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Clinton 2016: Experience or Exhaustion?

April 15, 2015

Katerina Krohn ‘17 – Inside Politics Program

Just recently after the announcement that she would run for presidency in 2016, Hilary Clinton has held the spotlight as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. While many Democrats are lining up to support Hilary, both parties are beginning to question her ability to win over American voters with her experience-based appeal.

According to a recent article by RT, more than 60% of democratic voters are looking for a new face—a candidate that has never run for president in the past. The article notes that Democratic support for Clinton specifically is dropping. Support for Hillary has fallen about 15 points since mid-February with as few as 45% of Democrats supporting her in a mid-March survey. Criticism toward Clinton is coming from within the party through the general public as well as through other potential candidates. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley criticized possible candidates from political families in a recent interview with ABC’s “This Week,” targeting not only Clinton but also Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush. “I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives,” O’Malley stated. “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families. It is an awesome and sacred trust that is to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people” [1].

Criticism toward Clinton’s potential candidacy will continue to come from a variety of sources that will challenge her ability to successfully promote change in her campaign. Clinton’s campaign will be fatigued by her family’s presence in the political world, her unsuccessful prior candidacy, and controversy over her actions as secretary of state. The recent email controversy has only added to the nation’s exhaustion with secrecy and scandal among political families. Time will tell if the emails dispute will actually affect Hillary’s potential candidacy, but it certainly won’t help her promote an image of a fresh start.

Recently, however, some are criticizing Hillary. “She will have to break with Obama significantly and substantively if she wants to win,” said Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “Obama is no Reagan, and America is ready for the end of his presidency, not the extension of it” [2]. While Obama may not have the approval rating of President Reagan, his stabilizing approval rating and steadily improving economy may not hurt her as much as criticisms are predicting.

It should be interesting to see how Hilary will answer the call for change now that she has decided to run, however it is still unclear what her message will be. After a prior loss, a publicized past, an association with the current president, Clinton will need to prove to the American people that she can somehow bring a fresh start.



ISIS Targets Women—As Recruits

April 14, 2015

Nicole Miller – Women In Leadership

The notoriously violent, ruthless, and extremist terrorist group ISIS has given itself the mission of targeting women—but not just as victims, as recruits. Aside from the fact that ISIS is an extremist faction of Al Qaeda—that’s right, ISIS was too extreme for Al Qaeda—that tasks itself with violently dismantling the western world, one innocent civilian at a time, it is common knowledge that Islam and countries under Sharia law are especially oppressive towards women. In countries under Sharia law (the “divine law” defined by the Quran), women are not allowed to drive, or allowed to leave the house without accompaniment of their husband or son. They do not work and it is widely believed they are to stay inside the house. So why, then, would any woman be compelled to make the dangerous journey to Syria to willingly join this openly oppressive (let alone violent and extremist) group?

The rise and recruitment practices of ISIS present such an interesting case of study because it is the first movement of its type to utilize the Internet and the relatively new phenomena of social media as a tool. Through blogs and standard social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), women supposedly living in Syria as members of ISIS communicate directly with potential recruits. They reach out to these potential recruits by offering glimpses into what their daily life is like. Reading such accounts offers an interesting combination of offensive and grotesque displays of approval for violence towards westerners that seems highly disjointed from our world. However, other posts are eerily familiar to anyone from the west with posts like pictures of sunsets, food, Nutella, and even “selfies”. They encourage potential recruits to make the journey to Syria by vehemently insisting their decision to do so, while difficult, was “the best decision” many of them have “ever made.” Women in ISIS on social media even assist with the recruitment process by offering detailed step-by-step travel instructions, and one post refers to the use of the social media outlet Kik to communicate directly with those seriously considering joining.

Social media and the apparently candid and first-hand look into the lives of these women it seems to provide has created the ability for ISIS to appeal to women through romanticism. Through social media, women in ISIS convince potential recruits they are happy with their limited rights, are fulfilled by their duty to serve their “warrior” husbands and sons, and lead relatively regular lives of cooking and coffee dates similar to those of western women. Their lives only differ from women living in the west when it comes to issues of Sharia law, when images of dead westerners, various weapons, and hate speech are interspersed with their otherwise seemingly normal posts.

