Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tennessee

Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.'”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them — unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.'”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them — unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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J Street Is Ba-a-a-ck

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

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Tennessee Harold Ford’s Not Your Ordinary “Joe”

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

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New York: The Carpetbagger State Welcomes Harold Ford

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

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Fair Game

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

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Blame The Voter

We will hear plenty about the racist, poor West Virginia voters from the punditocracy. Apparently these voters don’t think “they (or is it he?) are the change they have been waiting for.” Juan Williams says: “It is not just race. It is this man and his vulnerabilities.” But it’s so much more satisfying for pundits to blame the voters. They really don’t appreciate his greatness, do they? And West Virginians- who’s like those people, after all? Well, no one except a bunch of people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a few others.

We will hear plenty about the racist, poor West Virginia voters from the punditocracy. Apparently these voters don’t think “they (or is it he?) are the change they have been waiting for.” Juan Williams says: “It is not just race. It is this man and his vulnerabilities.” But it’s so much more satisfying for pundits to blame the voters. They really don’t appreciate his greatness, do they? And West Virginians- who’s like those people, after all? Well, no one except a bunch of people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a few others.

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Huckabee an Unlikely VP

Since Mike Huckabee’s surprise showing on Tuesday, talk about a McCain-Huckabee ticket has neared the level of legitimate speculation. The thinking is that Huckabee victories in southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, demonstrate the value of an Evangelical-friendly name on a GOP ticket.

When this idea was floated on Fox News Tuesday night, Karl Rove, in his new talking head role, dismissed it immediately—with good reason. Christianity Today reports that evangelical voters are now more concerned with national security than with social issues such as abortion. (Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani made that clear.) John McCain’s vision of the enemy as a threat to the American way of life is comfortably close to the Evangelical vision of jihad as a threat to Christianity. Somewhat shockingly, unlike some of the conservative media, Evangelicals can prioritize. John McCain has said many times (including, once, to me) that he’s looking for a strong national security vice president. He’d have an impossible time defending his choice of the man who didn’t know of the existence of the NIE on Iran. The compulsion to over-strategize in speculating about the McCain campaign has grown directly out of the Limbaugh-right’s insistence that McCain is embattled within the party. And in a national election, few evangelicals are going to pull the lever for Hillary or Obama over him. But if, after running almost entirely on national security, he hitched himself to a foreign policy ignoramus like Huckabee, he may first face detractors en masse.

Since Mike Huckabee’s surprise showing on Tuesday, talk about a McCain-Huckabee ticket has neared the level of legitimate speculation. The thinking is that Huckabee victories in southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, demonstrate the value of an Evangelical-friendly name on a GOP ticket.

When this idea was floated on Fox News Tuesday night, Karl Rove, in his new talking head role, dismissed it immediately—with good reason. Christianity Today reports that evangelical voters are now more concerned with national security than with social issues such as abortion. (Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani made that clear.) John McCain’s vision of the enemy as a threat to the American way of life is comfortably close to the Evangelical vision of jihad as a threat to Christianity. Somewhat shockingly, unlike some of the conservative media, Evangelicals can prioritize. John McCain has said many times (including, once, to me) that he’s looking for a strong national security vice president. He’d have an impossible time defending his choice of the man who didn’t know of the existence of the NIE on Iran. The compulsion to over-strategize in speculating about the McCain campaign has grown directly out of the Limbaugh-right’s insistence that McCain is embattled within the party. And in a national election, few evangelicals are going to pull the lever for Hillary or Obama over him. But if, after running almost entirely on national security, he hitched himself to a foreign policy ignoramus like Huckabee, he may first face detractors en masse.

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Three More States

McCain ekes out a win in Arizona and Huckabee takes Tennessee and Georgia. Huckabee has five states now, entirely respectable but all in the South. Did he earn the VP slot tonight? UPDATE: “Eke” it actually was not– he leads by 20 pts. Those exit poll, as John has warned, aren’t all that reliable. (They showed a tie in the state.)

McCain ekes out a win in Arizona and Huckabee takes Tennessee and Georgia. Huckabee has five states now, entirely respectable but all in the South. Did he earn the VP slot tonight? UPDATE: “Eke” it actually was not– he leads by 20 pts. Those exit poll, as John has warned, aren’t all that reliable. (They showed a tie in the state.)

