Commentary Magazine


Topic: the American Prospect

Obama’s Progressives Problem

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

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You Think Democrats Aren’t Depressed?

Over at the American Prospect, they have a big box of Kleenex out. It, snivel, wasn’t, sob, “supposed to be this way.” Paul Waldman grouses:

Every presidency has its ups and downs. But this is one seriously rough period not only for the current inhabitant of the Oval Office but for the people who put him there. The economy continues to struggle along, with millions unemployed. There seems no way out of the mire of Afghanistan. The Gulf of Mexico is befouled and will be for years to come. Republican senators — with the cooperation of a couple of Democrats who know no pleasure greater than screwing up their party’s agenda — have taken advantage of the chamber’s legislative rules to make action all but impossible. And it looks like they will take back the House.

There is more, but you get the drift. All that remains is for them to scare voters: “the unfortunate result of Obama’s missteps, trials, and victories too ambiguous for the taste of many could be that progressives end up where they were with Bill Clinton in 1998: only willing to defend the president by pointing to the extremism of the opposition.” The system is “rigged” against them, you see (wait — don’t they control both Houses of Congress and the White House?), and the Supreme Court is on a tear. (Like when Justice Kennedy voted with the liberals on habeas corpus rights for terrorists and  on defending a public university’s right to force religious groups to take nonbelievers.)

These people are certainly down in the dumps. (“All over the country, progressives are gripped by gloom.”) It is not so much Obama that they appear angry at but rather the American people and the Constitution. If constituents weren’t so loud and the Senate weren’t designed to slow down intemperate legislation, then they’d have their wish list fulfilled.

Well, if this is any indication, I think the polling models are way off. They haven’t begun to explore the depths of Democratic disaffection and the potential for a really miserable Democratic turnout.

Over at the American Prospect, they have a big box of Kleenex out. It, snivel, wasn’t, sob, “supposed to be this way.” Paul Waldman grouses:

Every presidency has its ups and downs. But this is one seriously rough period not only for the current inhabitant of the Oval Office but for the people who put him there. The economy continues to struggle along, with millions unemployed. There seems no way out of the mire of Afghanistan. The Gulf of Mexico is befouled and will be for years to come. Republican senators — with the cooperation of a couple of Democrats who know no pleasure greater than screwing up their party’s agenda — have taken advantage of the chamber’s legislative rules to make action all but impossible. And it looks like they will take back the House.

There is more, but you get the drift. All that remains is for them to scare voters: “the unfortunate result of Obama’s missteps, trials, and victories too ambiguous for the taste of many could be that progressives end up where they were with Bill Clinton in 1998: only willing to defend the president by pointing to the extremism of the opposition.” The system is “rigged” against them, you see (wait — don’t they control both Houses of Congress and the White House?), and the Supreme Court is on a tear. (Like when Justice Kennedy voted with the liberals on habeas corpus rights for terrorists and  on defending a public university’s right to force religious groups to take nonbelievers.)

These people are certainly down in the dumps. (“All over the country, progressives are gripped by gloom.”) It is not so much Obama that they appear angry at but rather the American people and the Constitution. If constituents weren’t so loud and the Senate weren’t designed to slow down intemperate legislation, then they’d have their wish list fulfilled.

Well, if this is any indication, I think the polling models are way off. They haven’t begun to explore the depths of Democratic disaffection and the potential for a really miserable Democratic turnout.

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Cynical Specter Runs to the Left on Afghanistan

How cynical is Arlen Specter? I know. That is sort of like asking how deep the ocean is or how high the moon. But sometimes, following the twists and turns of the five-term turncoat senator’s position on the issues can take the breath away from even those most used to his shenanigans. Take Afghanistan. Once a supporter of both the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan, the newly minted Democrat from Pennsylvania no longer sees the fight against the Taliban “as central to our national security” as Tim Fernholz reports in his blog at the American Prospect.

Specter switched parties because he knew he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Pat Toomey, former congressman, in a Republican primary next year. But because he is now facing a significant challenge for his new party’s nomination from longtime Iraq war opponent Congressman Joe Sestak, Specter has decided to go the former Navy admiral one better and come out against the war in Afghanistan. Cynical liberals spent the 2006 and 2008 campaigns saying that they opposed the war in Iraq because it took troops and effort away from the “good” war in Afghanistan, but those same people want to bug out of the latter conflict now that Obama is safely elected and they don’t have to pretend to take the war against Islamist terror seriously. Specter’s willingness to change positions on a dime outstrips even that record. He not only backed Bush (who saved Specter’s hide by backing him in a tight primary race against Toomey in 2004) but also enthusiastically backed both wars. But that didn’t stop him in a conference call with reporters this week from blasting Sestak for the congressman’s support of the request for more troops to bolster the allied effort in Afghanistan.

