Political Animal


April 04, 2013 5:48 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

By Ed Kilgore

Guess I should have mentioned the North Korean nuclear threat “crisis” at some point today, but quite honestly, I don’t know how seriously to take it. An obviously unstable regime with nuclear weapons and at least some missile capability can’t be dismissed as harmless. But everything we know about the regime’s endless self-aggrandizement as the source of its domestic power and international influence leads me to downgrade every threat as just another effort to shake some money trees. Hope I’m right.

Here are some remainders of the day:

* Matt Yglesias is right that the President’s self-imposed pay cut is absurd. But these sort of gestures by elected officials are wildly popular.

* Brother Benen notes Rand Paul’s special affinity for the kind of conspiracy theories that have so often driven the GOP around the bend.

* Greg Sargent reports that even Republicans opposing background check expansion are getting hit with negative ads from gun groups.

* At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Bernstein sorts through the various strategies for making action on climate change politically feasible.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer argues that too much reliance on bad tests, not too much testing, is what’s bedeviling educational evaluation.

And in non-political news:

* Roger Ebert dies at 70. Salon republishes a passage from his memoir anticipating his own death.

Tomorrow we’ll get the March Jobs Report and the usual spin battle over economic trends. At least a presidential election doesn’t seem to hang over each of these suckers, eh?

To end the day, here is a much later version of The Seeds, performing “Evil Hoodoo” in Paris in 2008.


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • James on April 04, 2013 6:43 PM:

    Well, I don't think it is so absurd. Matt Y is getting more and more ridiculous every day, it seems. The idea isn't to add money to the federal coffers, or even to impress the public. An idiot would know that. They are obviously doing it for the lower staff they all work with, and having been a public service employee myself, it means a lot to us to have the big bosses acknowledge the lower staff in this way, even if it doesn't change the financial issues. It's a leadership thing, which add that subject to the long list of things that Yglesias is clueless about.

  • T2 on April 04, 2013 7:16 PM:

    Saw a poll today showing a majority favor legal pot. About time, but definitely proves Obama is the anti-Christ.

  • Dave on April 04, 2013 8:21 PM:

    The President, like a lot of wage earners, is making
    50 percent of his predesscors. Namely, Richard Nixon, who earned
    $200,000, in 1969. That's over a million dollars now. Obama makes
    $400,000 before his 10 percent pay cut.

  • James M on April 04, 2013 9:53 PM:


    Don't take North Korea too lightly! As I wrote in my blog:

    "The problem is that extortion only works as a long term strategy if you occasionally show that you are prepared to carry out your threats. Indeed, North Korea is suspected of sinking a South Korean warship in March 2010, and, in retaliation for joint U.S. and North Korea exercises, in November 2010 it shelled the nearby South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing 4 persons.

    The danger with all of this, of course, is that something the DPRK planned to be a minor tactical provocation could get out of hand. It isnít entirely clear at this point who is running the show in North Korea: Kim Jong Un or the generals. Also, the South Korean government is apparently vowing to strongly respond to any North Korean provocation this time, meaning that a small military encounter could quickly escalate into a full scale conflict."

    There is a real; and in my opinion, growing, possibility that North Korea will try something and people could get killed.

  • Bonnie on April 04, 2013 11:25 PM:

    In the past, when government employees were furloughed, once the fight over the budget was over, they would be reimbursed for the lost pay. It is hard to tell if that will happen this time. But, if it does, it really is a great waste of money because the furloughed employees will essentially be paid for not working. And, while as a former government employee, I was happy for that because I was unable to pay my rent and meet other financial obligations during the furloughs, it still would be better to let the employees work and find some other solution. Furloughing the employees is inhumane treatment.

  • max on April 04, 2013 11:43 PM:

    I don’t know how seriously to take it.

    Take it very seriously. This may be the endgame for the Nork regime.

    They clearly think they have NOW got an ace in the hole. I don't think they're bidding for money so much as bidding for the thing they have wanted: a peace treaty that gets the US out of the peninsula, leaving them with free hand with the south.

    That isn't going to work, but I don't think a propagandized army and ruling class quite understands that. That said, the new Dear Leader does understand that he has to follow in the footsteps of big brother China and reform the economy. The question is whether he can take it to the brink and pull back - he has to keep the army under control, and I don't think he really knows how.

    Given his outside experience with the world, he may understand that he's up against the wall here. (Remember, if it goes bad, the army will kill him. He knows that.) He may want to be a Gorbechev figure, if he can't be the conquering hero.

    We're just gonna have to wait these guys out and hope that internal forces don't prompt them into doing something stupid.

    But these sort of gestures by elected officials are wildly popular.

    Yep. So it's fine if he does that. I would've made it ten percent, but it's a good move.

    ['We're all in it together. Whether we want to be or not.']

  • TP on April 05, 2013 6:29 AM:

    Obama's pay cut is good for federal employee morale and it gets the sequester in the news every time another member of the administration or congress follows suit. Since the MSM has completely missed the effects on regular citizens, Obama has to do something to draw attention to it.

    How about a voluntary pay cut from all those talking heads who think a plan is not serious unless it cuts programs/benefits for lower income people? They could send the money to the federal government to reduce the deficit.

    As for Matt Yglesias I used to be a big fan but he has become increasingly disconnected from how real people live. When he wrote that price gouging should be allowed after Sandy I stopped reading him completely. Anyone who has so little understanding of human psychology and is too intellectually lazy to think through the ramifications needs to step away from the computer and go work at a minimum wage job for a year.

  • Samanta on April 05, 2013 8:49 AM:

  • LAC on April 05, 2013 10:03 AM:

    @TP: Amen! That piece really set me off of him. Guys like him and Chris Cilliza are a bunch of cynical smirky mcdouchenuts that pollute our airwaves and print with their assholery and sneering. They are so out of touch, a bad day for them would be too much foam on their latte. And yet, they claim to be in touch with "ordinary folks". It is just too bad that they get attention.