Tag Archives: Barack Obama

How America feels to Trump supporters

Ezra Klein talks with anthropologist Arlie Hochschild, who visited Trump country in Louisiana, and talked with many of his supporters to learn how America looks to them.

They see themselves as patiently waiting in line for their due reward, only to find the line isn’t going anywhere. When they look ahead, they see immigrants and other special interest groups cutting ahead, and Barack Obama and the federal government waving the line-cutters in. Trump supporters feel like aliens in their own country.

Much of Trump’s support comes from divisions between social classes — something that Americans still pretend doesn’t exist here. Trump supporters are told they’re privileged because they’re white, but they don’t feel privileged. And they’re right, because they’re white but they’re lower class.

Not discussed much in this podcast: Trump’s supporters aren’t the white poor; they’re more affluent than their neighbors. That doesn’t necessarily contradict the narrative that Trump supporters come from the lower classes; economic class and social class aren’t the same thing (as anybody who watches Downton Abbey knows!).

This is a terrific podcast, with many thought-provoking points.

Arlie Hochschild on how America feels to Trump supporters – The Ezra Klein Show podcast:

I’ve been reading sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s writing for about a decade now. Her immersive projects have revolutionized how we understand labor, gender equity, and work-life balance. But her latest book, “Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” is something new: she spent five years among tea party supporters in Louisiana, trying to bridge the deepest divide in American politics. It was, she says, an effort to scale the “empathy wall,” to create an understanding of how politics feels to people whose experiences felt alien to her. In this conversation, we discuss:-How she approaches immersive sociology-The kinds of questions she asks people in order to get them to open up about their political feelings-What it takes to “turn off your alarm system” when you encounter oppositional ideas-What she describes as the “deep story” that explains how conservative Americans, particularly older white men, feel increasingly looked down on-Why she feels empathy on the part of people who disagree is an important part of creating dialogue-Whether empathy and respect are in tension with each other-Why many white men don’t feel they’re part of a privileged group-What she thought of Clinton’s comments that half of Trump’s supporters are a “basket of deplorables”And much more. This is a time when listening and empathy are in shorter supply than ever, at least in American politics. It’s well worth listening to Hochschild’s advice on how to bring both back.

Tommy Chong asks Obama to pardon him for his bullshit drug paraphernalia bust

When federal agents banged on his door and asked him if he had any drugs, he said, “Of course I do! I’m Tommy Chong!” Now he wants his criminal record to go up in smoke .

There’s a serious point to this. The war on drugs ruined the lives of millions of innocent people and is a stain on America’s claim to being a land that cherishes freedom. Chong’s life wasn’t ruined, but he can shed light on their problems.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I smoked a lot of pot in college, never suffered any legal harm from it, and walked away from it in 1985. Now that it’s virtually legal maybe I’ll give it another try sometime. Or maybe not; I gave it up because I realized I’d stopped enjoying it.

(Full disclosure: I also shared a joint at a wedding in 1993 or so. But nothing between 1985 and then, and nothing since. I’m not going to claim to be “clean and sober,” because that would be an insult to people who struggle with addiction. It’s just something I did for a while, and decided it wasn’t working for me so I stopped.)

However, there’s an alternate universe where I got busted for marijuana possession, spent time in jail or prison, and had to get by with a felon conviction on my record. As millions of people do — all for doing a thing that me and Barack Obama did with impunity.

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Trump rickrolls cable news into airing 25-minute infomercial for his campaign and hotels

Trump’s promised breakthrough statement about birtherism turned out to be 23 minutes of veterans praising Trump, endorsements for his hotels, and two minutes of Trump saying Obama was born in the United States.

Libby Nelson, Vox: “If Hillary Clinton is late to an event, cable networks don’t uncritically air 30 minutes of her supporters talking about how great she is; they cut away, and they return to airing the event when there’s something happening that’s actually of national interest.”

“This Election Is Testing The Republican Loyalties Of Military Voters”

I’m not sure about the headline on this story on FiveThirtyEight. The article shows military voters are still staunchly Republican, even though the one veteran quoted prominently is unenthusiastic about both Clinton and Trump.

That veteran opposes Obama because Obama has cut military spending drastically — which is one of the best things Obama has done. Sure, the military is the most important thing the government does, but we don’t need a Cold War sized military when the threats against us aren’t Cold War magnitude. Every dollar the government spends on military is a dollar not being spent on something else, and increases military domination over civilian society.

No, Rudy Giuliani Did Not “Forget 9/11.” He Messed Something Else Up, Though.

Jeremy Stahl, Slate:

Rudy Giuliani got a lot of grief on Monday for having supposedly forgotten about the Sept. 11 attacks that took place when he was mayor of New York City and formed a not insignificant portion of the basis for his national political career.

During a speech introducing Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee Mike Pence in Youngstown, Ohio, Giuliani said: “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when [Hillary] Clinton and Obama got into office.”

This led to some hyperventilating on Twitter from outlets saying that Giuliani was ignoring 9/11 (something Giuliani is normally not accused of doing).

