Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 25, 2008

Sometimes It’s Best Just To Apologize

So the bottom line on Soldier Snubgate is that Barack Obama, when told he could only visit with a Senate aide and not a campaign contingent, said “No, thanks.” This is turning into a cringe-inducing episode which may penetrate the media fog and upset regular voters. (If voters are upset about the “citizen of the world” routine, wait till this story takes hold.) More stories like this will not help Obama overcome the concern that he really doesn’t value the military.

From John McCain’s perspective, it combines all the elements of a perfect anti-Obama story: it is easy to understand, it suggests Obama is egotistical (what’s the point of going if he can’t bring the campaign squad and the cameras?) and unappreciative of military service, and it emphasizes the concern that he has “jumped the shark” in assuming Presidency of the World when he is supposed to be running for President of the U.S. and earning the trust of American voters.

And calling the soldiers afterwards once the story has broken is just, well, lame. (Talk about “phoning it in.”) Following the line of attacks by Obama surrogates on McCain’s military service it makes one wonder why Obama (and his staff) have such little understanding of how average voters perceive these slights, even if they themselves don’t especially revere military service. You would think they could at least fake it.

So the bottom line on Soldier Snubgate is that Barack Obama, when told he could only visit with a Senate aide and not a campaign contingent, said “No, thanks.” This is turning into a cringe-inducing episode which may penetrate the media fog and upset regular voters. (If voters are upset about the “citizen of the world” routine, wait till this story takes hold.) More stories like this will not help Obama overcome the concern that he really doesn’t value the military.

From John McCain’s perspective, it combines all the elements of a perfect anti-Obama story: it is easy to understand, it suggests Obama is egotistical (what’s the point of going if he can’t bring the campaign squad and the cameras?) and unappreciative of military service, and it emphasizes the concern that he has “jumped the shark” in assuming Presidency of the World when he is supposed to be running for President of the U.S. and earning the trust of American voters.

And calling the soldiers afterwards once the story has broken is just, well, lame. (Talk about “phoning it in.”) Following the line of attacks by Obama surrogates on McCain’s military service it makes one wonder why Obama (and his staff) have such little understanding of how average voters perceive these slights, even if they themselves don’t especially revere military service. You would think they could at least fake it.

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Iran Throws Down a Glove

Today, Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency told the Associated Press that his country wanted to expand its cooperation with the Vienna-based organization.  The reassuring comments of Ali Ashgar Soltanieh came just one day after the Islamic Republic appeared to shut the door on its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear investigator.  Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said yesterday that the IAEA’s investigation into suspicions that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program “is outside the domain of the agency.”  Furthermore, he noted that questions about this subject “will be dealt with in another way.”

Yet Soltanieh’s comments, although intended to be soothing, conveyed the same substance as Aghazadeh’s defiant remarks.  Soltanieh said that the agency is not “a U.N. watchdog” and looking into Iran’s suspicious activities was “beyond the domain of the IAEA.”

In fact, Tehran has already suspended its cooperation with the agency.  Apparently, the country’s nuclear negotiators ran out of room to maneuver.  For instance, they have not been able to explain Iran’s possession of plans to put nukes on missiles and drawings for shaping uranium metal into warheads, and they have not been able to say why their technicians conducted explosive tests that have only one purpose-developing a detonator for a nuclear device.  The best they can do is wave their hand and say all the evidence was “fabricated.”

Tehran’s back-to-back refusals this week to cooperate with the IAEA just prove that the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius was correct when he wrote yesterday that the Iranians “are floating on a sense of their own power.”  Yet they have now overstepped.  Aghazadeh’s and Soltanieh’s statements are indefensible and give an opening to the Bush administration to act.  That is, if the President still has the will to do so without first asking for the permission of the Russians and Chinese.

Today, Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency told the Associated Press that his country wanted to expand its cooperation with the Vienna-based organization.  The reassuring comments of Ali Ashgar Soltanieh came just one day after the Islamic Republic appeared to shut the door on its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear investigator.  Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said yesterday that the IAEA’s investigation into suspicions that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program “is outside the domain of the agency.”  Furthermore, he noted that questions about this subject “will be dealt with in another way.”

Yet Soltanieh’s comments, although intended to be soothing, conveyed the same substance as Aghazadeh’s defiant remarks.  Soltanieh said that the agency is not “a U.N. watchdog” and looking into Iran’s suspicious activities was “beyond the domain of the IAEA.”

In fact, Tehran has already suspended its cooperation with the agency.  Apparently, the country’s nuclear negotiators ran out of room to maneuver.  For instance, they have not been able to explain Iran’s possession of plans to put nukes on missiles and drawings for shaping uranium metal into warheads, and they have not been able to say why their technicians conducted explosive tests that have only one purpose-developing a detonator for a nuclear device.  The best they can do is wave their hand and say all the evidence was “fabricated.”

Tehran’s back-to-back refusals this week to cooperate with the IAEA just prove that the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius was correct when he wrote yesterday that the Iranians “are floating on a sense of their own power.”  Yet they have now overstepped.  Aghazadeh’s and Soltanieh’s statements are indefensible and give an opening to the Bush administration to act.  That is, if the President still has the will to do so without first asking for the permission of the Russians and Chinese.

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Barack Obama, Ugly American

He’s doing a press conference with Nicolas Sarkozy right now, with Sarkozy presenting in French. The One just sheepishly put in an earpiece so he could hear the English translation (for which he must be thinking, merci beaucoup). When he’s president, Americans will learn foreign languages and will no longer need to wear earpieces during press conferences in Paris.

He’s doing a press conference with Nicolas Sarkozy right now, with Sarkozy presenting in French. The One just sheepishly put in an earpiece so he could hear the English translation (for which he must be thinking, merci beaucoup). When he’s president, Americans will learn foreign languages and will no longer need to wear earpieces during press conferences in Paris.

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Bookshelf

‘Tis the season to see Shakespeare, especially in America, where summer Shakespeare festivals are as thick as fireflies on a hot night. I gallop from one festival to another in my capacity as drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, and my calendar is so crowded that I occasionally have to write my reviews in hotel rooms and departure lounges instead of in my book-lined Manhattan office. My knowledge of the Bard is considerable but not infinite, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for a reasonably compact one-volume Shakespearean reference book that I can slip in my carry-on bag and consult as needed on the road. This season I’m giving The Rough Guide to Shakespeare (Rough Guides/Penguin, 532 pp., $23.99 paper) a tryout, and so far it’s passed every test.

