The New Yorker: “Since no one knew which way the election was going to go, I was trying to come up with as many cover ideas as I could, which was also just a great way to distract me from worrying about the election,” says Mark Ulriksen, the artist of this week’s cover “Rhapsody in Blue.” “And as I was sketching … I heard that CNN was going to light up the Empire State building according to whether it was a blue or red victory. I thought it was wonderful…
…. If it had been lit up red, I would’ve been disappointed …. I’m grateful that, as my mom says, ‘my team won.’”
Tuesday: The President will travel to Delray, Florida and Dayton, Ohio for campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC in the evening.
Wednesday: He will travel to Iowa, Denver and Las Vegas for campaign events. He will also tape an appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.
Thursday: Campaign events in Tampa, Fla., and Richmond, Va. The President will then travel to Chicago to cast his vote under Illinois early voting rules before finishing with a grassroots event in Cleveland.
USA Today: President Obama plans to visit seven states in the three days after Monday night’s foreign policy debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Boca Raton, Fla.
The morning after the debate, Obama will hold a rally in nearby Delray Beach, Fla., before flying on to an appearance in Dayton, Ohio….
On Wednesday and Thursday, he will make a blitz of six battleground states: Davenport, Iowa; Denver, Colo.; Las Vegas; Tampa; Richmond; Va.; then back to Ohio for an event in Cleveland.
Obama will make a sentimental stop Thursday in his hometown of Chicago, where he will cast an early vote for himself.
The president will be accompanied on his trip by NBC News anchor Brian Williams and a camera crew who will put together reports “taking viewers behind the scenes with rare, exclusive access and multiple interviews with the president.”
11:30: VP Biden delivers remarks at the J. Babe Stearn Community Center in Canton, Ohio
3:15: VP Biden speaks at Lorain High School in Canton, Ohio
Examiner: As President Barack Obama prepares for his third and final presidential debate First Lady Michelle Obama will be rallying supporters at Broward College in Davie. The First Lady will speak to grassroots supporters Monday afternoon in the George Mayer Gymnasium on Broward College’s Central Campus in Davie. It is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. (local time)
The New Yorker: … The choice is clear. The Romney-Ryan ticket represents a constricted and backward-looking vision of America: the privatization of the public good. In contrast, the sort of public investment championed by Obama — and exemplified by both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act — takes to heart the old civil-rights motto “Lifting as we climb.” That effort cannot, by itself, reverse the rise of inequality that has been under way for at least three decades. But we’ve already seen the future that Romney represents, and it doesn’t work.
The reelection of Barack Obama is a matter of great urgency. Not only are we in broad agreement with his policy directions; we also see in him what is absent in Mitt Romney — a first-rate political temperament and a deep sense of fairness and integrity. A two-term Obama Administration will leave an enduringly positive imprint on political life. It will bolster the ideal of good governance and a social vision that tempers individualism with a concern for community. Every Presidential election involves a contest over the idea of America. Obama’s America—one that progresses, however falteringly, toward social justice, tolerance, and equality—represents the future that this country deserves.
Paul Krugman: The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great – it will still take years to restore full employment – and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?
The answer – backed by overwhelming evidence – is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month.
…. Obviously, Republicans like claiming that it’s all Mr. Obama’s fault, and that electing Mr. Romney would magically make everything better. But nobody should believe them.
…. the Romney team is willfully, nakedly, distorting the record …. once politicians start refusing to acknowledge inconvenient facts, where does it stop? Why, the next thing you know Republicans will start rejecting the overwhelming evidence for man-made climate change. Oh, wait.
You’ve heard it from the pundits: “Obama is cloistered in the White House.” “He’s aloof.” “He’s in the bubble.” “He’s not connecting.” And that’s why one of my big goals this year was to get out and be among everyday, ordinary Americans – like the men and women of the Alfalfa Club.
And Speaker (John) Boehner, it is good to see you at the head table. I know how badly Eric Cantor wanted your seat. But, John, I want you to know: I am eager to work with members of Congress to be entertaining tonight. But if Congress is unwilling to cooperate, I will be funny without them.
