‘To one subject only’

Matthew Rozsa’s Masters Thesis from Rutgers

Date Created2012

Other Date2012-01 (degree)

Subject: History, Presidents—United States—Messages, Cleveland, Grover, 1837-190

Description: Grover Cleveland‘s third State of the Union took the unique step of only discussing one subject, tariff reform. This was in marked contrast to its predecessors, which had always covered a multitude of issues. This study analyzes the impact of the third State of the Union on the political and policymaking power of the presidency during the Gilded Age and on the ideological character of the Democratic Party following its post-Civil War doldrums.

Click here to download the paper in its entirety.

Ted Cruz’s birthplace matters – but not for the reason you think

Published: Daily Dot (March 24, 2015), Salon (March 26, 2015), Interview with CBC – Edmonton (March 26, 2015)

It’s the hypocrisy, stupid.

Much mirth has already been derived from Ted Cruz’s announcement that he is running for president in 2016; Twitter users were sharpening their rhetorical knives with cutting hashtags in preparation for his official declaration, while pundits from Jamelle Bouie of Slate to Donny Deutsch of MSNBC’s Morning Joe have gone on record to proclaim that Cruz is unelectable.

While these various observations may be valid, not enough attention has been paid to a far more important point. The fact that Cruz’s candidacy is being taken seriously at all speaks to a pervasive hypocrisy among Republican conservatives. After all, as anyone with a heartbeat from 2009 to 2012 no doubt recalls, one of the most popular right-wing claims about President Obama is that he wasn’t actually born in this country. At the height of “birtherism” in 2011, a poll found that more than half of likely 2012 Republican primary voters (51 percent) believed Obama was foreign-born and thus ineligible for the presidency, while more than one-fifth (21 percent) were “not sure” about the matter. As recently as last year, only 34 percent of Republicans could bring themselves to openly admit that their president had indeed been born in Honolulu.

Yet here we are. As the 2016 election looms ahead of us, the first declared Republican candidate—a man whom political handicappers readily acknowledge will depend on Tea Party support, who played a large role in fueling birtherism—makes no bones about the fact that he was born in Calgary, a city in Canada.

And nary a peep of protest can be heard from the right.

Before we continue on to deconstruct the long, inglorious history of right-wing double standards, let us dispel any notion that Cruz’s place of birth disqualifies him for the presidency. Although Section 1 of Article 2 in the Constitution indeed states that only “a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President,” Section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act automatically extends naturalized citizenship to anyone born of an American citizen. Because Cruz’s mother, Eleanor Wilson, was born in Delaware, the senator from Texas without question passes Constitutional muster.

Of course, not even the Obama-era birthers seemed to question that the president’s mother, Ann Dunham, was born in Kansas. Even if their most far-fetched conspiracy theories about Barack Obama entering first this world in his father’s native Kenya were true, they wouldn’t matter any more than if Cruz had been born in his father’s native Cuba. Legally speaking, birtherism was as much of a non-issue from the get-go for Obama as it is now for Cruz.

Hence why words like “hypocrisy” come into play.

However, this is hardly the first example of Republican double standards. The pages of recent American political history are littered with examples of brazen conservative duplicity that match or even exceed the current birtherian farce. In the 1950s and 1960s, two presidential aspirants were attacked by conservatives as unfit for the White House because they were divorcees—first a liberal Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, and then a liberal Republican, Nelson Rockefeller—but when Ronald Reagan earned the Republican nomination in 1980, the fact that he would be (and eventually became) the first divorcee president was implicitly forgiven.

More recently, the same Republicans who chanted “flip-flop” at their party’s 2004 national convention because Democratic candidate John Kerry had switched positions on the Iraq war had no qualms about nominating Mitt Romney in 2012, despite his myriad flip-flops on issues ranging from health-care reform and abortion to gay rights.

There is even something of a pre-Cruz precedent for birther-related double standards: After all, the first Republican to challenge Obama for the presidency was John McCain, whose birth certificate has him entering this world in the Panama Canal Zone. That situation isn’t precisely analogous to the one with Cruz—the Panama Canal Zone was owned by the United States at the time McCain was born there—but it’s hard to imagine Obama getting away with the same rationale if he had been born, say, at the American embassy in Kenya.

