George W. Bush and Robert Gates President George W. Bush watches Robert Gates being sworn in as defense secretary in 2006. (Ron Edmonds/AP)

The devil is in the details — and in Congress. “President Obama says he’s going to focus for the rest of his tenure on what he calls ‘the defining challenge of our time’—a cluster of issues including income inequality, stalled upward mobility, long-term unemployment, and wage stagnation. It’s an admirable pledge and, 50 years after Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to declare war on poverty and unemployment, a timely one. But even if his attention doesn’t wander, the odds of Obama having significant impact are long. In contrast to other issues, like the environment and even gun control, presidents armed with nothing but executive powers can’t do much to affect the economy. They need Congress to act—and how often does that happen these days?”

Symptomatic of his casual relationship with inconvenient details, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gets it wrong on the Fed. “I’m not sure why all that makes Rand Paul think the gold standard is the best way to run the U.S. money supply right now — when the Federal Reserve, run something like how [incoming Fed Chairman Janet] Yellen would do it, has done a pretty good job recently.” Read the whole thing.

When you get past the rhetoric, the details of Dream Act legislation are compelling. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: ” ‘We know that when we bring people together, when we work together despite some of our differences, that we also set an example of optimism for every one of the 8.9 million people who live here,’ Christie said at a signing event in Union City, a Hispanic stronghold just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. ‘Unlike what happens in Washington, that government can actually work for you,’ he added. ‘That things can actually get done, that agreements can be reached, and that commitments can be kept.’ ” No wonder Beltway right-wingers hate him.

The more details that come out about her tenure, the worse it will be for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.” Surprising? Well, some of us weren’t fooled.

The details about Vice President Joe Biden are even worse. “Biden is accused of ‘poisoning the well’ against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama’s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in ‘aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.’ ”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) grasps the details of Edward Snowden’s crimes. “We cannot have people who are given secret clearances going to foreign governments — particularly hostile governments — and exposing information that could prove fatal to people but also could prove very harmful to the interests of the United States.” That should be a no-brainer for any official sworn to uphold the law and defend the country against its enemies.

Polling details like these buoy Republicans’ hopes for 2014. “63 percent of Republicans said they were anticipating midterms, compared with 53 percent of Democrats.”