Commentary Magazine


Topic: Evan Thomas

Does Ken Burns Blame TR for Iraq?

PBS is broadcasting the premiere of Ken Burns’ latest blockbuster documentary—The Roosevelts: An Intimate History—this week so it is to be expected that the film will rekindle a host of controversies about his subjects. That is especially true of Theodore Roosevelt, on whom most of the first episode that aired last night focused. But while in recent years the 26th president has taken more flack from right-wingers like Glenn Beck for his role in the birth of the progressive movement, Burns gave significant airtime to those who are angry about TR’s attitude toward war and American power. In doing so, they told us more about the politics of the 21st century than the last decade of the 19th.

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PBS is broadcasting the premiere of Ken Burns’ latest blockbuster documentary—The Roosevelts: An Intimate History—this week so it is to be expected that the film will rekindle a host of controversies about his subjects. That is especially true of Theodore Roosevelt, on whom most of the first episode that aired last night focused. But while in recent years the 26th president has taken more flack from right-wingers like Glenn Beck for his role in the birth of the progressive movement, Burns gave significant airtime to those who are angry about TR’s attitude toward war and American power. In doing so, they told us more about the politics of the 21st century than the last decade of the 19th.

The Roosevelts rightly notes that the key moment that facilitated Teddy’s rise to national prominence resulted from the U.S. decision to fight Spain in 1898 and his subsequent heroism during the American invasion of Cuba. But the loudest voice in the film’s account of TR’s remarkable story in this chapter of history is Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers, a book I reviewed in COMMENTARY in March 2010 alongside another liberal critique of the first President Roosevelt by James Bradley. Thomas’s thesis was that the Spanish-American War was the precedent that served to entice Americans to wage other seemingly small wars over the course of the next century but especially the conflict in Iraq. In his reading of Roosevelt’s behavior, TR committed the original sins not only of imperialism and military adventurism but also embodying a lust for blood and war that should be regarded as evidence of madness, not courage. Burns allows Thomas to brand TR as “a dangerous figure” whose “glorification of war can’t be a good thing in the long run.”

In this opinion, Thomas is echoed by conservative writer George Will, another Iraq war critic, whose lack of enthusiasm for Roosevelt is also a product of his disgust for his willingness to expand the power of the executive at the expense of the Constitution. Will says the fact that TR “liked war” and thought “might makes right” gives an “unpleasant dimension” to his legacy and should cause us to view him with “dry eyes.”

Are they right both about the consequences of the drive to war with Spain, and should TR’s attitude toward war cause him to be viewed negatively?

Roosevelt’s rhetoric about manifest destiny smacked of the popular social Darwinism that was so popular in this time and is therefore tough to take in our own more politically correct time. It is also true that cynicism about the role the sensational “yellow” press of the time had in fueling sympathy for the Cuban independence movement as well as the likelihood that the U.S.S. Maine was not destroyed by Spanish sabotage when it blew up in Havana harbor—the incident that helped set off the war—has made the U.S. decision to declare war look more like aggression than support for U.S. positions against tyranny and for self-determination.

But viewing both TR and his war through the prism of 21st century American political obsessions (which have themselves recently undergone a transformation as horror about the decision to invade Iraq has lately been replaced by a realization that the U.S. must intervene again to defeat the ISIS terrorist movement) is an anachronism that does more to confuse viewers of Burns’ film than enlighten them.

In this formulation the drive for war is explained as the need for an otherwise effete patrician to vindicate his father’s failures. The same is true on a broader scale as Thomas depicts the push for America to take its place on the world stage as a function of the blood lust of a group of swells that were as mad as Roosevelt. But both of these points ignore more basic truths about TR and the choices America faced in those crucial years.

It is, admittedly, tough to explain why a 39-year-old man with a highly responsible government position (under secretary of the navy), bad eyesight, asthma, a sick wife, and six children would choose to gamble his life by heading to the front lines. For Thomas, the only explanation is that TR was made with “bloodlust” and a “war lover,” terms that he also applies to his son Ted, Jr. (who, at the age of 57, would lead American forces ashore onto Utah Beach during D-Day in 1944) in his book. Thomas is incapable of recounting the stirring exploits of either man without irony, something that says more about him than his subjects.