Of course, there is a simple reason why these hypocrisies are so prevalent. When conservatives lambasted the divorces of Stevenson and Rockefeller, the anti-war positions of Kerry, or the birthplace of Obama, what they were really attacking was the cultural ethos each of those candidates seemed to represent in their minds. Because Stevenson and Rockefeller were outspokenly liberal on domestic issues, social conservatives were quick to jump on their unsuccessful marriages as proof that they were fundamentally immoral individuals. Similarly, because Kerry rose to national prominence as a heroic Vietnam War veteran who spoke out against the war to the Senate after returning home, it was inevitable that the post-9/11 GOP would find a way to attack his patriotism and steadfastness.

With Obama and birtherism, meanwhile, the underlying issue has always been a racial one. As a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology put it, “the influence of racial prejudice in contemporary U.S. society is typically manifested in subtle, indirect forms of bias. Due to prevailing norms of equality, most whites attempt to avoid appearing biased in their evaluations of blacks, in part because of a genuine desire to live up to their egalitarian standards, but also because of concern regarding social censure.”

Consequently, conservatives who felt that an African American was somehow inherently illegitimate as a president couldn’t comfortably declare as much in the open political market. By focusing on a conspiracy theory that cast the president as quite literally un-American—regardless of how self-evidently absurd that conspiracy theory might be—they could tap into their emotional distrust of America’s first black president without seeming overtly racist.

By contrast, Ted Cruz is solidly conservative on racial issues. Despite being of partially Latino heritage, he is a well-known admirer of racial reactionaries like Jesse Helms and has taken right-wing positions on racially charged issues like immigration reform and affirmative action. Just as Reagan’s moral character was never questioned because he was a social conservative, and Romney’s flip-flopping wasn’t held against him because Republicans took his patriotism for granted, so too does Cruz benefit from not being perceived as a threat by conservatives susceptible to the delusional beliefs GOP operative John Avlon has aptly dubbed “white minority politics.”

The double standard on Ted Cruz’s citizenship status is only the latest entry in this disgraceful chapter of American history, but at least we can console ourselves with one fact: No matter where he was born, Cruz stands absolutely no chance of actually winning.

The 6 dumbest reasons the Internet has criticized Obama

Published: Daily Dot (January 8, 2015), Salon (January 13, 2015), Interview with LeGrande Green (January 15, 2015)

From latte salute-gate to birther conspiracy theories, a look at some of the dopiest attacks against the president

Dinesh D’Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in New York, May 20, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
This article originally appeared on The Daily Dot.

The Daily DotAs the presence of websites like The Debunker’s Guide to Obama Conspiracy Theories makes clear, the Internet is a breeding ground for polemical hyperbole directed against the 44th President of the United States. Sometimes this takes the form of literal conspiracy theories, such as the claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim or wasn’t born in this country; sometimes it takes the form of overreactions to non-issues, like the brouhaha earlier this week over Obama treating his wife to an expensive Hawaiian dinner during a private date.

The Internet can be invaluable as a tool for cultivating intelligent debate, but at the same time, like any public resource, it is easy to fall prey to some of its more irrational and unsavory elements. The most potent weapon for being factually grounded is, of course, to place the numerous anti-Obama assertions in a proper larger context. Images and ideas that can be manipulated (intentionally or otherwise) to give one impression online may actually mean something else entirely when all of the relevant information has been provided.

This has been particularly true of the anti-Obama rhetoric, and it is the responsibility of all Internet users to be fully informed before disseminating popular charges. To illustrate, here are six of the most egregious examples of ridiculous things the Internet has gotten upset with Obama for.

More from The Daily Dot: “Woman goes in for tiny tattoo, gets giant ‘Sailor Moon’ sleeve instead”

1) Claiming shenanigans at Nelson Mandela’s funeral

We can start with the string of funeral selfies that Obama was seen to have taken during the funeral of South African leader and hero Nelson Mandela. The president received harsh criticism from the likes of ABC News, which compared the president and his cohorts (including British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt) to “a bunch of teenagers,” to the New York Post,which arranged the pictures to make it seem as if First Lady Michelle Obama was upset at her husband for flirting with the Danish head of state (a perception later revealed to be untrue).

