Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boehner accuses Obama of 'campaign theatrics' in student loan fight

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) accused President Obama of campaigning on taxpayer funds in response Wednesday to the president's goading of lawmakers to act on a bill to extend low student loan rates.
In a hastily-arranged press conference, Boehner accused Obama of political theatrics in his two-day tour of three college campuses in swing states. In those stops, Obama assailed Republicans in Congress for holding up legislation that would prevent an increase in student loan interest rates.
"You know this week, the president is traveling the country on the taxpayer's dime, campaigning and trying to invent a fight where there isn't one and never has been one on this issue of student loans," the Republican speaker said on Capitol Hill.
"Let's fix the problems for young Americans and leave the campaign theatrics for the fall," Boehner added.
The speaker's press conference followed an event at the University of Iowa this afternoon in which an impassioned Obama pointedly went after Republicans who accused him of not focusing on the economy.
"These guys don't get it. This is the economy," the president said in Iowa City. "What economy are they talking about?"
The event had heavy campaign overtones, though, and, to boot, the Obama re-election campaign is in the midst of a weeklong focus on winning young voters, a core constituency for the president in 2008.
The legislation to extend the student loan breaks has been hung up on Capitol Hill due to a familiar fight over how to finance the bill. Democrats favor a version that uses a tax, while Boehner announced a vote on Friday on a Republican alternative that would divert funds from a portion of the health care reform law -- which the GOP calls a "slush fund" -- to pay for the extension.
Still, the urgency in scheduling this vote on Friday underscores the extent to which Obama has used the bully pulpit to prompt a Republican reaction on these issues. Amid the president's push, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, made a point of saying earlier this week that he favors extending the lower student loan rate (though Romney didn't specify how he would finance it).
Michael O'Brien contributed.

Bernanke says Fed still ready to act if it's needed

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offered his views on the economy and inflation in a wide-ranging news conference.
Even as the economy shows signs of slowing and the unemployment rate remains stuck at painfully high levels, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spent much of a news conference Wednesday explaining why central bankers have decided --  for now -- to do nothing.
Earlier in the day, the central bank's policy-making Open Market Committee repeated its promise to leave interest rates on hold at current rock-bottom levels until at least late 2014. But it gave little guidance on whether it might take additional steps later this year to try to boost growth.
"We remain entirely prepared to take additional balance sheet actions if necessary to achieve our objectives," Bernanke told reporters. "So those tools remain very much on the table, and we would not hesitate to use them should the economy require that additional support."
In June, the Fed is scheduled to wrap up its latest effort to spur growth, one of a series of moves since the financial collapse of 2008 to buy up more than $2 trillion in bonds to force interest rates lower. Until recently, the U.S. economy has been moving strongly enough to allow policymakers to hold off on efforts to force rates even lower.
But as Fed officials wrapped up a two-day meeting on Wednesday, the government reported that orders for durable goods plunged 4.2 percent in March, the biggest drop since the economy was contracting sharply in early 2009. It was the latest sign that the U.S. economy began slowing again at the end of the first quarter.
In its official statement, the Fed described the economy as expanding moderately, just as it did in March, and noted that the unemployment rate had declined but remains elevated at 8.2 percent. Officials noted a pickup in inflation but said the latest price increases, driven largely by higher oil costs, are likely only temporary.  Economic conditions "are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014," the central bank said.
Related: Full text of the Fed's statement
For now, in other words, the best policy is to wait and watch for signs that those record low interest rates are working.
"The committee is solidly in this camp," said economist Laurence Meyer, a former Fed governor. "If the economy plays out as expected and reflected in the forecast, they are not going to do anything. On the other hand, there's some threshold, there's some deterioration in the outlook that would motivate" more aggressive moves.
"We haven't passed that threshold by any means, and we have to see a deterioration to get that. "
But the Fed acknowledged that an already weak economic rebound will likely weaken a bit further before it gains strength.
U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter but is widely estimated to have slowed to around a 2.5 percent pace in the first three months of this year. The government will release its preliminary estimate for first quarter GDP on Friday.
Forecasting the economy's direction and the future course of inflation and interest rates is never easy. But central bankers around the world face an unusually cloudy future as they try to predict what comes next.
Financial turmoil in Europe, tamed temporarily by a series of fragile agreements, appears to be resuming. Though the immediate threat of a Greek bond default was averted, longer-term measures that were pieced together to stabilize the faltering economies of Spain, Portugal and Italy appear to be coming apart.
The collapse of the Dutch government, renewed fears about the solvency of Spanish banks and the narrow first round re-election defeat of French president Nicolas Sarkozy have rattled investors. Those developments have also underscored deep political divisions over how to tame bloated government debt levels without driving the European economy further into recession.
"Progress has been made, but obviously judging by market conditions there a lot more to be done," Bernanke said.
Bernanke and the Fed face a similar unknown at home as two powerful budget forces -- the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and "automatic" spending cuts agreed to last August -- threaten to collide at the end of the year. Some Fed watchers have suggested that as the November election approaches, central bank policymakers will be increasingly reluctant to make major changes in an effort to appear to remain above the political fray.
Bernanke's regularly scheduled press conference continues the Fed's efforts of attempting to shed more light on its deliberations. With its new policy of offering detailed forecasts and a pledge to hold interest rates steady well into the future, the central bank also is in uncharted waters.
There's always a chance the Fed's forecast is too pessimistic -- and that the economy will gain strength more quickly, forcing the unemployment rate lower and raising the risk of higher inflation.
That could be bad news for the financial markets, especially investors holding Treasury bonds, who would lose money as interest rates move higher. (Rising rates lower the value of bonds already in the market because those existing pay less than a newly-issued bond with higher rates.)
That's why the Fed is expected to give investors plenty of warning if and when it decides rates need to go higher.
Still, central bankers are probably better off with a forecast that's too conservative, even if it means getting caught off-guard down the road by a stronger-than-expected economic rebound.
"Who else will complain if the Fed has to raise rates in 2013 because the economy turns out to be stronger than expected?" said Ian Shepherson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency economics. "Sometimes it's good to be proved wrong."

Behind the Right's Phony War on the Nonexistent Religion of Secularism

POSTED: By Rick Perlstein
secular humanism

Christian activists protest in front of The White House in Washington, DC.


Once upon a time, in early 2004, I attended one of hundreds of "Parties for the President" organized nationwide for grassroots volunteers who wanted to help reelected George W. Bush, at a modest middle class home in Portland, Oregon. At one point, a nice old lady politely pressed into my hand a grubby little self-published pamphlet she had come upon, purporting to prove that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had faked the heroics that had won him three purple hearts in Vietnam. I added it to my mental store of the night's absurdities that I expected to hear rattling across the wingnutosphere the entire fall: "I still believe there are weapons of mass destruction"; "There is an agenda—to get rid of God in this country"; "John Kerry attended a party in which there was bad language!" What I didn't expect was to see Kerry's war-hero cred earnestly debated night after night on CNN. Then came August and "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" — and that little old lady's fever dream began dominating the media discussion of the campaign, and the rest, as they say, is history.

That's the way, in my experience, the ecology of right-wing smears works: Insane horror stories – Clinton is running cocaine out of an Arkansas airport! Barack Obama had gay sex in the back of a limo! – bubble up from the collective conservative Id at the outset of an election year; professional conservatives in Washington identify the ones that seem most promising and launder them through the suckers in the "balance"-hungry mainstream media; and presto, before you know it, it's death-panel-palooza, 24/7.

