ABOUT THIS BLOG

I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Iran Contra Study Aide

In case you were unsure how the Iran-Contra affair went about, here's a helpful summary.

Lincoln Douglas-esque debates anyone?

"In a sign of what could be an extremely unusual fall campaign, the two sides said Saturday that they would be open to holding joint forums or unmoderated debates across the country in front of voters through the summer. Mr. Obama, campaigning in Oregon, said that the proposal, floated by Mr. McCain’s advisers, was 'a great idea.'"

Here's the full article...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/us/politics/11strategy.html?th&emc=th

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tony Hvfvgpd Zirkle for Congress

Why didn't I know about this earlier? Tony Hvfvgpd Zirkle lost his bid for the Republican nomination for a congressional seat. I can't imagine why... It's either because he is batsh*t crazy and tried to change his middle name to Hvfvgpd, or because he "unwittingly" spoke at an American Nazi Party celebration of Hitler's birthday (flanked by swastikas, of course). He said he didn't know enough about the group to know if he supported them, but noted that he will speak wherever he is invited. Charming.

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/04/24/indiana-gop-nazi/

Monday, May 5, 2008

Congressional History

Some artifacts of congressional history, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


A glimpse at Robert A. Taft:



A timeline of campaign finance reform.
A timeline of congressional reforms.

The Blame Game


so whose fault is it?

(http://thehill.com/images/stories/weyants/2008/May/cartoonsmall050208.jpg)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Guam!!!

The Colbert Report saw it fit to give us its own take on the Guam situation. Not terribly relevant, but good stuff.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

For some international flavor...

Some countries just know how to do democracy right.  Carrying on the proud tradition of Sumner and Brooks, Taiwan has developed a reputation for literally hard-hitting floor sessions including food fights and slaps.

Even our Canadian friends take comfort in Taiwanese fighting during the darkest of their days: the NHL Lockout.



The 19th Century ... and the 20th



You want polarization? Here's some polarization. Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

Video and transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The congressional oath of office dates from this era.

Background on the impeachment process.

There is an entire site on the Johnson impeachment.

Another impeachment:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Real Foreign Policy

From the Associate Press:
The Olympic torch began its first-ever run through North Korea on Monday, where the flame was assured of a trip free of the anti-Chinese protests that marked other legs of the relay.
The North Koreans promised there will not be ANY protests during the torch relay. Oh thank goodness. I hear North Korean pro-democracy demonstrations are usually pretty wild. Now that is an ally you can rely on.

Guam Update!

From New York Times:
When former President Bill Clinton called a Guam radio show on Thursday morning
to talk up his wife, it was described as a historic first. The same was said of Senator Barack Obama’s decision to open a campaign office in Hagatña, the territory’s capital.
With four delegates up for grabs in caucuses on May 3, Guam is a player in the Democratic primaries for the first time. Though island residents cannot vote in the general election, they can help choose a presidential nominee. In fact, Guamanians need not be registered voters to participate. While the caucuses are open only to registered Democrats, people can sign up on site...

See: Guam for Obama
See: Senator Clinton's Guam interview.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Congress and Foreign Policy

Except when American lives or interests are at stake, the public places a low priority on foreign policy.

Senate action on treaties

Pelosi in Syria:

Hill-Rod, The Barack, and "Hollywood" John McCain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHJhVBemBmA

The candidates take their battle to the ring to win hearts, minds, and of course that championship gold.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Place your bets

Political odds-makers have handicapped the GOP Vice Presidential nomination.
http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/04/19/political-oddsmakers-weigh-in-on-republican-vp-derby

Finally, some good news for us Romney supporters.

So according to Sports Books, the Green Bay Packers have a better shot at winning the Super Bowl than Fred Thompson does of being veep. And this is the post-Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers era. Poor Freddy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Depressed yet?

Just in case you weren't depressed already, linked is a summary of Pete Peterson's Running on Empty. 

