It is a startling yet oft-forgotten fact that had the favourite for the Democratic Party presidential nomination succeeded in 2008, the highest office in the world’s premier democracy would have been shared exclusively between two families for an unbroken 28 years.
That is, had Hillary Clinton beaten Barack Obama in the 2008 primary race (as expected), she would in all likelihood, have replaced the 43rd president George W. Bush, who, after two unhappy terms had succeeded her husband and 42nd president, Bill Clinton.
Forty-two did two successful if tumultuous terms having replaced 41, George H W Bush after one ultimately unpopular term.
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As if politics wasn’t a difficult and dirty enough business; politicians also have to take into account the unwholesome fact that nutters vote, too.
There’s a lesson for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in how failed US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney stretched himself a bit too far. He wanted to pitch to the far right but couldn’t quite span the octave. His finger slipped off the middle bit and he lost votes there instead.
Conservatives need the votes of older, white men - but by hooking up with sexist, racist, homophobic nutters (who often appeal to some of those conservative white men) they risk losing other, equally important votes.
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This morning Treasurer Wayne Swan took a big swipe at Romney’s party, saying it was full of “cranks and crazies”. He was having a go at the Tea Party, who he thinks would be responsible for the US economy going off a “fiscal cliff”.
The Republican Party does have its fair share of cranks and crazies.
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The Democratic National Convention in North Carolina this month could teach Labor what a progressive political party actually looks like.
On key progressive causes – such as rights for same-sex couples, skewing taxes towards those that can afford it, and fair treatment of refugees – Labor doesn’t have a proud track record.
Hell, they don’t even have a consistent one.
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Barack Obama rode upon a wave of euphoria to become President of the United States four years ago. After nearly a decade of war and the onset of a financial crisis, most Americans desperately wanted to believe in Obama’s message of “hope and change”.
But the giddy sentiments of 2008 have slowly wilted into bitter disappointment. America is still struggling to recover from the deep recession that Obama inherited, and Washington is still paralysed by the intractable partisanship that he promised to sweep away.
According to the standards that he himself set upon assuming office, Barack Obama has failed. His record contains little to recommend him for re-election. Even worse, the President seems to lack any substantive agenda for a second term.
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There is something profoundly disturbing about the furore surrounding US politician Todd Akin – but it’s not what he is being hammered for by other politicians and commentators.
Akin, an 11-year veteran of the US Congress and committed anti-abortion campaigner said in a live TV interview last weekend that he believed women were unlikely to become pregnant after suffering legitimate rape.
The resulting shock and fury has continued unabated with everyone from the President down belting Akin. President Obama’s comments epitomised the popular angle of attack – that it was unacceptable for rape to be parsed into categories of legitimate and illegitimate.
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US President Barack Obama has come out in support of gay marriage in a TV interview. The news followed growing accusations that he believed in same-sex marriage but wasn’t expressing that for political reasons. It is, after all, an election year, and the President has been under pressure to toe the line with conservative electorates that could get him over the line in November.
It’s a ballsy move from the President. Who knows how Obama’s decision will play with US voters, who latest opinion polls show are marginally in favour of same-sex marriage (at best).
But whatever your view on the issue, at least Obama is standing behind his convictions, however long it took for him to get to the point of expressing them. Up until this point, the President was increasingly being accused of, well, “Gillard-ing” the issue. That is, many people believed he supported same-sex marriage and many people also believed he and his political team just thought the political waters were too fraught for him to say it.
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When talk show host Stephen Colbert announced his quasi-bid for the US presidency, he presented American voters with an embarrassing democratic dilemma: How were they going to tell the mock candidates from the real ones?
Lovers of fine farce will be familiar with Colbert’s work. His hallucinatory satire is so formidable it can be seen from space (where a NASA astronautical treadmill was recently named COLBERT in his honour).
On the off chance you aren’t a religious tuner innerer to the Comedy Channel at 7pm on weeknights, Colbert is the anchor for The Colbert Report. He’s a maniacal, semi-fictitious character who displays breathtaking audacity when it comes to speaking truthiness to power.
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As is the rite of passage for all conservative politicians, Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich has found himself embroiled in a sex scandal. Wife number two claims Newt asked for an “open marriage”. She, shockingly enough, now considers him too much of a jerk for office.
In even more yawn-worthy news, fellow hopeful, Rick Santorum, has pounced on naughty Newt and determined that those extramarital hijinks raise questions about moral character. Moral character.
You know, the most fundamental of leadership qualities. Because, you might be the smartest, the wisest, the most hard-working of all politicians, but one sexual snafu and it can all end in a finger-snap.
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Barack Obama was always going to have a tough presidency. He set the bar so high for himself during the arduous two year lead-up to his election that he was always at risk of sailing right under it when it came time to start enacting the “Change we can believe in”.
Indeed, back in 2008 there were times when it seemed his strategists took their cues from Napoleon Dynamite’s Pedro, as he essentially promised the electorate: “vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true”.