The Rough Guide series of reference books, which runs the gamut from jazz to gangster movies, offers its readers attractively designed handbooks packed with useful information and written in a no-nonsense style. I’ve read several Rough Guides and found most of them to be pretty much as advertised (though the travel volumes are written from a British point of view, which can be a problem when you’re relying on them for information about destinations in America).

The Shakespeare volume, written by Andrew Dickson, is exemplary of the series’ virtues. The style is transparent and accessible, the perspective that of an unusually well-informed journalist who has gone to considerable trouble to mug up his subject. Each play is covered in a chapter consisting of a crisp synopsis, an interpretative essay, a brief stage history, and an annotated list of film and TV versions, audio recordings, published editions and critical studies. Newspaper-style “sidebars” are sprinkled throughout the book-the chapter on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for instance, contains a concise introduction to Ovid-and separate chapters are devoted to the sonnets and longer poems. The last section contains a potted biography of Shakespeare, a discussion of the Elizabethan stage, a short glossary, an annotated bibliography and a list of Shakespearean Web sites.

What I like most about The Rough Guide to Shakespeare is that its author grinds no axes of any kind. His purpose, so far as I can tell, is to offer a straight-down-the-center summary of the best current thinking about Shakespeare, and his native good sense shines through on every page. Whenever he recommends books, they’re the right ones (Samuel Schoenbaum’s William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life and Park Honan’s 1998 biography head the list).

Above all, Dickson understands that Shakespeare’s plays are plays first and foremost, and while he is aware of and interested in what scholars have had to say about them, his main interest is in how they work on stage:

Sublime though it may be, “Antony and Cleopatra” is well-nigh unstageable-and seems frequently at risk of falling apart. Despite a mere handful of main roles (and no crowd scenes), there are around forty characters in the play, with some 220 entrances and exits, many involving significant groups of people. The stage empties over forty times (scenes are not marked in the only surviving text) and as the action builds, everything gets progressively faster. Even in the fluid, rapid-fire theatre of Shakespeare’s time the effect must have been dazzling, even disconcerting-a constant procession of people across the stage; cross-cutting, filmic scenes that finish practically as they’ve begun.

I know an alarmingly large number of otherwise well-educated people who find Shakespeare intimidating, usually because they were unfortunate enough to have seen tiresome productions of his plays in their youth and never got over the experience. To them–and to anyone else who wants to brush up his Shakespeare–I strongly recommend The Rough Guide to Shakespeare.

‘Tis the season to see Shakespeare, especially in America, where summer Shakespeare festivals are as thick as fireflies on a hot night. I gallop from one festival to another in my capacity as drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, and my calendar is so crowded that I occasionally have to write my reviews in hotel rooms and departure lounges instead of in my book-lined Manhattan office. My knowledge of the Bard is considerable but not infinite, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for a reasonably compact one-volume Shakespearean reference book that I can slip in my carry-on bag and consult as needed on the road. This season I’m giving The Rough Guide to Shakespeare (Rough Guides/Penguin, 532 pp., $23.99 paper) a tryout, and so far it’s passed every test.

The Rough Guide series of reference books, which runs the gamut from jazz to gangster movies, offers its readers attractively designed handbooks packed with useful information and written in a no-nonsense style. I’ve read several Rough Guides and found most of them to be pretty much as advertised (though the travel volumes are written from a British point of view, which can be a problem when you’re relying on them for information about destinations in America).

The Shakespeare volume, written by Andrew Dickson, is exemplary of the series’ virtues. The style is transparent and accessible, the perspective that of an unusually well-informed journalist who has gone to considerable trouble to mug up his subject. Each play is covered in a chapter consisting of a crisp synopsis, an interpretative essay, a brief stage history, and an annotated list of film and TV versions, audio recordings, published editions and critical studies. Newspaper-style “sidebars” are sprinkled throughout the book-the chapter on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for instance, contains a concise introduction to Ovid-and separate chapters are devoted to the sonnets and longer poems. The last section contains a potted biography of Shakespeare, a discussion of the Elizabethan stage, a short glossary, an annotated bibliography and a list of Shakespearean Web sites.

What I like most about The Rough Guide to Shakespeare is that its author grinds no axes of any kind. His purpose, so far as I can tell, is to offer a straight-down-the-center summary of the best current thinking about Shakespeare, and his native good sense shines through on every page. Whenever he recommends books, they’re the right ones (Samuel Schoenbaum’s William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life and Park Honan’s 1998 biography head the list).

Above all, Dickson understands that Shakespeare’s plays are plays first and foremost, and while he is aware of and interested in what scholars have had to say about them, his main interest is in how they work on stage:

Sublime though it may be, “Antony and Cleopatra” is well-nigh unstageable-and seems frequently at risk of falling apart. Despite a mere handful of main roles (and no crowd scenes), there are around forty characters in the play, with some 220 entrances and exits, many involving significant groups of people. The stage empties over forty times (scenes are not marked in the only surviving text) and as the action builds, everything gets progressively faster. Even in the fluid, rapid-fire theatre of Shakespeare’s time the effect must have been dazzling, even disconcerting-a constant procession of people across the stage; cross-cutting, filmic scenes that finish practically as they’ve begun.

I know an alarmingly large number of otherwise well-educated people who find Shakespeare intimidating, usually because they were unfortunate enough to have seen tiresome productions of his plays in their youth and never got over the experience. To them–and to anyone else who wants to brush up his Shakespeare–I strongly recommend The Rough Guide to Shakespeare.

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Misreading The Crowd

Barack Obama is supposed to be in touch with the zeitgeist. From Germany, we learn:

Some Germans in the crowd said the sometimes-flat response to Sen. Obama’s oratory was driven by poor acoustics and the lack of a simultaneous translation into German. Some younger attendees said the relatively short speech felt like an American-driven campaign event, rather than a genuine offering of improved U.S.-European relations. Still, the majority seemed thrilled to listen to a politician who was deemed a “superstar” in German magazine Der Spiegel ahead of Thursday’s speech.

Wait. There was a “sometimes-flat response”? (And the language excuse seems weak–didn’t he tell us everyone there speaks English?) So, the idea of Obama seems to be a mite more exciting than what he has to say. And that’s in Germany.

