Opinion

The Great Debate

President Obama should consider Sullivan for Supreme Court

Paul Sousa– Paul Sousa is co-founder of the non-profit GLBT rights organization, Join The Impact MA, which puts on grassroots events in the metro Boston area.  Paul is also the founder and president of Equal Rep, a Boston based organization that focuses on rapid online mobilization to lobby for the appointment or election of highly qualified openly GLBT politicians.  The views expressed are his own. –

Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term after 19 years on the bench. The vacancy will give President Obama his first chance to name a member of the high court and begin to shape its future direction.

President Obama recently stated, “the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart–the empathy–to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old–and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”

There have been 110 Supreme Court appointments throughout our nation’s history ranging from James Wilson in 1798 to the most recent appointment of Samuel Alito in 2006. 106 of those 110 Justices have been straight, white men. There have been two females, two men of color that have served on the Supreme Court, and not a single openly gay member has ever served.

President Obama now has a unique opportunity to not only nominate an incredibly qualified candidate, Kathleen Sullivan, but to also shatter a glass ceiling at the very same time. If chosen, Sullivan would become the first ever openly gay Justice and third female Justice in United States history to serve on the Supreme Court leading to a Court that more truly reflects the composition of the American population.

Thousands lose jobs due to higher federal minimum wage

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. —

As President Obama considers whether to fulfill his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour by 2011, there’s no better illustration of the consequences of well-intentioned policy-making than recent events in American Samoa, a United States territory in the South Pacific that falls within the purview of Congress.

Chicken of the Sea, the tuna company, announced this month that it will close its canning plant in American Samoa in September. The culprit is 2007 legislation in Washington that gradually increased the islands’ minimum wage until it reaches $7.25 an hour in July 2009, almost double the 2007 levels.

Iran sanctions and wishful thinking

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate
– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

So what’s so difficult in getting Iran to drop its nuclear program? All it needs is a great American leader who uses sanctions to break the Iranian economy so badly that popular discontent sweeps away the leadership. It is replaced without a shot being fired.

That simplistic solution to one of the most complex problems of the Middle East was part of a keynote speech greeted with thunderous applause by 6,000 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The speaker: Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

President Obama’s three percent solution

Jonathan Hoganson– Jonathan R. Hoganson is the deputy executive director of the Technology CEO Council, a public policy advocacy group that includes the CEOs of Intel, HP, Dell, Applied Materials, EMC, Motorola, Micron Technology and IBM. He previously was the legislative director for Rep. Rahm Emanuel and policy director for the House Democratic Caucus. The views expressed are his own. –

A few years from now, when our economy has regained its stride, we may look back to a little-noticed announcement last Monday that spurred the resurgence. Amid swine-flu hysteria and First 100 Days hoopla, President Obama quietly announced a commitment to spending three percent of the U.S. GDP on science research and development.

This is a profoundly important step, but if we are to continue to lead the world, the United States must also develop a comprehensive policy to foster innovation. For too long, the United States has lived in a “next month” mindset when it came to our economy. This short-termitis has led to sub-prime lending, credit card debt and a general lack of long-term planning. And in no place has this been more evident than in the sciences.

President Obama’s first hundred days

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.  The views expressed are her own. —

In his first one hundred days, President Obama has shown himself to be one of the most radical U.S. presidents in history.  He is harming America’s defenses by publishing memos on interrogation of detainees and threatening to prosecute lawyers who drafted supportive memos.  He shakes hands with America’s enemies, such as Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and sends mixed signals to its friends, such as Colombia’s President Uribe.

And, in the name of combating a recession, he is destroying the fundamental institutions of America’s free-market economy.

First 100 days: Grading Obama’s foreign policy

Michael O'Hanlon– Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s no great surprise in American politics these days, but already a great partisan debate has broken out about President Obama’s foreign policy effectiveness to date. For his enthusiasts, the United States has hit the “reset” button and is reclaiming its place as not only a strong country, but a respected leader among nations. For his detractors, Obama is making the world dangerous by apologizing for America’s alleged misdeeds of the past, naively talking with dictators, and cutting the defense budget.

And as usual, the truth is neither of these polar positions. But as a past critic of Obama, especially during his days of promising a rapid and unconditional exit from Iraq during the presidential campaign, I would nonetheless argue that he has done a good job overall, and that his supporters have the stronger case to date. Still, making too much of provisionally good decisions in the first 100 days verges on playing a silly game of Potomac Jeopardy that only the evening talk shows and political junkies really care about. The bottom line is that Obama is just getting started. But he is off to a more solid start than almost any of his recent predecessors.

100 less days to find a Gitmo solution

mcconnell2Mitch McConnell is the Senate Republican Leader. Any opinions expressed are his own.

From the first moments of the Obama Administration, continuing through today, its 100th day, Senate Republicans have pledged to work closely with our new president to find solutions to the many foreign policy challenges we face. As our armed forces continue to wage two wars overseas, Republicans believe it’s important to work with the new administration to advance a foreign policy agenda that protects the American people and furthers our interests abroad.

So far, there have been two major points of convergence. Republicans agree with the President’s strategies in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where the new administration has agreed in both cases to closely follow the best advice of our military commanders on the ground. We part ways, however, with the administration’s proposal to close the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by an arbitrary date in January 2010, before it even has a plan for the 240 terrorists who are there.

from The Great Debate UK:

A bet against Castro’s immortality

REUTERS-- Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - "Practically everyone who follows Latin American events agrees that Castro's end is near." Thus one Laurence W Tuller, writing in 1994 in his manual on high-risk, high-reward investing. Defaulted Cuban government bonds had jumped on hopes of a settlement to allow the country back into the international capital markets.
Today, former leader Fidel Castro's end is 15 years nearer, but he's still there, albeit in semi-retirement, and holders of these pre-Castro bonds with a face value of around $200 billion are still waiting. Castro's regime kept good records, but have paid no interest, and ignored redemption dates since his revolution half a century ago.
Few Americans can remember why their administration has been so beastly to Cuba for so long.
Those who can mostly live in Florida, a key swing state, and many risked everything to get out of Cuba. They do not want to see their investment devalued by hordes of their former compatriots simply walking off the Delta Airlines flight from Havana.
Last week U.S. President Barack Obama eased the squeeze somewhat. Americans can now visit Cuba, but only if they have relatives there.
This gesture has re-ignited the bondholders' old hopes. Past settlements of defaulted sovereign bonds have tended to pay about half the total of accrued interest plus principal, so the buyers see plenty of upside.
Exotix, a specialist trader in "frontier markets", says its price for a typical Cuban bond instrument has risen from around 9 cents on the dollar at the start of this month to 14 cents on April 23.
Mind you, the spread is wide, the market thin and as events crowd in on the President, he might feel there are more pressing problems than to risk upsetting those key-voting Floridian Cubans.

Obama mulls cap-and-trade by decree

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

Obama’s plea to EU on Turkey carries risks

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Basking in adulation across Europe, U.S. President Barack Obama chose to expend some of his political capital to urge the European Union to open its doors to Turkey.

This public reaffirmation of long-standing U.S. policy fits in with Obama’s attempt to restore the United States’ standing in the Muslim world, using Turkey as a platform for his first state visit to a Muslim country. It also helps rebuild strategic ties with Ankara that sank to a low ebb under George W. Bush, when Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to use its territory and airspace to invade Iraq.

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