So give Sestak points for sincerity because, apparently unlike our president, he was actually telling the truth when he said in previous election years that he wanted to divert resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. The only question here is whether Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania will fall for Specter’s incredible anti-war makeover. The latest (Oct. 28) Franklin & Marshall poll of the Democratic primary shows the incumbent senator with a 30-18 percent lead over Sestak. Specter has a big lead in money raised (according to Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, Specter has $8.7 million in the bank while Sestak has $4.7 million and Toomey, just $1.8 million). But given the enormous imbalance in name recognition between the two, such numbers can hardly comfort Specter. Interestingly, the same survey shows a Toomey-Sestak matchup next November as a 28-20 Toomey advantage, while Specter leads Toomey in a general election rematch of the 2004 GOP primary by only 33-31.

No matter how you slice it, the mendacious Specter’s prospects look a bit shaky; as do the Democrats’ chances of holding onto this seat in an otherwise increasingly blue Pennsylvania.

How cynical is Arlen Specter? I know. That is sort of like asking how deep the ocean is or how high the moon. But sometimes, following the twists and turns of the five-term turncoat senator’s position on the issues can take the breath away from even those most used to his shenanigans. Take Afghanistan. Once a supporter of both the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan, the newly minted Democrat from Pennsylvania no longer sees the fight against the Taliban “as central to our national security” as Tim Fernholz reports in his blog at the American Prospect.

Specter switched parties because he knew he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Pat Toomey, former congressman, in a Republican primary next year. But because he is now facing a significant challenge for his new party’s nomination from longtime Iraq war opponent Congressman Joe Sestak, Specter has decided to go the former Navy admiral one better and come out against the war in Afghanistan. Cynical liberals spent the 2006 and 2008 campaigns saying that they opposed the war in Iraq because it took troops and effort away from the “good” war in Afghanistan, but those same people want to bug out of the latter conflict now that Obama is safely elected and they don’t have to pretend to take the war against Islamist terror seriously. Specter’s willingness to change positions on a dime outstrips even that record. He not only backed Bush (who saved Specter’s hide by backing him in a tight primary race against Toomey in 2004) but also enthusiastically backed both wars. But that didn’t stop him in a conference call with reporters this week from blasting Sestak for the congressman’s support of the request for more troops to bolster the allied effort in Afghanistan.

So give Sestak points for sincerity because, apparently unlike our president, he was actually telling the truth when he said in previous election years that he wanted to divert resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. The only question here is whether Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania will fall for Specter’s incredible anti-war makeover. The latest (Oct. 28) Franklin & Marshall poll of the Democratic primary shows the incumbent senator with a 30-18 percent lead over Sestak. Specter has a big lead in money raised (according to Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, Specter has $8.7 million in the bank while Sestak has $4.7 million and Toomey, just $1.8 million). But given the enormous imbalance in name recognition between the two, such numbers can hardly comfort Specter. Interestingly, the same survey shows a Toomey-Sestak matchup next November as a 28-20 Toomey advantage, while Specter leads Toomey in a general election rematch of the 2004 GOP primary by only 33-31.

No matter how you slice it, the mendacious Specter’s prospects look a bit shaky; as do the Democrats’ chances of holding onto this seat in an otherwise increasingly blue Pennsylvania.

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Hamas, Unrepentant

Remember, last month, when the credulosphere trembled in excitement at the thought that Hamas had given up its desire to destroy Israel? Khaled Meshaal muttered something about being reconciled to Israel, and the floodgates opened.

Gershom Gorenberg wrote long, breathless articles for the American Prospect and his blog announcing the good tidings, Ezra Klein wrote a shorter, dumber post earnestly heralding the “bombshell” in the peace process (if only the warmongers would notice!), Daniel Levy declared that Hamas now accepts Israel in pre-1967 borders, and the smug harrumphing about the reasonableness of Hamas pretty much foamed off your computer screen.

But killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket conservatives laughed at all of this: It is one thing to remain willing to pursue peace with honest interlocutors, and it is another altogether to behave like a desperate, manipulable fool. These thoughts came to mind today while reading the remarks of Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’ highest-ranking officials, reported in the Jerusalem Post:

[We] “will continue to persecute the Zionists wherever they are, after we prove that the Zionist army can be defeated — contrary to what was believed in the past, that it is impossible to beat the Zionists.”

Speaking in the Gaza Strip, he went on to affirm Palestinian right of return, claiming that the “right of return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is closer than ever.”

“After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them . . . we will persecute them to eternity, and the sun of the freedom and independence of the Palestinians will burn all of the Zionists,” he continued.

This will be rigorously ignored by Gorenberg, Klein, Levy et al. Nothing to see here, folks. Say, can I interest you in some diplomacy?

Remember, last month, when the credulosphere trembled in excitement at the thought that Hamas had given up its desire to destroy Israel? Khaled Meshaal muttered something about being reconciled to Israel, and the floodgates opened.

Gershom Gorenberg wrote long, breathless articles for the American Prospect and his blog announcing the good tidings, Ezra Klein wrote a shorter, dumber post earnestly heralding the “bombshell” in the peace process (if only the warmongers would notice!), Daniel Levy declared that Hamas now accepts Israel in pre-1967 borders, and the smug harrumphing about the reasonableness of Hamas pretty much foamed off your computer screen.

But killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket conservatives laughed at all of this: It is one thing to remain willing to pursue peace with honest interlocutors, and it is another altogether to behave like a desperate, manipulable fool. These thoughts came to mind today while reading the remarks of Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’ highest-ranking officials, reported in the Jerusalem Post:

[We] “will continue to persecute the Zionists wherever they are, after we prove that the Zionist army can be defeated — contrary to what was believed in the past, that it is impossible to beat the Zionists.”

Speaking in the Gaza Strip, he went on to affirm Palestinian right of return, claiming that the “right of return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is closer than ever.”

“After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them . . . we will persecute them to eternity, and the sun of the freedom and independence of the Palestinians will burn all of the Zionists,” he continued.

This will be rigorously ignored by Gorenberg, Klein, Levy et al. Nothing to see here, folks. Say, can I interest you in some diplomacy?

Read Less

Gee Whiz, Superman!

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

“A Superman Approach to Foreign Policy.” That’s the title of this Ezra Klein essay over at The American Prospect, currently the feature piece on the homepage. (Comic books seem to be a popular analytical framework for the up-and-coming blogger set: Matthew Yglesias writes at length about “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” in his new book).

To be fair, TAP is a magazine that that has a former editor of Lyndon LaRouche’s newspaper on its masthead and publishes the work of a denier of the genocide in Cambodia. But Superman? Really? Here’s the core of the piece:

Yet the internationalist vision was more deeply interwoven into our cultural fabric than we often realize. Superman and Captain America were superheroes of an odd sort: tremendously powerful beings whose primary struggle was often to follow the self-imposed rules and strictures that lent their power a moral legitimacy. Neither allowed themselves to kill, and both sought to work within the law. Given their strength, either could have sought world domination, and even if they didn’t, they could have been viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by those who were convinced that they one day would seek world domination. It was only by following ostentatiously strict moral codes that they could legitimize their power and thus exist cooperatively with a world that had every right to fear them. Indeed, soon enough, both were forming communities of like-minded super beings (The Justice League for Superman, the Avengers for Captain America) and generally operating much like, well, the nation that birthed them. As Spiderman — a later hero who, like so many heroes, bought into the idea that rules and restraint separated the good guys from the bad guys — liked to say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

That strain of foreign-policy thinking was largely abandoned in the rubble of the Twin Towers. As Yglesias puts it, “9/11 marked the beginning of an enormous psychological change on the part of the American people.” With a newfound sense of vulnerability, there was a newfound sense of fear. Restraint was a luxury, a nice ideal when we were primarily dealing with the problems of other people, but less desirable when our own lives were on the line. After 9-11, the country’s foreign-policy debate contracted, and liberal internationalists, who had always been better at pursuing their agenda than selling it politically, were largely left out. Instead, the conversation was dominated by those on the right who believed in unilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, and those on the left who believed in a superficially multilateral U.S military hegemony over the world, with the option to revert back to unilateralism if other countries proved disagreeable. It was Michael O’Hanlon versus Richard Perle, and few even seemed to find that strange.

This, too, saw its expression in a new type of hero: Jack Bauer. If Superman and Captain America were the emblems of the national mood directly after World War II, Bauer expressed the national anxieties uncovered by 9-11. Rather than an invincible superhero, Bauer was but a man, one who could perish like any other, and was aware of not only his own vulnerability, but that of his family, his government, and his country. Though there were laws he was supposed to follow, the enormity of the dangers he faced and the ruthlessness of the enemies he encountered led him to break them almost constantly, and so he tortured, killed, and generally let the ends lay claim to whatever means they could think of. Indeed, he did it so often, and with such abandon, that he’ll start Season 7 on trial for torture.

All very neat, indeed. But it has little to do with reality: America had been engaging in the kind of war-making putatively forbidden by the Superman model since well before the birth of DC and Marvel, and continued doing so in the years between Superman’s heyday and 9/11. Klein’s framework is cute–but very, very reductive.

When you attempt to force the paradigm of comic books onto something as inherently chaotic as global politics, your hopes of making sense are limited. And Klein’s essay doesn’t, in the end, cohere. But it does serve as a useful reminder of the intellectual vagaries of “the kind of whole bloggy progressive thing.” Serious people who want to engage in serious debate about foreign policy have no shortage of publications they can check out, offering any number of wildly conflicting views. Without, I might add, having recourse to infusions of inept popcult references.

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Nothing to See Here

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

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Silence on Zimbabwe

For the past several days, the trouble in Zimbabwe has been a major international news story. This is not usually the case. Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is often relegated to page A17–that is, if it even makes it into the paper. Yet when a democratic election turns sour, and the dictator in charge succeeds in stealing it, and the threat of violence hangs in the air, people around the world start to notice. The post-election situation in Zimbabwe has remained on the homepage of The New York Times since Sunday, though that paper’s tenacious coverage of the election aftermath will certainly be affected now that its southern Africa correspondent was arrested late Thursday evening with a group of foreign journalists. Every major news outlet–even cable news!–has devoted some time to Zimbabwe these past few days.