Back at home he has a much bigger problem: “A new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll finds that energy — including gasoline and utility costs — ranks as the economic issue that voters say affects them the most personally.” Uh, oh: on that issue, he’s badly out of step with roughly three-quarters of the voters who really don’t understand why we aren’t developing domestic energy supplies.

Whether through luck or cunning that old, boring, uninteresting, “out of it” Republican — John McCain — has figured out what the key domestic policy concern is and is precisely aligned with a large majority of Americans. Perhaps McCain is in touch with the America that is and Obama is in touch with some mythical world opinion to be remade. I suspect most politicians would rather be in the former than the latter position.

Barack Obama is supposed to be in touch with the zeitgeist. From Germany, we learn:

Some Germans in the crowd said the sometimes-flat response to Sen. Obama’s oratory was driven by poor acoustics and the lack of a simultaneous translation into German. Some younger attendees said the relatively short speech felt like an American-driven campaign event, rather than a genuine offering of improved U.S.-European relations. Still, the majority seemed thrilled to listen to a politician who was deemed a “superstar” in German magazine Der Spiegel ahead of Thursday’s speech.

Wait. There was a “sometimes-flat response”? (And the language excuse seems weak–didn’t he tell us everyone there speaks English?) So, the idea of Obama seems to be a mite more exciting than what he has to say. And that’s in Germany.

Back at home he has a much bigger problem: “A new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll finds that energy — including gasoline and utility costs — ranks as the economic issue that voters say affects them the most personally.” Uh, oh: on that issue, he’s badly out of step with roughly three-quarters of the voters who really don’t understand why we aren’t developing domestic energy supplies.

Whether through luck or cunning that old, boring, uninteresting, “out of it” Republican — John McCain — has figured out what the key domestic policy concern is and is precisely aligned with a large majority of Americans. Perhaps McCain is in touch with the America that is and Obama is in touch with some mythical world opinion to be remade. I suspect most politicians would rather be in the former than the latter position.

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The Cairo Files: Mubarak and His Critics

On July 3rd, Dr. Abdel Wahhab el-Messeri, leader of the secular Egyptian opposition movement Kifaya, passed away in Cairo’s Palestine Hospital.  According to rumors circulating around Cairo in the days following his death, el-Messeri’s fate was sealed when the Egyptian government prevented him from seeking medical treatment abroad for his cancer.  Whether or not this rumor is true, its very existence illustrates the extent to which Egyptians increasingly view President Hosni Mubarak’s regime as ruthless towards its most prominent critics.

Yet, in a state that typically quashes its critics long before they achieve prominence, el-Messeri’s very existence as a prominent critic of the Mubarak regime illustrates another phenomenon: namely, that the regime only permits the emergence of critics whose advocacy – quite paradoxically – deters the international community from pressuring it to promote liberal reforms.

In this vein, el-Messeri was the Mubarak regime’s ideal secular opposition leader.  After all, long before he arose as a prominent critic of the government, el-Messeri’s numerous screeds on Judaism, Zionism, and Israel had made him a household name throughout the Arab world.  With an established reputation for promulgating blatant intolerance under the guise of scholarship, el-Messeri arose as the rare secular, pro-democratic opposition leader with whom western states could not possibly associate.

One of el-Messeri’s central arguments held that Nazism developed from “western imperial culture,” and that Zionism was merely its most recent manifestation.  Meanwhile, in his 1997 book Zionism, Nazism, and the End of History, el-Messeri castigated the emphasis on six million Jewish Holocaust victims as a “fundamental flaw in Zionist logic,” arguing that focusing on this number ignores the millions of soldiers who died in World War II, including the “several million Germans who Hitler sent to die on the battlefield.”  Furthermore, in his 2002 book The Protocols, Judaism, and Zionism, el-Messeri wrote that the Zionists had used the “myths” of Samson and Masada to “create awe and fear in the Arab mind,” such that Arabs would believe that the Zionists would rather “shatter the world on its head” than lose a war.  Through this conniving strategy, el-Messeri wrote, “you win a lot of psychological and actual battles without waging war.”

With this hateful legacy preceding him, it was hardly surprising when the Kifaya movement undertook a new priority shortly before el-Messeri took its helm in early 2007: collecting one million Egyptian signatures to abrogate the Camp David Accords.  And it was no less surprising when Kifaya – which represented the United States’ great hope for Egypt’s democratic transformation prior to the 2005 elections – swiftly faded into obscurity thereafter.  With el-Messeri further moving to incorporate Islamists into Kifaya’s ranks, the Bush administration saw no good alternatives to the Mubarak regime, and suddenly dropped Egypt from its “freedom agenda.”

In short, whether or not he had any role in hastening the opposition leader’s passing, Hosni Mubarak will miss Abdel Wahhab el-Messeri.  Rest assured, however, that new useful idiots will arise in Egypt’s opposition movements who – by no coincidence – will look even less attractive than the Mubarak regime.

On July 3rd, Dr. Abdel Wahhab el-Messeri, leader of the secular Egyptian opposition movement Kifaya, passed away in Cairo’s Palestine Hospital.  According to rumors circulating around Cairo in the days following his death, el-Messeri’s fate was sealed when the Egyptian government prevented him from seeking medical treatment abroad for his cancer.  Whether or not this rumor is true, its very existence illustrates the extent to which Egyptians increasingly view President Hosni Mubarak’s regime as ruthless towards its most prominent critics.

Yet, in a state that typically quashes its critics long before they achieve prominence, el-Messeri’s very existence as a prominent critic of the Mubarak regime illustrates another phenomenon: namely, that the regime only permits the emergence of critics whose advocacy – quite paradoxically – deters the international community from pressuring it to promote liberal reforms.

In this vein, el-Messeri was the Mubarak regime’s ideal secular opposition leader.  After all, long before he arose as a prominent critic of the government, el-Messeri’s numerous screeds on Judaism, Zionism, and Israel had made him a household name throughout the Arab world.  With an established reputation for promulgating blatant intolerance under the guise of scholarship, el-Messeri arose as the rare secular, pro-democratic opposition leader with whom western states could not possibly associate.

