Commentary Magazine


Topic: Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr.

On this holiday honoring his birth, it is worth reminding ourselves why Martin Luther King Jr. deserves the place he holds in the American imagination.

Dr. King was — with Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln — our nation’s most effective advocate for the American ideal. How he became so is itself a fascinating story.

King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a degree in sociology. He was unhappy with his major, however, complaining about the “apathetic fallacy of statistics.” While at Morehouse, King decided to change his field of study. He entered Crozer Theological Seminary, where he absorbed the writings of political philosophers “from Plato and Aristotle,” King wrote, “down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, Mill and Locke.”

In a beautiful tribute to King, delivered at Spellman College in 1986, then secretary of education William Bennett explained why King turned to the liberal arts. In Bennett’s words:

Martin Luther King turned to the greatest philosophers because he needed to know the answers to certain questions. What is justice? What should be loved? What deserves to be defended? What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? What is man? These questions are not simply intellectual diversions, but have engaged thoughtful human beings in all places and in all ages. As a result of the ways in which these questions have been answered, civilizations have emerged, nations have developed, wars have been fought, and people have lived contentedly or miserably. And as a result of the way in which Martin Luther King eventually answered these questions, Jim Crow was destroyed and American history was transformed.

In combating segregation, King could easily have gone in a different direction than he did (nonviolent civil disobedience). There were, after all, many competing philosophies within the black community about which way to go: Booker T. Washington’s gradualism, Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Malcolm X’s appeal to black nationalism, A. Philip Randolph’s direct-action campaigns, the NAACP’s legal strategy, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Talented Tenth” approach among them.

Dr. King’s liberal-arts education helps explain why he chose the path he did. And so, too, did his Christian faith.

While Malcolm X declared that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool,” in a sermon in 1956, King argued the opposite:

Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Read More

On this holiday honoring his birth, it is worth reminding ourselves why Martin Luther King Jr. deserves the place he holds in the American imagination.

Dr. King was — with Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln — our nation’s most effective advocate for the American ideal. How he became so is itself a fascinating story.

King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a degree in sociology. He was unhappy with his major, however, complaining about the “apathetic fallacy of statistics.” While at Morehouse, King decided to change his field of study. He entered Crozer Theological Seminary, where he absorbed the writings of political philosophers “from Plato and Aristotle,” King wrote, “down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, Mill and Locke.”

In a beautiful tribute to King, delivered at Spellman College in 1986, then secretary of education William Bennett explained why King turned to the liberal arts. In Bennett’s words:

Martin Luther King turned to the greatest philosophers because he needed to know the answers to certain questions. What is justice? What should be loved? What deserves to be defended? What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? What is man? These questions are not simply intellectual diversions, but have engaged thoughtful human beings in all places and in all ages. As a result of the ways in which these questions have been answered, civilizations have emerged, nations have developed, wars have been fought, and people have lived contentedly or miserably. And as a result of the way in which Martin Luther King eventually answered these questions, Jim Crow was destroyed and American history was transformed.

In combating segregation, King could easily have gone in a different direction than he did (nonviolent civil disobedience). There were, after all, many competing philosophies within the black community about which way to go: Booker T. Washington’s gradualism, Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Malcolm X’s appeal to black nationalism, A. Philip Randolph’s direct-action campaigns, the NAACP’s legal strategy, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Talented Tenth” approach among them.

Dr. King’s liberal-arts education helps explain why he chose the path he did. And so, too, did his Christian faith.

While Malcolm X declared that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool,” in a sermon in 1956, King argued the opposite:

Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

King went on to say this:

In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. Let him know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. With this attitude you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards.

King concluded his sermon this way:

I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.

I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. This has been one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.

One of the things we learn from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, then, is that he saw great injustice and sought to confront it within the American tradition and his Christian faith rather than outside them. In that sense, King was very much like Lincoln, who consistently urged Americans to return to the truths of the Declaration of Independence and “take courage to renew the battle which [the founding] fathers began, so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land.”

We celebrate Dr. King’s birth because he was among the greatest men America ever produced, his words among the most powerful and evocative ever written. They changed the trajectory of American history for the better, and only a handful of others can make the same claim.

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Richard Cohen on the Ground Zero Mosque

Of late it has become something of a hobby of mine to point out how the left is becoming increasingly unhinged and alienated from America. The event that seems to have triggered the latest outpouring of rage is the debate about the proposal to build a mosque and community center, led by Imam Rauf, near Ground Zero. It’s not simply the debate itself that is causing the venom; it is that defenders of building the mosque are losing the argument. The public — including those in New York City, that well-known epicenter of conservatism — overwhelmingly sides with those who oppose building the mosque. This is causing some liberals to spin out of control.

The latest liberal to do so, as Jen noted earlier, is Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, who writes:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

It has become something of a cliche, I know, but no one ever put this sort of thing better than William Butler Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming.” “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Some passionate intensity from the best is past due.

Cohen is right about one thing; the Yeats quote is a cliché. But he’s wrong that those who are arguing for a compromise are bigots, demagogues, or merely uninformed. And his argument that what this debate is missing is “passionate intensity” is ludicrous. In fact, the debate has often been dominated by passion rather than by reason, as evidenced by the left’s eagerness to brand the mosque’s opponents as racists, bigots, and Islamophobes. (I have expressed concerns about what some on the right, such as Newt Gingrich, have said as well; see here and here.)

