Last August before a closed meeting of Republican leaders in Boston, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said, "We are not a debating society. We are a political operation that needs to win."
Tuesday night, Christie won. Big time. In one of the nation's bluest states, Christie got 60.5 percent of the vote. His Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, claims she lost because "Democratic political bosses" made a deal with Christie "despite him representing almost everything they're against. ... They did it to help themselves politically and financially." In other words, they voted out of self-interest. Imagine that. Self-interest in politics.
"Bye Bye Birdie" is an old musical that survives in high school productions and in some people's memory bank. It debuted on Broadway in 1960 and was made into a film in 1963. One of the songs from the show might serve as an inspiration, if not a theme, for Republicans in the winter of their discontent over President Obama and congressional Democrats: "Put on a Happy Face."
A problem Republicans have had since the "glory days" of Ronald Reagan is that too many have forgotten how to be positive and affirming. Nobody likes to be around a sourpuss.
With frustration building over Washington's refusal to behave in the public interest, perhaps it's worth noting a drastic solution tried by the Irish.
Last Friday, Irish voters cast ballots on a referendum to abolish the country's Upper House, known as the Seanad. Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Ireland didn't need all of its politicians and they should be made to suffer along with everyone else as the country continues to struggle economically.
If Republicans were smart (I know, but stay with me) their focus during the Obamacare debate should have been less on blocking its implementation and more on a page they might have taken from the Democrat's playbook, which is to rally the country to its side by use of sentimentality and the threat of impending doom. The good news for Republicans is that there's still time.
It's a sure bet Democrats are right now writing sob stories of tearful children barred from the Lincoln Memorial because of the government "shutdown." The National Zoo in Washington inexplicably turned off its unmanned Panda Cam, which showed video of the newborn panda cub on the Internet. Boohoo.
President Obama pledged to end partisanship, but instead has exacerbated it. He recently accused House Republicans of being extortionists for opposing a raise in the debt ceiling and wanting to defund Obamacare.
Dictionary.com defines extortion as "the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one's office or authority."
Expecting Syria to live up to an agreement between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the cataloging, inspection, removal and eventual destruction or sequester of chemical weapons is a subtle seduction.
Why would a dictator like Bashar al-Assad relinquish his most potent weapon in the midst of a civil war? President Obama and his sycophants claim it was the threat of military action against Syria that focused Assad's mind. That hardly seems credible after Kerry's promise that any U.S. missile strike would be "unbelievably small."
"One does not sharpen the axes after the right time; after the time they are needed." -- Russian Proverb
The late Ukrainian violinist Mischa Elman is considered one of the greatest of all time, but he has nothing on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has played the Obama administration better than any musician.
Ashton Kutcher, the 35-year-old actor and ex-husband of actress Demi Moore, has never been considered a poster child for the "family values crowd," but at the Teen Choice Awards two weeks ago, he could have easily passed for one.
Following screams from young female fans in the audience, Kutcher silenced them with a motivational message that bordered on inspiration. He told them: "I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. ... I've never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job."
It was an atypical August summer day in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago next week. Temperatures were in the low 80s, about 10 degrees cooler than normal. Skies were partly cloudy. Most government officials were vacationing.
I was a young copyboy at the NBC News Washington bureau. Correspondent Jack Perkins asked me to accompany him to hear a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
When I studied the U.S. Constitution in school, I learned that for a bill to become law it first had to be introduced in either the House or the Senate. Today, a cynic might say for a bill to become law a member of Congress must first be introduced to a lobbyist.
Much of government's dysfunction, cost and overreach can be traced to the abandonment of the constitutional boundaries the Founders put in place for the purpose of controlling the lust for power. In his new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, Mark R. Levin asserts the U.S. government isn't performing up to standards established by the Founders because, like a flooding river, politicians have breached their constitutional limits.
"We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression." -- Ronald Reagan, March 23, 1983
President Reagan's speech to the nation 30 ago launched a major arms buildup to confront the expanding military power and political aspirations of the Soviet Union. It followed the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, whose nonperformance during the Iran hostage crisis led to the perception in the Muslim world that America was weak and had lost its resolve to confront enemies.
STAVANGER, Norway -- The several hundred conservatives on the National Review's summer cruise, which I was asked to attend as a speaker, are united in what they don't like about the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, but divided on the best strategy for winning the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.
On a panel titled "The State of the GOP and Conservatism," Bob Costa, the magazine's Washington bureau chief, asks if anyone agrees with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who thinks Republicans should be willing to shutdown the government over the issue of defunding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
AMSTERDAM -- On the day I visit the Anne Frank House, which is actually the family's hiding place atop Anne's father's business, the wait to get in is as long as three hours. Such is the attraction of this historic site, 53 years after it was opened to the public.
Anne and her family were among an estimated 107,000 Jews deported to concentration camps from The Netherlands during the German occupation in World War II.
When it comes to Vietnam, I'm all for moving on, putting the past behind us, looking forward, letting bygones be bygones, but doing so requires honesty about the past, lest history be forgotten and the memory and honor tarnished of the 60,000 Americans who died in that war.
On his visit to Washington last week, President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam told President Obama the late revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, was inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. In an ad in the Washington Post, President Sang even claimed Jefferson's vision of liberty was the same as Ho's. Not exactly.
Now for some good news, and it has nothing to do with the birth of the royal baby.
