Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 25, 2009

Law Versus Proportion (and Plain Sense)

The Special Operations Commander for Central Command (SOCCENT) has a truly distasteful situation to steer through. The man in question, Army Major General Charles Cleveland, has brought charges against three Navy SEALs who seized a notorious Iraqi terrorist in September. The terrorist, Ahmed Hashim Abed, was behind the brutal murder of American civilian security guards in Fallujah in 2004. Producing a “fat lip” as evidence, he complained to Iraqi authorities that he had been roughed up by the SEALs. Military investigation of the incident produced the charges.

The blogosphere is thundering with justifiable indignation over this, and some perspective may be useful. It is, first of all, superficial to characterize the military’s motive for charging the SEALs as “political correctness,” an analysis that implies a self-conscious rejection of common sense and reality to avoid political retribution or to reap political reward. There is a deeper and genuine conflict at work here, between the rule of law, applied with meticulous honesty, and our sense of proportion and decency. This is a recurring conflict in all civilized societies: there are times when no reasonable man thinks the punishment fits the crime, even when there is little disagreement that a crime as defined by law has been committed.

The plain fact is that according to U.S. national policy, enforced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is a felony-level crime for our soldiers to give detainees bloody lips in the gratuitous manner with which the SEALs are charged. That policy itself may well be an exercise in political correctness, but carrying it out is merely the enforcement of discipline.

The convening authority would not bring charges unless his legal advisers thought there was enough evidence for conviction. Much as I think he would hate to, my guess is that General Cleveland has preferred charges because, by the letter of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the case merits prosecution. We mustn’t dismiss as irrelevant the paramount imperative of discipline in military operations. If the SEALs did beat Abed unnecessarily, the point for the military is not that Abed got a fat lip but that the SEALs breached discipline — and that is even more intolerable in Special Ops than in other branches. Indiscipline gets friendly forces killed and jeopardizes crucial missions.

The SEALs, all enlisted petty officers, have done what they can to obtain a just outcome. They were originally offered “non-judicial punishment,” a summary proceeding in which their commander could have administered, essentially, only a wrist-slap. But in their “zero-defect” community, a wrist-slap ends the hope of promotion. As is their right under the UCMJ, they chose court-martial instead, which will entail airing evidence before a military jury. Their preference here is almost certainly not a calculation but a belief: a belief in the intrinsically just character of their fellows in uniform.

I hope the SEALs are acquitted. That would be the just outcome. For a breach of discipline on the order implied here, the commonsense remedy is for the commander to put his men at attention, yell at them for half an hour, deny them some liberty, and give them some extra duty. But our national policy dictates another, disproportionate approach. I’m not sure how a civilized society avoids such confrontations entirely, but I will say this: juries have rescued the accused from the law before, and if anything will accomplish that for the SEALs, it’s a panel of their comrades in arms.

The Special Operations Commander for Central Command (SOCCENT) has a truly distasteful situation to steer through. The man in question, Army Major General Charles Cleveland, has brought charges against three Navy SEALs who seized a notorious Iraqi terrorist in September. The terrorist, Ahmed Hashim Abed, was behind the brutal murder of American civilian security guards in Fallujah in 2004. Producing a “fat lip” as evidence, he complained to Iraqi authorities that he had been roughed up by the SEALs. Military investigation of the incident produced the charges.

The blogosphere is thundering with justifiable indignation over this, and some perspective may be useful. It is, first of all, superficial to characterize the military’s motive for charging the SEALs as “political correctness,” an analysis that implies a self-conscious rejection of common sense and reality to avoid political retribution or to reap political reward. There is a deeper and genuine conflict at work here, between the rule of law, applied with meticulous honesty, and our sense of proportion and decency. This is a recurring conflict in all civilized societies: there are times when no reasonable man thinks the punishment fits the crime, even when there is little disagreement that a crime as defined by law has been committed.

The plain fact is that according to U.S. national policy, enforced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is a felony-level crime for our soldiers to give detainees bloody lips in the gratuitous manner with which the SEALs are charged. That policy itself may well be an exercise in political correctness, but carrying it out is merely the enforcement of discipline.

