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Fake Candidate Raises Real Issue

Now that Stephen Colbert is coasting until he replaces David Letterman on late-night TV, you will have to settle for "Honest" Gil Fulbright, a fake Senate candidate in Kentucky.

On his campaign website, Fulbright gets right to the point: "My name is Gil Fulbright, and my promise to you is this: If elected, I’ll definitely sell you out to special interests and lobbyists, but I’ll sell you out to your face. I’ll drop the act and do whatever you pay me to do — as long as you can afford it."

Fulbright says Senator Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Grimes could spend $100 million in this year's election. "And Old Gil wants a piece of that action."

Apparently overlooking the earlier campaign slogan "Honest Abe," Fulbright brands himself as "America's first honest politician." He admits to being in the race for the money and willing to toady to anyone with enough cash.

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No Nap for a Superpower

Most Americans would like to withdraw from international contretemps, but the rest of the world isn't cooperating. American involvement is in demand across the globe.

Nowhere is American fatigue deeper than with the Middle East. We fought two long, expensive wars and a majority of Americans want to put them in the rear-view mirror. That doesn't seem likely.

Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal to audit all the ballots cast in the recent Afghan presidential runoff, avoiding at least for now a splintered national government, which could give the Taliban hiding in the hills an opportunity to make a political or military comeback.

Iraq continues to disintegrate, forcing President Obama, who campaigned on getting America out of the country, to consider going back in. He already has consented to send up to 1,000 military advisers to Iraq and is applying pressure to install a national unity government that can woo back disaffected Sunnis and opportunistic Kurds.

The United States is playing a lead role in fragile, emotionally charged negotiations on Iran's nuclear capabilities. There is a small window for Iran's new government to compromise in return for a significant relaxation of economic sanctions. Direct dialogue with Iran may have side benefits in trying to quell Sunni-led terrorist insurgency in Iraq.

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When Immigration and Sex Trafficking Law Meet

While politicians are finger-pointing, thousands of unaccompanied children are pouring into the United States to seek asylum.

President Obama is blamed for lax border enforcement and former President George W. Bush is fingered for signing a bipartisan-backed bill in 2008 designed to give legal protections in the United States to children trying to escape sex trafficking in their home countries, excluding Mexico and Canada.

The flood of unattended children showing up at the nation's doorstep coincides with a widespread political belief that comprehensive immigration reform is dead in this Congress, and maybe even longer. A Democratically controlled Senate, which sent a bipartisan immigration bill to the House, isn't likely to go for a bill that merely tinkers with immigration issues. 

So the Obama administration faces the task of what to do with children with legal rights, but not legal residency status. One community already has balked at having children bused to temporary housing there. And Obama is asking Congress for $4 billion for housing and more judges and courtrooms to process the children who risked their lives coming here. 

It is an ugly scene, no matter how you look at it. It also appears to be coagulating quickly into another partisan battlefront, which could obscure the humanitarian issues involved. The children coming here are clearly in harm's way in their Central American home countries. Their life prospects look pretty dim if they are returned to sender.

Congressional Republicans, who blame Obama for the surge, appear to favor a change making it easier to send back the children. But not all Republicans, including many in the evangelical community, are on board with that idea. Those who played a key role in passing the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act disagree that it should be changed. They say the law is doing what it was intended to do — protect children. 

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The Eloquent Listener

We have a lot of fast talkers, sweet talkers and trash talkers. We have few eloquent listeners.

”Eloquent” isn’t a word often used to modify “listener.” However, it is what the late Howard Baker, Jr., in the twilight of his life, described as his best virtue.

Eloquent listening isn’t about hearing what you want to hear or agreeing with everything that you do hear. Eloquent listening is all about hearing without malice.

Baker’s passage last week puts another punctuation mark on the apparently bygone era of conciliation. We no longer celebrate men who, in the words of Baker’s stepmother, resemble the Tennessee River, flowing exactly down the middle of the state.

Eulogies recalled Baker’s famous question that summed up the country’s curiosity about Watergate — “What did the President know and when did he know it? He was celebrated for his efforts as chief of staff under President Reagan for navigating the Iran-contra scandal.

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Propping up the Highway Trust Fund

Congress has less than three legislative work weeks until the Highway Trust Fund runs dry and highway and bridge projects across the country grind to a halt, resulting in the loss of thousands of construction jobs, further slowing economic recovery. By law, the Trust Fund cannot shell out more money than it has.

The Highway Trust Fund sends approximately $35 billion annually to states for new construction and road repair. According to the Department of Transportation, the fund began FY 2014 with roughly $1.6 billion in cash. In October 2013, $9.7 billion was transferred from the General Fund to the Highway Account. The latest projection from the Department of Transportation monthly "ticker" showed $8.1 billion available as of June 1, but depleting rapidly by late August.

With the clock ticking and no bipartisan consensus on a long-term solution, members in the House and Senate are scrambling for a short-term fix. Filling that gap to December will require something in the $8-$10 billion range. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden is leading the charge, contained in what he calls the Preserving America's Transit and Highways Act of 2014 (PATH).

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