Blog Posts by Walter Shapiro

  • Obama's history-defying decision to seek congressional approval on Syria

    President Barack Obama, according to background briefings by his aides, reached a fateful decision late Friday afternoon as he strolled along the White House lawn with his chief of staff Denis McDonough. Contrary to every expectation by his national security team, Obama concluded that he should ask Congress for authorization to bomb Syria.

    The full reasoning behind the president’s turnabout remains murky. He may have wanted to share responsibility for a risky strategy to punish the barbarous regime of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. Obama may have recognized the political dangers of attacking another Middle Eastern country without popular support at home.

    And the president, a former part-time constitutional law professor, may have also belatedly recalled the wording of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution that grants Congress the sole power “to declare war.”

    But whatever Obama’s underlying motivations and however the Syrian

    Read More »from Obama's history-defying decision to seek congressional approval on Syria
  • Dream for the 21st century: An America that is truly defined by equality

    For all the grainy black-and-white television replays and the smoothed-by-time recollections of the living participants, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington has inevitably taken on a sepia glow.

    Unlike the quarter million justice-seeking Americans massed at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on a warm August Wednesday in 1963, we know how the civil rights story of the 1960s played out. Both the legislative triumphs (public accommodations and voting rights) and the tears (assassination and riots) are etched in our collective memory.

    But reading the contemporary newspaper coverage and the histories with half a century’s hindsight reminds us how much has changed about America. A mid-August Gallup Poll in 1963 found that only 23 percent of those who were familiar with the upcoming march had a favorable opinion of this form of protest.

    The fear was omnipresent, even among white liberals who supported the goals of civil rights. John Kennedy had tried in vain to persuade the

    Read More »from Dream for the 21st century: An America that is truly defined by equality