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The Real Problem with Bachmann's Speech

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All of Washington is abuzz with the fact that during her response to the State of the Union, Michelle Bachmann was looking at the wrong camera. This was indeed disconcerting.

But, the real problem was that when we turn into to watch Bachmann, we want her to be off the charts crazy and last night she was only mendacious. She twisted the unemployment numbers to make it look like they were the result of President Obama's policies, neglecting to mention the Wall Street inspired economic meltdown, a meltdown that was arrested first by George Bush's massive bailout and later by Obama's much maligned Stimulus Bill.

But, I wanted her to defend the statement she made the other day that the Founding Fathers did away with slavery, or her claim from a few months back that the Navy was dispatching dozens of ships to India for the President's visit there, or to at least offer some serious reservations about whether or not Obama was really born where he claims he was.

Or, maybe, just maybe, she could have dressed up as a George Washington impersonator? Maybe an Abigail Adams impersonator? What good is having a Tea Party response if it is only lame and not full-blown crazy?

Hats Off To Boehner and Lieberman

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Regular readers will know that I do not usually agree with the policies advocated by Speaker Boehner and that, as a native Nutmegger who has known Sen. Joe Lieberman for twenty years, I have little in the way of good feelings about him either. But, both men get high marks for their effort to revive the D.C. Opportunity scholarships which give much-needed tuition assistance to D.C. parents who send their children to private and parochial schools. I believe, and believe firmly, that government has a primary responsibility to educate the nation's children and that investment in education is money well spent. But, for a variety of complicated reasons, the D.C. schools are a mess, and until they are better, no child should be made to suffer a bad education if we can find them something better at a private or parochial school.

Obama Gets a \"B\"

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I had hoped the President would break the mold for State of the Union speeches a bit more than he did last night. Shorter would have been good. And, the coherent moral argument I was looking for did not appear. Yes, as the President said, we want America to “win” but “win” is, like “hope” and “change” a little too vague and amorphous for my tastes, to say nothing of the political demands of the moment.

Through much of the debate, the president side-stepped the essential differences between his party and his opponents. When he says that “we must innovate” there is some discussion about to whom the “we” refers. The Republicans think that government is not a partner with the private sector in the effort to innovate, or educate, or create jobs, or anything else, but a hindrance to the private sector. Perhaps, Obama’s use of the word “we” with such imprecision touched the moderate chord he sought but I am not so sure. At the end of the day, elections are about choices and the person who defines those choices best tends to win.

The State of the Union: What Obama Must Say

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The early prognostications indicate that President Obama will forego the traditional laundry list approach to the State of the Union tonight, which makes sense. The center of the electorate worries that Obama is trying to have government do too much already, and reciting a laundry list of new things for Congress to enact would only add fuel to that fire. But, if not a laundry list, then what?

It is critical that Obama deliver a morally coherent defense of where he would like to lead the nation. During the election of 2008, the dissatisfaction with George W. Bush was so great, it was enough for candidate Obama to invoke contentless nouns, like “change” and “hope,” that are ingrained in our national character. Tonight, he must add some content when he sketches his vision and he must explain and defend that content in explicitly moral terms. And, unlike his wonderful speech in Tucson, when it was appropriate to avoid politics, a State of the Union address is inherently political: He cannot try to “rise above the political fray” tonight, he must define and dominate that fray.

Dems for Life at March

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Huddled at a large table in the back of a hotal restaurant near Capitol Hill, the Democrats for Life met before the March for Life, scarfing down some hot coffee and breakfast before heading out into the cold Washington streets. Kristen Day, the head of Democrats for Life leads an impromptu strategy session. The group includes a young man from Connecticut, a couple of students from Catholic University, an older couple who head out early to meet with another group, and Stephen Schneck, a professor of politics at Catholic University and a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. In previous years they were jeered and they expect more of the same.
But, as they emerge from the hotel, and assemble a tall sign with the group's logo, a woman from Westfield New Jersey asks to take their picture, saying "There's hope." Closer to the stage for the rally, four people ar unpacking "Randall Terry for President" signs from their van.

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July 18-31, 2014

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