Responsible political reporting, of course, would seek to penetrate this process while it's going on. But we don't have responsible political reporting – or reporters who understand enough about the historical matrix from which these predictable discourses emerge to recognize the contending lies for what they are before they nose across the finish line. Let me venture my own attempt. You might not have heard about Mitt Romney's utterance in Milwaukee that Democrats desire to "establish a religion called secularism."

At present this storyline is reverberating only across the fearful precincts of the right, but it may soon be the "debate" du jour on a cable news channel near you, starring befuddled, blind-sided Democrats, à la Kerry's surrogates in 2004, forced to defend their presidential candidate against a charge that two seconds ago seemed too surreal to be worth swatting away, but which might well end up sounding just credible enough, if only by virtue of the fact that it's being debated, to sway some anxious swing voters.

Here's some background those befuddled Democrats need to know: One of the most robust and effective conspiracy theories on the right, the notion that "secularism" – or, just as often, "Secular Humanism" – is a religion is meant to be taken entirely literally: right wingers genuinely believe it refers to an actually existing religious practice. How do conservatives know? Because, they say, the Supreme Court said so. It was, as religious historian and Lutheran minister Martin E. Marty has written, "an instance where one can date precisely the birth of a religion: June 19, 1961." That was the day the Court ruled in the case of Torcaso v. Watkins striking down the Maryland Constitution's requirement of "a declaration of belief in the existence of God" to hold "any office of profit or trust in this state" — specifically, in atheist Roy Torcaso's case, the office of notary public. In his decision, Justice Hugo Black, writing for a unanimous court, further asserted that states and the federal government could not favor religions "based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs" – and, in a fateful, ill-considered, and entirely offhand footnote explained: "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would be generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others."

From here, things get wacky. As unearthed by the outstanding scholar Carol Mason in her masterpiece Reading Appalachia from Left to Right, in 1974 a Jesuit priest and Fordham University law professor named Edward Berbasse argued that "since humanism is now considered by the court to be a religion , it must be prevented from being established by the government." An activist asked him if that meant they could win their fight to ban the satanic textbooks being forced down their children's throats in Kanawha County, West Virginia by taking the matter to the Supreme Court. "I think you may have the material if you can get a crackerjack lawyer," Father Berbasse responded. A Supreme Court case was never actually attempted – not least because, as Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons have pointed out, "While historically there has been an organized humanist movement in the United States since at least the 1800s, the idea of a large-scale quasireligion called secular humanism is a conspiracist myth." In Kanawha County, the textbook fight was fought out with dynamite instead. Nationwide, however, the conspiracist myth took on a life of its own – even unto the halls of Congress.

For Secular Humanism was not just an imaginary religion. It was, as the subtitle to a 1984 book still revered by religious conservatives, put it, The Most Dangerous Religion in America. How so? Because it held that man, not God, determines human affairs. From that, as Martin Marty explained, the ascendant religious right developed the claim that "when a textbook does not mention the God of the Bible ... it necessarily leads to a void which it must fill with the religion of Secular Humanism." (It's a religion. Thus the Capital Letters.) And that any textbook which does not mention the guiding hand of God is rock-solid proof that the "secular humanist" conspiracists had written it; the absence was the presence.

Liberals, dumbfounded by irrationality in that patented liberal way, pointed out that the number of people calling themselves "secular humanists" was only a handful, so how could they possibly possess such omnipotence. Well, fundamentalists would counter, doesn’t that just prove the success of their conspiracy?

Ain't America grand?

The professional right had found its substitute for the Red Menace. In many ways "secular humanism" was Communism’s superior as an organizing tool, because it so handily took the fight directly to the bloodiest crossroads in our political culture: the space between the public school and the home. There is no more effective way to organize against liberalism than to argue that liberals are invading the sacred precinct of the nuclear family – the basic unit of government under God's covenant, as the "Christian Reconstructionist" Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of the home-schooling movement, argued in his 1972 book The Messianic Character of American Education. The power-grabbing would-be-messiah government must be defeated, argued Connie Marshner, a Heritage Foundation staffer influenced by Rushdoony, if Christians were to "reverse the coming of the secular humanist state."

For the Leviathan's grubby fingerprints were everywhere. As a magazine called Christian Harvest Times explained (h/t Kevin Kruse), "To understand humanism is to understand women's liberation, the ERA, gay rights, children's rights [the movement to help minors in abusive families, in which Hilary Clinton did a little work as a young lawyer,  Exhibit A for consrvatives in the 1990s seeking to prove her diabolical wickedness], abortion, sexual education, the 'new' morality, evolution, values clarification, situational ethics, the separation of church and state, the loss of patriotism, and many of the other problems that are tearing America apart today."

This is incredibly seductive stuff for any right-leaning ordinary citizen who finds the changing world they're forced to navigate frightening and alien. As Connie Marshner argued in her 1978 "parents’ rights" manifesto Blackboard Tyranny,  "Mothers have long observed that after the first child starts school, the rest of the family starts catching more colds and flus. But other forms of disease are not so evident. What about the personality traits that start developing? What about the dissatisfaction with family rules and routines?... Why do children suddenly begin to complain about responsibilities toward little brothers or sisters? Why do they resent doing unaccustomed chores? Why does off-color language or unfamiliar slang suddenly crop up in a child's conversations?" The liberal state here is an infection, responsible for all of the family's manifold ills – a reassuringly straightforward story, especially when there are politicians in Washington ready to swoop in to the rescue. Around this time the Heritage Foundation published a report titled Secularism Humanism and the Schools: The Issue Whose Time Has Come (another still-beloved volume) for an elite Washington audience. An issue whose time has come, indeed.  Politicians, of course, may or may not really care about the "unfamiliar slang" infecting their constituents' kitchen tables — does Mitt Romney, really? — but it's sure a handy way for the 1 percent to enlist them in crushing the liberal state that, say, peskily insists on regulating credit default swaps.

In 1976, an Arizona congressman named John Conlan – now obscure, but at one time Evangelicals' first choice for president – introduced an anti-secular humanism bill. It passed a House of Representatives in which Democrats outnumbered Republicans 291 to 144. This is potent stuff. The conservative group Concerned Women for America began donating legal services for parents wishing to challenge the supposed teaching of secular humanism, predicting that 300,000 school districts might come under challenge in 1986. Megachurch minister Tim LaHaye (who later co-authored the "Left Behind" series) said secular humanists were not qualified to hold government positions – neatly inverting the very Supreme Court decision, Torcaso v. Watkins, grounding their "Constitutional" crusade in the first place. And in 1985, congress passed the Education for Economic Security Act to improve science education, including funding for magnet schools — to which conservatives added an amendment prohibiting its use for "teaching secular humanism," conveniently omitting to define "secular humanism," except to note that local school boards could define it themselves. (Read about these in this PDF law review article.)

The vagueness is deliberate — it means new issues can be sluiced into the discourse as historical convenience dictates. For instance the secular humanism golden oldie, ever pliant, slots perfectly into the religious right's new phony crusade for "religious liberty," which in turn serves so marvelously in the corporate right's crusade to do away with even the faintest gesture toward healthcare equality. "I think there is in this country a war on religion," Romney said before raising that above-noted specter of Obama's "desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism." He continued, "They gave it a lot of thought," this business of forcing the Catholic Church "to violate its principles and its conscience (since when do institutions have "consciences"?) and be required to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and morning-after pills to the employees of the church" (a lie, by the way: employers don't have to provide anything).