I’d like to acknowledge a very good friend of mine – Warren Buffet’s secretary’s boss is in the house.
It cracked me up today to see how Byron Tau and his buddies at GOPolitico pulled any negative extracts they could find from this article. Funny how they left out this bit:
“Obama didn’t remake Washington. But his first two years stand as one of the most successful legislative periods in modern history. Among other achievements, he has saved the economy from depression, passed universal health care, and reformed Wall Street.”
Tuesday: The President will deliver his State of the Union Address at 9:00 PM EST.
Following the President’s State of the Union address, he will begin a five-state, three-day swing across the country.
Wednesday: PBO will begin his trip with an event in the Cedar Rapids area, followed by an event in the Phoenix area. He will then travel to Las Vegas where he will spend the night.
Thursday: PBO will hold events in the Las Vegas area and the Denver area before traveling to Detroit that evening where he will spend the night.
Friday: PBO will hold an event in the Detroit area before returning to Washington.
George Packer (New Yorker): In the tenth paragraph of a Times piece, Rick Santorum accuses Barack Obama of engaging in “absolutely un-American activities”. What are they? The article doesn’t say. The quote appears without explanation or comment ….
…. this kind of gutter rhetoric is so routine in the Republican campaign that it’s not worth a political journalist’s time to point it out…. once demagogy and falsehoods become routine, there isn’t much for the political journalist to do ….political journalism long ago stopped being about what is true or important…
The great puzzle of the Republican campaign is that, in an era of unprecedented ideological fervor, the party will almost certainly nominate the candidate who is the blandest …. Romney understands his situation acutely, and he’s telling anyone who will listen that he loves America … hates illegal immigrants as much as the next guy, and thinks that Obama has destroyed this country at home and abroad …. He’s doing a credible job playing an intellectual thug, because that’s the only way to win the nomination.
It would be a mistake, though, to believe that, if he’s elected, Romney could suddenly flip a switch, clear the air of the toxicity left behind by the Republican field, and return to being a cautious centrist whose most reassuring quality is his lack of principles. His party wouldn’t let him …. once a sellout, always a sellout; once a thug, always a thug.
David Remnick (New Yorker): …. ‘Leading from behind’ …. The phrase ricocheted from one Murdoch-owned editorial page and television studio to the next; Obama was daily pilloried as a timorous pretender who, out of a misbegotten sense of liberal guilt, unearned self-regard, and downright unpatriotic acceptance of fading national glory, had handed over the steering wheel of global leadership to the Élysée Palace.
We were, as Mitt Romney put it, “following the French into Libya.” The President was “dithering,” Sarah Palin declared. John McCain wanted boots on the ground. ….. Rick Perry, for his part, shot an elephant in his pajamas.
Six months later, as Libyans rejoice at the prospect of a world without an unhinged despot, many of Obama’s critics still view a President who rid the world of Osama bin Laden (something that George Bush failed to do) and helped bring down Muammar Qaddafi (something that Ronald Reagan failed to do) as supinely selling out American power.
….. a more apt description, admittedly, would have been “leading from behind the scenes” ….
….. Nothing guarantees that Libya’s path will be straight and pacific …. But these emergent institutions were developed above all by Libyans, not by Ahmed Chalabi or the Central Intelligence Agency. They are indigenous; they have legitimacy.
….. The trouble with so much of the conservative critique of Obama’s foreign policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about the assertion of America’s power and the affirmation of its glory. In the case of Libya, Obama led from a place of no glory, and, in the eyes of his critics, no results could ever vindicate such a strategy. Yet a calculated modesty can augment a nation’s true influence. Obama would not be the first statesman to realize that it can be easier to win if you don’t need to trumpet your victory.
Koch Industries Senior Vice President Mark Holden said in a letter to ASME board members that it is “inappropriate” for Mayer’s piece to be considered for the award because her article is biased.
