The Truth of Honesty

Former President Jimmy Carter is at it again! Of course I’m talking about his comments yesterday about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. WARNING: Don’t take a sip of any beverage, particularly sticky ones, before reading the next sentence, as you are liable to spit it all over everything in utter shock! If you’ll believe this, and I understand completely if you don’t, President Carter said he thought Romney would be an acceptable President!

CRAZY! Carter is a Democrat and Romney is a Republican! Carter says that even though Romney took some extreme positions during the primary, it isn’t clear that those positions will reflect his stances during the general election or in the Oval Office.

Jim, Jimbo, Jimmer, look here for a minute. This next bit is just for you. I know you’ve had a pretty admirable post-presidential life, Nobel Peace Prize or whatever, but we’ve talked about saying what everyone is thinking. Keep that stuff on the down-low man! Democrats are trying to win an election here. Yeah, I get it, you don’t quite “get” reelection campaigns or whatever, but this one is obvious. The Republican is the one who will destroy America if he sets even one perfectly pedicured toesie into the West Wing. Those guys are going to privatize Social Security, insult seniors’ grandchildren and sell off the Grand Canyon to a billboard company.

It’s not that hard, buddy. I know what you’re going to say. It was honest. Well listen here peanut boy, this is an election year and  honesty is just about the LAST thing we need. I’m not saying you need to lie to anyone. Of course not! Just keep some things to yourself.

Everyone else who definitely did NOT read those last two paragraphs because you respect the private bond between amateur bloggers and former Presidents, please ignore President Carter. He’s getting up there in age and he’s started to think that just about everything is a peace negotiation. But this is an election. Which means it’s war, but meaner, uglier and a whole lot more petty. And that’s the way it has to be. Because it’s the way we’ve always done things here in the world’s first democracy. God Bless America and God Bless Division.

The Great Loss of Newt Gingrich

My roommate was watching Fox News today, because he thinks it pisses me off (it does, but I hold in my anger just to spite him), and I heard that Newt Gingrich is going to be suspending his campaign in the upcoming week. Yeah, he’s still going.

Of course, I couldn’t contain my emotions when I heard that. Folks, I’m heartbroken. He was my favorite candidate in the GOP primary, if only because he could be relied on to say something that ripe for satire. And so, to commemorate this loss and to squeeze one more post out of his campaign, I give you my favorite moments from Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination.

3. Drama with the Many Mrs.– At some point in the campaign the inevitable happened. One of Gingrich’s two ex-wives came forward to talk about how much of a jerk he is. Normally this might be dismissed, you know jilted lovers and all that, but he was running for the nomination from the party that prides itself on family values. But Newt has tons of family values! He has three families! Thats so many families! Also, the stuff she was describing was pretty torrid. Affairs, talk of open marriages and of course his divorcing her only a few months after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Which, actually, depending on how you look at it might be an improvement for the Newter, as he divorced his first wife while she was struggling with Cancer. Depends on where you rank Cancer and MS on your own personal hierarchy of diseases.

2. Poor Kids Should Become Janitors– During one of the debates and in a few interviews, Speaker Gingrich mentioned that he thought it would be a great idea for poor children and teenagers, specifically the Black ones that are unemployed at higher rates, to work in their own schools as janitors. He said this plan would make it so poor young people wouldn’t “have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer.” Middle school and high school can be a tough time for kids, especially for the ones who Gingrich believes might be persuaded into taking one of these jobs. Imagine for a second how much harder things would be if you were a janitor in your own school. Kids can be cruel and you can bet your butt these child-janitors would get thrown in a dumpster more than once.

1. Moon Base Gingrich– As you probably remember, Gingrich came under some scrutiny for proposing that the US set the goal of a permanent base on the moon by the end of his second term in office. To be perfectly honest, I’m all for this one. I’m kind of a nut about space and I think we should just be dumping money into NASA. I don’t really care about a border fence and I think fighter jets are as cool as the next guy, but I don’t anticipate a lot of dog-fights with al-Qaeda and friends. So if we are spending money on anything, it should be on space exploration. One thing of note though, my motives (go where no man has gone, discover the secrets of the universe) may differ from Newt Skywalker’s. He published a book in 1984 that proposed space tourism, with the justification that a honeymoon that included weightlessness would be mighty attractive. And I think we all know why.

