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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Domestic policy

Oops, Obama touts his jobs plan today at an Ohio bridge that won't qualify

Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River at Covington and Cincinnati

You know all those rusting bridges that President Obama wants to spend billions more dollars repairing to allegedly stimulate the economy?

He's headed out to one today which he's described as a "bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America." It is on a busy trucking route, spanning the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati.

It's the Brent Spence Bridge. It doesn't really need repairs. It's got decades of good life left in its steel spans. It's just overloaded. The bridge was built to handle 85,000 cars and trucks a day, which seemed like a lot back during construction in the Nixon era.

Today, the bridge sort of handles more than 150,000 vehicles a day with frequent jam-ups.Obama speaks to the American Legion 8-30-11

So, plans are not to repair or replace the Brent Spence Bridge. But to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads.

But here's the problem, as John Merline graphically notes here, that could screw up all those envisioned photo op shots of the Democrat and the traffic:

The president's jobs bill is designed for "immediate" highway spending.

And the new $2.3 billion Cincy bridge is not scheduled to even start construction for probably four years, long after Republicans have scheduled the Obama presidency for completion.

And without delays, it wouldn't be finished until 2022, when no one will be counting Obama's rounds of golf.

Politicians hate these kinds of messy distractions when they pick a place to make a symbolic statement. But Brent Spence was so tempting linking, as it does, the home states of GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But there is some possible good news for President Obama: The $447-billion jobs bill that he wanted passed "right now" back in early September is stuck in a legislative traffic jam in the Senate.

Fellow Democrat Harry Reid, the majority leader who can run that place like a school principal whenever he wants, is aware of opposition to the measure among some of his own caucus members.

And, well, darn it, wouldn't you know, Reid just can't seem to find a place for Obama's jobs bill in the chamber's overloaded schedule. As a result, as of right now Obama's "right now" jobs bill won't come up until later in the fall, possibly much later.

In a way the scheduling doesn't matter. Since the Democrat in the White House would rather have Republican opposition to it than any of its job-creating provisions, so he can have obstructionist charges for next year's campaign.

But if Congress works the way it usually does, maybe the bridge-repair money will be delayed a few years until the president's photo op Brent Spence Bridge enhancement bridge project is actually shovel-ready.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Al Behrman / Associated Press (Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River at Covington and Cincinnati); Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press (Obama during a recent speech).

Plus-size woman seeks stocky man to share long walks on the beach, straight-ticket voting

Politics in existing families is pretty predictable, as are the stale disagreements around the dinner table.

But a new research study finds that before they form a family, American couples are surprisingly wary of revealing their politics to dates or potential mates online.

So wary, in fact, that members of both genders are more likely to describe themselves as overweight before they are to reveal their political persuasion. Obviously fearing to disclose their ignorance if they lean to the liberal side and being reluctant to appear boastful if they're more conservative.

The researchers -- Rose McDermott, Casey Klofstad and Peter Hatemi -- studied 2,944 random profiles from 313 Zip Codes on an unidentified Internet dating site. They found that only 14% indicated "political interests," and 57% of those safely described themselves as "middle of the road." Sixteen percent bragged of being conservative, while only 9% confessed to liberal leanings.Obama DisappointMINTS on sale in Tennessee

Political interests were so unpopular to list overall that they ranked fourth from the bottom of 27 categories, below even video games.

Compared to the 14% political, 17% were willing to publicly describe themselves as "heavyset" or another favorite euphemism, "stocky."

The older and better-educated, the would-be daters, the more comfortable they seemed listing political preferences.

The study, published in "Evolution and Human Behavior," noted the apparent disparity with previous studies that found spouses sharing political preferences more than any other interest, except religion.

Researchers theorize that at the getting-to-know-you stage, most members of both genders are reluctant to exclude anyone by possibly professing contrary political views. But that during the dating/courting process, both men and women tend to exclude partners of divergent politics, dumping the dummies who disagree with them.

