Commentary Magazine


Topic: Denver

RE: The South’s Past Haunts Barbour’s Candidacy

Jonathan is right — the racial-sensitivity problem is not just Haley Barbour’s.

No doubt there are double standards when it comes to judging Republicans, but conservatives are not blameless in the process either. It isn’t just a matter of flubbing their words — many conservatives are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racial discrimination prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, or they choose, like Barbour, to engage in selective memory.

To put the era in perspective, Abby Thernstrom, in her seminal study of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Whose Votes Count?, notes that fewer than 7 percent of voting-age blacks were registered in Mississippi prior to federal registrars being sent in after the Act was passed; by 1967, the number of registered blacks had jumped to 60 percent. And it is hard to imagine that Barbour wasn’t at least aware of the murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi, just 140 miles from his hometown of Yazoo City, not to mention the segregation that permeated every facet of public life. Haley and I graduated high school the same year, and even though I was living in Denver at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on in Mississippi. To ignore this history requires an act of will.

Many of us neoconservatives, however, were active in the civil-rights movement of the era and have no blinders about the degradation and discrimination to which blacks were subjected prior to the enactment of federal civil-rights protections. When neoconservatives argue that we support colorblind equal opportunity — as opposed to racial preferences for minorities — we do so with a moral authority rooted in our having always fought for this position. Unfortunately, the opposition to racial preferences that harm whites (and Asians) coming from many conservatives today is far more fervent than was their opposition to racial discrimination that harmed blacks in the past. It would help conservatives’ cause to acknowledge that failure rather than pretend it was not one.

Jonathan is right — the racial-sensitivity problem is not just Haley Barbour’s.

No doubt there are double standards when it comes to judging Republicans, but conservatives are not blameless in the process either. It isn’t just a matter of flubbing their words — many conservatives are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racial discrimination prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, or they choose, like Barbour, to engage in selective memory.

To put the era in perspective, Abby Thernstrom, in her seminal study of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Whose Votes Count?, notes that fewer than 7 percent of voting-age blacks were registered in Mississippi prior to federal registrars being sent in after the Act was passed; by 1967, the number of registered blacks had jumped to 60 percent. And it is hard to imagine that Barbour wasn’t at least aware of the murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964 in Meridian, Mississippi, just 140 miles from his hometown of Yazoo City, not to mention the segregation that permeated every facet of public life. Haley and I graduated high school the same year, and even though I was living in Denver at the time, I was very much aware of what was going on in Mississippi. To ignore this history requires an act of will.

Many of us neoconservatives, however, were active in the civil-rights movement of the era and have no blinders about the degradation and discrimination to which blacks were subjected prior to the enactment of federal civil-rights protections. When neoconservatives argue that we support colorblind equal opportunity — as opposed to racial preferences for minorities — we do so with a moral authority rooted in our having always fought for this position. Unfortunately, the opposition to racial preferences that harm whites (and Asians) coming from many conservatives today is far more fervent than was their opposition to racial discrimination that harmed blacks in the past. It would help conservatives’ cause to acknowledge that failure rather than pretend it was not one.

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Recap

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

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Colorado’s Got Initiative

Forget the Colorado Senate and guberantorial races. I’m keeping my eye on this one:

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to “ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact “with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles.

I suppose the vehicles could come without drivers, so it’s good the ballot sponsors are thorough. The contest is getting a tad nasty:

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. “Low overhead,” he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it’s harder to dismiss him as biased.

Mr. Peckman has recruited about 20 volunteers for his campaign.

They face an impassioned opposition led by Bryan Bonner, who dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds.

“Frauds” seems sort of harsh, no? Especially for a ghost-hunter. You got that right: “One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.” Clearly this man is peeved that there is no initiative to “ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact with ghosts. Or their vehicles.

Now the election is getting ugly:

Mr. Bonner, the ghost hunter, is fighting back with his own website asserting that “Peckman and his ‘little green people’ are not representative of the people of Denver.”

