It happened on Tuesday. One day before the Fake Sign Language Interpreter Scandal broke, United States President Barack Obama put on the Classic Overbite Selfie Face for a photo with some mobile-phone-wielding blonde (who happened to be Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt) and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, a photo that has now become known as the Obama Funeral Selfie and has inspired the Great Obama Funeral Selfie Scandal of 2013, otherwise known as Selfie-gate. Read more »
“Asleep at the wheel” is the idiom we use for a leader who is so inattentive at important moments that he or she is dangerous. For some inexplicable reason, the White House image masters have decided it’s better having President Obama seem clueless than in command.
If we are to believe the administration’s spin, the President didn’t know that the NSA was running a continuous wiretap on the phone of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and 34 other world leaders, he didn’t know that the Affordable Health Care web site was not ready and when four Americans were being killed during a terrorist attack in Benghazi, the President quite literally went to sleep.
Sometime back in 2001, Denzel Washington brought his ’79 Monte Carlo to a dead stop in the middle of a bustling LA intersection to hold a gun to Ethan Hawke’s head. “You turn shit down on the street, and the chief brings your wife a crisply folded flag,” he says, referring to Hawke’s refusal to smoke a bowl of PCP-laced pot at Washington’s request. Ultimately, our hero relents and takes a heroic puff, sending him on a trip from which he likely would never recover. And all that just to prove he’s down.
However unlikely it is that director Antoine Fuqua had that scene from Training Day in mind as an allegory for the establishment of universal health care in the US, he accomplished just that thanks to the recent institution of the dreaded Obamacare act. We need only to think of that PCP as the ACA, Denzel as President Obama, and Ethan Hawke as the perpetually downtrodden millennial generation—the traffic jam Denzel Washington created, meanwhile, is our ongoing federal shutdown. The outcome of that particular situation can only be bad for the guy doing the smoking.
Question to Democrats: Whose bright idea was it for you to start using the term “Obamacare?”
Oh, yeah, that’s right–it was the guy who created it. Putting his hands up in resignation after a few years of unnerving Republican temper tantrums, the god of Obamacare thought co-opting the term would be a clever way of turning the tables. “I like it,” said the President during his first debate with GOP nominee Mitt Romney this same time last year. “I do care.”
I voted for President Obama. Twice.
It was the first election that ever made me feel that I’d actually won something. He was the first candidate I’d ever voted for who seemed to believe in all the same things I did. I felt like my concerns were going to land on the desks of the people who could do something about them.
He had me at “change.”
Senator Obama struck me as a different kind of candidate. He seemed like someone who “got it” as a Gen X’er with modern sensibilities and interests. Despite his pedigree as a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, he read as an everyman archetype. That in another space or time, we could know each other somehow. I didn’t want (or need) a president I could have a beer with. But I appreciated the sense of familiarity and, more importantly, deferred to his intellect and scholarship and perspective on the issues that mattered to me.
I was reassured when he spoke out against the war in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama and former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb sure do have a lot in common. I first noticed this a few years ago, but recent events have made the similarities even clearer between the president of the United States, and the longtime Eagles quarterback, who officially announced this retirement from football this week.
They’re both African-American men who spent many formative years on the South Side of Chicago. They both rose very highly in their chosen professions at an uncommonly young age. Both are married with children and enjoy family lives which, chaos in other parts of their lives notwithstanding, appear to be happy and uncontroversial.
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There’s a new book out this week called This Town by New York Times political reporter Mark Leibovich, that’s driving Washington crazy.
I haven’t yet had a chance to read the book yet, but based on the reviews I’ve read, it depicts Washington as a sort of high school for adults, where it’s all about influence, reputations and money, as opposed to governance and the greater good. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff, I realize, but indications are that the book has struck a nerve in our nation’s capital.
Of course, it’s not surprising to anyone who’s paid much attention to politics in the past 10 to 15 years that our political culture is, for lack of a better term, a sea of bullshit. Here are a few premises regularly stated in political discourse, which are simply false:
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Broken chatter over a broken Egypt is caught up in why the United States continues funneling $1.8 billion in annual aid to what is now, clearly, a coup-installed military regime. The big talk in Washington is whether the Obama administration should put a stop to it and … well … just how it looks given our
- past nasty Cold War penchant for funding totalitarian regimes, and
- national habit of leading the blind when we’re just as blind. That conversation is really focused on the face-saving aspect of the unraveling mess that is Egypt.
The Obama White House, notorious for beard-scratching deliberations as long as a Tolkien chapter, attempts to figure it all out while avoiding the aid issue. Congress, on both sides of the aisle, is steaming over administration ambivalence as officials refuse to call the coup … the coup.
But, in reality, this is Obama modus operandi 101: simply letting the crap that hit the fan fall where it may. And while it’s a pain in the ass in the short term, it sometimes pays dividends in the long term for the guy on Pennsylvania Avenue who likes the long game (weird considering his love for a sport that is based on frenzied pick-me-ups and dunks).
