Not really Slacker Friday


I've got a new "Think Again" column here, called "Oversight, Overload?"

Ron Brownstein shows you why he's the best political reporter in an Edsall-less newspaper universe, here.

Quote of the Day:

"I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences." -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), to American citizens who questioned the Bush administration's unlawful extraordinary rendition policies. (HT, Washington Monthly.)

Paul Begala teaches David Broder a few things about journalism.

Memo to Time bloggers (and their spouses, ex-employers, sex partners, etc.): No more free publicity from "The Dread Alterman." This is the last time.

Sent to my 9-year-old:

National Tobacco Survey:

Which do you prefer?

A. MARLBORO Cigarettes
B. CAMEL Cigarettes
C. NO Cigarettes (I Do Not Smoke).

Participate & Get a FREE* $100 Visa Gift Card!


The Forward on May Day. (Remember May Day? Remember social democracy?)

Arthur Schlesinger Memorial

April 23, 2007, Great Hall at Cooper Union

Remarks by Theodore C. Sorensen (provided by The Century Foundation)

Initially called "Little Arthur" to distinguish him from his famous historian father, and to reflect his lack of height - but in fact he was a giant of our time.

A tennis player, but not athletic; some asked whether he was compatible with the Kennedy White House fitness buffs. They did not understand Arthur's role -- on the White House track team, he was the designated javelin catcher.

Did he work on the President's speeches? I credit him with the Amherst Robert Frost tribute on "poetry and power," two subjects Arthur knew a lot about.

There were no "ghost writers" in the Kennedy White House; but Arthur was the real author, I believe, of the encomium I most treasure -- JFK's introduction to my little book of lectures, "Decision Making In The White House," a generous introduction commending not only my book but also my work in the White House -- drafted, I am certain, by Arthur.

After JFK's death Arthur did not stay with Johnson. His sharpest parting blow was his statement that "LBJ had been picked as running-mate for political reasons." Oh, the unprecedented shame of it all!

Arthur could do anything; and my wife mistakenly thought I could do anything he could, as she saw him dancing the twist with Alexandra at a Kennedy party. I tried -- my mind still remembers -- so does my back.

It was Arthur who invited me to join him on the board of The 20th Century Fund, the country's leading liberal public policy think tank. A few years back, he and I supported changing its name to The Century Foundation to save time by not having to change names every hundred years. There he was my wise colleague on a board of very wise colleagues, steadfast in his attendance regardless of his health, other commitments or the weather.

Last year, we co-authored a New York Times Op-Ed applying JFK's Vietnam withdrawal plans to Iraq. When he suggested we add a quotation from Hegel, I thought some astute phrase from a German philosopher might help -- only to discover he meant Senator Chuck Hagel. I was tempted to say: "Arthur, if you're going to quote a Nebraskan, let me choose him."

At the time of his death, Arthur had volunteered to read, in manuscript, those parts of my next book covering our years with Kennedy. There is no other Kennedy author -- of the thousands who have written on that era -- to whom I would entrust my manuscript at this confidential stage; and there is no other Kennedy author whose suggestions I would have prized more highly.

There was a time when some liberals, disturbed by his criticism of multi-culturalism, were asking: "What are we going to do about Arthur?" Now all liberals are asking: "What are we going to do without Arthur?"

The voices of peace and justice have lost champions before, like Paul Wellstone and Ken Galbraith. Each time we regrouped and moved on. But Arthur was special, our primary historian, preeminent writer, the champion of anti-totalitarianism on the Left. What are we going to do without Arthur?

At a time when liberalism is under attack from those supporting a needless, endless war and turning the clock back on civil liberties and civil rights, what are we going to do without Arthur?

At a time when the Democratic Party, even some of its presidential candidates, are trimming and pandering to special interests, what are we going to do without Arthur?

At a time when America's history is ignored by small-minded leaders, Arthur, in a Kennedy Library farewell last Fall, invoked the importance of history, which is, he said: "To the nation as memory is to the individual. As persons deprived of memory become disoriented, not knowing where they've been and where they're going, so a nation (lacking) a conception of its past will be disabled dealing with its present and future."

What are we going to do without Arthur?

