Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 1, 2008

Maybe They’re in the Top 107

Scott Johnson has noted that this year’s nonfiction National Book Awards demonstrated the dominance of the Left over the awards, particularly since four remarkable books – all of them worthy of recognition – did not even make the list of nominees:

Jonah Goldberg — Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

Douglas Feith — War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism

Andrew McCarthy — Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad

James Rosen — The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate

In its December 7 issue, The New York Times Book Review will publish its “100 Notable Books of 2008” and – guess what – none of the above four books made that list either.  Nor does the Times’ list recognize any of the three extraordinary books published this year in reaction to the Hitchens-Harris-Dawkins neo-atheism books.

The Times‘ nonfiction list includes (in its words), an “engrossing portrait of Dick Cheney as a master political manipulator,” an “objective, thorough study of a landmark case for Guantanamo detainees,” a recount of “the emergence of the widespread use of torture as a central tool in the fight against terrorism,” a “compulsively readable study [of] Nixon’s divisive and enduring legacy,” a book by a New York Times reporter that “casts a keen eye on [Condoleezza] Rice’s tenure as a policy maker,” another book by a Times columnist, a memoir by a Times reporter, another memoir by a Times reporter . . . . you get the picture.

These days, the Times is no longer even the book review of record.

Scott Johnson has noted that this year’s nonfiction National Book Awards demonstrated the dominance of the Left over the awards, particularly since four remarkable books – all of them worthy of recognition – did not even make the list of nominees:

Jonah Goldberg — Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

Douglas Feith — War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism

Andrew McCarthy — Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad

James Rosen — The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate

In its December 7 issue, The New York Times Book Review will publish its “100 Notable Books of 2008” and – guess what – none of the above four books made that list either.  Nor does the Times’ list recognize any of the three extraordinary books published this year in reaction to the Hitchens-Harris-Dawkins neo-atheism books.

The Times‘ nonfiction list includes (in its words), an “engrossing portrait of Dick Cheney as a master political manipulator,” an “objective, thorough study of a landmark case for Guantanamo detainees,” a recount of “the emergence of the widespread use of torture as a central tool in the fight against terrorism,” a “compulsively readable study [of] Nixon’s divisive and enduring legacy,” a book by a New York Times reporter that “casts a keen eye on [Condoleezza] Rice’s tenure as a policy maker,” another book by a Times columnist, a memoir by a Times reporter, another memoir by a Times reporter . . . . you get the picture.

These days, the Times is no longer even the book review of record.

Read Less

Bipartisanship At Last?

From the Left and Right, there is general agreement that Obama’s national security picks indicate that he doesn’t intend to govern the way he campaigned. We’ve come a long way from opposition to FISA, promises to end the Iraq War, and vows to meet personally with Ahmadinejad.

For Juan Williams, the light has slowly dawned, as his comments on Fox News Sunday reveal:

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, you’ve got to remember, Gates was a member of this group that was looking over the war in Iraq and was not an initial supporter of the surge. But what he has come to, I think, is an understanding of the importance of the effort, and I think he understands who is the commander-in-chief, which is ultimately what it comes down to. You asked a question of Senator McCaskill, will he take orders from the president? I mean, to me, of course, you’ve to take orders, that’s the commander-in-chief. The difficulty here I must say, Chris, is for lots of people who felt that there should be some representation from people who were opposed to the war, because clearly that was a principal tenet of Barack Obama’s primary campaign in which he said that he wants an immediate end to the war. The way that things are shaping up now, there will be no immediate end to this war. That it will go on certainly through 2011 when the Status of Forces Agreement says that the U.S. has to be out. But the kind of immediate, first day, let’s get out, that seems to be off the table because what you’ve got now…

Bill Kristol is more emphatic:

Because Obama is not the change. (INAUDIBLE) said Obama is the change, because he has been saying that for the last year, but in what foreign policy area is Obama the change? He’s going ahead and increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, something that is already in course under the Bush administration.
He’s going to go with the Bush scheduled withdraw-down in Iraq, not his — what he proposed during the campaign. He’s going to be a strong partner with India. He’s going to fight terrorism. He’s going to work with NATO. I mean, he’s going to increase — I hope he sticks with this, defense spending and the size of the Marines and the Army. There is no — I think he’s going to continue Bush’s foreign policy, basically, for better and worse. I hope he continues it a little better, actually, is a little tougher on certain things. But with Iran, he’s going to — he’ll have some token negotiations with Iran, but he’ll end up with the same choice Bush would have had, in terms of having to perhaps — to threaten, certainly, perhaps use military force to stop the nuclear program.

And in an exchange with Chris Wallace,  Williams finally concedes — forget the “change” hooey:

WALLACE: But, Juan, Bill brings up a good question. Why didn’t Obama do that? And is it because he isn’t the change?
WILLIAMS: I don’t know about that. I mean, the change, that’s political. You can make a decision. I think he was poking fun at Obama. But I do think…
WALLACE: I don’t think in terms of policy he was.
WILLIAMS: Well, no, but in terms of the change — he’s not the change on this. Clearly, Bill is right, exactly right. I mean, but you know what? He is a change in terms of people saying, you know what, I trust that he’s not about ideological motives here. He’s not part of any neoconservative front. He’s not doing this because his daddy was insulted by somebody. He’s doing this for American interests. And that’s what he wants to portray.
But in terms of changing American policy from, you know, this war preoccupation, maybe the best I can say is he’s going to put more forces in Afghanistan and he’s going to go after bin Laden.

