Commentary Magazine


Topic: dean

Meltdown

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

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Some Advice for Matt Yglesias

The Dean of the Credulosphere is upset that I have not expressed sufficient reverence at the unveiling of J Street, and cannot understand why we Israel “hawks” (his label) haven’t learned anything from the obvious failure of everything we believe in. His evidence? The difficulties of the Iraq war. Well, let me break out the sock puppets and flash cards for the Dean: Israel and Iraq are two different countries.

But never mind that rather large quibble. Yglesias is exasperated and he’s just not going to take it any longer:

the attitude of thoughtless, unreflective scorn that you see from the Pollacks [sic!] and Kirchicks and Goldfarbs of the world is like it comes from some weird alternative reality where their ideas have generally been deemed vindicated, rather than one where 178% of the public says we’re on the wrong track.

What is the counterproposal to an effort at diplomatic engagement with the existing non-AQ powers in the Middle East? More of the same? Because the last five years have worked out so great?

The counterproposal to diplomatic engagement with Hamas is defeating the group in the only arena that it is willing to be engaged — the battlefield. As I always say, you don’t make peace with your enemies, you defeat them.

And as far as Israel is concerned, yes, hawkishness over the last five years has indeed worked out “so great.” The Dean of the Credulosphere doesn’t appear to have a historic memory longer than three or four blog posts, but if he did he would remember that five years ago buses and restaurants were being detonated by suicide bombers on a weekly basis in Israel. In March of 2002 alone, 134 Israelis were murdered in such attacks.

Did diplomatic engagement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat stop this relentless murder? Of course not — Operation Defensive Shield did. The IDF killed or captured the people responsible for the terror war, sent the rest underground in fear for their lives, encircled the hotbeds of Palestinian terrorism with military checkpoints and roadblocks, and flooded terror networks with informants. By 2004 the intifada was over; Israel won, Yasser Arafat lost, and after four horrible years of death and murder, Israelis were able to resume something resembling a normal life.

If you’re the Dean of the Credulosphere, you don’t know any of this, or you choose to ignore it, perhaps assuming that the intifada ended because some kind of vague deal was struck, or because Kofi Annan asked everyone to cut it out, or because terrorists just got tired of fighting, or, you know, whatever; you can always blog about basketball, right? Well, Dean, no deals were struck, and there was no diplomatic solution. So yes, the past five years in Israel have actually been quite nice as far as Palestinian terrorism is concerned. I heartily endorse more of the same. It’s called winning.

The Dean of the Credulosphere is upset that I have not expressed sufficient reverence at the unveiling of J Street, and cannot understand why we Israel “hawks” (his label) haven’t learned anything from the obvious failure of everything we believe in. His evidence? The difficulties of the Iraq war. Well, let me break out the sock puppets and flash cards for the Dean: Israel and Iraq are two different countries.

But never mind that rather large quibble. Yglesias is exasperated and he’s just not going to take it any longer:

the attitude of thoughtless, unreflective scorn that you see from the Pollacks [sic!] and Kirchicks and Goldfarbs of the world is like it comes from some weird alternative reality where their ideas have generally been deemed vindicated, rather than one where 178% of the public says we’re on the wrong track.

What is the counterproposal to an effort at diplomatic engagement with the existing non-AQ powers in the Middle East? More of the same? Because the last five years have worked out so great?

The counterproposal to diplomatic engagement with Hamas is defeating the group in the only arena that it is willing to be engaged — the battlefield. As I always say, you don’t make peace with your enemies, you defeat them.

And as far as Israel is concerned, yes, hawkishness over the last five years has indeed worked out “so great.” The Dean of the Credulosphere doesn’t appear to have a historic memory longer than three or four blog posts, but if he did he would remember that five years ago buses and restaurants were being detonated by suicide bombers on a weekly basis in Israel. In March of 2002 alone, 134 Israelis were murdered in such attacks.

Did diplomatic engagement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat stop this relentless murder? Of course not — Operation Defensive Shield did. The IDF killed or captured the people responsible for the terror war, sent the rest underground in fear for their lives, encircled the hotbeds of Palestinian terrorism with military checkpoints and roadblocks, and flooded terror networks with informants. By 2004 the intifada was over; Israel won, Yasser Arafat lost, and after four horrible years of death and murder, Israelis were able to resume something resembling a normal life.

If you’re the Dean of the Credulosphere, you don’t know any of this, or you choose to ignore it, perhaps assuming that the intifada ended because some kind of vague deal was struck, or because Kofi Annan asked everyone to cut it out, or because terrorists just got tired of fighting, or, you know, whatever; you can always blog about basketball, right? Well, Dean, no deals were struck, and there was no diplomatic solution. So yes, the past five years in Israel have actually been quite nice as far as Palestinian terrorism is concerned. I heartily endorse more of the same. It’s called winning.

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Clinton Gets A Hand

Both Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are now voicing the Clinton line that superdelegates should vote their conscience and not just rubber-stamp the pledged delegate outcome. Dean (accurately) states that this is precisely what party rules require. Pelosi previously sounded much more in tune with the Obama, insisting that superdelegates risk an angry uprising if they deviate from the pledged delegate vote.

Did the Clintons “get to” these two? It’s safe to say that neither one wants to step into the role of power broker or risk the wrath of either side. If the race were in the bag for Obama, as many in the media contend, I think you would see a different tone. But with Clinton leading in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, who’s to say that she can’t pull it off? Or that the superdelegates won’t want to consider whether Obama’s base of support has crumbled by June? And superdelegates will, I think, be very concerned if Clinton continues to poll better than Obama in key must win states. Michael Barone’s electoral analysis is rarely wrong. (Meanwhile, the New York Times discovers that Dean is not exactly a problem solver, having taken no active role in trying to resolve the Michigan and Florida delegate fights.)

Both Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are now voicing the Clinton line that superdelegates should vote their conscience and not just rubber-stamp the pledged delegate outcome. Dean (accurately) states that this is precisely what party rules require. Pelosi previously sounded much more in tune with the Obama, insisting that superdelegates risk an angry uprising if they deviate from the pledged delegate vote.

