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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Texas TSA Nullification

Texas State Representative Dave Simpson has introduced HB 1937 to outlaw "official oppression by the intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public building."

A former Miss USA's claims of being groped during a pat-down at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport could be a felony under a bill gaining momentum in the Texas Legislature.

The bill would make it illegal for a security officer to intentionally touch someone's private areas - even atop clothing - unless they have probable cause to believe the person is carrying something illegal.

Bill sponsor State Rep. David Simpson says the searches are removing people's dignity.

Last fall the Transportation Security Administration started a new pat-down procedure.

Susie Castillo, crowned Miss USA in 2003, said she was "molested" during a pat-down last April.

TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball says the agency doesn't comment on pending legislation. He says current security measures are the best ways to mitigate the risk of terrorism.

Opponents of the law will say that it is unconstitutional, as a violation of the Supremacy Clause. They will cite McCulloch v. Maryland:

This great principle is that the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme; that they control the Constitution and laws of the respective States, and cannot be controlled by them. From this, which may be almost termed an axiom, other propositions are deduced as corollaries, on the truth or error of which, and on their application to this case, the cause has been supposed to depend. These are, 1st. That a power to create implies a power to preserve; 2d. That a power to destroy, if wielded by a different hand, is hostile to, and incompatible with these powers to create and to preserve; 3d. That, where this repugnancy exists, that authority which is supreme must control, not yield to that over which it is supreme.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Superman and Citizenship

Our chapter on American citizenship discusses expatriation, the process by which someone ceases to be a citizen. A small number of Americans have renounced their citizenship for tax purposes, an an earlier post noted. And now a different motive is driving a major celebrity to announce plans for expatriation, as Comics Alliance reports:
...Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of "truth, justice, and the American way," from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the "American way" is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

The key scene takes place in "The Incident," a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President's national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.
At The Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last writes:

Heck, what does “citizen of the Universe” even mean? Will Superman now adhere to the Tamaran code of honor? Will he follow the Atlantean system of monarchy? Does he believe in liberté, égalité, fraternité, or sharia? Does he believe in British interventionism or Swiss neutrality? You see where I’m going with this: If Superman doesn’t believe in America, then he doesn’t believe in anything.

Last is not the first to make such a point about citizenship. As our chapter on civic culture notes, James Madison recorded similar comments from Gouverneur Morris at the Constitutional Convention:

As to those philosophical gentlemen, those Citizens of the World as they call themselves, He owned he did not wish to see any of them in our public Councils. He would not trust them. The men who can shake off their attachments to their own Country can never love any other.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

FDR's Birthers

President Obama is not the first chief executive who has had to deal with rumors about his ancestry. In the 1930s, there were stories that President Franklin Roosevelt was Jewish.

On March 7, 1935, FDR wrote to Philip Slomovitz, the editor of The Detroit Jewish Chronicle:

I am grateful to you for your interesting letter of March 4th. I have no idea as to the source of the story which you say came from my old friend, Chase Osborn. All I know about the origin of the Roosevelt family in this country is that all branches bearing the name are apparently descended from Claes Martenssen Van Roosevelt, who came from Holland sometime before 1648—even the year is uncertain. Where he came from in Holland I do not know, nor do I know who his parents were. There was a family of the same name on one of the Dutch Islands and some of the same name living in Holland as lately as thirty or forty years ago, but, frankly, I have never had either the time or the inclination to try to establish the line on the other side of the ocean before they came over here, nearly three hundred years ago.

In the dim distant past they may have been Jews or Catholics or Protestants. What I am more interested in is whether they were good citizens and believers in God. I hope they were both.

On March 15, The New York Times reported on the exchange:

Mr. Slomovitz's letter to Mr. Roosevelt quoted an article from "Civic Echo," which in turn quoted an interview in an unnamed newspaper in St. Petersburg, Fla., in which Chase Osborn, former Governor of Michigan, was said to have sketched a supposed version of the President's ancestry as Jewish.

Why did it matter? Anti-Semitism was far more widespread in the 1930s than today. In 1937, Gallup asked this question: "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be Jewish, would you vote for that person?" Only 46 percent said yes, compared with 47 percent who said no.

Atheist Chaplains?

Our textbook gives emphasis both to military service and religion, so the topic of military chaplains is of special interest. The New York Times reports on a fascinating development:

In the military, there are more than 3,000 chaplains who minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of active duty troops, regardless of their faiths. The vast majority are Christians, a few are Jews or Muslims, one is a Buddhist. A Hindu, possibly even a Wiccan may join their ranks soon.

But an atheist?

Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.

Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.

But winning the appointment of an atheist chaplain will require support from senior chaplains, a tall order. Many chaplains are skeptical: Do atheists belong to a “faith group,” a requirement for a chaplain candidate? Can they provide support to religious troops of all faiths, a fundamental responsibility for chaplains?

At The Huffington Post, Rabbi Shumley Boteach thinks through the issue:

On the one hand, it's kind of absurd. Atheist chaplains? It's a contradiction in terms. What are they going to teach? Non-belief? What services will they offer? Non-prayers and sermons on evolution? And what comfort will they offer dying soldiers, G-d forbid (oops! Even that doesn't work). Will they say, "Game over. You're going to a place of complete oblivion. Thank you for your service."?