In addition, the deep, eternal meaning the left has tried to infuse this issue with — the effort to cast this debate as pitting the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness, between those who revere the Constitution and those who want to shred it — is both wrong and slightly amusing. One can imagine the lyrics of Peter, Paul, and Mary running through the minds of animated liberals everywhere. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. v. Bull Connor all over again.

This is not a debate about high constitutional principle; if it were, presumably President Obama — the icon of so many liberals and a former professor of constitutional law — would have taken a stand on where the mosque belongs. Instead, he has refused to say what he thinks. The debate is about whether it is prudent and wise for Imam Rauf to build the mosque and community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. And on this, reasonable people can disagree.

On this particular matter one other point needs to be repeated: If the point of this enterprise was to deepen interfaith dialogue and understanding, it has failed miserably. And if those insisting the mosque be built at the original location persist in their efforts — if they heed Cohen’s advice and jettison compromise as morally treasonous — things will get a good deal worse. Contrary to what some liberals are arguing, no great constitutional principle will have been ratified. Instead, a debate that is harmful to our country, including to Muslim Americans, will be intensified.

This is potentially dangerous stuff we’re dealing with — and I can’t understand why those who insist that they are pining for reconciliation and comity are pushing an idea that is doing the opposite.

Of late it has become something of a hobby of mine to point out how the left is becoming increasingly unhinged and alienated from America. The event that seems to have triggered the latest outpouring of rage is the debate about the proposal to build a mosque and community center, led by Imam Rauf, near Ground Zero. It’s not simply the debate itself that is causing the venom; it is that defenders of building the mosque are losing the argument. The public — including those in New York City, that well-known epicenter of conservatism — overwhelmingly sides with those who oppose building the mosque. This is causing some liberals to spin out of control.

The latest liberal to do so, as Jen noted earlier, is Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, who writes:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

It has become something of a cliche, I know, but no one ever put this sort of thing better than William Butler Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming.” “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Some passionate intensity from the best is past due.

Cohen is right about one thing; the Yeats quote is a cliché. But he’s wrong that those who are arguing for a compromise are bigots, demagogues, or merely uninformed. And his argument that what this debate is missing is “passionate intensity” is ludicrous. In fact, the debate has often been dominated by passion rather than by reason, as evidenced by the left’s eagerness to brand the mosque’s opponents as racists, bigots, and Islamophobes. (I have expressed concerns about what some on the right, such as Newt Gingrich, have said as well; see here and here.)

In addition, the deep, eternal meaning the left has tried to infuse this issue with — the effort to cast this debate as pitting the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness, between those who revere the Constitution and those who want to shred it — is both wrong and slightly amusing. One can imagine the lyrics of Peter, Paul, and Mary running through the minds of animated liberals everywhere. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. v. Bull Connor all over again.

This is not a debate about high constitutional principle; if it were, presumably President Obama — the icon of so many liberals and a former professor of constitutional law — would have taken a stand on where the mosque belongs. Instead, he has refused to say what he thinks. The debate is about whether it is prudent and wise for Imam Rauf to build the mosque and community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. And on this, reasonable people can disagree.

On this particular matter one other point needs to be repeated: If the point of this enterprise was to deepen interfaith dialogue and understanding, it has failed miserably. And if those insisting the mosque be built at the original location persist in their efforts — if they heed Cohen’s advice and jettison compromise as morally treasonous — things will get a good deal worse. Contrary to what some liberals are arguing, no great constitutional principle will have been ratified. Instead, a debate that is harmful to our country, including to Muslim Americans, will be intensified.

This is potentially dangerous stuff we’re dealing with — and I can’t understand why those who insist that they are pining for reconciliation and comity are pushing an idea that is doing the opposite.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

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Will They Be Silent?

Ed Koch is very upset– with Obama and with American supporters of Israel. He writes:

The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel’s needs for security and defensible borders in the lurch. I believe President Obama’s policy is to create a whole new relationship with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a counter to Iran — The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now prepared to see in possession  of a nuclear weapon. If throwing Israel under the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.

I don’t think that’s quite it. Indeed, I think it’s giving Obama a bit too much credit to suppose he’s devising an anti-Iran alliance. For after all, the Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq are looking for (and frankly now despairing over the lack of) American resolve in opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Obama’s queasiness about serious sanctions or use of force is hardly endearing him to these nations. Rather, it seems that Obama’s anti-Israel agenda stems, first, from a genuine lack of simpatico with the Jewish state and an abundance of the same for the Palestinians (who, as many Leftists do, he analogizes to oppressed Third World people or American slaves), and, second, from a desire to deter Israel from taking unilateral action against Iran.

What Koch does get right is the “lack of outrage on the part of Israel’s most ardent supporters.” He explains:

Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak statements against Obama’s mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all. The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to criticize President Obama.

What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders – Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.” Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent.

