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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Today’s hot topic is President Barack Obama’s half-hour interview last night on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Obama and Stewart discussed the stimulus, the healthcare bill and job creation, all areas the president and Democrats have taken heavy fire. The interview was markedly unhumorous excepting a handful of moments when Stewart prodded the president, as New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley noted.

He did manage to needle Mr. Obama a little, teasingly retorting, “And I don’t mean to lump you in with other presidents.” He even called the president “dude” after the president inadvertently echoed a famous George W. Bush gaffe by saying that his economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, had done “a heck of a job.” Mr. Obama winced ruefully as the audience laughed at his wording and Mr. Stewart said, “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

That one word — “dude” — will probably be the most-discussed part of the whole interview, unfortunately. What did Stewart really mean by it? Does its relaxed usage denigrate the president? Was Stewart trying to create a camaraderie? Was it an innocent moment of informality?

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank says Dudegate is indicative of the president’s position.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

Ironically, Time’s Michael Scherer writes, Stewart got from Obama the sanity he seeks at this weekend’s Rally to Restore Sanity.

What is perhaps most interesting about the whole appearance is what it told us about Obama. When he is up against the wall, his response is a retreat to reason. No big campaign rhetoric, no zinging attacks. He gets more humble, and more professorial, less dynamic. This is, ironically, exactly the kind of “sanity” that Stewart claims to want in the political discussion–a reasonable debate on the issues in which no one gets dinged for a clumsy soundbite. But that is not how television works, especially on Stewart’s show, which specializes in exploiting soundbites. What will be remembered from this appearance are the stumbles, not the sober framework that contained them.

Speaking on ABC this morning, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said Obama’s ‘Daily Show’ appearance will serve to motivate some of his base voters.

“The president is trying to reach out to those who are still undecided and perhaps uninspired about the choices that they face in five days,” Brazile said. “But President Obama is a strong closer, he understands what’s at stake and I believe showing up on Jon Stewart’s show, with over a million viewers, will help the president reach the base that he so critically needs to keep control of the House and Senate.”

Former George W. Bush advisor Nicolle Wallace said the president came across as weak by trying to explain and justify his administrative and legislative actions.

“I think the optics of begging Jon Stewart’s forgiveness and understanding are awful,” she said.

“He didn’t do that, though,” George Stephanopoulos countered.

“Well, I think by making the case, it felt like pandering, like trying to win him over. I thought the optics were terrible,” Wallace replied. “I think this White House needed to appear confident, if for no other reason than to settle the nerves of nervous Democrats who are really suffering from the political consequences of the Obama-Pelosi agenda. These voters are rebuking the Obama agenda and I think what they see as misplaced priorities on stimulus, on healthcare, things that added to the deficit, and a lack of attention on jobs, they have one problem, and, you know, the first step is acknowledging a problem and they seem incapable of doing that.”

George Neumayr, writing in the American Spectator, was extremely critical of Obama’s “ill-advised” choice to appear on the ‘Daily Show.’

At a time of high unemployment, Obama is content to play the empty celebrity, appearing on shows as shallow as his policies and delivering trendy messages about the latest anxiety of the coastal elite — the “gay teen suicide epidemic.”

Neumayr’s reference to gay teen suicides confusingly refers not to Obama’s ‘Daily Show’ appearance, in which the president did not discuss that issue, but rather to a recent three-minute video Obama made for the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign.

Neumayr also makes no secret his disdain for Jon Stewart.

While Stewart engages in a lot of cutesy mugging and seemingly self-deprecating humor about such accolades, he takes himself very seriously indeed. His own liberal assumptions are exempt from mocking, and he claims to be deeply pained by “phoniness” at the highest levels of society. Yet somehow this concern about phoniness doesn’t extend to something as basic as his own name, which is not Jon Stewart but Jon Leibowitz, or his own role in high society. The self-proclaimed puncturer of all things phony has a phony name, and the jester has no intention of dropping his mask or reforming his juvenile ways.

Finally, Adam Frucci, writing at Splitsider, argued Stewart would have been better off in this interview without the ecstatic audience.

