State of Union this year merely will be a campaign message approved by Barack Obama

OK, I get it that they have to have the State of the Union speech every year. George Washington mandated it and Newt Gingrich seconded it.

It’s already on the calendar for this Tuesday night. Which is a shame. And a sham.

This won’t be a State of the Union address, despite its name.

First, there is no union in America these days.

President Obama’s relationship with Republican leaders is more strained than a thong on an NFL defensive tackle. And everything — the House, the Senate and Obama’s job — is up in the air like the Goodyear Blimp until November.

Second, this is flat-out guaranteed to be a campaign stump speech.

Obama’s policy agenda is a moot point, because Congress will ignore it as if it were term limits.

So with the Republican presidential contenders getting all that TV air time with the 4,836 debates and all the weekly primaries, Obama tomorrow night undoubtedly will sketch his campaign themes.

And, by dumb luck mind you, Obama then will travel to swing states Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan for three days. I doubt if he’s going to see the sights.

No time to be president these days, obviously.

Taking football coaching from him predictably and inevitably took the life out of Joe Paterno

Nothing is heavier than gloom in the air.

Gloom shrouds what once upon a time was Happy Valley.

Today it is Death Valley.

Joe Paterno is dead at 85.

We all knew that once they wrenched football coaching from him, Paterno was a dead man. He knew it, too. The ghost of Bear Bryant stalked him, shadowed him.

Granted, the medical people will tell you that it was the lung cancer that killed JoePa. Lung cancer was merely a hired assassin to finish the job.

Paterno lived in a singular dimension: He was Penn State’s football coach. As such, he accomplished grandiose things, on and off the field.

Once cut adrift from that dimension, it quickly drained his life force.

Without saying, the horrific child abuse sex scandal indelibly stained Paterno’s legacy.

Should he have done more with the whole Jerry Sandusky nightmare? Of course.

I do believe that looking through the prism of the single dimension that was his life, Paterno at the time thought he had done all he could under the circumstances.

I’m sure in recent months his regret knotted his insides, which couldn’t have helped in his fight against lung cancer.

The fall/passing of Joe Paterno, once a heralded iconic figure, is profoundly sad.

But it is not a tragedy. What happened to all those kids is the tragedy. And that shall not pass.

Ol' Newt has 'em seceding from Romney

No doubt about it, Newt Gingrich kicked some serious butt in South Carolina.

Call it the Saturday Night Massacre. The most fireworks in South Carolina since Fort Sumter.

And don’t think that he’s just big with that state’s bring-back-the-confederacy rednecks.

For some strange reason that scientists and philosophers have yet to discover, the winner of the Republican South Carolina primary always has become the nominee — Reagan in 1980 through John McCain in 2008.

Somebody must have shown the history books to Mitt Romney today, who caved and said he will publish his tax returns Tuesday.

It seems as if a funny thing is happening to Romney’s coronation plans.

The rage of Newt

Say what you want about Newt Gingrich, but the guy is a real heavyweight when it comes to chops. There definitely is a beast in his belly.
Gingrich scored perhaps the most memorable and controversial first-round knockout since Ali flattened Liston in their Lewiston, Maine rematch.
And Newt didn’t use a phantom right hand to do it in South Carolina last night.
Gingrich won the latest Republican debate in the opening minutes with his volcanic, venom-dripping response to moderator John King’s opening question about allegations by Gingrich’s ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage.
With fire in the eye of Newt, not only did Gingrich deny the account but unleashed a bombastic and brilliant reply by casting himself not as the victim of a marriage gone bad but of a biased liberal media waving pom poms for Barack Obama.
Central Casting couldn’t have conceived of a more perfect King Solomon role for Gingrich. In skewering King for leading the debate with such a question, Newt shifted attention from his well-chronicled marital indiscretions to the conservatives’ hatred of the media.
His ex-wife may view him as a Big Stinker, Gingrich truly is a Big Thinker with a quick and barbed tongue.
And the fire down below.

