Obama and Romney Avoid Affirmative Action in the Presidential Election

In this video, Victor Sáenz, assistant professor of educational administration, discusses how race and education have been treated by the presidential candidates and why race in particular has been missing from the debate.

Professor Sáenz’ research examines the experiences of Hispanic males at both two-year and four-year institutions as they navigate their college pathways. Dr. Sáenz has spoken about his research and programmatic work on Capitol Hill, and he continues to work closely with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and the College Board’s Policy and Advocacy Center on their campaigns to raise awareness about the crisis facing young men of color in Education.


Victor Saenz

Victor B. Sáenz, Ph.D. is a fifth-year assistant professor in the Department of Educational Administration in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a faculty affiliate with the UT Center for Mexican American Studies, a Faculty Fellow with the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and a Faculty Associate with the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute.

 


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Posted in Education, Party Politics

Rule of Law Must Prevail to Meet Global Challenges, Kerry Said

U.S. Senator John Kerry at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Senator John Kerry

In a new generation of global challenges — including instability in finance and banking, poverty and political disenfranchisement, and climate change — promoting the rule of law is increasingly important, said U.S. Senator John F. Kerry at a talk Nov. 2 at The University of Texas at Austin.

During his presentation, entitled “The Rule of Law in World Affairs,” Kerry discussed the importance of ending partisan infighting in Washington, D.C., and promoting the rule of law worldwide as a way to work effectively with the unprecedented global challenges we currently face.

“Promoting the rule of law is not mushy multilateralism,” Kerry said. “It amplifies America’s voice and it extends our reach.”

Kerry shared his view that the rule of law will become increasingly important because our ever-expanding global interconnectedness brings with it problems no single nation can solve alone. Can we work together to meet the challenges of our age, he asked, or will we take refuge in isolationism?

To illustrate this point, Kerry spoke in detail about the Law of the Sea Convention, an international agreement that establishes international guidelines regarding the use of marine resources. In describing the long and unhappy history of attempts to get this treaty ratified, Kerry explained how ideological extremism threatens our real interests — economic, political, and military — and energy security.

This is a treaty, he said, that is broadly supported by military, political, and business interests because it will promote and expand international business interests: the rest of the world is divvying up access to these resources, and the United States is not even at the table. Businesses are hesitant to make the large capital investments needed without the protections afforded by the treaty. But ratification has been held up by a few ideologues.

“Working through global institutions doesn’t tie our hands — it gives greater strength and legitimacy to our purposes and facilitates consensus on transnational threats and challenges,” he said.

Ward Farnsworth, dean of the School of Law, greeted the audience and introduced the Honorable James A. Baker III, 64th United States Secretary of State, honorary chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate. Secretary Baker welcomed, in the spirit of bipartisanship, Senator Kerry to Texas and to The University of Texas at Austin.

Following his remarks, Kerry took questions from the audience. He was asked about next steps: how can we break the partisan divide?

Kerry responded by suggesting that a reconsideration of filibuster rules might be a step in the right direction, as the way they are currently written makes it too easy for the few to hold up the work of the many. He stressed that it’s important to find the right balance, however, because it can be an important protection.

But the biggest issue is to get money out of politics. Kerry said he believes Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was wrongly decided, but that he was optimistic that there is movement in the country to reverse that decision.

The lecture was presented under the auspices of the Law School’s James A. Baker III Chair in the Rule of Law in World Affairs, and was sponsored by the School of Law and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

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Posted in Foreign Policy, Party Politics

Health Care Politics: Vouchers, Block Grants, Medicare and Medicaid

Cossy Hough, of the School of Social Work, talks to Jim Henson about the presidential candidates’ different approaches to health care plans.


Cossy Hough, University of Texas at Austin School of Social WorkCossy Hough, LCSW, has been a social worker since 1992. She worked for several years as a community-based case manager and worked from 1997 to 2009 as an administrator with the Texas Department of State Health Services, Case Management for Children and Pregnant Women program. Ms. Hough has experience with program planning, policy development and evaluation, as well as social welfare initiatives and legislative analysis. Her direct practice experience also included medical social work and provision of mental health services. She is a member of the Texas Chapter of NASW.


