Today is the 90th birthday of former President Jimmy Carter.
Eight years ago, the Democratic presidential candidates had the luxury of running against George W. Bush. Their main foreign-policy message was that they were different from the incumbent: They were against the war in Iraq; against the way Bush was conducting the war on terrorism; against his unilateral approach to world affairs.
Should we worry about mission creep? Only one week after President Obama said that he would not send combat troops to fight ISIS, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate that U.S. forces could "accompany Iraqi forces in attacks" if the situation deteriorated. As President Obama prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly this Wednesday, Americans are naturally wondering where this will all end.
The "do-nothing" Congress is the most misleading expression in politics.
After weeks of vague pronouncements on world events, President Obama finally spoke forcefully Wednesday. He delivered a strong statement about the horrendous beheadings of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley and spoke about what the U.S. planned to do with ISIS, the terror group which calls itself the Islamic State.
Labor Day used to be a big deal for the Democratic Party. For much of the 20th century, organized labor was at the heart of Democratic politics. Unions were a driving force that gave the party its heart and its muscle.
The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Mitt Romney's former political advisers are adamantly denying rumors that their boss might run for the presidency in 2016. "I take Mitt at his absolute word," said Ron Kaufman. "He's not running."
Hillary Clinton got herself into a frenzy of controversy as a result of an interview with The Atlantic in which she took some shots at President Obama's foreign policy.
A few decades ago, marijuana was a topic that relatively few people, mostly counterculture musicians and comedians, spoke about in public. The comedy team of Cheech and Chong made films such as "Up in Smoke" that extolled the pleasures of smoking pot at a time the subject was still taboo.
Republicans and Democrats have entered into an impeachment frenzy over the past few weeks.
According to the conventional wisdom, lame duck presidents can't do very much. The popular image is that they are killing time, maybe grabbing a beer with the locals, until the new guy or gal comes to town.
On his HBO talk show, "Last Week Tonight," comedian John Oliver aired a blistering segment about President Obama and the issue of income inequality. Oliver reminded viewers that "last December, the president made it clear that income inequality" would be a "big priority," since in a speech he called it the "defining challenge of our time."
Most Americans don't think that midterm elections really matter. The majority of voters come out only for presidential elections. Midterms are left to the most activist parts of the population, the people who like to follow politics in off hours and who care as deeply about who wins elected office as they do about sports teams or celebrities.
Former Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker passed away recently. Although he was known for many things, Baker's most enduring moment came in the middle of the Watergate scandal, when he asked: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
After months of being beat up by the media about his "Bridgegate" scandal in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie is still standing. And there is even some evidence that he might finally be regaining ground.
Presidential libraries always seem to be the center of controversy and debate. Right now a number of cities are competing to host President Barack Obama's library once he leaves office. There will certainly be a flood of stories about the vast fund-raising that will take place to secure money for the building since, according to the laws governing these libraries, the buildings are privately funded.
President Obama is about to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq in an attempt to stabilize a situation that is rapidly disintegrating. Obama had hoped that the end of the Iraq war would be a key accomplishment of his administration. But just as he thought it was safe to get out, the President is finding himself drawn back, as violence has been spreading throughout Iraq.
Hillary Clinton's book rollout hit some speed bumps last week. She took some partisan heat for a comment that she recently made to ABC's Diane Sawyer. Clinton explained that she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House because of the legal fees they faced. Her critics instantly jumped on the statement, pointing to these words as evidence that she was out of touch with average Americans.
Critics of President Barack Obama's foreign policy are getting louder by the day, and that poses risks for Democrats this fall and even in 2016.
Twenty years ago, Newt Gingrich and the GOP rode to power on Capitol Hill with a slick "policy manifesto" called the "Contract With America." Today, some Republican lawmakers are calling for another such "contract" with the hope that they can stimulate greater interest in Republican ideas and policies.
Hillary Clinton had a good week.
Last week, a member of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, actually defended the way that Congress does its business. Give him credit for originality.
