The Cliffhanger, Jan. 24

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** Hillary’s job is hard: The media is swooning over Hillary Clinton successfully making them look like fools, which is the sort of thing they love when a Democrat does it.  “What difference does it make?” was the editorial action line throughout the Benghazi debacle, and now Hillary has made it an iconic American slogan, right up there with “Give me liberty, or give a couple of my minor subordinates different jobs” and “Ask not what your country can do for you, especially if you’re under fire from terrorists we’d rather ignore until after the election.”

A few lingering questions remain, such as why nobody in the Obama Administration reads their mail, or why Clinton would think she could get away with painting the State Department as impoverished when its actual budget figures are a matter of public record.  A few of the grouchier observers might wonder why Clinton repeated the “spontaneous video protest” lie right into the faces of the dead Americans’ families if she never really believed it.  Why, she even vowed to bring the imaginary villains to justice, while the real villains were shopping for discount hotels in Mali and Algeria!  But she fluttered her eyes and sighed that math, reading, and geography are hard, and Democrats both behind and in front of cameras swooned, so it’s all over now.

** 2016 presidential hopeful questioned on military background: No, not Hillary Clinton, silly.  It’s Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who had the temerity to ask Hillary Clinton some tough questions, and declare that public officials who claim they can’t manager their own departments should lose their jobs, especially when deaths result from their ineptitude.  This enraged Terry Moran of ABC News, who asked on Twitter, “Curious: What is Rand Paul’s foreign policy background?  Did he serve in the military?  Did he study, live, do business or charity overseas?”  The answer, as about a million people promptly reminded Moran, is that Paul’s foreign policy qualifications are roughly comparable to those of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  It’s funny that average people have to explain such things to highly-compensated members of the media.  Oh, well.  If America wanted the press to ask tough questions of its leaders, it would have elected a Republican.

** Out with the old SecState, in with the new: Hillary Clinton’s prospective replacement, Senator John Kerry, is set to begin his confirmation hearings today.  He’s expected to “sail to an easy confirmation,” as CNN put sit, because the Senate is a very chummy place, as you’ll be hard-pressed to remember the next time a Republican president nominates a Republican senator for something.  “Kerry is noted for having the experience, gravitas, and relationship-building skills that could help him succeed Hillary Clinton,” CNN continues.  Unlike Clinton, he might even read his mail.

** Obama’s Super Storm triumph rolls on:  “Nobody communicates anything to you.  I have to keep on calling up and busting people’s chops to find out what’s going on.  It’s ridiculous.”  Rand Paul on Hillary Clinton?  Hillary Clinton complaining about her staff?  No, it’s a New York homeowner complaining about the poor performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This will come as a surprise to anyone who doesn’t actually live in the area devastated by Super Storm Sandy, because the media told them federal response to the storm was a dazzling triumph, as President Obama raised his staff and parted the Sea of Red Tape, allowing a host of helpful bureaucrats to pour through.  The reality is a large number of people grumbling about agonizing waits and paperwork nightmares.

Nevertheless, FEMA has “mostly avoided a similar public relations disaster” to the one it suffered after Hurricane Katrina, according to MSNBC.  “FEMA officials say that???s at least partly due to the Rapid Repairs program, aimed at getting victims back home quickly so they can focus on rebuilding.”  MSNBC then goes on to provide numerous examples of forlorn homeowners complaining about the poor performance of that very program.  Maybe the real reason FEMA has avoided a “public relations disaster” is that the people who would report on such a disaster really adore the person they would normally blame for it.

** North Korea is very angry: The North Koreans are extremely upset by a United Nations resolution that will impose sanctions in retaliation for recent NoKo missile tests.  Such sanctions might leave the Dear Leadership with a few million less to spend on plastic surgery, although on the bright side, dictator Kim Jong-Un can look down from the balcony of any of his palaces and see his starving people perform a live re-enactment of The Walking Dead, so he won’t be lacking entertainment.  The North Koreans vowed to retaliate to U.N. retaliation by staging a “high-level” nuclear bomb test.  It’s unclear whether this means the bomb will be really big, they’ll toss it really high into the air before cooking it off, or disfavored high-level officials will be sitting on it when it detonates.

Meanwhile, apropos of nothing, a senior Chinese military official suddenly decided to warn Australia that it had better not side with America in the event of a nuclear war, if it knows what’s good for it.  “America is the global tiger and Japan is Asia’s wolf and both are now madly biting China. Of all the animals, Chinese people hate the wolf the most,” the Chinese official explained, adding that the world would probably be pretty darn happy if certain wolves once again found themselves on the wrong end of a nuclear weapon.  Actually, I thought the Chinese people rather liked tigers.  I know I sure wouldn’t mind having some tigers cover my back in a tough scrape.  Maybe the insane military leaders of China should consider using a different animal to represent America in their iconography.  After watching Hillary Clinton testify on Benghazi, I recommend Dori the fish from Finding Nemo.

** Our long national lip-sync nightmare is over: Inaugural officials have confirmed that pop singer Beyonce did not sing the National Anthem live at the Second Obama Inauguration.  This was a very big deal for the low-information voter crowd, so shame on you if you’re responding to the news by quoting Hillary Clinton and shrieking “What difference does it make?”  She had to lip-sync it because she arrived late, and had no time to rehearse.  However, officials confirm that it absolutely was her singing on the recording, so we can all relax now.  It’s not clear why she was late to the inauguration, although in her defense the event came as a surprise to lots of other people too.

** Return of the assault weapons ban: We turn from the lip-sync cliff to the gun-control cliff, as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduces her Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 today.  It’s a symbolic attack on weapons used in hardly any crimes, but it will make people who don’t know anything about guns feel better, so it’s probably worth doing.  The media is still trying to nail down whether or not Newtown murderer Adam Lanza actually used his assault rifle during his shooting rampage.

Meanwhile, the New York subway system is “on pace for 100 deaths this year,” but Feinstein has not yet introduced a bill to ban it.  Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg will address the issue by requiring the subway system to use very small cars.