TPM Cafe: Opinion

The image last week of James Foley kneeling in front of a masked terrorist made me feel something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I’m a lawyer, a father, and an active member of my community, but in another life I was an Army Ranger. Years ago, I carried a gun in the Middle East and fought against the brutal forces like the masked man who murdered Foley.

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There’s been a lot of discussion this summer about how to talk about abortion. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have published articles and op-eds focusing on the words that people use when talking about abortion: “pro-choice,” “difficult,” and that infamous phrase, “safe, legal, and rare”

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Exactly two hundred years ago this weekend, on the afternoon of August 24, 1814, a British army of some 4,000 redcoats routed an American army of mostly 6,000 militia at Bladensburg in an affair often laughingly referred to as “The Bladensburg Races” because of the precipitous retreat of the largely poorly trained and panicked militia. That evening, the redcoats marched into and then proceeded to burn the public buildings of Washington, D.C. British Army commander Major General Robert Ross even had the temerity of enjoying wine and a meal laid out for the hoped-for American victors at the Executive Mansion, that we now refer to as “The White House” — allegedly painted white to hide the burn marks left by the British. Those are the facts that many people know, and, to this day, the scorch marks at the White House and at the U.S. Capitol are still there for the public to see as graphic proof of what happened. A definite low point in the life of Washington and of this nation.

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The White House burned. So did the U.S. Capitol, and most of the public buildings in Washington, D.C. Invading British troops burned the city in this most humiliating episode in American history 200 years ago today. Some are tempted to call the War of 1812 “the forgotten war,” but that is absurd. Out of it came the national anthem, a daring act of bravery to save the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the most lopsided defeat of the British military in all of their conflicts.

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There is a moment in Richard Linklater’s subtle and unique Boyhood (2014, IFC Films) where your breath catches in your chest, and you’re aware of the reality of what you’re watching. Mason (played beautifully by reserved newcomer Ellar Coltrane) and his girlfriend Sheena are headed to Austin to visit his sister at college and explore what could be their hometown in a year’s time. Seeing him behind the wheel, you’re struck by that same feeling of awe that hits when you see a neighbor’s son or family friend’s daughter after many years- feelings of awe and shock at how the years pass. The only difference is, by that point in the film, we’ve been watching Mason’s transformation unfold in relative real time.

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It’s always mushroom clouds with these guys. Secure America Now, a 501c4, has released a sequel of sorts to Lyndon Johnson’s infamous Daisy ad that equated electing Barry Goldwater with nuclear Armageddon. Daisy 2 accuses Barack Obama of “failing” to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, a humdinger of a lie that overlays the original ad’s message of peace with the drumbeats of war.

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With last night’s Alaska primary, the much-heralded Republican Senate primary cycle came to a close (unless someone to Bill Cassidy’s right upsets him in Louisiana’s “jungle primary” on November 4). And with the victory of every Beltway Republican’s favorite to take on Mark Begich, former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (pictured), the GOP can congratulate itself on failing to nominate any blatantly self-destructive yahoos for competitive seats, and for not making any safe seats suddenly vulnerable — though that very nearly happened in Mississippi.

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And just like that, she's gone. Michelle Rhee is stepping down as head of Students First, a group that she started to aggressively lobby for and back candidates who support an education reform agenda. The apogee of her influence had already been waning by the time the organization got started — soon after she lost her post as the chancellor of Washington, D.C.'s schools. But now she's pretty definitively leaving the front lines of the fights plaguing American education.

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