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There are two reasons why House Republicans are playing petulant games with the Sandy aid bill. One is the public reason: FEMA still has enough emergency reserves through February, and there's plenty of time to pass a bill extending FEMA funding during the new session of Congress, which begins tomorrow. Okay.

The private reason, and the real reason, is that House Republicans were irate about the spending provisions in the "fiscal cliff" band-aid that was forced down their throat last night by Speaker John Boehner and probably indicated to him, at a late hour, that another spending bill was just not going to wash....  More»

 
January 2, 2013, at 3:12 PM

It's fashionable to bash House Republicans these days as no-knowing Tea-Party-controlled rubes who are responsible for the destruction of the Grand Old Party. But who is responsible for the House Republicans? Proximately, the Tea Party movement and the intellectual/corporate forces behind it can take some credit for establishing a defensive weapon inside Congress that makes it very hard to compromise. But ultimately, both the Democratic and Republican parties are responsible for the strategy that has so polarized this chamber of Congress in the first place....  More»

 
January 3, 2013, at 3:14 PM

A House Republican conference on the brink of revolt a few days ago handily re-elected John Boehner to be their leader today, and from one perspective, that's a curiosity. What have Republicans won with Boehner as their leader? Not a popularity contest. Not the budget battle. Not much leverage to use in further fights with President Obama. He is not a party leader who is universally beloved by the GOP think tank/talk radio activist class (although GOP leaders rarely are). He is not even someone (unlike Speaker Dennis Hastert) who refused to bring a bill to the floor unless it had the majority of the majority (i....  More»

 
January 3, 2013, at 3:27 PM

There are two ways to look at the policy fights in Washington. One is that the just-completed fiscal cliff deal is one round of four, with each side emboldened to approach the next round with new wind at their backs. The other is that the fiscal cliff deal sets the tone for the next three battles, and each, while painful and full of theater, will resolve themselves somewhat predictably.

Remember: The debt ceiling expired at the end of the year, but the Treasury can move money around until the middle of February. That's "Round Two." Round Three is the resumption of the sequester spending cuts, which are mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act; half will come from defense, half will come from domestic spending. The budget deal delayed their implementation by two months, to March 2....  More»

 
January 6, 2013, at 1:13 PM

Soon after Barack Obama was first elected president, an aide told me that Obama hoped to make his mark on the Department of Defense in a very specific way: After then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stepped down a few years hence, Obama would nominate a strong Democrat to the post, establishing a precedent of sorts for the building and for the Democratic Party after years of perceived weakness on national security matters. Leon Panetta was a natural fit. But Obama, in nominating Chuck Hagel, a Republican former senator from Nebraska, has new priorities now that he's been president and understands the massive institutional and political obligations...  More»

 
January 6, 2013, at 11:17 PM

The twist looked gruesome. Robert Griffin III, the wunderkind quarterback of the Washington Redskins, was attempting to plant his legs and scoop up a fumbled snap, and the ligaments in his knee seemed to just disappear. His knee rotated about 90 degrees too far. Football fans were reminded of the injury suffered by Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in 1985.

On television, the producer of Fox's coverage mercifully ordered only a few replays. Griffin walked off the field on his own accord, said a few words to his coach, Mike Shanahan, and went into the locker room....  More»

 
January 8, 2013, at 9:38 PM

Soon we will learn the Oscar nominees for 2012. For history buffs, it's been a fabulous year, with so many great pictures to choose from. Here in Los Angeles, I've heard some friends debate whether Django Unchained or Lincoln deserves to win the Best Picture Academy Award, knowing for certain that both will be nominated.

Here's my verdict: Django Unchained is probably the best movie about slavery, ever.

I write this having enjoyed Steven Spielberg's Lincoln much more, and knowing that its screenwriter, Tony Kushner, tried to be faithful to the historiography in its broad strokes and the details. I write this having read Sean Wilentz's review of Lincoln in The New Republic, where he rightfully places the film high in the pantheon of portrayals of the Civil War....  More»

 
January 8, 2013, at 10:20 PM

I see no reason why the Senate won't confirm John Brennan, President Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser, to be the next director of the CIA. There will be pro forma inquiries into his past entanglements with the NSA's domestic surveillance program and his knowledge and approval of the CIA's "Greystone" torture protocols, but he will have ready answers for the questions and he will say plenty in private to soothe the concerns of those whose concerns need to be soothed.

