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2012 Favorites

As the clock ticks toward midnight, I thought I'd summarize some of my favorite political things from this last year.

First of all, I'll point out that - with an assist from Andrew Sullivan - this was the most popular post here at Smartypants in the last year. On a more serious note, the one that came in second is perhaps the one I'm most proud of.

Other than the election (which I'll say more about later), this has to be the moment that brought me the most joy.



I put some of my favorite photographs from the year in this video.



So many of those are fabulous. But my outright favorite has to be this one.


Finally...we did have an election. There were so many memorable moments in the lead-up to that fateful night. One of my favorites was "Please proceed, Governor." But if for no other reason than that the President seemed to enjoy it so much, this one rises to the top for me.



When it comes to "best post-election analysis," this one tops them all (if you …

A story with 3 possible endings

As I see it, we are now faced with three possible scenarios on the so-called "fiscal cliff."

The first is that we go off the cliff. That means lots of new federal revenues because EVERYONE's taxes will go up. In addition to income taxes, inheritance taxes would rise sharply. But on the other end, we'd lose the smaller tax cuts included in the Recovery Act: expansion of EITC, child tax credit, college tuition tax credit, wind tax credit. In addition, unemployment insurance would run out for millions of people and reimbursement rates for Medicare providers will drop sharply. Finally the sequestered cuts to both domestic and defense spending will go into effect.

Some liberals are suggesting that it would be better to simply go off the cliff. Most of them assume that after the new year, Democrats can simply propose a bill to provide tax cuts for income less than $250,000 and Republicans will pass it. You hear that kind of thing mostly from the very same poutragers who co…

WWOB (what would Obama do?)

As folks freak out over the looming deadline of the so-called "fiscal cliff," I keep thinking about what Michelle Obama said about how her husband handles these kinds of situations.
Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight.

If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there.

We always have. I need to soak that one up a little more thoroughly. I offer it to you as well.

Gregory: "What is it about you, Mr. President, that you think is so hard to say yes to?"

I don't expect journalists to have degrees in history. But I do think that the least we should be able to expect from someone like David Gregory is that, when interviewing the President of the United States, he isn't completely oblivious to the recorded facts about the Republican Party's strategy developed just 4 years ago.

And yet this morning on Meet the Press, David Gregory completely ignored those facts and asked, "What is it about you, Mr. President, that you think is so hard to say yes to?"

I'd like to recommend some reading material to Mr. Gregory. The Republican Party's strategy since the day of President Obama's inauguration has been well documented. But perhaps nowhere more thoroughly than by Michael Grunwald. Here's how Ohio Senator George Voinovich summarized it:
If Obama was for it, we had to be against it. It really is that simple. Congressional Republicans knew that they had no hope of winning the war of ideas after conservative po…

Fiscal cliff becomes Republican cliff

The Republicans have a way of painting themselves into an impossible corner and President Obama has always been happy to let them do that. Of course he's always offering his outstretched hand - but it comes with a price...working WITH him instead of AGAINST him.

Let's remember that this so-called "fiscal cliff" was one of the Republicans' own making. For two years now, they have refused to deal with the Democrats about the fact that the Bush tax cuts expire on January 1st. President Obama made his intentions clear during the election - they should only be extended for incomes under $250,000. And he won.

In addition, for the first time in our history, the Republicans used the debt ceiling as hostage in an attempt to end Social Security and Medicare as we know them. That failed and we ended up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (half to domestic programs and half to defense) set to begin on January 1st.

Speaker Boehner attempted to negotiate a deal with President …

Krauthammer feeling the ruthless part of "conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy"

Last night on Faux News, Charles Krauthammer had this to say about President Obama's strategy in the negotiations about the so-called "fiscal cliff."
He’s been using this, and I must say with great skill–-and ruthless skill and success–to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition… His objective from the very beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House, and to create an internal civil war. And he’s done that. Of course Krauthammer doesn't acknowledge that the President has given Republicans a choice...to either cooperate with him on solving this issue or create an internal civil war in their own party. And so - as BooMan points out - its the Republicans who have chosen to bury themselves in their own bullshit.

