August 15, 2013 |
In his speech to the American Bar Assn. on Monday, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. sounded more like a fierce critic of the federal criminal justice system than its formal leader. He described some federal mandatory minimum prison terms as "excessive" and "draconian" and said "they oftentimes generate unfairly long sentences. " He asserted that "people of color often face harsher punishments than their peers," and he more broadly lamented that "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.
June 29, 2013 |
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The big convoy slowed down on a Soweto corner, and for just a second, President Obama, waving, was framed in the window of his bullet-proof limousine. The crowd surged forward, a cheer rang out. And that was Obama's Africa tour for the Soweto youth who were on the outside of the president's town hall-style meeting at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto on Saturday. Their stories of struggle, deprivation and broken families were doubtless harsher than those of the students inside.
June 27, 2013 |
In the weeks since renegade National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. government is harvesting phone and online data, a humorous series of Internet memes has been taking comic aim at artist Shepard Fairey's famous "Hope" image of Barack Obama. The parodies, which have appeared on numerous blogs and news sites in recent weeks, deconstruct Fairey's image, giving it a biting, NSA-themed spin. In one parody, Obama is shown wearing headphones with the words "Yes we scan" emblazoned above him and with text circling his head that reads: "United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society.
June 25, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - One is standing, cutting a tall silhouette the world would soon recognize. The other, an aging icon, rests in a dimly lighted chair with a cane at his side. On the surface, the photograph of Barack Obama meeting Nelson Mandela for the first and only time appears a passing-of-the-torch moment: the young leader paying homage, the older man imparting wisdom. But the image is not what it seems. As Obama embarks Wednesday on his first major tour of Africa as president, Mandela, now 94, lies in critical condition in a hospital.
June 15, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Five years ago, when Americans had not yet made up their minds on their choice for president, Europe had. More than 200,000 people crowded the streets of Berlin - a favorite backdrop for U.S. politicians reaching for history - to hear then-candidate Barack Obama promise to turn the page on the unpopular policies of George W. Bush. "Germany meets the superstar," the news magazine Der Spiegel proclaimed on its cover. As he heads to Europe on Sunday for a visit that will culminate with a sequel to that Berlin speech three days later, Obama has been demoted to mere president.
June 12, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Desperate to avoid another Massachusetts special-election debacle, Democrats are pulling out all the stops for Rep. Edward J. Markey in the contest to keep the Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in Democratic hands. Markey, a liberal from suburban Boston, is at least a nominal favorite in the June 25 election. But he has failed to put the race away, and Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez, a political novice, is lurking a few percentage points behind in recent public polling.
June 11, 2013 |
At dinner a couple of days ago, my friend Janey Ireson said how disappointed she is that Barack Obama has been hemmed in by congressional Republicans and blocked from fulfilling the high expectations of those who supported his rise to the presidency. The next day at lunch, another friend, Colin Gray, expressed precisely the same sentiment. One would expect to find such feelings of frustration among the half of Americans who cast ballots for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but Janey and Colin are not U.S. voters.
June 7, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - From the time he stepped onto the national stage, Barack Obama presented himself as a civil libertarian who would take a different path from that of his predecessor, who authorized surveillance on Americans in the fight against terrorism. "It is time to write a new chapter in our response to 9/11," Obama said in a 2007 speech that outlined his vision for national security. But revelations this week of a massive phone and Internet data collection program illustrated that as president, Obama has allowed the government to sweep up vast amounts of information about its citizens while establishing some checks on executive power.
May 21, 2013 |
Although there's still a great deal to be learned about the scandals and controversies swirling around the White House like so many ominous dorsal fins in the surf, the nature of President Obama's bind is becoming clear. The best defenses of his administration require undermining the rationale for his presidency. "We're portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots. It's actually closer to us being idiots. " So far, this is the administration's best defense. It was offered to CBS' Sharyl Attkisson by an anonymous aide involved in the White House's disastrous response to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
May 18, 2013 |
What is it about presidents' second terms that makes them seem so scandal-ridden? Simple: The iron law of longevity. All governments make mistakes, and all governments try to hide those mistakes. But the longer an administration is in office, the more errors it makes, and the harder they are to conceal. Just ask Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, all of whom spent much of their second terms playing defense. The longevity rule caught up with Barack Obama last week as he wrestled clumsily with not one controversy but three: the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of "tea party" groups, the Benghazi killings and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press telephone records.