“Her article is ideologically slanted and a prime example of a disturbing trend in journalism, where agenda-driven advocacy masquerades as objective reporting,” Holden said in a letter sent to ASME CEO Sid Holt and several ASME board members. “Given these facts, it would be inappropriate for ASME to give Ms. Mayer’s article an award in reporting.”
Aside from family feuds and dirty laundry, Mayer’s article detailed how the brothers were backers of a wide network of conservative think tanks and groups that helped spawn the Tea Party revolution.
…David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker, rallied to his reporter’s defense. “Jane Mayer put together an accurate and honest piece of reporting. To watch them go around to try to undermine a superb piece of reportage is pathetic. . . I’m a little surprised to see a big-time operation behave like a bunch of Inspector Clouseaus”….
…The article was embroiled in controversy almost from the start. Apparently someone tried to leak disparaging material to The Daily Caller, a Web site run by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, claiming there were plagiarism issues in Mayer’s reporting.
When Media Ink, which had also received the anonymous allegations, began investigat ing, it found the plagia rism claims to be bogus. The Daily Caller ultimately spiked the story because it didn’t pan out. No one ever learned who was behind the dirty-trick operation to smear Mayer.
David Remnick (New Yorker): …In September, 2001, Obama was an obscure state senator from Hyde Park … little more than a week after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade towers, Obama’s local paper, the Hyde Park Herald, published a series of reactions to the events … in his brief article, Obama … talked about “the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness.”
“The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others,” he wrote. “Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity….”
“…..we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes of embittered children across the globe – children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin American, Eastern Europe, and within our own shores.”
It was precisely that kind of talk that was branded as “soft” in the wake of 9/11 and throughout the Bush years, straight through the 2008 election campaign. It was precisely that sort of attempt to talk not merely in the register of prosecution and military aggression, but also of understanding root causes, whether at an anti-Iraq war rally in Chicago or at a Presidential speech in Cairo, that left so many wondering if Barack Obama would have the strength to “go after” Osama bin Laden.
Politicususa – Barack Obama: The Man Who Got Osama Bin Laden
Collective closure of our national 9/11 wound has finally come to America, as President Obama announced that the US military has killed, and is in possession of the body of Osama Bin Laden.
… The death of Osama Bin Laden is a cathartic moment for nation has never forgotten the horrific events of 9/11, but when the CIA took out Bin Laden on Obama’s order it did something else. It shattered the conventions of post 9/11 politics.
Obama has destroyed the GOP’s tough on terror talking point. George W. Bush may have swaggered and told the nation that Bin Laden was wanted dead or alive, but it was the calmer, less flashy Obama who actually got the job done.
…In 2008 John McCain vowed to pursue Bin Laden to the ends of the earth, but it was Barack Obama who made sure that there was no escape for one of history’s most famous mass murders…
…For the rest of human history when the story of 9/11 is told after pictures of that tragic day are shown, the face and words of America’s first African-American president will be forever etched into history as they announce the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Politically, everything has changed.
Barack Obama will now and forever be known as the president who got Osama Bin Laden.
Steve Benen: The amount of work that went into tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden is pretty extraordinary. It took years, and involved military, law enforcement, and intelligence agency officials, most of whom we’ll never know and won’t be able to thank.
And while many patriots made this happen, it’s President Obama who’ll get much of the credit – and given the circumstances, he’ll deserve it. Slate’s John Dickerson had a good piece overnight (see below) on how Obama’s “focused, hands-on pursuit of Osama Bin Laden paid off.”
…Dickerson’s description of the president’s efforts as “hands-on” seems especially apt given what we know. It was Obama who instructed the CIA to make targeting bin Laden a top priority, breaking with his predecessor. It was Obama who oversaw five national security meetings to oversee plans for this operation. It was Obama who chose this mission, made final preparations, and gave the order.
There’s a difference between talking tough and being tough, just as there’s a difference between chest-thumping rhetoric and getting the job done.
