The Great Awakening

Something has changed over the course of the last five weeks. Barack Obama, who seemed politically invincible to his supporters and many media commentators, now seems vulnerable. His approval ratings are dropping, public concern is rising, the debt is exploding, and the economy is, in many respects, worsening. This may simply be a bit of a rough patch he can ride through and overcome; or it may be the beginning of a longer slide. Time will tell. But Obama seems less politically formidable than he did. The main reason for this shift is that Obama’s signature initiative to date, his $787 billion stimulus package — the first major legislation of his presidency, quickly passed in order to both avert a catastrophe and jump-start the economy — has been a bust. “I think my initial measure of success is creating or saving four million jobs,” Obama said in February, when speaking about the goals of the stimulus package. Yet unemployment is significantly higher today than when Obama took office (9.5 percent v. 7.6 percent) and significantly higher than Obama and his Administration predicted (we were told to expect a high of 8 percent this year).

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The Great Awakening

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Revenge of the Unduly Reprieved

Clemancy for Manning and Arpaio backfires.

Americans are about to have another “entertaining” election cycle at a time when the country desperately needs a return to boredom and predictability. In Arizona, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s decision to challenge conspiracy-theory enthusiast and former state Senator Kelli Ward ensures that the race to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake will become a competition to see who can do their best Roy Moore impression. Democrats should hold the schadenfreude. They have their own embarrassment to contain in Maryland, where Chelsea Manning—the former U.S. Army soldier court-martialed in 2013 for violating the Espionage Act—will challenge Senator Ben Cardin. Both candidacies represent a humiliating stain on their respective parties, not just because they are reflective of their increasingly legitimized fringes, but because they are the result of the worst ideological excesses of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

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Republicans Are About to Lose an Election About Values

The coming Republican depression.

Congressional Republicans passed tax-code reform into law on December 19, and the near-term effects exceeded even the most wide-eyed optimist’s imaginings. Almost every day since, some large employer has announced its intention to reinvest in capital and workers what they will save as a result of the reduction in the corporate tax rate. This means more employment opportunities and things like raises, bonuses, and 401(k) hikes. Manufacturing is repatriating into the U.S. as a result of the tax bill, and even the minimum wage is on the rise for several major employers. Events have humbled Democrats who predicted that the GOP’s tax reform initiative would only benefit the wealthiest. Republicans should enjoy this modest vindication because it’s all they’re going to get. A reckoning is coming for the GOP, and it has nothing to do with the party’s policies. Voters seem prepared to deliver a negative verdict on Donald Trump.

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Letter From a Shitholer

A moment for moral clarity.

Dear President Trump:

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Two Dossiers, Zero Standards

Hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith would like you to know that he’s proud of his organization’s decision to publish the raw, unverified intelligence product that has come to be known as the Steele Dossier. He shouldn’t be.

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The Fiction that Destabilizes the Middle East

Liberating Lebanon.

If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah. The Western foreign policy establishment maintains this fiction out of good intentions; it wants to protect innocent Lebanese from suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s military provocations against its neighbors. But this policy has enabled Hezbollah to devastate several neighboring countries with impunity, and it’s paving the way to a war that will devastate Lebanon itself.

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