What Would George Do?
As they say, past is prologue. The State of the Union address is still a few weeks away, but every year showcases certain mainstay themes: national security, education, immigration, and the economy. Even George Washington, in the first-ever State of the Union, could be relied upon for the same ideas. "Providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," he said in 1790. On immigration, Washington pleaded for a fair system: "The terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization." He praised the innovative American spirit that leads to "new and useful inventions." And Washington extolled the "promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness." Sound familiar?
Bearded Carney The White House press secretary has a grown a beard. And in gray-suited, wing-tipped Washington, that qualifies as one of the biggest stylistic departures since Richard Nixon sported a short-sleeved shirt in the White House bowling alley. (A Google search for "Lyndon Johnson" and "cravat" yielded no results.) Jay Carney, fresh from the holiday break, emerged avec une barbe in the White House briefing room on Monday to hoots and catcalls from the press corps, which immediately tweeted as if a meteor had crashed through the ceiling. Within minutes, stories about the Carney beard sprouted all over the Web, pejoratives such as "hipster" and "bro" were tossed about, and — as these things go now — the beard inspired several bogus Twitter accounts. It used to be that beards were a symbol of Democratic dark days. They brought to mind Al Gore shambling around his Tennessee home after losing the 2000 election, eating Chinese takeout and catching up on Blockbuster releases. But beards are ubiquitous now — you can't watch a car commercial without seeing some hairy, hoodie-wearing dad buying a Honda. In that vein, the White House press secretary is just keeping with the times. All week, Carney seemed alternately amused and slightly befuddled by the attention, but he must have known from the moment he retired his razor what would happen. This is life at the podium.
This week was the three-year anniversary of the day Jared Lee Loughner strolled into a supermarket parking lot and shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head. She marked the occasion with a New York Times op-ed about "learning how to talk again, how to walk again," and making the case for further gun restrictions. So far, President Obama has penned more than a dozen executive orders, but Congress hasn't produced any laws.
Which may help explain why new stats from the FBI show that background checks for gun-show sales hit an all-time high in 2013. In the last year they totaled 21,093,273 — 8 percent more than the record set in 2012. The largest number were conducted in Texas (7.7 percent of the nation's total) and Kentucky (7.5 percent).