Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post on the debt deal The debt supercommittee looks unlikely to reach a deal on reducing the deficit, and that's because they haven't had a real debate on the role of government. "The truth is that most Democrats and Republicans want to avoid such a debate because it would force them into positions that, regardless of ideology, would be highly unpopular," Samuelson writes. Republicans did begin to abandon their "no new taxes" ideology by backing a deal to raise relatively small amounts of revenue. But Democrats never gave specifics on what kind of entitlement reforms they would support. Samuelson describes an evasive exchange between Obama and a reporter to demonstrate just how few specifics the president was willing to give. "The reason we cannot have a large budget deal is that Americans haven't been prepared for one. The president hasn't educated them, and so they can't support what they don't understand."
Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on Bill McKibben's pipeline victory When Middlebury College's Bill McKibben learned about the potential environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline, he mobilized environmentalists against it. "The tar sands' oil deposits may be a treasure trove second in value only to Saudi Arabia's, and the pipeline, as McKibben saw it, posed a powerful test of America's resolve to develop cleaner sources of energy ..." Mayer writes. She describes the lineup of well-funded interests that supported the pipeline when McKibben began his protest, and she recounts his tactics. Environmentalists lined up at Obama's reelection rallies to remind him of his campaign promises with the threat that they wouldn't support him as fully in 2012. More than one thousand allowed themselves to be peacefully arrested for trespassing at the White House. They eventually succeeded in getting him to delay a decision until after the election. "The difference between the focussed, agenda-driven campaign fought by the environmentalists and the free-form, leaderless one waged by the Occupiers, the historian Michael Kazin says, is that the environmentalists grasped the famous point made by Dr. King's political forebear, Frederick Douglass: 'Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.'"