Eleanor Clift

Stories by Eleanor Clift

  • Kagan Has Appropriate Experience for a Seat on the Supreme Court

    Many commentators are questioning the extent of Solicitor General Elena Kagan's experience, noting that, unlike her eight potential future colleagues, she has never served as a judge. They shouldn't. President Obama wanted to nominate somebody outside of the judicial monastery, and Elena Kagan fits the bill. In fact, she's the first non-judge nominated since the 1970s—unless you count Harriet Miers, whose appointment was withdrawn under fire from the right and the left because of her parochial credentials. Unlike Miers, who was a vanity choice by George W. Bush, Kagan brings top-notch academic and practical credentials. And her lack of judicial experience is trumped by the six cases she has argued before the court as Solicitor General. ...
  • With Justice Probe, Massa Saga Gets Messier

    Just when you thought the charges involving former Democratic congressman Eric Massa's alleged sexual misconduct couldn't get any more convoluted, new issues of possible financial fraud surfaced over the weekend, prompting the House ethics committee to take the unusual step of launching a full investigation even though Massa has resigned. As that news was being digested, documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal that FBI and Justice Department prosecutors are pursuing a separate public-corruption investigation into large payments, made shortly before Massa resigned, from his campaign fund to his chief of staff, and to renew the lease on the congressman's personal car.The involvement of the Justice Department underscored the seriousness of the allegations against Massa, and now potentially against his chief of staff, Joe Racalto.The notoriously press-shy ethics committee announced in a statement that it was establishing an investigative subcommittee to look into...
  • The FDA and the Dilemma of Salt

    When I saw the Washington Post headline on my morning paper, top of the fold, saying the FDA plans to limit amount of salt allowed in processed foods for health reasons, I knew that critics of the Obama administration would be crying "nanny state." Ingesting all the salt you want without the government telling you that it's bad for you is another of those freedoms that the tea-party crowd surely cherishes. But we could all throw out our salt shakers and we'd still be getting way too much salt in our diet. That’s because a huge amount of sodium is routinely pumped into processed food and restaurant meals, resulting in Americans consuming two to three times the recommended amount of between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams a day set by the Institute of Medicine.  ...
  • John Paul Stevens and Diversity on the High Court

    In the artfully balanced world of the Supreme Court, the liberal versus conservative divide takes precedence when one justice leaves and another is cued up to fill the slot. John Paul Stevens timed his resignation to insure that President Obama could replace him with another liberal-minded jurist. But there is another less talked-about balance that Stevens brought to the court, and that’s his Midwestern upbringing and education. Like so many reporters researching the Internet to learn more about Stevens in the wake of his announced resignation, I found a post by a senior at Northwestern University pointing out that Stevens attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern Law School making him the only one of the nine sitting justices who got his law degree from a non-East Coast Ivy League law school. By this student’s account, four current justices received their law degrees from Harvard, three from Yale and one from Columbia—and that’s because Ruth Bader Ginsburg transferred to...
  • Van Hollen: 2010 Won't Be Like 1994

    Unlike his flamboyant predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, the current chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen has all 10 fingers and doesn’t curse as much. His style is so markedly different, and low-key, that any profile of him inevitably wonders whether such a nice guy can finish first in the rough scrum of politics. Asked by a reporter why he stayed on at the DCCC for another cycle, after successfully adding seats to the Democratic majority in '08, he said with a laugh, "The speaker made me an offer I couldn't refuse, as they say in The Godfather. She understood this would be a difficult cycle, not a time to bring on someone who needed training wheels.' " ...
  • If Bayh Says Congress is Broken, He Should Fix It

    Now that he’s on his way out the door, Evan Bayh is taking a public stand on bipartisan reform. As a senator defined more by unmet expectations than real accomplishments, his New York Times op-ed piece is a welcome bit of advocacy. He advances sound ideas – bipartisan lunches, more disclosure on campaign finances, filibuster reform -- but they would have more weight if he had been fighting for them all along instead of serving them up as justification for leaving the Senate. The son of a senator, Bayh remembers the camaraderie his father enjoyed with members of the opposing party, and proposes monthly luncheons as a way for Democrats and Republicans to restore some of that comity. Of course, back in the elder Bayh’s day, senators hadn’t yet discovered the three-day week, and spent more time in Washington where their families got to know each other.  That social dynamic is lost to modern life; still, show-and-tell luncheons can’t hurt. On campaign finance reform, Bayh’s voting record...
  • Murtha: A Macho Man Who Helped a Woman Gain Power