Everyone except, that is, the publications and blogs of the American Left. Browse through the left-wing blogs and the major left-wing magazines like The Nation or The American Prospect, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much, if anything, on the crisis in Zimbabwe. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that many on the American Left were early supporters of Mugabe and did not really come around to condemning him until it became fashionable to do so, i.e. around 2000, when he began stealing privately-owned farms and the international media took a renewed interest in the dictator. A second reason is that America in general, and George W. Bush in particular, cannot be blamed for what’s going on in Zimbabwe. And so the very real theft of a democratic election isn’t worth writing about. Indeed, Mugabe’s rhetoric about the imperialist aggression of Tony Blair and George W. Bush must be appealing to certain segments of the left blogosphere. The rest, I guess, is silence.

For the past several days, the trouble in Zimbabwe has been a major international news story. This is not usually the case. Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, is often relegated to page A17–that is, if it even makes it into the paper. Yet when a democratic election turns sour, and the dictator in charge succeeds in stealing it, and the threat of violence hangs in the air, people around the world start to notice. The post-election situation in Zimbabwe has remained on the homepage of The New York Times since Sunday, though that paper’s tenacious coverage of the election aftermath will certainly be affected now that its southern Africa correspondent was arrested late Thursday evening with a group of foreign journalists. Every major news outlet–even cable news!–has devoted some time to Zimbabwe these past few days.

Everyone except, that is, the publications and blogs of the American Left. Browse through the left-wing blogs and the major left-wing magazines like The Nation or The American Prospect, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much, if anything, on the crisis in Zimbabwe. I think there are two reasons for this. One is that many on the American Left were early supporters of Mugabe and did not really come around to condemning him until it became fashionable to do so, i.e. around 2000, when he began stealing privately-owned farms and the international media took a renewed interest in the dictator. A second reason is that America in general, and George W. Bush in particular, cannot be blamed for what’s going on in Zimbabwe. And so the very real theft of a democratic election isn’t worth writing about. Indeed, Mugabe’s rhetoric about the imperialist aggression of Tony Blair and George W. Bush must be appealing to certain segments of the left blogosphere. The rest, I guess, is silence.

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Obama’s Hollow Doctrine

Spencer Ackerman has a long piece in the American Prospect which purports to be a serious exposition of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and of his choice of foreign policy advisers. Obama is said to have big, transformative ideas: He “is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades.”

I got excited reading this — the kind of expectant feeling one gets upon sitting down to read something that proposes to be new and interesting. Ackerman writes that he “spoke at length with Obama’s foreign-policy brain trust” in order to take the measure of the “new global strategy” that President Obama will implement.

So what does this new strategy entail? Well, it will be

a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion” agenda in favor of “dignity promotion,” to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.

So our foreign policy will be guided by “dignity promotion.” Ackerman quotes Samantha Power to flesh out the idea:

Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking],” she says. “If you start with that, it explains why it’s not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It’s not a human way to live. It’s graceless — an affront to your sense of dignity.

Power continues, arguing that U.S. policy should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

This is ludicrous. Islamist ideology itself is in many ways a type of “dignity promotion,” insofar as it is concerned with the recovery of Islam’s world-historical grandeur and the obliteration of western power, which is viewed as a source of humiliation and tyranny. Unfortunately for Obama and his brain trust, Islamism inspires a form of political and cultural dignity that runs far deeper than any sentiments created through enlarged American budgets for food distribution.

How does Barack Obama propose to offer Muslims the sense of dignity that they clearly derive from their participation in resistance movements whose most basic ambition is the rejection of the West? Is this really the sweeping foreign policy that Obama offers — an attempt to smother ideological radicalism with western materialism? This isn’t transformative policy; it is a banal example of defining a problem away.

You can continue reading the piece in search of specifics, but you won’t find any. It ends with a clichéd flourish:

Why not demand the destruction of al-Qaeda? Why not pursue the enlightened global leadership promised by liberal internationalism? Why not abandon fear? What is it we have to fear, exactly?

“He goes back to Roosevelt,” Power says. “Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us.”

What does “liberal internationalism” mean in Ackerman’s imagination? What does “enlightened global leadership” entail? Does that mean we let Iran get the bomb, or not? Who knows. Now what was Ackerman saying at the beginning of his piece about hollow sloganeering?

Spencer Ackerman has a long piece in the American Prospect which purports to be a serious exposition of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and of his choice of foreign policy advisers. Obama is said to have big, transformative ideas: He “is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades.”

I got excited reading this — the kind of expectant feeling one gets upon sitting down to read something that proposes to be new and interesting. Ackerman writes that he “spoke at length with Obama’s foreign-policy brain trust” in order to take the measure of the “new global strategy” that President Obama will implement.

