Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 11, 2008

Bailouts Necessary and Unnecessary

Megan McArdle captures, more simply and clearly than anyone else has yet done, why it is that support for the Big Bailout does not and should not translate into a bailout of other industries, the auto industry especially:

Why bail out Wall Street and not GM, demand many people.  Why do we care about bankers and not ordinary folks?

I think this misses the point of the financial bailout.  Whether or not it works–and I sure hope it will–I don’t think very many people wanted to bail out the financial industry because we were so moved by the plight of those plucky traders on the mortgage desk.  We bailed them out not because they deserved it–they didn’t–but because if we didn’t, there was a very big risk that they would take us down with them.

This is not generalizeable to other industries.  Money is weird.  Finance is weird.  There is no other industry that is, first, so tightly coupled, and second, severely affects every other industry in the country.  Moreover, there are few other industries that are so vulnerable to panic.  Strategic injections of capital can actually salvage operations that are otherwise sound.

GM’s operations are not otherwise sound.  They have been headed for this moment since 1973…

Megan McArdle captures, more simply and clearly than anyone else has yet done, why it is that support for the Big Bailout does not and should not translate into a bailout of other industries, the auto industry especially:

Why bail out Wall Street and not GM, demand many people.  Why do we care about bankers and not ordinary folks?

I think this misses the point of the financial bailout.  Whether or not it works–and I sure hope it will–I don’t think very many people wanted to bail out the financial industry because we were so moved by the plight of those plucky traders on the mortgage desk.  We bailed them out not because they deserved it–they didn’t–but because if we didn’t, there was a very big risk that they would take us down with them.

This is not generalizeable to other industries.  Money is weird.  Finance is weird.  There is no other industry that is, first, so tightly coupled, and second, severely affects every other industry in the country.  Moreover, there are few other industries that are so vulnerable to panic.  Strategic injections of capital can actually salvage operations that are otherwise sound.

GM’s operations are not otherwise sound.  They have been headed for this moment since 1973…

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Spread the Wealth (on Campus)!

If you were on an American college campus last Wednesday, you would have been forgiven for thinking that you’d landed on Broadway following a Mets New York sports franchise’s championship.

Indeed, Barack Obama’s electoral victory electrified predominately liberal student bodies across the nation, and students celebrated by donning all manner of “O” paraphernalia and displaying “change” signs as prominently as ever. (Apparently, the meticulously branded Obama campaign has bought into this analogy between its electoral victory and a sports championship: it is now selling championship t-shirts that look bizarrely similar to the locker room variety.) Of course, none of this jubilation was surprising. Obama won massive student support when he ran to the left of Hillary Clinton during the drawn-out Democratic primary, and he has long embodied these students’ hopes for the broad institution of left-wing social, economic, and foreign policies. Meanwhile, the outcome left campus conservatives feeling anything but optimistic. With John McCain – the most moderate Republican presidential candidate in three decades – failing to achieve meaningful student support, the future of conservatism on campus seemed as gloomy as ever.

Yet a consolation prize for campus conservatives may be afoot. As Max noted, former Harvard University President Larry Summers remains a leading candidate to replace Hank Paulson as Secretary of the Treasury in the Obama administration. Yes, this is the same Larry Summers who spent much of his five years at the Kremlin on the Charles infuriating campus leftists in his infamous standoffs with Cornel West, divest-from-Israel advocates, and angry feminists–much to conservatives’ delight! (Granted, this is also the Larry Summers who served in the Clinton administration, as well as the same Larry Summers who responded to the angry feminists’ charge of sexism with an unseemly show of tokenism. But, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.)

So here’s my message to President-Elect Obama: you’ve delighted campus leftists with your election. Now – as you once told a plumber in Ohio – spread the wealth! Give campus conservatives (who are, on average, liberal Republicans or Reagan Democrats) something to cheer for and nominate Summers to the Treasury.

And, Mr. Obama, if appeasing conservatives isn’t a sufficient reason for nominating someone, consider this added bonus: Summers would bolster your political finance committee’s obsessive merchandising. Indeed, just like yourself, Larry looks great emblazoned on a t-shirt.

If you were on an American college campus last Wednesday, you would have been forgiven for thinking that you’d landed on Broadway following a Mets New York sports franchise’s championship.

Indeed, Barack Obama’s electoral victory electrified predominately liberal student bodies across the nation, and students celebrated by donning all manner of “O” paraphernalia and displaying “change” signs as prominently as ever. (Apparently, the meticulously branded Obama campaign has bought into this analogy between its electoral victory and a sports championship: it is now selling championship t-shirts that look bizarrely similar to the locker room variety.) Of course, none of this jubilation was surprising. Obama won massive student support when he ran to the left of Hillary Clinton during the drawn-out Democratic primary, and he has long embodied these students’ hopes for the broad institution of left-wing social, economic, and foreign policies. Meanwhile, the outcome left campus conservatives feeling anything but optimistic. With John McCain – the most moderate Republican presidential candidate in three decades – failing to achieve meaningful student support, the future of conservatism on campus seemed as gloomy as ever.

Yet a consolation prize for campus conservatives may be afoot. As Max noted, former Harvard University President Larry Summers remains a leading candidate to replace Hank Paulson as Secretary of the Treasury in the Obama administration. Yes, this is the same Larry Summers who spent much of his five years at the Kremlin on the Charles infuriating campus leftists in his infamous standoffs with Cornel West, divest-from-Israel advocates, and angry feminists–much to conservatives’ delight! (Granted, this is also the Larry Summers who served in the Clinton administration, as well as the same Larry Summers who responded to the angry feminists’ charge of sexism with an unseemly show of tokenism. But, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.)

So here’s my message to President-Elect Obama: you’ve delighted campus leftists with your election. Now – as you once told a plumber in Ohio – spread the wealth! Give campus conservatives (who are, on average, liberal Republicans or Reagan Democrats) something to cheer for and nominate Summers to the Treasury.

And, Mr. Obama, if appeasing conservatives isn’t a sufficient reason for nominating someone, consider this added bonus: Summers would bolster your political finance committee’s obsessive merchandising. Indeed, just like yourself, Larry looks great emblazoned on a t-shirt.