But while few of us could imagine ourselves doing as they did, would our country really be better without their example? If Teddy Roosevelt has always been admired by both conservatives and liberals as one of our country’s greatest presidents it is in no small measure because so many of us—regardless of our politics or our views about imperialism and the progressives—instinctively like his spirit of adventure, his belief in service and sacrifice for our nation, as well as his personal valor. Roosevelt went to war for the same reason he took on other political and personal quests: Because he believed that life was a constant struggle between right and wrong and thought neutrality or non-involvement in these battles was not an option.

It may be hard to get too enthused about the cause of Cuban independence today (do Thomas, Burns, or anyone else really think acquiescing to Spain’s brutal and repressive rule of the island was an attractive option for the United States?), but Roosevelt’s vision of America as a global power for which that war was the lynchpin is entirely defensible.

Even more to the point, do the critics of the first President Roosevelt really want to contemplate what the history of the 20th century would have been like if he had not helped drag his countrymen onto the global stage? Would those who urge us to view him with “dry eyes” or with horror for his embrace of military glory (an attribute that he shared with Winston Churchill) think the world would have been a safer or freer place had the West been left to face fascism and Japanese imperialism and then Communism without the global American power he helped forge?

Ken Burns’s films are always beautifully made, entertaining, and often enlightening excursions into history. But in the first episode of his Roosevelts, he clearly erred in allowing Iraq war critics to taint our view of his embrace of heroism and American power. As influential as his documentaries have become, I expect that his critiques, as well as those of people like Beck, will never succeed in diminishing enthusiasm for a man who embodied the idea of personal courage for his own generation and those that followed.

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Liberal Lamentations and the Book of Job

Newsweek editor Evan Thomas reached what might have been the apotheosis of hero worship of Barack Obama when he stated on MSNBC in June 2009 that “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above — above the world, he’s sort of God.” Some 18 months later, Thomas’s affirmation of Obama as a political messiah seems more comic than anything else. But for those liberals of theological bent, explanations for the president’s repudiation by the voters in a historic midterm thumping requires more than an analysis of the unpopularity of ObamaCare. Into this breach steps Thomas’s former Newsweek colleague Jon Meacham.

In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Meacham writes in an essay whose supposed subject was a new translation and commentary on The Wisdom Books of the Bible by Robert Alter that the best explanation for the repudiation of Obama can be found in the Book of Job. To Meacham, Obama’s trials are as much a mystery as those of Job. Like Job, Obama was once favored by God only to be subjected to afflictions that have no discernible purpose other than to test his faith. While Meacham admits that incoming House Speaker John Boehner is not quite the same thing as a case of boils, he makes plain that the defeat of the Democrats is pretty much the moral equivalent of such torments. Snidely noting that God’s rejection of Job’s questioning of His decisions is “how Dick Cheney’s vision of unfettered executive power might sound if rendered in ancient Hebrew verse,” Meacham gives voice to a liberal sense of injustice at their recent losses.

As Jennifer noted, that this sort of nonsense is what passes for erudition at the once mighty Book Review is quite a commentary on the state of mind of our liberal elites and one that requires no translation by Robert Alter. But while Meacham’s ranting can be dismissed as a failed attempt at clever exegesis, it does speak to a lack of understanding on the part of the author (and, no doubt, many of his readers) as to the difference between an election and an act of God. The former is a judgment on the part of the voters about both policies and personalities. It can be disputed as a mistake, but it is not an inexplicable event. The latter is simply something that happens without apparent rhyme or reason. To a believer, the essence of the Almighty and His acts are ineffable, and we must imply accept them without explanation, since none will be forthcoming.