Peterson is a former investment banker, former Secretary of Commerce, and former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1992 he founded the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates for the reduction of the federal deficit.

If nothing else, read the synopsis of Chapter 10, his "Letter to the Rising Generation": Your parents' generation did the best they could and if they made some mistakes, it was with the best of intentions. Do not judge them too harshly.

Ugh.

Congress and Domestic Policy

Let's look at Fantasy Congress.

More depressing budget numbers.

Opinion on social security reform.

The issue-attention cycle

The Political Figure Four Leg Lock

Congresswoman Sue Myrick knows what her constituents care about. In the midst of terrorism, a looming recession, and the Iraq War, Myrick speaks to the floor about the greatest injustice of all: at Wrestlemania, Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair and ended his career. After 36 years of being the limousine riding, jet flying, kissing stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun, Mr. Flair retired. I can think of no one in the entire country more deserving of commendation than the Nature Boy.
WHOOOOOOOOOO!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Approval ratings

Why does Congress have lower approval ratings than President Bush?

Pelosi fights for the farm bill

The Senate wants tax cuts, Pelosi wants to feed babies...

Congress, Carter, and Hamas

Article about the current event mentioned in class on Monday. Is Carter being appropriate by meeting with Hamas' leader? Is Congress' delegation being appropriate by condemning him?

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351313,00.html

Monday, April 14, 2008

Congress and Economic Policy

Here are a whole bunch of slides.

And a stage-setter for the discussion of the budget:


A "Key Endorsement"

Hillary, McCain, and the entire cable news juggernaut have been harping for days over the "condescending" remarks Obama made about small town America. I think the comments were pretty benign, but hey. They have to talk about something 24 hrs per day, so why not this?

Amid all of this BS, I enjoyed this little bit of irony: before launching into another segment on Obama's "elitist" attitudes, MSNBC News anchor Tamryn Hall announced a "Key Endorsement" for Obama from.... Dan Rooney. (for non sports fans, Dan Rooney is the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you knew that already, I apologize for my blatant elitism)

I enjoy a world where cable news feels that Pennsylvania voters are too sophisticated for Obama's remarks on economic frustrations, but they are simple enough that DAN ROONEY is a "Key Endorsement".

Maybe Obama should amend his remarks to say that when there is economic hardship, rural voters cling to things like religion, guns, and NFL team owners.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My favorite lobbyist

How can anyone say 'no' to the star of "Elektra" and "13 Going on 30?" Save the polar bears, because Mrs. Affleck said so.

Congress and Interest Groups

Interest groups spend much more on lobbying activities than campaign contributions.

What is lobbying?



Frogs do it:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Political Highlights

Politico's "50 greatest political moments"

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0408/9437.html

Some great moments may be missing (Bush's pretzel choke under the "Famous Gaffes" category), but entertaining to peruse nonetheless...

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Hero... heh heh

"A car carrying U.S. Sen. David Vitter ran into a No Parking sign in the Gonzales Police Department parking lot Monday morning as the senator was attempting to evade members of the media, including the Gonzales Weekly Citizen, following a Town Hall forum event at Gonzales City Hall.

No one was injured in the incident, but the car - in which Vitter was a passenger - sped away from the scene with visible, but light damage following the wreck."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/07/david-vitter-car-crash-wa_n_95513.html

Clinton/Vitter '08!!!

Congress and the Courts

On March 21, Congress passed P.L. 109-3, which provided that either parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo would have standing to sue in federal court.

Congress had passed other bills for the relief of individuals. (Note, however, that P.L. 109-3 was technically a public law.)

Judicial nomination hearings can take dramatic turns:




And hearings can also involve discussion of legal principles:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Congressional Oversight and Delegation

Valerie Plame hearing:




Walter Reed hearing:



Federal Register

Executive orders

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Its getting interesting! (first few minutes good stuff, last 2/3, comments by James Carville)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZeGbbOxiaM&eurl=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video_log/

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hannity, Obama, Wright, and the Black Value System

Wanna know about the Black Work Ethic? Black Theology? the Black Liberation Movement?

