Monday, June 30, 2008

No Aberration: Neoconservatism and U.S. Foreign Policy

World Affairs has published a stimulating debate on Robert Kagan's recent article, "Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776." The participants include David Rieff, George Packer, and Ronald Steel, and Kagan responds to his critics.

The most powerful essay is Rieff's, who is one of the great liberal internationalist thinkers on the left of the foreign policy spectrum. Rieff is critical of Kagan's "binary" thinking, and he suggests Kagan dismisses too easily "the anti-interventionist, anti-millennarian tradition on liberal internationalism." But, for the most part, Rieff agrees with Kagan's argument on the essential neoconservatism of America's foreign policy tradition:

Doubtless, neoconservatism is only one modern iteration of America’s special mission to bring democracy to the world, at the point of a gun if necessary. But the liberal internationalist tradition is a distinct reality as well, and Kagan goes too far in trying to marginalize it in his otherwise useful and bracing piece....

Having said that, it seems to me Kagan is absolutely right to insist that what we now call neoconservatism is “no aberration” within the American foreign policy tradition, and to mock the idea that, as he puts it, American imperialism was “some deviation from tradition foisted on an unsuspecting nation by clever ideologues”—the view that does indeed dominate the current thinking of liberals and the Democratic Party, which is awfully convenient given that it allows them to blame everything on the Bush administration, and somehow find it coherent to oppose the war in Iraq but back regime change in Khartoum in order to “save” the people of Darfur (regime change being the inevitable consequence, indeed a sine qua non, of any serious effort to intervene in that region, whether activists wish to admit this fact or not). Kagan is also correct, it seems to me, in pointing out how widespread support for the war in Iraq was among liberal Democrats and born-again realists when it still looked like things would go well and when the Bush administration was riding high. An argument about first principles between the American mainstream and the neoconservatives? Give me a break.

There is something absurdly smug and legalistic about the liberal view. Take, for example, the celebrated phrase widely attributed to Richard Holbrooke—our perennially self-anointed secretary of state in whatever Democratic administration that comes along—that the United Nations works best when there is “real” U.S. leadership. That may be literally true (though I think all it really means is that, structured as it is, the UN can do nothing serious that America opposes). But Holbrooke was almost certainly trying to make the larger point that the context of multilateralism, if respected by the U.S., both legitimated U.S. power and somehow transformed that power into the power of what we absurdly continue to call the “international community.” To this one could add the effort by the Princeton Project on National Security, led by Anne-Marie Slaughter and John Ikenberry, to wrap American hegemony in the sanitizing cloak of a concert of (world) democracies. No doubt the fifth-century B.C. Athenians, too, preferred the term Delian League, which after all was the correct name for the alliance of 150 city-states of which Athens was far and away the most powerful, to the Athenian empire. Empires claiming to be democracies always have this problem, and the U.S. is hardly the first empire to claim to be a democracy.

In short, if the distinction between liberal internationalists and so-called neoconservatives can be boiled down to the fact that liberals seek an America that is hegemonic, is the last best hope of mankind, is entitled to establish international rule sets (after consultation, to be sure), but one that acts, in Jefferson’s celebrated phrase, with “respect for the decent opinions of mankind” and emphasizes so-called soft power, while neoconservatives largely seek the same hegemony—but believe that because the U.S. is the last best hope on earth, has the most military power, and the will to use it, then when in doubt its views should prevail—frankly what we are looking at here is the perfect illustration of Freud’s “narcissism of small differences,” not two fundamentally different approaches to the conduct of American foreign policy.
There's more at the link.

I would just add that when Rieff - not to mention Kagan - suggests that liberal internationalists are closely aligned to neoconservatives in basic orientation, they automatically exclude from the analysis those on the far left of the spectrum, antiwar types who have argued against the Iraq war root and branch, and who have mercilessly criticized "liberal war hawks" for their initial support of the invasion.

This leftist antiwar school can be labelled "radical pacifism," and it might best be seen in
Matthew Yglesias' recent writings on Iraq, and U.S. foreign policy more generally.

Yglesias is now considered a "foreign policy god" by
Josh Marsall, and additional radical pacifists include, among others, Spencer Ackerman, TBogg, Digby, the Newshoggers crew, and to a lesser extent, Andrew Sullivan (a former neocon doing his best to get in on the good graces of the nihilist left).

The radical pacifists might claim the label "liberal internationalists" (that's Yglesias' game), but they are generally quite distinct from genuine institutionalists in their orientation toward the use of force, which - so far in my readings of these people - has yet to be considered a legitimate alternative in debates on current U.S. foreign policy (on cases like Iranian nukes or outside intervention in Burma).

Revolutionary Roster: 1968 Radicals for Obama

Daniel Flynn, over at City Journal, offers a "who's who" of '60s-era radicals who are backing Barack Obama's presidential campaign, starting with Maoist Communist Mike Klonsky:

Michael Klonsky is hardly the only ’68 radical supporting Obama this year. In 1968, when Mark Rudd organized the student strike that shut down Columbia University, the SDS chapter that he chaired ridiculed Kennedy and McCarthy as “McKennedy,” claimed that “neither peace candidate offers an alternative to the war policies of Lyndon Johnson,” and suggested “sabotage” as an alternative to voting. Rudd succeeded Klonsky as national SDS leader, presiding over the organization’s metamorphosis into Weatherman and performing “a liaison function” for the plot to bomb a Fort Dix soldiers’ dance that instead killed three Weathermen, including two of Rudd’s Columbia SDS colleagues. Today, Rudd renounces bombs, embraces ballots—and supports Obama. “Probably the biggest difference between Columbia SDS people in 1968 and in 2008 is forty years,” Rudd explained in an e-mail. “Most of us have lived with compromise our whole lives. As kids we were raving idealists who thought that ‘The elections don’t mean shit’ was a slogan that meant something to somebody. It didn’t.”

Then there’s Carl Davidson, who was one of SDS’s three elected national officers in 1968, when the organization first urged young people to refrain from voting. His disillusionment with traditional politics became so pronounced that, in the post-sixties hangover that followed, Davidson joined Klonsky in rejecting traditional politics for fringe Marxist movements. More recently, he helped organize the 2002 rally in which Obama first spoke out against the Iraq War and now serves as the webmaster of Progressives for Obama. “The last thing we need is a simple repeat of 1968, which saw Nixon and the new Right as an outcome, as well as the defeat of [Humphrey],” Davidson contends. “One thing I’ve learned. Social change is not made by elections, but it certainly proceeds through them, not by ignoring them or chasing the illusion of end runs around them.”