Having a crowd cheering and clapping, interrupting both Obama and Stewart multiple times, turned what should have been a thoughtful debate into an arena battle. A crowd makes sense for something like a sporting event or a comedy show. You want an audience to provide energy, to react where reactions are warranted.

But the trouble with having a live audience at what is supposed to be a relatively serious discussion is that it forces everything to be dumbed down to soundbites. Any subtlety is removed, as who cheers for a nuanced argument? A crowd wants to cheer for big proclamations, for sweeping statements. …

Just imagine if a show on Fox News had a live studio audience. If every time Sean Hannity mentioned death panels or Obamacare, he got a raucous ovation. It would make something that’s already oversimplified and dumbed down even more so, encouraging pandering and self-congratulation and lowering the level of discourse even further.

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Last week NPR news analyst Juan Williams was fired for remarks he made on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor” regarding Muslims.

Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Whether you agree or disagree with NPR’s decision, the firing has brought forth discussion about whether such a sentiment is bigoted or not. Associating one thing with another is a classic evolutionary defensive mechanism, Shankar Vedantam writes in Slate.

These automatic associations make evolutionary sense. If one of our ancestors was wandering in a desert and came by a snake curled up next to the only tree on the landscape, her mind would connect not just that tree with that snake, but all trees with snakes. Illusory correlations are all about seeking out group patterns based on rare individual incidents: all trees and snakes and all flights with stomach upsets, rather than that one tree and that one snake, or that one flight and that one stomach upset. Scientists say correlation isn’t causation, but, from an evolutionary point of view, if the snake-tree link is wrong, all that would happen is our ancestor would avoid all trees in the future. If the link was real and she failed to see it, she could get herself killed. Our ancestors constantly drew conclusions about their environment based on limited evidence. Waiting for causative evidence could have proved costly, whereas extrapolating causation from correlation was less costly.

Most people don’t make similar associations between, say, Timothy McVeigh or the Westboro Baptist Church and Christianity because whites and Christians are the majority in America. Muslims are just the latest group to face such correlation; Vedantam notes African-Americans have long faced problems by being associated with crime.

Whenever people who strongly believe in illusory correlations are challenged about their beliefs, they invariably find ways to make their behavior seem conscious and rational. Those who would explicitly link all Muslims with terrorism might point to evidence showing that some Muslims say they want to wage a war against the West, that a large preponderance of terrorist attacks today are carried out by Muslims, and so on. This is similar to our longstanding national narrative about blacks and crime.

Todd Essig, writing in Psychology Today, argues that the unique combination of human psychology and social networking serves to spread hate quickly and efficiently. Hate speech, at least against Muslims, is part of the cultural norm, he says; “No one escapes the pull of cognitive dissonance.”

Consequently—and here is the tragic consequence—once you start speaking hate you will soon start feeling hate regardless of motive. The next thing you know you’ll be getting nervous when you see a Muslim or a person of color—maybe one of Juan Williams’ relatives—at the airport because, of course, you hatefully believe there is a good chance they are a terrorist or a mugger.

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One of the hottest epithets to emerge this political season has a gender basis: “Man up.”

Sharron Angle. Courtesy of the Washington Post

“Man up, Harry Reid,” Nevada Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle said to her Democratic opponent. “You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security.”

“Hey, politicians who are in office today you, some of you, need to man up and spend some political capital to support the Tea Party candidates instead of doing this, waiting to see how everything is going to go,” Sarah Palin said in Reno, Nev.

“I think people should have access [to health care],” Missouri Democratic senate candidate Robin Carnahan said to Republican Roy Blunt. “They should have the same access you have as a member of Congress. So I think if you want to repeal health care reform and let insurance companies go back to their worst abuses, Congressman, then you ought to repeal your own first. And man up. And do what you’re asking other people to do.”

“You know, these are the kind of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we’ve come to expect from Obama’s favorite Republican, Mike Castle,” said Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell about her primary opponent. “You know, I released a statement today, saying Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”

“He needs to man up and leader up and run his own race,” Florida Democratic senate candidate Kendrick Meek said of independent candidate Charlie Crist. “Don’t try to come over and eat off my plate, because I’m 6’3,” 250 pounds and a former state trooper.”