We saw this in the spring triplet scandals that emerged over Benghazi, the IRS and Justice Department wiretapping of the Associated Press; we also noticed it after Edward Snowden’s now-defunct bum rush of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. It’s a pattern present throughout the president’s tenure: Some scandal or controversy strikes thereby giving the media its chance to eagerly paint it as (finally) the existential threat to the Obama legacy — complete with Republican backbenchers calling up the “I” word as if it’s 1998.
What happens is the president rides it out, in an indifferent and removed way that is the exact opposite of the snap-crackle-pop, bull-in-the-China-closet approach of the previous administration. Riding out the first Arab Spring (since everyone wants to call a military-staged takeover Arab Spring II — whatever floats your boat) seemed like short-term punkishness – but, actually, it could also be seen as long term bluff-calling. Same case with Syria. The Obama Wan Kenobi school of thought ponders scenes of despair with the same coldness of Stringer Bell in The Wire or Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Crisis in this part of the world is always what it is: perpetually fracked up (head nod to my Battlestar Galactica peeps out there). So, the president goes: “and the reason we’re tripping out about this is because … ?”
Contours of the long game are curving their way through the Egyptian apocalypse, which might not be as bad as it seems if the rest of the Islamic world from Turkey to Tunisia wasn’t blowing up. Game theory suggests an Obama foreign policy fanatically intent on pulling itself away from our freakish, oil-induced obsession with the geopolitical Middle East (Egypt is really North Africa, fam). As U.S. foreign policy interests and assets shift to Africa and Asia, there is an emerging desire to control events in the Arab world, but at arm’s length, leaving it in the hands of those who live there. That Saudi Arabia just announced an $8 billion pledge to the Egyptian military’s faux “transition” government comes as no surprise as the Obama administration feels the heat from Washington critics wanting it to pull American aid — all while Egypt cracks like a Spinx nose under the weight of ballooning debt.
As the U.S. shifts further away from Islamic world oil — and gradually swerves over to more renewable energy use — the mood is swinging to a clarion “you do what you do” wave to the U.S. neck cramp that has long been the Middle East. Saudi money flowing into Egypt not only signals the spread of Saudi influence, but it may also signal an out for U.S. aid (King Abdullah to Washington: “no worries, we’ve got this”). Essentially, there’s a play here suggesting the U.S. slowly moves out and passes the ball over to the Saudis — one possible motivation for Obama’s excruciating wait-and-see strategy.
Another reason for the long, cold Obama stare may not be as obvious. Letting “democracy” and all the flawed political processes that unfold with it may be the new American strategy in the far-flung, unstable Islamic world: Rather than force it, let it happen organically and then let the dominoes fall where they may. Previous U.S. policy iterations of “Middle Eastern peace” attempted to fit a circle in a triangle; the Obama administration approach, however, is to let it be and, again, call the bluff of Islamists who are so hell bent on running things.
But, can they? Muslim Brotherhood activists under the now-deposed Egyptian President Morsi may have had the political savvy and determination to win Egypt’s first democratic elections. That was inevitable considering they were the only organized political faction outside of the authoritarian regime that existed. And to now have them booted from power as quickly as they took hold of it may be a carefully orchestrated attempt by Obama to show that, see, maybe modern Islamists really can’t run things. They can plant bombs in crowded markets and stage effigy-burning tap dances outside U.S. embassies. But, the question remains: Can they govern large populations? The implicit message here: Morsi, an Islamist, ran a country of 86 million into the ground … if they want to govern and rule with iron-fisted religiosity so bad, let them go ahead and do it.
You do what you do, right?
That may translate into a more gradual, keeping-hands-clean approach that ultimately lets the people decide if they want to be oppressed under the thumb of repressed religious fundamentalists or not. In the meantime, defiantly delivering F-16s to the Egyptian military maintains the regional peace long enough to keep oil flowing through the Suez Canal while getting countries like Egypt to become less dependent on us. We’ll see how it all plays out.
Charles D. Ellison is Washington Correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and Chief Political Correspondent for UPTOWN Magazine. You can hear his political analysis every Sunday morning at 9:50am ET on WDAS 105.3 FM. He can be reached via Twitter @charlesdellison
Last September, it was reported that about 50% of charter schools in the state were proficient, hitting the benchmarks mandated by No Child Left Behind. Four months later, that number has dipped to 28%. Philly’s percentage drop was about the same. What happened?
Well, last September, the state–without permission from the federal government–began using a controversial, locally-based method of calculating charter school proficiency that used “broader, less-stringent” criteria than used for traditional public schools. After the PA School Boards Association complained, the feds forced Pennsylvania to re-calculate, using the criteria it always had. Using the new, more accurate numbers, PA’s traditional public schools now outperform the state’s charter schools. In Philly, however, 29% of Philly’s charter schools are proficient, compared to just 13% of traditional public schools.
Then, of course, there’s the question of whether the metrics used by No Child Left Behind have any merit at all. Remember, the Obama administration is helping states opt out of NCLB. But for now, they remain important, because they help determine schools’ funding formulas. [Inquirer]