The Political Gabfest for July 31, 2009.

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
July 31 2009 6:47 PM

Slate: The Coalition of the Swilling Gabfest

Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.

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The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on July 17 by Jefferson Pestronk at 11:18 a.m.

July 10, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for July 10 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your free 14-day trial membership of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audiobook, here. This week's recommendation comes from listener Martha Haynes, who suggests Losing Mum and Pup, written and read by Christopher Buckley. Martha calls it "more than just a memoir, by no means a dirge; this is one of those books that you will love so much you want to buy several copies to give to people you like a lot."

John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon talk politics. This week: Sarah Palin bows out, an Obama round-up, and so long salon at the Washington Post.

Sarah Palin pulled off a rare political surprise when she announced plans to resign as governor effective July 26, 18 months before the end of her first term. After an announcement alternately described as shrewd and bizarre, Palin tried to clarify her statement using her Twitter and Facebook pages and several follow-up interviews. Despite reports that the decision was the result of months of thought, the shotgun nature suggested that she might have just tired of the job. Palin claimed her celebrity and various ethical and legal challenges hampered her ability to govern, and she insisted that her decision to step down was made on behalf of the state of Alaska. While it is difficult to imagine Palin as a successful presidential candidate following this performance, her resignation somehow made her even more popular among GOP faithful. Her continuing ability to confound the media and the left wing makes her a martyr to her base, but as Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wrote, Palin's cult of personality cannot counter her inability to articulate any big ideas.

 President Obama was in Russia this week for a summit. The primary outcome was a new strategic arms-reduction agreement with the Russians, and while that goal was achieved, reviews of overall progress were mixed. The greatest accomplishment may have been getting the Russians back to the negotiating table after frosty relations during the Bush administration. Among the challenges Obama faced in Russia was deciding whom to focus his attention on, current President Dmitry Medvedev or former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who some view as still the paramount power in Russia. Obama clearly prefers Medvedev and hopes he can build a relationship with the Russian president.

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While Obama was in Russia, Congress continued work on the various health care reform packages it is developing. The announcement that hospitals would take $155 billion in pay cuts to help offset the costs of reform was welcome, but the bill in the Senate finance committee stalled nonetheless over concerns about how to pay for it and the inclusion (or not) of a public option. As John wrote in Slate, if Congress is going to get health care reform done before leaving for its August recess, it's going to have to get a move on.