August 18, 2008
Obama's Russia Opportunity
Let's be honest--with the possible exception of that Saddleback forum (on which I hold the minority view), last week was not a good one for Obama. McCain looked engaged and authoritative on the Georgia crisis, despite the tawdriness of his pronouncements, while Obama seemed AWOL. Mike was exactly right on this--though it wasn't necessarily Obama's fault (I mostly blame an unfortunate coincidence of vacation timing), the atmospherics were lousy for a candidate who still has to clear the commander-in-chief threshold. One hopes Team Obama is well-prepared for the Musharraf resignation...
August 15, 2008
Be Not Cool
In a way arguably unlike any previous presidential contender (yes, okay, fine: JFK, maybe), Barack Obama personifies cool. He’s young. He’s hip. (Check out that iPod playlist.) He’s black. He’s got that whole smooth-talking, fist-bumping, “What, me worry?” vibe going. His oratory uplifts without inflaming. He talks of hope and change and endless possibility, but always with an edge of restraint and composure that soothes even as it inspires. The “No Drama Obama” label suits him.
The Corncob Pipe of Politics
The Democratic Party’s platform committee approved a whopping 54-page draft document last Saturday in Pittsburgh. (That’s up 15 pages from the 2004 platform). The Republicans won’t draft their platform until just prior to the GOP convention in Minneapolis, so it stands to be seen how the new platform will stack up to the 2004 document, which topped 41,000 words and began with a triple homage to Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and George W. Bush. Problem is, nobody seems to care.
It may be an Asian century that lies ahead of us, but we're not quite there yet. Western declinists and China alarmists, take note: Its soccer team is still abysmal. How can an increasingly prosperous nation of 1.3 billion be so bad at its favorite sport? Well, it turns out that social norms make a difference: Many Chinese sports analysts and scholars point to endemic corruption within the association as one cause of the sport’s ills.
August 14, 2008
Of Memos and Memes
Will the Party of Clinton ever become the Party of Obama? It has now been more than two months since Barack Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination yet here we are, still fascinated with Bill and Hillary Clinton and what they're up to. Why? The latest round of Clinton mania was precipitated by Joshua Green's article in The Atlantic on a Clinton campaign riven by unresolved factional disputes, as well as the online publication of a trove of internal memos portraying a staff in strategic and tactical gridlock.
It's the Gas Prices, Stupid
It's the economy again, stupid. In a Pew Research Center poll released last month, 61 percent of Americans cited an economic concern as the most important issue facing the country. That is up from 34 percent in January, and 20 percent in September 2007. Ordinarily, this would be great news for Barack Obama, as conventional wisdom holds that when the economy slumps, so do the fortunes of the incumbent party. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry built around the concept.
Live The Ideals You're Speaking Of
WASHINGTON -- When you put the Olympics in the hands of a dictatorship, the results are predictable. Yet the Chinese government still found a way of surprising even its critics by behaving oppressively in a foolishly unnecessary way. By revoking the visa of 2006 Olympian Joey Cheek at the very last moment because he had the nerve to speak out about Darfur and the Chinese government's support for Sudan's barbarous regime, Chinese authorities guaranteed that the opening of these Games would focus as much on politics as on sports.
August 13, 2008
Nothing good can ever come from responding to a book review, I’m told. Still, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith is too smart a man to simply ignore.The ironic thing about Goldsmith’s lengthy critique of my book, Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice, is that Goldsmith and I agree about far more than we disagree. The Bush administration’s penchant for secrecy and the lack of transparency in its war on terror, he writes, were damaging and self-defeating. This is a central theme of his book, The Terror Presidency, and a central theme of mine as well.
Earlier this summer, when the Obama campaign announced that Jason Furman was joining its staff as director of economic policy, the storyline seemed to write itself: Centrist adviser will pull Obama to the right. Furman had first made a name for himself as a wonky twentysomething wunderkind in the later years of the Clinton administration--a period when, to the consternation of many liberals, Clinton emphasized balanced budgets, free trade, and welfare reform.
The TNR Q&A: Charles Fairbanks
As Russia agreed to a ceasefire on Tuesday, saying its invasion of Georgia has “punished” the country enough, TNR’s Seyward Darby spoke with Charles Fairbanks, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of State (as well as being the father of our Associate Editor, Eve Fairbanks), who spends six months of the year teaching at Ilia Chavchavadze State University in Georgia. Fairbanks describes the war as “deeply, deeply depressing,” with far-reaching implications that will influence policy in the last months of President George W.