So what does this new strategy entail? Well, it will be

a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion” agenda in favor of “dignity promotion,” to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.

So our foreign policy will be guided by “dignity promotion.” Ackerman quotes Samantha Power to flesh out the idea:

Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking],” she says. “If you start with that, it explains why it’s not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It’s not a human way to live. It’s graceless — an affront to your sense of dignity.

Power continues, arguing that U.S. policy should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

This is ludicrous. Islamist ideology itself is in many ways a type of “dignity promotion,” insofar as it is concerned with the recovery of Islam’s world-historical grandeur and the obliteration of western power, which is viewed as a source of humiliation and tyranny. Unfortunately for Obama and his brain trust, Islamism inspires a form of political and cultural dignity that runs far deeper than any sentiments created through enlarged American budgets for food distribution.

How does Barack Obama propose to offer Muslims the sense of dignity that they clearly derive from their participation in resistance movements whose most basic ambition is the rejection of the West? Is this really the sweeping foreign policy that Obama offers — an attempt to smother ideological radicalism with western materialism? This isn’t transformative policy; it is a banal example of defining a problem away.

You can continue reading the piece in search of specifics, but you won’t find any. It ends with a clichéd flourish:

Why not demand the destruction of al-Qaeda? Why not pursue the enlightened global leadership promised by liberal internationalism? Why not abandon fear? What is it we have to fear, exactly?

“He goes back to Roosevelt,” Power says. “Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us.”

What does “liberal internationalism” mean in Ackerman’s imagination? What does “enlightened global leadership” entail? Does that mean we let Iran get the bomb, or not? Who knows. Now what was Ackerman saying at the beginning of his piece about hollow sloganeering?

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Steeling for Obama’s Loss

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

Paul Waldman, an employee of David Brock’s Media Matters for America, has written a somewhat overwrought piece for The American Prospect, darkly warning that conservatives are only now beginning to unravel their long-planned “hate-based campaign against Obama.” They will, according to Waldman, “wage a campaign appealing to the ugliest prejudices, the most craven fears, the most vile hatreds.” Waldman would have us believe that Jeremiah Wright is the creation of Rupert Murdoch, and that any questions about his ties to Barack Obama are de facto evidence of racism.

But Wright is, apparently just the beginning of the conservative assault on Obama:

He’s not the unthreatening black man, he’s the scary black man. He’s Al Sharpton, he’s Malcom X, he’s Huey Newton. He’ll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife.

Yes, you read that correctly. Come November, should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, expect to see advertisements scaring white housewives into thinking that Barack Obama will kill their husbands and rape them.

Now, it’s unlikely that even the most craven of right-wing dirty tricksters would employ such low tactics. But some people have tried to smear Obama this way, as Waldman conspicuously neglects to mention. And those people were the Clintons. (I guess they must be really, really deep-cover agents of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Or something.)

In Waldman’s essay you can already see how the left wing of the Democratic party will react should Barack Obama not win the presidency. There won’t be any discussion of his policies or his abilities as a campaigner. There won’t be a crisis of self-questioning on the part of his supporters. There will, however, be thoughtlessly-hurled accusations of racism. And plenty of them.

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With Friends Like These…

Not to beat up on Steve Clemons, but the conclusion to his post on the news about Castro leaves me perplexed:

One interesting US presidential race tidbit involves Fidel Castro–who is know [sic] quite dismissive of and sparring with John McCain over McCain’s accusations that Cuban agents engaged in torture in Vietnam. However, before this spat, Castro said that the “unbeatable” US presidential ticket would have both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on it.

Something to consider. . .

What, pray tell, is there to consider? Other than firming up its support base amongst readers of The Nation or the American Prospect, an endorsement from Fidel Castro would not exactly be a net plus for a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket. But hey, Obama already has Daniel Ortega on his side, so what’s another Latin American caudillo?

Not to beat up on Steve Clemons, but the conclusion to his post on the news about Castro leaves me perplexed:

One interesting US presidential race tidbit involves Fidel Castro–who is know [sic] quite dismissive of and sparring with John McCain over McCain’s accusations that Cuban agents engaged in torture in Vietnam. However, before this spat, Castro said that the “unbeatable” US presidential ticket would have both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on it.

Something to consider. . .

What, pray tell, is there to consider? Other than firming up its support base amongst readers of The Nation or the American Prospect, an endorsement from Fidel Castro would not exactly be a net plus for a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket. But hey, Obama already has Daniel Ortega on his side, so what’s another Latin American caudillo?

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Obama’s Real Israel Problem

Last week, the blogosphere hotly debated Barack Obama’s stance on Israel. Here at contentions, Noah Pollak argued that Obama’s advisory staff suggests an unfavorable disposition towards Jerusalem, while I noted that Obama’s strongly pro-Israel statements on the campaign trail contrasted with his previous call for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over at The American Prospect, however, Matthew Duss intimated that these concerns were petty—“Good heavens, ‘an even-handed approach’? What’s next, wearing a keffiyeh?” The Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias agreed.

