December 10th, 2008
05:05 PM ET

The Blagojevich moment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/10/illinois.governor/art.gov.gi.jpg caption="Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges."]
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The Nation

It is absolutely mind boggling to read of the pay-to-play corruptiongone wild in the indictment against Governor Rod Blagojevich - from withholding money for a children’s hospital unless given campaign contributions, to trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder, to demanding editors be fired by the Tribune Company in exchange for help selling Wrigley Field, to speeding up all of these efforts before a new ethics law taking effect this January 1…. not to mention the egomaniacal profanity with which Blagojevich issued his demands.

But beyond the shock and sadness of this moment, what’s key is something that novelist Scott Turow zeroed in on in a New York Times editorial today. He writes, “I hope the governor’s arrest galvanizes public outrage and at last speeds reform.”


December 1st, 2008
12:37 PM ET

Robert Gates: Wrong man for the job

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor and Publisher, The Nation

Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq but , as he told us earlier this year, "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense–and assembled a national security team of such narrow bandwidth. It is true that President Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it more difficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama's election has offered to reengage the world and reset America's priorities. Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history doesn't mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama's foreign policy/national security team opposed the war–or the dubious claims leading up to it?

November 10th, 2008
05:45 PM ET

The first 100 days

Katrina vanden Heuvel | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Editor, The Nation

We're starting to look ahead to the First 100 Days of the Obama presidency. Already, we're hearing calls in the mainstream media warning the new administration "not to overreach." And working overtime, the Inside-the-Beltway Punditocracy continues to reveal its ability to ignore reality–even while describing itself as "realist"–with its claims that this is still a center-right nation, despite all evidence to the contrary.

But as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times, "Let's hope that Mr. Obama has the good sense to ignore this advice...this year's presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies–and the progressive philosophy won."

Obama himself his talked about needing to measure his accomplishments over the first 1,000 Days, rather than 100, given the problems he has inherited from arguably the worst president ever (my words, not Obama's). Indeed, it will take years to undo the damage of the Bush administration and the conservative ideology that has dominated this country for nearly thirty years. But the First 100 Days are still crucial–not only in signaling to the American people and the world that the administration will take determined steps to repair this nation–but there is a historical precedent for the need to move forward expeditiously in order to seize the moment and the mandate.

President Obama will need to be bold to deal with the challenges he faces: a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. The millions who were mobilized and inspired by Obama's campaign and candidacy also have their work cut out for them–continuing to drive a bold agenda to respond to these crises–just as progressives have in recent years on the war, energy independence, trade, healthcare, and other issues that are defining the new "center" of American politics and hearts and minds.

Here is a list of actions–ones I care deeply about–that President Obama can take in the First 100 Days to immediately achieve real and significant change. Some of these he can literally achieve on Day 1 with the stroke of a pen, others will demand coalition building and an inside-outside strategy to push legislation. Many of these ideas are drawn from good groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Apollo Alliance, and Public Citizen. You may have others and I'd welcome hearing yours – just post a comment.


September 25th, 2008
02:53 PM ET

McCain suspends democracy

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/25/olemiss.jpg caption="Rehearsals for Friday's presidential debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama at the University of Mississippi."]

Katrina vanden Heuvel | Bio
AC360° Contributor
Editor, The Nation

Lincoln ran for office in 1864, when there was a good chance he wouldn't have a country to lead. FDR ran for office in the middle of the largest conflict in human history–twice. We can have a debate this Friday.

Instead, McCain is going to "suspend" the democratic process? And this from a man who prides himself on his Commander-in-Chief skills? How is calling quits amid a crisis as severe as 9/11, in human security terms, a measure of his leadership strength?

Bush and McCain, linked again at the hip, are telling this nation,which seeks confidence and hope: You have nothing to fear but the end of fear itself. McCain has bailed out from the responsibilities demanded of a presidential candidate who claims to be a leader. Bush looked like the dog in that never-to-be-forgotten National Lampoon cover with dog, gun pointed at his head. Propped up at single digit ratings delivering a speech, the worst president in our history was sent out there to scare Americans and prop up a man he smeared two election cycles ago.


August 15th, 2008
12:29 PM ET

Progressives in the Obama Moment

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Robert L. Borosage & Katrina vanden Heuvel
The Nation

Electric. When Barack Obama receives the Democratic presidential nomination before 75,000 people in Denver's Mile High Stadium on the forty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, new possibilities will be born. A historic candidacy, a new generation in motion, a nation yearning for change. Even the cynics running the McCain campaign might be touched, if they weren't so busy savaging Obama as a vain celebrity not up to the task of leading a nation.

No one should be blinded by the lights. It will take hard work to turn the nomination into victory in a campaign that has already turned ugly. Moreover, even if victorious, Obama will inherit the calamitous conditions wrought by conservative failures–a sinking economy, unsustainable occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, accelerating climate change, Gilded Age inequality, a broken healthcare system and much more.

