The Republican Obama
February 23, 2010
Politicians who hold or aspire to high office have learned the hard way (e.g Trent Lott speaking at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party) that when you speak to a select group of loyalists in these viral times, you are also addressing a national audience, including people who would like nothing better than to latch onto some gaffe or fringe conviction.
Obama and Golf
December 30, 2009
In response to Michelle Cottle’s complaint about Barack Obama’s devotion to golf, Paul Krugman quotes H. L. Mencken’s comment about former Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith: “The Al of today is no longer a politician of the first chop. His association with the rich has apparently wobbled and changed him. He has become a golf player…” Then there is conservative theorist Russell Kirk’s comment about Dwight Eisenhower. Asked in the late 1950s whether he agreed with the John Birch Society’s charge that Eisenhower was a communist, Kirk replied that Ike was “not a Communist, but a golfer.”
So Much Gasbaggery, So Little Time
December 03, 2009
Barack Obama convened his first official summit before he was even elected president. In October 2008, then-candidate Obama gathered a gaggle of business and political heavyweights--Paul Volcker, Eric Schmidt, Jennifer Granholm, Bill Richardson, etc.--in a Florida community college gymnasium for what his campaign billed as the “Growing American Jobs Summit.” “No cheerleading,” Obama admonished the 1,700 people who packed into the sweltering gym expecting a campaign rally.
Cheney for Fisherman
November 29, 2009
Jon Meacham is clearly an intelligent person and skilled writer, but his judgment about America and what America needs is somewhat inferior to that of my cat Lexie. Last November, he was telling us that the election affirmed the nation’s conservatism. Now he is urging Dick Cheney to run for president in 2012.
Budapest, The Berlin Wall, and Iran: What Obama Does Not Grasp
November 08, 2009
It is just about 30 years since the wall around Iran went up. And it is a few days away from fully 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. The Berliner Mauer had been up for more than a quarter century, and its surface facing east, grim gray, was a metaphor for life in the German Democratic Republic. On its western face graffiti evoked the freer spirit of the half-city whose heart had nonetheless been broken by the Soviet goose step that divided it. And the Cold War was won on the very day the authorities of the D.D.R.
No, not Dwight Eisenhower (and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles), who thought of his Arabs as the Egyptians. Frankly, in 1956, nobody thought of Palestinians, including especially the Palestinians. And, no, not even Jimmy Carter, who, while now especially entranced with the Palestinians, including Hamas, was beginning his macabre infatuation with Hafez Assad. Then there was George Herbert Walker Bush and his sidekick James Baker, who didn't much like the Jews but wanted especially to please the Saudis. The U.S.
The Death (and Life) of Conservatism
September 24, 2009
One of the best lines in Sam Tanenhaus’s wonderful little book on The Death of Conservatism comes in its opening chapter. Surveying intellectual life on the right in the opening months of the Obama administration, Tanenhaus concludes that too many conservative intellectuals “recognize no distinction between analysis and advocacy, or between the competition of ideas and the naked struggle for power.” Quite so, as one can see from the response (or non-response) of the right to Tanenhaus’s own book. Tanenhaus is a tough critic of the conservative movement, but he is also a deeply informed one.
October 22, 2008
'This election," said John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, on the second day of the Republican convention, "is not about issues." And he meant it. The convention that Davis helped assemble devoted strikingly little time to policy. Instead, the focus was on McCain's biography. Fred Thompson set the tone early in the convention, using his address to recount McCain's life story, especially his stint as a prisoner of war. In state delegation meetings during the week, the campaign enlisted the candidate's fellow POWs to tell delegates of his experiences in Vietnam.
End of an Error
October 22, 2008
Last year, I published a book describing how right-wing economics had come to dominate American politics. Whenever you write a book about something bad that's happening, you get asked for the solution. I'd shrug and admit that I didn't have one. The questioner would usually look slightly disappointed, so I'd add that nothing lasts forever, and eventually something will come along to change things. The financial crisis might be that something. When liberals talk about turning economic lemons into political lemonade, the usual model is the New Deal.