Germans are in the process of redefining themselves as “victims of war.” Claiming that all war is always horrible for everyone involved, they remove all questions of who and why. Pacifist Germans have conveniently drawn the wrong conclusion from WW2 – that freedom and democracy must not be defended militarily.
You hear this all the time in Germany: that Germans know the price of war and have learned their lesson – unlike those naive, stupid Americans. In this self-serving myth, having started a war that killed 50 million ended up cleansing and purifying them, enabling them to reach a higher moral plane. Thus the perpetrators gain the moral high ground over the victors. Or so they think. (The irony is that most Germans have no memory of any war, while millions of Americans were affected by the effort to win the cold war and subsequent conflicts)
Dresden is of course a big part of that argument.
Making apologies for Dresden is inappropriate for several reasons. It is an insult to those who fought the war and had to make tough decisions. This was a war for the very survival of civilization. Contrary to the German view, the war wasn´t over when Dresden was bombed. Americans had suffered great casualties in the battle of the bulge just a few weeks earlier. Allied soldiers were dying in large numbers every day all over the world. Democratic leaders had a duty to win the war as soon as possible and not to sacrifice their own men by being concerned about the enemy. Only the leaders of Germany, Japan and Soviet Union could afford to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of their own, which they did to buy a little more time for themselves.
It´s cheap for a politician to make apologies for things earlier generations did. It´s cheap for an ignorant liberal dunderhead to call their effort terrorism. It is also meaningless. So far Obama never let slip a chance to aggrandize himself at America´s expense. We will see.
Posts For: May 29, 2009
It took several days for the White House to come out with an explanation for the 32 words: “her word choice in 2001 was poor.” Got it?
ABC News reports: “About her use of the word ‘better,’ Gibbs said ‘I think if she had the speech to do all over again I think she’d change that word.’” Well, yeah. Now.
But this was part of a speech and it was duplicated for a law review article. Was it sloppy draftsmanship? Or does she now she realize that it was impolitic? Moreover, isn’t her view of personalized jurisprudence the gravamen of the speech? I think it’s hard to escape the conclusion that those words were entirely consistent with the overall theme of the speech, which also included this passage:
While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor — I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area – Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.
And the 32 words, remember, are part of this paragraph:
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
It is a speech quite obviously devoted to identity politics, extolling a message of legal realism which declares the ideal of impartial judging to be bunk. I find it hard to believe the White House thinks this will suffice.
Senators should take Sotomayor through that speech carefully, and take her through other examples of her work as well, to determine what she believed then and what she believes now. Well are all entitled to change our minds, but claiming “poor word choice” for a Supreme Court nominee isn’t going to fly, I suspect. Besides, it’s a rather odd defense for a Supreme Court nominee, isn’t it?
Abe has taken a crack at explaining the meaning of the U.S.’s negotiations with Europe over the Guantanamo detainees. My take is slightly different. Last week, Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as arguing that:
When we are asking allies to do their fair share in dealing with this challenge we need to do our fair share.
I am of two minds about this argument, but I lean toward considering it nonsense. Though part of me just blames the administration for being naïve, for actually believing that Gitmo has ever been a serious issue for Europe, as opposed to something it could beat George W. Bush over the head with.
That part of me is willing to give the administration some credit for trying, albeit gullibly, to encourage the Europeans to live up to their responsibilities. It blames the administration only for committing the fundamental liberal error of believing that the misbehavior of others is merely a reflection of our own supposed faults.
The other part of me thinks this is far too generous. Abe quotes the update on the negotiations, and argues that the administration is doing the bidding of the Europeans. As our partners in Europe put it:
We reaffirm that the primary responsibility for closing Guantanamo and finding residence for the former detainees rests with the United States.
But the way I read both that sentence and Flournoy’s comments, both sides are actually advancing the same position: the detainees are going to be housed in the U.S. What the administration wants is a vague agreement with Europe to provide them with the necessary domestic cover. The Europeans will naturally extract a price for this agreement, since they hold all the cards: they do not, after all, have to take a single detainee, while the administration is desperate to close Guantanamo.
My prediction: when all is said and done, the overwhelming majority of the detainees will be housed in the U.S., and the Europeans non-cooperation will yet again be excused.
