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Obama's first year

The president had been propelled to the nation's highest office, having had no executive experience and only the briefest of tenures in Congress. He instantly found himself in charge of a crisis far graver than anything he had anticipated while campaigning. His opponents showed themselves to be implacable enemies.His allies often turned on him as well. He's too much of a compromiser, some said. No, he's too radical, said others. He struggled to chart a middle course that would keep a governing coalition together.

Plans went awry. He made mistakes. His popularity waned. At the polls, he saw his party suffer dismaying defeats. By all accounts, his was shaping up as a failed presidency.

Yeah, I'm talking about Abraham Lincoln. Have you read "Team of Rivals"?

No, I'm not comparing Obama as a leader to Lincoln as a leader. Nor will I compare him at this juncture to George Washington or Gandhi. Or to Warren G. Harding or Chester A. Arthur. The point here is simply that it's early in the Obama tenure. We don't know how this will all turn out. A lot of stuff that seems really important this very second -- like that Cosmo guy beating Martha Coakley in Massachusetts -- might be a footnote down the road.

(Though can I just say, I wouldn't want the job within the White House, or within the Democratic National Committee, of explaining why it's not that big a deal when the Democrats lose Teddy Kennedy's senate seat.)

As Obama now knows better than anyone, governing is a lot harder than campaigning. "Change We Can Believe In" is a fine slogan up until the day that you actually propose real change. Like Michael Kinsley said a while back: People don't actually like change ("Sure, we want change -- as long as everything can stay just as it is"). And with health-care reform, Obama and the Democrats are doing things that will actually affect real people, some of them in ways they don't like. The Right exaggerates, turning every government initiative into socialism. Meanwhile the people who benefit from expanded health care -- most directly, the poor and uninsured -- have almost no political capital. Moderates don't march. The Left is actively obstreperous and unhelpful because it can't get its way. (Of course if you're Arianna you say this Left-Right thing is entirely an MSM invention. I guess I've been reading a different Internet all these years.)

As president, your grand plans never survive contact with the enemy. Thus it has always been and always will be. The erosion of Obama's popularity over the past year is not a sign of some kind of failure on his part. It's actually a necessary part of governing well. A president has to spend political capital. Presidents become less popular if they do their jobs with any verve and take any chances. You have to spend that surplus of popularity or else you're in this business for the wrong reason. (By the way, you could hardly tell from the various analytical pieces of the past few days that more Americans approve of the job Obama's doing than disapprove.)

The one thing a president can't do -- and this president won't do, because it's not in his nature -- is panic. [Update: But Mort Zuckerman can panic all he wants.] One form of panic would be deciding to recast the message radically and turn the president into something he's not -- such as a fire-breathing populist. That's what Dan Balz says the White House wants to do: "White House officials have signaled a sharper, more populist message in an effort to convince voters that they stand with the people and that Republicans stand with banks and Wall Street and health insurance companies."

Huh. Well, that would make sense if the Massachusetts election were, as the Coakley camp insists, fundamentally the result of a great groundswell of popular discontent with how easy the Democrats have gone on bonus-gobbling Wall Street swells [Update: See this articulation at HuffPo of the view that Obama hasn't stuck to his guns enough; see also the petition]. But the Evan Bayh argument is just as plausible: The Democrats have lost a ton of support in the middle of the ideological spectrum. They're losing independents in droves. They've done nothing to persuade these swing voters that they're something other than the kind of Big Government, tax-and-spend Democrats that they were reputed to be back in the 1970s. Obama has talked about fiscal responsibility, for example, but his numbers don't look good for the coming decade. Swing-state Democrats know this, particularly the Democrats in states that only recently decided to see how they would look in blue. This is why you're already seeing people like Bayh and Jim Webb running for the hills.

I think we're in for another very interesting year.

(Your thoughts welcome, as always.)

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 20, 2010; 8:09 AM ET
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first? The expectations were so high for Mr. Obama, that the buzz is that he hasn't done anything. From my limited perspective, things haven't taken a radical turn for the worse, and the things that were spinning out of control last year at this time have been stabilized. Justs what I expected. Plus, the First Family has a home vegetable garden at the WH. Salt of the Earth stuff.

Posted by: -jack- | January 20, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Since my last post was as close to on kit as I get I shall repost.

I must say as an outside the election results confuse me, (but so do republicans). Obama seems such an improvement I do not understand the idea that he has not done enough. An interesting editorial in the Star says some of what I think.

A good update on the situation in Haiti (a small portion). This is one of two brothers who at the age of around 11 started finding ways to help the poor children of the world. They have grown up and continued their work (Save the Children) they work with Partners in Health and Craig has been writing and tweeting on what is going on.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

SCC sorry think that should be Free the Children, always get them confused. The organization works to establish schools for children and works to involve students here in the fundraising/volunteer work.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Nice reminder, Joel.

Let's see, what happened during Obama's first year. The country's economy collapsed for a second time, throwing millions onto the streets, destitute. In consequence crime rose sharply. Violent riots shook the cities, with rioters comprising not only the angry poor but teabaggers, birthers, the far left, and other parties who felt unrepresented in our political system and unable to express their views. Our agriculture and ranching systems were unable to recover from floods and severe drought, millions of acres turned to mud or dust, and severe food shortages resulted. Overburdened by weather and poor infrastructure, the electrical grid failed, causing rolling blackouts and power outages across the country, interfering with business, commerce, the financial markets, and contributing to an increased death rate from exposure to cold or heat as well as failure of medical equipment. Also, terrorists successfully attacked a major U.S. city or two, affecting our lives in myriad ways and destroying the nation's confidence.

What? These things didn't happen? Oh. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad first year.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Of course, the nation welcomed an invasion of vampires. However, I don't really think we can blame that on Obama.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for your assessment of the MA Senate election, Mr. A.

I'm reminded of the 1978 Democratic primary in MA when a very conservative Ed King beat incumbent governor Mike Dukakis and then won the general election. Four years later the Bay Staters decided that was a mistake and went back to Dukakis.

We may well see a similar shift leftward when Brown runs for a full term.

As for the upcoming year, it would be interesting regardless of the MA outcome.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Dolphin Michael, you might want to Google Victor Morales, pickup truck, and Phil Gramm, who probably actually broke into a sweat because of the pickup truck. And both Gramm and Morales are Democrats Just sayin'.

The "enemy" is not the other major political party, or possibly an independent third party. Isn't this supposed to be Team USA? Why antagonize others with the use of the word "enemy?"

How soon the Iowa caucus victory speech is forgotten by some in the media?

"We're choosing unity over division...Because we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America."

Would it really be so bad to start over again on a health care plan? I start over and redo about half the necklaces that I bead. Fifty percent or thereabouts turn out great the first time, the other fifty percent get vastly improved with reworking.
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Remember how Froomkin (love the guy) used to write about Bush's bubble--repeatedly. Not so sure if, after a year in office, there isn't an Obama bubble. I suggest that Obama get out in the middle of the country and listen (not talk) to a number of people about their frustrations. (Why does a big image of Frank Luntz immediately appear in the image bubble connected to my head?) Hey, you never know, the listening could lead to some learning and subsequent teachable moments.

I believe in good manners. Scott Brown, congratulations on your victory.

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I think that a certain segment of the Massachusetts electorate felt that if Coakley were elected, as a Democratic incumbent she'd be in office forever, whereas with Cosmoboy the chances of turning him out 2012 (in a general election the Democrats' numerical advantage means more) would be pretty good, and they were not all that wild about 20 years of Martha, so...

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I am still extremely enthusiastic about Obama, and have a hard time relating to those who are not. He's done pretty much what he said he would, at least if you were paying attention to his words over the screams of the crowd. Or at least he has tried.

People still confuse a President with a king. But the President isn't a king. The Constitution makes a pretty big deal about this. Obama must work within the system. Yet people still think that if he just tried hard enough he could magically get everybody do do what he wants. As a result, there is a lot of disappointment out there by those with unrealistic expectations.

This seems especially unfair since many of those who so enthusiastically advanced his candidacy seemed to lose interest as soon as he was elected. They were less interested in supporting his agenda than they were in Beating the Republicans.

But, of course the victory party wasn't the end of the story, it was just the beginning. And there's a whole lot more to be written.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Phil Gramm has switched parties again and he's back to being a Democrat?

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

As someone slightly more to the right on the continuum of political thought, I have very little but praise for Obama's first year. At a minimum, we should all be happy that he hasn't driven the car into the ditch--which was entirely possible since he was operating with two or three blown-out tires.

I find it refreshing to have someone thoughtful in the White House. Someone who is deliberative and can formulate a response in which subject and verb agree (or are even standard English).

All that said, I share JA's concern about the debt. Not only is it a big issue in the real world, but it's going to become a big issue in the make-believe world of politics. The Republicans are going to hammer Obama on the debt, and that's an issue that gets a lot of traction in the "middle."

As I said in the previous kit, I'd also like Obama to adopt a little more "bigger man" tone and throw the Republicans a few bones. Whether or not people here think Obama is already operating squarely in the "middle" isn't particularly relevant as it appears that the electorate (at least the people who vote in off-year elections) think he's still a bit left-of-center overall.

Posted by: Awal | January 20, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

You have to admit that Scott Brown was an extremely handsome centerfold. Doubt if Coakley could have pulled it off. *w* *l*

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Oh, crap. I was kinda hoping to take the year 2010 off, keep my political ranting to an absolute minimum, let the country perk along without the benefit of my wisdom. But the Dems have started off the year doing something stupid, and the political commentariat has already gone off the deep end, and its not even the end of January yet. Dammit, I guess I am just going to have to kick some ass again this year.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Gee Wizz, JA, Jim Webb is my favorite politican. But, then again, I'm a moderate/centrist kinda voter. Sure hope you are wrong about them thar hills. Webb is a bit of a hillbilly, but Obama said Webb was the kind of man he would want to watch his back.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 20, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Kguy, my apologies. GREAT catch! I have had only one cup of coffee this morning. Mea culpa.

And I should know, since Gramm lives just over the hills, southwest of Helotes. SORRY!

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

By the way, I'd guess this kit is almost certain to go front page since the topic will generate lots of page views. The storm is brewing....