Ruth Marcus, writing in The Washington Post, wants to know what testicles have to do with toughness.

The breakthrough appeal of the Mama Grizzly is that she combines the ultimate feminine act — motherhood — with fierceness. Have we really come a long way if cojones equals good and lack thereof equals wimpy? …

Don’t equate typically female characteristics or activities (baking, wearing high heels) with weakness.

Don’t — even, or maybe especially, if you’re a woman — equate toughness with manliness. At least not unless you think it’s acceptable for your opponent to tell you to behave like a lady.

Don’t use terms with sexist or racist overtones. If you, or someone in your campaign does, groveling works better than quibbling.

Politicians of both genders don’t need to man up — they need to grow up. Judging by the campaign so far, that might be harder to pull off.

Over at Slate, John Dickerson laments that “man up” has turned into a cliché.

Imagine if someone spoke plainly about something that mattered! Original, unvarnished speech is such a danger, however, that politicians of both parties have joined together to make the expression ‘man up’ into a cliché, rendering it as harmless as the promise to ‘put America first.’ When a politician uses the expression now, it is rehearsed as dinner theater. It is dreary to watch, boring to listen to, and tells us nothing about the politician or the issue he or she is talking about.

Sociologist Geoffrey Greif, writing in Psychology Today, wonders why female candidates feel the need to ask if their candidates have the ganas.

I understand the history of the outdated notion that someone needs to “be a man” and act tough, take responsibility, and be a leader. But is that expression really still around today on the lips of women candidates? Is it okay to impugn their masculinity like this? “Take responsibility” could easily have been substituted for “man up” but in using “man up,” it calls into play the obvious retort. What if a candidate, male or female, told an opponent to “woman up?”

In a bygone era, telling someone to “woman up” would have meant she should act the way a traditional woman was expected to act. She should stay home and take care of children, perhaps while a man took care of family financially. In today’s world, woman up could mean the same as man up – take responsibility and act like a leader (think Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkle, and Margaret Thatcher – all women who take/took responsibility and act(ed) like leaders.

So I can’t quite figure out what these women were saying about their opponents’ masculinity or what they were saying about women in general. But it feels like a putdown of both and, ultimately, of themselves as women candidates.

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Scientists in the United Kingdom are celebrating today as government cuts to research funds have been frozen rather than slashed dramatically, as they previously feared. A comprehensive review of government spending, released today, promised that science funding would be kept at £4.6 billion annually, amounting to only around a 10 percent loss due to inflation.

“Britain is a world leader in scientific research, and that is vital to our economic success,” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne said while announcing the review’s conclusions.

Nevertheless, that effective 10 percent loss has sparked fears of a “brain drain” as Britain’s top scientists flee for nations with better science funding, including Germany, France, Singapore and the United States.

“This is still a significant cut when other countries have recognised that if you want to go for growth, you have to invest in science,” Campaign for Science and Engineering director Imran Khan told the Guardian. “Flat cash means a 10 percent cut over the four-year period and the people who will feel that cut soonest are the young scientists, who we will struggle to retain in this country.”

Not everyone was thankful for the government’s concessions. Mark Downs, the CEO of the Society of Biology, a biology advocacy group, was critical of even the 10 percent loss.

“The government has failed to recognise what all charities know – an economic downturn is the time to invest in fundraising to ensure future prosperity,” he told the BBC. “It is research and development, coupled with skilled people that will deliver growth. Our international competitors have recognised that: the coalition government has yet to fully accept that reality.”

While the government review did largely protect science spending, other programs weren’t so lucky. In trying to close a £156 billion deficit, Osbourne identified £81 billion of public spending that can be cut. Among other measures, Britain will raise the pension age to 66 in 2018; local council budgets will be sliced by 7.1 percent; the Ministry of Defence will lose 8 percent of its budget and 42,000 jobs; a further 490,000 public sector jobs are to be cut; the BBC must freeze its license fee and absorb the Foreign Office-run World Service, amounting to 16 percent cuts; national museums face 15 percent cuts; and Arts Council England has been slashed almost 30 percent.

“Tackling this budget deficit is unavoidable. The decisions about how we do it are not. There are choices. And today we make them. Investment in the future rather than the bills of past failure. That is our choice,” Osbourne said. Along with science research, education and health care were also protected from serious cuts.

