Courtesy of Fox NationThe 2011 White House Christmas card features a content looking First Pup Bo Obama sitting by a roaring fireplace, flanked by Christmas presents and festive Christmasy ribbons and pine wreaths and bulbs. If you listen hard, you can almost hear sleigh bells.
It's all pretty non-controversial. Boring, even. Unless, of course, you're Fox News—in which case the bookshelf is filled with Lenin's B-sides, the Constitution is burning in the fireplace, Winston Churchill's bust is conspicuously absent, Bo has become dependent on the federal government for handouts, and the empty seat is a stirring reminder of President Obama's nonexistent leadership. I'm exagerrating, but only slightly:
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Fox News & Commentary that she found the card to be a bit unusual.
"It's odd," she said, wondering why the president's Christmas card highlights his dog instead of traditions like "family, faith and freedom."
Palin said the majority of Americans can appreciate the more traditional, "American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree."
As for the Obama card, she replied, "It's just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House."
Why does Sarah Palin hate puppies?
Update: But since Fox News has brought up the subject of Christmas cards, perhaps we should take a look at the official Fox Business Network Christmas card this holiday season. Here's one, via New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter:
Courtesy of Brian StelterThat's a pair of foxes roasting the NBC peacock over an open fire—which, for you non-Christians out there, is an oft-overlooked aspect of the of the story of the first Christmas. And via reader Jason Sparks, take a look at Ronald Reagan's White House Christmas cards. They're nearly identical to Obama's, except there's no puppy. "Family, faith, and freedom" are, presumably, represented by the antique furniture, fireplaces, and tacky lighting.
Asked about his Internet browsing habits in 1995, Gingrich said simply, "I play."
As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.
Newt Gingrich has always presented himself, with some level of accuracy, as one of the more tech-savvy voices in American politics. He anticipated the the transformative powers of telecommunications in the 1980s, and recognized that Congress' attempt to ban pornography from the internet was a really dumb idea. In 1995, he became the first Speaker of the House in American history to sit down for a 6,500-word interview with Esther Dyson for Wired about the future of the Internet.
[I]t's hard not to feel slightly cynical. The slight grows as you discover that Gingrich is, in fact, something of a technological naïf. He has owned a laptop only since 1994, for example, and does not use e-mail, a fact that shocked [Bill] Gates's people and, apparently, Gates himself—the billionaire made a point of explaining the importance of e-mail to Gingrich at their dinner. When you ask the Speaker how much time he spends roaming the Net, he answers, "Not as much as I'd like." When you ask him what he does in those sadly infrequent moments, he falls silent for at least five seconds—an eternity for him—and then responds, blankly: "I play."
Martin Luther's acolytes had the printing press. The Velvet Revolution had rock-and-roll radio stations. The Arab Spring had Facebook. Michele Bachmann's long-shot quest for a second American Revolution has Foursquare. Well, it's something anyway.
Bachmann won't win the Republican nomination, but her campaign is on the upswing in Iowa, where the latest Public Policy poll has her breaking double digits for the first time in months. Last week, she kicked off a 99-county bus tour, to visit every corner of the state, and she seems to think she might actually have an outside shot at winning the caucuses. The days when she had to yell frantically at debate moderators to get a little face time have passed, at least for now. What's her secret? It's the world's most perplexing social media platform this side of Ping.
There she was, at the Thirsty Dog in Manly on Sunday evening. Four minutes earlier, if Foursquare can be trusted (and I would suggest to you that it must, it simply must) she was at the Prime and Wine in Mason City. That followed a stop at Shooterz Bar in Forest City (try the meatloaf), and successive appearances at Pizza Ranch franchises in Garner and Clarion. She started the day by checking in at Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge (with two others). On Saturday, it was much of the same: Pizza Hut in Ida Grove (where she unlocked the "Bender" badge for checking in for the fourth consecutive night)—and three more Pizza Ranches, in Rockwell City, Pocahontas, and Emmetsburg.
Oh, and the compulsory visit to Cronk's in Denison, where this happened:
She held off on tweeting about it, at least. On Friday she as at Hey, Good Cookies in Spirit Lake, Cool Beans coffee shop in Estherville, and—noticing a trend here—Pizza Ranch in Sibley.
So what does this all mean? Michele Bachmann goes to a lot of pizza places: In Garner, she unlocked the Level 2 Pizzaiolo badge; as I'm writing this, she's just checked into the Princess Grill and Pizzeria in Iowa Falls, and she'll have stops later on Monday at Pizza Ranches in Charles City and Waverly. But there's a method to all of it. As Kerry Howley reported in March, Pizza Ranch holds a unique place in Iowa politics. When Mike Huckabee won the caucuses in 2008, he did it by hitting all 69 franchises in the state. Social conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats (of marriage pledge fame) has used the buffet-style chain as a staging ground for his own campaigns. It's a way of microtargeting the predominantly old, predominantly evangelical voters who will decide the results on January 3.