On the other hand, I am completely opposed to any kind of religious coercion and why should non-believing military personnel not have someone they can talk to who shares their absence of faith? If you're an atheist and you've returned from Iraq or Afghanistan and you're finding it difficult, say, to reintegrate to life back home, maybe you don't want to talk to someone whom you think views life only through the prism of faith. In the same way that it might be uncomfortable for a Jewish soldier to talk about his deepest issues with, say, a Catholic Priest, it is arguably just as uncomfortable for an atheist soldier to talk to the same Priest.

Still it would seem that those who profess an absence of belief can't really be religious or spiritual chaplains. If you're an atheist then what you see is what you get. There is no other reality -- higher or lower -- and the word spiritual is nothing but a crude con.

CIA Directors

Our chapter on foreign policy and national security discusses the intelligence community at some length. The community is in the news, with reports that the president is going to name General David Petraeus to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At The Atlantic, Max Fisher says that the move represents a trend "in which the lines between military and intelligence operations increasingly blur."

It is worth noting, however, that four other CIA directors have come from the military:

  • Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, USA (1950-1953)
  • Vice Adm. William F. Raborn, Jr. (1965-1966)
  • Adm. Stansfield Turner (1977-1981)
  • General Michael V. Hayden USAF (2006-2009)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hispanic Vote in 2010

The Pew Hispanic Center has a new report:

More than 6.6 million Latinos voted in last year's election—a record for a midterm—according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Latinos also were a larger share of the electorate in 2010 than in any previous midterm election, representing 6.9% of all voters, up from 5.8% in 2006.

Rapid population growth has helped fuel Latinos' increasing electoral participation. According to the Census Bureau, 50.5 million Hispanics were counted by the 2010 Census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. Over the same decade, the number of Latino eligible voters—adults who are U.S. citizens—also increased, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 21.3 million in 2010.

However, even though more Latinos than ever are participating in the nation's elections, their representation among the electorate remains below their representation in the general population. In 2010, 16.3% of the nation's population was Latino, but only 10.1% of eligible voters and fewer than 7% of voters were Latino.

This gap is driven by two demographic factors—youth and non-citizenship. More than one third of Latinos (34.9%) are younger than the voting age of 18. And an additional 22.4% are of voting age, but are not U.S. citizens. As a result, the share of the Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group. Just 42.7% of the nation's Latino population is eligible to vote, while more than three-in-four (77.7%) of whites, two-thirds of blacks (67.2%) and more than half of Asians (52.8%) are eligible to vote.

Yet, even among eligible voters, Latino participation rates lag those of other groups. In 2010, 31.2% of Latino eligible voters say they voted, while nearly half (48.6%) of white eligible voters and 44.0% of black eligible voters said the same.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The President, Christianity, and Islam

Some bloggers are taking the president to task for failing to issue an Easter proclamation. The “Proclamations” page of the White House website does not include a 2011 item on Easter, but as an earlier post noted, the site does contain text and video of his remarks at last week’s Easter prayer breakfast:

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection...This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

Religion continues to be a source of debate and controversy, as Christianity Today reports:

Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham addressed questions about President Obama's birthplace and religious beliefs on ABC's This Week that aired on Sunday. White House spokesman Jay Carney chided Graham for his comments after Graham told host Christiane Amanpour that there were still unanswered questions.

"I would just say I think it's unfortunate that a religious leader would choose Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges," Carney said at the end of yesterday's press briefing.

Graham, who told Christianity Today that his ABC interview was taped a week before Easter, stood by his comments. "I respond[ed] to a question. I'm not going out making speeches about where the President was born. I could care less," he said. "I'll continue to answer reporters' questions."

In his interview, Graham expanded on the president's religious beliefs:

Richard Land says that the idea that Obama is a Muslim or is not born in the U.S. is "flat nuts"? How would you respond to his comments?

There are two issues. I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he's not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he's not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I'm sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I'm not saying the President is a Muslim, never said he's a Muslim. He says he's a Christian.

There is the issue of his birth. Under Shari'ah law, Islamic law, which is not legal in the United States, he was born a Muslim because his father is a Muslim. That's why [Muammar al-Gaddafi] calls him "my son." The President has renounced Islam. He says he believes in Jesus Christ. To the Muslim world that's under Shari'ah law, which we're not, they see him as a lost son. They see him as a wayward child. Shari'ah law is not legal in the United States. You cannot beat your wife. If you think your daughter has been immoral, you cannot kill her. Shari'ah law is the law of Islam and it is not recognized in this country.

You're saying he was born a Muslim because his father is a Muslim?

All throughout the Muslim world, every person whose father is a Muslim is recognized under Islamic law as a Muslim.

A 2007 Pew Research poll suggests why the issue is a potential problem for the president:


Monday, April 25, 2011

Presidential Commissions

As a previous post noted, presidential commissions can contribute to deliberation. Hayley Peterson writes at The Washington Examiner:
As a candidate for president, Barack Obama called study commissions created by politicians "Washington-speak for we'll get back to you later."

He mocked his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, for suggesting a commission study the Wall Street meltdown, saying, "We don't need a commission to tell us how we got into this mess, we need a president who will lead us out of this mess, and that's the kind of president I intend to be."

But President Obama has already created about two dozen study commissions, blue-ribbon panels and task forces of his own -- roughly one a month since he took office -- to study not only major economic issues but childhood obesity, Hispanics and the middle class.

