Obama’s legacy: Lorrie Moore, Richard Ford, Marilynne Robinson and others look back

His election was a historic moment, he campaigned on a platform of hope, but did President Obama deliver? Leading authors have their say

Joyce Carol Oates

Brilliant and understated, urbane, witty, compassionate, composed, quietly fuelled by an idealism born of the legacy of civil rights America in conflict with the old white-nationalist America, Barack Obama is a unique human being and has been a unique president. In some ways (as many have observed) not really temperamentally suited to an office that demands an almost daily scrimmage with opposition politicians in Congress as well as continual conferences with members of his own party Obama has behaved with dignity and restraint that might be mistaken for aloofness; while he has shown an astonishing generosity in attempting to compromise with opposition politicians whose fury at the very election of a black man to the presidency has never been tempered, it is clear that, for all his virtues, and for all his idealism, the bitterly divisive politics of our time made it impossible for him to fully realise his political mission. If each American president represents a predominant style, Obamas is coolness the coolness of grace under pressure, a refusal to rise to the race-baiting tactics of political opponents.

The world may justly recoil in surprise, disdain, derision and alarm at the election of President Obamas successor a uniquely unqualified white-nationalist demagogue elected by a minority of American voters, through an archaic electoral college system put into place to placate slaveholders, in a gesture some have interpreted as white repudiation of the first black president but the fact remains that, in 2008, the American people were wise enough, and fortunate enough, to have put an individual of the quality of Obama into office. We will miss him. So much.

Siri Hustvedt

Soon the face of the United States will change. For eight years, we have been represented by an elegant, well-spoken, funny, highly educated, moderate, morally upright, preternaturally calm black man. The son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, he embodies a part of the long and tortured story of race in America, that potent historical fiction that continues to ravage the country. The mantra that race is not a biologically real category is a truth, but that doesnt mean our president wasnt assaulted daily by grotesque lies and by racist imagery, by the watermelons and monkeys that dogged his time in office, vile attacks that came from obscene regions of that public stage we call the internet, but which only rarely found their way into the mainstream media until now, that is. The vicious language of Breitbart News and the cruel policies of the far right are moving into the White House. The ugly new face of the US may be white but its actual complexion is best described as a vehement orange.

No, I did not agree with all of President Obamas policies. I was mortified by ongoing drone attacks and upset by his administrations surprising secrecy. I had hoped for national healthcare, not insurance exchanges. Obama has been criticised harshly by some in the black community for not speaking out enough about racism in its many insidious institutional forms. For years, he sought compromise with Republicans in Washington, and it seems obvious in hindsight that he may have hoped for too much for too long from an intractable Congress.

Obamas legacy? We are too close to know. I suspect his importance will only grow, and if our republic survives the next four years (by which I mean, if its very foundations are not eroded beyond recognition) and perhaps even if it doesnt, Obama will stand for a politics of human dignity, not a politics of shameful trumpery, hatred and rage.

Richard Ford

It may be the wrong way to say it, but at least a partial marker of Obamas effectiveness and of representative governments effectiveness, when it works has been his capacity not to trivialise being president by confusing his ego with the job. Because he hasnt done that, he has been able with some success to be not one constituencys private messenger (mine, for instance though I wouldnt have minded it), but to be all constituencies messenger. That hasnt always worked perfectly, and as a strategy it has had a tendency to round off extremes, both wished for and not. But it is by far a better and more respectable aspiration than making America great (again?), which clearly promises to leave a lot of people out. To some observers, this aura of balanced impartiality has made President Obama seem austere and professorial. Aloof. But not to me. To me, his demeanour is of a serious adult whose office makes arduous demands on him, requiring an answering ardour, resolve and discipline, along with a sublimation of the purely personal. I guess thats boring. Though well soon learn more about boring.

Conservatives, of course, dont like Obama because hes too liberal. And lots of liberals are disappointed because he hasnt precisely toted their water, either. (You know youre doing something right when liberals are disappointed in you and conservatives hate you.) But rather than being all things to all people, President Obama has seemed to be just one thing to all people which, to my mind, is what our president ought to be. This cold morning, when I think about Obama, immersed in what must be a decidedly mixed brew of emotions mixed about his deeds, mixed about his effects on the US, decidedly mixed about our future Im confident he is thinking, right to his last minute in the office, as the president, and not much about, or for, himself. Thats what I expected when I voted for him that hed be a responsible public servant whod try to look out for the entire country. He did that. It wont be long before we are all going to miss him.

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Obama speaks in Washington to victims of gun violence in January 2016. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attica Locke

In 2009, about a year after the historic election of Obama, I was in central Louisiana, spending a few days and nights on a sugar plantation. A storm was coming, and I sat for hours on the porch of the small cottage I was staying in, listening to the wind whistle through the sugar cane fields nearby. The sound was reminiscent of voices, and I remember uttering the words thank you to whatever souls lingered in those fields. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, to consider the election of the countrys first black president while sitting on the grounds of a former plantation, to be able to say to my ancestors, Your labour was not in vain.

What I choose today a month or so after the election of a bully and a bigot that has so disheartened the majority of my country is to remember the US at its best. To say simply: Thank you, Barack. Thank you for your grace, your intelligence, your curiosity, your patience, your respect for our constitution, your respect for people who dont look like you or pray like you or love like you, your jump shot, your rendition of Al Greens Lets Stay Together, your love of books, your love of writing, your beautiful children and your incredible wife. I honestly dont know where we go from here, or, frankly, what country I live in anymore. But I know your presidency was real it happened and I am thankful I got to see it in my lifetime.

Edmund White

Obama will go down in history as one of our great presidents. He always keeps his cool, looks at every question from all sides, brought us health care, sustained the LGBQ community, saved the economy, lowered unemployment, hovered over the Middle East conflict with admirable passivity, avoided Islamophobia. He has a model family, wears clothes beautifully, moves with elegance and dances well. What more do you want?

Marilynne Robinson

Obama is a deeply reflective man, an idealist whose ideal America is a process of advance and self-realisation, not to be thought of as arriving at any final order, but as continuously generating new aspirations in the course of its vital, turbulent, democratic life. He has a steady faith in the essential generosity and wisdom of the American people, as a corrective to the deviations from the emergence of the more perfect union he so often invokes in his speeches. For this reason, and because of his understanding of the countrys history as in many ways uniquely progressive and uniquely open to new hopes, he can accept even his own frustrations and the hostility directed against him as part of this history and life. His resilience in the face of constant attack and the unfailing respect he has shown for the dignity of his office are effects of this historical vision.

A president of the United States, however fascinated by the country itself, must deal with the extraordinary complexity of our foreign entanglements, old hostilities and marriages of convenience, many of them patches on a reality that has shifted over decades. And there are the crises of the moment. At issue now is whether terrorism should be dealt with by the methods of traditional warfare, methods terrorism is designed to obviate, or whether an effective strategy would adapt to address its unconventional tactics. President Obama has been seen as weak for choosing the second option though, after Iraq, the limits of invasion and bombing should be clear.

Objectively, the fact that a law professor could walk in on an unprecedented economic collapse, a global crisis, and right things well enough that his critics can forget what an abyss had yawned, is a proof of extraordinary brilliance and composure. He may not have done everything right, but given a normal Congress, the president would have been able to stimulate the economy in the usual ways, for example by building infrastructure, that everyone knows the country needs. New schools and bridges would have relieved the public of both the fear and, in some degree, the reality, of national decline. But this would have made President Obama more popular, and the Republicans were determined to limit him to one term. His Affordable Care Act has performed according to his hopes, again despite furious opposition. While incrementalism has been the approach available to him in the circumstances, it is also wholly consistent with his understanding of American democracy. He expects controversy and criticism, and he has had more than his share.

I know Obama as a man who loves books and ideas, creativity and inventiveness. He talks about the US in terms of the wonderful varieties of competence and the beautiful demonstrations of good faith and good conscience that pervade its daily life. He sees government as a means to ensure that all these individual gifts will be honoured and enabled. In looking beyond any present moment to the new hope that will surely emerge from it, he can love the country exactly as it is.