Barack Obama’s defeat in the midterms, like his victory two years before, was not an act of God. It was an act of democracy. By contrast, if we are looking for evidence of an event whose coming was as arbitrary as Job’s boils, we could do no better than to ponder the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the presidency of George W. Bush. While the government’s failures in the aftermath of that natural disaster were legion, the fact remains that it was George W. Bush’s bad luck that he happened to be president when New Orleans was hit with a once-in-a-century hurricane that would come to define his presidency. Bush might well wonder why this storm came during his time in office rather than that of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. A storm of Katrina’s size would have knocked down the levees even if the president had been a Democrat, though it is doubtful that the media would have blamed him for the ensuing casualties and the incompetence of local authorities the way they did Bush. Bush could not be blamed for asking God why, but as a man of faith, he probably understands that there is no answer.

Job teaches us that bad things can happen to good people and that we shouldn’t expect a Divine explanation when such injustices occur. But, contrary to Meacham, however good some of us may think Barack Obama is, explaining his troubles at the ballot box does not require an act of faith.

Newsweek editor Evan Thomas reached what might have been the apotheosis of hero worship of Barack Obama when he stated on MSNBC in June 2009 that “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above — above the world, he’s sort of God.” Some 18 months later, Thomas’s affirmation of Obama as a political messiah seems more comic than anything else. But for those liberals of theological bent, explanations for the president’s repudiation by the voters in a historic midterm thumping requires more than an analysis of the unpopularity of ObamaCare. Into this breach steps Thomas’s former Newsweek colleague Jon Meacham.

In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Meacham writes in an essay whose supposed subject was a new translation and commentary on The Wisdom Books of the Bible by Robert Alter that the best explanation for the repudiation of Obama can be found in the Book of Job. To Meacham, Obama’s trials are as much a mystery as those of Job. Like Job, Obama was once favored by God only to be subjected to afflictions that have no discernible purpose other than to test his faith. While Meacham admits that incoming House Speaker John Boehner is not quite the same thing as a case of boils, he makes plain that the defeat of the Democrats is pretty much the moral equivalent of such torments. Snidely noting that God’s rejection of Job’s questioning of His decisions is “how Dick Cheney’s vision of unfettered executive power might sound if rendered in ancient Hebrew verse,” Meacham gives voice to a liberal sense of injustice at their recent losses.

As Jennifer noted, that this sort of nonsense is what passes for erudition at the once mighty Book Review is quite a commentary on the state of mind of our liberal elites and one that requires no translation by Robert Alter. But while Meacham’s ranting can be dismissed as a failed attempt at clever exegesis, it does speak to a lack of understanding on the part of the author (and, no doubt, many of his readers) as to the difference between an election and an act of God. The former is a judgment on the part of the voters about both policies and personalities. It can be disputed as a mistake, but it is not an inexplicable event. The latter is simply something that happens without apparent rhyme or reason. To a believer, the essence of the Almighty and His acts are ineffable, and we must imply accept them without explanation, since none will be forthcoming.

Barack Obama’s defeat in the midterms, like his victory two years before, was not an act of God. It was an act of democracy. By contrast, if we are looking for evidence of an event whose coming was as arbitrary as Job’s boils, we could do no better than to ponder the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the presidency of George W. Bush. While the government’s failures in the aftermath of that natural disaster were legion, the fact remains that it was George W. Bush’s bad luck that he happened to be president when New Orleans was hit with a once-in-a-century hurricane that would come to define his presidency. Bush might well wonder why this storm came during his time in office rather than that of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. A storm of Katrina’s size would have knocked down the levees even if the president had been a Democrat, though it is doubtful that the media would have blamed him for the ensuing casualties and the incompetence of local authorities the way they did Bush. Bush could not be blamed for asking God why, but as a man of faith, he probably understands that there is no answer.

Job teaches us that bad things can happen to good people and that we shouldn’t expect a Divine explanation when such injustices occur. But, contrary to Meacham, however good some of us may think Barack Obama is, explaining his troubles at the ballot box does not require an act of faith.

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Where Are the Smart Liberals?

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine. Read More

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine.

