Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 6, 2009

Is This What They Had in Mind?

It is hard to imagine that Obama didn’t anticipate that the Sotomayor nomination would, in large, measure turn on race. After all, the New Haven firefighter case is the quintessential affirmative action case (with sympathetic working class heroes as the victims) and Sotomayor talked in speech after speech about race – a lot. Did he really imagine all this would be missed or would turn out to be a good thing for him and his pick?

Stuart Taylor points to polling data reflecting overwhelming public opposition to race preferences and remarks:

[T]his puts liberal Democrats very far out of sync with the overwhelming majority of Americans, including us centrists. President Obama made noises during the campaign that seemed to suggest he understood this. But the Sotomayor nomination — for all her inspiring accomplishments, powerful intellect, and devotion to the underprivileged — looks like a strong Obama endorsement of the racial preferences and identity politics that she has supported.

What is especially noteworthy is the degree to which those favoring race preferences explain away the notion that anyone gets the short end of the stick when race or gender is substituted for merit. Taylor explains:

In response to Judge Rosemary Pooler’s assertion that “no one was hurt” in the New Haven case, Torre said: “No one was hurt? For heaven’s sakes, judge, if they didn’t refuse to fill the vacancies, these men would be lieutenants and captains. How can you say they weren’t hurt? They’re out $1,000 apiece [for test preparation]…. They spent three months of their lives holed up in a room, like I was and you were when we took the bar exam.”

Torre went on to emphasize why the test was a valid basis for making promotions — and what can happen when promotions go to people who have not done their homework

[. . .]

Judge Sotomayor responded by observing that there must be “a fair test that could be devised that measures knowledge in a more substantive way.”

Translation: New Haven needs a test that won’t give such an advantage to the firefighters who have learned the most about fighting fires.

Obama and his team, not without good reason, have a nearly unlimited confidence in their ability to control the narrative and direct the national debate. But from time to time, whether on Guantanamo or the stimulus plan, reality swamps the spin. The voters can assess for themselves what is being sold. On Sotomayor they can decide whether she and, by inference, the president are selling a vision they don’t like.

Along the way they may discover that the president and his nominee are, how shall we say it, not at all empathetic toward the victims of race preferences.

It is hard to imagine that Obama didn’t anticipate that the Sotomayor nomination would, in large, measure turn on race. After all, the New Haven firefighter case is the quintessential affirmative action case (with sympathetic working class heroes as the victims) and Sotomayor talked in speech after speech about race – a lot. Did he really imagine all this would be missed or would turn out to be a good thing for him and his pick?

Stuart Taylor points to polling data reflecting overwhelming public opposition to race preferences and remarks:

[T]his puts liberal Democrats very far out of sync with the overwhelming majority of Americans, including us centrists. President Obama made noises during the campaign that seemed to suggest he understood this. But the Sotomayor nomination — for all her inspiring accomplishments, powerful intellect, and devotion to the underprivileged — looks like a strong Obama endorsement of the racial preferences and identity politics that she has supported.

What is especially noteworthy is the degree to which those favoring race preferences explain away the notion that anyone gets the short end of the stick when race or gender is substituted for merit. Taylor explains:

In response to Judge Rosemary Pooler’s assertion that “no one was hurt” in the New Haven case, Torre said: “No one was hurt? For heaven’s sakes, judge, if they didn’t refuse to fill the vacancies, these men would be lieutenants and captains. How can you say they weren’t hurt? They’re out $1,000 apiece [for test preparation]…. They spent three months of their lives holed up in a room, like I was and you were when we took the bar exam.”

Torre went on to emphasize why the test was a valid basis for making promotions — and what can happen when promotions go to people who have not done their homework

[. . .]

Judge Sotomayor responded by observing that there must be “a fair test that could be devised that measures knowledge in a more substantive way.”

Translation: New Haven needs a test that won’t give such an advantage to the firefighters who have learned the most about fighting fires.

Obama and his team, not without good reason, have a nearly unlimited confidence in their ability to control the narrative and direct the national debate. But from time to time, whether on Guantanamo or the stimulus plan, reality swamps the spin. The voters can assess for themselves what is being sold. On Sotomayor they can decide whether she and, by inference, the president are selling a vision they don’t like.