Garth Greenwell

Obama has been criticised for being too much style, too little substance. Were now receiving a lesson in how substantial style is. For eight years, Obama displayed a genuinely presidential demeanour, adding extraordinary personal dignity to the dignity of the office. He modelled respect for the life of the mind, for reason and reasonable debate, for the pursuit of culture. Against unprecedented and dishonourable resistance from an opposition party, he rejected a politics of outrage and in his first term repeatedly attempted to find a common ground. As that resistance appealed ever more overtly to the racism and xenophobia that have so animated this electoral season, Obama held up a vision of an America enriched by diversity and bent toward ever-greater justice, the America of Lincoln, Whitman and Martin Luther King.

It would be difficult to overstate what it has meant, for queer people in the US, to have a president so fiercely insist on our place in that vision. Obama took too long to evolve toward support of marriage equality. But from his first days in office he affirmed the dignity and value of queer lives. He passed hate crimes legislation and repealed Dont Ask Dont Tell; his administration crafted the first comprehensive national strategy for combating HIV/Aids; by memorialising sites central to the movement for LGBT rights, he wove queer history into the larger history of America.

Some queer people, especially some gay white men, have been reassured by comments from the president-elect that he will preserve marriage equality. They are wrong to be reassured. His vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, has supported conversion therapy, a cruel and thoroughly discredited practice, and has said that the legal recognition of queer families leads to societal collapse. At the time of writing, his cabinet appointments have, to a person, opposed LGBT rights; many of them have viciously attacked the dignity of queer people. Most importantly, he has shown himself determined to demolish that vision of a pluralistic America in which these people and other minorities have an honoured place. He replaces Obamas style of moderation, reason and respect for the other with outrage, disregard for fact, and imperious personal grievance.

The gains queer people made under Obamas administration are fragile. So are the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. Our new president has given every indication that for the next four years they will be under constant attack.

Lorrie Moore

There are many things Obama did not entirely succeed at: Libya, quitting smoking. (How could anyone in his position have quit smoking? I have money on this.) But to listen to his intelligent voice for eight years after the previous eight years of the Bush administrations torqued syntax was a relief and reassurance to the ears of our citizenry. He was not just a historical presence but a consoling one, despite the house arrest our Congress essentially had him under. He was creative and purposeful as a leader, given everything, and his election was thrilling to the world and to the US. Nothing like it will happen again for a long time.

Hanya Yanagihara

He always seemed too good to be true, like someone who had been focus-grouped with not just one, but many, demographics, a plurality of fantasies embodied in one man: black, smart, handsome, young. And then the fantasies grew more outlandish, and still, he fulfilled every one: raised abroad; multiethnic; multinational; the brother of an Asian sister; the son of a single mother; a father of daughters. If hed been a character in fiction, hed have been unbelievable, less a convincing person than a constellation of symbols, a dream that a certain population of America had of itself.

So I understood the headiness, the elation, surrounding his rise. But what always made me uncomfortable then, in 2008; now, in 2016 was the idolatry that followed him. There were people (my father, for one) who wouldnt hear any criticism of him, who would shout you down for merely questioning him. I would be at dinner parties where the hosts would say I wont hear anything bad said about him. Ill defend him against anything.

I understood this. He was a vulnerable figure in many ways, a symbol of a not-too-distant past, a black man hoping to lead a country in which black men have never been safe. He inspired our fantasies, but he also inspired our sense of protectiveness; he wore history lightly, but he would never have the privilege of discarding it entirely. We wanted, even needed, him to succeed, because his success would be proof of our own collective evolution. Yet there was also, from some quarters, a kind of condescension in the defence of him, an implication that the very fact of his presence was so miraculous that he couldnt be looked at too directly or too closely.

We were correct not to engage with the ranters on the right. But we were wrong not to discourage the idolatry on the left. And the unhinged accusations from one side only encouraged a defence that became increasingly, obdurately partisan on the other, a defence that also provided cover and an excuse to ignore saner critics of all persuasions. Dissent is essential to a democracy; not just voicing it, but listening to others who can reasonably voice it as well. Yes, he did eventually receive his share of meaningful criticism, including from some people who supported him but, Id argue, far less than he might have. I was astonished, again and again over his two terms, by the number of people I encountered who seemed to recoil at the mere suggestion of his potential shortcomings and flaws. I voted for him twice, but I knew he wasnt perfect. I didnt expect him to be.

The irony, of course, is that he himself accepted his criticism gracefully and calmly. This grace may be one of his enduring legacies. As many of us in the US prepare to be in opposition once again, to traverse a period in which our romance with him is likely to only intensify, let ours be a reminder to never again become so blind with love or hatred for a politician that we forget to look squarely at him, without fear or favour.

Gary Younge

Judged by what was necessary, Obama was inadequate; judged by the alternatives, he was a genius. He was elected in the full bloom of the financial crisis, when change for many was not simply a slogan; it was a real and urgent need. But under his presidency, the gap between rich and poor and black and white grew; Guantnamo is still open; the financial system that caused the crash remains intact and unrepentant; poverty, corporate profits, deportations and whistleblower convictions are up. True, he performed triage on a haemorrhaging economy; rescued the car industry; delivered some health care to large numbers on fairer terms, though its now unravelling; promoted alternative energy sources and cut carbon emissions. But given what the moment required, a Marshall plan for American cities and a new deal for the country as a whole, it was insufficient. One could blame this all on the Republicans. But Obama stood claiming he was uniquely placed to bridge those divides. And for some of his presidency, Democrats did control both houses and had a supermajority in the Senate.

That said, his victories saved the country from austerity, vice-president Palin and war without end or purpose. Preceded by George W Bush, he repaired the USs image in most parts of the world, returned verbs to sentences and facts to science. As Trumps dystopia becomes a reality, the nostalgia for his calm, measured and consensual solutions has begun early. He leaves the White House untarnished by scandal. These are no small things. They are also not enough. Could be worse is poor rhetorical compensation for Yes we can. He raised expectations he could not meet, contributing to the despondency and cynicism that dominated this election. He is just one man: he couldnt have done everything. But he could have done more.

EDEL
Illustration: EDEL RODRIGUEZ

Lionel Shriver

Lets put aside any bygone dismay at the outgoing American presidents chiding that a naughty British electorate voting to leave the EU would be ostracised to the back of the queue in the five to ten year negotiation of a US-UK trade deal that neither party requires anyway. (So much for the special relationship especially crap, apparently.) Mark my words: we will miss this man.

I never expected Obama to walk on water, and some policy disappointments are no surprise. High-handed de facto legalisation of illegal immigrants unconstitutionally overrode Congress. Guantnamo still hasnt closed. The Affordable Care Act kept private health insurance companies unaffordably in charge. But at least Obama tried, with partial success, to reform a broken health care system. The Iran nuclear agreement, taking out Osama bin Laden, extrication from Iraq (however temporary), instigating normalised relations with Cuba: well done.

Most of all, I will miss his style: his suave deportment; his droll sense of humour; his understatement and his physical energy; his articulacy; his charm; his grace. After eight years of George W Bush who, in comparison to the Potus in the pipeline, now seems a wit of Shakespearean scale it has been a great relief for many American expats to feel proud of their president again: Hey, that hip, sidling, intelligent guy at the podium? Thats our man! We exiles will have to sustain ourselves with that memory for at least four years of chronic embarrassment.

Rare is the president who enacts a fraction of his initial plans (which is downright comforting at the moment). Slow to get us out of the sinkhole of Afghanistan, at least Obama hasnt involved the country in yet another allout war, whatever you may think of inaction in the sinkhole of Syria and sometimes whats most important is what a president didnt do. During Obamas term of office, the US economy has been sort of OK; the rest of the world has not completely imploded. These days, thats all I ask.