Here is a partial list (not counting interagency committees):

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Texas Lawmakers and Federal Power

Before the legislative session began in January, lawmakers filed more than a dozen bills geared to limit the federal government's ability to dictate what happens in Texas.

Now, with a little more than a month left in the session -- and much focus directed on the budget and redistricting -- some wonder whether state legislators will be able to pass bills demanding that Washington back off.... Whether these bills make it through the system, some observers say the proposals send a message to Washington.

"It shows the Congress of the United States that some of the various states, Texas in particular, may not be in agreement," said Allan Saxe, an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Arlington. "It is one way in which the people can also voice their frustrations and aspirations through the Texas Legislature to the U.S. Congress."

A look at some of the proposals:


A bill claiming sovereignty for Texas under the 10th Amendment, which says powers not specifically outlined for the federal government in the U.S. Constitution belong to the states, has been sent to the House Calendars Committee, the last stop before reaching the House floor.

Gov. Rick Perry has spoken in favor of the bill. "I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state," he said. "I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations and ultimately strengthen our Union."



Last week, the House approved a measure to take control of healthcare programs from the federal government and give it to the states. It now heads to the Senate, where [Rep. Jack] Nelson will help carry it. The measure would let Texas join an interstate healthcare compact.


Federal budget

A resolution calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget has been adopted by the Texas House and sent to the Senate.

"With a deficit of $1.47 trillion, the government will need to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends," said Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who filed the measure. "Texas stands as a model for other states during these turbulent economic times, and it is because we balance our budget and limit expenditures. ... This is a good step in requiring that the federal government act like Texas."


Repeal amendment

A proposal by [Rep. Vicki] Truitt to ask Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment that would allow specific portions of federal laws to be repealed with approval from two-thirds of the states has stalled in the House State Sovereignty Committee.

The proposal, if approved, wouldn't prevent Congress from responding by simply enacting the same law that was repealed by the states.

"I don't think that bill is going anywhere," Truitt said. "There is some concern that it could put our current Constitution at risk.

"But other bills are moving," she said. "And I have signed on to other bills I think will help with state sovereignty and the federal deficit."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The President and Easter

In his remarks this week during the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, the president was very explicit about his Christian beliefs:

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Early Predictions

There has been much talk of public indifference to potential GOP presidential candidates. Some say that the weakness of the field will help President Obama win reelection.

Maybe, but remember that pundits were saying the same things about the Democrats 20 years ago.

On March 8, 1991, The Washington Post reported:
Some Democrats, fearing that the party could end up with a weak nominee who would drag Democratic House and Senate candidates down to defeat, trying to draft a "safe candidate" such as Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (Tex.), the 1988 vice presidential nominee. The theory behind the draft movement is that he would provide protection for Senate and House candidates, even if he lost.
On April 20, 1991, National Journal reported:

[T]he absence so far of strong challengers to Bush has fueled various doomsday scenarios for the Democrats: that their Senate majority could be toppled and that their House majority could be imperiled with many Democratic Members either retiring or having to run for reelection in new seats drawn after the 1990-91 redistricting.

On May 26, 1991, the Associated Press reported:
When he defends the late start of the presidential campaign, Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown always says voters are sick of long campaigns and aren't paying attention to national politics just yet.

A new poll suggests that either Brown is right, or the field of potential Democratic challengers to President Bush isn't generating much excitement.

Just one in four Americans - 24 percent - could name a Democrat who has been mentioned as a 1992 presidential prospect, according to a nationwide poll of 1,206 adults conducted May 16-19 by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press.

The rate was just marginally higher - 28 percent - among respondents who identified themselves as Democrats.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who insists he's not running, was mentioned by 9 percent of the respondents who could recall a name; 7 percent mentioned the only declared major Democratic candidate, former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas.

On August 7, 1991, The New York Times reported:
Democrats struggled today to adjust to the last thing they needed six months before the Iowa caucuses: an already tiny Presidential field that keeps shrinking.

As expected, Senator John D. Rockefeller 4th announced in Charleston, W.Va., today that he would not seek the 1992 Democratic Presidential nomination. That announcement, just three weeks after Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the House majority leader, took himself out of the race, combined with the demurrals of other Democratic heavyweights to create a frustrating, embarrassing pattern for the party.

While the West Virginia Democrat struggled to cast his decision as a personal one, it left a clear public perception that one leading Democrat after another was looking at the 1992 campaign and deciding that George Bush could not be beaten.

"Am I frustrated?" asked Phil Angelides, chairman of the California Democratic Party. "Absolutely."

On August 8, 1991, USA Today reported:

What once was shrugged off by Democrats as a passing gust of the political winds - the absence of heavyweight challengers to President Bush - is now looming as a major political embarrassment.

With West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller's announcement Wednesday he would not run, making him the latest major Democrat to opt out, the field is left to a Massachusetts lawyer who hasn't held office in six years.

And even as Democrats insist candidates will emerge to challenge Bush, the fact remains that on this date in 1987, seven Democrats already had announced.

On August 9, 1991, Chris Matthews wrote:

The prognosis for the campaign itself is less robust. Four Augusts ago, the Democraticpresidential field was as crowded as the beach. Michael Dukakis, Albert Gore, Jesse Jackson, Richard Gephardt, Paul Simon and Bruce Babbitt were all declared, running and debating each other on television. The Gary Hart fiasco was old news. So, too, were the decisions of Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley and Bill Clinton not to enter the '88 race.