Did the Clintons “get to” these two? It’s safe to say that neither one wants to step into the role of power broker or risk the wrath of either side. If the race were in the bag for Obama, as many in the media contend, I think you would see a different tone. But with Clinton leading in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, who’s to say that she can’t pull it off? Or that the superdelegates won’t want to consider whether Obama’s base of support has crumbled by June? And superdelegates will, I think, be very concerned if Clinton continues to poll better than Obama in key must win states. Michael Barone’s electoral analysis is rarely wrong. (Meanwhile, the New York Times discovers that Dean is not exactly a problem solver, having taken no active role in trying to resolve the Michigan and Florida delegate fights.)

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St. Barack and His Pastor

In a front page story yesterday the New York Times devoted 1,500 words to how some pastors would base their Easter Sunday sermons on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Among the gems we read are this:

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, said she would preach about when Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and were met by an angel who rolled away the stone before the cave to reveal that Christ had risen from the dead. “I’m going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God,” Ms. Lind said. “One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive tone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit. “I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,” she said.

And this:

The Rev. Kent Millard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis said he felt Mr. Obama had explained the reality of the relationship between a pastor and his congregants. “Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is member of our congregation, and I would hope he would never be held accountable for everything I have said in the last 15 years,” said Dr. Millard, who is white. “Why is there any assumption that a person in church is expected to agree with everything a pastor says?”

And this:

Some black ministers said that their sermons might address how the reputation of a man many of them revere was reduced to sound bites. They pointed out that sermons in black churches covered a long and circuitous path from crisis to resolution, and it was unfair to judge the entire message on one or two sentences. “I may not use his exact language,” said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., “but I can tell you that the basic thrust of much of my preaching resonates with Dr. Wright. I don’t think I’m necessarily trying to preach people into anger, but I am trying to help people become conscious, become aware, to realize our power to make change in society.” Mr. Samuel said his Easter sermon would be titled “Dangerous Proclamations,” and would focus on the Apostle Paul, “who was also under attack for his faith in Jesus, and for preaching the Resurrection.”

And this:

On Easter, one of the nation’s foremost preachers, the Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus at the Riverside Church in New York, said he would take Mr. Wright’s place preaching the 6 p.m. service at Trinity in Chicago. Dr. Forbes plans to preach about how the nation is in a “night season,” a dark, destabilizing time, given the war, the economy and the vitriol over race and gender in the political primary. “It is nighttime in America,” Dr. Forbes said, “and I want to bring a word of encouragement.”

What ought we to make of the story and these quotes?

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In a front page story yesterday the New York Times devoted 1,500 words to how some pastors would base their Easter Sunday sermons on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Among the gems we read are this:

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, said she would preach about when Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and were met by an angel who rolled away the stone before the cave to reveal that Christ had risen from the dead. “I’m going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God,” Ms. Lind said. “One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive tone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit. “I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,” she said.

And this:

The Rev. Kent Millard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis said he felt Mr. Obama had explained the reality of the relationship between a pastor and his congregants. “Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is member of our congregation, and I would hope he would never be held accountable for everything I have said in the last 15 years,” said Dr. Millard, who is white. “Why is there any assumption that a person in church is expected to agree with everything a pastor says?”

And this:

Some black ministers said that their sermons might address how the reputation of a man many of them revere was reduced to sound bites. They pointed out that sermons in black churches covered a long and circuitous path from crisis to resolution, and it was unfair to judge the entire message on one or two sentences. “I may not use his exact language,” said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., “but I can tell you that the basic thrust of much of my preaching resonates with Dr. Wright. I don’t think I’m necessarily trying to preach people into anger, but I am trying to help people become conscious, become aware, to realize our power to make change in society.” Mr. Samuel said his Easter sermon would be titled “Dangerous Proclamations,” and would focus on the Apostle Paul, “who was also under attack for his faith in Jesus, and for preaching the Resurrection.”

And this:

On Easter, one of the nation’s foremost preachers, the Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus at the Riverside Church in New York, said he would take Mr. Wright’s place preaching the 6 p.m. service at Trinity in Chicago. Dr. Forbes plans to preach about how the nation is in a “night season,” a dark, destabilizing time, given the war, the economy and the vitriol over race and gender in the political primary. “It is nighttime in America,” Dr. Forbes said, “and I want to bring a word of encouragement.”

What ought we to make of the story and these quotes?

For one thing, the Times piece was much more charitable toward Reverend Wright than I can ever remember the New York Times being toward anyone on the “religious right.” Making a hate-spewing, conspiracy-minded, anti-American pastor appear sympathetic isn’t easy–but leave it to the good folks at the Times to try their best to achieve it.

Beyond that, Senator Obama has now taken on, at least among his supporters, angelic powers. To them St. Barack can move figurative (and perhaps even literal?) stones that are holding us in places of death and away from God. And to think I only viewed him as an impressive, if deeply liberal, junior senator from Illinois. Silly me.

As for Senator Lugar’s pastor: I’m sure Senator Lugar hasn’t agreed with everything he’s heard from the pulpit. But I also assume that if Senator Lugar heard his pastor asking God (repeatedly) to damn America rather than bless it and giving voice to batty conspiracy theories (America invented AIDS in order to champion genocide), Lugar would be troubled – troubled enough at least to raise the issue with the Reverend Millard and perhaps even troubled enough to leave the church if such rhetoric persisted.

I’m personally delighted to learn that the Reverend Samuel “may not use [Wright’s] exact language,” even as the basic thrust of much of his preaching would resonate with Wright. I am oh-so-eager to see just what formulations Kenneth Samuel would use that would bring joy and delight to the heart of Jeremiah Wright.

And then there is James A. Forbes, representing our reliable old friends at Riverside Church in New York City. It’s “nighttime” in America, according to the good Reverend, but fear not; James Forbes will bring a word of encouragement to us all. Of course the proposition on which Forbes relies–that America is a dark, aggrieved, divided and broken country– requires him to ignore the fact that we are the most fortunate and blessed people not only on earth but in human history; that we live in a nation that is imperfect and plagued by problems, but one that is more prosperous, freer, more benevolent, and filled with more opportunities than any Reverend Forbes could name.

Risible comments like those made by Forbes and company underscore why the “mainstream” churches in America have been steadily losing congregants for decades. They are utterly consumed by left-wing politics, so much so that on the most holy day of the Christian year they decide to devote their sermons to racial politics and an effort to restore the reputation of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. The degree to which the Left is contorting itself in an effort to rationalize the venom of Wright is now moving into the comical category. One can only imagine what kind of story Laurie Goldstein and Neela Banerjee of the Times would have written if they had stumbled across words as fierce, demagogic, and loathsome as Wright’s from a right-winger instead of a left-winger.