This is a great example of how the Internet can swap perception for reality in dangerous ways. Displayed on a computer screen, the image of the president emitting a toothy grin during the funeral of a head of state seems inappropriate, even gauche (to say nothing of the sequence of pictures showing him talking to the Danish prime minister). At the same time, Nelson Mandela’s funeral was deliberately given a festiveatmosphere as consistent with the mores of South African culture. This detail, though perhaps too subtle to be readily apparent in news bytes and talking points, is critical when assessing whether our politicians performed well in diplomatic situations.

2) Latte salute-gate

“President Barack Obama is coming under criticism for offering a salute with a coffee cup in his raised hand,” reported the Huffington Post last September. “#LatteSalute, as the gesture is being called onTwitter, was captured in a White House Instagram video recorded when he stepped off Marine One in New York City on his way to the United Nations.” The National Republican Congressional Committeecaptured the gist of the criticism best when it referred to the incident as possibly “the most absurd video of President Obama we’ve ever seen.”

As with the funeral selfie, this is a situation where more background information clears up the potential controversy stemming from a single image or set of images. For one thing, military regulations don’t require salutes “when the senior or the subordinate is wearing civilian clothes,” thus negating the idea that Obama’s conduct was somehow unprofessional. Perhaps just as important, Obama was clearly acting casually because he was in a rush, rather than out of any deliberate desire to communicate disrespect.

3) Stirring up controversy over the content of a generic back-to-school speech

Presidents have been delivering back-to-school speeches since at least the days of George H. W. Bush, but this didn’t stop conservative parents from harshly protesting when Obama announced he was delivering a back-to-school address to America’s public school students in September 2009. Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greeraccused Obama of trying to “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda,” conservative talk show host Tammy Bruce suggestedparents have their children skip school on the day of his speech to avoid “that shady lawyer from Chicago,” and right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin claimed the speech had a “heavy activist bent.”

Of course, it turned out that all of this storm and fury was over an address that was as platitudinous a “stay in school” lecture as any that has been benignly imparted to American youth. Indeed, for all of the hysteria prompted by the announcement that Obama would be delivering this speech, there was never any indication that it would contain socialist (or for that matter Democratic partisan) propaganda. To those who believe Obama is a secret socialist, however, the prospect of him directly indoctrinating American children was so potent that even the text of the speech in question (which was released in advance) couldn’t abate their fears. Considering that there are potentially legitimate criticisms of Obama’s education policy, the reaction to this innocuous speech becomes all the more shameful in retrospect.

4) Insisting he’s a secret Muslim

This hoary rumor has taken many forms. From claiming that Obama was raised in a madrassa to purporting to have found a secret Islamic message on his wedding band, a large faction of Americans seem absolutely convinced that the president is actually a Muslim. At one point, a 2010 national survey from the Pew Research Center found that 18 percent believed Obama was a Muslim, compared to the 34 percent who believed he was a Christian, and the 43 percent who didn’t know his religious beliefs (they’re Protestant).

More from The Daily Dot: “Aziz Ansari takes Rupert Murdoch to task for Islamophobic tweet”

“The all-too-familiar scent of plain, old-fashioned racism hovers over the affair,” wrote Ramzi Kassem of the New York Daily News, “To understand why the myth of Obama’s Muslim identity not only persists, but grows, one must view it as commentary on his perceived ‘otherness.’… For those who continue to feel estranged from a President who is not white, labeling Obama as Muslim is the sole available substitute for racial epithets that are no longer tolerated.”

Of course, even if Obama was a Muslim, that would not be a relevant criticism, but the deeper issue here is how the Internet used a superficial image as a substitute for a deeper argument. Because Muslims appear “exotic” in the American paradigm, it has been very easy for online pundits and commenters to assume that our first black president (and one with an unusual name to boot) is somehow a secret follower of the Islamic faith. The fact that this relies on not one but two forms of bigotry just makes the dust-up doubly pernicious.
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5) Believing Obama was born in Kenya instead of the United States.