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Commentary of the Day

david, on Peter Wehner:

The problem is that the Democrats have ridden back to power on the back of insane left-wing rhetoric. My upper middle class college town was filled with rich, successful people who routinely called Bush a chimp, a Nazi, a fascist, and a torturer.

That demonizing of the Right is what motivated so many on the Left to donate time and money to Obama. It’s why he won. It’s why they were dancing in the streets when he won. They don’t believe that Cheney and Bush are wrong, the Left believes Republicans are evil.

On multiple occasions I have been cursed at during dinner parties simply for suggesting that I thought Cheney was a decent man doing what he thought was best for his country.

Politics is nasty. To win you have to be willing to demonize your opponents. Cause if you don’t the other side will.

Brookings scholars can be high-minded, but they rely on the screaming DailyKos cretins to put them in power.

Partisan politics is all about Good vs Evil. McCain lost because he wouldn’t play that game.

david, on Peter Wehner:

The problem is that the Democrats have ridden back to power on the back of insane left-wing rhetoric. My upper middle class college town was filled with rich, successful people who routinely called Bush a chimp, a Nazi, a fascist, and a torturer.

That demonizing of the Right is what motivated so many on the Left to donate time and money to Obama. It’s why he won. It’s why they were dancing in the streets when he won. They don’t believe that Cheney and Bush are wrong, the Left believes Republicans are evil.

On multiple occasions I have been cursed at during dinner parties simply for suggesting that I thought Cheney was a decent man doing what he thought was best for his country.

Politics is nasty. To win you have to be willing to demonize your opponents. Cause if you don’t the other side will.

Brookings scholars can be high-minded, but they rely on the screaming DailyKos cretins to put them in power.

Partisan politics is all about Good vs Evil. McCain lost because he wouldn’t play that game.

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My GOP Advice

I see many of my friends and colleagues weighing in on the future of the Republican Party. David Brooks posits a battle between Traditionalists and Reformers. So does Pete Wehner, who argues that we need a balance between the two. Steve Hayes and Jennifer Rubin also fall into the “hybrid” camp.

For my part, I would join Pete Wehner in cautioning against an over-reaction to one electoral defeat. Sure, the future looks bleak for Republicans now. But no darker than the situation in 1992. Democrats, for their part, appeared to be in quite a hole after 2001 and 1980. In all cases, the party on the outs came back into office, often sooner than anyone expected, for the simple reason that the incumbent president always–always–commits mistakes and usually gets blamed for things that have gone wrong even when they are not necessarily his fault. There have been electoral backlashes against George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon . . . and on and on, back to the earliest days of the Republic. Rest assured, sooner or later, there will be a backlash against Obama too, and Republicans will naturally benefit (unless they are totally comatose).

That isn’t an argument against having arguments or trying to introduce new policies or ideas. The more intellectual ferment, the better. But I don’t think Republicans needs to panic or radically remake their platform.

One area where I do see some room for adjustment is on the issue of abortion. I am by no means suggesting that Republicans jettison their anti-abortion ideology, which would alienate the party’s base even if it might make the GOP more attractive on the coasts. What I am suggesting is that Republicans should not fear to nominate an otherwise attractive candidate who happens to be pro-choice. The insistence on abortion purity has cost the GOP during the past year. It was a major contributing factor to Rudy Giuliani’s crash and burn, since he has always been a pro-choicer, and a major factor, indirectly, in Mitt Romney’s downfall too, since he had to flip to the “pro-life” side before seeking the nomination, thus making him appear insincere. This issue also made it impossible for John McCain to pick either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge as his vice presidential candidate–both men who were better qualified for the job than Sarah Palin and likely would have proven to be bigger draws for the independent voters McCain needed to win.

Does that make me a “Reformer”? I suppose I have been called worse things. But I am by no means suggesting radical change– more like radical tinkering.

I see many of my friends and colleagues weighing in on the future of the Republican Party. David Brooks posits a battle between Traditionalists and Reformers. So does Pete Wehner, who argues that we need a balance between the two. Steve Hayes and Jennifer Rubin also fall into the “hybrid” camp.

For my part, I would join Pete Wehner in cautioning against an over-reaction to one electoral defeat. Sure, the future looks bleak for Republicans now. But no darker than the situation in 1992. Democrats, for their part, appeared to be in quite a hole after 2001 and 1980. In all cases, the party on the outs came back into office, often sooner than anyone expected, for the simple reason that the incumbent president always–always–commits mistakes and usually gets blamed for things that have gone wrong even when they are not necessarily his fault. There have been electoral backlashes against George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon . . . and on and on, back to the earliest days of the Republic. Rest assured, sooner or later, there will be a backlash against Obama too, and Republicans will naturally benefit (unless they are totally comatose).

That isn’t an argument against having arguments or trying to introduce new policies or ideas. The more intellectual ferment, the better. But I don’t think Republicans needs to panic or radically remake their platform.

One area where I do see some room for adjustment is on the issue of abortion. I am by no means suggesting that Republicans jettison their anti-abortion ideology, which would alienate the party’s base even if it might make the GOP more attractive on the coasts. What I am suggesting is that Republicans should not fear to nominate an otherwise attractive candidate who happens to be pro-choice. The insistence on abortion purity has cost the GOP during the past year. It was a major contributing factor to Rudy Giuliani’s crash and burn, since he has always been a pro-choicer, and a major factor, indirectly, in Mitt Romney’s downfall too, since he had to flip to the “pro-life” side before seeking the nomination, thus making him appear insincere. This issue also made it impossible for John McCain to pick either Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge as his vice presidential candidate–both men who were better qualified for the job than Sarah Palin and likely would have proven to be bigger draws for the independent voters McCain needed to win.

Does that make me a “Reformer”? I suppose I have been called worse things. But I am by no means suggesting radical change– more like radical tinkering.

