Friday, September 12, 2008


Open Thread

Mi threada, si threada.

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Rookie "Luck" -- Or Something Deeper?

During the Democratic primary, Barack Obama parried Hillary Clinton's talking point of her greater "experience" with the view that "judgment" -- as defined by his opposition to the Iraq war from the beginning -- was a better metric to assess a leader. Hillary then said, well, that was just one speech, delivered when he was still a state senator.

Well, is it possible that Obama's judgment -- or political prescience -- has been demonstrated more than just once? Well, noting George W. Bush's reported decision to send special forces into Pakistan, my on-time boss says:
It is worth recalling that in his first major foreign-policy address, in August 2007, Barack Obama proposed raids against al-Qaeda in Pakistan without consultation, and making

the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

If the story is correct — and it reads like an official leak — the July date indicates Bush approved this plan while Musharraf was still in power. (He resigned his office in August.) He was, however, vastly weaker and more compromised this past July than he was when Obama made his speech in 2007.

I was among many people who ridiculed the Obama proposal at the time, on the grounds that a) no nation violates the territorial integrity of an ally, even if that ally is problematic, and b) Obama’s bellicosity seemed entirely unbelievable, given that he spoke in the wake of his remarks about meeting with the leaders of the world’s worst regimes “without preconditions.” On the latter point, he was and remains wrong and foolish.

On the former point, though, he was, apparently, precognitive, and may be due an apology.

That's an amazing statement coming from a reliable strong hawk like JPod. And, he was hardly alone in saying that Obama's view on Pakistan demonstrated his inexperience and "confused leadership." Actually, this may be the third or fourth time that subsequent events have actually endorsed an Obama viewpoint rather than that of John McCain.

Obama called for greater focus on Afghanistan -- and moving more troops there -- months before McCain agreed that more needed to be done to prevent further deterioration there. And, of course, Obama called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq very early on -- Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki agreed with him and even the Bush administration has had to (rhetorically, at least) come around to that view. That left McCain the odd man out, taking the awkward position that he knew the views of the Iraqi people better than their own prime minister.

Now, two caveats: 1) McCain was right from the start on the surge, the success of which created the on-the-ground conditions that allowed Maliki to push for a timetable. But, that is undermined by the fact McCain refuses to, as the saying goes, "declare victory and get out." 2) Obama may find it uncomfortable that, as much as he says that McCain is a "third term for Bush," in fact Obama and Bush seem pretty close in worldview these days. Ah, irony is wonderful thing.

One last point, seven years and one day after the terrorist attacks on this country: conservative talk show host Michael Smerconish explains why Bush's failure to get the guy responsible for that day is making him listen closely to Barack Obama.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008


Seven Years Gone

At this hour on this day, just for a few moments, we put aside all the petty fights and arguments and consider what unites us. As we remember those lost on September 11, let us give special thanks to those who sacrificed their lives for others, and resolve to work together for a better country and a better world.

God Bless America


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Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Lipstick Jungle

Sarah Palin has certainly turned into the ultimate game-changer in this campaign: Her convention phrase of the "difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick." has apparently made off-limits the tried and true political putdown "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." (Indeed, John McCain himself used that line last year, talking about Hillary Clinton bringing back her once-rejected health-care plan in a different form.)

Republicans were smart politically to jump on Barack Obama's comment, feigning insult and demanding an apology. Remarkably, the post-convention storyline has gone along the line that campaign manager Rick Davis predicted a week ago: Issues are not being discussed. Instead, Palin is being used as the ultimate cultural shield (NBC's Chuck Todd used the phrase "deflector shield" on MSNBC's "Morning Joe").

An attack on McCain's policies has been turned into an attack on Sarah Palin (though it clearly wasn't). As in football, so as in politics: A team will use a play -- or "tactic" -- until the other team figures out how to stop it.

The McCain campaign may go to the gender card one time too many.

But until that happens -- or the Obama campaign figures out how to blunt it -- the Democratic ticket is in trouble.

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Gulp Fiction

Apparently, the audition for Titanic director James Cameron's first choice as romantic lead did not go well:

As a result, Leonardo DiCaprio ended up getting the role.