You knew birtherism was going to have to appear here. Even before the president convinced the state government of Hawaii to release the official copy of his original long-form birth certificate (a special case had to be made for him because this is against local policy there), it was never rational to believe Obama had been born anywhere other than in Honolulu, Hawaii. Not only did two independent newspapers from the area report his birth at the time (the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star Bulletin), but there is no sound reason to believe that a Kenyan graduate student would have had reason to travel 21,458 miles (roundtrip) from Hawaii to Kenya with the white teenager he had impregnated out of wedlock so their baby could be born in that country even though he subsequently spent the first six years of his childhood (and then the final eight) in Hawaii. Of course, as with the rumors that Obama is secretly a Muslim, the real motive behind birtherism has always been racism rather than reason.

A study conducted by Eric Hehman of the University of Delaware in the March Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that, as with the claims that Obama is a secret Muslim, the popularity of this particular conspiracy theory online is rooted in the impulse to express racist ideas without appearing explicitly bigoted. “Due to prevailing norms of equality, most Whites attempt to avoid appearing biased in their evaluations of Blacks, in part because of a genuine desire to live up to their egalitarian standards, but also because of concern regarding social censure,” the study concluded. “As a consequence, whites’ prejudice is more likely to be expressed in discriminatory responses when these actions can be justified by other factors.”

This was why white people tended to view Obama as “less American,” a view that is obviously shared to an even more disproportionate degree by birthers. There is also, as James Carroll probably put it in theBoston Globe, “the perceived offense not just of blackness, but of miscegenation.” By insisting that a black president born of a Kenyan father and a WASP mother must be somehow inherently un-American, birthers are protesting “the biological fact of Obama’s existence, not the bureaucratic fact of government records.”

Because the Internet is such a powerful tool for reinforcing images regardless of the facts, it makes sense that such birtherism would proliferate online.

6) Fearing death panels in his health care reform bill

Aside from being the first woman to appear on a Republican national ticket, Sarah Palin’s greatest legacy may very well be her invention of one of the greatest political calumnies of the Obama era—namely, the idea that the president had created “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act. “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care,” Palin posted on Facebook in August 2009.
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By the end of the year, PolitiFact reported two independent polls showed that roughly 30 percent of Americans believed the death panels were real. By 2013, Forbes contributor Peter Ubel wrote that the death panel was persisting in part “because the law calls for the establishment of a 15 person committee—the independent payment advisory board (or IPAB)—which is given the job of recommending cost-saving measures to the Secretary of Health and Human Services if Medicare expenses rise too quickly.” The charge about death panels continues to pop up among conservative talking points, re-appearing as recently as last September.

It’s appropriate to close this article with the death panel smear because, while the other examples listed may play on media sensationalism or latent racism, this one actually attempted to alter a landmark social and economic policy—Obama’s famous Affordable Care Act—that has already succeeded and established itself as part of the fabric of American life.

Why Daylight Saving Time is a waste of everyone’s energy

Published: Daily Dot (November 4, 2014), Salon (November 5, 2014), Interview with CBC – Calgary (March 10, 2015), Interview with CBC – Edmonton (March 16, 2015)

The ritual’s energy savings are negligible, and the long winter nights are making us all miserable. Enough already

When you get right down to it, Daylight Saving Time is a national holiday.

This is not intended as a compliment. After all, given the seriousness with which Americans take the chronological transition and the disruption it causes to our daily lives, we’re led to assume that it serves some sort of constructive purpose. Usually it’s something to the effect of needing to save energy and help farmers.

In fact, DST often loses as much energy as it saves, has been opposed more vociferously by farmers than any other group, and is a genuine public health menace. If that’s not bad enough, it also distracts attention from serious approaches offered by the digital age when it comes to dealing with the important problems DST attempts to address.

In fairness to this venerable ritual, there are still those who present arguments in favor of DST. Countries farther away from the Earth’s equator can experience a significant difference in daylight hours between winter and summer, which DST arguably helps offset. National tourist industries from Northern Ireland to Australia claim it stimulates spending by encouraging people to stay out later. The idea also has a truly distinguished intellectual pedigree, tracing back to the water clocks of ancient Rome (which used different scales for each month) and stretching all the way up to a tongue-in-cheek proposal penned by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.

