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  • David Frum on the President's 'Unsatisfactory' Midterm Outlook  Although Barack Obama has faced "ferocious" opposition and has arguably "beat the spread" in getting some of his major legislation passed, he has not been "making things better." Americans reward "improvement" in assessing their presidents and The Financial Times columnist figures that many citizens are still wondering where the improvement is in their lives. Frum offers this caution to Obama: "history gives few marks for intentions. Memory brutally reduces a presidency to its essential challenges." It is this president's essential challenge to "meet the worst economic crisis since the second world war." He passed his most of the legislation he wanted to. The results, however, were "unsatisfactory" and "if he wants a different verdict in two years time, he must deliver a better outcome."

  • Ruth Marcus on the 'Mommy Card'  The influx of female candidates this election cycle has been a positive development, writes The Washington Post columnist, but it has also prompted some ugly rhetorical flourishes. One such incident occurred during last week's Oklahoma gubernatorial debate, when GOP candidate Mary Fallin cited her experience as "a mother, having children, raising a family," in a debate with childless opponent Jari Askins. "When two women are on the ballot," argues Marcus, "a few things ought to be off-limits. One is hairstyle -- and, yes, I'm talking to you, Carly Fiorina. Another, and this is more serious, is marital and family status. The unstated premise of Fallin's comment is: 'I'm a mom and she's not.'" This playing of the "Mommy card" is uniquely damaging to female candidates. "If Fallin were running against an unmarried man, the I'm-a-parent-and-you're-not card wouldn't be quite so loaded," Marcus writes. "A 'childless' female candidate tends to be perceived as lacking in an essential way that a man without children is not. And if Askins's opponent were a married father, he would probably be smarter than to bring up her marital and maternal status for fear of the ensuing backlash."

  • Joan Vennochi on the Charismatic Chris Christie  The Boston Globe columnist becomes the latest to gush about the potential of the gruff, nationally-popular New Jersey governor. When Chris Christie made his way to Massachusetts to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, Vennochi witnessed a "roaring" crowd greet him. The governor is able to conjure what longtime-politicians seek: authenticity. Fiscal conservatives already adore him, and as a political novice he carries relatively little political baggage."Watching him in action was a lesson in the power of charisma — and a reminder that it doesn’t always have to come in a package that looks like Senator Scott Brown or like the fit but ever-evolving Romney," she concludes.

  • Michael Auslin on Japan's Newest Defense Strategy  "Just as Japan's regional environment seems more threatening, the government is confronting difficult decisions on the country's defense budget and security strategy," observes The Wall Street Journal columnist. Fortunately, a government-mandated report includes a clear road map toward "realism" for solving Japan's security challenges. The council tasked with the report concluded that the nation needs to shoulder the burden of providing for its own security and partner with the U.S. (which has lost its "overwhelming superiority") to "create a community of liberal interests" in Asia and provide a "counterweight" to China. Auslin summarizes the potential move: "In short, Japan should no longer sit on the global sidelines, and should become a more involved security player in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond."

  • Sloane Crosley on Halloween  The state of Halloween in New York City is depressing, contends the essayist in The New York Times. Crosley blames the social pressures of New Year's Eve, which she identifies as "a pressure bomb dropped on the course of an otherwise enjoyable life — and it causes a ripple effect as far back as Oct. 31." As "sister holidays [marking] the beginning and the end of the holiday season," Halloween and New Year's have become linked in people's minds, with the "former increasingly taking its cue from the latter." Unfortunately, Halloween--especially in the city-- can't live up to the burden of New Year's-style expectations. It is fundamentally a suburban holiday, and not one city-dwellers have any particular taste or aptitude for. As someone who was raised in the suburbs, Crosley says admits she used to find city kids' "stories of trick-or-treating via elevator vaguely depressing." Not now, she writes. "Now it just seems convenient, an effective candy distribution system." New York might like things big, but this tendency has burdened a small holiday with unrealistic expectations. "All Crosley want this year is "a house party safe from the vomiting hobgoblins of Times Square." And maybe some Mounds.

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