Newt, you will be missed. Stay close my friend, and please take a job on a cable network. Your giant, constantly talking head would be perfect for it.

The Meaninglessness of Most Politics

Ezra Klein is out today with an article on the factors that actually predict the outcome of presidential elections. And surprise, surprise the answer isn’t “who loves America the most” or “who looks best with his sleeves rolled up.” In other words, the things that pundits love to talk about.

No, Klein claims that there are three factors that affect who wins the Oval Office: growth in the economy, the sitting President’s approval rating and whether or not one of the candidates happens to be the President. Lets break this down one-by-one using science, or as I call it, intuition and sarcasm.

The economy. It’s retaken center stage as the most important issue in politics. For a while there in the 00’s (the aughts? the zeros? the oh-ohs?) national security was top dog, but no longer. People care about their job and their finances more than anything. To paraphrase esteemed political thinkers the Wu-Tang Clan, cash rules everything around them. Folks vote with their wallet. Now, whether or not a President can do all that much to affect the economy is not all that clear, but that’s a discussion for another post.

On to approval rating. This one is kind of a no-brainer. Oh, so you’re saying if people approve of the President, they are more likely to vote for him? Thanks for the insight guys, never would have thought of that. I guess if we are talking about two non-incumbents, that one becomes a little less obvious. Anyway, the President’s approval indicates voters’ happiness with the party in charge. Low approval for the head of a party means worse chances for his party mates in the election. This is especially true given the  parties’ monolithic (I’m not going to baby you guys anymore. If you don’t know a word, look it up. You’re already on the Internet, it isn’t that hard) platforms and emphasis on conformity.

Finally, incumbency. People don’t like change. Unless there is a problem that is so glaring that ignoring it would be more effort than fixing it, people tend to let things be. Plus, who is more presidential than the President. I already know he loves America and looks good in a flannel shirt, because a bunch of people already voted for him.

Scandals though, like leaving your dog up on your car roof or a few security agents getting weird down in Colombia, don’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. And you know what? I’m ok with that.

The Tilt of the Constitution Party

Great news everyone! The Constitution Party has announced their nominee for President of the United States of America. After months of speculation we can finally say that former Representative Virgil Goode is the choice of the Constitution Party.

What’s that you say, with a whisper? You’ve never heard of the Constitution Party? Why it’s a third-party, one of the institutions that keeps America’s democracy strong.

I get tired of talking about all the differences between Democrats and Republicans, so I think today I’ll talk about how different the Constitution party is. For one, their standard bearer for 2012 has only been a member of the Constitution Party for a short time now. As a Congressman from Virginia, he began his career as a Democrat, switched to an Independent and then finally made it all the way over to the Republican Party. That’s easy enough to spin though. Truly Independent.

The Constitution Party itself is pretty, um, non-traditional(?). For the party that named itself after a document that has a section about not establishing a national religion, they sure do talk about Jesus a lot! They mention him right in the first sentence of their platform. Actually the first five paragraphs are about religion or the Bible. The stated goal in paragraph three is to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Ah, that’s where they got the name Constitution Party.

You’d think they’d base their stances on the hot topics of the day on the Constitution. But alas, the Constitution says nothing about immigration, abortion or a whole lot of other things. Luckily the Constitution Party figures things out using a mix of the Federalist Papers and the Bible, with a hint of individual liberty. Think of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, but then go even further off to the right. Really far right. Like abolishing Social Security, prohibiting pornography far right. It also seems like they are against Social Security Numbers, which is something I’d never heard of before.

So when you go to vote in November, don’t forget about the Constitution Party. They’re here! They’re real! They don’t appreciate your jokes about them! Get used to it!

The Rules of Interning

Ah, summer in DC. That time right after the cherry blossom tourists leave and before school trip tourists arrive. A singularly sweaty, smelly, stuck on the Metro time when interns flock into the city to take care of all the little tasks no one else wants to do.

Interns, I’ve been in your position. I’ve worn a suit while lugging jugs of water in 90 degree weather. I’ve spoken with some of the less than lovely folks who feel an urge to participate in the civic process by screaming at someone, anyone who works in a congressional office. My point is, I’ve taken the abuse. And I’d like to help you avoid some of the humiliations that mark the typical DC summer internship.