Peter Baker has a fascinating profile of Bill Clinton in the New York Times magazine (Baker also appeared on The Charlie Rose Show; that interview is worth watching as well). One of the arguments made by Clinton supporters is that he governed in a Republican era, which limited his ability to be a transformative figure. President Obama, on the other hand, is governing at the beginning of a “progressive” era. Or so the argument goes.
President Obama certainly seems to buy into this critique; he is, after all, governing as if the country were fundamentally different, and more liberal, than it is. It’s a big bet, and I’m doubtful that it’s a wise one.
For one thing, Americans — by roughly a two-to-one margin — consider themselves to be conservative rather than liberal. In addition, polling data shows the public hasn’t embraced big government, certainly not a permanent expansion of it. Obama’s victory in 2008 was an impressive political victory; it was not, based on the available evidence, an ideologically decisive one. There is, in fact, a fair amount of public wariness about Obama’s policies. Many Americans like Obama and they seem impressed with his activism, but they are a bit unnerved, I think, by the direction in which he’s taking the country. They are willing to give him a chance at this early stage, but the support is hardly enthusiastic or unqualified.
The danger for Obama, is that he is overreaching; he is using the economic crisis to push through policies that are enlarging, to a staggering degree, the size and scope of government. The debt and deficit are like exploding stars; their radiating effects may well reconfigure our politics. They may also make tax increases inevitable on Obama’s watch. More dangerous for Obama would be if his policies turned out to be defective at their root and acted as an anchor on the economy over time. Deflation may give way to a significant spike in inflation, which in turn may necessitate a large increase in interest rates.
If that happens — and the occurrence of such a scenario is certainly possible, and perhaps even likely — it may turn out that we are not only not at the beginning of a progressive era; Obamaism may trigger a new conservative one. We’ll find out in due course.
As the White House ponders what to do about Sotomayor’s 32 words, others are trying to puzzle what to do about the confirmation hearing. Michael Gerson explains what is at the heart of conservatives’ deep concerns about the nominee:
In elite academic settings, it is commonly asserted that impartiality is not only a myth but also a fraud perpetuated by the privileged. Since all legal standards, in this view, are subjective and culturally determined, the defenders of objectivity are merely disguising their exercise of power. And so the scales of justice — really the scales of power — need to be weighted by judges to favor the “weak” and the “powerless.”
Sotomayor’s decision in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano is disturbing because it seems to affirm this judicial philosophy. The New Haven, Conn., firefighters who studied for and passed a promotion examination (including a Hispanic) were denied a benefit they had earned, entirely because of their skin color. Because they were not part of a group deemed “powerless,” they were rendered powerless as individuals. Empathy turns out to be selective empathy — not for human beings but for social groups. Just imagine the frustration and anger of standing before a federal judge who is predisposed against your claims for racial reasons of any sort. A federal court should be one place where every individual — black or white, pauper or Rockefeller — is exactly equal in rights and dignity.
This, it seems, must be the focus of the inquiry. Now Gerson and others urge “caution” and warn Republicans to tred carefully because of fear of the political backlash (which of course was entirely ignored in the confirmation battles over Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada). Well, conservatives needn’t be rude or crass but they do need to be serious and exacting.
We after all are talking about a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and are to a large degree setting the ground rules for confirmation hearings for the foreseeable future. If a nominee is not devoted to the impartial administration of justice or thinks the law is simply a reflection of one’s personal preferences and biography, there is every reason to oppose her confirmation.
It is not enough, I think, to simply as Charles Krauthammer suggests “make the case for individual vs. group rights, for justice vs. empathy” but then meekly accept the nomination. If, in fact, we have a nominee who disclaims impartiality, who rejects the principal of equal justice before the law and who has (in the case of Frank Ricci) finagled to deprive litigants of a fair hearing, on what basis would any senator vote to confirm her? (I agree entirely with Matthew Franck’s analysis here.)
These are the issues to be explored in the confirmation hearing — robustly and with intellectual rigor. There is plenty to learn before determining whether the nominee meets the minimal standards for the highest court in the land.
President Barack Obama’s forthcoming address to the Muslim world in Cairo will be next week’s headline-hogging foreign policy event. Yet as far as long-term U.S. strategy in the Middle East is concerned, Obama’s address will be second fiddle to a far more consequential — even if less publicized — event: his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. For the administration, this will be a critical opportunity for assessing Mubarak’s physical health and, in turn, the probability of political upheaval in Egypt in the near future.