This whole story has been a series of embarrassments. Several media outlets, including CNN, inaccurately reported that Giuliani said the US had never been attacked by Islamic fanatics before Obama, which would be an absurd thing to say. But Giuliani doesn’t seem to have said that.

What Giuliani seems to have actually said was that the US wasn’t successfully attacked in eight years prior to Obama taking office. Which is technically untrue — 9/11 was about eight months short of eight years.

But the real problem is that Giuliani is promulgating the bullshit Republican narrative, also promoted by Jeb Bush during the primary, that somehow 9/11 doesn’t count against Bush or the Republicans, while the attacks on American soil since 9/11 completely discredit Obama and the Democrats.

Trump cites Iraq withdrawal he passionately supported to say Obama “founded ISIS”

Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott, Buzzfeed:

Donald Trump has said repeatedly during the campaign that President Obama “founded ISIS,” a remark that has come under scrutiny in recent days.

“He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS,” Trump said at a Wednesday rally.

Trump has cited the conservative critique of President Obama’s Iraq policy — that the withdrawal of troops in 2011 led to a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to flourish — in making the claim.

“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” Trump said on CNBC on Thursday. “The way he removed our troops — you shouldn’t have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq. Totally against it.” (Trump was not against the war as he has repeatedly claimed.) “The way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, OK?” Trump later said.

But lost in Trump’s immediate comments is that, for years, he pushed passionately and forcefully for the same immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. In interview after interview in the later 2000s, Trump said American forces should be removed from Iraq.

“First, I’d get out of Iraq right now,” Trump said to British GQ in a 2008 interview. “And by the way, I am the greatest hawk who ever lived, a far greater hawk even than Bush. I am the most militant military human being who ever lived. I’d rebuild our military arsenal, and make sure we had the finest weapons in the world. Because countries such as Russia have no respect for us, they laugh at us. Look at what happened in Georgia, a place we were supposed to be protecting.”

The “greatest hawk [and] most militant military human being” got multiple draft deferments when it was his time to serve.


Kevin Liptak has more at CNN:

“If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement offers who are doing a great job, who are doing the right thing, that makes their lives harder,” Obama said, insisting that recognizing problems within law enforcement doesn’t equate to being anti-police.

“When people say ‘black lives matter,’ it doesn’t mean that blue lives don’t matter,” Obama said, referring to police officers. “But right now, the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. There is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens.”


Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

Fantastic article by Michael D. Shear in The New York Times about our night-owl President, who gets five hours of sleep and spends the dark hours mixing work and relaxation in the White House briefing room.

Great lede:

WASHINGTON — “Are you up?”

The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.

Great eye for detail:

To stay awake, the president does not turn to caffeine. He rarely drinks coffee or tea, and more often has a bottle of water next to him than a soda. His friends say his only snack at night is seven lightly salted almonds.

“Michelle and I would always joke: Not six. Not eight,” [former White House family personal chef Sam] Kass said. “Always seven almonds.”

Great quote, from chief speechwriter Cody Keenan: “There’s something about the night … It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

And this:

There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. Emanuel, [former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel,] who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions.

During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, “White.” Mr. Obama would in turn say, “Medium.”

Now Mr. Obama, who has six months left of solitary late nights in the Treaty Room, seems to be looking toward the end. Once he is out of the White House, he said in March at an Easter prayer breakfast in the State Dining Room, “I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.”


A problem that Obama must face down him-selfie

Obama embarrassed himself in 2013 when he attended a memorial ceremony for his longtime hero, Nelson Mandela, and took a grinning selfie with the Danish and British prime ministers. Later, the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz took a selfie with Obama, Samsung retweeted the photo with a plug for the Galaxy Note 3, and the White House objected.

The White House has also used selfies’ viral powers to promote policy, for example in a Buzzfeed feature last year to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare.

David Nakamura and Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post:

For decades, the traditional grip-and-grin photograph has been a standard part of most presidential meetings, and even today it has attributes that recommend it. Unlike the selfie, posed photos taken by the president’s official photographer are almost always in focus and sometimes include a presidential autograph.

“I always thought they were as important as the historical photographs I made,” said Eric Draper, President George W. Bush’s chief photographer. “There are thousands of them hanging in homes, offices and government buildings around the world.

On the other hand, selfies are more intimate and more appropriate for social media.

Now Obama seems to just find them annoying. People pester him for selfies when he goes out in public, when he’d really rather just shake hands and meet people. Or, if he’s working out in a hotel gym, he’d rather just be left alone.

At a fundraiser in Springfield, Ill., this year, he joked that he might not have run for the White House had smartphones and selfies been so prevalent in 2008.

“Folks just have their phones, they don’t want to shake my hand anymore,” Obama said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m here, live, in front of you!’ ”

First Father

Obama’s most unusual legacy? Being a good dad.

Haunted by memories of his own absentee father, Barack Obama was determined to be there for his girls, says Joshua Kendall, author of “First Dads: Parenting and Politics From George Washington to Barack Obama.”

Soon after being inaugurated, Obama established what New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor has called “an unusual rule for a president.” As he informed all his aides, he vowed to have dinner with his family five nights a week. That left just two nights a week for out-of-town fundraisers or dinners with fellow politicians.