“Little green people,” Mr. Peckman responds with outrage, is a “racial slur.”

Peckman is no political novice. He says this is about jobs, jobs, jobs:

Recognizing that ET contact protocols aren’t foremost in the minds of voters these days, Mr. Peckman has refined his pitch on Initiative 300. These days, he promotes it as a jobs bill. He envisions sci-fi film directors flocking here, space-travel researchers, and engineers hoping to pry the secrets of intergalactic technology from space visitors.

Councilman Charlie Brown is skeptical. “That’s not the kind of job we want to create,” he says.

But Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, says she’s game: “We are open for business to all other planets.”

It sounds like just the sort of thing stimulus money would be used for. You don’t want jobs going to other galaxies.

Forget the Colorado Senate and guberantorial races. I’m keeping my eye on this one:

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to “ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact “with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles.

I suppose the vehicles could come without drivers, so it’s good the ballot sponsors are thorough. The contest is getting a tad nasty:

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. “Low overhead,” he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it’s harder to dismiss him as biased.

Mr. Peckman has recruited about 20 volunteers for his campaign.

They face an impassioned opposition led by Bryan Bonner, who dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds.

“Frauds” seems sort of harsh, no? Especially for a ghost-hunter. You got that right: “One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.” Clearly this man is peeved that there is no initiative to “ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact with ghosts. Or their vehicles.

Now the election is getting ugly:

Mr. Bonner, the ghost hunter, is fighting back with his own website asserting that “Peckman and his ‘little green people’ are not representative of the people of Denver.”

“Little green people,” Mr. Peckman responds with outrage, is a “racial slur.”

Peckman is no political novice. He says this is about jobs, jobs, jobs:

Recognizing that ET contact protocols aren’t foremost in the minds of voters these days, Mr. Peckman has refined his pitch on Initiative 300. These days, he promotes it as a jobs bill. He envisions sci-fi film directors flocking here, space-travel researchers, and engineers hoping to pry the secrets of intergalactic technology from space visitors.

Councilman Charlie Brown is skeptical. “That’s not the kind of job we want to create,” he says.

But Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, says she’s game: “We are open for business to all other planets.”

It sounds like just the sort of thing stimulus money would be used for. You don’t want jobs going to other galaxies.

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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Enough with the Campaign

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

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Bromide Obama’s Greatest Speech

David Brooks asserted yesterday in “Obama’s Christian Realism” that Barack Obama’s Oslo speech was “the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.”

Since Obama’s presidency is only 11 months old, and the Obama oeuvre is not large, this is actually faint praise. We all remember the great “Let Me Be Clear” speech at AIPAC, the emphatic “I Can No More Disown” Reverend Wright speech, the humble “Citizens of the World” address in Berlin, the stately “Greek Column” oration in Denver, the compelling “Unclench Your Fist” Inaugural, and the “Just Till July 2011” clarion call at West Point. There are really only about 10 lifetime speeches to be evaluated in terms of comparative profundity.

Brooks concludes that Obama’s Oslo speech is making his “doctrine” clear: a theological commitment to combat evil while avoiding righteousness. He quotes Obama’s 2007 remark on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s impact: “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction.”

Brooks originally reported that remark in a 2007 column entitled “Obama, Gospel and Verse,” in which he questioned whether Obama had “thought through a practical foreign policy doctrine of his own – a way to apply his Niebuhrian instincts.” Back then, Brooks was not certain he had:

When you ask about ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he talks grandly about marshaling a global alliance. But when you ask specifically if an Iranian bomb would be deterrable, he’s says yes: ”I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change.”

In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan.

It’s nice that in his Oslo speech, Obama confirmed that evil “does exist in the world” and that he “cannot be guided by [Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Gandhi’s] examples alone.” It is good that he insists that Iran and North Korea not “game the system” and that sanctions must “exact a real price.”

