Have Republicans Finally Gone Too Far in Kansas?

Ten years ago, the progressive writer Thomas Frank wrote What’s the Matter With Kansas?, a runaway best seller, and a few months after its publication, when George W. Bush won reelection, the book seemed to explain what had happened. Frank set out to resolve the paradox that befuddled liberals: Why did so many white Americans of modest means in the heartland embrace a party in thrall to the ultrawealthy?

Frank audaciously proposed that Democrats address their catastrophic standing in Kansas, and places like it, not by moving toward the center but away from it, by embracing populist economics. Even more audaciously, he proposed that his stratagem might actually make the party competitive in a state Republicans always win by landslide margins.

Now, shockingly, Frank’s outlandishly hopeful vision stands on the verge of coming true. »

House Approves Obama’s Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels, Still Doesn’t Like It

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives approved President Obama's plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to aid in the fight against ISIS, but don't let that fool you: Few lawmakers are enthusiastic about the plan. The 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq War was on many people's minds during the six hours of debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, and even some supporters questioned the plan. "It’s the best choice of worse options," said Representative James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat. "It’s because there are no better alternatives and I don’t think it’s responsible to do nothing." The authorization will expire in mid-December, along with the routine spending bill it was attached to. The Senate is expected to approve the bill on Thursday.

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Fresh Off of Saying ‘Shylock,’ Joe Biden Calls Asia the ‘Orient’ and Throws in Stereotype for Good Measure

Proving again that, yes, he is your accidentally racist grandma, Vice President Joe Biden continues to offend minority groups without malice. Biden already offended Jews this week — it's only Wednesday — when he referred to shady lenders as "Shylocks," but today's gaffe was truly prodigious, as he managed to combine an antiquated, other-izing term with a cultural stereotype.

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‘No Ground Troops’ in U.S. Fight Against ISIS Might Not Actually Mean No Ground Troops

In announcing an expanded offensive against Islamic State militants, President Obama has been firm and direct: “The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake,” he's said. “And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.”

The top U.S. general, not so much. “My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

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The Myth of Bill Clinton, Political Genius

That Bill Clinton is a political savant, possessed both of rare oratorical gifts and granular insight of the electoral arts, is an oft-repeated fact. The Clintons’ visit to Iowa has prompted another chance to repeat the legend, which has only grown over time. John McCormick, Mark Halperin, and Jonathan Allen report for Bloomberg that the former president was once again “demonstrating his mastery of minutiae to advise on how to win tough races.” Let us watch the master at work:

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Have Nerds Betrayed the Left?

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Frank, author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, sympathetically interviewed academic-activist Cornel West, both of whom agreed that Barack Obama has betrayed the left. I pointed out that Frank and West alike held in common a lack of familiarity with even the basic concepts of political science, which can explain how structural limits (like divided government and polarization) constrain the domestic powers of a president in a way that cannot be broken with ideological willpower or inspirational speechmaking. Now Frank has written a column (“All these effing geniuses: Ezra Klein, expert-driven journalism, and the phony Washington consensus”) assailing the influence of political science, which he views as a kind of corrupting force draining the left of its populist fervor.

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Hillary Clinton Pretended to Fry Steak and Not Run for President in Iowa

“Hello, Iowa,” said Hillary Clinton at the 37th annual Harkin Steak Fry on Sunday . “I’m baaaaaack!”

It was Clinton’s first visit to the caucus state since her embarrassing third-place finish in 2008, and she was acting as if she might not run for president. “I’ve got a few things on my mind these days. First, and most importantly, Bill and I are on constant grandchild watch. I’m calling Chelsea every five minutes to make sure things are going alright,” she said before admitting, “There’s that other thing. It is true I am thinking about it.”

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De Blasio’s Empty House in Brooklyn Apparently Has 24/7 Security

The air-conditioned booth outside of the mayor’s place in Park Slope is occupied approximately 100 percent more often than the house it’s supposed to be protecting. According to the New York Post, the guardhouse is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite the fact that Bill de Blasio and his family moved full-time to Gracie Mansion in Manhattan months ago (unless they’re secretly sleeping in Brooklyn!?). “Taxpayers are shelling out at least $5,533 a week — roughly $277,000 a year — for the security, based on the NYPD’s average hourly wage,” according to some napkin math by the Post. Should the de Blasios decide to rent out the home, it might just come with a Michael Bloomberg–level perk. You don’t often see that on Craigslist.

Video of the day

Charlie Rangel Opens Debate With Fake Phone Call

Congressman Joe Garcia Picks Ear, Eats It on Live TV

Sarah Palin Thinks Chelsea’s Baby May Make Hillary ‘Open Her Eyes’ About Abortion

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In The Mag

Back on the Trail

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

Reading List

Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013

The Case for Deficit Optimism

For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.

By Ezra Klein
Salon Jan. 15, 2012

The NRA's Democratic Helpers

Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.

By Steve Kornacki

From the Archives

New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010

Boehner's Army

After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.

By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009

With Friends Like These

Obama drew progressive ire from day one.

By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008

Hiding In Plain Sight

How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.

By Jeff Coplon