It's an unhappy day at The Washington Post and for journalism generally. Tony Kornheiser, the excellent sportswriter, is taking a buyout and leaving. David Broder is cashing in his staff job but retaining his self-parodic-font-of-conventional-wisdom -- or, as Tom Edsall calls him, "Voice of the People" column. He explains: "The column you have been running will not change at all, and you will continue to receive it from The Washington Post Writers Group. I will continue to write from the same office in the Post newsroom and will continue to travel the country to wherever politics is happening. You will find me at the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer and on the campaign trail this fall, just as I have been this winter and spring."
This is bad news indeed.
Also unhappily for the Post, Robert Novak is not retiring. Rather, he is proudly proclaiming 45 years in a business that apparently has no standards for facts, accuracy, or patriotism. Recall that not only is Novak's information frequently false, he specifically refused the CIA's request that he not out CIA agent Valerie Plame because he did not care enough about the national security of his country -- and the lives that might have been endangered -- to withhold his tawdry scoop. The fact that he was never disciplined for this by his editors is a sad commentary of the values of the paper and, indeed, of a political establishment that long ago lost its moral and patriotic compass. Novak's presence on the page for all these decades is a useful illustration of the values of our political elite but a damned shame for the rest of us. He brags here, remaining unrepentant about his betrayal of his country's interests and of the well-being of those who regularly put their lives on the line for it.
Things I hate about bloggers: I don't know if I actually met this guy (or whoever wrote this post). I'm terrible about remembering names. I'm pretty sure I wasn't talking to him, though; I certainly wasn't focusing my attention on him. So even if I was -- which, as I say, I doubt -- the dude is snarking about a private conversation without asking my permission or even mentioning it. Nice.
Things I hate about right-wingers: Note that in the post itself, the guy makes an explicit equation between the sale of something by a private company (bandages) and the provision of a government service (postal rates), and not only that, it's one that the founders and many legal scholars and historians recognize as crucial to the health of the marketplace of democracy. But if you follow the logical thrust of this post, I am "whining" because I care about the quality of democratic debate, as I explicitly included National Review together with The Nation in the example I gave. Sorry, bub, I don't know you, and I never heard of you, but if this is the only interaction we ever have, I'll consider myself awfully fortunate.
I actually really enjoyed the seminar and learned a great deal, and particularly appreciated the generous remarks of Reihan Salam, whom I've never met before, and with whom I do not exactly agree, but still. ... (My panel was written up here.)
I neglected to mention yesterday that it was the 60th anniversary of Israel's birth. This is a cause both for celebration and for mourning, depending on one's focus and, I suppose, one's identity. I don't have anything profound to say about it right now and so I will say nothing.
I will, however, ask my readers if they can recommend nice, reasonably priced and centrally located hotels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. I'm planning on doing a two-week reporting trip there in late June and early July and have not been there in forever and could use the recommendations.
"A full-blooded American"? That's what Kathleen Parker, nationally syndicated columnist, says she wants in the next president. She quotes a 24-year-old from West Virginia saying so, and expands: "Whether Mr. Fry was referring to Mr. McCain's military service or Mr. Obama's Kenyan father isn't clear, but he may have hit upon something essential in this presidential race."
The column proceeds on a rant about the ravages of multiculturalism, "heritage ... being swept under the carpet," "new demographics," along with the importance of "blood equity," "bloodlines," and "roots." "White Americans primarily -- and Southerners, rural and small-town folks especially -- have been put on the defensive," she writes.
This only barely coded call to reject Obama because of his race is the stuff of obscure hate websites -- but this column appeared in, among other papers, the Baltimore Sun, The Indianapolis Star, The Charlotte Observer, the Oakland Tribune, the Arizona Daily Star, and The Denver Post. One wonders what the editors of these papers were thinking in putting calls for "blood equity" on the opinion pages.
McCain Suck-Up Watch: "While discussing John Hagee's apology for his controversial remarks concerning the Catholic Church, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer stated that Sen. John McCain 'has pointed out' that Hagee was not his personal pastor for 20 years, 'and says, "Look, I'm not going to repudiate the endorsement of this man. I don't like the comments that he made, but I'll take his endorsement if he wants to give it." ' However, Brewer did not mention that McCain has admitted that he sought Hagee's endorsement." More here.
