Commentary Magazine


Topic: San Francisco

Meltdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s Really Wrong With the Dems

In today’s Times of London, Gerard Baker takes the direct approach to election analysis:

There’s a popular view among Democrats and the media establishment that the reason for the party’s current disarray is that it just happens to have two most extraordinary candidates: talented, attractive, and in their gender and race, excitingly new. But there’s an alternative explanation, which I suspect the voters have grasped rather better than their necromancers in the media. Both are losers.

It’s hard to call either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton losers, frankly. But whether or not they’re closers remains to be seen. Baker points, I think rightly, to character as a potential Achilles’ heel for both Democrats.

On Obama:

He tells the mavens of San Francisco one thing and the great unwashed of Pennsylvania another. In defending his long relationship with the Rev Jeremiah Wright, he shopped his own grandmother, comparing the reverend’s views . . .to his grandmother’s occasionally expressed fears about the potential of being the victim of crime at the hands of an African-American.

On Hillary:

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been busy shedding the final vestiges of shame and honesty in her desperate attempt to save her candidacy. She has abandoned any pretence of a message, and simply seized on every opening presented to her by her opponent. . . . It’s hard to know what’s worse – expressing condescending views about the working class or pretending to be one of them.

Baker pronounces: “The Democratic campaign is simply disappearing in the enveloping vapidity of the candidates’ making.” Vapid–yes. But disappearing? Not hardly. This fight isn’t ending anytime soon.

In today’s Times of London, Gerard Baker takes the direct approach to election analysis:

There’s a popular view among Democrats and the media establishment that the reason for the party’s current disarray is that it just happens to have two most extraordinary candidates: talented, attractive, and in their gender and race, excitingly new. But there’s an alternative explanation, which I suspect the voters have grasped rather better than their necromancers in the media. Both are losers.

It’s hard to call either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton losers, frankly. But whether or not they’re closers remains to be seen. Baker points, I think rightly, to character as a potential Achilles’ heel for both Democrats.

On Obama:

He tells the mavens of San Francisco one thing and the great unwashed of Pennsylvania another. In defending his long relationship with the Rev Jeremiah Wright, he shopped his own grandmother, comparing the reverend’s views . . .to his grandmother’s occasionally expressed fears about the potential of being the victim of crime at the hands of an African-American.

On Hillary:

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been busy shedding the final vestiges of shame and honesty in her desperate attempt to save her candidacy. She has abandoned any pretence of a message, and simply seized on every opening presented to her by her opponent. . . . It’s hard to know what’s worse – expressing condescending views about the working class or pretending to be one of them.

Baker pronounces: “The Democratic campaign is simply disappearing in the enveloping vapidity of the candidates’ making.” Vapid–yes. But disappearing? Not hardly. This fight isn’t ending anytime soon.

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“Patriotic” Chinese Protests

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

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Obama’s America

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

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She’s On A Roll . . .

Hillary Clinton is just getting warmed up. She hits all the highlights here : San Francisco elites, guns, faith, and even a suggestion that Barack Obama shares George Bush’s alleged cluelessness about “invisible” people. When a campaign catches a break, a big one, the candidate usually starts to look and sound better, and Clinton is all but but tap dancing. And why not? If this poll is right, she’s caught a wave.

Hillary Clinton is just getting warmed up. She hits all the highlights here : San Francisco elites, guns, faith, and even a suggestion that Barack Obama shares George Bush’s alleged cluelessness about “invisible” people. When a campaign catches a break, a big one, the candidate usually starts to look and sound better, and Clinton is all but but tap dancing. And why not? If this poll is right, she’s caught a wave.

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Why Doesn’t This Work?

This ad, a fairly blatant attempt to repair Snob-gate damage, almost seems to worsen the fix Barack Obama is now in. “End the division” flashes on the screen. Really? His nasty put-down of rural Pennsylvanians to a crowd of San Francisco donors is precisely the type of divisive politics the ad is criticizing.

Obama’s billing as the post-racial, post-partisan Agent of Change seems to have lost its punch somewhere between Reverend Wright’s sermons and Obama’s dishing the dirt on rural folk with the in-crowd in San Francisco. The problem with being all things to all people (liberation theology congregant to black Chicago, erudite sociologist to Bay Area liberals, and Great Uniter to the rest of the country) is that, in the age of new media, anyone can all put the pieces together and reach a fairly obvious conclusion: Obama is telling everyone a different story. (He might do better to follow James Carville’s advice.) How old school. How–dare I say it?–Clintonian.