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Student Voice: The Moral Cost Of Inaction In Syria

By Gustavo Fernandez

The tragedy in Syria grows worse by the day. Battles between rebel forces and the Assad regime continue to rage across the country. With over 30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn areas, the suffering endured by the Syrian people is an abhorrent tragedy. However, an even greater tragedy is the comprehensive lack of leadership shown by the United States government in responding to the crisis.

This is a rolling disaster for American leadership. The Obama administration’s failure to act in the face of growing human carnage is a blow to the United States’ reputation, to regional and international allies, to initiatives like the Responsibility to Protect and to innocent civilians in Syria.

As the world watches, the Syrian government is escalating its war against rebel groups. In an attempt to defeat the rebels, the Assad regime is resorting to the unrestrained pounding of civilian areas. In addition, Syria’s use of air power decisively tilts the advantage in its favor, leading to indiscriminate destruction, where fleeing civilians are often caught in the crosshairs of battle.

The U.S. can repair some of its damaged reputation by instituting a no-fly zone in northern Syria. In choosing to follow this course, America would find substantial international support from a cross-section of key allies, making the mission a multi-lateral effort and lending it international legitimacy. A broad coalition of actors, from France to Qatar, has already called for such a move.[1] All that is needed is American leadership, something which has been sadly lacking in this conflict.

Instituting a no-fly zone will also serve to bolster Turkey, which has been bearing the brunt of its imploding neighbor. Turkey has already set up fourteen camps and is housing approximately 100,000 Syrian refugees, straining its resources and creating domestic tensions. Pursuing a no-fly zone will not only signal to Turkey, a key NATO ally, that the international community supports the country in a time of serious need; it will also signal a serious commitment to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Furthermore, a no-fly zone would create a secure humanitarian corridor between Aleppo and the Turkish border, allowing the UN’s Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to set up camps and provide critical services to Syrian refugees. Instituting proper camps within Syria’s borders will lay the groundwork for absorbing the refugees back into the country and relieve southern Turkey from the overwhelming refugee influx.

Alternatively, former U.S. State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others, has suggested that the international community arm the rebel groups.[2] Yet, training and arming unknown rebel fighters is a questionable move. No one really knows who these groups are, or what will happen to these weapons after the Syrian conflict concludes. This may lead to greater instability over the long-term. A no-fly zone would serve as a great equalizer because it will reduce Assad’s options, it will help the rebels fight on more even footing with the Syrian Army and it will assure that weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists like al-Qaeda or Hezbollah.

China and Russia will surely veto any resolutions calling for a no-fly zone in Syria, but appeasing them is not worth the mounting cost of innocent lives. Action by the international community will alleviate human suffering and solve a mushrooming humanitarian crisis. History will surely judge Russia and China for failing to take any steps towards helping innocent refugees find safety from a growing conflict.

As the death toll mounts, instability spreads and refugees flood nearby countries, the world is witnessing twin tragedies unfold in Syria. One is the innocent human suffering being generated by the Syrian civil war. Yet perhaps even worse is the inaction of the United States. Armed with resources, capabilities and allies the United States has failed time and again to respond to the crisis. This policy paralysis is allowing the blood of countless innocents to flow. The time to act is now.

 


[1] Talmadge, Eric; & Murphy, Brian. “Qatar FM calls on UN to back Syria Rebels.” Associated Press. (http://world.time.com/2012/10/12/qatar-fm-calls-on-u-n-to-back-syria-rebels/)

[2] Slaughter, Anne Marie. “We Will Pay a High Price If We Do Not Arm the Rebels.” The Financial Times. 31 July 2012. (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a03392ce-da35-11e1-b03b-00144feab49a.html#axzz29SqdxZXM)

Gustavo Fernandez is a second-year Master of Global Policy Studies student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

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Student Voice: An Alternative to the “Lesser of Two Evils”

By Robert Love

Can two party platforms effectively represent the opinion of 300 million Americans? If so, can you name the candidate who agrees with the majority of Americans on drug policy and defense spending?

Better yet, why are President Obama and Governor Romney, clear front runners in the polls, afraid of letting a third-party candidate be heard on the national stage?  Surely they could defend their positions against a “fringe”candidate who has no chance of getting elected.

Could it be because this “fringe” candidate has a platform that resonates with the American public?

In 2008, Obama campaigned on a platform of respecting states’ rights on medical marijuana. Yet, as of today his administration has raided four times the number of medical marijuana dispensaries as his Republican predecessor.