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Tornado Tragedies

A series of tornadoes has hit the Midwest, with serious damage reported in Arkansas and Tennessee, including casualties. Expect this to dampen the enthusiasm of any forthcoming victory speeches.

A series of tornadoes has hit the Midwest, with serious damage reported in Arkansas and Tennessee, including casualties. Expect this to dampen the enthusiasm of any forthcoming victory speeches.

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Other States

In actual returns McCain leads in Montana, Tennessee and Oklahoma. They have not been called for him, but if they fall into his lap it will begin to look like a national victory with Huckabee as a regional, Deep South candidate. And yes, stay tuned (or set your alarm) for California. UPDATE: McCain wins Oklahoma.

In actual returns McCain leads in Montana, Tennessee and Oklahoma. They have not been called for him, but if they fall into his lap it will begin to look like a national victory with Huckabee as a regional, Deep South candidate. And yes, stay tuned (or set your alarm) for California. UPDATE: McCain wins Oklahoma.

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Huckabee’s Last Stand

If this is Mike Huckabee’s last night as a presidential candidate, it looks like he’ll go out in a position of strength. Huckabee has already won West Virginia and Arkansas; is leading in Georgia; and is running second to John McCain in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In these conservative states, Huckabee has asserted himself over Mitt Romney as the conservative choice for the nomination. This should enhance his attractiveness as a vice-presidential candidate should McCain seal the nomination tonight.

Of course, California remains the wild card. Stay tuned.

If this is Mike Huckabee’s last night as a presidential candidate, it looks like he’ll go out in a position of strength. Huckabee has already won West Virginia and Arkansas; is leading in Georgia; and is running second to John McCain in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In these conservative states, Huckabee has asserted himself over Mitt Romney as the conservative choice for the nomination. This should enhance his attractiveness as a vice-presidential candidate should McCain seal the nomination tonight.

Of course, California remains the wild card. Stay tuned.

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Brooks on Clinton

David Brooks has a fascinating and important column today. In it he recounts how in 1992 Jim Cooper, a Democratic congressman from Tennessee, came up with a health care reform plan that drew bipartisan support but differed from Hillary Clinton’s plan (Cooper’s plan did not include employer mandates to force universal coverage). When Cooper met with Mrs. Clinton to discuss their differences, he found her “ice cold,” in his words. “It was the coldest reception of my life,” he said. “I was excoriated.”

When on June 15, 1993 Cooper told Mrs. Clinton (correctly) that her plan would never get through Congress, Clinton’s response, according to Cooper, was, “We’ll crush you. You’ll wish you never mentioned this to me.”

A war room was set up to oppose Cooper, who was planning to run for the Senate in 1994. His motivations were questioned by the Clinton crowd. People were dispatched to Tennessee to attack his plan. Mrs. Clinton denounced the Cooper plan as “dangerous and threatening” – and according to Newsweek, she brought an aide with a video camera to a meeting with senators and asked the senators to denounce Cooper on the spot.

“We’ll crush you” is an anthem for the Clintons. It, and “war rooms,” embody their approach to politics and governing. The record on this matter is clear and overwhelming: Team Clinton will try to destroy people whom they oppose and believe are a threat to their “political viability.” Of all the reasons to oppose Mrs. Clinton for president, this one ranks near the top. People like her and her husband should not be entrusted with power – and especially with the power of the presidency.

I would add this observation to David’s column. He uses his opening paragraph to declare he is not a “Hillary-hater” – and he supports this declaration by writing this:

She’s been an outstanding senator. She hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005. In this campaign, she has soldiered on bravely even though she has most of the elected Democrats, news media and the educated class rooting against her.

David clearly isn’t a Hillary-hater – he’s not a hater, period, which is one of the reasons he’s liked and respected by so many people – but he overstates things in order to purchase the right to criticize her. Brooks may feel Hillary Clinton is a fine senator – but to say she is “outstanding” is not warranted. If her name was Hillary Jones (D-Idaho) instead of Hillary Clinton, she would be viewed as a capable, liberal-leaning person who has served in the Senate for less than eight years and has no great legislative achievements to her name. On the merits, she probably ranks near the middle or slightly above among the 100 senators.