This ad, a fairly blatant attempt to repair Snob-gate damage, almost seems to worsen the fix Barack Obama is now in. “End the division” flashes on the screen. Really? His nasty put-down of rural Pennsylvanians to a crowd of San Francisco donors is precisely the type of divisive politics the ad is criticizing.

Obama’s billing as the post-racial, post-partisan Agent of Change seems to have lost its punch somewhere between Reverend Wright’s sermons and Obama’s dishing the dirt on rural folk with the in-crowd in San Francisco. The problem with being all things to all people (liberation theology congregant to black Chicago, erudite sociologist to Bay Area liberals, and Great Uniter to the rest of the country) is that, in the age of new media, anyone can all put the pieces together and reach a fairly obvious conclusion: Obama is telling everyone a different story. (He might do better to follow James Carville’s advice.) How old school. How–dare I say it?–Clintonian.

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That Only Works If You Are Blameless

After a weekend of horrible press and an appearance by Hillary Clinton at Compassion Forum where she zapped him in words that would make Karl Rove grin (“Someone goes to a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing.”), Barack Obama seems poised to go forward with a well-worn tactic: trying to counterpunch and throw the press off their target (him) by attacking his opponent.

Sunday night Obama declared Hillary Clinton “should know better” and labeled her “shameless.” The obvious retort: so? (Sure, she is capitalizing on his error – because his blunder was giant, ugly and easily understood.)

Clinton’s spokesman replied more expansively:

“Sen. Clinton does know better — she knows better than to condescend and talk down to voters like Senator Obama did. Senator Obama’s outburst won’t change the fact that he has embraced his characterization of the millions of Americans who live in small towns.”

Today Obama continues that gambit in a speech, once again only admitting that his choice of words was clumsy and attacking Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the ones out of touch on economics.

You see, Obama’s ploy only works when a candidate doesn’t have a problem of his own with the voters. (This poll suggests he does.) Here, Obama’s problem is not an issue of comparison with Clinton (e.g. who is holier than thou on trade or who is worse on defending the Second Amendment), but rather his own rapport with Pennsylvania voters. She didn’t call them irrational gun-toting, Bible thumpers; he did. ( And ridiculing her in personal terms risks getting those women voters in an uproar, just as he did with his “you’re likeable enoughbon mot.)

If voters are going to forgive and forget they won’t do it because Hillary is being Hillary. Obama’s got to make nice with them. But he seems unwilling to do that because, at bottom, he really doesn’t think he did anything wrong. This is becoming standard operating procedure for Obama. (Associate with a racist; lecture the country on racial unity. Insult a state; lecture us about the mindset of rural Americans.) Lots of lectures and changing the subject; never a full-throated apology.

In that debate this Wednesday when Hillary, as we know she will, asks him to apologize to the statement he will need to do better than “you’re a fake.” We’ve already heard that. For once, we’d like to hear about him.

After a weekend of horrible press and an appearance by Hillary Clinton at Compassion Forum where she zapped him in words that would make Karl Rove grin (“Someone goes to a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing.”), Barack Obama seems poised to go forward with a well-worn tactic: trying to counterpunch and throw the press off their target (him) by attacking his opponent.

Sunday night Obama declared Hillary Clinton “should know better” and labeled her “shameless.” The obvious retort: so? (Sure, she is capitalizing on his error – because his blunder was giant, ugly and easily understood.)

Clinton’s spokesman replied more expansively:

“Sen. Clinton does know better — she knows better than to condescend and talk down to voters like Senator Obama did. Senator Obama’s outburst won’t change the fact that he has embraced his characterization of the millions of Americans who live in small towns.”

Today Obama continues that gambit in a speech, once again only admitting that his choice of words was clumsy and attacking Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the ones out of touch on economics.

You see, Obama’s ploy only works when a candidate doesn’t have a problem of his own with the voters. (This poll suggests he does.) Here, Obama’s problem is not an issue of comparison with Clinton (e.g. who is holier than thou on trade or who is worse on defending the Second Amendment), but rather his own rapport with Pennsylvania voters. She didn’t call them irrational gun-toting, Bible thumpers; he did. ( And ridiculing her in personal terms risks getting those women voters in an uproar, just as he did with his “you’re likeable enoughbon mot.)

