A new feature: Ask Dr. Politics! A forum for civil exchange in a civil society.
Dear Dr. Politics: You attack Mark Sanford for "walking off his job" to visit his soul mate in Argentina, but you praise Sarah Palin for quitting her job when she has 18 months left to serve. Can you explain the difference? Thank you. You are a poltroon, a sluggard, a miscreant and a wretch.
Reply: The difference is that Mark Sanford continued to draw his salary during his dalliances. He took off for nearly a week, didn't tell anybody where he was going and chose funny business over state business.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is giving up her state paycheck rather than rip off the taxpayers while she jets around the nation speaking at political dinners or taking trips to exotic locations to "encourage trade," which is what governors usually do. Sure, she will make a bundle, but she won't make it off the people of Alaska anymore.
And even when politicians are "at work," they are not always working. According to the inestimable Mark Knoller (inestimable is a good thing), who is a CBS News White House correspondent and the unofficial statistician of the press corps, during George W. Bush's two terms in office, he spent all or part of 490 days at his Texas ranch and all or part of 487 days at Camp David. I'll do the math for you: That's 2.7 years. Or, to put it another way, George W. Bush spent one out of every three days on vacation.
OK, maybe that's unfair. Presidents do real work at their "Western White Houses" and at Camp David. And I suppose you could not preside over an unnecessary and tragic war and a devastating economic collapse without putting in some real hours.
But regarding Palin, I don't understand why people who hate her want her to stay in office. We should encourage more incumbents to quit, not fewer.
Dear Dr. Politics: Is it possible to buy some salon time with you? I think it could lead to an informative exchange of important views in a calm and serious atmosphere. Also, you are a cullion, a cur, a hound and a loggerheaded, beef-witted harpy.
Reply: Let me be clear about one thing: Dr. Politics is for sale. Dr. Politics believes what his father always told him, "G-d gave us two hands to grab all we can with them."
For $100 (nothing bigger than 10s, serial numbers not in order, nothing traceable), you can call me on the phone. For $200, I will answer the phone. For $300, I will come to your house and read my column to you. For $500, I will mow your lawn in one of those cool patterns they use at ballparks. (How do they do that, by the way?) For $1,000, I will write that you are on the "shortlist" for the 2012 Republican nomination. For $2,000, I will say you show "real potential" with "committed activists" in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. For $5,000, I will say you are a "unifying" and not a "polarizing" figure. For $10,000, I will agree not to write about you at all. I call this last one my Blue Light Front-Runner Special.
Dear Dr. Politics: Is there anybody who can beat Barack Obama? Thank you, you dankish, crook-pated, gorbellied, rough-hewn bugbear.
Reply: Much as we in the punditry business would like to pretend otherwise, the future is unpredictable. But let us imagine it is the fall of 2012, the Dow has fallen to 5,000, unemployment has risen to 20 percent, travel and commerce are paralyzed by a new Arab oil embargo, cable TV has raised its rates yet again and bands of flesh-eating zombies roam the streets.
I say Obama still wins by one to three percentage points.
Dear Dr. Politics: Obama may look unbeatable to you, but a recent Quinnipiac poll found Obama getting only a 49 percent approval rating in Ohio, which is dramatically down from his 62 percent approval rating in May. Is this indicative of a wider trend, or is this poll an outlier? Thanks, doofus.
Reply: It may be indicative of a wider trend. I cite as evidence a recent story from a major wire service that began: "WASHINGTON Democrats achieved their biggest majority in the U.S. Senate in decades on Tuesday as Al Franken of Minnesota finally took his seat but President Barak Obama will still have to fight hard to muster the votes to pass health care reform and other major initiatives."
When the press no longer spells the president's name correctly, that president could be in real trouble. It was a sure sign for Dik Nixon.