"In the short run," said Klofstad, "most people want to cast as wide a net as possible when dating. However, in the long run, shared political preferences become a critical foundation of lasting relationships, despite the fact that many Americans are not even interested in politics."

The similarity in parental politics, however, contributes to another typical characteristic in American homes, political preferences being inherited by the children. Especially if they pursue extensive schooling to become thoughtful, well-informed, educated and, well, you know.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Saul Young / Associated Press (Obama DisappointMINTS on sale in Tennessee).

A plaintive Obama on his job: 'I can’t do it alone'

The Obamas arrive in NYC 9-19-11 for the UN and fundraisers

An enormous gap has opened in the economic reality that most Americans inhabit and the one that their perpetually campaigning president perceives.

According to the RealClearPolitics average, nearly three-out-of-four Americans believe Barack Obama has lead the nation down the wrong track; barely one-in-five disagree.

Their gloomy perception has something to do with at least 9% unemployment for 26 of the last 28 months, with the 14 million unemployed and the 18.5 million underemployed and with the White House's own economic growth predictions revised downward.a happy Obama in NYC 9-19-11

According to the Gallup Poll, Democrat Obama's job approval is at its lowest 40% now, with a majority (52%) disapproving.

But the president sees himself as having made "a bunch of tough choices" since taking office. And as a result of his leadership, he says, "We were able to pull this economy out of a Great Depression."

Obama spoke to about five dozen supporters Monday evening. Each had paid more than $35,000 to gather with him in an eighth floor apartment on New York's Park Avenue.

The week after his party endured an embarrassing special House election loss just across the East River, Obama is in Manhattan again ostensibly to attend the United Nations General Assembly session.

But he and wife Michelle will each also squeeze Democratic fundraising into their otherwise impossible schedules.

"I could not be prouder of the choices we made," the president proclaimed about his tenure so far.

However, perhaps inadvertently, Obama also uttered a backhanded admission of failure. "Although we stabilized the economy," he said, "we’ve stabilized it at a level that’s just too high, in terms of unemployment and in terms of hardship all across America."

Shunning the role of assertive chief executive, the former state senator sounded a complaint about politics in Washington: "What has been clear over the last two and a half years is that we have not had a willing partner."

Obama said he and Republicans have "a fundamentally different vision about where America needs to go," vowing to put teachers and construction crews back to work on rebuilding America.

Predictably, Obama said, "You’re already hearing the moans and groans from the other side about how we are engaging in class warfare and we’re being too populist and this and that and the other -- all the usual scripts. I mean, it’s predictable, the news releases that come out from the other side."

But then in a plaintive closing moment, the 44th president told the group, "I can’t do it alone."

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: David Karp / Associated Press (the Obamas arrive in New York City for fundraisers and the UN session and a happy Obama).

Day No. 972: President Obama unveils a deficit reduction plan

Obama talks about the Deficit 9-19-11

"We didn’t need a rating agency to tell us that we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction. That was true last week. That was true last year. That was true the day I took office." --Barack Obama, Aug. 8, 2011.

Barack Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009. That was 972 days ago this morning, almost to the hour when he finally offered his newest full-blown deficit reduction plan. (See full Obama text below.)

Or as he put it, "Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat."

If it's Monday, the campaigning president must be issuing a new plan for something (before another $35,800 per ticket fundraiser in New York City). Last week it was his new Monday stimulus package, which was so urgent it's been delayed, as we discussed right here this morning.

Today, it was how to pay for his new stimulus package plus how to start reducing overspending and paying down the $14,000,000,000,000+ in debt that someone else is responsible for accumulating in recent years.

Here's the Washington Democrat's diagnosis:

During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multimillionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs.

Everyone remembers his last deficit reduction plan in April. Back then he was determined "to shrink the deficit as a share of the economy, but not to do so so abruptly with spending cuts that would hamper growth or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet."

Which struck many as suspiciously like not much of a shovel-ready deficit reduction program.

