Archive for December, 2012

Is Christie’s weight a problem? Unfortunately, it probably is

It’s an uncomfortable question, which means that it’s right in Barbara Walters’ wheelhouse. As she put it to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

For those who can’t watch video, here’s how the exchange goes:

WALTERS: “There are people who say that you couldn’t be president because you are so heavy. What do you say to that?”

CHRISTIE: “It’s ridiculous. I mean, that’s ridiculous. I think people have watched me for a number of weeks in Hurricane Sandy doing 18-hour days, so I don’t really think that would be a problem.”

I’m not so sure that’s true. As Christie acknowledged to Walters, he isn’t merely overweight, he’s seriously overweight. That struck home during last night’s broadcast of the Hurricane Sandy charity concert in New York, which Christie attended. When the camera panned to Christie, standing in a crowd surrounded by other people, the size differential between the governor and those around him was startling.

Some have raised the question of whether Christie’s weight …

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In campaign, GOP was simply less competent, efficient

One of the key selling points for Mitt Romney as president was his competence. This was a guy who knew how to run things. As a successful business leader, he had demonstrated the ability to transform an organization to make it operate faster, more efficiently and more effectively, and if given the chance he could do the same in government. That argument was extended to the overall Republican “brand’ as well, with the party selling itself as the party of business, run by people in business suits whose skills and work ethic were honed by free-market competition.

And of course, the primary way in which such claims are tested in the political arena is through the operation of a campaign. So it’s been interesting to see a string of post-election stories along the lines of this piece from The Washington Post:

Senior Republican campaign operatives who gathered over beer last week in Alexandria for a post-election briefing were taken aback by what they were told. A nonpartisan …

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Fed sends reinforcements into battle against unemployment

Ben Bernanke (AP)

Ben Bernanke (AP)

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee has voted 11-1 to continue and even accelerate its infusion of cash into the national economy. More importantly, perhaps, it announced that it will continue that policy as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent and projected inflation remains below 2.5 percent.

That represents a new, even historic level of commitment on the Fed’s part. In effect, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the committee have re-committed themselves to an analysis that joblessness, not inflation, remains by far the biggest challenge to the economy, and that the Fed is obligated to address that challenge aggressively.

With unemployment still at 7.7 percent, well above historic averages, and inflation at roughly 2 percent, well below historic averages, that’s hardly a controversial conclusion. It’s also important to note that in making this decision, Bernanke and the committee are merely carrying out the responsibilities given them …

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The taxpayer, the Falcons and the question of priorities

As owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank runs a class operation that represents the city well. And as such arrangements go, the proposal to build a $1 billion Falcons stadium downtown with $300 million in taxpayer subsidies is reasonable and probably fiscally sound.

But still ….

The NFL is easily the most profitable sports league on the planet. All 32 of its teams are included in Forbes’ magazine’s list of the 50 most valuable sports franchises on the planet. (The Falcons are listed at 35th with a value of $831 million, up from $545 million when Blank bought the team in 2002.) And because live sports programming is becoming more and more valuable to advertisers, lucrative new contracts will bring more the league more than $6 billion a year in TV revenue beginning in 2014. That represents a 50 to 60 percent increase.

Now contrast that prosperity with the fiscal plight of state and local government. Thousands of workers have been laid off in Georgia, including police …

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GOP leading a crusade with very few followers

Poll after poll is reporting the same basic finding: the American people are worried about the deficit, but they do not support cutting Medicare or Medicaid, nor do they back raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

gopoll

The latest survey to confirm that finding comes from McClatchy/Marist. As you can see, the voters in the chart above oppose cutting Medicare by a 42-point margin and oppose Medicaid cuts by a similar margin. By an almost 2-1 margin, they also say it is more important to compromise than to stand on principle.

But here’s the twist: The numbers in the chart above are all from voters who self-identified as Republicans. There’s not an independent or Democrat among ‘em. And overall, the level of support or opposition among GOP voters is not that different from voters in general. On the issue of Medicare cuts, for example, just 26 percent of Republican voters support the idea, compared to 23 percent of voters in general.

