Ringside Seat: Bracket Racket

Let's be honest here: Congressional Republicans really, really dislike Barack Obama. Yes, they disagree with his agenda, and sometimes they engage in some half-sincere posturing against him for effect, but you can be pretty sure that deep down they just can't stand him. Which is fine—lots of us felt the same way about George W. Bush. But at times, their dislike only serves to make them look silly.

Like today. As you may be aware, there's an intercollegiate athletics tournament about to begin, in which young people will take a break from their studies to play a few games of basketball. President Obama, who played on his high school team and is, like many Americans, a sports fan, takes a break from his own duties every year to let the public know his March Madness picks. Those picks tend to be somewhat conservative, with just enough upsets selected to let you know he has actually put some thought into it. 

How did Republicans respond to the presidential selections? By saying he's a fool to put third-seeded Florida in the Final Four? Nope. They are outraged—outraged, I say!—that Obama engaged in such frivolity while the country faces so many critical challenges. "If he can pick one winner right in the brackets, he's trumped what he's able to do on getting votes for his own budget," said Senator Lindsay Graham. "American families want to see a budget from the president, not a bracket, and it's time for President Obama to take his job as the leader of this country seriously," added Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. "He's entitled to have some fun, but usually the way I look at it is you have fun after you do your work. And the president hasn't done his work," said Rudy Giuliani (remember him?). It's almost as if they had some kind of talking point they were all reading from.

So They Say

"The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out."

 —a tweet from Representative Steve Stockman of Texas

Daily Meme: Keystone Fright

  • The State Department has given its review of Keystone XL to the White House, and it's completely vague about what should be done. Now it's up to Obama, and people have lots of opinions and factoids to drop in helping the president with his decision. 
  • The New York Times' advice? "He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that ... can only add to the problem."
  • The Christian Science Monitor wonders if the pipeline could ruin diplomatic relations with Canada.
  • Making things even messier for the White House, it turns out one of the experts who wrote the State Department's report consulted on three projects for the company trying to build the pipeline. And the State Department tried to hide that little detail. Ouch. 
  • Another mark against approving the pipeline—it would only create 35 permanent jobs. 
  • We're likely a while off from a final decision on Keystone. On a more local level, though, battles are escalating right now. Massachusetts, for example. 
  • Stephen Lynch, who is facing off against Ed Markey in the Democratic primary for John Kerry's Senate seat, is pro-Keystone. Many young activists, as well as aCalifornia billionaire, are threatening to campaign heavily against him if he doesn't change his mind fast.
  • Regardless of how things play out on the issue's many battlefields, Keystone opponents like Bill McKibben and the Sierra Club intend to keep fighting.

What We're Writing

  • Marriage equality is going up before the Supreme Court next week, but some gay activists are busy fighting another battle. Christopher Moraff spotlights the effort to put a stop to controversial—and thoroughly debunked—gay conversion therapy.
  • Last year's rich-guy-establishment candidate aside, some members of the GOP are just as riled up about big banks as any Wall Street occupier. David Dayen takes us through the conservative reasoning that makes "too big to fail" mean "too big to be."

What We're Writing

  • To some, Glenn Beck's diatribes can sound like the "two minutes of hate" from 1984.
  • An eighth-grader brought a gun to school today and shot himself. 2,837.
  • Lobbyists are just loving Capitol Hill's new hot issue: cybersecurity.
  • Read and marvel:  National Journal calls Rick Perry "The Presidential Candidate Ahead of His Time." Seriously. 
  • Politico gives us a stunning scoop: on social issues like gay marriage, the GOP is behind the times.
  • House Republicans have come up with a "consumer-friendly" bill that would allow banks to skirt financial regulations by moving questionable assets overseas. The GOP is already the party of rich folks; now it's going for the party of Bond villainy.

Poll of the Day

The Public Religion Research Institute conducted a poll showing that 63 percent of Americans favor immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. All religious groups, both parties, and independents registered majorities (of varying margins) in favor of the measure. Moreover, 54 percent of Americans believe that growing numbers of immigrants "strengthen American society." Bully for us, for once.

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