Alessandra Bonafide ’16 – Inside Politics Program
In Elana Schor’s article titled President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL; GOP Plans to Override Veto, she discusses Obama’s vetoing of the Keystone XL pipeline bill. In National Geographic Magazine, Wendy Koch expanded on this topic in her article Two Reasons Why Obama’s Keystone Veto Won’t Decide Pipeline, which explains how despite Obama’s veto, issues and obstacles concerning the project still exist. The Keystone XL project was first proposed by TransCanada in 2008 and the bill initially passed by Congress on February 11, 2015.
Schor discusses the opinions and arguments of President Obama, the GOP, and Canada. Obama mentions that his motivation behind vetoing the bill was for the welfare of the nation. Nonetheless, the GOP plans on overriding the veto. The GOP will attempt to override the bill because Obama’s decision would deprive the United States and its citizens of thousands of construction jobs. In addition, according to Senate Energy and Natural Resources, chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said “the president is missing an opportunity when it comes to jobs and North American energy independence.” However, Schor doubts that the GOP will be successful in their efforts. As for Canada, it is still fully committed to the project as they assert that the question is not if the project will eventually follow through but simply a matter of when.
Schor presents both sides of the argument for the project as she mentions how Russ Girling, the CEO of TransCanada, revealed statistics showing how pipelines are a safer way to transport oil than rail, barge or truck. On the other hand, Senator Ed Markey simply states that the project is a dangerous proposition and bad deal for the nation. Greg Rickford, Canadian Natural Resources Minister, did make a particularly interesting and powerful point about how “this is not a debate between Canada and the U.S.; it’s a debate between the President and the American people, who are supportive of the project.” As with many political or policy related decisions, the fate and ultimate success of decisions made by the government and specifically the President depends on how the people perceive, receive, and react to the issue at hand.
The day before the bill was vetoed, Wendy Koch explains the problems that will undoubtedly follow, such as challenges involving Nebraska and South Dakota. Specifically, TransCanada does not have approval to establish a route through Nebraska and it does not have a usable construction permit in South Dakota. Furthermore, Koch discusses how the pipeline has become emblematic of the debate regarding jobs versus the environment. Those in favor of the Keystone project argue that it will provide numerous jobs and guarantee energy security, as it will ensure the delivery of Canadian oil to the United States. On the other hand, those against the project believe that it will further the development of Alberta’s oil sands, resulting in other environmental issues including the increased emission of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and thereby amplifying global warming.
Overall, the true motivation and reasoning behind Obama’s veto remains in question. Schor suggests that Obama’s rejection of the bill is a reflection of his concern and responsibility to the nation and its people. However, Koch gives Obama more credit by offering the possibility that this veto acts as a testament to the Presidents commitment to the environment. There are other more cynical standpoints that would claim that Obama vetoed the bill because he wants to retain his power to make the Keystone decision himself. Instead, Senator Ed Markey suggested and appealed to Obama to follow the veto with a complete rejection of Keystone once and for all. Thus, the inevitable multi-faceted tug of war regarding the Keystone project naturally remains, which is between jobs and the environment, the government and the people, and Obama and the GOP.
Caleb Parker ’18 – Inside Politics Program
Senator Marco Rubio once said, “We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have.” Marco Rubio in my mind represents all the aspects that unites my beliefs as an American. He represents the side of America that this nation was built upon. He represents diversity from his identity, but unity with his heart. His humble roots and hard work gave him the American Dream, and that being said, I believe that the American Dream should be available and spread to all people by influence, as our founding fathers had in mind.
The Obama Administration has announced in December its plans of rebuilding diplomatic relations with the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba. I applaud this decision from the President’s administration, as well as the joint bipartisan efforts from Senator Robert Mendevez of New Jersey, the current chairman of the Senate Committee on foreign relations, alongside his team of Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Half of these men have origins in their families ancestry from Cuba, which is why this decision is so heartfelt and emotional. I would like to analyze the benefits of this decision, and how this decision can and will be an ultimate good for both the U.S. and Cuba alongside other factors.
Castro’s takeover of Cuba at the start of the Cold War was a gigantic blow to U.S. National Security and the promise of peace and stability for the democratic world. The United States adopted an isolationist policy from Cuba immediately, setting an embargo over the small island nation just 90 miles off the shores of Key West. An embargo is meant to cripple an enemy economy within a span of several years. This is not the case with Cuba, it has been nearly 60 years since the Cuban embargo began and Cuba’s economy has not fallen. Why after decades of the Castro regime would the economy fall now? In no way, shape, or form has any other factor changed. Cuba has learned to live in a world without the United States. They have sought goods and services via trade from other nations, only helping develop their economy. Therefore the argument about the consequences of the embargo is not rational and is completely invalid.