So again, if Republicans in Washington want to …

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The biggest scandal in 50 years, right before your eyes

If you start naming the biggest political scandals of the past 50 years, Watergate and Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” mistake would have to be included. So would Ronald Reagan’s decision to secretly trade arms for hostages, along with the mass deception and self-deception perpetrated by the Bush administration to get us into Iraq.

However, while presidents Nixon and Clinton were led astray by their weakness for power and sex, neither consciously put the security of the country at risk. Reagan made a serious mistake, but he was at least motivated by sincere concern for the lives of U.S. hostages. The invasion of Iraq is a closer call, but even there, President Bush and his administration weren’t consciously choosing to do damage to our country.

By that standard, the most disturbing political scandal of the past half century is playing out today before our very eyes, to too little notice or comprehension. Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. …

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Speaker Tom Price? (Almost) certainly not

tomprice

House Speaker Tom Price, R-Ga.?

Heaven help us, and the Republican Party, should that come to pass. Such a development would produce a mess that would make Congress of the last two years seem like a smoothly functioning machine by comparison.

Yet according to Robert Costa, writing in National Review:

“Should a debt deal go sour, the buzz is that Tom Price, a 58-year-old physician from Georgia, may challenge John Boehner for the speaker’s gavel.

“Price is the person we’re all watching,” says an aide close to House leadership. “We know he’s frustrated, but we don’t know much else.”

Would Price really make a bid to unseat Boehner? And if so, could he win? (In response to the Costa piece, Price’s spokesperson now says the congressman “is not running for speaker,” which is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is its use of present tense rather than future tense; i.e. “is not running” vs. “will not run.” Nobody suggested that he “is” running. And in an …

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How John Boehner came to love the word ‘compromise’

What does it sound like when bullies discover that they’re losing a fight that they started, one that they’re likely to keep losing for the foreseeable future?

It sounds very much like this:

Unless he takes a more bipartisan approach to fiscal cliff negotiations, President Barack Obama “guarantees a permanent war” between Democrats and Republicans, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted Sunday.

“He wants to prove he can dominate,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that on fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama aims not to compromise, but to “block [House Speaker John] Boehner into collapse.”

Why the prediction of an endless partisan fight? “Because everybody on the right, at every level, sooner or later is going to get sick of it,” Gingrich said.

Correct me if I’m wrong — some will try to correct me though I’m right — but didn’t the Republicans start this all-out, scorched-earth permanent war thing? Wasn’t this whole thing their idea in the first place?

And …

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Supremes’ ruling on gay marriage important, not critical

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it hear arguments in two important but very different cases involving gay marriage, raising the odds that it will soon establish the basic legal architecture for how that issue is handled in the future.

One case, out of New York, addresses how the federal government must handle gay marriages that are conducted in states where such marriages are legal. The second, out of California, raises the more fundamental question of whether gay marriage is a right protected under the Constitution’s promise of equal protection.

Given the range of legal questions at stake in those two cases, the court’s final ruling next June could take any number of turns. And you just know that Justice Antonin Scalia is itching to get his hands on this issue.

However, it is also important to point out that however the nine justices decide, all final decisions on the matter will be made by the American people. And they have already made it clear that we will not …

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Take Five, Mr. Brubeck. You’ve earned it

The jazz world lost a giant this week in 91-year-old pianist Dave Brubeck, whose cool, understated “West Coast” style made it easy to overlook how innovative and complex his music really was. His fellow musicians and contemporaries — fans such as the great Miles Davis and others — understood it very well.

Brubeck joins an eclectic list of great musical figures who played their last earthly notes this year, absent an encore in the next world. They include Kitty Wells, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, Robin Gibb, Levon Helm, the great Etta James, the equally magnificent Earl Scruggs and the less magnificent but still notable Davy Jones of the Monkees.

The breadth of that list is remarkable. A handful achieved fame and success in the mainstream world; others, like Brubeck, were influential giants within their genre but were too little noticed outside it. As Brubeck said in a 2010 interview, “If there’s a heaven, let it be a good place for all of …

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