Posted by: Awal | January 20, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

If Obama needs a diversion to distract from the debacle that the health care bill is about to become (and at least one WaPo pundit opined on the fact that the Senate completely frittered away the time they had between the seating of Franken and the death of Teddy to actually get something done), I suggest he work on that middle-class tax cut I was promised and start soaking the rich. And my working definition of 'rich' is people making an order of magnitude more than me.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

You know, Awal, being "a little bit left of center" isn't a criminal undertaking. You say it like it was odious and a clear reason to vote against him (whereas being a little bit right of center is the default "normal, approved" political position). Where does this right-of-center sense of entitlement and world view that yours in the default position come from?

Why would Obama want to throw Republicans "a few bones"? What have Republicans done to deserve it? Did you guys ever throw a few bones to Democrats? Name two.

Suppose, for argument's sake, that O *did* throw you guys "a few bones." What do you think would happen? How would this act of kindness or bipartisanship be received? In what crazy alternate universe do you suppose receipt of a little generosity on Obama's part would in any way be reciprocated? Acknowledged with a nod of thanks? Can you name one Republican with the test1cles to stand up and say "Thanks. I owe you one"?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

There was a nice bit of cogent political analysis in the comments for E.J. Dionne's PostPartisan entry on the Mass. election:
"... The Bush years sucked, so we picked a different group, only to find out that they sucked too only for different reasons, and now people are tying to send a message that we really, really want a non-sucky group..."

Posted by: 1ofamillion

Works for me!

Posted by: bobsewell | January 20, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The one and only thing I ever liked about Phil Gramm was that he didn't switch parties after being elected. He resigned his seat in Congress and announced the switch, then ran in the special election as a Repub and won it back. Not perfect, but much better than many many others.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Psst, 'Mudge...

Awal likes Obama.

Keep the powder dry 'til the trolls get here.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Still *hearting* you, Mudge. I had exactly the same reaction.

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Without yet reading the Kit, I declare today to be Write Like an Incomprehensible Government Bureaucrat Day: some time today, include in something you are writing: "standard analytical methodologies were employed for efficacy determination." Consider it an Easter Egg for alert readers to find. You'll be glad you did!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Thanks bureauTim. This is my version:

standard analytical methodologies were employed for efficacy determination of risk management strategies mapped across a number of selected industry sectors

I owe you some pennies for this.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey, what's wrong with "standard analytical methodologies were employed for efficacy determination?"

I resemble that remark!


Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Can we substitute "utilized" for "employed"?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

No.No.No Mudge. We do not want clarity. We want inflated, important, biggish prose..... :)

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Linda, DM has been around politics since 68--seen his share of pickup trucks.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Would it be acceptable to use journo-jargon? "Heretofore reliable but as yet unconfirmed sources close to the investigation say that the alleged content of this so-called comment approaches insignificance."

As long as no one uses the words "mission critical" I think I can keep my gag reflex under control.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm. OK, how about "effectuated"?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Mudge. Effectuated is worth a silver dollar. SMACK. That is the sound of me kissing you.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

==Reposting stolen quote from -bia-

"I pretty much blame everybody!"

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 9:44 AM

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

What is an outraged leftwinger supposed to do????

I think I am going to put down my chopsticks and demonstrate.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse


The shorthand way that we have historically identified people's politics is on a theoretical continuum from right (Hitler/Pat Robertson/Dick Cheney) to left (Karl Marx, Ralph Nader/Dennis Kucinich). I'm pretty sure that there was nothing in my statement that implied that left-of-center was anything other than a relative position on that continuum. If you inferred something different, I'm sorry.

But the simple truth is that politics is a game of survival. If Obama believes that his proposals are worth fighting for, he's going to have to stay in office.

Whether you think that he's operating right where and as he should be, it appears that the Independent vote is beginning to shift against him. He can not win without the Independents. The Independents appear to value bipartisanship very highly.

Again, whether you think that the Republicans would not be appropriately "gracious" in accepting some concesssion isn't 100% relevant. You're already firmly in the Obama camp. Obama needs to show others that he's the bi-partisan that was on the campaign trail.

I, for one, have faith that the electorate is smart enough to see if there is a genuine effort at bipartisanship--even if the GOP doesn't accept his efforts.

I don't understand why you have such a chip on your shoulder when anyone here who identifies with a Republican viewpoint (I'm not exactly Rush Limbaugh). I'm not sure you even read my post but only fixated on my identification as a somewhat-Republican. You have very little idea what my politics truly are, so I'd go a little easier with the ad hominem attacks and suggesting that I have some sort of "sense of entitlement."

Posted by: Awal | January 20, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Yes. Mudge, I can do without "utilized." Mudge, we should come up with a phone app that provides synonyms for suffering technical writers. I can approach GWU to see if we can get a "Blackboard" like deal for the boodle.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

How about "non-outlier" instead of "standard?"

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

My attempt at this,

A Canadian economist has put together a model to determine who will win the most medals at the winter olympics according to calculations which inclueded information gathered from population, GDP, money spent on amateur sports. etc he has determined Canada will win the most 28, US and Norwary will tie for second at 27. How does and economist attempt to predict the number of medals to be won by a country at the winter olympics "standard analytical methodologies were employed for efficacy determination" of various economic factors.

Note I only have listened to the story so the actual figures he used to make his determination I just guessed at.

Olympic flame currently at Calgary Olympic park - I am a little obsessed again today.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Wait, wait, wait: "effectuated" is worth a silver dollar, but the basic concept is worth mere pennies? I am so distraught.

It has been my contention for some time that Obama will be a one-term President. The country is in serious trouble and needs serious solutions. Obama is a serious man. The electorate, unfortunately, is not serious in the absence of an immediate threat. I think a childish sense of selfishness will cause the electorate to reject Obama for a second term. I just hope he can get enough accomplished in his one term.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


Front Page Alert

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"All changes, including emergency maintenance and patches, relating to infrastructure and applications with the production environment, are formally managed in a controlled manner."

Yes, those are quotes. The only thing it's missing is "value-added." Gack.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 20, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

My impression is that Obama did not merely throw a few bones to the Republicans on health care, he threw them half the cow. In exchange, he gets a lot of "regrets" that he is so partisan when the Republicans were prepared for "serious" compromise.


My one hope is that when Republicans no longer can hide behind the expectation that useful health-care reform will pass despite their opposition, one or two of them will discover enough backbone to vote pragmatically on behalf of the constituents rather than party market-share or idiot ideological purity. I can hope for this, but I do not plan to hold my breath waiting for it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

My better self leads me to believe, with Awal, that by offering a gesture of inclusiveness or respect Obama will get points with independents who think of themselves as the thinking electorate, even though the GOP will certainly reject the gesture.

One problem, of course, is that (even if we're right about the electorate) such good-will bumps are short-lived and the gestures are easy to forget. I believe Obama tried that already this year for a few things. The GOP rejected his gestures, some people saw this for the churlish response to a meaningful effort of inclusion that it was, then everyone forgot. For this reason I'm afraid Obama could flat out appease GOP leaders and voters, traducing his own policy stands in the process, and still not get much out of it in the way of added long-term support.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Lagniappeous osculation having been received in a manner consistent with policy guidelines referencing intra-Boodle contact (labial and virtual, unless otherwise proscribed), idiopathic craniofacial erythema has been experientially acquired.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Part of the problem is that the ideological purging of the Republican Party over the past few decades has eliminated the 'moderate' Republican while there are still plenty of 'conservative' Democrats.

The scorched earth obstructionist tactics being employed are effectively redefining the center. Obama could propose the GOP party platform at this point and it wouldn't get one vote from the other side of the aisle.

NPR last night discussed several parliamentary tricks the Democrats can use to pass the health care bill(s) without a filibuster-proof majority. In reality, I expect them to lose a few 'centrist' (read 'scared') Democrats who misinterpret the Mass-election as a cautionary tale.

I like the theory that Mass-hats think they can dislodge their pet Republican as soon as their fit of pique is over. History has often proved otherwise. The inertia of incumbency is mighty powerful.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Bones that have been thrown to the right:

- Continuation/expansion of the war in Afghanistan
- Giving up the push for the public option
- Retention of Gibbs as SecDef

I'm sure there are others that escape me at the moment.

Posted by: Raysmom | January 20, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Don't tell me that's the new password to enter the bunker, Mudge.

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm not quite sure how the headline writers get the headline "A Failed Presidency?" out of this kit.

It's this kind of intentionally inflammatory writing that is contributing to the political impass in this country. Not only does it makes it impossible for the author to seem reasoned and nuanced when some headline writer/copy editor lackey slaps on some lame headline, but then a bunch of buffoons are going to click on the link and come in here itching for a fight. That helps to harden people's preconceived notions and reinforce the cycle.

Posted by: Awal | January 20, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Of all the things that happened in the past two weeks, the one that I found most curious was not including Carter on the top line of the Haiti mission. I understand Clinton's roll based on his official capacity and then making it bipartisan with Bush Jr., but Carter is still working to clean up the NOLA situation. The H for H model could play a major part of the Haitian rebuild efforts.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I seem to be in substantial agreement with SciTim and Imom even if they don't realize it.

Somebody stick a spoon in mudge's mouth and call 911. He is having a major jargon attack.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Hey, man -- don't you go picking on copy editors! We love copy-editors. Great folks. Salt of the Earth. Bedrock of good journalism.

WaPo headline writers, on the other hand, could use some work.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

If deficit spending is a big issue with the voters, perhaps Obama should do a little explanation of his overall world view regarding economics. My amateurish view is of a counter-cyclical system of taxing and spending. That is, when times are tough spend more on infrastructure and run a relative deficit, and when times are good, increase some high-end taxes and cut back some on infrastructure spending; it should be somewhat caught up if previous stimuli have been applied during the lean times. I bet some real economists would agree. I suppose that's Keynesian.

