Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 6, 2008

Hillary Soldiering On

Lake County, home of Gary and a stronghold for Barack Obama, is holding out. No votes reported until those last minute absentee ballots are hand counted. Hmm. Michael Barone and Bob Beckel have stories aplenty about “rough and ready” politics there from past elections. The upshot is that most of the morning papers won’t have a banner with “Hillary Wins Indiana.” As she delivers her speech she lacks the certainty of knowing that she won what her campaign is now touting as the “tie breaker,” a term Barack Obama in  a loose moment used to describe that contest.

Clinton’s speech is somewhat meandering and she vows to go on to the White House. It does not have the feel of a victorious night. She and her campaign have the right to be peeved about the Lake County voting shenanigans but she has a bigger problem: she’s running out of time and races.

Lake County, home of Gary and a stronghold for Barack Obama, is holding out. No votes reported until those last minute absentee ballots are hand counted. Hmm. Michael Barone and Bob Beckel have stories aplenty about “rough and ready” politics there from past elections. The upshot is that most of the morning papers won’t have a banner with “Hillary Wins Indiana.” As she delivers her speech she lacks the certainty of knowing that she won what her campaign is now touting as the “tie breaker,” a term Barack Obama in  a loose moment used to describe that contest.

Clinton’s speech is somewhat meandering and she vows to go on to the White House. It does not have the feel of a victorious night. She and her campaign have the right to be peeved about the Lake County voting shenanigans but she has a bigger problem: she’s running out of time and races.

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Where Was This Hillary All Her Life?

If Hillary had taken the Obama challenge more seriously last year, and had refined her message then as she has now, and had been able to speak in the calm, controlled, un-shrill cadence of the speech she is delivering right now, Obama would not have burst out of the gates with Secretariat speed as he did. She really has found a powerful political voice — only she found it too late for the nomination, it appears. But not too late to be the vice-presidential nominee for her party.

If Hillary had taken the Obama challenge more seriously last year, and had refined her message then as she has now, and had been able to speak in the calm, controlled, un-shrill cadence of the speech she is delivering right now, Obama would not have burst out of the gates with Secretariat speed as he did. She really has found a powerful political voice — only she found it too late for the nomination, it appears. But not too late to be the vice-presidential nominee for her party.

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Obama Plays It Fast and Loose

“It is not weakness but wisdom to talk not just to our friends but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did and Kennedy did and Truman did,” he just said. Let’s see now. Roosevelt went to war with Japan and Germany; he did not “talk” to them. Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Kennedy did do some negotiating, so he’s got something there, but he also led the United States to the brink of war over Cuba. The more apposite examples, here, would be Richard Nixon (SALT treaty), Ronald Reagan (Reykjavik summit) and Jimmy Carter. Nixon and Reagan were Republicans, and Carter is currently looking for any terrorist whose boot he can lick. Maybe this is a line Obama should drop from his stump speech.

“It is not weakness but wisdom to talk not just to our friends but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did and Kennedy did and Truman did,” he just said. Let’s see now. Roosevelt went to war with Japan and Germany; he did not “talk” to them. Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Kennedy did do some negotiating, so he’s got something there, but he also led the United States to the brink of war over Cuba. The more apposite examples, here, would be Richard Nixon (SALT treaty), Ronald Reagan (Reykjavik summit) and Jimmy Carter. Nixon and Reagan were Republicans, and Carter is currently looking for any terrorist whose boot he can lick. Maybe this is a line Obama should drop from his stump speech.

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Wright: The Perfect Storm

It may be that particularly in North Carolina, and particularly among very liberal and African American voters, Reverend Wright helped Barack Obama seal the deal. The problem is that this and related controversies may have seriously unraveled the Democratic coalition he will need in the fall. But it is a long way to November and Obama will have plenty of new patriotic rhetoric to throw out, as he did tonight, to try to repaint his portrait.

It may be that particularly in North Carolina, and particularly among very liberal and African American voters, Reverend Wright helped Barack Obama seal the deal. The problem is that this and related controversies may have seriously unraveled the Democratic coalition he will need in the fall. But it is a long way to November and Obama will have plenty of new patriotic rhetoric to throw out, as he did tonight, to try to repaint his portrait.