Since the sudden death of his 12-year-old grandson on May 18th, Mubarak has made only one televised appearance, with reports indicating that he looked ill. (The cause of the boy’s death is unknown, with reports claiming that he fell off a horse, suffered from food poisoning, or died of a heart attack.) Neither Mubarak nor his wife attended the funeral, nor have any new photographs of the Egyptian leader been printed in the state-run press. Mubarak further canceled his trip to Washington, which had been scheduled for earlier this week, and hasn’t met with any foreign leaders in nearly two weeks. To say the least, it is a rare period of public absence for the Egyptian strongman.
This has fueled speculation within the always-active Cairo rumor mill. One theory claims that Mubarak suffered a heart attack upon hearing of the death of his grandson. Meanwhile, a source has claimed to have “insider information” through a chain of doctors that Mubarak and his wife are both hospitalized.
Confirming or refuting these rumors will be the most important outcome of Obama’s short stopover in Egypt. If Mubarak is healthy — and his current absence is merely the consequence of understandable grieving — Obama will probably partner with the regime (human rights be damned) in pushing some variant of the Saudi peace plan as his major Middle Eastern foreign policy project (stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities be damned).
But if Obama finds an unhealthy Mubarak, all bets are off. The administration will have to confront the real possibility of imminent instability within the most populous Arab state — particularly the likelihood of a power struggle among factions within the regime and security forces. It will have to find the right balance between pleasing these regime-based factions and promoting liberal reforms; between promoting liberal reforms and constraining Islamists; and between short-term stability and a long-term push for democratization. Make no mistake: pushing for a smooth, post-Mubarak transition in Egypt could easily become the Obama administration’s top challenge in the Middle East.
For the moment, of course, this is all speculation. This is why Obama’s meeting with Mubarak — and the insight that this encounter will give the administration regarding Mubarak’s physical health — is so crucial.
The Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary is getting increasingly dicey — and interesting — down the stretch to the election on June 9. This report explains that Terry McAuliffe is facing new scrutiny about his investment in Global Crossing. If your memory is hazy, that was the deal in which McAuliffe plunked down $100,000, made $8.1M, and got out before the firm went bankrupt (which resulted in 10,000 lost jobs and decimated shareholders). Given the economic climate today it’s not surprising one of his rivals is beating him over the head with this:
State House Democratic Caucus leader Brian J. Moran’s only television ad, which debuted last week, accuses McAuliffe of “working insider deals for himself.”
Moran maintains the jobs lost at Global Crossing counter McAuliffe’s claims that he can generate jobs for Virginia.
“It undermines his reason for running for governor,” Moran said in an interview.
But here’s the latest kicker:
Consumer activist Ralph Nader accused Terry McAuliffe Thursday of orchestrating an effort to remove him from the presidential ballot in 2004 when McAuliffe was chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Nader said that McAuliffe offered him an unspecified amount of money to campaign in 31 states if Nader would agree to pull his campaign in 19 battleground states.
What’s more, McAuliffe isn’t denying the claim (at least not yet). Now Democratic primary voters still smarting over the 2000 presidential loss might think this was a good thing but it sounds, well, not exactly kosher. Are you allowed to pay off opponents to leave the race?
Virginia voters are getting quite an education about McAuliffe in a short period of time. Whether it makes a difference remains to be seen.
Jennifer Rubin writes on the confrontation between reality and Obamanomics, namely that the president’s economic strategy consists of piling up mountains of debt, printing money, acknowledging this is unsustainable, and hoping that the rising interest rates borrowers are demanding don’t impinge too heavily on the recovery.
Still, it’s nothing compared to Britain’s mess. A pity there’s no catchy name for Gordon Brown’s policies. But “failure” sounds about right. The markets noticed when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Britain’s credit assessment last week, from stable to negative and implied it might lose its AAA credit rating if it did not mend its ways. This is something I’ve been onto for months. Even the official figures on public debt are alarming. According to the Office of National Statistics:
Public sector net debt, expressed as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was 53.2 per cent at the end of April 2009, compared with 42.9 per cent at end of April 2008. Net debt was £754.0 billion at the end of April .
And that reckons without the liabilities the state has assumed from the financial sector, which the ONS estimated in February would be between one and 1.5 trillion pounds: even the lower range of that estimate would more than double Britain’s debt. When you add in the growth rate of the money supply — between 17 and 19 percent on an annual basis every month this year — you can see why Standard & Poor’s was pessimistic.
