A year ago, I wrote a column lamenting the effect the inevitable death of the newspaper would have on my breakfast ritual. Until Apple comes out with the iDiningTable -- which will be totally overpriced, no doubt -- you just can't beat having the paper spread out beneath your coffee and cereal, as you start your day with a gentle engagement with the world.
U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
With John Paul Stevens' impending retirement, Barack Obama now has his second opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. Republicans surely know that they won't be able to actually stop Obama's nominee from being confirmed. So they are no doubt hoping to create a teachable political moment, one that clarifies distinctions between the parties and keeps our political clash of civilizations humming along. At times like this, when the outcome is not much in doubt, we should ask: Is there anything to be gained from the theatrical presentations we will soon be witnessing?
There are some political problems that can be solved with a shift in strategy or rhetoric -- for instance, after Scott Brown's surprise victory in the Massachusetts special election, Democrats realized they were being damaged by the perception that they were a bunch of ineffectual cowards, so they stopped acting cowardly and actually passed health-care reform. It didn't turn everything to roses, but it gave them a chance to minimize their political losses this fall.