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Emergencies and Emergencies

Congress is preparing to throw tens of billions of dollars into an “emergency” auto industry bailout, aimed at saving the country’s greatest producers of C02. Climate change got this:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi6n_-wB154[/youtube]

Congress is preparing to throw tens of billions of dollars into an “emergency” auto industry bailout, aimed at saving the country’s greatest producers of C02. Climate change got this:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi6n_-wB154[/youtube]

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Let Them Eat What They Want

In a report about the duties of the White House kitchen staff, the commanding chef dishes information on the favorite foods of the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas:

“Both first ladies [Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush] enjoyed a range of foods—including red beets and oat meal — while Mr. Clinton and President Bush would have been just as content with a barbeque in the basement,” [chef Walter Scheib] said.

The Bushes often requested “huevos rancheros” with black beans—a classic Mexican breakfast dish—after church on Sundays. And the first lady was keen on having her latte at 8 a.m. each morning and “adamant that everything be organic,” Schieb said.

That hankering for huevos rancheros is clearly just an instance of ethnic pandering. But who knew that Laura Bush was a crunchy con? Unfortunately, the article doesn’t say whether the White House has ever served yellow cake, especially when Italian dignitaries bring it as dessert.

The Bushes, however, are old news. Let’s read the tea leaves in Obama’s culinary taste:

Obama has said in interviews that his favorite food is chili, though Schieb cautioned about disclosing the president’s most beloved dish.

“He’ll be fed it everywhere he goes for the rest of his life,” he quipped.

The president-elect has also been known to favor fish and pistachios—as well as pumpkin pie.

So let’s see . . . chili (one part fire-breathing cowboy, one part NAFTA), fish (brain food, formerly-secret Christian symbol), pumpkin pie (a homegrown alternative to an American cliché), but pistachios? Need I mention which country in the world dominates production of that nefarious nut? Must I track the powdery red trail all the way to its source? Ahmadinejad is paying attention: he surely knows that even the word comes from Persian.

In a report about the duties of the White House kitchen staff, the commanding chef dishes information on the favorite foods of the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas:

“Both first ladies [Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush] enjoyed a range of foods—including red beets and oat meal — while Mr. Clinton and President Bush would have been just as content with a barbeque in the basement,” [chef Walter Scheib] said.

The Bushes often requested “huevos rancheros” with black beans—a classic Mexican breakfast dish—after church on Sundays. And the first lady was keen on having her latte at 8 a.m. each morning and “adamant that everything be organic,” Schieb said.

That hankering for huevos rancheros is clearly just an instance of ethnic pandering. But who knew that Laura Bush was a crunchy con? Unfortunately, the article doesn’t say whether the White House has ever served yellow cake, especially when Italian dignitaries bring it as dessert.

The Bushes, however, are old news. Let’s read the tea leaves in Obama’s culinary taste:

Obama has said in interviews that his favorite food is chili, though Schieb cautioned about disclosing the president’s most beloved dish.

“He’ll be fed it everywhere he goes for the rest of his life,” he quipped.

The president-elect has also been known to favor fish and pistachios—as well as pumpkin pie.

So let’s see . . . chili (one part fire-breathing cowboy, one part NAFTA), fish (brain food, formerly-secret Christian symbol), pumpkin pie (a homegrown alternative to an American cliché), but pistachios? Need I mention which country in the world dominates production of that nefarious nut? Must I track the powdery red trail all the way to its source? Ahmadinejad is paying attention: he surely knows that even the word comes from Persian.

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Re: Traditionalists vs. Reformers?

Some are hearing, in Sarah Palin’s recognition of the failure of Republicans to attract Hispanics, an embrace of John McCain’s immigration plans. (They feel compelled, of course, to label this “amnesty”). It is interesting that immigration reform opponents immediately make the connection–although Palin did not herself. I guess a coordinated, highly emotional campaign by the Right to stop any plan for the legalization of illegal immigrants actually did turn off Hispanics. Who’d have thunk it?

But assuming this analysis of Palin is correct, this seems to prove the point which I and others have made: the distinction between “traditionalists” and “reformers” on the Right is a bit nonsensical. If Palin is pro-immigration reform, but pro-life and pro-free market, which camp does she fall into? And how do we know she is a “traditionalist” at all, given her limited time on the national scene and her subordinate role on the ticket?

Rather than puzzle about who falls on which side of the divide (which isn’t much of a divide), a more productive course might be to listen to what smart politicians are saying, engage in some respectful debate, and–as Peter wisely counsels–keep the paranoia and vitriol to a minimum. Then, we might wind up with candidates who do not feel compelled to twist themselves beyond all recognition to fit some perceived orthodoxy.

Some are hearing, in Sarah Palin’s recognition of the failure of Republicans to attract Hispanics, an embrace of John McCain’s immigration plans. (They feel compelled, of course, to label this “amnesty”). It is interesting that immigration reform opponents immediately make the connection–although Palin did not herself. I guess a coordinated, highly emotional campaign by the Right to stop any plan for the legalization of illegal immigrants actually did turn off Hispanics. Who’d have thunk it?

But assuming this analysis of Palin is correct, this seems to prove the point which I and others have made: the distinction between “traditionalists” and “reformers” on the Right is a bit nonsensical. If Palin is pro-immigration reform, but pro-life and pro-free market, which camp does she fall into? And how do we know she is a “traditionalist” at all, given her limited time on the national scene and her subordinate role on the ticket?

Rather than puzzle about who falls on which side of the divide (which isn’t much of a divide), a more productive course might be to listen to what smart politicians are saying, engage in some respectful debate, and–as Peter wisely counsels–keep the paranoia and vitriol to a minimum. Then, we might wind up with candidates who do not feel compelled to twist themselves beyond all recognition to fit some perceived orthodoxy.

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Buyer’s Remorse Already?

The fact that people are so nervously watching and waiting to see if Barack Obama intends to stay true to his campaign rhetoric tells you two disturbing things. 1), No one is quite sure who our President-elect is. And 2), few are sure they even want him to be who he said he was.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, Rahm Emanuel gave some indication that Obama will be going ahead with his tax hike. Does any serious person think this will be good for the economy? Even the San Francisco Chronicle has found itself advising against any tax increases for the time being. An article by Kathleen Pender, predating Emanuel’s comments, features a host of financial experts convinced that Obama couldn’t actually be foolish enough to implement now the tax policy he’s touted throughout the campaign.