Former SDS president Tom Hayden is also in the Obama camp. Hayden organized the made-for-TV protest outside the 1968 Chicago convention. But the catharsis of throwing debris at the Chicago police, the purer-than-thou sanctimony that tolerated no distinction between Lyndon Johnson and Eugene McCarthy, and the exhilaration of “voting in the streets” instead of in election booths combined to ensure liberal defeats. Hayden’s orchestrated anarchy proved more damaging to Humphrey’s presidential aspirations than any dirty trick Nixon’s henchmen could have dreamed up. Klonsky remembers Hayden plotting to spread nails on a highway; another SDS leader recalls Hayden encouraging activists to firebomb police cars. If the Democrats couldn’t run a convention, many Americans wondered, how could they run the country? “Did the radicalism of Chicago elect Richard Nixon?” Hayden asked, clearly pained, in his 1988 memoir. “Having struggled with that question for twenty years, I find there is no ‘neat’ answer.”

Now Hayden is one of the organizers of Progressives for Obama. “The difference is that back then the Democratic Party was directly carrying out the Vietnam War, which meant there was no anti-war critic to vote for after Kennedy was assassinated and McCarthy defeated by the establishment,” he offered in an e-mail last month. “Today the Republican Party is directly carrying out the war, which obviously will make a lot of people favor changing the presidency despite the uncertainty of what the Democratic candidate will do when in office.”

Progressives for Obama resembles a Who’s Who of SDS luminaries. In addition to Hayden, Rudd, and Davidson, the group includes Bob Pardun, SDS’s education secretary during the 1966–67 school year; Paul Buhle, a radical professor who has recently attempted to revive SDS; Mickey and Dick Flacks, red-diaper babies who helped craft 1962’s Port Huron Statement, a seminal New Left document; and SDS’s third president, Todd Gitlin. Age and experience have mellowed some of the SDSers in Obama’s camp. Gitlin, for instance, has evolved into a respected Ivy League professor and milquetoast liberal. But others still glory in a past that can only damage Obama’s future. The aging New Left still practices a therapeutic politics that places a higher value on feelings of personal liberation than on restrained pursuit of political aims.
Read the whole thing, at the link.

I've previously chronicled extreme left-wing support for the Obama campaign.

See, for example, "No Enemies on the Left? Progressives for Barack Obama," where I discuss Tom Hayden's recent mobilization in "progressive" electoral radicalism.

Obama to Speak on Patriotism

I haven't gotten the opposition's political intelligence reports, but I suspect operatives in the Obama camp might just be taking some cues from American Power

Readers will recall, I asked, in an earlier post:

Can Obama make clear that his patriotism's not just a snooty love of his successes, but of a genuine pride in nation that harks to the most traditional notions of conservative nationalism?

Democrats White Flag

It turns out Obama does want to clarify this issue, according to CNN, "
Obama to Deliver 'Major Speech' on Patriotism":

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama plans to deliver what his campaign is calling a "major speech" Monday, centering around an issue he's been trying to highlight for months now: his patriotism.

The remarks come in Harry Truman's hometown of Independence, Missouri, just days before the Fourth of July.

"Sen. Obama will discuss what patriotism means to him and what it requires of all Americans who love this country and want to see it do better," Obama spokesman Bill Burton wrote in a morning email to reporters.

The Illinois senator has been defending his patriotism ever since the days of Iowa when he was first criticized for not wearing a flag pin — which he now does much more frequently — and when false rumors began circulating that he did not say the Pledge of Allegiance.

He was also seen without his hand over his heart during a rendition of the National Anthem.

Obama's wife, Michelle, has been on the receiving end of attacks over her patriotism, after telling an audience at a campaign event, "For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country."

Senator Obama will follow up Monday's speech on patriotism with a Tuesday address focused on faith, and remarks on service Wednesday and Thursday. He will spend Friday, July 4 in Butte, Montana — with the whole Obama family out on the trail.
Obama needs this patriotism speech to go over a little better than his disastrous address on race at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center." For even if Obama hits a home run, the left's patriotism gap's going to linger well into the fall campaign and beyond.

See also, Gateway Pundit, "Ruh-Roh... Another "Major Speech" By Obama - This Time On Patriotism."

(Plus, the prepared text of Obama's speech is available online.)


UPDATE: Obama has now delivered the speech. See, "Obama Tries to Answer Questions of Patriotism," and "Obama Criticizes in Patriotism Speech ."

Israel Prisoner Swap Extracts Emotional Toll

Israel Prisoners

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to a prisoner swap with the terrorist organization Hezbollah, the Los Angeles Times reports:

The Israeli Cabinet's approval Sunday of a prisoner swap with the militant group Hezbollah touched off cries of victory in Lebanon and sparked fresh debate within the Jewish state over the price of its determination to retrieve missing soldiers.

After weeks of emotional public speculation and a six-hour Cabinet debate, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government voted 22 to 3 in favor of a deal that would return two captured Israeli soldiers. Olmert acknowledged Sunday that they were probably dead.

In return for the men or their bodies, Hezbollah would receive several imprisoned Lebanese militants, the bodies of about a dozen other fighters and the release of a still-unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners.

Hezbollah's leadership still has to approve the deal, but the Shiite Muslim group on Sunday hailed it as a victory for the strategy of armed resistance....

The deal touches deep and controversial emotional chords that resonate through Israel's national psyche. The retrieval of captured soldiers is a core national value in a country where military service is mandatory for most.

"The state has an essential commitment to its citizens," said Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. "We must convey this moral message so that every citizen, every soldier and every parent knows the country will do everything to bring its soldiers back."

But that national priority is offset by fear that a dangerous precedent would be set.

Yossi Beilin, a member of Israel's parliament, or Knesset, criticized the terms of the deal, saying: "The principle must be live prisoners for living soldiers, bodies for the dead."

If groups such as Hezbollah or Hamas "understand that Israel is willing to pay the same price for its captive whether dead or alive, then they will make no effort to keep them alive," Beilin said. "This is a difficult thing to say, but it is in Israel's national and security interest to maintain the principle."

This is a very difficult issue, and I fear that for Israel to complete the prisoner swap will indeed embolden the terrorists and result in additional abductions. On the other hand, the emotional costs of doing nothing - for a country that fights the forces of evil like no other - might have been even more unbearable than the risks of further conflict.