Classy.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=aNTGRL0OJWQ

HRC is not quite the straight talk express...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Mailing to Constituents


The GOP: In Trouble?

An article about Reynold's decision not to run again, and what that suggests about the state of the Republican party more generally (retirements, ethics, finances, etc):
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9144.html

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Congress and the Bureaucracy: Organization, Appointment, and Removal

Congress "organizes" the executive:

Confirmation hearings:
  • John Kerry has some questions for Sam Fox, nominee for Ambassador to Belgium, and donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Why do you think Bush pulled the nomination?
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse uses Mukasey's confirmation hearing to make a point about waterboarding:


The removal power came dramatically into view when a controversy arose over the firing of US Attorneys:


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Congress and the President

Presidential Support over Time

Presidential Popularity

Statements of Administration Policy

Note how both President Clinton and President Bartlet used the Antiquities Act. In this case, as in others, have presidents overstepped their authority?As for the latter, shall see a classic video presentation of LBJ working his will on Congress. Here is an audio on the same topic. (And another.) Could you picture similar conversations with President Bush?

Republicans Lose Hastert's Seat

Ooo...burn!

Democrat Bill Foster pulled off an upset against Republican Jim Oberweis in a special election for former Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat in the Illinois 14th district. Apparently nobody really saw this one coming: It's a historically safe Republican district and this is Foster's first elected office. (Previously, a physist.)

Here's an unfortunate money quote from one unnamed GOP aide:

“By itself, this would not be that big of a deal, but coupled with everything else it will just deflate the [House Republican] Conference...And symbolically, losing Hastert’s seat is like the toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad for Republicans.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/8920.html

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Senate Power Rankings

Knowledgis calculated a ranking of members based upon their "power and ability to be effective." The criteria they used were position, indirect influence, legislative activity, and earmarks. I'm not sure what exact methodology they used to calculate and weight those factors. It appears that they amassed a lot of data to produce this but I couldn't find where they go into how they actually calculate their numbers. Anyway here's a cool looking graph compiled from this data.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats in general have more power. They are the majority right now after all. Interestingly there are a few Republicans high up on the power rankings. Mitch McConnell and John McCain are fairly powerful by this measure. Interestingly Clinton is slightly more powerful than John McCain who is slightly more powerful than Obama (again by this measure). Of course, all of them are less powerful than Diane Feinstein so California reigns supreme.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Floor

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

A real filibuster:

Jack and Hill what a great team

Jack Nicholson endorsed Hilary Clinton, finally she has some star power,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JtVCWOGDy8

better yet here's a parody,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBXL3LGgPmE&NR=1

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Legislation and Legislative Research

Legislative Research

An example of legislative language: The PATRIOT Act.

An example of markup:



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Simulation Roster

Below is the CMC Simulation Roster. All email addresses are CMC unless there is a notation otherwise (PI, HMC or SC). If I have made any errors, please let me know right away.

Roles for the other classes are at http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/dward/classes/congpres/simroles08.html

Senators with # do not serve in the real-world committee. We have added them for simulation purposes.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Susan M. Collins Ranking Member (ME) Ashley Green
Ted Stevens (AK) Haiyang Zhang
George V. Voinovich (OH) Ben Hough
Norm Coleman (MN) Max Davison
Tom Coburn (OK) Anthony Escandon

Foreign Relations

Richard G. Lugar Ranking Member (IN) Ryan Martin
Chuck Hagel (NE) Charles Sprague
Bob Corker (TN) Gregory Farnum, HMC
John E. Sununu (NH) Alexander WeberShapiro
Mitch McConnell (KY)# David Reitz
Lisa Murkowski (AK) Lina Cohen, PI
Jim DeMint (SC) Quirina Mitchell
Johnny Isakson (GA) Emma Lowry. SC
John McCain (AZ)# Patrick Atwater

Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member (WY) Avram (Abe) Shimm
Judd Gregg (NH) Spencer MacColl
Lamar Alexander (TN) Edwin Hetz
Richard Burr (NC) Brandon Sanchez
Johnny Isakson (GA) Emily Phelps
Lisa Murkowski (AK) Sandy Russell
Orrin G. Hatch (UT) Matthew Lewis

Environment and Public Works

James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (OK) Sean McGregor
Olympia Snowe (ME)# Allison Foote
David Vitter (LA) Sam Ross
John Barrasso (WY) Andrew Hess
Larry E. Craig (ID) Brendan Sasso

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Doppelgangers and Rahm

1. You may notice that a couple of sim roles appear twice. We will have different students portray the member on different committees. For instance, one student will play HELP Isakson and another will play Foreign Relations Isakson.

2. See video about a member of the House Democratic leadership:

Party Leadership

Current House leadership

Current Senate leadership



The 100 Hours:




Republicans have a different view:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Party Influence Over Elections

The reading and our discussions in class have focused on party influence in elections and campaigns. This article from The Politico illustrates that even though elections can be more candidate centered than party centered, congressional committees and the parties still have some power in determining the candidates. When Rep. Ron Lewis of Kentucky tried to engineer the election, the NRCC proved that it still has power and influence over who will be the candidate in certain districts.

"Pledged" Delegates

Here is a nice twist: at the Democratic convention, technically ALL delegates are super-delegates. Pledged delegates are delegates that the candidate wins in primaries, who pledge their support to the candidate. Often they are selected because they are strong Obama/Clinton/Edwards partisans, and they sign a public pledge of support to their candidate. But their obligation ends there. As illustrated in this article pledged delegates can technically vote for whomever they wish, even on the first ballot. This makes them strikingly similar to the famed super-delegates.

The convention is going to be a mess. I retract my previous optimistic statement about the Clinton campaign. They're going to fight tooth and nail.

The Superdelegate Dilemma

A Washington Post article nicely illustrates a point from yesterday's class:
In an interview [Trenton Mayor Doug] Palmer still sounded riled about a few things he had heard about. One of them, reported by the Associated Press, was a private conversation between Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a Clinton supporter, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), one of Obama's national campaign co-chairmen. Both
lawmakers are superdelegates. Jackson had asked Cleaver if he wanted to go down in history as someone who prevented an African American from occupying the White
House
for the first time. Separately, Jackson told the AP that supporting Clinton in districts where Obama won overwhelmingly might place those politicians at risk of a primary challenge.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Parties in Congress

The New York Times has an excellent analysis of superdelegates. Here is a useful table of their preferences in comparison of those of their constituencies.

See here for historical trends in party polarization. And a graphic comparison.

Simulation Roles

The Senators with * and italics are Pitzer Senator roles

The Senators with # do not serve in the real-world committee. We have added them for simulation purposes.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Susan M. Collins Ranking Member (ME)
Ted Stevens (AK)
George V. Voinovich (OH)
Norm Coleman (MN)
Tom Coburn (OK)
*Pete V. Domenici (NM)
*John Warner (VA)
*John E. Sununu (NH)

Foreign Relations

Richard G. Lugar Ranking Member (IN)
Chuck Hagel (NE)
*Norm Coleman (MN)
Bob Corker (TN)
John E. Sununu (NH)
Mitch McConnell (KY)#
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Jim DeMint (SC)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
John McCain (AZ)#

Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Michael B. Enzi, Ranking Member (WY)
Judd Gregg (NH)
Lamar Alexander (TN)
Richard Burr (NC)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
*Pat Roberts (KS)
*Wayne Allard (CO)
*Tom Coburn, M.D. (OK)

Environment and Public Works

James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (OK)
Olympia Snowe (ME)#
David Vitter (LA)
John Barrasso (WY)
Larry E. Craig (ID)
*Lamar Alexander (TN)
*Christopher S. Bond (MO)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obama, Clinton Shower Cash on Delegates

ABC Reports:
The study found that Obama has sent more than $694,000 from either his campaign account or his political action committee to superdelegates -- the members of Congress, governors, and other party leaders who receive automatic votes at the Democratic National Convention.

