Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 11, 2008

What Is Next?

How will camp Obama explain the Johnson fiasco ? Turns out is wasn’t a “game” and turns out he should have vetted the vetter. And yes, Johnson is not the man Obama knew. But we were told, remember, that Obama’s smooth running campaign was evidence of his brilliant executive skills. Hmmm. Well, for now they have stopped the bleeding and will mumble some excuse about the media feeding frenzy and how smart he was to cut his losses. But really is this not disturbing to the Obama-can-do-no-wrong club?

And McCain’s team and the RNC are not letting go, the latter putting out this statement:

“If Barack Obama is concerned his campaign’s ties to special interests are distracting from his VP search and message, why is Eric Holder still on his search committee? Why is registered federal lobbyist Steve Farber leading the convention for Obama’s supposedly ‘lobbyist-free’ campaign? Obama’s hypocritical attacks show he can’t stand up to his own standard – and that he just isn’t ready to make change.”

More on Holder is here. Johnson offered a clean target and it is not clear that other targets will keep the media’s attention, but it won’t be for lack of trying by the McCain camp.

How will camp Obama explain the Johnson fiasco ? Turns out is wasn’t a “game” and turns out he should have vetted the vetter. And yes, Johnson is not the man Obama knew. But we were told, remember, that Obama’s smooth running campaign was evidence of his brilliant executive skills. Hmmm. Well, for now they have stopped the bleeding and will mumble some excuse about the media feeding frenzy and how smart he was to cut his losses. But really is this not disturbing to the Obama-can-do-no-wrong club?

And McCain’s team and the RNC are not letting go, the latter putting out this statement:

“If Barack Obama is concerned his campaign’s ties to special interests are distracting from his VP search and message, why is Eric Holder still on his search committee? Why is registered federal lobbyist Steve Farber leading the convention for Obama’s supposedly ‘lobbyist-free’ campaign? Obama’s hypocritical attacks show he can’t stand up to his own standard – and that he just isn’t ready to make change.”

More on Holder is here. Johnson offered a clean target and it is not clear that other targets will keep the media’s attention, but it won’t be for lack of trying by the McCain camp.

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When’s Recess?

From a Reuters story about Barack Obama’s impromptu visit to an eighth grade classroom:

When Obama made his surprise entrance at the ceremony, the children and their parents leaped to their feet and cheered, “Obama, Obama.”

They even cheered when Obama told them they should spend their summer preparing for ninth grade. He urged them not to settle for mediocrity, saying a changing world requires better educated Americans.

“What books are you going to read instead of watching TV?” he said.

When he ended his brief remarks, the crowd was still ecstatic that he showed up.

“Change, change, change,” they cried.

It’s a cute story and there’s nothing wrong with Obama’s interaction with the class. Except that it’s exactly how Obama interacts with grown-up Americans. He appears before ecstatic crowds. They cheer him on while he tells them what he expects of them: “What are you going to drive this summer instead of an SUV?” He says a few words decrying American ignorance, then disappears while the electrified crowd chants “change” in his wake. Is it not worrisome that the criteria of the Democratic electorate are no higher than those of eighth-graders?

From a Reuters story about Barack Obama’s impromptu visit to an eighth grade classroom:

When Obama made his surprise entrance at the ceremony, the children and their parents leaped to their feet and cheered, “Obama, Obama.”

They even cheered when Obama told them they should spend their summer preparing for ninth grade. He urged them not to settle for mediocrity, saying a changing world requires better educated Americans.

“What books are you going to read instead of watching TV?” he said.

When he ended his brief remarks, the crowd was still ecstatic that he showed up.

“Change, change, change,” they cried.

It’s a cute story and there’s nothing wrong with Obama’s interaction with the class. Except that it’s exactly how Obama interacts with grown-up Americans. He appears before ecstatic crowds. They cheer him on while he tells them what he expects of them: “What are you going to drive this summer instead of an SUV?” He says a few words decrying American ignorance, then disappears while the electrified crowd chants “change” in his wake. Is it not worrisome that the criteria of the Democratic electorate are no higher than those of eighth-graders?

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Do We Have a Right to Intervene?

This morning, Madeleine Albright, writing in the New York Times, notes that “the notion of national sovereignty as sacred is gaining ground.”  The result is that repulsive governments are increasingly able to do what they want, free from the fear that other nations will intervene to stop them.

Why are the planet’s worst leaders getting a free pass?  As a Democrat, she largely blames “the disastrous results of the American invasion of Iraq.”  “Indeed, many of the world’s necessary interventions in the decade before the invasion-in places like Haiti and the Balkans-would seem impossible in today’s climate,” she writes.  So, according to her, there is less support for intervening, even “for worthy purposes.”

The former secretary of state is correct that the American-led effort to topple Saddam Hussein has been unpopular across continents.  Yet, by making a partisan argument, she unintentionally raises the most important “sovereignty” issue we face today: Do we have a right to use force to eliminate grave threats to global security in the face of less-than-universal support?

Ms. Albright suggests there is “a responsibility to override sovereignty in emergency situations,” such as preventing ethnic cleansing or genocide, arresting war criminals, restoring democracy, or providing disaster relief when governments fail to do so.  These are important goals to be sure, but the international community has, since the end of the Cold War, intervened to further them only in situations of lesser global consequence.  She dwells on Burma, for instance.  But the junta has been killing Burmese for years without having a discernable effect on those of us fortunate enough to live elsewhere.

This is not an argument for callousness.  I make this observation because we need an answer to this question: If we have a right to protect the Burmese, do we also have an obligation to deal with dangers that potentially affect everyone?  Today, the most serious of the immediate threats to international security is the one posed by Iran’s nuclear program.  So, Ms. Albright, do we have the right to take away the mullahs’ ability to end the world as we know it?   And if we do not, is our obligation to intervene limited only to inconsequential situations involving weak nations?

This morning, Madeleine Albright, writing in the New York Times, notes that “the notion of national sovereignty as sacred is gaining ground.”  The result is that repulsive governments are increasingly able to do what they want, free from the fear that other nations will intervene to stop them.

Why are the planet’s worst leaders getting a free pass?  As a Democrat, she largely blames “the disastrous results of the American invasion of Iraq.”  “Indeed, many of the world’s necessary interventions in the decade before the invasion-in places like Haiti and the Balkans-would seem impossible in today’s climate,” she writes.  So, according to her, there is less support for intervening, even “for worthy purposes.”

The former secretary of state is correct that the American-led effort to topple Saddam Hussein has been unpopular across continents.  Yet, by making a partisan argument, she unintentionally raises the most important “sovereignty” issue we face today: Do we have a right to use force to eliminate grave threats to global security in the face of less-than-universal support?