Britain is almost uniquely poorly placed to weather the storm: it’s heavily reliant on trade and the financial sector, it has massively expanded the state sectors and their debt burden since 1999, and it has responded to the crisis by spending and printing money at a rate that is only marginally less excessive than that of the Obama Administration.
The curious thing is that none of this is terribly popular. A recent poll in Britain found that 52% of voters agreed with the statement “The government spends too much and therefore taxes us too much.” All economists agree that a simple analogy between an individual budget and a national one is wrong. But when the markets and the people agree that it’s time to cut back, the government and the parties could do worse than listen.
Those of you who have seen the movie will remember the scene well: our hero, Westley, has finally engineered a showdown with the cowardly Prince Humperdinck, who has attempted to steal his one true love. But over the course of his long battle to reach Humperdinck, Westley was captured and tortured to death in the Pit of Despair (a place much, much worse than Gitmo). He is revived by Max the miracle worker, but is so weak that he cannot even stand up on his own. He presses on nonetheless. In the climactic confrontation, Humperdinck finds Westley in a room in his castle, laying on a bed, his head propped up with pillows, his sword at his side. All he has the strength to do is talk — but Humperdinck doesn’t know this, so he challenges him to a duel. Westley responds by haranguing Humperdinck with horrible descriptions of his dismemberment should they duel. (“The first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.”) Through sheer bravado, he avoids exposing his powerlessness until one of his associates, the great swordsman Inigo Montoya, arrives to help him — and then it is too late for Humperdinck. He has been tricked.
If you read Jackson Diehl’s column today about his interview with Mahmoud Abbas, it’s hard to avoid recalling this scene. Diehl is mystified by what he says is Abbas’s “waiting game.”
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. …
Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze — if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. Abbas rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession — such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.
Instead, he says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said.
There should be no mystery about what Abbas is up to. His flippant declaration of passivity is transparently employed because he is powerless. It is his only way of avoiding the embarrassing spectacle of falling flat on his face the moment it comes time for him to take action. So he speaks in grandiose terms about how everyone else must move before he does, when in reality — like Westley — he is paralyzed. Call it the Princess Bride strategy. And it appears that, for the time being at least, he has a willing sponsor in the Obama Administration.
If President Obama hopes to win Republican votes for his Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, he better hope that GOP Senators approach matters differently than Senator Obama did. Obama, of course, opposed the nominations of both John Roberts and Samuel Alito – and, in fact, said he would join in a filibuster of Alito. It’s worth recalling what Obama said in stating his opposition to Roberts (his case against Alito was almost identical):
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the temperament that makes for a good judge. He is humble, he is personally decent, and he appears to be respectful of different points of view. It is absolutely clear to me that Judge Roberts truly loves the law…
The problem I face… is that while adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of the cases — what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.
In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point… in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart… The problem I had is that when I examined Judge Roberts’ record and history of public service, it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak… given the gravity of the position to which he will undoubtedly ascend and the gravity of the decisions in which he will undoubtedly participate during his tenure on the Court, I ultimately have to give more weight to his deeds and the overarching political philosophy that he appears to have shared with those in power than to the assuring words that he provided me in our meeting.
The votes against Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito were, in my judgment, irresponsible. They were driven, I suspect, by one of two factors (or a combination of them). The first may have been rank partisanship. Obama was eager to gain the support of liberals in anticipation of his run for the presidency, and this is a vital issue for Democratic activists. The second option is that Obama believes in the argument he is making.
Michael Hirsh (defying the odds by writing something other than the sort of fawning tribute to Obama which has become the mainstay of the new Newsweek) reviews North Korea’s behavior of late and writes:
As much as he might like to, it doesn’t look as if the president has anyone to engage with, even in North Korea’s traditional language of blackmail.
The puzzle in Pyongyang is bad enough for Obama, but it’s just one part of a larger problem now facing Washington.
On a number of perilous fronts—Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Mideast—this most diplomatically oriented of American presidents, who came into office four months ago eager for “engagement,” has few responsible or dependable parties with whom he can negotiate. As a result, despite Obama’s best intentions, each of these foreign-policy problems is likely to grow much worse—possibly disastrously worse—before it gets any better.
