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Jan 21 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: The Big Deal

On the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, an exuberant Vice President Biden famously pronounced the reform a “big something deal” – except that he didn’t use the word “something.” And he was right.

In fact, I’d suggest using this phrase to describe the Obama administration as a whole. F.D.R. had his New Deal; well, Mr. Obama has his Big Deal. He hasn’t delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they’ll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction.

Consider, in particular, three areas: health care, inequality and financial reform.

New York Times Editorial: A Choice for Republican Leaders

Ted Cruz, the newly elected Tea Party senator from Texas, embodies the rigidity the public grew to loathe in Congress’s last term. He is bursting with fervor to fight compromise and consensus-building in Washington wherever it is found. Unlike 85 percent of the Republicans in the Senate, he would have voted against the fiscal cliff deal. He says gun control is unconstitutional. Breaking even with conservative business leaders, he would have no qualms about [using the debt ceiling as a hostage v] because he believes (falsely) that it would produce only a partial government shutdown and not default.

Considering the damage that this kind of thinking did to the country and the Republican Party over the last two years – a downgraded credit rating, legislative standoffs, popular anger, a loss of Republican seats – it might seem obvious that the party should marginalize lawmakers like Mr. Cruz. Instead, they continue to gain power and support. Party leaders named Mr. Cruz vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Glen Ford: Don’t You Dare Conflate MLK and Obama

Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their “lesser evil” rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a “revolutionary democrat,” as Temple University’s Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name – and in explicate triplicate. His militant approach to non-violent direct action required him to confront the underlying contradictions of society through the methodical application of creative tension. He would make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital. And he would deliver a withering condemnation of the base corruption and self-serving that saturates the Black Misleadership Class.

He would spend his birthday preparing a massive, disruptive action at the Inauguration.

Robert Kuttner: The President’s Running Room-and Ours

With Republicans divided, the president could open up space to move progressive policies. First, the progressive community needs to move him.

President Barack Obama won a tactical victory on New Year’s weekend by forcing Republicans to raise taxes on the top 1 percent, but he has far bigger challenges to address-and so do progressives. The economy is still at risk of several more years of hidden depression, with a high level of unemployment and no wage growth. The initial budget deal, thanks to Obama’s post-election toughness on tax increases on the rich and pressure by unions and progressive organizations not to cut Social Security and Medicare, was better than it might have been. But still to come are debates over budget cuts, with Republicans having the leverage of an automatic $120 billion “sequester” for this fiscal year now postponed to early March, if Congress fails to legislate its own additional deficit reduction.

In principle, Obama has committed to $4 trillion in budget cuts over a decade, a sum that would be a huge drag on the recovery, leaving too little for the public investment necessary to create jobs and for the scale of infrastructure spending needed to mitigate future superstorms like Sandy. Since the election, the president has walked back some of his earlier commitment to spending cuts. But even as he forced major concessions out of the Republicans, he has continued to embrace deficit reductions as a necessary path to recovery, a strategy that makes no economic sense and that only whets the appetites of the right-wing anti-government crusade and its close ally, the corporate-sponsored Fix the Debt campaign.

So where is Obama’s running room to pursue a more far-reaching agenda? And where is the running room for progressives to move him?

John Nichols: This President Can-and Must-Claim a Mandate to Govern

With his second inauguration, Barack Obama will become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to renew his tenure after having won more than 51 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections.

More importantly, in a political sense, he will be the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have won mandates from the majority of the American people in two consecutive elections. [..]

Roosevelt’s genius was the linking of democracy and self-governance, the reminding of Americans that thru elections and government they have the master economic and political forces that would otherwise dominate them. After a 2012 election campaign that his Republican foes portrayed as a referendum on the role of government, Obama has a mandate to make government work again for the American people. His inaugural address should claim that mandate with all the passion and all the determination that FDR brought to the mission seventy-six years ago.

Ray McGovern: The Moral Torment of Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta returned to government in 2009 amid hopes he could cleanse the CIA where torture and politicized intelligence had brought the U.S. to new lows in world respect. Yet, after four years at CIA and Defense, it is Panetta who departs morally compromised

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a practicing Catholic, sought a blessing on Wednesday from Pope Benedict XVI. Afterward Panetta reported that the Pope said, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe” to which Panetta replied, “Pray for me.”

In seeking those prayers, Panetta knows better than the Pope what moral compromises have surrounded him during his four years inside the Obama administration, as CIA director overseeing the covert war against al-Qaeda and as Defense Secretary deploying the largest military on earth.

For me and others who initially had high hopes for Panetta, his performance in both jobs has been a bitter disappointment. Before accepting the CIA post, Panetta had criticized the moral and constitutional violations in George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” especially the use of torture.