Ms. Albright suggests there is “a responsibility to override sovereignty in emergency situations,” such as preventing ethnic cleansing or genocide, arresting war criminals, restoring democracy, or providing disaster relief when governments fail to do so.  These are important goals to be sure, but the international community has, since the end of the Cold War, intervened to further them only in situations of lesser global consequence.  She dwells on Burma, for instance.  But the junta has been killing Burmese for years without having a discernable effect on those of us fortunate enough to live elsewhere.

This is not an argument for callousness.  I make this observation because we need an answer to this question: If we have a right to protect the Burmese, do we also have an obligation to deal with dangers that potentially affect everyone?  Today, the most serious of the immediate threats to international security is the one posed by Iran’s nuclear program.  So, Ms. Albright, do we have the right to take away the mullahs’ ability to end the world as we know it?   And if we do not, is our obligation to intervene limited only to inconsequential situations involving weak nations?

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Johnson Dumped

Barack Obama took option #1. The only question is whether there was even worse material out there.

Barack Obama took option #1. The only question is whether there was even worse material out there.

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Questions for Kerry

If someone who is out of touch calls you out of touch does that mean you are actually in touch?

John Kerry, who’s served in the past as Obama’s heavy-hitter on national security, expressed incredulity at McCain’s remark this morning that the timing of troops return is “not too important.”

“It is unbelievably out of touch and inconsistent with the needs of Americans and particularly the families of troops who are over there. To them it’s the most important thing in the world when they come home,” he said. “It’s a policy for staying in Iraq.”

If someone who “actually did vote for the $87 billion before [he] voted against it” calls you confused does that mean you are actually thinking clearly?

Kerry and Obama aide Susan Rice also both said McCain is “confused” — a line some in McCain’s camp will surely take as a shot at the candidate’s age.

“He confuses who Iran is training, he confuses what the makeup of Al Qaeda is, he confuses the history going back to 682 of what has happened to Sunni and Shia,” Kerry said.

Senator Kerry, however, is making sure no one is confused about why he lost the 2004 election.

If someone who is out of touch calls you out of touch does that mean you are actually in touch?

John Kerry, who’s served in the past as Obama’s heavy-hitter on national security, expressed incredulity at McCain’s remark this morning that the timing of troops return is “not too important.”

“It is unbelievably out of touch and inconsistent with the needs of Americans and particularly the families of troops who are over there. To them it’s the most important thing in the world when they come home,” he said. “It’s a policy for staying in Iraq.”

If someone who “actually did vote for the $87 billion before [he] voted against it” calls you confused does that mean you are actually thinking clearly?

Kerry and Obama aide Susan Rice also both said McCain is “confused” — a line some in McCain’s camp will surely take as a shot at the candidate’s age.

“He confuses who Iran is training, he confuses what the makeup of Al Qaeda is, he confuses the history going back to 682 of what has happened to Sunni and Shia,” Kerry said.

Senator Kerry, however, is making sure no one is confused about why he lost the 2004 election.

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This Is Getting Old

The Barack Obama team is back at  trying to take snippets of a comment by John McCain (that getting casualties down in Iraq is now more important than withdrawing troops) to suggest McCain hates the troops. Or is cold-hearted, or uninformed. Or all of these. Not even the left blogosphere is buying this one. People can watch the video after all.

This tactic of Obama’s, which we saw in the “100 days” fight, begins to seem like he is constructing a ransom note– take a letter from here, skip there and add a sentence there. On balance it did not work too well in the 100 days tussle, but you can always hope that the media will play along.

And, if you are trying to get off James Johnson as the hottest storyline anything will do, I suppose.

UPDATE: Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John Thune along with McCain senior advisor Randy Scheunemann responded in a media call to the Democrats’ attack on John McCain’s Iraq comments. Lieberman said he was “disappointed by the reflexive attacks” and that if McCain’s complete statement is read it is clear that the Democrats are simply mounting ” another partisan attack to distort John McCain’s words, to distract the American people” from the fact that McCain was “right and courageous” on the surge. He said he found it “most outrageous” that McCain would be attacked for ignoring the needs of the troops and the sacrifices of his family in light of his father’s service, his own service and his son’s service. Sen. Thune echoed the sentiment that this was a “deliberate distraction trying to change the subject.” Scheunemann reeled off a list of things about which the Obama camp was “confused”(their term for McCain) including being “wedded to a strategy of defeat,” Obama’s prediction in January 2007 that the surge would make no difference and Obama’s vote in May 2007 to cut off all funding for the troops immediately.

Asked about the Iraq status of forces agreement negotiations both Thune and Lieberman voiced optimism that progress was being made. Lieberman said that “The very fact we’re negotiating is a sign of success” in that there is a functioning and sovereign government. A USA Today reporter offered that this seemed consistent with what McCain had been stressing — that casualty reduction was the highest priority — but queried whether McCain should be more careful. Scheunneman in fine Talmudic form dissected McCain’s comments, pointing out that the “not too important”remark referred to the fact that we did not yet have a timetable for withdrawal. The LA Times reporter picked up on Lieberman’s mention of McCain’s son who is usually not discussed and asked if they would be talking more about him. Lieberman had already left the call but those remaining gave a firm but polite “no comment.”

Bottom line: the McCain camp is attempting to use this incident to demonstrate Obama is playing Old School politics. Because the entire video is short and easily watchable they have an easier time than they often do making their argument that the Agent of Change isn’t changing much in the realm of gotcha politics.

The Barack Obama team is back at  trying to take snippets of a comment by John McCain (that getting casualties down in Iraq is now more important than withdrawing troops) to suggest McCain hates the troops. Or is cold-hearted, or uninformed. Or all of these. Not even the left blogosphere is buying this one. People can watch the video after all.

This tactic of Obama’s, which we saw in the “100 days” fight, begins to seem like he is constructing a ransom note– take a letter from here, skip there and add a sentence there. On balance it did not work too well in the 100 days tussle, but you can always hope that the media will play along.

And, if you are trying to get off James Johnson as the hottest storyline anything will do, I suppose.

UPDATE: Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John Thune along with McCain senior advisor Randy Scheunemann responded in a media call to the Democrats’ attack on John McCain’s Iraq comments. Lieberman said he was “disappointed by the reflexive attacks” and that if McCain’s complete statement is read it is clear that the Democrats are simply mounting ” another partisan attack to distort John McCain’s words, to distract the American people” from the fact that McCain was “right and courageous” on the surge. He said he found it “most outrageous” that McCain would be attacked for ignoring the needs of the troops and the sacrifices of his family in light of his father’s service, his own service and his son’s service. Sen. Thune echoed the sentiment that this was a “deliberate distraction trying to change the subject.” Scheunemann reeled off a list of things about which the Obama camp was “confused”(their term for McCain) including being “wedded to a strategy of defeat,” Obama’s prediction in January 2007 that the surge would make no difference and Obama’s vote in May 2007 to cut off all funding for the troops immediately.

