Commentary Magazine


Topic: Stuart Taylor

Kagan’s Vulnerabilty

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

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Elena Kagan — Stealth Nominee?

Elena Kagan is the prohibitive favorite for the Supreme Court. She has made it through one confirmation hearing for her current post as solicitor general and possesses academic credentials, a reputation for collegiality with conservatives, and a limited paper trail. Moreover, she is the closest we have to a stealth candidate among the front-runners. As Tom Goldstein notes, “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade.”

Casual observers assume that a dean of Harvard Law School and a domestic-policy aide in the Clinton administration must have a sizable body of work reflecting her legal views. But not so. Paul Campos has read all there is to read — and it’s not much:

Yesterday, I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn’t take long: in the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she’s published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review—a scholarly journal edited by Chicago’s own faculty—and a short essay in the school’s law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing. (While it’s true law school deans often do little scholarly writing during their terms, Kagan is remarkable both for how little she did in the dozen years prior to becoming Harvard’s dean, and for never having written anything intended for a more general audience, either before or after taking that position.)

Campos goes so far as to suggest that Kagan is a Harriet Miers type – minus the cronyism. He concludes:

Indeed, the most impressive thing about Kagan is that she seems to have a remarkable ability to ingratiate herself with influential people across the ideological spectrum. … As a private lawyer, Miers, after all, had a fairly good excuse for having no public views on the great legal issues of our day. For most of the past 20 years, Kagan’s job has been to both develop and publicize such views. That she has nevertheless managed to almost completely avoid doing so is rather extraordinary.

What to make of this? Well, if a Republican president were to select a person with such a skimpy written record, conservatives would be (and were with the Miers nomination) rightfully worried. But do the same concerns — ideological infidelity, intellectual mediocrity — really apply to Kagan? Let’s be honest, it works differently for liberals. Very few are tempted to moderate their views and slide rightward, while Republican-nominated jurists (David Souter, John Paul Stevens) have a history of “disappointing” their side. And while no one has claimed that Kagan has achieved greatness in legal scholarship, the assumption — rightly or not — is that the dean of one of the top law schools in the country must have some intellectual wattage. Nevertheless, liberal legal activists might have reason to be a bit nervous — after all, would a justice who lacks judicial chops be the best choice to sway Justice Kennedy on those all-important 5-to-4 decisions? Is she really the one who is going to go toe-to-toe with Justice Scalia? There is some risk there if Obama were to choose a lesser known quantity than an appellate judge such as Diane Wood.

Nevertheless, there are clues as to Kagan’s legal mindset. Indeed, one such clue is also her primary shortcoming. Stuart Taylor explains:

The one issue that could slow down Kagan’s confirmation is her impassioned effort as dean to bar military recruiting on campus to protest the law banning openly gay people from serving in the military, which she called “a moral injustice of the first order.”

Kagan carried this opposition to the point of joining a 2005 amicus brief whose strained interpretation of a law denying federal funding to institutions that discriminate against military recruiters would — the Supreme Court held in an 8-0 decision — have rendered the statute “largely meaningless.” This helps to explain the 31 Republican votes against confirming her as solicitor general.

Well, that might be enough to lose her a batch of GOP Senate votes, but would it derail her nomination? Probably not. And it might just give enough comfort to the left that Kagan is a “safe” pick for them.

Elena Kagan is the prohibitive favorite for the Supreme Court. She has made it through one confirmation hearing for her current post as solicitor general and possesses academic credentials, a reputation for collegiality with conservatives, and a limited paper trail. Moreover, she is the closest we have to a stealth candidate among the front-runners. As Tom Goldstein notes, “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade.”

Casual observers assume that a dean of Harvard Law School and a domestic-policy aide in the Clinton administration must have a sizable body of work reflecting her legal views. But not so. Paul Campos has read all there is to read — and it’s not much:

Yesterday, I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn’t take long: in the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she’s published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review—a scholarly journal edited by Chicago’s own faculty—and a short essay in the school’s law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing. (While it’s true law school deans often do little scholarly writing during their terms, Kagan is remarkable both for how little she did in the dozen years prior to becoming Harvard’s dean, and for never having written anything intended for a more general audience, either before or after taking that position.)

