Archive for August, 2010

Tom Coburn is no fan of Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is an endlessly fascinating character — a man of such outsized ambitions, such glaring flaws, such an interesting intellect and such a raging ego that Shakespeare could have written a series of plays about him.
A recent profile in Esquire captured the miasma of contradictions and hubris that is Newt Gingrich. As a columnist, I’ve always relied on Newt to provide fresh fodder.
But I’ve also wondered how his party could continue to take him seriously. He has already crashed and burned as a party leader; his stint as House Speaker during the Clinton years proved that Gingrich is better suited to politics than governance, better at tearing down than building up. After his leadership helped bring about crushing losses in 1998, GOP House members wanted him out as Speaker, and he left public office rather than face the prospect of losing that office.
Still, a party desperate for anything that resembles an intellectual underpinning has dusted Gingrich off and trotted …

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Glenn Beck and white self-pity

For many of my readers, the most salient trait I have is one I had nothing to do with: the color of my skin. Whether I mention race in a post is unimportant. Many of my commenters will mention it for me.
Given that, I call attention to the fact that the words I recommend to your attention in this post were written by a white man, Christopher Hitchens, who is moderately conservative. He has some interesting things to say about the weekend’s Beck rally, which he calls the “Waterworld of white self-pity”:

One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. . .
Until recently, the tendency has been to think of this rather than to speak of it—or to speak of it very delicately, lest the hard-won ideal of diversity be imperiled. But nobody with any feeling for the zeitgeist can avoid noticing the symptoms …

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Newsweek: GOP would produce fewer jobs, bigger deficit

Because Americans are so unhappy with the current direction of the country, Republicans are expected to make big gains in the upcoming mid-term elections. It doesn’t seem to matter that GOP leaders such as John Boehner have refused to declare any agenda that they would use to govern, should their party take back Congress.
But Newsweek has an interesting analysis of GOP proposals, saying that the nation’s economic problems would worsen under a Republican Congress:

There’s only one problem with Boehner’s message: so far, the things that Republicans have said they want to do won’t actually boost employment or reduce deficits. In fact, much the opposite. By combing through a variety of studies and projections from nonpartisan economic sources, we here at Gaggle headquarters have found that if Republicans were in charge from January 2009 onward—and if they were now given carte blanche to enact the proposals they want to—the projected 2010–2020 deficits would be larger than they …

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Beverly Hall needs to retire

WASHINGTON — For more than a decade, Beverly Hall, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, proved brilliant at protecting her reputation. When she arrived in July 1999, she set about cultivating a coterie of mostly white business executives to serve as advisers and stalwart defenders.
It’s no surprise that Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, was deeply involved in helping Hall put together the school district’s half-hearted investigation. When I was Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor, Hall used to visit the editorial board with one or two execs in tow — present to testify to her accomplishments.
But Hall has done less well as a champion of educational excellence. Her initial response to the cheating scandal makes clear that she has been more concerned with the appearance of success than actually improving academic attainment.
Even if the stunning improvements in test scores had all been valid, Hall still presides over one of the …

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Obama’s vacation days: Fewer than Bush took

President Obama and his family have started an August vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and, with that, the griping about his taking a few days off has started. Personally, I think that presidents ought to get in some vacation time. They are better off when they are rested, and, therefore, the country is better off when they get a little rest.

After all, they can never really get away from the duties of the presidency, no matter how far they travel from Washington. And, with the buttons of the presidency at their fingertips no matter where they are, it’s okay if the president is in Martha’s Vineyard or Crawford or Hawaii.

