Stories by Daniel Stone

  • Could Question Time Be Diluted?

    Washington lately has been abuzz with the advent of question time in America. It makes for great TV by teasing out pent-up partisan tension. But it also just makes democracy better. Party leaders can call each other out face-to-face for touting bad ideas or being disingenuous in their attacks, and then there's time to respond. It essentially brings the debates of campaigns into the governing arena, and the best ideas rise to the top.In theory. But what if it becomes so popular, and the stakes become so high for whoever shows up unprepared, that question time turns into merely a partisan exchange of talking points? That is, an opportunity for pols to appear to be engaging in genuine debate, even though the questions and timing are all staged. It's not far from reality. This morning when Obama addressed Senate Dems, CNN's Dana Bash noticed that Majority Leader Harry Reid selected the questioners in advance, and all of them were members facing tough election fights this...
  • White House Signals Pessimism on Cap and Trade

    Numbers abound in the fiscal-year 2011 budget released by the White House this morning. The full package runs just over $3.8 trillion for next year, which includes a 6 percent increase in education spending, an additional $160 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the $300 in tax cuts over the next decade that President Obama foreshadowed in his State of the Union address last week. But also revealing is what’s not included in the budget. Curiously absent, as noticed by enviros, is the lack of revenue expected from a cap-and-trade program to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Under the basic framework of the program, companies would either be charged a tax for emitting beyond certain levels, or would participate in a trading program that penalizes polluters by rewarding those who comply with federal emissions levels.Under some estimates last year, such a program would bring in nearly $650 billion while encouraging the nation’s biggest polluters to slowly ramp down their...
  • Ralph Lauren Tries to Help You Help Haiti

    Gosh, what’s a preppy with a big wallet and a big heart to do to prove to his buddies down at the club that he’s doing his part to stop the suffering in Haiti? Maybe pop the collar on his new Ralph Lauren Haiti Relief Polo Shirt. Pick your color, only 98 bucks. All proceeds to charity. Thanks, Ralph. Helping the needy never looked so chic.
  • Schwarzenegger Has a Meta Moment

    It wasn't so long ago that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the budget-breaking governor of California, used his star power to win the state's top job. He had no experience as a top executive, really, nor as a politician, but everyone knew him as the rock solid man-bot from The Terminator, not to mention the world’s first pregnant man in Junior. It was enough for him to beat 135 other candidates when he first ran in 2003.So it was worth a double take when Schwarzenegger took a good-humored shot yesterday at the very city that gave him rise. Speaking in La Jolla, Calif., to honor a man who had given $700 million for medical research, Schwarzenegger quipped about how that money might be spent in other parts of the state, like, say, Hollywood:"Here we are in the same state, but in San Diego, when someone is putting up $700 million, it goes to charity. I mean, you just go a little bit north—100 miles, in Hollywood—if someone puts up $700 million, it's for a divorce. It's...
  • James Hansen: ‘100 Percent Dividend or Fight!’

    In advance of President Obama's State of the Union Message tonight, NEWSWEEK partnered with YouTube to launch discussions with four experts in their various fields on the most pressing issues facing America: education, national security, the economy, and the climate crisis. This is the third in the series.When the American people elected Barack Obama, they elected someone to go fight big financial and corporate interests. Now is the time to do that, says NASA climatologist James Hansen. He thinks that nowhere is leadership needed more than in addressing the world's climate problems. Will it require a fee to incentivize big business to change its habits? Yes. Might it be time for a third party in Washington to cut through the partisan deadlock? Also yes. Listen in, and
  • 'Dr. Doom' on the Economy: 'Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't'

