Non-Clinton Dems ask: Why not me?

Clinton looms larger than any undeclared candidate in recent history.

Clinton looms larger than any undeclared candidate in recent history.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to meet the lesser-known Democrats of 2016.

After a slow start — by the hyperactive standards of contemporary politics — to the next round of presidential maneuvering on the Democratic side, the first signs of life are beginning to stir among the roster of potential candidates not named Hillary Clinton.

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The Times is not for sale

By DYLAN BYERS | 08/07/2013 07:09 PM EDT | Updated: 08/07/2013 07:39 PM EDT

Arthur Sulzberger is pictured. | AP Photo
In the wake of this week’s sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and vice chairman Michael Golden sent a long memo to staff on Wednesday evening informing them that despite rumor and speculation the New York Times was ‘not for sale.’

The memo, which sources at the paper forwarded to POLITICO, follows:

Colleagues –

We were all taken by surprise on Monday afternoon with the announcement of the Graham family’s decision to sell The Washington Post. Surprise probably doesn’t cover it; we were stunned.
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How military sexual assault went unchecked

In 2010, the parents of a Texas high school student told an Air Force officer they were concerned a recruiter was sending their daughter inappropriate text messages, showing up at her work and spreading rumors.

The officer listened to the complaint, but it went no further — a common practice for popular soldiers, according to a senior Defense Department official with knowledge of the case.

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A year later, the parent of another teenage girl found suggestive photos in her text messages from the same recruiter, Tech. Sgt. Jaime Rodriguez.

(PHOTOS: Key players in military sexual assault fight)

This time investigators dug in, eventually speaking with more than a dozen young women, some who met Rodriguez after the first complaint, who said his behavior ranged from unwanted advances to rape. Rodriguez began serving a 27-year military prison sentence in June on a slew of sex crimes, the worst of which was aggravated sexual assault.

The case is just one example of what the Pentagon’s own reports have concluded on sex crimes in the ranks: More than 90 percent of them are committed by predators who strike repeatedly, using positions of power, a weak reporting system and the culture of moving service members and officers from base to base every two or three years where they can prey on victims, over and over again.

At the same time, the Pentagon, renowned for keeping statistics on troop movements across the globe, has repeatedly failed over the past 25-plus years to track these bad actors, leaving sexual predators free to move about with little way for their higher-ups to see their history.

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What is Jeff Bezos thinking?

20130805-201642.jpg Bezos’s intentions have huge implications for the landscape of political journalism. | AP Photo
By JOHN F. HARRIS | 8/5/13 8:54 PM EDT

Within minutes of the news going public, I had an email from a recognizable byline at the Washington Post that captured my feelings exactly: “Holy. Shit.”

In the heyday of this singular American institution, those two words were the very phrase that legendary editor Ben Bradlee said he hoped for when breakfast table readers picked up that morning’s front page and read the latest exclusive.

It has been a good long while—a full generation ago—since the Washington Post was Ben Bradlee’s newspaper, and since the Post name stood for unchallenged editorial and financial power in Washington. No news organization had more influence in setting the agenda in the nation’s capital. No daily newspaper was more lucrative, or had greater reach into the daily life of one the nation’s largest and most affluent metropolises.

Even so, the news that the Post is being sold to tech billionaire Jeffrey Bezos was a thunderbolt. If you had asked me about this last week (as someone who was probably privy to the likelihood of a sale did ask me), I would have said— and did say—that it was inconceivable that the Grahams would sell a franchise so intimately linked to both their family’s history and the nation’s.

The news is of obvious interest to anyone who cares about the media business, about Washington or about coverage of national politics. In addition to that, my vantage point is more personal. The POLITICO newsroom’s co-founders spent significant parts of their careers at the Post, and I spent the first 21 years of my career at the place. In short, I view it from the perspective of alumnus and competitor, as well as friend of people who work at all ranks there.

From this perspective, the news is not just stunning but confusing. Some of the questions prompted by this news may get answered in coming days. Some of the more important ones probably won’t be answered for months or years. Here’s a list of what seem like four of the most pressing questions:

Does Jeff Bezos have a theory of the case?

To an outside eye, no major news organization in America is more in need of a theory—a clear strategy to navigate the storm—than the Washington Post.

Setting strategy for the Post has always been a complicated matter. It is an ambitious national news organization, but it’s business model has always been emphatically as a metropolitan daily newspaper. These days, both national general-interest publications and big-city dailies are facing severe challenges due to technology and changing audience and advertiser habits. By all accounts, the Post for a decade has basically been improvising—innovating with new features and revenue lines here and there, all the while hoping its traditional business model can sputter along as long as possible.

Does Bezos—one of the great business innovators of the digital era from his perch at Amazon—have some particular strategic insight that could revive the Post as a robustly profitable enterprise, or take its brand in some exciting new direction?

