My Alcoholic Holiday Season
December 21, 2011

If you’re like most folks, you’ll be spending a fair chunk of this month in a tipsy haze as you flit from one holiday party to the next in a halcyon glow of seasonal intoxicants. And who can blame you? December in America is when we happily mistake the Christmas spirit for the Christmas spirits. Spiked eggnog, of course, flows as freely as organically farmed pine needles across your living room floor. Hot toddies welcome flushed cheeks in from the cold and novelty tipples—from winter ales to peppermint punch—dot the holiday landscape.

The Establishment vs. Newt: A Long List of Republicans Who Want Anybody But Gingrich
December 09, 2011

As a former Republican House speaker and veteran of the culture wars of the 1990s, Newt Gingrich understandably earned his share of liberal detractors. But who knew how many enemies he’d made among the Republican political elite? As Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls moves ever closer to bearing electoral fruit in the Iowa Caucuses, it’s fair to say that the GOP political establishment is freaking out.

Keystone Conundrum
November 23, 2011

What's the matter with Pennsylvania? That question, or the implication of it, was embedded near the end of my last post looking at whether President Obama faces an "Ohio versus Virginia" choice in plotting a path to reelection.

Super Committee Fails?
November 20, 2011

On Friday I said we'd probably get a "ticktock" of how the super committee failed Thanksgiving weekend. I was off by five days. In Politico today Mike Allen has a rough-draft ticktock of how the super committee failed. This is testament, I guess, to Politico's slightly insane commitment to getting the news before it happens; to Allen's particular skill at doing so; and to the heretofore unacknowledged apparent reality that the super committee was pretty much destined to fail from the beginning. Allen reports that two members--Rep.

How Iowa’s Social Conservatives Lost Their Influence
November 18, 2011

This weekend’s “Thanksgiving Family Forum” at a Des Moines megachurch probably seemed like a great idea to Iowa social conservatives when it was first developed. You’d have the presidential candidates arrayed around a “Thanksgiving table,” obediently waiting for a symbolic serving of activist support. In the pews would be thousands of stolid Iowans of the sort most likely to show up at the January 3 caucuses. Wielding the microphone would be focus-group king Frank Luntz, probing the worldviews of the candidates to determine their fidelity to a teavangelical, big-God, small-government creed.

More Super Committee Chicken-Littleism
November 14, 2011

The only thing that's alarming about the super committee's struggle to reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction is the eagerness of reporters and Washington chin-pullers to be alarmed. What exactly will happen if Thanksgiving comes and no deal is reached? "If the panel falls short," Robert Pear explains in the Nov. 14 New York Times, "a series of automatic cuts, split evenly between military and civilian programs, would take effect, starting in 2013." This might be cause for alarm if the current month were Nov.

Influential Me
November 07, 2011

Never in my life have I written anything that made so little impression on the reading public as my last TRB column ("Trigger Happy"), wherein I explained that it doesn't matter that the super committee won't meet its eve-of-Thanksgiving deadline to find $1.2 trillion in budget cuts and/or tax increases. (I include in that calculus the three years I spent writing for and eventually editing Highlights, my high school newspaper, 1973-1976.) Indeed, I wrote in my column, blowing the deadline would likely be best for all concerned. Let me repeat that. Forget about the super committee deadline.

Trigger Happy
October 26, 2011

Everybody agrees that the bipartisan deficit super committee had better hurry up and strike a deal to cut the federal budget by $1.2 trillion so it can meet its November 23 deadline. If it doesn’t, then all hell will break loose. Except it won’t. You may have lost track of the deficit story after Congress and President Obama averted catastrophe at the end of July by agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Perhaps I can help.

September 28, 2011

In the good old days, they were called “the cardinals,” because the chairmen of the appropriations committee were so powerful. An insular group, they met behind closed doors, and, without wasting their time with input from anyone, they decided how the government should spend precious tax dollars. The most legendary example of the appropriator’s might is Charlie Wilson, the Texas representative who launched a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, simply through canny use of the power of the purse.  How times have changed.

Hope and Change: Meet the Ex-Obama Staffers Getting Arrested in Front of the White House
September 03, 2011

Each morning for the past two weeks, scores of respectable-looking protestors ushered themselves into single file lines, walked determinedly through Washington’s Lafayette Park, sat down on the sidewalk in front of the White House, arranged themselves in rows as if for a class photo, and waited patiently to be arrested (the violation: blocking pedestrian traffic).