Note the careful language: Democrats want "to establish a religion" — a precise quotation of the First Amendment's' Establishment Clause banning same. And the claim that "they gave it a lot of thought" insinuates a deliberate conspiracy. But conservatives would not fall for it, the stalwart Romney announced: "Those of us who are people of faith recognize [what] this is—an attack on one religion is an attack on all religion."

A marker has been laid down. Heed it well. Universal healthcare is the Trojan Horse in Obama's radical religious crusade to undo orthodox religion. Could a notion so crazy possibly have legs? Crazier things have penetrated the fog before — and this one has the advantage of tickling the most abiding anxiety of conservative-minded citizens: that liberalism is contributing to the sexual dissolution of their very own homes and hearths. Romney's recycling of the smear may already have helped him assuage the doubts of the religious right that he is one of them.

And Democrats losing their nerve, backing away from defending desperately needed reform out of fear stepping on mysterious "deeply held" beliefs that are actually the invention of hucksters with right-wing agendas? Well, that's happened before, too.
Don't let it happen again.

Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He writes a weekly column for

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Obama at Halftime: How He Fumbled, Why He's Recovering
What Obama Needs to Change to Win
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Why I Think The GOP Has US by the Balls

Mahuleia's Blog

As an independent thinker and a great appreciator of fine puzzles, I have come up with the following as pure conjecture, based on bits and pieces that I have managed to piece together over the past politically exciting years.
It’s that: No matter what the people say or do, the GOP fully intends to have its way with America. It’s a battle for the Minds of Americans through BS (Belief Systems).
Ever since the Nixon years, the Right Wing has had its strategy: stay with the plan, keep it a well-hidden secret, then pounce when the time is right and take completely over. First America, then the rest of the world. Look around and pay attention, it’s already happening! Open your eyes and turn off Fox News. Turn off Rush Limbaugh and the incessant blaring of the hateful Conservatalk Radio. Pay attention and attempt to learn how to figure out the greatest puzzle facing us today: “Why is the GOP so boldly & blatantly crazy?”

Please bear with me for a few moments and allow me to explain my theory, even if it turns out to be just as wrong and crazy as the nutty Right.

A clue: how the local police forces in states run by Republicans or Conservatives behave towards Liberals, or what they presume to be Liberals: Spying, keeping records, ignoring protests, squelching protests by outright attacks on innocents just because they are liberals; all of this. The GOP-run local governments believe they can get away with this from now on, because every year there is political positioning because our big elections are two (for Congress) and four for the presidency. They know the Democrats are easily cowed and pushed into going against their better judgement if the smell of financial compensation is strong enough, and if their careers are threatened. With Fox News, Conservatalk Radio, and cunning ways of getting people who have forgotten or never learned to think for themselves to swallow their BS (Belief Systems) hook, line , and sinker, the GOP/Right Wing Corporate Hate Machine, funded by Big Oil, the Koch Brothers and dictated to by ALEC can do pretty much as it pleases with America with little or no meaningful or powerful opposition. You see, if there was real opposition by the Democrats at the national level, the GOP would see to it that they were run out of town fast with their tails tucked between their legs. How? Simply by broadcasting over their almighty ConservaMediaMonopolyComplex that all Democrats are “stinking pinko-commie liberals”, to be shunned, scorned, dis-believed, and hated because “they’re all for big government and they will waste your money on entitlement programs” (for the derelict poor and elderly: useless people who don’t contribute to filling the pockets of those who dominate over them and rule them: GOPCORP.) The Federal government can do nothing about this if there is a Democrat in the White House and a DemocraTIC Congress, because the politics will kill any chance of getting elected.

GOPCORP, with the aid of the ConservaMediamonopolyComplex, will tell people what to think by lying to them repeatedly until the mindless masses believe the lie:

Here it is: “Democrats, students, elderly, all minorities, gays and women are all pinkocommieliberals who want Big Government to intrude in on your life and take away your freedom!” and the mindless, fearful masses believe that crap! (…and they are the ones passionate enough to ALWAYS vote!) Truth is: it’s the GOPCORP that wants to do what they accuse their opposition of. It should be obvious by now! GOPCORP will bloat government spending by starting WW3 and various smaller wars. They will force women to bear kids until it shortens their lives, worse than in The Handmaids Tale. They will force kids to be stupid and superstitious, believing that the world is only 6000 years old. They will force everyone to believe that Jesus was a warrior for Big Money and that the real one was just a myth.

Eventually they will even change the Bible: by taking all of Jesus’ teachings out or drastically changing them. They will secretly murder top scientists and throw us all back into the Dark Ages. They will pollute and drill and mine and frack the Earth until it can no longer sustain ANY life upon it other than cockroaches. The Democrats wouldn’t be able to do anything about it because they would be threatened by lethal force or political consequences ending their careers and their income. Ask anyone who lived under a totalitarian regime what it was like to live that way. People that threaten their supremacy “disappear”. THAT is how the GOPCORP will force us to live. And they will do it state by state by state, local precinct by local precinct. It will spread just like a cancer. It already has! This, folks, is how they plan on winning, in my humble opinion! Look at the independence of the cops of cities that are cracking down way too hard on the Occupy movement, (but NOT the TEA Party movement!) That puzzle piece is a big, obvious one! These militant cops must be paid by independent corporate organizations to be violent, and I’ll bet they’re well paid too! Look at the laws the individual states are passing against Democratic voters, against women, against minorities.

Look at Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia! And last but not least Florida, where neo-KKK vigilantes with criminal records can get away with murder because of a controversial “stand your ground” law, passed by a GOPCORP governor- Jeb Bush!

People: we gotta wake up and look at the whole picture, because we are in it too, and we’ve contributed to this situation!

Yes, WE. Ever wonder why the Republican candidates are so overtly crazy? It’s partly because the CROWD cheers them on! In a Republican debate, the CROWD cheers for executions, boos gay servicemen, cheers death for the uninsured sick. Candidates suck this fervor up and feed on it, and it swells their egos. People: This is US! WE are egging them on! We are feeding the Beast! When a GOPCORP candidate says he’s only voicing the will of the people, he is correct in that he is voicing the will of his audience, who is made up of vacant eyed Fox News/ConservaMediaMonopolyComplex zombies who have been swallowing BS (Belief Systems) fed them 24/7/365 like it’s candy! It’s called “brainwashing” and it works wonders for GOPCORP. In Maoist China, it was called propaganda, and look at history and how the Chairman and The Party had everyone by the balls…and still does.

It’s the GOPCORP who acts like the classic Totalitarian Red Communists, not the Democrats or the Liberals! And by the way, that is not Marxist communism that Stalin or Chairman Mao practiced, it was corrupted communism. True Marxist communism is more similar to democracy and has never existed, nor has it ever been practiced anywhere in our time as far as I know, not even in Cuba. If you doubt this, go get his book and look it up for yourself! Maybe it was practiced in prehistoric times, and maybe they practice it on other worlds. I don’t know!  Free market capitalism has been taken over by something horrendous we don’t even have a label for yet. It’s now run on greed, cheating, pride, jealousy, and powered by hatred for the masses. Sounds like its run on the seven deadly sins to me, which in my twisted mind translates to something akin to what the Antichrist would promote!