If voters are going to forgive and forget they won’t do it because Hillary is being Hillary. Obama’s got to make nice with them. But he seems unwilling to do that because, at bottom, he really doesn’t think he did anything wrong. This is becoming standard operating procedure for Obama. (Associate with a racist; lecture the country on racial unity. Insult a state; lecture us about the mindset of rural Americans.) Lots of lectures and changing the subject; never a full-throated apology.

In that debate this Wednesday when Hillary, as we know she will, asks him to apologize to the statement he will need to do better than “you’re a fake.” We’ve already heard that. For once, we’d like to hear about him.

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They Aren’t Thrilled With The Remarks?

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

Well what explanation could the Obamaphile punditocracy come up with for the Great One’s gaffe? There really is none.

One gamely offers the contrite approach, as if acknowledging that Eliot Spitzer could use “a tad more self-control”:

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

Notice the vain attempt to insist that Obama really did have a working class upbringing like all the folk he slandered. (Generally it helps to live on the same continent with your countrymen and not rely on Harvard sociology professors to brief you later in life on the habits of your fellow citizens.) And, you see, those nasty Republicans will “use” this outburst because ordinary Americans can’t tell for themselves when they have been insulted.

Others are more honest:

Not only is this pretty darn condescending on its face, but the trade comment adds another whole layer of insult. He’s almost admitting that he does not believe his previous trade talk!

(Somewhere Austan Goolsbee is smiling.)

And Obama wasn’t getting many takers for his convuluted explanation that this was a mini-exegesis on What’s the Matter With Kansas?:

And even if it was what he meant, it isn’t what he said. What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith, or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

Well don’t expect Andrew Sullivan to admit Obama’s comments were meant “pejoratively” (because “cling to guns” was meant with the deepest reverence for the right to bear arms?). But if this is the reaction on the Left blogosphere imagine how this will go down in Altoona.

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Obama’s Lonely Planet Foreign Policy

Speaking in San Francisco this past Sunday, Barack Obama said:

Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.

Kind of makes you wonder where he thinks he could use some work. In any case, what makes Obama so confident that he can tackle global crises? A college trip to Pakistan, of course. Here’s the New York Times:

. . . Mr. Obama also spoke about having traveled to Pakistan in the early 1980’s. Because of that trip, which he did not mention in either of his autobiographical books, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” he said.

It must have been a rough trip!  Pakistan, after all, is the only country Obama has specifically talked about bombing.   Is he planning to cite a spring break trip to Daytona Beach as a source of authority on naval matters? A viewing of Ishtar as his point of entry into Mideast diplomacy?

Speaking in San Francisco this past Sunday, Barack Obama said:

Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.

Kind of makes you wonder where he thinks he could use some work. In any case, what makes Obama so confident that he can tackle global crises? A college trip to Pakistan, of course. Here’s the New York Times:

. . . Mr. Obama also spoke about having traveled to Pakistan in the early 1980’s. Because of that trip, which he did not mention in either of his autobiographical books, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” he said.

It must have been a rough trip!  Pakistan, after all, is the only country Obama has specifically talked about bombing.   Is he planning to cite a spring break trip to Daytona Beach as a source of authority on naval matters? A viewing of Ishtar as his point of entry into Mideast diplomacy?

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Send the Torch Back to China

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

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California (Muslim) Girls

Today the New York Times has an article about the many Muslim Pakistani-Americans in Lodi, California who are schooling their daughters at home. At least in the case of 17-year-old Hajra Bibi, her parents had an excellent reason:

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

Substituting hard labor for teasing isn’t a parental approach you’re likely to find on Dr. Phil. However, there is something distinctly American about this phenomenon. In Pakistan there is very little room left to fantasize about the benefits of Koranic society. Failed government, non-existent security, and dilapidated infrastructure have made such preoccupations significantly less appealing. But in the exurbs of San Francisco, where goods and services abound, Pakistani-Americans are as free as other spacey Californians to go after their eccentric sociopolitical dreams .

But this is not as quaint as, say, a communally worked vineyard. The kind of isolationism these families are instituting is exactly what’s brought about the Islamist problem in England. When these communities cut off their children from larger American society, they raise a generation of domestic extremists at odds with their host country. Which, as far as I can tell, is fine with the parents interviewed by the New York Times. As the article points out, “[T]he intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.”