One of el-Messeri’s central arguments held that Nazism developed from “western imperial culture,” and that Zionism was merely its most recent manifestation.  Meanwhile, in his 1997 book Zionism, Nazism, and the End of History, el-Messeri castigated the emphasis on six million Jewish Holocaust victims as a “fundamental flaw in Zionist logic,” arguing that focusing on this number ignores the millions of soldiers who died in World War II, including the “several million Germans who Hitler sent to die on the battlefield.”  Furthermore, in his 2002 book The Protocols, Judaism, and Zionism, el-Messeri wrote that the Zionists had used the “myths” of Samson and Masada to “create awe and fear in the Arab mind,” such that Arabs would believe that the Zionists would rather “shatter the world on its head” than lose a war.  Through this conniving strategy, el-Messeri wrote, “you win a lot of psychological and actual battles without waging war.”

With this hateful legacy preceding him, it was hardly surprising when the Kifaya movement undertook a new priority shortly before el-Messeri took its helm in early 2007: collecting one million Egyptian signatures to abrogate the Camp David Accords.  And it was no less surprising when Kifaya – which represented the United States’ great hope for Egypt’s democratic transformation prior to the 2005 elections – swiftly faded into obscurity thereafter.  With el-Messeri further moving to incorporate Islamists into Kifaya’s ranks, the Bush administration saw no good alternatives to the Mubarak regime, and suddenly dropped Egypt from its “freedom agenda.”

In short, whether or not he had any role in hastening the opposition leader’s passing, Hosni Mubarak will miss Abdel Wahhab el-Messeri.  Rest assured, however, that new useful idiots will arise in Egypt’s opposition movements who – by no coincidence – will look even less attractive than the Mubarak regime.

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Re: Obama’s Victory (Column) Lap

Linda, I wanted to bring up a few different points about Obama’s speech. Obama said he spoke “as a citizen — as a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.” Later in his remarks Obama declared that the “burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.”

This is a rather odd choice of words. To be a citizen means to be a member of a sovereign nation to which one owes allegiance and through which come certain rights, duties, and responsibilities. To say that he is both a citizen of America and a citizen of the world implies equal rank between the two; and to then say that the “burdens of global citizenship” is what binds us together merely underscores the point.

This kind of rhetoric is, at best, sloppy.

Those of us who are Americans are not “citizens of the world”; our first loyalty is to this country. Our servicemen and -women do not put on a uniform and fight and sometimes die on behalf of “the world”; they fight and die on behalf of the United States. When John McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and tortured, it was not because he was a “citizen of the world”; it was because he was an American citizen fighting on behalf of his country. Nor do we pledge allegiance to “the world”; we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. Our founders did not mutually pledge to one another their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on behalf of a “world declaration”; they did so on behalf of declaration of independence of a particular nation, with a particular creed and a set of particular principles. And if Senator Obama becomes president, he will swear to protect and uphold and defend the American Constitution, not a “Constitution of the world.”

The best we can hope for is that Obama’s words shows a deep confusion about what true citizenship is and ought to be. One simply cannot expect people to declare their citizenship for, and pledge their allegiance and lives to, “the world,” which (like that “world organization,” the United Nations) happens to include regimes like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, China, and Zimbabwe, to name just a few.

We are products of a nation which, in the case of America, is founded on a set of ideas and ideals which have often put it at odds with, and even in conflict with, other nations in the world. We believe all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; much of the rest of the world does not. Are we supposed to pledge equal loyalty to both beliefs?

Obama, we can safely assume, doesn’t think so; after all, in his speech he argued for defending human rights against repressive regimes. But this simply highlights the confusion of Obama’s argument. If the world is still divided between those advocating liberty and those imposing tyranny, why ought we to declare we are “citizens of the world”? Citizenship is obviously a profoundly different thing than being part of the world or a member of the human race; one might hope a teacher in constitutional law would understand the distinction.

In his speech Senator Obama was obviously trying to play off the words of President Kennedy when, during his remarkable and moving address in Berlin in 1963, Kennedy said, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.'”

But of course in his speech Kennedy was pledging America’s full support, including military support, to West Berlin and linking us to it in the most meaningful way possible. At the time, West Berlin was a defended island of freedom within the Communist world. West Berlin, Kennedy was saying, is an extension of America, and as such an attack on it would be considered an attack on us. The whole point of the Berlin speech was to draw a sharp distinction between the free world and the Communist world, not to conflate the two or to pretend that citizenship to West Berlin was synonymous with citizenship to East Berlin.

Loyalty to and love for our country is among the most noble sentiments humans can possess; it is what citizenship, at its deepest level, is about. So to implicitly assert, as Obama did in parts of his speech in Berlin, that we can replicate those same sentiments on behalf of “the world” is fundamentally at odds with human experience and diminishes what authentic citizenship truly is. What Obama said in Berlin, then, was on one level silly; on another, more fundamental level, it was — if his words are to be taken seriously — dangerous. Let’s hope that in this instance, as in other instances, Barack Obama’s words simply aren’t serious.

Linda, I wanted to bring up a few different points about Obama’s speech. Obama said he spoke “as a citizen — as a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.” Later in his remarks Obama declared that the “burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.”

This is a rather odd choice of words. To be a citizen means to be a member of a sovereign nation to which one owes allegiance and through which come certain rights, duties, and responsibilities. To say that he is both a citizen of America and a citizen of the world implies equal rank between the two; and to then say that the “burdens of global citizenship” is what binds us together merely underscores the point.

This kind of rhetoric is, at best, sloppy.

Those of us who are Americans are not “citizens of the world”; our first loyalty is to this country. Our servicemen and -women do not put on a uniform and fight and sometimes die on behalf of “the world”; they fight and die on behalf of the United States. When John McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and tortured, it was not because he was a “citizen of the world”; it was because he was an American citizen fighting on behalf of his country. Nor do we pledge allegiance to “the world”; we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. Our founders did not mutually pledge to one another their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on behalf of a “world declaration”; they did so on behalf of declaration of independence of a particular nation, with a particular creed and a set of particular principles. And if Senator Obama becomes president, he will swear to protect and uphold and defend the American Constitution, not a “Constitution of the world.”

The best we can hope for is that Obama’s words shows a deep confusion about what true citizenship is and ought to be. One simply cannot expect people to declare their citizenship for, and pledge their allegiance and lives to, “the world,” which (like that “world organization,” the United Nations) happens to include regimes like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, China, and Zimbabwe, to name just a few.