But the real question about Obama’s “doctrine” is whether — after Iran declines to unclench its fist and sanctions fail (they have yet to succeed with Cuba or North Korea, and Saddam Hussein turned a profit from the “crippling” ones on him) — his Niebuhrian instincts call for any other option. Iran is likely to react to diplomacy in one fashion if it thinks the answer is yes, and another if it thinks the answer is no.

So far, Iran is acting as if it has read Brooks’s 2007 column and knows the answer. It appears untroubled by the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

David Brooks asserted yesterday in “Obama’s Christian Realism” that Barack Obama’s Oslo speech was “the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.”

Since Obama’s presidency is only 11 months old, and the Obama oeuvre is not large, this is actually faint praise. We all remember the great “Let Me Be Clear” speech at AIPAC, the emphatic “I Can No More Disown” Reverend Wright speech, the humble “Citizens of the World” address in Berlin, the stately “Greek Column” oration in Denver, the compelling “Unclench Your Fist” Inaugural, and the “Just Till July 2011” clarion call at West Point. There are really only about 10 lifetime speeches to be evaluated in terms of comparative profundity.

Brooks concludes that Obama’s Oslo speech is making his “doctrine” clear: a theological commitment to combat evil while avoiding righteousness. He quotes Obama’s 2007 remark on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s impact: “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction.”

Brooks originally reported that remark in a 2007 column entitled “Obama, Gospel and Verse,” in which he questioned whether Obama had “thought through a practical foreign policy doctrine of his own – a way to apply his Niebuhrian instincts.” Back then, Brooks was not certain he had:

When you ask about ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he talks grandly about marshaling a global alliance. But when you ask specifically if an Iranian bomb would be deterrable, he’s says yes: ”I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change.”

In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan.

It’s nice that in his Oslo speech, Obama confirmed that evil “does exist in the world” and that he “cannot be guided by [Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Gandhi’s] examples alone.” It is good that he insists that Iran and North Korea not “game the system” and that sanctions must “exact a real price.”

But the real question about Obama’s “doctrine” is whether — after Iran declines to unclench its fist and sanctions fail (they have yet to succeed with Cuba or North Korea, and Saddam Hussein turned a profit from the “crippling” ones on him) — his Niebuhrian instincts call for any other option. Iran is likely to react to diplomacy in one fashion if it thinks the answer is yes, and another if it thinks the answer is no.

So far, Iran is acting as if it has read Brooks’s 2007 column and knows the answer. It appears untroubled by the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

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Close Encounters of the Coloradan Kind

Health-care reform, skyrocketing unemployment, war in Afghanistan, appropriate alien-life-form greetings. Which of these things is not like the other?

In Denver, Jeff Peckman has managed to collect enough John Hancocks to have added to the 2010 electoral ballot an initiative that would ensure that contact with extraterrestrial life will be conducted in a manner bespeaking a great republic. In fact, an expert council will be convened for just such a purpose.

If approved, the city panel would promote “harmonious, peaceful, mutually respectful and beneficial coexistence” between earthlings and extraterrestrials, in part by developing protocols for “diplomatic contact.”

Its seven members would include an expert in taking testimony from people who’ve survived “direct personal close encounters” with aliens.

We should all hail Peckman’s efforts. I have spent too many sleepless nights anxiety-ridden, not at the prospect of growing poverty, joblessness, and hunger in our nation, but over whether a high-five could be misconstrued as vaguely insulting to a being with no hands. (“Does the earthling mock me? Ontar, bring me my death ray. And my yellow crocs.”)

For the record, I, too, have survived a “direct personal close encounter” with an alien being. (Anyone who has attended a Lutheran parochial school for any length of time knows exactly what I’m talking about.) So if such an initiative were to surface here in New York, I hope I would be considered for a spot on an appropriate council, lest visitors from another time-space dimension wind up with misimpressions of the Big Apple, especially the No. 1 train during rush hour.

Or as Og, chief plenipotentiary for the Poon galaxy, likes to say: “Cheese it, the cops.”