This brings me to another point. What’s happened to liberal intellectuals these days? It seems they’ve fallen down on the job and ceased to be serious people. I mean, comparing Obama to Job is downright embarrassing. Does the Gray Lady have no standards?

Another case in point: there apparently is a new film out about Fran Lebowitz directed by Martin Scorsese. The problem is that while liberal New Yorkers imagine her to be the quintessential left-leaning intellectual (actually, they don’t need the modifier since, by definition, are intellectuals share their worldview), she hasn’t written anything of note for years, and the sum total of her “contribution” to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation’s greatest city is a string of one-liners. Even this reviewer is somewhat put off:

Except for a children’s book and a series of wise Vanity Fair articles in the 1990s (which were really just well-edited conversations between Lebowitz and an editor on broad subjects such as race and money), Lebowitz hasn’t produced much. Instead, she’s a study in brilliant coasting, which can’t be as fun as it seems. For all its many laughs, “Public Speaking” carries a necessary undercurrent of the morose.

“No one has wasted time the way I have,” Lebowitz tells Scorsese’s camera in her usual rat-a-tat delivery, a voice coarsened by years of smoking. “[I am] the outstanding waster of time of my generation. It was 1979, I looked up, it was 2007.”

Instead of writing, Lebowitz spends her time talking about American society and culture — either through paid appearances on the lecture circuit or from her usual booth at the Waverly Inn, a dimly-lit, exclusively small West Village restaurant co-owned by her friend Graydon Carter, who edits Vanity Fair.

Talking, she says, is all she ever wanted to do.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And one wonders, is this thin gruel of cultural poses and condescension all the left has to offer anymore?

There’s much more: New York is too expensive to be interesting anymore. Tourists are “herds of hillbillies.” Gay men, who so dazzled Lebowitz with their highbrow tastes in the 1970s, have let her down by working so diligently to get married and join the army. And revenge is a wonderful thing: “I absolutely believe in revenge. People always say revenge is a dish best served cold. No. It’s good any time you can get it.”

She is asked: Is there such a thing as being born lucky? Yes, she replies: “Any white, gentile, straight man who is not president of the United States, failed. That’s what a big piece of luck that is, okay?”

Not exactly John Kenneth Galbraith. Or even Dorothy Parker.

The trouble liberals face in maintaining their intellectual chops is that they operate in a world of knowing glances, incomplete sentences, and shared cultural references. Conformity is seen as a sign of intellectual prowess. And you need not write anything intelligible, let alone intellectually compelling, to qualify as a liberal public intellectual.

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The Book of Sort of Job

Jon Meacham (whose former Newsweek colleague Evan Thomas last year gave us the description of Obama as “sort of God”) has an essay in today’s New York Times Book Review entitled “Obama and the Book of Job,” a review of Robert Alter’s new translation of one of the most remarkable books of the Bible. This time, Meacham portrays Obama not as sort of God but sort of Job:

[Obama] might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him. Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one. …

When God speaks from the whirlwind at the end of the Book of Job, it reminds Meacham “how Dick Cheney’s vision of unfettered executive power might sound if rendered in ancient Hebrew verse.”

Those interested in a more compelling reflection on the political meaning of the Book of Job might consider reading one of William Safire’s most brilliant books, The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today’s Politics, published in 1993 and still relevant today (summarized slightly here and reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY here).

As for Obama’s current problems, they do not seem biblical in proportion but rather simply those associated with the job he volunteered for and assured us he would solve (while bringing the sea level down). His situation seems less the work of a Cheney-like God than an illustration of the biblical admonition of what cometh before a fall.

Jon Meacham (whose former Newsweek colleague Evan Thomas last year gave us the description of Obama as “sort of God”) has an essay in today’s New York Times Book Review entitled “Obama and the Book of Job,” a review of Robert Alter’s new translation of one of the most remarkable books of the Bible. This time, Meacham portrays Obama not as sort of God but sort of Job:

[Obama] might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him. Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one. …

When God speaks from the whirlwind at the end of the Book of Job, it reminds Meacham “how Dick Cheney’s vision of unfettered executive power might sound if rendered in ancient Hebrew verse.”