The convening authority would not bring charges unless his legal advisers thought there was enough evidence for conviction. Much as I think he would hate to, my guess is that General Cleveland has preferred charges because, by the letter of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the case merits prosecution. We mustn’t dismiss as irrelevant the paramount imperative of discipline in military operations. If the SEALs did beat Abed unnecessarily, the point for the military is not that Abed got a fat lip but that the SEALs breached discipline — and that is even more intolerable in Special Ops than in other branches. Indiscipline gets friendly forces killed and jeopardizes crucial missions.

The SEALs, all enlisted petty officers, have done what they can to obtain a just outcome. They were originally offered “non-judicial punishment,” a summary proceeding in which their commander could have administered, essentially, only a wrist-slap. But in their “zero-defect” community, a wrist-slap ends the hope of promotion. As is their right under the UCMJ, they chose court-martial instead, which will entail airing evidence before a military jury. Their preference here is almost certainly not a calculation but a belief: a belief in the intrinsically just character of their fellows in uniform.

I hope the SEALs are acquitted. That would be the just outcome. For a breach of discipline on the order implied here, the commonsense remedy is for the commander to put his men at attention, yell at them for half an hour, deny them some liberty, and give them some extra duty. But our national policy dictates another, disproportionate approach. I’m not sure how a civilized society avoids such confrontations entirely, but I will say this: juries have rescued the accused from the law before, and if anything will accomplish that for the SEALs, it’s a panel of their comrades in arms.

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RE: The More Things Change …

Charles Dickens, of all people, gives us an indication of just how low the financial reputation of this country was in the post-Jackson era. In A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, Dickens wrote about Ebenezer Scrooge waking up after his encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Past and being relieved to find that the world had not ended. Thus, Scrooge realized, a note that was payable to him in three days was not as worthless as “a mere United States’ security.”

Ouch, indeed.

America’s economic high-amplitude boom-and-bust cycle in the 19th century was not without its advantages, however. As booms gathered force, British capital would pour into the country to help build canals, railroads, and factories. After the inevitable crash (we had crashes in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893), the British owners of the by then much-depreciated stock and bonds would throw them on the American market to get whatever they could for them. Thus the United States ended up not only with the railroads and canals — but ownership of them as well.

Charles Dickens, of all people, gives us an indication of just how low the financial reputation of this country was in the post-Jackson era. In A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, Dickens wrote about Ebenezer Scrooge waking up after his encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Past and being relieved to find that the world had not ended. Thus, Scrooge realized, a note that was payable to him in three days was not as worthless as “a mere United States’ security.”

Ouch, indeed.

America’s economic high-amplitude boom-and-bust cycle in the 19th century was not without its advantages, however. As booms gathered force, British capital would pour into the country to help build canals, railroads, and factories. After the inevitable crash (we had crashes in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893), the British owners of the by then much-depreciated stock and bonds would throw them on the American market to get whatever they could for them. Thus the United States ended up not only with the railroads and canals — but ownership of them as well.

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The More Things Change …

I was reading a textbook history of the United States and noticed this ditty composed by the British after the U.S. started running into debt problems following the Panic of 1837:

Yankee Doodle borrows cash,
Yankee Doodle spends it,
And then 
he snaps his fingers at
The jolly flat that lends it.

Ouch.

President Andrew Jackson had implemented several policies designed to benefit, or so he believed, the common man. Perhaps well-intentioned, his policies, combined with a wheat failure, nevertheless led to the Panic of 1837 and ultimately hurt that very same common man by making it more difficult for him to access capital.

After the Panic, the country, with its expanding transportation system and business growth, fell deeply in debt to the British. When several states defaulted on that debt, the Brits were understandably furious.

I wonder what kids will be reading in textbooks 20 years from now — and whether they’ll need to know Mandarin to get the joke.

I was reading a textbook history of the United States and noticed this ditty composed by the British after the U.S. started running into debt problems following the Panic of 1837:

Yankee Doodle borrows cash,
Yankee Doodle spends it,
And then 
he snaps his fingers at
The jolly flat that lends it.

