For those of us who had a reasonably close view of the early months of the Clinton administration, certain parallels to the current political situation are eerie. One is this: The price of a landmark domestic accomplishment seems to involve turning next to the federal deficit, particularly reducing spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -- aka "entitlements." In order to obtain the 50th vote on his 1993 budget reconciliation bill -- which created new programs such as direct student loans, and realigned federal spending and tax policy toward progressive goals -- President Bill Clinton had to promise the quixotic, self-important Democratic senator Bob Kerrey that he would create a commission on entitlement spending.
David Bossie, leader of Citizens United and producer of "Hillary: The Movie," is seen in his office in Washington on March 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
There aren't too many Supreme Court cases that can be called "truly momentous" even before they are decided. But when the Court asked to rehear the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in a rare preterm session this fall, it became clear that, even though the case itself is minor, the Court might use it as the opportunity to make a big change in the law regarding money in politics. But as week after week passes without a decision, the community of campaign-finance reformers becomes ever more anxious that some of their most basic assumptions about what's constitutional and what isn't will be wiped out.
Over at Talking Points Memo, a friendly argument has broken out between a former Senate staffer and a political scientist over what might be called the problem of the Senate. That's the kind of fight I have to jump into!
Benjamin Beachler, 3, sits in his stroller holding his sign as his parents and hundreds of tea party tax protesters gather outside of the Federal building in Anchorage, Alaska.(AP Photo/Al Grillo)
Of all the aspirations set out by the newly inaugurated Obama administration one year ago, the promise to reduce the level of acrimony in American political life is the one that has most plainly gone unfulfilled.
Here in Washington, certain words don't seem to mean what they mean elsewhere. I remember some years ago, Christopher Hitchens pointing out that the word "perception" generally means insight or understanding. But in Washington, it means something false, as in "perception is reality," or "the perception of George W. Bush as a heroic president."
Ezra Kleinnoted a similar reversal a few months ago: In the external world, "reconciliation" means a peaceful reunification, as in the end of a family feud. But in Washington, the word represents "the most divisive thing you could do."