It’s an odd way to define change–doing the exact same thing but for different motives. Still, the consensus is striking. For years, people on both sides of the aisle have bemoaned the absence of  a “bipartisan” foreign policy. (In truth, the history of bipartisanship is greatly exaggerated, as anyone who lived through the end Vietnam War and the Reagan years can attest.) But, finding ourselves on the brink of victory in Iraq, with a war in Afghanistan to win and intractable enemies abroad, there is less room for differentiation from the Bush administration now that President-elect Obama has Joint Chiefs to bond with, allies to reassure, and a country to defend. Fairly soon, we may be hearing that free trade is essential to prevent a worse recession.

Certainly much depends on execution of policy, as specific decisions arise for the new administration. But conservatives have little reason to complain about the national security front. At least for now. And if President-elect Obama had to reverse himself on numerous positions and disappoint the Left to reach this point? Well, conservatives never bought that “New Politics” nonsense anyway, and are more than happy to see those who were ready to retreat from Iraq crestfallen. It’s a post-election change they can believe in.

From the Left and Right, there is general agreement that Obama’s national security picks indicate that he doesn’t intend to govern the way he campaigned. We’ve come a long way from opposition to FISA, promises to end the Iraq War, and vows to meet personally with Ahmadinejad.

For Juan Williams, the light has slowly dawned, as his comments on Fox News Sunday reveal:

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, you’ve got to remember, Gates was a member of this group that was looking over the war in Iraq and was not an initial supporter of the surge. But what he has come to, I think, is an understanding of the importance of the effort, and I think he understands who is the commander-in-chief, which is ultimately what it comes down to. You asked a question of Senator McCaskill, will he take orders from the president? I mean, to me, of course, you’ve to take orders, that’s the commander-in-chief. The difficulty here I must say, Chris, is for lots of people who felt that there should be some representation from people who were opposed to the war, because clearly that was a principal tenet of Barack Obama’s primary campaign in which he said that he wants an immediate end to the war. The way that things are shaping up now, there will be no immediate end to this war. That it will go on certainly through 2011 when the Status of Forces Agreement says that the U.S. has to be out. But the kind of immediate, first day, let’s get out, that seems to be off the table because what you’ve got now…

Bill Kristol is more emphatic:

Because Obama is not the change. (INAUDIBLE) said Obama is the change, because he has been saying that for the last year, but in what foreign policy area is Obama the change? He’s going ahead and increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, something that is already in course under the Bush administration.
He’s going to go with the Bush scheduled withdraw-down in Iraq, not his — what he proposed during the campaign. He’s going to be a strong partner with India. He’s going to fight terrorism. He’s going to work with NATO. I mean, he’s going to increase — I hope he sticks with this, defense spending and the size of the Marines and the Army. There is no — I think he’s going to continue Bush’s foreign policy, basically, for better and worse. I hope he continues it a little better, actually, is a little tougher on certain things. But with Iran, he’s going to — he’ll have some token negotiations with Iran, but he’ll end up with the same choice Bush would have had, in terms of having to perhaps — to threaten, certainly, perhaps use military force to stop the nuclear program.

And in an exchange with Chris Wallace,  Williams finally concedes — forget the “change” hooey:

WALLACE: But, Juan, Bill brings up a good question. Why didn’t Obama do that? And is it because he isn’t the change?
WILLIAMS: I don’t know about that. I mean, the change, that’s political. You can make a decision. I think he was poking fun at Obama. But I do think…
WALLACE: I don’t think in terms of policy he was.
WILLIAMS: Well, no, but in terms of the change — he’s not the change on this. Clearly, Bill is right, exactly right. I mean, but you know what? He is a change in terms of people saying, you know what, I trust that he’s not about ideological motives here. He’s not part of any neoconservative front. He’s not doing this because his daddy was insulted by somebody. He’s doing this for American interests. And that’s what he wants to portray.
But in terms of changing American policy from, you know, this war preoccupation, maybe the best I can say is he’s going to put more forces in Afghanistan and he’s going to go after bin Laden.

It’s an odd way to define change–doing the exact same thing but for different motives. Still, the consensus is striking. For years, people on both sides of the aisle have bemoaned the absence of  a “bipartisan” foreign policy. (In truth, the history of bipartisanship is greatly exaggerated, as anyone who lived through the end Vietnam War and the Reagan years can attest.) But, finding ourselves on the brink of victory in Iraq, with a war in Afghanistan to win and intractable enemies abroad, there is less room for differentiation from the Bush administration now that President-elect Obama has Joint Chiefs to bond with, allies to reassure, and a country to defend. Fairly soon, we may be hearing that free trade is essential to prevent a worse recession.

Certainly much depends on execution of policy, as specific decisions arise for the new administration. But conservatives have little reason to complain about the national security front. At least for now. And if President-elect Obama had to reverse himself on numerous positions and disappoint the Left to reach this point? Well, conservatives never bought that “New Politics” nonsense anyway, and are more than happy to see those who were ready to retreat from Iraq crestfallen. It’s a post-election change they can believe in.

Read Less




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