Unfortunately, Duss and Yglesias declined to address criticisms of Obama’s apparent Israeli-Palestinian flip-flopping—which was first exposed by a prominent pro-Palestinian activist—substantively. But, with the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl affording downtrodden Jets fans ample time to mull, I’ve decided that Duss and Yglesias are right: our focus on the various forces shaping Obama’s outlook and statements on Israel is petty, though not for their condescending reasons.

Consider the following: over the next four-to-eight years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to be the least dynamic feature of Middle Eastern politics and, by extension, U.S. policy in the Middle East. Firmly in control of Gaza, Hamas is bound to remain an actively destabilizing force in Palestinian politics for years to come. Fatah—the U.S.’s great hope for Palestinian moderation post-Arafat—remains weak and unpopular, and its decline will accelerate once Abbas leaves office in 2009. Meanwhile, Israel’s leadership still sees no contradiction between pursuing peace and expanding settlements, further lacking the vision to transform short-term military successes against terrorism into long-term political solutions.

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian sphere will remain unambiguously hopeless for years to come. It is thus hard to imagine Obama adopting Samantha Power’s advice that pumping billions of dollars into a nascent Palestinian state is a panacea. Indeed, focusing on Obama’s Israel outlook merely distracts from his potential approach to far more dynamic—and therefore critical—areas of Middle Eastern politics.

For example, consider U.S. public diplomacy—the area in which Obama has the greatest potential to truly affect change. As LinkTV reports, “many Arabs believe that Obama’s ethnicity and background give him a kinder understanding of Third World countries.” I can vouch for these sentiments: when Obama announced his candidacy early last year, his childhood years in Indonesia and Islamic middle name enthused my classmates at the American University in Cairo, who were otherwise strictly critical of American politics and policy. These students represent the foremost demographic that U.S. public diplomacy must attract if it is to succeed: they are well educated, fluent in English, exposed to American culture, and relatively liberal in their social outlooks.

Yet Obama’s policy proposals would immediately undermine his biographical advantages with this key Arab constituency. After all, Obama has repeatedly called for dialogue with Iran and a conference with the leaders of Islamic states—initiatives that would sacrifice these young moderates to the region’s most illiberal forces. In Iran, Obama’s overture would inflict double damage: it would represent official U.S. acceptance of the hostage-taking Revolutionary regime, while debunking public sentiment that views Iran’s isolation as too steep a price for Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic rhetoric. Ultimately, the U.S. would be more in bed with Middle Eastern authoritarians than ever before, acquiescing to Iranian ascendancy in the process.

In short, if Barack Obama truly views himself as an “agent of change,” then scrutinizing his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the least dynamic of all Middle Eastern policy areas—is wasteful. Rather, it is his approach on Iran, Arab democracy, and U.S. public diplomacy—fluctuating issues that will demand Obama’s immediate attention should he assume office—that require the deepest evaluation.

Last week, the blogosphere hotly debated Barack Obama’s stance on Israel. Here at contentions, Noah Pollak argued that Obama’s advisory staff suggests an unfavorable disposition towards Jerusalem, while I noted that Obama’s strongly pro-Israel statements on the campaign trail contrasted with his previous call for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over at The American Prospect, however, Matthew Duss intimated that these concerns were petty—“Good heavens, ‘an even-handed approach’? What’s next, wearing a keffiyeh?” The Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias agreed.

Unfortunately, Duss and Yglesias declined to address criticisms of Obama’s apparent Israeli-Palestinian flip-flopping—which was first exposed by a prominent pro-Palestinian activist—substantively. But, with the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl affording downtrodden Jets fans ample time to mull, I’ve decided that Duss and Yglesias are right: our focus on the various forces shaping Obama’s outlook and statements on Israel is petty, though not for their condescending reasons.

Consider the following: over the next four-to-eight years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to be the least dynamic feature of Middle Eastern politics and, by extension, U.S. policy in the Middle East. Firmly in control of Gaza, Hamas is bound to remain an actively destabilizing force in Palestinian politics for years to come. Fatah—the U.S.’s great hope for Palestinian moderation post-Arafat—remains weak and unpopular, and its decline will accelerate once Abbas leaves office in 2009. Meanwhile, Israel’s leadership still sees no contradiction between pursuing peace and expanding settlements, further lacking the vision to transform short-term military successes against terrorism into long-term political solutions.

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian sphere will remain unambiguously hopeless for years to come. It is thus hard to imagine Obama adopting Samantha Power’s advice that pumping billions of dollars into a nascent Palestinian state is a panacea. Indeed, focusing on Obama’s Israel outlook merely distracts from his potential approach to far more dynamic—and therefore critical—areas of Middle Eastern politics.