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Ironically, at the same time as government science spending has been spared, the U.K.’s only book award for popular science, the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, is also under threat. The 22-year-old award has yet to find a replacement funding partner for the Royal Society, which has announced it can no longer pay for the £10,000 prize. French pharmaceutical company Aventis had sponsored the award until 2007.

“Science is an integral part of our culture and it is immensely important that the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery is effectively communicated to all,” Royal Society President Lord Rees said. “The [prize] has celebrated the very best science writing since 1988 and helped to encourage engagement with science. The Royal Society greatly values the prizes, however, in these tough economic times we have to secure a sponsor to ensure they can continue in future years.”

Previous winners have included physicist Stephen Hawking, anthropologist Jared Diamond, zoologist Stephen Jay Gould and travel writer Bill Bryson.

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Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is back in the news today, just two weeks out from the midterm elections, after questioning in a debate whether the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.

Courtesy of The News Journal.

The debate with Democratic candidate Chris Coons, before students and professors from Widener University Law School, was aired on WDEL and seemed to be more hostile than the nationally televised debate on CNN last week.

The freedom of religion exchange began with Coons, who stated that private schools are free to teach creationism, but “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”

O’Donnell responded, “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” drawing laughter from the crowd. “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

Coons, on the other hand, The News Journal reported, was challenged by O’Donnell to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. “He deflected.” For the record, it’s press, speech, religion, petition and peaceful assembly. “Perhaps they didn’t teach you constitutional law at Yale Divinity School,” O’Donnell said to gasps. It’s worth noting Coons has a law degree from Yale as well as a Master of Arts in Religion.

Later, O’Donnell was asked about her position on the 14th, 16th and 17th Amendments. She reportedly asked what the first two were. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me,” she said. “Fortunately, senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.” The 14th Amendment, which includes language on due process and equal protection, most recently has come under fire for providing citizenship to any person born within the United States. The 16th Amendment deals with the federal income tax. The 17th Amendment allows for the direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote. O’Donnell said she opposes repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments; she was unclear about the 14th, saying the U.S. should close its borders before discussing amnesty.

Going back to her stumble during the CNN debate regarding recent Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with, O’Donnell said her statements during that debate were taken out of context and that there have been few cases in the last few years with which she disagrees. She again cited Roe v. Wade and Kelo v. City of New London, a 2005 case which furthered the government’s eminent domain powers, as bad decisions.

Full audio of the debate, provided by WDEL, is below in three parts.

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Last night Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell debated live on primetime CNN (before cutting away to cover the ongoing miner rescues in Chile).

The most widely talked-about moment came when moderator Nancy Karibjanian of Delaware First Media asked O’Donnell about which recent Supreme Court rulings with which she disagreed. O’Donnell fumbled the question. Video and transcript are below.

KARIBJANIAN: Well, we’ve talked about the Supreme Court, and obviously a United States senator has the opportunity to determine in a way the make-up of that court. So what opinions of late that have come from our high court do you most object to?

O’DONNELL: Oh, gosh. Give me a specific one, I’m sorry.

KARIBJANIAN: Actually, I can’t, because I need you to tell me which ones you object to.

O’DONNELL: I’m very sorry. Right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise you.

BLITZER: Well, we know you disagree with Roe versus Wade.

O’DONNELL: Yes, but that was — she said a recent one.

BLITZER: Well, that’s relatively recent.

O’DONNELL: She said, of late.

Yes, well, Roe versus Wade would not put the power — sorry, it’s 30 (ph)…

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But since then, have there been any other…

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: … Supreme Court decisions?

O’DONNELL: Well, let me say, about Roe versus Wade, Roe versus Wade, if that were overturned, would not make abortion illegal in the United States, it would put the power back to the states.

BLITZER: But besides that decision, anything else you disagree with?

O’DONNELL: Oh, there are several, when it comes to pornography, when it comes to court decisions, not just Supreme Court, but federal court decisions to give terrorists Miranda-ized rights.

I mean, there are a lot of things that I believe that — this California decision to overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I believe that there are a lot of federal judges who are legislating from the bench.

