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Archive of Articles in the "News" Category

Friday Talking Points -- Republicans Show Their True Colors

[ Posted Friday, January 27th, 2023 – 17:58 UTC ]

President Joe Biden gave a speech this week on the state of the American economy. On his watch, the economy has greatly improved as we all dug ourselves out of the pandemic recession together. So Biden deserves a victory lap. He also used the speech to draw a stark comparison between Democrats responsibly steering the economy and Republicans who apparently are salivating at the prospect of blowing it all up.

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Republicans Are Their Own Worst Enemy

[ Posted Wednesday, January 25th, 2023 – 16:32 UTC ]

The big fight shaping up in the new Congress is going to be over the debt ceiling, the news media tells us. Republicans are on one of their traditional "there's a Democrat in the White House, so we must now slash spending to the bone" quests, and so they're going to try to use the debt ceiling as leverage to force concessions from President Joe Biden and the Democratic Senate. But the big question, after you get past all the fulminating rhetoric, remains: What concessions? What are they even fighting for? And the answer, to me, lies in the past. Remember the big push to "repeal and replace" Obamacare? That's what seems almost certain to happen this time around, too.

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The Plot Thickens

[ Posted Tuesday, January 24th, 2023 – 16:35 UTC ]

This is all what should have happened last August. Also, at this point it's hard not to think: "Who's next? Jimmy Carter? Dan Quayle?" In fact, it's hard for me not to picture in my head right now the image of Attorney General Merrick Garland standing on a stage behind Oprah Winfrey, who is yelling into her microphone: "You get a special counsel... and you get a special counsel!... and YOU get a special counsel!!!"

This was my initial (and admittedly, rather giddy) reaction when the news broke that Mike Pence also had some classified documents in his possession, long after he should have turned them over to the National Archives. This complicates an already-complicated storyline, since Pence is now the third ex-president or ex-vice-president to have seemingly walked off with classified documents stuffed in a box with all the other papers they took with them when leaving office. And then nobody ever looked in the boxes until now -- at least in the cases of former Vice President Mike Pence and current President (but former Vice President and Senator, from when the documents were reportedly dated) Joe Biden. In the case of former President Donald Trump, the boxes at least should have been looked into, since he had already received and answered a subpoena for all documents marked classified.

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden's First Two Years

[ Posted Friday, January 20th, 2023 – 18:27 UTC ]

Two years ago today, Joseph Robinette Biden Junior was sworn in as the nation's 46th president. So how is he doing at his job? His approval rating in public opinion polls has generally improved since the midterm elections, hitting numbers he hasn't seen in a year. But those numbers are still south of 45 percent (on average), which is fairly common for a first-term president but certainly nothing to brag about.

Biden has had some notable successes as president, and some notable rocky patches as well. He entered office as the COVID-19 vaccines were becoming widely and freely available, and things seemed rosy on this front for his first year, only to get a lot grimmer as the Omicron strain hit much harder than any of the previous variants of the virus. All of a sudden we weren't done with COVID-19 and life didn't return to normal as expected. But since then, the virus has become almost an afterthought and didn't matter much to voters in the midterms (even though it had been predicted that it would be a major issue).

Biden's legislative accomplishments are more impressive than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. True, Biden did have a Democratic Senate and House to work with, but both of those had historically-slender majorities -- L.B.J., for instance, had as many as 68 Democratic senators to work with. Biden only had 50 -- including two who loved the media spotlight so much they didn't care if they torpedoed Biden's agenda in major ways. Biden also managed to pass some major bills with bipartisan support, which is almost miraculous, these days.

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Biden Needs To Speak

[ Posted Tuesday, January 17th, 2023 – 16:46 UTC ]

President Biden is a good politician in many ways, but there is one area where he can be rather weak at times -- reacting quickly to developing events. Something major happens, the news media makes a big deal out of it, and then the White House takes an interminable amount of time to react -- even when they were warned ahead of time. The most obvious example of this was the Dobbs Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade. Not only was the decision expected, but it had been telegraphed a month earlier by a leaked opinion draft (a rarity for the Supreme Court). But even given this head-start, the Biden administration was slow to react and took days before even deciding upon any real course of action. Currently, Biden is slow-walking his reaction to the scandal of classified documents being found at his former workplace and home. And so far, the drip-drip-drip of news has been met with a very weak and inadequate response from the White House.

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Friday Talking Points -- Joe's Garage

[ Posted Friday, January 13th, 2023 – 17:43 UTC ]

With apologies to Frank Zappa, this week's big political story might be summed up as coming from "Joe's garage." But we'll get to all of that in a moment, down in the awards section (it shouldn't be any mystery which one he's going to get). First, though, let's take a look at the other momentous things that happened during the past week.

This column, of course, measures weeks from Friday afternoon to Friday afternoon. As we were writing last week, the House of Representatives was still deadlocked over who would become the next speaker. This continued far into the night, until Kevin McCarthy finally emerged victorious. Weakened, bloodied, diminished... but finally victorious.

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The Big Difference

[ Posted Thursday, January 12th, 2023 – 16:55 UTC ]

Attorney General Merrick Garland has now announced the appointment of a special counsel to look into President Joe Biden's apparent mishandling of classified documents. This bombshell hit the political world earlier today and everyone has been furiously reacting ever since. Personally, when we first heard the news (earlier in the week) that an organization that Biden created (after he left office as Barack Obama's vice president) had turned over classified documents to the National Archives, we took a "wait and see" approach to writing about it. Now that the other shoe has dropped in a dramatic way, though, it's time for some reactions.

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A Parliament Of Badgers

[ Posted Monday, January 9th, 2023 – 17:51 UTC ]

After an excruciatingly-long battle, newly-anointed Speaker Kevin McCarthy began business in the Republican House of Representatives today. He's already reportedly having problems with the first order of business -- voting for a package of rules the House will operate under for the next two years. Some (especially on the left) are making bets on how long McCarthy will even be able to keep his gavel, since one of the new rules will allow any one House member to call what is essentially a "no confidence" vote to oust McCarthy at any time. Or to sum all of this up, the rollercoaster ride we all went through last week doesn't look like it's about to end any time soon.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Reign Of Chaos Begins

[ Posted Friday, January 6th, 2023 – 19:40 UTC ]

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez summed up the week better than anyone else, we thought, with her remark: "In chaos, anything is possible, especially in this era."

This is where we find ourselves on the fourth solid day of watching C-SPAN broadcasting what is normally a pretty sleepy affair: the vote to elect a new speaker of the House of Representatives. Normally, that is singular: "vote." We haven't had more than one vote in 100 years, in fact. But this week, we are already up to 13 votes, with the 14th scheduled (possibly, they could just adjourn again) for 10:00 Eastern time tonight. And nobody's sure if there is even an end in sight.

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Nihilists Gotta Nihil

[ Posted Thursday, January 5th, 2023 – 16:47 UTC ]

To sum up today's proceedings in the House of Representatives, we turn to the esteemed and well-respected political thinkers Monty Python's Flying Circus:

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