Ouch.

President Andrew Jackson had implemented several policies designed to benefit, or so he believed, the common man. Perhaps well-intentioned, his policies, combined with a wheat failure, nevertheless led to the Panic of 1837 and ultimately hurt that very same common man by making it more difficult for him to access capital.

After the Panic, the country, with its expanding transportation system and business growth, fell deeply in debt to the British. When several states defaulted on that debt, the Brits were understandably furious.

I wonder what kids will be reading in textbooks 20 years from now — and whether they’ll need to know Mandarin to get the joke.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Health-Care “Trifecta”

For all their thousands of pages of complexity, the House and Senate health-care reform bills have three simple and admirable objectives: to bring good health care to more Americans, to improve the quality of care, and to control rising costs.

It’s hard to reconcile these three goals — and impossible by government diktat. But there is a mechanism that works in other sectors (think consumer technology, for example) that can achieve broader reach, higher quality, and lower costs. It’s called competition.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

For all their thousands of pages of complexity, the House and Senate health-care reform bills have three simple and admirable objectives: to bring good health care to more Americans, to improve the quality of care, and to control rising costs.

It’s hard to reconcile these three goals — and impossible by government diktat. But there is a mechanism that works in other sectors (think consumer technology, for example) that can achieve broader reach, higher quality, and lower costs. It’s called competition.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Not Reassuring

Well this, from the New York Times, is not very encouraging:

In declaring Tuesday that he would “finish the job” in Afghanistan, President Obama used a phrase clearly meant to imply that even as he deploys an additional 30,000 or so troops, he has finally figured out how to bring the eight-year-long conflict to an end. But offering that reassuring if somewhat contradictory signal — that by adding troops he can speed the United States toward an exit — is just the first of a set of tricky messages Mr. Obama will have to deliver as he rolls out his strategy publicly.

It seems that tricky messaging is the last thing we (both the country and Obama) need right now. The protracted dithering has unnerved our allies and emboldened our foes, suggesting that the president’s heart isn’t in this and that he is desperately looking to find an out. Now he’s going to reinforce that by publicly hedging his bets? Well, that’s the sort of suggestion that seems to have come from the political-consultant crowd that didn’t want to adopt Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan in the first place.

And forgetting the national-security implications for a moment, this seems to portend a political disaster:

Over the next week, he will deliver multiple messages to multiple audiences: voters at home, allies, the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the extremists who are the enemy. And as Mr. Obama’s own aides concede, the messages directed at some may undercut the messages sent to others.

Yikes. So in the end everyone will be unnerved, by both the image of the president as lacking resolution and the disturbing impression that everything in this administration is about politics and spin. It took them months to come up with this? We are told the game plan here (with some wiggle room in how troop levels are counted) will, wow, give the president “flexibility” and allow him “to tell the Democrats that his commitment is limited, and to tell the Republicans that he will do whatever it takes to win what, only three months ago, he called a ‘war of necessity.’” Hearing that, you realize just how polluted with politics has become the formulation of war strategy. In the end, I suspect, the competing sides in the domestic debate, as well as our enemies, will figure out that Obama is trying to have it all ways and thereby lacks the singular determination to win a difficult war.

Well this, from the New York Times, is not very encouraging:

In declaring Tuesday that he would “finish the job” in Afghanistan, President Obama used a phrase clearly meant to imply that even as he deploys an additional 30,000 or so troops, he has finally figured out how to bring the eight-year-long conflict to an end. But offering that reassuring if somewhat contradictory signal — that by adding troops he can speed the United States toward an exit — is just the first of a set of tricky messages Mr. Obama will have to deliver as he rolls out his strategy publicly.

It seems that tricky messaging is the last thing we (both the country and Obama) need right now. The protracted dithering has unnerved our allies and emboldened our foes, suggesting that the president’s heart isn’t in this and that he is desperately looking to find an out. Now he’s going to reinforce that by publicly hedging his bets? Well, that’s the sort of suggestion that seems to have come from the political-consultant crowd that didn’t want to adopt Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan in the first place.

