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Risk Factor

Remember when Democrats swept the 2006 elections, then stormed into Washington demanding national health care reform and the repeal of President Bush’s upper-bracket tax cuts as a condition for keeping the government open? Right, me neither. Yet somehow the Republicans, controlling just one house of Congress—unlike the two held by Democrats in 2007—have completely seized control of the political agenda. President Obama has given up even on seating well-qualified nominees in his administration, let alone advancing his own policy preferences.

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One of the things Republicans seem to have forgotten, in the wake of the introduction and swift passage of their Dickensian budget crafted by Paul Ryan, is their unshakeable commitment to health care reform. Remember that? Throughout the health care debate, they were determined to rally around their own reform plan. And now the House has passed a long-term budget that yanks health insurance away from more than 40 million Americans and neglects to put anything in its place. Maybe it’s just an oversight, like the time in freshman year when I turned in a history paper with no bibliography.

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Does Not Compute

The new GOP budget unveiled by Paul Ryan is a wildly cruel document. Yet pointing this out, as Democrats keep doing, seems only to flatter Ryan’s self-conception as a serious man telling hard truths. So let me instead concede Ryan’s moral premises. (Throw tens of millions of people off health care? Why not! Slash food stamps? It’ll just inspire the next Dickens!) Instead, let’s judge Ryan by his own standards. Does his plan, however cruel, actually address our fiscal realities?

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Kangaroo Court

When U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled last week that the individual mandate—and hence, the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA)—violates the Constitution, right-wingers were entitled to feel giddy. But they want more than giddiness at the prospect that ideologically friendly judges may win for them what they lost at the ballot box in 2008. They want intellectual respect, too. Most of the legal profession had, until recently, dismissed lawsuits against the ACA as nutty, a fantasy of right-wing judicial activism.

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War Torn

In Washington today, there are two debates about Iraq. The first is loud and fake. It consists of flag-draped speeches in which President Bush says things like “The party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.” It looks like a debate about foreign policy, but it’s not. It’s a debate about national identity—about the kind of country we want to be: a country that retreats and loses or a country that fights and wins. The Democrats stand accused of defeatism; the Republicans demand victory.

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At Long Last

At first, McCarthyism was a partisan affair. Wisconsin’s junior senator rocketed to political stardom in February 1950, when he told the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, that Harry Truman’s State Department was infested with Communists. As that year’s midterm campaign progressed, Joe McCarthy’s staff helped doctor a photo of Maryland Democrat Millard Tydings, making him appear to be huddled with former U.S. Communist Party chief Earl Browder.

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Minority Report

Every day, withdrawal from Iraq becomes a little less "unthinkable." Among politicians and pundits, the idea is still largely confined to the usual lefty suspects: Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Arundhati Roy. But the public is further along. According to this week's Washington Post/ABC News poll, 40 percent of Americans want to get out now, up seven points in the last month. Among Democrats, it is 53 percent.

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Pocket Veto

It’s easy to poke fun at President Bush’s new reelection ads. Even by the standards of the genre, they’re vacuous. Amid the montages of hopeful-looking children, resolute-looking firemen, and responsible-looking parents, I had to search hard for a statement of fact. And, when I found one, it was false. The Bush ad titled “Safer, Stronger” declares, “January 2001. The challenge: an economy in recession.” But, as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has noted, the National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially dates these things, says the economy wasn’t in recession in January 2001—the rec

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Second Act

Midway through last Thursday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire, co-moderator Peter Jennings decided to have a little fun with Al Sharpton. The reverend wants to be treated as a serious presidential candidate—even though he has never held elective office, has visited New Hampshire only four times (twice for debates), and has offered no real policy proposals. So Jennings decided to play along. If “you have the opportunity to nominate someone to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, what kind of person would you consider for the job?” the ABC News anchor asked.

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At Home Abroad

This was supposed to be the "domestic issues" State of the Union address. In his January 2002 speech, President Bush dwelled on the war in Afghanistan. Last January, he dwelled on the war in Iraq. This year, his aides told reporters, he would turn to the home front, beginning the speech with national security and building to a domestic policy crescendo. It's not hard to understand why. Since he took office, President Bush's popularity has swung largely along a single axis: When national security predominates, it goes up; when domestic policy predominates, it goes down. On September 9, 2001, Bu

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