October 22, 2007
Stagecraft, Not Statecraft
From "Mission Accomplished" to his September trip to Anbar province, President Bush has excelled at stagecraft when it comes to Iraq. Pulling rabbits out of hats and waving scarves like a diplomatic David Copperfield, he has staged events and shaped imagery to build support for his strategies, while undercutting his critics at crucial moments. Political stagecraft can be an important part of statecraft, insofar as it helps sustain policies. But stagecraft without statecraft is just smoke and mirrors. And the Bush administration has pursued the former while neglecting the latter.
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA <?xml:namespace prefix = o />As the Burmese junta’s brutal crackdown on opposition activists continues, with police still rounding up and defrocking monks and hunting down leaders of the protests, the outside world scrambles to have any impact on the ruling generals. Despite China’s reluctance to impose overly tough measures on the generals, the United Nations agreed to a consensus statement condemning the crackdown, and U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari plans to return to Burma in November.
Having traveled through countries suffering under harsh authoritarian regimes, I wasn't surprised by much on my first trip to Burma, roughly ten years ago. There were the requisite thuggish military men in reflective shades patrolling the airports, the giant signs warning people to crush all internal and external destructive elements. But the booksellers of Rangoon took me aback. The main roads of Burma's largest city are lined with bookstalls hawking tattered versions of British novels, ancient copies of National Geographic, and dog-eared reprints of political philosophy texts.
The Fox Debate in Florida
Pretty much everything you needed to know about tonight's GOP debate--and much of what you need to know about the GOP race--happened in the first 15 or 20 minutes. That's when Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace invited each of the leading candidates to attack their rivals--and the candidates took him up on it. The differences in the way the four front-runners responded highlighted a key divide in their campaign strategies. Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson swept their deviations from party orthodoxy under the rug, as they have for much of the race, and cast themselves as true conservatives.
October 21, 2007
Kinsley On The Amt
Michael Kinsley channels Jon Chait in making the case for keeping the Alternative Minimum Tax: The Republicans controlled Congress and the White House for six years; they could have made government as lean as they wished and no one could have stopped them. They didn't. It used to be that when they proposed irresponsible or phantasmagoric tax cuts, Republicans at least went through the motions of coming up with some theory about how they would pay for themselves. Supply-side economics--tax cuts would generate new taxable economic activity--often played this role.
October 19, 2007
Why Do People Dislike Hillary?
Andrew Sullivan, who really seems to be angry about Hillary Clinton's poll numbers, approvingly quotes from (and links to), this Peggy Noonan column. Here's the bit that Andrew excerpts: "Who, of all the powerful women in American politics right now, has inspired the unease, dismay and frank dislike that she has? Condi Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein? These are serious women who are making crucial decisions about our national life every day. They inspire agreement and disagreement; they fight and are fought with. But they do not inspire repugnance.
The Afternoon News
I'm Your Man: [Liz Sidoti, AP]: "Leading Republican presidential candidates, all flawed in the eyes of influential social conservatives, sought Friday to convince the restive group they will carry the torch for the right flank -- and Rudy Giuliani won't." Youth Group: [Ben Adler, Politico]: "Democrats are heading into the presidential election year with uncommonly high hopes for under-30 voters, whom they expect to emerge as a force that could shape national politics well beyond 2008." Big Spender: [Kevin Bogardus, The Hill]: "Rivals say presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R) is preparing for
Friday, Republican candidates Fred Thompson, John McCain, Tom Tancredo, and Duncan Hunter tried to woo restive evangelicals at the Family Research Council's 2007 Values Voter Summit. Here's a look at how each appealed to the flock. Fred Thompson explained his shifting stance on abortion: "I can only say that after, for the first time in my life, seeing a sonogram of my own child, I will never think the same exactly again. I guess, more appropriately stated, I will never feel exactly the same again, because my heart now is fully engaged with my head.
Desire and Deceit
How good it is to know that Ang Lee is in the film world, working away. It's not only his range that attracts, amazing though it is, with films of a chef in Lee's native Taiwan, of a Jane Austen novel, of the American Civil War, and others. Lee's range is more than versatility. Each milieu is plumbed in its essences. Underlying his extraordinary gifts is, we feel, a belief that film exists in order to embrace varying humanities. Lee's new film supports this view in an odd way, because it is not set in a country or culture far removed from his own.
Niki, Not So Fine
The narrow victory of Democrat Niki Tsongas in a special congressional election in Massachusetts offers warnings to both Republicans and Democrats for 2008. Her victory speaks to the continuing unpopularity of President Bush and the war in Iraq. But her less than robust margin over Republican Jim Ogonowski--she won 51 percent to his 45 percent, with minor party candidates taking the rest--tells Democrats they cannot assume that Bush's low standing will turn the road to next year's elections into easy street.