EDITORS’ BLOG

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Press is Way Behind on Social Security FlimFlam 

With the future of Social Security and Medicare back under discussion — and not in a good way — we need to review a few points about how these subjects are discussed in the nation’s capital. This morning I saw some very solid, level-headed reporters noting that Rick Scott didn’t say Social Security and Medicare should be sunsetted after 5 years. He said all government programs should be sunsetted. And it just happens that Social Security and Medicare are government programs. In other words, these folks suggested, while Biden’s claim was technically true it amounted to a kind of cheap shot.

That’s malarkey.

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Quick Take on Biden’s Speech 

Watching State of the Union addresses is one of my least favorite parts of what I do at TPM. I find them a mix of tedious and stressful to watch. By and large they don’t matter. I’d prefer not to watch them. But it’s part of the job. This was very different from any of the State of the Union addresses I’ve seen in 40-plus years of watching them.

Joe Biden isn’t a particularly rousing public speaker normally. The first 10 or 15 minutes of his address were fairly boilerplate, occasionally halting. The substance was pitched toward mid-sized and small towns in post-industrial America. This was unsurprising but well-executed. But then it went somewhere entirely different, not in substance but in presentation, energy and tone.

I don’t need to describe the speech to you because you presumably saw it. Here are the two points that stood out to me.

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Sanders Blogging 

10:50 PM: I’m not sure what else to say about this response. Dark, growling, over the top. Republicans not doing themselves any favors here. Especially after the speech everyone just saw.

10:47 PM: Sanders starting off SOUR. Eeesh.

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Well 

I just have to say

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Quick Take, More Soon 

I’ll have a few more thoughts in a moment. I want to take in the official response from Huckabee Sanders. But that was much much livelier and better than I’d expected. I was surprised.

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SOTU Blogging Second Thread 

10:18 PM: We may try to put some of this together later. But there seem to be a lot of prestige reporters tonight not quite willing to say what happened on the floor in that exchange about Social Security and Medicare, with Republicans hooting and hollering. We all saw what happened.

10:05 PM: There were some feral Republicans there yelling about the border.

10:00 PM: “Equal protection under the law is a covenant we have with each other in America.”

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Okay, Let’s Do This 

9:47 PM: He’s doing considerably better than I’d anticipated. I didn’t have low expectations. I just find most of these speeches by most Presidents kind of meh. He’s enjoying himself and skewering the opposition with a bear hug.

9:45 PM: Joe, Medicare and Social Security saver …

9:43 PM: A lot of Republicans really don’t like the facts.

9:37 PM: Oy …

9:34 PM: He seems jazzed.

9:29 PM: ‘Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back.’

9:23 PM: “We came together” seems to be the theme.

9:20 PM: McCarthy is trying to follow the GOP vow never to clap but he seems to kind of give in toward the end. Can’t quite manage it.

9:11 PM: I guess we’re charm offensive-ing. I always have equivocal feelings about this. On the one hand, don’t bring a noodle to a knife fight. On the other, the audience isn’t the members in the building. It’s the public at home. That’s what’s important to remember.

9:08 PM: Apparently Biden and Santos made locked eye contact but didn’t say anything or shake hands. The news has been delivered.

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Finally A Decent Balloon Article 

Unlike a lot of reporting on the Chinese balloon, this piece in the Post contains new and interesting information. The Pentagon believes the flight is part of a fairly extensive global effort that has been going on for about five years: Low-tech balloons, married to high-tech communications tools. Notably, according to the Post, the U.S. military doesn’t believe the flight across North America is an accident, as I’d speculated. But they also don’t believe it was a provocation. On the contrary, the Chinese were surprised that it was detected and chagrined that it led to the cancelation of Tony Blinken’s scheduled trip to Beijing.

Even based on this article, it still seems to me to be something of a mystery just how valuable the intelligence collected by these balloons really is. Experts seem divided on this point. Part of the answer may simply be that they’re vastly cheaper than launching satellites. So dollar-for-dollar they may still provide some value. Countries around the world now appear to be matching the balloon flights to what were past instances of unidentified objects in their airspace.

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