I can when remember President Ronald Reagan, who was so firm in his public statements that the United States would not negotiate for the release of hostages, ultimately took full responsiblility -
during the Iran-Contra Affair - for the arms-for-hostage exchanges the resulted in the release of captive Americans in the 1980s.

I'll have updates later.

Photo Credit: "Demonstrators in Jerusalem hold posters of captured Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, left, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Israel worked out an exchange with Hezbollah for the latter two, who were seized in 2006 and are now thought to be dead," Los Angeles Times.

Democrats Challenge McCain's Presidential Qualifications

The news this morning, on cable and on the web, is the statement from Wesley Clark that John McCain's military service is not qualification for the Oval Office. Here's the key quote, from the transcript:

Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.
This isn't the brightest line of attack against McCain, but such slurs aren't new: Gloria Steinem and Wesley Clark attacked McCain's military service during the primaries.

What's interesting is how eveyone's touting 2008 as the big Democratic year, but if things are going so well - if the Dems have such a slam dunk - why must leftist partisans resort to the most rank personal attacks to make the sale?

John Aravosis sinks to allegations of treason against McCain:

Yes, we all know that John McCain was captured and tortured in Vietnam (McCain won't let you forget). A lot of people don't know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief?

I'm most of the way through John McCain's family memoir, Faith of My Fathers. Reading that book ought to be answer enough, for any fair-minded person, as to McCain's background experience and fitness to serve as the nation's chief executive. Add McCain's Senate career in foreign relations, and his judgment and leadership on national security, and there's really no comparison between McCain and Barack Obama (whose leadership experience includes a legacy of dilapidated public housing in Chicago).

Strata-Sphere's got a theory of the left's attacks on McCain's record, "Ugly Liberals: Only Care If Terrorists Are Tortured, Not If Americans Are":

The “Ugly Liberal” is coming out in the Democrat Party. A close cousin to the Ugly American - who would go to Europe and other places and display such arrogance and snobbery that it gave all America a bad reputation - this is the election for the Ugly Liberal. It is their hate of Americans, conservatives, life, etc that drives them. They are a constant insult machine, tearing down others to prop up their insecurity. They run their little fantasies about how only they can save humanity from itself.

I doubt this is a winning angle for the lefties, but let's see how it plays out. In the meanwhile, here's a YouTube of Clark making an attack on McCain's experience earlier in June:

See also, Ben Smith, "Some on Left Target McCain's War Record."


UPDATE: As a response to the moral equivalence in my comments, let me refer readers to Rick Moran's breathtaking analysis, "Honestly, Is John Aravosis a Piece of Excrement or What?"

It turns out that Aravosis led a "peeping Tom" expedition to catch GOP operatives engaged in homosexual intercourse, events which ultimately led to an unauthorized "outing" campaign against the targets in a public relations smear attack.

Just add Aravosis to the type of usual suspects I discussed last night in my post, "Think Progress Lies About McCain - Again!"


UPDATE II: From NBC's Andrea Mitchell, the Obama campaign, has rejected Wesley Clark's comments on John McCain's fitness to serve as commander-in-chief.

See also, Lawhawk, "Bus and Driver: Wesley Clark Edition" (Clark's the latest to be thrown under the bus...).

Poll: Democrats Favored for House Majority in November

Gallup reports that the Democrats are expected to retain majority control of the House of Representatives in the November elections:

The Democratic Party is in a good position to retain its majority status in Congress this November. Democrats lead the Republicans by 51% to 40% in the party preferences for Congress among all registered voters, and by 52% to 42% among likely voters.

This is according to Gallup's "generic ballot" question, asking Americans which party's candidate they would vote for in their congressional district if the election were held today. The USA Today/Gallup survey was conducted June 15-19, 2008.

The Democrats' 11-point advantage among registered voters is slightly less than what Gallup found in mid-February -- at that time, the Democrats led by 55% to 40% -- however, it still puts them in a comfortable position heading into the fall.

The current registered-voter results are identical to those from Gallup's final pre-election survey in 2006. In that election, the Democrats wrested majority control of Congress from the Republicans, winning 53% of all votes cast nationally for congressional candidates, to the Republicans' 45%. The implication of this, of course, is that the Democrats are on track to hold on to their U.S. House seat majority in the 2008 elections.
The question this year's not whether Democrats will retain majority control of Congress, but how large the majority will be.

For Republicans,
the key is retaining at least 41 seats in the Senate, where the party's use of minority rule protections can slow down Democratic legislative programs.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Think Progress Lies About McCain - Again!

I've become increasingly convinced of the left's fundamental dishonesty - that is, it appears untruthfulness is a core component of radical left-wing ideology.

I frequently expose the left's anti-intellectualism in my writing (see, for example, "
Barack Obama, the Netroots, and the "Vital Center" of American Politics"), but extreme mendacity is also a common characteristic of many of those in the left blogosphere.

The proposition is illustrated with reference to
Think Progress, the left-wing blogging project editied by Faiz Shakir. Earlier this year Think Progress falsely accused John McCain of plagairism, and was forced to issue an apology.

Also, in April,
Gateway Pundit called out Think Progress for its scurrilous Iraq reporting, " 'Think Progress' Publishes Misleading Troop Withdrawal Post."

So it's no surprise that
Think Progress is at it again, with a post attacking John McCain as out of touch on gasoline prices.

Patterico has a nice takedown of the accusations:

Think Progress has a post titled McCain: I ‘Don’t See How It Matters’ That I Don’t Know The Price Of Gas. Wow, that sounds pretty bad. Let’s take a look:

In a telephone interview with the Orange County Register earlier this week, John McCain acknowledged he was unaware of the price of gas.

Jeez. That’s really awful. But let’s take a look at the actual exchange that Think Progress is citing:

WICKSOL: When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?

MCCAIN: Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters.

Later in the interview, McCain says:

I’ve been on the campaign trail for so long I don’t remember when I last filled up my own gas tank, but I certainly did for many, many, many years and I understand the difficulties and challenges that it poses for the people of California and my home state of Arizona.

Think Progess cites this as evidence of “McCain’s cluelessness about gas prices.”

But McCain isn’t saying he doesn’t know the price of gas. He is saying that he doesn’t remember the last time he pumped his own gas, and how much it cost then.