The double standard of the Times is on display almost every day, but it is rarely as apparent as it was on Easter Sunday.

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Five Best?

What are the five best chess books? The Wall Street Journal solicited my opinion, and I offered it in today’s paper right here. For those of you don’t subscribe to the paper, I’ve pasted in a copy below. Just click on: Read More

What are the five best chess books? The Wall Street Journal solicited my opinion, and I offered it in today’s paper right here. For those of you don’t subscribe to the paper, I’ve pasted in a copy below. Just click on:

1. My 60 Memorable Games

By Bobby Fischer

Simon & Schuster, 1969

The great chess books are great less for their prose style than for their insight into the application of highly controlled violence. “My 60 Memorable Games” was written while Bobby Fischer was still on his steep ascent to the world-champion title — and long before the slide into madness that ended with his death in January. He recounts his eviscerations of some of the most brilliant minds of the mid-20th century. But Fischer was never content with victory alone; he aimed to inflict agony on his opponents — in his own words, “I like the moment when I break a man’s ego.” Where did such ferocity come from? Fischer, who never knew his own father, once explained that “children who grow up without a parent become wolves.”

2. Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors

By Garry Kasparov

Everyman, 2003-06

Before Garry Kasparov ended his playing career in 2005 to battle for democracy in Russia, he was rightly considered to be the greatest grandmaster of all time. But here he humbles himself charmingly before giants such as world champions Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) and José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942). In this comprehensive study of grandmaster play — from the “Italian school” of the 16th century to our current postmodern synthesis — Kasparov aims to connect his forebears’ playing style with “the values of the society in which they lived and worked” and the “geopolitical reality” of their respective eras. The result is a work of unparalleled depth, spirit and ambition — it already stretches into five volumes, and a sixth is on the way.

3. Tal-Botvinnik, 1960

By Mikhail Tal

Russell Enterprises, 1970

How exactly do grandmasters think? Mikhail Tal’s account of his struggle for the world championship title nearly a half-century ago is not merely an analysis of 21 thrilling games. It is an intimate view of the chessboard fantasies of a supreme tactical genius. Tal (1936-92) was pitted against Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-95), the world’s foremost “scientific” player, the defending title-holder and the dean of the Soviet school of chess. In the resulting clash of styles, Tal prevailed by a convincing margin. His victory was a vindication of unfettered imagination and a demonstration that chess can be scientific only in the way that Soviet socialism was scientific, which is to say not at all.

4. My System

By Aron Nimzowitsch

1925

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) described “My System” as a “chess manual” based “on entirely new principles.” His idea that pawn masses at the center of the board might be a liability — vulnerable to attack from the flanks — was revolutionary, toppling verities and generating fierce resistance. “The reward for my new ideas consisted of abuse,” he wrote bitterly, “or at best systematic silence.” Today, nearly a century later, he would delight to know that his “hypermodern” approach is widely accepted. But if Nimzowitsch’s “My System” aimed at rationalizing chess, as the title suggests, its premise was supremely romantic: “For me,” he wrote in a characteristic passage, “the passed pawn possesses a soul, just like a human being; it has unrecognized desires which slumber deep inside it and it has fears, the very existence of which it can but scarcely divine.”

5. Lasker’s Manual of Chess

By Emanuel Lasker

Dutton, 1927

The German mathematician Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) wrote in his “Manual of Chess” that the game “would be laughable, were it not so serious.” After decades of studying philosophy, he came to believe that truth could be found only in mathematics and chess. Of the contest of wills between two players manipulating 32 wooden pieces on 64 squares, he wrote: “Lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.” Lasker, a close friend of Albert Einstein’s, won the world championship in 1894 and held the title for 27 years, the longest reign so far.

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You Thought Hanging Chads Were A Mess

Unlike Michigan, which is inching toward a resolution of its delegate quandary, Florida is in a bit of a (dare I say it) quagmire. A mail-in re-vote has proved to be a nonstarter, an in-person re-vote is said to be too costly, and Senator Bill Nelson’s backup plan to award half of Florida’s delegates in proportion to the votes cast in January( i.e. Hillary Clinton wins but picks up 19 rather than 38 delegates) has been rejected by the Clinton camp. It is obvious why the latter is unacceptable for Clinton, especially post-Wright controversy: Clinton needs not just delegates, but new victories to demonstrate Barack Obama’s support is melting down.

In the old days, a savvy party chairman would step in and knock heads, but Howard Dean is no Bob Strauss (a point Ruth Marcus made on This Week). Dean’s shown little interest in intervening. And his suggestion that this can all be worked out by the DNC credentials committee would mean the nomination might be left undecided until August, with a gigantic rules fight dominating the Democratic Convention and the summer news.

So for Clinton either a full re-vote (perhaps funded by donors favorable to her campaign) or a quagmire leaves her alive to fight another day. For now the latter seems more likely.

Unlike Michigan, which is inching toward a resolution of its delegate quandary, Florida is in a bit of a (dare I say it) quagmire. A mail-in re-vote has proved to be a nonstarter, an in-person re-vote is said to be too costly, and Senator Bill Nelson’s backup plan to award half of Florida’s delegates in proportion to the votes cast in January( i.e. Hillary Clinton wins but picks up 19 rather than 38 delegates) has been rejected by the Clinton camp. It is obvious why the latter is unacceptable for Clinton, especially post-Wright controversy: Clinton needs not just delegates, but new victories to demonstrate Barack Obama’s support is melting down.

In the old days, a savvy party chairman would step in and knock heads, but Howard Dean is no Bob Strauss (a point Ruth Marcus made on This Week). Dean’s shown little interest in intervening. And his suggestion that this can all be worked out by the DNC credentials committee would mean the nomination might be left undecided until August, with a gigantic rules fight dominating the Democratic Convention and the summer news.

So for Clinton either a full re-vote (perhaps funded by donors favorable to her campaign) or a quagmire leaves her alive to fight another day. For now the latter seems more likely.

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McCain on the Offensive

The McCain campaign just completed a media call with campaign manager Rick Davis, communications director Jill Hazelbaker, and general counsel Trevor Potter. The admitted purpose and main focus of the call? “Don’t buy that smoke Howard Dean is blowing around on our withdrawal from the matching funds system.” They want the focus and the media to turn its attention back to what they consider a problem for Barack Obama: his attempt to wriggle out of his commitment to take public financing and accept the limitations that go along with it for the general election.