Along the way they may discover that the president and his nominee are, how shall we say it, not at all empathetic toward the victims of race preferences.

Read Less

Re: Eureka! Writers Get Paid

As someone else who makes what is laughingly referred to as a living by writing, I stand as one with Max and Harlan Ellison on the subject of getting paid for it.

The idea that writers should be grateful just to see their work in print is no new problem, by the way, and writers have been fighting it for centuries. As Samuel Johnson explained to James Boswell 233 years ago, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

As someone else who makes what is laughingly referred to as a living by writing, I stand as one with Max and Harlan Ellison on the subject of getting paid for it.

The idea that writers should be grateful just to see their work in print is no new problem, by the way, and writers have been fighting it for centuries. As Samuel Johnson explained to James Boswell 233 years ago, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

Read Less

And They Said Bush Was Cut Off From Reality

Obviously overcome with the power of Obama’s appeals for peace and reconciliation, two Arab reporters refused to sit in a room with a Jewish reporter to interview Obama after his Cairo speech. Do you think it would have made a difference if the latter promised not to let his relatives build any ad-ons to their East Jerusalem homes? Not likely. This is the reality of the Middle East.

The president seems blissfully unconcerned with the evidence before his eyes. At times he seems downright delusional:

President Barack Obama took credit Friday for improving the climate for Middle East peace negotiations, and added that ‘if we stick with it, having started early, … we can make some serious progress this year.’

The State Department pipes up: “The president made clear that the United States, under his administration in the past few months, has probably done more than it had in the previous eight years.” Did Hamas amend its charter when I wasn’t looking? Did the Saudis recognize the Jewish state? Oh, no. What exactly has the U.S. government done other than antagonize Israel and give Iran the green light to pursue its weapons program?

This is a classic case of mistaking one’s own grand intentions and the actual circumstances which motivate both our allies and foes. Are we all closer to peace now that Obama has spoken? Less so, I would argue. For the Palestinians now have hope the U.S. will squeeze unilateral concessions out of Israel and the Israelis have no confidence that the U.S. will rush to their aid or do much of anything about the existential threat posed by Iran.

And finally, a few words about the last eight years: George Bush comes second to no one in expending time and energy in the fruitless pursuit of a non-existent peace process.

Obviously overcome with the power of Obama’s appeals for peace and reconciliation, two Arab reporters refused to sit in a room with a Jewish reporter to interview Obama after his Cairo speech. Do you think it would have made a difference if the latter promised not to let his relatives build any ad-ons to their East Jerusalem homes? Not likely. This is the reality of the Middle East.

The president seems blissfully unconcerned with the evidence before his eyes. At times he seems downright delusional:

President Barack Obama took credit Friday for improving the climate for Middle East peace negotiations, and added that ‘if we stick with it, having started early, … we can make some serious progress this year.’

The State Department pipes up: “The president made clear that the United States, under his administration in the past few months, has probably done more than it had in the previous eight years.” Did Hamas amend its charter when I wasn’t looking? Did the Saudis recognize the Jewish state? Oh, no. What exactly has the U.S. government done other than antagonize Israel and give Iran the green light to pursue its weapons program?

This is a classic case of mistaking one’s own grand intentions and the actual circumstances which motivate both our allies and foes. Are we all closer to peace now that Obama has spoken? Less so, I would argue. For the Palestinians now have hope the U.S. will squeeze unilateral concessions out of Israel and the Israelis have no confidence that the U.S. will rush to their aid or do much of anything about the existential threat posed by Iran.

And finally, a few words about the last eight years: George Bush comes second to no one in expending time and energy in the fruitless pursuit of a non-existent peace process.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Canada isn’t taking Guantanamo detainees.

Germany isn’t either. Obama didn’t have the nerve to even ask. “It’s going to be a longer process of evaluation,” says the president. Seems so. It may last the rest of his presidency.

Was Sotomayor trying to hide the ball on a “death penalty=racism” speech? Perhaps, or maybe she and the Obama team are in such a race to get this done they made a sloppy error. All the more reason to slow this down to a reasonable pace so a thorough investigation of the nominee can be undertaken.

Liz Cheney ties Andrea Mitchell up in knots.