Certain criminal charges against high-level Ponzi schemers have yet to be seen. This lack causes anger which IS present in a lot of people, notably the disaffected middle or rational populists or what have you. I haven't seen much in error in the recent McClatchy coverage of these matters. (Sorry, WaPo)

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I realize it, yello, I realize it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Don't take mudge's fulminations too seriously. He's still upset at Che Guevara for going soft.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Raysmom: You can add this to your list.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

The irony of the upset in Massachusetts coming on the one year anniversary should not be lost on anyone. The economy is the issue that won the presidency and many Congressional seats for the Democrats and it is that issue that remains the crux for future contests. It is intimately tied to the budget numbers because most voters see that borrowing and spending our way out of this recession at the rate we have been is clearly unsustainable.

The health care initiative might have made sense if the focus was on cost containment in the light of the economy but adding costs on to struggling workers in the form of a insurance mandate to fund an unpalatable sausage that the health care bill has become also disenchants voters. The carbon tax proposals create similar unease.

Putting all the responsibility for economic performance upon the President and the Congress is unfair but that is a sword that has been swinging both ways for many years.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 20, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse


Good points and there are many more. Don't forget promise unpromise or possible repromise for "don't ask, don't tell." I am wondering if Obama didn't get as much of a message sent to him by his single/major issue left as from the mass of Independent voter confusion and, as RD said, reptilian, reaction to "populism."

Hey, you know Hitler was a populist. The garbled message from the Teabaggers is just that. A mess. They confuse that facts about why the banks were bailed out, (and turned a profit for the Treasury) with the fact that banks aren't loaning money to small businesses. The Tea-baggers mostly don't know that the tightening of Small Business Credit became hugely evident 2 years prior to Obama coming into office and has resulted in the looming Commercial Real Estate Bubble.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I also realize it, yello. Yep.

Awal, I too noticed that odd headline "A failed Presidency?" in relation to the Kit, and I came up with the same thing you expressed so well. It looks as if the WaPo editors decided "Obama's First Year" wouldn't get them enough interest. "A failed Presidency?", on the other hand, is just bait. For all kinds of excitable folk.

Let's hope we're wrong.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"A Failed Presidency, Question Mark???

(*&^%$#@&^%. Awal's right about that: that's the worst damn headline those online people have yet written, and Awal's right about the motivation: a gratuitous attempt to get page views. Joel, you gotta get them to re-write that thing. That's just pathetic. Change it to something like "A Puppy-Strangling Presidency?" or "Trannies in the White House?" or "Obama Sends Lesbian Response Team to Haiti" or something less inflammatory.

Sweet gorgonzola.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

No amount of spin will ever, in the long run, redeem a failed politician.

Posted by: elena4 | January 20, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Che was a wuss.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The new keyboard is A-ok this morning. The hitch is the "insert" key I keep hitting.

More than bureaucratic obfuscatory jargon, I'm lately intrigued by a certain military speech phenomenon that is a bit different. It's a sort of supercommunication, with such precision of meaning it becomes almost comical. I'm unsure how to describe it. I like it.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

As elena4 proves our point. Bet she didn't read the Kit.

I liked Mudge's headlines. How about "Kenyan Imposter Repeals Citizenship Requirements"? "President Leads Raid, Confiscates Guns"?

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

On kit, and also pursuant to SciTim's bureau-speak day, here is one example of the GOP position on the health plan.

A copy of the chart was sent to me by mail from my (Republican) Houston relative after we were discussing health care. I thought their strategy was clear enough just seeing the chart supposedly describing the plan, but the website of Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) supplements the chart in case some further commentary is required. Some quotes:

“Why should any patient be forced to give control of their health care over to this Faustian pit of Washington bureaucracy?” asked Brady.

“This government takeover has only one guaranteed result: to tell Americans what doctors you can see, what treatments you deserve and what medicines you can have.”

I suspect if one were to make a chart of the options available to a small businessman with a pre-existing condition the chart would be considerably less cluttered.

Posted by: engelmann | January 20, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

And the first troll arrives!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I will say Obama has done a sterling job except for the 8 foot Geithner in the room. Did he commit illegal conspiracy or not?

On Joels's other point, some of the standard left / right nomenclature is justified, some is not. Such things happen historically. Most Democrats were blue dogs after the Civil War but all this changed. I think we are in the midst of struggling for a new paradigm which is as yet inchoate. I see the election of Reagan as badly misguided but I think it started around then.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: engelmann | January 20, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm not fully backboodled yet this morning, but I just want to add a little nuance to my earlier post, flatteringly quoted by Weed: IF we don't get any health care reform out of this effort, THEN I will pretty much blame everybody. For the moment I've still got my fingers tightly crossed that the right combination of rallying-together and a little attention to the public good will somehow get something done. (Yeah, call me a cockeyed optimist.) If that happens, I won't care who's in the MA senate seat for the next couple of years.

RD, about your 10:24 -- me too.

Posted by: -bia- | January 20, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"Cockeyed Optimist" is still available as a Boodle handle, right 'Mudge? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 20, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Yes. So is "8-foot Geithner."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Which was a Googlenope until a second ago.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Cockeyed Optimist" would also make a good song. Say, in a Broadway musical. Set during WWII. In, say, the far Pacific, on a tropic isle. Sung by, say, a grizzled sailor with the tattoo of a ship on his chest, and he's backed by a chorus of Seabees...

No, that'll never work.

OK, sung by a handsome young lieutenant from Princeton...nope. No pizzazz.

OK, a heavyset Tonkan

Okay, I give up.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

How about by a beautiful young heroine?


Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The whole obsession with 60 votes in the Senate is at the heart of what has gone wrong in the health care effort. Much of the most egregious porking has been two buy off one or two votes (Nelson and Landrieu come to mind) to get to that magic 60 vote mark and avoid a filibuster. But of course nowadays they don't do real filibusters "Mr. Smith" style with gasping octogenarians reading the phone book for hours on end to stall a vote.

In the modern filibuster, the senators trying to block a vote do not have to hold the floor and continue to speak as long as there is a quorum. In the past, when one senator became exhausted, another would need to take over to continue the filibuster. Ultimately, the filibuster could be exhausted by a majority who would even sleep in cots outside the Senate Chamber to exhaust the filibusterers. Today, the minority just advises the majority leader that the filibuster is on. All debate on the bill is stopped until either cloture is voted by three-fifths (now 60 votes) of the Senate. Some modern Senate critics have called for a return to the old dramatic endurance contest but that would inconvenience all senators who would have to stay in session 24/7 until the filibuster is broken.

AND WE CERTAINLY WOULDN'T WANT TO INCONVENIENCE ANY SENATORS, NOW WOULD WE? Much, much better to give Louisiana $300 million and make Nebraska a special case and kiss Joe Lieberman's wrinkled old patoot until our lips bleed.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Ya got me, Mudge -- daughter of a big Rogers & Hammerstein fan here.

Posted by: -bia- | January 20, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

kguy, I was thinking earlier that Joel could do a kit about The Republican Minority--THE Worst Ever?

Clearly, new records have been set.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The New Yorker has an interesting interview by David Surowiecki, talking to David Cutler "a professor of applied economics at Harvard University" about the Senate health care bill. Cutler's enthusiastic about the bill. He is critical of Medicare for not doing anything much to contain costs.

The interview's a good antidote to notions that the House should abandon work on passing a health care bill and gracefully continue the status quo.

Cutler also explains that for the reforms to work, the medical community will have to cooperate. I suspect that we'll see massive resistance on the part of state governments in the South.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

kguy, the filibuster is what has gone wrong with Senate (well, one of the things). Ezra Klein has written about how that contributes to the non-governance we see now.

I can't help but think that if the Senate had stuck to Obama's timetable, health care/insurance reform would be a reality already. Thanks, Max Baucus and Harry Reid. Or if the Dems had gone with something simpler, like extending Medicare.

I blame everybody, too.

Posted by: seasea1 | January 20, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Much to my shock & dismay, "Lesbian Response Team" is/was also a Googlenope. The ladies need to gird up their loins, get on the stick, and jump in the saddle!

Posted by: bobsewell | January 20, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I hereby call dibbs on the Boodle handle "Gasping Octogenarian" effective May 2, 2028.

Posted by: kguy1 | January 20, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I spent my morning on the history of Israel from the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE to the death of Herod the Great in 4 BCE. You know what? They had Democrats and Republicans too! And the Democrats won in the end! (Actually we get to that next week.)

SciTim, please correct me if I'm wrong. Judaism as we know it today is descended from Pharisiac Judaism, right? The Pharisees were the party of the people, whereas the Saduccees were the party of the landed aristocracy. (Says so in my commentary.) See? Democrats and Republicans!

So I hope the party of the people, inchoate as it is, will endure and prevail.

*Stepping away from the lectern*

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, weren't the Maccabees Republicans though?

Posted by: engelmann | January 20, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The Senate was designed, including the filibuster, to be an impediment to the passions of the day. Originally, the senators were elected by state legislators. They were supposed to be the wise old heads that kept level while the passions of the public moved this way and that.

That function has been ameliorated by popular election somewhat and that democratization is one of the reasons that health care reform is dead. These guys love their jobs too much to fly in the face of the Brown win in Massachusetts.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 20, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Did the Saduccees have their own "Ralph Reed" and, if so, of which tribe did that one take advantage?

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

That may be next week as well. Also, "won" is a very ambiguous term if you think the Dems parallel the Isrealites' history, particularly as you get going in that first century CE.

Posted by: engelmann | January 20, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of the region from Egypt to Lebanon up to completion of Herod's vast Jewish Temple, I've wondered how the temple and other construction projects were financed. Herod seems to be to Palestine what the megalomaniac (and incredibly long-lived) Ramesses II was to Egypt. I take it that tax collectors were unpopular.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

What about the Huckabees?

Posted by: seasea1 | January 20, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

seasea1, they don't carry the same weight as they used to.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 20, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The Maccabees didn't start out as Republicans-- they started out as the SDS of their day. They're te guys who led the first revolt, and established their dynasty (164 BCE to 70 CE, more or less), the Hasmonean dynsaty. And yes, then they becamse Republicans: upper class prist/kings, fundamentalist, and influenced by Assyrians. Opposing them were the Pharisees, the "Democrats," if you will. At the fall of the Second Temple (70 CE), pretty much all the Sadduccees got wiped out, leaving only some surviving Pharisees, who established what is called "rabbinic" Judaism, which is the surviving branch (before it, too, split). There was a third, minor sect, the Essenes (generally thought to be authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, though with various dissenting opinion on that); they pretty much got wiped out, too, or in some theories became Christians.