    Here's NYU economist Nouriel Roubini, also known as "Dr. Doom" for his often bleak economic outlook. Of all the options on how to address a still-sagging economy, Roubini sees no good choices. In tackling the ballooning deficit, the president and members of Congress can't act too quickly, Roubini says, lest there be unintended market effects. But they also can't act too slowly or the economy will fall back into a deep recession. What doesn't help—and come on, we told you he'd pile on the pessimism—is the partisanship in Washington, mainly the Republican strategy not to work with Democrats on any issue, which so far has been working.Listen in, and
  • Gen. Wesley Clark: ‘There’s No Easy Way Out of Afghanistan’

    In advance of President Obama's State of the Union Message tonight, NEWSWEEK partnered with YouTube.com to launch discussions with four experts in their various fields on the most pressing issues facing America: education, national security, the economy, and the climate crisis. Their thoughts are comprehensive, offering a view of what Obama could, or should, discuss tonight. They also took questions from Web users.First is retired Army general Wesley Clark, who assesses the state of U.S. national security─including commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and what must still be done for veterans. But keeping America safe, he cautions, is also a function of how we handle issues like energy and manufacturing here at home.Listen in, and add your thoughts in the comment section below.
  • Obama and Congress Get an 'F' from WMD Commission

    Of all of the balls that President Obama and Congress seem to be juggling, the one that may have fallen is preparation for the threat of a bioweapons attack on the homeland. That’s according to a bipartisan panel on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which gave senior lawmakers a failing grade─literally, an F─for what it claims is the government’s lackluster and incomplete advanced planning. While cautioning that it has no "tactical intelligence" that an attack could be imminent, the panel reported that much more could be done─and gives the price tag of $3.4 billion needed to do it.When asked for comment by NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff, a White House spokesperson called the report “absurd” and claimed Congress and the White House have indeed made steps on the nation’s preparedness policy. The White House also said that, by pure coincidence, Obama will be addressing the issue of domestic terror threats in his State of the Union address tomorrow night.For the full story...
  • Without Enough House Votes, Where Does Reform Go From Here?

    It’s not that Nancy Pelosi doesn't like the Senate health-care bill (at this point, she'd probably take anything that walks that could reasonably be classified as health-care reform). It's the rest of her party that doesn't—or at least enough of it.Pelosi and House Democrats have a 256–179 majority, but only need 218 votes to approve the Senate bill, thus bypassing any further deliberation of the Senate (now split 59–41). Pelosi announced this morning that she simply doesn’t have the votes, causing several analysts and even some of her liberal colleagues to suggest that the whole idea is dead. Powerful banking committee chair Barney Frank called the road that Democrats have been traveling down for almost a year "no longer appropriate," although he later walked it back and said he was "perhaps overreacting."The Senate bill is, by many accounts, more conservative than the House version, suggesting intuitively that Pelosi could pick up a critical...
  • Does Most of America Even Care About the Massachusetts Election?

    Washington government and media types like to joke about the D.C. bubble and echo chamber, the phenomenon of things happening in Washington only really mattering in Washington. Although it’s really no joke. Stay in the District long enough and the discussion at every happy hour or dinner party you go to eventually gets to health-care negotiations or Congress’s latest waltz with issue X. When one leaves D.C., it can be shocking how little people talk about politics, or how an official’s gaffe or legislative slam-dunk didn’t even register outside the bubble.Take, to borrow a recent example, yesterday’s Senate election in Massachusetts. Did the smackdown of all smackdowns for Democrats—what one politico called “the biggest political upset of my adult life”—permeate at all outside the Northeast? The Davis Enterprise of Davis, Calif., your Gaggler’s local newspaper of record, says it ran a small AP wire story about the election on page A2. Among the top Google searches, Scott Brown’s...
  • Obama's First Year By The Numbers

    From the people who brought you The District—specifically the ace Newsweek video team—comes the definitive multimedia account of President Obama's first year in office. From the stimulus package to the beer summit to the escalation in Afghanistan, it's all covered—with the year’s most significant statistics to boot. To watch the video, click the player below.
  • CBS Poll on Palin Asks the Wrong Question