Similarly, everyone is curious about Obama’s plans for Iraq, and most experts are alarmed that he appears to be staying true to his campaign pledge on the issue. This is from CNN:

President-elect Barack Obama is not backing away from his campaign promise to bring all U.S. combat troops home from Iraq by late spring 2010.

But the question among sober-minded Pentagon planners is: Once he is in office, will the reality of war force him to reassess and put the brakes on a withdrawal?

Is it not worrying that financial experts and military commanders are wondering whether or not Obama will allow reality to temper his professed ideology? Perhaps most notably, Andrew Sullivan–Obama’s number-one fan–is now expressing some post–election dismay when it comes to policy specifics. Of the proposed auto industry bailout, Sullivan writes, “It’s not a good sign that Obama wants to rescue them.” Sign????? After raving about Obama’s genius for over a year, Sullivan is just now looking for signs as to what his candidate is all about?

A week ago, if someone mentioned Obama’s intention to “spread the wealth,” they were labeled an anachronistic red-baiter. If anyone suggested Obama didn’t care about victory in Iraq, they were vilified for questioning the candidate’s patriotism. If someone called him a Democratic socialist, they were laughed at. Today, people are starting to wonder what they got themselves into. It is both too early and too late to figure that out now.

The fact that people are so nervously watching and waiting to see if Barack Obama intends to stay true to his campaign rhetoric tells you two disturbing things. 1), No one is quite sure who our President-elect is. And 2), few are sure they even want him to be who he said he was.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, Rahm Emanuel gave some indication that Obama will be going ahead with his tax hike. Does any serious person think this will be good for the economy? Even the San Francisco Chronicle has found itself advising against any tax increases for the time being. An article by Kathleen Pender, predating Emanuel’s comments, features a host of financial experts convinced that Obama couldn’t actually be foolish enough to implement now the tax policy he’s touted throughout the campaign.

Similarly, everyone is curious about Obama’s plans for Iraq, and most experts are alarmed that he appears to be staying true to his campaign pledge on the issue. This is from CNN:

President-elect Barack Obama is not backing away from his campaign promise to bring all U.S. combat troops home from Iraq by late spring 2010.

But the question among sober-minded Pentagon planners is: Once he is in office, will the reality of war force him to reassess and put the brakes on a withdrawal?

Is it not worrying that financial experts and military commanders are wondering whether or not Obama will allow reality to temper his professed ideology? Perhaps most notably, Andrew Sullivan–Obama’s number-one fan–is now expressing some post–election dismay when it comes to policy specifics. Of the proposed auto industry bailout, Sullivan writes, “It’s not a good sign that Obama wants to rescue them.” Sign????? After raving about Obama’s genius for over a year, Sullivan is just now looking for signs as to what his candidate is all about?

A week ago, if someone mentioned Obama’s intention to “spread the wealth,” they were labeled an anachronistic red-baiter. If anyone suggested Obama didn’t care about victory in Iraq, they were vilified for questioning the candidate’s patriotism. If someone called him a Democratic socialist, they were laughed at. Today, people are starting to wonder what they got themselves into. It is both too early and too late to figure that out now.

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The Lamest Duck

America’s second worst president–or one of its greatest–has one more scheduled opportunity to address global audiences. That comes later this week, when the G20 leaders meet in Washington to discuss the creation of a “new global financial architecture.”

Dubya may seem out of his depths, here. According to Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, the American leader didn’t even know what the G20 was a few weeks ago. But now he’s using the grouping to undermine French attempts to smother the world’s financial system in Eurobureaucratic regulation. If Bush is successful, he will end his troubled presidency on a high note.

Make that an extremely high note. There’s no question Bush’s Washington failed to watch over financial institutions in the years preceding the ongoing global panic. Yet just because there was too little oversight preceding the crisis does not mean regulation is good for the global economy at this moment.

Bush can smell statist solutions and instinctively fight them. As the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland relates, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating European Union presidency through the end of this year, wanted Bush to call a meeting of the G8 in New York. Dubya, however, countered with convening the larger group in Washington. The larger gathering is designed to dilute the unhelpful influence of the Russians and add the friendly Saudis. The choice of venue is intended to eliminate any suggestion that the U.N. be involved in regulation of the financial markets. And President Bush tried to limit the meeting to four hours.

Nobody is safe when 20 national leaders gather in a single room to guarantee global prosperity. After all, there can be nothing but trouble when Sarkozy calls for the “moralization of financial markets.” Even though Bush may be “the lamest of ducks”–the New York Times‘s words, not mine–he is about the only person who can protect free-flowing capital markets from attack by politicians. The Europeans demand action, and so do the G20 finance ministers, who just concluded their meeting in Sao Paulo.

So Dubya will soon have one more opportunity to save the world. And, by the look of things, he’s making all the right moves. Given what could go wrong, it’s a good thing he is.

America’s second worst president–or one of its greatest–has one more scheduled opportunity to address global audiences. That comes later this week, when the G20 leaders meet in Washington to discuss the creation of a “new global financial architecture.”

Dubya may seem out of his depths, here. According to Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, the American leader didn’t even know what the G20 was a few weeks ago. But now he’s using the grouping to undermine French attempts to smother the world’s financial system in Eurobureaucratic regulation. If Bush is successful, he will end his troubled presidency on a high note.

Make that an extremely high note. There’s no question Bush’s Washington failed to watch over financial institutions in the years preceding the ongoing global panic. Yet just because there was too little oversight preceding the crisis does not mean regulation is good for the global economy at this moment.

Bush can smell statist solutions and instinctively fight them. As the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland relates, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating European Union presidency through the end of this year, wanted Bush to call a meeting of the G8 in New York. Dubya, however, countered with convening the larger group in Washington. The larger gathering is designed to dilute the unhelpful influence of the Russians and add the friendly Saudis. The choice of venue is intended to eliminate any suggestion that the U.N. be involved in regulation of the financial markets. And President Bush tried to limit the meeting to four hours.

Nobody is safe when 20 national leaders gather in a single room to guarantee global prosperity. After all, there can be nothing but trouble when Sarkozy calls for the “moralization of financial markets.” Even though Bush may be “the lamest of ducks”–the New York Times‘s words, not mine–he is about the only person who can protect free-flowing capital markets from attack by politicians. The Europeans demand action, and so do the G20 finance ministers, who just concluded their meeting in Sao Paulo.

