The "Legendarily Dense" Katherine Harris

Plus McCain's Break from the "Troglodyte Wing" of the GOP
"Legendarily Dense" GOP Official Katherine Harris
"'Recount' is not satire; it's a mordantly serious look at a moment when character, political influence and luck fatefully collided....Laura Dern is mesmerizing as Ms. Harris, the legendarily dense public official who also helped organize George W. Bush's Florida election campaign. Ms. Dern's portrait comes the closest to parody - the role all but demands it - but she manages to convey some glimmers of humanity behind the thick makeup and thicker skull." - TV-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley on the HBO movie on the 2000 Florida recount, May 23.

Marking Memorial Day: Our Troops Are Just Cannon Fodder
"President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it. He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers' lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break. So lavish with other people's sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home." - From the Times' lead editorial on Memorial Day, May 26.

Conservative Supreme Court Spooked by Public Backlash?

"Indeed, much of the commentary on the court's performance during the last term was harsh, and it came not only from liberals. Judge Richard A. Posner, the conservative icon who sits on the federal appeals court in Chicago, offers some pointed and unusually personal criticism of Chief Justice Roberts in his new book, "How Judges Think," published this year by Harvard University Press....Perhaps the conservative justices were taken aback by the public response to the Lilly Ledbetter case, a 5-to-4 decision in an employment discrimination case last term that placed a tight time limit on an employee's ability to file a pay discrimination claim. The decision led to Congressional hearings during which the court was denounced as out of touch with the reality of women's working lives." - Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, May 23.

It's Still America's Fault
"As many as 36 former Guantánamo detainees have taken part in violent acts against Western targets after their release, a Defense Intelligence Agency report said. Their violent acts raise the question of whether the men should have been released, but also whether their detention radicalized them." - Alissa Rubin reporting from Baghdad, May 9.

Doesn't He Mean Taxpayers?

"And few are willing to take the risks that Mr. Kennedy has in attacking the big topics of the day, hammering away at the injustices he sees, leaving him red-faced and shouting on the floor, his voice carrying into the surrounding hallways without benefit of C-Span. And if some of his solutions cost the government some money, well, that is what the government is for." - Congressional reporter Carl Hulse, May 22.

McCain's Welcome Break from "Troglodyte Wing" of GOP

"McCain surely knows this, even if his party has yet to get the message. The speech that he gave here on climate change marked a big break with President Bush and the troglodyte wing of his party. Look for similar divorce announcements in coming months, even on race. In that speech, McCain envisioned a nightmare of runaway forest fires, heat waves stifling the cities, storms swamping the coasts, unless something is done. "The United States will lead," he said, "and will lead with a different approach." In every way, the speech was a slap at know-nothings like Rush Limbaugh, who tells his 20 million listeners almost every day that global warming is a massive hoax.....Meanwhile, McCain's party tried to hold onto a Republican Congressional seat in Mississippi this week by using racial scare-mongering from the Jim Crow era." - Former reporter Timothy Egan in a May 14 blog post on his blog "Outposts."

Will Obama Be "Bludgeoned" With Attacks on His Patriotism?

"Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin. But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts." - Robin Toner, from a May 4 front-page story headlined "'88 Campaign Offers a Lesson in Using Symbols as Bludgeons."

Still Rooting for a Recession

"The American economy lost 20,000 jobs in April, the fourth consecutive month of decline, in what many economists took as powerful evidence that the United States is almost certainly now ensnared in a recession." - Lede to the May 3 lead story by Peter Goodman and Michael Grynbaum.

It's Still All Reagan's Fault

"More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates" - Reporter Eric Eckholm (a political appointee during the Carter administration) in a May 6 story on drug war.

Racist Southern Republicans Attack Obama

"Hoping to hang on to a Congressional seat in a tight special election here on Tuesday, Republicans in this mostly white and very conservative district are trying to make the vote more a referendum on Senator Barack Obama than on the candidates themselves. In advertisements and speeches, Republicans have repeatedly associated Travis Childers, the white Democrat threatening to take the seat away from the Republican Party, with Mr. Obama. Republicans say Mr. Obama's liberal values are out of place in the district. But for many Democratic veterans here, the tactic is a throwback to the old and unwelcome politics of race, a standby in Mississippi campaigning." - Adam Nossiter, May 13.

Isolated POW McCain Didn't Learn Correct Liberal Lesson in Vietnam

"There is a feeling among some of McCain's fellow veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain's comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly. They are wary of seeming to denigrate McCain's service, marked by his legendary endurance in a Hanoi prison camp, when in fact they remain, to this day, in awe of it. And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington." - Contributing writer Matt Bai in his cover story for the May 18 New York Times Magazine.

Robert Byrd, "Young Man" in the Klan?
"[Robert Byrd's] endorsement [of Obama] was emblematic of a nation vastly changed over the last half-century. Mr. Byrd once opposed integrating the military, filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, as a young man, was briefly a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He has frequently expressed regret for that past." - Robert Byrd was 28 years old in 1945 when he wrote a letter to segregationist Sen. Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi calling blacks "race mongrels."

By "Tightly Controlled," We Mean "We Weren't Invited"

"Senator John McCain is set to release 400 pages of medical records, including documents related to his melanoma surgery in August 2000, to a tightly controlled group of reporters on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend ." - Elisabeth Bumiller and Lawrence Altman, May 22. The Times was not among the media outlets given press credentials for the event. All the networks, the Washington Post, AP, and Reuters were allowed in.

"Centrist" Fla Gov. Charlie Crist Now "Chain-Gang Charlie"
"Instantly recognizable because of his perpetual tan and striking white hair, Mr. Crist, who was Florida's attorney general before being elected governor in 2006, has also acquired a reputation as something of a hard-liner on law and order issues. He supports the death penalty, largely opposes restrictions on the rights of gun owners, early on earned the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie" because he favored allowing convicts to be used in road work, and has described himself as a "pro-life and pro-family" candidate." - Adam Nagourney, describing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a possible McCain pick for vice presidential running mate, in a front-page story on May 22.

"But while Mr. Rubio and other conservatives in Tallahassee have begun grumbling about Mr. Crist's centrism - and his proposals to expand gambling and to dip into reserves instead of cutting more from the state budget - his approval rating among voters remains high." - Abby Goodnough, March 17.

Letting His Liberal Flag Fly
Maybe the problem is that the debates, for all the interest, aren't telling us much. Here's a modest proposal: change the format to game shows. 'But that would cheapen political discourse!' you might exclaim. Really? More, than say, hammering a candidate over whether he should be wearing a flag pin? All I'm saying is give Alex Trebek a chance. Why wait until the candidates are actually in office to see if they have a steady thumb on the button?" - John Schwartz, May 25 Week in Review.