William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 8:47 P.M. ET:

BATTLE – As expected, the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense has aroused considerable controversy.  A new ripple may emerge over Hagel's historic opposition to abortion, with no exceptions, even the life of the mother.  But Hagel has support within the Democratic Party, and among some conservatives who tend toward a somewhat isolationist position in foreign policy.  My guess is that he'll squeeze through, but there will be a fight.  Many have asked why Obama would pick a fight with Congress right now, when there were other fine candidates available...especially as Hagel's views seem in dramatic contrast to those of current Secretary of Defense Panetta.  But Obama has no consistency, and not much public integrity, so nothing he does surprises me.

ARMED CALIFORNIA – California has become a dependably liberal state, but the fact is that gun sales in California have boomed in recent years.  It has millions more guns than it had a decade ago.  And during this time it has seen a dramatic drop in gun injuries and deaths.  We stress that we cannot prove a cause/effect relationship here.  There may be many reasons for a drop in gun injuries and deaths, including population changes, improvement in law enforcement and incarceration rates.  But at least damage from guns hasn't gone up.

NO PROMISED PROFITS – "Promised Land," the widely panned anti-fracking film starring Matt Damon, who also co-wrote it, has stirred up considerable controversy, especially at a time when fracking, a new method of extracting petroleum from the ground, promises to move America toward energy independence.  But the controversy hasn't helped at the box office.  The film is dying a quick death, and is currently ranked number ten, somewhere behind Harold Stassen.  Apparently, American audiences are not in the mood for one more lecture from Hollywood.  Good for the audience.

HILLARY WILL APPEAR – The State Department announced today that Hillary Clinton will testify before Congress on the Benghazi episode, and will do so while still in office.  That is the right thing to do.  Of course, it must be expected that she will be treated more gently than she would have been before her recent illness, but I still expect that the important questions will be asked, if a bit quietly.  Her appearance is proper.  It would have been unseemly had she left town without testifying.

January 7, 2013