So Dubya will soon have one more opportunity to save the world. And, by the look of things, he’s making all the right moves. Given what could go wrong, it’s a good thing he is.

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Momma, Can You Hear Me?

This from the New York Post’s Page Six:

BLEEDING-heart liberal Barbra Streisand is such a rabid hater of President Bush that she freaked out when stepson Josh Brolin told her he’d accepted Oliver Stone‘s offer to star in “W.” as the commander in chief. “She said: ‘How much are you getting paid?’ I told her it was a very low fee. She said, ‘Then why are you doing it?’ ” Brolin tells The Times of London. “She was furious and would not talk to me. I kind of liked that one.”

According to this logic—the actor who plays my enemy is also my enemy—how they heck did Babs respond back in 2002 when her husband, James Brolin, played a Republican governor and presidential candidate on The West Wing who was clearly based on George W. Bush? Come to think of it, maybe what’s really freaking her out is the reminder that both her husband and son bear a physical resemblance to her bête noire.

Let’s hope that her husband, at least, can separate reality from make-believe—otherwise, he’s married to an awfully feminine yeshiva bucher.

This from the New York Post’s Page Six:

BLEEDING-heart liberal Barbra Streisand is such a rabid hater of President Bush that she freaked out when stepson Josh Brolin told her he’d accepted Oliver Stone‘s offer to star in “W.” as the commander in chief. “She said: ‘How much are you getting paid?’ I told her it was a very low fee. She said, ‘Then why are you doing it?’ ” Brolin tells The Times of London. “She was furious and would not talk to me. I kind of liked that one.”

According to this logic—the actor who plays my enemy is also my enemy—how they heck did Babs respond back in 2002 when her husband, James Brolin, played a Republican governor and presidential candidate on The West Wing who was clearly based on George W. Bush? Come to think of it, maybe what’s really freaking her out is the reminder that both her husband and son bear a physical resemblance to her bête noire.

Let’s hope that her husband, at least, can separate reality from make-believe—otherwise, he’s married to an awfully feminine yeshiva bucher.

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The Liberal Tiger by the Tail

‘Tis the season, as well it should be, for introspection and self-criticism among conservatives. But this story, from today’s WSJ, should cause sober liberals to worry:

President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party. … Mr. Obama is being advised largely by a group of intelligence professionals, including some who have supported Republicans, and centrist former officials in the Clinton administration. They say he is likely to fill key intelligence posts with pragmatists.

If I were a Democrat, I would wonder: What does it say about our movement that a prerequisite for electoral viability is hostility to pragmatic national-security policies? And what does it say about the temperament of our party that our president-elect must quickly repudiate the political aesthetic that originally made him so popular? It seems that, if you’re a Democrat, you have to run far further to the Left to earn your popularity than Republicans have to run to the Right to earn theirs. If I were a Democrat, that would concern me.

‘Tis the season, as well it should be, for introspection and self-criticism among conservatives. But this story, from today’s WSJ, should cause sober liberals to worry:

President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party. … Mr. Obama is being advised largely by a group of intelligence professionals, including some who have supported Republicans, and centrist former officials in the Clinton administration. They say he is likely to fill key intelligence posts with pragmatists.

If I were a Democrat, I would wonder: What does it say about our movement that a prerequisite for electoral viability is hostility to pragmatic national-security policies? And what does it say about the temperament of our party that our president-elect must quickly repudiate the political aesthetic that originally made him so popular? It seems that, if you’re a Democrat, you have to run far further to the Left to earn your popularity than Republicans have to run to the Right to earn theirs. If I were a Democrat, that would concern me.

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Re: Encouraging Signs

Max, we certainly do see the battle for the soul of the President Elect played out in the personnel battles for the initial cabinet posts. Today, we get this report:

Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice.

Nominating Gates to stay, “would be a violation of the mandate for change that Obama says he represents,” said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group CodePink.

A better bipartisan fit for Obama, they say, is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who brings out what they like about Gates – his ability to deal with Russia, Iran and Syria – without the direct link to Bush’s policies.

So which will it be? The administration of the candidate who insisted even in retrospect that he would not have supported the surge? Or the administration of the candidate who fuzzed up his call for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the election drew nearer? The Left is correct about one thing: personnel is policy. The choice of Gates–which would signal a desire for stability–would cheer moderate Democrats and conservatives. The reverse is true of the selection of Hagel.

Choices will, of course, bring disappointment to one side or the other. The problem with running as ambiguous a campaign as Obama did is that both sides have legitimate claims to expect a certain set of policy/personnel outcomes. But the time has passed when Obama can be all things to all people. Let’s hope he disappoints the right ones.

Max, we certainly do see the battle for the soul of the President Elect played out in the personnel battles for the initial cabinet posts. Today, we get this report:

Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice.

Nominating Gates to stay, “would be a violation of the mandate for change that Obama says he represents,” said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group CodePink.

A better bipartisan fit for Obama, they say, is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who brings out what they like about Gates – his ability to deal with Russia, Iran and Syria – without the direct link to Bush’s policies.

So which will it be? The administration of the candidate who insisted even in retrospect that he would not have supported the surge? Or the administration of the candidate who fuzzed up his call for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the election drew nearer? The Left is correct about one thing: personnel is policy. The choice of Gates–which would signal a desire for stability–would cheer moderate Democrats and conservatives. The reverse is true of the selection of Hagel.

Choices will, of course, bring disappointment to one side or the other. The problem with running as ambiguous a campaign as Obama did is that both sides have legitimate claims to expect a certain set of policy/personnel outcomes. But the time has passed when Obama can be all things to all people. Let’s hope he disappoints the right ones.

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Bad for Africa?

Although many sub-Saharan Africans have been feeling euphoric about our electing a half-Kenyan, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that their hopes may soon be dashed upon the rocks of political expediency:

[I]f there’s one issue that Obama will be judged on in Africa, it’s international fair trade: whether he will usher in a breakthrough or, as some fear, stifle it. Will he continue to support subsidies that protect American farmers, but hurt poor Africans?

[Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential,] said Western subsidies and tariffs are “ruinous” for Africa, condemning it to poverty. Aid programs “aren’t really aid packages at all; they’re just compensation for a very unfair trade system.”

But when Smith asked Obama’s foreign policy advisors about the issue at a recent meeting, they said it was not on the preelection agenda.

“I said, ‘You mean it’s too unpopular?’ ” Smith recalled. “They just laughed. They would not even talk about it.

“I think the moral argument is to get rid of these subsidies. But he’s going to have a hard job to dump subsidies in the middle of a recession.”

By contrast, the article notes, McCain’s platform included opposition to those very subsidies.

Although many sub-Saharan Africans have been feeling euphoric about our electing a half-Kenyan, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that their hopes may soon be dashed upon the rocks of political expediency:

[I]f there’s one issue that Obama will be judged on in Africa, it’s international fair trade: whether he will usher in a breakthrough or, as some fear, stifle it. Will he continue to support subsidies that protect American farmers, but hurt poor Africans?

[Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential,] said Western subsidies and tariffs are “ruinous” for Africa, condemning it to poverty. Aid programs “aren’t really aid packages at all; they’re just compensation for a very unfair trade system.”

But when Smith asked Obama’s foreign policy advisors about the issue at a recent meeting, they said it was not on the preelection agenda.

“I said, ‘You mean it’s too unpopular?’ ” Smith recalled. “They just laughed. They would not even talk about it.

“I think the moral argument is to get rid of these subsidies. But he’s going to have a hard job to dump subsidies in the middle of a recession.”

By contrast, the article notes, McCain’s platform included opposition to those very subsidies.

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Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Drudge Report has linked to a story in which a Republican congressman from Georgia said he fears that President-elect Obama will “establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.” According to Representative Paul Broun, “It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force. I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may–may not, I hope not–but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”

Representative Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet, in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist,” says Broun, adding this: “We can’t be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential.”

Perhaps the reason Broun’s comments “sound a bit crazy” is because they are a bit crazy. Or more than a bit. For one thing, Representative Broun is criticizing Obama for calling for something that has (more or less) already been created by the Bush Administration: the Citizen Corps, an initiative falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. The Citizen Corps is an effort to promote citizen preparedness and participation. It advocates community-based strategies to foster stronger collaboration between citizens and emergency responders. And the Citizen Corps itself has a precedent: civil defense during the Cold War.

I don’t doubt for a moment that Broun represents a fringe view within the GOP. I also don’t doubt for a moment that comments like this will be used to tar the GOP as petty, nasty, insane. This is the kind of stuff the extreme Left said about President Bush on a routine basis and (mostly) got away with. It ought to be discouraged and criticized by sane conservatives at every opportunity.

There will be an impulse for Republicans to roll their eyes and ignore comments like Broun’s, and for understandable reasons. He is someone almost no-one has heard of before, and his words are, on one level, unworthy of a response. On the other hand, there is something to be said about policing one’s own ranks (I hope using that term doesn’t qualify me as Gestapo-like). During the last eight years, during the height of Bush Derangement Syndrome, it would have been commendable if mature Democrats had swatted down some of the comments from the fever swamps, rather than parroting them.

The GOP needs to be seen as embodying high-mindedness, intellectual seriousness, and a bit of grace and class. The best way to be seen in that light is actually to be animated by such things. Saying Barack Obama has the potential to be Hitler is noxious, stupid, and astonishingly self-destructive. And maybe an elected Republican, somewhere, could say so.

The Drudge Report has linked to a story in which a Republican congressman from Georgia said he fears that President-elect Obama will “establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.” According to Representative Paul Broun, “It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force. I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may–may not, I hope not–but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”

Representative Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet, in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist,” says Broun, adding this: “We can’t be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential.”

Perhaps the reason Broun’s comments “sound a bit crazy” is because they are a bit crazy. Or more than a bit. For one thing, Representative Broun is criticizing Obama for calling for something that has (more or less) already been created by the Bush Administration: the Citizen Corps, an initiative falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. The Citizen Corps is an effort to promote citizen preparedness and participation. It advocates community-based strategies to foster stronger collaboration between citizens and emergency responders. And the Citizen Corps itself has a precedent: civil defense during the Cold War.

I don’t doubt for a moment that Broun represents a fringe view within the GOP. I also don’t doubt for a moment that comments like this will be used to tar the GOP as petty, nasty, insane. This is the kind of stuff the extreme Left said about President Bush on a routine basis and (mostly) got away with. It ought to be discouraged and criticized by sane conservatives at every opportunity.

There will be an impulse for Republicans to roll their eyes and ignore comments like Broun’s, and for understandable reasons. He is someone almost no-one has heard of before, and his words are, on one level, unworthy of a response. On the other hand, there is something to be said about policing one’s own ranks (I hope using that term doesn’t qualify me as Gestapo-like). During the last eight years, during the height of Bush Derangement Syndrome, it would have been commendable if mature Democrats had swatted down some of the comments from the fever swamps, rather than parroting them.

The GOP needs to be seen as embodying high-mindedness, intellectual seriousness, and a bit of grace and class. The best way to be seen in that light is actually to be animated by such things. Saying Barack Obama has the potential to be Hitler is noxious, stupid, and astonishingly self-destructive. And maybe an elected Republican, somewhere, could say so.

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That’s What I Call Change

Can a country move locations?

Can a country move locations?

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Prepare To Be Nudged

Here’s George Packer in the New Yorker:

For the first time since the Johnson Administration, the idea that government should take bold action to create equal opportunity for all citizens doesn’t have to explain itself in a defensive mumble. That idea is ascendant in 2008 because it answers the times.

Actually, that idea has created the times. It was the government’s “bold action to create equal opportunity for all citizens” that forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase and securitize the mortgages of unstable borrowers. In 2008, American citizens have equal opportunity. Come 2009 . . . we’ll see.

But for Packer, equal opportunity is not enough. He is happy about the fact that Obama has been influenced by Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge, which is about “ways of helping people to make better choices without requiring anybody to do anything. It’s a conception of government that is reluctant to impose mandates and bans but is kind of shrewd about enlisting what we know about human behavior in good directions.” As an American, I can’t think of a more haunting description of government.

