Up Front

THE QUESTION

We've got Real World and Real Housewives. What new reality show is next for D.C.?

"The Real Interns of Pennsylvania Avenue: Sex, Scandal, and Shenanigans at 1600!" -- Latoya Peterson, Racialicious.com

"So You Think You Can Filibuster?" -- David Roberts, Grist.org

"I Have Integrity, Get Me Out of Here!" -- Eric Rauchway, U.C. Davis

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PARODY by T.A. Frank

Cliffsnews: Back-to-School Cheat Sheet

For those who checked out during the summer of 2009, a summary of the news based on what anyone seems able to remember (Note: Not fact-checked)

Central America: Honduras, or a similar nation, deposed its president, who was left-wing, but democratic, except he was a dictator. Then he returned, or at least kept driving back over the border, but could not land his plane, which Obama condemned. Pundits agreed this heralded a new era of hemispheric relations.

Iraq: The surge worked, except for the increase in violence. The United States has left Iraq, although our troops are still there. The prime minister, or president, ran for re-election, so the Shiites were being nice to the Sunnis, except they later intended to kill them, or vice versa.

Afghanistan: The bloody fight against the Taliban continued, and the Taliban became an ally, provided that it was moderate. Media outlets called Afghanistan Obama's Vietnam, or not. The United States regularly bombed Pakistan, or similar places, with drones.

Terrorists: Al-Qaeda released new audiotapes reiterating strong support for martyrs and opposition to infidels. Some experts speculated that al-Qaeda was now small or dead. Other experts said its members were hiding in Pakistan and thus subject to drones. (See above.)

Georgia: The line about "we are all Georgians" was not frequently invoked.

Health Care: Democrats wanted to enact health-care reform, and Republicans wanted to prevent it. Bipartisanship, therefore, was seen as the ideal. Democrats negotiated with themselves, finding themselves tough adversaries to satisfy, but ultimately bargained themselves down quite successfully, thanks to the Blue Dogs, whom no one liked, apart from David Brooks.

Gitmo: Guantánamo Bay prison remained decommissioned, apart from the guards, cells, and detainees.

Economy: Rapid increases in unemployment stunned experts, who then heralded recovery. The stimulus was declared a failure for being too small and too large and another one was recommended, except when it was discouraged.

Obama: He swatted a fly, and his polls went up. He hoisted a beer, and his polls went down. Obama was declared a failed president.

New Jersey: Most of the state was arrested for buying and selling kidneys.

T.A. Frank is an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation.

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Dialogue Bland Old Party

Where will Republicans find their next leader?

Mark Schmitt: So, we don't have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore, or maybe we do, but David Axelrod recently said that when he sits around talking about Republicans the White House is worried about, her name doesn't come up. Who do you think they do talk about?

Adam Serwer: Certainly not the official Republican leaders -- not John Boehner, not Mitch McConnell, not Michael Steele. The Economist recently hyped newbie Reps. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor as the heirs apparent. But really, I'm thinking Ben Nelson. (Just kidding.)

Mark: You're not totally kidding, are you? Conservative Dems like Nelson are doing the work of opposition.

Adam: I'm kidding-ish. I think the White House is more worried about Dems than Republicans. As long as the GOP is in hock to nutbars who think Obama was born in Kenya, I'm not sure there's much to worry about.

Mark: At some point it has to stop, doesn't it? The GOP has to find a leader with a voice.

Adam: I'm guessing that's why Jon Huntsman was plucked from Utah to be ambassador to China, right? To avoid the GOP attracting sane leadership.

Mark: That is part of Obama's genius. He's taken at least one GOP governor out of the picture, and a few members of Congress. But back to Cantor and Ryan; this is a party that's always been about seniority. How can its leaders be two guys who didn't even serve in Congress in the 20th century?

Adam: Well, I think it's partially because they're young. For a party that's trying to represent itself as having new ideas, it helps if the people touting them are new.

Mark: Fair enough, but they only have old ideas, like taxes suck. Why can't they take the "Sam's Club" path -- social conservatism coupled with some supports for working families having a hard time?

Adam: Their base is interested more in symbolic politics than in actual policy. That's why they're pandering to the birthers.

Mark: That's the kind of base you can take for granted. Birthers won't vote Democratic.

Adam: What about governors? Because they have to be pragmatic, that's where the new GOP leadership might come from.

Mark: But look at Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin. The most prominent governors (er, ex-governors) are not pragmatic!

Adam: Maybe the GOP should find someone who can be crazy without seeming crazy, so they can be presented as a credible alternative to the Democrats. Didn't lefties think Ronald Reagan was a little "out there" once upon a time?

Mark: In the 1970s, Reagan really did seem out of the mainstream of his party, but the mainstream moved to the right after 1978. Plus, he was a serious figure -- two-term governor of the biggest state, nationally known ...

Adam: Now we're waxing nostalgic about Ronald Reagan!

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