In the nearly three years since he took office, he has made some important steps – passing a (slightly watered-down) health care package, most notably – but so many of his promises have gone unfulfilled and, although it pains me deeply to say it, his presidency thus far has been a bit of a wet firecracker.
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On Wednesday, Iowa voters were the first in the union to ink their index finger, so to speak, handing Mitt Romney a win with one of the barest margins in recent history - just eight votes - but for all intents giving Rick Santorum the decisive moral victory.
Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry rounded out the top five. A mediocre cache of candidates in 2012 for sure, but in a lot of ways that makes it all the more frightening, mainly (but not exclusively) for gays in America.
Some 60,000 people caucused for Romney and Santorum; the difference between the two was less than half a Duggar family. That’s the family famous for 19 Kids and Counting, the reality series about evangelical Christians Jim Bob (yes, really) and Michelle Duggar and their brood of nineteen children (yes, really really). Twelve Duggar children travelled to Iowa to support Rick Santorum, trumpeting his socially conservative religious views.
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When the Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale took over the running of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he didn’t realise that most of his Indonesian Christian congregation was living illegally in the United States.
Now, after almost a decade of battles, a deadline is pressing hard on 73 members of his church, who are being told to go back to Indonesia.
This may seem like an old story; and one that is happening far from Australia. And it is, on both counts. But these Indonesians, living in fear in New Jersey, still somehow seem to me like Australia’s neighbours.
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Just when you thought the race for the Republican Party nomination for US president could not become more bizarre, Texas governor Rick Perry, 61, throws his hat in the ring.
As they say in Texas, Perry is “all hat and no cattle”. Politically he represents the frontier-style brand of bare-knuckle American conservatism that often surprises and puzzles overseas observers.
One respected Texas political analyst described Perry as “yet another small-minded, right wing, Texas governor” who on August 13 portrayed himself as THE Christian presidential candidate at a ‘Prayer-A-Palooza’ campaign launch at a Houston football stadium.
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“This is enough to choke a horse,” confided Bill Clinton - “this” being climate change, “one of the two or three biggest challenges in the world”. Clinton was speaking in April in a joint interview with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Together, the “big dawg” former president and the diminutive, billionaire mayor have formed what amounts to an informal, two-man committee to save the world.
It’s not a new concept. The original ‘committee to save the world’ was conjured up in 1999 by the journalist Joshua Cooper Ramo, who appointed the then-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, US Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and the man who would succeed him, Larry Summers.
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The US is fighting three wars – give or take Libya. Unemployment just ticked up to 9.1 per cent. In coming weeks, the nation faces a critical decision to raise the $14 trillion debt ceiling. So why is America’s political class still squawking over Sarah Palin?
Last week, the former Alaska governor threw the 2012 Republican primary race into chaos - not by announcing her candidacy, but simply renting a bus and hoiking it on vacation. She rode in a bikie parade. She made a cameo at the National Archives.
Like the garden gnome in Amelie, her cherubic face popped up in a reel of happy snaps from Gettysburg to the Liberty Bell to New York’s Ellis Island.
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They say there’s no such thing as a silly question - but sometimes it can be silly to answer one.
US President Barack Obama has finally put to rest to the allegations he wasn’t born in the United States (and would therefore be ineligible to be president) by releasing his long form birth certificate.
The conspiracy theories of the “birthers” have been dogging the political campaign for what seems like forever. Led by tycoon-turned-candidate Donald Trump they had finally reached a level where the president felt he had to respond.
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Julia Gillard has teared up while heaping praise on America as the beacon of hope for humanity and the nation that can do anything it sets its mind on. You can watch the full speech here.
Only the fourth Australian PM to deliver a speech to a joint sitting of the US Congress, Ms Gillard charmed her audience which was bolstered with numerous school children and Congressional aides, drawing 16 sustained rounds of applause in all - two of which lasted into minutes, and six of which were standing ovations.
The delighted response came as the Australian leader repeatedly told US lawmakers that Australia stood with them, through thick and thin, war and peace, boom-time and recession.
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It took just hours for the media to finger the villain responsible for the shooting of US Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
It was Sarah Palin what done it, officer. And other Right-wingers just like that witch.
Such is the deranged hatred that so many on the Left feel for the former Republican vice-presidential candidate.
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Think we’ve got a new paradigm? Get this: two comedians are positioning themselves as the voices of reason in American politics.
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and his Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert have just announced they will hold rallies at the end of October in Washington D.C. calling for a return to common sense in debate in the US.
This is in response to last month’s rally led by conservative commentator Glenn Beck calling for a restoration of “traditional values” to American life. That rally, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, was well-attended by members of the Tea Party movement, a loose anti-taxation, anti-establishment grassroots movement which has just managed to get some of its members installed as Republican candidates for the US Senate.
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We are all familiar with the television debates between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that occur in the lead up to a Federal election - but are Australians ready for online election debates?
Last month, NSW held what was billed as the first election debate on Twitter between NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell with mixed results including descriptions of it being chaotic, and confusing.