They repeatedly pointed out that Dean did exactly the same thing he now attacks McCain for doing, i.e. applying for and then withdrawing from the matching funds program in the primaries before he received the funds. Potter reiterated that they had a right to withdraw even without a vote from the quorum-less FEC, that they received no funds, and that they never used the matching fund certificates as collateral for loans. As for gaining ballot access in several states based on their application for matching funds, Potter contends that this consideration is not relevant for FEC purposes.

Davis put this in political terms, arguing that “the Democrats panicked” when McCain took Obama up on his offer to accept public financing for the general election and therefore cooked up this issue regarding primary matching funds. Davis declared twice that the McCain camp would “be happy to debate all day” who has broken their word on public financing and whose record of commitment to reform is stronger. (He reviewed some highlights of McCain’s career, including the Abramoff and Boeing investigations and the passage of campaign finance reform laws–which he accomplished over objections from his party and to his political detriment.)

The bottom line: the McCain people recognize they are essentially entering the general election battle and want to prevent Obama (as he did with Hillary Clinton) from stealing the mantle of reformer/change agent. I would expect to hear far more of the McCain camp line that “there is only one candidate” who broke his promise regarding campaign funding.

The McCain campaign just completed a media call with campaign manager Rick Davis, communications director Jill Hazelbaker, and general counsel Trevor Potter. The admitted purpose and main focus of the call? “Don’t buy that smoke Howard Dean is blowing around on our withdrawal from the matching funds system.” They want the focus and the media to turn its attention back to what they consider a problem for Barack Obama: his attempt to wriggle out of his commitment to take public financing and accept the limitations that go along with it for the general election.

They repeatedly pointed out that Dean did exactly the same thing he now attacks McCain for doing, i.e. applying for and then withdrawing from the matching funds program in the primaries before he received the funds. Potter reiterated that they had a right to withdraw even without a vote from the quorum-less FEC, that they received no funds, and that they never used the matching fund certificates as collateral for loans. As for gaining ballot access in several states based on their application for matching funds, Potter contends that this consideration is not relevant for FEC purposes.

Davis put this in political terms, arguing that “the Democrats panicked” when McCain took Obama up on his offer to accept public financing for the general election and therefore cooked up this issue regarding primary matching funds. Davis declared twice that the McCain camp would “be happy to debate all day” who has broken their word on public financing and whose record of commitment to reform is stronger. (He reviewed some highlights of McCain’s career, including the Abramoff and Boeing investigations and the passage of campaign finance reform laws–which he accomplished over objections from his party and to his political detriment.)

The bottom line: the McCain people recognize they are essentially entering the general election battle and want to prevent Obama (as he did with Hillary Clinton) from stealing the mantle of reformer/change agent. I would expect to hear far more of the McCain camp line that “there is only one candidate” who broke his promise regarding campaign funding.

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Secretary of State Anne-Marie Slaughter?

Will she be Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State, or Barack Obama’s? Or will she merely be a UN ambassador?

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, has been visiting Australia, and from there she has penned some reflections on the world as it seen from Sydney. Or at least how it is seen from Sydney through the eyes of a dewy-eyed, Left-liberal American academic.

Slaughter’s first point is that Americans and Australians see the world very differently. Over the past week, for example, the big issue in the U.S. has been the prospect or non-prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The obsession with nuclear proliferation is part of a larger distorted framework.

Americans like President Bush and “arch neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz” see the world “as engaged in an epic struggle that pits tyranny against freedom, tyranny that today takes the primary form of Islamo-fascism. Islamo-fascists are the heirs to Nazis and communists, determined to suppress individual freedom in the name of a totalitarian ideology.”

But this is horribly simple minded. Down in Australia the big issue is “combating climate change.” The term Islamo-fascism “was never uttered in the recent Australian election.” Australians are for more sophisticated than to see the world in terms of black and white; instead, they “see the world as full of various threats as well as many opportunities.”

But the good news, writes Slaughter, is that not all Americans are as blinkered as Bush and Podhoretz. Thus, “the  Democratic candidates running for US president in 2008 largely take the Australian side in this debate.” Hillary Clinton, for one, sees not only threats from states and non-state actors but also from “nature itself,” while Barack Obama acknowledges “the variety and interconnectedness of many different threats facing people across the world.”

The bad news is that on the whole the American electorate is benighted:

It is far easier to explain to voters that “the enemy” is one movement, one ideology that “hates us for what we are and what we value,” a vast terrorist network that has declared war on the US and attacked us repeatedly, than to spend ten minutes cataloguing the complexities of an interdependent world and listing dangers from nuclear proliferation to climate change. Moving from clarity to complexity is rarely a vote-getter.

It is unfortunate that Americans are so much dumber than Australians and fail to see the “interconnectedness” of everything. And it is also unfortunate, goes the corollary, that so many of them stand in the way of a high government position for a Princeton dean.

Will she be Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State, or Barack Obama’s? Or will she merely be a UN ambassador?

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, has been visiting Australia, and from there she has penned some reflections on the world as it seen from Sydney. Or at least how it is seen from Sydney through the eyes of a dewy-eyed, Left-liberal American academic.

Slaughter’s first point is that Americans and Australians see the world very differently. Over the past week, for example, the big issue in the U.S. has been the prospect or non-prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The obsession with nuclear proliferation is part of a larger distorted framework.

Americans like President Bush and “arch neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz” see the world “as engaged in an epic struggle that pits tyranny against freedom, tyranny that today takes the primary form of Islamo-fascism. Islamo-fascists are the heirs to Nazis and communists, determined to suppress individual freedom in the name of a totalitarian ideology.”

But this is horribly simple minded. Down in Australia the big issue is “combating climate change.” The term Islamo-fascism “was never uttered in the recent Australian election.” Australians are for more sophisticated than to see the world in terms of black and white; instead, they “see the world as full of various threats as well as many opportunities.”

But the good news, writes Slaughter, is that not all Americans are as blinkered as Bush and Podhoretz. Thus, “the  Democratic candidates running for US president in 2008 largely take the Australian side in this debate.” Hillary Clinton, for one, sees not only threats from states and non-state actors but also from “nature itself,” while Barack Obama acknowledges “the variety and interconnectedness of many different threats facing people across the world.”