What word can sum up his many roles? In Robert Bolt's stirring play, "A Man For All Seasons," the vain weakling, Richard Rich, pesters Sir Thomas More to find him a job, an office. Sir Thomas finally suggests: "Be a teacher." Richard grumbles: "If I was (a teacher), who would know it?" Sir Thomas answers: "You. Your students. Your friends. God. Not a bad public." Arthur Schlesinger was, above all, a teacher. He knew it. His students and friends -- and we were all his students -- knew it. So did God. Not a bad public.

From our sponsors:

MSNBC debate questions on Iraq, immigration, and national security based on false premises

While moderating the April 26 Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams falsely suggested that the so-called Feingold-Reid Bill would mandate that all U.S. troops be removed from Iraq by "about a year from now." In fact, the bill introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and eight other senators would allow the continued deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq for three "limited purposes." In addition, questions posed later in the debate contained falsehoods about public opinion on immigration and national security.

Discussing Iraq policy, Williams asked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT): "Senator Dodd, as I understand it, you've co-sponsored something called Feingold-Reid, which would, in effect, cut off the funding spigot by about a year from now and draw the troops out. Is that possible -- the notion of no more troops in Iraq?"

Contrary to Williams' suggestion, the bill states, "No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008," except for the following "limited purposes":

(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.

(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.

(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.

The bill further mandates that a phased redeployment from Iraq "begin not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act."

Later, co-moderator David Stanton, political anchor of WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina, read an emailer's question to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), which asked: "Senator Clinton, if you were currently the president, would you defy the majority of American citizens and offer a form of amnesty for illegal aliens?" In fact, recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans support a path-to-citizenship proposal that critics frequently label "amnesty." An April 10-12 CNN poll found that 77 percent were in favor of "creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes." A March 2-4 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 59 percent of respondents would support allowing "illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time."

In addition, after quoting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) recent claim that "America will be safer with a Republican president," Williams went on to ask Clinton, "How do you think, Senator, it happened that that notion of Republicans as protectors in a post-9-11 world has taken on so?" In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, several polls in the past year have found that Democrats had an advantage on the issues of national security and foreign policy.

From TomDispatch:

Tom Engelhardt at had been wondering for a while whether a future American president would be capable of shutting down Guantánamo, no less our whole secret, offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice (and the various "extraordinary rendition" operations that go with it). As that question refused to quit his brain -- and he didn't see it being answered elsewhere -- he asked Karen J. Greenberg, recent visitor to Guantánamo, co-editor of The Torture Papers, and executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, to give the problem some serious thought. After all, it seemed to him that a new president who couldn't, or wouldn't, shut down Guantánamo would be unlikely to do much else that really mattered in our world.

Now, he's posted Greenberg's thoughtful, measured response to the question. She begins by pointing out that while many people, ranging from Secretary of Defense Gates and President Bush to Senator McCain (though not the leading Democratic candidates) have found it easy enough to proclaim their desire to shut down the notorious detention facility, the hard part is fleshing out the next thought: How exactly would you go about it?

The essential problem, the Gitmo conundrum wrapped in an enigma, is one of the Bush administration's own creation: "At present," she writes, "there are in Gitmo perhaps 160 detainees (as the public affairs staff at the facility told me), who will most likely never be charged, never be tried, and may nonetheless never be sent home. It's a category without a name, or really any precedent -- a category that all too conveniently defies solution and so keeps Guantánamo in operation."

She suggests how a future president could indeed shut the prison down, based on "accepting the following very American principle: Those who are not going to be charged with a crime should be returned to their home country, a third country, or the country where they were initially captured."

As a recent visitor to the detention facility, she describes it as "a delusional system in a non-judicial bubble, lacking any calming, rational presence" and in this piece suggests just how it might be dismantled.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

"I believe this hotel will be standing, until I pay my bill."

Who knew Bill Moyers made horror movies?

That said, holy Lord, I don't remember Mrs. Kucinich from the last time around. After suffering through the first stop on the Little Rock Political Seniors Tour -- Mandy Grunwald? -- the new Mrs. K certainly was a fresh, ah, face.

And did I just hear Chris Matthews ask Obama flack David Axelrod to "stop dicking around" and get his candidate on Hardball? "Dicking around'? To borrow a line from the late, great George V. Higgins, he's gone soft as church music, Chris has.

