Up Front


Who or what would you exempt from government health care?

"Any disease brought back from the Appalachian Trail." -- Larry Sabato, UVA

"Members of the Libertarian Party or anyone who wrote a college-application essay about Ayn Rand." -- Mark Oppenheimer, New Haven Review

"Nausea induced by reading Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater." -- Negin Farsad, comedian

"Children. If you can't legally work in this country, then you shouldn't get health insurance." -- Baratunde Thurston, The Onion



Ten for 2010: Headlines for the new year

Iraq feels neglected, offers unrest
"How messed up must we be?" asks minister

GOP pins hopes on belligerent local arm-wrestling champ
"He knows he's pissed off, and that's enough," say enthusiastic supporters

Senate Move to Impeach Obama Fails 1 to 99
Lieberman explains lone "aye" vote "on religious and moral grounds"

John Edwards overestimates public's willingness to hear from John Edwards

Afghanistan, rooting out corruption, takes breather
"We'll get back to it soon," vows official

Sarah Palin declares that she knows even less about anything than arm-wrestling champ

Free-trade advocate wins respect for condescending answer regarding free trade
Admirers praise withering look

Mitt Romney gets unexplained eagle tattoo
"I've always had this," says populist candidate

GOP gains seats in House
Outcome viewed as repudiation of Democrats' failure to clean up after GOP

POLL: Majority of Americans would replace two current wars with one new high-quality war

T.A. Frank is an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation.


Dialogue: Reset Button

Is it time for Obama to shift his agenda?

Tim Fernholz: With Republicans and moderate Democrats holding up Obama's legislative agenda, maybe he ought to focus on bread-and-butter issues, especially jobs, even if that means delaying action on major goals like the energy bill or financial-regulation reform.

Mark Schmitt: What makes you think Republicans won't hold up that agenda, too?

Tim: Jobs make for a much clearer argument compared to the more abstract debates over climate change and derivatives. It's also a higher-priority issue for many congressional leaders.

Mark: "Focusing on jobs" isn't the same as "creating jobs."

Tim: There are policies that can help, but there is total gridlock on the Hill. One way to change that would be to confront Congress head on with an issue that is easy to communicate.

Mark: Economists will tell you that the unemployment rate is going to be more than 7 percent at the midterms no matter what, so "jobs" is likely to be seen as a false promise. Obama should stick to his long-term vision -- health care, green jobs, financial reform -- rather than make short-term promises he can't keep.

Tim: Green jobs and financial reform aren't going to pass unless the administration changes its approach to dealing with Congress. A long-term agenda is a good idea, but Obama needs to show short-term movement to make that a reality.

Mark: Passing health reform is short-term movement, isn't it?

Tim: Definitely. But it could be the last thing this Congress will pass. You seem to think that the status quo is eventually going to be productive -- what's the case for that?

Mark: Just look at health reform. Patience and persistence pulled it forward. When Congress is doing some massive thing that it's never been able to do before, it should come as no surprise that everything else is stalled.

Tim: The problem, though, is that the rest of Obama's agenda also consists of things that no one has ever done before -- things that are less tangible and less important to the public and to lawmakers right before an election.

Mark: Realistically, how many seats would be saved by switching the agenda to a "jobs bill" that either won't have any effect by November or will be blocked?

Tim: Congress is more likely to pass economic legislation than anything else. Obama should do that before working on legislation that's as complicated as health-care reform but much less popular.

Mark: I know some polar bears that would disagree with you. In any event, he's a big-vision president. He shouldn't give that up lightly.

Tim: Even a big-vision president needs to take 10 percent unemployment seriously. Believe me, the idea of postponing other items, like banking regulation, makes me sick to my stomach. But, as the old cliché goes, politics is the art of the possible.

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