And forgetting the national-security implications for a moment, this seems to portend a political disaster:

Over the next week, he will deliver multiple messages to multiple audiences: voters at home, allies, the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the extremists who are the enemy. And as Mr. Obama’s own aides concede, the messages directed at some may undercut the messages sent to others.

Yikes. So in the end everyone will be unnerved, by both the image of the president as lacking resolution and the disturbing impression that everything in this administration is about politics and spin. It took them months to come up with this? We are told the game plan here (with some wiggle room in how troop levels are counted) will, wow, give the president “flexibility” and allow him “to tell the Democrats that his commitment is limited, and to tell the Republicans that he will do whatever it takes to win what, only three months ago, he called a ‘war of necessity.’” Hearing that, you realize just how polluted with politics has become the formulation of war strategy. In the end, I suspect, the competing sides in the domestic debate, as well as our enemies, will figure out that Obama is trying to have it all ways and thereby lacks the singular determination to win a difficult war.

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Will They Notice?

There is something vaguely comical about this report: “The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.” So as the White House and Congress — the real government — spend and tax us into oblivion, they are also planning to set up a shadow government to behave responsibly and counteract the damage the elected leaders are inflicting on us.

When you hear that they want to bring “Republicans and Democrats together to make tough decisions about how to cut costs or raise revenue in areas including Social Security, Medicare and taxes” or that the White House thinks this will “show that the Obama administration is serious about tackling the deficit while postponing any real moves until after the 2010 elections,” you have to marvel at the low regard with which they hold the voters.

Apparently, the urge to do all this heavy lifting themselves, beginning with a plan to halt the march of the hugely irresponsible ObamaCare, is one easily stifled. And they expect that the public will actually give them credit for shirking their responsibility to govern. Sen. Judd Gregg isn’t buying any of  it: “You’ve got to look at their actions, not their words, and their actions are to massively expand the government.” And if the White House and the Congress were really serious about halting that massive expansion, they wouldn’t be spending nearly all of their time on a government takeover of health care. But maybe the voters won’t notice, right? Hmm. I think they’ve got that one wrong.

There is something vaguely comical about this report: “The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.” So as the White House and Congress — the real government — spend and tax us into oblivion, they are also planning to set up a shadow government to behave responsibly and counteract the damage the elected leaders are inflicting on us.

When you hear that they want to bring “Republicans and Democrats together to make tough decisions about how to cut costs or raise revenue in areas including Social Security, Medicare and taxes” or that the White House thinks this will “show that the Obama administration is serious about tackling the deficit while postponing any real moves until after the 2010 elections,” you have to marvel at the low regard with which they hold the voters.

Apparently, the urge to do all this heavy lifting themselves, beginning with a plan to halt the march of the hugely irresponsible ObamaCare, is one easily stifled. And they expect that the public will actually give them credit for shirking their responsibility to govern. Sen. Judd Gregg isn’t buying any of  it: “You’ve got to look at their actions, not their words, and their actions are to massively expand the government.” And if the White House and the Congress were really serious about halting that massive expansion, they wouldn’t be spending nearly all of their time on a government takeover of health care. But maybe the voters won’t notice, right? Hmm. I think they’ve got that one wrong.

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Carrots, Sticks, and Trips

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

President Obama’s trip to Asia has drawn unfavorable reviews from people as diverse as Leslie Gelb (“disturbing amateurishness” on top of the “inexcusably clumsy” Afghan review) and John Bolton (“one of the most disappointing trips by any U.S. president to the region in decades”) — but none as devastating as that of Christopher Badeaux in the New Ledger (a foreign policy “premised on the idea that the Carter Administration was not inherently wrong on anything, just well ahead of its time”).

Badeaux notes that the critical feature of the relatively successful China polices of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was their recognition that “the carrot and the stick are closely joined”:

American Presidents praise a free, prosperous China. They speak of strategic partnerships while directing carrier battle groups in the Pacific. They talk about One China while approving arms shipments to Taiwan and hugging the Dalai Lama. They let China know that it faces no threat from the United States, but that it could.