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The Wright Effect

So what if the whole Jeremiah Wright scandal has actually helped Obama among Democrats because, to them, it makes him seem more like a victim?

So what if the whole Jeremiah Wright scandal has actually helped Obama among Democrats because, to them, it makes him seem more like a victim?

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Obama Believes He Has It In The Bag

He is smiling as he gives his victory speech. He is talking about uniting the Democratic Party. He is being magnanimous to Hillary Clinton. He gets in the math – 200 delegates from the nomination – and reminds those superdelegates he won a “big” state.

He is smiling as he gives his victory speech. He is talking about uniting the Democratic Party. He is being magnanimous to Hillary Clinton. He gets in the math – 200 delegates from the nomination – and reminds those superdelegates he won a “big” state.

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It’s Been a While

The key thing about this night for the Democrats is that it appears Barack Obama has actually done better than expected. It’s the first time we’ve been able to say this about Obama since early February. Ever since, it’s always been Hillary doing better than anybody expected. Her “better thans” have run out.

The key thing about this night for the Democrats is that it appears Barack Obama has actually done better than expected. It’s the first time we’ve been able to say this about Obama since early February. Ever since, it’s always been Hillary doing better than anybody expected. Her “better thans” have run out.

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CBS News Calls Indiana For Hillary

CBS gives the nod to Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama managed to lose a state next to Illinois and lose among the familiar list of demographic groups – working class, women, seniors, etc. – that once seemed potential members of an impressive coalition. How big will she win and can it “balance” his win in North Carolina? Unclear, but she is unlikely to get the praise of the pundit class. The media and many Democrats will soon forget this was a “jump ball” state, discount her victory and inform her that the race is “over.” And the Democrats can ponder just how impressive a general election candidate Obama will be.

CBS gives the nod to Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama managed to lose a state next to Illinois and lose among the familiar list of demographic groups – working class, women, seniors, etc. – that once seemed potential members of an impressive coalition. How big will she win and can it “balance” his win in North Carolina? Unclear, but she is unlikely to get the praise of the pundit class. The media and many Democrats will soon forget this was a “jump ball” state, discount her victory and inform her that the race is “over.” And the Democrats can ponder just how impressive a general election candidate Obama will be.

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If Every State Were North Carolina . . .

Barack Obama would have wrapped up the nomination weeks ago. He took over 90% of African American voters who make up a third of the electorate in securing his apparently comfortable win. In Indiana Hillary Clinton is leading by a healthy margin, but the race is not yet called. Did Obama make progress with whites, women, seniors, rural voters – any one not in his core group of African Americans and young voters? No, accordingly to available exits (which are reweighted as real votes come in.)

So do superdelegates feel comfortable with a candidate who continues to maintain his delegate lead but is unattractive to key groups and is losing appeal with Republicans and independents? If they don’t they aren’t saying, and there is little they can do about it, absent further wins or new troubling information about Obama. The Democrats may have their nominee soon, but he may not be what they hoped for when the bulk of those votes were cast months ago.

Barack Obama would have wrapped up the nomination weeks ago. He took over 90% of African American voters who make up a third of the electorate in securing his apparently comfortable win. In Indiana Hillary Clinton is leading by a healthy margin, but the race is not yet called. Did Obama make progress with whites, women, seniors, rural voters – any one not in his core group of African Americans and young voters? No, accordingly to available exits (which are reweighted as real votes come in.)

So do superdelegates feel comfortable with a candidate who continues to maintain his delegate lead but is unattractive to key groups and is losing appeal with Republicans and independents? If they don’t they aren’t saying, and there is little they can do about it, absent further wins or new troubling information about Obama. The Democrats may have their nominee soon, but he may not be what they hoped for when the bulk of those votes were cast months ago.

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Obama’s Night

It may prove decisive that he has won North Carolina — may, as I indicated below, mean he’s effectively crossed the finish line. But if the Indiana results hold up, and Hillary wins by 10 to 15 points, it will indicate nothing has changed in the dynamic of the Democratic race. He will, once again, have won a state because of a large black vote and a large student vote. She will have won a large, industrial Midwestern state dominated by lower-middle-class white Democratic voters. So the weakness she has exposed in his candidacy will remain.

