Up Front

Fat Chance

Mike Huckabee, the genial former governor of Arkansas, is enjoying an improbable moment as a favorite dark-horse GOP presidential candidate among liberals. (He wants to raise taxes to help the poor! He supports arts education in the schools!) But he faces a few nettlesome hurdles en route to winning the actual GOP nod: his utter lack of funding, party support, name recognition, and voter enthusiasm.

But all this pales before another weighty issue: the fraught subject of personal poundage. Huckabee tipped the scales at more than 280 pounds just a few years ago; since which, he's lost more than 100 of those, penned a diet book, and become a born-again exerciser and weight-loss advocate. But if there's one thing Americans hate, it's being lectured about their weight.

Americans are fat, and red-state Americans are the fattest of all. Alas for Huckabee: The population that most enthusiastically supports state-led action on obesity is liberal Democrats, according to a public-opinion study by social scientists J. Eric Oliver and Taeku Lee. "Most obesity policies do not enjoy broad support," they concluded. "Most Americans do not see either the public's or their own weight as a serious health problem." Which may pose a problem for the "recovering foodaholic" who told Newsweek, "We should make it the cultural norm to practice healthy habits."

Huckabee may be running for the Daddy Party banner, but to his party's base, he'll look like just another soy-sipping, tofu-tasting Nanny State nag.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

Voice of "Reasonable"

The verdict in the Scooter Libby trial inspired, almost instantly, a slew of right-wing outfits and pundits to publish calls for a presidential pardon. The Wall Street Journal's editorialists and The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer offered worthy entries, but for swiftness and audacity, the National Review surely took the prize. Within just a few hours of the verdict's announcement, it editorialized: "Reasonable people can conclude that it was only Scooter Libby's imperfect memory -- not willful deception -- that gave rise to the charges of lying under oath and obstruction of justice."

Reasonable people, perhaps -- just not the jury, members of which explained that it struck them as unlikely that Libby could have, as he'd claimed under oath, completely forgotten the nine (9) (IX) previous conversations he'd had about Valerie Plame when he allegedly learned of her identity from Tim Russert, in 2003.

Obey Won

Hill reporters know that one Democratic House leader who draws little public attention but stands out as one of the caucus's most aggressive and impressively ruthless parliamentarians, with an iron commitment to caucus discipline, is Wisconsin liberal David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee. During a recent radio interview, he related an anecdote about crafting the Iraq spending bill that offered a pleasing glimpse into his approach to message discipline: "I purposely gave several members of our caucus wrong information so that when it appeared in print, I could see who the hell was leaking and who wasn't … . And so today I know the names of two members who will not be invited to further meetings."

All hail a Democrat who knows how to play the game.

Contract Killings

"OMB Circular A-76" isn't exactly a household term, but this late into the Bush era, maybe it should be. It's the process through which the White House's "competitive sourcing" initiative has served to put thousands of government jobs into bidding competition with private contractors. This is not in itself, however, a guarantee of quality control. Consider the case of Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services, one such contractor. IAP's CEO came to the company after a tenure at Halliburton subsidiary KBR, during which he had to appear at a congressional hearing to discuss overcharges for Iraq reconstruction contracts. IAP itself came under congressional scrutiny for its involvement in ordering twice as much ice ($100 million worth) as was needed to be delivered to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Nonetheless, in 2006, IAP managed to win a $120 million contract to take over support services at Walter Reed Army Hospital, despite a less expensive initial bid from public-sector workers. You may have heard the rest of the story: an attrition of skilled workers at the hospital and the ensuing massive scandal over conditions there. Under Bush, Circular A-76 could be called the Heckuva Job Provision.

Who's the Heel?

As if to prove that Nancy Pelosi isn't the only Democratic congresswoman subject to absurd scrutiny from respectable press outlets concerning wardrobe choices, a lengthy Los Angeles Times article in March analyzed fellow Californian Loretta Sanchez's reputation as a "siren" with a "fondness for come-hither heels." The reasoning on display in the piece (headline: "For Rep. Sanchez, a Hot-Tomato Label Means Hot Potato") was notable. As the Times put it, Sanchez's recent resignation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus typified the mix of "two familiar elements in Sanchez's career: politics and the risqué," because she says her departure was due in part to caucus Chairman Joe Baca's sexism and use of the term "whore" to describe her.

Apparently this puts the burden on Sanchez to determine "whether her reputation will be more coquette or congresswoman," rather than on, say, Baca to demonstrate that he's not a lout.



What's a Dem ticket you could vote for? (Posed to Conservative Political Action Conference attendees)

"Joe Lieberman and John Murtha. Lieberman is conservative on foreign policy and Murtha is conservative on social policy."

--Megan Ritter, Seton Hill University

"Zell Miller and Evan Bayh. Miller goes after the Democratic Party -- he's a breath of fresh air. And Bayh has cut taxes."

--Ryan M. Shafik, American Radio Journal

"Obama and Edwards. Obama because he smoked crack. He admitted it, he put it in his book. And Edwards because he does so much for the poor."

--Lyndsey Paskett, Virginia Teacher



Many commentators have discussed meltdowns on the part of the current vice president, and rumors of resignation are flying.
For future administrations, here's a chart designed to help categorize and evaluate vice presidential meltdowns in terms of severity.

When your veep has a heated exchange with a member of opposition party, he ends by saying: "I'd prefer we ended this discussion now." "You're being a royal pain in the ass." "Go fuck yourself." [With finger pointed at opponent] "Extraordinary rendition."
When your veep assesses the U.S. effort in Iraq as of 2007, he react as follows: "This is a calamity that only a major shift in strategy can possible lessen." "It's bad, but there's more hope than critics admit." "Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes." "I just bought a summer home in Tikrit."
When your veep is asked why he kept the shooting of a friend hidden for over 12 hours, he answers: "I was upset and didn't think straight." "I wanted to make sure we got it [the story] as accurate as possible." "Jesus told me to do it this way." "I always keep shootings private for the first 12 hours."
When an ambassador suggests in an op-ed that your veep manipulated prewar intelligence, he responds by: Issuing a denial and correcting any mistakes. Screaming incoherently and running around the room in his underwear. Outing a CIA agent and subjecting the White House to a four-year investigation and trial. Walking quietly from room to room in the West Wing and killing every living person.
When your veep is asked by Wolf Blitzer about his lesbian daughter having a baby, he responds: "I'd prefer not to go into that." "You're out of line with that question." "I'm going to hurt you and your family very badly." "I'm going to shove Mary's baby up your ass."

Conclusion: Based on the above information
(actual findings in red), we conclude that our current vice president has come close to permanent brain damage but so far has merely suffered persistent, severe bouts of derangement.

--T. A. Frank