Jane Smiley

There are several things that President Obama has done that have been very important. The first of these is breaking the colour line as far as the presidency is concerned. It had to happen, and it was always destined to flush out the racists and the resisters, who have consolidated themselves in the Republican party and have been so overt that they have succeeded in disgusting much of the rest of the country and reducing the moral standing of their party. President Obama and the first lady, Michelle, have been gracious and amused in the face of this (in the same position, I would have been alternately terrified and enraged), and as a result, I have come to admire them as exemplary human beings. Obamas accomplishments have been steady and incremental in the face of congressional intransigence, he has managed to improve the economy.

He has given us the beginnings of a healthcare plan, ridden the waves of louder and louder discussions of racial inequality, and introduced some policies to fight environmental degradation and climate change. But he has also given us (or allowed us to endure) drone warfare, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the non-prosecution of Dick Cheney and George W Bush for war crimes. In addition, even though Obama has paid more attention to Native American rights than any previous president, we have had to endure the Dakota Access pipeline debacle, amounting to unbelievable cruelty towards Lakota people and their supporters. The Army Corps of Engineers has at last blocked the permit. Can we thank Obama for this?

A president is both a world leader and a national figure. As a world leader, Obama has presided over increasing political and environmental chaos without much help from any other leader (remember David Cameron?); I think he has done the best he could not to engender more chaos. As a national leader, he has engendered more chaos, but it is necessary chaos a loud and meaningful return to the question of what constitutes the real America. The final answer is still up in the air. This election year, we had our choice stick with the corporatocracy (Clinton), try to improve the structure (Sanders), boil it down to a living hell (Cruz), or throw it all away (Trump) and we still cannot decide.

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Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Candace Allen

The grace. The all-encompassing, abiding, and amazing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool, no matter what came his way, be it birtherism or monkey memes, gross disrespect or counter-constitutional misbehaviour. The commitment. To the demands of that impossible job, to equality and science and the angels of his better nature in the face of an opposition which, for the first time in the history of the republic, would rather the country fail than the black man succeed. The intransigence of that opposition was surprising, but he never flinched nor doubled down; not only because this was the job, but because he was the first African American elected to that role. There could be no hint of shirking as he was carrying the dignity of our race as well as our republic on his shoulders. And being alright with that.

Obama has made my heart dance; the entire family has.

Which is not to say that its been a perfect time. Im not sure that anyone could make a better job of the mess that is Syria, but I wanted Guantnamo closed. The Nobel peace prize when he had barely begun was absurd; the financial indulgence of Israel in the face of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahus Palestinian policy and general disrespect wearied my soul. But I ask those who chide that he might have cleared legislative gridlock had he been more a back-slapping arm-twister in the manner of Lyndon B Johnson, do you think those Republican recalcitrants just managing to mask their racism would have acquiesced to such a touch? Obamas mixed-race identity and his being at peace with all facets of this identity is the very embodiment of E pluribus unum but they couldnt see their reflection in him.

Their preference?

Obese entitlement and inchoate bluster; but white as they are white. From discipline in all regards to no self-control at all. From respect for and aspirations toward Enlightenment principles to the conning posture that facts are superfluous as he surrounds himself with a crew of pantomime villains that would be laughable if they werent so terrifying. I will not say his name. He is not my president. Count me among the resistance, my eyes steady on the prize.

Benjamin Markovits

Obama featured briefly in my last novel. He arrives at a political fundraiser, gives a speech, and afterwards gets involved in a game of pickup basketball. The speech, in some sense, was the easy part. Obama is a terrific speaker, and when you try to copy him, its one of those moments when another writers style has become fair game as if your character had left some notes lying around, of the kind of thing he usually says.

There are his cadences: those rhetorical lists of two or three, as he works through an idea, a stump speakers trick for drawing out a thought until the next one comes along. His folksiness, of course, was literal, too. It seems all politicians need something to call us, and what you can get away with is one of the measures of your appeal. Ed Miliband struggled with friends, but I was always happy to be included among Obamas folks. And then those sudden shifts in register, from hip and appealing (Come on, man!), to something a little more Nancy Reaganish, schoolteachery and prudish (Thats not who we are!). Somehow he gets away with that, too.

Harder to convey on the page is the sense you get, hearing him speak, of a great actor delivering his lines. As if he both meant them and somehow was considering them at the same time like an actor who has intelligent thoughts about the quality of the screenplay even in the middle of his performance. He reminds me of Robert Redford, lets say, from All the Presidents Men. There is something in their eyes … and they use the same slight hesitations over a phrase, as if they might change their minds at any point. Even at his most emotional or inspirational, Obama keeps a certain amount back a detachment that comes across for some reason as dignity and not evasiveness.

Cynthia Bond

I did not believe Obama could win the primary in 2008. I was born in April 1961, four months before Obama. Although desegregation had been the law of the land since 1954, in Texas it was in name only. I grew up near Prairie View University a historically black college where my father taught. Id never seen a white person, except on television. When we learned we were moving to Lawrence, where my father would teach literature at Kansas University, my sister drew a white man with brown palms. This was all we knew. My entire childhood I saw racism, what had to be fought, what may, or may not be won.

I volunteered for Obamas 2008 campaign. The tenuous thread of hope becoming a thick cord I was a believer. I cheered with my three-year-old daughter when he won, leaping and screaming with friends and their children. Then the inauguration. Then watching him fighting, making changes that shifted the face of the US. And I exhaled. I believed. Each time I saw him there was hope that anything was possible. Of course I could defeat the self-hatred Id been taught it was never mine.

I saw Obama win twice saw his hair turn grey. I saw his pain at the Sandy Hook school massacre, at the killings in Orlando, at the body count of black men and women killed by police. I saw the rise of white nationalism and hatred. Still he remained strong. Still he accomplished more.

I innocently believed that a nation that had elected Obama would never embrace a man who as president elect, has turned the US into his personal cash cow, doing things that even my partner, a government official, would be fired for doing. When I was a social worker I couldnt even borrow a dime from a client. It would be a violation of trust.

I am reminded, once again, that I am living in the racist country of my childhood. How could I have forgotten? What dream had I been living in?

I am a tangle of sorrow, pride, anger, and still hope. Mostly because Obama is still here, as a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again and because there are millions of us who will fight for what is good in America.

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Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle, and daughters, Malia, left, and Sasha, join performers on stage for the Christmas in Washington TV show in 2014. Photograph: White House Pool (isp Pool Images)/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Sarah Churchwell

I voted for President Obama twice, and if I were able to vote for him a third time, I would. This is not to say that I think his presidency has been without its serious, even calamitous, failures, the most important of which is his unwillingness to intervene in any meaningful way in Syria. I also feel that his excuses for kill lists and murderous drones are a serious betrayal of the principles upon which I voted for him.

But what will linger with me most powerfully about Obamas presidency, is the dignity and style with which he, along with Michelle Obama and their daughters, inhabited the White House. They are grownups in an infantilised, and infantilising, world. They are disciplined, distinguished, serious, proud. They are intelligent, humorous, compassionate. There was not a whiff of scandal; their standards are exceptionally high, and they expected the rest of us to measure up. Some people obviously resented that, but I found it a tremendous relief. My countrys response to this man of such obvious superiority, who happened to be African American, has been so vile that I still cant fathom it. But it wont destroy his legacy.

The Obamas changed the rules for what it means to inhabit the White House, and not only because they were the first black family to do so. They were also the first modern family to do so, to be informal yet classy, upright yet kind, and, most important, themselves. These are real people, and they are formidable people. Obama didnt get everything right, but clearly we shall not see his like again in the White House. One of the few shreds of hope to which I cling is the promise that once he leaves the presidency, he can take the gloves off. He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side.

Aminatta Forna

When Obama was elected president of the United States, I was happy but worried. I was worried by the fervour which accompanied his achievement. Obama talked about change and here were people taking him at his every word. The world was going to change! I never saw this feverish look on the face of a person of colour, only the faces of white people. The black and brown people around me were joyful, but we knew better than to believe in promises, however heartfelt they might be, because nothing is that easy. Yet here were some folks acting like his was the Second Coming, raising the bar so high, anything but transcendence would count as a failure. I believe they would rather have seen him martyred.

