Anyway, on those subjects, two op-ed's felt, to me, worth passing along this morning. First up is a dose of reality from the ever-realistic Paul Krugman:
Al Franken’s secret
By Paul Krugman
David Broder has a column this morning calling for bipartisanship. I know, you’re shocked. But what struck me was this bit about Al Franken:
Franken, the loud-mouthed former comedian, will be the 60th member of the Senate Democratic caucus …
First, implicit in this characterization of Franken is the notion of the Senate as a decorous gentlemen’s club. I doubt that club ever existed in reality; but in any case, these days the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is, not to put too fine a point on it, chock full o’ nuts. James Inhofe: I rest my case.
Second, Al Franken’s dirty secret is that … he’s a big policy wonk.
I used to go on Franken’s radio show, all ready to be jocular — and what he wanted to talk about was the arithmetic of Social Security, or the structure of Medicare Part D.
In fact, the only elected official I know who’s wonkier than Al Franken is Rush Holt, my congressman — and he used to be the assistant director of Princeton’s plasma physics lab. (The campaign’s bumper stickers read, “My Congressman IS a rocket scientist.”)
So what will Franken do to the level of Senate discourse? He’ll raise it.
Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president.
Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.
Usually we don’t find that exquisite battiness in our leaders until they’ve been battered by sordid scandals like Watergate (Nixon), gnawing problems like Vietnam (L.B.J.), or scary threats like biological terrorism (Cheney).
When Lyndon Johnson was president, some of his staff began to think of him as “a sick man,” as Bill Moyers told Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Moyers and his fellow Johnson aide Dick Goodwin even began reading up on mental illness — Bill on manic depression and Dick on paranoia.
And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governor’s erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there.
“Several told me, independently of one another,” Purdum writes, “that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy’ — and thought it fit her perfectly.”
The White House can drive its inhabitants loopy. So at least Sarah Palin is ahead of the curve on that one.
As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability.
On the shore of Lake Lucille, with wild fowl honking and the First Dude smiling, with Piper in the foreground and their Piper Cub in the background, the woman who took the Republican Party by storm only 10 months ago gave an incoherent, breathless and prickly stream of consciousness to a small group in her Wasilla yard. Gobsmacked Alaska politicians, Republican big shots, the national press, her brother, the D.C. lawyer who helped create her political action committee and yes, even Fox News, played catch-up.
What looked like a secret wedding turned out to be a public unraveling as the G.O.P. implosion continued: Sarah wanted everyone to know that she’s not having fun and people are being mean to her and she doesn’t feel like finishing her first term as governor.
She can hunt wolves from the air and field-dress a moose, but she fears being a lame duck? Some brickbats over her ethics and diva turns as John McCain’s running mate, and that dewy skin turns awfully thin.
Maybe there’s another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop — there’s often a hidden twist in Sarah’s country-music melodramas. Or is this a reckless high-speed escape from small-pond Alaska, where her popularity is dropping, to the big time Below?
Even some conservative analysts admitted that the governor’s move seemed ga-ga before venturing the spin that Palin might be “crazy like a fox,” as Sarah’s original cheerleader, Bill Kristol, put it.
Maybe, Kristol mused, she could use the 18 months she would have spent finishing her term to write her book and study up on the issues for 2012.
Why not? Palin/Sanford in 2012, with the slogan: “Save time — we’re already in Crazy Town.”
Palin’s speech is classic casuistry.
After girlish burbling about how “progressing our state” and serving Alaska “is the greatest honor that I could imagine,” and raving about how much she loves her job, she abruptly announced that she was making the ultimate sacrifice: dumping the state on her lieutenant.
Why “milk it,” as she put it, when you can quit it? “Only dead fish go with the flow,” she said, while cold fish can blow out of town. Leaving Alaska in the lurch is best for Alaska. She can better “effect change” in government from outside government. She can fulfill her promise of “efficiencies and effectiveness” by deserting Juneau midway through her term — and taking her tanning bed with her.
“We need those who will respect our Constitution,” said Palin, who swore on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. She said she can’t fulfill that silly old oath of office in the usual way because she’s not “wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.”
Naturally, she dragged the troops in, saying that her trip to see wounded soldiers overseas “fortified” her decision to give up because “they don’t give up.”
She refuses to succumb to the “politics of personal destruction.” It’s no fun unless she’s the one aiming those poison darts, as she did when she accused Barack Obama of associating “with terrorists who targeted their own country.”
Sometimes, she explained, if you’re the star, you have to “call an audible and pass the ball” and leave at halftime, “so the team can win” somehow without you.
The maverick must run free when greener pastures beckon. The musher must jump out of the dogsled when warmer climes call. As Palin’s spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton, says, “The world is literally her oyster.”
But just remember, beloved Alaska, it’s all about you.