And so, in spite of a DemocraTIC president with good intentions for the American people in mind, he can do practically nothing for us. Spying on people? Blame GOPCORP and conditioning, not PBO himself. I think they have him cornered with no choice in some matters, like NDAA. (It was the GOPCORP that put that horrible freedom-robbing stuff in it, and mixed it in with the good stuff in the bill that was intended to assist veterans. No matter what good he wants to do, it will get undone and he knows it. He MUST follow the secret dictates of GOPCORP, or ELSE!!! He will be ruined politically forever, or worse. They have him over a barrel. They have crossed their “t”s and dotted all their “i”s, and they have their ducks all lined up in a row according to the dictates and guidelines set forth by the Fourth Reich. Just my opinion, mind you, and if I am hitting the nail on the head I’m sorry. I hope to God I’m wrong in my assumption! I’ve probably gone crazy too.

At this point, the reader may be throwing their hands up in the air (or wringing them), saying: “So NOW what? What can we do?” To which I suggest, take a page from their book of Right Wing strategy, since it has worked so well, and change it up in a manner unfigurable, starting with getting the Truth out. (Remember, it will set us free!) This is why GOPCORP wants to steal the Internet and operate it under its own rules, silencing Truth. This is what they do in Totalitarian regimes with intentions to dominate the masses of the world. They keep truth silenced, and they’re historically pretty good at it! Ask a Tibetan who has lived under the Chinese regime. Ask the Dalai Lama.

But Truth DOES eventually leak out. There are leaks out all over the place. This is why the Bush Inc. Legacy wants to ruin Bradley Manning. And now the hearts of people are breaking over the tragic, senseless murder (lynch job) of an innocent teenage boy with a hoodie and skittles, and we are still furious about the unfair treatment women are getting under the disgusting whip-domination by the patriarchal GOPCORP, with the loathesome Rush Limbaugh at the helm with the blow-horn. Oppressive local laws are popping up all over the place in states run by GOPCORP but also in states run by Gentle, subservient, terrified Democratic bunny rabbits. It’s akin to a classic dinosaur movie: the smaller, more numerous gentle vegetarians get eaten by the big, powerful terrible carnivorous GOP Tyrannosaurus Rex.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Money in politics has certainly played a major role in getting the political process to where it is today, which is why the wealthy always get their way and the poor/middle-classes don’t.

People who vote D are often gentle, loving, good, compassionate, average people who have known the struggles and suffering of life as real human beings who care about life and about each other. The GOPCORP Tyrannosaurs do not, evidently. In my opinion, they have lost their humanity by selling their souls to Greed and Hatred. And they’re proud of themselves!

But a shift is beginning to occur as more and more Truth gets out. Liberal ideas are becoming more and more popular, even among people who still claim to proudly wear the time-honored label “conservative” which has been taken to mean: “the GOOD guys” over the years. But people with eyes to see and open minds can clearly acknowledge that blessed and holy conservatism has been corrupted of late, and has turned ugly, dark, and evil. And I believe it is keeping the President in a catch-22 corner. They know they’ve got him where they want him.

 If he so much as raises a finger to help someone in need, they will destroy his name through their incessant propaganda, lies that they know the majority will probably continue to buy into because of conditioning throughout the years. Fox News version of “reality” still is the norm against which all other thought is compared. It’s the uninformed that will always vote conservative, God-fearing GOPCORP , because they’re respectable, God’s “Chosen”, and they deserve to vote and carry firearms, unlike those stinking commiepinkoLiberals of all the colors of the rainbow!  It is expected that this conditioned, mostly testosterone-bearing, snow-colored, subservient demographic is the one that GOPCORP can count on no matter what to keep them in power, because conservatism is “good and honorable and the ultimate authority on everything”. Indeed! Nobody else deserves to have a vote, and if they gain complete control as they wish to, they will see to it immediately that only wealthy white males who lean to the far, FAR Right get to vote. Everyone else will be banned from voting by some corrupt laws they will surely pass on the state level. (That way they get to cheat, claiming proudly that they are for “small government”! )

Far-Right conservatives now think they can even tell God what to do and who to save, who to curse and who to bless! And they also know that some of what the atheists believe is also true (in spite of all their Right wing pious baloney): that if there IS a God, He probably really won’t get involved in the puny affairs of Earth. After all, has He yet lately? So the Religious fanatics are the real atheists, or they would not behave the way they do!

And this is where People come into play. Truth is: if there is a God, S/He will more likely act through The People and Nature (in spite of GOPCORP’s HAARP monkey business!) A movement is afoot globally that threatens the hold that the privileged few who have been dominating humanity since Day One have had over the masses. They are feeling their hold slipping, and are madly grabbing at the cliff they are clinging to, so that they may keep their tyranny going strong. But Truth is getting in the way, which is why they always seek to suppress it. As a result of their fear of people armed with Truth, they are digging their talons in deeply into the flesh of living Society, passing oppressive law after oppressive law, each at the state levels, not the national. Tyrants in other oppressive nations like Syria are also doubling down, causing massive, horrendous suffering and gnashing of teeth. If we are smart we should assume that this Heartless, Soul-less Entity run by People-who-follow-the-dictates-of-the-Beast also most very likely has some secret plan none of us know about yet, since this entity which I will call NWOConservatism, is very clever and devious, and its idol-worshipping devout followers have no sense of conscience and feel no guilt ever. If they torture innocents horribly, they lose no sleep over it at all. They never have and never will, let’s just face it. There is no redemption for those who have tumbled all the way off the cliff. They want to drive us all over it with them and we have a duty to stop that from happening.

There is only one way to do that: we need to take a hard Left turn and scream out, take to the streets, take legal action where at all possible, organize at the grass roots levels, and be relentless and fierce, like tigers, not bunnies! We need dedication, persistence, patience, and determination, and we need to be willing to forfeit our lives if that’s what it takes. We need to get money out of the political process before November, reinstate fair media and dismantle the ConservaMediaMonopolyComplex that has brainwashed us into believing its BS. We need people who have been foreclosed on to stay in their homes bravely. We need the Occupy movement to grow and other progressive movements to blossom and grow and bear fruit and stand courageously with them. We need to lay down out fear and be willing to roar so loud it drowns out the incessant drone of the ConservaMediamonopolyComplex Hate Machine.

We need to practice Love for life that is already born, and stop allowing Conservatism to be the end-all authority to which we all go to get correct and honorable answers. Conservatism as it has devolved into now has become obviously evil and corrupt, and no longer worthy of our respect. They should be shunned, left out, and laughed at. We should no longer buy their products, nor vote for their candidates for power. Why would we vote for the real Bad guys? Satan? Or Mara? Or Iblis? Or The Trickster?

Smart up, America, or we shall find ourselves going the way of ancient Rome quickly! There are guides for good out there. Seek them, find them, and follow them. If Love is in your heart for your fellow living beings (of all varieties, including animals) follow your heart and CARE.
If there Is a Universal Creator, (even if it turns out to be only “dark matter” or “dark energy” according to science), that has intelligence, It is watching. Translation for Christians: God is watching, and is taking notes. In the battle for ideological good and evil, it will be up to us to behave in a manner that harms none and sets things in balance.

