Holidays evoke moments of reflection. Americans just celebrated Memorial Day, a time to honor those who have fought and died in wars for the nation. Traditionally, people hold parades, gather in cemeteries and rally around monuments to fallen soldiers. Perhaps it was fitting, then, both that President Barack Obama delivered a signal speech on the war on terror last week and that Google bestowed the honor of “Google doodle of 2013” to Sabrina Brady, a Wisconsin teenager who depicted her father’s return from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s rebuttal to State of the Union last night was notable mostly for what it didn’t do: spend more than a hot second on the subject of immigration. I’ve been impressed to see the Florida Republican working to convince conservatives that it’s time for immigration reform. Sure, his urgency may be as electoral as it is moral. But that doesn’t make him wrong. Still, despite Rubio’s considerable gifts—and despite the low bar set by a thankless speaking gig—he sounded pretty out of touch.
Lots of great moments from the Inauguration. Some of them serious, like Obama's full-throated support for LGBT rights. (Though contrary to some reports, it wasn't the first time he used the Seneca Falls/Selma/Stonewall line.) Some of them fun, like watching the First Family behave like a regular, happy, un-self-conscious family. (It's not likely you missed this, but just in case: Malia Obama's amazing photobomb.) My personal favorite: the president's decision to start using DC's "Taxation Without Representation" license plates on his limo.
It turns out Louie Giglio won’t be giving the benediction at Obama’s second inauguration. Who will? Jack Jenkins is right: Minerva Carcaño, Otis Moss, Gary Hall and Brian McLaren are all fine options. Joanna Brooks is right, too: so are Pratima Dharm, Sharon Braus, Sanaa Nadim, Anapesi Kali and Valarie Kaur. Ed Kilgore suggests his own pastor, who’s related to Ron and Rand Paul. Sounds okay, too.
Kudos to Mitt Romney for suggesting a concrete and sensible income-tax reform: capping deductions at $17,000. Now, it's not clear whether he means tax liability or taxable income. As Dylan Matthews explains, that's the difference between a highly progressive (in the technical sense, not the euphemism-for-liberal sense) proposal and one that would affect a lot of middle-class households.
I don't get that excited about the perennial calls for civility in politics. Treating others with respect is important, and I certainly have no problem with political discourse that's even friendly and good-humored. But it's not clear that the latter serves any purpose beyond itself—that it builds understanding or encourages useful moderation or enables compromise. Chatting may be generally preferable to yelling, but it's not really a solution to division and gridlock. I do, however, appreciate timely reminders that our neighbors include those we disagree with.
Per usual, Ross Douthat is in this post occasionally wise but often infuriating: It’s useful to think of Obama’s stimulus bill and Walker’s budget repair bill as mirror image exercises in legislative shock and awe, and the Tea Party and the Wisconsin labor protests as mirror images of backlash. No, that really isn't useful at all.
So it turns out that the president and first lady's tax burden for last year was only 20.5 percent. Does this make Obama a hypocrite for criticizing Mitt Romney's low tax rate? Only if he blames Romney personally for not voluntarily paying more. As I said in Romney's defense a while back, the problem isn't that presidential candidates with plenty of money aren't willing to pay their taxes. The problem is that their taxes are too low.
Skimming the NYT over the weekend, I read the following in Ross Douthat's summary of his new book: Our president embodies [America's] uncentered spiritual landscape in three ways. First, like a growing share of Americans (44 percent), President Obama changed his religion as an adult, joining Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in his 20s after a conversion experience brought him out of agnosticism into faith. Second, he was converted by a pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose highly politicized theology was self-consciously at odds with much of historic Christian practice and belief. Finally, since breaking with that pastor, Obama has become a believer without a denomination or a church, which makes him part of one of the country’s fastest-growing religious groups — what the Barna Group calls the “unchurched Christian” bloc, consisting of Americans who accept some tenets of Christian faith without participating in any specific religious community. The third point annoyed me.