Assuming Brennan becomes the DCIA, as he will thenceforth be acronymed, he'll inherit a powerful spy agency facing a set of tough questions....  More»

 

Piers Morgan had it easy. Radio show host and author Alex Jones threatened the rest of us with a "revolution" if the government decides to confiscate guns from the homes and glove compartments of law-abiding Americans. It's almost too easy to dismiss Jones as a fringe figure, especially since fringe ideas make their way into the mainstream with (exciting? alarming?) frequency these days. So let's take him seriously.

Let's accept his premise. Actually, let's dismiss it first but then turn around and accept it for the sake of argument. The government has not the means nor the mechanism nor the credibility to confiscate 100,000 guns, much...  More»

 
January 11, 2013, at 12:35 AM

Having spent seven months living outside of Washington, D.C., I'm still getting used to a couple of things. One of them is having friends for whom politics, American politics, simply does not exist. I drove a friend to the airport last night, and we happened to be flipping through the satellite radio channels, when my friend asked me, rather nonchalantly, "so when is the government going to start collecting the guns?" My friend is a liberal who has no exposure whatsoever to right-wing talk radio. But he hasn't read a newspaper in years, by his own admission. He doesn't have the time or inclination to engage in politics. It is simply an "other" to him. It took him a week to hear about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

So I was surprised to hear him ask a question whose premise is absurd....  More»

 
January 11, 2013, at 1:11 AM

The first thing you learn about Denis McDonough, the man President Obama will probably select as his next chief of staff, is that he is an addict. His addiction isn't dangerous, but it is one he will have to do without, what with his new cabinet status and Secret Service detail. McDonough likes to sweat. He bikes to work, even in the most treacherous conditions. It's when he does his best thinking. (Random tip: Work on your toughest work or personal priorities right when you get up, before you do anything else. Your brain is primed for it.)  

The second thing to know about McDonough is that his top qualification is that the president trusts...  More»

 
January 14, 2013, at 3:46 PM

The president of the National Rifle Association says President Obama is to blame for the surge in weapons stockpiling after the recent spate of mass shootings. He's right. But that's only part of the story. The reason why Americans are afraid is because the NRA exists to make them afraid, as does (as I and many others have explained) the echochamber that the conservative activist media lives in.

It's not that the NRA is trying to push up gun sales, although their corporate members I'm sure are happy with that as an after effect. (These corporations give heavily to the NRA's "non-profit" advocacy arms....  More»

 
January 14, 2013, at 11:29 PM

In 2011, President Obama was pilloried for, in the case of NATO's action in Libya, refusing to formally invoke the War Powers Resolution, which requires 48-hour notification to Congress anytime the United States participates in a war that Congress has yet to authorize. After such a formal invoking, the president would have 60 days to do the job before Congress had to give its assent. 

The administration said that its actions in Libya were mostly "non-kinetic," was in service of a U.N. resolution, didn't involve troops on the ground, and ultimately the NATO coalition that helped the country finish off its revolution was not led by an American commander. Most of the materiel involved in the Libya conflict belonged to the category of ISR — "intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance" and EW — "electronic warfare," although ...  More»

 

The president is, right now, in control of the debate about the debt ceiling. He is not in control of how the conflict with House Republicans, which is really a conflict within the House Republican conference, will end. In theory,  the U.S. treasury could simply print money equivalent to the balance between the amount Congress has authorized the government to spend and the debt-conditioned "ceiling" imposed on such spending by Congress. The U.S. dollar is not tied to any particular piece of metal, or "specie," and while minting a platinum coin and injecting it into the system (thereby allowing the Treasury to spend what it has been authorized to spend) could be inflationary, it is essentially a fairly neat solution to a problem that shouldn't be there in the first place....  More»

 
January 15, 2013, at 10:32 PM

From time to time, I'm going to pass along articles that the networked cognoscenti care about and take to Twitter to debate and comment. It's a useful way for me to get in a bit of curated reading at the end of the day, and I hope it does the same for you.

* Scientology is either a religion ascending (their own contention, bolstered by advertorials in places like the Atlantic), or a religion about to implode from a "real estate scam" and a new sure-to-be best-seller by Lawrence Wright. (BuzzFeed)

Obama to Bibi: Buzz off. Haaretz analyzes the personal relationship between the two leaders on the eve of the Israeli elections. Their conclusion: Obama is committed to Israel; Netanyahu.. he may just as well ignore.

