11/26/2009 - 9:15 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Success in any long-running campaign breeds complacency; first euphoria, then relief, later forgetfulness. Whether the campaign for universal suffrage or the crusade to curb childhood disease through immunizations, success leads to historical amnesia.
That's certainly true of the decades-long battle for reproductive rights, another chapter in women's never-ending struggle to achieve full personhood. Because the U.S. Supreme Court granted women the right to control their own reproduction in a 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade, 40-something Americans have no firsthand knowledge of back-alley abortions. It's likely they haven't even heard secondhand stories of women who died from infections caused by coat-hanger terminations.
That helps explain why advocates for reproductive rights weren't prepared for an all-out battle just to allow women to retain their health insurance coverage. It also helps explain why pro-choice Democrats found themselves outmaneuvered by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak...
11/19/2009 - 4:59 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Poor, put-upon Sarah Palin.
She's been misrepresented by the left-leaning media, repressed and mishandled by Team McCain, betrayed by an ungrateful almost-son-in-law and falsely accused by political opponents back home in Alaska.
It's a wonder the woman survives to, ah, make so much money on that book of hers, "Going Rogue," given all the forces arrayed against her. But the former Alaska governor is a formidable personality, with a strong faith in her own righteousness.
Her capacity for self-delusion is undimmed, despite her experiences on the campaign trail. In Monday's interview with Oprah Winfrey, the formal kickoff of Palin's book tour, she rejected any blame for the loss of the McCain-Palin ticket.
"I think the reason that we lost, the economy tanked under a Republican administration. People were sincerely looking for change. I think, unfortunately, our ticket represented what was perceived as status quo," she said.
And even when Palin admits mista...
11/12/2009 - 7:22 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
During last year's presidential campaign, it was Colin Powell who spoke most eloquently of the brave service of Muslim soldiers and sailors, not Barack Obama. Cowed by a widespread belief that he was Muslim, Obama was virtually silent on the subject, craven in the face of the demands of electoral politics.
Powell filled the void. Endorsing Obama on NBC's "Meet the Press" last October, he chastised his fellow Republicans for a right-wing heterodoxy (which has only grown more pronounced since then) and an exclusionary narrow-mindedness.
"I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that (Obama) is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America," Powell said.
As the interview ended, the former secretary of state evoked a photograph he had seen of a mother kneeling at the grave of her dead son.
"At the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star...
11/05/2009 - 9:10 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
It's the economy, stupid.
James Carville's old mantra rings as true now as it did when he tacked it to the wall of the Clinton war room in 1992. The results of last week's gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey can be largely explained by three words: jobs, jobs and jobs. Exit polls from both contests show that voters rated the economy as their top concern.
Health care reform is a vital issue, as is climate change. (Carville's sign also had a third bullet point: "Don't forget health care.") President Obama was right to press ahead with legislation to improve the dysfunctional health care system and to regulate carbon emissions.
But nothing is more central to the immediate anxieties of voters than the economy, which is still raining pink slips. Job-seekers outnumber job openings six to one, and the official unemployment rate hovers just under 10 percent. According to some economists, the government jobless rate minimizes actual unemployment, which may be ...
10/29/2009 - 3:58 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Wall Street's masters of the universe are a shameless bunch, their egos swelled with a sense of entitlement that would make the old railroad robber barons blush. Their predations are largely responsible for the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, but they don't get it.
They are in denial about the damage they've caused worldwide. That's why Kenneth Feinberg, the so-called pay czar, had no choice but to cut compensation for executives at seven companies that received government bailouts: The companies were prepared to reward abysmal performance with huge paychecks.
But pay cuts won't tame the excesses on Wall Street. If the White House doesn't insist on strict regulatory reform, the nation will see another banking crisis, perhaps worse than this one, within a decade, many experts say.
Last year's huge taxpayer-financed bailout of the banking industry remains extremely unpopular with Americans, who don't think they got anything out of it. It's likely, though, that...