Campos goes so far as to suggest that Kagan is a Harriet Miers type – minus the cronyism. He concludes:

Indeed, the most impressive thing about Kagan is that she seems to have a remarkable ability to ingratiate herself with influential people across the ideological spectrum. … As a private lawyer, Miers, after all, had a fairly good excuse for having no public views on the great legal issues of our day. For most of the past 20 years, Kagan’s job has been to both develop and publicize such views. That she has nevertheless managed to almost completely avoid doing so is rather extraordinary.

What to make of this? Well, if a Republican president were to select a person with such a skimpy written record, conservatives would be (and were with the Miers nomination) rightfully worried. But do the same concerns — ideological infidelity, intellectual mediocrity — really apply to Kagan? Let’s be honest, it works differently for liberals. Very few are tempted to moderate their views and slide rightward, while Republican-nominated jurists (David Souter, John Paul Stevens) have a history of “disappointing” their side. And while no one has claimed that Kagan has achieved greatness in legal scholarship, the assumption — rightly or not — is that the dean of one of the top law schools in the country must have some intellectual wattage. Nevertheless, liberal legal activists might have reason to be a bit nervous — after all, would a justice who lacks judicial chops be the best choice to sway Justice Kennedy on those all-important 5-to-4 decisions? Is she really the one who is going to go toe-to-toe with Justice Scalia? There is some risk there if Obama were to choose a lesser known quantity than an appellate judge such as Diane Wood.

Nevertheless, there are clues as to Kagan’s legal mindset. Indeed, one such clue is also her primary shortcoming. Stuart Taylor explains:

The one issue that could slow down Kagan’s confirmation is her impassioned effort as dean to bar military recruiting on campus to protest the law banning openly gay people from serving in the military, which she called “a moral injustice of the first order.”

Kagan carried this opposition to the point of joining a 2005 amicus brief whose strained interpretation of a law denying federal funding to institutions that discriminate against military recruiters would — the Supreme Court held in an 8-0 decision — have rendered the statute “largely meaningless.” This helps to explain the 31 Republican votes against confirming her as solicitor general.

Well, that might be enough to lose her a batch of GOP Senate votes, but would it derail her nomination? Probably not. And it might just give enough comfort to the left that Kagan is a “safe” pick for them.

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National Journal‘s Loss

National Journal has let go three of its prized columnists: Jonathan Rauch, Stuart Taylor, and Clive Crook. That’s a big loss for National Journal. While I often don’t agree with their point of view, all three are intelligent and thoughtful writers. Rauch and Taylor in particular are people whom I read closely and take seriously. They have extremely impressive analytical minds. They will certainly find another home; they are too talented not to. And while I don’t pretend to know the economic situation that caused this move to occur, National Journal will be, I think, a less influential and intellectually interesting magazine without Jon and Stuart in the stable. I wish them, as well as Mr. Crook, well.

National Journal has let go three of its prized columnists: Jonathan Rauch, Stuart Taylor, and Clive Crook. That’s a big loss for National Journal. While I often don’t agree with their point of view, all three are intelligent and thoughtful writers. Rauch and Taylor in particular are people whom I read closely and take seriously. They have extremely impressive analytical minds. They will certainly find another home; they are too talented not to. And while I don’t pretend to know the economic situation that caused this move to occur, National Journal will be, I think, a less influential and intellectually interesting magazine without Jon and Stuart in the stable. I wish them, as well as Mr. Crook, well.

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Holder Under the Bus?

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

Andy McCarthy and I have both been looking at Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to defend in a letter to Mitch McConnell the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber. McCarthy sums it up:

The fundamental problem with the attorney general’s line of argument is that it unfolds as though there were no war and no president. Abdulmutallab, Holder believes, is just like any other person arrested in the United States: When an arrest happens, government officials automatically employ “long-established and publicly known policies and practices.” It does not matter who sent the person or what he was arrested trying to do. Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted. Even if the nation is at war, we don’t inquire into whether the arrested person is an operative dispatched here by hostile forces to commit mass murder.

Aside from the sloppy legal work by Holder (including citing cases that have been since overturned by the Supreme Court), it is curious to see that the Obami are now retreating to the defense that “Bush did the same thing” (ignoring the instances in which Bush designated terrorists as enemy combatants). None of this seems to be working to shore up support for the criminal-justice model, which the Obami have insisted on employing, in part because the legal arguments are weak (e.g., disregarding the military-commission system, now in place to handle these cases) and in part because neither the public nor members of Obama’s own party think it makes sense to try KSM in a civilian court, Mirandize a terrorist, or ship Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Joining the chorus of other mainstream critics of the Obama approach, Stuart Taylor calls Holder’s decisions to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber and to try KSM in a civilian court “two glaring mistakes” that require a serious course correction by Obama in his anti-terrorism policies.

