Tag Archives | atlantic

A Fly on the Wall in the West Wing

By Kevin Townsend

You’ve probably seen the photos: a 5-year-old boy patting the president’s head, the tense scene in the Situation Room during the mission against Osama bin Laden, the look on the president’s face as he receives awful news. The Obama presidency was largely captured, and came to be visually defined, under the close watch and photographic craftsmanship of Pete Souza.

Souza spent eight years photographing the Obama White House, an effort he now chronicles his new book Obama: An Intimate Portrait. “I would tag along with President Obama from the time he came down from the residence in the morning until the time he left at night,” Souza said. He recently joined The Atlantic Interview to speak with The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, about what it was like to be a fly on the wall in the West Wing.

Here are some of the memorable photos Souza describes in that conversation:

May 8, 2009

A temporary White House staffer, Carlton Philadelphia, brought his family to the Oval Office for a farewell photo with President Obama. Carlton’s son softly told the President he had just gotten a haircut like President Obama, and asked if he could feel the President’s head to see if it felt the same as his. (Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company / Pete Souza)

April 8, 2011

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet in the Oval Office. (Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company / Pete Souza)

May 1, 2011

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The ‘Dragon Energy’ of Kanye West And Donald Trump

By Vann R. Newkirk II

The scandals are like sediment in the delta of Kanye West. Each new controversy—each paparazzi fight, each “BILL COSBY INNOCENT,” each repackaging of ratty apocalypse couture as expensive fashion, each “multiracial women only” casting call—instead of burying him, only builds up higher and higher until it somehow becomes the very thing that grounds him. It’s worth wondering if, some untold number of years in the future, contemporaries will reflect on West and struggle to remember past the questionable comments and erratic behavior to even recognize his brilliant artistic contributions. The rapper and producer has become a pulsar of nihilism, an object to be followed closely only if one wants to have their faith in humans tested.

That’s why his newfound—and loudly tweeted about—admiration of fellow star Donald Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising.

West opened up his freshest round of controversy on Twitter this week, after a series of tweets proclaiming what appears to be a rejection of much of the black-activist thought that has been associated with his work, and an embrace of Trump. After reopening his Twitter account earlier this month following a long period of deactivation, it first appeared that Kanye had become a purveyor of scattershot, if banal, self-help maxims and weird stream-of-consciousness thoughts. He was going to write a book—except his tweets were the book, and he wasn’t really writing one. He posted lots of his fashion concepts, including photos of shoes that appear to take their inspiration from lawnchairs and spaceships, or lawnchair spaceships. It was weird, but Kanye West fans handle weird just fine, so long as it’s just weird.

There was the sense, however, that West was working toward something, and then on April 19 there it was. He announced albums from himself and his recording-label mates, what …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Yeezus Take the Wheel

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

  • President Trump thanked Kanye West on Twitter after the rapper posted a series of tweets praising the president.

  • In an address to a joint session of Congress, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the U.S. to engage more in global affairs, and stressed the growing threat of climate change.

  • After a decades-long search, authorities arrested a suspect in the Golden State Killer case. Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, is believed to have committed at least 12 homicides, 45 rapes, and dozens of burglaries across California in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • A document compiled by Democrats on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee alleges that Ronny Jackson, Trump’s pick for veterans affairs secretary, prescribed “a large supply” of Percocet, wrote prescriptions for himself, and “wrecked a government vehicle” while intoxicated. Jackson denied having wrecked a car.

  • After hearing oral arguments in Trump vs. Hawaii, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared to agree that President Trump has the authority to institute a travel ban if it is for national-security reasons. A decision is expected by late June.


Today on The Atlantic

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Will the Supreme Court Bless Trump’s Travel Ban?

By Garrett Epps

“What if the military advisers tell the president that, in their judgment, the president ought to order a strike, an air strike against Syria,” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Neal Katyal from the bench on Wednesday, “does that mean he can’t because you would regard that as discrimination against a majority-Muslim country?”

Katyal, a former acting solicitor general and one of the most formidable appellate lawyers in America, was, as ever, unflappable. “I don’t think there’s any immigration issue in your hypothetical. I might be misunderstanding it, Mr. Chief Justice,” he said.

In a normal world, Roberts’s question would be bizarre. Immigration law and the war power are distinct. But in the strange twilight word of 21st-century America, it made a certain twisted sense. Nearly 17 years after Congress responded to the 9/11 attacks with an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the United States continues to march through an ill-defined conflict with an undefined enemy in pursuit of unstated aims. In today’s America, War is Peace.           

