.C.C. Commissioner Leaving to Join Comcast

8:02 p.m. | Updated WASHINGTON — Four months after the Federal Communications Commission approved a hotly contested merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the commissioners who voted for the deal said on Wednesday that she would soon join Comcast’s Washington lobbying office.

Meredith Attwell Baker, a former Commerce Department official who worked on telecommunications issues in George W. Bush’s administration, announced that she would leave the F.C.C. when her term expires at the end of June. At Comcast, she will serve as senior vice president for government affairs for NBC Universal, which Comcast acquired in January.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from some groups that had opposed the Comcast-NBC merger. They said the move was indicative of an ethically questionable revolving door between regulatory agencies and the companies they oversee.

The revolving door between government and the lobbyists who seek to influence public policy and legislation on behalf of companies or other organizations was a target of reform by President Obama even before he took office. During the 2008 campaign, he vowed to “close the revolving door” and “clean up both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue” with “the most sweeping ethics reform in history.”