First tip, people don’t care too much about what you’re doing. Yes, you have an exciting internship and everyone back home is very proud. But keep in mind that whomever you’re talking to in DC is fighting for the most important cause on the planet. If it wasn’t, why would they do it? When someone asks you what you do, keep it short and simple. Maybe throw in an anecdote about a time you were particularly embarrassed. Self-deprecation makes people feel better about themselves and if they feel better about themselves while talking to you, they’ll like you. And we all just want to be liked, right?

Here’s something you’re going to hear about a dillion times: Stand Right, Walk Left. That’s in regards to the filling order on Metro escalators. God help you if you stand on the left. The range of punishments go from a terse swear word in your direction to a violent drop kick aimed at your head. I didn’t really need to tell you this one, because people from DC love saying it. If living in DC was a secret club, this phrase would be the password. The official DC motto translates to Stand Right Or Die. (Disclaimer: I speak only one phrase in Latin. Sancti Navis = Holy Ship!)

If you aren’t being paid, never forget it. Do your work, and do it well, but don’t forget that you are doing it for free. Keep tabs on the briefings, hearings, panels, etc. that have free meals. There should be more than one a week on the Hill and some downtown too. And if you get sent out of the office, take your time. Have a nice stroll, see the sights. DC is a lovely city.

That’s what I’ve got for you. I could remind you not to be an idiot, but you should know that already. I don’t have to say things like “don’t brag about how much you drank last night in front of supervisors” or “if the Congressman asks you to meet him at his home at 3 AM, it’s for sex or murder or both.” You’re a smart kid. You got the internship, didn’t you?

The Constitutionality of Health Care Reform


Ok, now that I’ve scared the poop out of your butts, why don’t we have a little chat about the case that recently came before the Supreme Court calling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA, prounounced pee-pah-cah if you want to sound cool) constitutionality into question. “But Matt,” you may say, “how are you qualified to talk about this extraordinarily complicated issue? For goodness sake, you said the word poop in your last sentence!”

Well my friend, I happen to have taken not one, but two classes on health care reform. Plus, as a college student, I am required to hold a strong opinion on every issue ever raised. Luckily for all of you, I’ve read up on the topic. And as to the poop thing, those of us who’ve read PPACA (well, parts of it anyway) know that Congressmen love to throw toilet humor into their laws. It’s in there, you just have to know where to look. Most importantly though, I’m not going to go into the minutia and I’m certainly not going to pretend I’m a lawyer. But by the end of this post, you’re going to have some idea what’s going on. At least, enough to impress the ladies, or your grandparents, or whoever else is claiming Obamacare is ruining this country from the inside out. Continue reading

The Truth of Independent Voters

As we get along in the campaign, you’re going to start hearing a lot about “independent voters” on cable news. In fact, you might already be hearing a lot about them. I don’t really watch much cable news because watching cable news makes me excited, bored, mad and then snarky in that exact sequence. The worst one is snarky. You wouldn’t like me when I’m snarky.

But I don’t brook any hatred towards those who do partake in cable news. Newspapers leave ink on peoples’ fingers and are a real hassle to fold up. And blogs? LAME. Get out of your mom’s basement, amiright? But if you do watch cable news, I want you to know the truth about independent voters, because in the next few months Wolf Blitzer is going to talk about them so much that you’d think he’s in love with them or some weird thing like that.

So here’s the thing about independents. They aren’t all so independent. Shocking right? In a blog post (LAME), George Washington University professor John Sides breaks down 40% of voters who call themselves independents. The first group, pure independents, make up 10% of the total vote share.  The other, independent leaners, are about 30% of all voters. These guys say they are independent, but lean towards being Democrats or Republicans. And polling shows they vote nearly identically to the people who call themselves Democrats or Republicans. Those of you keeping up can see that these independents are not acting very independently. Anyone who’s fallen behind should read this last paragraph again. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

So when the nice man comes on MSNBC and starts talking about how independents are growing in number and we should celebrate by watching Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum save the world from aliens at his lake house in the fourth largest city in Missouri on the 4th of July, tell him to hold up a minute. You tell him, look Christopher Matthews, I love that you have two first names and watching a movie together sounds like a whole lot of fun, but lets get one thing straight. These independents you speak of, they aren’t all that independent. So lets cut the baloney and figure out what’s really important. Namely, who is bringing the potato salad to your super-fun 4th of July party.