TPM Cafe: Opinion

Variety TV critic Brian Lowry, in a piece entitled "Sarah Silverman's Bad Career Move: Being as Dirty as the Guys," warns that she is "veering into bad taste territory." in her latest HBO special "We Are Miracles," which airs tonight.

Such a critique might be appropriate on a performance review at the office, but, if your job title is Comedian, a preponderance of the evidence would suggest that veering into bad taste territory is actually, in fact, a job requirement. (See: pretty much every professional male comedian ever.)

But not if your title is Comedienne, apparently.

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Fifty years ago this November, something happened that became a "flashbulb moment" for every American alive at the time and old enough to remember anything. The indelible photographic images -- a fixture in books, movies, and television but also recounted in minute personal detail by millions who recall precisely where they were and what they were doing when they heard about President Kennedy's assassination -- have been passed on to succeeding generations.

The youngest elected President at the height of his powers was gunned down on the street of a major city, his head exploded by firepower in full view of his wife, and eventually the nation, to the horror of the entire civilized world.

The importance of that awful day in Dallas cannot seriously be disputed, but few agree on the roots of the day itself.

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Within minutes after early voting results revealed Albuquerque's proposed 20-week abortion ban wouldn't pass by a wide margin, reproductive rights activists let out a breath they had been holding for months. Early September polling had shown that the popular vote favored the city level ban, which would end the ability to provide later second- and all third-term abortions under any circumstance other than a direct threat to a pregnant person's life. Yet by the time the votes were tallied, those who had cast ballots before Nov. 19 voted against the ban. Near final Election Day results put the vote at 55 percent of voters rejecting the measure; it was clear that the majority believed that a decision to have a later abortion should be left between doctor and patient.

The pro-choice movement that has seen a frustrating number of defeats recently. They have especially seen a surge of excessive restrictions known as targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, bills at the state level that have shuttered the doors of a number of abortion providers across the country. The loss of the 20-week municipal ban wasn't just a victory for abortion rights themselves; it was also a validation of our belief that despite the vocal minorities creating laws in a number of key red states, the general population still stands with the pro-choice movement and believes that legal, safe abortion is a necessary part of medical care.

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Our service men and women deserve a professional and unbiased justice system equal the system afforded to the civilians they protect.

For months, critics of fundamental reform have argued that commanders will be more protective of victims than military prosecutors.

The Pentagon's own numbers show commanders are too often biased and conflicted in sexual assault cases. They regularly testify on behalf of the accused's "good military character" at trial and write letters in support of overturning convictions or reducing sentencing during the clemency phase. As long as commanders hold the authority to prosecute and adjudicate these cases, service members who are victims of these crimes will too often be denied justice.

Each of the three recent examples summarized below clearly illustrates the severity of failures of our broken and corrupt military justice system, and shows dozens of commanders consistently siding with the perpetrators of these attacks, and blaming the victim.

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A freakishly close vote in Florida set the stage for one of the most contested elections ever. Once the November vote was counted, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, led Republican nominee George W. Bush, the Texas governor and son of President George H. W. Bush, by 540,000 votes in the national tally (out of 105 million cast). But in the all-important electoral vote, Gore had 267, three short of victory, Bush had 246, and the decisive 25 electoral votes were the Sunshine State's -- where Bush and Gore were virtually tied. It took a hotly disputed recount and ultimately a divisive Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore to resolve the matter. Democrats viewed the Court ruling as partisan, with the five most conservative justices siding with Bush against the four more liberal justices' preference for Gore, but in the end, Bush was declared the winner by an astonishingly tiny 537 votes in Florida -- 2,912,790 for Bush to 2,912,253 for Gore. This gave Bush a final electoral count of 271 votes, one more than the minimal majority needed for election.