This cannot stand. America has had an advantage over places such as England, Denmark, and France in that our Muslim immigrants flow, for the most part, into the larger cultural mainstream, whereas theirs recreate their homelands in microcosm. If our liberal attitudes toward other cultures begin to facilitate the fostering of extremists within our own borders, we’re sunk.

The first thing Lodi’s local councils need to do is get some child-advocacy groups involved and investigate the lives of these American girls who cook, clean, and serve their male relatives in the name of Allah. After that, they might want to look into their kitchen table curriculum. After all, al-Qaeda’s own Adam Gadahn was home-schooled in the suburbs of the Golden state.

Today the New York Times has an article about the many Muslim Pakistani-Americans in Lodi, California who are schooling their daughters at home. At least in the case of 17-year-old Hajra Bibi, her parents had an excellent reason:

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

Substituting hard labor for teasing isn’t a parental approach you’re likely to find on Dr. Phil. However, there is something distinctly American about this phenomenon. In Pakistan there is very little room left to fantasize about the benefits of Koranic society. Failed government, non-existent security, and dilapidated infrastructure have made such preoccupations significantly less appealing. But in the exurbs of San Francisco, where goods and services abound, Pakistani-Americans are as free as other spacey Californians to go after their eccentric sociopolitical dreams .

But this is not as quaint as, say, a communally worked vineyard. The kind of isolationism these families are instituting is exactly what’s brought about the Islamist problem in England. When these communities cut off their children from larger American society, they raise a generation of domestic extremists at odds with their host country. Which, as far as I can tell, is fine with the parents interviewed by the New York Times. As the article points out, “[T]he intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.”

This cannot stand. America has had an advantage over places such as England, Denmark, and France in that our Muslim immigrants flow, for the most part, into the larger cultural mainstream, whereas theirs recreate their homelands in microcosm. If our liberal attitudes toward other cultures begin to facilitate the fostering of extremists within our own borders, we’re sunk.

The first thing Lodi’s local councils need to do is get some child-advocacy groups involved and investigate the lives of these American girls who cook, clean, and serve their male relatives in the name of Allah. After that, they might want to look into their kitchen table curriculum. After all, al-Qaeda’s own Adam Gadahn was home-schooled in the suburbs of the Golden state.

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Obama Secures Tie-Dye Vote

Reuters reports that three surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited in San Francisco on Monday to perform in support of Barak Obama. The baby-boomer house band (whose album about aging “Touch of Grey” is now a mid-career work) clearly has no problem with the candidate who said:

“So, when I think of Baby Boomers, I think of my mother’s generation. And you know, I was too young for the formative period of the ’60s—civil rights, sexual revolution, Vietnam War. Those all sort of passed me by.”

Undoubtedly, those things sort of passed the band by, too. Here’s Reuters:

The concert started with a short video from Obama, filmed on an airplane, thanking the band. A thick cloud of marijuana smoke wafted through the air then and throughout the concert, and some fans engaged in free-style dance as though magically transported from 1968.

Magical transportation is a familiar theme in Obamaland. As best I can tell, it’s the mode of travel that’s brought him within striking distance of the presidency.

It should be no surprise that the first post-boomer candidate has support amongst boomers. To this generational enclave, in perpetual mid-life crisis, Obama is the Corvette convertible purchased at fifty years old or the new young girlfriend. (Which makes Hillary. . .) And on Obama’s end of the equation, it should be understood: boomers begat boomers-on-steroids. If baby-boomers are defined by self-importance, what greater fulfillment of their sensibility is there than a man who wants into the White House simply because he is who he is?

However, it seems this endorsement won’t give Obama much of a boost.

“Long live the Dead!” said Ron Svetlik, 51, who said he had attended more than 200 Grateful Dead concerts, starting in 1974.

The home builder said he had already voted by mail for the Green Party candidate, but added: “If I had to cast a write-in ballot, I’d put Jerry Garcia.”

WWJD? You know, What Would Jerry Do? Well, in a 1985 interview he sounded a bit like a psychedelic neocon:

“The weirdest thing lately for me was that thing of the Ayatollah and the mine-sweeping children. In the war between Iran and Iraq, he used kids and had them line up like a human chain, holding hands, and walk across the mine fields because it was cheaper than mine detectors…It’s amazingly inhuman. And people complained about the Shah – a few fingernails and stuff – but this is kids walking across mine fields. It’s absolutely surreal. How could people go for that?”

