The Cliffhanger, Jan. 31

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???

** Democrats struggle to spin the lousy Obama economy: I know, I know, that’s a perennial headline that could have been run almost every month since 2009.  But the poor dears are spinning extra hard now that the economy actually contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012.  “It’s the best-looking contraction you’ll ever see!” they warble, coining the most pathetic political slogan since “What difference does it make?”  (Why don’t they just use that slogan?  It would be the perfect taunt for low-information voters who are slowly realizing the media sold them a bill of goods about the “Obama recovery” during the election.)  “We continue to be poised for positive economic growth and job creation!” cried White House spokesman Jay Carney, with all the gusto of Baghdad Bob declaring that American troops were killing themselves out of despair beyond the city walls they would never breach.  “It’s all because of austerity!” some liberals growl, hoping to obscure the fact that if government spending is excluded completely, we’re left with horribly anemic 1.25 percent private-sector growth… and that’s four years after President Obama blew a trillion dollars on a phony “stimulus” plan that was supposed to inspire private sector growth, not replace it.  “It’s the Republicans’ fault for daring to slow down Obama’s spending by talking about the debt ceiling!” hiss partisan Democrats.

Put it all together, and you’ve got the Republican insistence on fiscal restraint leading to austerity that produced the best-looking contraction you’ll ever see, giving America the taut leg and shoulder muscles necessary to remain poised for economic growth for four years and counting.  Obama’s dreary New Normal is not without its amusements.

** John Kerry remains Secretary of State: A whole day has passed, and the Senate still has not retracted its confirmation.  We’ll check back again in a week and see how things are going.  Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense following hearings today, in which a half-dozen Republican senators ask surly questions about things he has said in the past, and the rest of the Senate will conclude that he no longer means anything he said prior to last month.  Also, he will enjoy the enthusiastic support of many Democrats who would attack him like a rabid wombat if he had been nominated by a Republican president.  Sometimes partisanship is all about knowing when to stay quiet.

** Media heroically ignores Menendez scandal: A sitting U.S. senator, who is a major player in the immigration debate and is poised to take over as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been credibly accused of improperly accepting gifts from a big-bucks donor who also happens to be a tax cheat.  Eyewitnesses claim to have given him sex for pay in the Dominican Republic, and some of those eyewitnesses are underage.  (“That Senator also likes the youngest and newest girls,” explained an employee of the Dominican small business he has allegedly been patronizing.)  The FBI raided the offices of the Senator’s high-flying donor, prompting the Senator to very suddenly remember that he needed to cut his buddy a $58,000 check to cover years of luxury travel.  Total number of stories about the Bob Menendez scandal on the network news broadcasts, CNN, and Der MSNBC?  Zero, unless you count crusading reporter Jay Leno cracking a joke about it, around midnight on Tuesday.  It’s tough to remain a first-world nation when you’ve already got a third-world banana republic media.

** All the news that’s fit to hack: The New York Times says that it has been under sustained attack by Chinese hackers for the past four months, with the accounts of top reporters and staffers compromised.  This apparently began after the Times started nosing around in the financial business of China’s billionaire premiere, Wen Jiabao.  This is an outrage, especially after Times columnists have been saying such nice things about Chinese authoritarianism for years.  Who are the big ingrates going to hack next, Elizabeth Warren?  Left unanswered is why the New York Times thought it needed a thorough investigation to discover why the big cheeses in a Communist dictatorship are filthy rich.

** ObamaCare just keeps getting worse: It turns out there’s a “glitch” in ObamaCare that will keep some of the President’s most loyal low-information, low-income voters from receiving their federal subsidies for insurance, which ObamaCare is causing to become vastly more expensive.  If their employers decide not to pay the jacked-up premiums for family insurance coverage, low-income people with families will be obliged to pay out-of-pocket for insurance they can’t afford… or else pay the dreaded trans-Constitutional “tax/penalty” for daring to defy the government’s commands.  Amusingly, the geniuses who created ObamaCare assumed the IRS would helpfully fix this “glitch” with regulatory pixie dust, but the IRS decided not to.  Maybe they’re focused on crafting a plan to collect back taxes from the 12 million new “semi-citizens” we’re about to create with comprehensive immigration reform.  Just imagine what those impoverished former illegal aliens will say when they tumble into ObamaCare (and they will, no matter what Marco Rubio thinks) and they get worked over by the “glitch,” too.

** Obama transparency update: Remember that fabulously expensive convention the Democrats threw in Charlotte?  Well, they came up $10 million short, so they had to take out an unprecedented loan, arranged by Duke Energy and apparently involving Bank of America.  No one involved with this loan will discuss its terms, interest rate, how much has been paid back, and whether the rest of it will ever be repaid.  This will probably infuriate President Obama when he gets wind of it, because he’s all about transparency and keeping special-interest money out of politics.  “Mr. Obama could direct the host committee to produce the information voluntarily, but there is no indication he has any intention of doing so,” says the Washington Times.  That’s so unfair, guys.  President Transparency has been really busy lately.  He’s working hard to import a new electorate, disarm the old electorate, and supervise the best-looking economic contraction you’ll ever see, pausing only to relax with frequent skeet shooting sessions at Camp David.

** Farewell to the last of the Andrews Sisters: Patty Andrews, last of the singing Andrews Sisters, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 94.  Her sisters LaVerne and Maxine preceded her in 1967 and 1995, respectively.  They tirelessly flew and sailed around the world to put on shows for America’s fighting men in World War II, and if the outcome was ever in doubt, you wouldn’t have known it from listening to the Andrews Sisters sing.  They were really something.