National Guard

 The slate of people vying for House seats is always littered with whacky, offensive, and just plain mystifying candidates. But, inevitably, some of those crackerjacks go on to actually win Congressional seats. (See: Joe Walsh, Allen West.) Below, a list of five candidates who make us smack our foreheads—but who, on January 3, 2013, could very well be esteemed members of the 113th Congress. Kerry Bentivolio When Rep.

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The first big GOP candidate debate of the 2012 presidential cycle was from a conventional perspective unexciting. Nobody hit a home run, and nobody made a major gaffe. From a tactical point of view, the most astounding moment was Tim Pawlenty’s refusal to stand behind his “ObamneyCare” sound bite about health reform delivered over Fox News this weekend.

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Tonight at 8 pm, President Obama will give one of his patented Big Speeches about the oil debacle in the Gulf—only this one will be his first-ever address from the Oval Office. The backdrop's no accident. Presidents typically only resort to Oval Office speeches when, as John Dickerson notes, they're "responding to an immediate crisis [or] trying to change the dynamic of an ongoing one." And this address falls into the latter category. The public thinks Obama's been way too cuddly with BP, while badly-needed energy legislation is sputtering in the Senate. Something has to change, and fast.

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True conservatives have never known exactly what to think of Bobby Jindal. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Republicans praised Louisiana’s newly elected governor as just the kind of energetic technocrat the state needed to get back on its feet. They were impressed by his youth, his intelligence, and, yes, his background (he’s Indian-American)—and they eagerly started talking him up for higher office. But then came his disastrous response to President Obama’s State of the Union in 2009, after which GOPers mercilessly mocked the governor for the same dorky qualities they once cheered.

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The new WSJ/NBC poll on immigration shows that Republicans are getting a short-term bump from whites for their tough-on-illegal immigration stance, but "Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers." First Read suggests that Latinos might sour on Obama if he fails to pass immigration reform: Of course, this doesn't mean that Latino voters won't hesitate to hold Obama and the Democrats accountable, either.

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The Sheriff

For the better part of an hour, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been kicked back in the front cabin of Coast Guard One, the small but handsomely appointed plane on which she travels, chatting easily about the challenges of running the third-largest Cabinet department. En route back to Washington after three days of nonstop meetings in Mexico City--a whirlwind visit made more challenging by the fact that Napolitano broke her right ankle playing tennis last month and is still hobbling around on crutches--the secretary is in wind-down mode.

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Right in a prominent location in yesterday's New York Times, there's a big story by Abby Goodnough, spread out over two pages, telling us that the Democratic candidate to succeed Ted Kennedy may lose. A big and really desperate photo, too, of the late senator's widow, Victoria, and Robert Kennedy's smiling (but probably still irascible) son Joseph, who used to be my congressman, and Teddy's successor-for-four-months Paul Kirk endorsing Martha Coakley, now attorney general of the Bay State. Don't get me wrong: I intend to vote for her on January 19.

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Richard Posner on why District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated the District's ban on the private ownership of pistols, is an appalling mistak

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Over the holiday break, you may have seen the National Guard's newest recruiting tool--a three minute long music video featuring post-grunge alt rock band 3 Doors Down. "The longest and arguably most cinematically advanced ad in the movie theater genre" intersperses close-ups of lead singer Brad Arnold making love to the microphone with shots of soldiers reconstructing blasted landscapes, carrying injured children, and dodging bullets--then asks you to join the National Guard.

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New Orleans Postcard

My wife and I were about to put our house on the market before Hurricane Katrina. I remind myself of this as we contemplate an act that has taken on the trappings of civic treachery--putting our house on the market now, a year after Katrina. It's true: We really were talking to realtors last summer. It was time to downsize, we said. Empty-nest syndrome, we said. That was our cover. Secretly, we were a bit freaked out about hurricanes even before Katrina. (At least I was.) Not so secretly, we were certain the national real estate bubble had reached its soapy and iridescent limit.

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