So, does John McCain know the cost of a gallon of gas in America? Yes, he does. Here’s a news story from June 18:

“The price of a gallon of gas in America stands at more than four dollars. Yesterday, a barrel of oil cost about 134 dollarsm” said McCain.

Again, that McCain quote is from June 18 — six days before the O.C. Register interview that Think Progress uses to claim McCain doesn’t know the price of gas.

This Think Progress post is a lie. At best, the story is that McCain doesn’t remember the last time he pumped his own gas. Even that is a non-story, since nobody pumps their own gas while on the campaign trail. Someone ask Obama when he last pumped his own gas.

Of course, not all lefty bloggers spread crude falsehoods to advance their political agenda. Still, the leftist project is so intellectually and morally bankrupt that even the mainstream media has made bashing liberals a regular pastime.

Related: Don't miss the comments at the Think Progress post, where
one of the readers writes:

Did he really pump his own gas for many, many years? I highly doubt it since self service pumps weren’t around until the late 70’s early 80’s. By that time he was married to Cindy and I’m sure the servants filled the cars in that household. If McCain pumped his own gas it would have been for just a couple of years and then it was still possible to go into service stations that offered either self serve or full service options. I truly doubt he has ever gotten out of a limo or car and pumped his own gas.
The "early 1970s" would be more accurate, but who cares about accuracy when you can smear Cindy McCain as "First Junkie."

Barack Obama, the Netroots, and the "Vital Center" of American Politics

One of the hallmarks of netroots politics is for radical partisans to announce their movement represents the mainstream of the mass electorate.

By continually arguing that "
progressives" control the "political center," hardline leftists can disguise their extremist agenda as reflecting the political preferences of a majority of Americans.

I've noted regularly the left's tendency to claim the mainstream, but there's some recent radical outrage over the media's declaration that Barack Obama - after wrapping up his nomination -
has moved to the political middle. There are differences, naturally, among lefty bloggers as to Obama's correct location on the spectrum, but what's not at issue is that for many Obama has violated the progressive creed, which the leftists see as the majoritarian core of the American political universe.

The least compelling argument of this sort comes from Matt Stoller, who simply denounces Barack Obama's move to the center as a corrupt bargain - a political sellout to the corporate power elite of the Washington establishment. After highlighting the media coverage of Obama's moderation, Stoller attacks the lobbying practices of Tom Daschle, the former Senate minority leader, who's mentioned in the Washington Post's article, "In Campaign, One Man's Pragmatism Is Another's Flip-Flopping":

In this article, it's Tom Daschle who puts out the moderate credentialing argument.

"Those who accomplish the most are those who don't make the perfect the enemy of the good," said former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle, a key Obama supporter. "Barack is a pragmatist. In that sense, he has a larger vision but oftentimes knows that we can't get there with one legislative effort. When these occasions arise, he is willing to accept progress, even marginal gain, as a step toward that vision."

Tom Daschle, a former Senate Majority leader, is widely liked in DC. He's considered a lovely man, wise and with a wide network of supporters and loyalists that were fighting the Clinton wing of the party in the 1990s through Congress. Of course, Daschle is also known as a key supporter of the Iraq war, co-sponsoring and jamming through the Iraq War resolution, undercutting Joe Biden's attempt to push a different resolution requiring UN authorization before the President was authorized to use force. It's possible to see this as just a bad political decision, but there's more behind the scenes.

His wife, Linda Daschle is a lobbyist for pharmaceutical industries, aerospace, and defense contractors. During her husband's time as a key political leader within the Democratic Party, she pledged to remain independent of her husband's work, but that kind of conflict of interest, with a Senate Majority leader married to a defense contracting lobbyist is pretty severe.

The problem for Stoller is that Daschle's work for a Washington law firm reflects a routine career move for a former congressional insider - it's the way of power in Washington, and if leftists think money and progressivism are mutually exclusive, they're in the wrong profession. Some of the Democratic Party's most vociferous surrender hawks in Congress are also the most instituationally corrupt, as measured by Stoller's notions of "excessive moderation" (see, for example, "MURTHA INC.: How Lawmaker RebuiltHometown on Earmarks").

But note, further,
Taylor Marsh, who also decries the Obama-as-centrist meme:

In other news, from yesterday, the winner of the most hilarious headline is "Obama shifting to the center". Shifting to the center? He never left. It's just flat out stunning that the media now trumpets a story like this, which is meant to signify some regression by Senator Obama. It's a lie. Why? Because Obama never pretended to be a progressive politician. His fans presented him this way, but it was a myth....

Anyone suckered into thinking that Barack Obama is a "progressive" wasn't paying attention. John Edwards was the guy who fit that bill, but
it sure wasn't Barack Obama. Hillary is also more progressive than Senator Obama, though I realize many won't ever give her credit for it.
Now, Marsh is one of the leftosphere's most vociferous Clinton-backers, but it's clear that her thinking's a far cry from any supposed left-wing "reality-based community." For example, the National Journal reported in January that Barack Obama was the U.S. Senate's most liberal member in 2007, with a record of voting that's further to the ideological left than Senator Hillary Clinton's:

National Journal

Obama's voting placed him even further to the left than Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-identified "independent democratic socialist" who caucuses with the Democrats in the upper chamber.

While Marsh or others might quibble with National Journal's methodology, it's very telling that congressional actors in the political arena - like Senator Sanders - are genuine in placing their politics at the appropiate position along the left-right ideological continuum.

Now, I've saved
Glenn Greenwald for last. As always, Greenwald's raging mad and not going to take it anymore, for example, in his post, "The Baseless, and Failed, 'Move to the Center' Cliche."

It's a long, windy post, but it's a classic piece of loony-left postmodern political sculpturing and ideological legerdemain. To summarize, Greenwald not only attacks Obama as a faux progressive, but in the process he molds and redefines the meaning of survey findings as though they indicate the majority of Americans are proto-Marxists:

So what ... is the basis for the almost-unanimously held Beltway conventional view that Democrats generally, and Barack Obama particularly, will be politically endangered unless they adopt the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and National Security, which - for some reason - is called "moving to the Center"? There doesn't appear to be any basis for that view. It's just an unexamined relic from past times, the immovable, uncritical assumption of Beltway strategists and pundits who can't accept that it isn't 1972 anymore - or even 2002.