It may prove decisive that he has won North Carolina — may, as I indicated below, mean he’s effectively crossed the finish line. But if the Indiana results hold up, and Hillary wins by 10 to 15 points, it will indicate nothing has changed in the dynamic of the Democratic race. He will, once again, have won a state because of a large black vote and a large student vote. She will have won a large, industrial Midwestern state dominated by lower-middle-class white Democratic voters. So the weakness she has exposed in his candidacy will remain.

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You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

The fact that Barack Obama apparently won North Carolina so easily — the race was called the minute the polls closed — ensures that Hillary Clinton will come under the most withering personal assault of her career should she fail to drop out of the race tomorrow. It will be far worse than the Republican “attack machine” because it is going to come from her fellow party members, her peers, and even a great many of her supposed friends. This is the kind of heat she has never had to feel. Ever. She may be tough enough to withstand it, but in what way could she possibly benefit from doing so?

The fact that Barack Obama apparently won North Carolina so easily — the race was called the minute the polls closed — ensures that Hillary Clinton will come under the most withering personal assault of her career should she fail to drop out of the race tomorrow. It will be far worse than the Republican “attack machine” because it is going to come from her fellow party members, her peers, and even a great many of her supposed friends. This is the kind of heat she has never had to feel. Ever. She may be tough enough to withstand it, but in what way could she possibly benefit from doing so?

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Exit Polls

They are useless. Sen. Claire McCaskill on CNN wisely said, “If the top number is wrong you have to question all the numbers below it.” But networks have nothing to talk about, so that is what they are covering, knowing the numbers are in all likelihood inaccurate. Just in case you thought they were in the business of informing the public.

They are useless. Sen. Claire McCaskill on CNN wisely said, “If the top number is wrong you have to question all the numbers below it.” But networks have nothing to talk about, so that is what they are covering, knowing the numbers are in all likelihood inaccurate. Just in case you thought they were in the business of informing the public.

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That’s the Point

In the back and forth between John McCain and the Democrats over today’s speech on judges, Barack Obama’s campaign chief uttered this unintentionally incriminating comment:

Barack Obama has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves.

Actually, judges aren’t supposed to stand up for some poorly defined notion of social–let alone economic–justice. The job of federal court judges is to interpret the Constitution and statutes. As for letting people “fend for themselves,” there are two other branches of government out there (you’ve heard of them, maybe?) which spend quite a bit of time attempting to achieve social fairness and practicing economic redistribution.

So, if McCain’s staffers were smart, they’d respond to David Axelrod’s confession that his boss believes in judicial imperialism with: “See, told you so.”

In the back and forth between John McCain and the Democrats over today’s speech on judges, Barack Obama’s campaign chief uttered this unintentionally incriminating comment:

Barack Obama has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves.

Actually, judges aren’t supposed to stand up for some poorly defined notion of social–let alone economic–justice. The job of federal court judges is to interpret the Constitution and statutes. As for letting people “fend for themselves,” there are two other branches of government out there (you’ve heard of them, maybe?) which spend quite a bit of time attempting to achieve social fairness and practicing economic redistribution.

So, if McCain’s staffers were smart, they’d respond to David Axelrod’s confession that his boss believes in judicial imperialism with: “See, told you so.”

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“It’s Hard To Say No”

In today’s Los Angeles Times, Mahdi Army commander Abu Baqr cops to getting weapons from Iran to use against Americans.

He still hates Iran. But now, he said, he accepts its weapons to fight the U.S. military, figuring he can deal with his distaste for the Iranians later. So he takes bombs that can rip a hole in a U.S. tank and rockets that can pound Baghdad’s Green Zone without apology or regret.

“I think that the Iranians are more dangerous than the Americans. I hate them and I don’t trust them,” he said in an interview over soft drinks. But the militia has limited resources, he said, and “therefore, when somebody gives you or offers help, it’s hard to say no.”

He laughed: “If it came from Israel, we would use it.”

This supports what the U.S. has been saying for a long time: Iran is arming Iraqis who kill Americans. When General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified on Capitol Hill last month, General Petraeus engaged in the following exchange with Joe Lieberman:

LIEBERMAN: Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands – excuse me – hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?