We are products of a nation which, in the case of America, is founded on a set of ideas and ideals which have often put it at odds with, and even in conflict with, other nations in the world. We believe all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; much of the rest of the world does not. Are we supposed to pledge equal loyalty to both beliefs?

Obama, we can safely assume, doesn’t think so; after all, in his speech he argued for defending human rights against repressive regimes. But this simply highlights the confusion of Obama’s argument. If the world is still divided between those advocating liberty and those imposing tyranny, why ought we to declare we are “citizens of the world”? Citizenship is obviously a profoundly different thing than being part of the world or a member of the human race; one might hope a teacher in constitutional law would understand the distinction.

In his speech Senator Obama was obviously trying to play off the words of President Kennedy when, during his remarkable and moving address in Berlin in 1963, Kennedy said, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.'”

But of course in his speech Kennedy was pledging America’s full support, including military support, to West Berlin and linking us to it in the most meaningful way possible. At the time, West Berlin was a defended island of freedom within the Communist world. West Berlin, Kennedy was saying, is an extension of America, and as such an attack on it would be considered an attack on us. The whole point of the Berlin speech was to draw a sharp distinction between the free world and the Communist world, not to conflate the two or to pretend that citizenship to West Berlin was synonymous with citizenship to East Berlin.

Loyalty to and love for our country is among the most noble sentiments humans can possess; it is what citizenship, at its deepest level, is about. So to implicitly assert, as Obama did in parts of his speech in Berlin, that we can replicate those same sentiments on behalf of “the world” is fundamentally at odds with human experience and diminishes what authentic citizenship truly is. What Obama said in Berlin, then, was on one level silly; on another, more fundamental level, it was — if his words are to be taken seriously — dangerous. Let’s hope that in this instance, as in other instances, Barack Obama’s words simply aren’t serious.

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Obama’s Victory (Column) Lap

I must have watched a different speech by Barack Obama in Berlin on Wednesday, judging from the as-always fawning coverage by the MSM here and here.  The speech I watched had hints of blame-America-first

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya. 

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions. 

The latter lines drawing applause that seemed to embarrass even Obama, who tried to push on through to point out how much he loves America—despite its all-too-obvious deficiencies.           

And Obama made sure to reassure Germans he had none of that American Exceptionalism nonsense floating around in his psyche. His description of the Berlin airlift gave the impression that the decision to send food to starving Berliners at the beginning of the Cold War was some sort of equal partnership between the beneficiaries on the ground and their American saviors:

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Of course Obama had to tread carefully, I suppose.  Whether the French, whom we liberated, or the Germans, whom we vanquished and then helped to rebuild their economy and restore democracy, Europeans have never been particularly thankful for our help.  Perhaps that’s why early in the speech, the crowd gave such disparate response to Obama’s invocation of his family roots.  When Obama mentioned, as he always does, his mother who “was born in the heartland of America,” there was no response, but he drew cheers, even ululations, at the line about the other half of his family (about 50 seconds into the video)

my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

No doubt if the election were being held across the pond, Obama would win hands down.  But before Obama starts ordering new curtains for the Oval Office, he should ask President Kerry how much help European enthusiasm was in his election. 

I must have watched a different speech by Barack Obama in Berlin on Wednesday, judging from the as-always fawning coverage by the MSM here and here.  The speech I watched had hints of blame-America-first

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya. 

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions. 

The latter lines drawing applause that seemed to embarrass even Obama, who tried to push on through to point out how much he loves America—despite its all-too-obvious deficiencies.           

And Obama made sure to reassure Germans he had none of that American Exceptionalism nonsense floating around in his psyche. His description of the Berlin airlift gave the impression that the decision to send food to starving Berliners at the beginning of the Cold War was some sort of equal partnership between the beneficiaries on the ground and their American saviors:

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Of course Obama had to tread carefully, I suppose.  Whether the French, whom we liberated, or the Germans, whom we vanquished and then helped to rebuild their economy and restore democracy, Europeans have never been particularly thankful for our help.  Perhaps that’s why early in the speech, the crowd gave such disparate response to Obama’s invocation of his family roots.  When Obama mentioned, as he always does, his mother who “was born in the heartland of America,” there was no response, but he drew cheers, even ululations, at the line about the other half of his family (about 50 seconds into the video)

my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

No doubt if the election were being held across the pond, Obama would win hands down.  But before Obama starts ordering new curtains for the Oval Office, he should ask President Kerry how much help European enthusiasm was in his election. 

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Re: Beyond the Pale

To add to your point about Joe Klein and his slurs against “Jewish neoconservatives,”Jennifer, I wanted to propose a small thought experiment. Imagine if someone had written something along these lines:

Obama hasn’t said he’s for military intervention in Darfur, but he has rattled sabers noisily, he has claimed that ‘the genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all,’ and has surrounded himself with, and been funded by, black liberals who believe the deaths in Darfur warrant outside intervention. This raises the questions of divided loyalties–whether these African Americans are putting the interests of Africa above those of the United States.

Is there any doubt that such a statement would be denounced as deeply offensive and even racist? Even if its author were himself African American?

There is no room in polite discourse for bringing up someone’s religion or ethnicity, much less throwing around the poisonous charge of “divided loyalties” unless there is some actual evidence to back it up beyond a simple disagreement on policy. Especially when it’s not even clear there is a real policy disagreement: Klein himself endorsed the invasion of Iraq and has written “I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran.”

But I feel like I’m repeating myself here, since I’ve already tried on several occasions to explain why Klein’s accusations are so offensive. The point has also been made capably by many others, including Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. At this point I can only shake my head in wonderment that Klein has the chutzpah to not only continue making these intemperate personal attacks but that he dares to make them in a column where he begins by accusing John McCain of committing an “intemperate . . . personal attack.”

To add to your point about Joe Klein and his slurs against “Jewish neoconservatives,”Jennifer, I wanted to propose a small thought experiment. Imagine if someone had written something along these lines:

Obama hasn’t said he’s for military intervention in Darfur, but he has rattled sabers noisily, he has claimed that ‘the genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all,’ and has surrounded himself with, and been funded by, black liberals who believe the deaths in Darfur warrant outside intervention. This raises the questions of divided loyalties–whether these African Americans are putting the interests of Africa above those of the United States.

Is there any doubt that such a statement would be denounced as deeply offensive and even racist? Even if its author were himself African American?

