Ringside Seat: State House of Cards

Anyone familiar with state legislatures knows that the folks who move through their halls are a varied bunch. There are earnest, hard-working legislators, up-and-comers on their way to bigger and better offices, and old-school pols, among other types. There are also a not inconsiderable number of nutballs and idiots who managed to get themselves elected to offices no one pays much attention to before Election Day. To wit: A state representative in Missouri just introduced a bill making it a felony for one of his fellow legislators to introduce legislation curtailing gun rights. He says he knows it won't pass, but he just wanted to make a point. About freedom.

It's easy to forget, with all the attention focused on the White House and Congress, that state legislatures are more than just the source of weird bills and rampant corruption. In fact, a huge amount of legislation profoundly affecting Americans' lives passes through them every day. One of the ways we'll be able to tell if this really is a moment where liberalism is ascendant is if Democrats in state legislators do what conservatives have done in recent years: not just work to stop the other side from doing things they don't like, but aggressively move in creative ways to push their agenda further than it had gone before. And every battle that goes on at the national level is also being fought in state after state. Which is why it's a good thing our own Abby Rapoport is there to sift through the high comedy and low dealing at the state level to keep us apprised of what we need to know.


So They Say

"It shows you as public figure and somebody is waiting for—especially because I was considering running—'oh, haven't heard from him' and now allegedly I'm drunk tweeting. First of all, I rarely drink. The last time I was ever drunk was my bachelor party; that was what—28 years ago, 27 years ago? So I guess no one ever pocket dialed or tweeted before."

 —Scott Brown, explaining Bqhatevwr

"Even assuming that pocket-tweeting is something that has actually exists, presumably the result would look something like 'pqwsaq' or 'ffffffffffffffffffffffffg,' right? We're not sure how the random movements of Brown's upper thigh could tweet out whole words, corrections to misspelled words, and the nearly grammatically correct sentence "Your brilliant Matt." That would be like setting up a million monkeys with a million typewriters and getting Macbeth in four minutes."

—Dan Amira, explaining Scott Brown

Daily Meme: Puppet Master-in-Chief

  • Barack Obama is at it again. According to a new Politico piece from Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, he is still the best president ever at slipping past the press unnoticed. So sneaky! And now, the press corps is pissed.
  • What egregious breach of transparency brought down this torrential downpour of scorn? The president went golfing with Tiger Woods this weekend, and it was a No Press Allowed party. 
  • Paul Waldman summed up the main complaints: "'They’re transparent about things they want to be transparent about,' said Mark Knoller, the veteran CBS News reporter. 'He gives interviews not for our benefit, but to achieve his objective.' Well, yeah. That's what administrations do. Reporters 'find his staff needlessly stingy with information and thin-skinned about any tough coverage,' while 'The president’s staff often finds Washington reporters whiny, needy and too enamored with trivial matters or their own self-importance.' Right on both counts!"
  • Although Politico tried to sell their puppet master claims as new insight, this same topic has been covered many times. By Politico.
  • And, as Tom Scocca notesPolitico deserves a supporting-actor award for its role in some of the White House shenanigans it whines about.
  • In Politico's defense, they aren't alone. Other news organizations have reprimanded Obama for his taciturn nature. 
  • But, news flash for all reporters who suddenly feel unfriended by the commander-in-chief—you can't blame Obama. The White House press corps always thinks the president doesn't hang out with them enough.
  • To wit, this article from 2004: "Reporters, for their part, see the White House as a fortress. ... What seems new with the Bush White House is the unusual skill that it has shown in keeping much of the press at a distance while controlling the news agenda."
  • Or this one from 2002: "'These guys feel pretty confident that they can sort of tame the Washington beast. It's a fairly audacious experiment,' says John Harris, a former White House correspondent for The Washington Post" ... and current Politico head
  • Or this one from 1998: "It was the White House's stonewalling since January that encouraged the press appetite for scraps. ... McCurry and his communications team have played news organizations off one another in the presidential-news sweepstakes, and then complained about unfavorable publicity when reporters ran off, unassisted by the White House, to chase the competition. They have browbeaten, and even punished, reporters whose coverage they didn't like."
  • Or this one from 20 years ago, discussing White House media tactics from 20 years before then in the Nixon administration: "Among the innovations were the coordination of an Administration-wide 'line of the day' that was in turn part of an overall thematic 'message' ... a continuing effort to nullify the Washington press corps through an ongoing 'outreach' program to the generally more friendly and malleable regional press; the carrot-and-stick technique of rewarding reporters and news organizations whose coverage is positive and attacking those who are critical."
  • So, if you're going to blame someone for Tigergate, blame Nixon. He's the one who created the communications office that reporters have relished griping about for decades. 

What We're Writing

  • February's a short month, and the sequester's closer than you'd think. Deadlock looks ever more likely, and Bryce Covert would like to remind you what's at stake: the brains of your kids, the safety of your food, and the lunches, homes, and livelihoods of the needy.
  • Conservatives are out in force against the Violence Against Women Act, proving that nothing makes any sense. Amanda Marcotte picks apart the opposition.

What We're Reading

  •  The Republican Party could use a little self-reflection on the level of George W. Bush, nude artiste.
  • NARAL Pro Choice America has a new, youthful president, and is gearing up to mobilize millennials in what's becoming an all-too-necessary fight against the rollback of women's rights.
  • Latin America is almost the only region of the world that escapes inclusion on the map of the U.S.'s partners in external rendition. It turns out that systematically supporting the most brutal and ruthless dictators of an entire continent for a century doesn't particularly endear its citizens to the CIA.
  • Inside the Beltway, the distinctions that used to delineate neutral, academic think-tanks from the big-money lobbies on K Street are fading.
  • Whether because of the whole Petraeus e-mail-chain snafu or (more likely) not, General John Allen is out of the Marines and out of our high command, leaving Obama in the lurch with two of his best men gone in quick succession.
  • It looks like Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight might be more level-headed than the rest of us, with Marco Rubio's water-gate being in his mind no obstacle to the Cuban's front-runner potential as a GOP nominee in 2016.
  • In another victory for the forces of small government, Oklahoma Republicans are looking to legislate grades in public school science classes, namely to protect students writing papers about dino-riding Jesus from getting poor marks. This could backfireguys.

Poll of the Day

In a rare Rasmussen report that smacks of what might be real truth, 54 percent of Americans agree that the minimum wage isn't high enough, and support President Obama's proposal to raise it from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour. When asked whether the wage hike would be good or bad for the economy as a whole, Americans were unsure, which is fair given that economists aren't sure either.

Prospect intern Jon Coumes contributed to today's Ringside Seat.

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