PETRAEUS: It certainly is. I do believe that is correct.

Yet, in an interview shortly after the testimony, when ABC News asked Ryan Crocker if Americans were in a “proxy war” with Iran, Crocker responded, “It may be that the Iranians see it in that light, we certainly do not.”

If one country decides to go to war (proxy or otherwise) with another country and the second country doesn’t acknowledge it, does that mean only one country is at war? With today’s admission from Abu Baqr, we have to admit that we’re choosing not to defend ourselves in the proxy war with Iran. Of course, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has just announced he’s all for moving things out of the “proxy” realm altogether. It’s hard to figure out just what it will take before the U.S. decides to do something about Iran.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, Mahdi Army commander Abu Baqr cops to getting weapons from Iran to use against Americans.

He still hates Iran. But now, he said, he accepts its weapons to fight the U.S. military, figuring he can deal with his distaste for the Iranians later. So he takes bombs that can rip a hole in a U.S. tank and rockets that can pound Baghdad’s Green Zone without apology or regret.

“I think that the Iranians are more dangerous than the Americans. I hate them and I don’t trust them,” he said in an interview over soft drinks. But the militia has limited resources, he said, and “therefore, when somebody gives you or offers help, it’s hard to say no.”

He laughed: “If it came from Israel, we would use it.”

This supports what the U.S. has been saying for a long time: Iran is arming Iraqis who kill Americans. When General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified on Capitol Hill last month, General Petraeus engaged in the following exchange with Joe Lieberman:

LIEBERMAN: Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands – excuse me – hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?

PETRAEUS: It certainly is. I do believe that is correct.

Yet, in an interview shortly after the testimony, when ABC News asked Ryan Crocker if Americans were in a “proxy war” with Iran, Crocker responded, “It may be that the Iranians see it in that light, we certainly do not.”

If one country decides to go to war (proxy or otherwise) with another country and the second country doesn’t acknowledge it, does that mean only one country is at war? With today’s admission from Abu Baqr, we have to admit that we’re choosing not to defend ourselves in the proxy war with Iran. Of course, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has just announced he’s all for moving things out of the “proxy” realm altogether. It’s hard to figure out just what it will take before the U.S. decides to do something about Iran.

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People . . . People Who Like Cabinet Appointments

People magazine has an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, who say they aren’t going to endorse anyone and will be “saving their political capital for their own causes.” Hmm. Or making certain they remain players in a Democratic administration. John does a better job of concealing his preferences: loves the enthusiasm generated by Obama, but wants more substance; is impressed with Hillary Clinton’s grit, but doesn’t like all that old politics. Elizabeth is having none of that. She rolls her eyes about the impact of nominating the first African-American (“What about the great symbolic thing about a woman . . . “) and calls Obama’s health care plan and ads “misleading.”

So who carries more weight with Democratic voters? Elizabeth became the darling of the netroots for defending her husband against Ann Coulter and ferociously attacking George Bush, and Clinton could do worse than having Elizabeth touting her health care plan. But the real news will be if John and his 26 pledged delegates get off the fence. For now, the interview is a sign of how divided and indecisive the Democratic electorate as a whole appears to be (at least before the election returns tonight).

People magazine has an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, who say they aren’t going to endorse anyone and will be “saving their political capital for their own causes.” Hmm. Or making certain they remain players in a Democratic administration. John does a better job of concealing his preferences: loves the enthusiasm generated by Obama, but wants more substance; is impressed with Hillary Clinton’s grit, but doesn’t like all that old politics. Elizabeth is having none of that. She rolls her eyes about the impact of nominating the first African-American (“What about the great symbolic thing about a woman . . . “) and calls Obama’s health care plan and ads “misleading.”

So who carries more weight with Democratic voters? Elizabeth became the darling of the netroots for defending her husband against Ann Coulter and ferociously attacking George Bush, and Clinton could do worse than having Elizabeth touting her health care plan. But the real news will be if John and his 26 pledged delegates get off the fence. For now, the interview is a sign of how divided and indecisive the Democratic electorate as a whole appears to be (at least before the election returns tonight).

