US Politics

New & Noteworthy


US-Iran Nuclear Deal: The Basics

What is the nature of the deal that was reached?

“It’s more of an interim agreement before the deal. Described as an initial, six-month deal, the White House says it includes “substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon.” In short, it slows the country’s nuclear development program in exchange for lifting some sanctions while a more formal agreement is worked out.”

It’s not permanent, so why is it a big deal?

 “For years, Iran and Western powers have left negotiating tables in disagreement, frustration and open animosity. But the diplomatic tone changed after Iran’s election this year, which saw President Hassan Rouhani take over. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” U.S. President Barack Obama says.”

What about the stockpiles Iran already has?

“As part of the deal, Iran will be required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%. While uranium isn’t bomb-grade until it’s enriched to 90% purity, “once you’re at 20%, you’re about 80% of the way there,” Hibbs says. The deal also mandates Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical equipment required to do that. Before the end of the initial phase of the deal, all its stockpiles should be diluted below 5% or converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment, the deal states.”

What’s in it for Iran?

“Billions of dollars.”

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Prominent Role in the Iran Nuclear Deal

“The deal Kerry was instrumental in cutting is a diplomatic coup, even if its effectiveness and durability remain in doubt. It sets new boundaries for Iran’s disputed nuclear program that represent significant compromises and concessions for Iran as well as the international coalition that suspects it of seeking nuclear weapons.”

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Calls Deal “Historic Mistake”

“What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” he said.

“Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapon.”

How Iran Nuclear Deal Could Affect US Geostrategy

“Even the most optimistic Middle East analyst probably is not cockeyed enough to expect Iran’s nuclear agreement to also mean it will withdraw the many tentacles it uses to work its will in places from Syria to Iraq to the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. But eliminating the nuclear threat from the geostrategic equation in the neighborhood would reduce the risks to the U.S. and its allies — especially Israel — by many orders of magnitude.”

US Politics

Purple Virginia


By Stewart Shoemaker

Virginia most often earns the title of a “purple” state, it being an interesting admixture of extremely rural, sparsely populated, and reliably conservative districts in its central and western portions, with a dash of dark blue covering the densely populated, highly educated, and ultra-wealthy suburbs that line the outskirts of our nation’s capital.

Despite being home to an incumbent Republican governor and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia has trended to the left in recent major elections, including Obama’s notable victory in 2012. This leftward slide is largely explained by demographic shifts in Virginia’s population, and Terry McAuliffe simply surfed this demographic wave to victory in last Tuesday’s Gubernatorial race. For a more detailed analysis on this very issue see the Atlantic’s article on the matter here.

Beyond demographics, McAuliffe’s electoral chances benefitted from the nature of his opposition: Sodomy-hating Ken Cuccinelli and the Reverend E.W. Jackson, who once profoundly proclaimed that Obamacare is worse than chattel slavery and that gays are possessed by the devil. Such extreme candidates are not formidable opponents, no matter the demographic change, and yet McAuliffe could muster only a narrow victory over these two hardline conservatives.

This unconvincing victory begs the question: if a purple Virginia is rapidly transforming to blue, how could the race have been so close?

The answer, while not a refutation of the notion of a nearly-blue Virginia, still gives Democrats significant reasons to worry. McAuliffe, the former head of the DNC, is immensely unpopular, even among his fellow Democrats. His recently penned memoir paints the portrait of a man who nearly missed the birth of his first daughter to attend a Democratic fundraiser and who was kicked out of the labor unit during the birth of another child following a heated argument with the attending physician regarding Clinton’s healthcare plan. Had it not been for his somehow even less like-able opponents, McAuliffe would almost certainly be sitting at home in Fairfax County today, rather than heading to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.

Herein lies the main problem for Democrats in Virginia. McAuliffe, universally unlikable as he is, was the only candidate to enter the Democratic primary. On its face, this may not seem like a terribly troubling issue, given the changing demographics of the state, as I cited above. But reducing electoral politics to mere political demography would be a fool’s errand for the Democrats in Virginia.

Look no further than the Gubernatorial race in New Jersey for evidence of the failure of demographics to guarantee electoral victory. When an exceptional politician like Chris Christie steps into the mix, traditional political mantras fall by the wayside. Replace Cuccinelli with a gregarious, moderate Republican, and Virginia’s identity as a blue state quickly evaporates. For the Democratic party to cultivate and bolster its support in the Commonwealth, it must find better politicians to run for public office.

US Politics

The Republican Establishment Did Not Win in Alabama’s 1st Congressional Race


By Stewart Shoemaker

Off-year election cycles rarely yield much excitement, despite the best efforts of political reporters. Luckily for the candidates in Alabama’s 1st Congressional district election, their race fit neatly into the dominant media narrative of America’s current political milieu: theGOP’s ‘civil war’.

In one corner stood Bradley Byrne, a former state senator and failed gubernatorial candidate, and the favorite of the Republican Establishment’s typical suspects: the Chamber of Commerce and the RNC.