For example, consider U.S. public diplomacy—the area in which Obama has the greatest potential to truly affect change. As LinkTV reports, “many Arabs believe that Obama’s ethnicity and background give him a kinder understanding of Third World countries.” I can vouch for these sentiments: when Obama announced his candidacy early last year, his childhood years in Indonesia and Islamic middle name enthused my classmates at the American University in Cairo, who were otherwise strictly critical of American politics and policy. These students represent the foremost demographic that U.S. public diplomacy must attract if it is to succeed: they are well educated, fluent in English, exposed to American culture, and relatively liberal in their social outlooks.

Yet Obama’s policy proposals would immediately undermine his biographical advantages with this key Arab constituency. After all, Obama has repeatedly called for dialogue with Iran and a conference with the leaders of Islamic states—initiatives that would sacrifice these young moderates to the region’s most illiberal forces. In Iran, Obama’s overture would inflict double damage: it would represent official U.S. acceptance of the hostage-taking Revolutionary regime, while debunking public sentiment that views Iran’s isolation as too steep a price for Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic rhetoric. Ultimately, the U.S. would be more in bed with Middle Eastern authoritarians than ever before, acquiescing to Iranian ascendancy in the process.

In short, if Barack Obama truly views himself as an “agent of change,” then scrutinizing his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the least dynamic of all Middle Eastern policy areas—is wasteful. Rather, it is his approach on Iran, Arab democracy, and U.S. public diplomacy—fluctuating issues that will demand Obama’s immediate attention should he assume office—that require the deepest evaluation.

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Does Hollywood Hate Arabs?

Steve Clemons has posted a video on his blog he says was sent to him by an Al Jazeera anchor. The video, called “Reel Bad Arabs,” purports to show what the American Prospect‘s Matthew Duss says is “Hollywood’s villification of Arabs.” Clemons says the video is “worth learning from” but doesn’t bother to tell us what (if anything) he learned from it.

Bypassing the obvious questions raised about the validity of anything forwarded along by an Al Jazeera journalist, Ross Douthat nevertheless very smartly writes that nearly all of the movies depicted in the documentary are at least fifteen years old. He also points out that “America’s most deadly and dedicated enemies tend to be, well, Arabic,” a fact which no doubt offends the tender sensibilities of Clemons and Duss. I imagine both of them would prefer that Hollywood change the scripts of movies so that, for instance, Arab terrorists become European neo-Nazis hell-bent on world domination. Everyone knows, after all, that the latter are a grave threat to humanity and the former are mere holograms created by the neocon war machine.

Steve Clemons has posted a video on his blog he says was sent to him by an Al Jazeera anchor. The video, called “Reel Bad Arabs,” purports to show what the American Prospect‘s Matthew Duss says is “Hollywood’s villification of Arabs.” Clemons says the video is “worth learning from” but doesn’t bother to tell us what (if anything) he learned from it.

Bypassing the obvious questions raised about the validity of anything forwarded along by an Al Jazeera journalist, Ross Douthat nevertheless very smartly writes that nearly all of the movies depicted in the documentary are at least fifteen years old. He also points out that “America’s most deadly and dedicated enemies tend to be, well, Arabic,” a fact which no doubt offends the tender sensibilities of Clemons and Duss. I imagine both of them would prefer that Hollywood change the scripts of movies so that, for instance, Arab terrorists become European neo-Nazis hell-bent on world domination. Everyone knows, after all, that the latter are a grave threat to humanity and the former are mere holograms created by the neocon war machine.

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The Friends of Lyndon LaRouche

Several days ago on contentions, I pointed out that Robert Dreyfuss, Senior Correspondent of The American Prospect, once worked as the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review newspaper. This is not news—nor is it a secret—but, to my knowledge, no one at The American Prospect has publicly addressed concerns that one of their writers has ties to the LaRouche organization. The only reason I brought it up was to point out the irony that a Prospect writer would express so much fascination with and heap ridicule upon the LaRouche movement, not seeming to understand that one of her work colleagues has a long history with the demagogue and cult-leader.

But the radio silence from The Prospect and its writers in response to my post has been rather odd. Here are some very simple questions for the Prospect (and the other publications for which he writes, not limited to The Nation and Rolling Stone), an answer to any of which would be warmly appreciated:

Did you know about Dreyfuss’s ties to the LaRouche movement when you hired him?

Has he in any way refuted his past work for LaRouche?

Why do you endorse and hawk his LaRouche-published book, Hostage to Khomeini, on your website?

To my knowledge, based on thorough internet searches, Dreyfuss has never renounced his past official affiliation with the LaRouche organization. So, for all we know, he still thinks favorably of LaRouche, having moved onto more ostensibly respectable work at The American Prospect. His journalism, however, characterized by unoriginal conspiracies about neo-con domination of American foreign policy, does not appear to have changed much from the tinfoil hat stuff characteristic of LaRouche. Perhaps the leading lights of the liberal blogosphere can explain why they aren’t troubled by The American Prospect’s employing a man with ties to what the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based, liberal watchdog group Political Research Associates refers to as a “fascist movement.”