In the don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-something GOP derby, Perry quits and backs Gingrich; polls show Newt and Romney fit to be tied in South Carolina; and this just in: Santorum, not Mitt, won Iowa

The Republican presidential horse race is the perpetual news cycle that keeps on spinning during its run for the roses.
Another petal fell today, with Rick Perry ending the folly of his Oops campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich with a gushy, “Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”
Gingrich, more of a Mr. Hyde, had a Dr. Jekyll Thursday when six new polls revealed he’s in a virtual dead heat with Mitt Romney in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, it definitely was a Mr. Hyde dark day for Romney, who also found out more than two weeks later that he lost to Rick Santorum in Iowa.
I realize the folks in Iowa are slow, considering they live in Iowa. But I didn’t realize they count votes on their fingers and toes. Apparently some farmers who lost digits wrestling with their stubborn plows caused the fuzzy math.

Politics, not environmentalists, the oil slick that skidded the Keystone XL pipeline into a ditch

The end of the line, specifically the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, came today.
Which is the tar pits for America.
Republicans are about six exits beyond livid that the Obama administration killed Canadian energy company TransCanada’s $7 billion 1,700-mile pipeline linking the tar sands of Alberta to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The GOP party line (seems to be a lot of line references in this post) is that Barack Obama in so doing is destroying thousands of American jobs and selling American energy security to the Chinese.
The irony here is that Obama didn’t cave to environmental activists. In fact, Obama was not opposed to the pipeline outright. He seems to have gotten over his aversion to dirty energy.
Politics killed the pipeline, which had been the heart of an oily squabble between Democrats and Republicans:
Republicans had long been trying to get a decision on the pipeline and attempted to force a decision prior to approving the payroll-tax cut — but eventually Republicans agreed that the White House had to come to a decision by February.
The primary reason for Obama’s rejection was because of the bed that Republicans made him, demanding a decision before the State Department could facilitate a full review of the pipeline’s environmental impact.
Beds usually are only bad news when they come with bed bugs. The bite by this bed bug created an itch too big to scratch.
Of course, another motive is that because the political fight had become so intense that approving the pipeline would have been branded a win for Republicans. Which is why the Keystone XL project became an election-year lightning rod in the first place.
And now that lightning rod has flipped the switch on an electrocution.

Straining the outer limits of redundancy, the GOP debates now reduced to entertaining sideshows with some truth and no consequence

There are certain things that are inevitable.
Sunrise (perfect for Wheaties).
Sunset (ideal for vodka tonics).
Death (it’s good to be a funeral director).
Taxes (sorry, Republicans).
Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee (suicide alert for conservatives).
Granted, Romney got dinged a bit Monday night in yet another chapter of the long-running serial of GOP debates that have descended into a fringe spectator sport like roller derby. Hell, even Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon serial of a distant yesteryear when my granddaddy was knee high to a grasshopper didn’t have these many episodes.
While Rick Santorum did briefly rattle Romney on, all of things, allowing felons to vote (now there’s a front-burner issue) and Rick Perry demanded that Romney fork over his income tax returns, Mitt never melted into a puddle and left the stage with his front-runner status and his teeth intact.
Forgive my digression for a moment, but folks oughta stop taking Romney to the woodshed on his income taxes.

If the tax rate on long-term capital gains is 15 percent and Romney derives his income from long-term capital gains, then he has no obligation to pay more than 15 percent. Nobody is patriotically obliged to pay more tax than the law requires.

After all, the man isn’t a saint. He’s a Mormon.

While these debates now are about as meaningless as NFL exhibition games, they do have their deranged moments of charm.

For instance, Perry woke up from his coma (way too late, mind you) and took the leash off his sassy inner cowboy.

Newt Gingrich continues to take petulance into unchartered waters as the condescending and reigning heavyweight champ of Big Thinking.

Ron Paul, who squeaks more than Mickey Mouse and has yet to find a suit that fits, riled up the fresh-off-the-golf-course Myrtle Beach audience with his anti-interventionism extremism.

And then had them laughing when he said that his only regret about his attack ad on Santorum was that he couldn’t fit more shots into the 30-second spot.

I shall miss this Traveling Carnival Show with more barking than a dog pound.