Did the Syrian government use chemical weapons against its people?...  More»

 
January 16, 2013, at 3:13 PM

There was a weird word that emerged from the Detroit Auto Show this week: "Innovation."

The roster of new American cars is packed with innovations this year, outshining the latest offers from Germany and Japan. Two cases in point: the Tesla Model X, which, though at prototype stage, would revolutionize the electric car market if it became popular, and the 2014 Corvette Stingray, which uses the latest in lightweight materials and has an expected fuel efficiency of more than 26 miles per gallon. Indeed, the entire show seemed to be a showcase for technological advancements that both reflects and advances the demand for more environmentally friend cars....  More»

 
January 16, 2013, at 7:13 PM

Lance Armstrong has reportedly admitted to Oprah Winfrey that, yes, he doped, despite years of denials, obfuscation, lies, and evasions. Thursday, the first of two parts of her interviews airs, and already, even before we know what Armstrong has said, sports commentators are debating whether he will be able to rehabilitate his sure-to-be-tarnished image. 

That's odd. Armstrong cannot be admitted to our celeb image rehab mill until he admits he has a problem. If his motivation for conceding his lies is that he is faced with jail, or banishment, or fines, then he is not voluntarily confessing anything. He is changing what he does in order to avoid more pain for himself, and not because he has come to believe that he did was wrong. 

The bill of particulars is pretty bad, and the documentary evidence collected by world anti-doping authorities...  More»

 

Here are the headlines and headliners you'll be talking about today: 

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wants to raise $1 billion per year for transportation in his state, breaking with austerity-minded Republican governors elsewhere. Snyder is trying to mend wounds from a divisive legislative session that included the imposition of a "right-to-work" law in his state, where Democratic-leaning unions have long been influential. 

Mohammed Morsi, the President of Egypt, now says he wasn't referring to Jews when he said, two years ago, that Egyptians must learn to hate "Jews," and called Zionists "bloodsuckers," and "pigs," and a bunch of other things. (His words were revealed by an opposition TV station, which, if you think about it, is a small sign of political health....  More»

 
January 17, 2013, at 11:14 AM

Boy (stellar Notre Dame football linebacker) meets girl online. Boy falls in love; boy talks to girl on the phone. Boy allegedly meets with girl in person after a game in 2009. Boy tells ESPN he talks to girlfriend every night on the telephone; boy loses grandmother. Boy loses girl to leukemia within hours of losing his grandmother. Television producers see an angle; boy tweets his grief for girl; audience says "awww," Notre Dame has a hero; boy gets phone call from number he associates with the girl on Dec. 6; boy tells Notre Dame about formerly dead girl on Dec....  More»

 

Inauguration weekend begins! Here are the headliners and headlines making news today:

Obama's campaign: Does Barack Obama's brand transcend politics? The Obama campaign apparatus will soon become .. well, the name will be announced today. Let's call it Organizing for Action for now. It will be a 501(c)4 and headed by campaign manager Jim Messina. Hotline's Josh Kraushaar is skeptical that the new group will help build support for Obama's legislative agenda, noting that past outside efforts failed and most of the members of Congress Obama has to convince are not partisan Democrats. OFA  (OFA 3.0) means to do for Democrats what groups like Crossroads GPS tried to do for Republicans — serve as a central bank of money and direction for both short-term and long-term party crusades....  More»

 
January 20, 2013, at 5:30 PM

At the beginning of his first term, President Obama concentrated power in a handful of close aides, all of them working in the White House complex, all of them, save one, having the audacity to be longtime loyalists. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod worked hand-minus-a-part-of-a-finger-in glove on domestic policy. Valerie Jarrett, Obama's best friend, handled outreach, the president's personal affairs and style, and the business community. Foreign policy was determined largely by Obama's consultations with long-time advisers like Denis McDonough and Ben Rhodes, rather than by an integrative process where outsiders like National Security Adviser Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played roles as equals.

In some ways, Emanuel was ideal for Obama's first year: A force of nature, brimming with ideas, Washington...  More»

 
January 21, 2013, at 12:04 AM

Last summer, I wrote a short piece for GQ.com about the war on drugs.

According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.

Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all....  More»

 
January 21, 2013, at 10:43 PM

Who doesn't like a good cat story? 