Obama’s trip seemed simply another stop on a world tour to introduce (in Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase) the exceptional president of an unexceptional nation, complete with an even more exaggerated bow. The only good thing one can say is that at least he showed up (rather than simply send a video) and did not mention that Richard Nixon — one of our pre-Pacific chief executives — could not have imagined when he went to China in 1972 that Obama would one day be president.

The real consequences of this foreign-policy embarrassment, however, may not be in Asia but in Iran. As Iran watches the president on his self-absorbed travels (he is scheduled to pick up an unearned prize in Oslo on December 10 and again address his fellow citizens of the world) and observes him as he redoubles his efforts to talk every time they stiff him, it can be excused for thinking that the chances of its ever facing a stick rather than a carrot are slim.

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It’s Almost Like a Democracy

Charlie Crist has gone from popular governor to besieged Senate primary candidate in a matter of months. He’s still on the defensive about his endorsement of the stimulus boondoggle, telling a local editorial board (after trying to scoot away from his embrace of Obama) that he’s really glad he had cheered the plan:

“People are hurting and they’re suffering. I hear about it every day. That’s frankly why I thought the stimulus was so important,” Crist said. “I know there are some in my party that don’t agree with that, but I don’t have the luxury of putting politics over people.”

Well, hardly anyone in his party agrees with him, but at least he’s settled on a position. And now he’s refashioning himself as a hard-core conservative:

“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — there’s different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I’m anti-tax. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too,” said Crist, who as a state legislator voted against abortion restrictions and more recently supported increasing cigarette taxes in Florida and the federal $787 billion stimulus package.

Ouch. Well, maybe not all that conservative. Some decried the fact that there is a primary at all, arguing that this was all a horrid notion, having Republicans contest one another for a Senate seat. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good idea, the very thing that was missing in the NY-23 circus. Primaries serve a useful purpose — sniffing out poor candidates, uncovering their foibles, testing party enthusiasm, and allowing the candidates to test-run campaign themes. So far at least, Crist has proved to be a remarkably inept candidate, allowing the lesser-known and lesser-funded Marco Rubio to make his way into a competitive race.

Though the mainstream media and even a few snooty pundits think it’s evidence of the GOP’s weakness, a race like this suggests just the opposite. After all, a democracy is supposed to be contentious, messy, and surprising. And the Florida Senate primary is all of them.

Charlie Crist has gone from popular governor to besieged Senate primary candidate in a matter of months. He’s still on the defensive about his endorsement of the stimulus boondoggle, telling a local editorial board (after trying to scoot away from his embrace of Obama) that he’s really glad he had cheered the plan:

“People are hurting and they’re suffering. I hear about it every day. That’s frankly why I thought the stimulus was so important,” Crist said. “I know there are some in my party that don’t agree with that, but I don’t have the luxury of putting politics over people.”

Well, hardly anyone in his party agrees with him, but at least he’s settled on a position. And now he’s refashioning himself as a hard-core conservative:

“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — there’s different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I’m anti-tax. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too,” said Crist, who as a state legislator voted against abortion restrictions and more recently supported increasing cigarette taxes in Florida and the federal $787 billion stimulus package.

Ouch. Well, maybe not all that conservative. Some decried the fact that there is a primary at all, arguing that this was all a horrid notion, having Republicans contest one another for a Senate seat. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good idea, the very thing that was missing in the NY-23 circus. Primaries serve a useful purpose — sniffing out poor candidates, uncovering their foibles, testing party enthusiasm, and allowing the candidates to test-run campaign themes. So far at least, Crist has proved to be a remarkably inept candidate, allowing the lesser-known and lesser-funded Marco Rubio to make his way into a competitive race.

Though the mainstream media and even a few snooty pundits think it’s evidence of the GOP’s weakness, a race like this suggests just the opposite. After all, a democracy is supposed to be contentious, messy, and surprising. And the Florida Senate primary is all of them.