The bad news is that on the whole the American electorate is benighted:

It is far easier to explain to voters that “the enemy” is one movement, one ideology that “hates us for what we are and what we value,” a vast terrorist network that has declared war on the US and attacked us repeatedly, than to spend ten minutes cataloguing the complexities of an interdependent world and listing dangers from nuclear proliferation to climate change. Moving from clarity to complexity is rarely a vote-getter.

It is unfortunate that Americans are so much dumber than Australians and fail to see the “interconnectedness” of everything. And it is also unfortunate, goes the corollary, that so many of them stand in the way of a high government position for a Princeton dean.

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Supporting Democracy in Pakistan

General Pervez Musharraf justifies his imposition of martial law—he prefers to call it a “state of emergency,” which makes him sound like one of the sinister characters from a Costa-Gavras movie—by citing the increase in terrorist attacks across his country. There has indeed been growing militancy by extremist Islamic groups, which serves as a severe indictment of Musharraf’s eight years in power.

And yet he is using his “emergency” powers not to crack down on Islamic terrorists, but on peaceful civil society activists. As this Washington Post dispatch from Lahore notes:

Over the weekend . . . an estimated 70 community leaders were arrested here during a cookies-and-tea meeting of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Those detained included a college dean, a well-known poet, an economics professor, and a board member of the International Crisis Group.

Through such actions, Musharraf is undermining the anti-terrorist coalition that should include the vast majority of Pakistan’s people and its leading political parties. He is also casting the United States into ever deeper obloquy because the Bush administration has provided such unstinting and uncritical support of his misrule. The administration should now make clear, by holding back further aid to Pakistan if necessary, that its support for democracy is more than rhetorical.

A return to democracy is certainly no cure-all for Pakistan’s ills. The country will continue to face a determined Islamic insurgency no matter what happens. But Musharraf’s legitimacy clearly is reaching a nadir, and his efforts to suppress the extremists have largely failed. There is at least a possibility that a more popular and more legitimate government may have more success than the isolated dictator who is fast turning his own people against him.

General Pervez Musharraf justifies his imposition of martial law—he prefers to call it a “state of emergency,” which makes him sound like one of the sinister characters from a Costa-Gavras movie—by citing the increase in terrorist attacks across his country. There has indeed been growing militancy by extremist Islamic groups, which serves as a severe indictment of Musharraf’s eight years in power.

And yet he is using his “emergency” powers not to crack down on Islamic terrorists, but on peaceful civil society activists. As this Washington Post dispatch from Lahore notes:

Over the weekend . . . an estimated 70 community leaders were arrested here during a cookies-and-tea meeting of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Those detained included a college dean, a well-known poet, an economics professor, and a board member of the International Crisis Group.

Through such actions, Musharraf is undermining the anti-terrorist coalition that should include the vast majority of Pakistan’s people and its leading political parties. He is also casting the United States into ever deeper obloquy because the Bush administration has provided such unstinting and uncritical support of his misrule. The administration should now make clear, by holding back further aid to Pakistan if necessary, that its support for democracy is more than rhetorical.

A return to democracy is certainly no cure-all for Pakistan’s ills. The country will continue to face a determined Islamic insurgency no matter what happens. But Musharraf’s legitimacy clearly is reaching a nadir, and his efforts to suppress the extremists have largely failed. There is at least a possibility that a more popular and more legitimate government may have more success than the isolated dictator who is fast turning his own people against him.

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The Tittering at Columbia

There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

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There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

“Imbecile,” according to Webster’s, suggests someone “incapable of earning a living”—so that is not right because our Columbia dean’s accounts at TIAA-CREF are undoubtedly doing quite well.

Is “idiot” better? Perhaps, because it is defined as someone who is “incapable of avoiding the common dangers of life.” But since the term also refers to someone who is “incapable of connected speech,” it too is inaccurate. Coatsworth’s words may be deficient in various ways, but they are certainly connected; indeed, as Stephens shows, they are a constituent element of an entire worldview.

“Simpleton” implies “silliness or lack of sophistication,” and while Coatsworth is worse than silly, he is certainly sophisticated; indeed, he is a dean at one of our leading universities.

In the end, perhaps “fool”—a person “lacking in judgment or prudence”—is the most appropriate word. But as Webster’s points out, when all of these terms are used in their most general way, they all fit the bill insofar as they are often applied interchangeably to refer “to anyone regarded as lacking sense or good judgment.”

Fortunately, there are other and better solutions being developed than anything in the works at Columbia to deal with Ahmadinejad’s nuclear-weapons program, elements of which are buried deep underground in hardened facilities across Iran.

Defense Daily reports today that Northrop-Grumman is making rapid progress in bringing on board a new weapon. Here is its dispatch based upon an interview with Harry Heimple, a company spokesman:

By next year a 30,000-pound bomb capable of blasting into subterranean tunnels will begin operating in the Air Force’s bomber fleet, according to industry officials.

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) built by Boeing will be integrated by Northrop Grumman on both the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress. . .

The B-2A can carry two MOPs, one in each of its weapon bays. The munition Northrop Grumman calls “like” the Joint Direct Attack Munition with a guidance system aided by the Global Positioning System, MOP contains more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside of a 20.5-foot-long steel enclosure. The weapon is said to be able to penetrate up to about 60 feet of dirt and concrete.

The mass makes it three and a half times as powerful as the Air Force’s heaviest weapons, Heimple said. After extensive testing to gauge whether it is better to drop multiple bombs in the same spot or to drop one enormous bomb, the Air Force has opted for the MOP, saying more mass is the right answer, Heimple said.

The first lethality test of the weapon took place at the end of March at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in a tunnel complex with helicopters and jeeps inside. The bomb was placed nose-down in the complex and fired. The Air Force measured the blast for pressure and temperature.

“The results were pretty amazing,” Heimple said.

The private sector is thus doing things that are far more significant than the laughter on Morningside Heights which greeted the Iranian president’s remarks about homosexuality. Since Columbia continues to exclude ROTC from campus, the complacent tittering at Ahmadinejad is the university’s only contribution, thus far, to our common defense.

 

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Hitler at Columbia

How many American soldiers perished because the bomb built by Georg Elser to kill Adolf Hitler in a beer hall in Munich in November 1939 failed to go off on time and the dictator lived to prosecute the war he had launched two months earlier? 

The number is known to precision: 292,131, including 31,215 from the state of New York, where Columbia University is located. The total number of casualties in that war–U.S. and foreign, Axis and Allied, military and civilian alike–is considerably higher: perhaps as many as 72 million.