Unfortunately for DST proponents, the case against it overwhelms all of the aforementioned benefits. As a recent piece by Alexander Abad-Santos in the Atlantic observed, there is plenty of evidence that the actual energy savings from DST are not only minimal, but can even be offset by the law of unforeseeable consequences (e.g., energy costs going up from the use of air conditioners after the lights go off in the middle of the day).

By contrast, there is little dispute that it exacerbates Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and results in temporary sleep disorders that increase national rates in heart attacks and medical equipment malfunctioning (studies are conflicted on whether it reduces or increases car accidents). There have been plenty of occasions in which DST has wreaked havoc on our infrastructure, from the chaos in mass transit and broadcasting from 1945 to 1966 (when states and localities could choose if and when they observed DST) to the $147 million lost in 2007 when airline schedules were thrown into confusion for a month (only 70 countries in the world use DST).

Finally, farmers oppose DST because it upsets milk production in cows (a particularly big deal in developed countries that can’t mechanize the milking process) and makes it harder for farmers to get their crops to the market during the sunlight hours. Polls show that more and more Americans agree with them, with only 37% of Americans supporting DST according to a Rasmussen Poll in 2013—down eight points from the year before.

On top of all this, though, there is one reason to oppose DST that trumps all the others: Namely, how it distracts from the opportunities provided by early 21st century technology to meaningfully confront the issues of energy conservation and helping American farmers.

One dimension of this is cleanweb. As a Christian Science Monitor article by David J. Unger put it, “Internet communications, inexpensive sensors, and data analytics are enabling a high-tech, holistic approach to energy efficiency. In the past it was, ‘How do I design an efficient light?’ Now it’s, ‘How do I design a whole network of efficient lights that talk to one another via Web communications, adjust output automatically, and report back through online data portals that optimize performance?’”
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Digital technology is enabling a level of synchronization in energy-consuming technology that was inconceivable when Franklin penned his essay 230 years ago. It is now possible for the average consumer to not only monitor all aspects of their energy consumption, but to use that data to make necessary alterations in their lifestyles. In one particularly drastic case-in-point from the Christian Science Monitor article, a Chicago 177,413-square-foot building that used to incur more than $50,000 a year in energy reduced its bill to less than $5,000.

The Internet has also done enormous work in unifying different groups of people around the issue of energy conservation. One conceivable argument that could be used to defend DSL—namely, that it prompts the nation to act with a single purpose around an issue of genuine importance—can be offset when you account for the Internet’s value as a tool for political mobilization. To cite one famous example: When An Inconvenient Truth became one of the most successful documentaries of all time in 2006, it was because Al Gore and the producers took advantage of social media and other Internet sources for spreading awareness of their movie and bringing it to the attention of sympathetic groups online.

In fact, a recent paper by Luis Hestres of American University studying single-issue Internet-mediated advocacy organizations used two global warming-campaigns as its case study, arguing that they shared “a focus on like-minded issue public mobilization and online-to-offline social movement building strategies.” Hestres continuted, “These organizations can influence policy debates by mobilizing issue publics, shifting debates to more favorable public arenas, and reframing them in ways more favorable to their causes.”
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The same, incidentally, is also true when it comes to the issue of protecting America’s farmers. While there are a myriad of forces imperiling the American family farm today, one of the biggest problems is the rise of super-conglomerates like Monsanto, which uses seed production and lawsuits against small farmers to eliminate family farms as opponents. While Monsanto would have quite possibly remained an obscure offender among America’s corporate oligarchy in the pre-Internet era alongside the likes of Koch Industries, the Internet has allowed worldwide grassroots movements with millions of followers like March Against Monsanto to arise against it.

For those who genuinely want to support American farmers, anything but DST would do the trick, and using the Internet to oppose bullying companies like Monsanto is a good way to actually mobilize on a national level.