About 40 percent of the elected officials who have endorsed Obama have received campaign contributions from him, the center reports. Those superdelegates have received a total of $228,000 from him.

By contrast, Clinton sent out only $195,500 to superdelegates, and only 12 percent of her superdelegates received money from her for their campaigns, according to the report.

It looks like Obama might have learned more from his Senate experience than Clinton did. Perhaps she assumed the political insiders would default to the Clinton camp. Regardless, this should prevent superdelegates from voting for Clinton if she doesn't win the popular vote.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Walkout

Politico reports:
Following an angry partisan debate and a dramatic walkout by Republicans, the House on Thursday approved motions to begin criminal and civil contempt proceedings against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriett Miers for failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee. The vote was 223-32 and came after House Republicans – yelling “Work, work, work” – marched out of the chamber en masse to protest the fact that the Democrats were focused on the contempt issue rather than on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation the Senate passed earlier in the week.


Video here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ads, Ads, Ads

Current ad for Democrat Steve Novick, running against Gordon Smith in Oregon (h/t to Allie Foote):



A 2006 ad for Democrat Jon Tester, who defeated GOP incumbent senator Conrad Burns:


And Michael Steele had good ads:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Strategy and Tactics

Some constituencies are competitive. Some are not. See 2006 California returns for examples.

Consider the message grid.

Compare the messages of

Best ads of 2006.

From 2006, an effective negative ad:

And a response ad:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Use of Campaign Funds

Emily raised a good question about restrictions on the use of campaign funds. See the FEC guide for candidates, especially chapter 9. The short answer is that candidates indeed have a good deal of latitude, provided that the money does not end up in their own pockets.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) pitches to college students on YouTube:


Rep. Tom Lantos Dead at 80

Apparently this morning Rep. Tom Lantos died outside of Washington DC. He had served an admirable 14 terms and was the Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. I believe he was the sole Democrat out of 22 congressmen and women seeking retirement rather then reelection. For more information, go to the following: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_8229708

Friday, February 8, 2008

Money, Money, Money

A typical fundraising reception, in 2006, for Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO):




A 2006 DCCC fundraising video:





Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Congressional Elections

Here is the legislative tutorial from Fantasy Congress.

Monday, February 4, 2008

John McCain's hill style

Here's a nice article from the Washington Post about McCain's hill style. From the looks of it he has probably cursed at about a quarter of the Senate.

Congressional Election Fundamentals



http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=750


See here for party breakdowns in the House and Senate.

See here for historical data on reelection rates.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hillary and Gen. Casey

I was able to find a clip of Sen. Clinton interacting with Gen. George Casey (then Commander of Multii-National Forces in Iraq, now Army Chief of Staff).

Here she is, quizzing him on deployment readiness:


John McCain certainly commands a lot of respect from military commanders due to his experience and expertise, and that is evident in the clip Professor Pitney posted. When McCain speaks it reminds me of a father lecturing his children when they've been bad. Here, it doesn't seem like Hillary is as comfortable in that role as McCain is. But, Gen. Casey is not stupid; he realizes he is potentially speaking to his next boss, and is appropriately deferential.

Hillary doesn't make generals cry, but she can hold her own.

Earmarks, Hill Style, Home Style

n his State of the Union address (below), President Bush denounced wasteful earmarks. Yesterday, he signed an executive order telling officials to ignore "earmarks included in any non-statutory source."






Some lawmakers, such as Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), post their daily schedules online.

Washington staff play an important part in Hill style. Here is a brief description of some job titles. In this clip, see see aides to Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Florida).