A passive-aggressive socialist state — that’s the change we’ve been waiting for? That’s worse than a purely aggressive one. You’ll fight like hell if some goons barge into your home and make you put half your wages into fund X. But if you’re just “nudged” into it bit-by-bit, you’ll surrender your free will over the long haul without a fight.

Out of all the predictions about an Obama presidency, this one seems most on target to me. Read that creepy, social-engineering blather above and recall all Obama’s campaign pledges to protect borrowers from villainous fine print. Cast your mind back to when Michelle Obama told a crowd that her husband would make them “push yourselves to be better.” Or remember how Joe Biden asked supporters to resist the future urge to say, “Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don’t know about that decision,” under an Obama administration. Consider that Obama told Joe Wurzelbacher that the government is better suited to spread Joe’s wealth than he is.

Packer quotes Obama approvingly: “Our history should give us confidence that we don’t have to choose between an oppressive government-run economy and a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism.” Personally, I see no need for a third option, being a proponent of “chaotic and unforgiving” capitalism. (Hey, Packer, remind me: what’s your per-word rate?) But I’m sure I can be nudged into changing my mind.

Here’s George Packer in the New Yorker:

For the first time since the Johnson Administration, the idea that government should take bold action to create equal opportunity for all citizens doesn’t have to explain itself in a defensive mumble. That idea is ascendant in 2008 because it answers the times.

Actually, that idea has created the times. It was the government’s “bold action to create equal opportunity for all citizens” that forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase and securitize the mortgages of unstable borrowers. In 2008, American citizens have equal opportunity. Come 2009 . . . we’ll see.

But for Packer, equal opportunity is not enough. He is happy about the fact that Obama has been influenced by Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge, which is about “ways of helping people to make better choices without requiring anybody to do anything. It’s a conception of government that is reluctant to impose mandates and bans but is kind of shrewd about enlisting what we know about human behavior in good directions.” As an American, I can’t think of a more haunting description of government.

A passive-aggressive socialist state — that’s the change we’ve been waiting for? That’s worse than a purely aggressive one. You’ll fight like hell if some goons barge into your home and make you put half your wages into fund X. But if you’re just “nudged” into it bit-by-bit, you’ll surrender your free will over the long haul without a fight.

Out of all the predictions about an Obama presidency, this one seems most on target to me. Read that creepy, social-engineering blather above and recall all Obama’s campaign pledges to protect borrowers from villainous fine print. Cast your mind back to when Michelle Obama told a crowd that her husband would make them “push yourselves to be better.” Or remember how Joe Biden asked supporters to resist the future urge to say, “Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don’t know about that decision,” under an Obama administration. Consider that Obama told Joe Wurzelbacher that the government is better suited to spread Joe’s wealth than he is.

Packer quotes Obama approvingly: “Our history should give us confidence that we don’t have to choose between an oppressive government-run economy and a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism.” Personally, I see no need for a third option, being a proponent of “chaotic and unforgiving” capitalism. (Hey, Packer, remind me: what’s your per-word rate?) But I’m sure I can be nudged into changing my mind.

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Ninety Years Ago Today . . .

. . . the greatest catastrophe for Western civilization since the Black Death six hundred years earlier finally ended. In four years and three months of mindless slaughter and stalemate, over eight million soldiers died. Half the men aged 18 to 34 in France in 1914 had been killed by 1918 and many more maimed. On the single day of July 1st, 1916, the British Army suffered more casualties than it had in the entire Boer War, which had lasted three years.

But beyond the human toll and material costs of the First World War was the psychological cost, one we are still paying.

Unlike the Black Death, Western civilization had accidentally brought this disaster upon itself. It followed, therefore, that there must be something fundamentally wrong with Western civilization and with what is at the core of that civilization, the faith in personal liberty, democracy, and capitalism.

Decades of experiments in alternatives followed, from fascism to communism to British quasi-socialism. All failed, often at even greater human cost than the war that had made the experiments possible.

The Cold War diplomat George Kennan called the First World War “the seminal catastrophe of the 20th century” and we, in the early 21st century, still live in its malignant shadow. “The idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/All centuries but this, and every country but his own” has always been with us. But in Gilbert and Sullivan’s day, he was on the margin of intellectual life and political power. The First World War made him a central player, and in many ways he still is.

Therefore, what lies today in Flanders fields (where the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row) is not just a lost generation. Also buried there is the confidence of the West in the superior ability of its central political and economic tenets to improve the lot of humankind.

. . . the greatest catastrophe for Western civilization since the Black Death six hundred years earlier finally ended. In four years and three months of mindless slaughter and stalemate, over eight million soldiers died. Half the men aged 18 to 34 in France in 1914 had been killed by 1918 and many more maimed. On the single day of July 1st, 1916, the British Army suffered more casualties than it had in the entire Boer War, which had lasted three years.

But beyond the human toll and material costs of the First World War was the psychological cost, one we are still paying.

Unlike the Black Death, Western civilization had accidentally brought this disaster upon itself. It followed, therefore, that there must be something fundamentally wrong with Western civilization and with what is at the core of that civilization, the faith in personal liberty, democracy, and capitalism.

Decades of experiments in alternatives followed, from fascism to communism to British quasi-socialism. All failed, often at even greater human cost than the war that had made the experiments possible.

The Cold War diplomat George Kennan called the First World War “the seminal catastrophe of the 20th century” and we, in the early 21st century, still live in its malignant shadow. “The idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/All centuries but this, and every country but his own” has always been with us. But in Gilbert and Sullivan’s day, he was on the margin of intellectual life and political power. The First World War made him a central player, and in many ways he still is.

Therefore, what lies today in Flanders fields (where the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row) is not just a lost generation. Also buried there is the confidence of the West in the superior ability of its central political and economic tenets to improve the lot of humankind.

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Encouraging Signs from Obama

I worked for the other guy in the presidential race, but I have been cheered so far by the early indications of how the Obama administration is shaping up. Scuttlebutt has it that the front-runners for Treasury secretary are economist Larry Summers and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner. Either one would be a good, centrist choice. So, too, would be Jim Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser for Bill Clinton, who is now a rumored choice for national security adviser in the Obama administration.