Ready for the Fight: Rolling Stone Interview with Barack Obama

Rolling Stone

The president, in the Oval Office, discusses his job, the opposition and the coming campaign

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President Barack Obama on the cover of 'Rolling Stone.'

Mark Seliger for

We arrived at the White House on Easter Monday, the South Lawn overrun by children and their parents enjoying the annual Easter Egg Roll. This was the fourth time in the past four years that we had sat down for an extensive interview with Barack Obama, but the tenor and timing were markedly different than the previous conversations. This time he was focused on the campaign, his thinking dominated by the upcoming battle for a second term.
The president was more somber than in our past interviews – and less inclined to depart from the handful of themes he had been concentrating on in recent weeks. He avoided discussing Mitt Romney, even when asked a direct question, and focused primarily on the very real constraints he operates under as president, from the intransigence of Congress to the dilemma of America's anti-drug laws. He also seemed intent on summing up the arguments he'll soon be taking out on the campaign trail, making clear that he plans to run on his remarkable record of accomplishments: extending health insurance to 32 million Americans, staving off a major economic collapse, rescuing the auto industry, reforming student loans, ending discrimination against gay soldiers, pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, and passing one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in history.
The hourlong discussion was the longest and most substantive interview the president has granted in over a year. When executive editor Eric Bates and I joined him in the Oval Office, he began by signaling his staff to push back his schedule. "Just call Secretary Clinton's office and tell her we're going to be about 10 minutes late," he said.
"Twenty minutes," I suggested.
"Fifteen," he said with mock sternness.
Later, after the interview ended, we found Hillary sitting in a small chair, scrunched between the desk of Obama's secretary and the door to the Oval Office. The two former rivals now seem completely at ease with each other. Clinton joked about the popularity of the fake Tumblr site Texts From Hillary Clinton, and Obama began to air-thumb an imaginary text. "See, I'm hip," he said with a laugh.
The president even made light of his campaign-season caution. Having complimented me during our last interview on my brightly colored socks, he instantly guessed the gift we had brought him: two pairs of socks, one salmon with pink squares, the other with black and pink stripes. "These are nice," the president said. Then he considered the color scheme. "These may be second-term socks."

Let's talk about the campaign. Given all we've heard about and learned during the GOP primaries, what's your take on the state of the Republican Party, and what do you think they stand for?
First of all, I think it's important to distinguish between Republican politicians and people around the country who consider themselves Republicans. I don't think there's been a huge change in the country. If you talk to a lot of Republicans, they'd like to see us balance the budget, but in a balanced way. A lot of them are concerned about jobs and economic growth and favor market-based solutions, but they don't think we should be getting rid of every regulation on the books. There are a lot of Republican voters out there who are frustrated with Wall Street and think that they acted irresponsibly and should be held to account, so they don't want to roll back regulations on Wall Street.
But what's happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn't get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that's true. You have every candidate onstage during one of the primary debates rejecting a deficit-reduction plan that involved $10 in cuts for every $1 of revenue increases. You have a Republican front-runner who rejects the Dream Act, which would help young people who, through no fault of their own, are undocumented, but who have, for all intents and purposes, been raised as Americans. You've got a Republican Congress whose centerpiece, when it comes to economic development, is getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Doesn't all of that kind of talk and behavior during the primaries define the party and what they stand for?
I think it's fair to say that this has become the way that the Republican political class and activists define themselves. Think about John McCain, who obviously I have profound differences with. Here's a guy who not only believed in climate change, but co-sponsored a cap-and-trade bill that got 43 votes in the Senate just a few years ago, somebody who thought banning torture was the right thing to do, somebody who co-sponsored immigration reform with Ted Kennedy. That's the most recent Republican candidate, and that gives you some sense of how profoundly that party has shifted.

Given all that, what do you think the general election is going to look like, and what do you think of Mitt Romney?
I think the general election will be as sharp a contrast between the two parties as we've seen in a generation. You have a Republican Party, and a presumptive Republican nominee, that believes in drastically rolling back environmental regulations, that believes in drastically rolling back collective-bargaining rights, that believes in an approach to deficit reduction in which taxes are cut further for the wealthiest Americans, and spending cuts are entirely borne by things like education or basic research or care for the vulnerable. All this will be presumably written into their platform and reflected in their convention. I don't think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, "Everything I've said for the last six months, I didn't mean." I'm assuming that he meant it. When you're running for president, people are paying attention to what you're saying.

How does that shape the tone and tenor of the debate that's going to take place during the campaign?
I actually think it will be a useful debate, and one that I look forward to. I think that the American people are going to be listening very intently to who's got a vision for how we move this country forward.
Their vision is that if there's a sliver of folks doing well at the top who are unencumbered by any regulatory restraints whatsoever, that the nation will grow and prosperity will trickle down. The challenge that they're going to have is: We tried it. From 2000 to 2008, that was the agenda. It wasn't like we have to engage in some theoretical debate – we've got evidence of how it worked out. It did not work out well, and I think the American people understand that.
Now, the burden on me is going to be to describe for the American people how the progress we've made over the past three years, if sustained, will actually lead to the kind of economic security that they're looking for. There's understandable skepticism, because things are still tough out there. You still have an unemployment rate that's way too high, you have folks whose homes are underwater because the housing bubble burst, people are still feeling the pinch from high gas prices. The fact of the matter is that times are still tough for too many people, and the recovery is still not as robust as we'd like, and that's what will make it a close election. It's not because the other side has a particularly persuasive theory in terms of how they're going to move this country forward.

In working with the Republicans in this term, it seems clear that the traditional rules of give-and-take politics have changed – that the Republicans have been playing a "lose-lose" game with you. What's your relationship with the GOP leadership at this point? A little frosty?
It's not frosty. This isn't personal. When John Boehner and I sit down, I enjoy a conversation with him. I don't think he's a bad person. I think he's patriotic. I think that the Republicans up on the Hill care about this country, but they have a very ideologically rigid view of how to move this country forward, and a lot of how they approach issues is defined by "Will this help us defeat the president?" as opposed to "Will this move the country forward?"

Is there any way to break through that obstructionism by Republicans?
My hope is that if the American people send a message to them that's consistent with the fact that Congress is polling at 13 percent right now, and they suffer some losses in this next election, that there's going to be some self-reflection going on – that it might break the fever. They might say to themselves, "You know what, we've lost our way here. We need to refocus on trying to get things done for the American people."
Frankly, I know that there are good, decent Republicans on Capitol Hill who, in a different environment, would welcome the capacity to work with me. But right now, in an atmosphere in which folks like Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist are defining what it means to be a true conservative, they are lying low. My hope is that after this next election, they'll feel a little more liberated to go out and say, "Let's redirect the Republican Party back to those traditions in which a Dwight Eisenhower can build an interstate highway system."

