Politics can be a 24/7 occupation, as anyone with a cell phone, computer or cable subscription knows. It's not hard to find political news, commentary or just plain rants. They are everywhere. Sometimes it takes a little more digging to find the context, perspective or background on major issues of the day.
Once a week, our political team would like to share stories that gave them insight into the news of the day or perhaps just some pleasure to read.
When Mitt Romney was running as the GOP nominee for president, he helped solidify the image of the Republican Party as the party of the rich and super rich. Romney's tone-deaf gaffes made him appear distant and even a bit contemptuous of Joe Six-Pack. But as the Atlantic article on the "The Class War Inside the Republican Party" suggests, that may be a misleading and inaccurate stereotype about the party. According to the article, the hard-core, rank-and-file GOP primary voter is white, blue-collar and lacking a college degree.
"The two political parties have essentially traded places over the last few decades. Democrats, who once depended heavily on blue-collar workers, have become increasingly the party of white-collar workers, at least among whites. And as downscale whites leave the Democratic Party, they've joined the GOP, whose cultural values often align with their own."
The article suggested that this may put some Republican candidates between a rock and a hard place. While looking still to wealthy donors to finance their campaigns, they may also feel pressures to adopt more populist, anti-elitist stands. These candidates may also discover that their polished, professional resumes may be more of a disadvantage to voters who value the outsider challenging the status quo more than the insider power broker. It's a trend that has its roots in the so-called Reagan Democrats but certainly became more prominent with the rise of the tea party. Anybody remember Joe the Plumber? (Susan Hegger)
There's a web browser plugin that takes pictures of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and replaces it with a picture of a cute kitten. It's idiotic, it's pointless and it's wonderful.
The plugin's creator was curious what the prime minister's office thought about the idea. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that he didn't think "there’s going to be any high-level stuff ... but it would be really interesting to see how a government department reacts to these weird new kinds of technology and culture jamming stuff, which previously they wouldn’t have had to deal with.’’
So he submitted a freedom of information request to his cabinet and asked for all correspondence that mentioned his plugin.
How many pages would you guess were devoted to internal emails talking about the prime minister's face being swapped with kittens?
Now, the creator hasn't actually got his hands on the 137 pages yet. The government is trying to charge him $720.30 in fees for getting the records (a rather catty move if you asked me, but since he's planning on asking for donations it shouldn't be catastrophic).
If there are any lingering doubts that Hillary Rodham Clinton is treated differently than other potential presidential candidates because she is a woman, can we now please put them to rest? If the media frenzies about Clinton's laugh (I recall "cackle" was the word used) or her hairstyles or her pantsuits weren't enough to convince you, maybe the reaction to Chelsea Clinton's recent announcement that she's expecting will.
While Politico acknowledged that "Clinton friends and allies were loath to speculate Thursday on whether her family news might affect (Hillary Clinton's) thinking on 2016," it didn't stop Politico and plenty of other media outlets. I still can't figure out whether Politico was trying to be sardonic when it posed as one of Clinton's possible choices: "Why beg donors for money at dozens of events a month when there’s a happy baby to spend time with in New York?" Really? Would any political reporter seriously suggest that a male candidate might chuck running for president in favor of bouncing a grandchild on the knee?
I expect that Hillary Clinton is ecstatic about being a grandmother. I don't know a grandparent-to-be who isn't. But I also expect that Clinton's decision to run will be determined by something else entirely -- whether she thinks she can win. (Susan Hegger)
Our man in Iraq
I have a rule. If Dexter Filkins goes to the trouble of writing something, I will go to the trouble of reading it. His reporting from Afghanistan and now Iraq has been consistently penetrating and insightful. His latest piece about Iraq in the New Yorker -- "What we left behind: An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence and a nation worried for its future" -- reminds us that Iraq remains a shattered country, not exactly at peace and not exactly at war.
Filkins focuses on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a symbol and cause of Iraq's failure. He does a terrific job recounting Maliki's personal history. (He started out as as Shiite dissident fighting against Saddam Hussein while in exile in Syria and later Iran.) And he embeds Maliki's biography in Iraq's turbulent history. But Filkins is at his best when he captures in graceful prose the soul of his subject:
(Maliki's) "long face conveyed, as it almost always does, a look of utter joylessness. Having spent much of his life hunted by assassins, Maliki gives the impression of a man who learned long ago to ruthlessly suppress his feelings."
And these days, that's apparently not all that he's suppressing. (Susan Hegger)