    John Murtha was Nancy Pelosi's friend and mentor, and his backing her for leader over Steny Hoyer, a longtime insider player in the Democratic caucus, gave her the street cred she needed to win as the first woman to hold that high a position in what was an old boys' club. A gruff former combat Marine officer, Murtha provided political cover for Pelosi and other left-wing Democrats in their opposition to the Iraq War. After having initially supported the war, Murtha became an outspoken opponent, calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2005. As a once-reliable Bush administration ally, his defection signaled the growing disaffection with Bush's war policies. Murtha's long history of pro-military votes and close alliance with the military helped rebuff Republican charges that Pelosi and other antiwar Democrats were endangering national security. ...
  • New Kos Poll: The Stuff of Dems' Dreams

    It’s comforting to liberals to think the other side is so out to lunch that they shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s more of the same demonization that Obama dreams of overcoming, and it shows the power of name-calling. Thinking Obama is a socialist—or is taking the country in a socialist direction—is a pretty mainstream view these days.
  • For Liberals, Obama Saved the Best for Last

    Liberals were looking for bolder leadership from the president, and in both his prepared oratory and his off-the-cuff ripostes Barack Obama seemed the man we elected little more than a year ago. On the metrics I laid out in my pre-speech column—more populist policies, invoking a broader vision than the legislative minutiae of the last several months, reestablishing himself as a different kind of politician, and establishing his willingness to play "guts ball," to go to the mat for something—Obama acquitted himself well.It was not a speech whose principal mission was to woo liberals. Obama has hemorrhaged support among independents, and the speech was filled with olive branches for voters who most distrust government and federal power. But the way Obama shamed Republicans and called them out to participate in governing had to warm liberal hearts. Obama did it so deftly, rattling off a series of tax cuts included in the hated stimulus bill. When Republican leaders in the...
  • Pelosi Says Obama Should Subject Defense Spending to Same Cuts as Domestic Programs

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited some journalists, including me, to a chat about the issues President Obama will address in the State of the Union Message tonight. If Obama is as feisty as Pelosi was this afternoon advocating for health care and other elements of the Democratic agenda, he could restore some of that confidence in his leadership that’s been lost through a year of wheeling and dealing. ...
  • Four Ways Obama Can Win Back Liberals

    Instead of reaching out to Republicans in his State of the Union, President Obama needs to reassure his base. Here are four ways he can do that.
  • Coakley and 'The Woman Thing'

    One of the factors that went into Martha Coakley’s loss in Massachusetts was what insiders call “the woman thing.” Coakley distinguished herself in a field of men in the Democratic primary as the first woman Massachusetts would send to the Senate. She wrapped herself in Emily’s List, showcasing herself as a woman candidate—as opposed to a candidate who happened to be a woman, a fine but important distinction in politics—and making her gender the most memorable thing about her. A male caller into C-Span last week said when he watched Coakley campaign he expected her to break into song—“I am woman, hear me roar.” He described himself as a Democrat but said her emphasis on gender turned him off. Massachusetts is portrayed as a bastion of liberal elites, but its voting population is dominantly blue collar and working class, not feminism’s prime audience.Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts in the 2008 primary contest, and the populist spirit that she embodied campaigning in Pennsylvania...
  • Coakley Not 'a Kennedy Person' From the Get-Go

    There’s plenty blame to go around for Martha Coakley’s poor showing, including the little-known fact that the Kennedy family and the late senator’s extensive network of loyalists were cool to her candidacy. The senator’s widow and other Kennedy people plunged in only after the polls showed Coakley was in danger of losing the seat that had been Kennedy’s for 47 years. The reason for the standoffishness goes back to what Kennedy people regarded as Coakley’s tastelessly talking about running and positioning herself for the seat while Kennedy was still alive. And while Coakley is a solid Democrat, she had never really worked directly with Kennedy on anything, according to a former Kennedy aide, so she didn’t have the appellation of “a Kennedy person,” which would have opened the door to a lot more resources earlier in the race.
  • San Francisco Archbishop Responds to Pelosi

    The Archbishop of San Francisco has responded to remarks made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview for NEWSWEEK's year-end issue. He sharply rebuts Pelosi, who worships in his jurisdiction, for citing the Catholic teaching of free will to support her belief that reproductive choice for women is not at odds with what she was raised to believe as a practicing Catholic. The archbishop slaps her down, saying "Free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom."The NEWSWEEK interview was more extensive than the excerpts that appeared in the magazine, and Pelosi was most engaged when talking about her confrontation with the Conference of Bishops about language in the health-care-reform bill pertaining to abortion coverage. In the interview, she...