According to a USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center poll, "Americans by more than 2-1 say the best way to make positive changes in society is through volunteer organizations and charities, not by being active in government." Even better news: People under 30 are especially put off by politics and are "significantly less likely than their parents to say participating in politics is an important value in their lives."
President Obama rarely misses an opportunity to insert himself into an issue. Last Friday, he appeared in the White House pressroom to comment on the George Zimmerman verdict. The president said he could have been Trayvon Martin. Not likely, given his private schooling and the way he was fast-tracked to success.
The president said the history of African-Americans partially explains the way many black people view the case. He spoke of blacks hearing car doors lock as they cross the street and of white women who clutch their purses tightly when a black person enters an elevator.
We are so programmed by our history with race in America that reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges of murdering Trayvon Martin depends largely upon one's individual, even group experience.
If you are African-American, you might react like former Washington, D.C., homicide detective Rod Wheeler. Appearing on Fox News, Wheeler said many blacks look at quarterback Michael Vick, jailed for taking part in an illegal interstate dog-fighting ring, and wonder why Zimmerman gets away with killing a young black man.
FT. WILLIAM, Scotland -- The power of television to shrink the world has always amazed me. Eating lunch on the road to Ft. William, a man at the next table recognizes me and introduces himself.
Keith Farrington says he spent 15 years working as an assistant director of finance for the South East Thames Regional Health Authority, part of the National Health Service. He has strong warnings for the U.S. about Obamacare.
The Bradley Foundation, a private, independent grant-making organization based in Milwaukee, recently handed out its annual Bradley Prize to four men who have, in the words of the organization's mission statement, "(preserved and defended) the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically."
Among the winners at the Kennedy Center event in Washington, D.C., was Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, the bete noire to the broadcast networks and other media elites.
In 1998 when President Clinton signed the bipartisan Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibited state and local taxation of Internet access and Internet-only services, the purpose was to promote the commercial potential of the Internet, especially for start-ups and small businesses. Congress extended the bill three times, the latest until 2014.
Now there's the Marketplace Fairness Act, which, writes the Washington Post, "would allow states and local governments to require large Internet retailers and other 'remote sellers' with sales over $1 million annually to collect sales taxes and send the revenue to the appropriate location." This bill, which the Senate voted 69-27 to approve, would undo the protections Republicans and Democrats once felt necessary to promote e-commerce.
"Mainstream media" are alarmed by reports that billionaires Charles and David Koch are considering the purchase of Tribune Company's eight daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.
When Warren Buffett spent $344 million to purchase 28 newspapers, there were mostly sighs of relief from journalists glad to keep their jobs. However, reaction to reports of the Koch brothers' interest in buying the Tribune papers was quite different. Charles and David Koch, you see, are conservative libertarians, not liberals. Will the Kochs, gasp, force their conservatism on readers? Will they sully journalism's good name? Truth is, no one knows what the Kochs plan to do.
Addressing a meeting of Planned Parenthood last Friday, President Obama accused pro-lifers of wanting to "turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century."
Like any decade, the '50s had its problems -- racism, discrimination, sexism -- but I'll defend the '50s on other grounds, if the president will defend the decade that followed. In the '50s, for much of mainstream America drugs were something you bought at a pharmacy with a prescription; living together meant getting married first, then having babies; abortion was not legal; our culture wasn't the enemy; metal detectors were instruments one took to the beach to find loose change and schools and the streets were mostly safe.
The last time there was a terrorist attack on America, we got the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. Each entity has spent billions to keep us safe, but neither could stop two brothers, Tamerlan, a permanent resident, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a newly minted U.S. citizen, who lived in America and, reportedly, became radicalized jihadists, from killing and maiming innocent people at the Boston Marathon last week.
According to Dana Priest and William M. Arkin of The Washington Post, "Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. ... An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. ... In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings -- about 17 million square feet of space."
MANCHESTER, England -- There is a story about Margaret Thatcher, which is probably apocryphal, but speaks volumes about the strength of Britain's first female prime minister, who died Monday at age 87.
Following her election in 1979, the story goes that Thatcher took her all-male cabinet out to dinner. The waiter asked what she would like. "I'll have the beef," she said. The waiter asked, "What about the vegetables?" "They'll have the same," Thatcher replied.
In 1983 when President Reagan ordered the deployment of missiles in Europe as part of his "peace through strength" strategy to counter the Soviet Union, the very liberal town of Takoma Park, Md., declared itself a "nuclear free zone." City officials passed an ordinance known as The Takoma Park Nuclear Free Zone Act, which said, "...work on nuclear weapons is prohibited within the city limits..."
If North Korea follows through on its threat to nuke the United States (or had Russia in the '80s launched a nuclear attack), Takoma Park would not be "nuclear free" for long, but the ordinance made some people feel as though they were doing something constructive, something meaningful, about the nuclear threat, and wasn't that their point?
My first question after reading about seven teachers in an Atlanta, Ga., public school accused of altering standardized test scores to make it appear students performed better than they actually did was: How could they!?
The seven were nicknamed "the chosen" and, according to Georgia state investigator Richard Hyde, the less than magnificent seven sat in a locked room without windows, erasing wrong answers and inserting correct ones. It's one thing for a child to cheat on a test; it's quite another for teachers to do it.
"If there is anything that links the human to the divine, it is the courage to stand by a principle when everybody else rejects it." -- Abraham Lincoln
History is full of warnings about what happens when people follow public opinion instead of standing by their principles. In its most extreme manifestation, public opinion might well become mob rule when vigilantes take the law into their own hands.