Last week, A-list pundit Mark Halperin reacted to President Barack Obama's press conference on the budget negotiations with Republicans by saying "I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday" on the MSNBC program Morning Joe. The result was a quick apology, a quick suspension, and lots of silly hand-waving. But no one should really care about what Halperin said. It was certainly juvenile -- to understand that, you only had to look at Halperin smiling gleefully and flushed with the thrill of transgression as he uttered the naughty word. But the republic will survive. Nevertheless, Halperin does represent something important, dirty words or not -- both in terms of his career up until now and what got him in trouble.
Imagine that you wanted to lose weight, but you love ice cream. What if every time you reached for that carton of Ben & Jerry's, you had to look at a photo of a morbidly obese man dying from a heart attack? Would that make you less likely to indulge?
Four years ago, religion was a hot topic during the Republican presidential primaries. Mike Huckabee practically ran for pastor-in-chief, running ads calling himself a Christian leader and talking about Jesus. Mitt Romney handled questions about his Mormon faith (many evangelicals consider Mormonism a heretical cult) by giving a speech arguing that the real enemy is secularism.
I'd like to ask you to do something strange, maybe even a little shocking: take Michele Bachmann seriously. If you're like most people, chances are you know Bachmann only as that crazy Tea Party congresswoman who told Chris Matthews, "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?", the one who delivered her own response to the State of the Union, in which she looked into the wrong camera for seven minutes. But she is running for president, and she's not kidding around.
In a 1998 episode of South Park, the boys learn that their dresser drawers are being raided by a group of Underpants Gnomes, who have a carefully designed business plan to turn their theft into fabulous wealth. The three-phase plan is laid out on a slide projected in the gnomes' lair: "Phase 1: Collect underpants. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Profit."
That, in its essence, is how Republicans are proposing to deal with the rising cost of health care and the long-term federal budget deficit. Phase 1: Remove government guarantee of health coverage. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Savings.