Politics

The Brush-Up: Your Weekly Current Events Cheat Sheet

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Busy week? If you didn’t have a chance to keep up with the news, our weekly current events cheat sheet will put you in the know so you’ll be a grade-A conversationalist at the bar/on a date/anywhere you might talk to other people. 

Guys, we’re a week away from Tax Day, three weeks out from what might be the final big Primary election night of 2012, and four weeks away from Keith Olbermann getting fired again. (Buh-dun-chh.)

Here’s this week’s Brush-Up.

1. Pennsylvania could be Santorum’s Waterloo, Romney pivots to general election, the Veep Game begins

The Gist: Romney swept the three states up for grabs this week, but Senator Santorum went to the stage after the huge Wisconsin loss to declare it “halftime” in the primary process. (Which is technically true, as roughly half of the delegates have now been decided.) In a few weeks, voters in the great state of Pennsylvania will cast their ballots, along with four other states, and as this is Santorum’s backyard, it’s largely being called his final stand.

Romney, meanwhile, is starting to act like the whole shebang’s already over, stepping up the rhetoric on President Obama this week, and largely ignoring his Republican rivals (which do still include Newt and Ron, by the way). This has led to the opening of the Veep Game gates, as pundits everywhere try to guess and calculate who Romney will pick as his running mate. Here are some of the names being thrown around, in my own order of likelihood:

 

1. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida

2. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin

3. Fmr. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice

4. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey

5. Rep. Allen West of Florida

 

Conversation Starters: A lot of people are wondering how The Palin Experiment will affect Gov. Romney’s calculus in selecting a running mate, especially with the pretty substantial loss in support the GOP has had with women voters. Does he go with a Tea Party favorite? Military experience? Someone to silence those decrying a lack of minority representation within the GOP? It’s going to be fun to watch.

2. POTUS vs. SCOTUS, GOP reprimands, 2012 to be the year of major court rulings?

The Gist: President Obama has waded into the discussion surrounding last week’s Supreme Court arguments, and many on the right are rebuffing him for it. At a press conference Monday, the President assured reporters that the Supreme Court would not take the “unprecedented, extraordinary step” of overturning a major piece of legislation signed by a sitting president. The theme of the week here was judicial activism: do officials on both sides only bitch about it when it doesn’t go their way?

This is a question that may only intensify as the year progresses, as the Court is scheduled to hear cases on some of the thorniest issues in American politics, and during an election season: immigration, affirmative action, a twin case to the Citizens United one from 2010, and quite possibly same sex marriage (the Prop 8 case in California has been winding its way, and is on the verge). This week already, the Court ruled in favor of loosening federal restrictions on strip searches.

Conversation Starters: So many here! The overriding one, though, is what role our Judicial System has in interpreting laws, and this whole argument over judicial activism? Even for non-fans of legalese and court stuff, all of these cases are everyday life-affecting decisions!

Video Enhancement: Tom Goldstein, founder on SCOTUSblog, talks Supreme Court stuff on The Daily Show. He really breaks it down into digestible chunks — it’s great stuff.

3. Jobless claims drop to lowest rate since 2008, economy still expanding slowly, economists go “huh”

The Gist: We’ve been hearing about how the unemployment rate keeps going down, and now jobless claims are at their lowest in four years. Meanwhile, the rate of economic expansion isn’t much faster than normal pace — and because that’s usually what accounts for a lower jobless rate, economists are sort of scratching their heads over it. One theory is that bosses laid people off very quickly after the ‘08 crash, when everyone was in panic mode, and now that things are evening out, they’re starting to re-hire with a similar swiftness.

Conversation Starters: It’s so hard not to bring election politics into this. If you’re Romney, do you run against the economy? That’s his claim to fame, candidate-wise, the private sector business man, but now that strategy is looking a little tougher.

4. Totally not critical but great talking point: the Texts From Hillary blog, set to that badass picture of Sec. of State (and 2016 frontrunner?) Hillary Clinton that came out this week.