There will be a moment of clarity, I think, when (I suppose “if” is more accurate) Obama ever reaches an international deal for his gruel-thin sanctions against Iran — and simultaneously opposes (or chooses not to utilize) congressional authorization for refined-petroleum sanctions. Will the American Jewish community play along, pretending this is a serious effort to force the mullahs to give up their nuclear weapons? Or will they firmly and loudly finally (and with threat of withholding electoral and financial support) cry foul? After all, such nibbling sanctions are in a sense worse than “engagement.” By pretending to do something, Obama will only afford the mullahs more time to advance their nuclear program and ratchet up the pressure on Israel to hold off on any military action. We’ll see what supposed leaders in the Jewish community do, but I am afraid Koch is correct and we’ll hear a whole lot of silence.

Ed Koch is very upset– with Obama and with American supporters of Israel. He writes:

The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel’s needs for security and defensible borders in the lurch. I believe President Obama’s policy is to create a whole new relationship with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a counter to Iran — The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now prepared to see in possession  of a nuclear weapon. If throwing Israel under the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.

I don’t think that’s quite it. Indeed, I think it’s giving Obama a bit too much credit to suppose he’s devising an anti-Iran alliance. For after all, the Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq are looking for (and frankly now despairing over the lack of) American resolve in opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Obama’s queasiness about serious sanctions or use of force is hardly endearing him to these nations. Rather, it seems that Obama’s anti-Israel agenda stems, first, from a genuine lack of simpatico with the Jewish state and an abundance of the same for the Palestinians (who, as many Leftists do, he analogizes to oppressed Third World people or American slaves), and, second, from a desire to deter Israel from taking unilateral action against Iran.

What Koch does get right is the “lack of outrage on the part of Israel’s most ardent supporters.” He explains:

Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak statements against Obama’s mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all. The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to criticize President Obama.

What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders – Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.” Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent.

There will be a moment of clarity, I think, when (I suppose “if” is more accurate) Obama ever reaches an international deal for his gruel-thin sanctions against Iran — and simultaneously opposes (or chooses not to utilize) congressional authorization for refined-petroleum sanctions. Will the American Jewish community play along, pretending this is a serious effort to force the mullahs to give up their nuclear weapons? Or will they firmly and loudly finally (and with threat of withholding electoral and financial support) cry foul? After all, such nibbling sanctions are in a sense worse than “engagement.” By pretending to do something, Obama will only afford the mullahs more time to advance their nuclear program and ratchet up the pressure on Israel to hold off on any military action. We’ll see what supposed leaders in the Jewish community do, but I am afraid Koch is correct and we’ll hear a whole lot of silence.

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Nobel Speech

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

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Bill Clinton: EMT

There’s no reason to think the following is a fabrication. But two days ago Bill Clinton painted a pretty dramatic picture of his involvement in the aftermath of the 1968 D.C. riots brought on by Martin Luther King’s Assassination:

Then, I was in Washington at Georgetown, the city exploded into flames and I turned my car into an ambulance and I took supplies to the African Americans that were burned out of their homes and were hiding in church basements basically trying to stay alive, and surrounded by national guardsmen protecting them.

Clinton gave that account in Indianapolis on Wednesday. In reporting on Bill’s appearance in North Carolina today, the Winston-Salem Journal describes him recalling a less colorful narrative of his heroics after King was shot:

“He later joined with Red Cross volunteers to take supplies to inner-city Washington,” the paper simply reports.

Might someone have suggested Bill tone the tale down a bit after Snipergate?

There’s no reason to think the following is a fabrication. But two days ago Bill Clinton painted a pretty dramatic picture of his involvement in the aftermath of the 1968 D.C. riots brought on by Martin Luther King’s Assassination:

Then, I was in Washington at Georgetown, the city exploded into flames and I turned my car into an ambulance and I took supplies to the African Americans that were burned out of their homes and were hiding in church basements basically trying to stay alive, and surrounded by national guardsmen protecting them.

Clinton gave that account in Indianapolis on Wednesday. In reporting on Bill’s appearance in North Carolina today, the Winston-Salem Journal describes him recalling a less colorful narrative of his heroics after King was shot:

“He later joined with Red Cross volunteers to take supplies to inner-city Washington,” the paper simply reports.

Might someone have suggested Bill tone the tale down a bit after Snipergate?

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Dionne, Confused

The Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote a deeply confused column today. I had several thoughts on it.

1. Dionne’s column quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remarks in 1968, referring to Vietnam as a “senseless, unjust war” and saying, “We are criminals in that war.” Dionne then writes that he doesn’t cite King in order to justify “Wright’s damnation of America.” But of course he implicitly does. Dionne’s whole point in saying that “Right-wing commentators would use the material to argue that King was anti-American and to discredit his call for racial and class justice” and “King certainly angered a lot of people at the time” was to imply that Wright and King are comparable. Hence the title of Dionne’s column: “Another Angry Black Preacher.”