And Tucker Carlson is on live TV and making me wonder why no college students remember how to make water balloons any more.

The abortion issue is going to make me crazy this time around. The raw, oily paternalism of Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in the Carhart case seems not to have penetrated any of these blokes, including the She Bloke from New York. They're still clinging to "safe, legal, and rare," as though it was not exposed just this week for the cop-out it always was. (That's not even to mention the bomb in the duffel bag down in Texas the other day.) The other side of this debate is not interested in compromise or half-measures. God knows that side isn't interested in making nice with President Obama on expanded sex education or the increased availability of birth control. It is interested, out of the paternalism given formal voice by Kennedy, in eliminating a woman's right to control her reproductive decisions in all cases possible. It's nice to support Roe, but Roe's being utterly hollowed out. How about, simply, "I will leave it up to every American woman to make decisions about her own health care in all instances, and a bunch of aging white men in Washington should just butt the hell out."

Of course, Matthews liked all the fudge about the issue, and he just called Howard Fineman "my all-occasions greeting card man." And he just said that Democrats have to prove that, if they get elected, they have to prove "they won't soil the carpet again." And he's saying people like Barack because he has a pretty wife. But Andrea Mitchell, obviously sharing the MSNBC stash before Matthews bogarts it into next Thursday, says that the attention paid to John Edwards's haircut was about "authenticity." Somebody get a freaking net.

P.S. The net's going to have to be a lot bigger. The Two Whitest Men In Journalism git jiggy wit' it.

Eric adds: Anyone know if "Stupid" is still alive?

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

It was interesting to hear George Tenet's explanation of his "slam dunk" comment. But wasn't the time for people like him to come out publicly before the 2004 election? Isn't it possible, if not very likely, that many moderate and undecided voters ended up voting for the President at least in part because they believed Mr. Bush relied on advice and information from people such as Mr. Tenet that turned out to be incorrect. They could rationalize, it wasn't Bush's fault, he was told it was a slam dunk. Now, thanks for clarification, Mr. Tenet, but too little, too late.

Name: Will T
Hometown: New York

Dr. A, regarding your comment on Naomi Wolf's profound misuse of the word fascism, what word would you use instead? Italy in the '20s I thought was the very definition of fascism. Is your objection based on a definition that equates fascism only with Nazism?

In my opinion, whatever you call it, I think we are well on our way there. All we need to replicate Germany in the late 20s/early 30s here in America is an economic crisis or two and there seems to be many possible ones just around the corner, from oil price shocks to the housing market collapsing. Or maybe all it will take is another terrorist attack on US soil. When you think about it, aren't we even beyond the Germans in 1932 with many of the steps outlined by Naomi Wolf already having been taken, steps that were not taken until the Nazis actually came to power? I agree that it will not happen overnight, but it cannot not happen here.

Eric replies: That's the problem -- we don't have a name for what these people are doing. And it is awful. Naomi is mostly right. But it's not "fascism." No historian could ever countenance its use, given the myriad and significant differences.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: Daily Revolution

A human rights activist who was also one of the great performance musicians of the last century, Mstislav Rostropovich, is dead. Remember him playing the Bach cello suites amid the ruins of the Berlin Wall?

His obit is here at BBC. Incidentally, MSNBC ignored this, preferring pics of Beyonce, and CNN had what it thought was a more significant musical obit, the death of the "Monster Mash" singer.

Eric replies: Point taken, since Slava's performance was also a "graveyard smash."

Name: Jordan
Hometown: Seattle


If we're going to talk debates, who can forget one of the greatest lines of all time: "You forgot Poland!" The combination of the sheer absurdity of the statement together with the president's smarmy delivery, make it unforgettable. Truly hilarious if it weren't such a sad encapsulation of how small the leader of the free world had become. For some priceless nostalgia, click on the link to "television" and check out the pictures here.

Name: Jim
Hometown: Cincinnati

I can understand GWB's support for the AG. If I were in Bush's position, I would want an AG with a poor memory too.

Name: Jack Kephart
Hometown: Huntsville AL

Did you actually say that Leonard Cohen had only one good song? Eric, old bud, you are missing a piece of your soul.

