Laundry List? Spin Cycle?
January 28, 2008

The writing of a State of the Union – SOTU in the internal White House parlance – is a central organizing tool of an Administration.  At their worst, after all the departments and agencies and sleeve-tuggers in Washington have had their say, State of the Union addresses become the cliched laundry lists you hear so much about.  At their best, they are thematic addresses that use specific policy initiatives to illustrate the direction in which the president will lead.  The question is which direction Bush will take. --Andrei Cherny

Special Guest: Andrei Cherny Live-blogging The Sotu
January 28, 2008

Tonight, special guest Andrei Cherny will be live-blogging President Bush's last State of the Union address. In addition to being the author of two books on US politics, Cherny is a former senior speechwriter and advisor to Vice President Al Gore--the youngest White House speechwriter in American history. He is currently the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. Be sure to check out him out on the Plank during and after the president's speech tonight.   --The Editors

The Clintons And The Race Card
January 28, 2008

No one can deny that the Clintons play the race card. But it wasn't until the South Carolina primary that many people realized that they play it both ways. I have to admit that I myself only dimly recalled the smarmy stuff that Christopher Hitchens documented in Slate today. I also have to admit that I am loathe to be indebted to Hitchens for anything. But it can't be helped. He has the cynicism and self-righteousness of the couple down cold. Refresh your memory, think about the ugly analogy to Jesse Jackson, and shudder...Do we really want these two in the White House?

What Would Janet Reno Do?
January 28, 2008

Lest you think Obama's getting all the big endorsements today, it should be noted for the record that Janet Reno is backing Hillary. This is actually moderately surprising, given Reno's conflicted relationship with the Clintons--especially Hillary.

The Take-away From South Carolina
January 26, 2008

What you need to know about tonight's results: 1.) Obama took nearly 80 percent of the black vote, yes, but also about a quarter of the white vote. That stacks up pretty well alongside Hillary's 36 percent and Edwards's 40***--well enough that Nora O'Donnell of MSNBC could call it "almost a three-way split," and The New York Times could proclaim that a "coalition of white and black support" powered Obama's victory. This is a huge development going forward.

Was This Obama's Best Speech Yet? Maybe.
January 26, 2008

I'll leave the sophisticated electoral analysis to my more sophisticated colleagues, Noam and Mike.  But I have to say something about Obama's speech, which is the best I've seen him give in a while, if not the entire campaign. That's a high standard, I know, but I think it's true. Tonight's address was every bit as lyrical as the speech Obama gave in Iowa. And it touched on many of the same themes, about healing division and building a movement of voters seeking change. But those themes weren't as front-and-center as they were earlier in the month.

Obama Hits His Speech Out Of The Park
January 26, 2008

Best election night speech of his I've heard yet. Some key passages: We are up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as President comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House.

Mark Penn Argues For A Third Bill Clinton Term
January 25, 2008

I meant to weigh in on that Clinton conference call I mentioned yesterday but, between closing my print piece and the GOP debate, I never got a around to it... Anyway, nothing especially ground-breaking happened--it was mostly an implicit (and, during the Q&A portion, explicit) defense of their somewhat dubious radio ad pivoting off Obama's "party of ideas" comment about the GOP.

Is Hillary Entitled To The White House?
January 25, 2008

I know Bill has said that "Hillary doesn't think she's entitled to the presidency," but you have to wonder after stuff like this. From Karen Tumulty's report on Hillary's visit to an HBCU in Columbia this morning: Clinton was also accompanied by former New York Mayor David Dinkins and New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel's is the most powerful chairmanship in Congress, Clinton told the audience of several hundred. "He didn't get there by leapfrogging.

The Gop Debate (i.e., The Bubble Bath In Boca)
January 24, 2008

A couple of quick thoughts about tonight's debate: 1.) You'd probably expect it from a notorious Romney symp, but I thought the former Massachusetts governor had a very strong night. He was sharp out of the gate with a fluent answer about the recent stimulus compromise, solid again on Social Security, extremely well-informed in response to a gotcha question from Rudy Giuliani about federal hurricane insurance.