2. Does Dionne think “right-wing commentators” are wrong to use Wright’s comments to discredit him? Dionne seems to think they are-even as Dionne himself lacerates Wright for his “lunatic and pernicious theories.” Perhaps Dionne thinks it’s only appropriate for liberals to criticize Wright.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. did have harsh things to say about America-and one can disagree profoundly with his words. But one key difference between King and Wright is that King, while he was a harsh critic of certain policies (like Vietnam and segregation), believed in the promise of America and its capacity for redemption and improvement. He tried to call it to its better self. Wright, from everything we can tell, presents a fundamental indictment of America. As I pointed out in a previous post, the thrust of King’s teachings was that America was falling short of its promise — but that America, perhaps alone in the world, was the place where the promissory note could be fulfilled.

And of course King did not believe in crazy conspiracy theories (for example, that America is responsible for AIDS and wants to use it to promote genocide). Nor did King ever ask God to “damn” America. Nor did he seem to delight in the injuries we suffered. In addition, King urged us not to drink from “the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Does Dionne believe the same can be said of that “other angry black preacher”?

4. Dionne insists he didn’t cite King “to justify Wright’s damnation of America or his lunatic and pernicious theories but to suggest that Obama’s pastor and his church are not as far outside the African American mainstream as many would suggest.” Dionne later writes that he “loathes the anti-American things Wright said.” What Dionne is arguing, then, is that lunatic and pernicious theories and loathsome anti-Americanism is near the African-American mainstream. Pace Dionne, I desperately hope that is not the case. But if it is, and if black liberation theology as embodied by Wright is as prevalent as Dionne suggests, then I hope Dionne, a leading liberal voice, will give up the argument that Wright is “operating within a long tradition of African American outrage.” The difference is that most of the tradition of African American outrage was justified and noble; Wright’s outrage is (to use Dionne’s words) “lunatic,” “pernicious,” and something we should “loathe.”

5. Dionne writes, “I would ask my conservative friends who praise King so lavishly to search their conscience and wonder if they would have stood up for him in 1968.” I would in turn ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly to search their conscience and wonder if they would have stood up for King in, say, 1963, when King argued for a color-blind society in law as well as attitudes (many contemporary liberals obsess on race and support racial quotas and preferences). I would also ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly if they would have stood up for King when he made explicit appeals to God’s law and natural law and tied morality to the Scriptures (many contemporary liberals are deeply secular and have utter contempt for those who link morality to religion). And I would ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly today if they would have stood up for King when he anchored his case for the American dream in an appeal to America’s common culture and common values and in King’s appeal to our founding principles and the Declaration of Independence (many contemporary liberals have embraced multiculturalism and have deep animus for “dead white men”).

In a desperate attempt to defend Barack Obama, intelligent liberals like E.J. Dionne, Jr. have to deal with the matter of Jeremiah Wright. It’s not an easy task — and in his attempt to both castigate Wright and tie him to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dionne demonstrates just how difficult their undertaking is. Wright and Obama have badly hurt themselves in this whole episode — and those who are attempting to come to their aid are as well.

The Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote a deeply confused column today. I had several thoughts on it.

1. Dionne’s column quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remarks in 1968, referring to Vietnam as a “senseless, unjust war” and saying, “We are criminals in that war.” Dionne then writes that he doesn’t cite King in order to justify “Wright’s damnation of America.” But of course he implicitly does. Dionne’s whole point in saying that “Right-wing commentators would use the material to argue that King was anti-American and to discredit his call for racial and class justice” and “King certainly angered a lot of people at the time” was to imply that Wright and King are comparable. Hence the title of Dionne’s column: “Another Angry Black Preacher.”

2. Does Dionne think “right-wing commentators” are wrong to use Wright’s comments to discredit him? Dionne seems to think they are-even as Dionne himself lacerates Wright for his “lunatic and pernicious theories.” Perhaps Dionne thinks it’s only appropriate for liberals to criticize Wright.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. did have harsh things to say about America-and one can disagree profoundly with his words. But one key difference between King and Wright is that King, while he was a harsh critic of certain policies (like Vietnam and segregation), believed in the promise of America and its capacity for redemption and improvement. He tried to call it to its better self. Wright, from everything we can tell, presents a fundamental indictment of America. As I pointed out in a previous post, the thrust of King’s teachings was that America was falling short of its promise — but that America, perhaps alone in the world, was the place where the promissory note could be fulfilled.

And of course King did not believe in crazy conspiracy theories (for example, that America is responsible for AIDS and wants to use it to promote genocide). Nor did King ever ask God to “damn” America. Nor did he seem to delight in the injuries we suffered. In addition, King urged us not to drink from “the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Does Dionne believe the same can be said of that “other angry black preacher”?

4. Dionne insists he didn’t cite King “to justify Wright’s damnation of America or his lunatic and pernicious theories but to suggest that Obama’s pastor and his church are not as far outside the African American mainstream as many would suggest.” Dionne later writes that he “loathes the anti-American things Wright said.” What Dionne is arguing, then, is that lunatic and pernicious theories and loathsome anti-Americanism is near the African-American mainstream. Pace Dionne, I desperately hope that is not the case. But if it is, and if black liberation theology as embodied by Wright is as prevalent as Dionne suggests, then I hope Dionne, a leading liberal voice, will give up the argument that Wright is “operating within a long tradition of African American outrage.” The difference is that most of the tradition of African American outrage was justified and noble; Wright’s outrage is (to use Dionne’s words) “lunatic,” “pernicious,” and something we should “loathe.”