Let’s examine the impending national security threat that Cuba holds. Cuba is the largest nation in the Caribbean with around 9 million citizens and has the largest island mass. Cuba was never and will never be a substantial military, political, or economic threat to the United States. The Cuban Missile Crisis was not the doing of Cubans, but the doing of the Soviets. Therefore perhaps a lesson learned from that story is that the United States should try to ally itself with its neighbors, especially a neighbor within earshot of one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S. The United States has an entire continent below its southern border. The United States doesn’t necessarily need to befriend every single nation throughout the Western Hemisphere, however in this time of crisis around the world, it is critical that the United States has diplomatic relations with a nation so close to American shores. Additionally, I challenge anyone of my opponents to find one specific nation or state in which the United States has not had conflict or animosity towards. The U.S. fought two wars with Britain, yet Britain is the U.S.’s greatest ally. The Japanese bombed the United States, yet American interest still prevails. Wars have been fought against Spain, France, Germany, Russia, Vietnam, Communist China, Columbia, and Grenada, just to say a few. However all of these nations still have diplomatic relations with the United States with a lot of economic interest in between on both sides. The United States has had a tough tension between the Castro regime, however the fall of the Soviet Union saw an end of the military capabilities of the people’s army of Cuba. This means that Cuba is no longer a giant military power able to bomb the United States. There are many more military and political threats in the world that the United States should be focused on before Cuba.
Take a moment to look at what this plan means and what the results can be. Immediately, two embassies will be staffed in Washington, D.C. and Havana, Cuba, with plans in the future for consulates in American cities with high Cuban populations including Miami, New York, and Newark as well as Cuban cities with American interest including Santiago de Cuba. The decades long embargo will ultimately end, allowing investors between both nations able to once again convene and trade. Additionally a major industry that is often underestimated is the tourism of the Caribbean. Cuban ports primarily based out of Havana can provide great interest to cruise companies to further the opportunity for investors, bankers, and tourism with industry throughout Cuba as well as the entire Caribbean. With a struggling economy in the Caribbean, Cuba’s primary industry of agriculture can develop industry in the region with the United States leading the way for more economic and political security.
Economic policy is definitely a primary concern to the American people and to our policy makers. However there are political advances that this decision will make as well. This decision is one step in the direction of freeing the people of Cuba and allowing sunlight to once again shine on this nation. The regime of both Fidel and Raul Castro for the past half century has led to the deaths of thousands of Cubans and the displacement of additional thousands, who now live throughout the United States. Both Fidel and Raul Castro are in their eighties and it is believed that natural death will come for both within the next decade. With the end of the Castro regime, only God knows who would take over, and no one knows how much bloodshed would come with a squabble for political power.
With that in mind it is important to know what 50 years of an embargo has done to Cuba. The economy was isolated, but so were its people. Not many Cubans can recall of the freedoms of democracy, but only the iron grip of the Castro regime. If the people of Cuba don’t know the taste of democracy, then how can they ever be able to fight for independence as a republic once again? Looking back at Cuba, this is the perfect and ideal opportunity for the promise of democracy to stand on the shores of the island. If the United States wants political and economic security in the Caribbean and Latin American region, then this is the perfect way to spread the influence. The United States is not any safer yesterday than it is today, therefore it is time for the United States to look towards new policy to promote national as well as global security. It is time for peace, time for economic opportunity, and time for political change in Cuba. Henry Ford, perhaps America’s greatest industrialist once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team
As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:
4.) Team Graham Expands
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s prospective presidential campaign is picking up speed as both a new communications director and senior advisor were hired by Graham’s team this week.
Jon Seaton, a Republican operative who worked for Tim Pawlenty’s campaign in 2012, will serve as a senior political advisor for Security Through Strength, the PAC backing Graham’s potential 2016 bid. Brittany Bramell, who previously served as a spokeswoman for House Speaker John Boehner, will take over the group’s communications operations.
Coming just a week after Security Through Strength brought an Iowa advisor, Tracie Gibler, on board, all signs indicate that Sen. Graham is rapidly building a campaign team – although he is currently trailing other members of the GOP in early polls. Graham is likely to make a final decision by mid-May.
According to Christian Ferry, one of the senator’s senior advisors and Graham’s likely campaign manager, “He’s been traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire recently, talking to voters, talking to activists about keeping them safe and secure, evaluating how important that is in voters’ calculations,” Ferry added that if Graham were to run for president, “He’ll run to win, not to make a point.”