Hmm. That sounds problematic. What’s more, it suggests that Obama is in his own make-believe world in which dialogue, “respect,” and smart diplomacy are met with goodwill, reciprocal gestures and acts of loving kindness. It suggests that the president has constructed an approach to foreign policy that is divorced from reality. Well, what to do about this? Hirsh explains:
The result of all this one-sided talking is likely to be stasis, drift and a certain amount of incoherence, as spokesman Kelly demonstrated this week. Repeatedly questioned about U.S. policy toward North Korea, Kelly said the Obama administration still believed a “multilateral approach” in the form of six-party talks was the best way forward—even though his boss, Clinton, recently told Congress that she thought the likelihood of Pyongyang returning to those talks was “implausible, if not impossible.”
Perhaps we should just talk among ourselves.
Perhaps we should try something else. Maybe stop needlessly hammering Israel to prevent its citizens from building add-ons to their homes in the West Bank in search of some nonexistent “peace process.” Maybe it’s time to reverse decisions to curtail missile defense programs. In other words, respond to the world as we are experiencing it rather than pursuing a fruitless policy of talk, talk, talk with people who don’t want to listen. We were told this president was going to be “pragmatic” and not be driven by “ideology,” but the question remains whether he persists, despite all evidence to the contrary, on an entirely ideological and a-factual policy which is allowing dangerous problems to fester. Is it too much to hope for a change?
Dennis Ross, Special Advisor on Iran for the Secretary of State, has a book coming out next month that inconveniently takes issue with the Obama Administration’s thesis of “linkage.” “Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East,” Ross writes in a chapter titled “The Mother of All Myths,” “one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all other Middle East conflicts would melt away.” Meanwhile, the Obama Administration – which Ross currently works for – is pressuring Israel in part because the president hopes progress toward the resolution of the Palestinian conflict will help derail Iran’s drive for the development of nuclear weapons.
Ross finished the manuscript and sold it to Viking Press before the president hired him, but he was right when he wrote it, and he’s still right today. The biggest problems in the Middle East – and Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons surely is one of them – have little or nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Iranian regime’s hatred of Israel is real, to be sure, and nuclear missiles in its arsenal would pose a serious threat, but Iran, in all likelihood, would wish to arm itself with the world’s most powerful weapons even if Israel did not exist.
Scholar Martin Kramer identifies nine regional “conflict clusters” and argues that “these many conflicts are symptoms of the same malaise: the absence of a Middle Eastern order, to replace the old Islamic and European empires. But they are independent symptoms; one conflict does not cause another, and its ‘resolution’ cannot resolve another.”
Ross almost sounds like he’s debunking a strawman when he says believers in the theory of ‘linkage’ think “all other Middle East conflicts would melt away” if only the Palestinians had a state. I don’t know if President Barack Obama would go that far, but former President Jimmy Carter nearly does. “Even among the populations of our former close friends in the region,” Carter said, “Egypt and Jordan, less than 5 percent look favorably on the United States today. That’s not because we invaded Iraq; they hated Saddam. It is because we don’t do anything about the Palestinian plight. Without doubt, the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” Read More
Joe Sestak says even a plea from the president won’t keep him out of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary race against Arlen Specter. And that’s not all:
Sestak also said that he wouldn’t back off even if the major unions reached a deal with Specter on health care and on the Employee Free Choice Act and endorsed Specter in the primary. And in an ironic twist, Sestak also revealed that a few months ago, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had commissioned a poll testing him running against then-Republican Specter in a general election — and that it showed Sestak winning. Specter, of course, is now the DSCC’s candidate.
Specter is leading in a recent poll but that is close to meaningless over a year before the primary and at a time when Sestak is still not widely known.
Some might think Sestak is being lured into the race by Big Labor and others who simply want Specter to “shape up” and start voting the Democratic party line. But there are two problems with that. First: Specter vote the party line!? Yeah, right. And second: the Democratic primary voters might just like Sestak more. There’s no telling what they’ll think a year from now — after a year of watching Specter and after watching millions of dollars in ads.
What is noteworthy is that at least in some races the prospect of the president and Democratic Beltway establishment campaigning for an opponent isn’t all that intimidating. In fact, by 2010, it may be a net plus.
President Obama will be visiting two places in Germany on June 5: the concentration camp at Buchenwald and Dresden. It is hard for me to convey how tactless, bad, and wrong I think this juxtaposition is. In fact, I do not think that Obama should go to Dresden at all. As I’ve noted in a paper just published by the Heritage Foundation, the Anglo-American bombing raid on Dresden on February 13, 1945, is the subject of a great deal of mythology, most of it concocted by the Nazis and spread by the Communists after the war.
