politician

Before Sunrise

When President Obama arrives in Tokyo on Friday, he will confront a country that seeks to be an ally of the United States. For Japan has never been an American ally. It was first a rival, then an enemy, and finally, after it lost the war it foolishly started with the U.S., it became a protectorate, not an ally.   The distinction matters. An alliance is an institution negotiated between two sovereign governments in which each agrees to a series of reciprocal obligations that have the force of law.

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Meanwhile, in other Gordon Brown news, the P.M. is involved in a nasty public dispute with the grieving mother of a British solider killed in Afghanistan who didn't appreciate the misspellings in a handwritten condolence note Brown sent her. This is pretty much the definition of a no-win situation for a politician . . . and it makes me think that the worthwhile practice of handwriting condolence letters (something that Robert Gates does, as I learned in Crowley's terrific profile) is precisely the sort of thing that risk-averse political advisers will eventually put an end to. 

Last night, Tom Menino was reelected to an unprecedented fifth term as mayor of Boston. How did he do it? As Jason Zengerle wrote for the magazine in June, "Mayor Mumbles" may have been challenged by a youthful opponent, but Menino had the advantage of being very well known: "[I]n a major city of nearly 600,000 people, could a statistically significant portion of the populace actually have met their mayor? As it turns out, in Tom Menino's Boston, the answer is yes; according to the Globe's poll, a remarkable 57 percent of them, in fact." Click here to read the profile.

It was Halloween 2001, and Kennesaw State freshman Nick Ayers was sitting anxiously in an Atlanta airplane hangar. A friend had recommended him for a campaign position with Republican state senator Sonny Perdue, who was mounting a long-shot gubernatorial run against Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes. The portly, middle-aged politician disembarked his Bellanca Super Viking and, as Ayers recounts the story, walked down the stairs holding a lid-less cup of coffee. Eager to make a good first impression, the nervous blonde teenager extended his hand for a firm shake.

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Weight Watchers

In New Jersey, any candidate for high office can count on getting smeared over taxes, corruption, the economy, or all of the above. But in this fall's hard-fought gubernatorial race, an unlikely issue has popped up amidst the usual mud-slinging: the portly physique of Republican challenger Chris Christie. Ever since Jon Corzine released his now-infamous attack ad, in which a disdainful voiceover claims Christie improperly "threw his weight around" as a U.S. Attorney, neither candidate has managed to entirely escape the politics of fat.

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From a Guardian column by Maura Keaney on Lieberman: Joe Lieberman has become the Balloon Boy dad of the Senate Democratic caucus, a fame-whore so addicted to media attention that he hatches ever-more-desperate and risky schemes that sell out his "family" to earn press attention. It's a catchy lead, but I think this misdiagnoses Lieberman's motivations for his filibuster threat on health care legislation that includes the public option.

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O Brother

Something wonderful, or terrible, is taking place in Philadelphia. The city's sports fans, whose only consistent love has been for an inanimate object--the statue of Rocky--are becoming warm and fuzzy. Sort of. Kind of. Well, about as nice as they are ever going to get in Philly, where fans have made their national mark with nastiness, boos, and a perverse fondness for losing. But now the city is confronted with a success story greater than any since the signing of the Constitution (which wasn't so pretty, either). It's the Philadelphia Phillies, of course.

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When the world last left Wesley Clark in early 2004, he was a streaking meteor of a presidential candidate. Still fresh from leading NATO in the Kosovo war, he arrived as a savior for the left, who saw a bulletproof patriot that the rest of America could believe in; hero of the netroots, beloved by Michael Moore and Madonna; hope of the Clintonites, delighted by such a clean ideological slate. Alas, after five blazing months, Clark for President flamed out. There are the conventional explanations: He got in too late. He didn't play in Iowa.

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Angry White Men

It is a sign of our weird political moment that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama will probably hurt him among some of his fellow citizens. His opponents are describing the award as premature. The deeper problem is that the Nobel will underscore the extent to which Obama is a cosmopolitan figure, much loved in European capitals because he is the change they have been looking for. Most Americans will probably be happy to have a leader who wins acclaim around the globe.

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Americans have an almost mystical faith that external controls on political power can produce good government. It is a faith in things like independent counsels, term limits, separation of powers, and Lawrence Lessig’s interest, transparency systems. It approaches faith because, even when these cures continue to fail, we merely ask how they can be improved, not whether the whole approach is wrong. That is why, in his essay, Lessig does not go far enough. Naked transparency isn’t the problem: It is our addiction to miracle cures that, since 1788, have done little for the patient.

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