Of course, the senior citizens who hang out at Pizza Ranch to listen to Michele Bachmann talk about Alfred Kinsey are also, generally speaking, not the sort to unlock the oversharing badge on Foursquare. Which just goes to show you that while candidates have more social media tools at their disposal than ever before, they're still not entirely sure what to do with them. That is, unless Bachmann becomes Mayor of the Iowa caucuses.
Dan Herrick/ZumaPressAs a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.
After being sworn in as Speaker of the House in 1995 on a promise to tear down the welfare state, Newt Gingrich needed just one day to propose a new, $40 billion entitlement program to allow poor Americans to buy laptops. As he told the House Ways and Means Committee:
I'll give you a nutty idea that I'm just tossing out because I want to start getting you to think beyond the norm. Maybe we need a tax credit for the poorest Americans to buy a laptop. Now, maybe that's wrong, maybe it's expensive, maybe we can't do it. But I'll tell you, any signal we can send to the poorest Americans that says "We're going into the 21st century, third-wave information age, and so are you, and we want to carry you with us," begins to change the game.
It was not the first time he'd floated the concept. Elizabeth Drew reported that Gingrich had "made a similar proposal several years [earlier], to an executive of a major technology company, and had been told it wasn't feasible." And in his 1984 book Window of Opportunity, Gingrich had heralded France's move to put a telephone in every house as "an investment in the future and one which may make France the leading information-processing society in the world by the end of the century."
Because poor Americans don't pay income taxes, though, the tax credit wouldn't do much good—unless it was a refundable tax credit, in which case it would basically be an entitlement by another name. (It was also a bit incongruous to propose giving away laptops while simultaneously trying to eliminate food stamps, but we all have our indiosyncrasies.) The Speaker backtracked shortly thereafter. As Michael Kinsley put it in the New Yorker:
Gingrich conceded that the laptop tax-credit idea was not merely "nutty" but "dumb" and added, "I shouldn't have said it." He even revealed that he had called up George Will to apologize—apparently what one does in such circumstances—though he did not reveal whether Will had given him absolution.
Everything you need to know about the allegations that brought down the speaker of the House.
Tim MurphyDec. 20, 2011 7:00 AM
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
As Newt Gingrich looks to complete his improbable political comeback, his opponents won't let him (or the electorate) forget about the scandal that ended the first act of his political career—a string of 84 ethics complaints in the House that culminated in a $300,000 sanction. The pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future hammered home the message in a recent Iowa television ad, citing the fine as evidence that "Newt has a ton of baggage."
The former speaker of the House has a handy response for those taking aim at his past. "All of the substantive issues, we were ultimately told we were right," Gingrich told the DesMoinesRegister editorial board on Thursday. "It's truly one of the most frustrating things of my career." He blamed his congressional downfall on bad lawyering and on the zealotry of the House ethics committee (although half of the members were Republican).
Lost in the campaign trail barbs about Gingrich's ethical lapses, however, is any sense of what Gingrich actually did, either allegedly or as a matter of record. In short, he used a network of consulting firms, educational institutions, and even a charity for inner-city teens to promote a set of clearly partisan political goals designed to sweep Republicans into power in Washington. Gingrich's web of interconnected organizations formed the early prototype for the multimillion-dollar public and private network he established after leaving public office, known now as "Newt Inc."
Here's how it worked:
Step 1: The Vehicle. Gingrich's political machine took advantage of a number of institutions that actually predated his congressional tenure, the most significant of which which was GOPAC, a political action committee founded by former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. du Pont. GOPAC had not distinguished itself particularly in its early years, but things began to change in 1986 when Gingrich, an ambitious back-bench congressman from Georgia, took control of the group. He instilled in it a sense of purpose—namely, his vision of a Republican majority in Washington by 1996. GOPAC, in turn, became a fundraising machine, raking in $15 million on Gingrich's watch. As Connie Bruck later reported in TheNew Yorker, it also skirted Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements by distributing fundraising dollars without ever actually handling the money itself. In some cases, it effectively served as a matchmaker, pairing candidates with like-minded donors.
The committee's plan was to change the very language of politics and recast the terms of the debate entirely; Gingrich would, like the professor he once was, educate rising conservative politicians to "speak like Newt." One way to do that was to issue buzzword-packed cassette tapes to aspiring Republican lawmakers.
The other method Gingrich conceived of was to hold nationally televised seminars. In 1990, he developed a program, the American Opportunities Workshop, in which he offered his—and by extension, GOPAC's—vision for the future and outlined steps to organize activists on cable television. Gingrich specifically avoided linking the program to the Republican Party by name, lest he scare off political novices. But winning elections was, by all accounts, the intent. As the House ethics committee noted in 1997, "While the program was educational, the citizens' movement was also considered a tool to recruit non-voters and people who were apolitical to the Republican Party."