This piece from Peter Beinart in The Atlantic correctly captures Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy. As Beinart points out, the American president is neither hawk nor dove. He has reduced the American military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan since taking office but has aggressively pursued terrorists in Pakistan and the Middle East. President Obama’s decision to launch air strikes against ISIS in Iraq is consistent with this targeted and relentless use of force. The next critical step as the president weighs air strikes in Syria is assessing the level of risk he is willing to take for events that he ultimately cannot control on the ground.

The Pentagon announced today that it would recall almost 90% of the 350,000 civilian workers who have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown. This is a politically savvy move. It would be unwise for Republicans to object to the administration’s interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act allowing for the recall. Who can say “no” to helping the civilians who support our armed forces?

This is one step on the path back to normalcy for our nation’s public servants.

It is clear that what is most needed in Washington is a return to regular order. The budget process is supposed to be a simple and orderly process. At least one Republican agrees.

Today the House GOP sets America on a collision course to economic collapse that will send markets into a tailspin if conservatives get their way. It’s blatantly obvious that de-funding Obamacare will not pass the Senate. But that procedural point is irrelevant to House conservatives. Whether or not their legislation becomes law – and whether or not it gets a Senate vote – odds now strongly favor a government shutdown. Conservatives have long fought to obliterate government. Now they get their way – if only for a moment in time – to watch all non-essential services simply stop on October 1. They hope to blame President Obama and his Affordable Care Act if a shutdown happens. If a shutdown does occur, Americans will see very clearly that the conservative vision for America entails a government whose sole function is border security, law enforcement, and national defense. To the majority of Americans who live in the real world, people need Social Security checks, paved roads, social services, national parks, vital healthcare research, and hundreds of other core functions that we take for granted everyday. It’s quite horrific that Republican hatred of President Obama overrides these everyday needs of the public.

A government shutdown may very well be followed by a default in mid-October. Neither side in the current debate has adequate incentive to come to an agreement. The realization of a shutdown and default – two entirely avoidable crises – is exactly what conservatives want: to see the modern state collapse into oblivion and the nation’s first black president blamed for it. Conversely, Democrats may benefit politically from blaming the current fiscal mess on House GOP intransigence. This status quo will not change until voters acknowledge that elections do have consequences.  It will take this self-fulfilling prophecy to convince enough Americans to contact their elected representatives and demand a better solution. If voters can get worked up about bombing faraway Syria, we should be hellbent on convincing our elected leaders to avoid destructive fiscal warfare at home. At the end of the day, we have nobody to blame but ourselves for the oncoming train wreck in Washington.

Next year, the Federal Reserve is in for an unusually high number of leadership transitions. Given the importance of the Fed and FOMC to the US economy and global markets, it’s up to President Obama to manage this transition without incident. While he is widely expected to appoint Lawrence Summers as chairman, he might give vice chair Janet Yellen a serious second look. She has the support of dozens of top economists, including Alan Blinder, Christina Romer, Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, and Laura Tyson. In an open letter to the president, they note the following:

Dr. Yellen is superbly qualified.  She has shown consistently good judgment in all her roles leading our nation’s financial institutions and economic policy, first as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), then as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and now as Vice Chair of the FRB.  While leading the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank in 2005, she warned of an impending real estate meltdown as asset prices rose unrealistically. Dr. Yellen was one of the first members of the Federal Open Market Committee to realize that the financial sector’s difficulties in 2007 could cause a major recession, and she worked to focus her colleagues on the problems of the housing sector.  Her knowledge of how the Fed sets policy, her understanding of the relationship between monetary policy and economic growth, and her ability to see and propose solutions to emerging economic problems is second to none.

Lawrence Summers is undeniably brilliant and experienced, but he can also be volatile. Janet Yellen is anything but volatile. She has a wealth of experience as a central banker that Summers does not have, giving her an edge with building policy consensus during a complex period in the nation’s recovery.

Originally posted on

Last week I predicted that a lot of conservatives would wind up opposing the president’s request for a use-of-force resolution aimed at limited objectives based on a revival of the ancient “no-win-war” meme: that only a big, brawling unlimited war based on imposing America’s will unilaterally is worth fighting. Now that the threat of a military strike is being explicitly linked to the possibility of a diplomatic solution, neocons and regular old-school defenders of the military-industrial complex look to be stampeding in that direction.

Mitch McConnell has released his draft speech opposing a use-of-force resolution, and it relies very heavily on the no-win-war meme (even if his real motives are inveterate Obama-hatred and fear of getting out of synch with his most crucial ally is his primary battle back home, Rand Paul).

On the deepest level, I think it comes down to a fundamentally different view of America’s role in…

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The Hill reports on conservative opposition to a GOP leadership proposal in the House to tie a Senate vote on defunding Obamacare to a continuing resolution to keep the government operating at existing funding levels (including sequestration) past the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year. The conservative critique is that merely requiring the Senate to vote on the Obamacare proposal – but not actually pass it – constitutes a “gimmick” designed to give the House Republican leadership the appearance of taking action against Obamacare without accomplishing any changes to the law. It’s not clear that the measure can pass the GOP-led House and make it to the Senate, where the Obamacare question would be “decoupled” from the CR, allowing passage of a clean CR and separate vote on ACA defunding. Conservatives are pushing hard for at least a one-year delay in ACA implementation as part of the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations. Whatever happens, it is abundantly clear that House Tea Partiers are only interested in showcasing their intransigence. Governing continues to be a non-priority for the right.

In case you missed it, this must be one of the most pathetic interviews in the history of television and web broadcasting. Cheers to the people of New York for keeping Anthony Weiner in the dustbin of political history.

Maybe just maybe John Kerry’s “gaffe” was the secretary actually floating his idea informally in case it fell on deaf ears? Maybe? It’s too absurd to consider that the immediate Syria cw crisis was resolved by official diplomatic responses in Moscow and Damascus to an offhand suggestion by the American SoS. But then again, inthe world of diplomacy, anything’s possible.

Originally posted on RUNNING NUMBERS:

As the debate over taking action in Syria continues, I wanted to share  a few interesting pieces on Syria and public opinion in advance of President Obama’s address to the nation tomorrow night.

CNN’s Global Public Square blog posted an article by Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (and a member of the 2012 Chicago Council Survey team), that discusses the importance of question wording (or “framing”) of the Syria issue in recent US public opinion polls. Reviewing a series of American public opinion survey results from ABC/Washington Post, NBC, CNN, and other surveys, Kull concludes that the US public tends to oppose military action if it is presented as an attack against the Syrian government and not specifically against chemical weapons capabilities. When presented as a targeted strike against chemical weapons capabilities, however, there is plurality support for action.

Foreign Policy also highlights two interesting articles…

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