As a persistent (progressive) critic of Barack Obama, it is often demanded I offer any area in which I approve of the president. In response to the inquiry, I have usually given a two-fold answer: First, in terms of his personal appeal, I consider President Obama to be both the coolest fellow ever elected president and the coolest fellow that ever will be president. Although he’s notoriously overhyped, like Sean Penn, I’m drawn to the word “elegant” in describing our first black president. I am also aligned with Ann Coulter and The Hitch in the belief that Barack Obama is probably a non-believer—although I have usually expressed such gleeful suspicion sotto voce for fear of having my hipster chat overheard by teabaggers.
Furthermore, my very real desire to find some common ground with this president has led to me to lavish fulsome praise on his administration for what I thought was its enlightened stance on raids by the Drug Enforcement Agency on medicinal marijuana dispensaries even when they are in complete accordance with state laws.
Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries operating in states where sale of the drug is legal for medical purposes. But the DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.
Late last week, DEA and FBI agents raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. In July, DEA agents raided the home of 65-year-old Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield and confiscated plants, money, and her computer. Also in July, DEA agents raided the home of a couple in Michigan who were licensed by the state to use marijuana, as well as three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. In January and February of this year, the DEA raided two medical marijuana research labs in Colorado.
In all of the above cases, the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices issued no press releases and held no press conferences. The websites for DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Detroit, Denver, Northern California, and Los Angeles (which also handles cases in Nevada) make no mention of the above dispensary raids, but do feature news releases for raids, arrests, and investigations involving harder drugs, as well marijuana trafficking, which is illegal in all states.
A tremendously hot August that flirted with record highs is almost history and with it the tendentious hope some had for a Summer of Recovery. Au revoir. Boasts that emanated from the White House of an imminent reversal of America’s dismal economic predicament (and Democratic political fortunes) were so predictably wide of the mark that the reluctant acknowledgment of such is almost uncontroversial. One must understand that when a president is this out of his depth, what other recourse is there besides breaking out the Blue Goose to disseminate false hope?
A woeful chasm in this country persists and it sets the Best and the Brightest of our venerable institutions diametrically apart from the economic reality on the ground. This Recovery Summer that decidedly wasn’t brings to mind the “green shoots” we heard a bit about in the spring of 2009. Or perhaps more notoriously, reminds us of how wrong the establishment was in its belated discovery of economic recession 2½ years ago. If their epic wrongness continues unabated, words like “expert” may literally have to undergo semantic change. “A person who commands considerable status despite lack of foresight, special knowledge or self-awareness,” is what Webster’s Fourth may read at the turn of the next century.
Optimistic talk of liberal policy wonks—who else is there left to defend this administration?—is given the lie to by NPR a day ago.
Articles like these make pearl-clutchers out of us all:
[I]n light of the financial crisis and Fannie and Freddie's near-collapse, policy leaders are also rethinking the government's role — and many Americans are starting to question whether homeownership is the only path to the American Dream.
Fannie and Freddie function by buying, bundling and then stamping a government guarantee on mortgages. Then they sell them to investors. It keeps the banks happy because it keeps capital flowing, and it keeps consumers happy because it makes low, fixed-rate mortgages possible.
In a related occurrence, Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, finally lent his lisp to an astonishing truism: “Not everybody can or should be a homeowner,” the congressman informs us, summoning the authority of a public official oblivious to how tragically late he is.
With the somewhat surprising retirement of the eight-termed Rep. Patrick Kennedy in the First Rhode Island First Congressional District all but formally announced, the race to win the Democratic nomination is getting underway. First out of the gate is William Lynch, the state Democratic party chairman for the last 12 years, who simultaneously resigned his post and announced his candidacy. Some background from the Providence Journal:
Lynch has been the state Democratic party chief since August 1998, and a familiar figure on the Rhode Island political landscape for many years before that. He was a Pawtucket City Council member (1986-1992), a candidate for mayor of his home city against Robert E. Metivier and a one-time finalist for the job of U.S. Attorney.
He is also a member of a storied local political family: the Lynchs of Pawtucket. Lynch's grandfather owned a pub in Pawtucket in the 1920s. His father, the late Dennis Lynch, served as mayor of Pawtucket from 1973 to 1981. His younger brother Patrick C. Lynch is the state's attorney general and a candidate for governor.
In his statement, Bill Lynch said he is running for Congress "because we need to cut through the Washington gridlock and get Rhode Islanders back to work and our economy moving again.
"This campaign is about getting Washington working for America's families. Rhode Islanders can no longer afford the partisan bickering both the Republican and Democratic Parties provided last year and there is plenty of blame to go around," Lynch said.
Soon after his appointment as party chairman, Lynch famously told an eighth-grade class that it was easy to tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans: "The Democrats are the good guys and the Republicans are the bad guys and that's all you have to remember.''
But now that he is contemplating a new role, he said: "The partisan politics of Washington are no longer providing solutions for the taxpayers of Rhode Island. I share the sentiments of voters who are angry and upset with the divisive debate that has ground Washington to a halt.
"I want Rhode Island families to know I will not participate in the rhetoric that has left all of us discouraged and disillusioned these past few years," stated Lynch. "I believe the vast majority of Rhode Islanders want the Republicans and Democrats who represent them to move to the center.