In a piece in the New Yorker, which aptly describes the gathering storm of opposition, Holder doubles-down (“What we did is totally consistent with what has happened in every similar case”) and lashes out at former Vice President Dick Cheney (“On some level, and I’m not sure why, he lacks confidence in the American system of justice”). But Holder seems to be on thin ice and the White House might now view him as a liability. The New Yorker quotes a source close to the White House:

“The White House doesn’t trust his judgment, and doesn’t think he’s mindful enough of all the things he should be,” such as protecting the President from political fallout. “They think he wants to protect his own image, and to make himself untouchable politically, the way Reno did, by doing the righteous thing.”

Even more ominous for Holder: Rahm Emanuel is making it clear to all those concerned that he disagreed with a string of highly controversial and politically disastrous decisions by Holder. We learn: “Emanuel adamantly opposed a number of Holder’s decisions, including one that widened the scope of a special counsel who had begun investigating the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Bush had appointed the special counsel, John Durham, to assess whether the C.I.A. had obstructed justice when it destroyed videotapes documenting waterboarding sessions.” And then there is the KSM trial:

At the White House, Emanuel, who is not a lawyer, opposed Holder’s position on the 9/11 cases. He argued that the Administration needed the support of key Republicans to help close Guantánamo, and that a fight over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could alienate them. “There was a lot of drama,” the informed source said. . . .  “Rahm felt very, very strongly that it was a mistake to prosecute the 9/11 people in the federal courts, and that it was picking an unnecessary fight with the military-commission people,” the informed source said. “Rahm had a good relationship with [Sen. Lindsay] Graham, and believed Graham when he said that if you don’t prosecute these people in military commissions I won’t support the closing of Guantánamo. . . . Rahm said, ‘If we don’t have Graham, we can’t close Guantánamo, and it’s on Eric!’ ”

Interesting that Emanuel and his spinners are now distancing the White House from their attorney general. One wonders where Obama stands in this drama. Isn’t he, after all, the commander in chief? Either the president was content to go along with Holder’s decisions until they went south or he subcontracted, with no oversight, some of the most critical decisions of his presidency to a lawyer who is prone to making the kind of mistakes a “first-year lawyer would get fired for.

Either way, Obama now must suffer the results of Holder’s ill-advised decisions. There will be much speculation, given Emanuel’s comments, as to whether the White House is getting ready to throw Holder under that proverbial bus. Now, as the Democrats join the Republicans to block the KSM trial and to deny funds for moving detainees to Illinois, it would be as good a time as any.

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A Moment Of Clarity

Morton Kondracke stands apart from the media hysteria to explain Barack Obama’s fall to earth from Olympian heights:

He’s also now revealed as the most liberal Member of the U.S. Senate — and one who has never, ever departed from party orthodoxy to form the kind of bipartisan coalition he says — correctly — that it will take to solve America’s problems. It’s all about “vetting.” When somebody has been in national life for only three years and is running for the highest office in the land, it’s only natural that voters — and journalists — find out what the candidate is made of, what his character is. Which is why it was perfectly appropriate for ABC News interrogators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions about Obama’s remark that small-town Pennsylvanians “cling” to their guns and religion because they are “bitter,” about his refusal to wear a flag pin and about his association with radicals such as former Weatherman Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That seems all perfectly rational (Stuart Taylor has similar thoughts), but there is something more at work here. The promise that Obama would offer a post-racial and post-partisan vision of America has been revealed to be hokum. (Well, some of us from the start may have doubted that post-partisan anything is possible in a vigorous democracy.) It took a while, but now it is painfully obvious that Obama and his campaign don’t seem to believe their own “no division, no Red and Blue America” routine.

It’s getting harder and harder to recognize the Obama who said this after his victory in Iowa:

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation. . . .That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Moving beyond the “bitterness” we surely have not done. Somewhere along the way we recognized the gap between a speech–a very uplifting one, but just a speech–and what Obama and his campaign operatives believe. That, I think, is why the Left blogosphere, in part, is so depressed: Obama, it turns out, is just like all the rest. (Only with less of a résumé.)

