Americans at county fairs are friendly and nice. Americans at family reunions are fabulous. Americans at town-hall meetings? Not so great.
August being the month for all three, we are seeing a particularly dark side of ourselves this month.
The Fox News boys and other imitators of "fair and unbiased" media have had a field day with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's minor rhetorical misstep in the Congo earlier this week. I'm speaking of her angry response to a misinterpreted question from a student while visiting that war-torn land -- more on that part of her trip below.
But the unfortunate part of this headline-grabbing minute is that it obscured the vastly more important work she is doing to help the Congo and particularly Congolese women. I've covered women in international politics for some 20 years now, and I've never heard of atrocities as mendacious, perverted and quite frankly insane as those committed against the women of the Congo.
A close aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed as "psychobabble" the fuss over the secretary of state's barbed response to a questioner asking for her famous husband's opinion instead of her own. Clinton ignored questions about the episode as she wound down a marathon African trip Thursday.
Clinton had reacted strongly earlier this week when a Congolese student in Kinshasa asked her for the opinion of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, about an international economic issue.
"Wait. You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" a wide-eyed Clinton asked Tuesday in response. "My husband is not the secretary of state; I am. So you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband."
Asked Thursday about the impact of the widely reported exchange, Clinton was silent, then quickly launched into a glowing assessment of her 10-day tour of seven African nations.
A former chief of staff for Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas faces felony charges accusing her of trying to smuggle a knife and 48 tattoo needles onto the state's death row.
The charges against Betsey Wright come as The Associated Press obtained documents showing a death-row inmate allegedly passed love letters and contraband to a guard with whom he committed a sex act.
Combined, the events represent just the latest in a series of high-profile incidents at the state prison system, ranging from two convicted murderers escaping in guard uniforms to a man being shot to death at a contraband checkpoint.
Wright, a longtime visitor to death row at the state's Varner Unit, was detained May 22 after a guard noticed a small knife and a box cutter attached to her key chain, said prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler. A loose ink pen she had contained tweezers with sharpened edges, Tyler said. Inside a bag of Doritos, the guard found 48 tattoo needles.
Incensed by the election of the first black US president, right-wing militia groups in the United States are rising again after a decade of decline, according to new research on extremist groups.
Ideologically driven by racism and a virulent anti-government, anti-taxation and anti-immigrant agenda, the homegrown groups that thrived in the 1990s and spurred numerous deadly terrorist attacks are expanding, said the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Years after President George W. Bush fired nine U.S. attorneys, lawmakers are still searching for answers. But they seem to be asking the wrong questions.
In keeping the controversy alive, Democrats have muddied the discussion: Did political adviser Karl Rove fire a prosecutor so his friend could get the job? Did the White House cut a deal with a senator and agree to fire a prosecutor in exchange for putting a judge on the bench? Did political operatives second-guess decisions about what cases prosecutors were filing?
Those are the questions House Judiciary Committee Democrats focused on this week after releasing thousands of pages of e-mails and transcripts of their interviews with Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the nation's top car salesman in recent weeks, has cited the Obama administration's best-seller list of mostly smaller, fuel-saving cars like the Ford Focus to describe the success of the Cash for Clunkers rebate program.
But what LaHood and other administration officials usually don't mention is that some trucks and sport-utility vehicles that get less than 20 miles per gallon, like the Ford F-150 truck and one version of the Cadillac SRX Crossover, also are being purchased with the new government subsidies. Both are bulky vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds when loaded that boast at least 248 horsepower.
Just how many consumers used the federal rebates to buy these larger, not-so-green vehicles is unclear. The Obama administration has declined so far to release detailed records of purchases under the program being compiled by the Transportation Department, listing every clunker deal requesting rebates. The Associated Press requested the data July 31.
As Congress agonizes over health care, an even more daunting and dangerous challenge is bearing down: how to shore up Social Security to keep it from burying the nation ever deeper in debt.
What to do about mushrooming government payments as millions of baby boomers retire? How about a giant federal Ponzi scheme? That might work for a while.
But wait. That's pretty much the current system. Social Security takes contributions from today's workers and uses them to pay the old-age benefits that were promised to retirees. But there are serious concerns how long that can last.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney believes his old boss, President George W. Bush, gradually turned away from his advice during their second term in the White House, showing a surprising independence as he started taking more flexible positions on a range of issues, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Cheney, often described as the most influential vice president in U.S. history, has been discussing his years in office in informal talks with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues, the Post said, as he works on a memoir due out in 2011 from Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions.
Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, said the article published on the Post Web site, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets.
The U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., didn't see enough evidence when asked to prosecute some voter fraud cases in his state.
In Washington, however, then-White House political adviser Karl Rove was getting a different message and acting on it.
Transcripts of closed-door congressional testimony indicate that Rove played a central role in the ouster of David Iglesias, who was one of nine federal prosecutors fired in a series of politically tinged dismissals in 2006.
Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was "very agitated" over Iglesias "and wanted something done about it."