Asked about the Iraq status of forces agreement negotiations both Thune and Lieberman voiced optimism that progress was being made. Lieberman said that “The very fact we’re negotiating is a sign of success” in that there is a functioning and sovereign government. A USA Today reporter offered that this seemed consistent with what McCain had been stressing — that casualty reduction was the highest priority — but queried whether McCain should be more careful. Scheunneman in fine Talmudic form dissected McCain’s comments, pointing out that the “not too important”remark referred to the fact that we did not yet have a timetable for withdrawal. The LA Times reporter picked up on Lieberman’s mention of McCain’s son who is usually not discussed and asked if they would be talking more about him. Lieberman had already left the call but those remaining gave a firm but polite “no comment.”

Bottom line: the McCain camp is attempting to use this incident to demonstrate Obama is playing Old School politics. Because the entire video is short and easily watchable they have an easier time than they often do making their argument that the Agent of Change isn’t changing much in the realm of gotcha politics.

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What Do You Mean It’s Not Going Away?

 Barack Obama’s liberal apologists in the blogosphere could not imagine that the James Johnson story would persist. But it has and now even the mainstream media has the full story of Johnson on page one. You might expect that the Wall Street Journal editors would call foul. But when that well-known right wing outlet the New York Times has a mind-numbing account of Johnson’s record of inside deals and sweetheart favors it is noteworthy.

What is more, the mainstream media is figuring out what many on the right have observed for some time: Obama is awful on his feet under questioning. MSNBC (yes, even MSNBC) comments:

Obama’s response on this issue yesterday was odd. “Well, look … first of all, I am not vetting my vice presidential search committee for their mortgages,” Obama answered. “I mean this is a game that can be played — everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships… These aren’t folks who are working for me. They are not people, you know, who I have assigned to a job in the future administration.” He basically said Johnson was a volunteer. While technically true, isn’t he volunteering for arguably the most important job on the campaign right now: helping select Obama’s vice president? Seriously, this may be the worst answer Obama has ever given in print. Overall, the campaign seemed surprisingly unprepared for the vetting of the vetter.

The danger here is that once the allure of an ever eloquent harbinger of New Politics gets smudged beyond recognition we are back to a standard fare ultra-liberal politician. And a very, very disappointed media cheering section.

 Barack Obama’s liberal apologists in the blogosphere could not imagine that the James Johnson story would persist. But it has and now even the mainstream media has the full story of Johnson on page one. You might expect that the Wall Street Journal editors would call foul. But when that well-known right wing outlet the New York Times has a mind-numbing account of Johnson’s record of inside deals and sweetheart favors it is noteworthy.

What is more, the mainstream media is figuring out what many on the right have observed for some time: Obama is awful on his feet under questioning. MSNBC (yes, even MSNBC) comments:

Obama’s response on this issue yesterday was odd. “Well, look … first of all, I am not vetting my vice presidential search committee for their mortgages,” Obama answered. “I mean this is a game that can be played — everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships… These aren’t folks who are working for me. They are not people, you know, who I have assigned to a job in the future administration.” He basically said Johnson was a volunteer. While technically true, isn’t he volunteering for arguably the most important job on the campaign right now: helping select Obama’s vice president? Seriously, this may be the worst answer Obama has ever given in print. Overall, the campaign seemed surprisingly unprepared for the vetting of the vetter.

The danger here is that once the allure of an ever eloquent harbinger of New Politics gets smudged beyond recognition we are back to a standard fare ultra-liberal politician. And a very, very disappointed media cheering section.

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Bush Garlands Shalala

The weirdest bit of news today is that the Bush White House has released the names of those who will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Among them: retired Gen. Peter Pace, AIDS researcher Anthony Fauci, Judge Laurence Silberman, the late Rep. Tom Lantos…and…

Donna Shalala? Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services? Who, as president of three universities, did and has done absolutely nothing to reverse the slide of her institutions into mediocrity and political correctness? The White House press release describes her as “one of our Nation’s most distinguished educators and public officials.  She has worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans can enjoy lives of hope, promise, and dignity.”

Shalala did agree to serve on a Bush commission to protect the “wounded warriors” home from Iraq, so perhaps her service on the commission is what endeared her to him. A quick database search can’t easily find a nasty Shalala quote about Bush, so maybe beggars can’t be choosers; she has been polite about him and therefore gets a medal.

There’s a story here. Maybe we’ll find out what it is in the next day or two.

The weirdest bit of news today is that the Bush White House has released the names of those who will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Among them: retired Gen. Peter Pace, AIDS researcher Anthony Fauci, Judge Laurence Silberman, the late Rep. Tom Lantos…and…

Donna Shalala? Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services? Who, as president of three universities, did and has done absolutely nothing to reverse the slide of her institutions into mediocrity and political correctness? The White House press release describes her as “one of our Nation’s most distinguished educators and public officials.  She has worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans can enjoy lives of hope, promise, and dignity.”

Shalala did agree to serve on a Bush commission to protect the “wounded warriors” home from Iraq, so perhaps her service on the commission is what endeared her to him. A quick database search can’t easily find a nasty Shalala quote about Bush, so maybe beggars can’t be choosers; she has been polite about him and therefore gets a medal.

There’s a story here. Maybe we’ll find out what it is in the next day or two.

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Relearning American Identity

Last week the Bradley Foundation, one of America’s indispensable institutions, released a report, E Pluribus Unum: The Bradley Project on America’s National Identity. Ross Douthat has written about it here.

According to the report, America is facing an identity crisis. We are losing our sense of national identify, detaching ourselves from our history and founding ideals, giving way to separatist impulses, and replacing the idea of national citizenship with “global citizenship.” The effect of this is a splintering, divided nation. The antidote is for Americans to affirm once again their commitment to national unity, a shared culture, a common language, and defining ideals. Americans need to be reminded “who we are and what unites us.”

The report includes recommendations for many sectors of society, from businesses to civic groups to political leaders to colleges to elementary and secondary schools. On the latter, the E Pluribus Unum report reminds us, “We look to the public schools to fulfill their civic mission.”

Indeed we do, or at least we once did. Among the most neglected issues of our time is the role schools once played, and must one day play again, in transmitting to students an appreciation for American history, our ideals, and the importance of “preparing boys and girls for the duties of daily life and intelligent citizenship.” That last quote, by the way, comes from a report by the National Education Association – but written in the early part of the 20th century. (The NEA was once an outstanding organization; today, it ranks as among the most harmful in American life.) America’s finest Secretary of Education, William Bennett, put it this way:

Running through our nation’s history like a golden thread are certain ideals and aspirations. We believe in liberty and justice and equality. We believe in limited government and the betterment of the human condition. These truths underlie both our history and our society, and while they may be self-evident, they are not spontaneously apprehended by the young. They must be taught these things, and they should know that a large part of the world thinks and acts according to other principles. Once we understand that history plays a central role in preparing our students for democratic citizenship, everything else falls into place.

