Tag: president obama

Yale Press Podcast Episode 28: Trita Parsi on Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran

When President Obama took office in 2009, one of his most notable proclamations was his commitment to a more open foreign policy. During the 2008 presidential debates, then-Senator Obama openly declared the importance that the United States “talk to the Syrians and the Iranians”, remarking that those who think otherwise “ignore our own history.” The relationship between the U.S. and Iran had been strained under George W. Bush’s presidency and the first election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, worsening the now-institutionalized animosity between the two nations dating back to the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis. No sooner had Obama been sworn into office than he attempted to extend an open hand towards an Iranian clenched fist. With U.S.-Iran relations reaching new strains amidst recent developments on sanctions against Iran, our retrospective glance is bound to follow the trajectory of the United States’ role in the Middle East, where our presence in Iran’s neighboring countries has been of paramount concern for relations between the two countries. Already the analysis has begun.

In his new book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, Trita Parsi, has conducted new research through interviews with White House and top-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Israel, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil to propose a startling idea: what if diplomacy has yet to be fully pursued despite perceptions and the course of events at the start of Obama’s presidency? Parsi uncovers the full details of the diplomatic encounters between Washington and Tehran during Obama’s early presidency, assessing how and why Obama’s diplomacy ended up being a single roll of the dice: It had to work either immediately—or not at all.

Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of the award-winning Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, returns to the Yale Press Podcast with host Chris Gondek to talk about A Single Roll of the Dice, published this week. Today, you can read a book excerpt on TheAtlantic.com and our podcast interview is available now from our website, from iTunes, even right here on the Yale Press Log; always for free. Listen and go!


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Paul Starr on American Health Care Reform

Paul Starr at the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates, January 11, 2011, credit Chris Vultaggio

Following his 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr has written a new in-depth account of the developing health care reforms since, with an insider’s perspective from his days as senior advisor to President Clinton on health care policy. The book, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform, addresses the history of how and why health care is more of a flashpoint in America than in any other democracy, tracing reform from its beginnings to its current uncertain prospects. Given the timeliness of the issue in current political debates, not to mention the recent history and influence of Romney-led Massachusetts reform on the Democratic model, we sat down with Starr to pick his brain about how far—relatively speaking—we’ve come and where we have yet to go.

Yale University Press: What do you most want people to understand from reading this book?

Paul Starr: I hope the book illuminates how an issue that is more or less settled in every other democracy became a seemingly intractable political problem in the United States.

It did not have to turn out this way. The legislation adopted in 2010 has its roots in moderate Republican proposals. But America’s polarized politics make it difficult to see the reforms clearly and put them in historical perspective. I hope the book helps to provide that understanding.

YUP: What’s the relationship of Remedy and Reaction to your 1984 book, The Social Transformation of American Medicine?

PS: In some ways it’s a sequel, but each of its three parts has a somewhat different foundation.  Part One, about how health-care reform and the health-care system took shape during the twentieth century, presents the same kind of social and historical analysis as Social Transformation did.

But Part Two, which deals with the parallel stories of the Clinton health plan and Republican health reforms in the Gingrich and Bush years, also reflects my observations inside the Clinton White House. That’s a kind of experience not usually available to historians.

Finally, Part Three, about the battle over health-care reform under Obama, combines journalism and historical analysis because it draws on interviews with participants, many of whom I know from my prior time in Washington.

YUP: Why did Obama succeed where Clinton failed?

PS: Between 1993 and 2009, the biggest change was the emergence of a consensus about the basic elements of legislation among reformers, major interest groups, and leading Democrats in Congress. The reforms adopted in Massachusetts in 2006 as a result of Mitt Romney’s leadership were critical in shaping that consensus.  Obama accepted that approach; he didn’t originate it. Romney probably deserves more credit for the basic architecture of the national reforms, and I hope one day he proudly accepts that credit.

YUP: Didn’t Obama’s leadership matter?

PS: If Obama hadn’t decided to make health-care reform a priority as president, it would never have passed.  Why did he take it on? His earlier history didn’t indicate a deep commitment to health-care reform. I think the 2008 presidential campaign was crucial because of the pressure from the party base to confront the issue, plus an accident of history: he ran into Hillary Clinton on the way to the nomination, and debating her forced him to master health policy. Perhaps most important, the support for reform from key stakeholder groups and members of Congress changed the political calculus on health care. That’s what made it a better bet than climate legislation.

Paul Starr is professor of sociology and public affairs, Princeton University, and co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect. His 1984 book The Social Transformation of American Medicine won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history. A senior advisor on health policy in the Clinton White House, he writes frequently on national politics. You can follow Remedy and Reaction on Facebook.

More from Michael Takiff: What Obama Can Learn from Clinton

Michael Takiff appeared last week on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown to talk more about his new A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told By Those Who Knew Him: Michael Takiffpresidential biography, A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him. He discusses the current political issues facing President Obama and makes a few astute comparisons to what President Clinton was handling after the 1994 mid-term election, and what Obama might be able to learn from his nearest Democratic predecessor.

If you’re around town, be sure to catch Takiff tonight at McNally Jackson Books, 7pm.


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