But mythology matters, because it creates its own symbolism. Whether he intends it or not, Obama’s appearance at Dresden will, to many Germans, have the feel of the Emperor’s pilgrimage of penance to Canossa. There are better and worse ways to handle a visit to Dresden: the worst would be for Obama to start apologizing for Dresden – which, given its iconic status in myth, would be an apology for the air war as a whole.
The myth of Dresden is essentially unchallengeable in the minds of those who want, for reasons of contemporary politics, to accept it. It would have been better if Obama had recognized this. He should
simply have said to the Germans that, while he felt it was necessary to go to Buchenwald, he did not feel the same compulsion about Dresden, and that he would prefer to meet Chancellor Merkel somewhere
The fact that Obama accepted the Dresden location gives me the horrible feeling that he recognizes its symbolism and intends to do in Germany what he has already done in Strasbourg: apologize for the U.S. Except in this case, he will be apologizing for the Allied conduct of World War II. I hope I am wrong about this.
Dresden’s symbolism is particularly potent now, because Germany is holding European elections on June 7, and national elections on September 27. Whether he intends it or not, Obama is intervening in German politics by giving Merkel the kudos of being the German leader who brought an American president to Dresden. That is a minor matter compared to the fundamental moral issues raised by the Holocaust and the Second World War, but it is unwise nonetheless. From Egypt to Germany to France, this latest trip is all about symbolism, and, in Germany, Obama, so far, is striking a note that could not be more discordant with his final stop on the beaches of Normandy.
The story of Frank Ricci will be known to millions of Americans before the confirmation hearing for Sonia Sotormayor is finished. He is the white dyslexic firefighter who doggedly studied for the New Haven firefighter promotion exam, even buying special materials so he could master the information by listening rather than reading. The city threw out his test when seventeen whites and two Hispanics but no African Americans got passing scores.
The district court rejected Ricci’s claim because everyone’s test was tossed, and that meant there was no discrimination. (Yes, tossing the losers’ tests isn’t really “tossing,” but more about that later.) Sotomayor and two colleagues on the Second Circuit gave the claim short shrift and in a paragraph (with no examination of the Constitutional issues) upheld the district court decision. Sotomayor’s colleague Jose Cabranes at the time was clearly displeased that Sotomayor and her two panelists, he said, ”failed to grapple with the questions of exceptional importance raised in this appeal.”
At the Supreme Court, the justices seem to agree:
Justice Antonin Scalia scoffed at the claim that rejecting the results was racially neutral. “It’s neutral because you throw it out for the losers as well as for the winners?” he asked. “That’s neutrality?”
Chief Justice John Roberts, who views with distaste nearly all racially conscious government actions, suggested that the city junked the results because people of the wrong race came out on top. Does the city “get do-overs until it comes out right?” he asked. The court’s four solid conservatives appeared likely to get a fifth vote in Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has found race-conscious programs acceptable only if they don’t target specific individuals.
So what does this mean for Sotomayor? Several things, I think. First, her legal craftsmanship or lack thereof is an issue. Why the cursory opinion? It is not clear whether she missed the big issues or whether she was trying to keep the case from a full review. Neither is a good. Second, what is her conception of equal protection if not the right to be judged equally by the government according to one’s ability? (Does she really think the city was practicing race neutrality?) Third, if empathy is her watchword how did that figure into the case here, if at all? Ricci seems a deserving fellow, at least entitled to an explanation from the court, if not his promotion.
In this one case we see the multiple issues which will be at the center of Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing. And what’s more we have a story that the average American can understand and relate to. The disabled guy worked hard under adverse circumstances and did better than most of his non-disabled peers, only to be told, “Sorry, the ‘numbers’ didn’t come out right.” And this is justice? Most Americans, I suspect, will think not and will want to know why Sotomayor acted as she did.
The mainstream media and some nervous, largely unnamed Republican strategists are suggesting that opposing Sotomayor will be bad politics. But really, which is more politically dangerous: asking hard questions of a lifetime appointee or defending a judge who gave Ricci the boot without so much as a full opinion? We’ll find out this summer.