As regular readers here know, this is what I've been calling President Obama's conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy for a long time now. Of course he would be pleased if the Republicans accepted his outstretched h…

Thank you, Lisa Jackson

When I heard that Lisa Jackson was leaving her position as head of the EPA, I immediately thought of this picture. It was taken as she and Thad Allen - the National Incident Commander for the Gulf Oil spill - waited for President Obama to arrive to tour the damage in the Gulf and get a briefing.

The photo spoke volumes to me about the trust and support these two leaders had in each other as they faced such a daunting task during those difficult days. They were under siege - not just from the incredibly difficult job they had to do - but also as everyone on both the left and right panicked and looked for someone to blame. And yet obviously...they had each other to lean on.

If you'd like to read more about what Lisa Jackson accomplished in her 4 years at the EPA, take a look at this article from her home state of New Jersey.
Jackson, the first African-American to head that agency, announced Thursday that she will be stepping down from the EPA after the first of the year, paving the…

How it all started

Kathy Najimy and Maureen Gaffney

I'd love to be a fly on Jon Favreau's wall

And no, its not JUST because of the delicious eye candy.

Its because unless Speaker Boehner pulls an unexpected stunt when the House reconvenes on Monday, December 31st, we're headed off the so-called "fiscal cliff" on Tuesday.

And then the Speaker has 3 weeks to get this mess cleaned up before President Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, January 22nd and his State of the Union Address the following Tuesday.

How do you think the President's head speechwriter is spending his time these days?  I'd suggest he's writing various iterations of these speeches depending on the outcome of what happens during those 3 weeks. Because remember what President Obama promised Speaker Boehner during these negotiations?
Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell t…

Be Ever Wonderful

As a rule, I've avoided joining the chorus of people who always have advice for President Obama. That's not because I think he's perfect. It has more to do with the fact that I feel like I have so much to learn from him. So I have a hard time imagining myself being in the position of giving him advice.

But I'm going to break that tradition today in much the same way that Alice Walker did just after he was first elected President.

More than anything, I value a person who knows their heart and has the strength to share it with others. And so today my advice to the President is to "be ever wonderful...stay as you are."

De-ratifying the Reagan revolution

Another article that is getting a lot of attention is the one written by Joe Hagan about his experience on National Review's Post Election Cruise. Its a long read, but fascinating in its inside look at a movement in its death throes.

The thing that stood out to me is the racism.
Rasmussen blasted the assembled Republicans with one crushing statistic after another. The exit poll data, he said, “create a negative brand image of the Republican Party as a party that only cares about white people.”

The audience murmured unhappily.

“And that image is hurting among the youth,” he continued. “It is hurting across the culture. It is something that has to be addressed across the party. It has to be addressed. You can’t just wish it away.”...

Rasmussen offered some friendly advice about approaching minorities. “You show them that you really care, you talk to them as grown-ups on a range of issues, you get them involved,” he suggested, “and you accept the fact that it’s a long-term investment…

"I get that for free"

The Wall Street Journal article that provided a behind the scenes look at the "fiscal cliff" negotiations got an awful lot of attention. The money quote that seemed to be mentioned most frequently was this one:
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"

"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free." I suspect that most people focused on that because it completely negates their view of President Obama's negotiating style. But beyond that - it gives us a bit of a glimpse into how he's viewing this whole process.

Its important to remember the factors that define what people are calling the "fiscal cliff." One is that in December 2010 President Obama and the Democrats agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for 2 years (2011 -2012). They are now set to end on Jan. 1, 2013. If they are extended only for…

A reminder for the holidays

One of the things that I admire most about President Obama is that he has such unwavering faith in the American people.

As we focus on all that is wrong in the world and get so angry at the hatred/ignorance on display, I often find myself questioning the wisdom of that faith.

And then along comes a story like this.
The holidays have been rough for the Newtown Police Department, which is why officers from across Connecticut joining forces, so that not a single Newtown officer has to work on Christmas Day. The plan has been kept on the down low for the past few days, since the various police departments are making the effort not for the press but as a gesture of solidarity with their fellow officers. After whispers of the touching gesture from local law enforcement emerged on Twitter over the weekend, however, the Newtown Police Department confirmed the news in an interview with The Atlantic Wire on Monday. "They've been actually non-stop with their aid. It's pretty amazing…

"Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know"

This post by kid oakland is going to be a tradition here for Christmas. I can think of no better way to honor the birth we celebrate tomorrow.
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

Their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.