There is mounting evidence that the electoral threat from the tea party is fading. In the power struggle between the tea party faction of the GOP and the "establishment," the establishment is winning.
The White House received bad news and good news last week. New polling data indicated that President Barack Obama might be more unpopular than ever before. According to a survey by The Washington Post and ABC News, the President's approval rating has fallen to 41%, down from an already meager 46% earlier in 2014.
American democracy faces a very real threat. The power of money is overwhelming the power of average voters to influence government decisions. While this is an old lament in politics, social scientists are now finding very concrete proof about the damage being done.
A lot of people don't pay close attention to midterm elections. They are not as exciting as the presidential campaigns, and most Americans are just not interested in the ups and downs of individual members of Congress.
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned meth dealer in the fictional TV series "Breaking Bad," would seem to have little in common with the real-life President Lyndon B. Johnson, who played a celebrated part in the passage of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago.
President Obama attracted a lot of attention when he went on "Between Two Ferns," going mano-a-mano with comedian Zach Galifianakis. The President handled Galifianakis' barbs well, throwing some back at the comedian (ridiculing his film "Hangover 3," for example) and successfully stoking interest in his health care program, based on the uptick in traffic that followed.
A fight has broken out between two of the most prominent members of the Republican Party: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
President Barack Obama doesn't have much to look forward to in November.
Vice President Joe Biden made some waves last week when he announced that he was still thinking about running for the presidency in 2016.
Many Americans, including President Obama, have become fans of the Netflix series "House of Cards."
With talk about the 2016 election heating up, most of the national media has turned the focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joseph Biden.
Washington needs to be reformed. With polls consistently showing that Americans distrust their government and an abundance of evidence that our political system is not working well (some polls have shown that legislators are less trusted than car salesmen), the urgency of improving the rules and procedures through which our politicians govern is essential.
President Barack Obama has made it clear to Congress that if they will not work with him he will work around them.
After a very long week, there has been a little light at the end of the bridge for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Some polls recently suggested that the scandal surrounding the three lanes to the George Washington Bridge might not have as much traction with the public as it does with reporters.
The midterm elections are around the corner. The big question will obviously be what happens to control of the House and Senate. But control of Congress is only one part of the equation. There are a series of issues that will shape the individual races that will tell us a lot about which way American politics is heading.
The year ended with the familiar laments about partisan gridlock in Washington, and 2014 began with more of the same. The list of failures that can be attributed to the parties constantly bickering is long. Congress has been unable to address the big problems of the day, such as immigration or climate change, and party polarization has caused ongoing distress in economic markets.
As millions of Americans think about how they can do better in 2014 through their New Year resolutions, President Obama might want to make a few of his own.
President Barack Obama has had a tough year. Although he began in January well aware of the immense problems that second-term presidents have historically confronted, it still doesn't seem that he was fully prepared for what was to come.
As President Barack Obama made his impassioned speech at Nelson Mandela's funeral at a soccer stadium in Soweto, the poverty-stricken Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle, he was standing at the procession of one of the people who had the greatest impact on his life. Mandela shaped his career.
As you celebrate the holiday season, make time to see Alexander Payne's brilliant new film, "Nebraska." The movie is a riveting story, filmed in black and white, about an elderly man named Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern) who takes a road trip with his youngest son, David (played by Will Forte).
What will President Obama's historical legacy look like decades from now? As the media sort through the debates over the Affordable Care Act and the budget, or the implications of the recent deal with Iran, many Americans are starting to think about how we will remember this president.
On the surface, Montana Senator Max Baucus's proposal to reform the corporate tax code seems politically insane. The powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has proposed tightening up the tax treatment of corporate profits overseas. The Senator, along with legislators in both parties, wants to use this proposal as the basis for broader loophole-closing reforms that also tackle the individual tax code.
Former President George W. Bush briefly jumped back into the national conversation Tuesday night with his interview on "The Tonight Show." Bush told host Jay Leno that "I don't miss the spotlight" and that he was thoroughly enjoying his post-presidential life. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton is in the news as he receives a Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Over the past week, speculation emerged that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might not be the only prominent Democrat running for the nomination for president in 2016. Her "inevitable" path to the nomination is once again being questioned.
