Monday morning I was making the bed and gathering up all the pieces of laundry which had been flung around the bedroom over the weekend, and I had the radio on NPR, whence it had migrated during a recent electrical storm from the other PBS station, the one that plays classical music and the BBC. This meant--what's the opposite of serendipity?--that I got to listen to Cokie Roberts analyze of Our Current State of Affairs. Question: does Cokie Roberts actually do anything anymore? I don't mean to be cruel--she's a cancer survivor, godspeed an' all--but what exactly is her job description? Pundit without portfolio? Even if she hadn't figured prominently in the Press' lapdog response to George W. Bush I'd be hard-pressed to think of a reason to listen to anything she had to say, other than the fact of my arms being full and the radio being tuned to her.
So here's what I got from the Cokester: One--John McCain has called for increasing the number of troops in Iraq, which Cokie is sure he actually believes in, but which is "somewhat convenient" given that he's running for President and this allows him to say his idea wasn't tried (especially if he's interviewed about it by Cokie Roberts or the Cokiesque). And Senny Hoyer says besides, we don't have any troops, which was an interesting way of turning a factual question, with a straightforward and rather vital answer into a partisan toss-up.
Point two--of two; I hope Cokie is paid by the piece and not the minute--was about Charlie Rangel calling for a draft, which Cokie says won't happen, but Rangel is making a point about the conduct of the war. Fair enough, perhaps, but I'd like to suggest that since the last time he "made" the identical "point" it was widely disparaged as an anti-Bush stunt that he might be given some credit for bringing it back up when he has the power to get it a hearing and the authority to get blamed if it goes anywhere. But such a commendation was not forthcoming, not that I expected it; Cokie had gotten in her equal-opportunity skepticism. (No mention of McCain's new frame for his abortion views: the Sunday talk-fests probably air too late for Cokie to take note of by Monday. (By all means see Scott Lemieux' takedown of McCain at Tapped.)
And aside from her reading me 2/3 of last Friday's below-the-fold front page, I had to ask myself what I'd gotten for the time I'd invested other than a full hamper. Are those stories really equivalent? McCain, running for something, proposes to send troops we don't have* to a lost cause as a publicity stunt, in contradistinction to his Straight Shootin' image, while Rangel, about to be in charge of something after years in the wilderness makes the same unpopular proposal (which may be simply making a point) he did two years ago sans juice. The "cynical gesture" or "playing politics" rubric doesn't seem to fit them both. But maybe I just lack Cokie's studied impartiality.
* Mr. Riley does not suggest that 20,000 troops could not be rounded up under any circumstances and sent to Mesopotamia. The Bush administration has been more creative about numbers than a stretch Hummer full of Hollywood accountants. But we can no longer sustain more than about 60,000 troops for full tours without massive reorganization of our worldwide military commitments. This much has been known since 2002 at the least; the number comes from the CBO report from November of that year. And that doesn't count what's happened to our equipment in the interim.