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Wednesday, January 25, 2012




To win in 2012, Obama needs to sell his positions BY


The Daily Athenaeum

President Barack Obama released the first ad of his 2012 re-election campaign yesterday, setting broad themes for the campaign. The ad focuses on four big E’s: energy, environment, economy and ethics. Those four areas are central to our nation’s wellbeing, and if Obama can stake claim to success in those four domains, he’ll win the election. But, to win debates in those four areas, Obama needs to go beyond positioning himself at the center of public opinion. He needs to do what Republicans have been so successful at: He needs to drive public opinion. Energy and the Environment The president’s first ad of 2012 positions him as having reduced dependence on foreign oil and created millions of clean energy jobs. I applaud the president’s leadership in promoting renewable energy sources and encouraging energy efficiency, but he needs to go further — both in policy and in rhetoric. Energy efficiency standards (like the 54.5 miles per gallon cars will average by 2025) are great, and we need more. Likewise, investment in renewable energy is critical. But beyond securing extra funding for renewable energy research, Obama needs to convince voters of the threat posed by climate change and other environmental problems, and of the role technological leadership in clean energy will play in our future economic prosperity. Specifically, the ad comes just after the administration rejected a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have been a climate disaster. But the administration failed to make that case, instead squabbling over its particular route and the GOP’s effort to rush approval of the permit. If the administration can’t frame the pipeline debate in terms of its disastrous environmental — and hence economic — consequences, the Republicans will frame it as liberal elitists killing jobs, and that will kill his campaign. The good news for Obama is that the public is already overwhelmingly on his side. Twothirds of Americans want a big effort made to reduce carbon

emissions, even if it has serious or moderate economic effects. On many issues, public opinion lines up with Democratic positions. Taking action on climate change can win elections for Democrats, if they have the fortitude to stand by it. Economy The economy, of course, will be the central issue of the campaign. As we move into 2012, the economy is in bad shape, but it is better now than it was when Obama took office. The recession reached its depth during President George W. Bush’s final quarter in office. Since then, the trend has reversed; we’ve just had ten straight quarters of economic growth. Many talking heads have forecasted the downfall of the Obama campaign based on the current 8.5 percent unemployment rate. They point to the fact that no president in the last 75 years has been reelected with unemployment above 7.2 percent. That may be misleading, though. In 1984, Reagan was reelected with unemployment at 7.2 percent, and he was elected by a huge margin, suggesting that his campaign could have withstood higher unemployment. More telling is Roosevelt’s reelection. Roosevelt took office in 1933, at the peak of the Great Depression, when unemployment was 19.8 percent. By 1936, unemployment had dropped to 16.6 percent — still staggeringly high, but the trend of recovery was enough to convince the voters to stick with the guy who had got things going in the right direction. Obama’s situation is similar. When the Great Recession officially ended in summer 2009, unemployment was approaching 10 percent. The most recent figure has it down to 8.5 percent after several years of consistent — if slow — jobs growth. Ethics Ethics — specifically the influence of money on politics — is the cornerstone underlying all other political issues. As long as Wall Street firms and huge energy corporations can threaten politicians with unlimited advertisement buys targeting them if they push policies that are against the company’s interests, meaningful change is all but impossible. In 2008, Obama seemed


inclined toward that sort of change. During his first presidential campaign, he pledged to ban lobbyist gifts to executive employees and to close the revolving door between government employees and contractors. However, while upholding the ban on lobbyist gifts, he’s issued wavers to allow a number of former lobbyists to serve in his adminis-

tration. He needs to go further. On ethics and corruption, more than any other issue, the president needs to use his bully pulpit to convince us of the importance of reform. The first line of the first advertisement of the campaign describes “secretive oil billionaires attacking President Obama with ads fact checkers say are

not tethered to the facts.” Tying Republicans to big money is a piece of cake. If President Obama can convince the public that he would push for meaningful reform of money’s influence on our elections it would win him a tremendous amount of support, and it would help heal our democracy.


Despite tensions, war with Iran avoidable



Central Florida Future

Earlier this month, an Iranian nuclear scientist was mysteriously killed after a magnetic bomb was attached to his vehicle in Tehran. The victim, Mostafa AhmadiRoshan, was employed by the Iranian government as a supervisor at one of their main uranium enrichment plants. Predictably, the Iranian government quickly blamed the CIA and Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, for the attack. While neither country has claimed responsibility for the attack, I believe it would be incorrect to say that this kind of event is unprecedented within the context of the issue. Israel, the United States and Iran have, in fact, been in a kind of “Cold War” for several years. Over the last decade, Iran has provided funding and weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah to wage a proxy war against Israel on their behalf. And last year,

a computer virus called Stuxnet destroyed some of Iran’s nuclear facilities. A New York Times investigation later found the virus to be an American-Israeli joint endeavor. But just in the past few months, the frequency and seriousness of such actions on both sides has risen significantly. The recently heightened tensions can be traced back to the release of a report from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in November, which shed new light on Iran’s secretive nuclear program and sparked renewed concern within the international community. The document revealed that despite Iran’s assertions that its nuclear activity is peaceful, the country has taken actions that are indicative of the development of nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic has, according to the IAEA, developed computer models of nuclear explosions, conducted experiments on nuclear triggers and constructed a containment facility that could be used to

test such weapons. Despite these developments and the troublesome prospect of another war, it is still very much avoidable. Economic sanctions on the Iranian government have proven to be effective in trying to coax the country’s leaders away from becoming a nuclear power. To that end, leaders on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. took immediate action. In a rare 100-to-0 vote, the Senate voted to sanction Iran’s central bank, and the new rules were signed into law by President Barack Obama shortly thereafter. Those who are either pessimistic about our chances of avoiding war, or believe going to war with Iran is the only solution left, should take another hard look at how much the Iranian government fears these efforts. After the most recent round of sanctions became law, Iran threatened to close off the highly important Strait of Hormuz in retaliation — which is used to

transport a third of the world’s oil. Additionally, the Iranians have expressed public concern about the damage inflicted upon their economy by these initiatives, with one state official claiming that “we cannot pretend the sanctions are not having an effect,” according to the Times. From these reactions and public statements, it is clear that these sanctions have been effective, and it presents us with even greater reason to strengthen them further. These new American sanctions have also encouraged Europe to take similar action, further increasing pressure on the Iranians. This week, the EU is expected to meet in Brussels to follow the U.S. in sanctioning Iran’s central bank, in addition to implementing a complete oil embargo of the country, according to an AFP report. Another war is fully avoidable, and the U.S., Europe and Israel are taking appropriate and responsible action to address Iran’s dangerous nuclear aspirations.

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Tufts Daily for Wednesday, January 25, 2012