Yes, Democrats often whacked President Bush for going to Crawford, a petty complaint that helped to poison our politics. Since Obama is frequently criticized for his vacations, here are some facts for those of you who care about such things to ponder. From the WaPo:

The Republican National Committee has taken to calling Obama “the Clark Griswold president,” a …

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Dr. Laura, the n-word and the First Amendment

A word or two on the Dr. Laura controversy, including my thoughts on the n-word and my musings on Laura Schlessinger’s misunderstanding of the First Amendment:

First off, I don’t approve of the commonplace use of the n-word by comedians, rap stars or most others. (There are exceptions, such as its use by excellent novelists, playwrights and movie script writers, but they are too few to influence the general case.) The word is crude, vulgar and a sign of a poor vocabulary.
Do I think Schlessinger’s use of the word was “racist”? No, just stupid.
As I wrote in a column a few years ago:

Only one thing is certain about use of the n-word, a lasting truth that was uttered by the courageous Atticus Finch, hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” his daughter Scout asks him. Finch answers with a pearl of wisdom:
“Of course I do. Don’t say ‘nigger, ‘ Scout. That’s common.”
Finch’s words — actually, the words are those of my hometown heroine, Harper Lee, who …

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Not that it’s anyone’s business, but Obama is a Christian

This is troubling on so many different levels that it’s hard to know where to begin: New polls have found that as many as a quarter of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Since so many of his critics still refer to the controversy involving the views of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, how is that possible?
And why are some observers now insisting that the president must be more public about his religious practices, which ought to be one of the most private aspects of a person’s life?

From McClatchy:

The Pew survey of 3,003 adults found 18 percent of Americans saying Obama is Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009, two months after his inauguration. The percentage who identified him as Christian went from 48 percent to 34 percent, while 43 percent of Americans said they didn’t know what he believed.

The rise in those who insist that Obama is Muslim was found primarily among Republicans, from 17 percent last year to 31 percent today. More troubling …

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Leaving Iraq with an uncertain future

The last U.S. combat troops have departed Iraq, leaving that country to figure out its own future. What did we accomplish? More than 4400 U.S. troops dead, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, billions of U.S. dollars spent, Saddam Hussein hanged and Iraq’s fledgling democracy uncertain.
While many who were enthusiastic about invading Iraq — like Sen. John McCain — like to declare that “the surge worked,” Iraq is less stable than that would imply.
The Ramadan season has been deadly, with insurgents stepping up their attacks. There is still no power-sharing agreement between the major winners in March elections, so Iraq’s government is at stalemate.
And, with 50,000 US troops left in the country to train Iraq’s military and root out al-Qaida, the financial cost to American taxpayers approaches a trillion dollars. We’ll be paying that off for decades to come.

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“Playing Tea Party movement for suckers”

I rarely use the phrase “thinking conservatives” anymore, since there seem to be so few left. But there are still a handful, and one of them has written an enlightening piece about the idiotic kerfuffle over the Burlington Coat Factory mosque in Lower Manhattan.

Writing in a conservative Washington newspaper called the Washington Examiner, libertarian Gene Healy argues that the dust-up is a distraction so that conservative voters won’t notice that Republicans don’t want to do the hard and unpopular work of cutting spending. Healy, a vice-president at the libertarian Cato Institute, writes:

The “mosque” controversy isn’t about property rights or religious freedom. It’s a bogus issue seized by the GOP establishment to distract the rank-and-file from the party’s reluctance to shrink government. . .

You see, cutting government is hard, and often unpopular. No surprise, then, that Boehner would rather play urban planner than embrace Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s “road map” …

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The odious Glenn Beck has every right to his rally

Glenn Beck is a clever and amoral huckster who inflames and incites the lowest passions of his audience in order to keep them entertained. There is nothing too base for him to say; no lie too odious for him to repeat; no smear too vile for him to include as part of his schtick.
He has called President Obama a racist repeatedly. And he is so ignorant of the civil rights movement that he once claimed that U.S. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) was trying to mimic a civil rights leader. Ahem. John Lewis was a civil rights leader — a rather famous one.
Beck has no appreciation for or understanding of Dr. King’s philosophy, which was based on the theological concept of social justice. As a minister, King preached and lived that philosophy. Beck has denounced the very idea of social justice as a theological concept.
You can understand why some civil rights activists are offended that Beck has chosen to schedule his rally at the Lincoln Memorial for August 28, a date that holds a special place …

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