Beyond that, Brooks writes that she “hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005.” Except that 2005 was not viewed as dark at the time. That was the year, after all, of the Iraqi elections and the “purple finger.” It was a year in which it appeared as if political progress was being made (in fact, the progress was largely illusory). The really dark year in Iraq was 2006 – and that is the year when Senator Clinton began to waiver and then went south on the war she once supported. Worse, she (along with Senator Obama) now supports a withdrawal of American troops and a counterinsurgency strategy that would undercut the enormous gains we have made since General Petraeus began his secure-the-population counter-insurgency operation. She wants to leave Iraq, come what may. It is a reckless plan that would do enormous damage to America, lead to mass death among Iraqis, and be a huge victory for everyone from jihadists to President Ahmadinejad.

As for soldiering on “bravely” in the campaign: she is, after all, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and probably the favorite to be the next President. She travels well, her campaign is flush with cash, she speaks before mostly-adoring audiences, and for much of the campaign she has not endured harsh criticism. To the degree that she has, most of it is due to her and the words and actions of her husband. The fact that she is a dogged campaigner is impressive – but not anymore so than anyone else in the campaign. And to invoke the adverb “bravely” for what she is doing devalues the word.

But those are minor points in an excellent and illuminating column. It is a reminder, if we needed one, why her and her husband’s brand of politics ought to be put on the ash-heap.

David Brooks has a fascinating and important column today. In it he recounts how in 1992 Jim Cooper, a Democratic congressman from Tennessee, came up with a health care reform plan that drew bipartisan support but differed from Hillary Clinton’s plan (Cooper’s plan did not include employer mandates to force universal coverage). When Cooper met with Mrs. Clinton to discuss their differences, he found her “ice cold,” in his words. “It was the coldest reception of my life,” he said. “I was excoriated.”

When on June 15, 1993 Cooper told Mrs. Clinton (correctly) that her plan would never get through Congress, Clinton’s response, according to Cooper, was, “We’ll crush you. You’ll wish you never mentioned this to me.”

A war room was set up to oppose Cooper, who was planning to run for the Senate in 1994. His motivations were questioned by the Clinton crowd. People were dispatched to Tennessee to attack his plan. Mrs. Clinton denounced the Cooper plan as “dangerous and threatening” – and according to Newsweek, she brought an aide with a video camera to a meeting with senators and asked the senators to denounce Cooper on the spot.

“We’ll crush you” is an anthem for the Clintons. It, and “war rooms,” embody their approach to politics and governing. The record on this matter is clear and overwhelming: Team Clinton will try to destroy people whom they oppose and believe are a threat to their “political viability.” Of all the reasons to oppose Mrs. Clinton for president, this one ranks near the top. People like her and her husband should not be entrusted with power – and especially with the power of the presidency.

I would add this observation to David’s column. He uses his opening paragraph to declare he is not a “Hillary-hater” – and he supports this declaration by writing this:

She’s been an outstanding senator. She hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005. In this campaign, she has soldiered on bravely even though she has most of the elected Democrats, news media and the educated class rooting against her.

David clearly isn’t a Hillary-hater – he’s not a hater, period, which is one of the reasons he’s liked and respected by so many people – but he overstates things in order to purchase the right to criticize her. Brooks may feel Hillary Clinton is a fine senator – but to say she is “outstanding” is not warranted. If her name was Hillary Jones (D-Idaho) instead of Hillary Clinton, she would be viewed as a capable, liberal-leaning person who has served in the Senate for less than eight years and has no great legislative achievements to her name. On the merits, she probably ranks near the middle or slightly above among the 100 senators.