And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they sa…

Demand a Plan

Don't let the "chicken littles" get you down

As a result of the negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff," the silence of the poutragers on the left during the presidential campaign has turned into howls of rage once again. Just as I was needing some perspective on all that, I ran across a diary that I wrote almost a year ago that reminded me...thus has it always been. It included this quote from Arthur Schlesinger from 1949.
The weakness of impotence is related to a fear of responsibility – a fear, that is, of making concrete decisions and being held to account for concrete consequences. Problems are much simpler when viewed from the office of a liberal weekly than when viewed in terms of what will actually happen when certain ideologically attractive steps are taken.

Too often the Doughface really does not want power or responsibility. For him the more subtle sensations of the perfect syllogism, the lost cause, the permanent minority, where lie can be safe from the exacting job of trying to work out wise policie…

"Peel off the war paint"

There is something I've been thinking about the last few days that was perfectly captured in this diary at dkos. It purports to be a diary about winning/losing politically.
This is how "winners" behave! They plan and execute the demise of their opponent(s). S/he then goes on to correctly state that this is currently the Republicans' approach. I agree. But I always find it interesting to watch liberals whine/complain about how Republicans are behaving only to turn around and suggest that Democrats should do the same damned thing.

When I hear things like this, I immediately wonder what the author means by the word "demise." I'm pretty sure that this is not a call for the literal death of all conservatives. And its pretty clear from the context that the author is referring to a negotiating position rather than speaking in the context of electoral defeat.

What comes to mind is an expectation that one political faction could be so heavy-handed in their appro…

A fiscal bump for autoworkers

With everyone focused on the looming "fiscal cliff," its easy to miss just how much our economy is actually improving. Nowhere is that more in evidence than the one sector where President Obama intervened most effectively...the auto industry.
Union workers at Detroit's two largest auto makers are on track for big profit-sharing payouts for this year.

Officials at the United Auto Workers union have told members employed at General Motors Co. to expect profit-sharing checks for as much as $7,000 early next year, according to two people briefed on the matter. Over at Ford Motor Co., which is more profitable than GM in North America, the 2012 payouts could top $8,000, based on a pay formula spelled out in the UAW contract...

Because of that success, about 50,000 GM hourly employees will likely receive payments ranging between $5,500 and $7,000, said the people familiar with the matter. Ford's approximate 44,000 hourly workers could get paid more than $8,000 a piece. The …

A tune for the gun nutters

This one goes out to Mr. LaPierre and all his friends at the NRA who are so afraid of the monsters under their beds...PUT YOUR LIGHTS ON!!!!!

Behind the scenes on the negotiations

The Wall Street Journal says that they interviewed "dozens of aides and lawmakers" to craft a summary of how the negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" between President Obama and Speaker Boehner broke down. The few snippets they provide are indeed fascinating. For example:
Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.

At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"

"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free." Does that sound like a President who is negotiating with himself? Anything but!

Its interesting to note how the President responded when B…

Mele Kalikimaka Mr. President!

Its been a tough week for all of us - no one more so than our President. As I've watched him battle the tears over the loss of our babies only to have to switch gears to take on the lunatic fringe in Congress, I've been spending some time thinking about how grateful I am that he is willing to represent us by taking this all on. I can't imagine another human being I'd rather have in the White House at this moment in history.

And so, with the press conference completed, he'll be heading off to Hawaii for a much-deserved break (I hope!) I have nothing more to give him as a token of my gratitude than to wish him "Mele Kalikimaka."



Oh, and one more thing...

I'd like to once again repeat something Alice Walker wrote to President Obama shortly after he was elected.
I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibili…

LaPierre wants you to be afraid of monsters

I thought about going through his speech to count every time he used words like "monster" or "predator." But seriously, I can't stomach it. Here's the crux of this man's totally depraved view of the world.
The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment? I could write thousands of words about how sick and depraved Mr. LaPierre's solutions to gun violence are. But they all stem from this view of humanity...we need to be afraid of and arm ourselves against the "monsters" among us. Without that - he has no case to make for his recommendations.