10/22/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Even after years of a laissez-faire ideology that allowed businesses to pillage the economy, the idea of government intervention makes a lot of Americans nervous. In a recent Gallup Poll, a majority of respondents agreed with the statement that the government currently is "trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses."
That response is partly due to essential elements of the American character, which celebrates independence, self-reliance and the pioneering spirit. It reveals a healthy strain that encourages creativity and overcome-the-odds resilience.
But the distrust of government is also due to a less healthy phenomenon -- 30 years of government-bashing by conservative politicians and media personalities. Ronald Reagan's mantra -- government is the problem, not the answer -- has become an all-serving ideology in certain precincts on the right.
Happily, none of that has interfered with a logical and long-needed restoration of gov...
10/15/2009 - 9:15 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
It hasn't been that long ago -- about 16 1/2 years -- since Bill Clinton's relationship with the Pentagon was permanently warped by his effort to keep a campaign pledge to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. The outcry from the military and its supporters was such that you'd have thought Clinton had promised to make Hillary a four-star general.
Looking back on all that, it's nothing short of remarkable that the current issue of Joint Force Quarterly, a scholarly publication put out by the Pentagon, includes an essay that calls for ending the ban on allowing gays to serve openly. Written by Air Force Col. Om Prakash, the treatise, which analyzes the odious keep-them-in-the-closet compromise, won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition.
That doesn't mean every military officer supports his point of view. Indeed, inclusion of the essay in a Pentagon publication is hardly a stirring endorsement of gay soldiers ...
10/08/2009 - 11:00 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Given the outrage from certain precincts of the conservative establishment, you'd think President Obama had signed a peace treaty with Osama bin Laden. The armchair generals are apoplectic over the president's decision to have a series of serious and thoughtful discussions with his national security team about sending more troops to Afghanistan.
"Al-Qaida's propaganda machine is quickly seizing on this weakness," military affairs pundit Bill Roggio blogged at The Weekly Standard, the neocon house organ. Ultra-conservative pundit Michelle Malkin denounced Obama's "waffle" on Afghanistan. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor claimed that Obama's delay "puts in jeopardy, I believe, our men and women."
And what would a hasty and ill-conceived strategy do, Rep. Cantor? Wouldn't that be more likely to put our fighting men and women in jeopardy?
Doesn't Cantor remember "Mission Accomplished," President Bush's premature celebration of victory in Iraq? More than 4,300 U.S. troop...
10/01/2009 - 7:36 p.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Sometimes it's easier to get your head around a distant controversy if you personalize it. So engage in a little thought experiment with me: You have a daughter or niece or sister who was raped by a wealthy, powerful and glamorous 43-year-old man when she was just 13.
He says the sex was "consensual," but he had plied her with champagne and drugs before he took advantage of her. In any event, she was a child whom the law regards as too immature to "consent" to sexual intercourse. Would you want that man to be held to account for his crimes, although the episode occurred some three decades ago?
You'd want justice. Indeed, it shouldn't matter whether the child was someone you knew. Criminals should be forced to pay for their crimes, especially those as ugly and predatory as this.
So the arrest last week of Roman Polanski, who fled the United States in 1978, after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor, may lead, finally, to a satisfactory resolution of the case...
09/25/2009 - 8:25 a.m. CDT -- by Cynthia Tucker
Cheers for Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who spent months keeping his "Gang of Six" together, negotiating with Republican senators over health care reform, no matter how insincere, cowardly or irritating they were. Even when Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, caved in to the lie about "death panels," giving it credence in a town hall forum, Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, kept Grassley and the others at the table.
The result is a health care reform bill that is hardly perfect -- it needs several refinements -- but which can jump-start the debate over final legislation among Democrats in the House and Senate. And, after a long summer of circuses and freak shows, Democrats are the only members whose views ought to matter. Republicans have taken themselves out of negotiations, choosing to sell their souls to the unhinged fringe led by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
For all of Baucus' efforts to compromise with his GOP colleagues, not a single one of the ...