To return to an earlier point: If DST was simply a harmless national ritual, like releasing fireworks on the Fourth of July or carving pumpkins onHalloween, it could be allowed its inconveniences. Considering that it actually works against the causes it claims to advance, and persists at a time when the Internet makes real solutions possible, it is completely unjustifiable. Daylight Saving Time needs to be a thing of the past.

The Pentagon Just Announced Something No Millennial Has Ever Experienced

Published: mic (February 24, 2014), Appearance on Channel 69 – WFMZ (February 25, 2014)

The news: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel plans to announce billions of dollars in military spending cuts, reducing our armed forces to troop levels unseen since 1940— before America entered World War II. In addition to reducing the size of our standing army, he will also propose limiting pay raises, increasing health care premiums, reducing benefits like housing allowances, and eliminating the use of A-10 “tank killer” aircraft and the U-2 spy plane. That said, current pay scales and previously earned and/or promised soldiers’ benefits will not be impacted.

Image Credit: AP

What this means historically: Before World War II, America would develop large military forces during significant wars (the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, etc.) and then return to a small standing army after the major armed conflicts had ended. This was entirely consistent with the intent of our founding fathers who believed, as George Washington summarized, that “altho’ a large standing Army in time of Peace hath ever been considered dangerous to the liberties of a Country, yet a few Troops, under certain circumstances, are not only safe, but indispensably necessary.”

Unfortunately, World War II was immediately followed by the Cold War, during which both sides united to create a permanently sizeable military establishment in our country. Although the national threat had changed from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia, and the ideological one from fascism to communism, the result was a half-century of America devoting more of its budget to military spending than any other single program. Idealists on the left and right may have opposed this, but mainstream Democrats and Republicans overwhelmed them.

Then, 23 years ago, the Cold War ended. The first president to inherit a post-Cold War America, Bill Clinton, implemented some military spending cuts, but nowhere near pre-Cold War levels.

Image Credit: War History Online

What this means for millennials: There are three noteworthy features of the world millennials have known:

1. Unlike with the Greatest Generation or Baby Boomers, no single nation or group of nations have posed an existential threat to our security. The closest equivalent has been the threat of terrorism, which as we have seen…

2. … knows no country. What’s more, as liberal and libertarian think tanks both agree, terrorism can only effectively be fought with strong intelligence gathering, not old-fashioned military might. Indeed, the attempts to treat terrorism as comparable to the major armed conflicts of World War II and the Cold War — i.e., to act as if it involved the kind of traditional on-the-ground military campaigns that justify a massive standing army — have been humiliating failures, from Afghanistan to Iraq.

3. Consequently, Millennials have grown up seeing our government construct increasingly flimsy excuses to justify its long-standing military establishment. While New Leftists and libertarians have been vocal in pointing out the unconstitutionality and danger of this development, it has been kept out of conventional political discourse. Just as a right-winger like Robert Taft was labeled a “Nazi sympathizer” and a left-winger like George McGovern was branded “soft on communism,” so too were early 21st century critics of the military-industrial complex accused of “wanting the terrorists to win.” This is the atmosphere of ideological fear tactics to which Millennials have grown accustomed.

Image Credit: AP

The bottom line: When history buffs try explaining the problem with the military arm of our government today, they frequently quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, during which he warned against “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” While those words are as true now as they were 53 years ago, they don’t strike at the heart of what is so wrong with a government that is trillions of dollars in debt, and yet would rather snatch food stamps from single mothers than stop funding foreign interventions. To best encapsulate that, I close with a lesser-known Eisenhower quote, culled from his “Cross of Iron” speech:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.  It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is not the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Dear Obama: Stop Acting Like Dick Cheney — Sincerely, Liberals Everywhere

Published: mic (June 18, 2013), Live Interview with Huffington Post (June 19, 2013)

Our commander-in-chief had a lot to say during Monday night’s interview with Charlie Rose, but CNN aptly summed it up in four words:

“I’m no Dick Cheney.”

If I may, Mr. President, I’d like to respond to that claim with a question I bet all of your supporters (many of them now erstwhile supporters) are asking:

“Yes, but why the hell aren’t you Barack Obama?”