Health-care reform, skyrocketing unemployment, war in Afghanistan, appropriate alien-life-form greetings. Which of these things is not like the other?

In Denver, Jeff Peckman has managed to collect enough John Hancocks to have added to the 2010 electoral ballot an initiative that would ensure that contact with extraterrestrial life will be conducted in a manner bespeaking a great republic. In fact, an expert council will be convened for just such a purpose.

If approved, the city panel would promote “harmonious, peaceful, mutually respectful and beneficial coexistence” between earthlings and extraterrestrials, in part by developing protocols for “diplomatic contact.”

Its seven members would include an expert in taking testimony from people who’ve survived “direct personal close encounters” with aliens.

We should all hail Peckman’s efforts. I have spent too many sleepless nights anxiety-ridden, not at the prospect of growing poverty, joblessness, and hunger in our nation, but over whether a high-five could be misconstrued as vaguely insulting to a being with no hands. (“Does the earthling mock me? Ontar, bring me my death ray. And my yellow crocs.”)

For the record, I, too, have survived a “direct personal close encounter” with an alien being. (Anyone who has attended a Lutheran parochial school for any length of time knows exactly what I’m talking about.) So if such an initiative were to surface here in New York, I hope I would be considered for a spot on an appropriate council, lest visitors from another time-space dimension wind up with misimpressions of the Big Apple, especially the No. 1 train during rush hour.

Or as Og, chief plenipotentiary for the Poon galaxy, likes to say: “Cheese it, the cops.”

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Clinton Makes Sense, Obama Not So Much

The DNC tried to settle the Florida and Michigan delegate dispute by giving Florida’s delegates half a vote (but giving Hillary Clinton the proportion of delegates she won in the January primary) and dividing up the Michigan delegates, who also get half a vote. Clinton’s team remains unsatisfied over what boils down to 4 Michigan delegates. For now they are maintaining the threat of going to the Credentials Committee and staging a fight in Denver.

I understand entirely what she is up to: maintaining an argument, any argument, to hang around and hope some more political shoes drop or some argument (maybe a sweep of the last few primaries) convinces enough superdelegates to consider throwing the nomination to her. She may yet fold her tent on Tuesday, but she is not foreclosing any options. Although her chance to wrest the nomination from Obama is a long shot at best, she is proceeding in a logical fashion.

Barack Obama’s tactic — quibbling over a few delegates — is baffling. Clinton can not possibly hope to pass him in the pledged delegate race, so why not give her the disputed Michigan delegates and be done with it? She already is going to make her “I won the popular vote” argument, so this seems to leave the door foolishly and needlessly open for Clinton’s continued candidacy. And with the media already buzzing about Obama’s decision to leave Trinity United, why give Clinton a procedural justification to hang on like a bad cold? Baffling.

The DNC tried to settle the Florida and Michigan delegate dispute by giving Florida’s delegates half a vote (but giving Hillary Clinton the proportion of delegates she won in the January primary) and dividing up the Michigan delegates, who also get half a vote. Clinton’s team remains unsatisfied over what boils down to 4 Michigan delegates. For now they are maintaining the threat of going to the Credentials Committee and staging a fight in Denver.

I understand entirely what she is up to: maintaining an argument, any argument, to hang around and hope some more political shoes drop or some argument (maybe a sweep of the last few primaries) convinces enough superdelegates to consider throwing the nomination to her. She may yet fold her tent on Tuesday, but she is not foreclosing any options. Although her chance to wrest the nomination from Obama is a long shot at best, she is proceeding in a logical fashion.

Barack Obama’s tactic — quibbling over a few delegates — is baffling. Clinton can not possibly hope to pass him in the pledged delegate race, so why not give her the disputed Michigan delegates and be done with it? She already is going to make her “I won the popular vote” argument, so this seems to leave the door foolishly and needlessly open for Clinton’s continued candidacy. And with the media already buzzing about Obama’s decision to leave Trinity United, why give Clinton a procedural justification to hang on like a bad cold? Baffling.