A few months ago, during a vacation to Daytona, Florida, Holly the cat slipped away from her owners. In despair, Jacob and Bonnie Richter searched. They returned home sans kitty, assuming they'd never see their pet again. Two months later, an emaciated Holly turned up in a field about a half mile away from her home, 190 miles to the south, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

There is no explanation for this. Cats aren't known to be equipped with long-term direction-finding capabilities, and don't seem to have the mental mapping faculties of species like bats and penguins....  More»

 
January 21, 2013, at 11:15 PM

"A sharp call to action." (Christian Science Monitor)

"Unapologetic." (Huffington Post)

"Obama offers liberal vision for second term." (The New York Times)

A full-throated defense of the social safety net, an aggressive call for action on climate change, the first call for gay rights in an inaugural address ever, a slap at the political tendentiousness of House Republicans, a promise to uphold progressive values.

And yet: Will Obama be able to do more? Assuming Republicans don't immediately cave on deficit reduction, Obama's next big speech, to be delivered in February during the State of the Union, will by necessity be more practical....  More»

 
January 23, 2013, at 12:45 AM

Here are the headlines and headliners that will be making news today.

Israelis returned to power a right-leaning coalition, but elevated significantly the stature of a charismatic newcomer to politics, Yair Lapid, who used an American style "optimism" tour to persuade voters that the hellish recent past in Israel is redeemable. The name of his party is Yesh Atid, which means "There Is A Future." He ran on social issues and economic justice. Lapid served in the military like other Israeli politicians but significantly is not a member of the elite Sayaret Matkal, the country's Delta Force/SEAL Team Six equivalent, which has produced many of its prime ministers and political figures and two of the three major candidates in this election....  More»

 
January 23, 2013, at 11:05 AM

Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, was calm and grounded as he questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on warnings and indications before the Benghazi attack. And Rubio has aspirations that may mean that his colloquy with Clinton will make the 2016 clip reels. Scoring political points was not his intention, and Clinton answered respectfully.

But it was an exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican who has been obsessed with the rhetorical aftermath, almost to the point of myopia, that gave Clinton the chance to both vent her anger at what she saw as an irrelevant line of questions as well as demonstrate how formidable a political figure...  More»

 
January 23, 2013, at 4:20 PM

This is the first in what will I hope be an occasional series of posts about President Obama's fundamental project: Where he wants to lead the country and what he hopes the government will look like after he leaves office. His "project" encompasses more than his policies. It is better described as the deep structure of the state that the next president will inherit. Think of it as my best guess at the motivations for the president's judgments, not just on moment-to-moment decisions, but also about which decisions to make and when to make them. 

Obama, of course, cannot do whatever he wants. There are several statutory constraints. He is not a dictator. He cannot destroy the Republican Party, or completely remake the Democratic Party in his own image....  More»

 
January 24, 2013, at 1:30 AM

It's going to take a while before the Defense Department truly integrates women into the hundreds of thousands of combat positions that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened to them Wednesday. Each service and combatant command will have the opportunity to assess the social and financial costs of the policy change, and it's safe to say that a number of jobs will remain closed to women in the United States. But given that the change was endorsed uniformly by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the same body (with different chiefs) that had trouble staying on the same page on the lifting of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ban, the reaction from some has been, to borrow a sexist phrase, hysterical.

1. Tucker Carlson tweeted: "The latest feminist victory: The right to get your limbs blown off in war....  More»

 

When it came to AIDS, Ronald Reagan was far too late and billions of dollars short. That much is clear, as even a charitable rear-view-mirror-look at the history of the epidemic would show. No question that many of Reagan's top political aides held an animus for gay people. As the new documentary history of the ACT Up movement makes clear, a lack of political leadership was only one of the reasons why it took the medical community to take the "gay plague" so seriously.

But Reagan himself was not an instinctive homophobe.  While not a gay rights activist, he was ahead of many in his party in attempting to treat the gay men that he knew with dignity....  More»

 
January 27, 2013, at 8:05 PM

Fox News and Sarah Palin have agreed to a divorce of sorts. Their parting is a part of a Great Sort that's happening now among the personalities and interest groups that make up the Republican Party. Given how infrequently she appeared during the last campaign, it's hard for the "lame-stream media" that Palin crusades against to imagine that she'll be a force in the party again. Matt Lewis, who once called Palin the most significant Republican female voice in a generation, now wonders whether she was a one-hit wonder, a Kathy Troccoli for Whiteopia. Lewis makes the observation that Palin, a political persona with great potential, seemed more interested in the perquisites that came along with her sudden popularity: the television appearances, the instant adulation of crowds that cheered her name, the hint of power that came alongside instant ...  More»

 
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