Posts For: February 19, 2008
I hope this speech will end someday.
The foreign policy section shows he is not about to veer toward reality any time soon. Immediately end the war, visit with enemies, lead “by example” and close Guantanamo. There seems to be no recognition of the world as it is, no view of the burdens (military or otherwise) America must bear and no end to this speech. His infatuation with words has led him to the mistaken conclusion that he can speak for 45 minutes without saying much of anything and impress his viewers. I wonder: what happens to the liberal media cheerleaders when they get bored with him?
Time of Obama speech: 42 minutes. And counting.
And here I thought Joe Biden couldn’t stop talking.
Well, There’s Room for Somebody on the World Stage Giving Five Hour Speeches Now That Castro Is Retiring
Barack Obama has been speaking now for 37 minutes. With no evident desire to wrap it up.
There is a bit of content and, I know this will surprise you, but it is straight from the liberal playbook. Dump the Bush tax cuts, pay teachers more, make college “affordable,” get lots of money from “polluters” to pay for new energy sources and, of course, forget about NAFTA. The gap between the rhetoric of “change” and the mundane quality of the warmed over items off the liberal wish list is striking. So, maybe the reason all these good ideas have not gotten through Washington is that they aren’t good after all?
After 15 minutes of the most patent liberal Democratic boilerplate, without a single deviation from party or ideological orthodoxy, Barack Obama says, “Part of what you need in the next president is not someone who tells you what you want to hear but what you need to hear.” Yes. That would be refreshing.
Says Obama. “We don’t believe in government doing for us what we can do for ourselves.” Then he says CEOs are paid too much and must be stopped. There’s been a lot of talk about the rhetorical strength of Obama’s speeches, how he uses classical tropes and incantatory repetition. To these we can also add: Non sequiturs.
He uses his opening time to tell people to go vote early (now, before the luster fades) and to show up at the caucuses (which are part of the complex Texas voting system). The crowd is huge but the content is vacuous. We don’t lack good ideas, he says, but rather the problem is that those evil folks in Washington crush the good ideas. (The premise is silly: that we all agree on what the good ideas are and that only decent folks like him are needed to bring them to fruition.) The “content” that we get amount to a diatribe against free trade and a rather typical John Edwards-like tale of a poor woman who lost her home. Score this round for John McCain. With a nod to immediately ending the Iraq war he then reverts to what this is really about: him. He recites his tale of running before others said he should because of the “fierce urgency of now” (a Martin Luther king, Jr. line he repeats at each of these stump and victory speeches). If this is it, McCain may have a shot.
A hoarse Hillary Clinton is pleading with the crowd in Youngstown for action and solution over words. Directing voters to her website to plow through her policy positions has the whiff of desperation. She is in essence making a weaker, less convincing argument than the one McCain just made. She says she’s the one to be in charge in dangerous times and reels off her supposed foreign policy credentials. But is she really any more capable in this arena than Obama? She then goes after Obama for “leaving out” people from universal health care. And so it goes. She seems tired, and as accurate as her assessment of her opponent may be, she is not articulating any argument likely to sway the Democratic primary electorate. Somewhat fittingly (if not politely), Obama’s speech bumps her off the air.
John McCain said something gracious and pointed at the same time just now:
I owe America more than she has ever owed me. And my friends, I’ve been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I’ve never lived a day, good times or bad, when I wasn’t proud — proud — of the privilege.
The point here is that McCain is a man who spent five and a half years in a hellish North Vietnamese prison, and therefore one might think whatever debt he may owe to his country he paid off in full long ago. The fact that he still speaks of his gratitude is notable.
And, of course, his words about being “proud” of the “privilege” to be her “servant” has to be seen in light of Michelle Obama’s remark yesterday that until her husband’s campaign of hopey-hope-hope, she had never felt “really proud” of her country. McCain is making it clear: He will run as the candidate of patriotism, and because of the attitude his wife’s words inadvertently exposed, Obama is going to have trouble there.
McCain delivered a stunningly effective speech. The message was clear: he wants to make sure the American people are “not deceived by an empty call for change.” He went right at the clear difference between himself and Barack Obama (who will also apparently win tonight, although the margin is in doubt). Reeling off the list of the world’s trouble spots, he made the pitch for himself, the candidate he argues who will be the one with judgment, experience and purpose. On the domestic side, he is setting up the choice between a traditional liberal and himself, who trusts not in government but in the American people. He conceded that he is “not the youngest candidate but I am the most experienced.” The crowd cheered loudly, as they did when he declared that in good times and bad “a day has not passed where I was not proud of the privilege” to serve America. That’s setting up the contrast, indeed. His pitch is simple: the other fellow isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief and Obams’s brand of change is not a recipe for success. If the message can be heard above the din of Obama chanting it is a powerful one.
John McCain, announcing that with his victory in Wisconsin he will be the Republican nominee for president, takes it right to the Democratic frontrunner:
Will we heed the appeals for change that ignore the lessons of history?…I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign that Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history….Our purpose is to keep this country free, safe, prosperous, and proud.