Do you think racial politics and race relations in America are any different now than when you first took office?
Look, race has been one of the fault lines in American culture and American politics from the start. I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period. On the other hand, I've seen in my own lifetime how racial attitudes have changed and improved, and anybody who suggests that they haven't isn't paying attention or is trying to make a rhetorical point. Because we all see it every day, and me being in this Oval Office is a testimony to changes that have been taking place.
When I travel around the country, a lot of people remark on how inspiring seeing an African-American president or an African-American first lady must be to black boys and girls, how it must raise their sense of what's possible in their own lives. That's hugely important – but you shouldn't also underestimate the fact that there are a whole bunch of little white girls and white boys all across the country who just take it for granted that there's an African-American president. That's the president they're growing up with, and that's changing attitudes.
My view on race has always been that it's complicated. It's not just a matter of head – it's a matter of heart. It's about interactions. What happens in the workplace, in schools, on sports fields, and through music and culture shapes racial attitudes as much as any legislation that's passed. I do believe that we're making slow and steady progress. When I talk to Malia and Sasha, the world they're growing up with, with their friends, is just very different from the world that you and I grew up with.

You've shied away from demanding marriage equality for all. Are you at least willing to say that you support it on a personal level?
I'm not going to make news in this publication. I've made clear that the issue of fairness and justice and equality for the LGBT community is very important to me. And I haven't just talked about it, I've acted on it. You'll recall that the last time you and I had an interview, we were getting beat up about "don't ask, don't tell" in the LGBT community. There was skepticism: "Why's it taking so long? Why doesn't he just do it through executive order?" I described very specifically the process we were going to go through to make sure that there was a buy-in from the military, up and down the chain of command, so that it would be executed in an effective way. And lo and behold, here we are, and it got done.
Ending "don't ask, don't tell" has been the dog that didn't bark. You haven't read a single story about problems in our military as a consequence of the ending of the policy. So whether it's on that, or changing the AIDS travel ban, or hospital visitation rights, or a whole slew of regulations that have made sure that federal workers are treated fairly in the workplace, we've shown the commitment that I have to these issues. And we're going to keep on working in very practical ways to make sure that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are treated as what they are – full-fledged members of the American family.

Let me ask you about the War on Drugs. You vowed in 2008, when you were running for election, that you would not "use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana." Yet we just ran a story that shows your administration is launching more raids on medical pot than the Bush administration did. What's up with that?
Here's what's up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law. I can't ask the Justice Department to say, "Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books." What I can say is, "Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage." As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes.
The only tension that's come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we're telling them, "This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way." That's not something we're going to do. I do think it's important and useful to have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of the things we've done over the past three years was to make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. We've had a discussion about how to focus on treatment, taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to deal with this issue. I think that's an appropriate debate that we should have.

Occupy Wall Street seems to have influenced your rhetoric. Has it had a deeper impact on your thinking about America?
You know, I think that Occupy Wall Street was just one vivid expression of a broader anxiety that has been around in the United States for at least a decade or more. People have a sense the game is rigged, so just a few people can do well, and everybody else is left to scramble to get by.
The free market is the greatest generator of wealth in history. I'm a firm believer in the free market, and the capacity of Americans to start a business, pursue their dreams and strike it rich. But when you look at the history of how we became an economic superpower, that rugged individualism and private-sector dynamism was always coupled with government creating a platform so that everybody could succeed, so that consumers weren't taken advantage of, so that the byproducts of capitalism, like pollution or worker injuries, were regulated. Creating that social safety net has not made us weaker – it's made us stronger. It liberated people to say, "I can move to another state, but if I don't find a job right away, my kids aren't going to go hungry. I can start a business, but if it doesn't work out, I'm going to be able to land on my feet." Making those kinds of commitments to each other – to create safety nets, to invest in infrastructure and schools and basic research – is just like our collective investment in national security or fire departments or police. It has facilitated the kind of risk-taking that has made our economy so dynamic. This is what it means for us to live in a thriving, modern democracy.
One of the major arguments we'll be having in this election season is a contrasting vision that says not just that government is part of the problem, but essentially that government is the entire problem. These guys, they don't just want to roll back the New Deal – in some cases, they want to go back even further.

In regard to Wall Street, people are watching how the Justice Department has treated big players in the financial crisis, like Goldman Sachs, and saying, "Nobody's been put on trial." Other than some con men like Bernie Madoff and some insider trading, there hasn't been a single criminal prosecution of any of the individuals who actually made the decisions that wrecked the global economy. Despite all the fraud and manipulation, why is nobody on trial?
First of all, we're a nation of laws. So in some cases, really irresponsible practices that hurt a lot of people might not have been technically against the law. They might have been the wrong thing to do, but prosecutors are required to actually build cases based on what the law is. That's part of the reason we've passed Wall Street reform: to make much clearer what is prohibited and what is not, to set up rules and regulations that say, "You can't do this, and if you do do it, there are going to be consequences."
Now, that isn't to say that there may not be more wrongdoing out there. One of the things people have not been clear about, for example, is this recent housing settlement. It was based on banks violating civil laws with those auto-penning of foreclosures, and it was narrowly drawn so that banks have to put up billions of dollars to help families who have been affected, but it still leaves in place the possibility of prosecution. It doesn't provide any criminal immunity whatsoever. We've set up a task force not just with the federal government, but with state attorney generals, that as we speak are actively going through all the records, issuing subpoenas. They will, on the basis of law, make determinations as to whether there are prosecutions out there.

So you think there's still a possibility of criminal prosecution.
I think there's still possibilities of criminal prosecutions. But what I've instructed the attorney general to do is to follow the evidence and follow the law. That's how our system works.
What is very relevant, I think, is that you have a Republican Congress, and Republican candidates for president, who have actively stated that they want to roll back the financial regulations that have been put in place. They want to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is one more example of how they have drifted off of what had traditionally been bipartisan ideas. The notion that we would roll back an agency whose sole purpose is to make sure that consumers of financial products aren't defrauded, aren't tricked, aren't duped, and that will somehow make our economy stronger – after everything we've been through, that makes absolutely no sense.

James Hansen, NASA's leading climate scientist, has said this about the Keystone pipeline: that if the pipeline goes through and we burn tar sands in Canada, it's "game over" for the planet. What's your reaction to that statement?
James Hansen is a scientist who has done an enormous amount not only to understand climate change, but also to help publicize the issue. I have the utmost respect for scientists. But it's important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do. That's their national policy, they're pursuing it. With respect to Keystone, my goal has been to have an honest process, and I have adamantly objected to Congress trying to circumvent a process that was well-established not just under Democratic administrations, but also under Republican administrations.
The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem. Frankly, I'm deeply concerned that internationally, we have not made as much progress as we need to make. Within the constraints of this Congress, we've tried to do a whole range of things, administratively, that are making a difference – doubling fuel-efficiency standards on cars is going to take a whole lot of carbon out of our atmosphere. We're going to continue to push on energy efficiency, and renewable energy standards, and the promotion of green energy. But there is no doubt that we have a lot more work to do.
Part of the challenge over these past three years has been that people's number-one priority is finding a job and paying the mortgage and dealing with high gas prices. In that environment, it's been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science. I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation – that taking steps, for example, to retrofit buildings all across America with existing technologies will reduce our power usage by 15 or 20 percent. That's an achievable goal, and we should be getting started now.

