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The Promise: The Sandy Hook Families and the Long Road to Gun Safety

July 15th, 2013

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Just weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 20 first-graders and six adults, the parents and families of some of the victims came to Washington. They were here to meet with the Vice President, cabinet members and Senators. But they didn’t come just to receive high-level condolences—they were here to wade into some of the roughest waters in American politics: the gun debate.

Third Way was called upon to help the families navigate those waters and master the policy and politics of guns. We have been working closely with them ever since.

Now, I’ve written about that experience in a new essay published by the Brookings Institution.

“The Promise”—the second installment in the new “Brookings Essay” series—is a multi-media, multi-platform, long-form product that explores the politics of guns in the context of Sandy Hook. It tracks the transformation of Sandy Hook Promise, the group that organized the families, from a deeply sympathetic victim-advocacy organization into a force to be reckoned with in the modern gun debate.

It’s quite a story, and Brookings has done a great job of making it come alive with illustrations, video, photos and other resources. I hope you’ll take a look.

Read “The Promise” by visiting www.brookings.edu/ThePromise.

On gun control, taxes and other issues, Democrats must seize this moment

January 4th, 2013

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This piece was originally published in The Washington Post.

The collapse of John Boehner’s effort to get his party to rally behind a plan to raise taxes reveals the disarray and disagreement among Republicans. Democrats are urging them to forget about the hard-liners and go back to the negotiating table.

That’s good advice for Democrats as well.

If Democrats play their cards right, a combination of political and demographic forces, and dangerous precipitating events, could create a tipping-point moment, when they can advance their priorities not just on taxes, but also on guns, marriage for gays and lesbians, immigration, and even climate change.

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Preserving security by curbing Pentagon spending

December 13th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on The Hill.

Two widely respected Pentagon leaders have issued two sets of warnings about grave risks to our national security. The problem: both claims are dire but seem diametrically opposed. However, they can be reconciled if the President and congressional negotiators resolve the apparent tension in ways that both protect our national security and help to restore our economic strength.

The first warning comes from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has said that the cuts to the Pentagon budget that would result from sequestration would be “devastating.” He warned that such cuts could “hollow out the force.”

The second is from Admiral Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has repeatedly warned that “the greatest threat to our national security is our debt.” He started making that claim during his tenure in the Pentagon and has repeated it often since his retirement last year. His point is that the U.S. is running unsustainable ratios of debt-to-GDP, and our weakened economy has impacted our ability to influence and move global events. The Department of Defense, which consumes about half of all discretionary federal spending, must face some fairly large budget cuts. Read the rest of this entry »

Blue World Order

December 7th, 2012

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This post was originally published in Foreign Policy

For Republicans, the recent U.S. presidential election was supposed to be 1980. They would paint President Barack Obama as Jimmy Carter—weak on the economy and weak on national security. High unemployment and low growth? Check. National security? Democratic presidential candidates—from Carter to John Kerry—were often hobbled by public doubts about their fitness to protect the United States from foreign threats (see: “Dukakis, tank“).

But not this year. For the first time in decades, Democrats had a presidential candidate with an advantage on these issues. Obama entered the 2012 election with a successful foreign-policy record: The U.S. war in Iraq was over, the war in Afghanistan was winding down, Osama bin Laden was dead, al Qaeda’s top ranks were decimated, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi was toppled, and an international coalition had been assembled to impose the toughest-ever sanctions on Iran. Read the rest of this entry »

Why gun control isn’t a lost cause

July 30th, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on The Washington Post.

Dozens of college students murdered in their classrooms; a member of Congress shot at point-blank range; innocents gunned down in a movie theater. Then, in the aftermath of a mass gun crime, the same ritual: national shock and anger, traumatized communities asking how this could happen, followed by … nothing. At least, no progress on gun safety.

In a speech to the Urban League on Wednesday, President Obama called for a conversation on youth violence and more steps to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. But everyone, including Obama, has been pretty frank about it: No major new gun laws will result. Read the rest of this entry »

Opening Russia

March 29th, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

The World Trade Organization currently has 153 members, ranging from the United States and China, to Uruguay and Ukraine. The WTO is not an exclusive club. Venezuela, run by America-hating strongman Hugo Chavez, is a member. And plenty of other WTO countries have kings, presidents-for-life or juntas that are not making names for themselves as statesmen or democrats. Still, despite its varied membership, the WTO does play a vital role in opening markets and enforcing rules against unfair trade.

This summer, Russia will become the WTO’s newest member. Congress will have no say in the matter. But Russia’s WTO accession will nevertheless pose a quandary for Congress and for American exports. Current U.S. law would put American companies at a real disadvantage in exporting to Russia once it joins the WTO. Unless Congress acts to change the law, as President Obama and Congressional leaders have urged, American jobs in companies doing business with Russia — and the potential for tens of thousands more — will be at risk.
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