Those interested in a more compelling reflection on the political meaning of the Book of Job might consider reading one of William Safire’s most brilliant books, The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today’s Politics, published in 1993 and still relevant today (summarized slightly here and reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY here).

As for Obama’s current problems, they do not seem biblical in proportion but rather simply those associated with the job he volunteered for and assured us he would solve (while bringing the sea level down). His situation seems less the work of a Cheney-like God than an illustration of the biblical admonition of what cometh before a fall.

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Who Would Bid on a Flop?

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.’”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.’”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

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The Democrats Cast Aspersions

The signs of a Democratic collapse have been obvious for many months now. Liberals and Obama supporters, though, ignored or denied the amassing evidence. The GOP was a rump party, it was said. Those attending Tea Parties and town hall meetings were angry and irrational; Obama would look good in contrast to them. The president’s falling poll numbers meant nothing. Obama and Democrats were actually doing well, given how bad the economy was. The loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race was because Creigh Deeds was a terrible candidate. The loss in the New Jersey gubernatorial race was because Jon Corzine was a weakened incumbent. Et cetera.

Then came Massachusetts.

Democrats have now gone from smug denial to absolute panic. And the explanations for what went wrong are cascading around us. Obama is suffering from an “inspiration gap.” He’s too cool and detached. He’s not angry enough. He’s not populist enough. He’s not aggressive enough. He didn’t spend enough. He wasn’t liberal enough. He didn’t jam through health-care legislation soon enough. He got into the weeds too much. Evan Thomas of Newsweek has gone from describing Obama as a “sort of God” to “being fundamentally dishonest.”

No, others say, the fault lies with the “nihilist” Right. Or Sarah Palin’s “death panel” tweet. Or the success of the obstructionist GOP in “stigmatizing” the wonders of the stimulus package. Still others, like the president, insist that because Obama was focused on so many different problems, doing good for so many people, he just plain overlooked the need to communicate with the public. Being a forgetful sort, the American public needs to be reminded how marvelous the 44th president has been.

Still others among the Democrats are turning with unalloyed fury against the American people. They were broad-minded and enlightened when they elected Barack Obama, you see — but they have suddenly become dolts. This view is embodied in the words of Joe Klein of Time, who refers to Americans as “flagrantly ill-informed” — and those watching Fox News, of course, are “misinformed.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, Joe adds this:

It is very difficult to have a democracy without citizens. It is impossible to be a citizen if you don’t make an effort to understand the most basic activities of your government. It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you’re a nation of dodos.

Klein is the same fellow who, in the aftermath of Obama’s victory, said of America: “It may no longer be as dominant, economically or diplomatically, as it once was. But it is younger, more optimistic, less cynical. It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom.” And who wrote, after Obama was sworn in as president, that his ascension to power “could force everyone to argue more carefully, to think twice before casting aspersions.”

So we’ve gone from being young, optimistic, and uncynical, with the ability to startle the world in a good way, to being a nation of dodos.

I guess aspersion-casting is back in vogue.

The signs of a Democratic collapse have been obvious for many months now. Liberals and Obama supporters, though, ignored or denied the amassing evidence. The GOP was a rump party, it was said. Those attending Tea Parties and town hall meetings were angry and irrational; Obama would look good in contrast to them. The president’s falling poll numbers meant nothing. Obama and Democrats were actually doing well, given how bad the economy was. The loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race was because Creigh Deeds was a terrible candidate. The loss in the New Jersey gubernatorial race was because Jon Corzine was a weakened incumbent. Et cetera.

Then came Massachusetts.

Democrats have now gone from smug denial to absolute panic. And the explanations for what went wrong are cascading around us. Obama is suffering from an “inspiration gap.” He’s too cool and detached. He’s not angry enough. He’s not populist enough. He’s not aggressive enough. He didn’t spend enough. He wasn’t liberal enough. He didn’t jam through health-care legislation soon enough. He got into the weeds too much. Evan Thomas of Newsweek has gone from describing Obama as a “sort of God” to “being fundamentally dishonest.”