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McCain’s Four Quarters

Although I loathe sports analogies in politics, this one seems irresistible: For John McCain, the presidential season has four quarters. He will lose the first three. Will he be able to make it up in the fourth?

The first quarter began when the Republican race became a fait accompli and the Democratic battle between Clinton and Obama got more interesting. This started in earnest soon after New Hampshire. Obama took it simply because he has been involved in a more exciting race that garnered constant media attention while McCain and the Republicans became predictable and tedious. With Obama now certain to be the Democratic nominee, the second quarter has begun. Obama has more money, a new gust of wind in his sails, and a cheerleading press corps that will boost him up all summer. Without a real issue or a heavy ad buy, McCain will find it very difficult to penetrate voters consciousness over the summer. He will lose the second quarter.

The third quarter will begin and end with the two conventions, the Democrats in late August and the Republicans in early September. The Democratic convention will be a Hollywood studio boss’s dream, what with Obama’s gorgeous family, the spectacular videos, the unity theme that has been presaged since January, the lineup of celebrities walking the convention floor, Oprah’s opening night speech. Held in Denver — the New West — it will be young, full of Camelot references, and more racially and ethnically diverse than a Benetton commercial.

The Republican Convention, by contrast, will be held in Minneapolis, during the week that the entire country is focused on what time they can leave work Thursday to start Labor Day weekend. The third quarter goes to Obama in a walk.

The fourth quarter, after the conventions, and during the fall debates, is McCain’s only chance. This will be the first time that country really sees the two candidates directly going after one another. It will be the first time McCain will feel he is on a level playing field. The narrative of the first three quarters is the young and new vs. the old and tired. McCain has to reframe the debate around ideas–on Iraq, the economy, bipartisanship, taxes, and experience. No one looks or sounds better in victory than Obama. He is a lot less attractive, as we have now seen, when he is confronted or put on defense. When the country is paying attention in October, McCain will have his chance to knock Obama on his heels.

The meaning of all this: Republicans need to gird themselves for a long summer of horrendous polls and deepening despair. Obama will keep putting points on the board through early September. It will look hopeless. Until the fourth quarter.

Although I loathe sports analogies in politics, this one seems irresistible: For John McCain, the presidential season has four quarters. He will lose the first three. Will he be able to make it up in the fourth?

The first quarter began when the Republican race became a fait accompli and the Democratic battle between Clinton and Obama got more interesting. This started in earnest soon after New Hampshire. Obama took it simply because he has been involved in a more exciting race that garnered constant media attention while McCain and the Republicans became predictable and tedious. With Obama now certain to be the Democratic nominee, the second quarter has begun. Obama has more money, a new gust of wind in his sails, and a cheerleading press corps that will boost him up all summer. Without a real issue or a heavy ad buy, McCain will find it very difficult to penetrate voters consciousness over the summer. He will lose the second quarter.

The third quarter will begin and end with the two conventions, the Democrats in late August and the Republicans in early September. The Democratic convention will be a Hollywood studio boss’s dream, what with Obama’s gorgeous family, the spectacular videos, the unity theme that has been presaged since January, the lineup of celebrities walking the convention floor, Oprah’s opening night speech. Held in Denver — the New West — it will be young, full of Camelot references, and more racially and ethnically diverse than a Benetton commercial.

The Republican Convention, by contrast, will be held in Minneapolis, during the week that the entire country is focused on what time they can leave work Thursday to start Labor Day weekend. The third quarter goes to Obama in a walk.

The fourth quarter, after the conventions, and during the fall debates, is McCain’s only chance. This will be the first time that country really sees the two candidates directly going after one another. It will be the first time McCain will feel he is on a level playing field. The narrative of the first three quarters is the young and new vs. the old and tired. McCain has to reframe the debate around ideas–on Iraq, the economy, bipartisanship, taxes, and experience. No one looks or sounds better in victory than Obama. He is a lot less attractive, as we have now seen, when he is confronted or put on defense. When the country is paying attention in October, McCain will have his chance to knock Obama on his heels.