The study of history is central to this. Bernard De Voto, in speaking about the romantic aspect of history, put it in vivid and moving terms:

If the mad, impossible voyage of Columbus or Cartier or La Salle or Coronado or John Ledyard is not romantic, if the stars did not dance in the sky when your Constitutional Convention met, if Atlantis has any landscape stranger or the other side of the moon any lights or colors or shapes more unearthly than the customary homespun of Lincoln and the morning coat of Jackson, well, I don’t know what romance is. Ours is a story mad with the impossible; it began as a dream and it has continued as dream down to the last headlines you read in a newspaper.

Education reform should be a central issue in our political and civic conversations – and while we should frame this debate as about skills and achievement and higher test scores, we also need to remind people that education is about shaping young people’s sensibilities and character and preparing them for the duties of citizenship. And in teaching our students about America – about its achievements and injustices, about its imperfect steps toward a more perfect union – they will develop a deep and abiding love for her.

Last week the Bradley Foundation, one of America’s indispensable institutions, released a report, E Pluribus Unum: The Bradley Project on America’s National Identity. Ross Douthat has written about it here.

According to the report, America is facing an identity crisis. We are losing our sense of national identify, detaching ourselves from our history and founding ideals, giving way to separatist impulses, and replacing the idea of national citizenship with “global citizenship.” The effect of this is a splintering, divided nation. The antidote is for Americans to affirm once again their commitment to national unity, a shared culture, a common language, and defining ideals. Americans need to be reminded “who we are and what unites us.”

The report includes recommendations for many sectors of society, from businesses to civic groups to political leaders to colleges to elementary and secondary schools. On the latter, the E Pluribus Unum report reminds us, “We look to the public schools to fulfill their civic mission.”

Indeed we do, or at least we once did. Among the most neglected issues of our time is the role schools once played, and must one day play again, in transmitting to students an appreciation for American history, our ideals, and the importance of “preparing boys and girls for the duties of daily life and intelligent citizenship.” That last quote, by the way, comes from a report by the National Education Association – but written in the early part of the 20th century. (The NEA was once an outstanding organization; today, it ranks as among the most harmful in American life.) America’s finest Secretary of Education, William Bennett, put it this way:

Running through our nation’s history like a golden thread are certain ideals and aspirations. We believe in liberty and justice and equality. We believe in limited government and the betterment of the human condition. These truths underlie both our history and our society, and while they may be self-evident, they are not spontaneously apprehended by the young. They must be taught these things, and they should know that a large part of the world thinks and acts according to other principles. Once we understand that history plays a central role in preparing our students for democratic citizenship, everything else falls into place.

The study of history is central to this. Bernard De Voto, in speaking about the romantic aspect of history, put it in vivid and moving terms:

If the mad, impossible voyage of Columbus or Cartier or La Salle or Coronado or John Ledyard is not romantic, if the stars did not dance in the sky when your Constitutional Convention met, if Atlantis has any landscape stranger or the other side of the moon any lights or colors or shapes more unearthly than the customary homespun of Lincoln and the morning coat of Jackson, well, I don’t know what romance is. Ours is a story mad with the impossible; it began as a dream and it has continued as dream down to the last headlines you read in a newspaper.

Education reform should be a central issue in our political and civic conversations – and while we should frame this debate as about skills and achievement and higher test scores, we also need to remind people that education is about shaping young people’s sensibilities and character and preparing them for the duties of citizenship. And in teaching our students about America – about its achievements and injustices, about its imperfect steps toward a more perfect union – they will develop a deep and abiding love for her.

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You Too Can Be Rich

One of John McCain’s central challenges is to convince voters that Barack Obama’s tax sights are set not just on the rich, but on the vast bulk of American taxpayers. Steve Moore probes what Obama considers to be “rich” (Hillary Clinton had some thoughts on this too) and then observes:

One problem for Senator Obama and his class-warfare crowd is that repealing the Bush tax cuts for those with earnings of more than $250,000 would raise only about $40 billion a year, according to Cato Institute economist Alan Reynolds. That would leave President Obama with a $360 billion shortfall to meet his other proposals. Either those nurses and policemen are going to have to be defined as “rich” by Team Obama, or the Democrats’ pledge of balancing the budget in five years is a fantasy. Add the fact that his various spending proposals will certainly prove more costly than projected. It sounds like not just the top 2% but most of the bottom 98% had better get ready for higher taxes under an Obama administration.

Well I suppose Obama can stick to his $250,000 figure and raise the rest of the revenue on the backs of corporate America and from taxes capital gains, but even he has recognized the looming recession might make that untenable. Or, he can just give up the pretense that he is fiscally responsible and spend without the revenues to pay for it. But then again, he just might raise taxes on lots and lots of people.

One sure way to probe Obama’s intentions is to look at how he has voted. If he had no problem raising the marginal tax rate on taxpayers making $31,850 that tells you there are many, many rich people in Obama’s view. It seems that McCain might benefit from some of those Ross Perot charts to explain all this to voters when and if he ever gets Obama into a town hall meeting.

One of John McCain’s central challenges is to convince voters that Barack Obama’s tax sights are set not just on the rich, but on the vast bulk of American taxpayers. Steve Moore probes what Obama considers to be “rich” (Hillary Clinton had some thoughts on this too) and then observes:

One problem for Senator Obama and his class-warfare crowd is that repealing the Bush tax cuts for those with earnings of more than $250,000 would raise only about $40 billion a year, according to Cato Institute economist Alan Reynolds. That would leave President Obama with a $360 billion shortfall to meet his other proposals. Either those nurses and policemen are going to have to be defined as “rich” by Team Obama, or the Democrats’ pledge of balancing the budget in five years is a fantasy. Add the fact that his various spending proposals will certainly prove more costly than projected. It sounds like not just the top 2% but most of the bottom 98% had better get ready for higher taxes under an Obama administration.

Well I suppose Obama can stick to his $250,000 figure and raise the rest of the revenue on the backs of corporate America and from taxes capital gains, but even he has recognized the looming recession might make that untenable. Or, he can just give up the pretense that he is fiscally responsible and spend without the revenues to pay for it. But then again, he just might raise taxes on lots and lots of people.

One sure way to probe Obama’s intentions is to look at how he has voted. If he had no problem raising the marginal tax rate on taxpayers making $31,850 that tells you there are many, many rich people in Obama’s view. It seems that McCain might benefit from some of those Ross Perot charts to explain all this to voters when and if he ever gets Obama into a town hall meeting.

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It’s the Same Story Every Four Years

In the New Republic, the economist Bruce Bartlett — who wrote a book condemning George Bush’s deviation from the path of true conservatism — describes the rise of the so-called “Obamacon,” a conservative who has either gone wild for Barack, so detests the current state of Bush Republicanism that he has decided to vote Democrat, or sees a “sliver of hope” in Obama.