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Virtual Co-Existence

Sometimes you can smell a ridiculous idea a thousand miles away.

With support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is partnering with Dancing Ink Productions LLC to launch a project called “Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds.”

The project will culminate in a series of activities in virtual worlds tailored to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also produce a range of audio, video, and transcript products, along with a policy recommendation paper which will include a list of specific recommendations for the U.S. government on how to use virtual worlds to promote international understanding. The paper will be distributed through government briefings.

Are Muslim/non-Muslim relations so bad that the two groups can only meet up as avatars in cyberspace? I guess nothing brings strangers to a fuller understanding of a different culture than seeing that culture’s representatives as literal cartoons. The PC, multi-culti dream has been realized.

Sometimes you can smell a ridiculous idea a thousand miles away.

With support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is partnering with Dancing Ink Productions LLC to launch a project called “Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds.”

The project will culminate in a series of activities in virtual worlds tailored to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also produce a range of audio, video, and transcript products, along with a policy recommendation paper which will include a list of specific recommendations for the U.S. government on how to use virtual worlds to promote international understanding. The paper will be distributed through government briefings.

Are Muslim/non-Muslim relations so bad that the two groups can only meet up as avatars in cyberspace? I guess nothing brings strangers to a fuller understanding of a different culture than seeing that culture’s representatives as literal cartoons. The PC, multi-culti dream has been realized.

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Fessing Up

Now the confessions come in from multiple sources: the media has been in the tank for Barack Obama. (Chris Matthews lets on that it may not be “official” MSNBC policy to back Obama, but we should know they have their hearts in the “right” place.) Oh, and they hate Hillary Clinton too. Salon‘s reporter tells us:

They were swooning. I was at a speech, I remember it, I will write about it some day, in Manchester, and every, the biggest names in our business were there, and they were, they could repeat some of his speech lines to one another. It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert where the fans sing along. And, you know, I respected it to some extent. He’s a towering political figure. Of our generation, he’s probably the best politician, he’s inspiring. And, reporters, white reporters, black reporters, reporters of every race, we want to get beyond racism in America. So, he was, he was inspiring, I understood it, they’re humans, they responded. The downside though is that they hate, hate Hillary Clinton, most of them. Hate is not too strong a word.

I know it’s shocking to learn there is bias in the media. But what is surprising is that any felt obligation to go along with the pretense–the canard that they have not been in Obama’s corner–is gone. Now, it would be unfair to say every member of the mainstream media and every outlet has been equally at fault here. ABC certainly did its part to re-establish journalistic integrity by running a tough, informative, and ultimately impactful debate. And in the Bizarro World of politics we now inhabit, Hillary Clinton will attest to her fair treatment by Fox.

Still, one wonders how much longer both the media mavens and the public at large will take this kind of “analysis” seriously. It’s one thing to get almost everything wrong (e.g. McCain was dead, Hillary was inevitable in 2007, Obama was golden in February 2008). It’s quite another for people “in the club” to admit openly that they weren’t much interested in being objective.

Why the confessions? Aside from guilty consciences, it may be an effort to get back in the good graces of the candidate most affected by their favorite-playing (and one who might just survive to enact revenge): Hillary Clinton. Good luck with that!

Now the confessions come in from multiple sources: the media has been in the tank for Barack Obama. (Chris Matthews lets on that it may not be “official” MSNBC policy to back Obama, but we should know they have their hearts in the “right” place.) Oh, and they hate Hillary Clinton too. Salon‘s reporter tells us:

They were swooning. I was at a speech, I remember it, I will write about it some day, in Manchester, and every, the biggest names in our business were there, and they were, they could repeat some of his speech lines to one another. It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert where the fans sing along. And, you know, I respected it to some extent. He’s a towering political figure. Of our generation, he’s probably the best politician, he’s inspiring. And, reporters, white reporters, black reporters, reporters of every race, we want to get beyond racism in America. So, he was, he was inspiring, I understood it, they’re humans, they responded. The downside though is that they hate, hate Hillary Clinton, most of them. Hate is not too strong a word.