So yes, the Pharisees were the forerunners of modern Jews.

The Huckabees, on the other hand, migrated to Branson, Missouri, where they hold tent revivals featuring Andy Williams and Yakov Smirnov.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I said all Dems used to be "blue dogs" and I meant "yellow dogs". Sorry for my dumb mistake. Darn blue dogs confuse me. I see them sometimes. Must be the homemade hard cider.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm a green dog independent.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I can never keep the Pharisees and the Sadducees straight in my head, so I checked the font of all wisdom and knowledge (Wikipedia) and it agrees on your characterization, slyness. The Pharisees were the party of the people in their own minds, as they disdained the actual people as they existed in their time. The Pharisees were the guys who introduced the concept of kashrut (keeping Kosher) for all Hebrews, rather than as a special form of ritual cleanliness reserved for the priesthood. Thus, a Pharisee would support a peasant's political and civil rights but refuse to sit down to a meal with him (at least, this is the Cliff's notes version as I have learned it). You can imagine this might create some tension.

Following the destruction of the Temple, the Pharisees won the debate over what to do next. They offered a vision and a plan for maintaining a coherent people without requiring approval and supervision from the Romans for public works like the building of a new Temple. This new Temple-free approach to religion finds support under a popular philosophy of around that time, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; render unto God that which is God's". You may have heard this phrase before. Thus, Hebrews (members of a Semitic tribal grouping) became Jews (adherents of a religion and a culture), intellectually converting the physical descriptions of Leviticus and the rest of the Torah into increasingly metaphorical descriptions for what YHWH *really* meant about the purpose and practice of blood sacrifice. For instance. Taking a cue from Condoleeza Rice, the Roman conquest of Judea and the Diaspora were "growing pains" as the people grew to a more intellectually rich and mature understanding of Torah. Further growth can be anticipated in the future.

Around the same time as the destruction of the Temple (give or take a few decades), some other Hebrews/Jews took a somewhat different approach to fulfilling their religious philosophy, one which included the proselytization of non-Hebrews and the centering of their practice around the recognition and admiration of a particularly effective leader of their nascent movement. That group also has persisted to the modern day, with some measure of success, though they do not presently consider themselves to be Jews and many have been known to disdain their Jewish heritage. They ceased to be dominant-ethnic Hebrew rather early in their history.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

FYI: little known historical fact: the Pharisees were the first people ever to fax chicken soup it couldn't hurt. As Pat Robertson would say, "true story."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the new homepage link "Don't panic, Obama" is much more appropriate.

And I don't think he is going to panic. It's everybody around him that I worry about.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Wiki says the word "Pharisees" from Hebrew meaning "set apart" but I wonder if maybe "(those)set apart" comes first from the proto word for Farsi or the Persians, i.e., those who had returned from service in the Persian empire.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with AWAL on the concept of offering concessions to Republicans in legislative determinations. The reaction by Republicans may be predictably negative, but the gesture is not for their benefit.

People who identify themselves as "independents" frequently seem to favor the concept of bipartisanship as a noble goal; one that is worthy of expression even if it is not reciprocated. Thoughful (and hopefully successful) politicians should attempt expressions of bipartisanship if only to assure independents that they are not themselves rabidly partisan.

Blessed is the peacemaker even if the other side doesn't want peace.


Posted by: jp1954 | January 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mudge and SciTim, for those explanations. Yep, Herod was hated because he taxed the people heavily, besides being a tyrant and cruel to boot. So cruel, in fact, that he had his wife Mariamne, who was a Hasmonean princess, and his children by her slaughtered. Shy and retiring he was not.

I'm glad you saw the parallels with today's parties. I'd say the Maccabees were the Viet Cong of their day; they rose up to expell a hated interloper who tried to take over and remake their country.

One thing I'm grateful for in today's world is that assassination isn't nearly so prevalent as it was in those days. Herod was one of the few rulers who died in his own bed of natural causes (complications of diabetes, so I've read).

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Cilliza tweeted this link to a column by the Globe's Brian McGory about what happened last night. Pretty funny, if not true.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 20, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The Hasmoneans are an archetypal example of why revolutionaries make for poor government. Pretty much as soon as they got into power, they started to become what they had hated and worked to overthrow: cruel profane despots.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, forgot the link. Here is it is:

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 20, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, you might also say the Maccabees were the Colonists who threw out the British and their hated taxation system. Judah Maccabee as Gorge Washington.

Jumper, the Persian origin idea is a very reasonable one, though "Persian" in the sense that it is one of the Proto-Indian-European languages, a branch of Indo-European. It likely predates the Persians, slightly, going back into the Assyrians. The Assyrians had captured the Jews (such as they were) and taken them into the famous Babylonian exhile. When the Persians came along and overthrew the Assyrians, Cyrus the Great let the Jews go home. So yes, right in their somewhere the notion of the Jews as a group "set apart" either from the Assyrians or the Persians, or both, using the root word from Indo-European, is very likely.

slyness: another little known fact: Jerry Orbach was a Sadducee wannabe until his daughter was taught how to dance by a goyim ("And Patrick said unto Jerold known as Jacob, 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner." -- Marjorie's Letter to the Bubbe and Zayde, 14:26). Then he became not only a Pharisee but a mensch also, your heart it could tear out. Jack Weston also.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

The Romans were no kinder than the Hasmoneans, but they were more pragmatic. They understood that a rebellious province is an expensive province, and their goals in conquest included economic value as well as military security from broad and expendable buffer regions. An expensive and rebellious province does not produce tribute as well as a prosperous and reasonably peaceful province (peaceful by their standards).

The fact that the Romans had any goal in conquest beyond mere self-aggrandizement is part of what set them far apart from the other empires of their millennium and what made them a formidable force. Having a definite strategic goal enabled them to define military strategies that could persist beyond the death of an individual leader or commander, and enlisted the support of other centers of political power within the hierarchy. Economically, the Roman yoke (at least, under the Republic and early Empire) was pretty comfortable. The use of publicans as tax-collectors (free-lancers working on commission) was unusually short-sighted and helped to keep the natives restless despite the material benefits of intra-Empire trade and the Pax Romana.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

According to my history, SciTim, tax farming was first used by the Ptolemies in the third century BCE so it had a long and unhappy history before the Romans came along. But you are certainly right about the effect on the people, who hated it from the git-go.

Not caring for taxes, some things never change.

Posted by: slyness | January 20, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

One other difference between Pharisees and Sadducees. In the summer, Pharisees tend to go to the Catskills, to places like Grosinger's. Sadducees, on the other hand, wait until winter, and go to Miamai Beach.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 20, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The concept of the tax-collector working on commission seems so obviously to be rife with corruption. However, it absolved the ruling level of society from the pesky responsibility to construct a fair mechanism for tax-assessment. Taxation (I am speculating here) probably was pretty progressive (can't squeeze blood from a stone) up to a certain level of social status, after which I doubt that more than a token payment was made.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 20, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you owe me a new monitor . . . .

*snort* (right through my nose went the tea kinda *snort*)

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I meant that the returning Jews were "set apart" or seen differently by other Jews in what is now Israel who had not recently returned from Babylon.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 20, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

As I sdee it, the White House and Dems are sending mixed messages. We're against troops in the Middle East, but we're sending more. We're for healthcare reform; we're going to make it more of a mess. We're for gay rights, but we're going to be really passive about it. We're for fixing the economy and protecting jobs, but we're going to protect the status quo and let the market take care of employment. The list of volunteers from the campaign is getting frustrated by the compromises and won't put their effort behind a rattletrap plan.

And the Left doesn't have the message machine of the right. Brown seems to have beat Coakley on the message. She complained about the groundswell of discontent. A politician who can't figure out how to tap the energy in a groundswell of discontent is a poor candidate and a poor leader.

Obama won with a grand vision. Now he (Let me be clear) governs with lectures. He's got to figure out how to work up a basic weekly locker room pep talk & peroration that reaches the independents and undercuts the Republican framing of the issues at hand.

On the other hand, where are the trolls? The bunker seems under-utilized today.

Posted by: j2hess | January 20, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

In the summer, Pharisees tend to go to the Catskills, to places like Grosinger's. Sadducees, on the other hand, wait until winter, and go to Miamai Beach.

Mudge -- great line for a cartoon, NYorker style.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

The HuffPo article makes the interesting argument that if Obama had just kept to the left he would never have lost the enthusiasm that got him elected. And that might be true.

The problem is that Obama wasn't trying to kept his base all riled up. He was trying to govern. And governing involves compromises and hard decision that don't always play well to the gallery.

The ideological compromises Obama tolerated in Congress weren't to placate Republicans, they were to placate fellow Democrats. Democrats whose support he needed to get HCR as far as it has.

Likewise, his military decisions were chosen as his best effort at getting meaningful results, and not applause from the left.

In other words, while playing to the base might be good politics, it would be bad governing.

And Obama seems to be well aware of this. He has stated explicitly that maintaining power isn't as important as accomplishing something meaningful.

And I respect him for this. Part of the promise of Obama, for me, is that he wouldn't play those kinds of Rovian games. So I can't fault him for not playing them better.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

RD, why do you have to always be the voice of reason? ;-)

(I'm glad you are.)

Posted by: badsneakers | January 20, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

RD = rational discusser

rabidity difuser

rabbit-loving denizen

too bad he is not the

rational DECIDER

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

'diffuser' is the proper spelling, I guess.

rarewood builder

regal boffian

recall our discussion a while ago about the difference between nerds and the boffo sort.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

As long as I've been passing out *hearts* recently, I'm faxing a bunch of them to you, RDP. You are absolutely right.

*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I thought I had a box of Maccabees at the movies the other day.

Delicious, but they stuck to my teeth.


Posted by: -bc- | January 20, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

BC -- Do you mean


Cause that is what I have at the pictures; and yes, they do stick. But in a good way.