There is no room in polite discourse for bringing up someone’s religion or ethnicity, much less throwing around the poisonous charge of “divided loyalties” unless there is some actual evidence to back it up beyond a simple disagreement on policy. Especially when it’s not even clear there is a real policy disagreement: Klein himself endorsed the invasion of Iraq and has written “I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran.”

But I feel like I’m repeating myself here, since I’ve already tried on several occasions to explain why Klein’s accusations are so offensive. The point has also been made capably by many others, including Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. At this point I can only shake my head in wonderment that Klein has the chutzpah to not only continue making these intemperate personal attacks but that he dares to make them in a column where he begins by accusing John McCain of committing an “intemperate . . . personal attack.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Darn good reason for Chuck Hagel to complain: “Quit talking about, ‘Did the surge work or not work,’ or, ‘Did you vote for this or support this.” Yeah, and that’s just the way to get the media to look the other way, right? Perhaps a trip to Iraq wasn’t the best way to get that issue off the table for Barack Obama.

Heather Wilson gets it right.

Those pesky Washington Post editors ask: “If drilling opponents really have the better of this argument, why are they so worried about letting it come to a vote? ” I supposed because they don’t.

I bet they’ll be wowed in Peoria to learn it was a “tone poem.”

Dean Barnett comes up with an answer for my query about the target audience for Obama’s speech in Germany.

And you thought I was exaggerating when I said we’d be arguing about reading Miranda warnings to terror suspects. I bet they didn’t have a search warrant either.

This is good news, but very late in coming.

Now McCain is talking economic sense. I don’t think many people noticed, however.

Stumped they are on the Left blogosphere. How can it be that opposing the surge and domestic oil development isn’t gaining Obama votes?

Seems that the local media like it when a presidential candidate comes and takes questions from voters. Who knew? (And often local media figures things out a lot better than the national press. Remember Iowa?) Don’t forget that John McCain won the New Hampshire primary in large part because of glowing endorsements and attacks on his opponent by local media which he turned into TV ads.

Can the “ditching the wounded soldiers” story get worse? Yes it can!

How could you do a story on McCain’s slips (some of which aren’t slips at all) without comparing to the mound of Obama gaffes?

The media lacks self-respect — why aren’t they reporting more on the secrecy, rudeness, and strongarm tactics of the Obama team? A campaign tells us about the future presidency, you know.

Darn good reason for Chuck Hagel to complain: “Quit talking about, ‘Did the surge work or not work,’ or, ‘Did you vote for this or support this.” Yeah, and that’s just the way to get the media to look the other way, right? Perhaps a trip to Iraq wasn’t the best way to get that issue off the table for Barack Obama.

Heather Wilson gets it right.

Those pesky Washington Post editors ask: “If drilling opponents really have the better of this argument, why are they so worried about letting it come to a vote? ” I supposed because they don’t.

I bet they’ll be wowed in Peoria to learn it was a “tone poem.”

Dean Barnett comes up with an answer for my query about the target audience for Obama’s speech in Germany.

And you thought I was exaggerating when I said we’d be arguing about reading Miranda warnings to terror suspects. I bet they didn’t have a search warrant either.

This is good news, but very late in coming.

Now McCain is talking economic sense. I don’t think many people noticed, however.

Stumped they are on the Left blogosphere. How can it be that opposing the surge and domestic oil development isn’t gaining Obama votes?

Seems that the local media like it when a presidential candidate comes and takes questions from voters. Who knew? (And often local media figures things out a lot better than the national press. Remember Iowa?) Don’t forget that John McCain won the New Hampshire primary in large part because of glowing endorsements and attacks on his opponent by local media which he turned into TV ads.

Can the “ditching the wounded soldiers” story get worse? Yes it can!

How could you do a story on McCain’s slips (some of which aren’t slips at all) without comparing to the mound of Obama gaffes?

The media lacks self-respect — why aren’t they reporting more on the secrecy, rudeness, and strongarm tactics of the Obama team? A campaign tells us about the future presidency, you know.

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Nicholas Kristof’s Moral Tourism

It might be time to officially designate Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, as an Israel-obsessed know-nothing. He is an illustration of the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; he recently visited Hebron, and since then has assumed the role of ignorant hysteric in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yesterday’s column is a marvel of the genre.

Kristof wants the United States to get tough on Israel. He describes one way to do this:

Particularly at a time when Israel seems to be contemplating military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, the United States would be a better friend if it said: “That’s crazy”

For a humanitarian as great as Kristof imagines himself to be, this is staggeringly callous. Let me tell you: every member of the Israeli political and defense establishment genuinely believes that the Iranian nuclear program is a grave and existential threat. The Iranian regime has promised that its nuclear program will be a grave and existential threat. The IDF is not inventing a crisis, as if it needed more problems to deal with than Hamas and Hezbollah. Kristof may think that Israel is crazy, but then it’s always easy to be glib and condescending about nuclear weapons when someone else is their target.

It gets dumber. Kristof rejects the argument that Palestinian violence is worse than Israeli violence by offering the following:

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.

A few questions for the moral conscience of the Times‘ op-ed page: 1) how many of those “Palestinian minors” were implicated in terrorism? Kristof appears unaware that Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not forbid underage martyrdom. 2) Does it matter to Kristof that those 123 Israeli minors were murdered intentionally, whereas the Palestinian minors (at least those not involved in terrorism) were killed accidentally, in the course of Israeli self-defense that would not have been necessary in the first place if not for the Palestinian terror war? 3) Is Kristof aware that Palestinian terror groups employ tactics intentionally designed to raise the Palestinian death toll, precisely so that useful idiots like Kristof will then cite Palestinian civilian deaths as an example of Israeli barbarism?

At the moment, though, Israel has its most reasonable partner ever — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — and it is undermining him with its checkpoints and new settlement construction.

The problem with Mahmoud Abbas is that even on his best days, his authority perhaps extends to the falafel stand outside his office in Ramallah. Kristof is inventing a leader who doesn’t exist so that he can lay Palestinian failure on Israel’s unwillingness to take Palestinian governance seriously. Marty Peretz said recently that “Kristof never writes an analysis. He dishes out schwarmerei.” This time he tried to do an analysis, and it’s a train wreck of false premises. I wish he’d just stick to the schwarmerei.

Please see Soccer Dad for more.

