Elizabeth Warren insists she is not running for President, most recently this past Sunday on Channel 5′s On the Record program. This is a good thing. There’s been too much bandwagon buzz about a possible Warren presidential candidacy, with even estimable Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi quick to portray Warren as a contender.
Such effusiveness is getting ahead of things. Everything Warren has done - supporting Janet Yellen over Larry Summers for Fed head, criticizing the President on student loan rates, keeping the pressure on Wall Street to right its errant ways – is what she is needs to do. Her expertise, courage and foresight can make her an outstanding leader in the U.S. Senate. But while the Presidential buzz can enhance her visibility, it can limit her effectiveness in that ego-driven, august body. Warren needs to do what Hillary Clinton did as a freshman senator: be a work horse, not a show horse. Build relationships. Broaden the range of issue competencies. Warren’s disavowal of a presidential candidacy gives her breathing space to do just that.
There’s validity to the reaction that the country doesn’t need is another freshman Senator of marked ideology and legislative inexperience becoming President. Reactions to her possible candidacy, beyond her zealous base, confirm that, with Congress resistant to compromises, many people are wary of that very distinguishing ideological purity. Sure, with technically newbie Ed Markey, she is the senior Senator from Massachusetts. But two years as a freshman senator doesn’t prepare her to lead the free world.
Saying this doesn’t mean that, at some point, Warren couldn’t add to a primary debate, raising values and issues in a way that forces Hillary Clinton or other candidates to clarify their own positions. In a recent Wall Street Journal op ed, the think tank Third Way warned Democrats against following Elizabeth Warren off the cliff of economic populism. In turn, the left is fighting back. Warren called on large financial institutions to disclose their donations to think tanks. Liberal commentators joined in to undermine the credibility of Third Way, echoing charges of close ties to the investment banking sector. Liberal activists have come to feel disenfranchised by Barack Obama’s ineffectiveness as a leader. With Warren in the mix, we might have a vigorous debate: just what does economic fairness mean, and how can it be achieved? What would it cost? Who would pay?
Early on, both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama disavowed any intention to run for President. No doesn’t always mean never. Bill Clinton was elected President from the center of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Leadership Council, created as an antidote to the McGovern wing of the party. His terms were comparatively more bipartisan, even while his deregulatory impulses sowed the seeds of the Great Recession. We take Hillary Clinton to be more centrist than Elizabeth Warren, but what do we really know about where Hillary stands today? Elizabeth Warren, either as a Senator staying put or a potential candidate, can clarify that.
Pre-election coronations rarely serve the political process. But is the only alternative a 2016 primary pitting “Robin Hood politicians” versus “sell-outs?” Let’s hope not.
Ultimately, what I’m looking for is a candidate with a caring heart and a pragmatically centrist mind, meaning progressive values, fiscal prudence, world wise savvy and a skillful willingness to compromise to get things done. The ability to work practically for what is achievable. In my world, the debate should be a thoughtful one, not an exercise in name calling and character assassination.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
Elizabeth Warren is right to deny she's running for President. Buzz undermines her role in the Senate, notwithstanding her capacity to add a dimension to any primary dialogue about economic justice.
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO James J. Murren was the house controlling the game in his speech Thursday to the Boston College CEO’s Club. As with all CEO’s Club luncheons, the event invitation promised remarks plus opportunities for questions and answers, but Murren went on for so long that there was no time for Q & A. Many attendees left as Murren rounded the 45-minute mark, heading for a nearly hour-long presentation. More than one in the audience was convinced he had done this to avoid direct questioning about casinos coming to Massachusetts and MGM Resorts’ bid to build a casino/entertainment center in Springfield.
Murren is too powerful and accomplished an executive to have been unintentional in this strategy. He obviously didn’t want to field questions. So he went on about himself and his business. MGM Resorts International generates, according to him, $10 billion a year in revenue, employs 62,000 people, and leads in every sector of the industry, whether you’re talking about luxury hotels, restaurants, spas, nightclubs, convention centers, arenas and other performance spaces.