Frankly, that’s a clearer statement of foreign policy inclinations than anything we’ve been able to yank out of Obama.

Reuters reports that three surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited in San Francisco on Monday to perform in support of Barak Obama. The baby-boomer house band (whose album about aging “Touch of Grey” is now a mid-career work) clearly has no problem with the candidate who said:

“So, when I think of Baby Boomers, I think of my mother’s generation. And you know, I was too young for the formative period of the ’60s—civil rights, sexual revolution, Vietnam War. Those all sort of passed me by.”

Undoubtedly, those things sort of passed the band by, too. Here’s Reuters:

The concert started with a short video from Obama, filmed on an airplane, thanking the band. A thick cloud of marijuana smoke wafted through the air then and throughout the concert, and some fans engaged in free-style dance as though magically transported from 1968.

Magical transportation is a familiar theme in Obamaland. As best I can tell, it’s the mode of travel that’s brought him within striking distance of the presidency.

It should be no surprise that the first post-boomer candidate has support amongst boomers. To this generational enclave, in perpetual mid-life crisis, Obama is the Corvette convertible purchased at fifty years old or the new young girlfriend. (Which makes Hillary. . .) And on Obama’s end of the equation, it should be understood: boomers begat boomers-on-steroids. If baby-boomers are defined by self-importance, what greater fulfillment of their sensibility is there than a man who wants into the White House simply because he is who he is?

However, it seems this endorsement won’t give Obama much of a boost.

“Long live the Dead!” said Ron Svetlik, 51, who said he had attended more than 200 Grateful Dead concerts, starting in 1974.

The home builder said he had already voted by mail for the Green Party candidate, but added: “If I had to cast a write-in ballot, I’d put Jerry Garcia.”

WWJD? You know, What Would Jerry Do? Well, in a 1985 interview he sounded a bit like a psychedelic neocon:

“The weirdest thing lately for me was that thing of the Ayatollah and the mine-sweeping children. In the war between Iran and Iraq, he used kids and had them line up like a human chain, holding hands, and walk across the mine fields because it was cheaper than mine detectors…It’s amazingly inhuman. And people complained about the Shah – a few fingernails and stuff – but this is kids walking across mine fields. It’s absolutely surreal. How could people go for that?”

Frankly, that’s a clearer statement of foreign policy inclinations than anything we’ve been able to yank out of Obama.

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Obama’s Photophobia

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

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If You Have 90 Minutes and Nothing to Do…

…you could watch me, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, and Mona Charen discuss America, Jews, and Israel in a streaming video transcription of a December 9 panel in San Francisco sponsored by the Jewish Policy Center. The JPC offers it for viewing here (it takes about half a minute to load, so be a little patient). You can get a flavor for what we talked about from this post by Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues.

…you could watch me, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, and Mona Charen discuss America, Jews, and Israel in a streaming video transcription of a December 9 panel in San Francisco sponsored by the Jewish Policy Center. The JPC offers it for viewing here (it takes about half a minute to load, so be a little patient). You can get a flavor for what we talked about from this post by Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues.

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Whose New Gilded Age?

The New York Times recently ran a lead Sunday Magazine article on the “The New Gilded Age.” The article tastefully failed to note that most of the monied people discussed were Democrats. It’s further evidence, I’d say, that liberal Democrats are having a hard time owning up to the nature of their party. In his new book The Squandering of America (reviewed in the November issue of COMMENTARY), liberal economist Robert Kuttner describes his dismay at discovering that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has gone upscale. “I have attended Democratic fund-raising events in the Park Avenue homes of investment bankers,” he writes, “where there was plenty of enthusiasm for human rights, morning-after pills, and climate change, but nary a word about financial regulation or social investment.” Kuttner’s ideological soulmate, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, lodges a similar complaint about the Democrats’ refusal to close “the hedge fund tax loophole—which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income.” The Democrats, he concludes are “wobbled by wealth.”

What’s striking about their complaints is that none of this is new. Writing in COMMENTARY in 1972, Joshua Muravchik and the late Penn Kemble noted that “The purpose of the McGovern quotas (for the delegations to the Democratic National Convention) was not to make the convention more representative of the Democratic electorate as a whole, but to favor the affluent liberals within the party and to diminish the influence of its lower-middle and working-class constituents.” The McGovernites succeeded and the Democrats became far more of an upper-middle-class party.