Over the coming weeks his legacy will be debated here in the US and all over. The ticks: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, Bin Laden. The crosses: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, okay theyll give him Bin Laden. The fact of the matter is we dont know what his legacy will be. Certainly, the Trump wrecking ball threatens to overturn parts of both his legislative legacy and foreign policy achievements. So what will Obama be remembered for most?

Grace. There is, I have seen, a deep love in many quarters for Obama which I have never witnessed for another American president in the years I have lived on and off in this country, and the love is rooted in the almost surreal levels of grace Obama and his family have shown in the last eight years: in the face of the Tea Partys antics, the obstructionism of Republican congressmen, willing to debase themselves and the principles of democracy in order to try to bring him down, the birther insults, the cries of you lie during a speech in Congress. Both his public behaviour and his personal behaviour have set a standard few presidents have ever reached, a combination of gravitas and warmth. Singing Amazing Grace in a Charleston church in memory of slaughtered churchgoers, his easy relationship with his daughters and deep love for his wife, the genuinely funny White House Correspondents Dinner speeches. Most of all, his refusal to show bitterness toward his enemies.

Of course, it was his dignity his detractors simply couldnt stomach, he transgressed the imagined boundaries of class and race. In his conduct, he was better than them. And so to cover their shame, they voted for a new president in their own image.

He provoked the best and the worst of the American people. The world will miss Obama. Deeply.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

CIA declassifies thousands of Nixon, Ford daily intel briefings

Washington (CNN)On his first morning as president, the CIA told Gerald Ford that Richard Nixon’s resignation the day before had probably left many adversaries, including America’s Cold War nemesis, the Soviet Union, “in something of a state of shock.”

“None of the potential trouble-makers has produced even a rumble,” according to the CIA. “It may be that many have not had time to consider how the situation might be turned to advantage,” since they had “probably not anticipated the situation to come to a climax so rapidly.”
    The CIA assessment is just one of many revealing glimpses on display in approximately 2,500 President’s Daily Briefs spanning the Nixon and Ford administration that were declassified this week.
    The inside look comes as both 2016 major-party contenders are receiving their first classified intelligence briefings as presidential candidates.
    The 28,000 newly declassified pages recall key moments in history and detail the kind of top-secret information conveyed to the president at the time, though some material remains redacted.
    During Nixon’s famed 1972 visit to China, his briefs discussed how hardliners were absent from the welcoming ceremonies and cited concerns that Japanese officials were feeling anxious about “being left behind” as part of the US-China rapprochement.
    A brief from 1969 describes Moammar Gadhafi, having recently come to power in Libya via a coup, as giving “an emotional” speech denouncing the presence of US forces at a base in Libya — though a brief given days after the coup said “it is too early to assess what a successful coup would mean as far as the two main US interests in the area are concerned i.e., US petroleum companies and Wheelus Air Force Base.”
    The CIA’s Historical Review Program described the briefs as the documents that were “the primary vehicle for summarizing the day-to-day sensitive intelligence and analysis, as well as late-breaking reports, for the White House.”
    Nixon and Ford had different approaches to how they handled the briefs.
    “Nixon, as a once practicing attorney, preferred to review the PDBs on longer legal size paper” than his predecessor, Celia Mansfield, the CIA’s Historical Programs Coordinator, wrote in a booklet accompanying the briefs publication.
    Nixon was also never briefed by the CIA directly, instead the National Security Council briefed the CIA-produced documents to the President, with then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger acting as “Nixon’s gatekeeper,” according to Mansfield. Kissinger wanted to be on top of issues to the extent that he asked for an afternoon brief as well. The brief was given every day but Sunday.
    Ford, on the other hand, received his briefs directly from a CIA official.
    He “requested more detailed reporting and analysis,” Mansfield said and his briefs were close to 20 pages long compared to Nixon’s, which tended to be about 10 pages.
    Despite even the most recent of the files being nearly 40 years old, portions of the briefs, including entire pages, remain redacted.
    The CIA published the briefs for presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in September.

    Read more: www.cnn.com

    Why tech’s titans are struggling to work together against Trump’s havoc

    Image: bloomberg via getty images

    On a daily basis, Stewart Butterfield roasts Donald Trump on Twitter.

    The Slack CEO is among the most outspoken leaders in the tech community when it comes to the new chairman, which induced it all the more surprising to consider his company missing from the list of 97 tech giants that signed onto an amicus brief resisting the recent Muslim travel banarguably the most unified, aggressive action ever taken by the industry on a political issue.

    Turns out, Slack wasn’t a holdout. They just got left off an email.

    “Slack heard about this when it appeared in the media and of course we support it, ” a Slack spokesperson explained over email Monday morning. “Its our understanding that a supplemental one is being filed and Slack will be on that list.”

    So runs the behind-the-scenes madness as tech companies big and small work to triangulate public policy , now, on a near-hourly basisoften trying their best not to stray too far toward activism or be seen as too close to the administration.

    As the tech industry has matured, many of its bigger players have begun to exert power in politics, thanks in part to deep pockets that can buy expensive lobbyists.

    Lobbyists can help push friendly policy, but they’re not crisis directors. Under Trump, even veterans like Google face a threat they haven’t quite ensure before.

    “The tech industry is younger historically, ” said Erik Grimmelmann, the president of the NY Tech Alliance, with decades working in tech under his belt. Trump’s recent actions have serve as a “wake up call” for better coordination. “I think the tech industry has had fewer people thinking about these matters than they realise they need.”

    Slow, tone-deaf answers have already cost some companies greatly. Uber in particular has born the brunt of the anti-Trump movement, thanks in part to its CEO’s participation in one of the president’s business council. He has since stepped down from the board. Elon Musk, however, kept his spot. His companies SpaceX and Tesla were also not part of the original 97 but were present at the next round.

    Slow, tone-deaf reactions have already expense some companies greatly.

    Many companies had clearly been hedging their wagers. Politico reported Tuesday that several of the tech giants who were on the original lawsuit or signed the amicus briefincluding Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebookdonated cash and service to Trump’s inauguration.

    Intel, despite represent one of the 97 signees, participated Thursday in what can only be described as an informercial, next to President Trump, at his desk, in the White House.

    Many of these companies and their CEOs tend to portray their work as having a higher purpose. Which attains the slow( and from time to time, contradictory) reply of tech companies to the administration’s actions magnified under a not-so-flattering light.

    Erica Baker, an engineer at Slack and an advocate for tech diversity and inclusion, summed it up Monday night at TechCrunch’s Crunchies eventanother Silicon Valley show now riddled with heightened nervousnes in the Trump era 😛 TAGEND

    Yet, with Trump taking such swift actions, as government contracts and future partnerships remain on the line, tech companies are still treading lightly, debating both internally and externally with their friends in the industryor foeson how and when to participate.

    “Were all trying to respond as quickly as we can”

    A spokesperson at a different tech company, who was one of the 97, asked which amicus brief Mashable refers to in a request for remark Sunday evening on if they were participating, prior to its official filing.

    “It’s hard for big companies to move quickly, and so the fact that 97[ companies] did that so quickly is a testament to the importance of the questions, ” Grimmelmann said. “It’s hard to get everyone to agree to the same speech instantly. Were going to see a lot of ongoing discussion in terms of what declaration of principles should be made.”

    Even before Trump, the tech industry’s relationship with the government was beginning to show signs of problems.

    The topic of encryption, for example, was a flowing dialogue with the White House under President obama. Following Edward Snowden’s leak of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, tech companies teamed up to cut access. In 2010, Google released the first transparency report, highlighting the requests of private information by the government.

    Tech companies also banded together following the FBI’s lawsuit against Apple, to access the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter. Tech companies do look for friends in these situations, taking ethical and legal stands on issuesdespite these stands, they remained in dialogue with Barack Obama, the so-called tech president.