No, others say, the fault lies with the “nihilist” Right. Or Sarah Palin’s “death panel” tweet. Or the success of the obstructionist GOP in “stigmatizing” the wonders of the stimulus package. Still others, like the president, insist that because Obama was focused on so many different problems, doing good for so many people, he just plain overlooked the need to communicate with the public. Being a forgetful sort, the American public needs to be reminded how marvelous the 44th president has been.

Still others among the Democrats are turning with unalloyed fury against the American people. They were broad-minded and enlightened when they elected Barack Obama, you see — but they have suddenly become dolts. This view is embodied in the words of Joe Klein of Time, who refers to Americans as “flagrantly ill-informed” — and those watching Fox News, of course, are “misinformed.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, Joe adds this:

It is very difficult to have a democracy without citizens. It is impossible to be a citizen if you don’t make an effort to understand the most basic activities of your government. It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you’re a nation of dodos.

Klein is the same fellow who, in the aftermath of Obama’s victory, said of America: “It may no longer be as dominant, economically or diplomatically, as it once was. But it is younger, more optimistic, less cynical. It is a country that retains its ability to startle the world — and in a good way, with our freedom.” And who wrote, after Obama was sworn in as president, that his ascension to power “could force everyone to argue more carefully, to think twice before casting aspersions.”

So we’ve gone from being young, optimistic, and uncynical, with the ability to startle the world in a good way, to being a nation of dodos.

I guess aspersion-casting is back in vogue.

Read Less

Falling From Grace

In the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, panic has set in among the Democrats. Different factions are reacting in different ways. The Left is arguing that Obama was not liberal or aggressive enough. Moderates are saying Obama’s agenda was too liberal and ambitious. Some are saying it’s more imperative than ever to pass health-care legislation; others are saying that would be the worst thing to do in light of the results in the Bay State. But what they all agree on is that the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party are in a heap of trouble.

“The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda,” Politico reports, “and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger… ‘Every state is now in play,’ said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).”

It is now worth asking whether, in the wake of three pulverizing electoral losses for the Democrats — the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate race in Massachusetts — any president has done more damage to his party in a shorter period of time than has Barack Obama.

All this wreckage from the man we were told would be the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” in the words of Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas. A year ago today the liberal Harold Meyerson wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “Words Made Flesh,” referring to the description of Jesus in the gospel according to John.

Other presidents, having driven themselves into a ditch, have recovered. Whether or not Obama does depends on things we do not know. What we do know, and what we can assess, is what has unfolded over the course of the past year. And it has been — for Mr. Obama and his administration, his agenda and party, and liberalism itself — brutal.

Falls from grace usually are.

In the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, panic has set in among the Democrats. Different factions are reacting in different ways. The Left is arguing that Obama was not liberal or aggressive enough. Moderates are saying Obama’s agenda was too liberal and ambitious. Some are saying it’s more imperative than ever to pass health-care legislation; others are saying that would be the worst thing to do in light of the results in the Bay State. But what they all agree on is that the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party are in a heap of trouble.

“The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda,” Politico reports, “and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger… ‘Every state is now in play,’ said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).”

It is now worth asking whether, in the wake of three pulverizing electoral losses for the Democrats — the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate race in Massachusetts — any president has done more damage to his party in a shorter period of time than has Barack Obama.

All this wreckage from the man we were told would be the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” in the words of Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas. A year ago today the liberal Harold Meyerson wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “Words Made Flesh,” referring to the description of Jesus in the gospel according to John.

Other presidents, having driven themselves into a ditch, have recovered. Whether or not Obama does depends on things we do not know. What we do know, and what we can assess, is what has unfolded over the course of the past year. And it has been — for Mr. Obama and his administration, his agenda and party, and liberalism itself — brutal.

Falls from grace usually are.

Read Less




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