If so, he’s not showing much leg at the outset. His letter to Post employees made an obvious observation about how “the Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs.” He also offered some bland and blurry words that suggested he will be winging it to the same degree as the current owners: “There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”
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Hate Congress? Blame yourself

The Capitol is pictured. | Reuters

The author asks if the public deserves some blame for our state of dysfunctionality. | Reuters

By LINDA KILLIAN | 8/2/13 10:21 AM EDT

Recent polls showing extreme dissatisfaction with Washington and the direction the country is headed are akin to telling a drowning man he’s not a very good swimmer. He’s well aware of the fact; but while the lifeguard (in this case, elected officials) is too busy flirting and showing off to do his job, the sharks are circling, and it looks like the only way to be saved is learn how to swim fast, because no one else is coming to the rescue.

Americans’ discontent with their political leaders is nothing new, of course, but the extent of unhappiness across the board among Democrats, Republicans and Independents is plumbing new depths, as reflected in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a Pew Research survey.

More than 60 percent of those questioned believe the country is on the wrong track. About the same number think every member of Congress should be replaced — including their own representatives. Most Americans seem to subscribe to Shakespeare’s “plague on both your houses” sentiment, as the poll revealed no preference for either party controlling Congress. Only 12 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing – about the same number as approve of Washington political pundits. (Americans have a higher opinion of colonoscopies, root canals, and used car salesmen than they do Congress, although they hold lobbyists, telemarketers, and the Kardashians in lower esteem.)

And the mainstream political parties are taking a hit, too. Forty-six percent of voters now identify themselves as independents according to Pew – that’s as many as Democrats and Republicans combined and the highest percentage ever.

“Those are staggering numbers,” Olympia Snowe, who resigned from the Senate last year, citing Congress’s increasing inability to actually do anything, said in an interview. “If that isn’t attention-getting, what is?”

“We should be individually and collectively embarrassed by the low esteem in which we are held, but I don’t think embarrassment even occurs to many of them,” Snowe said of her former colleagues. “They just can’t get their act together on any major question.”

Polarization and dysfunction have come to define government. Just look at the depiction of Washington in movies and television, with self-serving and corrupt politicians featured in series like “Scandal” and “House of Cards.” Martin Sheen’s idealistic portrayal of President Josiah Bartlet in “The West Wing,” which aired on television from 1999-2006, would be considered a parody today.

But what are Americans really willing to do about the situation, and does the public deserve a share of the blame for the state of our dysfunctional politics?

“We citizens have a responsibility for a lot of the partisan gridlock, because we don’t vote in primaries,” former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell told me. Voter turnout in primary elections is much lower than in general elections. Since it is typically party loyalists and activists on the left and right who show up to vote in primaries, centrist candidates who help to forge compromise are disappearing from Congress. Rendell, who considers himself a centrist Democrat, cited former Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and retired Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, who were defeated in GOP Senate primaries in 2010 and 2012, as examples of the public’s penchant for punishing figures who work across the aisle.

Rendell puts it bluntly: “The voters bear some of the responsibility. They need to turn out. Don’t just complain about Washington: Get off your duff and do something.”

Robert Ehrlich, a Republican former member of Congress and governor of Maryland from 2003-2007, said that the growth of gerrymandered districts – a trend accelerated by the redistricting process that followed the 2010 census — are a big part of the problem. “The seats are safe. Congress can have a single digit approval rating and it doesn’t matter. The center is non-existent.”

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Hillary Clinton’s 2008 slaps still sting President Obama

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“Friendship” was the main course during Hillary Clinton’s lunch with President Barack Obama this week, according to an Obama spokesman, but no one could have blamed Clinton for ordering a small side of I-told-you-so.

Much of the bombastic campaign rhetoric from 2008 — think “3 a.m. call” — proved as ephemeral as the thousands of half-melted “Hillary” candy bars Clinton’s staff handed out on Super Tuesday five years ago.

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Obama, Clinton laugh off 2016 question

It is extraordinarily rare, to say the least, for the president of the United States to get involved in an inside-the-Beltway flap over the payment of health care premiums.

Obama enters Hill health-care dispute

President Obama is pictured. | Reuters

His commitment was delivered during a closed-door session with Senate Democrats. | Reuters


President Barack Obama privately told Democratic senators Wednesday he is now personally involved in resolving a heated dispute over how Obamacare treats Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers, according to senators in the meeting.

The president’s commitment was delivered at the beginning of Obama’s remarks to Senate Democrats during a closed-door session.

At issue is whether Obama’s health care law allows the federal government to continue to pay part of the health insurance premiums for members of Congress and thousands of Hill aides when they are nudged onto health exchanges.

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