It might be time to officially designate Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, as an Israel-obsessed know-nothing. He is an illustration of the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; he recently visited Hebron, and since then has assumed the role of ignorant hysteric in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yesterday’s column is a marvel of the genre.

Kristof wants the United States to get tough on Israel. He describes one way to do this:

Particularly at a time when Israel seems to be contemplating military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, the United States would be a better friend if it said: “That’s crazy”

For a humanitarian as great as Kristof imagines himself to be, this is staggeringly callous. Let me tell you: every member of the Israeli political and defense establishment genuinely believes that the Iranian nuclear program is a grave and existential threat. The Iranian regime has promised that its nuclear program will be a grave and existential threat. The IDF is not inventing a crisis, as if it needed more problems to deal with than Hamas and Hezbollah. Kristof may think that Israel is crazy, but then it’s always easy to be glib and condescending about nuclear weapons when someone else is their target.

It gets dumber. Kristof rejects the argument that Palestinian violence is worse than Israeli violence by offering the following:

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.

A few questions for the moral conscience of the Times‘ op-ed page: 1) how many of those “Palestinian minors” were implicated in terrorism? Kristof appears unaware that Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not forbid underage martyrdom. 2) Does it matter to Kristof that those 123 Israeli minors were murdered intentionally, whereas the Palestinian minors (at least those not involved in terrorism) were killed accidentally, in the course of Israeli self-defense that would not have been necessary in the first place if not for the Palestinian terror war? 3) Is Kristof aware that Palestinian terror groups employ tactics intentionally designed to raise the Palestinian death toll, precisely so that useful idiots like Kristof will then cite Palestinian civilian deaths as an example of Israeli barbarism?

At the moment, though, Israel has its most reasonable partner ever — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — and it is undermining him with its checkpoints and new settlement construction.

The problem with Mahmoud Abbas is that even on his best days, his authority perhaps extends to the falafel stand outside his office in Ramallah. Kristof is inventing a leader who doesn’t exist so that he can lay Palestinian failure on Israel’s unwillingness to take Palestinian governance seriously. Marty Peretz said recently that “Kristof never writes an analysis. He dishes out schwarmerei.” This time he tried to do an analysis, and it’s a train wreck of false premises. I wish he’d just stick to the schwarmerei.

Please see Soccer Dad for more.

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Now He’s Done It

David Brooks, who has tried really, really hard to like Barack Obama, has had enough. In the orgy of Berlin Obama-mania, Obama finally turned off even Brooks. Those of us who have rolled our eyes, gagged at the infantile rhetoric and complained that there is no there, there will recognize this sentiment:

Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down. The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign. But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.

But the reality is that all Obama can demonstrate is an inch-deep reservoir of platitudinous rhetoric. He doesn’t really know what to do about anything. (Because he has no record of doing much of anything.) Brooks writes:

The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way. But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach. Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.

The pundit class was never disposed to listen to Hillary Clinton’s complaint that Obama was “all words,” in part because they despised her and in part because she was not weighed down with accomplishments either. But what if Obama is finally running out of “just words”? It is hard to say meaningless fluff for almost two years without repeating yourself and getting stale. At some point not only David Brooks will notice.

David Brooks, who has tried really, really hard to like Barack Obama, has had enough. In the orgy of Berlin Obama-mania, Obama finally turned off even Brooks. Those of us who have rolled our eyes, gagged at the infantile rhetoric and complained that there is no there, there will recognize this sentiment:

Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down. The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign. But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.

But the reality is that all Obama can demonstrate is an inch-deep reservoir of platitudinous rhetoric. He doesn’t really know what to do about anything. (Because he has no record of doing much of anything.) Brooks writes:

The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way. But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach. Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.

The pundit class was never disposed to listen to Hillary Clinton’s complaint that Obama was “all words,” in part because they despised her and in part because she was not weighed down with accomplishments either. But what if Obama is finally running out of “just words”? It is hard to say meaningless fluff for almost two years without repeating yourself and getting stale. At some point not only David Brooks will notice.

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A Savvy Bunch

If this AP story is a representative cross-section of voters, Barack Obama didn’t make many gains on his week abroad. The supporters are still supporting, the opposers are still opposing, the undecideds are still undecided. (Some are even downright cynical.) We forget — because the media is so infatuated with its subject matter and so enamored of words and pictures (that is what they do for a living, after all) — that average people don’t look at a a news report of Obama in front of 200,000 Germans, smack their foreheads and exclaim that he really is commander-in-chief material after all. For people who make their living covering big issues, the media is awfully superficial. The average voters interviewed in the AP piece seemed more thoughtful and insightful than most of what you see in any hour of cable TV news.

That’s a good thing and perhaps McCain’s only hope. An appeal to common sense, sober judgment, decency, and level-headedness is one that may be lost on media members so “fascinated” they can’t get enough of Obama. But it may resonate with average voters, especially middle-aged and older voters who remember bad decisions made for superficial reasons (“I loved the color of that car”). What McCain is “selling” isn’t new, exciting, or faddish– but neither are most voters. And that may be the best thing McCain has going for him.

If this AP story is a representative cross-section of voters, Barack Obama didn’t make many gains on his week abroad. The supporters are still supporting, the opposers are still opposing, the undecideds are still undecided. (Some are even downright cynical.) We forget — because the media is so infatuated with its subject matter and so enamored of words and pictures (that is what they do for a living, after all) — that average people don’t look at a a news report of Obama in front of 200,000 Germans, smack their foreheads and exclaim that he really is commander-in-chief material after all. For people who make their living covering big issues, the media is awfully superficial. The average voters interviewed in the AP piece seemed more thoughtful and insightful than most of what you see in any hour of cable TV news.

That’s a good thing and perhaps McCain’s only hope. An appeal to common sense, sober judgment, decency, and level-headedness is one that may be lost on media members so “fascinated” they can’t get enough of Obama. But it may resonate with average voters, especially middle-aged and older voters who remember bad decisions made for superficial reasons (“I loved the color of that car”). What McCain is “selling” isn’t new, exciting, or faddish– but neither are most voters. And that may be the best thing McCain has going for him.

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Humiliation at a Checkpoint

The drivers of this car will no doubt be driven to terrorism, given their treatment at a West Bank checkpoint:

An IDF elite unit operating in Jenin discovered on Tuesday a large explosive device planted in a car that was likely on its way to explode in an Israeli city, the military released for publication on Wednesday.

