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from The Great Debate:

Why this shutdown isn’t like 1995

The political battlefield of the current government shutdown looks a lot like the last big shutdown of 1995. But major changes within the Republican Party in Congress -- a weaker leadership, the demise of moderates and two decades of gerrymandering -- could make this year’s endgame far harder.

Then as now, a rebellious Republican Congress used a budget bill to set up a deliberate confrontation with a Democratic president over spending priorities. GOP militants and radicals in the House – today’s wing nuts -- bet that gridlock, disarray and the embarrassment of a shutdown would force the White House to give in.

Then, as now, the president defied the Republican brinksmanship and took the political risk of a government shutdown rather than bowing to the GOP’s surrender terms. Former President Bill Clinton enjoyed the sport of sparring with Congress and President Barack Obama, after giving in so many times in the past three years, has finally decided to dig in his heels.

What’s more, some of the keys to reopening the government and getting things back on track in 1995 are missing today. Most important, the political dynamics within the Republican Party have been transformed.

from The Great Debate:

Richard Ben Cramer’s true legacy

Here is something that Richard Ben Cramer, the enormously gifted writer who died earlier this week, understood: Politicians are often created in the image of their journalistic portrayals, and when reporters impute opportunism or cravenness to them, they may well be inducing those things -- as well as undermining public confidence in government. Cramer also understood that a more humane, sympathetic analysis might well lead to more humane public servants -- and a deeper faith in government.

This should  have been his legacy, and it would have been a profound one. Except it isn’t. What It Takes, Cramer’s 1,000-page tome that chronicles the 1988 presidential election, showed what reporters could do if they had brilliance, fearlessness, indefatigability and, above all, empathy, and Cramer has received extraordinary praise this week for all these qualities. Particularly the last.

from Tales from the Trail:

Inside the Tent: Bob Dole talks campaigning

Former senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole tells Inside the Tent contributor John Steward why this year's White House race is different.

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from Tales from the Trail:

On veterans education bill, Dole backs Obama over McCain

WASHINGTON - Former U.S. Sen Bob Dole is a leading advocate for war veterans and a longtime Republican ally of presidential candidate John McCain, but on Friday he sided with Democrat Barack Obama to endorse a bill the Arizona senator opposes to raise benefits for former soldiers.

The legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is at the heart of a fierce spat rtr1nj7z.jpgbetween McCain and his Obama, the Illinois senator closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama questioned McCain's commitment to veterans, while the Republican candidate blasted the Obama's lack of military service.

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