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Forests & Trees

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The homepage at Politico has several commentaries of Rick Perry's decision to quit the race and even more on one of Newt Gingrich's ex-wives' interview with ABC, but not a single item on the most important news of the day: The number of new jobless claims fell again last week to the lowest level since April 2008.

And, as Jonathan Cohn notes over at TNR, the unemployment rate in Michigan dropped to its lowest rate since September 2008. To be sure, at 9.3%, Michigan's jobless rate is still too high. But if the unemployment rate in key swing states, and nationally, continues to move in the right direction, the GOP will have a hard time arguing that President Obama's policies have failed. In Michigan, where Obama's decision to bailout the auto industry played a big role in stabilizing the economy, a decision Mitt Romney opposed, the case will be well nigh to impossible to make.

E.J. On GOP Populism's Limits

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E.J. Dionne looks at the reasons why the Tea Party's push to craft a variety of GOP populism has hit the skids. EJ wrote his column before the news that the most aggressive populist in the race, Rick Perry, was dropping out and throwing his support behind Newt Gingrich, who practices a kind of populism of his own, but his argument makes sense: The GOP can always find a way to live with "a Harvard-educated private-equity specialist" like Mitt Romney.

Keystone Pipeline

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Let us set aside the environmental issue of whether or not the extraction of oil sands is too dirty, and too energy intensive a process, to make sense. If Canada wants to extract petroleum in such a fashion, that is their business.

The question the President faced was whether or not to build a new pipeline to bring the oil so extracted to refineries on the Gulf Coast. That proposed pipeline would have passed through what is known as the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water to much of the Great Plains. One accident, and the result could be devastating. Ask yourselves this: Do you like grabbing a burger at McDonald's every once in awhile? A poisoned aquifer could result in no corn, and no corn means no beef, and no beef means no burgers.

Who is at War on Religion?

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Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics takes note of Newt Gingrich's comments regarding the necessity of preventing sharia law from being recognized by U.S. courts. Silk invites Newt to engage in a thought-experiment: substitute "halakha" for "sharia." Silk might also mention the canon law of the Catholic Church. Civil courts rely on religious laws all the time when called upon to adjudicate a case involving a given religion. How could it be otherwise? Gingrich is simply engaging in anti-Muslim baiting. It is ugly. It is beneath a man of his intellect. But, that doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Anybody But Romney: Is It a Myth?

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The always intelligent Nate Silver at the New York Times raises doubts about the theory that Mitt Romney is essentially unacceptable to the vast majority of Republican primary voters, and that his wins in Iowa and New Hampshire were simply the result of the conservative vote being split among Gingrich, Santorum and Perry.

Silver is half-right: Many Republicans will support whoever is the eventual nominee and while they may prefer someone other than Romney, they will climb on board his bandwagon if he continues to rack up victories.

God's Right Hand

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Yesterday, my biography of Jerry Falwell – God’s Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right – was published by HarperOne. This is the first real biography of Falwell since 1984 and I encourage everyone to buy the book either at your local independent bookstore or at Amazon. Here is the link.

I don’t want to give away the book, but I thought I would share with you, my regular readers, some of the things I learned that surprised me while working on this project, and not only about Falwell.

TNR Gets It Wrong

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The New Republic is, hands down, my favorite magazine. But, every once in awhile, even they publish something that is frightfully wrong.

This morning, they have a post up by Michael Kazin who suggests the Religious Right's influence on national politics is waning. He writes that attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage are moving away from the positions articulated by the religious right, a claim that is only half-true. Attitudes towards abortion have remained remarkably for the past couple of decades while, in recent years, attitudes about same-sex marriage are decoupling from other social issues as younger evangelicals have become increasingly ambivalent about the issue.

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August 15-28, 2014

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