ISIS has found a very effective method of recruitment by communicating with women directly at their homes through social media. Through romanticism, they draw women’s attention and use a clever combination of a seemingly western lifestyle mixed with an anti-western sentiment to encourage women to join ISIS, and then use the same social media outlets to assist these women with travel plans. The world has never before experienced such a direct, wide-ranging, and seemingly unstoppable recruitment practice such as that of ISIS and its use of social media to recruit women.

McCutcheon v. FEC and Its Effect On Future Elections

April 14, 2015

Yanet Gonzalez ’17 – Women in Leadership

The framers’ commitment to ensure that freedom of speech is not infringed upon is evident in the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Despite the clarity of the words, the most prominent question after identifying what constitutes as “speech,” is the degree to which the Constitution protects that speech. The importance of this amendment cannot be denied given that it was public speech against an oppressive Great Britain, which fueled the revolution and served as founding principles for a new nation. Throughout the years of countless cases dealing with free speech that have come before the Supreme Court and despite the seemingly overarching umbrella that protects everything underneath it, the Supreme Court has demonstrated that there are still limits to the First Amendment.

The quest to regulate campaign finance peaked in March of 2002 when President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). Primarily, the act imposed two different types of limits. A base limit, which is how much money one can contribute to a particular candidate or committee, and aggregate limits, which restrict how much money can be donated in total. Under the BCRA, the aggregate limits were adjusted to future inflation and the limits for individual contributions were changed from annual to biennial. In 2013-2014, the aggregate amount that an individual was able to donate was capped at $123,200, which included candidates, national party committees and other political committees. Citizens like Shawn McCutcheon however, believed that the regulations under the BCRA prohibited him contributing amounts at his own discretion, thus impeding on his right to free speech. The Supreme Court decided that the BCRA did not provide a sufficient governmental interest in preventing corruption and that the limitations imposed by this act severely interfere with the “core values” of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court insisted there are multiple ways in which one can be involved with the electoral process that does not involve donating money such as running for office themselves or working in a campaign. However, after cases like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon, the role of wealthy individuals and corporations will alter the political process in an unimaginable way.

One of the major ways in which the McCutcheon will influence elections is that it will place a greater importance of joint fundraising committees (JFCs). It will become legal for JFC’s to “bundle together their contributions to several entities in a single check.” Furthermore, it will increase the influence of major donors, which in turn will increase the political power of “members of congress who have a strong relationship with high-net-worth donors” In 2012, a study showed that 216 people contributed roughly 68% of the total money received by super PACs. In addition, the Center for Responsive Politics also found that the 1.2 million people, who donated during the 2012 election cycle, were able to raise a total of 2.8 billion dollars.

These statistics reinforce the idea that without limits to aggregate contributions, a very small portion of the population can fund an entire campaign. The unintended consequences of the McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission will undoubtedly affect elections in the years to come. The door will remain open for future generations to find a balance between protecting our First Amendment rights and maintaining the integrity of our political process.

More of the Same: The New Senate

April 5, 2015

Sam Donnelly ’17 – Inside Politics Program

Despite finally having the majority he has long sought in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is finding this group extremely hard to control. In an article recently published by CNN, many of the current and future challenges facing the new majority leader are discussed. Senator McConnell had promised to end gridlock and pass more meaningful bipartisan legislation. However, two months in, this new senate appears to be quite similar to the previous one. The only major piece of legislation that Congress has managed to send to President Obama was the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, which was immediately vetoed upon reaching the oval office. The two parties cannot even agree on a sex trafficking bill that has overwhelming bipartisan support because of the partisan issue of abortion. As a result, Obama’s nomination to replace Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch has not yet been voted on. McConnell has stated that he will not bring up the nomination until the trafficking bill passes, which appears unlikely unless different amendments are proposed. Lynch has the support of many republicans as well as democrats, so partisan issues are once again hindering any progress that could be made.

To the credit of McConnell, he has attempted to make some changes to his plan in order to keep his promises thus far. He has allowed more amendments to proceed to bills than his predecessor Harry Reid typically did, which at least creates an environment where it is possible to compromise. He also kept his promise to avoid a government shutdown over the slew of issues surrounding the Department of Homeland Security. However, this promise will be further tested through greater challenges such as passing a budget and negotiating the debt ceiling.

