Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 20, 2008

McCain Really Must Be The Nominee

The New York Times came out with its Drudge-previewed piece about John McCain’s alleged dealings with a female lobbyist, and the McCain campaign immediately and strongly responded. Others (here, here, here and here) have already remarked on the thinly sourced allegations (and mutual denial) of his personal relationship with the lobbyist and questioned how far the story will go, since the Times dutifully reported aides’ statements that no inappropriate legislative action was taken. (Remarkably, the Times’ online reader comments suggest a high dose of skepticism about the sourcing and value of the story.)

Aside from the obvious question about the timing of the story and whether The New Republic stampeded the Times (Otherwise why run it now? What changed since the Drudge leak in December?), this raises the possibility that the story will perversely help McCain with certain elements in the conservative base that have long complained McCain has been too cozy with liberal media. (Many conservative pundits, of course, heaped scorn on McCain when the very same Times endorsed him.) If mutual antagonism toward the New York Times and the prospect of an ultra-liberal opponent can’t bring McCain and the conservative base together, I suppose nothing will.

The New York Times came out with its Drudge-previewed piece about John McCain’s alleged dealings with a female lobbyist, and the McCain campaign immediately and strongly responded. Others (here, here, here and here) have already remarked on the thinly sourced allegations (and mutual denial) of his personal relationship with the lobbyist and questioned how far the story will go, since the Times dutifully reported aides’ statements that no inappropriate legislative action was taken. (Remarkably, the Times’ online reader comments suggest a high dose of skepticism about the sourcing and value of the story.)

Aside from the obvious question about the timing of the story and whether The New Republic stampeded the Times (Otherwise why run it now? What changed since the Drudge leak in December?), this raises the possibility that the story will perversely help McCain with certain elements in the conservative base that have long complained McCain has been too cozy with liberal media. (Many conservative pundits, of course, heaped scorn on McCain when the very same Times endorsed him.) If mutual antagonism toward the New York Times and the prospect of an ultra-liberal opponent can’t bring McCain and the conservative base together, I suppose nothing will.

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The Noose Tightens

One of the weirdest stories of last year was the mysterious tale of the noose found on the door of a Teachers College professor at Columbia University, an African-American woman who claims to be a scholar of “racial micro-aggression” — which is to say, events like someone hanging a noose on the door of an African-American.

Her name is not Tawana Brawley. It’s Madonna Constantine. But you might be forgiven for confusing the two.

After Constantine revealed the supposedly monstrous crime, Columbia erupted in protests. The administration vowed to find the evildoer. The NYPD got involved. Columbia began acting oddly, refusing to cooperate with the NYPD. The NYPD produced a subpoena for the films from surveillance cameras in the hallway. They came up with nothing.

Then, suddenly, the NYPD announced it was closing the investigation. Columbia University, the parent of Teachers College, went silent. We learned the professor in question, Madonna Constantine, had a history of provocative acts, including a confrontation with a colleague whom she had sued for defamation.

Now, Teachers College has sanctioned Dr. Constantine for plagiarism — the conclusion of an investigation that dates back, it turns out, to 2006:

Teachers College of Columbia University confirmed today that it has sanctioned Professor Madonna Constantine after an internal investigation found numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years. The investigation, which began in 2006, was prompted by complaints from students and one former faculty member who said language from materials they wrote was included without attribution in the articles.

Constantine, predictably, responded to this by wondering whether a “white person” would be treated this way. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that Constantine discovered the writing was on the wall last October, that she was going to be caught out as a plagiarist, and that she dangled the noose from her own office doorknob as a way to make it impossible for Columbia to punish her.

Thus, the parallel with the Tawana Brawley case. Terrified she was going to be punished by her stepfather for a night out with a boy, Brawley staged her own false rape and claimed it had been at the hands of white attackers. It was a monstrous lie. But at least Brawley was seventeen at the time. Madonna Constantine is 44. And will soon be out of a job.

One of the weirdest stories of last year was the mysterious tale of the noose found on the door of a Teachers College professor at Columbia University, an African-American woman who claims to be a scholar of “racial micro-aggression” — which is to say, events like someone hanging a noose on the door of an African-American.

Her name is not Tawana Brawley. It’s Madonna Constantine. But you might be forgiven for confusing the two.

After Constantine revealed the supposedly monstrous crime, Columbia erupted in protests. The administration vowed to find the evildoer. The NYPD got involved. Columbia began acting oddly, refusing to cooperate with the NYPD. The NYPD produced a subpoena for the films from surveillance cameras in the hallway. They came up with nothing.

Then, suddenly, the NYPD announced it was closing the investigation. Columbia University, the parent of Teachers College, went silent. We learned the professor in question, Madonna Constantine, had a history of provocative acts, including a confrontation with a colleague whom she had sued for defamation.

Now, Teachers College has sanctioned Dr. Constantine for plagiarism — the conclusion of an investigation that dates back, it turns out, to 2006:

Teachers College of Columbia University confirmed today that it has sanctioned Professor Madonna Constantine after an internal investigation found numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years. The investigation, which began in 2006, was prompted by complaints from students and one former faculty member who said language from materials they wrote was included without attribution in the articles.

Constantine, predictably, responded to this by wondering whether a “white person” would be treated this way. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that Constantine discovered the writing was on the wall last October, that she was going to be caught out as a plagiarist, and that she dangled the noose from her own office doorknob as a way to make it impossible for Columbia to punish her.

Thus, the parallel with the Tawana Brawley case. Terrified she was going to be punished by her stepfather for a night out with a boy, Brawley staged her own false rape and claimed it had been at the hands of white attackers. It was a monstrous lie. But at least Brawley was seventeen at the time. Madonna Constantine is 44. And will soon be out of a job.

