No one ever went broke, the saying goes, by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. And no one ever lost a political fight for the same reason. Nevertheless, at the press conference he conducted today, Barack Obama seemed hopeful about his ability to inform and persuade, even while acknowledging that folks might not have the clearest understanding of topics like the debt ceiling. "I just want to repeat, because I think sometimes the American people understandably aren't following all the debates here in Washington," Obama said. "Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more. All it does is say that America will pay its bills. And we are not a deadbeat nation."
When President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would be chairing a task force to come up with recommendations on gun restrictions, he said, "This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside."
Fears of the Mayan apocalypse might have been for naught, but that doesn't mean 2012 went by without any new signs of our world's impending doom. On Tuesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the United States experienced record temperatures in 2012. Last year's average temperature of 55.3°F is a full one degree higher than 1998, the old record-holder. According to one study, weather stations across the country recorded 34,008 new daily highs, juxtaposed against a paltry 6,664 new record lows.
Today, President Obama officially nominated John Brennan to direct the CIA, since the previous director made a sudden departure (note to prospective Brennan biographers: Watch your step), but the other appointment, of former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, is what got all the attention. Republicans dutifully trooped to the cable cameras to say somberly that they are "troubled" and "concerned" by Hagel's nomination. Though Hagel was once their esteemed colleague, he made them very angry by turning against the Iraq War after having voted for it in the first place. Because, as they will tell you, the war went swimmingly, and anyone who fails to understand that may not have the judgment to lead the Pentagon.