The meaning of all this: Republicans need to gird themselves for a long summer of horrendous polls and deepening despair. Obama will keep putting points on the board through early September. It will look hopeless. Until the fourth quarter.

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Oh No! It’s Civil War! Except It Isn’t.

Watch the pundits bite their nails and fear for the future: Oh, how awful this continuing battle in the Democratic party is! What a nightmare! Hillary is taking the low road! Obama is Adlai Stevenson redux! Fault lines are being exposed that could lead to an earthquake which might swallow up Democratic ambitions this year!

Nonsense.  There has never been a primary process with this kind of involvement. More than 30 million votes have been cast so far for Obama and Clinton combined. Every one of those voters is a committed Democrat, by virtue of his participation in the primary. Once there is a nominee and the dust settles, that nominee will have a base of primary voters larger and more passionate than anyone has ever seen. One thing surely unites them, and that is a desire to see a Democrat in the White House and an end to Republican rule.

The campaigns are echoing this hysteria, and for a reason. Obama needs superdelegates to believe his fresh and dandy new voters and the party’s African-American base will be so enraged if Hillary actually becomes the nominee that they will firebomb the Denver convention and subvert the party’s chances for victory because hope will have been murdered in its cradle. Hillary needs superdelegates to believe that Obama’s victory is going to make ethnic whites flee to McCain’s side.

 Obama and Hillary are going to have an equal amount of difficulty, for different reasons, appealing to independents (McCain will have problems too, because he’s running on the Republican line), but my guess is neither of them has to worry very much about fellow Democrats.

Watch the pundits bite their nails and fear for the future: Oh, how awful this continuing battle in the Democratic party is! What a nightmare! Hillary is taking the low road! Obama is Adlai Stevenson redux! Fault lines are being exposed that could lead to an earthquake which might swallow up Democratic ambitions this year!

Nonsense.  There has never been a primary process with this kind of involvement. More than 30 million votes have been cast so far for Obama and Clinton combined. Every one of those voters is a committed Democrat, by virtue of his participation in the primary. Once there is a nominee and the dust settles, that nominee will have a base of primary voters larger and more passionate than anyone has ever seen. One thing surely unites them, and that is a desire to see a Democrat in the White House and an end to Republican rule.

The campaigns are echoing this hysteria, and for a reason. Obama needs superdelegates to believe his fresh and dandy new voters and the party’s African-American base will be so enraged if Hillary actually becomes the nominee that they will firebomb the Denver convention and subvert the party’s chances for victory because hope will have been murdered in its cradle. Hillary needs superdelegates to believe that Obama’s victory is going to make ethnic whites flee to McCain’s side.

 Obama and Hillary are going to have an equal amount of difficulty, for different reasons, appealing to independents (McCain will have problems too, because he’s running on the Republican line), but my guess is neither of them has to worry very much about fellow Democrats.

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Carter’s Awkward Moments

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

Jimmy Carter’s upcoming handshake with Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Damascus promises to be an incredibly awkward moment. In fact, it will be so awkward that–almost forty-eight hours after the story broke–the Carter Center has yet to confirm the visit (though Hamas has done so giddily). Amidst this dithering, the U.S. foreign policy community has overwhelmingly lambasted the proposed meet-and-greet, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ibrahim Hooper seems to be Carter’s lone supporter in Washington.It’s gotten so bad that even Kofi Annan–who infamously greeted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during his tenure as UN Secretary General–is distancing himself from Carter, canceling his plans to accompany the former U.S. president to the Middle East.