This August, the political beaches are largely deserted. Only three Democrats have established the clear intention to seek the presidency in 1992: former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. What unites the trio is the shared realization that each of them, for widely different reasons, has nothing much to lose.

On August 26, 1991, The Washington Post reported:

In comparison to what is happening in the Soviet Union, the decision by Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) to pass up the 1992 campaign won't merit a footnote in history. But Gore's timing inadvertently drew attention to this brewing stature gap. Given the prospective field of Democratic challengers, it will require a remarkably persuasive case -- or a genuine blunder by Bush -- to convince voters they should entrust the security and international interests of the country to the Democrats next year.
In the 1992 election, Democratic challenger Bill Clinton won the presidency with 370 electoral votes to incumbent President George H.W. Bush's 168.

The Climate Change Fight

Our chapter on interest groups looks at their organizational forms and sources of influence.

Matthew Nisbet, an American University communications professor has made an important contribution to this field with Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate, a report on the climate change debate.

The conventional wisdom is that industry and its conservative allies get their way by vastly outspending the environmental movement. Nisbet finds that this notion is wrong.

[P]ropelled by a wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents among conservative groups and industry associations. Indeed, the effort to pass cap and trade legislation may have been the best-financed political cause in American history. The effort also demonstrates not only the vast revenue base and organizational capacity of the environmental movement, but also the movement’s enhanced ability to coordinate activities among its constituent members and to build partnerships.

In particular, he looks at the "cap and trade" issue during 2009:

[T]he combined program spending of environmental organizations ($1.4 billion) is almost twice as much as the combined program spending of conservative organizations and industry associations ($787 million). Specific to climate change and energy policy, environmental groups outspent conservative groups and their industry association allies $394 million to $259 million. Spending figures, however, are only approximate. As reviewed, the figures under-count the resources devoted by environmental groups and over-count the resources devoted to the issue by the conservative-industry association alliance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deliberation v. The Sideshow in the Presidential Race

At National Journal, Reid Wilson writes:

After the Republican presidential field in 2008 spent a year trying to agree with each other, this year's GOP contenders are showing early signs that they have real policy differences, and they're not afraid to debate them. And yet much of the media is too obsessed with vanity candidates and nonissues to cover the serious debate.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has begun his presidential campaign by questioning the necessity of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, a break with Republican policy over the last decade. And, while seeking the nomination of a party that largely denies man's impact on climate change, Barbour told a crowd in Iowa in March that it is "prudent" to "proceed as if global warming is an issue."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used his inaugural trip to New Hampshire last month to offer a defense of the state's health care plan, rather than backing away from an issue his opponents will certainly use against him. Jon Huntsman, who will explore a race once he returns from serving as ambassador to China at the end of the month, took stands on immigration, gay rights, and the environment that will set him apart from the field. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said frequently that entitlements should be examined in an effort to rein in spending.


Trump winning the Republican nomination, or even competing seriously, is beyond a remote possibility. Palin's hopes of winning aren't much better, and her absence from the national spotlight suggests she's not likely to try. And while rumors that Obama was born somewhere other than on Oahu, Hawaii, may drive traffic, facts, as John Adams lamented, are stubborn things.

There are serious and substantive differences between candidates seeking the presidency for reasons beyond personal gain and publicity. Sadly, the silly season means that's all being missed.

Hollywood and Political Money

The president is coming to the Hollywood area to raise money. As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, the venue makes sense:
A Democrat-friendly Hollywood is hardly a box office surprise.

In March, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis revealed that Oscar nominees were almost exclusively supportive of Democrats and other left-leaning politicians and causes. In fact, the 2011 Oscar nominees' campaign cash benefited Democrats or left-leaning groups 99 percent of the time.

The 2010 Oscars were a slightly paler shade of blue, but Democrats still dominated. About 87 percent benefited Democrats or other identifiably left-leaning causes, while only 2 percent went to Republicans.

Of course, the last two years reveal that being a prolific political donor does not equal winning the golden statue.

As a whole, Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Calif., are very favorable fund-raising grounds for Democrats whatever the political climate.

During the 2010 election cycle -- with politically devastating or "shellacking" results for Democrats -- Zip codes making up Hollywood raised a total of $1.49 million, of which $1.44 million, or nearly 97 percent, benefited Democrats.

Zip codes making up Beverly Hills were only a little more bipartisan during the 2010 election cycle. Residents raised nearly $6.4 million in federally reportable cash during the 2010 election cycle. Democrats received more than $5.27 million, or about 82 percent.

The Media and Congressional Deliberation

In our text, we write about the role of the news media in conveying the details of congressional deliberation. At The Forum, Professor Christine DeGregorio finds:

Whose interests do major news dailies serve when they report on policy debates in Congress? This study compares what members of the U.S. House of Representatives say about major policy with what is later reported in two news dailies: one liberal (Washington Post) and one conservative (Washington Times). The data include one-minute floor speeches by House members (168) and published stories—news and editorials—in the print media (117). Three high-profile policy initiatives of the 107th Congress (2001-2002) anchor the investigation: No Child Left Behind Act (HR 1), Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (HR 1836), and Airport Security Act (S. 1447). The evidence shows a discrepancy in the perspectives between reporters and officeholders. Where news coverage stresses talk of the president and the process, lawmakers stress the problem and the stakes for the American people. When the debate breaks along party lines, news coverage shows a weak ideological bias that favors Democrats.

