Did Obama’s Supposed Weakness Make Putin More Aggressive?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
March 21 2014 12:05 PM

The “We Are Invincible” Gabfest

Listen to Slate’s show about Obama’s foreign policy, the looming ACA deadline, and Megan McArdle’s book The Up Side of Down.

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On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle discuss whether Obama should have been more aggressive in Ukraine and Syria, how Obamacare enrollment is shaping up, and McArdle’s new book about why failure is the key to success.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week’s show:

  • Russian lawmakers voted to annex Crimea this week. The U.S. responded with sanctions.
  • When Russia counter-sanctioned some U.S. politicians, Sen. John McCain tweeted that he’d have to cancel his spring break in Siberia.
  • Some conservatives have argued that Obama’s reluctance to engage has incited aggression by Syria, Russia, and other countries.
  • John says we overvalue the power of the president’s words domestically, but that’s less true in foreign policy.
  • Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are trying to differentiate their views on foreign policy ahead of the 2016 election.
  • Obamacare enrollment has hit 5 million.
  • The penalty for remaining uninsured after March 31 will be either $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is larger.
  • So far, far fewer young invincibles have signed up for Obamacare than health wonks were expecting, Megan writes.
  • At least one health industry official says Obamacare premiums could triple over the next few months.
  • Obama gave interviews to WebMD and Ellen Degeneres to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance.
  • Megan’s new book The Up Side of Down is about failure as a catalyst for success.
  • In her book, Megan writes about the HOPE probation program in Hawaii.
  • A 2005 bankruptcy reform law made it harder to escape consumer debt.

John chatters about the first hot air balloon flight, which ended with peasants attacking the balloon with pitchforks.

Megan chatters about Airbnb’s funding talks—it’s reportedly seeking a valuation of $10 billion, which is more than the combined valuation of most major hotel companies.

David chatters about Kate Ascher’s book about transportation infrastructure, The Way to Go, which Slate excerpted.

This week's credits were in the style of John Galt.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Rebecca Cohen.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

David Plotz is the CEO of Atlas Obscura and host of the Slate Political Gabfest.