What a difference a year makes. For example: “Obama, who prides himself on his oratory and devotes time to carefully choosing his phrases, used the words ‘terror,’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ 11 times when talking to AIPAC last year. In Cairo, those words weren’t used at all, with Obama instead referring to ‘extremists.’” And then there was the whole undivided Jerusalem gambit — that lasted a couple of days as I recall. And funny how he didn’t do the whole Palestinians-enslaved American Blacks analogy at AIPAC. And he left out “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” Boy, he sure snookered that crowd.

What if the House Democrats strip out the Lieberman-Graham amendment prohibiting release of the detainee abuse photos? Greg Sargent gets it: “If House Dems do strip the measure, which is strongly opposed by civil libertarians and House liberals, it could make the White House look incapable of keeping Dems in line for something Obama says is necessary for troop safety.” Well, and those House Dems wouldn’t look so great outside the netroot fan base.

Governing is a drag: “Democrats have hit heavy turbulence as they enter a crucial period, with the heart of their agenda in the balance. The first week after the Memorial Day recess saw a major split emerge between conservative and liberal Democrats over health care, a war supplemental spending bill punted for another week amid internecine sniping, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cracking her whip to get reluctant committee chairmen to act swiftly on the climate change bill.”

Unions are “investing” (gotta love that word) in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. But in a right to work state “labor’s presence in Virginia politics has required some fancy footwork by the unions and those they support.” Because the candidates getting all that dough wouldn’t really want to admit they are being . . . er. . .  “invested” in, right? A local political analyst says: “[Republican Bob] McDonnell will try to show that unions are excessively powerful and threatening, something that has not been the case in Virginia. Certainly, the business community is very, very concerned about card-check. What I’m not so sure about is whether it’s going to drive the vote of rank-and-file Virginians.” I suppose we’ll find out in November.

Canada isn’t taking Guantanamo detainees.

Germany isn’t either. Obama didn’t have the nerve to even ask. “It’s going to be a longer process of evaluation,” says the president. Seems so. It may last the rest of his presidency.

Was Sotomayor trying to hide the ball on a “death penalty=racism” speech? Perhaps, or maybe she and the Obama team are in such a race to get this done they made a sloppy error. All the more reason to slow this down to a reasonable pace so a thorough investigation of the nominee can be undertaken.

Liz Cheney ties Andrea Mitchell up in knots.

What a difference a year makes. For example: “Obama, who prides himself on his oratory and devotes time to carefully choosing his phrases, used the words ‘terror,’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ 11 times when talking to AIPAC last year. In Cairo, those words weren’t used at all, with Obama instead referring to ‘extremists.’” And then there was the whole undivided Jerusalem gambit — that lasted a couple of days as I recall. And funny how he didn’t do the whole Palestinians-enslaved American Blacks analogy at AIPAC. And he left out “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” Boy, he sure snookered that crowd.

What if the House Democrats strip out the Lieberman-Graham amendment prohibiting release of the detainee abuse photos? Greg Sargent gets it: “If House Dems do strip the measure, which is strongly opposed by civil libertarians and House liberals, it could make the White House look incapable of keeping Dems in line for something Obama says is necessary for troop safety.” Well, and those House Dems wouldn’t look so great outside the netroot fan base.

Governing is a drag: “Democrats have hit heavy turbulence as they enter a crucial period, with the heart of their agenda in the balance. The first week after the Memorial Day recess saw a major split emerge between conservative and liberal Democrats over health care, a war supplemental spending bill punted for another week amid internecine sniping, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cracking her whip to get reluctant committee chairmen to act swiftly on the climate change bill.”

Unions are “investing” (gotta love that word) in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. But in a right to work state “labor’s presence in Virginia politics has required some fancy footwork by the unions and those they support.” Because the candidates getting all that dough wouldn’t really want to admit they are being . . . er. . .  “invested” in, right? A local political analyst says: “[Republican Bob] McDonnell will try to show that unions are excessively powerful and threatening, something that has not been the case in Virginia. Certainly, the business community is very, very concerned about card-check. What I’m not so sure about is whether it’s going to drive the vote of rank-and-file Virginians.” I suppose we’ll find out in November.

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