You came into office as a young president with no military experience. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with overseeing the Pentagon and how you've grown as commander in chief, how your leadership style has evolved?
I came in without having served in the military, but feeling a great reverence for our military, and in awe of the sacri­fices that our men and women in uniform make every single day. In the first year, the Pentagon had grown accustomed to basically setting the terms – not just tactics, but also strategy. There was some sense that we had a lot of hammers, so everything was a nail. In part because of really good work by Bob Gates, who I kept on as secretary of defense, and in part because of me really trying to engage and listen to the Joint Chiefs and have a frank and open and honest discussion, even when we had strong disagreements, they developed a sense that I care about our military – but that I very much believe in civilian control of our military, and that military decisions are in service of strategies and broader conceptions of diplomacy that are made here in this White House. And so I can say, with a lot of confidence, that at this point the relationship between me and the Pentagon is very good. I think they know I care about them and I respect them, and I think they respect me and listen to what I say. They understand that I'm the commander in chief.
The bin Laden raid was just one very dramatic expression of a very effective and constructive relationship that's developed, and our drawdown in Iraq is another good example. Iraq, obviously, still has challenges. I came in and I promised that I would end the war in Iraq in a responsible way, and we executed that plan. It wasn't as fast as some people would have liked. It was probably faster than some folks in the Pentagon would have liked. But we were able to arrive at an approach that has resulted in handing over to the Iraqis a country, a democracy, that allows them now to determine their own fate, and we're going through that same process now with respect to Afghanistan.

Let me ask you about the Middle East in general. Outside of Iraq, there seems to be more turmoil than ever – in Syria, Israel, Iran. What's your take on the region and the strategic challenges it poses?
What we've seen over the past year and a half is as significant a set of changes as we've seen since the Berlin Wall fell. I think the jury's still out in terms of how it unfolds. On the one hand, I'm very proud that we stood with the people of Tunisia when they aspired to democracy. I'm very proud of the fact that we stood with the people of Egypt and said that it would be unacceptable, from our perspective, to see all those tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square subjected to violence, and that it was time to transition to democracy. I believe we did the right thing with respect to Libya, in a very surgical way, avoiding a potential massacre.
But what is also true is that these are countries that don't have deep democratic traditions. Because of repression, in part, the only organizing principle in these societies is religious, and there are sectarian divisions that date back hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years. As these transitions take place, democracy can easily turn to demagoguery, to civil strife. So it is going to be a bumpy road, and a challenging time. I think the American approach has to be to uphold core principles of universal rights, freedom and democracy. We're also going to have to show some humility, in the sense that we're not going to be able to completely impose our own vision on these countries.

How do you strike that balance?
What I've made very clear to the entire region is we have some core interests that we're going to protect, making sure that we don't have terrorists who are launching attacks against U.S. persons or interests for our homeland, and that's something that we're going to continue to pursue. We're going to make sure that friends of ours in a region like Israel aren't vulnerable to attack. But when we look back 20 or 30 years from now, we want to make sure that we were on the side of freedom and equality and justice. We're not going to always get it perfectly right, and there are going to be times when we're frustrated, because for all our good intentions, people still use anti-Americanism as an easy political tool to get the streets riled up.
The biggest worry I have in the region is actually economic. When you think about those young people in Tahrir Square, more than anything what they want is the same thing that people all around the world want. They want opportunity, they want the ability to get an education, get a job, raise a family. But this huge youth bulge that has taken place in North Africa and the Middle East demands that the region integrate itself with the world economy, to upgrade the skills of its population – including half its population of women, who too often are locked out of any participation in the economy. They have to start making things and designing things and selling things other than oil. If they don't move fast enough on that front, then that will make the project that much more difficult.

What about the two biggest concerns at the moment, Syria and Iran?
The ongoing massacre of civilians in Syria is an example where the international community has to speak out forcefully. There are no easy answers in terms of us putting a stop to these killings, but we have to apply every bit of pressure we can to effectuate a peaceful, or at least more peaceful, transition to a legitimate government inside of Syria.
As for Iran, I came into office in 2009 saying, "Let's see if we can end 30 years of mistrust between the United States and Iran." That outstretched hand was rebuffed, in part, because Iran embarked on repression of its own people after the elections in 2009, and they continue to pursue a nuclear program that nobody in the international community believes is simply for peaceful purposes. So we have another round of talks taking place between Iran and the P5-plus-1 – we just announced them today. There is a window of opportunity to resolve this issue diplomatically, and that is my fervent preference. There's no reason why Iran shouldn't be able to rejoin the community of nations and prosper. They have incredibly talented and sophisticated people there. But this continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons capability continues to be a major challenge, and it's going to be consuming a lot of my time and energy over the next several months.

You've been in office three years now. What's the world's hardest job like on a day-to-day basis?
Like every other job, you have good days and bad days. Like every other job, if you're willing to be self-critical and you're putting your all into it, you get better at it over time. I think I'm a better president now than when I first came into office. I think that my team is more efficient and can see around corners better than we could when we first came into office. As several people have pointed out to me who have been in previous administrations, this is a hard job, period. It's a really hard job when you're in the middle of the worst financial crisis in your lifetime, and two wars at the same time, and major challenges involving terrorism and climate change.

And everybody telling you how bad you're doing every day.
You end up having a very thick skin. I entered here with a thick skin, and now my skin is even thicker. Part of what you understand is that you are a person, but you're also a symbol. If things are going wrong, then people are looking to you to fix them. And sometimes, if you're just frustrated in your efforts, you're going to be the object of their frustration. You don't take it personally – you just recognize that it goes with the office and the desk and Marine One and all the other aspects of being president.

I heard you liked the TV show Homeland.
I did, it was a great show.

In the show, a drone strike destroys a madrassa and provokes an assassination attempt on the vice president of the United States. What did you enjoy about it?
What I liked was just real complicated characters. Obviously, there's a lot of overdramatization of what our days are like around here day to day, and how our national security apparatus works. But the characters involved are not simple, black-and-white characters. It's a terrific psychological study, and that's what I enjoy about it.

What other TV shows or movies or music have you been enjoying?
I haven't had a chance to see a lot of movies lately. I think the last movie I saw was The Descendants, which was fun, because it was going home. I saw Clooney the other day, and I joked to him that those were all my old haunting grounds. It actually captured that part of Hawaii that's not just rainbows and sunsets.

What do you read regularly to keep you informed or provide you with perspectives beyond the inner circle of your advisers?
[Laughs] Other than Rolling Stone?

That goes without saying.
I don't watch a lot of TV news. I don't watch cable at all. I like The Daily Show, so sometimes if I'm home late at night, I'll catch snippets of that. I think Jon Stewart's brilliant. It's amazing to me the degree to which he's able to cut through a bunch of the nonsense – for young people in particular, where I think he ends up having more credibility than a lot of more conventional news programs do.
I spend a lot of time just reading reports, studies, briefing books, intelligence assessments.

I'll thumb through all the major papers in the morning. I'll read the Times and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, just to catch up.

Do you read Paul Krugman?
I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman's obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan's on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.

I thought you were going to say Playboy.
No [laughs].

Most people, when you ask them to sing in public, get kind of nervous about it – they don't really want to do it. But you got up there at the Apollo Theater and nailed Al Green. What was going through your head when they asked you to do it? Did you know you were going to nail it?
The truth is, here's exactly what happened. It was my fifth event of the day. It's about 10:30 at night, and we go up to the Apollo. I wanted to hear Al Green. The guys who were working the soundboard in the back, a couple of real good guys, they say, "Oh, man, you missed the Reverend, but he was terrific, he was in rare form." So I was frustrated by that. Since I was on my fifth event and had been yakking away for several hours on all kinds of policy stuff, I just kind of broke into a rendition of "Let's Stay Together." And they're like, "Oh, so the president, you can sing, man. You should do that onstage." [Senior adviser] Valerie Jarrett was with us, and she was like [whispers, making a slashing motion across his throat], "No, no..." I said, "Yeah, I'll do that. You don't think I can do that onstage?" I looked at [press secretary] Jay Carney, and he was tired too, and he said, "Yeah, go for it." So I went up there and we did it.
I can sing. I wasn't worried about being able to hit those notes.