As pointed out by a faithful reader, an additional development that would demonstrate the weakness/incompetence of the president of the United States were s/he a Democrat, is the charges that were just dropped against a 9-11 suspect because the government broke a lot of rules while interrogating him.
Here are the details, from The Washington Post:
U.S. authorities have long considered Mohammed al-Qahtani one of the most dangerous alleged terrorists in U.S. custody, a man who could have been the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, plot if he had not been denied entry into the country.
But yesterday, amid concerns about using information obtained during abusive military interrogations, a top Pentagon official removed Qahtani from the military commission case meant to bring justice to those behind the vast Sept. 11 conspiracy.
Prosecutors reserve the right to charge Qahtani again, and the military says it can hold him without trial for the duration of the counterterrorism wars. But his defense lawyers and officials familiar with the case say it is unlikely that Qahtani will face new charges because he was subjected to aggressive Defense Department interrogation techniques -- such as intimidation by dogs, hooding, nudity, long-term isolation and stress positions.
Now imagine if charges were dropped against a 9-11 suspect due to the incompetence and lawlessness of a Democratic president. They'd be savaged, and rightfully so -- even small-town district attorneys lose their jobs for such things ...
In the wake of 9-11, the Bush administration rushed to create a Maginot Line of "homeland security" in the U.S., marking every major building, landmark, amusement park, and even petting zoos, flea markets, and popcorn stands as potential terrorist targets in need of protection. According to the 2006 National Asset Database, compiled by the Department of Homeland Security, the state of Indiana would be designated the most "target-rich" place in the country. And everywhere, even in rural areas, politicians were strapping on their armor and preparing to run imminent-danger, anti-terror campaigns, while urging their constituents to run for cover.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration was heading the country into an age of homeland insecurity. As Tom Engelhardt writes in his latest post at TomDispatch: "Osama bin Laden and his scattering of followers may be credited for goading the fundamentalist leaders of the United States into using the power in their grasp so -- not to put a fine point on it -- stupidly and profligately as to send the planet's 'sole superpower' into decline. Above all, bin Laden and his crew of fanatics will have ensured one thing: that the real security problems of our age were ignored in Washington until far too late in favor of mad dreams and dark phantoms."
The heart of Engelhardt's piece is a gathering (with brief explanations) of 15 numbers that offer a striking collective picture of just where American energies did and did not flow in these years; and, in the end, just how much less safe we are now than we were in January 2001, when George W. Bush entered the Oval Office. These numbers range from dollars in the military budget (536,000,000,000) to air force "missions" since 2001 (1,000,000) and include the number of temporary trailers still occupied in New Orleans long after Hurricane Katrina, the number of dollars it takes to buy a barrel of crude oil, the number of convicted felons accepted into the U.S. Army in 2007, the number of countries that have had food riots in recent months, the number of suicide bombings last year, and so on.
Behind these figures lurks a potential world of insecurity with which this country has not yet faintly come to grips.
A Democratic house divided: Bill Moyers interviews Berkeley Law professors Christopher Edley, Jr. and Maria Echaveste -- he's for Obama and she's for Clinton. They met working in the Clinton administration and now, having been married for nine years, Edley and Echaveste are both advising their respective candidates. Edley serves as dean and professor of law of UC-Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, where Echaveste is a lecturer in residence. Also on the program, independent journalist Melody Petersen talks about the dangers of a market-driven pharmaceutical industry, and a Bill Moyers essay on recent resignations of executive appointees.
Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Here are more things that would demonstrate the weakness/incompetence/wimpiness/out-of-touch-ness/elite effeminism, etc., of the president of the United States were he a Democrat:
1. Promoting "abstinence-only" sex education that doesn't reduce sexual activity in teens, and wasting taxpayer's money doing so.
2. Getting the military bogged down in 2 wars, thereby preventing them from responding to any future threats effectively.
3. Misjudging former Russian president Vladimir Putin's commitment to democracy.
4. Coming out against expanded education benefits for our veterans.
5. Underfunding the VA in the midst of a war, thereby forcing injured veterans to wait months for treatment.
6. When people are dying in New Orleans from a massive hurricane, going on a vacation to Arizona to celebrate a senator's birthday.