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How the Left Lacks Humor

One of the most telling differences between the Left and the Right–at least among political journalists–is that the Left lacks a sense of humor. Case in point: the wickedly funny piece by Christopher Buckley–author of Thank You For Smoking–in yesterday’s New York Times, which seeks to explain why some conservatives are uneasy with a McCain presidency. In discussing McCain’s alleged lack of conservative bona fides, Buckley writes:

And—true, again—Mr. McCain is a bit of a girlie-man when it comes to waterboarding high-value detainees; but that’s a tricky one, even for macho, red-meat conservative chest-thumpers. You get a pass on that one if you’ve spent five-and-a-half years being bastinadoed by North Vietnamese.

This earned the following reaction from the oh-so-serious folks at ThinkProgress, blog of the Center for American Progress, which categorizes Buckley’s column as yet another example of the “Radical Right-Wing Agenda”:

Buckley’s description of McCain as a “girlie-man” reveals a couple of things. The first is Buckley’s belief that one’s “manliness” can be deduced from his support for torture. The second, and more important, is that the state of American conservatism is such that McCain requires “forgiveness” for opposing torture.

Aside from the fact that the author of this post totally misses the point in that Buckley is lampooning McCain’s conservative critics, he also seems like a total party pooper. Observe that, in the column, Buckley refers to the “the Archfiend, Ted Kennedy” and notes that Fred Thompson “could barely manage to stay awake during his own announcement speech.” Indeed, Buckley opens the piece with an anecdote about a New Yorker cartoon. The problem with the liberals at ThinkProgress is that, since they themselves have no sense of humor, they cannot recognize a joke when it hits them square between the eyes.

I may not agree with Christopher Buckley or Mark Steyn about everything, but I’d sooner share a drink with them than with Paul Krugman, Joe Conason, or any other of the multitude of sober, boring, hectoring liberal writers who populate the nation’s newspapers and magazines.

One of the most telling differences between the Left and the Right–at least among political journalists–is that the Left lacks a sense of humor. Case in point: the wickedly funny piece by Christopher Buckley–author of Thank You For Smoking–in yesterday’s New York Times, which seeks to explain why some conservatives are uneasy with a McCain presidency. In discussing McCain’s alleged lack of conservative bona fides, Buckley writes:

And—true, again—Mr. McCain is a bit of a girlie-man when it comes to waterboarding high-value detainees; but that’s a tricky one, even for macho, red-meat conservative chest-thumpers. You get a pass on that one if you’ve spent five-and-a-half years being bastinadoed by North Vietnamese.

This earned the following reaction from the oh-so-serious folks at ThinkProgress, blog of the Center for American Progress, which categorizes Buckley’s column as yet another example of the “Radical Right-Wing Agenda”:

Buckley’s description of McCain as a “girlie-man” reveals a couple of things. The first is Buckley’s belief that one’s “manliness” can be deduced from his support for torture. The second, and more important, is that the state of American conservatism is such that McCain requires “forgiveness” for opposing torture.

Aside from the fact that the author of this post totally misses the point in that Buckley is lampooning McCain’s conservative critics, he also seems like a total party pooper. Observe that, in the column, Buckley refers to the “the Archfiend, Ted Kennedy” and notes that Fred Thompson “could barely manage to stay awake during his own announcement speech.” Indeed, Buckley opens the piece with an anecdote about a New Yorker cartoon. The problem with the liberals at ThinkProgress is that, since they themselves have no sense of humor, they cannot recognize a joke when it hits them square between the eyes.

I may not agree with Christopher Buckley or Mark Steyn about everything, but I’d sooner share a drink with them than with Paul Krugman, Joe Conason, or any other of the multitude of sober, boring, hectoring liberal writers who populate the nation’s newspapers and magazines.

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The Think Tank With a Sense of Humor

Say goodbye EPPC, or AEI, or CEIP, or CFR. Say hello to the think tank with the best name in the busines — the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. I am not recommending its scholarship. I am only commending its surpassingly witty name.

Say goodbye EPPC, or AEI, or CEIP, or CFR. Say hello to the think tank with the best name in the busines — the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. I am not recommending its scholarship. I am only commending its surpassingly witty name.

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In Defense of the Cuban Embargo

Fidel Castro’s surprise withdrawal from a formal role in the Cuban government has, predictably, triggered calls for a reassessment of the American embargo. “A policy that made little sense in the cold war makes still less in today’s age of globalization,” the New York Times said this morning as it criticized the Bush administration. “Commerce is more likely than isolation to nurture positive political change.”

That is certainly conventional wisdom—a specialty of the Times—but is it true? Trade played a role in the failure of hardline governments in the last two decades, but none of them were totalitarian states. Severe economic failure—not success—preceded the collapse of Soviet bloc communism.

The Times cites our trade with China as a reason for ending the Cuban embargo, but this example merely illustrates that American policy has been inconsistent. Trade with China, if it shows anything, demonstrates that there is little correlation between commerce and political liberalization, at least over the short term. After all, the Chinese Communist Party has, in the last two decades, managed to increase both trade and political repression. So far, commerce has strengthened the hands of communists in China.

It is true, as the Times suggests, that Fidel has used the embargo as an excuse for his economic mismanagement, yet I suspect that by now most people on his island realize that it is his system that causes their plight, not American policy. As Alberto Luzarraga of the Cuban American Research Group noted during an earlier debate on the embargo, “Cubans are not morons.”

Even if we lift the embargo, Castro’s successors will not allow their economy to be overrun by American tourists, investors, and corporate executives. Fidel’s legitimacy, we should remember, is largely founded on his ridding the island of foreign exploiters and his creating home-grown socialism. Cuban leaders, in any event, would allow only enough commerce to maintain their regime, just as North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is doing today. It is a Fukuyama-induced fantasy to think that history has ended and that we can rid ourselves of despicable autocrats with just letters of credit and bills of lading. The Castro boys, Fidel and successor Raul, have survived just about everything during five decades and are not about to surrender to globalization.

An embargo helped kill communism in Europe, and it can also end it in the Caribbean. One day we will establish normal trading relations with Cuba, but that should not be before the people there govern themselves. “The post-Fidel era is clearly at hand, and the Bush administration has done almost nothing to prepare for it,” the New York Times said. Prepare for what? The embargo has been working all along, and it is up to the Cuban dictators to relax their grip, not us.

Fidel Castro’s surprise withdrawal from a formal role in the Cuban government has, predictably, triggered calls for a reassessment of the American embargo. “A policy that made little sense in the cold war makes still less in today’s age of globalization,” the New York Times said this morning as it criticized the Bush administration. “Commerce is more likely than isolation to nurture positive political change.”

That is certainly conventional wisdom—a specialty of the Times—but is it true? Trade played a role in the failure of hardline governments in the last two decades, but none of them were totalitarian states. Severe economic failure—not success—preceded the collapse of Soviet bloc communism.

The Times cites our trade with China as a reason for ending the Cuban embargo, but this example merely illustrates that American policy has been inconsistent. Trade with China, if it shows anything, demonstrates that there is little correlation between commerce and political liberalization, at least over the short term. After all, the Chinese Communist Party has, in the last two decades, managed to increase both trade and political repression. So far, commerce has strengthened the hands of communists in China.

It is true, as the Times suggests, that Fidel has used the embargo as an excuse for his economic mismanagement, yet I suspect that by now most people on his island realize that it is his system that causes their plight, not American policy. As Alberto Luzarraga of the Cuban American Research Group noted during an earlier debate on the embargo, “Cubans are not morons.”

Even if we lift the embargo, Castro’s successors will not allow their economy to be overrun by American tourists, investors, and corporate executives. Fidel’s legitimacy, we should remember, is largely founded on his ridding the island of foreign exploiters and his creating home-grown socialism. Cuban leaders, in any event, would allow only enough commerce to maintain their regime, just as North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is doing today. It is a Fukuyama-induced fantasy to think that history has ended and that we can rid ourselves of despicable autocrats with just letters of credit and bills of lading. The Castro boys, Fidel and successor Raul, have survived just about everything during five decades and are not about to surrender to globalization.

An embargo helped kill communism in Europe, and it can also end it in the Caribbean. One day we will establish normal trading relations with Cuba, but that should not be before the people there govern themselves. “The post-Fidel era is clearly at hand, and the Bush administration has done almost nothing to prepare for it,” the New York Times said. Prepare for what? The embargo has been working all along, and it is up to the Cuban dictators to relax their grip, not us.

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McCain Is Off And Running

With only the slighest acknowledgment that Hillary Clinton is still running, John McCain is beginning his general election race against Barack Obama. He was in fighting form today, using Obama’s shifting position on public campaign financing to suggest Obama is practicing Washington “doublespeak” and not keeping his committments. He again labeled Obama as naive on foreign policy. In the category of politics making strange bedfellows, he will be getting some help from Clinton, who seems determined to help point out Obama’s weaknesses, especially his lack of fitness to be commander-in-chief. (Although Clinton’s effort is likely to fail, that does not indicate that the commander-in-chief theme won’t be successful in a general election context when marshalled by someone who actually does have foreign policy experience.)

After all the talk that Mike Huckabee was an ongoing irritant to McCain while the “spirited” Democratic race would keep interest high, the reverse may end up being true. The Democratic race is now looking a little less productive for the eventual nominee, while Huckabee’s presence at least gets McCain cable news coverage of his primary victory speech.

With only the slighest acknowledgment that Hillary Clinton is still running, John McCain is beginning his general election race against Barack Obama. He was in fighting form today, using Obama’s shifting position on public campaign financing to suggest Obama is practicing Washington “doublespeak” and not keeping his committments. He again labeled Obama as naive on foreign policy. In the category of politics making strange bedfellows, he will be getting some help from Clinton, who seems determined to help point out Obama’s weaknesses, especially his lack of fitness to be commander-in-chief. (Although Clinton’s effort is likely to fail, that does not indicate that the commander-in-chief theme won’t be successful in a general election context when marshalled by someone who actually does have foreign policy experience.)

After all the talk that Mike Huckabee was an ongoing irritant to McCain while the “spirited” Democratic race would keep interest high, the reverse may end up being true. The Democratic race is now looking a little less productive for the eventual nominee, while Huckabee’s presence at least gets McCain cable news coverage of his primary victory speech.

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A Bomb in Denmark

Capping off a week of Muslim riots in Denmark, a bomb was detonated in a Copenhagen suntan shop this morning. In an earlier post, I pointed out the incongruity between liberal America’s perception of a blissed-out, live-and-let-live Denmark (promoted on last Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast) and the actual country—a key historical epicenter of Western thought and culture now in a violent struggle to uphold its prominence among nations. Several Danes interviewed for the 60 Minutes segment spoke about the Danish trait of expecting little and accommodating plenty. Morley Safer seemed to be on board as those interviewed recommended that America follow their lead in this regard. The segment completely ignored the price that comes with such moping passivity. For those who’d rather hear about Denmark’s woes from a Dane instead of an American, here’s journalist Jakob Illeborg on today’s bombing:

Denmark, once acknowledged for her liberal stance and social egalitarianism, has over the last years become an increasingly polarised society where the differences between the Danish majority and migrants and especially Muslim migrants have been the dominant political agenda.

[. . .]

In certain neighbourhoods the atmosphere is now so tense that I avoid going there when in Copenhagen. Far from the prophet cartoon crisis clearing the air like most good arguments, this argument only led to division. There are countless examples of qualified foreigners who can’t get a job in Denmark simply because of the sound of their surname. On the other hand, many young Muslim migrants have behaved like thugs, vandalising their neighbourhoods. The situation is clearly untenable; the question is: who’s got the remedy to solve it?

Illeborg goes on to draw a conclusion that is very much in keeping with 60 Minutes’ portrait of an accommodating Danish mindset, ever-ready to submit:

The Danes will have to adopt a political culture that is more accepting of people who don’t think and behave like us. Of course there must be limits to what we will accept, but so far neither our society nor our way of life is under threat. Maybe the lesson is to keep our powder dry for when it really matters.

“When it really matters”???

Capping off a week of Muslim riots in Denmark, a bomb was detonated in a Copenhagen suntan shop this morning. In an earlier post, I pointed out the incongruity between liberal America’s perception of a blissed-out, live-and-let-live Denmark (promoted on last Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast) and the actual country—a key historical epicenter of Western thought and culture now in a violent struggle to uphold its prominence among nations. Several Danes interviewed for the 60 Minutes segment spoke about the Danish trait of expecting little and accommodating plenty. Morley Safer seemed to be on board as those interviewed recommended that America follow their lead in this regard. The segment completely ignored the price that comes with such moping passivity. For those who’d rather hear about Denmark’s woes from a Dane instead of an American, here’s journalist Jakob Illeborg on today’s bombing:

Denmark, once acknowledged for her liberal stance and social egalitarianism, has over the last years become an increasingly polarised society where the differences between the Danish majority and migrants and especially Muslim migrants have been the dominant political agenda.

[. . .]

In certain neighbourhoods the atmosphere is now so tense that I avoid going there when in Copenhagen. Far from the prophet cartoon crisis clearing the air like most good arguments, this argument only led to division. There are countless examples of qualified foreigners who can’t get a job in Denmark simply because of the sound of their surname. On the other hand, many young Muslim migrants have behaved like thugs, vandalising their neighbourhoods. The situation is clearly untenable; the question is: who’s got the remedy to solve it?

Illeborg goes on to draw a conclusion that is very much in keeping with 60 Minutes’ portrait of an accommodating Danish mindset, ever-ready to submit:

The Danes will have to adopt a political culture that is more accepting of people who don’t think and behave like us. Of course there must be limits to what we will accept, but so far neither our society nor our way of life is under threat. Maybe the lesson is to keep our powder dry for when it really matters.

“When it really matters”???

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The Luckiest Man

To date, Barack Obama may be the luckiest man in politics. He ran for Senate against Alan Keyes. In his presidential primary race he drew as his opponent someone whose exaggerated sense of self-importance and thin resume served to mask his own flaws. But perhaps luck only gets you so far.

His general election opponent seems rather well positioned to make a salient point: it’s not about him. Or rather, if it is only about him then is rather thin gruel on which to base a campaign. While Obama makes clear his and his spouse’s political perspective (good things only began with him in 2008), McCain presents a different perspective (perhaps because he was not blessed with an Ivy League education in which the prime purpose was to instill a sense of America’s moral failings). Last night McCain ended his victory speech with this:

I don’t seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven’t been proud of the privilege. Don’t tell me what we can’t do. Don’t tell me we can’t make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I’m President we will.

And while the Obama team is mulling how to dispel the callow image its candidate is acquiring, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out how to answer Chris Matthews’ question.

To date, Barack Obama may be the luckiest man in politics. He ran for Senate against Alan Keyes. In his presidential primary race he drew as his opponent someone whose exaggerated sense of self-importance and thin resume served to mask his own flaws. But perhaps luck only gets you so far.

His general election opponent seems rather well positioned to make a salient point: it’s not about him. Or rather, if it is only about him then is rather thin gruel on which to base a campaign. While Obama makes clear his and his spouse’s political perspective (good things only began with him in 2008), McCain presents a different perspective (perhaps because he was not blessed with an Ivy League education in which the prime purpose was to instill a sense of America’s moral failings). Last night McCain ended his victory speech with this:

I don’t seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven’t been proud of the privilege. Don’t tell me what we can’t do. Don’t tell me we can’t make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I’m President we will.

And while the Obama team is mulling how to dispel the callow image its candidate is acquiring, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out how to answer Chris Matthews’ question.

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Yes We Can–Cringe

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews provided an indispensable peek into the chasm at the center of the Barack Obama candidacy. More than that, the following exchange between Matthews and his guest shows that most Obama voters are happy to live in that chasm. It was put-up-or-shut-up time for Obama supporter State Senator Kirk Watson (D-TX):

MATTHEWS: Well, name some of [Obama’s] legislative accomplishments.

WATSON: We, uh [stammers].

MATTHEWS: No, senator. I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight if you can.

WATSON: [long silence] Well, I you know, what I will talk about is more about what he is offering the American people right now.

[…]

MATTHEWS: Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You supported him for president. You’re on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.

WATSON: Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific items of legislative accomplishment.

MATTHEWS: Can you name any? Can you name anything that he’s accomplishment as a senator?

WATSON: No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that’s a problem isn’t it?

WATSON: Well, no I don’t think it is . . .

If a state senator supports Barack Obama despite knowing nothing of the candidate’s legislative credentials, what hope is there that the majority of Democratic voters can be convinced to care about more than “the fierce urgency of now”? This interaction demonstrates the monumental waste of time and effort in trying to convince America that Obama lacks substance.

The full clip is must-squirm viewing.

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews provided an indispensable peek into the chasm at the center of the Barack Obama candidacy. More than that, the following exchange between Matthews and his guest shows that most Obama voters are happy to live in that chasm. It was put-up-or-shut-up time for Obama supporter State Senator Kirk Watson (D-TX):

MATTHEWS: Well, name some of [Obama’s] legislative accomplishments.

WATSON: We, uh [stammers].

MATTHEWS: No, senator. I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight if you can.

WATSON: [long silence] Well, I you know, what I will talk about is more about what he is offering the American people right now.

[…]

MATTHEWS: Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You supported him for president. You’re on national television. Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.

WATSON: Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific items of legislative accomplishment.

MATTHEWS: Can you name any? Can you name anything that he’s accomplishment as a senator?

WATSON: No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that’s a problem isn’t it?

WATSON: Well, no I don’t think it is . . .

If a state senator supports Barack Obama despite knowing nothing of the candidate’s legislative credentials, what hope is there that the majority of Democratic voters can be convinced to care about more than “the fierce urgency of now”? This interaction demonstrates the monumental waste of time and effort in trying to convince America that Obama lacks substance.

The full clip is must-squirm viewing.

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Where’s the Outrage?

The Jerusalem Post reports that in “yet another verbal attack against Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Jewish state a ‘filthy bacteria’ whose sole purpose was to oppress the other nations of the region.”

“‘The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast,’ the Iranian president told supporters at a rally in southern Iran.”

The same article in the Jerusalem Post takes note of threats by an Iranian official and by the head of Hizballah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, to destroy the state of Israel. Israel has complained to the United Nations, which is likely to do what it always does in the face of such outrages: absolutely nothing.

The silence in the face of such threats of aggression tells us a great deal about the present condition of the world community. The implications for whether Israel will be compelled to act alone in dealing with the looming Iranian menace, or whether it will find support in other quarters, are all too clear.

The Jerusalem Post reports that in “yet another verbal attack against Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Jewish state a ‘filthy bacteria’ whose sole purpose was to oppress the other nations of the region.”

“‘The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast,’ the Iranian president told supporters at a rally in southern Iran.”

The same article in the Jerusalem Post takes note of threats by an Iranian official and by the head of Hizballah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, to destroy the state of Israel. Israel has complained to the United Nations, which is likely to do what it always does in the face of such outrages: absolutely nothing.

The silence in the face of such threats of aggression tells us a great deal about the present condition of the world community. The implications for whether Israel will be compelled to act alone in dealing with the looming Iranian menace, or whether it will find support in other quarters, are all too clear.

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Obama’s Power Ranger

Today Iraqpundit weighs in on Samantha Power’s Salon interview, and her declaration that the problems of the Middle East revolve around the Israeli-Arab conflict:

Ah, that “Arab-Israeli situation.” Power is demonstrably in harmony with the Arab world, especially its long line of dictators. Her words reminded me of the unceasing echo we heard growing up under Arab dictatorship. To wit, Palestine comes first; everything else is to be sacrificed for the cause. Solve the Palestinian problem and everything else (especially our own freedom) will fall into place. That’s exactly what we were told, and it’s what the Egyptians were told, and what Arabs all over the Middle East and North Africa were told. Nobody in Iraq would dare comment on the shortages of food and ordinary supplies, but we could all comment on the injustice being done to Palestinians.

His conclusion:

I have a suggestion for people who support Barack Obama: They should make their support contingent on Obama finding a new foreign-policy adviser.

Today Iraqpundit weighs in on Samantha Power’s Salon interview, and her declaration that the problems of the Middle East revolve around the Israeli-Arab conflict:

Ah, that “Arab-Israeli situation.” Power is demonstrably in harmony with the Arab world, especially its long line of dictators. Her words reminded me of the unceasing echo we heard growing up under Arab dictatorship. To wit, Palestine comes first; everything else is to be sacrificed for the cause. Solve the Palestinian problem and everything else (especially our own freedom) will fall into place. That’s exactly what we were told, and it’s what the Egyptians were told, and what Arabs all over the Middle East and North Africa were told. Nobody in Iraq would dare comment on the shortages of food and ordinary supplies, but we could all comment on the injustice being done to Palestinians.

His conclusion:

I have a suggestion for people who support Barack Obama: They should make their support contingent on Obama finding a new foreign-policy adviser.

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The Philharmonic’s “Glass House”

The New York Philharmonic will be playing in Pyongyang next Tuesday. Lorin Maazel, its music director, notes in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal that the decision to take the Philharmonic to Communist North Korea has been greeted in some quarters with shock and dismay. Presumably, among those whom Mazaal is answering is Terry Teachout, who wrote this trenchant column, also for the Wall Street Journal

Mazaal lays out the case that, pace Teachout and others, the visit will do some good:

bringing peoples and their cultures together on common ground, where the roots of peaceful interchange can imperceptibly but irrevocably take hold. If all goes well, the presence of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang might gently influence the perception of our country there. If we are gradually to improve U.S.-Korean relations, such events have the potential to nudge open a door that has been closed too long.

I lived in Russia for a spell back when it was Communist country and am willing, by extrapolating from that experience, to grant Maazel a point on behalf of the concert that he could have made but does not. North Koreans, completely isolated from the outside world, are presented with a ubiquitous stream of propaganda that portrays the United States as a country full of avaricious militarists bent upon provoking a new war on the Korean peninsula. A concert in Pyongyang performed by American musicians, the very idea of which runs counter to the officially generated images of the past, is likely to evoke extreme curiosity in the North Korean populace, both about the visiting Americans and about what their visit portends for the future of their society.

But beyond that minimal effect of generating curiousity, let’s not get carried away by illusions and other political maladies, which is precisely what has happened to Maazel. “Human rights are an issue of profound relevance to us all,” he writes, noting that “[a]ny citizen, anywhere, can be deprived of them — brutally under tyrannical regimes, subtly in more open societies . . . . If we are to be effective in bringing succor to the oppressed, many languishing in foreign gulags, the U.S. must claim an authority based on an immaculate ethical record.”

Is that really so? What Maazel has done here is create the impression that when it comes to human rights, a country like North Korea and the United States are on the same continuum, the major difference between the two being that Pyongyang operates “brutally” while democratic societies like our own oppress “subtly.” “Woe to the people we are trying to help if we end up in a glass house,” he writes.

This is disgraceful. What does this “glass house” metaphor mean other than that we should be wary of criticizing North Korea because our own human-transgressions are on a par in some way with the most oppressive society on earth? Artists in the public arena, writes Maazel in the same op-ed, “must be totally apolitical, nonpartisan, and free of issue-specific agendas.” If only he would follow his own advice. 

Maazel recounts that in negotiating arrangements for the Philharmonic’s visit, “[w]e requested that the concert in Pyongyang be open to the average citizen.” The average citizen? The naivete on display here is record-setting. One thing is utterly certain: the average North Korean citizen will not be attending the Philharmonic’s concert next week. Maazel’s op-ed leaves the impression that he is completely incapable of imagining the nature of the society he will be visiting, a place where the lot of the average citizen is constant exposure to terror, lawlessness, a cradle-to-grave system of political indoctrination, and starvation.

The grim reality of Communist North Korea is that the average citizen is not a citizen at all but a slave.

The New York Philharmonic will be playing in Pyongyang next Tuesday. Lorin Maazel, its music director, notes in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal that the decision to take the Philharmonic to Communist North Korea has been greeted in some quarters with shock and dismay. Presumably, among those whom Mazaal is answering is Terry Teachout, who wrote this trenchant column, also for the Wall Street Journal

Mazaal lays out the case that, pace Teachout and others, the visit will do some good:

bringing peoples and their cultures together on common ground, where the roots of peaceful interchange can imperceptibly but irrevocably take hold. If all goes well, the presence of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang might gently influence the perception of our country there. If we are gradually to improve U.S.-Korean relations, such events have the potential to nudge open a door that has been closed too long.

I lived in Russia for a spell back when it was Communist country and am willing, by extrapolating from that experience, to grant Maazel a point on behalf of the concert that he could have made but does not. North Koreans, completely isolated from the outside world, are presented with a ubiquitous stream of propaganda that portrays the United States as a country full of avaricious militarists bent upon provoking a new war on the Korean peninsula. A concert in Pyongyang performed by American musicians, the very idea of which runs counter to the officially generated images of the past, is likely to evoke extreme curiosity in the North Korean populace, both about the visiting Americans and about what their visit portends for the future of their society.

But beyond that minimal effect of generating curiousity, let’s not get carried away by illusions and other political maladies, which is precisely what has happened to Maazel. “Human rights are an issue of profound relevance to us all,” he writes, noting that “[a]ny citizen, anywhere, can be deprived of them — brutally under tyrannical regimes, subtly in more open societies . . . . If we are to be effective in bringing succor to the oppressed, many languishing in foreign gulags, the U.S. must claim an authority based on an immaculate ethical record.”

Is that really so? What Maazel has done here is create the impression that when it comes to human rights, a country like North Korea and the United States are on the same continuum, the major difference between the two being that Pyongyang operates “brutally” while democratic societies like our own oppress “subtly.” “Woe to the people we are trying to help if we end up in a glass house,” he writes.

This is disgraceful. What does this “glass house” metaphor mean other than that we should be wary of criticizing North Korea because our own human-transgressions are on a par in some way with the most oppressive society on earth? Artists in the public arena, writes Maazel in the same op-ed, “must be totally apolitical, nonpartisan, and free of issue-specific agendas.” If only he would follow his own advice. 

Maazel recounts that in negotiating arrangements for the Philharmonic’s visit, “[w]e requested that the concert in Pyongyang be open to the average citizen.” The average citizen? The naivete on display here is record-setting. One thing is utterly certain: the average North Korean citizen will not be attending the Philharmonic’s concert next week. Maazel’s op-ed leaves the impression that he is completely incapable of imagining the nature of the society he will be visiting, a place where the lot of the average citizen is constant exposure to terror, lawlessness, a cradle-to-grave system of political indoctrination, and starvation.

The grim reality of Communist North Korea is that the average citizen is not a citizen at all but a slave.

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Running Out of Options

The magnitude of Hillary Clinton’s loss is rather eye-popping: she lost by 17 percent last night, just one point less than Mike Huckabee’s margin of defeat. The latest delegate total shows her trailing 1239 to 1301. What to do? Her options are limited because the main lines of attack (e.g. Obama has no real experience, he is too far left), which may be viable avenues for John McCain, either don’t work in a Democratic primary or don’t create enough of a contrast between the two. (It took Barack Obama to convince the media that Hillary Clinton is painfully light on experience herself.) She could go negative and incur the wrath of the media, or she could hope for an awful gaffe. Tomorrow’s debate and the one next Tuesday may be her final chances to climb back into the race.

While Obama may not reach 2025 delegates by June, he will, at this rate, establish himself as the undisputed “winner” and thereby deprive Clinton of any argument to lure away the superdelegates. We will then have our general election match up: the two greatest come from behind nominees, perhaps ever.

The magnitude of Hillary Clinton’s loss is rather eye-popping: she lost by 17 percent last night, just one point less than Mike Huckabee’s margin of defeat. The latest delegate total shows her trailing 1239 to 1301. What to do? Her options are limited because the main lines of attack (e.g. Obama has no real experience, he is too far left), which may be viable avenues for John McCain, either don’t work in a Democratic primary or don’t create enough of a contrast between the two. (It took Barack Obama to convince the media that Hillary Clinton is painfully light on experience herself.) She could go negative and incur the wrath of the media, or she could hope for an awful gaffe. Tomorrow’s debate and the one next Tuesday may be her final chances to climb back into the race.

While Obama may not reach 2025 delegates by June, he will, at this rate, establish himself as the undisputed “winner” and thereby deprive Clinton of any argument to lure away the superdelegates. We will then have our general election match up: the two greatest come from behind nominees, perhaps ever.

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He Said What?

Barack Obama came riding in on his heroic steed to defend his wife Michelle from monsters in the media who dared take words out of her mouth and…and…quote them.

“For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” Mrs. Obama said on Monday in Milwaukee, and clearly it was not an unplanned outburst, because she repeated it later that same day in Madison with a softening qualification: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

Here is Barack Obama’s response to the criticism of her words:

Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn’t at all what she meant. What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America. Because she’s pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she’s not alone. But she has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she’s encouraged.

Let’s review. Michelle Obama reached her majority in 1982. Has nothing happened in American politics of which she could be proud before her husband began causing teenagers to faint dead away and sing ditties to him on YouTube? Nothing? Not even the dollar coin with Sacajawea on it? She is a liberal, so it would be folly to expect her to consider, say, the passage of landmark welfare-reform legislation in 1996 anything to be proud of. So let’s just keep it to matters that gladden a heart that leans to the starboard port side.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991. The elevation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. The Brady Bill. The Oslo Accords. Bill Clinton’s 1997 balanced-budget deal. Not to mention the rise of gay partnership rights at the local and state level. The lifting of sodomy laws. How about the suspension of the death penalty in Illinois?

“She has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process,” Obama says by way of explanation for Michelle’s new pride. Hmm. Between 1996 and 2004, voter turnout rose from 49 percent of the electorate to 61 percent. Perhaps she didn’t vote? Well, I guess she did. In 2004. For Barack Obama in his winning bid for the Senate. Even that, apparently, wasn’t enough to make her feel pride in American politics, at least according to her own husband.

Barack Obama came riding in on his heroic steed to defend his wife Michelle from monsters in the media who dared take words out of her mouth and…and…quote them.

“For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” Mrs. Obama said on Monday in Milwaukee, and clearly it was not an unplanned outburst, because she repeated it later that same day in Madison with a softening qualification: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

Here is Barack Obama’s response to the criticism of her words:

Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn’t at all what she meant. What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America. Because she’s pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she’s not alone. But she has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she’s encouraged.

Let’s review. Michelle Obama reached her majority in 1982. Has nothing happened in American politics of which she could be proud before her husband began causing teenagers to faint dead away and sing ditties to him on YouTube? Nothing? Not even the dollar coin with Sacajawea on it? She is a liberal, so it would be folly to expect her to consider, say, the passage of landmark welfare-reform legislation in 1996 anything to be proud of. So let’s just keep it to matters that gladden a heart that leans to the starboard port side.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991. The elevation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. The Brady Bill. The Oslo Accords. Bill Clinton’s 1997 balanced-budget deal. Not to mention the rise of gay partnership rights at the local and state level. The lifting of sodomy laws. How about the suspension of the death penalty in Illinois?

“She has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process,” Obama says by way of explanation for Michelle’s new pride. Hmm. Between 1996 and 2004, voter turnout rose from 49 percent of the electorate to 61 percent. Perhaps she didn’t vote? Well, I guess she did. In 2004. For Barack Obama in his winning bid for the Senate. Even that, apparently, wasn’t enough to make her feel pride in American politics, at least according to her own husband.

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Out of Africa

Africans have received George Bush with palpable affection during his current tour of the continent. And with good reason. As James Kirchick pointed out in contentions, Bush’s record on Africa shows an unprecedented American commitment to humanitarianism. Sadly, this record of sympathy and largesse may not be matched anytime soon. Having scoured the websites of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, I’m sorry to report that among the extensive dropdown menus covering important issues there’s precious little (if any) African policy to be found.

As the very last item under the heading “Restoring America’s Standing in the World” you’ll find on Hillary’s site:

Hillary has been a forceful and consistent advocate for a more robust response to the violence in Darfur since May 2004. She has raised the issue with the Bush administration and pushed for more resources for peacekeeping efforts.

“Raising the issue” of Darfur peacekeeping is an interesting way to go about “restoring America’s standing.” She may want to try pushing the UN to live up to its revered multilateral mandate and do something about the round-the-clock slaughter, instead.

Beyond a trove of archived speeches and editorials, John McCain’s campaign website had nothing current to say on Africa.  Barack Obama, born to a Kenyan father, has a full paragraph on issues pertaining to “sportsmen” (“Barack Obama did not grow up hunting and fishing, but he recognizes the great conservation legacy of America’s hunters and anglers and has great respect for the passion that hunters and anglers have for their sport.”) but the candidate for change offers only these 20 words on Africa:

Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world – particularly in Africa.

African policy as a detail of larger diplomatic cuddliness. Jeez.
In 2006, when Bob Geldof organized the Live 8 multimedia event for African relief, he forbade performers from bad-mouthing George W. Bush on stage. As the overheated war crimes rant has become a dependable staple of rock-and-roll theater, you can be sure that Geldof’s line-up was none too happy. However, as Geldof said of Bush and his critics: “They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa. But it’s empirically so.”

Geldof, the only pop activist  worthy of the term (aside from Bono, who also praises Bush on this score) is once again defending Bush’s African policies. He said recently of Bush’s African agenda: “This is the triumph of American policy really. It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion.”

Who’s rising now?