    Yet, tech companies wespoke with said they did feel a sense of urgency for the purposes of the new administration. For one, immigration is an issue on which most tech companies can agree. There’s already a shortage of talented technologists, and many tech leaders and high-profile investors are immigrants themselves.

    Several companies who missed the opportunity or chose not to sign the original amicus brief have since issued their own letters to the court. The names include Fitbit, Postmates, Soundcloud, Spothero, OneLogin and GoDaddy.

    Now that the tech industry is beginning to move as one to oppose Trump, there’s more action in the works.

    A letter currently being passed around among tech companies features actual policy proposals , not only a broader look at why immigration is important. “We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system gratifies todays security needs and keeps our country safe, ” reads a draft of the letter, obtained by Bloomberg . “We are concerned, however, that your recent Executive Order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our countrys success.

    That piece, however, is still being debatedmeaning plenty of late-night emails and phone calls, trying to figure out how to strike the right balance.

    “Things are being pursued so fast, ” said a spokesperson at a tech company that did not sign the amicus brief. “You’re going to see so many of these that get signed.”

    Internet Association, a trade organization that includes Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Google, Snap( to name a few ), said it has been and will continue to be involved in dialogues like immigration but that is just one issue to discuss over the next four years.

    “Were merely in week three of the administration, ” told Noah Theran, spokesman of Internet Association. “While immigration is plainly a very important issue to the companies that we represent, as it is to many companies in the broader economy, there are going to be many other areas where we can agree and work together with the administration to help the internet thrive.”

    Read more:

    Most of Northern Ireland strongly backs abortion law reform, survey finds

    Three in four people back legal abortions for women pregnant through rape or incest and in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities

    A large majority of Northern Irelands population are in favour of reforming the regions strict anti-abortion laws and back legal terminations for women made pregnant through sexual violence, a new survey has found.

    Nearly 80% of the public in the region believe abortion should be legal when a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, according to the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

    The public attitudes survey, regarded as one of the most accurate barometers of social option in the region, also found that 73% of those polled think abortion should be legal in local hospitals in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities that is when if a pregnancy goes full term the baby will be born dead or die shortly after birth.

    Amnesty International, which has been campaigning for abortion reform in Northern Ireland, said these latest findings show there is overwhelming support for liberalising the anti-abortion regime in the province.

    Grainne Teggart, Amnestys campaign manager in Northern Ireland, said: Not only do a huge majority of people in Northern Ireland want to see abortion made available to women and girls in the tragic circumstances of sexual crime or fatal foetal diagnosis, but we know from a previous Amnesty survey that they also want to see abortion decriminalised and dealt with through healthcare policy.

    She added: Abortion is a healthcare and human rights issue. It is high time the law was changed in line with the overwhelming wishes of the public. Then women would no longer have to travel to England for an abortion and they and their medical carers would no longer be treated as potential criminals. Politicians in Northern Ireland and at Westminster must heed this demand for change.

    Many Northern Ireland politicians, including the Democratic Unionist party, who have been thrust into the role of potential kingmakers in Theresa Mays minority Conservative administration, oppose any liberalisation of the abortion laws. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.

    This has resulted in thousands of women and girls having to travel to Britain for terminations in private clinics. Earlier this week the supreme court in London ruled against a mother and daughter from Northern Ireland who had wanted to establish the right to have a free abortion in an English NHS hospital.

    A
    A mother and her baby protest alongside fellow pro-choice supporters outside the Public Prosecution Office in Belfast. They had gathered in support of a woman who was convicted for using abortion pills. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

    Abortions in Northern Irelands hospitals are only available to women and girls where their life or health is in grave danger; only 23 were carried out in 2013-14.

    The author of the report, Ann-Marie Gray, who is professor of Social Policy at Ulster University and policy director of the Access Knowledge Research institute, said: Northern Ireland currently has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Women who are viewed as infringing these laws and those who assist them are subject to harsh criminal penalties.

    These findings, based on the views of a representative sample of the Northern Ireland public, show that abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is out of step with public opinion. There is very strong support for changes to the law in cases where the life or the health of the pregnant woman is at risk, in cases of fatal and serious foetal abnormality and where a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

    Attempts by the former Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford to bring in limited abortion reform and allow for terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities have been vetoed by the combined votes of the DUP, some of the Ulster Unionist party and members of the Social Democratic and Labour party. In 2015 Sinn Fin changed its policy to support abortions in both parts of Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

    A number of Northern Irish women are facing prosecution over procuring abortion pills from pro-choice charities via the internet. In March on International Womens Day the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided two premises searching for abortion pills, including a workshop belonging to pro-choice Belfast campaigner Helen Crickard. No pills were found but Crickard said she felt violated and humiliated over the raid in the south of the city.

    In 2016, a 21-year-old woman was given a suspended prison sentence for buying drugs online to induce a miscarriage. She had been reported by her flatmates after they found out she had taken the abortion pills.

    A mother is facing prosecution for procuring abortion pills for her then underage daughter.

    Read more: www.theguardian.com

    Trump Adviser Schwarzman Condemns Hatred After Virginia Violence

    Blackstone Group LP‘s Steve Schwarzman, who leads one of President Donald Trump‘s business advisory forums, called for efforts to “heal” wounds and address causes of the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    ” Bigotry, hatred and extremism are an affront to core American values and have no place in this country ,” Schwarzman said in an emailed statement Monday.” Encouraging tolerance and understanding must be a core national imperative and I will work to further that goal .”

    Schwarzman is chairman of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of business leaders who advise the president on employment creation and economic growth. Tensions between executives and the administration rose Monday after Merck& Co.’s chief executive officer, Ken Frazier, resigned from a different White House business council, citing a need to” take a stand against fanaticism and extremism .”

    Trump was widely criticized by U.S. lawmakers and other officials for not denouncing white supremacists in a statement on Saturday in which he told ” many sides” were at fault for the violence. One girl was killed and many others were injured after a human in a automobile rammed a group of counter-demonstrators during a daylong melee in Charlottesville, where white supremacists and other detest groups had gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

    On Saturday, at a party in East Hampton raising fund for Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Schwarzman questioned criticism of Trump’s response, saying he didn’t think the president’s remark faulting” many sides” for the violence was far-reaching.

    Speaking from the White House on Monday, Trump denounced white supremacists and called racism “evil.”

    ” To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held accountable ,” Trump told, calling for unity.

    The advisory group led by Schwarzman continues to exam relations between the administration and top U.S. executives. Former Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the forum in February after Trump’s stance on immigration triggered criticism of the entrepreneur from customers and drivers.

    In June, shortly after Trump said the U.S. would leave the Paris climate accord, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger quit the group.

    For those remaining, there’s been little activity to present for the forum’s endeavours, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month. The administration hasn’t convened the groups for months or set firm dates for future sessions, the people said.

    Schwarzman, 70, is the co-founder and CEO of New York-based Blackstone, which manages $371 billion in private equity holdings, real estate, credit and hedge fund. He has a net worth of about $11.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    ( A previous version of this story corrected the spelling of Virginia in the headline .)

    Tech’s Wealthy Enclaves Hurt the Countryand Tech Itself

    On a dreary Thursday afternoon in March, the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, swelled with people who spend their lives trying to salvage the economies of America’s forgotten towns. Hailing from across the country, they hurried past Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in their sharp suits and jewel-toned dresses, each one carrying a different proposal for how to keep their cities and states afloat.

    Together, they reflected America’s diversity: a mixture of millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers, men and women of different races and religions. So no, they were not members of the United States Senate.

    They were startup founders, venture capitalists, and academics who had come to DC for the Rise of the Rest Summit, convened by AOL founder Steve Case and his investment firm to call attention to tech and innovation outside the coastal hubs where the industry remains largely cloistered. In a great marble-columned room, the Rest had gathered: people like Darcy Howe, a retiree who hosts dinner parties in her Kansas City, Missouri, home for early stage investors, and Jill Ford, a former angel investor from San Francisco who moved to Detroit to become the city’s head of innovation and entrepreneurship.