John McCain, much in the news today, has a very assertive Hill style:







And Colbert has a unique take on Wexler's home style:

Earmarks

Pres. Bush in his SOTU address to Congress asked that the number of earmarks be cut in half this year. (full story) The number of earmarks attached to a single bill are incredible. The 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill contained 1,753 earmarks totalling $1/2 billion. Map of earmarks

Monday, January 28, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Two Congresses/Two Chambers

House Senate USA
% Women 16% 16% 51%
% Black 09% 01% 13%
% Latino 06% 03% 14%
% Asian 01% 02% 05%
Mean Age 56 62 37.5

Median Household Income (2006): $48,201
Congressional salary: (2008): $169,300

Louisiana Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon (meh-LAW-sawn) has an official site and a campaign site. See a 2006 campaign ad, below.



One major difference between the chambers is that few House members run for president, and seldom get far when they do (see Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich). But a fairly large fraction of senators have gone for the White House:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 1996, 2000
Joseph Biden (D-DE) 1988, 2008
Sam Brownback (R-KS) 2008
Robert Byrd (D-WV) 1976
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) 2008
Christopher Dodd (D-CT) 2008
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) 2000
Tom Harkin (D-IA) 1992
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 2000
Edward Kennedy (D-MA) 1980
John Kerry (D-MA) 2004
Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) 2004
Richard Lugar (R-IN) 1996
John McCain (R-AZ) 2000, 2008
Barack Obama (D-IL) 2008
Arlen Specter (R-PA) 1996

Thursday, January 24, 2008

McCain draws "First Blood"

The '08 star power-Cold War continued its escalation on Thursday, as John McCain enlisted the help of former two-time world heavyweight champion, Rocky Balboa. Fox News reports that Sylvester Stallone is supporting McCain in his bid for the Republican nomination.

http://youdecide08.foxnews.com/2008/01/24/rambo-v-walker-texas-ranger-stallone-backs-mccain-against-norris-huckabee/

His well-timed endorsement coming just a day before the 1/25 release of "Rambo" (*insert shameless plug here*), Stallone says that McCain is a real-life version of the action hero. "(L)ike a rough action film, you need somebody who’s been in that to deal with it."

Stallone brings with him a long history of international diplomacy and foreign relations. For those of you lucky enough to recall 1985's Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa singlehandedly defeated the USSR and ended the Cold War after knocking out Soviet sensation Ivan Drago in Moscow.

This move counters Chuck Norris' steadfast support of Mike Huckabee. Fox News is already hyping an epic battle between Walker Texas Ranger and John Rambo. Analysts also expect that in the coming weeks we will see The Rock give his support to Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney will be backed by the cast of "Big Love."

But in all seriousness...what exactly is the appeal of celebrity backers? One has to wonder how much weight these endorsements will carry. Rambo and Walker aren't going to sway Super Tuesday one way or the other, yet their support routinely makes the front page on FoxNews and CNN and Norris even stood behind Huckabee at the post-Iowa press conference.

Part of this may be the gimmick, yet in today's TMZ-addicted world, it is entirely possible that actors do have some political pull. George Clooney is bound to win a few votes for Obama and Michael J Fox's ad campaign was key in McCaskill's win in the 2006 Missouri senatorial race. For voters who do not routinely read the papers or listen to talk radio, it is much easier to vote for a celebrity rather than a candidate's platform.

And this begs the question, which will make the bigger difference for McCain: the support of the Boston Globe or the support of Rocky Balboa?

The WGA Comes to the Hill

See the video and story below. Why did the writers go to Capitol Hill? Why did members of Congress take part? What does this episode tell us about their constituencies, their Hill style and their home style?

The Washington Post reports:

Usually, the Rayburn Building is the kind of place reserved for all sorts of serious goings-on conducted by sober-looking folks in suits. The people who think they're running the country. Which is to say, it's not too often that you see the likes of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) donning a ZZ Top-esque beard and proclaiming "solidarity" with the people who really matter -- entertainment types.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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