Thus, the offspring of president number 41 became president number 43, a Bush restoration after just eight years. Compare this to the twenty-four years that separated the two chief executives from the Adams family, John Adams who left office in 1801 and John Quincy Adams who entered the White House (after losing the popular vote) in 1825. Both of the Adamses served only one term, but George W. Bush would get two. The dozen years of Bush White House occupancy compares to less than three for the Kennedy family. The Bush family also accumulated eight years in the vice presidency (the senior Bush), fourteen years in the governorships of Texas and Florida (George W. and Jeb), ten years in the Senate (grandfather Prescott of Connecticut), and four years in the House (Bush senior). The Kennedys have had no governorships, but three senators (John, Robert, and Edward) plus scattered House service by several family members and a lieutenant governorship (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Bobby's daughter, in Maryland).

There is no real comparison: The more successful family dynasty by far, at least to this point, has the surname of Bush. No one would have guessed this in the 1960s, and it is one of history's sleight of hand tricks. Demography has played as much a part as destiny. In population, wealth, and influence, the Sunbelt has come to dominate the Frostbelt, and thus has the Texas house of Bush outstripped the Massachusetts line of Kennedys. Patriarch Joseph Kennedy's dreams of a long period of Kennedy dominance were dashed by war (Joe Jr.), bullet (Jack and Bobby), scandal (Teddy), and accident (John Jr.). Younger generations of Kennedys, including new congressman Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts, may try to even the score, though the Bushes have potential competitors, too, such as Jeb's politically active son George P. Bush -- and Jeb Bush himself.

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This essay first appeared in Sunday's Dallas Morning News.

Mere moments after Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, and two days after Oswald fired the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy, the professional football team from the city where the president was murdered took the field in Cleveland.

Back then, the Dallas Cowboys were not "America's Team" -- rather, they were a sad-sack franchise in the midst of a string of unsuccessful seasons after their founding in 1960. Added to the burdens of playing losing football was a far greater one that day on the shores of Lake Erie: representing Dallas, which stood accused of being an accomplice in the death of a president.

It is stunning that the National Football League actually played football just 48 hours after the assassination. Commissioner Pete Rozelle ordered the games to go on because, at the time, he believed that that was the way the slain president would have wanted it. Rozelle later came to realize he had erred, and it's notable that the NFL, when faced with the calamity of Sept. 11 nearly four decades later, canceled its games scheduled for five days after that tragedy. So the Cowboys went to Cleveland and lost in front of a hostile, eerily quiet crowd; announcers were instructed to refer to the team only as the Cowboys, dropping the Dallas.

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Among political scientists and journalists there is a ongoing debate about the extent to which elections--especially presidential elections--are determined by "fundamentals" like incumbency and the performance of the economy or by the exciting events reported in daily campaign coverage.

As it happens, there are two new books just out that represent the extremes in this debate: The Gamble, by political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck, which argues the 2012 presidential outcome can be explained almost entirely by fundamentals, and Double Down, by the political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, whose view of what matters most is best expressed by the title of their earlier book on the 2008 campaign, Game Change. I'll give you one guess which book is already on the New York Times bestseller list and has been optioned to HBO.

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John F. Kennedy's assassination might have been almost inevitable. It didn't have to happen on Nov. 22, 1963, but given a host of factors, JFK was unlikely to have made it out of his presidency alive.

Almost no one disputes that the security surrounding President Kennedy was thin on Nov. 22, as it usually was. The leader of the free world, the most powerful person on the globe, was guarded by twenty-eight Secret Service agents in Dallas, only twelve of whom were actually in the motorcade.

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To grasp fully the searing impact on American citizens of President John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, one need only look to the massive outpouring of condolence mail sent to Jacqueline Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of her husband's death.

On the first day mail was delivered to the White House after the assassination, Mrs. Kennedy received 45,000 letters. Within eight weeks that number had grown to 800,000, and to 1.5 million a year and a half later. A cross-section of 15,000 American letters, preserved at the Kennedy Library in Boston, capture vividly the response of "average" Americans to Kennedy's death.Mail poured in from every state in the union, from big cities and small towns, from highly educated Americans and from those barely literate, from people of diverse racial and ethnic origins, as well as religious and political persuasions. The age of the writers ranged from five year-old children to centenarians.

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