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Success in Failure?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note that Beltway Democrats are in panic mode, watching the non-recovery, the unemployment figures, and the reduction in third-quarter GDP. The problem, the editors point out, is “that politicians think everything they do is free-standing. Markets, however, combine all the potential costs of Washington’s policies and then decide whether to invest, or not.”

On the horizon are a monstrous health-care bill, a not-quite-dead cap-and-trade bill, and lots and lots of new taxes. The solution might just be to stop doing things that alarm the people who will have to hire and invest. But as the editors explain, “The Democratic agenda is doing precisely the opposite, which is how you get subpar growth and fewer new jobs.”

It may be that in political paralysis and legislative failure the Democrats save themselves. Should the lion’s share of their domestic plans collapse, the voters — and the investor class — may very well breathe a sigh of relief. But for now, Democrats naturally want to “succeed,” even if that success unnerves and hobbles the recovery on which their political futures depend.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note that Beltway Democrats are in panic mode, watching the non-recovery, the unemployment figures, and the reduction in third-quarter GDP. The problem, the editors point out, is “that politicians think everything they do is free-standing. Markets, however, combine all the potential costs of Washington’s policies and then decide whether to invest, or not.”

On the horizon are a monstrous health-care bill, a not-quite-dead cap-and-trade bill, and lots and lots of new taxes. The solution might just be to stop doing things that alarm the people who will have to hire and invest. But as the editors explain, “The Democratic agenda is doing precisely the opposite, which is how you get subpar growth and fewer new jobs.”

It may be that in political paralysis and legislative failure the Democrats save themselves. Should the lion’s share of their domestic plans collapse, the voters — and the investor class — may very well breathe a sigh of relief. But for now, Democrats naturally want to “succeed,” even if that success unnerves and hobbles the recovery on which their political futures depend.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Marty Peretz wonders if Obama’s “heart is with the hooligans.” Well, it’s not with those imperiled by the hooligans.

You don’t think it’s the ObamaCare, do you? “Republican candidates have extended their lead over Democrats to seven points, their biggest lead since early September, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent.”

Well, maybe it is: “As the debate over a health care bill enters a critical stage, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds Americans inclined to oppose congressional passage of the legislation this year. The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, finds 42% against a bill, 35% in support of it. Despite nearly a year of presidential speeches, congressional hearings and TV ad campaigns by interest groups, more than one in five still doesn’t have a strong opinion. When pressed about how they were leaning, 49% overall said they would urge their member of Congress to vote against a bill; 44% would urge a vote for it.”

From Gallup: “Since the start of his presidency, U.S. President Barack Obama’s approval rating has declined more among non-Hispanic whites than among nonwhites, and now, fewer than 4 in 10 whites approve of the job Obama is doing as president.”

We could always lower taxes or lessen regulatory burdens on employers, I suppose: “Top Federal Reserve officials expect unemployment to remain elevated for years to come, according to new projections released Tuesday, suggesting that the economic recovery will be too gradual to create rapid improvement in the job market.”

Michael Gerson observes Eric Holder’s “embarrassing, but also offensive” Senate appearance and his subsequent interview in which he admitted talking only to his wife and his brother outside government. “When Holder announced his decision, many jumped to his defense, assuming that the Justice Department had made its decision carefully. That assumption can no longer be sustained.” Gerson thinks that once this becomes clear, Holder will be pressured to resign. We’ll see.

Michael O’Hanlon on the McChrystal counterinsurgency plan: “No other detailed plan exists at the province by province and district by district level, so if we are going to keep the current strategy of counterinsurgency and building up Afghan forces, his idea is the most compelling.” But we are, I suspect, going to get something that’s not quite as compelling.

It is my intention to finish the job.” Well, it’s not exactly Churchillian. But maybe he’ll be better next week.

This could get interesting: “A few days after leaked e-mail messages appeared on the Internet, the U.S. Congress may probe whether prominent scientists who are advocates of global warming theories misrepresented the truth about climate change. Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said on Monday the leaked correspondence suggested researchers ‘cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.’”