I’m not sure if he’d like to be reminded of this, but once upon a time, he was an inspiring figure. His supporters respected him for his willingness to articulate politically risky truths with a boldness usually reserved for rabid ideologues … and his detractors feared him for the very same reason. Although some of his critics today still insist that he’s a closet radical (a statement born far more out of conservative and/or libertarian hyperpartisanship than a rational assessment of his record), the reality is that the Obama who won 69.5 million votes in 2008 bore only the faintest resemblance to the one whining to the pundits yesterday.

Exhibit A: Barack Obama’s statement in 2005 about the PATRIOT Act:

“Giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate suspicious activity is one thing — and it’s the right thing — but doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.”

What a contrast that makes between the man who bravely spoke out against the PATRIOT Act’s J. Edgar Hooveresque activities and the one who now defends PRISM, a program that by all accounts makes the chicanery of the PATRIOT Act look like Harriet the Spy hijinks.

For Exhibit B, let’s look at these excerpts from a speech in 2006 on campaign finance and lobbyist reform:

“Americans may have grown accustomed to big money and special interests exerting too much influence in Washington, but even they have been shocked by what appears to be a systematic takeover of our democracy by high-priced lobbyists …

“The recent scandals have shaken the very foundation of the American people’s faith in a government that will look out for their interests and uphold their values.

“Because they don’t just lead to morally offensive conduct on the part of politicians. They lead to morally offensive legislation that hurts hardworking Americans.”

Most damning of all, however, is Exhibit C. While many liberals and independents had been impressed with Obama since his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, it was the message of his 2008 presidential campaign that truly brought them into his corner. Here is a passage from the speech in which he announced that he would be making a bid for the White House, delivered in front of the same Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once orated his legendary “House Divided” speech:

“For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault. We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

“And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.”

What, pray tell, has Obama done to effectively address these concerns? It isn’t enough to simply denounce his failures as being the result of a leftist ideology (a disingenuous approach at best, given how Obama has surrounded himself with Clintonian DLCers) or a sell-out (which is to state, if not the obvious, at least the unoriginal). What matters isn’t simply that Obama hasn’t succeeded so far; it is that he has shown no real motive to learn from his past mistakes.

What we need is a president who will stand up to the institutions over which he currently presides instead of make excuses for them. We need a president who will oppose drone strikes because they’re morally wrong, who will denounce the plutocrats and lobbyists who shape the economic agenda churned out by conservative and libertarian think tanks and legislative caucuses, who will stand up to the interest groups in his own party when they recklessly inflate our already staggering debt, who will call out the stupidity of global warming deniers and demand that we confront this ecological crisis before it’s too late.

We need a president who will remember his duty to protect and defend the Fourth Amendment, which will be the subject of my next editorial (in my opinion one of the most important I’ve ever written).

Instead we have this man who seems to believe that the best defense is a good excuse. Well, I’m sorry, Mr. President, but that isn’t going to cut it. If you want your critics to stop comparing you to Dick Cheney, here is a bold suggestion:

Stop acting like Dick Cheney.

Electoral College Map: Obama Will Win, See State By State Breakdown

Published: PolicyMic (November 6, 2012)

Jesse Merkel, my “opponent” in offering a prediction for the 2012 election, wrote this piece about me after the fact.

Editor’s Note: In this special Election Day feature, PolicyMic is spotlighting the election predictions of two of our most prominent pundits, conservative Jesse Merkel and liberal Matthew Rozsa. As a twist, we also got them to agree a little friendly bet: Whichever one comes closest to correctly gauging today’s results will have a tribute written about him by the loser. This means that if Barack Obama is the victor, Jesse will have to pen an encomium to Rozsa, while if Mitt Romney wins, Rozsa will have to compose an article singing Merkel’s praises. We did this not only to add a dash of spice to election night, but also to stress the importance of being able to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

Election 2012 Prediction: Before the first presidential debate, Barack Obama was on his way to being re-elected by a comfortable (if not landslide) margin in both the popular and electoral vote. As soon as Mitt Romney was declared the “winner” of that event, however, Republicans began declaring that their champion had turned the race around. While subsequent polls have confirmed this to be the case, they have also showed Romney heading for a defeat comparable to that suffered by Hubert Humphrey at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1968 (a historical analogy to which I will return later). Despite making the battle for the popular vote among the closest in history, Romney will ultimately be thwarted by his opponent’s insurmountable advantage in the Electoral College.