    With fresh numbers today, CBS released a poll on the popularity of Sarah Palin, one of the most bemusing figures of the past year. Since Palin’s failed bid for vice president on John McCain's ticket, the question has been whether Palin wants to reach higher, perhaps with presidential ambitions. At first she undoubtedly did, regarded as jockeying for a White House bid after resigning as governor. Now she might not, having tasted the sweet juice of a bestselling book and a reported $100,000 per speaking engagement, which would come to a halt as a public servant. But whether she wants to run doesn’t really matter unless voters think she should run.So, trying to take the public’s temperature, CBS pollsters asked voters if Palin should run for president. Seventy-one percent didn’t think author and speaker Palin should become candidate Palin. Only 21 percent thought she should. But those numbers answer a very different question than what pollsters and pundits think is the more...
  • Our Analytical Guide to Mass. Election Analysis

    “What will it all mean?” is the question du jour, as Bay State voters elect a replacement senator. Fortunately, the feeble tubes of the Internet offer a look at what some folks think is the answer. From a demographic breakdown to a classic Daily Show searing and a cross section of America’s tweeters, here’s our suggested reading for making sense of the mayhem in Massachusetts:Lay off Coakley, blame the votersThe Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, usually on the side that leans left, sees a double-digit loss for Coakley. But not because of Democrats' missteps. The Massachusetts rebuke will be caused by blind rage, a confused and fickle electorate. “If America cannot grapple with its deep and real problems after electing a new president with two majorities,” he writes, “then America's problems are too great for Americans to tackle.”Paging the KennedysAs the votes start coming in, Politico offers five key things to watch. One of them is the female vote, especially independent...
  • The Curious Case of the Delayed State of the Union

    You might notice on the dateline above that it’s Jan. 14, almost halfway through the month that usually serves as bookends to presidential years. Usually around this time, members of Congress return groggily from the holiday recess and then settle into their seats for the president’s State of the Union address at the end of the month. But almost halfway through January, the White House says it still has no date for the prime-time speech on the Hill.In principle, setting the timing is the job of congressional leaders, who technically have to invite the president to come speak (they've never not invited him, and he’s never declined the invitation). In reality, though, the date is the result of closed-door agreements between senior White House and congressional aides, who compare schedules and pick the most convenient and strategic Tuesday in the first month of the year.Saying the consideration is strategic may be the best way to explain this year’s delay. The high-profile speech...
  • Obama Supports Conan, According to Conan

     The melee continues at NBC, where late-night hosts continue to slam each other and the network as executives try to rearrange the late-night line-up. No one’s happy, least of all being Conan O’Brien, who was asked last week to bump his Tonight Show to midnight to accommodate a half-hour program hosted by Leno at 11:35. Conan said Tuesday he wouldn’t do it.But now Conan’s got support, or at least he created high-level support for himself and his staff. In a bit on last night’s show, Conan showed a CNN interview featuring President Obama praising him as a "good friend" and “stalwart champion.” At the bottom of the screen, the caption read “President Obama stands firm: I’m on team Coco.”To be clear, folks, this is fake stuff, typical late-night fodder. President Obama didn’t endorse Conan. The footage was taken from a CNN interview with Obama talking about Harry Reid, excusing his controversial comments on race and defending the man he said has always been “on the right side...
  • Obama Approval vs. Disapproval Hits Even Split

    Six of one, a half dozen of the other might be the best way to sum up the president’s latest shift in popularity. For the first time in his administration, those who see Obama’s first year as a success versus failure are split evenly at 45 to 45 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released today.“It’s a passing grade, not exactly the marks his mother would want to put on the refrigerator, but still a passing grade,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, who spoke to reporters this morning at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.The shift continues a slow downward slide of Obama’s approval, which hit a high of 60 percent last summer. Such a slide is not entirely unusual after presidents leave what many call the “honeymoon” phase with voters and the public. But hovering in the 40s is also not worthy of derision. Most presidents one year on the job find themselves in similar territory, or even lower. After Ronald...
  • Palin Lands a Talk Show─Well, Kind Of