Marty Peretz wonders if Obama’s “heart is with the hooligans.” Well, it’s not with those imperiled by the hooligans.

You don’t think it’s the ObamaCare, do you? “Republican candidates have extended their lead over Democrats to seven points, their biggest lead since early September, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent.”

Well, maybe it is: “As the debate over a health care bill enters a critical stage, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds Americans inclined to oppose congressional passage of the legislation this year. The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, finds 42% against a bill, 35% in support of it. Despite nearly a year of presidential speeches, congressional hearings and TV ad campaigns by interest groups, more than one in five still doesn’t have a strong opinion. When pressed about how they were leaning, 49% overall said they would urge their member of Congress to vote against a bill; 44% would urge a vote for it.”

From Gallup: “Since the start of his presidency, U.S. President Barack Obama’s approval rating has declined more among non-Hispanic whites than among nonwhites, and now, fewer than 4 in 10 whites approve of the job Obama is doing as president.”

We could always lower taxes or lessen regulatory burdens on employers, I suppose: “Top Federal Reserve officials expect unemployment to remain elevated for years to come, according to new projections released Tuesday, suggesting that the economic recovery will be too gradual to create rapid improvement in the job market.”

Michael Gerson observes Eric Holder’s “embarrassing, but also offensive” Senate appearance and his subsequent interview in which he admitted talking only to his wife and his brother outside government. “When Holder announced his decision, many jumped to his defense, assuming that the Justice Department had made its decision carefully. That assumption can no longer be sustained.” Gerson thinks that once this becomes clear, Holder will be pressured to resign. We’ll see.

Michael O’Hanlon on the McChrystal counterinsurgency plan: “No other detailed plan exists at the province by province and district by district level, so if we are going to keep the current strategy of counterinsurgency and building up Afghan forces, his idea is the most compelling.” But we are, I suspect, going to get something that’s not quite as compelling.

It is my intention to finish the job.” Well, it’s not exactly Churchillian. But maybe he’ll be better next week.

This could get interesting: “A few days after leaked e-mail messages appeared on the Internet, the U.S. Congress may probe whether prominent scientists who are advocates of global warming theories misrepresented the truth about climate change. Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said on Monday the leaked correspondence suggested researchers ‘cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.’”

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A New York Times Embarrassment That’s Not on the Front Page

One of the movie critics of the New York Times is named Manohla Dargis. She is … well, let’s just say she is already responsible for the most pretentious movie review ever published in a mainstream forum, and that’s saying a lot. But that was three years ago. What has she done for us lately? Today, she reviews the new Disney cartoon called The Princess and the Frog, and while I can’t say Dargis has outdone herself, she has set a 21st century standard for political correctness that will be hard to top.

I’ve seen The Princess and the Frog; it’s a wondrous piece of work (my review of it will appear in the Weekly Standard next week and on its website beginning on Saturday). Dargis doesn’t agree, which is her prerogative. (My wife didn’t either, by the way.) But note how she begins her review (Dargis, not my wife):

It’s not easy being green, the heroine of “The Princess and the Frog” discovers. But to judge from how this polished, hand-drawn movie addresses, or rather strenuously avoids, race, it is a lot more difficult to be black, particularly in a Disney animated feature. If you haven’t heard: Disney, the company that immortalized pale pretties like Snow White and the zip-a-dee-doo-dah of plantation living in “Song of the South,” has made a fairy tale about a black heroine, a character whose shoulders and story prove far too slight for all the hopes already weighing her down.

Are you getting this? Disney’s new cartoon “strenuously avoids race.” This is a bouncy fairy tale for children, with the first black heroine in the history of animated film — an admirable, hard-working girl, a kind of self-imposed Cinderella who needs to learn to cut a rug a little. Moreover, the heroine has her problems with race, thank you very much; two white bankers patronize her and tell her that a person of “her background” shouldn’t aim so high. This is exactly how a film of this sort should introduce these questions, with subtlety and tact, in a way that will allow children to ask questions rather than drilling the answers into them in a way that kills the magic of the story.