Bradley Byrne, the Establishment's Victor

Bradley Byrne, the Establishment’s Victor


On the other side was Dean Young, pushing the Tea Party line like it was going out of style. “Homosexuals should go back to California” was one memorable gem from his radical campaign.

The race was hailed as a perfect microcosm of the Republican Party’s problems, and the media patiently waited for the results in order to determine the direction of the Tea Party’s power struggle.By the end of Tuesday night, when Byrne edged out a narrow victory over the bible-thumping Young, reporters from high-profile outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post cited Byrne’s victory as a sign of the Establishment’s resurgence within the Grand Ole Party, suggesting a return to normalcy  from the suicide politics we’ve recently witnessed(see the Government Shutdown).

On its face, this analysis seems apt: Byrne is certainly no Tea Partier and won the race by a larger margin than expected. Yet this analysis is, at worst, utterly false, and, at best, glosses over important nuances whose implications would significantly alter our perception of the Tea Party’s influence on American governance.

Alabama’s 1st district lies on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and encompasses the metropolis of Mobile, the state’s second largest city, making it one of the less rural and more educated districts in a state where 60% of the Republican electorate believes President Obama is a practicing Muslim and evolution is a farce. Starting in 1968 with the election of Republican Jack Edwards, at a time when the Democratic Party dominated Alabama and Southern politics, the 1st district has bucked the state’s conservative roots and tended to elect more moderate and less polemical candidates. Consider last year’s Republican primary for the very same seat:

Jo Bonner  55.55%

Gounares   4.39%

Riehm      15.75%

Young       24.31%

As you can see, Jo Bonner, the incumbent, survived a rowdy Republican primary filled with three different Tea Party candidates, all of whom ran on platforms portraying Bonner as a big-spending, Beltway-loving, RINO (Republican-in-name-only), without so much as a runoff.

This remarkable result occurred in the same election cycle that saw Alabama Republicans pick Rick Santorum as their presidential favorite and elect Judge Roy Moore, already once removed from the Chief Justiceship of the state’s Supreme Court for placing a two-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the state courthouse, to the exact same post.

While incumbents enjoy a notoriously comfortable position in congressional elections, Bonner’s electoral cruising within a wave of ultra-conservatism speaks to the 1st district’s relative centrism, insofar as the district tends to favor mainstream Republican candidates like McCain or Romney over Gingrich or Bachmann.

Taking the district’s electoral history into account, Byrne’s narrow victory over a fervent Tea Party candidate like Dean Young makes a mockery of the media’s declaration of an Establishment victory. Young has never held political office and possesses few political contacts within the state other than Judge Moore, who, despite his electoral successes (his first victory for the chief justiceship handed Karl Rove a very rare defeat) remains enigmatic even amongst the state’s more conservative politicians.  Yet Young still managed to come within four percentage points of a well-financed, well-known, and well-connected candidate who was, in the recent past, very nearly Alabama’s governor.

Dean Young, the Tea Party Loser

Dean Young, the Tea Party Loser

Furthermore, Byrne’s rhetoric during the campaign embodied a sharply conservative tone, despite his past record of more moderate stances, undoubtedly a calculated decision by his campaign handlers to court conservative, evangelical voters.

Considering the tight race and Byrne’s rhetorical move to the far right, the idea that the election in Alabama’s 1st represents the Republican Establishment’s reclamation of its party’s reigns from the uncompromising Tea Party fails to establish a justifiable basis. This narrow victory, rather than signaling a return to Establishment-style GOP politics, instead suggests that the Tea Party has managed to enhance its influence in a once moderate, yet reliably Republican, district.

For the Republican Party to ameliorate its Tea Party problems, districts like Alabama’s 1st need to remain safely within the hands of the party’s Establishment, and results like last Tuesday’s should give the GOP more cause to worry than to celebrate.

US Politics

Christie’s Formidable One-Two Punch


By Tom Elustondo

I was happy to see Chris Christie handily win the New Jersey gubernatorial race Tuesday night. In my view, Chris Christie provides precisely what the muddled and confused American political scene needs right now: straight talk.

People are beyond disgusted and frustrated with the incompetent do-nothing Congress and are looking for honest and direct leadership. The amount of fatigue that exists from hearing the liberal MSNBC line on one side and the conservative Fox News line on the other is extreme. Both sides talk past one another without actually engaging the issue or the other side. They screech snarky political platitudes that do nothing but pollute the public’s understanding of the issues. In the process they facilitate polarization of the electorate and decrease the potential for common understanding.