He says he is all about corporate social responsibility, diversity of work force, sustainability in design and construction. He boasts a corporate ethos defined by teamwork, integrity and engagement. Unfortunately, his audience at the Boston Harbor Hotel had no chance to ask him if that corporate social responsibility extended to deterring the kind of criminal activity associated with casinos, to combatting gambling addiction, to helping the small businesses that are always sucked dry by the arrival of a gigantic entertainment/gambling complex. Nor could anyone ask him for his take on the movement gathering steam to repeal the Commonwealth’s new casino law by referendum.
These annoyances aside, I will say that Merrun is an unlikely face of casino gambling. An apparently modest, not flamboyant mogul, he projects a commitment to all the right social values (which, he says, will provide a return on investment). He is nearly messianic about what MGM can do for Springfield, if it gets regulatory approval and wins the casino designation for that part of the state. He is pretty convincing about the benefits MGM will bring to the local workforce struggling for jobs. In noting the traditional arrogance of his industry, his contempt for “the old boy network” controlling it, in contrast to MGM’s numerous philanthropic activities, he was effective in presenting a new and refreshing brand for this often seedy sector. Call it enlightened self-interest, but he aptly notes that “if a community is not sustainable, a company cannot be.” So he invests in community, and hopes he’ll be a winner in the bid to set up shop in Springfield.
If he does, it’s certain it will be an interesting project to watch.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
MGM Resorts International CEO controls the game at the Boston College CEO's Club. Presents well but doesn't take any questions on sensitive aspects of casino gambling in Massachusetts. Still, he presents a fresh face for the gambling industry.
Presidents have their social secretaries to tell them when to applaud during a White House concert. The rest of us, President Obama says, are on our own. But some of today’s rigid rules need rethinking.
Last Saturday night at the Boston Symphony, Peter Serkin performed brilliantly as soloist playing the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. The first movement wowed, and moved many to applaud. Too many of us, however, sat on our hands in an all-knowing display of classical musical etiquette. Refreshingly, program notes on the piece prepared by the wise Michael Steinberg appropriately chastised the custom of not applauding between movements as “priggish and anti-musical.” And it is.
Some musical etiquette makes sense. Big hats should not be worn during concerts. Cell phones, private conversations. Jangly jewelry and even heavy perfumes and colognes should be banned, with miscreants drawn and quartered.
But the No Applause Rule, which holds that concert audiences should refrain from any applauding until the entire piece is over, no matter what, no matter how brilliant the performance, no matter how much the movement has lifted your spirit or touched your soul, is outdated. If baseball can introduce instant replays and change its arcane rules, then classical music can modify its hidebound conventions.
Valerie Cruice, author of the book ”When Do I Clap?” observed that “Many people would rather have a root-canal than be faced with the dilemma of when to clap at a concert or opera.” In the final analysis, however, Cruice opts for the tut-tut adherence to convention.
Today when someone – often further back in the hall - is moved to applaud, the cognoscenti smirk knowingly among themselves, smugly satisfied that they know better the tribal rituals. They wait till the end to express their appreciation.
But such an attitude, in the long-run, could be destructive of the art form we want to preserve. It can drive away the very audiences of tomorrow we want to cultivate.
This restrained behavior wasn’t always the preferred choice. And it doesn’t apply to other musical performing arts. Mozart played to the crowds and would have been aghast at audience silence. In ballet or opera, audiences have shown their enthusiasm after the superb execution of complicated dance moves or brilliant singing of an aria. (In the 18th and 19th centuries, opera singers even made sure their fans (claques) were in the house to applaud wildly after their pieces and demand show-stopping encores.)
Changes took place during the late 19th century with the rise of composer/conductors as deities, men like Wagner, Mendelsohn, Mahler who regarded audience involvement as undesirable distractions.
This is not to say that audiences should applaud after every movement, especially quiet ones that invite deep contemplation, such as sacred vocal works. Surely abolishing the No Applause rule shouldn’t mean applause every time there’s a pause in the music, even in the middle of a movement or when a passage turns still. I bristle at audiences who rush to applaud a quiet finale even before the conductor has lowered his baton.
