Slate: The Coalition of the Swilling Gabfest
Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.
Updated Friday, July 31, 2009, at 6:47 PM
President Obama made his case this week for his health care reform agenda with a prime-time press conference—amid recent poll data showing that public support has declined. Obama attempted to address two of the major concerns about reform during the press conference: how a revamped health care system would benefit the vast majority of Americans who already have insurance and how to pay for reform. Obama offered support for a tax on the very wealthy, while Sen. John Kerry recently proposed taxing health insurers' most expensive plans. Obama also reiterated his requirement that any health care legislation begin to rein in the explosive growth of health care costs: The status quo is an option on the table that will ensure increasing tax burdens and growing deficits. Behind the scenes, Obama and his staff have increasingly entered the negotiating fray, speaking with reticent conservative Democrats, among others. Until this point, Obama has taken the anti-Clinton approach by outlining broad principles and then allowing Congress to fill in the blanks, but the result has been three bill outlines that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports would not produce strong cost controls. Obama is trying to avoid the outcome of Massachusetts, where despite health care reform, costs have continued to rise, threatening the solvency of the state's health care system.
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his Cambridge, Mass., house on July 16 by an officer responding to a neighbor's report of a burglary in progress. The incident has become an embarrassment for the Cambridge Police Department, which dropped the charges against Gates, and for the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who has refused to apologize for his actions. This is not an isolated incident of racial tension in Cambridge, and the arrest of one of the most prominent scholars in the country and President Obama's subsequent defense of Gates has pushed race back into the spotlight. The narrative is complicated by Crowley's status as a racial-profiling expert. Gates, the editor-in-chief of Slate's sister site The Root, has publicly expressed outrage about his treatment, but Crowley's union and the Cambridge police chief have both defended his actions. Whether either side is eventually vindicated, the event demonstrates that the idea of America as a post-racial society is overly Pollyanna-ish. With reports that the Cambridge police may release 9-1-1 tapes of the incident and that Crowley is considering a defamation lawsuit, the controversy will not disappear anytime soon. A potential silver lining would be a mature conversation about race in America that uses this experience as a teachable moment.
The six-month anniversary of President Obama's inauguration offered an opportunity to evaluate the success of the stimulus package, one of his signature legislative achievements thus far. Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzsag has been among the chorus arguing that the nation's economy has stepped back from the brink, joiningSlate's own Daniel Gross. Yet it is difficult to credit too much of the recovery to the stimulus package, which has disbursed only a fraction of the available funds; Larry Summers, the top economic adviser to President Obama, has announced that stimulus spending will peak in summer 2010. This stands in contrast to China, which has aggressively spent its stimulus funds and has experienced improved economic growth as a result. Meanwhile, some prominent liberal economists, including Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, have called for a second stimulus package to supplement anemic nongovernmental spending. For a portrait of the variety of projects the first stimulus is funding, check out The Big Money's series "Recessionary Road."
Jim chatters about evidence of "green shoots" at The Big Money. TBM's two interns, who have been with the site since the beginning of the year, recently got paying jobs at media companies, which Jim sees as downright astonishing.
Jacob chatters about the Onion's running gag, that "America's Finest News Source" has been sold to Yu Wan Mei, a Chinese company. Longtime Onion "publisher" T. Herman Zweibel writes that he sold the paper after receiving "what [he's] been assured is an appropriately absurd parcel of riches to take this tiresome publication off [his] feeble hands for good."
Emily chatters about Waltz With Bashir, the animated documentary about filmmaker Ari Folman's service in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War. The film follows Folman's efforts to reconstruct his memories from the war, particularly the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatila Massacre. Emily missed the film when it came out in theaters, but after seeing it on DVD, she describes the film's use of animation as a very effective and seamless way of depicting the events.
The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is email@example.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)
Posted on July 24 by Jefferson Pestronk at 3:52 p.m.
July 17, 2009
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter.
John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his series on the presidency and his series on risk. Follow him on Twitter.