The increasing “US Presidential” style elections in Australia, with the focus almost entirely on the personality of the leader, suggests that other important developments in the US will be taking place here.
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From the country that gave us cigars in the White House pantry and the governor who went for a walk only to wind up in Buenos Aires doing the horizontal tango comes the latest proof that nobody does a jaw-dropping political scandal like Americans.
What began as a rumble about naked lobbying in the gym showers by Barack Obama’s chief of staff has turned into the cringe-inducing political wilting of US congressman Eric Massa, amid allegations of grown men in tickle fights, allegations of same-sex harassment and the spectre – raised by Massa himself – that there might be some unfortunate text messages on congressional staff phones.
After claiming just days ago he was pressured into resigning from Congress by Democrats, Massa, who is married with children, went on a highly-anticipated TV interview only to backtrack on his key allegations and then admit to all-in, all-guy tickle fights with staff.
Next month the American Presidency comes to Australia.
For all that is written about the American Presidency one of the aspects which is most intriguing is that its history can be condensed into the lives of four people: three who are known, one to be identified. Each person knew the next in line and together they may have known all 44 Presidents from Washington to Obama.
John Quincy Adams, the eldest son of America’s second President – John Adams, led a truly remarkable life.
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No doubt there will be swooning all round when President Barack Obama descends upon Australia next month for his first official visit “Down Under” since coming to office just over a year ago.
While the precise details of his itinerary are understandably a closely guarded secret there can be no such mystery as to what the reaction of much of the local media will be.
Breathless comparisons with the charismatic US leader and his young family to the photogenic heyday of Camelot are sure to be exceeded only by gushing commentary of his wife, Michelle Obama. And given our sunny climes are more accommodating of sleeveless gowns than chilly Washington DC, fashion observers might just be rewarded with a glimpse of the First Lady baring those famed biceps.
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The US Democratic Party is bewildered and spooked. One year after Barack Obama’s inauguration, a political asteroid struck yesterday, imperilling the road ahead for the President’s agenda, including his cherished healthcare reforms.
That Obama’s party could lose a Senate race in the liberal-left bastion of Massachusetts is proof that political hell has officially frozen over.
Republicans last held the seat in 1972. But to lose in a special election triggered by the death of Ted Kennedy?
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You’ve just been elected to a powerful office in a stunning political upset. You’re making your acceptance speech with your proud family by your side. What do you say? Would, say, “My young daughters are available” be on your cue cards?
That’s what US Senator-elect Scott Brown, the Republican who has won the seat previously held by Democratic icon Ted Kennedy, managed to blurt out on TV when the eyes of the nation were watching. And he’s been given a welcome-to-the-jungle roasting by conservative pin-up commentator Glenn Beck, who says he wants to see Brown in a chastity belt. (Skip to the 1-minute mark in the video for the goods.)
“I want a chastity belt on this man,” Beck said, jocularly, on his radio show. “I want his every move watched in Washington. I don’t trust this guy. This one could end with a dead intern.”
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UPDATE 2pm: It’s an epic upset and a disaster for Barack Obama and the Democrats: Republican candidate Scott Brown has won the Massachusetts Senate seat previously held by Ted Kennedy.
Jon Stewart on The Daily Show provides his customarily hilarious but incisive overview on an astonishing upset looming in the US: that the Democrats are in danger of losing the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy. This would change the arithmetic in the Senate and possibly derail Barack Obama’s healthcare reform. Some links to more reading below; enjoy the clip.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Must-watch video of the day. A passionate crowd of supporters gathered at Sarah Palin’s book signing at Borders bookstore in Columbus Ohio over the weekend. Intrepid reporters New Left Media took a video camera down to meet some of the people who consider her (among other things) “the rock star of the conservative party”.
In an effort to regain the momentum on health care reform, President Barack Obama gave a very good speech to the Congress yesterday.
I liked three aspects of it in particular. First, it had passion. Obama made the moral case for universal health care that liberals have been waiting for. He quoted a letter from the late Senator Ted Kennedy that asserted that health care goes to ‘the character of our country’. The president’s remarks contained good lines and moving stories, including that of the Illinois man who lost his health insurance coverage during chemotherapy because he hadn’t reported gallstones that he hadn’t known about. It is remarkable that the most powerful country in the world is also the only advanced democracy to leave so many citizens uninsured.
Second, the speech showed strength. My principal criticism of Obama’s presidency so far has been his unwillingness to wade into debates, whether domestic or international, and use leverage and pressure to enforce his will.
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In a telling post today one of America’s foremost conservative commentators, Michelle Malkin, has a two-thought article leading her site. Essentially it says Ted Kennedy is dead, please wait until the body is cold before kicking the almighty crap out of him.
As someone who has always been more interested in watching the bile spilling from dogmatic ideologues than actually agreeing with anything they have to say, I find this fair enough. Kennedy haters are champing at the bit. The last of the Commie-loving, big-spending brothers is dead.
But watch out. I’m about to use an –ism. It must be a red letter day.
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