Many republican lawmakers are currently accusing the democrats of jamming up the system to assure that the republican congress is seen as ineffective. Interestingly, this is the very same tactic that the Democrats have been using against the Republican Party for the previous six years. With the tables now turned, the Democrats are arguing that the Republican Party is not able to govern efficiently. Upon further investigation, there may be some merit to this argument, as the Senate was held up four weeks on funding the DHS and is currently unable to pass a simple sex trafficking bill. Despite this, it appears that the democrats are not willing to budge on many issues, so it is certainly not a one way street. In a broader perspective, this is all excellent news for President Obama, as he has faced little to no pressure from the new Republican congress that was expected to make his life difficult to say the least. In the final years of his presidency, Obama will gladly watch congress bicker, preventing the new majority from applying any sort of political pressure on the administration. Conversely, the current situation is potentially detrimental for the Republican chances in the 2016 presidential election. McConnell needs to prove that the Republicans can govern and if he is unable to do so, the democrats will have an advantage going forward.

In addition to democrats, McConnell has also had his hands full with grassroots members of his own party. He has had to subdue the movement to stop funding the DHS to punish President Obama for utilizing executive action to enact immigration reform. Furthermore, there are several likely presidential candidates, namely Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, which may be putting personal interests over the interests of the party. Recently, freshman republican Senator Tom Cotton ignored senate leadership and put together a direct letter to the Iranian government that was signed by 46 other GOP senators. McConnell appears to be on a slippery slope, with much of his own party disorganized and reaching beyond traditional boundaries. Many top-level advisors believe that the actions by the current Republican leadership will most likely not be endorsed by Republican activists and will lead to increased competition in primary campaigns for senior senators. Republican leadership in the senate has a very small margin of error before the 2016 election if they wish to pass any significant legislation and an even smaller window ensure that the party is reelected. With pressure from the left, right, and oval office, it will be intriguing to watch how Mitch McConnell handles his new majority.

Election 2016: Weekly Rundown

April 3, 2015

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.) Hillary’s Busy April

While Hillary Clinton may not have officially kicked off her presidential campaign yet, her plans for after the announcement are becoming more clear.

The location and time of her expected announcement are still shrouded in mystery, sources involved in the campaign planning process reveal that Clinton will immediately tour several states, including Iowa, with the intention of interacting with voters in more casual settings. According to members of her team, the goal of this early tour will be to make Clinton seem more down-to-earth as she courts voters in swing states.

“They know that they need to reintroduce Hillary to America,” said one Democratic insider on Clinton’s game plan. “This is not a continuation of the Hillary we knew as secretary of state. That’s the focus of their energy.”

Staffers say that the Clinton kickoff announcement will probably be made during the beginning of April. The venue of her first event is still unclear, however, most Democrats agree that New Hampshire or Iowa are likely locations.

 4.) GOP Targets NH

When GOP voters from New Hampshire think of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the words “family,” “legacy,” and dynasty” are the first words they think of.  According to a recent survey conducted by Suffolk University, Republican primary voters associate terms related to his family history with the potential presidential candidate.  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on the other hand, did not draw as strong of a reaction. Most surveyed said they did not know enough about Walker to answer, or chose not to respond altogether. The only significant term to be related to the Gov. was “anti-union/right to work;” a reflection of Walker’s views on labor issues in Wisconsin.

According to the poll, opinions on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remain mixed. 39 percent of those polled view Christie unfavorably, while 38 see him as a favorable GOP candidate.  New Hampshire, an important swing state, will host a two-day event this month during which six potential Republican candidates will speak.

 3.) O’Malley’s Clinton Comments

During Sunday’s episode of ABC’s “This Week” former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley offered harsh criticism of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

“Let’s be honest here,” O’Malley said. “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families.”

The Democrat’s comments that the country needs a “new perspective” and “new leadership” in 2016 have spurred speculation that he will challenge Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination.  O’Malley has said that he has not decided whether or not to run, however, his pointed comments targeting Clinton have been the most direct of any of her potential challengers.  While many may see Clinton as being the darling of the Democratic Party, O’Malley disagrees.  “History is full of times when the inevitable frontrunner is inevitable right up until he or she is no longer inevitable,” O’Malley said.