5. Dionne writes, “I would ask my conservative friends who praise King so lavishly to search their conscience and wonder if they would have stood up for him in 1968.” I would in turn ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly to search their conscience and wonder if they would have stood up for King in, say, 1963, when King argued for a color-blind society in law as well as attitudes (many contemporary liberals obsess on race and support racial quotas and preferences). I would also ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly if they would have stood up for King when he made explicit appeals to God’s law and natural law and tied morality to the Scriptures (many contemporary liberals are deeply secular and have utter contempt for those who link morality to religion). And I would ask my liberal friends who praise King so lavishly today if they would have stood up for King when he anchored his case for the American dream in an appeal to America’s common culture and common values and in King’s appeal to our founding principles and the Declaration of Independence (many contemporary liberals have embraced multiculturalism and have deep animus for “dead white men”).

In a desperate attempt to defend Barack Obama, intelligent liberals like E.J. Dionne, Jr. have to deal with the matter of Jeremiah Wright. It’s not an easy task — and in his attempt to both castigate Wright and tie him to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dionne demonstrates just how difficult their undertaking is. Wright and Obama have badly hurt themselves in this whole episode — and those who are attempting to come to their aid are as well.

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Hillary’s Wright Moment

Given the mostly positive response that Barack Obama’s speech on race in America has received in the media, it looks as though Obama will be able to put the anti-American and racist comments of his preacher, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, behind him. While Obama’s handling of this controversy provides yet another example of his impressive political skills, the very fact that he had to address Wright’s comments at all always seemed rather unfair. After all, of the two Democrats still contending for the presidency, Obama is the only candidate not to make incendiary comments in a black church.

Indeed, recall Hillary’s speech during a Martin Luther King Day ceremony at a Harlem church in 2006: Hillary declared, “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I’m talking about!” At the moment this statement was made, the audience fell virtually silent, while public outrage ensued. Yet in contrast to Obama’s apology for comments he didn’t make, Hillary refused to apologize for her actual race-baiting, saying, “I’ve said that before, and I believe it is an accurate description of the kind of top-down way that the House of Representatives is run that denies meaningful debate.”

Of course, the media’s failure to mention Hillary’s own abuse of the pulpit isn’t the first time that she has been given a pass for blatant race-baiting as a strategy for courting the African-American vote. At a debate hosted by Howard University in June 2007, Hillary said, “If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.” Despite the disturbingly conspiratorial nature of this statement, The New York Times’ Bob Herbert applauded it; the New York Observer cast it as a debate highlight; National Journal called it “inspired”; and it otherwise received minimal coverage.

In short, when will Hillary Clinton’s racially infused rhetoric receive the same scrutiny to which Obama’s associates have been subjected?

Given the mostly positive response that Barack Obama’s speech on race in America has received in the media, it looks as though Obama will be able to put the anti-American and racist comments of his preacher, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, behind him. While Obama’s handling of this controversy provides yet another example of his impressive political skills, the very fact that he had to address Wright’s comments at all always seemed rather unfair. After all, of the two Democrats still contending for the presidency, Obama is the only candidate not to make incendiary comments in a black church.

Indeed, recall Hillary’s speech during a Martin Luther King Day ceremony at a Harlem church in 2006: Hillary declared, “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I’m talking about!” At the moment this statement was made, the audience fell virtually silent, while public outrage ensued. Yet in contrast to Obama’s apology for comments he didn’t make, Hillary refused to apologize for her actual race-baiting, saying, “I’ve said that before, and I believe it is an accurate description of the kind of top-down way that the House of Representatives is run that denies meaningful debate.”

Of course, the media’s failure to mention Hillary’s own abuse of the pulpit isn’t the first time that she has been given a pass for blatant race-baiting as a strategy for courting the African-American vote. At a debate hosted by Howard University in June 2007, Hillary said, “If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.” Despite the disturbingly conspiratorial nature of this statement, The New York Times’ Bob Herbert applauded it; the New York Observer cast it as a debate highlight; National Journal called it “inspired”; and it otherwise received minimal coverage.

In short, when will Hillary Clinton’s racially infused rhetoric receive the same scrutiny to which Obama’s associates have been subjected?

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Bill’s Nap

Being cranky and needing a nap is no way for Bill Clinton to help his wife grab the youth vote from Barack Obama. And snoozing center-stage during a Baptist service in honor of Martin Luther King isn’t going to help Hillary pick up black votes, either. At this point why is the Hillary camp even torturing the man who’s beginning to resemble Bill Clinton’s grandfather into working for them?

Funnily enough, today’s Washington Post ran a story entitled “The Other Clinton Is an Absent Presence.” It isn’t about his sleeping, but, rather, about Bill Clinton’s supposedly invisible influence in Hillary’s campaign lately. Perhaps not invisible enough.

The piece asserts what everyone already knows: Obama is running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Post quotes Hillary:

“I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf, and I appreciate that,” she said. “He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country, and what’s at stake and what our future should be.” She added that “this campaign is not about our spouses.”

But for now it is partly about Bill Clinton.