Beyond its obsolescence, this "move-to-the-center" cliché ignores the extraordinary political climate prevailing in this country, in which
more than 8 out of 10 Americans believe the Government is fundamentally on the wrong track and the current President is one of the most unpopular in American history, if not the most unpopular. The very idea that Bush/Cheney policies are the "center," or that one must move towards their approach in order to succeed, ignores the extreme shifts in public opinion generally regarding how our country has been governed over the last seven years.
One of Greenwald's main problems is that he's got no sensibility of moderation or nuance.

His propensity, for example, for capitalizing terms like "Beltway," "Terrorism," and "National Security" reflects some odd need to inflate regular words of political terminology to a kind of leprous category of extreme political opprobrium - indeed, in this style of writing we see that for a Democrat to even be identified as concerned about traditional foreign policy is essentially to be branded a likely war criminal.

But note further: Greenwald evinces a disastrous under-appreciation of actual question wording in public opinion survey data. For example,
if polls indicate by an 8 out 10 ratio that the country's "on the wrong track," it doesn't automatically follow that Americans are ready for the proletarian revolution. Data like these genuinely tap things such as public impatience with policy gridlock or worries over economic uncertainty, like that seen currently with high gasoline prices.

It is simply dishonest - or unhinged, actually, in Greenwald's case - to present statistics like these as representing some overwhelming public demand for a radical ideological shift in the electorate.

Studying these issues is complicated, and different policy-areas might see different degrees of public support for a more leftward public policy response. Note significantly, however, that just this last Friday Gallup reported that the public overwhelming rejects quasi-socialist policies to correct current market dislocations: "
Americans Oppose Income Redistribution to Fix Economy."

Indeed, as Greenwald has taken his arguments to increasingly extreme levels,
some have sugggested that he "ranges into the kind of frenzied conspiracy-theorizing that I generally associate with Ron Paul's more wild-eyed supporters."

In closing, Barack Obama's doing what any major-party presidential nominee does after securing the nomination: bolstering his centrist credentials in order to appeal to the mass middle of American voters who are not deeply attached to extreme ideological principles. Over the last week or so, on gun rights, campaign finance, and the death penalty for child rapists,
Obama's moderated some of his statements to hue closer to what's long been considered the "vital center" of the American political system.


UPDATE: This entry is cross-posted at NeoConstant: Journal of Politics and Global Affairs.

Cindy McCain Taxes in Spotlight

Newsweek reports that Cindy McCain, the wife of the GOP standard-bearer, defaulted on property-tax payments on a Southern California oceanfront condominium.

There's lots of outrage over this across
the leftosphere, but Captain Ed has applied his cool reasoning to the issue:

Cindy McCain keeps her finances completely separate from those of her husband in accordance with a pre-nuptial agreement. At her own expense, she set up a trust to house her elderly aunt in a La Jolla condo, which (being from SoCal myself) I can assure readers is a pretty generous gesture. Like most people, she arranged to have property taxes through a third party; most of us have an escrow company making the payments through the mortgage bills, while she had the trust do it. Unfortunately, the trust gave the county the wrong address and didn’t receive the bills to pay them, and didn’t follow up. Since Mrs. McCain doesn’t live at the property, she didn’t know a problem existed.

McCain’s opponents want to compare this to Al Franken and his serial tax problems in as many as twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, there are very important differences:

  • Al Franken is the candidate, and Cindy McCain is not
  • Franken actually ran the business that was supposed to pay the taxes, acting as CEO and COO
  • Franken has campaigned on the issue of CEO responsibilities and legal compliance

I have no problem with people criticizing Cindy McCain for anything she says or does on the campaign trail. That’s fair game, as it is with Michelle Obama. Anything else seems like really weak tea, just as I wrote when people began tearing Mrs. Obama’s college thesis apart. Cackling with glee over an error made by a trust that serves to keep a relative in comfort in her last years seems a lot worse than the actual mistake itself.

This is actually one of those stories just designed to provoke a left-wing backlash.

I saw the story breaking last night at
HuffPo, and didn't reall think much of it, except for noting how this will be scandal-fodder for today's blog wars.

But the Newsweek story is pretty straightforward, and reading through the piece carefully, like Captain Ed does, reveals more a case of miscommunication than malfeasance.

Indeed, reading
some of the leftist outrage, one gets the feeling reason has been jettisoned in the haste to unsheath the knives.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

You'll See My Smile Looks Out of Place...

I felt deeply moved, early last year, during the Grammy Awards, when Smokey Robinson performed "Tracks of My Tears" as part the show's commemoration of R&B music.

I don't know exactly what it was ... Smokey Robinson looked so good, even radiant, and his voice sounded so gentle and sweet. I think watching him not only took me back in time, but I also felt so strongly for him. His performance seemed like a summation of a lifetime's achievement - and it especially seemed like a precious thing to watch and listen: Here he was, still doing his thing, forty-two years after "Tracks of My Tears" reached the top of the charts as
a break-out hit single.

I don't see the 2007 performance available online, but please enjoy a vintage version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles performing "Tracks of My Tears":

I thought about how I felt the next day, and I recalled David Bowie's lyics in "Young Americans," where he sings, "Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?"

Well, "Tracks of My Tears" was that "one damn song," at least at that moment.

Have a great night, dear readers.

Raise High the Nation? Obama's Speech at the Democratic Convention

I've been anticipating the candidates' speeches at this summer's nominating conventions for some time.

The acceptance speeches - with the exception of perhaps the October presidential debates - are the most important campaign events in the race for the White House. The speeches are shared national experiences. They allow people who've barely followed politics since the end of the primaries to hear the standard-bearers of both parties make the case to the American people as to why they're qualified to lead the nation.


Barack Obama's certainly got high expectatations heading into his address, given that much of his fame this year is based in his oratorical power - indeed, he's often compared to Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, and the one most gifted in his use of language to rouse the soul of a nation.

It turns out that New York Magazine's got an interesting piece on Obama forthcoming speech to the Democrats in August, "
Raise High the Rafters."