At 6:30, Obama and his wife sit down with the girls for a family dinner without any outsiders — not even Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, who typically retreats to her own “home” on the third floor of the White House.

The evening meal, observed Obama’s former body-man Reggie Love, was treated “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner.” While aides sometimes call him back to work at 8:30 or 9, they rarely dare to go upstairs to bother him during the sacred dinner hour.”

[The Washington Post]


Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews on Vox:

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has become a strange event. It is, ostensibly, an evening when the president and the press can come together to share a few lighthearted laughs. But it’s evolved into a recital of brutal truths — albeit one neither side ever really admits happened.

The joke of President Obama’s performance on Saturday was that he wasn’t joking. Everyone just had to pretend he was. This was true from the beginning of his remarks, when he walked to the podium to Anna Kendrick’s cover of “Cups” (chorus: “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”).

“You can’t say it, but you know it is true,” he told the crowd, grinning. The implication was clear: my approval ratings are going up. Unemployment dipped below 5 percent this year. My financial reforms are working, and tens of millions of people have gotten coverage through Obamacare. And the Republicans are about to nominate Donald freakin Trump. You don’t know how lucky you had it with me.

There is some truth to the point of view Klein and Matthews are attributing to Obama. But let’s not make too much of it. Also under Obama, we’ve seen massive bailouts to big business, increasing wealth concentration at the expense of the middle class and poor, eroding Constitutional rights, heightened government secrecy, and continuation of America’s forever wars. The Obama White House ain’t Camelot.


Journalist Vanessa Golembewski noted that President Obama is the only person outside of HBO to have received an advanced copy of the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones” – a “screener,” in showbiz jargon. She filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy. Does her FoIA request have a shot?

Nope, says Kelly Hinchcliffe on Poynter.org, after talking with legal experts. The White House is exempt from FoIA, as are trade secrets, and spoilers for GoT are arguably trade secrets.

Maybe Obama can be convinced to write up recaps for io9?

Golembewski’s article, earlier: Only Obama Gets Game Of Thrones Screeners, So I Filed An FOIA Request For Them


President Obama is the only person outside of HBO who will see advance screenings of new episodes of “Game of Thrones.” So journalist Vanessa Golembewski filed a FOIA request for them. [Vanessa Golembewski – Refinery29]

I was surprised that this form also asked me how much I’d be willing to pay for this information. My editor said, “You can expense up to $10.” But then, I thought about how I already owe the government a shit ton of money in student loans. So, I wrote that I was willing to pay nothing, but that if they insist on charging me, they can effectively “put it on my tab.”

There was also a field that asked me if I’d like this request to be expedited. According to the guidelines, you should only select “yes” if it’s a timely, life-threatening matter. And while I am not in any physical danger myself, I thought about how Jon Snow’s life is very much in question and decided that was close enough.

Golembewski notes that Obama is now in the “IDGAF years” of his administration and therefore might be “delighted to help a girl out.”


Obama defends Clinton’s email practices, but has a different standard when prosecuting whistleblowers. [David E. Sanger and Mark Landler – The New York Times]

WASHINGTON — When President Obama defended Hillary Clinton’s email practices in a television interview over the weekend by saying, “there’s classified, and then there’s classified,” he was only repeating what critics of government secrecy have long contended: that most of what is classified is merely sensitive, a little embarrassing or perhaps a policy debate still in progress.

But these are distinctions the Obama administration has not necessarily made in its treatment of classified information when dealing with news organizations, whistle-blowers or government officials accused of leaking information.

The White House has overseen some nine leak prosecutions, compared with just three under all previous presidents, drawing sharp criticism from news media advocates. The administration denounced the huge trove of confidential State Department cables released by WikiLeaks as damaging to American diplomacy, and it created task forces to counter Edward J. Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency – some of which involved genuine secrets, and some of which did not.

In a case involving Thomas A. Drake, a former official of the National Security Agency accused of wrongly providing information about the agency’s practices to a newspaper, the judge blasted prosecutors for putting Mr. Drake through “four years of hell.” He was sentenced to community service.

One standard for Obama’s crony, another for everybody else.


Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing

If the Senate refuses to consider President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Obama has the Constitutional authority to declare that the Senate has failed to exercise its right and declare the appointment done, says Gregory L. Diskant, senior partner at the law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and a member of the national governing board of Common Cause, writing at the Washington Post.

The Senate would most likely sue.

It would break the logjam in our system to have this dispute decided by the Supreme Court (presumably with Garland recusing himself). We could restore a sensible system of government if it were accepted that the Senate has an obligation to act on nominations in a reasonable period of time. The threat that the president could proceed with an appointment if the Senate failed to do so would force the Senate to do its job — providing its advice and consent on a timely basis so that our government can function.

I love this idea just in anticipation of hearing the Republicans scream.


“TSA Randomizer” is an Ipad app that tells TSA official swhich search-lane to send fliers down, randomly directing some of them to secondary screening.

Or they could have flipped a coin. Even a dollar coin would have cost only, um, $1 per user.

The Obama administration – “most transparent in history” – tried to block access to this information.

The TSA spent $1.4M on an app to tell it who gets a random search [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]