John Dickerson (Slate): …..Obama’s critics have said that he is a weak leader in general and in particular does not understand what must be done to combat terrorism. “They are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that’s required,” said former Vice President Dick Cheney in March 2009, in a typical remark. Yet what emerges from the details of Bin Laden’s killing … is that from early in his administration Obama was focused on killing Osama Bin Laden and that he was involved in the process throughout.
In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to “provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice” Osama Bin Laden…
….The president went to sleep to the sound of cheering outside the White House. At Ground Zero in New York and towns across the country, people gathered to sing the national anthem and chant “USA! USA!” It was a flicker of the post-9/11 unity that the president had referenced in his remarks earlier in the evening.
In his remarks announcing the operation, the president sought to rekindle that feeling … All in all, it was a good night to be president.
Marc Ambinder (The Atlantic): Bin Laden’s Death: A Pivotal Victory for Obama, U.S. Intelligence …. The president silences his national-security critics heading into 2012, and the CIA stands tall after the damage of 9/11
The death of Osama Bin-Laden is a transcendent moment for the country and a pivotal one for President Obama…..Now the CIA stands much taller. Its intelligence helped pinpoint Bin Laden, but so did its patience
…Bin Laden’s death is an undeniable success for an intelligence community that missed the connections that might have prevented the attack. It coincides with the unofficial kick-off of the 2012 re-election cycle, where the incumbent, President Obama, has had his credentials as commander in chief repeatedly questioned by opponents and his citizenship mocked. Having scored the victory that remained beyond the grasp of George W. Bush – who graciously congratulated the president tonight – Obama’s military bona fides will be harder to attack.
Whatever flaws the president’s national security policies may have, and however infrequently Obama may have mentioned bin Laden, history will record that, when it came to getting Bin Laden, Obama got the job done and his predecessor, George W, Bush, whose entire presidency was tormented by bin Laden’s actions on 9/11, did not despite Bush’s claim that he would capture him “dead or alive.”
There is ample reason to feel relief that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to the world … however, somber relief was not the dominant emotion presented to America when bin Laden’s death was announced. Instead, the Washington press corps – helped by a wild-eyed throng outside the White House – insisted that unbridled euphoria is the appropriate response. And in this we see bin Laden’s more enduring victory – a victory that will unfortunately last far beyond his passing.
For decades, we have held in contempt those who actively celebrate death…. but in the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise …this isn’t in any way to equate Americans who cheer on bin Laden’s death with, say, those who cheered after 9/11. Bin Laden was a mass murderer who had punishment coming to him, while the 9/11 victims were innocent civilians whose deaths are an unspeakable tragedy. Likewise, this isn’t to say that we should feel nothing at bin Laden’s neutralization, or that the announcement last night isn’t cause for any positive feeling at all – it most certainly is.
But it is to say that our reaction to the news last night should be the kind often exhibited by victims’ families at a perpetrator’s lethal injection – a reaction typically marked by both muted relief but also by sadness over the fact that the perpetrators’ innocent victims are gone forever, the fact that the perpetrator’s death cannot change the past, and the fact that our world continues to produce such monstrous perpetrators in the first place.
When we lose the sadness part – when all we do is happily scream “USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war – it’s a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.
Joan Walsh (Slate): …..After years of Catholic school, I am constitutionally unable to feel joyous about anyone being killed, but I got close tonight with bin Laden. He killed thousands of innocent people – and again, it was that incomparable American tableau: Muslims, Jews, Catholics; waiters, firefighters, investment bankers; gays and straights; mothers and fathers of every race….
….I wish this achievement could mean we get our country back, the one before the Patriot Act, before FISA, before rendition and torture and Guantanamo; before we began giving up the freedom and belief in due process that makes us Americans, out of our fear of totalitarians like bin Laden. It won’t happen overnight, but I’m going to choose to think this could be a first step.
Frank Schaeffer: …. This morning I got up at 4 AM to walk across the street to congratulate my Marine son (now home safe with his wife and two little children after 5 years service and war) on having been a small link in the chain of service that hunted down and killed bin Laden. I wanted to thank someone who wore the uniform of the US military. I also sent up yet another “up yours!” to the so-called “Real American” conservative critics of our president; those liars like Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin et al who have nurtured the racist-motivated attacks on our first black president.