This has always been at the crux of the argument agai…

Its time for some profiles in courage

Yesterday Republicans in the House actually did pass a bill associated with the so-called "fiscal cliff." That bill restored all the cuts to the military that are scheduled to begin on January 1st and replaced them with cuts that would further harm the poor and middle class in this country (they left the $600 billion in domestic spending cuts already included in the sequester - on top of the $1 trillion the debt ceiling deal already cut - and added more).

Where things broke down in last night's fiasco is that Speaker Boehner couldn't get enough of them to vote for a bill that would have raised taxes on people making over $1 million.

So the message coming from the Republican Party today is that they are willing to hurt 99% of Americans - but are not willing to ask the 1% to pay any price. Think about that for a moment. This is about more than the specific policies...its about destruction.

From watching some of the coverage on TV last night as this occurred, I saw that…

A few facts on the "fiscal cliff" negotiations (updated)

Things are getting a little confusing on the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations. And with all the screaming from the poutragers, it can be hard to understand what's going on. So I thought I'd summarize the latest actions in bullet points to see if it helps clarify.
The first thing to notice is that Speaker Boehner made some big concessions from the Republican position. First of all, he opened the door on the extension of tax cuts. His proposal would extend them for income less than $1 million (Obama wants them extended for income less than $250,000). But the really BIG concession was an extension of the debt ceiling for one or two years. That would give away the leverage Republicans were counting on in the coming months. BFD!Because Boehner made these concessions, it was incumbent on Obama to do so as well. If he hadn't, he'd be putting himself and the Democrats in the position of being blamed when we went off the "cliff" by being intransigent. Th…

Poutrage logic fail

For several years now the poutragers have harped on their idea that President Obama pre-compromises with Republicans. Their suggestion is that his initial proposals for things like the Recovery Act and health care reform were designed from the outset to appeal to conservatives - thus not leaving him  room to negotiate.

I happen to disagree with that assessment, but for the sake of argument - let's assume its true.

One of the reasons those same poutragers were so excited about the President's initial proposal in the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations is that he went in strong this time with a solid progressive proposal that frankly surprised some of them. A logical assumption would then be that he finally gave himself room to negotiate.

But one of the reasons I use the term "poutrager" to describe these folks is that there's not much logic when it comes to their reactions. Because since the President has actually been negotiating, they're back to t…

Taking a broad approach to gun violence

Today President Obama will announce the administration's plans for moving forward on the promise he made at the Newtown vigil.
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom? Yesterday Press Secretary Jay Carney re-iterated that the work will not be limited to gun control legislation.
By the time the process concludes, White House officials suggested, the proposals will probably include ideas to address mental illness and the violence depicted in popular culture — a strategy aime…

Some difficult questions

What are the ramifications of calling Adam Lanza a monster? At the outset - let me state that I see no problem calling what he did monstrous. It was. End of story. At the same time, I always cringe when we decide that we're comfortable calling another human being a monster.

If Adam Lanza is a monster - do we think he was born that way? Is humanity capable of giving birth to monster's who's destiny is simply a matter of fate? That's something that every fiber of my being responds to with a definitive "NO!"

You see...I've worked personally with children at every stage of their development who were headed for that label. And in EVERY SINGLE CASE, what I haven't seen are little one's who were born that way. What I've seen is little one's who might have genetic propensities for mental health/chemical dependency issues just like they might have genetic propensities for things like cancer or heart problems. But minus some serious deprivation as c…

Noticing the depression

I don't work on Fridays, so this morning was the first time I went to work following the Newtown tragedy. It wasn't until I had to make the transition that I realized that I'm depressed. The symptoms are: a knot in the pit of my stomach, heaviness in my chest, I feel like crying all the time, and having a tough time focusing on other things.

The difference with this kind of depression is that I know WHY I feel that way. I don't know that I can do anything to make it go away. I just have to do my best to live through it and know that eventually it will diminish. I remember going through the same thing in the days after Columbine.

I'm choosing to write about this because I think there are probably lots of others that are feeling this way too. It helps to know that you're not alone.

There's also something about not noticing it as long as I'm wrapped up in reading about it all on the internet and watching it on TV. It wasn't until I stepped away from it…

President Obama starts with the "why"

I noticed that last night after the President's remarks at the Newtown vigil, we once again heard people on the left complaining that he hadn't talked specifically about gun control. For example, Bill Maher tweeted his frustration that President Obama didn't say the word "gun" at all.

