For A Prudent Idealism
June 16, 2009

I like to think of myself as a prudent idealist in foreign policy and also as a follower of Woodrow Wilson (at least before Wilson, in the spring of 1919, beaten down and incapacitated by illness, became incapable of making the distinctions and compromises necessary to successful diplomacy). I am certainly as enthusiastic as anyone else about Iranians taking to the street against Ahmadinejad. But unlike some of my colleagues, I fully support the Obama administration's cautious diplomacy and worry about their appearing to take sides in the contest between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.

The Return Of Idealism
June 15, 2009

The past few years haven't been kind to foreign policy idealism--the belief that when authoritarian states mistreat their own people, it is a matter of concern for all of us. We idealists can largely blame ourselves for this. The biggest reason idealism fell out of favor was Iraq--a disastrous war that many of us foolishly supported in the naive belief that substituting liberalism for totalitarianism in the heart of the Middle East would be a relatively simple thing. We made mistakes beyond Iraq, too.

Rahm The Dove?
June 09, 2009

So says Newsweek: Emanuel's status as a near-native son gave some Israelis and Jews the impression he would be their guy on the Obama team—the pro-Israeli with the receptive ear. He had those golden Zionist credentials, after all: His father, Benjamin, had been a member of the Irgun, the right-wing Jewish militia that existed before Israeli independence. His Uncle Emanuel had been killed in a skirmish with Arabs back in the '30s, prompting the family to change its name from Auerbach to honor him. But some in the Jewish community have been disappointed.

Worth Reading
June 04, 2009

Beneficiaries of tax breaks from the "Homeland Investment Act" did anything but. Countrywide's former CEO is charged with insider trading. Morgan Stanley says the rise in rates is "fully driven by a rise in the inflation premium." Digg is letting users vote on the site's advertising. Why do men have more followers on Twitter? --Zubin Jelveh

June 04, 2009

Joe Klein happened to interview the Hamas leader an hour after Obama's Cairo speech. Meshal wasn't impressed: "Undoubtedly Obama speaks a new language," he told me. "His speech was cleverly designed... The essence of the speech was to improve the U.S. image and to placate the Muslims. We don't mind either objective, but we are looking for more than just mere words. If the United States wishes to open a new page, we definitely would welcome this. We are keen to contribute to this. But we [believe that can not happen] merely with words.

Prophet Motive
June 03, 2009

This year, Nouriel Roubini, the economist known to the general public as Dr. Doom, Prophet of the Financial Apocalypse, spent the early hours of Mardi Gras on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. It was only 11 a.m., but the party was rollicking. Traders careened around the floor, hooting and honking, dressed as dragons and devils and convicts. Rock music roared overhead, and no one seemed to care that, by the bye, the market had tanked.

Back Pak
June 03, 2009

Earlier this spring, Nawaz Sharif threatened to topple Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's government. Since taking power in September, Zardari had been promising to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, whom Pervez Musharraf had sacked on March 9, 2007. But Zardari, who feared that Chaudhry would try to either curb executive power or dredge up corruption cases, balked repeatedly. This annoyed Sharif--and many of his fellow countrymen--to no end.

The New Newsweek Takes On Oprah!
May 31, 2009

Michael Kinsley's definitive, witty takedown of Newsweek's relaunch is a must-read, but the magazine comes out swinging this week with a lengthy, entertaining takedown of Oprah Winfrey. Somehow I do not think the old Newsweek would have published this piece, let alone put it on the cover. Those of us who pretend not to do not watch Opah have long had the unfounded speculation that the cult surrounding her is vaguely sinister. Weston Kosova's and Pat Wingert's piece does much to further this impression.

Daily Affirmations 5/28
May 28, 2009

1. Gail Collins has a fun, readable take on student loan reform, an issue near and dear to my heart: The White House estimates that it could save about $94 billion over 10 years if it cut out all the middlemen. And it has the basis of a system in place, since the Department of Education already makes a lot of direct loans to students. How many people out there think that there’s going to be some reason that this turns out to be extremely controversial? Can I see a show of hands? “Senator Nelson is for the system as it is now,” said a spokesman for Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska.

Dick Needs A Less Tired, More Logical Line Of Attack
May 26, 2009

One line from Cheney's AEI speech Thursday has stuck with me. Pooh-poohing the assertion of, among others, John McCain that torture "serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us" (as Obama cleverly referenced in his speech), Cheney sniffed: This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the president himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do.  Of course it does not. It doesn't excuse anybody anything.