Was the SUCCESSFUL hunter of bin Laden a “secret Muslim”? Was he “born in Kenya”? Was he “soft on terrorism” or as far right religious leader/birther Franklin Graham put it giving radical Islam a “pass”?
…While the war-loving “neocons” pontificated on American “exceptionalism” and power and went to parties in Washington DC hosted by the defense industry I stayed up at night worrying while my son was shot at. He came home safe, but no thanks to Fox News and the other perpetual war shills who talk “patriotism” while other people’s children – mine for instance – do all the heavy lifting.
…I know who the people are who aren’t “Real Americans” they are the unpatriotic liars wrapping themselves in the flag my son fought for and that they use to sell books, reality TV shows and their racist ideas with.
Today the American right wing phony patriots look smaller than ever, about as stupid as Trump’s hair.
David Remnick (New Yorker): Not long after the White House released the President’s birth certificate this morning, Donald Trump stepped off a helicopter, ambled up to a bank of microphones, and declared, “Today, I’m very proud of myself.” (One assumes this is a daily ritual for Trump, but today there were more cameras than usual.)
…What is there to say anymore about Donald Trump? That he is an irrepressible jackass who thinks of himself as a sly fox? That he is a buffoon with bathroom fixtures of gold?….
….What is truly disturbing is the game Trump has been participating in, the conspiracy thinking he was playing with. And here the polls — to the extent that they can be taken as hard fact — tell a disturbing story, in which no small part of the country has believed in a variety of tales about Barack Obama. There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father”; the fantasy that the President has some other father, and not Barack Obama, Sr.; the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam. There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made.
The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the President himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. Obama, as a politician, is clearly not a radical; he is a center-left pragmatist. If anything, he believes deeply in his capacity to lead with subtle diplomacy and political maneuvering, with a highly realistic sense of the possible; in fact, to many he is maddeningly pragmatic.
…more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him. Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering. And if that makes Donald Trump proud, then what does that say for him? Perhaps now he will go away, satisfied that this passage has sufficiently restored his fame quotient and television ratings. The shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.
Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker): One of the mysteries of the Obama Presidency has been Obama’s inability – or disinclination, I’m not sure which – to give sustained emotional sustenance to a certain slice of his supporters. I don’t mean the “Democratic base” … I don’t mean the disillusioned left, which is easily, almost perpetually disillusioned because it has such an ample supply of illusions.
(A lot of lefties, notwithstanding their scorn for “the system”, seem to have an implicit naive faith in the workability of the mechanisms of American governance. Hence their readiness to blame the disappointments of the Administration’s first two years mainly on Obama’s alleged moral or character failings – cowardice, spinelessness, insincerity, duplicity, what have you.)
Mainly, I guess, the slice I’m talking about is of people like me: liberals who continue to respect and admire Obama; who fully appreciate the disaster he inherited and the horrendous difficulty of enacting a coherent agenda even when your own party “controls” both Houses of Congress; who think his substantive record is pretty good under the circumstances; who dislike some of the distasteful compromises he has made but aren’t sure we wouldn’t have done the same in his shoes … but who are puzzled that our eloquent, writerly President seems to have done so little to educate the public about his own vision and to contrast it with that of the Republican right – which is to say, the Republicans.
I don’t know how many people watched Obama’s speech (on Wednesday) but those who did, and who share my general outlook, got a dose of the emotional (and intellectual) nourishment we’ve been craving.
…Obama spoke powerful words, and spoke them with real feeling. As we all know by now, our President doesn’t “do” anger … (on Wednesday), though, he did sternness; he did dignified exasperation; best of all, he did argument.
…By the time the President got to his own four-step proposal, which calls for higher taxes on the rich … the Republican alternative was a smoking ruin. Given the position his own reluctance, until now, to stake out a clear ideological divide had left him in, Obama succeeded in constructing a reasonably solid fortification for the fiscal battles to come. Even Paul Krugman was pleased. Me, too.