In the former camp, he mentions Andrew Sullivan (who voted for John Kerry in 2004, which makes him an odd person to whom to affix the “con”), right-wing lawyer Doug Kmiec (a hard-line pro-lifer who somehow adduces on the basis of nothing that Obama is sympathetic to his cause), the son of Milton Friedman, and the wife of a Dallas magazine publisher who was once employed by  National Review.

I think it’s fair to say this is not a particularly significant list, at least not compared to the rush to the Democratic exits in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter and dozens of intellectuals and activists — some of whom actually still proudly used the word “socialist” to describe themselves — essentially quit their party to join the opposing team.

The latter camp — the out-of-disgust camp — is more serious and more interesting. There is Francis Fukuyama, who has adduced from his growing disenchantment with the war in Iraq and the intellectuals who made a case for it an overweening arrogance that needs to be disciplined. Jeffrey Hart, the gentlemanly Dartmouth professor  who was for decades a lonely conservative voice in academia, sees Bush as a betrayer of conservative principle.

The “sliver of hope” camp was given best voice by paleoconservative Andy Bacevich, whose isolationism has given him cause to see something analogous somewhere in Obama’s views.

I hate to tell Bruce Bartlett this, but every four years we hear all about conservatives who are so sick of their party that they intend to vote Democratic. The American Conservative, the Pat Buchanan magazine that published Bacevich’s “sliver of hope” piece, endorsed John Kerry.  Republicans were said to be thrilled by the selection of Joe Lieberman as Gore’s running mate in 2000. And in 1992, a great deal was made of the decision of a few neoconservatives, notably COMMENTARY contributor Joshua Muravchik, to support Bill Clinton out of disgust with George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy.

The truth, however, is that, to judge by the discrepancy between the number of people who claim to be Democrats and the number of people who actually vote Republican, Republican presidential candidates have been drawing  disproportionate numbers of votes from Democrats since 1968.

Obama’s going to have to do a lot better than gathering a few people on the Right who so detest Bush that they cannot see their way clear to voting for a Republican presidential candidate who himself once hated Bush with a passion greater than the passion even they can summon today.

In the New Republic, the economist Bruce Bartlett — who wrote a book condemning George Bush’s deviation from the path of true conservatism — describes the rise of the so-called “Obamacon,” a conservative who has either gone wild for Barack, so detests the current state of Bush Republicanism that he has decided to vote Democrat, or sees a “sliver of hope” in Obama.

In the former camp, he mentions Andrew Sullivan (who voted for John Kerry in 2004, which makes him an odd person to whom to affix the “con”), right-wing lawyer Doug Kmiec (a hard-line pro-lifer who somehow adduces on the basis of nothing that Obama is sympathetic to his cause), the son of Milton Friedman, and the wife of a Dallas magazine publisher who was once employed by  National Review.

I think it’s fair to say this is not a particularly significant list, at least not compared to the rush to the Democratic exits in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter and dozens of intellectuals and activists — some of whom actually still proudly used the word “socialist” to describe themselves — essentially quit their party to join the opposing team.

The latter camp — the out-of-disgust camp — is more serious and more interesting. There is Francis Fukuyama, who has adduced from his growing disenchantment with the war in Iraq and the intellectuals who made a case for it an overweening arrogance that needs to be disciplined. Jeffrey Hart, the gentlemanly Dartmouth professor  who was for decades a lonely conservative voice in academia, sees Bush as a betrayer of conservative principle.

The “sliver of hope” camp was given best voice by paleoconservative Andy Bacevich, whose isolationism has given him cause to see something analogous somewhere in Obama’s views.

I hate to tell Bruce Bartlett this, but every four years we hear all about conservatives who are so sick of their party that they intend to vote Democratic. The American Conservative, the Pat Buchanan magazine that published Bacevich’s “sliver of hope” piece, endorsed John Kerry.  Republicans were said to be thrilled by the selection of Joe Lieberman as Gore’s running mate in 2000. And in 1992, a great deal was made of the decision of a few neoconservatives, notably COMMENTARY contributor Joshua Muravchik, to support Bill Clinton out of disgust with George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy.

The truth, however, is that, to judge by the discrepancy between the number of people who claim to be Democrats and the number of people who actually vote Republican, Republican presidential candidates have been drawing  disproportionate numbers of votes from Democrats since 1968.

Obama’s going to have to do a lot better than gathering a few people on the Right who so detest Bush that they cannot see their way clear to voting for a Republican presidential candidate who himself once hated Bush with a passion greater than the passion even they can summon today.

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Why Is Bush Apologizing?

President Bush could not have picked a worse time to decide to soften his image. As Iran barrels towards full nuclear capability and as positive developments in the War on Terror shine a favorable light on the Bush Doctrine, we find the President at his most cuddly and contrite.

He recently told the London Times he regrets the tough guy language he used in the run-up to the Iraq War. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric,” he said. Is that really the important thing? “Bring them on” wasn’t the most prudent rhetorical choice ever made by a wartime commander in chief, but then George W. Bush wasn’t leading a nation faced with a rhetorical threat. The challenges posed by 9/11 were, and are, actual-not linguistic. It’s what the President did in response that mattered. And some six years after taking the fight to the terrorists, we see al Qaeda’s power structure crumbling and its popular support waning. And we have not suffered another mainland attack. All the cowboy slang ranks as a footnote.

More troubling than Bush’s regrets is his present conception of diplomacy in regard to Iran. It’s as if he’s seeking to redeem himself by instituting a program of American humility. For the touchy-feely internationalists who consider multilateralism itself a goal of U.S. foreign policy, George W. Bush’s meeting in Slovenia yesterday was a triumph. For those who are more concerned about Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal, the meeting was very worrisome.

The President met with European leaders who, according to the New York Times, agreed “to consider additional punitive sanctions against Iran, including restrictions on its banks, if Iran rejects a package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program.” Of course international agreement is a good thing and America should always seek out allies. But if getting Europe to “consider” punishing Tehran is the best we can do, we’re facing a crisis. Yet Bush seems alarmingly unfazed, and has taken to saying he wants to leave his presidential successor with “a multilateral framework” to deal with Iran.

Here is the problem. Talking about talking is not effective diplomacy. Talking about bombing is effective diplomacy. We’ve reached a funny point in world history when the toughest thing a western leader is permitted to say about a potential nuclear menace is that “all options are on the table.” Let’s hope that what appears to be a kinder, gentler, and frankly weaker approach to Iran is just the President crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s before making the hardest decision a statesman can make. If the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran is a “multilateral framework” of European “considerations,” Bush’s legacy will bear the stain of something far more damning than excessive verbal bluster.