    “It gives you a real view of how small businesses are in many ways fueling America,” Ford told the crowd. “They’re the source of inspiration for young people as they’re getting introduced to what is possible for them.”

    The mood was light as the crowd snacked on soda and cookies and applauded each others hard work. But the very need for such an event underscored one of the country’s great 21st century divides: the deep economic imbalance between the tech industry in its enclaves and the rest of the American people.

    For too long, Silicon Valley’s rainmakers have poured the vast majority of their billions into businesses in just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. They’ve created showy islands of wealth in those places, exacerbating economic tensions now roiling Washington between coastal elites and the rural poor. Ironically, because the industry has concentrated its wealth, talent, and votes in so few places, it has simultaneously undermined its own political clout.

    Silicon Valley, in other words, has gerrymandered itself, helping to stir the ill will that empowers President Trump to bulldoze over many of the policies tech leaders care about, from climate protections to immigrant rights. The tech industry has become economically, politically, and culturally isolated from much of the rest of the US. As those entrepreneurs roaming the halls of the Senate hoped to make clear, it’s in tech leaders’ best interests—and the interest of the country—to start looking beyond the coastal metropolises they call home.

    Rich Getting Richer

    Ross Baird may be one of the only venture capitalists besides Peter Thiel who saw President Trumps win coming, and for good reason. Baird’s firm, Village Capital, has invested about 60 percent of its capital in states that Trump won. (Only about 15 percent of venture capital overall goes into those states.) As he traveled the country meeting entrepreneurs, Baird witnessed firsthand the frustration business owners and employees felt about the growing economic divide.

    “The way we allocate our resources in the investor world right now makes all other issues harder to solve,” says Baird, whose firm co-sponsors the Rise of the Rest effort with Case’s VC firm Revolution. “Over time, the best-off cities get better and better, and the worse-off lose more people, more businesses, more talent.”

    But the tech industry, confident in its belief it was creating a better future for the world, never paid much attention to that disparity. As a result, it systematically weakened its hand in Washington, Case argues. In the quid pro quo world of US politics, he says the tech industry has tended to hold government at a distance until it needs something. “People start coming to Washington, but only to deal with issues that are, frankly, selfish,” Case says.

    Little wonder then that representatives from other parts of the country would be reluctant to, say, fight for more worker visas to fill the engineering talent gap in US tech when their own constituents are underemployed. Or that they’d hesitate to fight for green tech when coal has served as the lifeblood of their districts.

    “If tech isn’t really in their districts other than people using iPhones and companies having computers, its harder for a member of Congress, even a member thats sympathetic, to put them at the front of the line,” says Rob Atkinson, founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

    If the tech industry wants more leverage at the federal level, Atkinson says, it needs to do a better job explaining to the rest of the country how it too can benefit from the economic upheaval tech is spurring. And then the tech industry needs to put some money behind ensuring those opportunities exist.

    To some extent, that’s started to happen. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been stoking speculation about a political run after pledging to visit 30 states in 2017. San Francisco-based Salesforce recently opened an office in Indianapolis, where it plans to hire 800 people. Those gainfully employed workers will earn their paychecks not far from where Carrier will keeping making air conditioners in the US, saving 1,100 jobs. But thanks to President Trump, most American have probably only heard of Carrier.

    “We’ve got to do a better job telling each other’s stories,” says Case. That’s one reason why Revolution recently hired JD Vance, author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy. After the election, Vance’s book became a kind of guidebook to the rural America that helped vote Trump into office. Vance, himself both a product of a hardscrabble rural upbringing and a principal investor at Peter Thiel’s firm, will help Revolution find and support new companies that further the Rise of the Rest agenda.

    Still, reorienting the tech industry’s entire worldview will take more than good storytelling. There is, after all, a reason tech has huddled around Silicon Valley, with its esteemed educational institutions like Stanford churning out a steady stream of capable coders and a venture capital industry that knows how to foster billion-dollar companies. While in theory the internet should make for a mobile tech workforce, the highly skilled workers tech companies need in order to thrive remain concentrated in big cities. Even Baird acknowledges that many of the Rise of the Rest companies are unlikely to deliver the sort of overnight exponential returns that the Valley’s investors are accustomed to getting. Often these companies have found their place in niche industries that just aren’t built to have a billion users. Investors in such companies often need to take a long-term view.

    ‘Over time, the best-off cities get better and better, and the worse-off lose more people.’

    That’s where he says Washington may be able to help. As senator Mark Warner (D-Virgina) noted when he spoke at the summit, the average length of time investors hold a public stock before selling it has dropped precipitously over the last few decades. That makes tech companies more risk averse and less likely to, say, open an office in the middle of Kentucky. “They’re only concerned about that next quarter,” he said, noting that Washington could craft legislation to encourage investors to hold onto their shares longer, which would give companies more room to diversify their investments and let them take root in places where growth might come more slowly but yield more widespread benefits to the economy.

    The good news is, especially after the presidential election, politicians are looking for ways to create jobs for people living beyond the coasts. And some in Silicon Valley are waking up to the realization that by expanding beyond their own ultra-pricey borders, they’re not just helping out middle America. They’re helping their own case in Washington.

    Read more:

    Robert Mueller team details millions in ethics disclosures

    (CNN)Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller and key members of his team revealed millions of dollars of financial holdings and previous legal work for companies that could figure into their investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to financial disclosures released Tuesday.

    According to the documents released by the Justice Department after CNN requested the disclosures, Mueller holds a roughly $3.5 million share in the Washington law firm WilmerHale. He also made tens of thousands of dollars delivering speeches to groups including Ford Motor Company, Citi bank and Banamex, a Mexican bank.
    Mueller and Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s former chief of staff at the FBI, both represented Facebook at WilmerHale before leaving for the special counsel’s office. And Jeannie Rhee, a senior lawyer on Mueller’s team, represented Google at WilmerHale before joining the special counsel’s team.
      The proliferation of fake news and pro-Trump messaging on major platforms, including Twitter, Google and Facebook, has drawn the interest of both federal and congressional investigators and could potentially play a key role in the investigations.
      The disclosures also showed Zebley had a WilmerHale partnership share of $1.437 million; Rhee’s partnership share and capital contribution interest totaled $2.063 million; and James Quarles, a senior lawyer on the team, had a WilmerHale partnership share of $5.889 million.
      A White House spokeswoman declined comment for this article. A request for comment from Mueller’s office was not immediately returned Wednesday morning.
      Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May to lead the department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The documents represented disclosures from five members of Mueller’s team and Mueller. CNN reported in June that Mueller had brought on 13 lawyers to work on the probe, though it’s unclear how many members of the team would have to submit the disclosures known as an Office of Government Ethics 278 form.
      In each of the financial disclosures with the Office of Government Ethics, ethics officials determined that Mueller and his team did not violate any ethics rules.
      But that doesn’t mean their team is immune to political attacks.
      Trump has termed the investigation a “witch hunt” repeatedly and said any investigation of his family’s finances would cross a “red line.” And Trump’s aides have, according to The New York Times, spent time digging into the histories of Mueller’s lawyers.
      CNN reported in June that three members of Mueller’s team donated a total of $56,000 to Democrats prior to joining the probe, according to campaign finance records.
      At the end of June, Trump alleged in a Fox News interview that “the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton.” Two of the now former WilmerHale attorneys did legal work connected to the Clintons. Zebley provided legal service to Justin Cooper, who helped manage Clinton’s private email server. Rhee represented the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit and Clinton herself in a lawsuit seeking access to her private emails.

      Read more: www.cnn.com

      What Trump tax report could mean for his campaign

      Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton’s campaign Saturday night seized on a New York Times report about Donald Trump’s 1995 tax records, in which the Times showed he declared a $916 million loss that could have allowed him to legally skip paying federal income taxes for years.