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How many American soldiers perished because the bomb built by Georg Elser to kill Adolf Hitler in a beer hall in Munich in November 1939 failed to go off on time and the dictator lived to prosecute the war he had launched two months earlier? 

The number is known to precision: 292,131, including 31,215 from the state of New York, where Columbia University is located. The total number of casualties in that war–U.S. and foreign, Axis and Allied, military and civilian alike–is considerably higher: perhaps as many as 72 million.

As I noted recently in the Weekly Standard, Elser, who was apprehended by the German border police, handed over to the Gestapo, and subsequently executed, explained his action this way: “I wanted through my deed to prevent even greater bloodshed.”

John Coatsworth, the dean who invited the nuclear-bomb-seeking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia today, would have had a different approach. As he told Fox News on Saturday, he would have extended an invitation to Hitler: “If he were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

Coatsworth’s name will not make it into the standard histories as Elser’s has. But it deserves to be recorded for posterity. The university’s invitation to the genocidal aspirant Ahmadinejad is repugnant on many grounds. The outrage committed by Dean Coatsworth upon the dead of World War II–and, along the way, upon the memory of Georg Elser, who readily sacrificed his own life for the peace of the world–staggers the imagination. 

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Michael Kinsley’s Whiplash

First it was Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, who underhandedly manipulated the facts of the Scooter Libby case while chastising the Bush administration for underhandedly manipulating the facts. See my It’s a Lemann. The New Yorker has yet to publish a correction to the error that I was not alone in pointing out. It is said to have published correspondence on the matter, but I must have missed it. As I know from personal experience, it can be hard to admit a mistake.

Now we have Michael Kinsley, Dean of the Snark School of Journalism, who has a collision with himself today while talking about the case. Did he suffer a whiplash injury? Will the op-ed page of the New York Times publish a correction? As I have warned in the past, do not hold your breath waiting.

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First it was Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, who underhandedly manipulated the facts of the Scooter Libby case while chastising the Bush administration for underhandedly manipulating the facts. See my It’s a Lemann. The New Yorker has yet to publish a correction to the error that I was not alone in pointing out. It is said to have published correspondence on the matter, but I must have missed it. As I know from personal experience, it can be hard to admit a mistake.

Now we have Michael Kinsley, Dean of the Snark School of Journalism, who has a collision with himself today while talking about the case. Did he suffer a whiplash injury? Will the op-ed page of the New York Times publish a correction? As I have warned in the past, do not hold your breath waiting.

Kinsley goes after the hypocrisy of “Libbyites” who cheered when Clinton was impeached for committing perjury and who now insist that “their man is being railroaded and shouldn’t have been prosecuted, let alone convicted” for lying about whether he leaked the undercover status of Valerie Plame, the wife of the administration critic, Joseph Wilson.

Fair enough, and obvious enough. But Kinsley makes another point along the way.

When Libby was questioned by federal investigators, Kinsley writes, “[h]e could either tell the truth, thereby implicating colleagues and very possibly himself, in leaking classified security information (the identity of Mr. Wilson’s wife), or he could lie. In either case he would be breaking the law or admitting to having done so, and in either case he could have gone to prison.”

Really? Yes, says Kinsley, really.

Except until we get to his next paragraph where Kinsley turns around and says, “The law about ‘outing’ CIA operatives is apparently vague enough that it isn’t clear whether Mr. Libby violated it.”

Really? Yes, says Kinsley, really.

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Talk of the Town

Is Seymour Hersh credible? Is the New Yorker?

Haaretz has a story by Emmanuel Sivan today taking apart an article Hersh wrote for the New Yorker some months ago with a fantastical—and false—claim that the U.S. was funneling money to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though we allegedly knew some of it was going to the al-Qaeda affiliated Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam. The New Yorker article in question, Sivan notes, appeared two months before fighting erupted between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.

Lebanese reporters, tracking down Hersh’s source for this sensational finding, found it to be Robert Fisk, another journalist with a less than impeccable record, who in turn had heard it from yet another questionable source. “Thus are reports about the Middle East generated,” sardonically writes Sivan.

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Is Seymour Hersh credible? Is the New Yorker?

Haaretz has a story by Emmanuel Sivan today taking apart an article Hersh wrote for the New Yorker some months ago with a fantastical—and false—claim that the U.S. was funneling money to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though we allegedly knew some of it was going to the al-Qaeda affiliated Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam. The New Yorker article in question, Sivan notes, appeared two months before fighting erupted between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.

Lebanese reporters, tracking down Hersh’s source for this sensational finding, found it to be Robert Fisk, another journalist with a less than impeccable record, who in turn had heard it from yet another questionable source. “Thus are reports about the Middle East generated,” sardonically writes Sivan.

This episode brings to mind the New Yorker piece that Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, wrote back in January in which he brazenly pawned off the falsehood that it was the White House that sent Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger in February of 2002 to investigate claims that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Of course, it was not the White House, but Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA officer in the agency’s counter-proliferation division, who suggested that her husband undertake the mission. The White House did not learn about Wilson’s mission to Niger until after his return.

Did the New Yorker publish a correction? Not yet. And I am not holding my breath.

Then, of course, there are other allegations leveled by the New Yorker’s national-security correspondent that have not checked out. As was first reported by the New York Observer, and as I noted in the December 2004 issue of COMMENTARY, Seymour Hersh, on the lecture circuit, has offered up gory details of U.S. atrocities in Iraq. Quoting one of his anonymous “sources,” a soldier in the field, Hersh informed one audience that

orders came down from the generals in Baghdad: we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And, as [the soldier] told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, “Stop!” And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. . . . And the company captain said, “No, you don’t understand. That’s a kill. We got 36 insurgents.”

Without a doubt, a massacre so reminiscent of My Lai was a sensational allegation. Without a doubt, it was almost certainly false, a fabrication cavalierly pawned off by Hersh as fact. An army of foreign journalists in Iraq, not exactly diffident when it comes to exposing American abuses, has thus far failed to unearth a single corroborating bit of evidence for this “atrocity,” and the U.S. military has no reports from the field attesting to an incident even faintly resembling it. Is this a journalist whose views, let alone whose facts, are to be trusted on anything?

The New Yorker’s fact-checking department is world renowned. The New Yorker’s fiction department is also world renowned. But one wonders, when it comes to stories bashing the Bush administration and/or the United States: have the two departments merged?