Over the last week or so, two colleges have made national news for acts of colossal stupidity. And, in a refreshing reminder of how some things are truly bipartisan, they came at it from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
First up, at Liberty University (founded by the late Jerry Falwell) the administration came to a conclusion: it is simply not possible to be a good Christian and a Democrat. So they withdrew official college recognition of their chapter of the College Democrats. Members are appealing the school’s ruling, but it appears that the national Democratic party’s pro-choice stance on abortion is the deal-breaker for the school.
Meanwhile, this week a student at the Community College of Alleghany County attempted to form a new organization. Christine Brashier whipped up and handed out pamphlets in an attempt to recruit enough fellow students to form a chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. This group attempts to persuade schools to rethink their “gun-free zone” policies and allow those students who possess a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm to do so on campus as well.
Well, that didn’t go over very well with CCAC officials, who banned her pamphlets, ordered her to destroy all copies, and threatened her with further academic discipline.
Fortunately for Ms. Brashier, CCAC is a public school that takes public funding, so the Constitution protects her rights. She has FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) on her side, and a pretty strong argument to back her up.
In both cases, universities have let their ideology blind them to reason and common sense. In both cases, students were seeking to present an alternative to school policy in a non-confrontational, civil way, hoping to inspire discussion and debate on matters they thought important.
Silly students. Don’t they know that’s the last thing that colleges are interested in nowadays?
The New York Times runs a remarkably tough piece on Sotomayor’s temperament. Her defenders call her tough. “But to detractors, Judge Sotomayor’s sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner — some lawyers have described her as ‘difficult’ and ‘nasty’ — raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen.” Read the whole thing — including the lawyers’ reviews. Be prepared to hear the “it’s just sexism” defense.
Obama says he doesn’t want to run car companies. Hmm: “While President Obama has said he has no interest in running GM or Chrysler, into which the government has poured more than $20 billion combined, he has said officials have an interest in protecting the taxpayers’ investment. Nevertheless, federal officials are preparing to be deeply involved in the companies well after they emerge from their respective bankruptcies.”
And the results are far reaching: By rescuing a “favored class” (i.e. the UAW) over bondholders Obama has potentially undermined other industries. Some analysts and bondholders now fear ”unionized companies will have trouble attracting cash in the bond market if the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler give creditors substantially smaller payouts than they traditionally received.”
Meanwhile, some companies have gotten wise: the toxic asset purchase plan and the FDIC Legacy Loan program are fizzling. It seems financial institutions are wary about doing business with the government, fearing “the program’s rules will change in a political atmosphere hostile to Wall Street.” Can’t say they haven’t learned something in the last four months.
USA Today reports: “States hit hardest by the recession received only a few of the government’s first stimulus contracts, even though the glut of new federal spending was meant to target places where the economic pain has been particularly severe.” You don’t think money was awarded for political reasons, do you?
In the New Jersey gubernatorial primary race the rock-ribbed “conservative” Steve Lonegan sounds like a Beltway Democrat: “Lonegan conceded yesterday during a meeting with The Star-Ledger’s editorial board that as many as half of New Jersey residents would pay more under a flat tax plan. But he said lower-income residents can afford to pay a few hundred dollars more to foster an economic climate that would improve their chances of landing a high-paying job.”
Rasmussen has Chris Christie with a double-digit lead over Lonegan going into Tuesday’s New Jersey gubernatorial primary election.
In Florida’s GOP senate primary race Marco Rubio scores some conservative endorsements and Charlie Crist raises some taxes.
Meg Whitman picks up endorsements from John McCain and Eric Cantor in California’s gubernatorial primary.
The Virginia gubernatorial primary gets dicey: “In a governor’s race that’s all about jobs, Terry McAuliffe is facing questions about huge profits he made from a company that collapsed two years later, leaving 10,000 people unemployed.The multimillionaire businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman, a close friend of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, is pledging to use his business savvy to land more jobs for his state than any of his fellow governors. But since he entered the race in January, he’s been dogged by questions about his investments in telecom giant Global Crossing.”
Via Jake Tapper: “William Cohen, a Republican senator from Maine who served as President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary from 1997 through 2001, says that President Obama’s decision to reduce the funding commitment to the US missile-defense system by $1.4 billion ‘sends the signal that we do not take the threats of rogue regimes seriously, and are willing to take the risk that current technologies are sufficient to prevent devastating accidents or miscalculations.’ Given North Korean actions, Cohen says, this is a big mistake.” If Obama is looking to reverse a bad call (i.e. cutting missile defense) wouldn’t now be a good time to send a muscular signal to rogue states?