That press conference

Coverage of tonight’s Obama press conference, as with the health care reform issue in general, has been tediously focused on political tactics and horse trading. Media consumers are being schooled to feel that reform is a prospect to be feared, as it’s bound to be expensive and is likely to make things worse.

They allow that the U.S. health care system is flawed, but the scale and focus of that critique is almost solely on cost — especially costs to businesses — and the consequences for our “competitiveness.” Because this, you see, is how grown-ups talk about public affairs: in terms of profit, loss, growth prospects, and the global marketplace.

Mark Halperin’s post at the Time magazine blog The Page is a study in this kind of trivia and misdirection. It’s a list of “ways that Obama can make news at his Wednesday press conference” — because mature adults should know that the only thing that matters in politics is how an event feeds the news cycle and sets up the next event. Continue reading “That press conference”

Uprising in Iran

Elections in Iran on Friday returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second term as president. Supporters of challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a conservative reformer, have taken to the streets in protest. Violence has broken out, and people have been shot to death by police. Remarkably, the Islamic republic’s leading cleric, Ali Khamenei, has called for an investigation of the election results. So have other members of the Iranian ruling class.

Regardless of the outcome, the United States needs to stay out of this. Mousavi’s supporters and Iran experts are clear about this. Given the history of U.S. intervention in Iranian affairs since World War II, and the anti-Americanism that was a theme of the 1979 revolution, any effort by our government to promote the opposition is guaranteed to backfire and to help unify and expand Ahmadinejad’s support. This is why Mitt Romney’s remarks this weekend have been self-serving and irresponsible. Obama’s balancing act — expressing doubt about the election’s fairness without taking sides — is the right move for this moment in the chess game. Continue reading “Uprising in Iran”

Yet another Siegelman update

The “Free Don Siegelman” lobby has been active, but Obama’s Justice Department seems unimpressed. In April the dismissal of the Ted Stevens case raised hopes that Siegelman’s prosecution might also be found improper. And in May, a federal judge in Alabama sent a strongly worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Siegelman.

Siegelman fans are enthusiastic, but I remain unmoved. (In the past I disclosed my own bias here and criticized Siegelman’s case here.) Continue reading “Yet another Siegelman update”

Eagle vs. Bear: How to play

In the news: Russia scraps plan to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad It’s pretty simple. Under President Bush, America pushes a missile defense system in eastern Europe, claiming it’s meant to protect against so-called rogue nations like Iran. Russia replies that there is an existing radar array in Azerbaijan, built by the Russians, and located […]