Everyone in the country is weary of the struggle, perhaps especially the justices of the Supreme Court. Sixteen months and three proclamations after Donald Trump was elected on a promise of a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States,” the arguments about his “travel ban” have been heard over and over. Is the current “proclamation” a sweeping “Muslim ban” or a restriction on immigration from a small set of majority-Muslim countries? Can the president’s bigoted campaign promises be considered in assessing the intent behind the proclamation? Do the courts have any role to play in examining decisions on matters of national security or immigration? Do persons or institutions in the U.S. have the right to challenge the exclusion of persons or groups outside? Does the third iteration of the proclamation send …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Mick Mulvaney’s Guide to Navigating the Swamp

By David A. Graham

The problem isn’t that Mick Mulvaney wasn’t being honest. It’s that he was a little too honest.

Speaking to the American Bankers Association at a conference in Washington on Tuesday, Mulvaney, who is head of the Office of Management and Budget and interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had advice for those gathered: If you want to play, you better pay.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” he said, according to The New York Times. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” He added, however, “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions.”

Mulvaney’s spokesperson defended his remarks, saying his boss was making the point that constituents contacting their representatives was “more important than lobbyists and it’s more important than money.” But Mulvaney was making that point to a large conference of bankers, whom the CFPB ostensibly regulates, and advising them on how best to persuade his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to sharply curtail the powers of the agency he leads. In effect, he was mapping out two paths for purchasing influence: donating directly to legislators, and investing in a grassroots campaign to undermine the CFPB. Persuading Congress to act, he said, is among the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy. And you have to continue to do it.” That’s a message that has one resonance when delivered to a town-hall meeting, and a rather different meaning when offered to a room full of corporate leaders and lobbyists.

It’s not exactly news that money makes Washington move, but in the past, members of the political establishment have at least tried to pretend …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Democrats’ Winning Streak Ends in Arizona

By Elaine Godfrey

Democrats failed to flip Arizona’s 8th congressional district from red to blue in Tuesday’s special election, but their candidate did well enough to reinforce their narrative that “blue wave” could help them take the House in November.

“There are no moral victories in this business,” said Andy Barr, a local Democratic strategist, “but I’m pretty damn happy.”

State Senator Debbie Lesko defeated Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a cancer-research advocate and former ER doctor, with 5.2 percent of the vote, in a district that went for Trump in 2016 by a 21-point margin. The two were vying to replace Republican Representative Trent Franks, who resigned in December amid reports that he asked a staffer to be a surrogate mother to his child. A Democrat hasn’t been on the ballot in the district, which encompasses several Phoenix suburbs, since 2012. But after winning recent special elections in Alabama and Pennsylvania, Democrats felt emboldened to try to close the gap. And Republican groups were concerned enough to invest more than $1 million in the race.

In the end, it was enough to keep the district, but not enough to calm the fears of Republicans going into the midterms. “You’d have to be in full denial to not see this for what it is,” according to Republican pollster Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights. “I’m like Chicken Little over here…[The GOP] shouldn’t be hitting the panic alarm, they should be slamming it repeatedly.”

As I reported on Tuesday, Tipirneni was never likely to win the race. Registered Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats in the area. Plus, nearly two-thirds of the voting electorate are on the state’s “permanent absentee list” and had already voted before polls even opened on Tuesday morning. That matters, according to The New York Times’ Nate Cohn, because “a permanent absentee list cuts …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Does Short-Term Insurance Even Count as Insurance?

By Vann R. Newkirk II

Any day now, the Trump administration is expected to release new regulations to make short-term health-insurance plans last a lot longer. In a fact sheet about the forthcoming changes, the administration said it wants to extend access to the plans—which now expire after three months, and offer too few services to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits—in order to “provide additional, often much more affordable coverage options, while also ensuring consumers understand the coverage they purchase.” According to that release, the policies are beneficial for unemployed people and for those who can’t afford pricey Obamacare plans. But are they?

As stated in the proposed rule released by the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury in February, the federal government wants to reverse previous restrictions on short-term plans. In 2016, the Obama administration issued a rule limiting their maximum coverage duration to three months and effectively eliminating enrollees’ ability to automatically renew the plans at the end of their term. While the new rule’s exact language is not yet known, it will likely extend that duration to 12 months and allow for reapplication, essentially making short-term plans continuous for diligent enrollees, according to the National Association of State Policy.