3. Homecoming Rally for Rand
This week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s team revealed that he will be making an important announcement in Louisville in early April.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the potential Republican candidate will hold an event at the historic Galt House Hotel on April 7. While it appears as though Paul has been preparing for a presidential run for months, sources have not confirmed that he will be announcing a campaign launch on the 7th.
An early April announcement would certainly be convenient for the senator. The event would fall during the Senate’s March recess, and would not require fundraising reports to be released until after June.
During the week after the Louisville event is held, Paul is scheduled to tour Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – all key swing states that presidential candidates will have to focus on as 2016 draws closer. Sen. Paul is also scheduled to visit New Hampshire this week for two days, his second trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state this year.
2.) NH Push for Bush
While critics have doubted his chances for success on the campaign trail, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears to be feeling increasingly comfortable with the pace and media attention of a budding presidential campaign.
During his trip to New Hampshire this week, Bush, who hasn’t run for office since 2002, chatted with voters on a tour to local businesses and during a party hosted by donors. The likely GOP candidate appeared more relaxed than he had been during previous appearances, making light-hearted jokes aimed at the large press group following him from event to event.
The former Florida governor is completing the second half of a trip through the early-voting states this month. Two weeks ago, Bush was in Iowa, and next week he plans to swing through South Carolina – home of the nation’s earliest Southern primary election.
Historically, the Bush family has had tough luck with the state of New Hampshire. In 2000, Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush, lost the New Hampshire primary after winning the caucus in Iowa. In 1980, his father, George H.W. Bush, also lost the New Hampshire primary to Ronald Reagan.
1.) A Second Trump Run?
On Wednesday, real estate tycoon Donald Trump revealed that he plans to form a presidential exploratory committee as the 2016 election approaches.
“I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble. We have lost the respect of the entire world,” Trump said in a statement. “Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians — who are all talk and no action!”
While the exploratory committee takes shape, Trump has also recently hired staffers with connections in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. This is not the first time that Trump has announced a potential presidential bid. In 2010, Trump expressed interest in running for the 2012 GOP nomination. In this week’s announcement, the mogul spoke about his leadership role in building his company, and his success in creating jobs throughout the Trump Organization, with “very little debt.” Trump has often criticized President Obama’s handling of the nation’s economy and federal budget.
If he were to run, Trump would face quite a challenge – in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 74 percent of Republicans said they viewed Trump in a negative light. He received a higher percentage of negative feedback than any of the 14 other candidates included in the poll.
Eliza Meneghin ’16 – Inside Politics Program
On February 24th, President Obama vetoed the bill to approve construction on the controversial Keystone oil pipeline. This marks the third time President Obama has used this power in his presidency, and the first time since October of 2010. The pipeline, which would carry oil across national borders from the Canadian oil sands to refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast, has been shaped into a larger political issue focusing on partisan politics, energy, and the economy. The GOP sees the pipeline as their number one priority and claims that the pipeline will create many needed American jobs. However, environmentalists argue that the larger environmental effects of the pipeline have not been sufficiently studied and the construction will lead to damaging climate change.
Environmentalists are hopeful that this veto indicates that President Obama will reject the overall construction of the pipeline and finally fufill the promises that he made in 2008 in regards to climate change. On the other hand, Republicans have declared that they will challenge the veto and will not give up supporting the pipeline. However, the two-thirds vote needed from congress to pass the bill is likely to receive insurmountable pushback from the Democrats, unless moderate members of the Democrat party can be convinced to vote for the pipeline.
It is believed that this veto by the President will be the first of many future veto’s that represents the “veto era” of Obama’s presidency that will ultimately shape his legacy in the last years of his presidency. Furthermore, the final decision made will rest on the environmental reports presented in the upcoming weeks. With this pending decision, both protesters and proponents alike have increased their presence in Washington. Additionally, individuals that are strongly against the Presidents decision to veto a bipartisan bill, such as Reince Priebus, chairmen of the Republican National Committee, declared that Obama is “out of step…with the priorities of the American people, who overwhelmingly support this vital jobs and infrastructure project” . Ultimately, the decision is solely that of President Obama and whatever the outcome, it will undoubtedly be marked as a major controversial point of his presidency.