And Bill Clinton is only partly awake. Which may prove the Post’s point. The article claims that Bill is behind a lot of the nastiness directed at Obama lately, and one should keep that in mind when considering the following Bill Clinton quote from a Jon Stewart Show appearance in September:

“You have no idea how many Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate are chronically sleep deprived because of this system . . . I know this is an unusual theory but I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today.”

Tears, outbursts, and narcolepsy. Is this what all boomers have to look forward to as they hit retirement age?

Being cranky and needing a nap is no way for Bill Clinton to help his wife grab the youth vote from Barack Obama. And snoozing center-stage during a Baptist service in honor of Martin Luther King isn’t going to help Hillary pick up black votes, either. At this point why is the Hillary camp even torturing the man who’s beginning to resemble Bill Clinton’s grandfather into working for them?

Funnily enough, today’s Washington Post ran a story entitled “The Other Clinton Is an Absent Presence.” It isn’t about his sleeping, but, rather, about Bill Clinton’s supposedly invisible influence in Hillary’s campaign lately. Perhaps not invisible enough.

The piece asserts what everyone already knows: Obama is running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. The Post quotes Hillary:

“I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf, and I appreciate that,” she said. “He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country, and what’s at stake and what our future should be.” She added that “this campaign is not about our spouses.”

But for now it is partly about Bill Clinton.

And Bill Clinton is only partly awake. Which may prove the Post’s point. The article claims that Bill is behind a lot of the nastiness directed at Obama lately, and one should keep that in mind when considering the following Bill Clinton quote from a Jon Stewart Show appearance in September:

“You have no idea how many Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate are chronically sleep deprived because of this system . . . I know this is an unusual theory but I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today.”

Tears, outbursts, and narcolepsy. Is this what all boomers have to look forward to as they hit retirement age?

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Martin Luther King Day at the CIA

Back in April, CIA director Michael Hayden declared racial and ethnic diversity to be a “a mission-critical objective.” The agency is evidently making significant progress toward that end. “[O]ne-third of the officers who have joined CIA since the beginning of this fiscal year identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities, a significant increase over the figures for the past two fiscal years,” reported CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes to a standing-room-only crowd at the agency’s celebration of Martin Luther King day.

But is the affirmative action program truly proceeding smoothly? There are hints that it is not. As the CIA becomes more diverse, it evidently has had to work harder to build “diversity awareness.” Among other initiatives, the agency’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs has been compelled to enhance its efforts at “engendering an environment based on trust and wedded to inclusion.”

How does it accomplish that? It sponsors “’Love ‘em or Lose ‘em’ and ‘SatisfACTION Power’ workshops,” which it then follows up with intensive “reinforcement activities.” In other words, the CIA has had to invest a great deal of energy in establishing a reign of political correctness among its spies.

Connecting the Dots is left wondering if time and resources would be better spent teaching agents the languages that terrorists speak, like Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, where it continues to have critical shortages.

Connecting the Dots also wants to know if the politically-correct “reinforcement activities” the CIA inflicts on its own agents are more painful than the interrogation techniques its employs against America’s adversaries.

Another questions might also be posed: does any or all of this CIA affirmative-action activity make the United States safer today than we were on September 12, 2001?

Back in April, CIA director Michael Hayden declared racial and ethnic diversity to be a “a mission-critical objective.” The agency is evidently making significant progress toward that end. “[O]ne-third of the officers who have joined CIA since the beginning of this fiscal year identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities, a significant increase over the figures for the past two fiscal years,” reported CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes to a standing-room-only crowd at the agency’s celebration of Martin Luther King day.

But is the affirmative action program truly proceeding smoothly? There are hints that it is not. As the CIA becomes more diverse, it evidently has had to work harder to build “diversity awareness.” Among other initiatives, the agency’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs has been compelled to enhance its efforts at “engendering an environment based on trust and wedded to inclusion.”

How does it accomplish that? It sponsors “’Love ‘em or Lose ‘em’ and ‘SatisfACTION Power’ workshops,” which it then follows up with intensive “reinforcement activities.” In other words, the CIA has had to invest a great deal of energy in establishing a reign of political correctness among its spies.

Connecting the Dots is left wondering if time and resources would be better spent teaching agents the languages that terrorists speak, like Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, where it continues to have critical shortages.

Connecting the Dots also wants to know if the politically-correct “reinforcement activities” the CIA inflicts on its own agents are more painful than the interrogation techniques its employs against America’s adversaries.

Another questions might also be posed: does any or all of this CIA affirmative-action activity make the United States safer today than we were on September 12, 2001?

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The Democrat’s Unseemly Race Thing

From Hillary’s Kentucky-fried stump speech, to Oprah’s unsettlingly delirious endorsement of Obama, to Hillary’s invocation of Martin Luther King’s ghost, to Obama’s Afrocentric church, and on and on . . .

Forget talk about the race card; the whole deck has been compromised, and the Democratic showdown has become the most unseemly sociopolitical spectacle in recent memory. This blight on America’s reputation as a trailblazing plurality harkens straight back to the Tom Wolfe nineteen-eighties—but it’s worse.