Yummy. Lemony tack on the teeth.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Didn't that Virginia guy lose the Senate race because he called some college kid a macaca-bee?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for those kind words!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 20, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

My general take on things - The Repubs got bashed in '08 because people were tired and angry about what had (and hadn't)happened in 8 years. The anger was exacerbated by the Wall Street crash and the resultant job losses. The anger continued because the bail-outs seemed to help only the rich jerks on Wall Street keep their six-figure jobs and six or seven-figure bonuses.

The tea-baggers and Repubs saw an opening by realizing that "the people" have very short memories, and are willing to blame whoever is supposed to be helping if things aren't getting better immediately. The administration won't get any credit for what DIDN'T happen. Obama probably realized that health care better get done while he had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, becuase he could see that the Repubs were never going to support any major initiative by the administration. Their only goal was, and is, to have this be a "failed" administration. Some of them said so plainly right after the election. Brown was riding this free-floating anger, and it may now scuttle health care reform unless Obama can get someone like Snowe on board. Mark my words - if the health care legislation fails now, you won't see it's light again for another generation.

Posted by: ebtnut | January 20, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about you, but I won't stand for this!

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh my! MsJS... that article says folks who sit for long periods are MORE LIKELY to die.

I thought we all had the same likelihood of dying... pretty much 100% guaranteed, isn't it?

Posted by: -TBG- | January 20, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I plan on dying, TBG. Doing my part for stats and all.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Chester A. Arthur had a Birther problem.

He was aware of factions and rivalries within his own party.

Arthur became a man of fashion in his manner of dress and in his associates and came to be known as "Elegant Arthur"; he was often seen with the elite of Washington, D.C., New York City.

Like Obama, Arthur took the oath of office twice.

Publisher Alexander K. McClure wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired... more generally respected." Will Obama's presidency be a reversal of this?..."No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely entrusted, and no one ever retired... with the eletorate most generally disgusted."

Source: wiki

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I plan to buck the trend and not die.

I'll probably end up being considered a spurious outlier and ignored by the study's authors since standard analytical methodologies were employed for efficacy determination.

*rimshot, SciTim!*

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

JS -- you are funny. Where is your permit for such humoritude?

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Permits? Permits?

*derisive laugh*

We don need no stinkin' permits!

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Not to stir things up again but here is a video of a C17 airdrop of aid to Haiti from Stars & Stripes.
Gates now thinks security is enough to allow large scale air drops.

Posted by: bh72 | January 20, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey, folks, you might want to consider some of the aftershocks of last night's election. Got some Democrats running scared.

Feinstein, remember her? How she brokered a late-night meeting between Obama and Hillary at tne end of the primaries? How she spearheaded activities in support of Obama's inauration day festivities a year ago today. What does see see with high heels on the ground in California?:

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

And the naval hospital ship Comfort has arrived.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Boxer's assessment repeated here:

Posted by: laloomis | January 20, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

JS -- MuHaaaaahhhhhhhh in an evil laugh sort of way. Your permits are in the mail, along with a secret decoder ring.

Thanks for that, Bh.

Off soon to the local high school arts night. Jane Henson, widow of Jim Henson will be there. Why? Jim went to school there, first doodling droll denizens of what would later become MuppetLand.

Here is a protoKermit shilling for Wilkin's Coffee:

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I will get this out of the way early, I am soooo sorry. Seriously though, were I a cynical person I might think that the people chosen to tribute Michael Jackson were picked to promote their new albums rather than the relevance to Michael Jackson. Because the first names that pop into my mind when I think of him are Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood - the others maybe I can see.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Chesapeake and Potomac Phone company commercial, also an early Henson production:

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Today I got the February magazine for the local public TV/radio station. In it is a promo photo for a new BBC version of "The 39 Steps." Alfred Hatchplot made a wonderful version of it way back when and the photo is a clear homage to another of his movies.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Lord Tweedsmuir!

Posted by: dmd3 | January 20, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

rickoshea... thought of you tonight when I listened to this on NPR on the way home...

Posted by: -TBG- | January 20, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

pj -- I *love* The 39 Steps. At least I love the 1939 (I think it was that year) with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carrol. The guy with the half pinky finger. I can hear the music hall ditty as I type. I'm a little wary of looking at re-do's of movies, as I'm always disappointed. The originals are so good, if they *are* good. Actually I would hate this remake if it's in color. I need that grainy black and white.

*humming the music hall ditty, which I **know** will be a tune cootie for the rest of my waking days*

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse


Yeah, it's a great one. I think it's earlier than 1939, though. The banter between Donat and Carrol is great. I think Criterion released a version of it and also of "The Lady Vanishes" recently. Those are two wonderful Hitchcock movies and, if they are in clean shape, it would be like watching them for the first time. They also make a great double feature.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I'll bring popcorn!

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Big thunder here tonight. Most unsettling.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 20, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

1935 maybe, pj?

Posted by: -ftb- | January 20, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

We've been hanging out here so long I forget when someone (Frosti?) asked about building a cheap greenhouse...

Posted by: -TBG- | January 20, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

"The 39 Steps" was released in 1935, 20 years after it was published by the great Scotsman John Buchan (1935 being the very year Buchan, aka the aforesaid Baron Tweedsmuir, became governor general of Canuckistan; King G-5 gave him his peerage because he didn't want Canuckistan run by a commoner). It was the first of five spy thrillers featuring Buchan's hero Richard Hanney.

It was made into other versions four or five more times, but this version is widely considered to be the best, but is also rated as the 21st best British movie of all time. None of the movies' plots has much (or any) resemblance to the plot of the novel.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | January 20, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

The US does have wild jujubes in the desert Southwest and Florida. The Florida ones are close to extinction.

Looks like the Senate health care bill won't be voted on by the House, which means no comprehensive health care reform, nor even fragmentary reform, for the foreseeable future.

I might as well turn nihilist and vote for the nuttiest Republicans on the ballot. This being Florida, there's plenty of them. I'm already represented by wingnuts in the legislature and US House, and Marco Rubio looks certain to be our next Senator.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 20, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Although why any moron would ever want to write spy/thriller novels about some amateur being mixed up with British intelligence during World War I and running around chasing or being chased by German bad guys and such is simply incomprehensible to me.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | January 20, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: -TBG- | January 20, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

pj - it reallly is a great experience to finally see both "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes" in the Criterion releases. A big problem with movies that have lapsed into the public domain is that nobody has a financial interest in preserving the original film, and consequently we end up playing home-video roulette trying to find a decent copy. I must have had four or five videos of both films before the Criterion releases. "The Stranger" and "The 3rd Man" were a couple of others I had the same experience with.

Posted by: rashomon | January 20, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, rashomon. I've never seen a clean print of either Hitchcock film. I'm pleasantly surprised that they exist and look forward to watching them. I'd heard good things about the "Third Man" transfer. I'd like to see that, too. [cue the zither music and start thinking about cuckoo clocks.]

I assume you are kurosawaguy, right? I don't get to read the boodle as much as I used to, so I've missed various personality changes.

Posted by: -pj- | January 20, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha - kguy and rashomon claim not to be the same person, but there are some eerie similarities, no?

I saw The 39 Steps on some cable channel around the holidays. In my head, I get it confused with The Third Man.

Posted by: seasea1 | January 20, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

There is a theatrical version of The 39 Steps that I saw in London and is now (or was recently) playing on Broadway. It is a spoof of the movie and is played by four actors, three men and one woman. They play all the roles with on stage costume changes. It is really hilarious and has to be seen to be appreciated.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 20, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

The heck with Idol, PBS is showing a Great Performances episode of the Met's National Council Auditions form '07.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 20, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

No, not kguy. Possibly his evil twin.

I have "The 3rd Man" on the Home Vision vhs, which used the Criterion master, and it is also a beautiful restoration. I assume the DVD looks even nicer.

Posted by: rashomon | January 20, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: -jack- | January 20, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, more nuanced take on the MA election:

This is stunning to me:
"In Texas, parents qualify for Medicaid only if their family income is below $5,720, while in Virginia, the limit is $6,380. In Wisconsin, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota, Illinois, Connecticut and the District of Columbia, the cutoff is $40,000 or higher. In Maryland, it is $25,500."

The health reform bill would set the federal cutoff at $28-33K, with funding coming from federal money:
"It's really striking," he said. "The real beneficiaries of this are the states in the South and the West who are opposing health-care reform."

Posted by: seasea1 | January 20, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

SeaSea, I had no idea. I live in the close-in suburbs of Maryland, just about two miles from the DC border: 20 to 40K zone. Either way I am light years away from TX or even VA. I am say, six miles from VA as the crow flies. Wow.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | January 20, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

What a relatively quiet day on the Boodle! And a fine thing, too.

Billy Talent.

Posted by: Yoki | January 20, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Good heavens, it was quiet overnight. Where is everybody?

I hope I'm not by myself for dawn patrol. Got ham biscuits with scambled eggs and a lovely fruit bowl for breakfast. I'll get the coffee and hot water on, and make sure the juices are cold.

Posted by: slyness | January 21, 2010 6:38 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. I'll join you, slyness; thanks for the ham biscuits. And speaking of fruit, you are a peach, as always.

I read Milbank's story, and skimmed the headlines. All glum. I decided I'm not gonna read any more of the paper today. Too depressing. Mayhaps we need a poetry slam today.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | January 21, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Morning Slyness & Mudge.

I would have the ham biscuits and scrambled eggs if I hadn't eaten.

NY Times will be charging beginning 2011...

Posted by: rainforest1 | January 21, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

That's assuming the NYT is still in business in 2011. If I were a newspaper, I wouldn't be buying any green bananas.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

*scarfing biscuits & eggs* Fnks fr da grb, synss!!! :-)

As long as we're being doom-n-gloomy, anyone seen the coverage of how a major supplier of rifle sights for the U.S. military has been surreptitiously adding references to Bible verses on its products? *SIGHHHHHHHH*

*really-needing-more-coffee-despite-another-brilliant-sunrise Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

In the "No, REALLY???" Dept., John Edwards IS the daddy. Alert the media:

And as if March wasn't Mad enough already:

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

I really have no patience for the gloating of the far right. I don't think it is at all reasonable to suggest that Brown's election indicates the beginning of a full scale rejection of Obama. Rather, it highlights that the system has pressure points. Like all systems, there are certain places where relatively small changes can have big repercussions. Here, it was a swing of about 100,000 voters who were most likely not all thinking of national issues.