DeGregorio, Christine (2011) "Promoting Policy in a Mediated Democracy: Congress and the News," The Forum: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, Article 4.
Available at: 1/art4

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Zuckerberg and Voting

As we discuss in our chapter on public opinion and political participation (p. 257), parties and campaigns use Facebook to mobilize supporters. In November 2010, the Facebook Data Team said:

When Facebook users in the United States logged into Facebook on Election Day this year, they were greeted by a message alerting them of voting activity on Facebook. Users could click a button to announce to their friends that they had already voted and see which of their friends had done the same.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was apparently not one of those voters. The Bay Citizen reports:
When President Barack Obama visits Facebook on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg might want to dust off his voter registration card.

While the founder and CEO of Facebook registered to vote in 2002 in Westchester County, New York, where he grew up, Zuckerberg did not cast a ballot until November 2008, according to election officials.

And he has not voted since, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, where he registered as a “decline to state” voter in October 2008.

President Obama used YouTube this week to ask his fellow Americans to join him at a town hall meeting on Facebook.

Dubbed the "Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity Town Hall," the event will be streamed live on the site on Wednesday afternoon, with the President answering citizen’s questions. On the event's Facebook page, more than 28,000 people have said they will "attend."

Facebook officials did not respond to a request for comment on Zuckerberg’s voting history.

In proclaiming Citizenship Day last September, the president said:

Because of the wisdom of those who have shaped our Nation's founding documents, and the sacrifices of those who have defended America for over two centuries, we enjoy unprecedented freedoms and opportunities. As beneficiaries, we have a solemn duty to participate in our vibrant democracy so that it remains strong and responsive to the needs of our people.

When President Barack Obama visits Facebook on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg might want to dust off his voter registration card.

While the founder and CEO of Facebook registered to vote in 2002 in Westchester County, New York, where he grew up, Zuckerberg did not cast a ballot until November 2008, according to election officials.

And he has not voted since, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, where he registered as a “decline to state” voter in October 2008.

President Obama used YouTube this week to ask his fellow Americans to join him at a town hall meeting on Facebook.

Dubbed the "Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity Town Hall," the event will be streamed live on the site on Wednesday afternoon, with the President answering citizen’s questions. On the event's Facebook page, more than 28,000 people have said they will "attend."

Facebook officials did not respond to a request for comment on Zuckerberg’s voting history.

Source: The Bay Citizen (

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Exploring Presidential Races

The Federal Election Commission lists dozens of people who have filed a Statement of Candidacy (FEC Form 2) with the FEC to register as a 2012 presidential candidate. Most of them, however, are not serious contenders. Of those currently on the list, only the following have any real chance of nomination or election:
One longshot candidate who nevertheless has some plausible qualifications is Former Governor Buddy Roemer (R-LA).

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has a website, but has not yet registered with the FEC. Several other major figures may seek the Republican presidential nomination but have not announced their intentions.

Pawlenty, Romney and Roemer all have "exploratory" or "testing the waters" committees. FEC defines such organizations this way:

Before deciding to campaign for federal office, an individual may first want to “test the waters”—that is, explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate. For example, the individual may want to travel around the country to determine if there is sufficient support for his or her candidacy. An individual who merely conducts selected testing the waters activities does not have to register or report as a candidate even if the individual raises or spends more than $5,000 on those activities (the dollar threshold that would normally trigger candidate registration). Nevertheless, the individual must comply with the contribution limits and prohibitions.

An individual is no longer testing the waters when s/he:

• Makes or authorizes statements referring to him/herself as a candidate;
• Uses general public political advertising to publicize his/her intention to campaign;
• Raises more money than what is reasonably needed to test the waters, or amasses funds to be used after the candidacy is established;
• Conducts activities over a protracted period of time or shortly before the election; or
• Takes action to qualify for the ballot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The President and Passover

Danielle Borin writes at the White House blog:

Here at the White House tonight, President and Mrs. Obama will again host a small Seder, complete with recipes provided by friends and family. It’s a tradition that started in Pennsylvania in 2008, when after a long day on the campaign trail then-Senator Obama gathered a group of staffers – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – for an impromptu Seder. Each year since, the same group, along with a few close friends and family, have come together to carry on the tradition at the White House. Among the family recipes on the menu this year are a traditional chicken soup with matzoh balls, braised beef brisket, potato kugel, carrot soufflé, and matzoh chocolate cake.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

President Obama and Signing Statements

Our chapter on the presidency discusses signing statements. At The American Presidency Project, John T. Woolley explains:
A “Signing Statement” is a written comment issued by a President at the time of signing legislation. Often signing statements merely comment on the bill signed, saying that it is good legislation or meets some pressing needs. The more controversial statements involve claims by presidents that they believe some part of the legislation is unconstitutional and therefore they intend to ignore it or to implement it only in ways they believe is constitutional. Some critics argue that the proper presidential action is either to veto the legislation (Constitution, Article I, section 7) or to “faithfully execute” the laws (Constitution, Article II, section 3)

Signing statements have been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson. While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability.

I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws – more than any president in history – is a clear abuse of this prerogative. No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that.

At another point in the campaign, he was even more emphatic:

President Obama has continued to issue signing statements. In signing the continuing resolution last week, he served notice that he would not abide by the provision abolishing certain White House jobs:

Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President. The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority. The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.

Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Polling Places and Turnout

In our chapter on public opinion and political participation, we examine influences on voter turnout, including the mechanics of the voting process. At Daily Kos, see a summary of an important new article in The American Political Science Review:

Anecdotes and educated guesses about why election officials make an unusual number of changes in polling places before an election are widespread. What's been lacking has been a procedure for measuring the impact of such changes and how different types of voters react. Fortunately, two political scientists have come up with a way to do this.

Writing in the current issue of the American Political Science Review (Feb 2011, Volume 105, No. 1), Henry Brady and John McNulty report their investigation of the 2003 gubernatorial recall election in California. (The APSR is behind a subscription wall, but you can find it at most college and university libraries). The election provided a natural experiment to investigate this question, as some counties attempted to cut costs by consolidating precincts and changing polling locations in ways that nearly randomly assigned higher voting costs to some but not all voters. By comparing turnout in the counties that did this with turnout in those that did not, the effects of the changes can be estimated.


Their analysis of the voters found that precincts where polling places changed had an average decline of about 3% in polling place voting, an average increase of about 1.2% in absentee voting, and an average increase in non-voting of 1.9%. Of particular importance for Democrats, the average decline in Democrats' voting (2.1%), exceeded that for independents (1.8%) and Republicans (1.6%).

While there is no evidence of conscious manipulation in these California results, the findings suggest that it is appropriate to be watchful concerning the location of polling places. Areas experiencing notable population growth or decline are bound to experience some changes in polling places as a matter of routine, but wholesale changes, particularly when they appear to lack justification in administrative cost-saving, should be scrutinized quite closely.

Friday, April 15, 2011


An earlier post dealt with federal policy on internship programs. Today, Inside Higher Ed reports:

Colleges want to graduate seasoned workers who've had myriad internship opportunities, but can’t always tell which internships are legitimate and don’t want to scare off potential employers by cracking down on what they offer.

Well-meaning businesses want productive interns, but many say they can’t afford to pay them anymore.

Ross Perlin, a veteran of the unpaid internship and a researcher for the Himalayan Languages Project, in China, decided three years ago to investigate some of the issues that arise when these conflicting interests collide. What he found can be inferred through the title of his new book – Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy (Verso).


“I do think that schools have to look at what they’re doing in terms of promoting unpaid, unstructured opportunities at for-profit companies that seem to be illegal under U.S. labor law,” Perlin said. “It’s something that we really need to pay attention to, and is a contributor at the deepest level to widening inequality.”

There is less controversy surrounding structured internships in government and the nonprofit sector. Here are examples of such programs in Washington, DC:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Workforce: Older, Smaller

As we discuss in our chapters on social welfare policy and economic policy, changes in the age and employment status of the population will have major consequences. USA Today reports:

The share of the population that is working fell to its lowest level last year since women started entering the workforce in large numbers three decades ago, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Only 45.4% of Americans had jobs in 2010, the lowest rate since 1983 and down from a peak of 49.3% in 2000. Last year, just 66.8% of men had jobs, the lowest on record.

The bad economy, an aging population and a plateau in women working are contributing to changes that pose serious challenges for financing the nation’s social programs.

“What’s wrong with the economy may be speeding up trends that are already happening,” says Marc Goldwein, policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan group favoring smaller deficits.

For example, job troubles appear to have slowed a trend of people working later in life, putting more pressure on Social Security, he says.


The aging of 77 million Baby Boomers born from 1946 through 1964 from children to workers to retirees is changing the relationship between workers and dependents.

Retirees generally are more costly to support than children.

The average public school education costs $10,000 a year. The average retiree gets $25,000 a year in benefits — $13,000 in Social Security and Medicare benefits of $12,000.

In all, taxpayers will spend about $125,000 educating a child and $500,000 caring for a senior, in today’s dollars at current life expectancies, according to federal education and retirement program data. The costs are paid differently, too. State and local governments, through sales and property taxes, pay most education expenses. The federal government, though income taxes, pays most retiree costs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


In his remarks on fiscal policy today, the president said: "But just to hold Washington -- and to hold me --- accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe."

The ending of that sentence was unfortunate. The term "fail-safe" became famous because of a 1964 movie of the same name. The title was deliberately ironic: it was all about the failure of a "fail-safe" system to prevent accidental nuclear attack. At the movie's close, nuclear bombs destroy Moscow and New York.

President Obama on the Ryan Budget Proposal

In his speech today on the budget, President Obama was highly critical of the proposal by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-WI):
This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know.
On January 29, 2010, the president spoke to House Republicans and took a different view of the Ryan proposal:

Now, going forward, here's the deal. I think, Paul, for example, head of the budget committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. I've read it. I can tell you what's in it. And there are some ideas in there that I would agree with, but there are some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about because I don't agree with them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Stakes of the Civil War

On the 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter, Allen C. Guelzo writes:

The newly minted Confederacy was only worried about preserving slavery and the stiffly ranked society that slavery created -- but in Lincoln's mind the issue was even larger: Secession was anarchy -- and no friend to democracy.

On the day Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861, the United States was the only large-scale example of a democracy left in the world. There had been others -- but from 1789 until 1861, all of those other struggles for democracy had been snuffed out by kings, emperors and dictators of various sorts.

If the American democracy shattered itself because seven states weren't willing to abide by the outcome of the presidential election, then every one of those kings, emperors and dictators would be able to say to their nations, "See what democracy gets you? Instability. Disorder. The moment one faction loses out to another, they want to break the whole thing up! That's democracy!"