Beyond that, Brooks writes that she “hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005.” Except that 2005 was not viewed as dark at the time. That was the year, after all, of the Iraqi elections and the “purple finger.” It was a year in which it appeared as if political progress was being made (in fact, the progress was largely illusory). The really dark year in Iraq was 2006 – and that is the year when Senator Clinton began to waiver and then went south on the war she once supported. Worse, she (along with Senator Obama) now supports a withdrawal of American troops and a counterinsurgency strategy that would undercut the enormous gains we have made since General Petraeus began his secure-the-population counter-insurgency operation. She wants to leave Iraq, come what may. It is a reckless plan that would do enormous damage to America, lead to mass death among Iraqis, and be a huge victory for everyone from jihadists to President Ahmadinejad.

As for soldiering on “bravely” in the campaign: she is, after all, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and probably the favorite to be the next President. She travels well, her campaign is flush with cash, she speaks before mostly-adoring audiences, and for much of the campaign she has not endured harsh criticism. To the degree that she has, most of it is due to her and the words and actions of her husband. The fact that she is a dogged campaigner is impressive – but not anymore so than anyone else in the campaign. And to invoke the adverb “bravely” for what she is doing devalues the word.

But those are minor points in an excellent and illuminating column. It is a reminder, if we needed one, why her and her husband’s brand of politics ought to be put on the ash-heap.

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Will The Other Kennedy Help?

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

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Government Secrets

Should We Expel the Jews From Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi?

The open-government lobby in Washington is highly influential. From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to the First Amendment Center, and with many stops in between, there are dozens of organizations fighting against government secrecy, even in cases where secrecy is essential for the protection of our national security.

But if some of this is heedless and even mindless, it does not follow that everything the open-government lobby does is bad. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), one of the most influential groups in the lobby, is on the Left–sometimes the far Left–on many issues. FAS posts an immense collection of documents pertaining to national security, some of them open-source material, some of them declassified by the U.S. government, and some of them “declassified” after being published by FAS itself.

Whether such private acts of declassification are a good or bad thing is a subject for another day. But the FAS website, especially its Secrecy News blog run by Steven Aftergood, almost always touches on important subjects and is a daily stop on my tour of the World Wide Web.

In its most recent post, FAS features some open-source material from the American Civil War. The subject is, of all things, “Abraham Lincoln and the Jews.” More specifically, it is Order No. 11, issued by General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862, expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where his forces had taken the field. Why did Grant take this action, and what was Lincoln’s response? To find out, click here.

Should We Expel the Jews From Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi?

The open-government lobby in Washington is highly influential. From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to the First Amendment Center, and with many stops in between, there are dozens of organizations fighting against government secrecy, even in cases where secrecy is essential for the protection of our national security.

But if some of this is heedless and even mindless, it does not follow that everything the open-government lobby does is bad. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), one of the most influential groups in the lobby, is on the Left–sometimes the far Left–on many issues. FAS posts an immense collection of documents pertaining to national security, some of them open-source material, some of them declassified by the U.S. government, and some of them “declassified” after being published by FAS itself.

Whether such private acts of declassification are a good or bad thing is a subject for another day. But the FAS website, especially its Secrecy News blog run by Steven Aftergood, almost always touches on important subjects and is a daily stop on my tour of the World Wide Web.

In its most recent post, FAS features some open-source material from the American Civil War. The subject is, of all things, “Abraham Lincoln and the Jews.” More specifically, it is Order No. 11, issued by General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862, expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, where his forces had taken the field. Why did Grant take this action, and what was Lincoln’s response? To find out, click here.

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The Thompson Candidacy

How serious a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination is Fred Thompson?

Apparently quite serious indeed. Last week GOP insider pundit Robert Novak assured readers that Thompson isn’t just toying with running—he will declare his candidacy early next month. This rumor has generated outsized buzz, including a highly negative column by George Will. But a great many conservatives, dissatisfied with a field in which none of the three leading contenders is a down-the-line conservative, seem to be fans.

The former Senator’s most salient attribute is his persona. He has a large, comforting, commanding presence that Hollywood directors have seen fit to cast as an admiral, the director of the CIA, and even the President. His slow drawl, big eyes, and wrinkles make him the very image of the respected Southern lawyer. He is an excellent communicator, sympathetic, easy to watch, and never grating (which is not true of, say, Rudy). Some go so far as to call his qualities “Reaganesque.”

But what about substance?

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How serious a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination is Fred Thompson?