Rest assured, this awkwardness is here to stay, and will not subside once Carter boards his plane back from Damascus. Rather, it will follow him all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver–where the keynote address he will deliver as a former Democratic president will be a chillingly awkward moment for the ultimate presidential nominee. Indeed, without Carter having even addressed the Hamas meeting publicly, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have criticized Carter’s plans through their press offices. For now, Carter’s lack of attachment to either campaign makes this form of distancing acceptable. Yet when Carter addresses a national audience for a full half-hour or so in late August at the convention, the ultimate nominee will have some serious explaining to do–particularly because the nominee’s campaign is largely responsible for drafting speakers, and thus technically responsible for Carter’s time in the limelight.

Naturally, Carter’s visit with Hamas will be most problematic if Obama wins the nomination. As an article in the LA Times noted yesterday, Obama continues to face doubters within the Jewish community, who remain concerned by his longtime relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and question the sincerity of his pro-Israel pronouncements. It is for this reason that Carter’s decision to legitimize Hamas now is most confounding: how can Carter, who has hinted at his support for Obama, put him in such an awkward position?

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Why Hillary Supporters Might Abandon Obama

Many commentators are buzzing over a Gallup poll (and a similar NBC/Wall Street Journal one) showing that 28% of Hillary Clinton supporters would support John McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee and that 19% of Obama supporters would do the same if she is the nominee. Gallup explains:

It is unknown how many Democrats would actually carry through and vote for a Republican next fall if their preferred candidate does not become the Democratic nominee. The Democratic campaign is in the heat of battle at the moment, but by November, there will have been several months of attempts to build party unity around the eventual nominee — and a focus on reasons why the Republican nominee needs to be defeated. . . Still, when almost 3 out of 10 Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama, it suggests that divisions are running deep within the Democratic Party. If the fight for the party’s nomination were to continue until the Denver convention in late August, the Democratic Party could suffer some damage as it tries to regroup for the November general election.

If you consider who a typical Clinton voter is the poll makes quite a bit of sense: older, white, and working-class voters who place a premium on experience and may have bought her “3 a.m.” argument. Sound like potential “gets” for McCain, right? (Then, of course, there are the voters offended and scared off by the Reverend Wright affiliation, but liberal bloggers say that’s all behind us so we won’t worry about them. For now.)

In most elections you see “Republicans for [fill in the name of the Democratic nominee]” groups spring up. They usually are not terribly Republican to begin with and profess that “never before” has the Republican party offered someone so extreme, so conservative, etc. This election there may be groups, real groups, of “Democrats for McCain,” who simply conclude that Obama is too liberal or too inexperienced to be president. Even if the final number isn’t 28%, a fifth or a tenth of that figure may spell trouble for the Democrats, if he’s the eventual nominee.

How long before Clinton’s team starts making this very argument to superdelegates?

Many commentators are buzzing over a Gallup poll (and a similar NBC/Wall Street Journal one) showing that 28% of Hillary Clinton supporters would support John McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee and that 19% of Obama supporters would do the same if she is the nominee. Gallup explains:

It is unknown how many Democrats would actually carry through and vote for a Republican next fall if their preferred candidate does not become the Democratic nominee. The Democratic campaign is in the heat of battle at the moment, but by November, there will have been several months of attempts to build party unity around the eventual nominee — and a focus on reasons why the Republican nominee needs to be defeated. . . Still, when almost 3 out of 10 Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama, it suggests that divisions are running deep within the Democratic Party. If the fight for the party’s nomination were to continue until the Denver convention in late August, the Democratic Party could suffer some damage as it tries to regroup for the November general election.

If you consider who a typical Clinton voter is the poll makes quite a bit of sense: older, white, and working-class voters who place a premium on experience and may have bought her “3 a.m.” argument. Sound like potential “gets” for McCain, right? (Then, of course, there are the voters offended and scared off by the Reverend Wright affiliation, but liberal bloggers say that’s all behind us so we won’t worry about them. For now.)