President Bush could not have picked a worse time to decide to soften his image. As Iran barrels towards full nuclear capability and as positive developments in the War on Terror shine a favorable light on the Bush Doctrine, we find the President at his most cuddly and contrite.

He recently told the London Times he regrets the tough guy language he used in the run-up to the Iraq War. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric,” he said. Is that really the important thing? “Bring them on” wasn’t the most prudent rhetorical choice ever made by a wartime commander in chief, but then George W. Bush wasn’t leading a nation faced with a rhetorical threat. The challenges posed by 9/11 were, and are, actual-not linguistic. It’s what the President did in response that mattered. And some six years after taking the fight to the terrorists, we see al Qaeda’s power structure crumbling and its popular support waning. And we have not suffered another mainland attack. All the cowboy slang ranks as a footnote.

More troubling than Bush’s regrets is his present conception of diplomacy in regard to Iran. It’s as if he’s seeking to redeem himself by instituting a program of American humility. For the touchy-feely internationalists who consider multilateralism itself a goal of U.S. foreign policy, George W. Bush’s meeting in Slovenia yesterday was a triumph. For those who are more concerned about Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal, the meeting was very worrisome.

The President met with European leaders who, according to the New York Times, agreed “to consider additional punitive sanctions against Iran, including restrictions on its banks, if Iran rejects a package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program.” Of course international agreement is a good thing and America should always seek out allies. But if getting Europe to “consider” punishing Tehran is the best we can do, we’re facing a crisis. Yet Bush seems alarmingly unfazed, and has taken to saying he wants to leave his presidential successor with “a multilateral framework” to deal with Iran.

Here is the problem. Talking about talking is not effective diplomacy. Talking about bombing is effective diplomacy. We’ve reached a funny point in world history when the toughest thing a western leader is permitted to say about a potential nuclear menace is that “all options are on the table.” Let’s hope that what appears to be a kinder, gentler, and frankly weaker approach to Iran is just the President crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s before making the hardest decision a statesman can make. If the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran is a “multilateral framework” of European “considerations,” Bush’s legacy will bear the stain of something far more damning than excessive verbal bluster.

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Hey, This Year’s Electoral Map Looks Just Like 2004

Watching the day-to-day events in the presidential race it is sometimes hard to keep in mind that this is not a national referendum but a race to 270 electoral votes. Here is the latest pollster who observes that this year’s electoral map suggests relatively few states will be in play. Stuart Rothenberg writes:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) smashing victories in Kentucky and West Virginia confirmed what has been a developing story since early in the primary season: Obama has limited appeal among downscale (those with lower income and less formal education), older white voters. For whatever reason — and a number of possible explanations come to mind — they don’t find him an appealing candidate. Many, of course, ultimately will end up voting for Obama anyway, but some are likely to prefer McCain in the general election, while others will stay home. Even minimal defections from this group should cause concern among Democratic strategists, since the party has been able to count on this constituency in the past.

Rothenberg allows that a total GOP meltdown is still possible, but if that doesn’t materialize then, he says, “Most of the states that went for George W. Bush in 2000 are likely to end up in the Republican column again this November, while almost every state that former Vice President Al Gore won eight years ago is likely to go for Obama this year.”

Other neutral pollsters reach the same conclusion. Despite the national trends, the incumbent president’s poll ratings, the economy and the war in Iraq it is still very likely to be a close race.

Why? The Democrats didn’t choose someone who can broaden the base any more effectively than John Kerry and Michael Dukakis could. (Indeed Obama arguably has greater challenges than they did with key demographic groups). Add to that the fact that Americans have efficiently segregated themselves by ideology into Red and Blue states. So it’s not surprising that if you pair up another liberal Democrat and a right-of-center Republican you’re not going to get an electoral map much different from those of 2000 or 2004.

Watching the day-to-day events in the presidential race it is sometimes hard to keep in mind that this is not a national referendum but a race to 270 electoral votes. Here is the latest pollster who observes that this year’s electoral map suggests relatively few states will be in play. Stuart Rothenberg writes:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) smashing victories in Kentucky and West Virginia confirmed what has been a developing story since early in the primary season: Obama has limited appeal among downscale (those with lower income and less formal education), older white voters. For whatever reason — and a number of possible explanations come to mind — they don’t find him an appealing candidate. Many, of course, ultimately will end up voting for Obama anyway, but some are likely to prefer McCain in the general election, while others will stay home. Even minimal defections from this group should cause concern among Democratic strategists, since the party has been able to count on this constituency in the past.

Rothenberg allows that a total GOP meltdown is still possible, but if that doesn’t materialize then, he says, “Most of the states that went for George W. Bush in 2000 are likely to end up in the Republican column again this November, while almost every state that former Vice President Al Gore won eight years ago is likely to go for Obama this year.”

Other neutral pollsters reach the same conclusion. Despite the national trends, the incumbent president’s poll ratings, the economy and the war in Iraq it is still very likely to be a close race.

Why? The Democrats didn’t choose someone who can broaden the base any more effectively than John Kerry and Michael Dukakis could. (Indeed Obama arguably has greater challenges than they did with key demographic groups). Add to that the fact that Americans have efficiently segregated themselves by ideology into Red and Blue states. So it’s not surprising that if you pair up another liberal Democrat and a right-of-center Republican you’re not going to get an electoral map much different from those of 2000 or 2004.

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Was the Carter Presidency Too Long Ago? No.

The other day, John McCain offered a zinger about Barack Obama:

One of his favorite phrases is that I would be a Bush third term. Well I think maybe his proposals could be Carter’s second term.

Some in the blogosphere have been cackling about this line. Doesn’t McCain know that the Carter presidency was 28 years ago? Who remembers it? Why would young people care? In an item called “Lame,” Joe Klein writes:

 John McCain quipped yesterday that Barack Obama is “running for Jimmy Carter’s second term.” I can’t imagine that most people under the age of 40 are old enough to remember what Carter’s first term was like. It was done 28 years ago. For my kids, it’s as vivid as Calvin Coolidge’s first term. Of course, I remember Carter’s sad presidency as if it were only yesterday…and I imagine McCain does, too. Can’t remember where I left the car keys, though.

Get it? McCain is old. Funny. The thing is, America is old too. Every ten years the census measures the median age of the United States. Since 1970, the median age has risen from 28 to 35.  (Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 grew by 28 percent, while the number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 dropped by 4 percentage points.) The next census will surely measure a percentage gain of older Americans as well, largely due to improvements in medicine that are keeping people alive decades longer than before.

What this means is simple: There are twice as many potential American voters who do remember the late 1970s than there are potential American voters who do not. I don’t think McCain should harp on the potential comparisons between Obama and Jimmy Carter, but the notion that the country is just so gloriously young, young, young that it has no recall of those days is simply demographically incorrect. Not to mention that every voter survey since 1972 makes clear that the older you are, the more likely it is that you will vote…

The other day, John McCain offered a zinger about Barack Obama:

One of his favorite phrases is that I would be a Bush third term. Well I think maybe his proposals could be Carter’s second term.

