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For the New York Times to (nonexclusively) hire an anti-Clinton muckraker ranks as one of the stupider moves in recent political/media history. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard to figure out the logic of it. Negative Clinton stories get clicks, and the Times gets to (in its own mind) dust off the old “impartial” cap. But in the long term, mainstream media organizations continue to delude themselves that (a) there is any series of actions that they can take in order to insulate themselves from conservative bias claims, and (b) that the sort of informed liberals that form the core of their readership will continue to read a paper that allows people with a conservative agenda to spread their wares in its pages is nonsense. In the short run, it’s probably overall a smart move. In the long run…well, there’s a reason why left-oriented media continue to grow while mainstream sources continue to atrophy.

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It really is–huge and difficult and contradictory. And generally underserved by mainstream Western reporting and punditry, offered by people who got most of their knowledge of the place from TV and movies. I’d say this is a pretty good look at Russia’s present state. It doesn’t deny the realities of the currently dominant Slavophilic tendency: harsh nationalism, xenophobia, international swagger. But there is also a longstanding Russian tradition of reform, idealism and modernization–the Europhilic tendency. Both go back centuries in Russian history and, if you know the history, they tend to have a sun- and moon-like alternation, even (especially) when it seems like that’s unthinkable. Gorbachev followed Brezhnev, after all. It’s what makes the culture so interesting, these simultaneous extremes existing at once. So while it’s perfectly valid to criticize Putin and all he’s done, it’s not the whole story, nor a permanent state of affairs.

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Lindy West’s column on the symbolism of the potential election of a woman president is worth reading, and characteristically, quite funny. The Wayne LaPierre quote she lampoons is stupid, but not atypical of how the right thinks of these things. It’s taken more or less as a fact that Obama only won because of his race, which mitigated the otherwise-damning Jeremiah Wright/Tony Rezko/Weather Underground stories that would certainly have doomed any other candidate. It’s not hard to find other examples–our good buddy Dennis Prager insists that Obama was only elected because he was “a charismatic black,” which is a verbatim phrase that does all the work so that I don’t have to. And one can think of plenty of others: Newt Gingrich’s dismissal of the 2008 campaign as a therapy session, say.

This is something to keep in mind the next time a pundit tries to sell you on Rand Paul will sweep the Obama coalition off of its feet. They continue to choose not to understand that Obama even had any appeal in 2008, let alone understand that appeal.

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I actually don’t think Republican candidates are going to do much damage to themselves in calling for cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I think that they’ll get in serious, serious trouble if (more when) they seriously try again to do it, and next time around, the billionaires ain’t waiting for no second term like they did with Dubya. But until that point, FOX News exists and it will tell the olds that Paul Ryan Chris Christie Jeb Bush is an honorable man, and they’ll listen. Of course, his brother’s presidency crashed when the hubris of a three-point reelection win prompted him to get all over that third rail, and if he wins, so will his. But up until that point, conservative spin will prevent much damage from occurring.

It’s hard to see how the current Republican coalition isn’t doomed in the long run–lotsa rich people who insist on carving up the safety net and lotsa old people who will revolt if this becomes a real possibility.

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Here’s Sean Hannity “singing” the song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels, who accompanies his own song:

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Interesting article over on The Guardian counterintuitively argues that the reason why the main parties over in the UK are struggling is because both of their leaders aren’t really able to fight against the negative perceptions of their party. It’s well argued. It may explain why Jeb Bush is struggling as a candidate in 2016: while he does have a genuinely multicultural family and outlook, post-Romney, post-no House action on immigration reform, post-near government shutdown on Obama’s executive order on same, the idea that all the Republican Party needs is a friendly pro-immigration president seems remarkably dated. Meanwhile, the Bush candidacy seems to mainly be an exercise in big business influence, which is hardly going to counter perceptions of the Republican Party.

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The announcement of the framework for a nuclear deal with Iran is obviously a cause for celebration for those hoping for peace and cooperation rather than endless conflict. But part of it makes me sad. There are moments–mainly the Iran framework and the work with Cuba–that offer flashes of the foreign policy president Obama could have been. Boldly ignoring the Right and mainstream pundits, rejecting the militarized consensus of today’s foreign policy and the bankrupt assumptions of yesterday’s to push for peace. It is clear that Obama can behave this way, and it’s enormously satisfying when he does, but it’s far less often than than one would have hoped going in and it throws the nonsense into sharp relief. Daniel Larison found perhaps the definitive example of the “I don’t know, just do shit, maybe it will pan out, at least we’re not getting tagged by the hawks about it, underpants gnomes” philosophy that is sadly much more typical of how they often work. The Yemen operation is clearly the work of a global chessmaster novice. And unfortunately, it’s much more typical of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy on a regular basis than the Iran deal.

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