And they’ve only become more of one since then. Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation, writing yesterday in the Financial Times, notes that “Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the eighteen states where Democrats control both Senate seats.” This pattern holds in the House as well. Iowa’s three richest districts are represented by Democrats, the two poorest by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents a San Francisco district containing more than six times as many high-end households as her Republic counterpart, John Boehner. Nor is this just a matter of wealth. Democrats, notes economist Joel Kotkin, predominate in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, where income inequality is the most pronounced in the nation.
“The demographic reality is that, in America,” says Franc, the Democratic Party is the new “party of the rich.” The question for 2008 is whether that economic reality will enter into the political debate.

The New York Times recently ran a lead Sunday Magazine article on the “The New Gilded Age.” The article tastefully failed to note that most of the monied people discussed were Democrats. It’s further evidence, I’d say, that liberal Democrats are having a hard time owning up to the nature of their party. In his new book The Squandering of America (reviewed in the November issue of COMMENTARY), liberal economist Robert Kuttner describes his dismay at discovering that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has gone upscale. “I have attended Democratic fund-raising events in the Park Avenue homes of investment bankers,” he writes, “where there was plenty of enthusiasm for human rights, morning-after pills, and climate change, but nary a word about financial regulation or social investment.” Kuttner’s ideological soulmate, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, lodges a similar complaint about the Democrats’ refusal to close “the hedge fund tax loophole—which allows executives at private equity firms and hedge funds to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on most of their income.” The Democrats, he concludes are “wobbled by wealth.”

What’s striking about their complaints is that none of this is new. Writing in COMMENTARY in 1972, Joshua Muravchik and the late Penn Kemble noted that “The purpose of the McGovern quotas (for the delegations to the Democratic National Convention) was not to make the convention more representative of the Democratic electorate as a whole, but to favor the affluent liberals within the party and to diminish the influence of its lower-middle and working-class constituents.” The McGovernites succeeded and the Democrats became far more of an upper-middle-class party.

And they’ve only become more of one since then. Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation, writing yesterday in the Financial Times, notes that “Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the eighteen states where Democrats control both Senate seats.” This pattern holds in the House as well. Iowa’s three richest districts are represented by Democrats, the two poorest by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents a San Francisco district containing more than six times as many high-end households as her Republic counterpart, John Boehner. Nor is this just a matter of wealth. Democrats, notes economist Joel Kotkin, predominate in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, where income inequality is the most pronounced in the nation.
“The demographic reality is that, in America,” says Franc, the Democratic Party is the new “party of the rich.” The question for 2008 is whether that economic reality will enter into the political debate.

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Golden Silents

In his foreword to a lavishly illustrated new book from Little, Brown, Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel, director Martin Scorsese points out that viewers of silent films today are like “time travelers.” Precious cultural evidence from before 1900 until the end of the 1930’s, Scorsese observes, was lost when 90 percent of silent films were destroyed or allowed to disintegrate. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reproduces posters and other items from the Library of Congress (LOC) film archive, which is energetically engaged in preserving what is left of this legacy.

The LOC’s website offers fascinating short Edison films that document urban overcrowding, whether on New York’s Lower East Side in 1903 or on Paris’s Esplanade des Invalides and Champs Elysées, both from 1900. Perhaps most fascinating of all is a 1903 San Francisco demonstration for Chinese-American rights, on the occasion of an eerily majestic funeral procession. Tom Kim Yung (1858–1903), a Chinese military Attaché, committed suicide in San Francisco after being a victim of police abuse. The procession, as captured by Edison’s cameras, shows hundreds of solemn marchers, while gawkers look on. Later artful documentaries offer fascinating details for history buffs, whether about 1929 Russia in Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera or 1928 Germany in Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.

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In his foreword to a lavishly illustrated new book from Little, Brown, Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel, director Martin Scorsese points out that viewers of silent films today are like “time travelers.” Precious cultural evidence from before 1900 until the end of the 1930’s, Scorsese observes, was lost when 90 percent of silent films were destroyed or allowed to disintegrate. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reproduces posters and other items from the Library of Congress (LOC) film archive, which is energetically engaged in preserving what is left of this legacy.