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No Pomp, Little Circumstance

One way to judge countries is by the way they treat their great musicians. Shockingly, England has dealt a public blow to its national composer, Sir Edward Elgar (1857—1934) on his 150th birthday. Elgar wrote such masterpieces as Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance marches, one of which provided the music for the popular hymn Land of Hope and Glory.

Just in time for Elgar’s anniversary, Her Majesty’s Exchequer has removed Elgar’s face from the British £20 note, replacing it with an image of the Scottish economist Adam Smith, while the British Arts Council refused to fund an Elgar celebration. Music critic Norman Lebrecht went a step further, declaring in the Daily Telegraph: “Elgar is not a major figure in music history, and we make a mockery of ourselves as a nation if we pretend that he is.” Whatever can the Brits find so incorrect, so objectionable, about Elgar? To some, he embodies the worst of England’s imperialist past; boozy crowds bellowing out “Land of Hope and Glory” at London events like the Last Night of the Proms causes embarrassment in the hearts of influential culture observers.

But “hope” and “glory” per se are not bad goals for a nation, and overseas music lovers need not be concerned with such internal UK squabbles. Elgar’s compositions feature an inherent stiff-upper-lip nobility behind which lurks, as his biographer Michael Kennedy wrote in the Telegraph, a “complex, hypersensitive, self-pitying, unhappy yet idealistic man, yearning for an illusory land of lost content.”

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One way to judge countries is by the way they treat their great musicians. Shockingly, England has dealt a public blow to its national composer, Sir Edward Elgar (1857—1934) on his 150th birthday. Elgar wrote such masterpieces as Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance marches, one of which provided the music for the popular hymn Land of Hope and Glory.

Just in time for Elgar’s anniversary, Her Majesty’s Exchequer has removed Elgar’s face from the British £20 note, replacing it with an image of the Scottish economist Adam Smith, while the British Arts Council refused to fund an Elgar celebration. Music critic Norman Lebrecht went a step further, declaring in the Daily Telegraph: “Elgar is not a major figure in music history, and we make a mockery of ourselves as a nation if we pretend that he is.” Whatever can the Brits find so incorrect, so objectionable, about Elgar? To some, he embodies the worst of England’s imperialist past; boozy crowds bellowing out “Land of Hope and Glory” at London events like the Last Night of the Proms causes embarrassment in the hearts of influential culture observers.

But “hope” and “glory” per se are not bad goals for a nation, and overseas music lovers need not be concerned with such internal UK squabbles. Elgar’s compositions feature an inherent stiff-upper-lip nobility behind which lurks, as his biographer Michael Kennedy wrote in the Telegraph, a “complex, hypersensitive, self-pitying, unhappy yet idealistic man, yearning for an illusory land of lost content.”

These complexities will doubtless be explored at the upcoming Bard Music Festival, “Elgar and His World,” scheduled for a series of weekends this August and October at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The Bard festival features an uneven bunch of musicians, but fortunately it will include such accomplished chamber groups as the Daedalus Quartet and Claremont Trio, as well as the sublime solo violinist Jennifer Koh. Meanwhile, we may relish the many superb Elgar performances on CD, keeping in mind that a poorly performed CD—and there are many such of Elgar—can make any composer seem hard to listen to.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which the composer described as “just an old man’s darling,” was recorded with staunch restraint, flowing grace, and eloquent emotion by the cellists Pablo Casals and Paul Tortelier, both conducted by Adrian Boult for EMI Classics. Elgar’s orchestral work Enigma Variations communicates a rare personal tenderness—the variations were inspired by some of the composer’s friends—along with a sense of the passionate heights and depths of human relationships.

Enigma requires a conductor of unusual psychological nuance and direct frankness, such as Elgar himself (although his recordings were hampered by primitive sound equipment) or his friend Adrian Boult. There is also a choice of 1950’s recordings by the great French maestro Pierre Monteux with the London Symphony Orchestra in the studio; a live radio broadcast; and a surprisingly idiomatic outing with the Orchestre National de France on Music & Arts. And LSO Live recently released one of the best Enigmas ever, led by England’s current dean of conductors, Colin Davis.

Elgar also triumphed in larger-scale works like Dream of Gerontius, an oratorio set to words by Cardinal Newman about a man accepting his own mortality and the prospect of heaven. As conducted on CD by the composer Benjamin Britten with the tenor Peter Pears in the title role, or on an EMI recording with Janet Baker as the angel who guides Gerontius in his last moments of life, it is a work of brooding majesty. Achievements of this rank certainly ensure Elgar’s artistic immortality—whatever Her Majesty’s Exchequer might think.

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Secretary Slaughter?

Who will be Secretary of State or National Security Adviser in the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration? The answer as of now is still rather unclear. But one woman who might be angling for the job—as we see from her essay, “Undoing Bush: How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling, and Neglect,” (link requires a subscription) in the latest issue of Harper’s—is Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Of course, just because she wants such an important job, doesn’t mean she’ll get it. Dean Slaughter may think of herself as a Democratic Condoleezza Rice, but she does not yet have even the minimal level of experience Condi had when Bush tapped her for office. What’s more, she’ll be up against some very power-thirsty competitors. Perhaps, given her interest in international organizations—the subject of her academic research—she will end up as Ambassador to the United Nations, or some such mid-level post.

Whatever her prospects, Slaughter’s Harper’s essay is significant. It casts light on what mainstream Democratic foreign-policy thinkers are talking about at a moment when George Bush has “taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations.” Or so the editors of Harper’s say in their preface. 

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Who will be Secretary of State or National Security Adviser in the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration? The answer as of now is still rather unclear. But one woman who might be angling for the job—as we see from her essay, “Undoing Bush: How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling, and Neglect,” (link requires a subscription) in the latest issue of Harper’s—is Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Of course, just because she wants such an important job, doesn’t mean she’ll get it. Dean Slaughter may think of herself as a Democratic Condoleezza Rice, but she does not yet have even the minimal level of experience Condi had when Bush tapped her for office. What’s more, she’ll be up against some very power-thirsty competitors. Perhaps, given her interest in international organizations—the subject of her academic research—she will end up as Ambassador to the United Nations, or some such mid-level post.

Whatever her prospects, Slaughter’s Harper’s essay is significant. It casts light on what mainstream Democratic foreign-policy thinkers are talking about at a moment when George Bush has “taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations.” Or so the editors of Harper’s say in their preface. 

