April 29, 2008
WASHINGTON--This is supposed to be a big election, but it has given every sign in recent weeks of becoming a small one. As a result, the public and the media are showing signs of exhaustion with what had once been an exhilarating contest. In big elections, voters know how much is at stake. They focus on central problems, not manufactured issues or the personal foibles of candidates.
The Folly of McCain-Care
A few months ago, when John McCain decided to address the public’s anxiety about unaffordable medical care, he gave the sort of speech we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Republicans over the years. Let’s encourage people to drop their employer insurance and shop for coverage on their own, he said, since that will create a vibrant market in which people can find better bargains.
Mrs. And Mr. President
Like a terrible werewolf moon, Bill Clinton is shining again in his full brilliance. A new wave of commentary, from The New Yorker to Newsweek to The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times, has concluded that Bill’s role in his wife’s presidential campaign has mainly damaged both Hillary and his own legacy. Bill clumsily played the race card, they say. Bill doesn’t understand new media. Bill is embittered and angry. But maybe it didn’t have to be this way.
Nadine Gordimer is, at 84 years, still an elegant lady. She is also a Nobel Laureate in Literature and so some people hope that she does and others hope that she doesn't come to a writers's conference or not. Especially if the conference is in Israel and coincides with the 60th anniversary of its independence. Frankly, I couldn't care less whether she chose to attend the conclave. Israel's literary reputation does not hang on her participation. It has enough moral spirits who write with incandescent words to do without her.
No Winner In Zimbabwe?
The Nation has finally broken its month-long silence on the humanitarian and political crisis in Zimbabwe. And to their credit, the article by Mark Gevisser strikes many of the right notes, criticizing South African president Thabo Mbeki for his support of Robert Mugabe and labeling the Zimbabwe regime a "kleptocracy." The Nation ought to be applauded for expressing (albeit, rare) criticism of Mugabe, given that the magazine usually praises America's enemies as, at best, in the right, or, at worse, misunderstood nationalists.
Chris and I were debating this Jeremiah Wright business over dinner last night. He thinks the good reverend is just some egomaniacal publicity hound wallowing in the spotlight like David Vitter in a bowl of hookers. This is the most national attention Wright has ever gotten, and, by god, he intends to milk it for all it's worth--even if that means destroying Obama's shot at the White House. I, too, think Wright is digging center stage. But I also suspect he specifically wants to tank Obama's candidacy.
April 28, 2008
The Supreme Court recently gave the country an object lesson in the absurdity of the Eighth Amendment--at least, as it is currently understood by the justices. On a single day, it handed down a decision upholding as constitutional the specific mixture of drugs by which thirty states put condemned prisoners to death, and it then went on to hear oral arguments over the question of whether states may constitutionally execute child rapists. That may not sound absurd, and it wouldn’t be if the court had any kind of coherent approach to cases alleging “cruel and unusual punishment.” But it doesn’t.
The Wrong Stuff
Dana Milbank used to cover the Clinton White House for The New Republic. For several years thereafter he was the Washington Post's person at the Bush White House, and for quite some time now he has written a column, "Washington Sketch," for the WP about the theater of politics.This morning it was the theater of the absurd or, rather, the theater of the absurd with serious consequences that he was covering. Yes, it was Jeremiah Wright's appearance at the National Press Club with security provided by bow-tied and facially immobile goons from the Nation of Islam.
More On Barack V. Bill
I just have a quick point about David Greenberg's post below, which discusses Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece on Bill Clinton. Greenberg writes: For example, in The New Yorker today there is a dig at the former president that repeats Barack Obama’s false claim that jobs “fell through the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration.” Oddly, the piece--by Ryan Lizza, late of this magazine, and by all accounts a fair and careful reporter--fails to state explicitly, as a factual matter, that Obama was simply wrong about this claim.
Whenever Bill Clinton opens his mouth, he’s accused of saying something dishonest, self-serving, or at best politically unwise.