Politics

December 27, 2007

A Mere Smear

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

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

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

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.

Ladies' Choice

For Barack Obama, it has all come down to the mommies. Hillary Clinton’s commanding lead among Democratic women--as high as 20 points in some nationwide polls--has long been cited as a strength Obama can’t overcome. A November Zogby poll found that nationwide, Clinton’s 11 percent advantage over Obama was due entirely to her 18 percent lead among women. But in recent weeks, Obama brought female voters into his column as he pulled even with Clinton in the early primary states.

Hillary And Rwanda

Today's NYT look at Hillary's White House foreign-policy role by Pat Healy is interesting in various ways, not least for Hillary's conspicuous paranoia of saying anything noteworthy about her influence on Bill's decision making. Also conspicuous is her apparent omission of any hint that she supported bombing in Bosnia and Kosovo. But I was most struck to see that when asked about the Rwandan genocide, "Mrs.

December 25, 2007

The Radical Meaning of Christmas

WASHINGTON -- Hope is an overused word and an underrated virtue. We "hope" for all kinds of things, from the trivial to the profound. But hope is both a habit and a discipline. It is an orientation toward the future based on the conviction that we live in an ultimately trustworthy universe. Hope is the virtue on which faith and love depend. Even more than faith and love, I think, hope is closest to the heart of the Christmas story. In an anthropological sense, Christmas celebrates new life and birth, a theme that crosses cultures and traditions.

December 24, 2007

Let's Declare A War

I'm familiar with Caguan, the part of Colombia where Ingrid Betancourt was taken almost six years ago. She is still being held there in appalling conditions. I also happen to know Ivan Rios and Joaquin Gomez, the mafioso Marxist leaders of the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), because I went to Caguan to interview them, first for Le Monde and then for my book on "forgotten wars." So.

Constitutional Craving

Is the Constitution a partisan, Republican document? GOP candidates sure seem to think so--they have been relentless in asserting that they would “follow the Constitution” in pursuing goals from overturning Roe v. Wade (Mitt Romney) to restoring the gold standard (Ron Paul). And for decades, conservative judges such as Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia have been backing these claims up, advocating for a version of constitutional “originalism” that lines up quite nicely with the Republican platform.

Palestinian Collaborators Then And Now

I've just finished a truly intriguing book.  It is called Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 and is the product of what is clearly a daring mind, that is the mind of Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  The book bears two blurbs: one from Zachary Lockman, director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at N.Y.U., who last appeared in the news as a signatory to the international petition calling on universities and colleges to boycott Israeli academics.  The second blurb was by Tom Segev, an Israeli version of Alexander Cockburn: "all that the hom

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