Recalling Mayors

In our chapter on elections and campaigns, we discuss recall elections. On the local level, USA Today reports, such elections are becoming more common:

Buoyed by the viral power of the Internet and rising anti-government sentiment, disgruntled voters have set off a rash of recall drives against mayors in cities across the USA.

The urge to oust city leaders has intensified in the struggling economy as more mayors raise taxes and cut services to close budget shortfalls.

Fifty-seven mayors faced recall attempts last year, up from 23 in 2009, according to Ballotpedia, a non-profit that tracks recall elections. So far this year: 15. Almost all have failed.

Recalls are so frequent that the U.S. Conference of Mayors today launches a campaign warning mayors to brace for recalls. The effort includes a documentary-style film, Recall Fever: Stop the Madness. The film recounts recent recall efforts in Omaha; Miami; Akron, Ohio; and Chattanooga, Tenn.

"Any person who's coming in to serve needs to understand this is happening," says Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the non-partisan mayor's group. Cochran says that budgetary decisions made in this tough economic climate are likely to trigger more anger. "If they don't have a website, if they don't have a blogger," he says of mayors, "they better, by God, get one." ...

Voters generally like recalls, says Joshua Spivak, who writes a blog on recall elections and is a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York City. "That's the whole point of democracy," he says. "Mayors have to accept that … that's part of the challenges of being a public elected official."

Most recalls fail, but last month, Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Alvarez, who listed no party preference, was ousted by 88% of voters in a special election. Alvarez angered constituents when he gave pay increases to staffers and raised property taxes during a housing bust.

At the Recall Elections Blog, Spivak faults the Conference of Mayors effort:

Specifically, it notes that the recall has targeted local leaders “who have done nothing illegal” and that voters are “expressing their feelings -- often times in destructive ways.” This seems to be a fruitless attempt to shift the blame to the voters, and by stressing the illegality red herring, ignores the fact that recalls are (in most states and localities) inherently political devices. Most recalls are not based around illegal action, and a study of the history of the recall shows that it was not intended to flush out corruption. Voters are simply not going to like this line of attacks.

This is a shame, as the mayors should be calling attention to the cost of recalls. As I’ve mentioned before, arguing that a recall is expensive does not work that well as a campaign defense. However, it is pretty much the only time that the recall’s price tag comes up. The mayors are right to bring this issue to the fore now, and try to present a reasoned explanation for why voters should limit the recall in order to save money. But the Mayors have to walk a tightrope – which their initial press release did not do – and show that they are looking out for the voters best interest, and not seeking to protect themselves and limit options for deploying the recall.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foreign News

Our chapter on the mass media discusses the difficulty of covering international news. In this vein, The New York Times reports on its own foreign desk:

Always, though, as the day progresses, a dual mission remains in sight: update news for the Web, yes, but also build stories for tomorrow’s newspaper — especially for the front page.

To do this, the foreign desk operates within a complex system of networks, real and electronic. In the physical network, now stretched by fatigue and rising costs, The Times deploys photographers, correspondents and stringers around the globe, some in bureaus and others on the fly in hot spots. The Times also works closely with The International Herald Tribune, branded as the “global edition” of The Times, and its bureaus in Paris and Hong Kong.

The electronic network of The Times can be seen on Mr. Goodman’s two computer screens. News pours in from the wire services, like The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg and Reuters. Twitter feeds arrive constantly with updates from bloggers and competitors of all kinds. Times internal systems for print and the Web site display and manage stories-in-progress. Instant messages blink on continually as staffers try to stay on the same page.

Presiding over this is Susan Chira, who has been the foreign editor since early 2004. She doesn’t actually have time to “preside,” though. She edits articles, makes decisions, provides moral support to the troops and tries to keep the big picture in view.

Many editors on the desk express concern about the steady flow of news developments and the pressure to post updates on the Web. “We are weighing ourselves against the wires,” Ms. Chira says. “That’s new for us.”

Rick Gladstone, the day editor who keeps the desk’s working list of stories and makes sure The International Herald Tribune gets fed on time, says: “We have become a news service that runs a newspaper. We are all wire editors now.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Price of Being President

Editors and publishers from Hearst magazines recently interviewed the president. Richard Dunham reports:

"I just miss — I miss being anonymous," he said at the meeting in the White House State Dining Room. "I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks. I can't take a walk."


His impossible dream: "I just want to go through Central Park (in New York) and watch folks passing by...Spend the whole day watching people. I miss that."

Other presidents have felt the same way. Our chapter on the presidency quotes a 1982 interview with President Reagan:

You kind of live like a bird in a gilded cage. And I sometimes look out the window at Pennsylvania Avenue and wonder what it would be like to be able to just walk down the street to the corner drugstore and look at the magazines. I can't do that anymore.

"Protect Our Investments"

Presidents tend to repeat themes and phrases from their predecessors. President Obama is no exception. In his televised remarks on the budget agreement, he said: "But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs -- investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future."