"It is time to stop the bitter debate driven by the extreme left and right. We need to come together and govern from the middle in a manner that makes sense for working families here in Rhode Island," said Lynch.
Right behind Bill Lynch was current Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline who announced he would also be in November's Congress race, going before cameras and the media at a swine-flu vaccination clinic in Providence. Here's a profile from the Providence Journal:
Cicilline, 49, the state's first openly gay mayor, said he would not step down as Providence's mayor during his run for Congress. He has held the job for eight years.
The boyish-looking Cicilline, who grew up in the city, said his time on the job gives him the proper perspective on the struggles of middle-class Americans.
"Washington is really disconnected from the families in America," Cicilline, casually dressed in a open-neck dress shirt, sweater and slacks, told reporters gathered in a hallway at a school on Thurbers Avenue. "I see very directly what this economy has done" to families.
The mayor also said his role has taught him how to bring people together to solve problems, something he said national political leaders seem to forgo in favor of "posturing."
He cited educational improvements and the groundwork done on the city's "knowledge" district as two examples of issues he's helped address.
Cicilline was born in the South Side of Providence and then moved with his family to Narragansett. He graduated from Brown University magna cum laude and later earned a law degree from the Georgetown University. Cicilline now lives on the East Side, which is in the 1st Congressional District.
The city faced a $59-million deficit in 2002 when Cicilline first ran for mayor, pledging to restore public confidence in City Hall and to revitalize the city's neighborhoods. He took a four-way primary before winning the general election.
Eight years later, he sees the nation facing similar crisis in confidence.
"There is no question that there is no more urgent time," he said. "This is the moment."
These announcements kick off what may yet become a crowded field. Many other Ocean State Democrats – including Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis and former Congressman Robert Weygand – are believed to be interested in making a run for the seat. On the GOP side, State Representative John J. Loughlin II had announced his candidacy earlier this month.
Representative Patrick Kennedy who represents the Rhode Island First Congressional District will announce this weekend that he will retire after eight terms in Congress according to the Associated Press.
A Democratic official says Rep. Patrick Kennedy has decided not to seek re-election for his seat representing Rhode Island in the U.S. Congress.
The official spoke to The Associated Press only on the condition that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak ahead of the official announcement.
The decision by the eight-term congressman comes less than a month after a stunning Republican upset in the race for the Massachusetts Senate seat his late father, Edward Kennedy, held for almost half a century.
Patrick Kennedy has been in and out of treatment for substance abuse since crashing his car outside the U.S Capitol in 2006. Still, he has been comfortably re-elected twice since then, after making mental health care his signature issue in Washington.
Kennedy plans to air two-minute commercials about his decision to air on three Rhode Island TV stations on Sunday night.
In his recorded video, the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted as saying that his life is "taking a new direction." The two minute ad, emotional at times but heartfelt throughout, will air Sunday night.
Unless another scion of the Kennedy political dynasty chooses to run, Congress will be without a Kennedy for the first time since 1962, when the late Senator Kennedy was first elected.
Rep. Kennedy becomes the 14th Democrat to announce his retirement before this year's midterms. His Rhode Island district, however, is solidly Democratic giving Gore, Kerry and Obama well over 60 percent of the vote in the last three presidential elections. 18 Republicans have declared they will retire.
The Rhode Island First Congressional district covers the northern and eastern parts of the Ocean State. The district includes parts of Providence as well as most of Rhode Island's other major cities including Newport, Pawtucket and Woonsocket. While it's too early to tell who will jump in on the Democratic side, on the GOP side, John Loughlin, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and current member of the Rhode Island House, had already announced.
Back in November I asked if Barack Obama would be a Democratic version of Dwight D. Eisenhower: A popular President whose popularity didn't rub off on his party and who, as a result, was not able to get as much done as he might otherwise have.
The results after President Obama's first year in office are still inconclusive -- but they're not promising. On election day 2009, Democrats lost races in New York City, New Jersey and Virginia despite Barack Obama's approval ratings of 77 percent, 57 percent, and 48 percent, respectively. Post-election polling out of the Massachusetts race, where the Democratic nominee Martha Coakley lost despite Barack Obama's impressive 61 percent approval rating, further suggest his coattails may not be as long as once thought.
Obama also remains highly popular in Massachusetts. More than six in 10 of those who voted approve of his job performance, with 92 percent of Coakley voters expressing satisfaction, along with 33 percent of Brown's. More than half of Brown's backers say Obama was not a factor in their vote.
These numbers aren't all bad news, of course. Looked at from another angle, the message should be clear to Scott Brown that he can ill afford to alienate supporters of the President in Massachusetts, who make up fully one out of every three of his voters on Tuesday. As such, there will be great pressure on him to be open (or at least appear to be open) to legislative compromise (even as, at the same time, his extreme conservative base pressures him in the other direction).
That said, looking at the more macro than the micro implications of these numbers, it is becoming increasingly evident that President Obama's cachet with voters, to the extent that it remains at present, is not rubbing off on his fellow Democrats. The reportedly expanded role for David Plouffe, the architect of Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, could potentially change this dynamic going forward -- but it is clear that if President Obama wishes for the Congress to remain in the hands of his Democratic Party, the current trajectory isn't likely to keep it that way indefinitely.