Now that it's autumn, it will surprise only children that the Democrat wants to increase taxes because we aren't paying enough and need more to spend. He also details impressive, large-scale cuts that include $1 trillion that we don't have and he says we won't be spending on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to this line of thinking, our spouse has been informed that we'll be buying a Lamborghini (red) with the cuts we've made in not buying a corporate jet.

"This plan cuts $2 in spending for every dollar in new revenues," the president proclaimed. Reforms to....

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Late-night jokes: Secret Service responds to Facebook threats with its own

an oakland Raider Fan

As The Ticket's 73,000-plus Twitter followers and 7,200 Facebook friends/fans know, we regularly share our daily picks of the late-night jokes of interest, usually before broadcast each evening. Feel free to pass this weekly collection on to friends using the "Share" buttons above.

Conan: Big announcement today: Facebook says it's appointed a new director of privacy. His name is Dave Jenkins. He lives at 17 Oakwood Lane and his PIN number is 3153.

Leno: Someone left threatening messages on the White House Facebook page. The Secret Service takes this very seriously and warns if caught, you will be Unfriended.

Fallon: A new study finds that a mother's diet affects her baby's allergies. Which can only mean one thing: My mom ate cats.

Conan: A Michigan man wearing a President Obama mask robbed a bank. Either that or President Obama has an exciting new plan to reduce the deficit.

Letterman: Did you hear in Brooklyn a guy found a three-foot rat! Ever hear of Gambian pouch rats? The pouch, that's where they keep their guns.

Leno: A new study says women are being more honest about their weight. Warning foa Scaler Guys: That doesn't mean YOU can be more honest about their weight. It's a one-way street.

Fallon: A South Carolina company is selling a device that tracks how many bites of food you have daily. I think we already have one. It's called your butt.

Fallon: In the last 30 years, the average homesize has increased 600 square feet. That's fitting since in the last 30 years the average person's size has increased 600 square feet.

Conan: A South Carolina man sneaked a TaserGun into an NFL game and tased somebody. The man was arrested and immediately signed by the Oakland Raiders.

Leno: Hmmm. You know that Philadelphia mint officer accused of stealing $2.4 million in coins? Well, he just paid his $50,000 bond all in nickels.

Leno: So this local porn studio is building a big underground bomb shelter for 1,500 people. Can you imagine that many poolboys, pizza guys and naughty nurses in one place?

Fallon: Researchers find that  your first decision is usually the right one. Then they were like, ‘Actually, wait, no. The second decision – THATS the right one.'

Leno: Good news for Obama. His approval overseas is very high, higher than at home. But then he's created more jobs overseas than at home.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press (an Oakland Raider fan); Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Obama's urgent jobs plan: Right now, 'right now' means sometime next month maybe

Podium Empty at the White House

Everybody remembers the urgency of President Obama's attitude toward the awful jobs situation.

Back in early August, Obama said the jobs situation was so urgent that he was going to give another speech about it -- in a month or so, in September after his vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

And then in September the president announced he would give his major jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7. But he neglected to check with congressional leaders first. And they suggested the 8th. So, since it was their House, the 8th it was.

"Tonight," the president said in the first 34 of his 4,021 words to a national television audience that night, "we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse."

The speech got panned as another political campaign one with Obama announcing, in effect, that....

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Sunday shows: Cheney, Clinton, Huntsman, Blair, Cain

Tony Blair 9-11

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: Tony Blair, former President Clinton and Eric Schmidt of Google, with George Will, Jonathan Karl, Michael Beschloss and Cokie Roberts.

Bloomberg's "Political Capital" with Al Hunt: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Republican presidential candidate.

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: former President Clinton and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS": Jeffrey Immelt, Eliott Abrams, Rashid Khalidi, Bret Stephens and Gideon Rose.

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley: Sens, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and Maen Areikat of the PLO.

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Budget Committee chairman, and Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, with Bill Kristol, Evan Bayh, Paul Gigot and Juan Williams.