In most elections you see “Republicans for [fill in the name of the Democratic nominee]” groups spring up. They usually are not terribly Republican to begin with and profess that “never before” has the Republican party offered someone so extreme, so conservative, etc. This election there may be groups, real groups, of “Democrats for McCain,” who simply conclude that Obama is too liberal or too inexperienced to be president. Even if the final number isn’t 28%, a fifth or a tenth of that figure may spell trouble for the Democrats, if he’s the eventual nominee.

How long before Clinton’s team starts making this very argument to superdelegates?

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Obama Backs Illegals’ Licenses–Again

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

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Acknowledging Advisers

The Washington Post has a small but important story on American military advisers. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has just visited Fort Riley, Kansas, where advisers for Afghanistan and Iraq are trained. He stressed how important these advisory teams are. Ultimately they are our only responsible “exit strategy,” because they can help turn the Afghan and Iraqi armies into forces capable of keeping order largely on their own.

The problem is that the army doesn’t traditionally reward advisory work. It tends to promote officers who lead American troops, not those who advise foreign troops—even if the latter mission is, in the grand scheme of things, more important.

The Post account has some telling quotes from mid-level officers:

“It’s not a dead end, but it slows down your career,” said Capt. Richard Turvey, 35, of Muncie, Ind.

“I became an officer to be a commander; now I’m going to have to wait longer,” agreed Capt. Mark Johnstone, 33, of Denver. “The teams are taking us from our traditional roles as artillerymen.”

“We have to have certain jobs to be competitive.” said Maj. Jason Jones, one of a group of army majors attending school at Fort Leavenworth who voiced reluctance to join the training teams. “That takes me out of the cycle. In essence, it sort of hurts you,” Jones said.

Promotion prospects for those who serve on the teams remain uncertain, said Maj. Kealii T. Morris. “The jury is still out” on how promotion boards will treat officers who serve on the teams, he said.

The army needs to make clear to its promotion boards that this type of service will be valued as highly as more traditional combat duty. One positive step in this direction would be to implement Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl’s idea for an Advisory Corps within the army—something I’ve previously advocated on contentions. Unfortunately, the army so far has resisted this innovation. It will take concerted pressure from the outside—especially from the Secretary of Defense, but also from lawmakers on Capitol Hill—to reform an out-of-touch personnel system that isn’t providing the skill sets we need to win the war on Islamofascism.

The Washington Post has a small but important story on American military advisers. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has just visited Fort Riley, Kansas, where advisers for Afghanistan and Iraq are trained. He stressed how important these advisory teams are. Ultimately they are our only responsible “exit strategy,” because they can help turn the Afghan and Iraqi armies into forces capable of keeping order largely on their own.

The problem is that the army doesn’t traditionally reward advisory work. It tends to promote officers who lead American troops, not those who advise foreign troops—even if the latter mission is, in the grand scheme of things, more important.

The Post account has some telling quotes from mid-level officers:

“It’s not a dead end, but it slows down your career,” said Capt. Richard Turvey, 35, of Muncie, Ind.

“I became an officer to be a commander; now I’m going to have to wait longer,” agreed Capt. Mark Johnstone, 33, of Denver. “The teams are taking us from our traditional roles as artillerymen.”

“We have to have certain jobs to be competitive.” said Maj. Jason Jones, one of a group of army majors attending school at Fort Leavenworth who voiced reluctance to join the training teams. “That takes me out of the cycle. In essence, it sort of hurts you,” Jones said.

Promotion prospects for those who serve on the teams remain uncertain, said Maj. Kealii T. Morris. “The jury is still out” on how promotion boards will treat officers who serve on the teams, he said.

The army needs to make clear to its promotion boards that this type of service will be valued as highly as more traditional combat duty. One positive step in this direction would be to implement Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl’s idea for an Advisory Corps within the army—something I’ve previously advocated on contentions. Unfortunately, the army so far has resisted this innovation. It will take concerted pressure from the outside—especially from the Secretary of Defense, but also from lawmakers on Capitol Hill—to reform an out-of-touch personnel system that isn’t providing the skill sets we need to win the war on Islamofascism.

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