Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
The presidents with whom Barack Obama is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face the obstacles he does. Obama has every right to be frustrated: When Republicans obstruct, he takes the blame. But even though his assessment of the situtation is correct, his response to it should be different.
At his 2009 inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo within a year. Many of those imprisoned there have been held for more than a decade without facing any charges, and in recent months, an increasing number of desperate detainees have engaged in hunger strikes to call attention to their plight.
As her memoir My Beloved World makes clear, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has spent a lifetime challenging offensive remarks about minorities and the poor.
Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay traces the vexed history of the military commissions at Guantánamo, established to try terror suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Victories often contain the seeds of future defeats. So it is -- or at least should be -- with the Senate's morally reprehensible rejection of expanded background checks for gun buyers.
Religious Freedom & State Power
When William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review, he proclaimed that its mission was to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” American conservatism as we have known it for three generations began with this imperative, which has now led it to a political impasse. Yelling “Stop!” may be good theater but it does little to thwart history.
Many of the groups challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act on religious-liberty grounds hang their hopes on one Supreme Court case: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. But while the superficial attraction of O Centro is obvious, the facts of the mandate are quite different.
What Is Marriage? is clear, tightly reasoned, and a remarkably fast read for a dense philosophical argument. It should be instantly recognized as the leading statement of the case against same-sex marriage. But is it right?
A conservative judge dedicated to the principle of judicial restraint might be expected to defer to the legislative branch in its exercise of powers explicitly granted to it by the Constitution. But Antonin Scalia and his fellow Republican-appointed justices seem inclined, in this case, toward clear judicial activism.
With signs of cooperation on gun control and immigration, and Rand Paul's filibuster against President Obama's drone policy shaking philosophical categories in a healthy way, life and substance are returning to our political debates.
Antonin Scalia speaks favorably, and provocatively, of a “dead” Constitution. But an eighteenth-century reading of the Second Amendment doesn't serve a public that supports sensible control of the guns in use today.
Like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama's inaugural address, built not on a call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
That President Obama has shed any illusions about his unique gifts as a national healer will increase his capacity to help us leave behind many of the debates that have torn our political world asunder. Tempered by the struggles of his first term, he now seems more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.
Racial differences do not permit disfavoring African Americans in the university admissions process, but the opposite question, whether we may favor African Americans over white applicants, is now a heated question pending in the Supreme Court.
As Republicans dig out from a defeat that their poll-deniers said was impossible, they need to acknowledge many large failures. But President Obama and his party need to understand the difficulties they may face.
What Can Obama Do in a Second Term?
Barack Obama took on a militant conservatism intent on reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built an alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government's essential role in regulating the marketplace and widening the circle of opportunity.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
If Teddy Roosevelt fought against the policies of the Gilded Age, President Obama is fighting a Republican Party determined to bring the Gilded Age back and undo the achievements of a century.
As the 2012 campaign closes, "working together" is in vogue because the few voters still up for grabs tend to be more moderate and less ideological. But beneath the embrace of comity lurks a central fact about American politics now: Democrats believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
It turns out there was no profound ideological conversion of the country two years ago. If Mitt Romney thought the nation was ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination, he wouldn't be throwing his past positions overboard.
For Barack Obama's supporters, the fact that the president played offense and had a strategy was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Mitt Romney's: Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides.
What a difference a week makes. Vice President Joe Biden stayed in Rep. Paul Ryan's face for the entirety of Thursday's vice presidential debate. In the process, he forced Ryan, and by extension the Romney campaign, onto the defensive for a large part of the evening.
In this week's debate, Mitt Romney has too much to do. President Obama has a great deal to lose. Romney's is the most difficult position. Obama's is the most dangerous.
In Tampa, Republicans reveled in the glories of private enterprise. In Charlotte, Democrats celebrated togetherness. But in the weeks after Obama’s acceptance speech, interest in the election as horse race has nearly blotted out the substance of the president’s address and its relation to the broader themes of the campaigns.
Political Journalism in the Digital Age
Like his recent predecessors, President Obama has moved on policy and personnel in ways designed to avoid the time-consuming gridlock that sometimes results from procedures mandated and constraints imposed by the Constitution. But in this election season, candidates on both the left and right need to show humility, restraint, and patience.
Progressives should put aside their disappointment with Barack Obama. The alternative is a presidency that would shred safety nets and regulations while running the country according to the cruel and primitive forms of individualism not seen since pre-New Deal America.
We do a disservice to ourselves and the Founders alike if we take them out of history and demand that they settle arguments that we ought to settle on our own.
In his opinion on the Affordable Care Act, the chief justice had to clear a number of hurdles to uphold the law under the government’s taxing authority.
The broad structure of the largest domestic achievement of the Obama legacy remains intact as the chief justice wisely avoids the far shoals of conservative ideology.
Antonin Scalia has long ignored the obligation to be or even appear impartial, but offering a bench statement questioning President Obama's decision on immigration should be the end of the line.
A ruling against the Affordable Care Act could give its supporters the chance to describe the law and defend what it does, while prompting a fearless conversation on the role of the court's conservative justices in blocking progressive legislation.
Ongoing Analysis & Opinion
In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act. The question before the Court is straightforward: Can the federal government require all Americans to purchase a product (health insurance) on the private market? But the question underlying the case is one of the most basic in American political life: How much government is too much?
We are about to have the worst presidential campaign money can buy. One state is showing us the way back to sane campaign-finance law.
Two years after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law—and two years before many of its provisions are scheduled to go into effect—the Obama administration’s most important achievement faces an uncertain prognosis.
Activist judges vs. health-care reform
I’m a 65-year-old African American. I was excited enough by the election of the nation’s first black president that I would have cut him a thousand miles of slack. But the last thing I expected was that I would watch him meekly accept humiliation by his political opponents. And the second last thing I expected was that I would go into 2012 looking at the upcoming presidential election as a lesser-of-two-evils affair.
The Supreme Court's preferential option for the rich
Few recent Supreme Court decisions have been more vigorously contested than Brown v. Plata, in which the Court affirmed a ruling requiring California to release prisoners to reduce overcrowding.
How not to settle the gay-marriage question
Conservatives have long decried “activist” judges who supposedly “legislated from the bench,” but the Roberts Court is hardly shy about breaking new legal ground.
It will take some time before a new array of justices on the Court rethinks the labored departure from precedent made by the majority in Citizens United. Meanwhile, much corporate mischief will have been done.
It should become the philosophical shot heard 'round the country. In a speech that received far too little attention, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter took aim at conservatives' favorite theory of judging. Souter's verdict: It "has only a tenuous connection to reality."
Those of us lucky enough to have worked for Justice Stevens never doubted his abilities as an impartial guardian. And we have taken comfort in his continued presence on the Court. No matter who replaces him, his departure is a loss for the institution and for the country.
Why Washington's conventional wisdom of impending Democratic catastrophe is one of the best things Obama's party has going for it.
How dirty a word?
This year's elections may exacerbate the difference between our two political parties, but not in the way most people are talking about. Republicans will end the year a more philosophically coherent right-wing party. But the Democrats will, if anything, become more ideologically diverse.
Brace yourself for several months of occasionally biting but essentially meaningless political theater over the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Why President Barack Obama's next Supreme Court nominee is so important
Last month’s 5–4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission did not surprise students of this conservative-leaning Court. Still, the Court’s privileging of the “rights” of artificial legal entities over the democratic needs of the American public remains indefensible.
Obama, Sotomayor, and the wisdom of John Noonan.