Morton Kondracke stands apart from the media hysteria to explain Barack Obama’s fall to earth from Olympian heights:

He’s also now revealed as the most liberal Member of the U.S. Senate — and one who has never, ever departed from party orthodoxy to form the kind of bipartisan coalition he says — correctly — that it will take to solve America’s problems. It’s all about “vetting.” When somebody has been in national life for only three years and is running for the highest office in the land, it’s only natural that voters — and journalists — find out what the candidate is made of, what his character is. Which is why it was perfectly appropriate for ABC News interrogators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions about Obama’s remark that small-town Pennsylvanians “cling” to their guns and religion because they are “bitter,” about his refusal to wear a flag pin and about his association with radicals such as former Weatherman Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That seems all perfectly rational (Stuart Taylor has similar thoughts), but there is something more at work here. The promise that Obama would offer a post-racial and post-partisan vision of America has been revealed to be hokum. (Well, some of us from the start may have doubted that post-partisan anything is possible in a vigorous democracy.) It took a while, but now it is painfully obvious that Obama and his campaign don’t seem to believe their own “no division, no Red and Blue America” routine.

It’s getting harder and harder to recognize the Obama who said this after his victory in Iowa:

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation. . . .That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Moving beyond the “bitterness” we surely have not done. Somewhere along the way we recognized the gap between a speech–a very uplifting one, but just a speech–and what Obama and his campaign operatives believe. That, I think, is why the Left blogosphere, in part, is so depressed: Obama, it turns out, is just like all the rest. (Only with less of a résumé.)

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They Want Their Dialogue

Some media pundits are not buying into the notion that the Reverend Wright affair is behind us, or more importantly, behind Barack Obama. Richard Cohen wants another speech. Stuart Taylor just wants some answers.

This is the danger with not getting all the answers out the first time around. It’s always tempting for politicians to skate by, saying as little as possible, especially if they’re uncertain what additional incriminating material might be out there. That natural inclination must have been particularly strong here, where Obama could bank on the media’s ludicrous resistance to probing the particulars of his association with Wright.

So the underlying issue–his relationship with Wright and toleration of Wright’s vitriol–is now compounded with the nagging sense that Obama has “ducked” a central problem with his candidacy. For those playing armchair psychologist (or just practicing standard punditry), the questions remain: Why not go before the media and answer all questions? Why not tell us why he sought out Wright to begin with? Why keep going to Wright’s church, with his kids no less?

Those inclined toward skepticism about Obama’s messianic grace or simply searching for a key to his personality may wonder, as Taylor does, whether this demonstrates a lack of courage and the ability to say “no” to friends and supporters–traits any president needs. Others will wonder if this is evidence of a deep form of political cynicism, the notion that you can play on white guilt (Give ‘em a nice speech on reconciliation) to avoid answering tough questions.

Regardless of the merits of the pundits’ concerns, it’s highly unlikely Obama will give another speech on the topic. Going back now would signal recognition of a huge strategic misstep. Whatever bed he’s made he will now have to lie in and whatever voters really think of him will not be known until they step into the booths in November. Because that is where irked or worried or angry voters have their final say.

Some media pundits are not buying into the notion that the Reverend Wright affair is behind us, or more importantly, behind Barack Obama. Richard Cohen wants another speech. Stuart Taylor just wants some answers.

This is the danger with not getting all the answers out the first time around. It’s always tempting for politicians to skate by, saying as little as possible, especially if they’re uncertain what additional incriminating material might be out there. That natural inclination must have been particularly strong here, where Obama could bank on the media’s ludicrous resistance to probing the particulars of his association with Wright.

So the underlying issue–his relationship with Wright and toleration of Wright’s vitriol–is now compounded with the nagging sense that Obama has “ducked” a central problem with his candidacy. For those playing armchair psychologist (or just practicing standard punditry), the questions remain: Why not go before the media and answer all questions? Why not tell us why he sought out Wright to begin with? Why keep going to Wright’s church, with his kids no less?

Those inclined toward skepticism about Obama’s messianic grace or simply searching for a key to his personality may wonder, as Taylor does, whether this demonstrates a lack of courage and the ability to say “no” to friends and supporters–traits any president needs. Others will wonder if this is evidence of a deep form of political cynicism, the notion that you can play on white guilt (Give ‘em a nice speech on reconciliation) to avoid answering tough questions.

Regardless of the merits of the pundits’ concerns, it’s highly unlikely Obama will give another speech on the topic. Going back now would signal recognition of a huge strategic misstep. Whatever bed he’s made he will now have to lie in and whatever voters really think of him will not be known until they step into the booths in November. Because that is where irked or worried or angry voters have their final say.

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