Apparently quite serious indeed. Last week GOP insider pundit Robert Novak assured readers that Thompson isn’t just toying with running—he will declare his candidacy early next month. This rumor has generated outsized buzz, including a highly negative column by George Will. But a great many conservatives, dissatisfied with a field in which none of the three leading contenders is a down-the-line conservative, seem to be fans.

The former Senator’s most salient attribute is his persona. He has a large, comforting, commanding presence that Hollywood directors have seen fit to cast as an admiral, the director of the CIA, and even the President. His slow drawl, big eyes, and wrinkles make him the very image of the respected Southern lawyer. He is an excellent communicator, sympathetic, easy to watch, and never grating (which is not true of, say, Rudy). Some go so far as to call his qualities “Reaganesque.”

But what about substance?

Thompson frequently fills in for ABC radio host Paul Harvey, and gives short “position paper” talks on issues. If recent ones are a guide, he is pro-defense, committed to winning in Iraq, opposed to civilization-wide surrender to Islamofascism, pro-immigration enforcement, and an economic conservative. It is worth noting, however, that these are only his stated positions. In his Senate years he supported McCain-Feingold on campaign-finance reform and lacked the political skill to turn the Chinagate hearings (which he chaired) into a substantive exposition of Bill Clinton’s arms-for-cash chicanery.

Thompson certainly has as much political experience as anyone from either party in this year’s not overly experienced crop. He served eight years as a U.S. Senator but has been in government and around politics much longer than that. His resume includes an early stint as a deputy U.S. attorney in his native Tennessee, after which he ran Howard Baker’s 1972 Senate campaign. He came to Washington to serve as co-chief counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee. He worked as a lobbyist for 18 years, and began his acting career accidentally enough in 1987, when the director of a movie about one of Thompson’s cases couldn’t find someone to play him, and so asked him to audition. After leaving the Senate in 2003, he joined the cast of the popular legal drama Law and Order.

Can Thompson catch up with the field money-wise, having missed the first quarter of fundraising? He is said to be able to raise “Hollywood money” (though Hollywood GOP money is a new concept). Thompson is not by any means known as a hard worker–and raising more than $1 million a week is hard work. His already-high name recognition, though, could offset the need for advertising dollars. Jumping in late also has the potential advantage of saving him from overexposure. John McCain is already suffering from this malady, having been the candidate-in-waiting since the end of the 2000 primaries. And Thompson polled high in March, beating Hillary in a Rasmussen match-up by a margin of 44 percent to 43 percent, and came in third in the Republican field (ahead of Romney) in a recent Gallup poll.

Last month the evangelical leader and talk-show host James Dobson announced that he won’t support Thompson. Dobson doesn’t think the former Senator is a real Christian, never having heard him discuss his Christian beliefs publicly. This won’t hurt, since no one meets Dobson’s test this year—and polls show Rudy Giuliani, a social libertarian who respondents feel is tough enough to stare down the nation’s very real enemies, running first. What may hurt Thompson, quite reasonably, is the fact that he has no executive experience.

Ten months out from the first primary, the GOP field remains fluid, as Republicans wait to see how the candidates fare over a very long campaign season. Thompson could easily end up on the ticket—but it’s not likely to be in the top slot.

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Short Takes

Back during the cold war, there was a joke about the New York Times that I believe antedated the coining of the term “political correctness.” A U.S.-Soviet exchange of nuclear missiles occurs and the next morning’s Times headline reads:

“Third World War Breaks Out: Minorities and Women to Suffer Most.”

As if determined not to allow parody to outdo self-parody, the Times on Sunday (April 1, appropriately) ran this headline: “Poorest Nations Will Bear Brunt as World Warms.” For my part, I would settle for being able to rely on the accuracy of the paper’s version of yesterday’s events, never mind tomorrow’s.

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Back during the cold war, there was a joke about the New York Times that I believe antedated the coining of the term “political correctness.” A U.S.-Soviet exchange of nuclear missiles occurs and the next morning’s Times headline reads:

“Third World War Breaks Out: Minorities and Women to Suffer Most.”