It goes almost without saying that nothing would signal Obama’s moderate credentials more than retaining Bob Gates at Defense. So it is encouraging to read in the Wall Street Journal that the president-elect is “leaning toward” such a move, and that Gates “would likely accept the offer if it is made.” As the Journal notes: “the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.”

Another Journal article implies there would be similar continuity in the intelligence community. This is hardly unalloyed good news, since the intel community is in desperate need of a shakeup. But at least it suggests that Obama has no intention of neutering most of the techniques that have kept us safe from Al Qaeda since 9/11. Another sign of that resolve comes in the list of rumored candidates for Homeland Security Secretary, which includes such reassuring names as Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, and Jane Harman, a centrist Democrat who was formerly head of the House Intelligence Committee.

The biggest question mark so far concerns the Secretary of State position. John Kerry is apparently lobbying like mad to get the job. It is hard to imagine a less propitious choice than the preening, self-regarding, leftist senator from Massachusetts. There are far more reassuring candidates out there, such as former Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke. If Obama keeps Kerry in the Senate and sends Susan Rice to a second-tier job (such as UN ambassador), he would signal that he is not going to allow liberal ideologues to grab control of his foreign policy.

I worked for the other guy in the presidential race, but I have been cheered so far by the early indications of how the Obama administration is shaping up. Scuttlebutt has it that the front-runners for Treasury secretary are economist Larry Summers and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner. Either one would be a good, centrist choice. So, too, would be Jim Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser for Bill Clinton, who is now a rumored choice for national security adviser in the Obama administration.

It goes almost without saying that nothing would signal Obama’s moderate credentials more than retaining Bob Gates at Defense. So it is encouraging to read in the Wall Street Journal that the president-elect is “leaning toward” such a move, and that Gates “would likely accept the offer if it is made.” As the Journal notes: “the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.”

Another Journal article implies there would be similar continuity in the intelligence community. This is hardly unalloyed good news, since the intel community is in desperate need of a shakeup. But at least it suggests that Obama has no intention of neutering most of the techniques that have kept us safe from Al Qaeda since 9/11. Another sign of that resolve comes in the list of rumored candidates for Homeland Security Secretary, which includes such reassuring names as Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, and Jane Harman, a centrist Democrat who was formerly head of the House Intelligence Committee.

The biggest question mark so far concerns the Secretary of State position. John Kerry is apparently lobbying like mad to get the job. It is hard to imagine a less propitious choice than the preening, self-regarding, leftist senator from Massachusetts. There are far more reassuring candidates out there, such as former Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke. If Obama keeps Kerry in the Senate and sends Susan Rice to a second-tier job (such as UN ambassador), he would signal that he is not going to allow liberal ideologues to grab control of his foreign policy.

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Alan Cumming as Bill Ayers?

In Kenya:

The National Theater is staging “Obama: The Musical,” which explores the next president’s life through song.

The overture will be longer than the show.

UPDATE: Here’s who won’t be involved: “Shaban Abdul Rahim, best known for his hit single in Egypt “I hate Israel,” says in his new song: “We hope that Obama won’t be like Bush; that son of a crazy woman,” the English-language Egyptian Mail reported on Tuesday.”

In Kenya:

The National Theater is staging “Obama: The Musical,” which explores the next president’s life through song.

The overture will be longer than the show.

UPDATE: Here’s who won’t be involved: “Shaban Abdul Rahim, best known for his hit single in Egypt “I hate Israel,” says in his new song: “We hope that Obama won’t be like Bush; that son of a crazy woman,” the English-language Egyptian Mail reported on Tuesday.”

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Shocking Cartoon at the Forward

There are some Jews in America who, it seems, lose all their bearings when confronted with Christian support for Israel. Building in part on centuries-old wariness of Christian motives, and in part on a strident opposition to the Christian Right on domestic American issues, there are some people who simply cannot imagine that Christians really might support Jews, and that support for a Jewish state is not merely a cover for their sinister, messianic machinations.

A ferociously repugnant example of this sentiment just appeared in this week’s Forward, in the form of a satirical political cartoon by the talented Eli Valley. It’s a fake ad for a week-long evangelical trip to the Holy Land, and it expresses all the anti-Christian fears that lurk in the heart of many an American Jew. Obese and monstrous Evangelicals are shown going to Israel, praising Hitler as a “Servant of the Lord,” and looking forward to the “mother of all Holocausts for Jews and Muslems who don’t convert.” There are fake adds for T-shirts praising the right-wing mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein — you get the picture.

There is a great deal to say about this cartoon (much of it unprintable). But it is so far from the liberal, tolerant views that I think most Forward readers adhere to, that one wonders how it got by the editors. And as for the use of grotesque caricatures playing on dehumanizing stereotypes, depicting a murderous conspiracy that lurks behind a friendly face, well . . .

There are some Jews in America who, it seems, lose all their bearings when confronted with Christian support for Israel. Building in part on centuries-old wariness of Christian motives, and in part on a strident opposition to the Christian Right on domestic American issues, there are some people who simply cannot imagine that Christians really might support Jews, and that support for a Jewish state is not merely a cover for their sinister, messianic machinations.

A ferociously repugnant example of this sentiment just appeared in this week’s Forward, in the form of a satirical political cartoon by the talented Eli Valley. It’s a fake ad for a week-long evangelical trip to the Holy Land, and it expresses all the anti-Christian fears that lurk in the heart of many an American Jew. Obese and monstrous Evangelicals are shown going to Israel, praising Hitler as a “Servant of the Lord,” and looking forward to the “mother of all Holocausts for Jews and Muslems who don’t convert.” There are fake adds for T-shirts praising the right-wing mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein — you get the picture.

There is a great deal to say about this cartoon (much of it unprintable). But it is so far from the liberal, tolerant views that I think most Forward readers adhere to, that one wonders how it got by the editors. And as for the use of grotesque caricatures playing on dehumanizing stereotypes, depicting a murderous conspiracy that lurks behind a friendly face, well . . .

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