On August 7, 1995, President Clinton gave an interview to National Public Radio: "Now, there are two plans to balance the budget. I believe two-thirds of the American people agree with my way. I think they'd rather take a little longer, have a smaller tax cut, and protect the incomes of elderly Americans on Medicare, protect our investments in education from Head Start to affordable college loans, and not gut the environment."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trump, Jabba, and Nonattitudes

As we explain in our chapter on public opinion, "nonattitudes" the answers people give when pollsters ask them about things they have not thought about and and on which they have no real opinions.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, Mitt Romney is the first choice of those who say that they would vote in a Republican presidential primary. Tied for second place are Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump. Yes, Donald Trump, the "You're Fired!" guy. Does this finding mean that Republicans have suddenly developed a passion for gaudy architecture and bad hair? Nope, the number doesn’t mean much at all. Only a couple of major would-be candidates have even formed “exploratory” committees, and some other potential contenders are still undecided. Several of them are unfamiliar to most voters. In this situation, many respondents will pick Trump simply because they recognize his name. And since it will be months before they have to make a real choice, they feel free to give whimsical answers. Jabba the Hutt would probably poll well, too, but that doesn’t mean that anybody would vote for him.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Of Deficits and Courage

Dr. Marvin Folkertsma writes of budget deficits:

Certainly the attention devoted to this subject over the past few years has been huge, but as Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff point out in their excellent treatment, This Time It’s Different, these numbers reflect conditions that kill countries. Indeed, instead of treating the greatest country on earth like a pampered and suicidal adolescent, American leaders must grasp that nations crumble under such debt; nations and empires and entire civilizations. Further, viable alternatives have been offered as well, including those advocated by a bipartisan Senate group as well as those from the president’s own debt commission, and most recently, by Congressman Paul Ryan.

So, what is the solution? Honesty and courage. Honesty on the part of our political leaders to explain America’s perilous situation and courage to do something about it, regardless of consequences to their own political careers, or even to their lives. Both traits were illustrated in a marvelous vignette recounted by Joseph Ellis in his Founding Brothers. After signing the document that pitted the newly proclaimed country against the most formidable world power the world had ever known, Benjamin Harrison quipped to Elbridge Gerry that his size and weight gave him a greater advantage over his smaller colleague, in that when they were all hung for treason, the corpulent Mr. Harrison “would die in a few minutes,” whereas the lighter Mr. Gerry would “dance in the air an hour or two before [he is] dead.”

These men were honest about the stakes involved, which they faced with resolution and courage and, if necessary, their lives. Today’s circumstances require no less.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Church, State, and the Tax Code

In our chapter on civic culture, we discuss the relationship between religious organizations and the tax code. The topic remains newsworthy. The New Hampshire Journal reports:

It’s on between the Tea Party and the Catholic Church in New Hampshire.

Republican State Rep. and Tea Party leader Andrew Manuse (R-Derry) told the Catholic League he will be filing legislation in the New Hampshire House to strip the Roman Catholic Church of its tax exempt status because Bishop John McCormack spoke against proposed budget cuts at a recent State House rally, according to Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

“I am now considering a bill to remove the Church’s tax exempt status in New Hampshire, for you have clearly shown that you no longer want it,” Manuse says in the e-mail.

Sources at the State House have confirmed to NH Journal that Manuse indeed intends to file such legislation.

Last week, McCormack joined several thousand protesters to oppose Republican-sponsored budget cuts.

“Never in the nearly 18 years I have spent as president of the Catholic League have I seen more totally irresponsible statements issued by the lawmakers in any one state,” said Donohue in a statement. “Why doesn’t Manuse go right ahead with his bill to remove the Church’s tax-exempt status? We’d love to present his e-mail in court.”

The ABA Journal reports on Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn and Garriott v. Winn:

The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed an establishment clause challenge to a tax credit program that helps fund scholarships at religious schools, ruling that the taxpayers who sued don’t have standing to pursue the case.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion (PDF) in the 5-4 case. The plaintiffs’ mere status as taxpayers was insufficient to create standing, Kennedy said. His opinion sees a difference between direct governmental expenditures and tax credits. In the latter instance, he wrote, “any financial injury remains speculative.”

The Arizona program provided individual tax credits of up to $500 for contributions to groups that in turn funded private school scholarships, including scholarships to religious schools.

Oral argument here

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Political Money

President Obama is asking the Democratic National Committee to make Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) its new chair. (National committees routinely accede to such requests.) Our textbook(p. 287) quotes a brief profile of her in a 2008 book on power in Washington. She was quite candid about political money:
Wasserman Schultz makes no apology for the role money plays in the process, calling allegations of corruption on Pennsylvania Avenue "overrated." Campaign donations simply become one device among many, she explains, that help members decide how to spend their time. If she returns to her office to find thirty phone messages, “of the thirty, you're going to know ten of them. Anyone is going to make phone calls to the people they know first. I'm going to call the people I know. Among the people I know are donors.”
-- John Harwood and Gerald F. Seib, Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Power (Random House, 2008, pp. 84-85).

Presidential War Power

Professor Scott Lemieux writes at The American Prospect:

Limits on executive-branch power are difficult to enforce -- other than impeaching the president, how else would one stop him from intervening in Libya contrary to the will of Congress? -- but the proposition that violations of valid federal laws are normatively acceptable is unconscionable. Secretary of State Clinton's suggestion that the Obama administration would continue its attacks on Libya in the face of congressional action to the contrary is highly disturbing, even if congressional quiescence is likely to make the point moot.

Ultimately, the most effective restriction on presidential war-making power is political. Congress still has the formal powers necessary to push back against the expansion of presidential powers. If members of Congress want to create the political conditions that would make it less likely for Libya to become a quagmire, they should, and can, act now.