December 30, 2007

Sunday Primetime
12:00 AM

From time to time, we ask New York drama critic Jeremy McCarter to assess the theater of politics. Here's his take on some candidate appearances on this weekend's Sunday morning talk shows: Let the screenwriters keep striking. Without their help, the Sunday talk shows go on yielding tense plots and subplots, improbable characters in twisty relationships, and bold strokes of comedy. Some of them are even intentional. "Great to be here," said Hillary Clinton as she walked onto the set of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Is "great" the word she wants there?

Farewell To Fred?
12:00 AM

  It's been a rough weekend for Fred Thompson. An AP story has Fred complaining about the inane process of running for president--a position which, as I've written before, is utterly sensible but dumb to dwell upon mid-campaign. (Even worse, the story is being played--perhaps unfairly--as evidence that Fred doesn't even want to be president.

December 29, 2007

Show's Cancelled
12:00 AM

Oskaloosa, Iowa--This is what a disaster looks like: Fred Thompson, the former future "savior" of the Republican Party, looking droopy-eyed and jowly in a black leather jacket and tan ten-gallon hat, wandering like some lonesome lost cowboy through the snows of southeastern Iowa in search of voters--and not finding many. A few minutes earlier, the former U.S. Senator, "Law and Order" star, and would-be conservative hero had emerged from the Smokey Row coffeehouse, where, in his endless search for the only kind of media he can afford--free--he'd sat down with the local newspaper.

December 28, 2007

Reasons to Believe
12:00 AM

Cass Sunstein honorably comes to the defense of his friend and former colleague, Barack Obama. His doing so reminds me of why I am among Sunstein’s many admirers. Unfortunately, his loyal reply has nothing to do with what I wrote.  My essay was not about Obama, and certainly did not “smear” him. The subject was the way Obama’s devotees in the press have made their case for him on the basis of emotional appeals about “intuition” and “identity”--a kind of delusional political journalism we have seen before.

High Stakes
12:00 AM

Des Moines, Iowa--The assassination of Benazir Bhutto came as a brutal reminder of the gravity of the decision Iowa's voters will be rendering in their caucuses next Thursday night. Its impact may be felt most powerfully by Democrats who have been thinking less about issues than about the style and quality of leadership they are seeking from their next president. All of a sudden, the politicians' endless loop of television advertisements took on a new and somber significance.

The Wizard of Iowa
12:00 AM

“It’s an exciting time to be alive,” Bill Clinton exclaims. No seven words would sound more banal in the hands of a lesser politician. Clinton says them with the wonderment of a toddler who just learned to walk--at least if that toddler could speak in complete paragraphs and had a sponge-like memory for detail. “When I ran for president the average cell phone weighed five pounds,” he muses. “Go figure. You know how many sites there were on the Internet? The whole shebang? Fifty.

December 27, 2007

A Mere Smear
12:00 AM

The Compact Oxford Dictionary of Current English offers several definitions of the word "smear." One is "coat or mark with a greasy or sticky substance." Another is "damage the reputation of [someone] by false accusations." Neither of these definitions perfectly fits Sean Wilentz' discussion of Barack Obama and his supporters, published on The New Republic's website last week. But Wilentz has certainly produced a smear. Wilentz does deserve considerable credit--this is one impressive smear.

At the Precipice
12:00 AM

The killing today of Benazir Bhutto was tragic for many reasons. Most obviously, it was another senseless death, adding to the spiraling extremist violence that has spread in recent years from Pakistan’s remote regions into the heart of its major cities, including the capital, Islamabad and the nearby military garrison, Rawalpindi, where Bhutto was murdered. But the killing also may push the country even farther from a return to real democracy, already a shaky prospect in a country with a checkered history of electoral politics.

The Land of a Thousand Bad Newspaper Articles
12:00 AM

Shashi Tharoor, the Indian author and former candidate for the post of United Nations Secretary-General, has given his most recent collection of clichés a hybrid cliché of a title: The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone. The elephant and the tiger are the most stereotyped symbols of India, flogged by writers for centuries before Tharoor ever took up the whip. But the cell phone is a freshly minted cliché, still winking brightly in the spotlight under which India has begun to find itself.

December 26, 2007

Don't Cry For Her, Argentina
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON — Cristina Fernandez recently took office as Argentina’s president. Until a few weeks ago, she was the country’s first lady. The big difference, of course, does not reside so much in the fact that her former status was ceremonial and dependent on her husband, Nestor Kirchner, as in the fact that she will need to reverse most of his populist policies if she wants to succeed. She is unlikely to do so. A recent scandal has reminded everyone in Argentina that the Kirchner couple is a firm political partnership. Assistant U.S.