I know it’s shocking to learn there is bias in the media. But what is surprising is that any felt obligation to go along with the pretense–the canard that they have not been in Obama’s corner–is gone. Now, it would be unfair to say every member of the mainstream media and every outlet has been equally at fault here. ABC certainly did its part to re-establish journalistic integrity by running a tough, informative, and ultimately impactful debate. And in the Bizarro World of politics we now inhabit, Hillary Clinton will attest to her fair treatment by Fox.

Still, one wonders how much longer both the media mavens and the public at large will take this kind of “analysis” seriously. It’s one thing to get almost everything wrong (e.g. McCain was dead, Hillary was inevitable in 2007, Obama was golden in February 2008). It’s quite another for people “in the club” to admit openly that they weren’t much interested in being objective.

Why the confessions? Aside from guilty consciences, it may be an effort to get back in the good graces of the candidate most affected by their favorite-playing (and one who might just survive to enact revenge): Hillary Clinton. Good luck with that!

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Boot v. Simon

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested–or simply amused–by the debate I’m currently having at cfr.org with my fellow fellow Steve Simon. The topic? “Has the surge put Iraq on the path to success?” Not hard to guess which of us advocates which position! The debate started yesterday and continues for a few more days.

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested–or simply amused–by the debate I’m currently having at cfr.org with my fellow fellow Steve Simon. The topic? “Has the surge put Iraq on the path to success?” Not hard to guess which of us advocates which position! The debate started yesterday and continues for a few more days.

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The Failings of Successful Democracy

How best to acknowledge the precious democratic exercise in civic responsibility we’re witnessing this Tuesday? If you’re the New York Times, you run a disingenuous story about the failings of democracy. Today’s lesson in American hubris comes from Kuwait:

“Kuwait used to be No. 1 in the economy, in politics, in sports, in culture, in everything,” [Parliamentary candidate Ali al-Rashed] said, his voice floating out in the warm evening air to hundreds of potential voters seated on white damask-lined chairs. “What happened?”

It is a question many people are asking as this tiny, oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people approaches its latest round of elections. And the unlikely answer being whispered around, both here and in neighboring countries on the Persian Gulf: too much democracy.

[…]

The collapse of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the region and the continuing chaos in Iraq, just to the north–once heralded as the birthplace of a new democratic model–have also contributed to a popular suspicion that democracy itself is one Western import that has not lived up to its advertising.

The article’s writer, Robert F. Worth, has it on good authority that Kuwaitis are now suspicious of democracy. His source? The 24-year-old son of another Parliamentary candidate (who himself rejected that view). But that’s enough for a New York Times primary day headline.

It’s no surprise that Worth doesn’t cite any figures in trying to make the case that Kuwait’s economy and productivity is stalling. If he did, here’s what he’d confront: Kuwait’s human development is the highest in the Arab world. The country has the second-most free economy in the Middle East, and its GDP rate of growth is 5.7%, which makes its economy one of the fastest growing in the region.

The only attributable monarchy-envy comes from Worth himself, who virtually taunts Kuwaitis with their neighbors’ ostentation:

Although parts of Kuwait City were rebuilt after the Iraqi invasion of 1990, much of it looks faded and tatty, a striking contrast with the gleaming hyper-modernity of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

Well, you know how dingy free-market, parliamentary democracy can be.

How best to acknowledge the precious democratic exercise in civic responsibility we’re witnessing this Tuesday? If you’re the New York Times, you run a disingenuous story about the failings of democracy. Today’s lesson in American hubris comes from Kuwait:

“Kuwait used to be No. 1 in the economy, in politics, in sports, in culture, in everything,” [Parliamentary candidate Ali al-Rashed] said, his voice floating out in the warm evening air to hundreds of potential voters seated on white damask-lined chairs. “What happened?”

It is a question many people are asking as this tiny, oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people approaches its latest round of elections. And the unlikely answer being whispered around, both here and in neighboring countries on the Persian Gulf: too much democracy.

[…]

The collapse of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the region and the continuing chaos in Iraq, just to the north–once heralded as the birthplace of a new democratic model–have also contributed to a popular suspicion that democracy itself is one Western import that has not lived up to its advertising.