Some in the blogosphere have been cackling about this line. Doesn’t McCain know that the Carter presidency was 28 years ago? Who remembers it? Why would young people care? In an item called “Lame,” Joe Klein writes:

 John McCain quipped yesterday that Barack Obama is “running for Jimmy Carter’s second term.” I can’t imagine that most people under the age of 40 are old enough to remember what Carter’s first term was like. It was done 28 years ago. For my kids, it’s as vivid as Calvin Coolidge’s first term. Of course, I remember Carter’s sad presidency as if it were only yesterday…and I imagine McCain does, too. Can’t remember where I left the car keys, though.

Get it? McCain is old. Funny. The thing is, America is old too. Every ten years the census measures the median age of the United States. Since 1970, the median age has risen from 28 to 35.  (Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 grew by 28 percent, while the number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 dropped by 4 percentage points.) The next census will surely measure a percentage gain of older Americans as well, largely due to improvements in medicine that are keeping people alive decades longer than before.

What this means is simple: There are twice as many potential American voters who do remember the late 1970s than there are potential American voters who do not. I don’t think McCain should harp on the potential comparisons between Obama and Jimmy Carter, but the notion that the country is just so gloriously young, young, young that it has no recall of those days is simply demographically incorrect. Not to mention that every voter survey since 1972 makes clear that the older you are, the more likely it is that you will vote…

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Is Jacob Heilbrunn a Plagiarist?

That is the question raised by Corey Robin in The Nation. Heilbrunn spent a great deal of time working on a little-noticed and less-regarded book about neoconservatives — so long that the project began with a positive tinge and ended as a hit job. Robin notes in his review a schizophrenic quality to Heilbrunn’s They Knew They Were Right – how he claims variously that neoconservative intellectuals are driven by principle and then that they are driven by a hunger for electoral success, which is probably a result of its long gestation process and may, in fact, be more of a reflection of Heilbrunn’s own change of tune. But it is the revelation of the profound similarity in a few passage in Heilbrunn’s book, one of them to a piece by Robin himself, that makes Rubin’s review particularly notable:

 Here’s Heilbrunn discussing how supporters of the war in Iraq began to criticize the Iraqis once the war effort faltered:

David Brooks blamed the Iraqis for succumbing to innate “demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise…even in the face of self-immolation.” Leon Wieseltier said much the same thing in The New Republic: “The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called “the foreigner’s gift,” belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not only be given, they must also be received…. For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been free people. What have they done with their freedom?…After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.”

Here’s a passage I wrote in an article about Hannah Arendt published in the January 4, 2007, issue of The London Review of Books:

According to the New York Times columnist David Brooks, after the fall of Saddam the Iraqis succumbed to their native ‘demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise…even in the face of self-immolation’. Liberal hawks such as Leon Wieseltier believe much the same thing: “The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called ‘the foreigner’s gift’, belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not be only given, they must also be received…. For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been a free people. What have they done with their freedom?… After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.”

The identical order and nearly identical setup of the same quotes, with the same ellipses, caught my attention, especially since Heilbrunn cites only Wieseltier in his footnote. But I dismissed it as a single instance of carelessness. Then I found another….

Very damning. (Hat tip: RSS/TWS.)

That is the question raised by Corey Robin in The Nation. Heilbrunn spent a great deal of time working on a little-noticed and less-regarded book about neoconservatives — so long that the project began with a positive tinge and ended as a hit job. Robin notes in his review a schizophrenic quality to Heilbrunn’s They Knew They Were Right – how he claims variously that neoconservative intellectuals are driven by principle and then that they are driven by a hunger for electoral success, which is probably a result of its long gestation process and may, in fact, be more of a reflection of Heilbrunn’s own change of tune. But it is the revelation of the profound similarity in a few passage in Heilbrunn’s book, one of them to a piece by Robin himself, that makes Rubin’s review particularly notable:

 Here’s Heilbrunn discussing how supporters of the war in Iraq began to criticize the Iraqis once the war effort faltered:

David Brooks blamed the Iraqis for succumbing to innate “demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise…even in the face of self-immolation.” Leon Wieseltier said much the same thing in The New Republic: “The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called “the foreigner’s gift,” belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not only be given, they must also be received…. For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been free people. What have they done with their freedom?…After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.”

Here’s a passage I wrote in an article about Hannah Arendt published in the January 4, 2007, issue of The London Review of Books:

According to the New York Times columnist David Brooks, after the fall of Saddam the Iraqis succumbed to their native ‘demons: greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise…even in the face of self-immolation’. Liberal hawks such as Leon Wieseltier believe much the same thing: “The security situation is at bottom the social-cultural situation. It seems increasingly clear to me that the blame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called ‘the foreigner’s gift’, belongs to the Iraqis. Gifts must not be only given, they must also be received…. For three and a half years, the Iraqis have been a free people. What have they done with their freedom?… After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself.”

The identical order and nearly identical setup of the same quotes, with the same ellipses, caught my attention, especially since Heilbrunn cites only Wieseltier in his footnote. But I dismissed it as a single instance of carelessness. Then I found another….

Very damning. (Hat tip: RSS/TWS.)

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Empowering?

There is a story in today’s New York Times about Muslim women in France who opt for surgery to create the illusion of virginity upon marriage.

“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

Actually, for some of these women virginity is life. Take the case of Morsal Obeidi, 16. Her brother Ahmed stabbed her 20 times after deciding his sister, living in Hamburg, had become unclean.

Here’s more from the Times story:

One Muslim born in Macedonia said she opted for the operation to avoid being punished by her father after an eight-year relationship with her boyfriend.

“I was afraid that my father would take me to a doctor and see whether I was still a virgin,” said the woman, 32, who owns a small business and lives on her own in Frankfurt. “He told me, ‘I will forgive everything but not if you have thrown dirt on my honor.’ I wasn’t afraid he would kill me, but I was sure he would have beaten me.”

[…]

Those who perform the procedure say they are empowering patients by giving them a viable future and preventing them from being abused — or even killed — by their fathers or brothers.

Performing surgery on someone’s genitals in order to avoid murder at the hands of a relative can be called a lot of things. But “empowering”? Maybe something got lost in translation.

There is a story in today’s New York Times about Muslim women in France who opt for surgery to create the illusion of virginity upon marriage.

“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

Actually, for some of these women virginity is life. Take the case of Morsal Obeidi, 16. Her brother Ahmed stabbed her 20 times after deciding his sister, living in Hamburg, had become unclean.