20) Criminal Negligence, in that given a $40 billion/year system that was "blinking red" and filled with hard working people who were waiting for a leader to act, and which gave him astoundingly detailed and repeated warnings, he subsequently did absolutely nothing. Furthermore, it was in effect a conspiracy, and federal officials, among others, lost their lives, resulting in SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
21) Fraud, in that a concerted campaign of lies were told, in his official capacity, that cost many lives and much property. Again, a conspiracy, and again, federal officials and others lost their lives. And again, Special Circumstances.
22) Criminal Negligence again, in that the massive conventional weapons, ammunitions and explosives were negligently not guarded, and all fell into the hand of criminals. This is the most depraved act of official negligence that has ever occurred in human history, and these supplies will kill many thousands of people over many, many years. They are also the supplies that have been used for most so called IEDs (which should be named LMAEs: Looted Munitions And Explosives). And again, special circumstances.
20) Add your own here ...
Failed coup against winner of a real election, in an oil-exporting country which (unlike many of 'em) doesn't have an inborn reason to hate the USA. Recasting winner of said election as the next big, bad enemy after bin Laden and Castro.
20. "Giving up golf" for the troops.
22. Doing ridiculous soft-shoe routine while waiting for another guy in a limo.
Add to the list the mistreatment and release of Mohammad al-Qahtani, who might have been a valuable source of information were he not in the hands of childish criminals. The list literally does get longer every day.
More evidence of a feckless president, if s/he were a Democrat:
Failure to grant visas to Iraqi translators in mortal danger at the hands of insurgents. NYT: "...a White House spokesman[ ] said the government's hands were initially tied by the lack of federal legislation allowing special visas for interpreters." Funny, I thought absence of authorization by the legislative branch was a mere nuisance, to be brushed off with a signing statement or a secret Yoo memorandum.
Thanks for linking to Boehlert's column on the parroting of the phrase "maverick brand" by so many in the media. It certainly appears that all were paraphrasing the same McCain-camp press release.
What amused me most was that the phrase "maverick brand" is purely oxymoronic. Samuel Maverick was a rule-breaker precisely because he refused to brand his cattle, allowing him to claim all unbranded livestock as his own. The irony of McCain's campaign claiming in effect that "Loose Cannon Party" is a banner to rally around is delicious and horrifying at the same time. This calls for a Stewart/Colbert smackdown, featuring choice phrases such as "gored by his own oxymoron" and "all hat and no cattle."
Former Bush wordsmith Michael Gerson, while chiding liberals for their supposed lack of patriotism, comes up with this Peggy Noonan-like nugget:
"A president is expected to be a patriotic symbol himself, not the arbiter of patriotic symbols. He is supposed to be the face-painted superfan at every home game; to wear red, white and blue boxers on special marital occasions; to get misty-eyed during the most obscure patriotic hymns."
After 8 years of an administration who behave like inhabitants of the Meadowlands drunk tank during a Jets game, the last thing the country needs is another administration where the obnoxious lout shouting USA while wearing flag patterned underwear is the norm. Hopefully Sen. Obama can continue to articulate a less shallow version of what it means to be a patriot.
I read Pierce's piece in Esquire about Obama, and while I agree with him about the need for those in this administration to be held accountable for their actions, I don't see why this issue reflects directly on Obama's candidacy. To my knowledge the only candidate that brought it up as an issue was Kucinich, and my guess is there aren't enough cynics/realists to make this a winner in November.
One of the pluses of Obama's candidacy, to me, is his focus on positive themes of hope and change, greatness of America, etc. The Repubs have been successful selling this for years (and we all know how well that's turned out for most of us), and I say more power to Obama's staff for recognizing and co-opting these themes. You have to be elected first before you can accomplish anything.
Is preemptively issuing Presidential pardons really possible and legal? I always thought this was done for people convicted or at least charged with a crime. Legal scholars, please advise -- and on the off chance John Yoo is reading this (ironically enough, a story about him is in the same Esquire as Pierce's latest), please don't weigh in. We already know what your answer would be anyway, and you could be a beneficiary of this if it is possible.