The full-blown multiculturalism of the nineties and naughts was supposed to have delivered us from our silly prejudices into the great Benetton rainbow of modern citizenship. Instead it put a lid on many legitimate questions facing the diverse polity that is twenty-first century America. Simultaneously, the new rules offered a how-to manual for pundits waiting on the sidelines hoping to catch public figures being “intolerant.”

Hillary Clinton’s no-holds-barred ambition, and Barack Obama’s—it has to be said—audacity have ripped the lid off the great jar of gripes, and now, a nation in a genuine war for its survival is being urged to choose their next leader by pouring over the daily parsings and damage control measures of the candidates. In 2004, the Democrats could only run against George Bush, and it cost them the White House; this time around they’ve launched a tawdry War of The Roses for which they’ll pay heavily.

From Hillary’s Kentucky-fried stump speech, to Oprah’s unsettlingly delirious endorsement of Obama, to Hillary’s invocation of Martin Luther King’s ghost, to Obama’s Afrocentric church, and on and on . . .

Forget talk about the race card; the whole deck has been compromised, and the Democratic showdown has become the most unseemly sociopolitical spectacle in recent memory. This blight on America’s reputation as a trailblazing plurality harkens straight back to the Tom Wolfe nineteen-eighties—but it’s worse.

The full-blown multiculturalism of the nineties and naughts was supposed to have delivered us from our silly prejudices into the great Benetton rainbow of modern citizenship. Instead it put a lid on many legitimate questions facing the diverse polity that is twenty-first century America. Simultaneously, the new rules offered a how-to manual for pundits waiting on the sidelines hoping to catch public figures being “intolerant.”

Hillary Clinton’s no-holds-barred ambition, and Barack Obama’s—it has to be said—audacity have ripped the lid off the great jar of gripes, and now, a nation in a genuine war for its survival is being urged to choose their next leader by pouring over the daily parsings and damage control measures of the candidates. In 2004, the Democrats could only run against George Bush, and it cost them the White House; this time around they’ve launched a tawdry War of The Roses for which they’ll pay heavily.

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Mitt Romney’s Boilerplate Mistake

So Mitt Romney, facing the rise of Mike Huckabee’s Christian-centric campaign in Iowa and judging that the Huckabee surge is related to discomfort with Romney’s Mormonism, gave his much-anticipated speech on faith this morning. It’s perfectly fine Republican boilerplate — faith must inform our views but it does not guide them, the public square should not be naked, our Founders believed in religion and yet even they had to deal with intolerance toward minority faiths, Martin Luther King was really very good, etc. etc. Many commentators on the Right are praising the speech, but I fear they’re grading on a curve; strictly as a matter of rhetoric, it tended toward the bland. The only genuinely novel aspect of it was the addition of the Mormon trail to a brief account of the history of religious intolerance in America (“Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths…”).

The key passage is this:

I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin….

If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field. (The only response so far comparable to mine is David Frum’s, though his typically trenchant criticism has more to do with the underlying meaning of the speech.)

So Mitt Romney, facing the rise of Mike Huckabee’s Christian-centric campaign in Iowa and judging that the Huckabee surge is related to discomfort with Romney’s Mormonism, gave his much-anticipated speech on faith this morning. It’s perfectly fine Republican boilerplate — faith must inform our views but it does not guide them, the public square should not be naked, our Founders believed in religion and yet even they had to deal with intolerance toward minority faiths, Martin Luther King was really very good, etc. etc. Many commentators on the Right are praising the speech, but I fear they’re grading on a curve; strictly as a matter of rhetoric, it tended toward the bland. The only genuinely novel aspect of it was the addition of the Mormon trail to a brief account of the history of religious intolerance in America (“Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths…”).

The key passage is this:

I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin….

If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field. (The only response so far comparable to mine is David Frum’s, though his typically trenchant criticism has more to do with the underlying meaning of the speech.)

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Be A Divider, Not A Uniter

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Senator Barack Obama claims he can move the country out of “ideological gridlock” and bring the country together more effectively than can Senator Hillary Clinton. This declaration is consistent with Obama’s broader claim, which is that he will put an end to “polarizing politics.”

Obama is attempting to tap into something real, which is the reluctance on the part of many Americans to be drawn back into the psychodramas of the Clinton years: Ken Starr and Kathleen Willey; private investigators hired to look into the private lives of women alleged to have had affairs with Bill Clinton; the (still-resonating) charge of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”; and the brass-knuckle tactics of James Carville, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal, and others. Most of us would like that chapter of American politics to stay closed.

At the same time, the claim that a divided America is somehow “bad” is itself intellectually sloppy. Most of us prefer social harmony to discord—but unity is not the only, or even the highest good in politics. Was there a more divisive and reviled president than Lincoln, who uprooted the centuries-old institution of slavery? The biographer Robert Jackson wrote that after Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for a brief period, “the lines began to separate between those in whom he inspired an all-out devotion and those in whom he aroused an implacable hatred.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was “the object of bitter hatred.” And in 1984 the pollster Lou Harris claimed that Ronald Reagan was polarizing the country more than any president since FDR.