According to Gallup, a majority of Americans now want to legalize marijuana and a whopping 75 percent support medical marijuana.

If this is something that most Americans want, why are neither of the candidates who supposedly represent the interests of the majority of the U.S. public talking about it? Sadly, it’s because neither agrees with most Americans on ending the war on drugs or cutting military spending.

Obama’s administration currently spends $1 billion more on the military than President George W. Bush ever did, and if Romney were elected, he would raise it $2 billion more than Obama.

So, if I’m one of the 39 percent of Americans who now believe that we should cut military spending, who should I vote for? What if I’m one of the 75 percent who want to legalize medical marijuana?

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House who visited LBJ last week, believes that the government needs to undergo a radical transformation before we see any positive changes. “Congress is structurally incompetent… the system is so badly broken that until there is a massive public demand for change it won’t happen,” said Gingrich. But the media says that we only have two options: Obama or Romney? Pro-life or Pro-choice? A big military or a bigger military?

And the public is convinced that there is no “legitimate,” experienced candidate who agrees with the majority of Americans on important policy decisions like military spending and decriminalized marijuana. Third-party views have been excluded from the debates and virtually ignored by the media. The result is that many Americans never learn that they don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils, and could actually vote for a candidate they agree with.

Governor Gary Johnson, two-time Republican governor of New Mexico, is on the ballot in 48 states. He is running as a Libertarian campaigning on a platform of cutting military spending, balancing the budget and ending the war on drugs.

He would be on the ballot in all 50 states, but the Michigan Republican Party filed a lawsuit because Johnson removed his name from the Republican primary ballot three minutes past the deadline. Controversial ballot laws in Oklahoma also mean he will be missing from its ticket this Tuesday.

It seems that Republicans simply don’t want to debate. Right here on campus, the College Republicans backed out of their debate with the University Democrats when they learned that the Libertarian Longhorns were invited. Although the debate had been planned for weeks, the College Republicans backed out of the day before, citing that they needed more time to prepare.

For a party that likes war and guns, Republicans seem pretty cowardly when asked to defend their policy positions.

The solution is simple: “third-party” candidates should be included in all televised presidential debates when their policy positions align with the will of the majority of voters. Candidates from established parties, like the Green Party and Libertarian Party, should also be included.

Republicans and Democrats claim that you are wasting your vote if you vote for a third party candidate, “but what is more of a wasted vote than voting for someone that you don’t believe in?” asks Governor Gary Johnson.[i]


[i] Governor Johnson came to UT campus this fall, and you can watch his speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP9_qxclKzU

Robert W. B. Love Jr. is a Master’s of Public Affairs student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He is also a former editor for the LBJ Journal of Public Affairs and the Baines Report. Robert hosts the radio and television show Lone Star Politics every Wednesday evening from 8-9 pm. Listen at 91.7 FM, KVRX or watch on Public Access Television, Channel 10. www.LoneStarPoliticsRadio.com

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Posted in Foreign Policy, Healthcare, Party Politics

Student Voice: The Foreign Policy Case for Mitt Romney

By Rachel Hoff

Those hoping for a debate on foreign policy during the final presidential face-off may have been disappointed last week. Both candidates continually circled back to domestic issues, defaulting to talking points on education and the auto bailout. Detroit and Ohio were topics of conversation alongside Beijing and Iran.

Voters who watched the last debate received a clear lesson on how important a strong economy is to America’s status on the international stage. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen has reminded us, our debt is the greatest threat to our national security. But, in the lead-up to next week’s election, it is equally important to make the case for the inverse: global strength is imperative in rebuilding the American economy. Our economy and our national security are directly linked in both directions. It is projecting power abroad—not reverting to isolationism or protectionism—that brings America economic opportunities.

Aside from discussing the role of the economy in foreign affairs, the candidates did spend some time debating global policy. Governor Romney’s tone was sober, careful and calm, juxtaposed with President Obama’s more bellicose tactics. The President’s greatest asset is that he is already commander-in-chief, but his tone in the final debate was not befitting of his position. As he sarcastically defined aircraft carriers and submarines, the President failed to look presidential.

As with most debates, which seem to reduce policy to political theater, the commentary following the final show-down was predominantly about style and not substance. While foreign policy may not decide this presidential election, recent polling has shown that voters care about America’s role in the world. And despite the President’s perceived strength on global affairs—from the advantage of serving as commander-in-chief to killing Osama bin Laden—Governor Romney may have an edge when it comes to most major geopolitical issues.

