Who Is Steve Scalise?

By 6.25.14

After an intense week in D.C., I spent the weekend catching up on Jenn's honey-do list, including trimming the oak tree.” So said Congressman Steve Scalise’s Facebook page on Sunday, three days after the Louisiana Republican staged an impressive victory in the House majority whip election. To his constituents, the status update was little surprise. They know him as a refreshingly down-to-earth, middle-class professional in a Congress populated by politicians who are anything but.

Scalise’s first-ballot win over Congressmen Peter Roskam and Marlin Stutzman is important for more than just reasons of state. He is the first red-state Republican to hold a position in the House GOP’s core leadership since Tom DeLay left office in 2003. Moreover, Scalise managed to ascend to the number three position in his party’s hierarchy just seven years after joining the House of Representatives in 2007.

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Political Hay

Primary Musings from Oklahoma, Colorado, and Mississippi

By 6.25.14

With a surprisingly wide margin of victory, Congressman James Lankford won the Oklahoma Republican U.S. Senate primary, defeating former Speaker of the State House of Representatives T.W. Shannon by 23 points and avoiding a runoff election. Lankford now becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace outgoing Senator Tom Coburn, who is retiring with two years remaining in his current term.

This was a very different race from the one taking place in Mississippi. Despite negative ads run against Lankford by conservative groups, the Oklahoma contest was not an example of an “establishment” Republican or RINO versus a Tea Party candidate. In short, both Lankford and Shannon are credible, likeable conservatives, both are qualified for higher elected office, and both are likely to be on the scene in the future—to Oklahoma’s credit.

A former Baptist minister (or is a Baptist minister, like a Marine, never “former”?), Lankford directed a large Christian youth camp for more than a decade before winning election to Congress in 2010 in the Tea Party tsunami.

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Revenge of the Good Ol’ Boys

By 6.25.14

I was at a boozy Washington function a few years ago when in walked Bob McDonnell, then-governor of Virginia, and Haley Barbour, then-governor of Mississippi. McDonnell hung back with a beer in his hand and rarely in his mouth, making small talk at the edge of the crowd. Barbour stormed into the middle of the party brandishing both a whiskey and a long-neck, slapping backs and shouting in a marble-mouthed southern accent, good to f—king see this one and it’s been too f—king long with that one.

At the time I thought I was witnessing the difference between a man who was running for president and a man who wasn't. But there was also a cultural difference on display: a governor from a Southeast purple state where politics can be unpredictable, versus a governor from the Deep South where GOP power is nearly absolute and concentrated in a good ol’ boy power structure.

Thad Cochran is one of those good ol’ boys. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1972, Cochran served three terms there, then ran for the Senate where he’s been for the past thirty-six years. In 2005 he was appointed chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

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The Elephants Are Out of the Zoo in Mississippi

By on 6.24.14 | 5:09PM

The American Spectator has already predicted a win for Tea Partier Chris McDaniel in today's special Mississippi primary run-off. Senator Thad Cochran's embarrassing loss to McDaniel in the earlier June election (he took 48.9 percent of the vote, McDaniels took 49.5 percent, and the rest went to a spoiler) could already have been his coup de grace. A June 20 poll reported by Politico gave him 52 percent with Cochran at 44 percent.

Although the Mississippi run-off is good for race-horse politics, what truly makes it a national story is the fact that GOP elephants seem to be out of the zoo on this one. According to Fox News:

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America’s Hypocritical Oath: Political Correctness

By on 6.24.14 | 3:55PM

In an interview with Playboy this week, Gary Oldman defended Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin for their “politically incorrect” diatribes. “We’re all f—ing hypocrites,” he argued, with good reason.

Though he did not do so eloquently, Oldman, a libertarian, is making an important point. Humans are a living paradox. “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function," as F. Scott Fitzgerald said.

We are imperfect, and more often than we’d like to admit, we are wrong. Yet, with the rise of the Information Age, things you say and do are more accessible and more public. Thus opportunities to trip over someone’s fragile sensibilities have increased exponentially.

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Your Daily Dose of Trey Gowdy Shouting at Obama Administration Officials

By on 6.24.14 | 3:39PM

From me to you, because you know you want some and because I want to up my clicks for the month. IRS Commish John Koskinen, quite possibly the smuggest bureaucrat in the historical pantheon of smug bureaucracy, claimed he hasn't seen any evidence of lawbreaking in the IRS's mass deletion of Lois Lerner's emails. As Gowdy delicately noted, it's rather difficult to clear anyone of lawbreaking when you don't know anything about the law:

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When It Comes to Paid Family Leave, the Question is How

By on 6.24.14 | 11:05AM

President Obama’s speech at the White House Summit on Working Families saw digressions into raising the minimum wage and self-satisfied referrals to the Affordable Care Act. But its focus was on paid family leave and pregnancy accommodations, and ought to be seen by conservatives as a challenge to meet legitimate needs without sacrificing principle and expanding centralized authority. The president advocated for the federalization of employment laws as he called for Congress to leave “none of our country’s talent behind.” Conservatives should provide an alternative.

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The Obama Watch

Obama Sings a Smug, Self-Satisfied, Falsely Optimistic Tune

By 6.24.14

Ronald Reagan and Louis Armstrong appeared together in the popular movie Going Places in 1938. Though Reagan is one of the featured stars, no one remembers his role. Instead, we remember Armstrong as Gabriel the horse trainer, his alabaster grin and bulging eyes charming us as he capers gracefully, trumpet in tow. Jeepers Creepers, the horse in his care, is as wild as it is fast. Gabriel discovers that the way to calm the horse down is to sing to it—putting its name to music. In turning the skittish horse into a champion, Satchmo plays his trumpet and sings the words:

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?

The same tune came to me upon reading President Obama’s latest speech, which was filled with self-congratulations on every front but one, that being the terrible peril of climate change. Never has there been a more smug and self-satisfied philippic than this one. It made me think:

Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get that focus?
Hocus Pocus, where’d ya get those “facts”?

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Main Street U.S.A.

Of 1914 and 2014

By 6.24.14

And there before us, b'golly, was…the car!

THE car. You know? The one positioned, in blood and early 20th-century elegance, at the center of modern history; the open car carrying the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, when a teenage terrorist in Sarajevo shot them dead on St. Vitus Day — June 28 — 1914, setting off nearly uninterrupted shockwaves of horror. Or so we generally hear. I will come back to that point.

I saw the car nearly half a century ago at the Austrian Museum of Military History in Vienna: large, dark, eerie. The sight was akin in my mind to the notion of inspecting the cutlery employed by Brutus and Cassius on mighty Caesar's carcass.

March 15, in 44 B.C., and June 28, 1914 have historical consonance. They unleashed large and bloody events: the more recent of which we have begun already to commemorate.

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Three Primary Races to Watch Tomorrow

By on 6.23.14 | 5:09PM

As summer rages on, races for seats all across the country are heating up. Tomorrow, as with most Tuesdays over the past few months, there will be another round of primaries, this time in seven states: Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah, along with a special election in Florida’s Nineteenth Congressional District. While many of these elections are non-stories because of unlikely challengers or major spreads in the polls, three are standing out.

Mississippi Senate

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