    Several weeks ago, we published a gallery of GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination. Logical candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin were on the list, and also dark horses like Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney. But we mused then, and still do now, why someone like Palin, with such a lucrative brand, would even want the job. A talk show or radio program would allow her to keep her privacy, deny interview requests, and earn much more than a paltry presidential salary of just $400,000. Well, not to boast that we called it, but we totally called it.The New York Times reported today that Palin recently signed a deal with Fox News to become an occasional host and contributor to the network. Finances were not disclosed, but the contract outlines an occasional feature that Palin will host and that she may fill in for absent anchors. The formal deal has yet to be announced by Palin and Fox spokespeople.It’s a nonexclusive deal, meaning she can take Brand Palin elsewhere,...
  • Why the GOP Has More Than Just Fundraising Woes

    Will 2010 be the year of the outraged conservative? It depends who you ask, but most on the right agree that any party─the GOP or a new one yet to emerge─will be able to tap into populist anger toward the Democrats at the polls this year. Of course, any mention of electoral politics is incomplete without a dissection of money, which has been known to win or lose an occasional election.The GOP is having its share of money problems, which on its face is unusual for the minority party in a midterm year. But it's not just lackadaisical fund raising; it's a fragmented call to arms. According to the National Journal, the RNC’s cash stash lags more than $4 million behind the DNC’s $13 million. The problem isn’t that conservative donors have disappeared. They still exist, they’re just not writing checks anymore, partly because of the antics of RNC chair Michael Steele, who recently wrote a book that has been controversial in his own party and has made unflattering headlines for...
  • Obama Rushed in Dramatic Motorcade While Vacationing in Hawaii

    Barack Obama might be president, but he’s also the nation's top dad, underscored by the latest episode to unfold on the island of Oahu, where the first family is vacationing this week. One hour into a round of golf, Obama and several friends left the course and dramatically rushed back to the family’s rental home on the north side of the island. Considering the speed of the response and mobilization of the lengthy motorcade, reporters initially imagined a severe health concern within the first family.In actuality, the son of one of Obama’s golfing partners, Eric Whitaker, a doctor with the University of Chicago Medical Center, was injured on his chin and required stitches, according to the White House. Wanting to unite the father with his son as soon as possible, the president asked for a speedy return to the compound. The extent of the injury is unknown, in addition to what caused it, but the boy had not been taken to the hospital, reported a White House spokesperson. The...
  • Obama: 'People Are Justified in Being Disappointed About Copenhagen'

    Earlier today, President Obama sat down with NewsHour's Jim Lehrer to talk policy. Lehrer pressed Obama for his thoughts on the Senate health bill awaiting passage tomorrow and on the Afghanistan troop surge the president ordered last month. The sit-down, though, was the first time Obama had been quizzed about his involvement at last week's U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. Climate watchers might recall that Obama spoke at the conference on its last day and met with other heads of state to hammer out an agreement, but the result was a loose and nonbinding agreement to consider agreeing at some undetermined future date. Lots of folks left the talks sorely disappointed. Here's what Obama had to say:LEHRER: Copenhagen.OBAMA: Yes.LEHRER: Here was a situation where there were many things that you and others wanted done.  OBAMA: Right.LEHRER: None of them got done—OBAMA: Yeah.LEHRER: —and yet you’ve said, well, it was a success anyhow. Is that a loaf? Did you get—OBAMA...
  • Our Non-Wonky Guide to Merging the Senate and House Health Bills

    After another early-morning vote today, the Senate edged closer to passing it’s hard-fought health-care package. At this point, calculus doesn’t matter anymore. Barring a late-in-the-game surprise from an attention-seeking member of the Democratic caucus, the bill is on schedule to pass by Christmas. But excitement among progressives will be short lived. Early next month, leaders from both houses will convene a conference committee for the tedious task of merging the Senate bill with the reform package the House passed last month. The problem is, the proposals look mighty different. Where might the bargaining lines be drawn? We offer our simplified, not-for-wonks comparison of the two proposals: It’s worth pointing out that negotiating, in this case, won’t be as simple as splitting the difference and calling it a day. Leaders from both houses will be at the table, but the upper house certainly has the upper hand. After conference, the agreed-upon bill will return for final votes in...
  • Obama: A Foosballer to Be Reckoned With

    One side of Pennsylvania Avenue may be intensely focused on passing a historic health-care bill by Christmas, but at the other end it was an afternoon full of surprises and holiday cheer. During a slow and snowy day in Washington, President Obama took a field trip to the Northeast quadrant of the city to meet some kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Washington and distribute cookies.The trip was planned but not publicized, one of Obama’s off-the-record outings he occasionally takes, similar to an impromptu burger run the motorcade made back in May.The president’s main focus was to read to the students the holiday-themed warmhearted picture book The Polar Express, about a boy meeting Santa at the North Pole. It's nice to be read to by the president, but it didn't hurt that Obama had with him a box of cookies—gingerbread, all shaped like first pooch Bo, we're told by the pool reporter on scene.There was also room for some fun banter with the students. When he asked...
  • Senate on Deadline: The Timeline to Pass Health Care by Christmas

    It’s fairly ironic that while the city of Washington has screeched to a halt under a mountain of snow, the usual glacial-paced Senate has kicked into high gear. For several months, Democrats have set Christmas as the deadline for passing health-care reform—an effort to stamp it in 2009 and, more trivially, not to have to work the week before New Year's when the chamber would normally be on recess. The nonnegotiable deadline has Senate leaders scrambling to meet it by the end of next week. The process to pass such a massive bill isn’t simple. Republicans will mount a filibuster to the bill and also to the major amendments packaged with it. The Democrats will hold cloture votes to cut off debate, but Senate rules require there to be 30 “legislative hours” between each cloture vote, hours counted only when the Senate is in session. So from now until Christmas, the senate will be in session virtually around the clock.Here’s the timeline Democrats have set. Lest this be considered...
  • Obama Dramatically Interrupts Meeting, Negotiators Reach Final Agreement

    Late in the afternoon on Friday, with the clock ticking down to zero, a rather dramatic scene unfolded that surprised even several top leaders at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. In a secret meeting between Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian heads of state, the door swung open revealing President Obama, who hadn’t been invited but had arrived to crash the meeting. Several diplomats protested the intrusion, but Obama simply informed them he wouldn’t accept them negotiating in secret. He sat down and started talking.The result of that discussion is the outcome of the Copenhagen climate talks—a political agreement that gets something on paper but lacks several of the components that many had expected to be finalized at the meeting. Under the agreement, developed nations would scale back their greenhouse-gas output 80 percent by 2050, a vague target that many who wanted stronger action see as insufficient. China’s main sticking point was that it would make domestic cuts but didn’t...
  • Grading Obama's Copenhagen Speech

    While most Americans slept, President Obama spoke to delegates Friday morning in Copenhagen on the final day of the U.N. climate conference. We reported yesterday that Obama’s speech would matter, not just because of the symbolism of the U.S. head of state addressing the world but also because until now U.S. negotiators have been unable to reach an agreement with other countries that have demanded larger steps on emissions cuts and mitigation funding.Obama’s address was brief, an eight-minute declaration that bold action is needed and that the U.S. would be part of that action. And it went over decently—it was neither stellar nor awful—because of the incredibly high tension that has built up at the end of talks. How did Obama do? We grade the different parts:Taking the lead. No U.S. president has ever squarely confronted the U.S.’s impact on global climate, currently responsible for about a quarter of the world’s emissions. Obama humbly took his knocks, admitting that his country is...