Several days ago on contentions, I pointed out that Robert Dreyfuss, Senior Correspondent of The American Prospect, once worked as the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review newspaper. This is not news—nor is it a secret—but, to my knowledge, no one at The American Prospect has publicly addressed concerns that one of their writers has ties to the LaRouche organization. The only reason I brought it up was to point out the irony that a Prospect writer would express so much fascination with and heap ridicule upon the LaRouche movement, not seeming to understand that one of her work colleagues has a long history with the demagogue and cult-leader.

But the radio silence from The Prospect and its writers in response to my post has been rather odd. Here are some very simple questions for the Prospect (and the other publications for which he writes, not limited to The Nation and Rolling Stone), an answer to any of which would be warmly appreciated:

Did you know about Dreyfuss’s ties to the LaRouche movement when you hired him?

Has he in any way refuted his past work for LaRouche?

Why do you endorse and hawk his LaRouche-published book, Hostage to Khomeini, on your website?

To my knowledge, based on thorough internet searches, Dreyfuss has never renounced his past official affiliation with the LaRouche organization. So, for all we know, he still thinks favorably of LaRouche, having moved onto more ostensibly respectable work at The American Prospect. His journalism, however, characterized by unoriginal conspiracies about neo-con domination of American foreign policy, does not appear to have changed much from the tinfoil hat stuff characteristic of LaRouche. Perhaps the leading lights of the liberal blogosphere can explain why they aren’t troubled by The American Prospect’s employing a man with ties to what the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based, liberal watchdog group Political Research Associates refers to as a “fascist movement.”

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The Closest of Strangers

Over at Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect, Kate Sheppard links to a story in the Washington Monthly about the political cult leader and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. The anti-Semite who calls for the head of Dick Cheney spent five years in prison for tax evasion, and has been a Democratic candidate for president seven times. But don’t be fooled by LaRouche’s political affiliation or his enemies: Political Research Associates, a non-profit organization that monitors the extremist, right-wing fringe, considers him to be a “fascist demagogue.”

Sheppard expresses widely-held sentiments about this “crazed weirdo,” fascinated at his ability to attract twenty-something “followers” to his various campaigns. She writes of his movement’s “prodigious amounts of crazy” and recommends a recent Washington Monthly story about the suicide of the man who printed LaRouche’s propaganda materials.

Expressing fascination and bewilderment at the enigma that is Lyndon LaRouche, Sheppard ought to have just called up her colleague Robert Dreyfuss, a “Senior Correspondent” of the American Prospect on foreign affairs and national security (he’s also a Contributing Editor to the Nation). Dreyfuss was previously the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for the Executive Intelligence Review, LaRouche’s newspaper. Dreyfuss’s very first book, Hostage to Khomeini (which you can download here, on the website of the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, along with other classic works like LaRouche’s autobiography and Dope, Inc., which posits that the Queen of England is an international drug runner), was published by New Benjamin Franklin House (a LaRouche outfit). The book was co-authored with EIR’s “European Bureau Middle East chief” and dedicated to Dreyfuss’s colleagues at LaRouche’s newspaper.

That conspiratorial tract, by the way, is one that the Prospect’s editors “like.” To learn more about this “fascinating,” fascist cult, Sheppard need look no further than her interoffice phone directory.

Over at Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect, Kate Sheppard links to a story in the Washington Monthly about the political cult leader and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. The anti-Semite who calls for the head of Dick Cheney spent five years in prison for tax evasion, and has been a Democratic candidate for president seven times. But don’t be fooled by LaRouche’s political affiliation or his enemies: Political Research Associates, a non-profit organization that monitors the extremist, right-wing fringe, considers him to be a “fascist demagogue.”

Sheppard expresses widely-held sentiments about this “crazed weirdo,” fascinated at his ability to attract twenty-something “followers” to his various campaigns. She writes of his movement’s “prodigious amounts of crazy” and recommends a recent Washington Monthly story about the suicide of the man who printed LaRouche’s propaganda materials.

Expressing fascination and bewilderment at the enigma that is Lyndon LaRouche, Sheppard ought to have just called up her colleague Robert Dreyfuss, a “Senior Correspondent” of the American Prospect on foreign affairs and national security (he’s also a Contributing Editor to the Nation). Dreyfuss was previously the “Middle East Intelligence Director” for the Executive Intelligence Review, LaRouche’s newspaper. Dreyfuss’s very first book, Hostage to Khomeini (which you can download here, on the website of the Worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, along with other classic works like LaRouche’s autobiography and Dope, Inc., which posits that the Queen of England is an international drug runner), was published by New Benjamin Franklin House (a LaRouche outfit). The book was co-authored with EIR’s “European Bureau Middle East chief” and dedicated to Dreyfuss’s colleagues at LaRouche’s newspaper.

That conspiratorial tract, by the way, is one that the Prospect’s editors “like.” To learn more about this “fascinating,” fascist cult, Sheppard need look no further than her interoffice phone directory.

Read Less




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