“Conviction politicians” are often polarizing because they take ideas seriously and are willing to do battle on their behalf. And often the greatest advances in history come about only after contentious political debates led by brave and, yes, polarizing political leaders.

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Senator Barack Obama claims he can move the country out of “ideological gridlock” and bring the country together more effectively than can Senator Hillary Clinton. This declaration is consistent with Obama’s broader claim, which is that he will put an end to “polarizing politics.”

Obama is attempting to tap into something real, which is the reluctance on the part of many Americans to be drawn back into the psychodramas of the Clinton years: Ken Starr and Kathleen Willey; private investigators hired to look into the private lives of women alleged to have had affairs with Bill Clinton; the (still-resonating) charge of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”; and the brass-knuckle tactics of James Carville, Paul Begala, Sidney Blumenthal, and others. Most of us would like that chapter of American politics to stay closed.

At the same time, the claim that a divided America is somehow “bad” is itself intellectually sloppy. Most of us prefer social harmony to discord—but unity is not the only, or even the highest good in politics. Was there a more divisive and reviled president than Lincoln, who uprooted the centuries-old institution of slavery? The biographer Robert Jackson wrote that after Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for a brief period, “the lines began to separate between those in whom he inspired an all-out devotion and those in whom he aroused an implacable hatred.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was “the object of bitter hatred.” And in 1984 the pollster Lou Harris claimed that Ronald Reagan was polarizing the country more than any president since FDR.

“Conviction politicians” are often polarizing because they take ideas seriously and are willing to do battle on their behalf. And often the greatest advances in history come about only after contentious political debates led by brave and, yes, polarizing political leaders.

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Remembering Oskar Morawetz

The New York media have paid scant attention to the passing of the Czech-born Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz (1917-2007), who died this month at 90. One of Canada’s few internationally known composers, Morawetz wrote in an accessibly melodic style and disputed the notion that contemporary classical music needed to be abstruse, famously saying “I can’t agree with these people who say you have to listen to a work ten to fifteen times to understand it; if I don’t like a piece of food, I don’t eat it ten more times to persuade myself that I do.”

The most widely known recording of Morawetz’s music is undoubtedly Glenn Gould’s recording of his dynamic, urban, and humorous Fantasy for piano on Sony/ BMG. The Fantasy is very Czech in spirit, recalling the writings of Karel Čapek or Jaroslav Hašek. And Gould’s recording is very enjoyable, although Morawetz carped at the liberties in tempo and dynamics Gould took, causing the pianist to exclaim: “The trouble with you, Oskar, is you don’t understand your own music!”

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The New York media have paid scant attention to the passing of the Czech-born Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz (1917-2007), who died this month at 90. One of Canada’s few internationally known composers, Morawetz wrote in an accessibly melodic style and disputed the notion that contemporary classical music needed to be abstruse, famously saying “I can’t agree with these people who say you have to listen to a work ten to fifteen times to understand it; if I don’t like a piece of food, I don’t eat it ten more times to persuade myself that I do.”

The most widely known recording of Morawetz’s music is undoubtedly Glenn Gould’s recording of his dynamic, urban, and humorous Fantasy for piano on Sony/ BMG. The Fantasy is very Czech in spirit, recalling the writings of Karel Čapek or Jaroslav Hašek. And Gould’s recording is very enjoyable, although Morawetz carped at the liberties in tempo and dynamics Gould took, causing the pianist to exclaim: “The trouble with you, Oskar, is you don’t understand your own music!”

Morawetz composed a meditative concerto for harp (an instrument that rarely seems pensive) available on CBC Records, and a rambunctious Carnival Overture in the tradition of Dvorák, available on Naxos, and a deft, angular clarinet sonata (sensitively played by the virtuoso soloist Joaquin Valdepeñas) on CD from Musica Viva. Morawetz also wrote more somber works inspired by historical figures such as Anne Frank and Martin Luther King; these are frequently performed, although they lack the appealing lightness of his other compositions. Prone to severe depression, Morawetz composed sprightly works with an element of triumph over his natural low spirits, born of a lifetime of historical and personal struggle. A longtime bachelor, he embarked at the age of 40 on a miserable marriage lasting a quarter-century, through which he continued to compose. Only the death of his mother ten years ago at the age of 103 silenced him.

Lest Canada feel too proprietary about his achievements, it is useful to recall that Morawetz was almost refused admission as a refugee. Canada’s wartime director of immigration, Frederick Charles Blair, blocked the entry of all but a paltry 5,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis between 1933 and 1939 (by comparison, Mexico accepted around 20,000 escapees from Hitler and the U.S. around 140,000). When asked how many imperiled Jews Canada should offer refuge to, Blair notoriously replied, “None is too many.” Still, Morawetz was finally allowed to join his family in Toronto in June 1940.

An apt memorial tribute to Oskar Morawetz would be the long-overdue transfer to CD of a brilliant recording on Capitol Records of his Piano Concerto No. 1 by the Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (led by another Czech-born refugee, Walter Susskind). Morawetz (a trained pianist) made his own recordings of piano pieces like Scherzo and Scherzino, which would also be well worth transferring to CD. CBC Records, which has kept a quantity of other Morawetz CD’s in print, should consider releasing these valuable documents of his talent.

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