There are lots of reasons to cite for why that kind of specificity would have been inappropriate when speaking at a vigil for the victim's families. But even more importantly, it demonstrates ignorance about what real leadership means.

Over a year ago, I first watched this TED Talk by Simon Sinek titled "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." If you've got a few minutes, I highly recommend it to you.


Sinek talks about something he found to be true of all great leaders...they start with the "why." He illustrates this by sharing how most conventional conversations go.


People who assume they already have all the answers start with the "what" and then m…

They are all our children

All my life I've heard politicians speak in platitudes about the importance of children. And then they go along their merry way in their quest for their own power.

Tonight...our President made it real.
You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world witho…

President Obama in Newtown, CT

I'm just going to post this. It requires thoughtful reflection rather than commentary right now.

Fight Outta You

We're going to need you for the long haul. So don't let 'em take the fight outta you.

Signs of optimism

It feels uncomfortable to talk about optimism in the wake of 27 people murdered on Friday - 20 of whom were only 6 and 7 years old. But its also true that for every Adam Lanza in this world, there are several Victoria Soto's and Kaitlin Roig's. I think its critical that we remember that in days like these.

I know that as President Obama travels to Newtown today, that will be part of his message to us. As he has on occasions like this in the past, I'm confident that he will remind us that we should never give in to the despair.
...at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds...

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better…

"The right to keep and bear children"

I shamelessly stole that title from a diary by crystal eyes because I think it should be our motto going forward.

Let's never lose sight of what this is about.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Let's keep our "eyes on the prize."



And remember...the children are listening.

Yesterday was not a day for pragmatism

One of the reasons I had to take leave of my twitter timeline yesterday is that I recognized that following the shooting in Newtown, people needed to vent their emotions. At a time like that, I tend to get in touch with my grief. Many other people are more comfortable with their anger. But either way, it is definitely not the time to have pragmatic discussions about the specific challenges that await us in addressing the issues that led to this tragedy. In other words, its not time to think...its time to feel.

And so I wonder if we're ready for the pragmatism today. Let's give it a try.

For most of us, one of the critical issues that needs to be addressed is to enact sensible gun laws that will make these kinds of events less likely. The question that raises for me is "what gun laws?" Of course we need to work to get the assault rifle ban reinstated. According to every news account I've read, the shooter did have an assault rifle - but it was found in his car. He…

What makes this one different

I'd finally stopped crying when I saw this picture from Newtown. Then the tears started rolling again.

Perhaps you'll think I'm heard-hearted, but one of the things I've wondered throughout the day is why the fact that so many of the victims of this shooting were such small children matters so much (my heart knew the answer to that but my head didn't). After all, isn't all life sacred? Isn't the senseless gunning down of any human being a tragedy?

Of course the answer to those questions is "yes!"

But when I saw this picture I was reminded that most of those killed today were our babies. They are still at that stage in life where it is our job to protect them. When it comes to the 20 who died today...we failed them terribly.

That's what makes this one different. All of the mass shootings we've endured since Columbine have been horrific. This one just goes to a whole other level.

Just what we needed to hear right now

After I heard about the shooting today in Connecticut, I was watching the news and hanging out on Twitter. Emotionally I was feeling angry about lots of things... yet another senseless act of violence, how the media tends to handle things like this, the NRA, folks that were saying stupid stuff on twitter, etc.

Just before the President spoke, I turned it all off and almost immediately started crying...thinking about an entire class of kindergartners being gunned down. It really is unimaginable.

I realized then that all the energy I was putting into being angry was an attempt to avoid facing the unimaginable. Its just too painful to think about.

President Obama knows that we have to face the pain. And we all wept with him. The lives of those sweet children we lost deserve no less.

The long view: a movement in its death throes

It can be dispiriting watching things like what happened in Michigan this week, or Ambassador Rice's withdrawal of her nomination as Secretary of State, or the intransigence of the talks about the so-called "fiscal cliff.

But let me remind you once again of something First Lady Michelle Obama said a while ago.
Here's the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward.

And in those moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we're playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn't happen overnight.

If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventu…