Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 28, 2008

McCain Blogger Call

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

Read Less

Abbas’s Failed Strategy Returns

In the Palestinian political arena, “national unity” is a critical catchphrase, evoking the illusion of collective strength against Israeli occupation. Of course, the reality—which Monty Python beautifully satirized—is that Palestinian politics have been historically fragmented, with the current Hamas-Fatah standoff the most dangerous, deeply divided incarnation yet.

But don’t tell that to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently believes that “national unity” remains within reach. Speaking at an Arab League conference yesterday in Cairo, Abbas called for a new round of elections, declaring, “We are ready to immediately take this step to restore national cohesion.” According to his strategy, elections will provide the “democratic solution” for restoring political legitimacy in the Palestinian territories, and thus provide an opportunity for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace along the lines of the “Arab Initiative.”

Yet this strategy has been tried before—and has created immense peril for the Palestinians, as well as Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. When Abbas won the January 2005 presidential elections with 62.5% of the vote, Hamas—which had boycotted the elections—was at the nadir of its power, with two of its top leaders recently assassinated and Israeli counterterrorism effectively curtailing its capabilities. But rather than using Hamas’ weakness as a pretext for disarmament, Abbas insisted on Hamas’ incorporation through their participation in the January 2006 parliamentary elections, arguing, “by engaging them to solve problems politically, there will be no need to resolve to military conflict.” Naturally, Abbas believed that Hamas would lose, and that the popular repudiation of Hamas’ extremism would force it to moderate. Of course, this didn’t quite pan out: Hamas won, and later used the popular affirmation of its extremism to seize control of Gaza.

Given these realities, it is hard to fathom why Abbas believes that this strategy will work now. Perhaps the pro-Fatah love-fest that greeted Abbas in Cairo—including the Arab League’s announcement that it would establish the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Ramallah—skewed Abbas’ perceptions. Indeed, Fatah will be working at a significant disadvantage if Palestinians return to the polls anytime soon—particularly in Gaza, where the PA-funded al-Ayyam has been banned for the past sixteen days after it published a cartoon mocking Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, the prospect of early presidential elections seems particularly inviting of increasing Hamas’ power. After all, Abbas cannot point to any concrete successes in his three-plus years as PA president, while failures abound.

In turn, the likely consequence of early Palestinian elections would be the ultimate achievement of “national unity,” with Hamas likely reclaiming the parliament and winning the presidency. The Bush administration—which has long supported Abbas after judiciously boycotting Arafat—should ask Abbas whether this is the unity he has in mind, warning him that a PA unambiguously dominated by Hamas would jeopardize U.S. support for Palestinian statehood for years to come.

In the Palestinian political arena, “national unity” is a critical catchphrase, evoking the illusion of collective strength against Israeli occupation. Of course, the reality—which Monty Python beautifully satirized—is that Palestinian politics have been historically fragmented, with the current Hamas-Fatah standoff the most dangerous, deeply divided incarnation yet.

But don’t tell that to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently believes that “national unity” remains within reach. Speaking at an Arab League conference yesterday in Cairo, Abbas called for a new round of elections, declaring, “We are ready to immediately take this step to restore national cohesion.” According to his strategy, elections will provide the “democratic solution” for restoring political legitimacy in the Palestinian territories, and thus provide an opportunity for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace along the lines of the “Arab Initiative.”

Yet this strategy has been tried before—and has created immense peril for the Palestinians, as well as Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. When Abbas won the January 2005 presidential elections with 62.5% of the vote, Hamas—which had boycotted the elections—was at the nadir of its power, with two of its top leaders recently assassinated and Israeli counterterrorism effectively curtailing its capabilities. But rather than using Hamas’ weakness as a pretext for disarmament, Abbas insisted on Hamas’ incorporation through their participation in the January 2006 parliamentary elections, arguing, “by engaging them to solve problems politically, there will be no need to resolve to military conflict.” Naturally, Abbas believed that Hamas would lose, and that the popular repudiation of Hamas’ extremism would force it to moderate. Of course, this didn’t quite pan out: Hamas won, and later used the popular affirmation of its extremism to seize control of Gaza.

Given these realities, it is hard to fathom why Abbas believes that this strategy will work now. Perhaps the pro-Fatah love-fest that greeted Abbas in Cairo—including the Arab League’s announcement that it would establish the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Ramallah—skewed Abbas’ perceptions. Indeed, Fatah will be working at a significant disadvantage if Palestinians return to the polls anytime soon—particularly in Gaza, where the PA-funded al-Ayyam has been banned for the past sixteen days after it published a cartoon mocking Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, the prospect of early presidential elections seems particularly inviting of increasing Hamas’ power. After all, Abbas cannot point to any concrete successes in his three-plus years as PA president, while failures abound.

In turn, the likely consequence of early Palestinian elections would be the ultimate achievement of “national unity,” with Hamas likely reclaiming the parliament and winning the presidency. The Bush administration—which has long supported Abbas after judiciously boycotting Arafat—should ask Abbas whether this is the unity he has in mind, warning him that a PA unambiguously dominated by Hamas would jeopardize U.S. support for Palestinian statehood for years to come.

Read Less

Geldof’s Bush Interview

Bob Geldof interviewed George Bush aboard Air Force One for a must-read piece in Time magazine. It should come as no surprise that it takes an individual outside of journalism and politics to cut through the fog of false perceptions about the president. Here’s Geldof on Bush’s “Africa story”:

It is some story. And I have always wondered why it was never told properly to the American people, who were paying for it. It was, for example, Bush who initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with cross-party support led by Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist. In 2003, only 50,000 Africans were on HIV antiretroviral drugs — and they had to pay for their own medicine. Today, 1.3 million are receiving medicines free of charge. The U.S. also contributes one-third of the money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — which treats another 1.5 million. It contributes 50% of all food aid (though some critics find the mechanism of contribution controversial). On a seven-day trip through Africa, Bush announced a fantastic new $350 million fund for other neglected tropical diseases that can be easily eradicated; a program to distribute 5.2 million mosquito nets to Tanzanian kids; and contracts worth around $1.2 billion in Tanzania and Ghana from the Millennium Challenge Account, another initiative of the Bush Administration.

While expendable legislators in New Hampshire and elsewhere waste taxpayers’ money on proceedings to impeach George Bush, Geldof—a man who’s spent decades staring humanitarian crisis in the face—gets to the heart of the President’s sense of morality and responsibility in history:

Bush adds, “One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest.”
It’s a wonderful sentence, and it comes in the wake of a visit to Rwanda’s Genocide Memorial Center. The museum is built on the site of a still-being-filled open grave. There are 250,000 individuals in that hole, tumbled together in an undifferentiated tangle of humanity. The President and First Lady were visibly shocked by the museum. “Evil does exist,” Bush says in reaction to the 1994 massacres. “And in such a brutal form.” He is not speechifying; he is horror-struck by the reality of ethnic madness. “Babies had their skulls smashed,” he says, his mind violently regurgitating an image he has just witnessed. The sentence peters out, emptied of words to describe the ultimately incomprehensible.

Geldof goes too easy on China, and he’s disappointingly clichéd on Iraq. But even there, he evinces a natural respect for Bush that’s vanished from the sphere of public criticism. In all, it’s an indispensible character portrait of the president.

Bob Geldof interviewed George Bush aboard Air Force One for a must-read piece in Time magazine. It should come as no surprise that it takes an individual outside of journalism and politics to cut through the fog of false perceptions about the president. Here’s Geldof on Bush’s “Africa story”:

It is some story. And I have always wondered why it was never told properly to the American people, who were paying for it. It was, for example, Bush who initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with cross-party support led by Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist. In 2003, only 50,000 Africans were on HIV antiretroviral drugs — and they had to pay for their own medicine. Today, 1.3 million are receiving medicines free of charge. The U.S. also contributes one-third of the money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — which treats another 1.5 million. It contributes 50% of all food aid (though some critics find the mechanism of contribution controversial). On a seven-day trip through Africa, Bush announced a fantastic new $350 million fund for other neglected tropical diseases that can be easily eradicated; a program to distribute 5.2 million mosquito nets to Tanzanian kids; and contracts worth around $1.2 billion in Tanzania and Ghana from the Millennium Challenge Account, another initiative of the Bush Administration.

While expendable legislators in New Hampshire and elsewhere waste taxpayers’ money on proceedings to impeach George Bush, Geldof—a man who’s spent decades staring humanitarian crisis in the face—gets to the heart of the President’s sense of morality and responsibility in history:

Bush adds, “One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest.”
It’s a wonderful sentence, and it comes in the wake of a visit to Rwanda’s Genocide Memorial Center. The museum is built on the site of a still-being-filled open grave. There are 250,000 individuals in that hole, tumbled together in an undifferentiated tangle of humanity. The President and First Lady were visibly shocked by the museum. “Evil does exist,” Bush says in reaction to the 1994 massacres. “And in such a brutal form.” He is not speechifying; he is horror-struck by the reality of ethnic madness. “Babies had their skulls smashed,” he says, his mind violently regurgitating an image he has just witnessed. The sentence peters out, emptied of words to describe the ultimately incomprehensible.

Geldof goes too easy on China, and he’s disappointingly clichéd on Iraq. But even there, he evinces a natural respect for Bush that’s vanished from the sphere of public criticism. In all, it’s an indispensible character portrait of the president.

Read Less

Cunningham’s Nasty Name Game

Conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham’s repeatedly referring to Senator Obama as Barack Hussein Obama, strikes me as foolish and wrong on several grounds.

First, there is an adolescent quality to it. Making fun of Obama’s name, which after all Obama himself had nothing to do with, is something you find on elementary school playgrounds all across America. It really shouldn’t be used there, let alone in the world adults inhabit.

If that were all there was to it, it wouldn’t be terribly troublesome. But there is, unfortunately, a more pernicious element at work. Why mention Barack Obama’s middle name except to conjure up in the mind of voters a false impression; namely, that Barack Obama is a Muslim-–and perhaps even a radical one at that. In fact, Obama is a Christian, and to justify the tactic by saying one is simply invoking Obama’s full legal name is at its core dishonest. If his name were Barack Ryan Obama, does anyone on earth believe Bill Cunningham would keep invoking it like a mantra?

Finally, using this tactic will blow up in the face of those who employ it–and worse still, it will hurt the conservative cause by advancing the impression that lurking in the heart of most conservatives is a touch of bigotry, a willingness to appeal to the worse angels of our nature. I utterly reject that charge–but unfortunately men like Bill Cunningham will help give it wings.

If Senator Obama is going to be beaten, it should be in a debate about the issues, about Obama’s political philosophy and ideology, about his record and his actions, and in a way that has integrity. Barack Obama can be beaten, though I suspect it will be quite difficult. But if he is defeated, this is not the way to do it.

Conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham’s repeatedly referring to Senator Obama as Barack Hussein Obama, strikes me as foolish and wrong on several grounds.

First, there is an adolescent quality to it. Making fun of Obama’s name, which after all Obama himself had nothing to do with, is something you find on elementary school playgrounds all across America. It really shouldn’t be used there, let alone in the world adults inhabit.

If that were all there was to it, it wouldn’t be terribly troublesome. But there is, unfortunately, a more pernicious element at work. Why mention Barack Obama’s middle name except to conjure up in the mind of voters a false impression; namely, that Barack Obama is a Muslim-–and perhaps even a radical one at that. In fact, Obama is a Christian, and to justify the tactic by saying one is simply invoking Obama’s full legal name is at its core dishonest. If his name were Barack Ryan Obama, does anyone on earth believe Bill Cunningham would keep invoking it like a mantra?

Finally, using this tactic will blow up in the face of those who employ it–and worse still, it will hurt the conservative cause by advancing the impression that lurking in the heart of most conservatives is a touch of bigotry, a willingness to appeal to the worse angels of our nature. I utterly reject that charge–but unfortunately men like Bill Cunningham will help give it wings.

If Senator Obama is going to be beaten, it should be in a debate about the issues, about Obama’s political philosophy and ideology, about his record and his actions, and in a way that has integrity. Barack Obama can be beaten, though I suspect it will be quite difficult. But if he is defeated, this is not the way to do it.

Read Less

Bill’s Contribution

This spot-on critique of Bill Clinton’s contribution to his wife’s campaign fiasco includes this:

In a campaign that has turned out to be all about change, however, Bill’s presence has become a reminder of the past and of the style of politics that Barack Obama has promised to bring to an end. Even worse, say many Democrats, Bill has put his wife’s political career in jeopardy by displaying the same character traits that almost ran his own presidency off the rails — a lack of self-control and an excess of self-absorption. It hasn’t always been clear whether Bill Clinton sees Obama as a threat to his wife’s prospects, or to his own legacy.

Well, we never heard much analysis like that when he was in the White House. Suffice it to say that a Hillary Clinton loss, if it comes, will be as much a repudiation of his presidency as of her personally. After all, Barack Obama on substance (e.g. repudiating NAFTA) and on style (i.e. “turning the page” on the nasty partisanship which characterized Clinton’s presidency) ran right at the Clinton legacy. If the races next week do not go her way, you can imagine that the battle between the Clintons’ his-and-hers surrogates over “who lost the campaign” will be loud and ferocious.

This spot-on critique of Bill Clinton’s contribution to his wife’s campaign fiasco includes this:

In a campaign that has turned out to be all about change, however, Bill’s presence has become a reminder of the past and of the style of politics that Barack Obama has promised to bring to an end. Even worse, say many Democrats, Bill has put his wife’s political career in jeopardy by displaying the same character traits that almost ran his own presidency off the rails — a lack of self-control and an excess of self-absorption. It hasn’t always been clear whether Bill Clinton sees Obama as a threat to his wife’s prospects, or to his own legacy.

Well, we never heard much analysis like that when he was in the White House. Suffice it to say that a Hillary Clinton loss, if it comes, will be as much a repudiation of his presidency as of her personally. After all, Barack Obama on substance (e.g. repudiating NAFTA) and on style (i.e. “turning the page” on the nasty partisanship which characterized Clinton’s presidency) ran right at the Clinton legacy. If the races next week do not go her way, you can imagine that the battle between the Clintons’ his-and-hers surrogates over “who lost the campaign” will be loud and ferocious.

Read Less

Abbas Contradicts UN on Terrorism

One day after the UN released a report intended to cast Palestinian terrorism as an “inevitable” and righteous response to Israeli aggression distinct from the morally and strategically unjustifiable terrorism orchestrated by al Qaeda, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that al Qaeda is in fact working with the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.

In yesterday’s UN report, John Dugard states:

[C]ommon sense . . . dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation.

Today, Mahmoud Abbas says:

Al-Qaeda is present in Gaza and I’m convinced that they [Hamas] are their allies. . .I can say without doubt that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence, especially in Gaza, is facilitated by Hamas.

Israeli authorities have long accused Hamas of working with al Qaeda, but Abbas’ announcement marks the first time that a Palestinian statesman has agreed with the Israeli charges.

With Dugard’s report exposed as terrorist-coddling, anti-Israel fiction, there’s no telling how far he’ll go at the UN.

One day after the UN released a report intended to cast Palestinian terrorism as an “inevitable” and righteous response to Israeli aggression distinct from the morally and strategically unjustifiable terrorism orchestrated by al Qaeda, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that al Qaeda is in fact working with the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.

In yesterday’s UN report, John Dugard states:

[C]ommon sense . . . dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation.

Today, Mahmoud Abbas says:

Al-Qaeda is present in Gaza and I’m convinced that they [Hamas] are their allies. . .I can say without doubt that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence, especially in Gaza, is facilitated by Hamas.

Israeli authorities have long accused Hamas of working with al Qaeda, but Abbas’ announcement marks the first time that a Palestinian statesman has agreed with the Israeli charges.

With Dugard’s report exposed as terrorist-coddling, anti-Israel fiction, there’s no telling how far he’ll go at the UN.

Read Less

President Bush Gets It Right

Driving around town this morning I happened to tune into the President’s press conference. I confess I have stopped listening to them. I had long ago concluded that the histrionic press corps and the testy and now too-familiar replies from the President generally failed to illuminate or even amuse. However, I must say he was effective and even articulate on several topics of much interest in the upcoming race.

First, he was passionate and persuasive on free trade. (In reality, outside the confines of a Democratic primary now bearing down on Ohio, there are few, if any, justifications for unilaterally backing out of NAFTA.) President Bush made the domestic economic argument (i.e. we have gained jobs and are dependent on exports, and future high-paying jobs depend on open markets) as well as the international argument (i.e. if you want to help our friends and our own standing in the world then backing out of NAFTA is a strange way to go about it). It may not be popular in some states, but, like the President, John McCain is indisputably on the right side of this issue. (Or perhaps Obama doesn’t really mean what he says.)

President Bush also lit into Congress for holding up FISA re-authorization on the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies. As he said, how are we going to conduct surveillance and get private companies to cooperate if they are free game for the plaintiffs’ bar? Again, I would like to hear Barack Obama’s defense on this one.

President Bush also gave a rather articulate explanation as to why we should not sit down with Raul Castro, especially with no preconditions. He reeled off a list of reasons–giving prestige to a dictator, demoralizing human rights activists, and thwarting reform efforts. This is yet another issue on which, outside the confines of a liberal Democratic primary audience, Obama may have a harder time with his position.

Finally, President Bush echoed a point that McCain has picked up on: Obama’s notion that we should leave Iraq immediately but double back if Al-Qaeda reappeared is simply uninformed and goofy. The President noted that the terrorists did try to set up a base in Anbar province and the Marines successfully (at least so far) have defeated them. Obama will find a far tougher argument against an opponent whose main response is something other than “me too.”

All in all, I was reminded that on certain subjects President Bush can be quite effective.  Granted, much of the public may have tuned Bush out. But there is general election on the horizon in which a new, very forceful Republican can make his pitch on positions which (I suspect) will resonate with a good chunk of the electorate.

Driving around town this morning I happened to tune into the President’s press conference. I confess I have stopped listening to them. I had long ago concluded that the histrionic press corps and the testy and now too-familiar replies from the President generally failed to illuminate or even amuse. However, I must say he was effective and even articulate on several topics of much interest in the upcoming race.

First, he was passionate and persuasive on free trade. (In reality, outside the confines of a Democratic primary now bearing down on Ohio, there are few, if any, justifications for unilaterally backing out of NAFTA.) President Bush made the domestic economic argument (i.e. we have gained jobs and are dependent on exports, and future high-paying jobs depend on open markets) as well as the international argument (i.e. if you want to help our friends and our own standing in the world then backing out of NAFTA is a strange way to go about it). It may not be popular in some states, but, like the President, John McCain is indisputably on the right side of this issue. (Or perhaps Obama doesn’t really mean what he says.)

President Bush also lit into Congress for holding up FISA re-authorization on the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies. As he said, how are we going to conduct surveillance and get private companies to cooperate if they are free game for the plaintiffs’ bar? Again, I would like to hear Barack Obama’s defense on this one.

President Bush also gave a rather articulate explanation as to why we should not sit down with Raul Castro, especially with no preconditions. He reeled off a list of reasons–giving prestige to a dictator, demoralizing human rights activists, and thwarting reform efforts. This is yet another issue on which, outside the confines of a liberal Democratic primary audience, Obama may have a harder time with his position.

Finally, President Bush echoed a point that McCain has picked up on: Obama’s notion that we should leave Iraq immediately but double back if Al-Qaeda reappeared is simply uninformed and goofy. The President noted that the terrorists did try to set up a base in Anbar province and the Marines successfully (at least so far) have defeated them. Obama will find a far tougher argument against an opponent whose main response is something other than “me too.”

All in all, I was reminded that on certain subjects President Bush can be quite effective.  Granted, much of the public may have tuned Bush out. But there is general election on the horizon in which a new, very forceful Republican can make his pitch on positions which (I suspect) will resonate with a good chunk of the electorate.

Read Less

Buckley v. Ginsberg

Below is a clip from Firing Line. Allen Ginsberg is the guest. It showcases oneof Buckley’s greatest abilities: suffering fools gladly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6LZLZ4Rryw[/youtube]

Below is a clip from Firing Line. Allen Ginsberg is the guest. It showcases oneof Buckley’s greatest abilities: suffering fools gladly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6LZLZ4Rryw[/youtube]

Read Less

What Is An “Exciter”?

On entering North Korea, the Washington Post reported yesterday, members of the New York Philharmonic “were required to fill out what may well be the world’s strangest customs declaration form. It asks whether a traveler is carrying a “killing device,” an “exciter,” “artistic works” or “publishing of all kinds.”

Is an “exciter” what is known euphemistically here as a “personal stimulation device,” or in a plain word, a vibrator?

If so, why would North Korea want to keep these devices out? I can’t readily answer that question except to say that almost all Communist countries have embraced highly traditional attitudes toward sex, and North Korea is no exception.

Or is it?

Next month, a remarkable book will be published, The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, by Charles Robert Jenkins. Jenkins was a young American soldier stationed in South Korea who deserted to North Korea in 1965 with the foolish idea that he would soon be repatriated to the United States. He was to spend the next 40 years in captivity in Pyongyang until allowed to leave to Japan in 2002.

Jenkins’s memoir contains some remarkable passages about the sexual attitudes of his omnipresent “minders” who shadowed his every move. Prudish Communist countries may be, but there is another side of the story. In a nearly perfect totalitarian world like contemporary North Korea, the authority of the state reaches deeply into private lives and dehumanizes everything it touches, very much including sex. Jenkins’ book is not yet out, so I won’t provide the details, except to say that his is one of the most fascinating and heart-wrenching accounts of life in a Communist country to appear in many years.

On entering North Korea, the Washington Post reported yesterday, members of the New York Philharmonic “were required to fill out what may well be the world’s strangest customs declaration form. It asks whether a traveler is carrying a “killing device,” an “exciter,” “artistic works” or “publishing of all kinds.”

Is an “exciter” what is known euphemistically here as a “personal stimulation device,” or in a plain word, a vibrator?

If so, why would North Korea want to keep these devices out? I can’t readily answer that question except to say that almost all Communist countries have embraced highly traditional attitudes toward sex, and North Korea is no exception.

Or is it?

Next month, a remarkable book will be published, The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, by Charles Robert Jenkins. Jenkins was a young American soldier stationed in South Korea who deserted to North Korea in 1965 with the foolish idea that he would soon be repatriated to the United States. He was to spend the next 40 years in captivity in Pyongyang until allowed to leave to Japan in 2002.

Jenkins’s memoir contains some remarkable passages about the sexual attitudes of his omnipresent “minders” who shadowed his every move. Prudish Communist countries may be, but there is another side of the story. In a nearly perfect totalitarian world like contemporary North Korea, the authority of the state reaches deeply into private lives and dehumanizes everything it touches, very much including sex. Jenkins’ book is not yet out, so I won’t provide the details, except to say that his is one of the most fascinating and heart-wrenching accounts of life in a Communist country to appear in many years.

Read Less

You Know Things Are Going Well in Iraq When . . .

. . . the New York Times doesn’t feature a single front-page story about the war. The lead article this morning is about the Fed chairman’s testimony to Congress. Other articles report on Putin’s successor, on problems with a blood thinner drug, on Louisiana’s new governor, and the death of William F. Buckley Jr. Nada about Iraq. Let’s hope that trend continues: no news is good news.

. . . the New York Times doesn’t feature a single front-page story about the war. The lead article this morning is about the Fed chairman’s testimony to Congress. Other articles report on Putin’s successor, on problems with a blood thinner drug, on Louisiana’s new governor, and the death of William F. Buckley Jr. Nada about Iraq. Let’s hope that trend continues: no news is good news.

Read Less

Playing The Gender Card

Hillary Clinton is down to perhaps her final days in the race. It is rather obvious that she is making a last appeal to women to stick with her and rescue her from defeat, as they did in New Hampshire. In the debate on Tuesday, her complaint about having to answer questions first and her defense that her attacks on Barack Obama were merely an example of “standing up for myself” bespoke a woe-is-me victimhood, aimed, I think, at women (who, she would have us believe always have it tougher). Last night in a PBS News Hour interview with Judy Woodruff there was this exchange when Woodruff asked if it would be different to have a woman president:

MRS. CLINTON: I don’t think we can adequately imagine the difference it would make. It would be the shattering of the highest and hardest glass ceiling and it would send such a message of hope and opportunity to every little girl, to every young woman. That’s probably the most common thing that people say to me out on the campaign trail. There’s two things, actually, one people say I’m here because of my daughter, or my little girl just learned that we never had a woman president and I want her the know that she can do anything.
It would be a very deep change in how people see themselves and who is able to fulfill this position and I think that –
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want people to vote for you for that reason?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I have said consistently throughout this campaign and I have asked people not to vote for me solely because I’m a woman. But I am a woman and I think there has been an interesting development in the campaign where somehow we are expected not to talk about that, where as it is a big difference. We have never had a mother or wife or sister or daughter in the Oval Office and I think it would be a very big change.

It seems hard to believe that this transparent bit of double talk–don’t vote for me just because I’m a woman, but gosh we’ve never had a mom be president–would bring home the female vote. Indeed, like many of her themes (e.g. experience) she seems to be making an argument few are receptive to. (If asked to name the top ten or even twenty problems in America I doubt “gender discrimination” would make the list.) So once again she is making a tepid appeal, a half-hearted plea out of a worn playbook, that seems somehow beside the point. It’s hardly surprising that she is now behind in one of her must-win states.

Hillary Clinton is down to perhaps her final days in the race. It is rather obvious that she is making a last appeal to women to stick with her and rescue her from defeat, as they did in New Hampshire. In the debate on Tuesday, her complaint about having to answer questions first and her defense that her attacks on Barack Obama were merely an example of “standing up for myself” bespoke a woe-is-me victimhood, aimed, I think, at women (who, she would have us believe always have it tougher). Last night in a PBS News Hour interview with Judy Woodruff there was this exchange when Woodruff asked if it would be different to have a woman president:

MRS. CLINTON: I don’t think we can adequately imagine the difference it would make. It would be the shattering of the highest and hardest glass ceiling and it would send such a message of hope and opportunity to every little girl, to every young woman. That’s probably the most common thing that people say to me out on the campaign trail. There’s two things, actually, one people say I’m here because of my daughter, or my little girl just learned that we never had a woman president and I want her the know that she can do anything.
It would be a very deep change in how people see themselves and who is able to fulfill this position and I think that –
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want people to vote for you for that reason?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I have said consistently throughout this campaign and I have asked people not to vote for me solely because I’m a woman. But I am a woman and I think there has been an interesting development in the campaign where somehow we are expected not to talk about that, where as it is a big difference. We have never had a mother or wife or sister or daughter in the Oval Office and I think it would be a very big change.

It seems hard to believe that this transparent bit of double talk–don’t vote for me just because I’m a woman, but gosh we’ve never had a mom be president–would bring home the female vote. Indeed, like many of her themes (e.g. experience) she seems to be making an argument few are receptive to. (If asked to name the top ten or even twenty problems in America I doubt “gender discrimination” would make the list.) So once again she is making a tepid appeal, a half-hearted plea out of a worn playbook, that seems somehow beside the point. It’s hardly surprising that she is now behind in one of her must-win states.

Read Less