That advantage has been one of the marvels of the Obama campaign. Even during the nadir of the President’s re-election bid (i.e., the period following the October 3rd debate), he still maintained sound, if somewhat diminished, leads in many of this election’s key swing states. Had the political conditions that existed in the fortnight after the initial debate remained unaltered for the rest of the race, Obama would still have picked up Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. When added to the solidly pro-Obama states, these victories alone would have put 277 electoral votes in the President’s column, seven more than the 270 needed to win in the Electoral College.

For this, Obama can thank the underrated strength of his campaign’s ground operation, as well as the shrewdness with which they have tailored his political message based on regional issues (e.g., stressing Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout in states like Michigan and Ohio). That said, the natural vicissitudes of American politics have been just as important to his fortunes. For one thing, nearly five weeks have passed since Romney’s perceived triumph in the first debate, more than enough time for the political momentum he gained from that event to peter out on its own. Accelerating that process was the general impression that Obama had at the very least held his own in the second and third debates, which helped offset some of the damage from the first contest. Finally, approval of the President’s handling of Hurricane Sandy has given him a statistically significant bounce in the polls. As a result, the swing states of Colorado, New Hampshire, and Virginia, all of which were trending toward Romney in the days when the first debate remained freshest in the public’s memory, are now more likely to go to Obama. While Romney has held on to the post-October 3rd leads he developed in North Carolina and Florida, those acquisitions won’t be enough to tip things in his favor. Instead, the President has risen from the rock bottom figure of 277 electoral votes to a probable 303 electoral votes. This is where he stands now… and why I predict that Obama will defeat Romney by 303 to 235 in the Electoral College.

The popular vote has a very different story. Barring a few brief hiccups, Obama was consistently ahead of Romney prior to the first debate; after it, national polls have repeatedly flipped the popular vote back and forth between the two men. This is where the Humphrey campaign offers a useful historical parallel: Like Romney with Obama, Humphrey trailed behind Nixon through the bulk of the campaign until a single game-changing moment roughly five weeks before Election Day caused him to rapidly improve in the polls (due in Humphrey’s case to a widely-lauded speech on the Vietnam War). Had the election been held one week later, it is quite possible that Humphrey would have been among the handful of Also Rans to win the popular vote while losing the election itself (including Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, Grover Cleveland in 1888, and Al Gore in 2000). Instead, Humphrey fell behind Nixon in the popular vote by 0.7%, making the 1968 election one of six in which less than a single percentage point separated the two major candidates (the others being in 1880, 1884, 1888, 1960, 1968, and 2000). More importantly, he lost in the Electoral College by 302 to 191 (with 45 electoral votes going to segregationist third-party candidate George Wallace). Like Obama, Nixon had carefully built up a firewall of strength in the one place that, for better or worse, matters most.

My hunch is that Romney will also lose the popular vote by less than one percent, although for the sake of convenience, I’m rounding Obama to 50% and Romney to 49% (as well as giving 1% to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, with the rest being split among various third parties). This would leave Obama with the dubious distinction of having the closest popular margin of victory ever received by a re-elected president, a record currently held by none other than George W. Bush (who beat John Kerry in 2004 by 2.4%). Of course, it is also quite possible that Romney will do what Humphrey could not and actually win the popular vote, which would make Obama the only incumbent to win another term without a plurality of the votes cast. Either way, one can safely bet against the Republicans actually winning the White House this year. What journalist Theodore H. White wrote of Humphrey will be just as true of Romney:

“As if by defiance of all political gravity, [he] had converted the downsweep of early autumn into a soaring upward streak that was to miss the rung of the magic trapeze by finger-short margins.”

PS: I refer the conservatives who insist the state polls are systematically biased toward Obama to this excellent article by statistician Nate Silver. All of the conclusions reached here are based on my independent analysis of the polls compiled at www.realclearpolitics.com.