HAIKU ON THE HILL
In the dark about fiscal-cliff negotiations? Why not spend that spare time penning some poetry? Hill reporters on Twitter first took note of the #FiscalCliffHaikus hashtag on Tuesday, and the idea took off. Soon, interest groups, Hill staffers, and influencers joined the game, tweeting their favorite five-seven-five syllable poems that captured the drama (or lack thereof) surrounding the standoff.
Nu Wexler, communications director for Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., offered, “People are talking / Officials behind closed doors / Sorry, no updates.” A senior adviser to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., tweeted his summary of House Speaker John Boehner’s plan: “I love Erskine Bowles / Get serious Obama / We need spending cuts.” Heritage Foundation Associate Director Ryan Nichols’s contribution: “Obama Boehner / One will win & one will lose / you must not cave in!”
Even lawmakers got into the mix. After Sen. Mike Lee’s office was asked if the Utah Republican had a haiku to share, Lee tweeted, “After fall from cliff / The avalanche is triggered / Buried in red ink.”
DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD? JOIN THE CROWD
More than one in six noncollege, working-class whites didn’t vote for President Obama, according to exit polls, but in many cases that may have had little to do with jobs or the economy. Obama campaign pollster Joel Benenson says that 56 percent of them were “virulently anti-Obama” evangelicals who were likely driven by religious values. That’s just one way religion had a major role in the election. Another played out in the preferences of occasional churchgoers, who made up 40 percent of voters this year. George W. Bush won this group by about 6 percentage points in 2004, Benenson said at a breakfast sponsored by the center-left Third Way, but 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney lost them by 12 points.
A record 20 percent of Americans said in a recent Pew poll that they have no religion, noted Third Way analyst Bill Schneider. And exit polls suggest that 70 percent of them voted for Obama. “They are a growing and influential constituency,” Schneider said. “They don’t believe in God. They believe in Nate Silver.”
After Holbrooke Career diplomat Marc Grossman, who has been President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since Richard Holbrooke’s death in December 2010, is retiring on Dec. 14. He was not considered very effective in the job, and now the post will be filled on an acting basis by an even more junior diplomat, Grossman’s deputy David Pearce, who had a stint as deputy chief of mission in Kabul and was once ambassador to Algeria. Government officials can’t say whether another special envoy will be appointed. Ever since Holbrooke, according to American and European officials, the administration has failed to find a diplomat with enough authority and strategic vision to manage U.S. interests in the region.
Exit, Stage Left Retiring Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., plans some cameos in a revival of the show Fiorello! about former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, credited for bringing down the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine. The Boston Globe reported recently that the production is slated for off-Broadway, but Frank tells National Journal, “Maybe on Broadway.” He was approached through Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and her husband, Don Sussman, who are friends of the producer’s. Frank said he’s open to doing other cameos if they suit his taste. “I was actually offered one,” he said. “They showed me one, but it was really stupid and denigrating. So unless they can rewrite it, I won’t do it.”
This article appears in the Dec. 15, 2012, edition of National Journal as Inside Washington: December 15, 2012.