Here’s more from the Times story:

One Muslim born in Macedonia said she opted for the operation to avoid being punished by her father after an eight-year relationship with her boyfriend.

“I was afraid that my father would take me to a doctor and see whether I was still a virgin,” said the woman, 32, who owns a small business and lives on her own in Frankfurt. “He told me, ‘I will forgive everything but not if you have thrown dirt on my honor.’ I wasn’t afraid he would kill me, but I was sure he would have beaten me.”

[…]

Those who perform the procedure say they are empowering patients by giving them a viable future and preventing them from being abused — or even killed — by their fathers or brothers.

Performing surgery on someone’s genitals in order to avoid murder at the hands of a relative can be called a lot of things. But “empowering”? Maybe something got lost in translation.

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Media Cocoon

This sounds like a joke: media bias has gotten so out of hand that CNN is criticizing MSNBC for being too liberal. But it’s true. And what is more, it is getting harder for obviously and overtly biased news outlets to get away with shaping coverage. There are just too many news organizations.

Here’s a case in point. Newsweek’s much criticized tale of Barack Obama’s Jewish non-problem was promptly revealed to be of questionable authenticity. The Lieberman side of the story, studiously ignored by the Newsweek account, found its way to light not only in conservative media, but in other mainstream media outlets. Then along comes a story from The Hill which tells us that Obama’s non-problem may be more real than Newsweek let on:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is attracting elite Jewish Democratic donors who backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and are concerned about Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) stance toward Israel, say McCain backers who are organizing the effort to court Democrats. McCain has already had several fundraising events with Jewish Democrats in Washington and Florida, say his supporters. . . Jewish Democrats are concerned about Obama’s stance toward Israel, and many big donors from this group supported Clinton. McCain has moved aggressively in recent days to win their allegiance since Clinton dropped her White House bid.

So much for the Newsweek-crafted view of reality.

In short, media bias in some cases may be worse than ever, but there is a large universe of information making it more likely that junk stories (and the outlets thiat push them) are properly scrutinized. It would be nice if that phenomenon actually impacted the miscreant outlets, but let us be thankful for now for the competition they face.

This sounds like a joke: media bias has gotten so out of hand that CNN is criticizing MSNBC for being too liberal. But it’s true. And what is more, it is getting harder for obviously and overtly biased news outlets to get away with shaping coverage. There are just too many news organizations.

Here’s a case in point. Newsweek’s much criticized tale of Barack Obama’s Jewish non-problem was promptly revealed to be of questionable authenticity. The Lieberman side of the story, studiously ignored by the Newsweek account, found its way to light not only in conservative media, but in other mainstream media outlets. Then along comes a story from The Hill which tells us that Obama’s non-problem may be more real than Newsweek let on:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is attracting elite Jewish Democratic donors who backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and are concerned about Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) stance toward Israel, say McCain backers who are organizing the effort to court Democrats. McCain has already had several fundraising events with Jewish Democrats in Washington and Florida, say his supporters. . . Jewish Democrats are concerned about Obama’s stance toward Israel, and many big donors from this group supported Clinton. McCain has moved aggressively in recent days to win their allegiance since Clinton dropped her White House bid.

So much for the Newsweek-crafted view of reality.

In short, media bias in some cases may be worse than ever, but there is a large universe of information making it more likely that junk stories (and the outlets thiat push them) are properly scrutinized. It would be nice if that phenomenon actually impacted the miscreant outlets, but let us be thankful for now for the competition they face.

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And You Thought Conservatives Were Tough

Barack Obama spent the last couple of days fending off the firestorm over James Johnson. Now Obama is getting flak for hiring mainstream advisor (“Wall Street economist,” in liberal-speak) Jason Furman to provide economic expertise. The left wing crowd is upset because they were under the impression Obama was a protectionist, pro-labor, populist. Where did they get that impression? Probably from listening to Obama on the campaign trail. Now he talks up his love of free trade and affection for markets. So you can understand that the ultra-liberal base, which stuck with him throughout the primaries, might be peeved.

This highlights the problem Obama faces as he flips and flops his way to the center on a variety of topics. If the Left is this upset about one economic advisor imagine the reaction if Obama moves substantially on the surge or acknowledges the Democrats were unduly pessimistic about our progress against Al Qaeda. Now this is certainly a problem of Obama’s own making as he determined to run left of Clinton to seize the nomination. (And perhaps it was inevitable given his ultra-liberal voting record.) It is the historical dilemma faced by many Democratic nominees from George McGovern to John Kerry who captured the nomination and then had to repackage themselves for a more moderate electorate in the general election.

The problem for Obama, however, may be more acute because he must reverse course without undermining his “we are above all that” New Politics. Other politicians get a wink and a nod when they shift positions as pundits simply pass it off as part of the “process” of getting elected. But when you are running against the “process” things get a bit dicier.

And despite what spin the media would like to add, John McCain really does not have this problem. He managed to win the Republican race without shifting positions, in fact defying conservatives, on a range of issues (e.g. global warming, torture, immigration). He has other problems, but this is not one of them.

Given all that, it will be interesting to see how adept the McCain camp is in using the Obama policy shifts to undermine Obama’s core appeal, namely that he is a different kind of politician.

Barack Obama spent the last couple of days fending off the firestorm over James Johnson. Now Obama is getting flak for hiring mainstream advisor (“Wall Street economist,” in liberal-speak) Jason Furman to provide economic expertise. The left wing crowd is upset because they were under the impression Obama was a protectionist, pro-labor, populist. Where did they get that impression? Probably from listening to Obama on the campaign trail. Now he talks up his love of free trade and affection for markets. So you can understand that the ultra-liberal base, which stuck with him throughout the primaries, might be peeved.

This highlights the problem Obama faces as he flips and flops his way to the center on a variety of topics. If the Left is this upset about one economic advisor imagine the reaction if Obama moves substantially on the surge or acknowledges the Democrats were unduly pessimistic about our progress against Al Qaeda. Now this is certainly a problem of Obama’s own making as he determined to run left of Clinton to seize the nomination. (And perhaps it was inevitable given his ultra-liberal voting record.) It is the historical dilemma faced by many Democratic nominees from George McGovern to John Kerry who captured the nomination and then had to repackage themselves for a more moderate electorate in the general election.

The problem for Obama, however, may be more acute because he must reverse course without undermining his “we are above all that” New Politics. Other politicians get a wink and a nod when they shift positions as pundits simply pass it off as part of the “process” of getting elected. But when you are running against the “process” things get a bit dicier.

And despite what spin the media would like to add, John McCain really does not have this problem. He managed to win the Republican race without shifting positions, in fact defying conservatives, on a range of issues (e.g. global warming, torture, immigration). He has other problems, but this is not one of them.

Given all that, it will be interesting to see how adept the McCain camp is in using the Obama policy shifts to undermine Obama’s core appeal, namely that he is a different kind of politician.

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