Africans have received George Bush with palpable affection during his current tour of the continent. And with good reason. As James Kirchick pointed out in contentions, Bush’s record on Africa shows an unprecedented American commitment to humanitarianism. Sadly, this record of sympathy and largesse may not be matched anytime soon. Having scoured the websites of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, I’m sorry to report that among the extensive dropdown menus covering important issues there’s precious little (if any) African policy to be found.

As the very last item under the heading “Restoring America’s Standing in the World” you’ll find on Hillary’s site:

Hillary has been a forceful and consistent advocate for a more robust response to the violence in Darfur since May 2004. She has raised the issue with the Bush administration and pushed for more resources for peacekeeping efforts.

“Raising the issue” of Darfur peacekeeping is an interesting way to go about “restoring America’s standing.” She may want to try pushing the UN to live up to its revered multilateral mandate and do something about the round-the-clock slaughter, instead.

Beyond a trove of archived speeches and editorials, John McCain’s campaign website had nothing current to say on Africa.  Barack Obama, born to a Kenyan father, has a full paragraph on issues pertaining to “sportsmen” (“Barack Obama did not grow up hunting and fishing, but he recognizes the great conservation legacy of America’s hunters and anglers and has great respect for the passion that hunters and anglers have for their sport.”) but the candidate for change offers only these 20 words on Africa:

Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world – particularly in Africa.

African policy as a detail of larger diplomatic cuddliness. Jeez.
In 2006, when Bob Geldof organized the Live 8 multimedia event for African relief, he forbade performers from bad-mouthing George W. Bush on stage. As the overheated war crimes rant has become a dependable staple of rock-and-roll theater, you can be sure that Geldof’s line-up was none too happy. However, as Geldof said of Bush and his critics: “They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa. But it’s empirically so.”

Geldof, the only pop activist  worthy of the term (aside from Bono, who also praises Bush on this score) is once again defending Bush’s African policies. He said recently of Bush’s African agenda: “This is the triumph of American policy really. It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion.”

Who’s rising now?

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Good News For McCain

There was obviously good news for John McCain in his large margins of victory in both Wisconsin and Washington last night. However, there was more than just vote tallies to please the McCain team. Obama showed a little leg last night and to the relief of the McCain camp showed himself to be a rather ordinary liberal. It sounds trite to recite the litany, but the list of his policy proposals was trite: tax the rich, roll back trade agreements, spend more money, do something (I couldn’t tell what) about lobbyists, and give everyone in America an affordable college education (you might get some Republican takers if you started taxing educational institutions with billion dollar endowments), all while providing universal healthcare. On foreign policy you will find no Joe Biden realism, let alone any Scoop Jackson muscular defense strategy. (He did seem rather enthusiastic about using funds we will save from retreating from Iraq to build roads and provide broadband service in Houston, though.)

This is good news for McCain on two fronts. First, it helps solve, if not totally obliterate, his problem with rallying the base. If conservatives cannot get revved up to oppose a platform that looks like something Ted Kennedy cooked up (come to think of it…) then nothing will rally them. Second, this will enhance McCain’s ability to snag independents. (When you throw in Obama’s positions on everything from partial birth abortion to gun control the task becomes that much easier.)

McCain will, of course, need to fight through the throngs of media boosters and shout over the “Yes, we can” chants. But if the only thing innovative about Obama is stylistic, then McCain may not be such a long shot after all. (He can only hope Obama gives a rambling, self-indulgent mess of a speech after every victory between now and June.) However, it is becoming increasingingly unlikely that Obama can continue his “change” offensive without further scrutiny, as passages like this from Robert J. Samuelson suggest:

The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the media — preoccupied with the political “horse race” — have treated his invocation of “change” as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s major problems when, so far, he isn’t.

As Samuelson has discovered, there is indeed a “huge and deceptive gap between his captivating oratory and his actual views.” It will be McCain’s job to make sure the voters recognize it.

There was obviously good news for John McCain in his large margins of victory in both Wisconsin and Washington last night. However, there was more than just vote tallies to please the McCain team. Obama showed a little leg last night and to the relief of the McCain camp showed himself to be a rather ordinary liberal. It sounds trite to recite the litany, but the list of his policy proposals was trite: tax the rich, roll back trade agreements, spend more money, do something (I couldn’t tell what) about lobbyists, and give everyone in America an affordable college education (you might get some Republican takers if you started taxing educational institutions with billion dollar endowments), all while providing universal healthcare. On foreign policy you will find no Joe Biden realism, let alone any Scoop Jackson muscular defense strategy. (He did seem rather enthusiastic about using funds we will save from retreating from Iraq to build roads and provide broadband service in Houston, though.)

This is good news for McCain on two fronts. First, it helps solve, if not totally obliterate, his problem with rallying the base. If conservatives cannot get revved up to oppose a platform that looks like something Ted Kennedy cooked up (come to think of it…) then nothing will rally them. Second, this will enhance McCain’s ability to snag independents. (When you throw in Obama’s positions on everything from partial birth abortion to gun control the task becomes that much easier.)

McCain will, of course, need to fight through the throngs of media boosters and shout over the “Yes, we can” chants. But if the only thing innovative about Obama is stylistic, then McCain may not be such a long shot after all. (He can only hope Obama gives a rambling, self-indulgent mess of a speech after every victory between now and June.) However, it is becoming increasingingly unlikely that Obama can continue his “change” offensive without further scrutiny, as passages like this from Robert J. Samuelson suggest:

The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the media — preoccupied with the political “horse race” — have treated his invocation of “change” as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s major problems when, so far, he isn’t.

As Samuelson has discovered, there is indeed a “huge and deceptive gap between his captivating oratory and his actual views.” It will be McCain’s job to make sure the voters recognize it.

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