Yes, there is the immediate pragmatic challenge of what to do about HCR. But this notion that the country yearns to go back to the good ol' days of Bush/Cheney is, I assert, a bit premature.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 21, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse


Yes on those scopes. I see the light. Yet another case of being able to hold the book in your hands; read the darn thing; but not get the message. Luckily, the reference is so oblique that most folks wouldn't notice.

We all know that Jesus would have kept his guns safe and secure. He would have only used them to shoot skeet.

"When Jesus shouts 'Pull!'"

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the Brown election means a single damn thing, other than the purely technical one: that in a five-week campaign, if you take one of those weeks off to go on vacation, if you run a lousy, lackluster campaign, if you don't know what you are doing, if you don't bother to put up reasonably good arguments, if you don't stand for much of anything, if you don't hire good, experienced people to run your campaign, if you donm't kick some ass, if you don't accept or even ask for help from the White House, if you just assume you're automatically going to win...then yes, some highly energized, highly motivated, well funded person will inevitably come along and whomp you. And dammit, they should, because you've done nothing to deserve to win. Brown didn't win the election; Coakley lost it. THAT's the ONLY thing that election means.

It ought to be readily apparent to everyone that Massachusetts isn't a "conservative" state, at least not since it stopped burning witches. But we live in Alice-in-Wonderland times, when anybody will say anything, and no one will talk about the Emporer's new clothes.

Scotty, I don't see anything wrong about putting obscure Christian numerological mumbo-jumbo on equipment designed to help kill people. Ironic, perhaps. But what the heck, maybe the King of Peace has made some policy changes in the last millenia or two, and you and I never got the memo. Suggestion to Trijicon: new company motto: "Guns Don't Kill People; Guns With Taxpayer-Funded Telescopic Sights Imbued With Cryptic Religious Symbology to Ward Off Evil Spirits Do."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 21, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge -- consider where many of those scopes are being used these days. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all and thanks to Slyness for the breakfast, eggs and biscuits, yum. Thistle, hope your evening diet is going well. You probably have homemade soup, which is full of good things.

cQp, loved the C&P commercial; I remember way back when.

SeaSea, I am not surprised that in VA to qualify for Medicaid, the income must be around $6,000. We are a "low tax state donchaknow? [sarcasm]

What is stunning to me is the family Medicaid cut off income for some of the states you listed. $40,000! Only in my dreams in VA.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 21, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! Thanks for the ham biscuits Slyness. Fighting off a migraine this morning-have eliminated the usual suspect triggers so all I can say is the weather is going to be really bad this weekend. Yuck.

Mr. F spent a while last night on the phone with Pa Frost-in-law talking him down from the position that the MA election is the sign of the reps bringing the country back from the brink. Mr. F, far more conservative than I, is actually taking the MA election harder than I am. I hadn't realized just how hopeful he was that we'd be on the road to serious HCR by now.

I think this is the end of computer screen viewing until the head improves. Toodles boodle, and don't forget to get your seed orders done. I'm going to try a couple different types of eggplant this year, and am looking for corn just for the raccoons. I won't get any so I might as well please the true end consumer.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 21, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I really have no patience for the gloating of the far left. But that is stopping now, thank God! I am tired of them shoving their humanistic religion down my throat. I shove mine right back every time they do now! I actually supported the fight against global *cooling* in the seventies to avert the next ice age, and with the realization that environmentalists were fudging the numbers and in light of the fact that the NOAA numbers don't support the latest "Inconvenient UN-truths" that two faced Gore can't even support by reducing his HUGE carbon footprint, I can't say that I trust many *environmentalists* who want Cap & Trade. Obama is suppoting every losing cause out there. Truth is that Obama is the Wrong man for the Wrong time and America is waking up on the even more blatant evidence that he really has no intention of keeping his promise to change Washington at all. There is no hope left for those of us that supported him anytime for that reason. It is not a case of him governing well that is causing his drop in popularity. The man has not demonstrated leadership at all, and taken the easy way out behind closed doors again and again on his *signature* health care plan, which is a monsterous disaster *because* of his style of lacking leadership. You can spin it as hard as you want, but I am not buying it. The man is a stuffed suit even more than any other President you want to name. He is a lot like President Carter in a lot of his political views and leanings without a shred of Carter's integrity. A leader with no integrity is not one that inspires people to be willing to make sacrifices for. Ben Nelson. The Unions. Pharma. The Louisiana Purchase. The list just goes on and on of the people who are just out for me me me *because* of his lack of leadership and integrity. The author here is well off the mark and obviously part of the Liberal Media Bias that is so troublesome for America to get to any clear understanding since they have to learn to read between the lines and that is such a hard thing to do consistently. Stop making excuses for the man! We're not buying it!

Posted by: Clearbrook | January 21, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse


there are some interesting polling results following the Mass special election: seems that there was a message being sent, but it was as much from the LEFT as from the right.

Everyone was running around saying Healthcare is dead, well, a key reason that Brown was elected was that folks wanted Congress to grow a pair. A decent portion of the Brown voters were (sad to say) for a stronger health care package.

The folks to the left of what folks consider as the center are more numerous than many accept or wish to believe. I have been saying this for a while and been scoffed at by most people. There are more lefties than Tea-baggers by a long margin, but they don't make good teevee.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

gloat gloat gloat gloat

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

More the Near Left than the Far Left.

Some people just can't tell their rights from their lefts.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 21, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Talk about a delayed reaction... *checking the front page again*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Breakfast in the bunker: bushmeat (yes, monkey), samp and morongo, and pap (porridge).

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

lol Scotty, it took a while, but I finally got it.

Posted by: VintageLady | January 21, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Ohhhhhhhh, frosti! I saw the PBS show on the opera auditions last night, too. Completely took my breath away!!!!! They were simply fabulous -- especially the cute guy who pulled off *all* 9 high Cs in "Mes Amis" from La Fille du Regiment. Holy Toledo! But it was so sad to learn of the death of one of the winners at the end (Ryan Smith, I think), from cancer one year later. Jeez, I hope they show it again. I cannot get enough of it.

*remembering with exultant pleasure*

Posted by: -ftb- | January 21, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Must have used a 1600-baud modem or something, VL... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

ftb-yes it was really sad about Ryan Smith. So glad that he found the confidence to go after it and found some success before he got sick. Adding attending an opera to my to-do list this year.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 21, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, ha ha ha!

Yes. I am up to eyeballs in work these days. Even worse when you toss in my efficiency factor, so I haven't had time to write much, here. (to the delight of many)

BUT, I was struck by someone bopping through and grouping Hitler and Cheney on some sort of Right/Left Scale.

In (my) reality, the power of the Republican party is held in the deep recesses of America's wealthy few. They spend billions of dollars manipulating the perceptions of the willing. In the chaos that ensues, these folks continue to amass more wealth and power.

Much of the left tries to work through the Democratic party. Obama was a strong enough candidate to get people to take 'part of a loaf' to get into power. Now, we watch how everyone reacts. I keep encountering folks who, two or three years ago, would consider themselves as what might be considered middle of the road conservatives, but now, they are facing enough problems with work, families and health care that they were step away from the standard answers and look at what folks are saying.

Wilbord, Dems went into shock over the Brown election. While I basically agree with Mudge on the cause and affect, I look at Brown as a "Bob Forehead" type who is an empty suit. He was just electable enough to make it (barely). Brown is an "all over the place" classic populist. There is no thought structure in there that I can see, just a bag of positions. As opposed to a guy like Feingold with whom you could pretty much predict where he comes down based on a pattern of judgments.

Electing the Feingolds of the country is important if you have some goals to improve the country. Brown, meh.


Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse


What we have watched is obstruction of governing--or attempted. Why, I don't really know other than the more we try to improve the governance of the country the more likely the lot for the middle class and lower economic classes seem to improve and that of the uber-wealthy may stabilize at just incredibly wealthy.

On another blog a couple of days ago... basketball, of all topics, we were talking about Mitch Snyder and someone who worked with him was reminded of what Mitch would always say when faced with the common place question of "best solution" for this problem or that and he would reply by saying I don't know what the best solution is, but I'm just trying to make things better.

Amazingly, when it comes to health care, a good solution is also a simple one which is to extend Medicare as a sliding buy-in to 50 or 55. Make it needs based and run it through your taxes, if need be. It is almost a one-pager. You look at the category of Americans who are being struck the hardest by this recession/depression and it is that group. Private Health Insurance providers have set upon that group and crushed them. Also, in job layoffs, that group took it on the chin, often given some buy-out to soften the blow, but the future is bleak.

Being a 50 year old in this economy is about as scary as being a Post employee.

Saying such a plan is "socialist" is just a way of dismissing the problem with a workable solution. That would be dismissing a 42 million person problem that we all face as a community. Obstructing the process really begs one's own selfishness when you take into consideration that recent studies place the US deaths because of a lack of health insurance at about 42,000 per year.

The healthiness of our nation is plummeting. It has a direct impact on our national wellbeing. In many folks picture of where we are, the time to talk is over.

Many voters that can be pigeon-holed as "left" are tired of the lack of action. That's why they let Bob Forehead go to the Capitol for a couple of years. When the Senate shows up each morning and looks across the aisle at Mr. Forehead, they will know what they need to do.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Gotta wonder what the reaction would be if the rifle scopes had "Allahu akbar" engraved on them.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Best analysis I've seen so far of the statewide turnout in Massachusetts. Fifty-four percent of the state's voters turned out. Brown took the burbs, but the cities didn't turn out for Coakley. Coakley got the minority vote (extremely low turnout by Latinos), but those folks hardly turned out all all. Of the 25 lightest-voting communities, 18 were cities.

And yes, Brown hustled. He drives a truck, so the truck became a symbol, but not a faux one. According the Boston Herald, who interviewed Brown's neighbors in Wrentham, Brown's the real deal. No servants. Mows his own lawn. Takes out the trash. This domestic chore situation may change once Brown gets to D.C., but can that be said for any other members of the U.S. Senate? Brown rode the tide in on populist anger, certainly.

