Thursday, 27 December 2012

Jon Meacham, Jefferson, Practicable Fixes

I enjoyed this segment from MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, in which host Dylan Ratigan talks to Jon Meacham about Thomas Jefferson and his latest book, The Art of Power (Random House):

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I have an advanced reader copy of the book, which I picked up and got signed at BEA in early June 2012. (In fact, I rushed all the way from 118th St and Lexington to the Javitts Center, just so I could get the book signed by Meacham. I must have set a record for that trip…) I’ve had a few things that have got in the way of my starting the book, but I hope to get to it very soon – I really enjoyed Meacham’s previous work, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, and have been reading his journalism for years.


Romney Delusion – A Family Condition

The latest development in the ever-changing Why Mitt Romney Lost narrative being spun by the Romney campaign and family is frankly bizarre. Here’s the relevant part from the Boston Globe article, quoting Tagg Romney (the eldest son):

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”

He’s been running for president for a decade. You don’t do that, and you don’t do the things Mitt Romney did, unless you want to be president. His issue flexibility was the clearest sign: he was willing to do and say anything to win votes. This latest claim is just another example of a Romney family reality deficit.

The Globe article has a lot of other information and details about the Romney campaign, and is well worth reading. What I took away from the piece was not that Mitt Romney didn’t want to be president (I’m afraid nothing will ever convince me of that), but that he and his campaign staff were astonishingly arrogant, feckless, unprepared for running a proper presidential campaign, and as politically tone-deaf as their candidate.

“a reconstruction by the Globe of how the campaign unfolded shows that Romney’s problems went deeper than is widely understood. His campaign made a series of costly financial, strategic, and political mistakes that, in retrospect, all but assured the candidate’s defeat, given the revolutionary turnout tactics and tactical smarts of President Obama’s operation.”

Exit polls told a stunning story. The majority of voters preferred Romney’s visions, values, and leadership. But he had clearly failed to address the problem that Romney’s own family worried about from the start. Obama beat Romney by an astonishing 81 to 18 percent margin on the question of which candidate “cares about people like me.”

Lawrence O’Donnell covered this latest ‘revelation’ from Tagg, too. The segment is… typical Lawrence, really, in that the snide comments are a little mean-spirited. At the same time, though, he and his two guests make some good points:

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Shifting on Guns

This is a good segment from yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show, in which the host outlines some of the interesting shifts in public opinion on guns and gun control, not to mention corporate shifts (from Cerberus divesting itself of its gun holdings, to stores ceasing gun sales in certain areas). There are also some parts of the segment that highlight some truly stunning areas of legislative ineptitude and fecklessness: the fact that it’s illegal to research gun control, the fact that (in this otherwise statistic-obsessed nation) the ATF is not allowed to release gun crime statistics.

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Fiscal Cliff – a Good Clip from earlier in the Week (Maddow)

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This segment, I thought, did a great job of laying out the insanity of the Republican’s proposals: They lost an election, and as a result are now offering LESS than they were offering as a way to convince people to vote for them? Their “balanced” proposal gives them everything they want, and only an undefined promise to address loopholes and deductions (part of what Democrats want). Eventually. So probably not.

And yet many of the Republican side are still not happy with this proposed “compromise”. They say they find the deal “wanting". As Rachel says, “Wanting for what?” They get everything they want. They give away nothing. This is not governing, and also more evidence that the Republican party are quite out of touch with reality.

Monday, 3 December 2012

“Citizen Soldier” by Aida Donald (Basic Books)

Donald-CitizenSoldierAn engaging, if flawed, short biography of President Harry S Truman

When Harry S. Truman left the White House in 1953, his reputation was in ruins. Tarred by corruption scandals and his controversial decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, he ended his second term with an abysmal approval rating, his presidency widely considered a failure. But this dim view of Truman ignores his crucial role in the 20th century and his enduring legacy. In Citizen Soldier, Aida Donald shows that, for all his failings, Truman deserves recognition as the principal architect of the American postwar world. The son of poor Missouri farmers, Truman overcame professional disaster and personal disillusionment to become something of a hero in the Missouri National Guard during World War I. His early years in politics were tainted by the corruption of his fellow Missouri Democrats, but Truman’s hard work and scrupulous honesty eventually landed him a U.S. Senate seat and then the Vice-Presidency. When Franklin Roosevelt passed away in April 1945, Truman unexpectedly found himself at the helm of the American war effort—and in command of the atomic bomb, the most lethal weapon humanity had ever seen. Truman’s decisive leadership during the remainder of World War II and the period that followed reshaped American politics, economics, and foreign relations; in the process, says Donald, Truman delineated the complex international order that would dominate global politics for the next four decades.

Aida Donald’s previous book, The Lion in the White House – a short biography of Theodore Roosevelt – was a superb, engaging read. It is easily my favourite short-biography of any president. With this in mind, I was very much looking forward to Donald’s latest work: another short presidential biography, this time about Harry S Truman. Unfortunately, this book lacks the polish and consistent quality I found in The Lion in the White House. Donald argues that a reevaluation of Truman’s presidency is needed in order to fully understand the world he helped create. It is not without its strengths, but the “psychological” approach the author has taken was not as uniformly addressed throughout the text, and as a result we have a biography that is rather inconsistent.