The LOC’s website offers fascinating short Edison films that document urban overcrowding, whether on New York’s Lower East Side in 1903 or on Paris’s Esplanade des Invalides and Champs Elysées, both from 1900. Perhaps most fascinating of all is a 1903 San Francisco demonstration for Chinese-American rights, on the occasion of an eerily majestic funeral procession. Tom Kim Yung (1858–1903), a Chinese military Attaché, committed suicide in San Francisco after being a victim of police abuse. The procession, as captured by Edison’s cameras, shows hundreds of solemn marchers, while gawkers look on. Later artful documentaries offer fascinating details for history buffs, whether about 1929 Russia in Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera or 1928 Germany in Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.

As Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reminds us, even fictional silent films, many recently transferred to DVD, can give us a taste of bygone eras that cannot be experienced merely by reading about them. D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915)—despite its racist, pro-Ku Klux Klan message that makes the recent statements of scientist James Dewey Watson seem innocuous by comparison—visually echoes Civil War photos by Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. Griffith’s depictions of 19th century battles are now chronologically closer to these real-life skirmishes than we are to Griffith. Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin, which dramatizes events from a 1905 anti-czarist uprising a mere twenty years after the fact, inevitably idealizes and glorifies matters propagandistically, but is a must-see for its flavor and verve. American director William Wellman (1896–1975) made Wings, a 1927 drama about World War I fighter pilots, a mere decade after he himself served in the Lafayette Escadrille during that conflict. Above and beyond the fictional plot of Wings is a recreation of the bloody 1918 Battle of Saint-Mihiel, featuring dogfights, bombardments, and crashes with an authenticity that today’s special effects technicians cannot surpass.

As DVD companies strive to outdo one another with historical material, even unexpectedly racy material has appeared, such as a collection of French silent films originally made in 1905 and after, to be shown in the waiting rooms of Paris bordellos. Nostalgically titled The Good Old Naughty Days in re-release, this compilation reminds us that some aspects of mankind’s historical behavior are still with us today.

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Sheehan Agonistes

For a healthy bit of schadenfreude, take a look at this blog post from Katha Pollitt, a columnist for the Nation. It is a plaintive letter begging Cindy Sheehan (the well-known anti-war activist) not to challenge Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress.

The appearance, in a major political weekly, of an earnest plea for a flaky anti-war activist not to run against the Speaker of the House may seem journalistically unserious. But this race would not, to put it kindly, help the image of the Democrats nationwide; Pollitt is doubtlessly aware of this. “Instead of showing the Democrats how strong is the threat from the Left, it will show them how weak it is,” she writes. But if someone as nutty as Sheehan did relatively well—say, winning over 30 percent of the vote (hardly an impossibility in San Francisco)—it would look rather bad for the Democrats, and not just for the hard Left.

Pollitt’s lamentations are most amusing because the Nation, after all, has been Sheehan’s most full-throated supporter. Here’s one typical paean to her, published last year. And here’s a piece Sheehan herself wrote for the magazine, in which she tells of her “meeting with the families of children murdered in George Bush’s War of Terror against the world,” and celebrates “being toasted by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston.”

So it would be ironic to see a Sheehan candidacy that the Nation itself unwittingly launched. No matter how well Sheehan did, such a candidacy would be a lose/lose situation for the different wings of the anti-war Left. But, as the old song goes, “You dance with the one that brung ya.”

For a healthy bit of schadenfreude, take a look at this blog post from Katha Pollitt, a columnist for the Nation. It is a plaintive letter begging Cindy Sheehan (the well-known anti-war activist) not to challenge Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress.

The appearance, in a major political weekly, of an earnest plea for a flaky anti-war activist not to run against the Speaker of the House may seem journalistically unserious. But this race would not, to put it kindly, help the image of the Democrats nationwide; Pollitt is doubtlessly aware of this. “Instead of showing the Democrats how strong is the threat from the Left, it will show them how weak it is,” she writes. But if someone as nutty as Sheehan did relatively well—say, winning over 30 percent of the vote (hardly an impossibility in San Francisco)—it would look rather bad for the Democrats, and not just for the hard Left.

Pollitt’s lamentations are most amusing because the Nation, after all, has been Sheehan’s most full-throated supporter. Here’s one typical paean to her, published last year. And here’s a piece Sheehan herself wrote for the magazine, in which she tells of her “meeting with the families of children murdered in George Bush’s War of Terror against the world,” and celebrates “being toasted by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston.”

So it would be ironic to see a Sheehan candidacy that the Nation itself unwittingly launched. No matter how well Sheehan did, such a candidacy would be a lose/lose situation for the different wings of the anti-war Left. But, as the old song goes, “You dance with the one that brung ya.”

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