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been filled with problems and controversy. Facing entrenched opposition from a Republican Party that has been determined to subvert the program from the moment it passed, President Barack Obama has frustrated supporters by continuing to offer the GOP plenty of ammunition for their attacks.
As the story about the National Security Agency surveillance continued to unfold last week, some of President Obama's supporters, as well as some of his Republican critics, were quick to jump to his defense.
The scandal over allegations about NSA surveillance overseas, including monitoring of the cell phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and millions of phone calls in France, is another huge blow to President Barack Obama.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made headlines when he backed away from his opposition to same-sex marriage in New Jersey. Although he had initially indicated that he would challenge the recent court decision, Christie reversed course and announced that he would follow the law of his state.
With no time left on the clock, members of Congress finally reached a deal that would reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.
Liberals need to stop complaining about the right.
It is rare when politicians decide to make government reform the centerpiece of their campaigns. Although Americans always complain about government, polls show that most voters care most about "bread and butter" issues when they make decisions about who their leaders should be.
The budget battles continue to rage. Every time the Congress and the president reach another resolution over taxes and spending -- the new fiscal cliff -- another round of fighting begins.
1980s nostalgia is about to intensify. This week, ABC television will premiere its new show "The Goldbergs," a sitcom about a suburban middle-class family in the 1980s that loves to yell and scream. The pilot promises to bring back memories of colorful leg warmers, REO Speedwagon, Sam Goody stores, and Simon electronic game units.
Now that there is a respite in the debate in Congress over Syria, the budget wars are resuming. Regardless of how tired the public has become of watching the parties wrangle over spending levels, congressional Republicans have made it clear that they intend to keep the pressure on the president.
President Barack Obama will speak to the nation Tuesday, trying to build public support for a military strike against Syria.
Fifty years ago this week, the civil rights movement rocked the nation's capital. Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins and the other major civil rights leaders led thousands of activists in a march on Washington. Their goal was to build pressure on Congress to move forward with the civil rights bill that President Kennedy had proposed.
Hillary Clinton has started to re-enter the public spotlight, very possibly beginning a new stage of her career that may lead to the presidential election of 2016.
If he decides to run for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will need to push back against the inevitable pressure that he will encounter to move to the right.
August is going to be a crucial month for President Barack Obama.
President Richard Nixon continues to loom large over America's political imagination.
Last week, House Republicans voted to delay the implementation of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, trying to take advantage of President Obama's announcement that the employer mandate will be delayed for a year. The vote is purely symbolic as there is no chance that the Senate will pass the bill.
It's time to stop using the phrase "dysfunctional Congress" in our political lexicon.
During the weeks of debates triggered by Edward Snowden and his release of information about a classified National Security Agency spying program, the story has moved further and further from the actual surveillance and centered instead on the international cat-and-mouse game to find him.
Everyone talks about our broken political system. Washington is too polarized. Money dominates politics. Politicians don't know how to lead. Citizens are not as attentive to governance and public policy as they should be. Americans either ignore politics or see it is one more form of entertainment, "American Idol" on steroids.
Former President George W. Bush is enjoying another bounce in the post-presidential polls. First, the opening of his presidential library produced a spate of positive coverage about his time in office. Now, Gallup has released a survey showing that for the first time since 2005, more people approve than disapprove of Bush.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a number of historic decisions in the coming weeks about how the government deals with race issues.
The midterm campaigns will soon be under way. President Barack Obama has a few more months in the hot days of summer to get legislation through Congress, but representatives and senators will soon be focused on their campaigns with little thought for anything else.
Something good can come of the bad news about taxes. Last week there were more revelations about who knew what, and what actually occurred, when the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status. Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told Congress he was "dismayed" about what had happened.
On "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart captured the frustration that many of President Obama's supporters have felt over the past week as one scandal after another cascaded into the White House.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made headlines last week when one of his aides admitted that he had surgery to lose weight. Christie said that the surgery had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with his health and his family. Christie said: "It's not a career issue for me. It is a long-term health issue for me and that's the basis on which I made this decision. It's not about anything other than that."