I thought I knew a lot about the Koch brothers until I read this (very long) New Yorker article – it’s just staggering to read the scale of their interference in democracy. These are just a few extracts, but if you have the time it’s worth reading it all:
New Yorker: …David and Charles Koch … longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.
In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts .. named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial”.
….from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies — from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program — that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
….Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
….the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (started by David Koch in 2004) has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception..….The Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity gave its Blogger of the Year Award to a young woman named Sibyl West who (on her site) described Obama as the “cokehead in chief”.
…The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement….
….In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. … its experts and policy papers are widely quoted and respected by the mainstream media … When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him….
…Soon after Obama assumed office, Americans for Prosperity launched “Porkulus” rallies against Obama’s stimulus-spending measures … also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform. At one rally, an effigy of a Democratic congressman was hung; at another, protesters unfurled a banner depicting corpses from Dachau. The group also helped organize the “Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at.
…last summer’s raucous rallies were pivotal in undermining Obama’s agenda … they discouraged deal-makers — Republicans who might otherwise have worked constructively with Obama…
…Charles Koch, in a newsletter sent to his seventy thousand employees, compared the Obama Administration to the regime of the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez….
“An Intimate Conversation with Michelle and Barack Obama” was conducted in 1996 for a book about American marriages …. the interview took place only four years after they married and two years before their oldest daughter Malia was born.
Michelle Obama: “It was strange, that excitement over this first-year student,” then-32-year-old Michelle recalls when describing the buzz about a new summer associate at the law firm Sidley and Austin. “So smart, so good-looking, so intelligent, everyone was talking about Barack. I’m more of the skeptical kind, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, he’s probably an idiot, whatever.’
…then on the first day, he showed up late. He was late because it’d been raining! And then he walked into the office and we got along right away because he was charming and very good-looking, at least I found him good-looking. I think we were attracted to one another because we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, like some others did. He liked my dry humor and my sarcastic comments. I thought he was a good man, interesting, and I was fascinated by his personal story, so different from mine… our relationship was first a friendship. It took off from there.”
…Barack has helped me loosen up and feel comfortable with taking risks, not doing things the traditional way and sort of testing it out, because that is how he grew up. I’m more traditional; he’s the one in the couple that, I think, is the less traditional individual. You can probably tell from the photographs — he’s just more out there, more flamboyant. I’m more, like, “Well, let’s wait and see. What did that look like? How much does it weigh?
….There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it’s unclear. There is a little tension with that. I’m very wary of politics. I think he’s too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism.
When you are involved in politics, your life is an open book, and people can come in who don’t necessarily have good intent. I’m pretty private, and like to surround myself with people that I trust and love. In politics you’ve got to open yourself to a lot of different people. There is a possibility that our futures will go that way, even though I want to have kids and travel, spend time with family, and like spending time with friends. But we are going to be busy people doing lots of stuff. And it’ll be interesting to see what life has to offer.”
Barack Obama: “All my life, I have been stitching together a family, through stories or memories or friends or ideas. Michelle has had a very different background—very stable, two-parent family, mother at home, brother and dog, living in the same house all their lives. We represent two strands of family life in this country—the strand that is very stable and solid, and then the strand that is breaking out of the constraints of traditional families, travelling, separated, mobile. I think there was that strand in me of imagining what it would be like to have a stable, solid, secure family life.
Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a very strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don’t know, because when she’s walking through the world she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her.
And then what sustains our relationship is I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.”
George Packer (The New Yorker): …. maybe the gunman had no idea why he was aiming for Giffords either, maybe he didn’t know how she voted on health care or what her position on Arizona’s draconian immigration law was …
…but even so, the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor….
This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right … and it has gone almost entirely uncriticized by Republican leaders. Partisan media encourages it, while the mainstream media finds it titillating and airs it, often without comment, so that the gradual effect is to desensitize even people to whom the rhetoric is repellent. We’ve all grown so used to it over the past couple of years that it took the shock of an assassination attempt to show us the ugliness to which our politics has sunk.
The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point. Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static.