Interesting reporting from the LATimes, about how the future of Haiti will depend on the actions of the Bambam and MREs (morally repugnant elites):,0,5422345.story

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Probably the same.

I can't believe people are more worried about the writing on the gun than how the gun is aimed, etc.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 21, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, someday, we can go Async.

You sent me into flashback mode remembering when we would bring in more phone cables and go buy more US Robotics modems to answer calls.

I would have been better off starting a vineyard in Saskatoon.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

scottynuke: *whomperjawed reaction to front page*

Regarding MA Senate elections: My reaction to all the noise is a sort of American Idol audition for op/ed columnists. Each gets to strut his/her stuff before us judges, but they're so self-serving, arrogant, clueless, or overblown that I've sent them all home. No one advances to the next round. End of show.

Posted by: MsJS | January 21, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

You're worried about guns? The U.S. military is training more Predator Drone pilots than any other type of pilot. Decreasing amount of mano-a-mano--or gun-to-gun--combat, operations are increasingly turning to remote warfare. Why fight them over there, when we can fight them over here--from Riverside, Calif.?

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"I can't believe people are more worried about the writing on the gun than how the gun is aimed, etc."

That's the point, WIlbrod, the concern is with where people of that region will think the gun is to be aimed *next*. Our stated policy position is that we want to stabilize Afghanistan and get out. This idiot action by the manufacturer bolsters the theory that what we *really* want to do is to kill or enslave all the Muslims, profane their religion, etc. It's like some fool asked "How can we help Al Qaeda meet its recruitment goals?" and this is the answer they came up with.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 21, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

'Zackly, SciTim...

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

But... if they're close enough to read the writing on the gun...

Ah, I give up, religion and politics are too ulcer-inducing this early in the day.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 21, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Man, it's a good thing I have a whole silo full of *hearts*, as I'm flicking them over the space to Weed (love yer posts) and SciTim.

*making more hearts if I can get the oven to keep consistent heat*

Posted by: -ftb- | January 21, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

This graph from reporting by Mike Shear on the homepage has me laughing because of teh irony:

Obama said the relentless pursuit of his domestic policies -- and a failure to adequately explain their virtues -- had left Americans with a "feeling of remoteness and detachment" from the flurry of government actions in Washington.

Far more likely that because of Obama's cool, Spock-like demeanor, busy foreign travel itinerary, long Hawaiian vacation holed up in a nice home on Oahu and on the golf course, that Americans in economic pain are feeling that Obama is remote and detached from the people--not vice versa, that Americans are remote and detached from the D.C. scene.

Obama ought to get out of his bubble and get a clue. I can't beleive the White House spin on this.

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to run through the boodle and fire jelly beans at random, and then make my exit atop a truck hauling a ton of broccoli.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 21, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, I tend to agree with the President's assessment. Bubble? It is clear that the country is packed with folks at the very end of their rope financially.

Their understanding of the causes and affects and the governance nuts and bolts is very slim if at all.

All you have to do is say Wall Street Bankers and you get hoots and hollering. Unfortunately, the very same people who are running around dancing to Dick Armey's little jig are being TOOLED.

Dick Armey is on the payroll of the bankers and the wealthy. The Dems are about to lock down the bankers or lock them up and Dick's gotta stop it.

So who do we round up? The Tea baggers.

This is stuff for a movie...

The poor schmoes are in a circular firing squad and don't even know it.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Hey, even reporters are feeling jilted by President Obama and his lack of transparency, according to this columnist at the LATimes. (Gibbs not a very good delivery man, either.):,0,1559193.column

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

ftb ... thanks, I happened to conclude this morning that I needed a heart or two. Much appreciated.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Many more where those came from, Weed.

Just talked with a colleague in Paris (France, not Kentucky) and caught up with him. It had been a very long time (for example, his daughter, whom I met when she was an infant, is now 17 years old and his son is 15 -- he says that his kids are "perfect" -- very unusual description of teenagers). He told me that times are tough in France, too, regarding the economy.

Gonna continue to beat the bushes this afternoon. And on that note, I bid thee all "a la prochaine".

Posted by: -ftb- | January 21, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

What a difference a little 5000 foot mountain range makes. Here at 2000 feet in the banana belt on the north edge of the siskiyous we have only had a few light showers and mixed sun and clouds for the past week. On the south side of the range up to five feet of snow and I-5 repeatedly blocked.

Reports of high wind all around but here in our yard, there hasn't been enough wind to blow the leaves off the lawn. The tree in the photo is only five miles from us. Nothing blew down here.

Posted by: bh72 | January 21, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Yes, tumbleweed, I agree with some of what you say, specifically, Texas's Armey, and that some people don't know their toot from their patoot.

I'll also argue that perceptions matter--take Brown turning out to rallys and meeting the people from Massachusetts, while Coakley didn't even want to extend her hand(shake) into the cold air at Fenway.

The last thing a leader should do when people are hurting (see Feinstin's assessment of the empty storefronts block after block in California--Frisco, I assume) is to tell them to eat cake. The unemployment rate is 10 percent, with the figure as high as 17 percentm if you count the number who have either given up or are underemployed.

And I agree with MSJS this morning about how pundits will trot out a full spectrum of opinions, with an emphasis on spectrum.

But here's one opinion I read this morning that seems like the Washington, D.C. habit of forming commissions isn't very effective. These commissions or study groups take lots of time, call in talking heads or experts, issue reports. In this case, Krugman is discussing plans for a deficit-reduction commission.

Another thing I'd like to see is a graphic (preferably) or article about the campaign promises that Obama has broken, such as transparency about the health care talks or discussions conducted by lawmakers.

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

There is a major crisis brewing in Belgium, folks.

Posted by: MsJS | January 21, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Regardless of the reason why, the specific problem Obama has had is communicating *why* the things he cares about are important to the average American. The typical voter wants to be able to understand, in a simple straight-forward way, why health care reform is needed, or why support to financial institutions was important, or why deficit spending during a recession is justified. These explanation have been too hard to find. Perhaps he needs more effective surrogates who can get the message out for him.

Because, unfortunately, the simple messages about these things are coming from the right, and what they lack in accuracy they make up for salience.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 21, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Don't know the origin of this, but just received this from my wife:

A very old man lay dying in his bed. At death's doorway, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookie wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven. There, spred out on newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table.

The aged and withered hand, shaking, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when he was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife. "Stay out of those," she said. "They're for the funeral.”

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 21, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Love that Mudge.

Posted by: dmd3 | January 21, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

i don't know why ppl make a big deal of obama vacationing in hawaii... that's where he's FROM! no one said anything about bush vacationing in texas...


Posted by: mortii | January 21, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

It's not *people,* Mo, it's Loomis. Hillary Clinton has never taken a vacation while holding office, I guess.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | January 21, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I mean, here's the thing. To argue that health care reform is needed because 30 million people are uninsured is an appeal to altruism. Unfortunately, a lot of people just aren't feeling all that altruistic right now. People are scared and in a defensive crouch.

A stronger argument would be that health care reform adds stability to a system that is spiraling out of control and threatens to pull down the entire economy. If made effectively, this would motivate even those who are happy with their current health insurance because it describes a dire warning of bad things to come.

People are motivated by narratives. Power comes from stories. To get policies sold to the average American the stories need to be clear, simple, credible, and very, very, scary.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 21, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Or at the mansion in Maine, Mo. I guess when rich people who have mega homes (and mega numbers of homes, Cf. McCain) AND who don't want to help others come up off the pavement, that's all right. Those rich people who may have mega homes (because, perhaps, they might have earned it through dint of long, hard work) AND *do want* to help others come off the pavement, apparently *that* is elitism and is to be frowned on, at the very least.

I guess it's easier and more important to have inherited wealth. Unfortunately, it also apparently requires inbreeding, resulting in very little brain activity going along for the ride (e.g., "Little Boy").

And there we have it.

Posted by: -ftb- | January 21, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey now, remember that GWB was vacationing in Crawford. I've been to Crawford, and believe me the thought of a vacation there should not make anyone envious. Oahu on the other hand...

Posted by: kguy1 | January 21, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton in Hawaii:

Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

People need to get over thinking of Hawaii as some exotic place. For crying out loud it's a state. I'll grant it's pretty nice compared to the other 49 this time of year, and wouldn't turn down another assignment there, but it's not all that in the grand scheme of vacations-at least not as taken by the Obamas. Going home for Christmas is one of the most American of traditions.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 21, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

And the Hawaii traffic is horrible, too:

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 21, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

hey now wheezy - i wasn't pointing any fingers - don't wanna open THAT bag of worms again... it's not just loomis - the news and the papers make a big deal of it too... well, some...

maybe i'll just shut up now...


Posted by: mortii | January 21, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

if you watch "dog the bounty hunter" hawaii can seem like a downright slum... apprently the use of meth amphetamine is rampant in hawaii...

Posted by: mortii | January 21, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Mo, and all. Let's try to reclose that bag o'worms.

It's foggy and rainy here. Trying to get enthused about something, anything. Has anyone seen "Taking Woodstock?" because it's on my coffee table from Netflix and I know only that it's rated R and the 16 y.o. wants to watch it. And that's probably OK.

Posted by: Wheezy11 | January 21, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

After our brief but lightning-filled supper thunderstorm, we rejoiced in a long and late hailstorm. There was a downpour of hail about 11 pm. When I left this morning, as the sun rose, any hollows or holes in the ground were still full of hail, and it lay on the grass like snow. Amazing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 21, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, in your neck of the woods, don't T-storms and hail presage tornado conditions?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 21, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Mo, I grew up in Hawaii way back when and there was a certain comfort of rich living next to poor, then. Like Obama, I went to school with kids from very rich families.

There is some absolutely stunning examples of wealth there. At the same time, we were also aware of the poor. The different cultures and the ethnic melting pot nature actually made it easier to be of different socio-economic strata and still maintaining friendships and caring.

The poor and a good number of ethnic Hawaiians are stuck without places to go as costs rise on a group of islands with finite space. With this in mind, the state is constantly trying to encourage new business growth to provide higher paying non-travel industry jobs.