      The revelations threatened to put the controversy over Trump’s refusal to follow recent precedent and release his tax returns at the center of the presidential campaign less than 40 days before the election, after a week in which the Republican nominee has struggled to bounce back from a debate in which most analysts and scientifically conducted polls scored Clinton as the winner.
        His campaign vehemently pushed back on the Clinton campaign’s effort to turn the report into an “October surprise” moment, saying Trump has a “fiduciary responsibility” as a businessman to pay no more tax than legally required. It also charged that the report proved that the Times and the “establishment media” are merely an arm of the Clinton campaign.
        The report contains some of the most detail of Trump’s financial empire that has been publicly reported. It was immediately picked up by Clinton’s campaign, which has sought to make Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns a major issue of the campaign.
        Calling it a “bombshell report,” the Clinton campaign said the Times’ article “reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever.”
        The Times’ report shows Trump that year declared a $916 million loss and lists tax benefits he used after a turbulent financial period for him in the early 1990s. The paper, citing tax experts, said Trump could have used his loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income for nearly two decades.
        The paper says it obtained the three pages of documents when they were mailed to a reporter last month. A postmark indicated the documents were mailed from New York City, and the return address claimed the envelope had been sent from Trump Tower.
        The paper did not look at his federal return. It obtained one page of his New York State resident income tax return as well as the first page of New Jersey and Connecticut nonresident returns.

        Trump's

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        CNN has not independently verified the documents’ authenticity.
        Trump himself responded via Twitter on Sunday morning, saying: “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them. #failing@nytimes.”
        “I have created tens of thousands of jobs and will bring back great American prosperity. Hillary has only created jobs at the FBI and DOJ!” he added.
        In its statement issued Saturday night, the Trump campaign said the GOP nominee has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in other taxes, including property and real estate taxes.
        “The only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained, a further demonstration that The New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests,” the statement said.
        The Trump campaign statement was notable because it did not directly deny the allegations in the Times report. It also noted that though Trump had paid some taxes, it did not specifically say he had paid income tax.

        A central issue

        Trump has maintained that his tax returns in recent years are under audit and that he has been advised by his lawyers that it would be unwise to release them while that process is going on. However, there is no legal reason why someone under audit cannot make their tax records public while they are running for office. Candidates for president have released their tax returns for decades.

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        Trump is also playing with fire in refusing to release his tax returns.
        In the last presidential campaign in 2012, for example, Republican Mitt Romney’s resistance to releasing his tax returns was exploited by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
        Romney’s eventual decision to release tax returns also hurt him when it emerged that because most of his income as a former venture capitalist came from carried income and capital gains, he paid an effective tax rate of only around 14%. Although he was compliant with the law, it was easy for the Obama campaign to portray him as out of touch with the struggles of everyday Americans who have to pay higher tax rates on lower levels of income.
        It would not be hard for the Clinton campaign — under pressure from Trump’s appeal in Rust Belt swing states left behind by globalization and a transforming economy — to make a similar argument.

        Read more: www.cnn.com

        What I learned reading a book about every chairperson

        Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
        Image: Joe Raedle/Pool via AP

        Editor’s note: This is the 44th and final! entry in the writer’s project to read one book about each of the U.S. Presidents in the year prior to Election Day 2016. Follow Marcus’ progress at the @44in52 Twitter account and the 44 in 52 Spreadsheet.

        Well, here we are, finally, at the end of the project.

        And what a time to end it. An unprecedented election came to a stunning close on November 8, 2016 as Donald Trump shocked everyone including himself by defeating Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

        It’s fitting that the final book for this project revisits other incredible turning points from previous elections. John Dickerson’s Whistlestop (based on his popular Slate podcast) unspools wild tales from the presidential campaign trail throughout history, many with threads that brought the 2016 campaign to mind.

        Take the career of James Callender, a nefarious mudslinger of the worst sort who was employed (on the down-low) as an attack dog by Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 election. Callender called President John Adams a “hermaphrodidical character.”

        That was just a small slice of the rhetoric Callender used against his enemies (including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton). Some of his language (“vile” and “depraved”) definitely resonate after an election in which “nasty” and “deplorable” were dominant adjectives.

        Then there was the time private messages between a candidate and business associates turned into an investigation that blew a presidential campaign wide open. This wasn’t emails and Wikileaks, but a series of letters written by James G. Blaine showing how he’d used his power as House Speaker to benefit railroads he’d invested in.

        The letters became the centerpiece of a corruption investigation in 1876. Blaine was able to wiggle his way out of trouble, but he would lose that year’s Republican nomination to Rutherford B. Hayes. The letters would haunt him again in 1884, when Blaine won the nomination but ultimately lost to Grover Cleveland (in spite of the scandalous fact that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock).

        Dickerson, whom you may recognize from CBS’ Face The Nation and his excellent job hosting GOP and Democratic primary debates, is able to relate history in a conversational tone. There’s none of the dryness that plagued me plenty of times during this project, especially when reading about some of our early, mid-tier presidents (Martin Van Boring, anyone?).

        Bonus points for being a book that, spun out of a podcast, works quite well as an audiobook, too.

        But through all the stories, asides, and jokes, Whistlestop never loses sight of the overall theme: presidential campaigns are a dirty, unpredictable business.

        What we witnessed in 2016 was a nadir of sorts but it’s far from the only election where things got crazy on the stump.


        And then we came to the end. What a ride.

        There were times where I really didn’t think I’d make it, most notably when it took me damn near a month to get through the Grant bio. Then there were times I was able to burn through books so quickly, I read two for Teddy Roosevelt.

        There are plenty of presidential biography lists I could make after this project like my favorites (Adams, T. Roosevelt), the most surprising (Polk, Truman, T. Roosevelt), or the worst (Hoover, Buchanan).

        And there were plenty of unbelievable quotes from salty presidents and reporters alike.

        But far more lasting to me will be the overall arc of this journey, seeing the bigger picture in how each man (still no women, huh?) shaped the office, and how the office in turn shaped the country.

        I began the project familiar with the story of the Founding Fathers hammering the nation into being, but gained a more detailed awareness of how America found its way to Civil War with presidents like Zachary Taylor, John Tyler and Polk setting the stage for what finally happened under Buchanan and Lincoln.

        I saw how jolting the transitions could be sometimes going from Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, say, or Clinton to Bush.

        And, yet, the Republic survived.

        Most surprising, though: I’m ready to keep going. It reminds me of when I ran my first marathon 12 years ago as part of a huge change in lifestyle. I swore there was no way I would ever run another.

        Two months later, I was already signed up for my second.

        Right now, even as I’m happily taking a break to catch up on a stack of unread non-presidential books, I’m already planning what president I’ll revisit. Maybe I’ll pick up Caro’s much-praised LBJ series, or maybe Jon Meacham’s Andrew Jackson book or … the list goes on.

        And it keeps growing.

        The Twitter handle @44in52 will live on, too. The greatest thing about the project has been the feedback from fellow enthusiasts from different backgrounds, and the conversations that ensued.

        The partisan fire so present on Twitter this election cycle has been absent; it’s been a great back-and-forth about history’s assessment of the presidents and how it changes over time. (Feel free to join in!)

        It hasn’t always been easy or fun. But I’m glad I did it in the midst of an unprecedented 2016 race, putting the rhetoric and the power of the office in perspective. And I finished within a week of the deadline! Not too shabby.

        Next up will be a spin through movies and documentaries about the presidents, from the numerous films available from PBS to the film version of the musical 1776 because, well, why not?

        In short, this really isn’t the end it’s more of a transition.