The Republicans have an authenticity problem. After many decades of enjoying huge political power, elected officials are struggling to energize voters about the party's brand name. Even the troubles faced by President Barack Obama don't seem to help.
President Barack Obama is having a tough time.
On Thursday, President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are due to attend the grand opening of President George W. Bush's presidential library and archive in Dallas, Texas.
Several sitting governors might be contenders in the 2016 presidential election. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have given indications they are thinking of running, although they haven't announced candidacies at this very early stage of the contest.
Hillary Clinton could be an excellent presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2016. After suffering through an extremely difficult loss in the primaries against Barack Obama, Clinton has managed to strengthen her resume.
The changes that we are seeing in public attitudes about homosexuality are just the tip of the political iceberg. As Bob Dylan once sang, performing to the Baby Boom generation when it was challenging the prevailing political orthodoxies, "something is happening here. But you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?"
The stars seem to be aligning for immigration reform.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stepped right into the political thicket with his contradictory comments on immigration last week.
The politics of health care is changing fast. President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act was vulnerable during his first term when Republicans demanded repeal of the law. Even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, there were still many voices who objected to it.
Until now "sequestration" has been a word that only means something to people living inside the Beltway or to political junkies who depend on their daily dose of Politico and The Hill. But if Congress and the president do not reach a deal by March 1, which appears likely, Americans will quickly learn what it means -- namely deep spending cuts.
Thousands marched in Washington this weekend to call for action to counter climate change.
President Obama is set to deliver the first State of the Union Address of his new term. On Tuesday evening, he will step before a joint session of Congress and a nation in difficult times.
A massive political fight over defense spending is about to take place.
Following their retreat in Virginia, House Republicans voted for an unusual budget plan, which the White House has given some indications it would accept. The GOP decided to temporarily extend the debt ceiling, the federal law that authorizes the government to borrow the money it needs to pay for its expenditures for three months.
As President Obama's second-term Cabinet starts to take shape, we can see some of the outlines of what the White House hopes to do in the next four years.
Some Republicans are itching for a fight on President Barack Obama's nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.
Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush is smiling.
In 2013, the Republican Party faces a big test. Members begin the new year in disarray, with their public approval ratings plummeting while Democrats still control the White House and Senate. The year is coming to a close with an embarrassing display of legislative ineptitude as House Republicans divided over a solution to the fiscal cliff.
2012 has been a tumultuous year in American politics. With the presidential election capping off the year, Americans have witnessed a series of bitter domestic battles and turbulent events overseas. As the year closes out, it is worth thinking about some of the most important lessons that politicians and voters can learn from this year as they prepare for 2013.
Back in 2010, the conservative columnist and CNN contributor David Frum was worried about what he saw in his own party. Frum, who had worked as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, feared that Republicans would be tempted by tea party Republicans to shift far to the right to achieve short-term electoral gains that would cost the party in the long run.
Avoiding the fiscal cliff can be a moment of truth for Congress as an institution. The ability of Congress to reach a deal on its own, rather than relying on tax hikes and spending cuts by default, would be a powerful push back against the loud chorus of critics who for almost a decade have been decrying dysfunction on Capitol Hill.
Most officials in Washington are dreading the consequences of falling off the fiscal cliff.
Republicans have been engaged in a lot of soul searching since the election. There are many reasons that they were not happy about the outcome of the election, but most frightening of all for the party was the fact that demographic changes and public opinion on social issues like gay marriage and abortion seem opposed to the party's stances. "I went to bed last night thinking we've lost the country," said radio host Rush Limbaugh.
The critics are raving about Steven Spielberg's new film "Lincoln." A.O. Scott of the New York Times called it "among the finest films ever made about American politics." Viewers get a taste of the legislative process up close by watching how President Abraham Lincoln rounded up the necessary votes in get the 13th Amendment resolution through the House. Viewers see a master at work -- a president who knew how to break through the various divisions in Congress and outflank his opponents.