August 15th, 2008
11:12 AM ET

Blood in the Caucasus

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

"The past week's events in South Ossetia are bound to shock and pain anyone.... Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning to all."
–Mikhail Gorbachev, Washington Post, August 12

Former Soviet President Gorbachev's condemnation of Georgia's assault on Tskhinvali on the night of August 7, which precipitated the larger Russia-Georgia conflict, reminds us that if we had heeded his vision of a truly post-cold war world, we might not today be confronting such dangerous geopolitical gamesmanship. It should also remind us, as a wobbly cease-fire is put in place, that the conflict has been flagrantly misreported in this country.

I am heartsick at the violence and brutalities on all sides. Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian friends have all suffered. Yet commentary in the US media, almost without exception, has turned a longstanding, complex separatist conflict into a casus belli for a new cold war with Russia, ignoring not only the historical and political reasons for South Ossetia's drive for independence from Georgia but also the responsibility of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for the current crisis. So eager have commentators been to indict Vladimir Putin's Russia that they have overlooked Washington's contribution to the rising tensions.

June 16th, 2008
12:44 PM ET

One simple question

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/16/art.sanderseconomy.jpg caption="Senator Bernard Sanders addresses the press during a conference on the economy June 11, 2008."]

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

It started with one simple question posed by Senator Bernie Sanders to his constituents in an invitation to a town meeting: what does the decline of the middle class mean to you personally?

Over 700 people replied.

A second question was asked in his e-newsletter, The Bernie Buzz: do you have a story to tell about how gas prices are affecting you?

Over 1200 responses.

"The volume of responses was stunning," Sanders told me. "Most people in my state – especially in rural areas – do not feel comfortable telling people about their struggles. ‘He has it worse than I do, I'll be fine. Thanks for asking.' It's just not a natural thing [to share these struggles]…. The other point that has to be underlined – this is not an interview at the homeless shelter. These are letters from working families, from middle class families… [and] people who've worked their whole lives who expected to have a minimal degree of economic security but are now finding themselves with nothing."

Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Katrina vanden Heuvel
May 29th, 2008
03:27 PM ET

McCain: A Neocon realist?

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

John McCain's widely-touted speech on nuclear security has been treated by the mainstream media as a major break with Bush Administration policy. And while there are elements which diverge from some of Bush's destructive politics and policies–it is, after all, an Administration which has shredded several decades worth of bipartisan arms control agreements with the Russians– it's also important to understand that McCain continues to define the problem through the prism of the Bush Doctrine.

How, for example does McCain, who seeks to expel Russian from the Group of Eight industrialized countries, anticipate negotiating successful arms agreements with the expelled country? How does a candidate whose neocon "League of Democracies" proposal–which would exclude Russia and, in doing so, undermine any role that country could play in dealing with Iran and securing weapons of mass destruction–expect Moscow to be receptive to real efforts on nuclear cooperation? Instead of hailing McCain's stance as a sign of his newfound realism –and a Johnny-Come-Lately break with the neocons– it's critical to put McCain's remarks into a larger context.

I asked Joseph Cirincione, president of the respected Ploughshares Fund and author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, for some deeper analysis of McCain's speech:

Read full story...

Filed under: John McCain • Katrina vanden Heuvel
May 27th, 2008
12:50 PM ET

Hillary Clinton –Please Exit, with Dignity, June 4

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

Check out CNN.com for Bill Clinton's vent about how a "cover up " is hurting Hillary Clinton's chances of becoming the Democratic nominee. This is a man who has trampled on his spouse's voice every time, in this campaign, that she's found it.

The women of The Nation are the first to deplore the sexism in media commentary this primary season, but a "cover up"?

Hillary Clinton started this race last year as the one to beat–she had the money, the machine and the name recognition that assured her of quasi-incumbent status. And, indeed, she ran as a quasi-incumbent, an establishment candidate in a change- year election. Yes, there were the Chris Matthews and the Tucker Carlsons and the Mike Barnicles and the Rush Limbaughs and the women who were working out their Clinton hatred through Hillary's candidacy.

Read full story...

May 21st, 2008
02:55 PM ET

Jim Webb's Time to Fight

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

Jim Webb can make the Four Seasons feel like a diner in Owensboro, Kentucky. It's that kind of blue-collar street cred that may be just what it takes to propel the first-term senator from Virginia onto the Democratic ticket as vice president.

On Monday night, at a party for his latest book, "A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America," the first term Senator from Virginia filled the dining citadel of elitism with a spirited mix of active duty and retired Marines and New York's media glitterati. After he said a few words, Webb remained at the made-for-the-occasion podium–as if he were campaigning–and took questions.

Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of the Navy has refocused the warrior ambition that made him the most highly decorated Vietnam-era Marine from his Naval Academy into a passionate, progressive and patriotic populism. When asked, by The New Yorker's Rick Hertzberg, what he thought of those who opposed the Vietnam war, Webb said "I never had a problem with those who properly opposed the war. I had a problem with the way vets were treated when they got home."

Filed under: Jim Webb • Katrina vanden Heuvel
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