Like anywhere, drugs and poverty can turn an apparent paradise into a powder keg.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

May I buy an R, please.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Hail and thunder often do herald tornadoes, here, Mudge. January is a bit early, but then weather is weird now. We were pleased that although the thunderstorms last night were severe, there was no tornado risk. This freed us to enjoy them, or marvel at them, or hide under the covers.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 21, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: --dr-- | January 21, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, agreed on many of your points. However, often, a film clip artist can easily misrepresent almost any politician just as long as there is enough tape.

To RD's point earlier, a clear explanation is most often gotten from Bernie Sanders.

In my book, he IS PROBABLY America's Senator. I find that Sanders' explanations are completely clear and down to earth. There is something telling about the fact that a guy like Sanders can make so much sense to folks and yet, he is supposed to be to the left of the Democratic Party.

Its amazing that he doesn't have 3 heads and 12 arms.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey, look - the Obama Hating contingent's out today.

No matter how much that ax gets ground, it still seems pretty dull to me. Tin Woodsmen aren't effectve at chopping away at the A-blog or the Boodlers, either.

Thank goodness.


Posted by: -bc- | January 21, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

mo's 11:23:
i don't know why ppl make a big deal of obama vacationing in hawaii... that's where he's FROM! no one said anything about bush vacationing in texas.

mo, what planet have you been on?

People have made a great deal about Bush vacationing in Texas--especially the fact that he cleared brush, *but far and away, far more importantly* the amount of time--and frequency--of his trips to his "ranch." If you've any doubt, check one of the most obvious and easily accessible opinion sites--Maureen Dowd's archives at the NYT!

Yes, presidents and families take vacations. But the Clintons were vacationing when the economy was in really great shape. Bush, on the other hand, got dinged, and rightfully so, for vacationing so often and being pretty clueless about what was happening in Washington, along wih the war in Iraq, and Katrina, ad absurdum.

Also, compare the nightly rental price of the luxurious home in Hawaii (not mentioned by anyone here) rented by the Obamas versus the dismal numbers of ordinary folks who haven't been helped by the mortgage relief program. Let me play the broken-record one more time: perceptions matter.

*drive-by Boodling...sigh*

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I think it was the last year of Reagan's presidency I came up with a question I would've liked to ask him. "Sir, there is a sort of myth that has evolved that when a President takes office he gets a briefing on certain very secret matters some of which are very surprising. Did you find that true?"
A friend thought that was funny, because he could have answered, even at some length, without really giving up any secrets.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, there you go, you should dial it back. Mo made a great point. Obama is not responsible for the impressions you choose to draw. All Mo was point out is that it is a cheap point to score for the press because Hawaii is known to most as an exotic vacation site. Many of those people don't even know that it is a state. You would think that, in 2010, we wouldn't see this.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, there you go, you should dial it back. Mo made a great point. Obama is not responsible for the impressions you choose to draw. All Mo was point out is that it is a cheap point to score for the press because Hawaii is known to most as an e(ex)otic vacation site. Many of those people don't even know that it is a state. You would think that, in 2010, we wouldn't see this.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Health care for the uninsured is a good thing in concept. But there are many ways to put it together. The Ben Nelson tradeoff was awful, cutting a very bad backroom deal for just one vote. The devil is in the details.

One could conceivably take health care reform more incrementally, or offer consumers a range of choices, as Brooks suggests, rather than a top-down imperative. And the public option?

Or is it better to just ram it through Congress before Brown arrives on the scene? If Pelosi can do this, will she be vilified or praised, and if vilified, where will the buck stop? Because the Democrats have been so fractious (Google, please), it will give the Republicans plenty of hay to make something with.

But health care reform is only one of the issues. The most important? You decide--maybe it's something else? After Scott Brown made history Tuesday, I think you'll find Obama and his team really scrambling to prevent a widening Massachusetts Massacre. It's the old Carville maxim, "It's the economy, stupid!" Bob Herbert at the NYT has had some good ideas about the need for jobs programs.

The jolt of a Brown win isn't a bad thing, if it focuses effort and attention to where attention and effort are needed.

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Mo makes a great point. While people did object to Bush vacationing the source of the criticism wasn't where he went to vacation, but *how much time* he spent vacationing.

In contrast, critics are complaining that a visit to Hawaii, regardless of its length or frequency, is intrinsically decadent. This is the distinction that I believe mo was making.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 21, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

With modern communications, we usually don't know how much of a vacation is a "working vacation" whether it's Bush or Obama. Thinking can occur and decisions made. Maybe evaluate presidents using some other criteria.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

No, Dolphin Michael, it's a cheap shot to say that most people don't know that Hawaii is a state.

I would venture that more Americans can't correctly put their fingers on the location of Yemen on a map, or talk about the history of environmental degradation in Haiti, or why the Dominican Republic is so much better off than its same-island neighbor, or biogeography in terms of why so many Haitians are on the island, this fact linked to why they haven't been able to form a stable goverment in their 200-year history.

(But what was the message of Teacher Corps, where I trained? That you can commonicate just about anything if you keep the concepts simple enough. Perhaps Obama should try that with the American public, given his dropping approval rating since during the past year.)

Cokie Roberts may think Hawaii is too exotic and Obama should stay on the mainland where it's not exotic [think Crawford] (don't understand Roberts' train of thought...).

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Son of G reblogged this on Tumblr from someone names adamisacson*.

"Something happened a long time ago in the Republican Party, and people might not want to talk about it. They got together and swore a pact with Pat Robertson. True story**. And so, Pat Robertson said, “Okay, it’s a deal.”"



Posted by: -TBG- | January 21, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

RD, voice of reason and logic - always!

Posted by: badsneakers | January 21, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse


thanks RD!

ivansmom - i love thunderstorms... so incredible!


Posted by: mortii | January 21, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, I don't always write clearly, but I was referring to people who can only dream of going to "Hawaii."

In fact, if you go back to the Anti Obama push by the Clintons and then later by the Republican campaign machine would play the "foreign" and "Exotic" nature of Hawaii.

Loomis, the Hawaii thing was "code."

So, I disagree with you.

Posted by: russianthistle | January 21, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, and what criteria would you suggest?

Six days response time for a would-be bomber on an airplace versus three? Intent versus accomplishment, such as Chester Arthur's overhaul of civil service? Reform legislation? Kowtowing to lobbyists versus fighting for your own vision of things? Laying out what you want legislatively versus allowing Congress to draw up the package? Corrraling people of varying beliefs to get something passed (LBJ). Fighting the monied interests, such as railroads and timber, and accomplishing lasting something for the public good (TR)? Being an artful communicator and a master at PR (RR)? Keeping campaign promises or not overpromising? Reacting swiftly to changing circumstances or not--natural disasters, economy, terrorist threat? Working with a team of rivals?

Really looking forward to your response...

Posted by: laloomis | January 21, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

The House won't vote on the Senate health bill. Health care reform is definitely, absolutely dead. Kaput. My teabag congressman will be rapturously happy.

Next try: 2017?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 21, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Is anybody else seeing the WaPo front page as a single long colum (not two columns) until you get down to the feature boxes? Very weird on my monitor.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 21, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Hawaii is viewed as a paradise has both benefited and plagued us. On the one hand, because of it's beauty and great weather, we've benefited from a robust tourism industry (well, off and on I'd say) which took us out of the agriculture business for the most part. On the other hand, the perception that people coming here on business are really just enjoying a boondoggle is pervasive, especially within the last few years. That's hurt our tourism business greatly. Go figure, it's a fine balancing act.

In any case, people forget or don't know 1) that this is Obama's childhood HOME, 2) that we're really a state 3) we're a metropolitan city with metropolitan city issues, and 4) most of us who live here are working so much that we hardly get to enjoy a day at the beach, a hike in the mountains or to swim with the dolphins. I know my family and friends hardly ever do.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 21, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Never mind. Fixed now.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | January 21, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Hello all!

I believe I am in agreement with Obama that the biggest problem with the Democrats is that they are not very good at defining what they are for and what they are doing about it. Whether they are in power or not, the Republicans are the ones who draw the lines in the sand on issues. Ds can't refute the straw man if they can't clearly state their position. Nebulous "reform" isn't really good enough.

Health care reform is a perfect example of this. The Rs scream about death panels and abortion, and the Ds simply say "it's not true." They don't do a good job of countering with specifics like making the medicaid threshold equal across the states, ending pre-existing condition discrimination or lumping the uninsured together to put their bargaining power on par with big corporations. Unfortunately, much of national politics today is the war of the sound bite, and the Rs win it every time, hands down. It strikes me even as I preview this that I could sum up the Rs in 4 words and the Ds took a paragraph.

In short, I perceive that the disconnect is a long-standing communication problem between Ds and the public. No bubbles, no jetsetting POTUS. Just incompetant PR. Ask Coakley how that worked out.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | January 21, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: seasea1 | January 21, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

jumper - i have it from a direct source that obama is dialed in almost 24/7. those blackberries do have a habit of becoming crackberries, ya know!

Posted by: mortii | January 21, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

As for Obama renting a luxurious home to vacation in, heck, if he's got the money, we could use the revenue. As I recall, there were at least 3 families staying in that luxurious home with them. Maybe they split the bill.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 21, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Accomplishments. No, I am not satisfied with the status quo.

The "be our daddy and hold our hands on TV after a failed underwear bomber because we are chicken****s" is a lot of hooey. The other stuff, sure, why not?

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 21, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: yellojkt | January 21, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

In his first year, Obama acquiesced in Britain's release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, failed to support the Iranians rallying in the streets this summer for their freedom, failed to slow Iran's nuclear program, embarrassed himself twice in Copenhagen, accepted a completely unjustified Nobel Prize, literally prostrated himself before Saudi and Japanese royals, failed to get any useful intelligence from the Christmas bomber by treating him as a criminal rather than as a terrorist, degraded relations with our strongest allies, and at home has failed to make a dent in double-digit unemployment. Those of you who voted for him through your rose-colored glasses are now seeing him for what he really is, a weak executive with no relevant experience to rely upon, little interest in protecting American intersts in the world, and who was elected primarily on novelty than on competence for the job.

Posted by: Illini | January 22, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

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