President Obama shook Cuban president Raúl Castro's hand as he approached the podium at the Johannesburg memorial service for Nelson Mandela this morning. It was a stark departure from the standard protocol for American presidents, which consists of reaching your hand out to the Cuban president, pulling it away at the last moment, and telling him "too slow" before walking away.
It's certainly starting to look like the New Jersey governor's crew sought petty retribution against a political enemy by purposely causing traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Yes, really. It all feels very New Jersey, which is not the best thing for Chris Christie's national aspirations.
The brewing scandal all started with a jam on the bridge in September, when three lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey, were shut down for a “traffic study.” But testimony from Port Authority officials yesterday confirmed the initial, somewhat outlandish speculation (and later, solid reporting): There was no study — instead, Christie appointee (and high-school buddy) David Wildstein may have ordered the lanes shut to get back at the Fort Lee mayor, a Democrat, for not endorsing the governor in his landslide run for reelection.
As healthcare.gov slowly lurches into functionality, the battle lines around the health-care law are returning to their pre-October state. Giddy conservative hopes for the law’s immediate disintegration, or its quick repeal, have ebbed, and in their place opponents have returned to hoping that the law will fail because not many people will want to buy health insurance. Ross Douthat warns, or perhaps fantasizes, that the immediate collapse may have been averted, but the long, slow collapse may yet beckon on the horizon.
Congress has plenty to do before it recesses for the year, and with Majority Leader Harry Reid threatening to make senators work through the weekend – at Christmas! – lawmakers managed to reach a bipartisan deal on the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday. The bill is considered "must pass," as it's been approved every year for more than five decades and will allow the Pentagon to continue paying troops in combat. This year's slimmed-down version contains mixed news on the effort to reform how the military handles sexual assault. While the deal would implement the most significant changes in years to the military's rules on sexual assault, it omits a more wide-reaching amendment proposed by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would have military prosecutors decide whether to prosecute sexual assaults rather than victims' commanders.
This April, renaissance woman Sarah Palin is returning to a TV screen near you, maybe, if you get the Sportsman Channel, which you probably don't, as it is available in 27 percent of television-equipped households. On Amazing America With Sarah Palin, Palin will travel around the country talking to Americans in the 99th percentile of Real Americanness, such as bull riders, ranchers, cabin builders, and firemen. Why Palin? Because she is "one of America's most popular leaders," according to the CEO of the Sportsman Channel, who is wrong.
Airbnb, the San Francisco–based house-sharing start-up, must be filled with economic populists and former Sandinista sympathizers. That's the only reason the company corralled its users into making this video warmly offering to let New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's family and friends stay in their homes during his inauguration, right? Or maybe Airbnb is just excited about De Blasio's plans to revamp early childhood education in the city?
Yep, that's gotta be it.
The most intense fights in American politics center around questions of redistribution — at what levels should the government tax the rich, and how generously should it subsidize the poor and sick? The debates tend to run along familiar tropes — big government, free markets, personal responsibility, and so on. But the best insight into these fissures comes by looking at their opposite: What about those cases when big government is not the source of partisan discord?
This weekend, the Washington Post ran two long stories about cases like this. One explained the persistence of massive subsidies for sugar growers. Another reported on Medicare’s astonishing inability to stop drug-makers from foisting a massively expensive drug on patients, rather than using a cheaper, equally effective alternative. Both articles reveal, through contradistinction, the real ideological source of the partisan divide.
We don't know what the National Security Agency's office atmosphere was like back before Edward Snowden was a household name, but it seems safe to say it was better then than it is now. The Washington Post reports that morale at the organization's Fort Meade headquarters "has taken a hit" as the world has been inundated with seemingly endless spying revelations."The news — the Snowden disclosures — it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce," said one anonymous former official. "It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?' And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down." And you know what would cheer them up? A little face time with President Obama.
The London Review of Books has published a long piece by Seymour Hersh claiming that the Obama administration failed to acknowledge that a Syrian rebel group was capable of making chemical weapons and could have been responsible for the August 21 sarin gas attack that left hundreds of people dead. "When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]," writes Hersh, a longtime Pulitzer Prize and Polk Award–winning national security reporter. Of course, that strike was eventually called off, but the report undermines the narrative the administration presented to the American public — and the rest of the world — as they made their case for going after Assad late this summer.
In 1985, William F. Buckley, founder and editor of National Review, wrote a column defending — or, to put it more accurately, expressing — his sympathy for the Apartheid government of South Africa. Buckley wandered through a series of points that would embarrass his successors today, most notably his opinion that Nelson Mandela belongs in jail. Most interesting, Buckley argued not only that the South African government served the strategic interests of American foreign policy, and that Mandela was a dangerous radical, but that South Africa should not dismantle Apartheid:
Deep behind a tangle of denial and rebranding initiatives, a GOP resuscitation plan emerges.By Frank Rich
When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.By Jason Zengerle
Jon Favreau’s most enduring riffs.
Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013
For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.By Ezra Klein
Mother Jones Jan. 15, 2013
Our debt dysfunction began with the Constitution, funded Manifest Destiny, and makes the trillion dollar coin look tame.By Tim Murphy
Salon Jan. 15, 2012
Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.By Steve Kornacki
New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010
After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009
Obama drew progressive ire from day one.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008
How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.By Jeff Coplon