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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Fair game

“On the Web site of the Tennessee Republican Party is a short video in which residents of Nashville talk about the pride they feel for their country,” Boston Globe columnistJeff Jacoby writes.

“One man, for example, mentions his esteem for the First and Second Amendments. A Vanderbilt graduate student says he was proud when Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall — ‘and I was prouder when it came down.’ A young professional woman extols the ‘academic and job opportunities that women have in this country.’ A police officer named Juan says he is proud of having immigrated to the United States, learned English, and become a citizen of this ‘land of opportunity and the best country in the world.’

“The video makes its point by alternating these upbeat comments with clips of Michelle Obamatelling two different audiences in February: ‘For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.’ In an understated press release announcing the video, the state GOP welcomed Mrs. Obama to Nashville and remarked: ‘The Tennessee Republican Party has always been proud of America.’

“One would have to have skin of microscopic thinness to take offense at so gentle and indirect a critique,” Mr. Jacoby said. “No surprise, then, thatBarack Obama took offense, reacting as if his bride had been slimed by slurs akin to those that enraged Andrew Jackson when he ran for president. (During the campaign of 1828, supporters of John Quincy Adams maligned Jackson’s mother as a ‘common prostitute’ and mocked his adored wife, Rachel, as a ‘convicted adulteress’ and a ‘strumpet.’) In an interview on ABC, Obama growled that Republicans ‘should lay off my wife,’ and described the inoffensive Tennessee video as ‘detestable,’ ‘low class,’ and reflecting ‘a lack of decency.’

“If Republicans ‘think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign,’ he added ominously, ‘they should be careful.’

“Ooh, very fierce. But unless Obama is prepared to emulate Jackson — Old Hickory defended his wife’s honor by fighting duels, in one of which he killed a man — he stands no chance of putting his wife’s remarks off-limits to criticism. As long as he keeps sending her around the country to campaign on his behalf, everything she says is — and should be — fair game.”

Still learning

“Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden took to the airwaves this [past] week to ‘help’ the rookie Barack Obama out of a foreign-policy jam,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“Oh sure, admitted Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee had given the ‘wrong’ answer when he said he’d meet unconditionally with leaders of rogue states. But on the upside, the guy ‘has learned … a lot.’

“Somewhere Mr. Obama was muttering an expletive. But give Mr. Biden marks for honesty. As Mr. Obama finishe• a week of brutal questioning over his foreign-policy judgments, it’s become clear he has learned a lot — and is learning still,” the writer said.

“Right now, for instance, he’s learning how tough it can be to pivot to a general-election stance on the crucial issue of foreign policy. He’s also learning Democrats won’t be able to sail through a national-security debate by simply painting John McCain as the second coming of George Bush.”

Rove’s denial

President Bush’s former chief political adviser denied meddling in the Justice Department’s prosecution of Alabama’s ex-governor and said yesterday that the courts will have to resolve a congressional subpoena for his testimony.

“Congress, the House Judiciary Committee, wants to be able to call presidential aides on its whim up to testify,” Karl Rove said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s going to be tied up in court and settled in court.”

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