We've talked in the past about how you've met Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney here in the White House. Now you've met Mick Jagger. Tell us a bit about that.
The performances were terrific that night. But what was really fun about it was the rehearsal the day before. Part of what I really enjoy watching, any time I see these rehearsals, is how generous the big-name guys are with all the musicians involved. Once they get onstage, they don't have the entourage, all the trappings – they're just one more musician, and they're up there, practicing. I saw that when McCartney was here, I saw that when Stevie [Wonder] was here, Herbie Hancock. Mick was the same way. It was really nice to watch him just try to work through these numbers with the house band and a couple of guys who were with him who were obviously far less famous and about half his age, or maybe even less than half his age. But he was treating them with respect and caring about the music.
The next day, the evening of the performance, Mick gets up there and says, "Part of what makes this night special is I remember when me and the rest of the Stones traveled to Chess Records." They're in the middle of the South Side of Chicago, and they're probably the first Englishmen that most of these folks have ever met, like Howlin' Wolf and the rest of the crew at Chess and B.B. King, who was performing that night. Mick said how much he appreciated their generosity – teaching the Stones what they knew about music, even though these kids were like something arriving from another planet. The sense of him wanting to do that same thing, that it all comes full circle.

He told me that the night before, you came down to the rehearsal and hung out quite a bit. Yeah, I was down there for probably about 45 minutes. It was great fun, just watching them work through stuff. And he had unbelievable energy. I tell you, that guy, when he performed the next night, he was as energized as he's ever been.

Did you know you were going on to sing "Sweet Home Chicago" that night?
I was actually trying to avoid singing. The only problem with my Apollo performance is that everywhere I go now, somebody wants me to sing. My whole point is that the fewer the performances, the higher the ticket price, so you don't want to overdo it.

It must help to get a break, though, given how stressful and demanding the job is.
You generally don't hear in the press about what goes right, but you do hear it from the people who were impacted by it. I tell you, not a day passes where somewhere, somehow, I don't hear about something we've done that's really touched somebody directly. Somebody writes and says, "I'm 25 years old, and because of health care reform, I was able to stay on my parents' plan and ended up getting a checkup, and it turned out that I had a tumor and it was caught early, and I just want you to know that treatment is going well, and I really think this health care bill saved my life." Or you're in a rope line and somebody says, "I know you've been criticized because a lot of folks have had their homes foreclosed on, but your housing program actually helped me stay in my home, and it's made all the difference in the world."
There's an incredible generosity and recognition from people that these are tough times. It reminds you of what an incredible privilege it is to occupy this office. You're touching people on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes you don't even know it.
My hair is grayer, and obviously you get dinged up and bruised in this job. But my confidence in the American people is stronger than it was when I came into office, and my determination to do right by them and make sure that every morning, I wake up trying to figure out, "How do I improve their prospects?" That determination burns brighter than it did back in 2008.

Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview
The Case for Obama
Inside Obama's War Room
Hope 2.0: Inside Obama's Campaign

This story is from the May 10th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

Slow Jam The News with Barack Obama: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Published on Apr 24, 2012 by    

When Jimmy talks to the UNC audience
about student loans, he decides a slow jam with President Obama and The
Roots is appropriate.

The General Election Kicks Off, With a Slow Jam and a Quick Pivot

One of them spoke on cable news and one on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. One reminded America of its entrepreneurial roots and one jammed on stage with The Roots. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both took the spotlight last night, the former to launch his general-election message in a primary-victory speech and the latter to pitch his student-loan policy in a Slow Jam the News segment at the University of North Carolina.

And the two differing media hits suggest a couple of different strategies the challenger and incumbent may take in the campaign ahead—Romney aiming to recast himself to woo the broad middle of the country after running to the right in the primary, Obama targeting specific audiences and elements of his base (in this case young voters) to boost his turnout in the general election.

The Slow Jam segment kicked off an all-POTUS edition of Late Night, with the odd spectacle of a deadpan Obama delivering dead-serious arguments against raising student loan rates, then sitting statue-still while Questlove and the house band played and Fallon interjected lines like “The Barack Ness Monster ain’t buying that.” The risk was undercutting a serious campaign theme by playing it for comedy—the height of it was Obama’s delivery of “I, too, want to slow-jam the news”—while the potential reward was getting that message out in a way that awakened the activism of voters in their twenties, whom he later sympathized with by saying that he and Michelle had paid off their student loans only eight years ago.

The interview itself was stronger on light personal-bonding moments than Presidential policy; the ever-eager Fallon was nervously welcoming and relied heavily on viewer questions to ask Obama about issues. (Including the usual “Will you legalize weed?” question and the usual “Sorry, no” answer.) Obama seemed to welcome the chance to get personal, laughing at a college picture of himself Fallon brought out (“Notice the afro”) but bringing his answers around to his campaign talking points; thus, a question about how nasty the campaign would get turned into a point against the Citizens United decision and Super PAC money.

It seems ridiculous to talk about the levels of gravitas among different late-night talk shows for a President, but the general tone was lighter and more hang-loose even than Obama’s past appearances on Tonight or Comedy Central. The Obama campaign’s calculation, though, was that this audience doesn’t see a contradiction between making a serious point and laughing at yourself while doing it (and that other voters turned off by a President joking around with Fallon would either be in bed before 12:35 or would not care much by November).

It was the kind of appearance, actually, that you might have expected in the past from a challenger in a Presidential election (President Clinton sax-jamming on Arsenio’s show the classic example)—loosening up, trying an unconventional format, reaching out beyond a politics-intense audience. But last night, Obama’s evident fall opponent, Mitt Romney, accepted a set of five primary victories and directed a message to America behind a more-conventional podium. (My colleague, Michael Scherer, has a full analysis of it—and its similarities to Obama’s 2008 themes—at Swampland.)

But what strikes me in contrast to Obama’s slow-jam, besides the lack of musical accompaniment, is that where Obama—a fixture in the news for four years very familiar to voters—was using media strategy to pitch to a targeted sector of an audience that’s very familiar with him, Romney seemed to be trying to use his speech to introduce, or re-introduce, himself to an audience that may not have been following the Republican primaries so closely.

So after a brief reference to his primary victories and supporters, he pivoted to broad themes about “a better America” and Obama’s record, and offered to make a literal introduction: “It’s been a long campaign, but many Americans are just now beginning to focus on the choice before the country. In the days ahead, I look forward to meeting with many of you personally. I want to hear what’s on your minds.” In the process, perhaps, allowing him to present a message tailored to voters “just now beginning to focus” rather than to Republican die-hards.

I’m not sure I could ever see Mitt Romney slow-jamming the news as part of that re-introduction—though I would pay money to see that—but then it’s only April. For this, though, the candidates pursued two different strategies: one using the news cycle to re-introduce himself, and one using a news jam to reconnect.