As if determined not to allow parody to outdo self-parody, the Times on Sunday (April 1, appropriately) ran this headline: “Poorest Nations Will Bear Brunt as World Warms.” For my part, I would settle for being able to rely on the accuracy of the paper’s version of yesterday’s events, never mind tomorrow’s.

* * *

Besides, isn’t warmth good for poor people whose utility bills are often onerous and who, in less developed countries, burn a lot of stuff for heat, producing smoke that creates, ah, global warming? Apparently, I have this all wrong, because on Monday, the Washington Post ran this headline: “Russia Sees Ill Effects of ‘General Winter’s’ Retreat.” That’s right. Russia will be worse off if it gets warmer. After all, if Napoleon tries to occupy the country again, there will be nothing to stop him (except that French troops seem to have lost some of their fearsomeness since his day). Plus, there will be no more excuse for vodka with breakfast (except, perhaps, that your president is Putin).

* * *

I am in receipt of an invitation from the president of the famous Oxford Union, asking if I would come to that apex of British scholarship to debate the motion: “This house regrets the founding of the United States of America.” Well, duh! We won that war. You lost. Of course you regret it.

* * *

Also in Monday’s Washington Post Robert Novak touts the presidential candidacy of Fred Thompson. Novak writes: “Sophisticated social conservative activists tell me . . . their appreciation of him stems not from his eight years as a U.S. senator from Tennessee but from his role as Manhattan district attorney on the TV series ‘Law and Order.’” Who are the unsophisticated activists supporting—Barney?

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Welcome, Wilfred McClay

contentions would like to welcome as a guest blogger Wilfred M. McClay, holder of the SunTrust Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a veteran COMMENTARY contributor. His most recent book is Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past (Eerdmans). He’ll be blogging from Rome, where he is spending a term as senior Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Rome. Wilfred brings with him tremendous erudition and a distinct voice, and we’re delighted to have him.

contentions would like to welcome as a guest blogger Wilfred M. McClay, holder of the SunTrust Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a veteran COMMENTARY contributor. His most recent book is Figures in the Carpet: Finding the Human Person in the American Past (Eerdmans). He’ll be blogging from Rome, where he is spending a term as senior Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Rome. Wilfred brings with him tremendous erudition and a distinct voice, and we’re delighted to have him.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due?

Bank of America has inadvertently wandered into what might become the most interesting public policy debate of the next election cycle: illegal immigration. A week ago, the bank—the largest financial-services company in the country—began a pilot program to market its credit cards to people without asking for their Social Security numbers or other proof of citizenship. Without saying so outright, this seemed clearly a plan to turn undocumented, illegal aliens into Bank of America clients.

In a lawyerly way, Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America’s CEO, defends the policy in today’s Wall Street Journal. But the issue cuts much deeper than the policies of financial services companies. It really addresses the question of what we do with the millions of immigrants who have arrived here illegally and , in some cases, have been here for a generation or more.

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Bank of America has inadvertently wandered into what might become the most interesting public policy debate of the next election cycle: illegal immigration. A week ago, the bank—the largest financial-services company in the country—began a pilot program to market its credit cards to people without asking for their Social Security numbers or other proof of citizenship. Without saying so outright, this seemed clearly a plan to turn undocumented, illegal aliens into Bank of America clients.

In a lawyerly way, Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America’s CEO, defends the policy in today’s Wall Street Journal. But the issue cuts much deeper than the policies of financial services companies. It really addresses the question of what we do with the millions of immigrants who have arrived here illegally and , in some cases, have been here for a generation or more.

No one in the political sphere has taken on this issue directly. Border security and guest-worker programs don’t address the real issue of how to deal with people who, other than their undocumented status, are productive and law-abiding citizens. Tracking down all of them and deporting them is wildly unrealistic. Yet perhaps the Bank of America credit-card approach is the first in what will be a series of steps to mainstream this population.

There will be howls of protest, especially from the more nativist elements in the Republican and Democratic parties. There will also be all sorts of national-security arguments, as there were when Tennessee tried to give drivers’ licenses to undocumented aliens. But there is no escaping the question of how to bring aliens into the normal channels of American life. Bank of America’s decision to stick to its policy suggests that this question might ultimately be determined by gutsy and entrepreneurial businesses, not by poll-watching politicians.

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