The article’s writer, Robert F. Worth, has it on good authority that Kuwaitis are now suspicious of democracy. His source? The 24-year-old son of another Parliamentary candidate (who himself rejected that view). But that’s enough for a New York Times primary day headline.

It’s no surprise that Worth doesn’t cite any figures in trying to make the case that Kuwait’s economy and productivity is stalling. If he did, here’s what he’d confront: Kuwait’s human development is the highest in the Arab world. The country has the second-most free economy in the Middle East, and its GDP rate of growth is 5.7%, which makes its economy one of the fastest growing in the region.

The only attributable monarchy-envy comes from Worth himself, who virtually taunts Kuwaitis with their neighbors’ ostentation:

Although parts of Kuwait City were rebuilt after the Iraqi invasion of 1990, much of it looks faded and tatty, a striking contrast with the gleaming hyper-modernity of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

Well, you know how dingy free-market, parliamentary democracy can be.

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McCain (Finally) Joins The Battle

To the consternation of many conservatives, John McCain has seemed reluctant to go after his potential Democratic adversaries with great force. That will change a bit today in a speech on judges at Wake Forrest University. Yes, his remarks contain the expected, impassioned plea for judicial restraint and words of praise for Justices Alito, Roberts, and Rehnquist. And he also puts in a brief defense of his role in the Gang of 14, which, he contends, helped get through two Supreme Court and several appeal court judges but has nonetheless been a sore spot with some conservatives.

But it is his sharp words about his Democratic opponents (on a day when they wait for election returns without making much news until tonight) that may catch the most attention. McCain explains:

Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done. He went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee. And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator’s measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it – and I quote – should share “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

These vague words attempt to justify judicial activism – come to think of it, they sound like an activist judge wrote them. And whatever they mean exactly, somehow Senator Obama’s standards proved too lofty a standard for a nominee who was brilliant, fair-minded, and learned in the law, a nominee of clear rectitude who had proved more than the equal of any lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, and who today is respected by all as the Chief Justice of the United States. Somehow, by Senator Obama’s standard, even Judge Roberts didn’t measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it – and they see it only in each other.

It is a measure of how tame the debate has been that these are some of the most ideologically pointed lines to be spoken by McCain so far. Clearly, he and his campaign must believe this issue is a winner against both Democratic opponents, a chance to paint them as outside the mainstream. McCain–who is understandably hesitant to take any step that might turn off independents–may have found one of the rare issues he thinks can both please conservatives and keep independents on his side. Unfortunately for him, it’s a rare voter who casts his or her ballot for President solely on the basis of judicial philosophy and potential Supreme Court picks.

To the consternation of many conservatives, John McCain has seemed reluctant to go after his potential Democratic adversaries with great force. That will change a bit today in a speech on judges at Wake Forrest University. Yes, his remarks contain the expected, impassioned plea for judicial restraint and words of praise for Justices Alito, Roberts, and Rehnquist. And he also puts in a brief defense of his role in the Gang of 14, which, he contends, helped get through two Supreme Court and several appeal court judges but has nonetheless been a sore spot with some conservatives.

But it is his sharp words about his Democratic opponents (on a day when they wait for election returns without making much news until tonight) that may catch the most attention. McCain explains:

Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done. He went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee. And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator’s measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it – and I quote – should share “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

These vague words attempt to justify judicial activism – come to think of it, they sound like an activist judge wrote them. And whatever they mean exactly, somehow Senator Obama’s standards proved too lofty a standard for a nominee who was brilliant, fair-minded, and learned in the law, a nominee of clear rectitude who had proved more than the equal of any lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, and who today is respected by all as the Chief Justice of the United States. Somehow, by Senator Obama’s standard, even Judge Roberts didn’t measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it – and they see it only in each other.

It is a measure of how tame the debate has been that these are some of the most ideologically pointed lines to be spoken by McCain so far. Clearly, he and his campaign must believe this issue is a winner against both Democratic opponents, a chance to paint them as outside the mainstream. McCain–who is understandably hesitant to take any step that might turn off independents–may have found one of the rare issues he thinks can both please conservatives and keep independents on his side. Unfortunately for him, it’s a rare voter who casts his or her ballot for President solely on the basis of judicial philosophy and potential Supreme Court picks.

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