The piece is a bit fawning, and clearly adopts a pro-Democratic perspective, but the author makes some perceptive observations:

Compared with his rivals, Obama’s skill-set seems almost otherworldly. His phrases line up regularly in striking and meaningful patterns; his cliché ratio is, for a politician, admirably low; his stresses and pauses seem dictated less by the usual metronome of generic political speech than by the actual structures of meaning behind his words. He tolerates complexity to such an extent that he’s sometimes criticized as “professorial,” which allows him to get away with inspirational catchphrases that would sound like platitudes coming from anyone else. His naïve-sounding calls for change are persuasive largely because he’s already managed to improve one of our most intractable political problems: the decades-old, increasingly virulent plague of terrible speechifying. The signature project of his candidacy—before health care or housing or Iraq—seems to be the reuniting of presidential discourse with actual, visible thought. It is not a trivial achievement.
Here's another good passage:

More than any other recent politician, Obama is a literary phenomenon. Like America itself, he’s addicted to origin myths. He’s built his political success on the back of compulsive autobiography, the brilliant telling and retelling, and then retelling some more, of his divinely unorthodox life story: the great sweeping legend of Obamerica, the fusion of man and nation, whose manifest destiny extends all the way to the White House. It’s significant that he used his first appearance in the national spotlight, the keynote speech at Kerry’s DNC, to meta-sketch the inspirational origin of that very keynote speech: “Let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely,” he said, and then unleashed, in about 60 seconds, a pithy intergenerational family saga spanning three continents and all the major events of mid-twentieth-century America (Depression, Pearl Harbor, postwar boom)—complete with such unlikely details as goat herding, a tin-roof shack, oil rigs, and Patton’s army marching across Europe. It was like a brilliant movie trailer designed to promote the incalculably awesome feature attraction of his future political career. To deny his candidacy, after that, would be to deny a very powerful narrative logic—the goats, the tin-roof shack, Patton, all of it. Every politician tries to tell stories, of course, to harness the emotional momentum of narrative in the service of an agenda. But few do so as naturally as Obama. All serious candidates have a maniacal ambition—in retrospect, Hillary’s looked unflattering because she didn’t nest it quite deeply enough in a persuasive narrative logic; Barack’s is so embedded in an attractive story that we hardly even notice it.
So what does Obama need to do at the Democratic convention?

He needs to dial back the stratospheric oratory and connect with the middle American electorate. This, I would argue, is going to be more challenging that some might think, including the author of
this piece.

Contrary to what many on the left may believe,
Obama's speech at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center - where he threw his grandma under the bus - wasn't spectacular, and it certainly wasn't Lincolnesque.

The Philadelphia address, if anything, showed some moxie in addressing the nation's original sin, but it was also a perfect example of Obama's tendency to be, well,
all about Obama.

In Denver, Obama needs to go beyond the self-centered lofty language, the weighted pauses, and the soothing baritone delivery - he needs to genuinely move a nation. He must address issues of real importance - not only the obvious pressing issues like the economy and Iraq, but politically dangerous policies, like the urban crisis of crime and poverty.

Can he do this? Can Obama speak out to a nation perhaps poised for a political realigment? Can he satisfy not just the hardline netroots activists of the Demcratic Party's radical base, but also the swing voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, who are not easily motivated toward guilt-driven minority electoral support? Can Obama make clear that his patriotism's not just a snooty love of his successes, but of a genuine pride in nation that harks to the most traditional notions of conservative nationalism?

These are some of the challenges that await Obama later this summer. All eyes will be watching.

Regime Change Zimbabwe?

The New York Times reports that voters in Zimbabwe went to the polls yesterday, and they were accompanied by fears of Robert Mugabe's tryanny of violence.


The Times also features photo essays of everyday Zimbaweans, including one in which some voters agreed to be photographed on a first-name basis and with their faces partially obscured.

But check out as well
Graham Reilly's essay on the need for regime change in Zimbabwe:

HOW did it come to this? When Robert Mugabe first led his party to electoral victory in 1980, he did so as a national liberation hero promoting a broad and idealistic agenda for social and economic change that did, for a while at least, lead the country to economic prosperity and a literacy rate that was the envy of the region. Folklore has it that in the early days of his presidency, he even taught members of his household how to read and write English. Back then he was a freedom fighter who had won the hearts and minds of his countrymen and who put their interests first.

Twenty-eight years later the 84-year-old Mugabe is a fighter against freedom whose own concerns, and those of the army and security services that prop up his illegitimate, despotic regime, are paramount, even if it means beating, shooting, burning and torturing those who oppose him into bloody submission.

Zimbabwe is an economic, social and political mess, a basket case of hyperinflation, 80% unemployment, ravaged farmland, failed crops, widespread poverty and a population, teetering on the brink of starvation, that is sustained only by international food aid. Three million Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries in search of work and refuge from state-sponsored thuggery. What a difference three decades and a perverse sense of divine right can make.

Had things been different ... the people of Zimbabwe could have cast their votes in a free and fair presidential run-off in which Morgan Tsvangirai would probably have been elected. As the popular leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai won the first round in March, but fell short of the required 50% majority (although even this result is tainted by suspected Government manipulation that would ensure its survival to the second stage).

Mugabe has brutally engineered a people cowed and displaced by an ongoing state program of murder and shuddering intimidation that has left 90 opposition supporters dead and more than 200,000 scattered to the winds. In doing so he has eliminated the possibility of a legitimate vote. In fear for his own life, and reluctant to put the lives of his supporters at further risk, front-runner Tsvangirai has retreated to the safety of the Dutch embassy in Harare and withdrawn from the poll. He did not, he said, want a country of dead bodies. To describe this election as a sham would be to pay it a compliment.

The international community has dragged its feet over recent events in Zimbabwe, no more so than South African President, and the designated mediator of the 14-member Southern African Development Community, Thabo Mbeki, whose quiet diplomacy has been barely audible. But Mbeki's reluctance to criticise his old ally in the fight against white colonialism, has been overtaken by the growing chorus of countries, within and outside southern Africa, demanding that the election be postponed to avert a catastrophe.

The latest among those voices is that of Nelson Mandela, political icon and former South African president. Few voices carry more weight than his and his condemnation of the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe as a "tragic failure of leadership" marks the beginning of the end of whatever legitimacy Mugabe had left in Africa.

Mugabe has declared that he will go to war if he loses [the] election. He will not lose. But his victory will be recognised by few, perhaps only himself and those who have a vested interest in his survival. His re-election will ensure that the crisis in Zimbabwe will deepen. This cannot be allowed to happen. The international community, led by southern Africa — which must fully set aside its divisions and misplaced loyalties — should now be preparing the ground for political and economic reconstruction in Zimbabwe.

It is never easy to unseat a tyrant, but there is a range of options that should be considered that could help loosen Mugabe's grip on power without resorting to military force. Tougher financial sanctions aimed directly at Mugabe and the Zanu-PF leadership would increase the cost of remaining loyal to Mugabe and would exploit existing divisions within the party hierarchy.

