E.J. Dionne Jr.

American Decline

WASHINGTON--Vice President Joe Biden is tired of seeing the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan demeaned, derided and dismissed, and he wanted to talk about it.  But a funny thing happened in the course of an interview at Biden's White House office on Tuesday afternoon.

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Brittle Activists

WASHINGTON -- The nation owes a substantial debt to Justice Samuel Alito for his display of unhappiness over President Obama's criticisms of the Supreme Court's recent legislation -- excuse me, decision -- opening our electoral system to a new torrent of corporate money. Alito's inability to restrain himself during the State of the Union address brought to wide attention a truth that too many have tried to ignore: The Supreme Court is now dominated by a highly politicized conservative majority intent on working its will, even if that means ignoring precedents and the wishes of the elected bra

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WASHINGTON -- There was an unexpected poignancy to the moment.

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WASHINGTON--"Populism" is the most overused and misused word in the lexicon of commentary.

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Comity of Errors

WASHINGTON--It turns out there were core contradictions in the promises Barack Obama made to the country in 2008. They caught up with his party on Tuesday in Massachusetts. Things will not get easier. Republicans in Congress will be empowered to hold to their course of obstruction by Sen.-elect Scott Brown's victory. Washington will remain the object of scorn as a dysfunctional capital, and absent a new Obama approach, the GOP can act with the confidence that only Democrats will pay a price for the failure of comity. This problem goes directly to the tensions in Obamaism.

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Blame Game

WASHINGTON -- In June 2008, before the financial implosions that would come a few months later, I asked two smart financiers who happened to be Republicans about the future of the seemingly shaky American economy. Defying the moment's conventional predictions that we would somehow muddle through, one of them offered a dire and uncannily accurate forecast.

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Washington—If you held a contest to pick the worst thing a politician could be called at this moment, my nominee would be Wall Street Liberal. That label has everything. I personally despise the way the noble liberal idea has been devalued, but face it: Conservatives have had great success in discrediting liberalism, to the point that most liberals dare not call themselves by their own name. And what institutions are held in lower esteem right now than those represented by the words "Wall Street"? The left has always disliked Wall Street.

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WASHINGTON -- Reaching agreement on a health care bill is harder in theory than it will be in practice. Between now and the day the measure goes to President Obama's desk, there will be many crisis points, much posturing and dire warnings of impending failure. There are real differences between the bills passed by the House and the Senate. The last few votes are always the most difficult to get. But more than negotiators can afford to acknowledge openly, there is broad agreement on the kinds of concessions the Senate can make to the House and still preserve the 60 votes needed for passage.

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WASHINGTON -- A politically shrewd Senate Democratic staff member chatting about the future of health care negotiations stopped in midsentence late Tuesday afternoon as news flashed across his computer screen. "My God," he said. "Byron Dorgan is retiring." It was a thunderclap moment in the politics of 2010, an unfortunate twist for Democrats already looking at a difficult election year.

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Not To Be Repeated

WASHINGTON--As they enter this difficult election year, Democrats seem ready to engage yet again in a debate they never seem to tire of: whether winning demands "moving to the center" or "mobilizing the base." If they get stuck on this one, they're in for a very bad time. The simple truth is that in midterm elections, no party can win without its base because turnout is lower than in presidential elections.

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