A survey released last month by the Foreign Policy Initiative revealed the following results among likely voters:

  • 62% favor preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, even if this option means using military force.
  • 65.8% support America working with allies to “establish no-fly zones in Syria to protect civilians and help ensure a transition to a more pro-Western government instead of the current terrorist-supporting regime of Bashar al-Assad.”
  • Israel ranked second only to the United Kingdom when people were asked to name “America’s best ally.”
  • More people view Russia unfavorably (50%) than favorably (35%).
  • Only 28.6% believe the United States spends too much on the military.

A foreign policy debate is a difficult proposition for a challenger facing an incumbent president. There is always the chance they will fumble answers, appear unready to serve as commander-in-chief and be disqualified. But last week, Governor Romney showed himself to be a thoughtful leader, knowledgeable on global affairs and in line with American public opinion on major foreign policy issues.

Of course, the presidential election all comes down to states, not debates. And so, in the immortal words of Bob Schieffer’s mother, “Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.”

Rachel Hoff is a first-year Master of Global Policy Studies candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She helped found the Foreign Policy Initiative in 2009 and served as Director of Government Relations until 2012.

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Student Voice: Escape from Apathy

Escape from Apathy title graphicBy Paulina Sosa

With the 2012 presidential election around the corner, the political season is reaching a fever pitch. The debates and disagreements between the Republican and Democratic Party are more divisive and aggressive than ever. Now is the perfect time to be politically engaged, yet so few people are voting, speaking out, or even staying educated on the issues.

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Foreign Policy: A Presidential Debate Analysis

In this third video in a series, LBJ School Lecturer Sherri Greenberg and LBJ School Associate Professor Alan Kuperman offer analysis of the third presidential debate and the foreign policy positions of both candidates. Greenberg, a former Texas State Representative and Director of the School’s Center for Politics and Governance, focuses on the importance of the Jewish vote and Mitt Romney’s focus on domestic policy, particularly the economy. Kuperman, an expert on foreign affairs, discusses the true differences between the two candidates’ views on foreign policy.


Sherri Greenberg is lecturer and Fellow of the Max Sherman Chair in State and Local Government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Her current teaching and research interests include: public finance and budgeting; public procurement and contracting; public pensions; online governance, transparency and civic engagement; campaigns and elections, state and local government; education and housing.


Alan KupermanAlan Kuperman is an associate professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Kuperman teaches courses in global policy studies. He is also the founding coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project and leads a Pentagon-funded project on Constitutional Design and Conflict Management in Africa. He has published articles and book chapters on ethnic conflict, U.S. military intervention and nuclear proliferation. He is also the author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda and co-editor of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention: Moral Hazard, Rebellion, and Civil War.


Related links:

Could Israel and Foreign Policy Swing the Election?

Social Media and the Economy: A Presidential Debate Analysis

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Posted in Foreign Policy, Jobs and Economy

What the candidates’ words say about their personalities

In this video, “Wordwatcher” Jamie Pennebaker tells us what the candidates’ speech patterns in the debates tell us about their personalities and how they differ from past presidents.


James W. PennebakerJames W. Pennebaker is the Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and the Departmental Chair in the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his students are exploring the links between traumatic experiences, expressive writing, natural language use, and physical and mental health. His studies find that physical health and work performance can improve by simple writing and/or talking exercises. His most recent research focuses on the nature of language and emotion in the real world. The words people use serve as powerful reflections of their personality and social worlds. Author or editor of 9 books and over 250 articles, Pennebaker has received numerous awards and honors.


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Posted in Party Politics

Social Media and the Economy: A Presidential Debate Analysis

In this second video in a series, former Texas State Representative Sherri Greenberg, director of the LBJ School’s Center for Politics and Governance, offers her analysis of the major issues that arose in the second presidential debate. Greenberg covers the social media reaction to Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, President Obama’s reaction to accusations surrounding the state department deaths in Libya, and the overall debate surrounding the economy.


Sherri Greenberg is lecturer and Fellow of the Max Sherman Chair in State and Local Government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Her current teaching and research interests include: public finance and budgeting; public procurement and contracting; public pensions; online governance, transparency and civic engagement; campaigns and elections, state and local government; education and housing.


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Posted in Gender Gap, Politics and Media

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