Coming just months after Congress repealed the individual mandate, the new rule will open up relatively unregulated short-term health insurance as an alternative to heavily regulated Obamacare plans—which until December were the only ones that qualified under the mandate. The Trump administration isn’t wrong when it states that these plans will be cheaper, too. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, some short-term plans currently have premiums that are less than a tenth of those for the lowest cost plans on some Obamacare exchanges. While for many consumers, the ACA’s premium tax credits …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Why Is Congress So Slow to Change?

By Michelle Cottle

Poor Orrin Hatch. The guy makes one crack about swarms of infants overrunning the Senate, and suddenly he’s the laughingstock of Twitter.

“But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?” the Utah Republican mused last week, as Senators dealt with a resolution allowing lawmakers to bring their offspring, aged one year or younger, onto the floor.

The resolution was being pushed by Maile Pearl Bowlsbey—or, more accurately, by her mom, Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth. On April 9, Duckworth became the first sitting U.S. senator to give birth. The following week, she needed to be on the floor to cast a vote, and she wanted to keep wee Maile close at hand. (Ah, doting parents.) To accommodate Duckworth, the Senate first had to relax its rules, which it did on Wednesday by unanimous consent.

When Maile made her debut Thursday (duckie-print onesie, pink cap, aqua sweater), lawmakers cooed and clucked. Even Mitch McConnell reportedly cracked a smile. But make no mistake: This historic moment took some doing. Unanimous consent aside, there were months of negotiations and enduring apprehension over the rule change, especially among—how to put this delicately—some of the more mature lawmakers. A few voiced their skepticism publicly, others more privately. Amy Klobuchar, who, as ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, had been asked by Duckworth months ago to arrange the change, acknowledged after the vote that, for weeks and weeks, she had been fielding colleagues’ concerns about everything from breastfeeding to poopy nappies.

But it was Hatch who caught the ruthless eye of Twitter and promptly took a beating. Sample slams: “Today @senorrinhatch was concerned what would happen if there were 10 babies on the Senate floor. But really, don’t we know what that looks like?” Or, even more personally, “Someone needs to tell @senorrinhatch …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Ronny on the Spot

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

  • President Trump defended his pick for veterans affairs secretary, Ronny Jackson, but hinted that Jackson might withdraw from consideration after a Senate panel postponed his confirmation hearing amid allegations of misconduct.

  • Alek Minassian, the man accused of plowing a van into pedestrians in Toronto on Monday, was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country would likely abandon the Iran nuclear deal should the United States withdraw.

  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a controversial rule establishing new standards for the research that can be used to write agency regulations.

  • President Trump and First Lady Melania will host their first state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the White House. The meal will consist of goat cheese gateau, rack of lamb, and jambalaya.


The Race We’re Watching

Voters in Arizona’s 8th congressional district are heading to the polls to choose a replacement for Republican Representative Trent Franks, who resigned in December amid reports of sexual misconduct. Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a cancer research advocate and former ER doctor, is challenging Republican state Senator Debbie Lesko. The district, which is heavily Republican, went for Donald Trump by 21 points in the presidential election. It’s not likely that Tipirneni will win here, but if she can come close, Democrats are planning to call it a victory.

Polls close at 7 p.m. PT, 10 p.m. ET.


Today on The Atlantic

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Trump Throws Ronny Jackson Under the Bus

By David A. Graham

Hours after news of allegations of misconduct emerged against Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of veterans affairs, the president had a bizarre commentary to offer.

“I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, what do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people. … What do you need it for?” Trump said Tuesday, during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? I don’t think personally he should do it. It would be totally his decision.”

I don’t think personally he should do it.

Could there be a stranger thing to say about the man who you nominated to take the job—whom you delivered over to an “ugly” and “disgusting” confirmation process?

Yes, Trump offered words of support for Jackson: He said he’d stand behind the doctor if he kept himself in the running, vouched for his character, and said he was unaware of the allegations against him. But several times, he repeated the question of why Jackson would do it.

Why indeed? Jackson could have, theoretically, said no, but as has been remarked often, it’s very hard for someone to tell the president of the United States no when he asks them to serve the country. This is especially true for Jackson, an active-duty member of the Navy, who would have been turning down the commander in chief. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly tapped current and former military officers, relying on their sense of duty and obedience to overcome any other hesitations. Jackson’s reward has been for his name and reputation to have been dragged through the mud, which neither he nor Trump can undo, even if he withdraws now. (It’s unclear …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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