He went on to a tour d’horizon of the world’s promises and threats — the election results in Parkistan, the departure of Castro, and the conduct of Hugo Chavez. Rhetorically, McCain has stepped up his game to a remarkable degree. If he keeps it going, this is going to be a very impressive presidential bid, win or lose.
CBS brought back its once-cancelled series, Jericho, for a second season after passionate viewers lobbied for it. The show is about how a small town in Kansas deals with the aftermath of a nuclear exchange — with the clever and chilling twist that no one in Jericho has any idea what has happened because all contact with the rest of the country has become impossible.
Now, in the second season, the people of Jericho find out what happened. And guess what? We did it. On purpose. In the words of the New York Times’s Ginia Bellafante,
We soon learn that a nefarious United States government planned the attacks, using Iran and North Korea as scapegoats. A menacing red, white and blue flag, with vertical stripes, waves over Jericho now. It represents the new Allied States of America, a country led by a boyish puppet president but run by a malevolent senior statesman who has apparently ordered that all textbooks be rewritten so that the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam is recounted as a failure of will.
The Vietnam textbook thing is especially piquant. Every time I think Hollywood has exhausted its capacity for injecting anti-Americanism into every nook and cranny of the popular culture, I soon learn that the surface of its inventiveness in this regard — if in no other — has barely been scratched.
Fox News calls Wisconsin for John McCain right at 9:00 p.m.
While we peruse the obtuse (and in all likelihood inaccurate) exit polls, there are a couple of bits of news. First, the Obama camp feels compelled to respond to the flap about Michelle Obama’s “never proud of America before” comments. What do they do? When in a bind, always accuse the media and your opponents of “misconstruing what she said to score political points.” That tactic, it seems, is rather trite political gamesmanship.
As for the contention that she and her husband are “positive,” I see little evidence of this in their view of an America populated by tiresome politicians and corrupt lobbyists and captive to a fear-mongering foreign policy. As Abe observed, if you can sniff them out, Obama’s political views are not that appealing. Pointing that out, of course, will merely draw the accusation that you are practicing the politics of “division,” but it seems that politics in its best sense is practiced by drawing distinctions and making informed choices.
Second, perhaps a signal of grim things to come, Hillary Clinton releases extracts of her speech tonight making the case that:
One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world . . . One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American – no one left out . . . Finally, one of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past. And one of us is ready to do it again.
It is remarkable how much of her experience is by association (I think the “serious Republican opposition” was not Rick Lazio). Obama supporters might point out that if he borrowed a line or two for a speech, he is at least running on his own record. I suspect that the heart of her argument is the concluding snippet: “It’s about picking a president who relies not just on words – but on work, hard work, to get America back to work. Someone who’s not just in the speeches business – but will get America back in the solutions business.” It is not a bad argument, but it may come too late and from a messenger too flawed.
Those who oppose promoting democracy in the Muslim world often argue that in a free vote the extremists will win. That may be true in some cases but not in Pakistan. There, the extremist Islamic parties have never won more than 12 percent of the vote and in Monday’s election they saw their vote collapse. As noted by blogger Bill Roggio, the pro-Taliban Muttahida Majlis-e-Amil, or MMA, “has won only three seats in Pakistan’s National Assembly and has lost control over the Northwest Frontier Province. Maualana Fazlur Rahman, the party’s president, lost his seat in the national election.” The big winner, of course, was the Pakistan People’s Party, which has its own problems but which is a moderate party whose last leader was assassinated by the extremists.
This tends to confirm what we’ve seen elsewhere in the Muslim world: While extremist parties may do well initially, their failure to provide effective governance soon costs them popular support. That has been true in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. The problem is that in those countries the Islamist parties would not allow themselves to be voted out of office. In Pakistan, by contrast, democratic institutions still survive, albeit imperfectly, allowing the Islamists to be ousted.
In many ways, the failure of Islamists to govern effectively—the latest example being Hamas in the Gaza Strip—provides the strongest argument against these parties. If tomorrow they were somehow to take over every country in the Muslim world, it would not be long before almost all Muslims had turned against them. Of course the world would pay a high price for such an experiment. Let us hope Muslims elsewhere can learn from the experience of those places where Islamists have taken power without having to go through the process again and again.
ABC News’ Clarissa Ward reports that:
If you’re looking for one measure of the impact of last year’s troop surge in Iraq, look at Gen. David Petraeus as he walks through a Baghdad neighborhood, with no body armor, and no helmet. It’s been one year since the beginning of what’s known here as Operation Fardh Al Qadnoon. According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success is reconciliation.