Interestingly, Slaughter is not quite as pessimistic as they are. According to her, undoing the damage wrought by Bush won’t take generations; it can be done right away. “The paradox of American foreign policy,” she writes, “is that the United States, though more powerful than ever, has rarely been so lost in the world and never more reviled.” But as recently as September 12, 2001, “everyone was with us—until we told them, both in word and in deed, that if they weren’t with us they were against us.” All a new President need do is “restore American moral and political leadership in the world” by taking five steps.

The first of these is very simple: “we must close Guantanamo.”

The second is a little less simple: “we must get serious about nuclear disarmament.” It is time, says Slaughter, for America to reduce its nuclear arsenal. If we do, and if we provide them with civilian nuclear aid, even the three members of the “axis of evil” might agree “not to pursue nuclear weapons”—a remarkably elegant solution to a perplexing problem. It is a wonder that no one (apart from Jimmy Carter) ever thought of it before.

Steps three and four are a little more simple: the U.S. should join the International Criminal Court and reform the United Nations to expand the Security Council. “Why isn’t a single African, Middle Eastern, or Latin American country permanently represented on the world’s highest decision-making body?” she asks. The time for global inclusiveness has come.

The final item, number five, is very simple: “we must try to stop global warming.”

Is number five a case of hedging one’s bets in case Al Gore becomes President? Perhaps. But such long-range calculations can be as difficult as forecasting the climate.

My favorite among Slaughter’s easy steps is number four: expanding the Security Council to bring in a third-world country. Consensus in the Council itself will of course be required to implement any such proposal. So which country should be invited by us to join? Sudan? Venezuela? Syria? I am sure our good friends on the Security Council, the Russians and the Chinese, would be very happy with any or all of the three.

Let’s wish Anne-Marie Slaughter godspeed in her pursuit of high office. Even if many of her ideas are ludicrous, she’s right about one thing. When it comes to foreign policy, the Bush coterie can be strikingly incompetent. Exhibit A is the fact that even as Slaughter trashes the President for “sabotage, bungling, and neglect,” his administration has turned around and showered her with honors, naming her to chair an important State Department initiative to promote democracy. It is going to take more than five easy steps to undo that particular piece of damage.

 

 

 

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Bookshelf

• Of the making of books about Miles Davis, the most influential figure in post-1950 jazz, there is no end. The latest one, Richard Cook’s It’s About That Time: Miles Davis On and Off Record (Oxford, 373 pp., $27) is a sort-of-biography that tells the story of the trumpeter’s tempestuous life by describing the making of sixteen of his key albums, with extensive digressions along the way. Though this approach isn’t exactly new—Jack Chambers’s Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis did the same thing at much greater length, discussing all of Davis’s recordings through 1985—Cook’s more concentrated treatment is both readable and accessible, though jazz novices in search of a primer on Davis will likely find it too detailed. If, on the other hand, you know your way around Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain but have yet to sample any of the rock-flavored recordings Davis started making in 1969, the second half of It’s About That Time offers a (mostly) reliable roadmap to that underexplored territory.

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• Of the making of books about Miles Davis, the most influential figure in post-1950 jazz, there is no end. The latest one, Richard Cook’s It’s About That Time: Miles Davis On and Off Record (Oxford, 373 pp., $27) is a sort-of-biography that tells the story of the trumpeter’s tempestuous life by describing the making of sixteen of his key albums, with extensive digressions along the way. Though this approach isn’t exactly new—Jack Chambers’s Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis did the same thing at much greater length, discussing all of Davis’s recordings through 1985—Cook’s more concentrated treatment is both readable and accessible, though jazz novices in search of a primer on Davis will likely find it too detailed. If, on the other hand, you know your way around Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain but have yet to sample any of the rock-flavored recordings Davis started making in 1969, the second half of It’s About That Time offers a (mostly) reliable roadmap to that underexplored territory.

Somebody really ought to write a brief life of Davis. In the meantime, the best first book about him remains So What, John Szwed’s 2002 biography, after which interested readers should go straight to Bill Kirchner’s Miles Davis Reader, an exceptionally well-chosen collection of essays, articles, and reviews. Quincy Troupe’s Miles: The Autobiography is a ghostwritten memoir whose authenticity is by now notoriously suspect, though much of it sounds quite like the man himself.

• My distinguished colleague John Simon brought out three fat self-anthologies late last year that failed to attract the critical attention they deserved. John Simon on Theater: Criticism, 1974-2003 (Applause, 837 pp., $32.95), John Simon on Film: Criticism, 1982-2001 (Applause, 662 pp., $29.95) and John Simon on Music: Criticism, 1979-2005 (Applause, 504 pp., $27.95) are not the career-spanning compendia they appear at first glance to be, for Simon has opted to include nothing from his previously published collections, all of which are out of print. In addition, none of the three volumes is adequately indexed—all you get is a pseudo-index of works reviewed—and the dates of publication of the original essays are not included. These omissions are regrettable in the extreme, but that doesn’t make the books any less readable, just harder to use.

Simon is, of course, the most controversial critic ever to have covered theater in New York, give or take George Jean Nathan. He is famously willing to get personal in a way that makes many of his readers uncomfortable—myself sometimes included—and I doubt that those who have good reason to despise his sharp tongue will change their minds after reading him in bulk. But he is also the most knowledgeable theater critic alive, and though I often disagree with his negative judgments, I rarely fail to like what he likes, or to learn from his reasons for liking it. His film criticism is no less penetrating, and I’ve always had a special love for his intelligent, sympathetic writing about classical music, which is the least well known of the many arrows in his critical quiver.

The octogenarian Simon is now the dean of New York drama critics, and I see him on the aisle once or twice a week, usually looking as though he expects to be displeased, which he usually is. His standards are still fearsomely high, though he’s mellowed a bit in recent years, and he continues to teach me things I didn’t know about an art form with which he was grappling when I was in diapers. I hope Applause Books eventually gets around to reissuing Acid Test, Private Screenings, Uneasy Stages, Movies into Film, Reverse Angle, and Something to Declare, his previous books about theater and film, or at least to bringing out a volume of selections from his writings of the 60’s and early 70’s. Still, these three fat collections leave no doubt that for all his flaws, John Simon has been—and remains—one of America’s greatest working critics.

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It’s a Lemann

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

Read Less




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