        Days to read Washington: 16
        Days to read Adams: 11
        Days to read Jefferson: 10
        Days to read Madison: 13
        Days to read Monroe: 6
        Days to read J. Q. Adams: 10
        Days to read Jackson: 11
        Days to read Van Buren: 9
        Days to read Harrison: 6
        Days to read Tyler: 3
        Days to read Polk: 8
        Days to read Taylor: 8
        Days to read Fillmore: 14
        Days to read Pierce: 1
        Days to read Buchanan: 1
        Days to read Lincoln: 12
        Days to read Johnson: 8
        Days to read Grant: 27
        Days to read Hayes: 1
        Days to read Garfield: 3
        Days to read Arthur: 17
        Days to hear Cleveland: 3
        Days to read Harrison: 4
        Days to read McKinley: 5
        Days to read T. Roosevelt: 15
        Days to read Taft: 13
        Days to read Wilson: 10
        Days to read Harding: 3
        Days to read Coolidge: 7
        Days to read Hoover: 9
        Days to read FDR: 11
        Days to read Truman: 14
        Days to read Eisenhower: 11
        Days to read JFK: 10
        Days to read LBJ: 6
        Days to read Nixon: 6
        Days to read Ford: 4
        Days to listen to Carter: 2
        Days to listen to Reagan: 8
        Days to read GWHB: 8
        Days to read Clinton: 9
        Days to read GWB: 8
        Days to read Obama: 6
        Days to read ‘Whistlestop’: 5

        Days behind schedule: 5

        Read more:

        Trumps Short List for Fed Chair Features These Hawks and Doves

        Here’s a look at the candidates President Donald Trump is considering over the next few weeks to nominate as chairman of the Federal Reserve and where they stand on monetary policy.

        Trump has met with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell and former Governor Kevin Warsh as he considers his choice to head the U.S. central bank, three people familiar with the discussions said last week. Stanford University economist John Taylor is also on the list of recommendations put together by Trump’s advisers. There’s no clear front-runner and outlier candidates haven’t been ruled out.

        Trump has said he expects to make a decision on the Fed-chair search this month. That’ll kick off a months-long process of Senate confirmation before Yellen’s current term expires in February.
         

        Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

        Janet Yellen

        Hawk or Dove? Yellen, 71, has had a track record of keeping rates low over her four-year term. She has consistently supported gradually tightening policy and gradually unwinding the balance sheet. Yellen has been a “super-dove,” though “sprouting a few hawk feathers,” Amherst Pierpont Securities Chief Economist Stephen Stanley said.

        Last month, Yellen said it’s uncertain exactly why inflation has been running below the Fed’s 2 percent target — which it has mostly missed for the past five years. Weak inflation “strengthens the case for a gradual pace of adjustments” in rates.

        Regulatory Views: Yellen has defended stricter banking rules introduced after the 2007-2009 financial crisis. “Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest,” she said in August.

        Pros: Trump told the Wall Street Journal in July that he favors low rates, adding: Yellen has “historically been a low-interest-rate person.”

        Cons: Yellen is a Democrat appointed by Barack Obama who’s led the regulatory policies the Trump administration is seeking to change. She’s an academic, while the administration has preferred installing business people into top positions.

         

        Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

        Gary Cohn

        Hawk or Dove? From the little we know, Cohn would likely be at least as dovish as Yellen. In 2015 when Cohn was still president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., he questioned Yellen’s plan to hike rates, saying she had “no legitimate argument to raise rates without inflation being close to — or having some inkling that it’s approaching — 2 percent.”

        Cohn, 57, has criticized the Fed’s move toward transparency, arguing in a March 2016 speech that the central banks’ “very definitive forward guidance has gotten the markets very confused.”

        Regulatory Views: In February, Cohn said rolling back regulations is a central priority for the White House. “We need to deregulate and cut down the regulatory process to grow jobs in this country.”

        Pros: Cohn, who has helped lead the president’s drive on a tax overhaul, would seem to meet Trump’s twin goals of wanting low interest rates and pushing deregulation. Most Republican policy makers are more hawkish, by contrast.

        Cons: Cohn’s prospects have dimmed after he publicly criticized remarks the president made in the wake of racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Cohn was at Goldman when the firm engaged in some of the era’s most controversial trades, and he helped manage the firm’s pre-crisis bet against the housing market. That background would be sure to be scrutinized in any congressional hearings.

         

        Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg

        Jerome Powell

        Hawk or Dove? The Fed governor was rated as neutral on monetary policy by the Bloomberg Intelligence Fed Spectrometer. He’s never dissented on the Federal Open Market Committee since taking office in 2012. A survey of 30 economists in March found he was slightly more dovish than average Fed central bankers.

        Powell, 64, in August presaged  comments by Yellen that the softness in inflation this year was a “mystery” and said the low price readings allowed the Fed to be patient in raising interest rates. He also privately voiced skepticism of the third round of asset purchases – known as quantitative easing – launched in 2012, but ended up voting for the initiative championed by then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

        Regulatory Views: Powell this month said he wants to preserve gains from post-crisis reforms, though “we can do it more efficiently. That’s the process we are actively engaged in right now.”

        Pros: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin favors Powell, according to Politico. “Powell has Republican credentials, knows the board and FOMC well” and “has impressed with his grasp of monetary economics,” Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Peter Hooper wrote in a report.

        Cons: Powell’s continuity might not be as appealing as a bigger Fed overhaul for the Trump administration. Powell “appears to largely support” the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that increased regulations in the financial industry, which conflicts with plans by this administration on scaling back rules, Capital Economics Chief U.S. Economist Paul Ashworth wrote in a report.

        Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

        Kevin Warsh

        Hawk or Dove? The former Fed governor is among the most hawkish of the contenders. In January, Warsh said the Fed was close to achieving its goals of maximum employment and price stability. “Tell me again why interest rates seem to be so far away” from the historical target, Warsh said.

        Warsh, 47, has said central bankers should be concerned about elevated asset prices. “I see way too much complacency,” he said. “When I see volatility measures in the stock market and bond market at historic lows, if I were a central banker, I wouldn’t take comfort from that.” As a Fed governor, he opposed the second round of quantitative easing, then voted to support the stimulus to provide a greater consensus behind Bernanke.

        Regulatory Views: He co-wrote a commentary in July supporting the Trump administration’s plans for higher growth in part by reducing regulations. He has said Fed regulation “now micromanages big banks and effectively caps their rate of return.”

        Pros: His regulatory views fit closely to Trump’s so he would be more likely to overhaul rules as opposed to fine-tuning them. While less dovish than Yellen, “Warsh has never seemed doctrinaire on rates,” said Amherst Pierpont’s Stanley. Warsh also has a personal connection. He’s married to Jane Lauder, daughter of Trump friend Ronald Lauder and a global brand president at the cosmetic company founded by her grandmother, Estee Lauder.

        Cons: He’s the youngest and least experienced of the contenders. His concerns about inflation as a Fed governor have proven to be misplaced, as inflation has undershot the Fed’s 2 percent goal. His candidacy has attracted opposition from left-leaning activists, particularly for his cheerleading prior to the financial crisis of Wall Street innovations.

        Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg

        John Taylor

        Hawk or Dove? He’s likely among the most hawkish of the contenders. Taylor created a widely cited rule for setting interest rates that’s named after him. The 70-year-old has called for rules-based policies and argued the Fed has engaged in too much discretion. He’s also argued the Fed’s unconventional policies, including asset purchases, haven’t worked. “The Federal Reserve is a little behind the curve” in raising rates, Taylor said in January.

        A strict adherence to the so-called Taylor Rule would have required the Fed to hold interest rates higher during most of Yellen’s four-year term, though its policy prescription varies a lot depending on what assumptions are made about the economy’s potential rate of growth.

        Regulatory Views: Taylor has argued less regulation is key to pro-growth policies. “To turn the economy around we need to take the muzzle off, and that means regulatory reform, tax reform, budget reform, and monetary reform,” he wrote in his blog.

        Pros: Taylor has served in four presidential administrations. He was part of the Council of Economic Advisers under Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. George W. Bush named him undersecretary for international affairs at the Treasury. His Taylor Rule has been widely quoted by leading central bankers including those at the Fed.

        Cons: “The various iterations of the Taylor policy rule almost certainly would mean higher rates,” Bloomberg Intelligence economists wrote in report. “If Trump wants to push for 3 percent GDP growth, Taylor will almost certainly make the task all the more challenging.”

          Read more: www.bloomberg.com