“A big part of the effort, over the last year, has been to determine who is reconcilable, who, literally, is willing to put down his rifle and talk, who is willing to shout, instead of shoot.” Petraeus said. I spent the day with Petraeus, touring Jihad, a predominantly Shiite area in western Baghdad. This place was formerly ravaged by sectarian violence, and militiamen wreaked havoc on the streets. In the last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the neighborhood, set up joint security stations, earned the trust of local people, and found those men willing to put down their guns and work with them. The results of the last year can be seen on the streets. A soccer team practices on the local pitch. The stalls in the market buzz with customers. I stop to talk to local residents, and ask if they feel a difference. Overwhelmingly, the answer is a resounding yes. “The situation in Jihad is certainly better than before,” a mechanic named Ali said. “Work is constant, shops are reopening, and people are coming back to their homes.” Notwithstanding significant progress, much work clearly remains. The Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace and improve the local infrastructure. Sewage and trash fester in the streets. “We have very little electricity,” Ali said. The hope is, that with the passing of a budget this week, that will change. “That unlocks a substantial amount of money for the ministries of Iraq, so that they can start going about the jobs that are so essential, like patching roads that we bounced down today; over long term, improving electricity, fixing water systems, sewer systems,” Petraeus said. Normally very guarded in his assessments of the surge, Petraeus now expresses cautious optimism.
“I have to tell you that, having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. I mean, this is, this is potentially a big moment.” he said.
A potentially big moment indeed. We are now seeing extraordinary security gains from the last year translate into both political reconciliation and legislative progress. Within the last week the Iraqi parliament passed key laws having to do with provincial elections (the law devolves power to the local level in a decentralization system that is groundbreaking for the region), the distribution of resources, and amnesty. And those laws follow ones passed in recent months having to do with pensions, investment, and de-Ba’athification.
American Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard that “the whole motivating factor” beyond the legislation was “reconciliation, not retribution.” This is “remarkably different” from six months ago, according to the widely respected, straight-talking Crocker.
Progress in Iraq means life is getting progressively more difficult for Democrats and their two presidential front-runners, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Having strongly opposed the surge, Obama and Clinton have been forced by events to concede that security progress has been made. But until now they have insisted that the surge is a failure because we’re not seeing political progress. That claim is now being shattered.
Soon Obama and Clinton will have no argument left to justify their position on Iraq. It will become increasingly clear that they are committed to leaving Iraq simply because they are committed to leaving Iraq, regardless of the awful consequences that would follow. It is an amazing thing to witness: two leading presidential candidates who are committed to engineering an American retreat, which would lead to an American defeat, despite the progress we are making on every conceivable front.
At the end of the day, this position will hurt Democrats badly, because their position will hurt America badly.
John McCain’s wife, Cindy, makes clear that she is proud of her country. Others have pointed out the difference in attitude between McCain, a man who actually suffered on behalf of his country, and the spectacle of the rich and privileged expressing no recognition of, let alone appreciation for, the benefits derived from being Americans. So far Michelle Obama is not getting much media sympathy. However, I am sure it is only a matter of time before Obama’s enraptured media allies will accuse conservatives of questioning the couple’s patriotism. Clever, isn’t it: those tricky conservatives got her to bring it up and reveal her own disdain for pre-Obama America. (One wonders, by the way, if she fell into despair for her country again after the New Hampshire primary results became known.)
The allegorical content of mass-market genre films is always amusing to consider, and no director of cheesy flicks is more fond of allegory than George A. Romero, whose four-decade run of zombie movies continues this week with the release of “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead.” Romero, who like his buddy Stephen King makes no effort to disguise his leftward leanings, whipped up a parable about racism in 1968′s low- budget creepfest “Night of the Living Dead,” in which a black hero was lynched by white townsfolk. He moved on to a swat against consumerism in 1979′s “Dawn of the Dead,” which was shot in a shopping mall. Lately Romero’s viewpoint apparently has grown more extreme: in 2005′s “Land of the Dead” Romero showed that he saw contemporary America as experiencing another great Depression, dividing starkly into haves and have-nots in which the rich lived in penthouse fortresses and the poor in hovels where they prepared armed onslaughts on their business-suited betters.
“Diary of the Dead,” which, like dozens of recent films, from arthouse flicks all the way down to “Cloverfield,” is shot on jumpy hand-held cameras, says much about the fashionable left’s view of the terrorist enemy today. It takes place in a post- 9/11 world in which the zombies are unstoppable bloodthirsty savages–yet the message is that we should get used to them, sympathize with their plight and more or less admit that we’re doomed and accept it. The zombie outbreak this time starts at a murder scene where a family of dead immigrants being taken to the morgue suddenly rise up off their stretchers and start munching on the carotids of the police and other authority figures–payback time.
As a group of student filmmakers simultaneously flee the area and make a documentary about the carnage erupting around them–everyone who gets bitten by a zombie turns into one–they fight back half-heartedly, talking about their guilty feelings and describing themselves as no better than the supernatural killers. As they talk about society’s failures during, for instance, Hurricane Katrina, and look at news footage about looting and paranoia breaking out all over the country in the wake of the zombie attacks, the tone of the movie evolves from a resolve to fight back to despair and surrender. We, meaning America, have brought this on ourselves, they learn. Now we’ll just have to pay the price.