6417/1244383737-___090401.sanfordtree_resize.jpg Don’t believe the hype folks — the new Green Day album, 21th Century Breakdown, isn’t all that. Yes, Billie Joe and Co. continue to mature as artists — and make a very valid case that they’ve earned their own private sky box in the rock ‘n’ roll coliseum. They’re not in contention for naming rights or anything like that, but these guys have certainly exceded all expectations — and then some.

Think of it like this: If their rock opera, American Idiot, was their Tommy, then this is their Quadrophenia, an ambitious but mightly flawed attempt to duplicate a previous success. If only they had recalled that The Who delievered the masterful Who’s Next before stumbling with Quadrophenia.

That said, I’m still hopeful these guys will deliver another classic album, and I was glad to see them on the cover of the May 28 Rolling Stone. Of course, I haven’t read the article yet. And I probably won’t.

See, the primary reason I read Rolling Stone is for their political coverage. In some ways, it’s similiar to the reason why I kept subscribing to Playboy year after year even when there’s free porn o’plenty on the intertubes — the Playboy Interview was a fave read, an indepth and unihibited beauty which turned the spotlight on movers and shakers, world leaders, sports heroes, actors, musicians, and writers. You could always expect a jolly good time. Until, well, it went ga-ga over celebutards. The magazine that paired Alex Haley and Malcom X together for their first interview no longer exists. Bummer.

Rolling Stone, on the other hand, has more or less maintained a level of quality with their political coverage. And right now, with Matt Taibbi on their team, they’re really at a high point (much like they were with Hunter S. Thompson’s campaign coverage in ’72 and P.J. O’Rourke’s glory days in the mid to late ’80s.) I look forwad, once again, to every issue.

As expected, the National Affairs article in the May 28 issue was another dandy. The subject: The GOP Jihad and their quest to purge the party of moderates and their increasingly idiotic turn to a just-say-no to everything right.

Not surprisingly, South Carolina’s very own Mark Sanford gets major play in the piece. In fact, the entire last chunk of Tim Dickinson’s story is focused on the Palmetto State guv.

Well, I’d like to give you a link to the parts on Sanford, but I can’t. Rolling Stone has posted only the beginning bits. You’ll have to track down the issue for yourself — Green Day’s on the cover, remember.

However, he’s a taste of what was said:

Sanford is, in the parlance of politics, a beautiful loser. Like Goldwater before him, he’s a candidate of unwavering devotion to ultraconservative ideals, which makes him an electoral nonstarter. Even Sanford seems aware of the limited appeal of his “tough shit” message at a moment of grave economic distress. “There’s not a particular appetite for austerity in austere times,” he says. “But if that’s what you believe, if that is where you’re coming from, you need to let it out and you need to make the case for why, in fact, that approach is better than the next guy’s.”

I ask Sanford if the retreat to that core — at a time when Americans are looking for, if not a handout, a least a hand up — threatens to relegate the GOP to political irrelevance for the foreseeable future.

“I suppose it does,” he says simply. “And I can live with that.”