Haya Mohanna ’17 – Women In Leadership program
Fighting for women’s rights and equality has been an ongoing matter for decades. However, no one can deny that we have come a long way in promoting and implementing gender equality. For some such as Victoria Fox, CEO of LIDA and a writer for the Huffington Post, gender inequality and gender discrimination have not been issues. In her blog about International Women’s Day, Fox starts questioning why the world is still celebrating such a day and why after all these years, Women’s Day is necessary. Then she steps back and realizes that she has been fortunate enough to escape the effects of gender inequality. She states that she has been given the same opportunities as her male co-workers and has never felt that she had to balance her life at the expense of her career. For many women who are in Fox’s shoes, it is easy to ignore the reality and to be blinded by the broader challenges that face women worldwide. When Fox started to look at the statistics about women equality and realized that it is still an issue, she felt the duty to open her eyes and speak out for women. From her experiences, Fox advises that in order to “Make it Happen”, which is the theme for the International Women’s Day, women have to grasp every opportunity to get public support and be super-selective in their job selection.
On the other hand, some women decide to speak out. For example, Patricia Arquette’s remarks at the Oscars this past February lit up the internet. Her speech about gender and economic justice left many inspirational vibes amongst the audience. Even though Patricia is a well-known actress in the film industry, she admits that actresses are paid less relative to their male co-stars. Furthermore, she emphasizes the wage gap between women with children and childless women. Supporting her argument, the New York Times reports that “unmarried women earn 96 cents on the man’s dollar, childless women earn 93 cents on the man’s dollar and married mothers with at least one child earn 76 cents on the man’s dollar”. Patricia, concluding her speech, exclaimed “and it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for, to fight for us now”.
Erin Cassese, a writer for the Washington Post, is critical of Arquette’s speech exclaiming that Patricia’s remarks only included a fraction of women, specifically white women. She argues that Patricia’s speech treated gender and race as separate movements. As a result, women of color, generally seen as the most disadvantaged, fall through the cracks. She points out that the data reveals that women, on average, earn 77 cents on the man’s dollar. However, African-American women earn 62 cents on the dollar and Latinas women earn 52 cents on the dollar. In stating these facts, Patricia points out that everyone’s mistake when calling for women equality is to assume that there is a single wage gap. In order to truly reduce the wage gap, we have to look deeper into the economics stratification among women based on race and ethnicity.
Meghan Eaton ’18 – Inside Politics Program
On Thursday February 19th, in Chicago, President Obama launched his “Every Kid In a Park” initiative. This initiative gives all fourth graders and their families – starting this coming fall – free admission for the year to all National Parks. The initiative hopes to encourage more kids to go outside and explore our National Park system. According to the white house website “…more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces.”  At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside. National Parks act as living classrooms that inspire the next generation to explore what nature has to offer.
The initiative makes it easier for schools and families to plan trips to the National Parks. By distributing information and resources to teachers and families, it will make it simpler for them to become connected with local programs. A part of the initiative will provide transportation support to schools and children, who most need the help, so that all students can experience the National Parks. The administration will be re-launching the Ticket to Ride program, which awards transportation grants for kids to visit parks and other public lands. Educational materials for public access will also be provided along with the initiative. The National Park Service re-launched its website with over a 1,000 materials for the use of K-12 teachers. These materials include lesson plans, field trip guides, and science labs. 
On Thursday, President Obama also dedicated three historic landmarks in the United States as National Monuments. The Pullman National Monument in Illinois was the first to be dedicated. This monument highlights America’s first industrial town, which tells important stories about the industrial revolution, opportunity and discrimination, and the rise of labor unions. The second monument dedicated was Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii. This site tells the story of where Japanese American citizens, immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. It tells the story of interment camps and the loss of civil rights during times of conflict. The last monument dedicated was Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado. This monument can be found in Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley in Chaffee County. It features granite cliffs, colorful rock, and mountain vistas that are home to diverse plant and wildlife. 
President Obama requested twenty million dollars of funding in the 2016 Budget in order to support this initiative and other youth education programs. Overall the public has shown a positive reaction to this initiative, although it comes with a hefty price tag. As fourth grade students and families use their passes this fall, they will develop a connection and visit more parks in the future, which will increase revenue for the park system in the long run. Student will also be able to make connections between what they are learning in the classroom with the field trips and visits they are taking to the National Parks. Applying their knowledge from the classroom in a real world setting will help the students think critically. Children will hopefully take advantage of this opportunity, and because of it, spend more time outside. The childhood obesity rate in America for children between the ages of 6-11 is 18%.  I believe creating an initiative that not only benefits children’s education, but also encourages physical activity is very important. I believe our government should heavily focus on more programs that will build our education system. Every Kid In a Park is terrific initiative, that helps build America’s education system and helps encourage students to become life learners.
Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team
As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:
5.) Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Debut
This Wednesday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush spoke to a large audience in Chicago during the first significant foreign policy speech of his prospective presidential campaign. The speech offered Bush the chance to establish a potential foreign policy agenda that would separate himself from his father and brother. Bush addressed his family legacy, saying “I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.”
The former governor’s message was hawkish in nature, and criticized President Obama’s foreign policy decisions in Iran, Russia, and Cuba. “This administration talks, but the words fade,” Bush said. “They draw red lines, and then erase them. With grandiosity they announce resets and then disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement.” Bush also stated that the Obama administration’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Iraq created a power “void” that has created opportunity for extremists.
While Jeb Bush will have to continue to declare his independence from both his father and brother’s time in office in order to establish a strong candidacy, Democratic operatives quickly responded to his foreign policy debut with criticism. “Today, Jeb Bush made his first foray into explaining and attempting to recast his foreign policy,” said DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman. “But despite Jeb Bush’s claim that he will be his ‘own man’, there is little evidence that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy agenda is much different compared to his brother’s.”
4.) Swing States Want Change
A recent Quinnipiac poll reveals new data about three key swing states that went blue during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Voters in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia say that they want President Obama’s successor to pursue a different policy direction.
In both Colorado and Iowa, 58 percent of voters surveyed want the next president to have different policies, with 34 percent saying they approve of the status quo. The number of dissatisfied voters is higher in Virginia, where 61 percent say the next president should forge a new path.
When asked about the economy, 42 percent of voters in Colorado and Iowa say that Obama’s economic policies have hurt the country, rather than helped; in Virginia, 45 percent responded that the economy has been hurt, compared with 39 percent who say it has made a recovery during Obama’s presidency.
Obama’s overall job approval ratings in those states are slightly higher. In Iowa and Colorado, 43 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove of the President’s performance; in Virginia, 44 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove. Presidential candidates will have to take such polls into account when running for office in 2016 – especially when pursuing swing state votes.
3.) Walker’s Collegiate Controversy
As Wisconsin governor Scott Walker gears up for a potential run for the 2016 Republican nomination, his college years have come back to haunt him. The governor, who dropped out of Marquette University during his senior year, would be the first president (if he runs and wins) in more than 60 years to hold office without a college degree. This fact has become a point of controversy as Walker begins to form a campaign team. Critics have questioned the motives behind his withdrawal from Marquette, while Walker himself has dismissed the concerns, saying, “That’s the kind of elitist, government-knows-best, top-down approach we’ve had for years. I’d rather have a fighter who’s proven he can take on the big government interests and win.”
While facing questions about his education, Walker continues to prepare a team of Capitol Hill veterans for his likely 2016 campaign. The governor recently hired Mike Gallagher, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer to coordinate his international portfolio. Kristin Jackson, an energy and immigration expert, has joined Walker’s team as a domestic policy advisor.
2.) Jeb Backs Hillary?
A conservative political advocacy group has released a video calling Jeb Bush “unelectable.” The nonprofit, ForAmerica, claims that Bush is not a suitable Republican candidate for president, especially if he faces Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
The video argues that the former Florida governor has praised Clinton’s public service too highly in the past, specifically referencing the 2013 Liberty Medal Ceremony, during which Bush spoke in support of the then-Secretary of State’s political career before she was presented with the award. The ceremony took place less than a year after the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, for which Clinton faced censure and criticism.
ForAmerica argues that Bush’s previous comments on Clinton’s public service will make it impossible for him to evaluate her political experience in a critical matter. According to ForAmerica chairman Brent Bozell, “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant; and he inexplicably did so almost a year to the day of the Benghazi massacre. He will lose, and the public will have to suffer at least another four years of Obama’s policies – and anything worse she has in store for America.”
1.) Biden’s Strategic Tour
This week, Vice President Joe Biden will travel to New Hampshire to advocate for the Obama administration’s economic policies and participate in a discussion on education and community colleges. Although the Vice President says he has not made up his mind as to whether or not he will run for president in 2016, Biden will have visited the first three presidential nominating states in under a month by the end of this week.
Earlier in February, Biden gave a speech on the state of the economy and toured a local community college in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that is home to the earliest-held presidential caucus. Last week, he passed through South Carolina to discuss infrastructure investment – the third state in presidential nomination order.
Biden’s busy travel schedule has encouraged speculation that he will enter the 2016 race, and his visit to New Hampshire is sure to further such rumors. While the Vice President has stated that he has not yet made a final decision on seeking a presidential bid, he mentioned in January that “there’s a chance” that he would challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary when she officially begins her campaign. During his time in Iowa in early February, Biden said that he will announce his decision “sometime in the end of the summer.”