The car was stopped during a Border Police operation in the West Bank city and was found to contain a 12 kilogram [26.5 pound] explosive device connected to several gas balloons and pipe bombs.

Note also that Jenin is the city in which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to be demonstrating the efficacy of its security forces, and the place where any IDF presence is denounced by enlightened people the world over for undermining the PA’s legitimacy.

The drivers of this car will no doubt be driven to terrorism, given their treatment at a West Bank checkpoint:

An IDF elite unit operating in Jenin discovered on Tuesday a large explosive device planted in a car that was likely on its way to explode in an Israeli city, the military released for publication on Wednesday.

The car was stopped during a Border Police operation in the West Bank city and was found to contain a 12 kilogram [26.5 pound] explosive device connected to several gas balloons and pipe bombs.

Note also that Jenin is the city in which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to be demonstrating the efficacy of its security forces, and the place where any IDF presence is denounced by enlightened people the world over for undermining the PA’s legitimacy.

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How’s He Going To Get There?

The Wall Street Journal editors suggest Barack Obama take his own speech seriously. They write:

[T]he significant debate is not over whether and when the U.S. will withdraw. It’s over whether the U.S. will win. In his Berlin speech, Mr. Obama was at his most forceful when he insisted that “this is the moment when we must defeat terror,” adding that “the threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it.” This is well-said and true. But it squares oddly with a political campaign whose central premise is that losing in Iraq — and whatever calamities may follow — is a matter of little consequence to U.S. or European interests. It squares oddly, too, with Mr. Obama’s broader promise to “stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, the voter in Zimbabwe” and virtually every other global cause.

The editors also make the point that popularity isn’t what it’s cracked up to be:

It is hard not to be moved by the sight during the speech of hundreds of American flags being waved, rather than burned. Then again, the last time a major American political figure delivered an open-air speech in Berlin, 10,000 riot police had to use tear gas and water cannons to repel violent demonstrators. It was June 1987, the speaker was Ronald Reagan, his message was: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Press accounts characterized the line as “provocative”; the Soviets called it “war-mongering”; 100,000 protesters marched against Reagan in the old German capital of Bonn. Two years later, the Berlin Wall fell. Reagan’s speech is a lesson in the difference between popularity and statesmanship. Watching Mr. Obama yesterday in Berlin, and throughout his foreign tour, was a reminder of how far the presumptive Democratic nominee has to go to reassure people he is capable of the latter — “people,” that is, who will actually get to cast a ballot in November.

It seems essential that one’s foreign policy goals (e.g. freedom, defeat of terror, prevention of genocide) must be reasonably related to the means you are willing to employ to attain them. “Soft power” isn’t going to get Obama to the lofty ends he seeks. And his rejection of hard power and aversion to drawing clear lines is going to make it that much more difficult to attain his goals. As Michael Rubin put it:

Obama’s words are inspirational, but if anything is to be learned from the Bush administration, it is that leadership must run deeper than rhetoric. Berlin’s freedom was won with blood and treasure. It was not secured with withdrawals or unilateral disarmament. . . Western Europe exists in a bubble of stability and affluence, unable to fathom how dangerous extremist ideology in Tehran and Pyongyang can be. Multilateral organizations are not the answer; at best, they are ineffective soap boxes, at worst cesspools of venality. Rose petals and well-digging have never stopped bombs, racism or genocide. A strong military has.

But one thing we know: Obama’s goals and ambitions for international unity and peace put George W. Bush’s Second Inagurual Address to shame. For those who thought Bush’s efforts to “remake” the world were fraught with peril, they should be forewarned: Obama has big plans. It’s the will and realistic means to attain those plans in the face of determined enemies and resistant allies which he is missing.

The Wall Street Journal editors suggest Barack Obama take his own speech seriously. They write:

[T]he significant debate is not over whether and when the U.S. will withdraw. It’s over whether the U.S. will win. In his Berlin speech, Mr. Obama was at his most forceful when he insisted that “this is the moment when we must defeat terror,” adding that “the threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it.” This is well-said and true. But it squares oddly with a political campaign whose central premise is that losing in Iraq — and whatever calamities may follow — is a matter of little consequence to U.S. or European interests. It squares oddly, too, with Mr. Obama’s broader promise to “stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, the voter in Zimbabwe” and virtually every other global cause.

The editors also make the point that popularity isn’t what it’s cracked up to be:

It is hard not to be moved by the sight during the speech of hundreds of American flags being waved, rather than burned. Then again, the last time a major American political figure delivered an open-air speech in Berlin, 10,000 riot police had to use tear gas and water cannons to repel violent demonstrators. It was June 1987, the speaker was Ronald Reagan, his message was: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Press accounts characterized the line as “provocative”; the Soviets called it “war-mongering”; 100,000 protesters marched against Reagan in the old German capital of Bonn. Two years later, the Berlin Wall fell. Reagan’s speech is a lesson in the difference between popularity and statesmanship. Watching Mr. Obama yesterday in Berlin, and throughout his foreign tour, was a reminder of how far the presumptive Democratic nominee has to go to reassure people he is capable of the latter — “people,” that is, who will actually get to cast a ballot in November.

It seems essential that one’s foreign policy goals (e.g. freedom, defeat of terror, prevention of genocide) must be reasonably related to the means you are willing to employ to attain them. “Soft power” isn’t going to get Obama to the lofty ends he seeks. And his rejection of hard power and aversion to drawing clear lines is going to make it that much more difficult to attain his goals. As Michael Rubin put it:

Obama’s words are inspirational, but if anything is to be learned from the Bush administration, it is that leadership must run deeper than rhetoric. Berlin’s freedom was won with blood and treasure. It was not secured with withdrawals or unilateral disarmament. . . Western Europe exists in a bubble of stability and affluence, unable to fathom how dangerous extremist ideology in Tehran and Pyongyang can be. Multilateral organizations are not the answer; at best, they are ineffective soap boxes, at worst cesspools of venality. Rose petals and well-digging have never stopped bombs, racism or genocide. A strong military has.

But one thing we know: Obama’s goals and ambitions for international unity and peace put George W. Bush’s Second Inagurual Address to shame. For those who thought Bush’s efforts to “remake” the world were fraught with peril, they should be forewarned: Obama has big plans. It’s the will and realistic means to attain those plans in the face of determined enemies and resistant allies which he is missing.

Read Less




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