Ah, what could have been...

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008


A B*tch Called Karma

Now if the Patriots had pulled Tom Brady earlier out of those many blowouts they inflicted last year, his back-up might be better prepared now to take over now that Brady's lost for the season. Kinda sucks, eh?

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The GOP's Palin Problem And Mine

I said last week that Sarah Palin represented a "step away" from what the Republican Party once was -- and not in a good way. Let me explain why I feel that way.

Now, there are, in fact, numerous reasons why conservatives should, at the very least, be troubled by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline gets into some, sharing Charles Krauthammer's concerns which, to his credit, he has been consistent on since Day One of the Palin announcement.

To the foreign policy/national security concerns that Krauthammer raises, one could also look at the fiscal/economic ones: Palin is said to be one of the most popular governors in the country (with 80 percent approval rating) because of her fiscal sobriety as governor. Well, this is nominally true. But she managed to to be marginally fiscally prudent because she and the Republican legislature (which, by the way, doesn't agree on much -- the GOP Senate president wonders how Palin could be a good vice president when, in her words, she hasn't been that good of a governor) imposed a huge tax hike on oil companies. The CATO Institute, by the way, notes that the people of Alaska didn't exactly get much of a windfall tax reduction because of the oil company hike. And as for opposition to the "bridge to nowhere" earmark, -- well, she supported it, then opposed it -- and then happily kept the federal money (for other uses) when the actual earmark was scrapped.

So on both national security and fiscal/economic policy, Palin's record is hardly that great. But, putting all that aside, my problem with Palin is as personal as anything else.

Keep in mind, from most reports, McCain initially wanted Joe Lieberman as his running mat. He was ultimately overruled because of the understandable concern that he would precipitate a revolt from the socially conservative base. Enter: Sarah Palin.

Ironically, though Palin fulfills the dreams and desires of social conservatives on the narrowest aspect of "pro-life", i.e. she kept her baby, even though she knew it had Down Syndrome and unwed pregnant daughter Bristol also kept her baby. However, in the broader view of what was once known as
"family values" among Republicans, Palin and Co. actually undermine that message.

Bye, bye "Daddy Party."
Hello, hello, "Baby Daddy Party." The self-described "f---ing redneck," Levi Johnston, father of Bristol Palin's baby was welcomed with open arms to the coronation of his girlfriend's mom's ascension as the new Mrs. Right.

I tip my hat to NRO's Byron York who, the day before Palin's acceptance speech, made the obvious comparison:
"This is not an issue that we're going to act ashamed or scared about," my source told me. "Despite the media coverage of this, voters still have such a great response to [Sarah Palin]. This just makes her more real." So, I asked, does that mean Johnston will be on stage with the Palin family? "At this point we don't know whether he will be up on stage," I was told. "It remains to be seen. There hasn't been a decision made yet."

Perhaps I'm focusing on an irrelevant issue, but the presence, or non-presence, of Johnston on the stage tonight strikes me as important. It's one thing for delegates to be understanding and compassionate about the fix these two teenagers have gotten themselves into. It's another to actually celebrate it. And, given what we've learned in the last few days, if Johnston is up on stage with his girlfriend and the Palin family, and Republicans are wildly cheering, it will certainly look like they are celebrating this situation.

I don't usually engage in these scenarios, but I'll do it here. If the Obamas had a 17 year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if that they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families.
I appreciate Byron raising this point. It's far from irrelevant. Remarkably, none of York's National Review colleagues thought that this was a problem. Jay Nordlinger said he would applaud the young couple because of everything they were going through. Andy McCarthy said that he didn't see any difference between how a black unwed couple (related to a black high profile nominee) would be treated by either conservatives or the broader media. That has got to be one of the most willfully obtuse views I have ever heard.

I'm not going to be as cautious in my assessment of an event or decision.

This is as repugnant a betrayal of what Republicans have purported to be as one can imagine. This is the party of welfare reform (and it's earlier bogey-woman, "welfare queens," who had children out of wedlock while on the dole). This is the party that allegedly promotes traditional "marriage."