BLITZER: That wasn’t the Supreme Court, it’s a lower court.

O’DONNELL: That was a federal judge — that’s what I said, in California.

O’Donnell’s campaign later clarified that she opposes the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which in a 5-4 decision held that “the city’s taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a ‘public use’ within the meaning of the takings clause.”

O’Donnell also defended herself against controversial comments she made on Bill Maher’s talk show “Politically Incorrect,” including a claim that she once dabbled in witchcraft and her belief that evolution is a myth.

“This election cycle should not be about comments I made on a comedy show over a decade and a half ago,” she said. In a similar vein, however, she attacked an article written by Coons in his college newspaper in which he described himself as a “bearded Marxist,” saying, “Forget the bearded Marxist comment, you writing an article saying that you learned your beliefs from an articulate, intelligent Marxist professor and that’s what made you become a Democrat, that should send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter.”

Coons defended the article as ironic.

It’s an article that I wrote as a senior the day of our commencement speech and the title and the content of that clearly makes it obvious that it was a joke. There was a group of folks who I had shared a room with, my roommates junior year, who are in the Young Republican Club and who thought when I returned from Kenya and registered as a Democrat that doing so was proof that I had gone all the way over to the far left end, and so they jokingly called me a bearded Marxist. If you take five minutes and read the article, it’s clear on the face of it, it was a joke. Despite that, my opponent and lots of folks in the right wing media have endlessly spun this. I am not now, nor have I ever been, anything but a clean-shaven capitalist.

So how did the candidates fare through the debate? Coverage has largely focused on O’Donnell, who worked to lower expectations on her performance. The debate would do little to change voters’ minds, Salon’s Steve Kornacki wrote, unless O’Donnell were “able to create some kind of breakthrough moment – or would Coons commit some kind of paralyzing gaffe?” Coons, Kornacki concludes, did not mess up in any meaningful way.

Coons was probably a bit too dismissive of O’Donnell at times, frequently prefacing his replies to her statements by shaking his head and marveling that “there’s just so much there” to respond to. Voters already see that O’Donnell as something of a lunatic; they don’t need Coons pointing it out to them over and over. But his stylistic sins were minor and he committed no major gaffes. Die-hard conservatives surely found plenty of ideological objections to Coons’ statements, but they’re already in O’Donnell’s camp.

Courtesy of the Washington Times

Slate’s Dave Weigel, a Delaware native, noted that he listened to the “over-played” debate and continues to be amazed that the national media is interested in a race where Coons has nearly a 20-point spread.

She’s a competent TV pundit who doesn’t really drill down into policy. Lo and behold, she tossed off a ton of TV lines without saying much about policy. Oh, yes, she spoke about it in soundbite terms, but at every moment where Coons or moderators asked her to take her stance to its logical conclusion, she wandered into Neverland. Really, 10 minutes after she was explaining that it was unfair to judge her on her financial record, she proposed more accountability from people who used emergency rooms because they didn’t have insurance. Or something.

I suppose that the Rise of the Tea Party candidate — and we could say the first one was Sarah Palin, really, as she was given national prominence by conservative bloggers and media — has led to debates with ultra-low expectations for those candidates. I imagine that Sharron Angle will fail to spontaneously combust, and thus be declared a surprise winner on points of her debate with Harry Reid.

The BBC said that O’Donnell’s sassiness could not overcome her shallow answers.

Ms O’Donnell’s sassy, everyday-girl appeal couldn’t obscure the lack of detail in her responses.

Nor could it compensate for her dumbfounded silence when asked to name a recent Supreme Court ruling she disagreed with.

But that might not matter in this election. She successfully touched on the talking points that have proved to resonate so powerfully with conservatives – repeatedly referring to the constitution, railing against “Obamacare” and accusing Mr Coons of being a Marxist.

Some call this “dog-whistle politics” – these kind of references hit a pitch, and speak a language that supporters hear differently, and respond to more strongly, than other constituencies. Ms O’Donnell appears to have mastered the technique.