I am 63, so I know that Leonard was with me in times that mean little to you: a year in Viet Nam; a lot of sweet, sad nights protected from the coming days by drugs and the words of our poets.

"Bird on a Wire" makes almost any singer sounds like he or she has led a necessary life. It is worthy of Aaron Neville and Willie Nelson.

I could go on, but you wouldn't read it.

Eric replies: Come now. Don't you think it more likely that I would be saying that Jon Bon Jovi has only one good song, however confusedly? In your favor, Todd Gitlin made the same error, and he should know (me) better. But so should you if you come here regularly. But you know, I shouldn't have said that about Bon Jovi, either. I only know roughly one of his songs and it's pretty good. Nice guy, too; looks like a high school quarterback, even at this age.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Darien Illinois

Hi Eric,

I just saw a poll that quite startled me. The one presidential candidate who is beating all rivals from the other party by statistically significant amounts is John Edwards. He's six points ahead of Rudy, and more than that ahead of every other Republican. Given the amount of time the MSM spends blathering about the horse race, why is this significant fact so buried? Edwards is a good man, and if he really is the Democrat with the best chance to win the incredibly important election of 2008 ... well, it makes a difference in my thinking. Frankly, I think an Edwards-Obama ticket would be formidable indeed.

While we're on the subject, whoever wins the Democratic nomination ought to take a page from Abe Lincoln's book, and unite the party by filling his cabinet with heavyweights. Furthermore, take an additional page from the British, and announce it in advance of the election. Thus for example, if Edwards/Obama was the ticket, publish a shadow cabinet of (say) Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Wesley Clark as Secretary of Defense, Bill Richardson as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of Labor, Bill Clinton as Ambassador to the UN, and as a cabinet level Energy Czar... who else but Al Gore. Gore might accept if he was given the funding, and a mandate to make the US the world leader in reducing greenhouse emissions.

In any case, such an approach might finally unite the party, and allow us to move forward from a position of strength -- so that the party ceased to be perceived as simply a catch -- all for everyone who doesn't like the far right agenda. But it would also be good government, as Lincoln proved. Why does personal loyalty to the President have to be the first prerequisite of a cabinet post?

Eric replies: I agree Edwards is the safest bet. This is a year that a generic Democrat will win, and both Clinton and Obama represent major risks. The question is, how important should that be in choosing the candidate? That's a personal choice for every primary voter. (Moreover, in Edwards' favor, he's also running the most progressive campaign and the one that is most closely focused on the problem of working people and poor people. He'd be a great nominee. But still, I love Obama, and love the idea of a black president, which would overnight cure a great deal of anti-Americanism. I also very much like and admire Hillary, and I actually thought if anyone won last night, she did. Anyway, I won't be endorsing anyone. Let the process speak!)

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Having watched Moyers' "Buying the War," I'm not surprised that the Times didn't review it. Only McClatchy newspapers (formerly Knight Ridder) or Bob Simon have any reason to want this stunning expose to be seen by more people. The Times is held up as a "gold standard" that proved to be nothing more than fool's gold: they printed unsubstantiated claims about Iraq's threat that the administration leaked to them so that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice could then go on the Sunday news shows to tout the NY Times reports as justification for the administration's position. This isn't journalism this is being played.

Although Reid's knock on Cheney's 9% approval that Ken from NJ mentioned was in today's Times, that doesn't exonerate the complicity of what was the most important newspaper in the country. Looks like it's time to find out if any of the McClatchy newspapers is available for home delivery in my community.

By the way, nice run of letters in the Nation on your Matthews man-crush piece.

Name: Jason Parrish

John Gibson claims the current Iraqis are exposed as knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th Century? Let's see, European culture had an almost zero literacy rate, consisted of religious zealots willing to perform mass killings and burnings if you didn't practice their dogma, and you couldn't get more than a few thousand together without war breaking out. Meanwhile, Arab culture is in a golden age of science and mathematics (who gave us the "zero?"), practices the only thing we could think of in modern times as religious toleration, and supported relatively peaceful trade all the way from Persia to Andalus (i.e. Spain). It's no mystery the Renaissance sprung from those European states with the closest trading and cultural ties to the Arab culture.

Funny, if you ask most middle-aged Iraqis about this history, they'd probably nod and give you greater detail ... who's the knuckle-dragger?

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