But there is an energy that comes from a shared public experience, like being at major sports event or outdoor concert. If people want to listen to their music in absolute silence, they can stay home and listen to their superbly mastered recordings.
Sometimes spontaneity asserts itself, often, for example, after the first, epic movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in D, a tour de force by itself, before you even get to the other two movements. So too with the first movement of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony, Dvorak’s 9th, Beethoven’s 5th, after Mars in Holst’s The Planets and big first movements in other works of Beethoven, Brahms, Greig, and Rachmaninoff.
In the end, I agree with Pianist Emmanuel Ax who supports audience applause when “the music demands it.”
Given the need to expand the audience for classical music, wouldn’t you think that musicians, critics or attendees would support selective expressions of enthusiasm in between movements. Could it be so bad to be moved by brilliance and express our emotions more naturally than restrained convention dictates?
I welcome your comments in the section
Don't applaud rule needs to be loosened up during classical concerts. Otherwise, we're turning off the audiences of the future.
Clap when the music demands it, as Emmanuel Ax says.
Fifty years ago today, the woman was not yet a journalist. She was barely 24, a Wellesley College graduate, living in a thoroughly domestic life in a garden apartment in Norwood, getting used to days and weeks totally different from what she might have experienced were she born a generation later. She was surrounded by other, similar women, college educated, who had chosen to marry and start families when they were barely beyond adolescence themselves.
It was a sunny day. Her four-month-old son had just been fed, changed and was about to be put in for his afternoon nap, sweet with the smell of Johnson’s Baby Powder. She flipped on the television as she went about her tasks and was shocked to learn that shots had been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, she had not been particularly enamored of Kennedy, feeling that he was too much the creation of his manipulative, scheming, isolationist, wheeler-dealer father, the former Ambassador to the Court of St. James. She didn’t trust the optimistic pictures the young President had painted of what people should do for their country. She and her then husband were working to carve out a secure future and struggling too hard to get a foothold in the economy to want to share more with those who had less. But the idea that someone would fire shots at the President’s motorcade rocked her sense of order and stability. Walter Cronkite shared the news as it became available. And then, in a flash, it was over. The esteemed newsman took off his glasses and shared the official pronouncement: President Kennedy is dead.
It still brings tears to my eyes today. My mother had grown up in Buffalo, NY, not far from the Delaware Avenue marker noting the spot where President William McKinley had been assassinated. But that was ancient history. JFK was now, and it just couldn’t be happening. I remember clutching my baby, crying, wondering what kind of world we were bringing him into. Five years later, lacking a babysitter, I would be dragging him and his baby brother to anti-war demonstrations, a reaction to the outcome of a terrible Vietnam policy advanced during the Kennedy Presidency.
Many years later, I would stand with other editorialists and my now-husband on the grassy knoll reflecting on how absolutely ordinary the location is, epitomizing the banality of evil. My sons would come to experience 9/11 and be concerned about their own children and the world into which they had been born. Someone recently observed that a tragedy is the gap between what was and what could have been. We don’t know what could have been if Kennedy had survived. We do know what was accomplished in his name by President Lyndon Johnson, part of the measure of the Kennedy legacy.
We also know that Kennedy, for all his failings, his vacillations, his lack of transparency, tapped a sense of possibilities in the generation of political activists that followed. We know that he sparked a fervent belief that government could be noble public service and further the well-being of all the people. And that he showed how the leader of one party could engage in constructive, even humorous discourse with his critics, in his own party, the opposition party, the business and media sectors. So we mourn again today, not just in memory of his death and the wistfulness created by the Camelot myth orchestrated by Jackie Kennedy, but for the elements we hunger for in the politics of today – and which we may well never have again.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
Remembering where I was when JFK was shot.
The talking heads are calling this year’s snafus in the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act Obama’s Katrina, likening it to the FEMA debacle in responding to the deadly 2005 hurricane that wasted Louisiana. I think the handling of the ACA roll-out is worse.