Has Dargis ever actually met a child?

It is, for Dargis, an especial shame, this refusal in a New Orleans version of “The Frog Prince” not to engage on the subject of race as she would wish the matter engaged, considering that Disney made Song of the South 63 years ago, in 1946, when the people who now run Disney were — how should I put this — not yet women’s rights to choose in their mother’s wombs.

The movie is not only improperly Dargisian on race, but also on feminist matters. “The prince, disappointingly if not surprisingly, becomes not only [the girl's] salvation but also that of the movie…” This is actually an inaccurate depiction of the movie’s plot and the impression it leaves on the viewer, but never mind that. The film is a fairy tale about a girl, a prince, a kiss, and a frog. The reward for the girl in all such stories is the ascent to royalty, and in this movie, that reward is more cleverly rendered than in any previous Disney film.

It’s a princess movie. Has Dargis never met a little girl?

And is there no such thing as an editor at the New York Times who might read such an offering and respond with a simple, declarative, and profound three-word riposte: “Lighten up, Francis”? I bet it’s one fun Thanksgiving meal over at the Dargises. Somehow, I doubt there’s turkey.

One of the movie critics of the New York Times is named Manohla Dargis. She is … well, let’s just say she is already responsible for the most pretentious movie review ever published in a mainstream forum, and that’s saying a lot. But that was three years ago. What has she done for us lately? Today, she reviews the new Disney cartoon called The Princess and the Frog, and while I can’t say Dargis has outdone herself, she has set a 21st century standard for political correctness that will be hard to top.

I’ve seen The Princess and the Frog; it’s a wondrous piece of work (my review of it will appear in the Weekly Standard next week and on its website beginning on Saturday). Dargis doesn’t agree, which is her prerogative. (My wife didn’t either, by the way.) But note how she begins her review (Dargis, not my wife):

It’s not easy being green, the heroine of “The Princess and the Frog” discovers. But to judge from how this polished, hand-drawn movie addresses, or rather strenuously avoids, race, it is a lot more difficult to be black, particularly in a Disney animated feature. If you haven’t heard: Disney, the company that immortalized pale pretties like Snow White and the zip-a-dee-doo-dah of plantation living in “Song of the South,” has made a fairy tale about a black heroine, a character whose shoulders and story prove far too slight for all the hopes already weighing her down.

Are you getting this? Disney’s new cartoon “strenuously avoids race.” This is a bouncy fairy tale for children, with the first black heroine in the history of animated film — an admirable, hard-working girl, a kind of self-imposed Cinderella who needs to learn to cut a rug a little. Moreover, the heroine has her problems with race, thank you very much; two white bankers patronize her and tell her that a person of “her background” shouldn’t aim so high. This is exactly how a film of this sort should introduce these questions, with subtlety and tact, in a way that will allow children to ask questions rather than drilling the answers into them in a way that kills the magic of the story.

Has Dargis ever actually met a child?

It is, for Dargis, an especial shame, this refusal in a New Orleans version of “The Frog Prince” not to engage on the subject of race as she would wish the matter engaged, considering that Disney made Song of the South 63 years ago, in 1946, when the people who now run Disney were — how should I put this — not yet women’s rights to choose in their mother’s wombs.

The movie is not only improperly Dargisian on race, but also on feminist matters. “The prince, disappointingly if not surprisingly, becomes not only [the girl's] salvation but also that of the movie…” This is actually an inaccurate depiction of the movie’s plot and the impression it leaves on the viewer, but never mind that. The film is a fairy tale about a girl, a prince, a kiss, and a frog. The reward for the girl in all such stories is the ascent to royalty, and in this movie, that reward is more cleverly rendered than in any previous Disney film.

It’s a princess movie. Has Dargis never met a little girl?

And is there no such thing as an editor at the New York Times who might read such an offering and respond with a simple, declarative, and profound three-word riposte: “Lighten up, Francis”? I bet it’s one fun Thanksgiving meal over at the Dargises. Somehow, I doubt there’s turkey.

Read Less




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