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,) and former President Clinton, with Alex Castellanos, Jennifer Granholm, Mark Halperin and Helene Cooper.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Tony Blair. Credit Luke MacGregor / Reuters

How Jay Leno handled Michele Bachmann's appearance on his show

Michele Bachmann chatting with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show 9-16-11

As usual, there was nothing confrontational about Jay Leno's interview with his political guest, in this case, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

She was on the West Coast on Friday to speak in Orange County and at the state Republican Convention in L.A. and, who knows? Maybe to schmooze some money from the people who give California its Golden State name too. Watch out. President Obama is on his way to California too in a few days. Although, the story is, some Hollywood folks are kinda unhappy with him.

Bachmann's star soared last summer. She won the Ames Straw Poll, which means nothing in reality but sounds good in the media for a while. But that same day, Rick Perry entered the Republican presidential sweepstakes. He's a big-shot GOP governor from Texas and began sucking the air, the money and the media attention away from the only female in the contest so far.

Late-night American TV is a special breed. Some jokes. A little music. Some chatter. Maybe a movie starlet swears she got locked out of her Paris hotel room with nothing to wear but a hand towel. Nothing too complicated or controversial because regardless of the time zone, Americans are in their beds beginning to drift off to zzzzzz...

Not all Americans realize that these late-night interviews, especially with politicians, are ...

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Weekly remarks: Obama says Congress must pass his jobs bill; GOP's Roskam hits 'red tape factory'

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

President Obama's weekly remarks, as provided by the White House

I’ve spent some time lately traveling the country and talking with folks outside of Washington.  And the number one issue for the people I meet is how we can get back to a place where we’re creating good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer some security.

That’s the idea behind the American Jobs Act. It’s a jobs bill that does two simple things: put more people back to work, and more money back in the pockets of people who are working.

This jobs bill puts construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and modernizing our schools.

This jobs bill puts teachers back in the classroom, and keeps cops and firefighters on our streets.

This jobs bill gives tax credits to companies that hire our veterans, because if you sign up to fight for our country, the last thing you should have to do is fight for a job when you come home. 

This jobs bill connects the long-term unemployed to temporary work to keep their skills sharp while they look for a job, and it gives hundreds of thousands of young people the hope of a job next summer.

This jobs bill cuts taxes for every small business owner in America. It cuts them even....

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The upside to being 'poor' in America

Michelle Obama at a DC soup kitchen poses for a photo for a customer 3-06-09

The Census Bureau has released disturbing new numbers, showing the population of poor Americans at 46.2 million, or 15.1% of the population last year. That's the highest rate in 17 years and the largest number in 52 years.

The Census Bureau defines 2010 poverty as $22,314 for a U.S. family of four. Median household income remains just under $50,000.

The disappointing poverty information was widely disseminated and attributed by media to high unemployment nationally (above 9% for 25 of the last 27 months) and to the economy, which has remained stagnant despite nearly $1 trillion of government stimulus spending by the Obama-Biden administration.

Less noticed Tuesday, however, was the release of another non-government report on U.S. poverty, this one by the Heritage Foundation. It paints a dramatically different portrait of poverty in America than the popular conception of stark deprivation -- hungry people wearing rags and living in cars or boxes.

Using the same Census Bureau data, Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield looked into the actual living conditions of America's official poor.

And here are some of the startling steretype-shattering things they discovered:

During the year 4% of the poor became temporarily homeless. Forty percent live in apartments, less than 10% in mobile homes or trailers and about 50% live in standard one-family homes. In fact, 42% own their own home.

The vast majority are in good repair, with more living space per person than the average non-poor person in Britain, France or Sweden.

Ninety-six percent of poor parents say their children were never hungry during the year due to an inability to afford food.

Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning and 92% have a microwave.

One-third of poor households have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV, 70% have a VCR and two-thirds have satellite/cable TV, the same proportion as own at least one DVD player.

Half of the povery households have a personal computer and one-in-seven have two or more.

And half of those with children have a video game system like Xbox.

Almost 75% have a car or truck and nearly a third have two.

Other than that, being poor in America is just like you thought.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press (A Washington soup kitchen client photographs Michelle Obama with his cellphone).

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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