Members of the African Union and the SADC should send a powerful message to Mugabe by refusing to recognise his regime or to do business with him or his representatives. Further, the UN Security Council can make a second, stronger resolution denouncing the regime.
Regime change in Zimbabwe through U.N. pressure or from actions of powerful regional actors may not be enough.

Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, for example,
will not denounce the Mugabe regime. Further, while he later backed off from the proposal, on Wednesday Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, called on the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to monitor the election.

The entire episode has again raised questions of outside military intervention and
the reemergence of the Bush doctrine of democratic regime change:

A solution for Zimbabwe's crisis isn't hard to come by: Someone – ideally the British – must remove Mr. Mugabe by force, install Mr. Tsvangirai as president, arm his supporters, prevent any rampages, and leave. "Saving Darfur" is a somewhat different story, but it also involves applying Western military force to whatever degree is necessary to get Khartoum to come to terms with an independent or autonomous Darfur. Burma? Same deal.

International relations theorists, including prominent Obama adviser Susan Rice, justify these sorts of interventions under the rubric of a "Responsibility to Protect" – a concept that comes oddly close to Kipling's White Man's Burden. So close, in fact, that its inherent paternalism has hitherto inhibited many liberals from endorsing the kinds of interventions toward which they are now tip-toeing, thousands of deaths too late.

So let's by all means end the hand-wringing and embrace the responsibility to protect, wherever necessary and feasible. Let's spare the thousands of innocents, punish the wicked, oppose tyrants, and support democrats – both in places where it is now fashionable to do so (Burma) and in places where it is not (Iraq). If that turns out to be Mr. Obama's foreign policy, it will be a worthy one. It does come oddly close to the Bush Doctrine.
That sounds fine by me.

For some of the leftist hand-wringing, see "
Zimbabwe - No Case Yet For Armed Intervention."

See also, "
Harare Horror Continues."

Photo Credit: "Residents of Mbare lined up to cast their vote in the country's presidential election at a polling station in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Friday," New York Times.

The Power of 41: GOP Senate Minority Frustrates Democrats

In May, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, told the Wall Street Journal:

When I woke up after the election in November 2006 ... I realized I was going to be the Republican leader and not the majority leader. That was the bad news ... The good news is that 49 is not a bad number in a body that requires 60. The United States Senate is the only legislative body in the world where a majority is not enough ... My goal from the very beginning, which my Republican colleagues have supported without exception, basically, is to use the power of 41 – or more – to do one of two things: either to stop things that are totally awful . . . or more frequently, to use the power of 41 to shape ... Really bad ideas die in the Senate, and in that sense it has protected America from extremes throughout our history.
Thank goodness for the filibuster, I say. It works to frustrate the formation of permanent majorities, and the mechanism is an ultimate example of Madisonian safeguards for the protection of minority rights.

McConnell's in the news today, it turns out, as the Washington Post reports in its story, "
Political Maneuvers Delay Bill After Bill in Senate":

The Senate went home yesterday for the Fourth of July holiday to face voters, having failed repeatedly to address critical economic issues from skyrocketing gas prices to climate change to the nation's housing crisis.

Leaders in both parties have vowed to tackle those problems. Yet the Senate has been unable to move forward even when there is broad agreement about what to do.

Take the housing rescue bill that collapsed this week: On a test vote, 83 senators supported provisions intended to halt the steepest slide in home prices in a generation. Still, the measure stalled, undone by a dispute over whether to add tax breaks for renewable energy production, an idea supported by 88 senators.

Lawmakers, lobbyists and independent analysts say that bill and other major legislation have been derailed by political maneuvering for an election likely to consolidate Democratic control over Congress and in which the sputtering economy tops the agenda. With each side using the Senate's byzantine rules to gain advantage, work in the upper chamber, always balky, has ground to a halt.

Senate Democrats accuse Republicans of adopting intransigence as a strategy to produce a "do-nothing" Congress. Senate Republicans acknowledge using delay tactics but say they are reacting to a heavy-handed Democratic majority that has denied them a voice on the Senate floor.

"Members recognize this is going to be a critical election. There's potential for dramatic change in the Senate and the House and the presidency. So both sides aren't willing to give an inch on messaging," said Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the Heritage Foundation. "Both Republicans and Democrats have dug in their heels."

The Senate has managed to pump out a few big bills this year, including an economic stimulus package, which gave tax rebates to millions of Americans, and the farm bill, which directs agricultural spending. Late Thursday, the Senate approved a bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that also increases educational funding for veterans and extends unemployment benefits.

But the war spending bill was the sole victory in a week that otherwise dissolved in a frenzy of futility. In addition to delaying the housing bill until next month, the Senate left town without approving a long-awaited electronic surveillance measure and legislation to prevent physicians who accept Medicare from getting hit with a 10.6 percent pay cut.

The Medicare bill was a particular disappointment; it passed the House 355 to 59. But Senate Republicans used the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate, to block the measure because of a dispute over small cutbacks in a program run by private insurers called Medicare Advantage. Doctors and advocates for the elderly were furious.

"A group of Republican senators followed the direction of the Bush administration and voted to protect health insurance companies at the expense of America's seniors, disabled and military families," American Medical Association President Nancy H. Nielsen said in a statement. "These senators leave for their 4th of July picnics knowing that the most vulnerable Americans are at risk because of the Senate's inability to act."

Housing advocates, consumer groups and business organizations have been equally frustrated by the glacial pace.

"It's a delay-of-game Congress," said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "This Congress isn't addressing the issues that are foremost in the public's mind such as gasoline prices, economic anxiety and the housing crisis."

Senators in both parties say the logjam is the worst they've seen, largely due to copious use of the filibuster. Since January 2007, motions to end debate -- cloture motions -- have been filed 119 times. The previous record for any two-year session was 82.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has used a procedural tactic to prohibit GOP amendments 13 times since January 2007, more than any Senate leader since 1985.

Republicans point to those statistics and accuse Reid of using cloture to deny them the ability to amend legislation often chosen for its political message. That is why, they say, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has slowed the housing bill with his renewable-energy amendment. The housing bill is one of the few measures moving through the Senate that has a chance to become law.

"Substantive bills have simply been abandoned," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). "Therefore, when a vehicle does appear that, like the housing bill, has some consensus behind it, people throw baggage on that immediately derails it."