 2.) Cruz Makes First Announcement

Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz became the first Republican candidate for president to declare that he would run in 2016.  In an auditorium filled with thousands of cheering students at Liberty University in Virginia, Cruz spoke about his family, his faith, and the “promise of America” as he explained why he intends to run.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Cruz said. “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America.”  “Today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States,” the senator added. “It is a time for truth, it is a time for liberty, it is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States.”

Cruz, a freshman senator, catered his speech to the most conservative wing of the Republican party, calling for a president who would repeal the Affordable Care Act, abolish the Internal Revenue Service, “defend the sanctity of human life and uphold the sacrament of marriage.”

“The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds,” Cruz said.

1.) GOP Field Faces Indiana Controversy

Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson all rushed to defend Indiana’s new and controversial “religious freedom” law this week, siding with social conservatives on legislation that many say could result in discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  The likely contenders for the Republican nomination openly supported the law on Monday after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence struggled to defend the measure on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Gov. Pence has done the right thing,” Bush, the former Florida governor, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday evening.

“This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs — to be able to be people of conscience,” Jeb Bush said. “I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

“Nobody is saying that it should be legal to deny someone service at a restaurant or at a hotel because of their sexual orientation. I think that’s a consensus view in America,” Rubio said on Fox News Monday. “The flip side is, should a photographer be punished for refusing to do a wedding that their faith teaches them is not one that is valid in the eyes of God?”

Jindal, the current Gov. of Louisiana, told Breitbart News in an email Monday that he, too, supports Indiana’s law.

“I support the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act because I support religious liberty as granted to us in our Constitution,” said Jindal.

The Indiana law, passed last week, prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

ObamaCare: The Great Debate

March 30, 2015

Robert Frey ’18 – Inside Politics Program

The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has been the issue of debate ever since President Obama signed it into law. Just recently on February 15th 2015, the open enrollment period closed and for any citizen that missed the deadline, a fee must now be paid since they will not have coverage for the upcoming year. Even though ObamaCare is now in full effect, there are still a number of lawsuits that the Supreme Court will hear in the coming term, including King vs. Burwell, that was brought before the court on March 4th.

Politico magazine on February 27, 2015, published an article titled “King vs. Burwell isn’t about ObamaCare it’s all about states’ rights- but the plaintiffs would rather you didn’t know that” by Abbe R. Gluck. In this piece, Gluck argues that the reasoning behind the case King vs. Burwell is that states will face penalties for not setting up their own health insurance state exchange rate. Furthermore, if the states ask for federal help, this will cause “the loss of critical health insurance subsides that make health insurance affordable, and sustain the insurance markets under the law”. The effect of this loss will cause over eight million Americans to lose their insurance coverage and the markets in those states will undoubtedly collapse. According to the article, the main reason why this lawsuit is such a big deal is because the underlying issue at hand is that the government is overreaching its power by getting involved in state affairs. Since the court has a majority of conservative justices, in recent years it has tended to side with the states on issues such as federalism. Since the federal government in ObamaCare gave the states flexibility to do what is best for their state, this penalty goes against the idea that states have more control. Therefore, this is an argument over who has greater control, the states or the federal government.

In an article written by Washington Post author Robert Barnes titled “Obamacare threatens to end John Roberts’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court”, a very interesting point is brought to the table.   With the King vs. Burwell case underway, this would be the Court’s second time deciding on the constitutionality of ObamaCare. Even though the Supreme Court is supposed to be separated from politics, we all know that this is an impossible feat that will never be fully obtained in that the court cannot help but become a tool in political battles. However, the court has made decisions on giving basic rights to detainees in Guantanamo, and upholding gun rights for the individual, so this should seemingly be no different. In a statement about the Washington gridlock and its effect on the court, Roberts stated, “I don’t want it to spill over and affect us.” Moreover, there is still some fear that the decision will come down to another 5-4 final vote regarding ObamaCare and the penalties implemented on the states.

The case of King vs. Burwell is going to be a key facet regarding ObamaCare and the issues of federalism within our nation. If the pieces of ObamaCare are struck down then Congress can amend that section of the program or write new legislation that will coincide with the decision of the Supreme Court. Ultimately, it is unknown whether or not the Republican controlled congress will continue to hold its breath against the President and how long it will take for this debacle to run its course.

The Raging Debate Over the Keystone XL Pipeline

March 27, 2015

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.