Katrina is a code word for an epic bureaucratic screw-up, a failed response to a crisis…but Katrina itself was an act of nature and not created by the George W. Bush. The ACA was a complex policy accomplishment, the manmade creation of the Obama administration. While snafus in ACA, especially the website shortcomings, were also the product of government ineptitude or worse, the various interrelated ACA problems have been exacerbated by the President’s abysmal or nonexistent communication strategy… his abject failure to use his bully pulpit to explain effectively the law’s rationale and why it is important public policy.
All major policy changes have had dodgy roll-outs. Think Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at the federal level and at the state level the earliest stages of the Massachusetts “Romneycare” health policy implementation. No one expected everything to run smoothly in October, but we reasonably expected that by November those who wished to enroll could indeed do so. The President has apologized for the glitches, but this may be too little too late if promised corrections are not made by the end of this month.
The signature accomplishment of his Presidency could become the signature and defining failure.
Obama compounded the technical problems by constantly declaring that those who wanted to keep their current coverage could do so. The small print, of course, was that they could keep the policies if the coverage crossed a certain minimum threshold. Policies that ripped people off, with low premiums but humungous deductibles and crippling restrictions, could not continue to be offered. But rarely, if ever, did the President use his bully pulpit to explain that there would be a transition into policies that actually covered enough health care to be meaningful. Following that, if enough people traded up, the overall costs would be kept down.
I am left wondering if, with all the attention Obama paid to the politics of the Affordable Care Act, he really understood the policy minutiae that he needed to lay out for the American people. [Is it better to think he was naïve, stupid or mendacious?] The Affordable Care Act was not a great leap toward universal health care, which our wealthy and powerful nation has desperately needed, but a distinctively American pragmatic, free enterprise, private sector-rooted response to a critical problem. It started as a Republican think tank recommendation.
Few did a better job of explaining the individual mandate concept than did Mitt Romney, who as governor decried the uncovered ”invulnerable” free riders of the health care system whose use of expensive emergency rooms as their primary care option drove up healthcare premiums and everyone else’s taxes.
But the President rarely, if ever, made the ACA case with clarity or energy. He failed to tell compelling stories or even share memorable anecdotes. As one Facebook writer suggested, the President should have said, in response to recent troubles, ”I underestimated the affection many Americans have for being ripped off by unscrupulous insurance companies.” He should never have made an absolute promise of an untruth. Even hyped up detergent advertising limits itself to 99.8 percent pure claims.
Obama could have asked for regulations that required red letter warnings on all substandard policies, like the horrific pictures on cigarette packs. He should have advocated regulations requiring the so-called invulnerable opt-outers to sign informed consent forms acknowledging that they knew that their bargain rate insurance policies would be worthless in the face of named health crises and that, in keeping their defective policies, they voluntarily would chose bankruptcy rather than take a penny of any taxpayer-subsidized hospital services.
According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans for the first time in his Presidency view Obama as dishonest and untrustworthy . And he brought it on himself. The master orator has been a terrible communicator, too little, too late and too sketchy. His last minute scrambling to adjust the law to permit the continuation of substandard plans confuses consumers, state regulators and insurance companies. It does not inspire confidence.
Presidential lying does not necessarily limit one’s legacy or post presidency earning power. Just ask Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. But it can irrevocably diminish second- term effectiveness. Obama has handed the Republicans a hammer to wield in the mid-term elections. It’s a gift to make people forget about the government shutdown and GOP’s persistent failure to articulate a positive alternative to ACA and other Obama proposals .
Even many Democrats are now angry with him, especially those concerned about losing races in 2014. There’s still time to salvage public acceptance of the ACA, but the Administration had better get the website up and running smoothly post Thanksgiving. Or this once heralded landmark law could become an indigestible turkey, and this president will fast become a lame duck.
I welcome your comments in the section below.
It's bad enough that the signature achievement of the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act, is being undermined by a non-functional website. The President has failed to use the bully pulpit to explain repeatedly the advantages of the legislation once implemented, and he has falsely promised that no one would have to change coverage who doesn't want to. This is not true of holders of high cost, restriction ridden sub par policies, and a majority of the public now view the President as untrustworthy and dishonest.