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawick was confused by all the hype surrounding O’Donnell. “I tried to look past all the wild stuff said about her to see what it was about this candidate that led to her upset victory in the primary race, but I honestly couldn’t find any real takeaway. I wanted to see some honesty and new answers, but I saw nothing much to get excited about.” Nevertheless, Zurawick still liked her “better than the drab, smarmy guy she’s running against, Coons.”

Finally, the National Review’s Jim Geraghaty, despite not being a fan of O’Donnell, criticized Coons’ answers as unsurprising and banal and moderators Karibjanian and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as in the tank for the Democrat.

I’m not inclined to agree with the positions of Democrat Chris Coons, but he struck me as terrible. I wondered if he felt a bit like Al Gore taking on Dan Quayle in 1992 or Joe Biden taking on Sarah Palin in 2008; the opponent was supposed to be a blithering idiot and anything less than a TKO would be a disappointment. But Coons seemed intent to play it safe, to the point where the local moderator, Schoolmarm McFavoritism, had to invite him to jump in twice. Several times he said he didn’t have the required time to answer the questions, and so he punted. His answers were pat, predictable, almost rote recitation of standard-issue Democratic talking points. As I said on Twitter, the generic ballot numbers in Delaware may be strangely relevant, since it seems Chris Coons is the Generic Democratic Candidate.

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Judge Virginia Phillips of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California yesterday ordered a worldwide injunction banning enforcement of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law.

The 17-year-old ban on open gays serving in the military “infringes the fundamental rights of United States servicemembers and prospective servicemembers and violates (a) the substantive due process rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and (b) the rights to freedom of speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Phillips wrote in the injunction.

The injunction came following her ruling last month that DADT is unconstitutional. Although the ruling and yesterday’s injunction has been hailed as a landmark for LGBT rights, the government has 60 days and is widely expected to appeal before the injunction takes effect. A stay will almost certainly be granted in the meantime. “The Ninth Circuit will likely stay the effect of this order and, if it does not, the Supreme Court will do so,” Dale Carpenter writes at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Jason Mazzone at Balkinization notes that the Obama administration could play both sides of this touchy issue.

The Department of Justice can both appeal and not appeal. It can appeal the terms of the injunction as beyond the scope of Judge Phillips’s authority and argue to the appellate court that any relief Judge Phillips orders must be limited to the benefit of the plaintiffs before her or to the jurisdictional area of California where her court is located. At the same time, the DOJ can downplay objections to Judge Phillips’s ruling that DADT is unconstitutional; the DOJ can even forego entirely the constitutional issue on appeal. The message to gay rights advocates can be: “Judge Phillips is right.” The message to political challengers can be: “We’re appealing Judge Phillips’s ruling.”

University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse disagrees on her blog. The timing is all off, she notes, and besides, Obama has proven wishy-washy on LGBT rights issues, something that could come back to haunt him and the Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

But what damnable luck for the Democrats to have this thrown at them 2 weeks before the election! It’s such a bad issue for Obama. He hasn’t done what he promised, and he’s fought against constitutional rights that he ought to be actively pursuing, whether he’d made promises or not. He’s going to have to rest on the argument that he was always all about Congress making the change. But why hasn’t his Congress gone his way? And do Democrats in Congress want this issue forefronted now? They’ve only made everyone unhappy — people who want DADT repealed and people who don’t. And then there’s the additional issue of “activist” judges.

Andrew Sullivan places some blame on Congressional Republicans, who successfully blocked legislative repeal of DADT several weeks ago. Although their public objection was that the repeal was tacked as a rider to the annual defense spending bill, Sullivan remains pessimistic about a legislative repeal moving forward.

Here’s the thing. We have no guarantee that the Senate will pass legislative repeal of DADT in this session; and there’s every chance that a radically Christianist GOP will win majorities in one or both Houses and definitely be able to sustain a filibuster against repeal in the next session if necessary. This is not because even most Republican voters back DADT; it is because it is a party hijacked by religious fundamentalists who cannot conceive of openly gay people serving their country. Look at the party of Paladino and DeMint and Palin. You think they will support anything that could remotely be deemed pro-gay?

The Department of Justice has 60 days, until Monday, December 13, to appeal, and if the administration plans to appeal they will likely wait until after the election in three weeks to do so.

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