Democrats say that Republicans are using the filibuster to block legislation and that their demand for amendments is an effort to turn every bill, no matter the subject, into a debate over GOP issues, such as the estate tax or offshore drilling.

"I think it's really unfair to say no one's compromising," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), noting that Republicans have blocked even bipartisan measures. "And they're hurting themselves politically. They've been doing this for a year now. As they keep doing it more and more, the number of voters who say they prefer Democrats to Republicans keeps going up."

The low point in Senate relations may have come during debate on a climate-change bill sponsored by Sens. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) forced the entire 492-page bill to be read aloud, an exercise that took nearly nine hours. McConnell said the move was payback for Reid's failure to act on President Bush's judicial nominees. Frustrated, Reid moved to end debate and bring the bill to the floor. The vote failed, killing the bill.
Many partisans blame the Republicans for congressional ineffectiveness and unpopularity over last 18 month. The fact is, however, Harry Reid's perhaps the most inept Majority Leader in history, and the GOP is skillfully deploying institutional rules to slow action or kill disastrous Democratic-sponsored legislation.

The Senate results on election night will be some of the most significant to watch, and so far expert opinion suggests the Democrats will fall short of winning a filibuster-proof majority (see, for example, "
Sabato Puts Senate race in Democratic Corner").

Friday, June 27, 2008

Israel's Not Bluffing on Iran Nuclear Strikes

The Economist reports that Israel is not bluffing in its recent intimations of possible military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities:
WITH oil prices at their present highs and Iraq at last making tentative progress towards stability, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that conditions in the Middle East could be about to take an abrupt turn for the worse. Unfortunately, they could. Recent weeks have brought a spike in chatter about the prospect of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. Israel has conducted ostentatious long-range air exercises over the Mediterranean, and one former chief of staff has called an attack inevitable if Iran continues its nuclear work. This noise might be just a bluff designed to signal to Iran that it would be wise to stop enriching uranium, as the United Nations Security Council ordered it to a full two years ago. Then again, it might not.

Until recently, fears of an Israeli or American attack on Iran had been receding. The prospect of an American strike diminished after America’s intelligence services published their inconvenient finding last December that Iran had stopped trying to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. At the same time, diplomats have been able to point to the sort of progress diplomats point to: a series of Security Council resolutions, supported by Russia and China as well as the West, telling Iran to stop its uranium-enriching centrifuges. Sanctions have been applied as well: in the latest, the European Union decided this week to freeze the assets of Iran’s biggest bank, Bank Melli. Slowly but surely, you might conclude, the normal tools of diplomacy are being brought to bear, removing the need for anything worse. Besides, in November Americans may elect Barack Obama as president. Doesn’t he promise to sort out Iran by means of direct talks at the highest level, a necessary step that George Bush could never quite bring himself to take?

If those were your reasons for ceasing to worry, think again. Despite that American intelligence finding, neither Israel nor many other governments believe that Iran has given up its interest in nuclear weapons. Yes, the UN has passed resolutions and imposed some mild sanctions, but Iran has spent two years disregarding them, continuing to spin its centrifuges and to call for the destruction of Israel. It may well be true that Mr Bush is disinclined to bomb Iran now that he is a lame duck, but the possible advent of a President Obama might just make Israel more inclined to do so itself. As the hawkish John Bolton, a former Bush administration official, said this week, Israel may think the best time to attack would be during America’s presidential transition—too late to be accused of influencing the election and before needing a new president’s green light.
Read the whole thing, at the link.

The Economist opposes military strikes, arguing preemptive action will only delay Tehran's march to nuclear capability, and that Israel's own strategic arsenal would act as a deterrent to an eventual Iranian attack.

That's cold logic to those who watch and listen to Iran's leadership pledge the destruction of the Jewish state.

Especially now that none other than Tehran's arms enabler, Mohammed ElBaradei, has acknowledged
Iranian nuclear readiness within six-to-eight months.

See also, "
Israel on the Iran Brink."

Max Boot and the Neocon Blog Wars

If you're not up on the latest neocon blog battles on Iraq, see "Neocon Blog Wars! An Update."

Max Boot has a new entry in the dispute. He's debating Josh Marshall, who's really no match for him (Andrew Sullivan's one of the disputants as well).

Check the
whole post. I especially like the conclusion:

I get the sense that Marshall and Sullivan, like many of their antiwar compatriots, don’t really care about whether we win or lose in Iraq. They simply want to get out, and damn the consequences. That brings up another historical analogy that I’m sure they would rather forget: the way we pulled out of South Vietnam after the defeat of the North’s Tet and Easter Offensives when a decent outcome (namely the long-term preservation of South Vietnam’s independence) was within our grasp. A lot of antiwar voices back then said it would actually be good for the locals if we left, just as they now say it would be good for Iraq if we skedaddled. Tell it to the Vietnamese boat people or the victims of the Cambodian killing fields.
I'll update with more.

In case you missed it, see
Abraham Foxman's response to Joe Klein's claim of divided loyalities of American Jews on the Iraq war.

Grim Legacy: Obama's Housing Crisis

I noted this morning that there's much to be learned from Barack Obama's days as a Hyde Park politician. I noted the special importance of Obama's ties to neighborhood radicals, but it turns out Obama's days as a Chicago machine politician have left a grim legacy in the city's public housing sector.

The Boston Globe reports:

The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can't afford to live anywhere else.

But it's not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale - a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing - an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies. And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.

Some of the residents of Grove Parc say they are angry that Obama did not notice their plight. The development straddles the boundary of Obama's state Senate district. Many of the tenants have been his constituents for more than a decade.
That's a lot to digest, and there's more at the link.

John McCain has attacked Obama as "insensitive to poor people and out of touch on economic issues."

It's a fair criticism, especially if we look at Obama's record representing Chicago in the Illinois legislature is any guide.

Indeed, routine knowledge of Chicago's public housing indicates that in many respects Grove Parc represents the historic core of black inner-city poverty in the industrial Midwest in the post-WWII era, and Obama's left it in no better shape than before he took office.

And this is the agent of change?

Is that a record of achievement and qualification for the Oval Office - dilapidated Chicago housing projects?

Readers know that social policy is one of my concerns, and I've long argued that the GOP is better equipped ideologically to address the nation's urban crisis. As a case study in Democratic urban management, Barack Obama helps prove the point.

For the machine politics angle to this story, see "
Change We Can Be Shocked At."