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Archive for July, 2013

Clinton: The newest New Democrat

July 26th, 2013

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Democrats have a history of plucking presidential candidates out of obscurity: Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans are supposed to go for whomever is next in line, particularly if they have run before: Richard M. Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney.

It looks like just the opposite for 2016.

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Too Many Generals

July 24th, 2013

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Troop levels are being cut. Civilians are being furloughed. Planes are being grounded. Ships are being docked. But the Pentagon’s top ranks are thriving.

Over the past 10 years, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan raged, the U.S. military’s enlisted ranks shrank, while the officer corps – particularly the general and flag officer ranks – and the bureaucracy supporting these top commanders, grew immensely.

Earlier this month Third Way released a report on this trend, reaching a disquieting conclusion – the U.S. military is more top-heavy than it has ever been. While I, and others, have documented this trend before, it’s only gotten worse. The U.S. military now has an officer-to-enlisted personnel ratio that’s at an all-time high; this imbalance will only worsen with the recent announcement of further reductions to the force.

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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 Second Thought, Let’s Not Execute Corrupt Officials

July 10th, 2013

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Would executing corrupt public officials be the most effective way to reduce dishonesty in public life? In the darkest recesses of our minds, we may harbor the idea that executing crooked public servants would foster a more virtuous government. But we’ve never taken this approach in America – take former Congressman Duke Cunningham, who served just seven years in prison for taking $2.5 million in bribes.

For an example of a nation that routinely kills its civil servants, though, look no further than the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government executes people for all sorts of crimes, including economic ones. Although exact numbers are unknown, Amnesty International notes that China “continued to account for the majority of the world’s executions,” perhaps 3,000 annually. This is a country that in 2009 claimed a99.9 percent conviction rate for criminal trials.

There’s a Chinese saying that you should “kill the chicken to scare the monkey.” The Chinese Communist Party General Secretary (and Chinese President) Xi Jinping has taken this aphorism to heart, pursuing a tough anti-corruption campaign. The first head placed on the chopping block belonged to the former railway minister, who was convicted of “bribery and abuse of power.” The court sentenced him to death, but suspended the sentence.

But other corrupt Chinese officials have not been the beneficiaries of state mercy. In 2011, the vice mayorsof the picturesque cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou were found guilty of accepting almost $50 million in bribes and paid the ultimate price for their crimes. Likewise, in 2010, the director of the Chongqing Justice Bureau was executed for accepting bribes and supporting organized crime. The same fate befell China’s State Food and Drug Administration chief in 2007. Read the rest of this entry »

Egypt: Elections Do Not Make a Democracy

July 8th, 2013

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An election is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy.  That’s the takeaway from the continuing upheaval in Egypt.

Last year, Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president.  Morsi won with 51.7 percent of the vote — slightly more than the 51.1 percent that Barack Obama won in 2012. Morsi was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that had been banned and persecuted in Egypt for 60 years.

Morsi’s overthrow last week put the United States on the spot. Could Washington support the removal of a democratically elected government, even one we did not like?

The Morsi government may have been elected, but there are other requirements for a democracy. A democratic government has to guarantee minority rights. It has to accept the opposition as legitimate. It has to be willing to abide by the rules. And the truest test of a democracy: The government has to give up power if it is defeated at the polls. Read the rest of this entry »

Third Way Accepts North American Think Tank of the Year Award

July 8th, 2013

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Only 8 1/2 years after opening our doors, Third Way was honored by  Prospect Magazine—Britain’s leading monthly current affairs magazine—as the 2013 North American Think Tank of the Year for our, “original, influential, and rigorous work on the most pressing challenges facing people, governments, and businesses.” Below you will find Third Way President Jon Cowan’s acceptance speech. You can also view photos of the ceremony or read Mike Allen’s write up in POLITICO.

On behalf of everyone at Third Way, I want to thank you for this incredible honor.

As an American, it’s always humbling to speak in London.  After all, the Royal Society has been an organization longer than we’ve been a country. But this is the perfect setting for these awards.  The Royal Society has always had subversion at its heart.  This is the native home of rebels, misfits, and revolutionaries.

As you know well, it is from this Society’s lectern that Ben Franklin first told the world about his kite.  That Watson and Crick told the world about DNA.  That houses, a few floors from here, a piece of the tree from which Sir Isaac Newton’s apple fell. These are people who were willing to challenge the established order of everything.  Who had the daring to see beyond conventional wisdom—to imagine, to question, and to create—all in the name of moving the human race forward.

The only part of science where this impulse has been rare is political science—especially as it is practiced today.  It makes all of us susceptible to heroes from the past. For me, the names I can’t get out of my head are not American, but British:  Harold Macmillan…Anthony Eden…Duff Cooper…Bob Boothby…”Bobbety” Cranbourne…Ronald Cartland…Harold Nicolson…and Leo Amery.

In the best history book I have read in a decade, author Lynne Olson calls them what Macmillan called them: Troublesome Young Men. For years, I was led to believe that Winston Churchill was a lone voice crying out against appeasement in the late 1930s. Instead, it was this group of young Tories—all members of the old boys society—who came together to oppose men they had gone to school with . . . to push Churchill forward . . . and bring down a prime minister of their own party. They were called traitors—to their friends, their government, their class and their country. The Lord Chancellor said they should be shot and hanged.  But in the end, they were right.  Their subversion helped save Britain—and all the world. Read the rest of this entry »