Chris Christie has proven time and time again that he is willing to stand by his positions and tell it like he sees it, rejecting the aforementioned political posturing. After Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey, Christie established himself as a strong defender of his state’s well-being, lobbying the federal government for billions of dollars in aid and actively participating in the clean-up and rebuilding processes. When Congress rejected a bill that would provide New Jersey with $60 billion in aid, Christie chastised his own party’s leadership stating that “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering. The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”[1] Furthermore, despite being governor of a Democratic-leaning state, Christie confronted the highly powerful and entrenched New Jersey teachers unions in 2010 upon assuming the governorship. Asking teachers to accept a pay freeze and to begin contributing to 1.5% of their salaries toward health care, Christie vigorously dismissed claims that he was endangering New Jersey’s public schools in direct and stinging speeches.[2] Christie was ultimately successful, displaying the value of toughness and straight talk.

However, straight talk is not enough to be a successful politician. Politics is a much more complicated art than that. An enormous degree of tact and savvy is involved in the process, what some people would call “playing politics.” Yet, as John F. Kennedy touches upon in Profiles in Courage, “playing politics” is inherent to the process of governance. Despite appearing slimy and uncouth, tit-for-tat deals, half-measures, and unsatisfying compromises are necessary and important to accomplish the difficult goal of governing. In a speech in front of supporters at the Jersey Shore last week, Christie touted bipartisanship and compromise as the key to solving not only Republicans’ recent election woes, but also to solving the dysfunction in Washington. He criticized Republicans for seeking 100% “purity” in candidates, saying that it elicits representatives who simply tell the voters what they want to hear. Also taking a shot at the federal level, Christie stated that “That’s why we have the political system we have in Washington now, because we have people who have become convinced that they have to be 100 percenters.”[3] The New Jersey governor’s emphasis on compromise and bipartisanship illustrates his appreciation of the tact involved in political success.

Christie’s strength is that he combines these two crucial traits, straight talk and political tact, but emphasizes straight talk to a greater degree than other politicians. Christie’s landslide reelection in New Jersey, a Democratic state, by a margin of 61% to 38% validates the legitimacy of his strategy.[4] Corroborating Christie’s attitude is the fact that Ken Cucinnelli, a Tea Party Republican “purist,” was defeated in the important Virginia gubernatorial race the same day as Christie’s victory. The path to the Republican Party’s salvation must include straight talk and political tact via compromise and bipartisanship. They should look to Chris Christie for pointers.


Politics is fun, US Politics

Best of Old Pub: Cubcasts of Yore (part 2)

Did you enjoy a blast to the past (circa 2010), reliving the thrill and excitement healthcare debate all over again? If not, what are you waiting for, it’s a click away! Today’s Cubcast from yesteryear is on Gay Rights, a topic that is just as pertinent today as it was two years ago.

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Politics is fun, US Politics

Best of Old Pub: Cubcasts of Yore (part 1)

The Old Cub Pub occasionally recorded a podcast, believe it or not. What, you don’t believe it? When did I ever lie to you? That was years ago, and it’s not like you were eating them. Christ, they’re only french fries, have some perspective on life.  Look, I can tell you’re flustered. Why not calm yourself down by listening to some intriguing discussion on Healthcare Reform from 2010!

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US Politics

The Trayvon Martin Case: When Tragedies Become Politicized…

The story of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has evolved into a nation-wide discussion. Most readers are probably familiar with the series of events: on February 26 Trayvon Martin is found dead in Stanford, Florida, killed by a 28 year old neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. The police believed Zimmerman’s story, that he had shot the teenager in self defense, without much investigation. Over the following days the parents of Trayvon call for Zimmerman’s arrest but the police refuse. The situation escalates and heavy criticism is laid on Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee for mishandling the case, and he is eventually forced to temporally step down. Meanwhile Zimmerman still hasn’t been charged (partly  due to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law), and the campaign for his arrest has grown across the country. Over 900,000 people have signed an online petition for his arrest and events called “Million Hoodie Marches” made thousands take to the streets.

New York State Senator Eric Adams wears a hoodie to show solidarity for the death of Trayvon Martin

Initially the media ignored Trayvon’s murder, but as soon as outrage started to build, coverage started full force and it made the issue even stickier. Since Zimmerman was injured in the conflict, cable news shows debated ad infinitum whether he acted in self defense or not. Was he racist, or did he want to play the hero? Geraldo Rivera even went as far as to blame the teenager’s hoodie for putting him in harm’s way (inadvertently causing a spike in the hoodie’s popularity). But that’s not all. Zimmerman has received death threats and has gone in to hiding. As a response the New Black Panthers have put out a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture.” Most recently film director Spike Lee tweeted, incorrectly, Zimmerman’s address, making a neighborhood woman a target for those angry at the police’s inaction.

But for the most part this discussion was a social issue, and it only crossed over into the political world when President Obama was questioned about it at an unrelated event. When listening to Obama’s response it’s clear that he’s on tenterhooks, trying to balance an emotional response without diffintively weighing into the issue. But his mere mentioning of Trayvon’s’s death opened a can of political worms that are doomed to wriggle across the political sphere until some sense of closure is obtained.

Read more after the jump.

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