No, I won't pretend to be "objective" on this issue. Some forty-something years ago, I was born out of wedlock. Growing up -- particularly attending Catholic schools -- the sense of shame of having that status was never too far away. Heck, the aunt who raised my mother made her life so miserable after she gave birth to me, Mom picked up and moved us to the UK. Small wonder then, that my basic instinct was that I should, as one of the more infamous illegitimate children once declared, "stand up for bastards!"

Earlier this year, conservatives pilloried Barack Obama for saying that he wouldn't want to see his daughter "punished" with an unwanted pregnancy. Yet, what he said is little different than what was said of young girls who ended up "in the family way" (to use another colloquialism of the time). Those girls were said to have gotten "in trouble." Becoming pregnant out of wedlock was hardly seen as a "blessing." It was seen as an outward representation of someone who had sinned. Indeed, for all sorts of traditionalists, it was seen as a "problem" to be "taken care of." Now, that meant different things, depending on class, culture, means and morality.
Under a best-case scenario (of demanding responsibility from all concerned), the father of the non-bride might decide that he wasn't going to allow his girl to be shamed her entire life -- and so, he would ensure that he would become a father-in-law. The male suitor would agree -- at gunpoint, if necessary.

Alas, if that didn't happen, all the other options were on the pregnant girl:

1) She could be sent off to spend time with a not-so-near "aunt" or other relative who would provide shelter from shame until either an operation was done or the baby was born and handed over to adoption agencies.

2) Yes, occasionally, if the pregnant child's mother was young enough -- as in the story that went around the Internet over the weekend concerning Sarah Palin and whether she actually gave birth to Bristol's child four months ago -- she might "take one for the team."

The Scarlet Letter.

Regardless, there is no other way to describe the societal pressures of a period not that long gone other than saying they were "punishing" to the young girl.

It is a good thing that young girls are no longer "punished" in such a manner. However, it is hardly in society's interest that there are no broader ramifications (beyond giving birth and raising the child for the next 18 years) for teenage parents.

Yet, how odd it is, that after several days when Republicans denounced liberals for making Bristol Palin the story, GOP organizers had no problem inviting the father of Bristol's unborn child to come to the convention. By bringing Levi to the convention, they helped EXPAND upon what was already a huge story -- just as it was about to calm down.

Levi was introduced to John McCain at the airport, where the then-presumptive GOP nominee embraced the now-cleaned up Johnston. How nice that the campaign ensured that there was an AP photographer there to capture the "private" moment. In the immortal words of
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Republican Party chose to "define deviancy down," by saying that the self-described "f---ing redneck" is part of the Palin family because he's impregnated the VP candidate's daughter. Given McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' statement that the election isn't about "issues," but about a "composite view" of all the candidates, one might surmise Johnston was brought to the convention precisely to keep the story big.

Levi Johnston is now -- next to Seth Rogen -- the most famous guy to knock up a chick. And, hey, he gets to come to a political convention and be a prop to the guy who may be the next president of the United States!


And, again, in the eyes of today's Republican Party -- and, apparently, the conservative movement, in toto -- there is nothing even passingly wrong with this. Why should there be? After all, this is in service to a, pardon the pun, broader agenda -- a 44 year old quote-conservative-unquote mother of five who can become a rallying cry for women and blue-collar voters!

When confronted with swirling cultural issues, this is what the Republican Party does -- it "
anoints" members of what, in other contexts, are considered "preferred" groups and "fast tracks" to positions at a speed much greater than they would otherwise attain. It is pure identity politics for which they condemn Democrats for playing. Clarence Thomas then; Sarah Palin now. And again, along the way, greater principles are tossed to the way side -- affirmative action, 17 years ago; the stigma of unwed teen pregnancy today (and that national security/experience thing, to boot).

Any number of conservatives have noted why Sarah
Palin is objectively problematic to be the vice-presidential nominee. But the base is happy because of what she symbolizes.

I say that it is precisely what she -- and Bristol and Levi --
symbolize that represents a tossing overboard of an integral Republican standard and principle. And that is a sad thing.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008


Open Thread

Thread up and fight, my friends!!

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