Obama: Tough enuf — without the John Wayne antics

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” — from an African proverb

WASHINGTON — By the time President Barack Obama announced late Sunday evening that U.S. commandoes had killed Osama bin Laden, the conservative Weekly Standard had already hit newsstands with a cover caricature of the president cowering behind a sand dune, “leading from behind.” An accompanying editorial by outspoken neo-con William Kristol, the magazine’s editor, accused Obama of “appeasing those who revile us.”

Given that U.S. Navy Seals acting on Obama’s orders were preparing to track down Public Enemy No. 1 when the magazine went to print, it was a bad bit of timing for the president’s most vociferous critics. But Kristol was merely echoing the condemnations leveled at Obama regularly by a raft of likely Republican presidential contenders, including Mitt Romney.

Bin Laden’s death has interrupted that narrative, if only temporarily. The steady drumbeat of denunciations of Obama as weak …

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Osama’s jihadist dreams died before he did

WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden lived long enough to see a widespread revolt among Arabs who want nothing to do with his murderous philosophy or his twisted, despotic version of Islam. He knew that his vision for a 7th century caliphate was already dead.

No one knows how the uprisings that started in Tunisia and set off pro-democracy protests across the Arab world will end. The oppressive Syrian government has cracked down brutally; Libya seems bogged down in stalemate, unable to rid itself of the tyrant Ghaddifi. There is more hope for democratic institutions to break through in a country such as Egypt, with a long tradition of a functioning civil society.

Whatever the eventual outcome, though, none of those home-grown uprisings owe allegiance to bin Laden or al-Qaida. There are certainly conservative Islamists among the protestors; it would be naïve to think they wouldn’t be represented.

But they have been just one faction among many. The so-called Arab spring has been …

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Obama walks (and talks) softly, carries a big stick

With the outbreak of turmoil in the Middle East, conservatives have found fresh reasons to attack President Obama on national security issues. Some Republicans, notably Sen. John McCain, want Obama to attack more forcefully in Libya.
Others, including conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, have developed a new meme: Obama “leads from behind,” a style Krauthammer blasts as “ad hoc, erratic and ineffective.”
UPDATE: Political Wire has unearthed a 2008 quote from the impetuous McCain, who said back then that he would not go into Pakistan after Osama bin Laden. McCain told Larry King, “Larry, I’m not going to go there and here’s why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation.”

The death of Osama bin Laden, in a raid executed under Obama’s explicit leadership, ought to quell that sort of foolish talk permanently. But it won’t. In about a week, conservatives will find a way to suggest that Obama’s leadership on foreign policy is weak.
That’s due to several factors, one being the …

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In defense of Haley Barbour’s unbelievably bad memory

WASHINGTON — Last week, Haley Barbour, the affable   governor of Mississippi, became the first to drop out of the preliminary race for the Republican nomination for the presidency.  He said he didn’t have the “fire in the belly” necessary to withstand the punishing rituals of the campaign trail, but political observers added other reasons, including his family’s resistance to having their lives upended.

There was also this: Barbour would have been hounded by questions about his awkward answers and inaccurate recollections on the subject of race and the civil rights movement. As a fellow Southerner, I was astonished that Barbour would be so clumsy — and clearly wrongheaded — on a subject that consumed the South for much of his life.

In a December interview with The Weekly Standard, for example, he defended the White Citizens’ Councils — an uptown version of the Ku Klux Klan — and downplayed the turmoil of the civil rights era. “I don’t remember it …

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A season of devastation, a sense of community

UPDATE: Here is video of the horrifying twister that struck Tuscaloosa. (You can hear the videographer breathing heavily, panicked no doubt, throughout the footage.)

4-27-11 Tornado Tuscaloosa, Al from Crimson Tide Productions on Vimeo.

Parts of my home state of Alabama have been devastated — simply devastated — by a volley of violent tornadoes that swept across the northern areas of the state, killing more than a hundred people. Violent tornadoes also ripped across other parts of the Deep South. From the NYT:

ATLANTA — The death toll in five Southern states rose sharply Thursday morning to 173 after devastating storms ripped through the region, spawning a deadly tornado in downtown Tuscaloosa, Ala., and leaving a trail of flattened homes and buildings in an area already battered by storms.

Across Alabama, at least 128 people were killed by storms on Wednesday alone, according to news reports. The Associated Press reported an additional 32 deaths in Mississippi, …

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Eddie Long: homophobe, narcissist, con artist

WASHINGTON — There has never been much to admire about the ministry of Eddie Long, who presides over the much-hyped New Birth Missionary Baptist mega-church in Lithonia, Ga. He is a homophobe, a narcissist and a con artist — a man much more devoted to his own wellbeing than that of his congregants or his larger community. He has misused his pulpit in ways large and small, including a self-aggrandizing abuse of the title “bishop,” a rank that doesn’t officially exist among Baptists.

Given Long’s extremely flexible ethics over the years, it’s no surprise that he chose to engage in hush-hush negotiations aimed at settling the sexual misconduct allegations brought against him by four young men. If the civil cases are settled — a settlement is reportedly close — they will likely require non-disclosure agreements by all parties.  Long would then continue to insist that he did nothing wrong.

But he has already lost his halo — his fancy-suited, private-jet-flying, …

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Birtherism stalks GOP, scaring the establishment

Perhaps Reince Priebus, the new head of the Republican National Committee, has no choice but to pretend he’s not worried about birther nonsense, which is proliferating like alien pods and threatening to take over the entire Republican Party. “I don’t think that it’s an issue that moves voters,” he told a journalists’ roundtable this morning. He wishes that were true.

Last week, a New York Times poll showed that 45 percent of Republican voters — that’s nearly half, folks — claim not to believe that Obama was born in the United States. And it doesn’t stop there. As I wrote then, a Public Policy Poll shows that

Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they’re willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is …

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King & Spalding was right to drop homophobic DOMA

Headquartered in Atlanta, King & Spalding is an old-fashioned, white-shoe, silk-stocking (and all those other adjectives that suggest “exclusive”) law firm. Its politics tend toward the moderately conservative, as is probably true of most white-shoe law firms. It has been home to the late Griffin Bell, who served as Attorney General in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who served in the administration of George W. Bush.
So it is big news, indeed, that King & Spalding has decided to back out of representing Congressional Republicans who wish to go to bat for the indefensible “Defense of Marriage Act” — a piece of flat-out bigoted nonsense now repudiated by one of its primary sponsors, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr. (Correction: Faced with lawsuits against it, the Obama administration has decided not to defend some parts of DOMA in court, believing a crucial section to be unconstitutional.) The act tries, basically, to …

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Furious over gas prices? Look in the mirror

WASHINGTON — As gas prices soar, Republicans and oil company executives have revived a rallying cry that echoed around the country the last time gas prices spiked: “Drill, baby, drill!” Republicans in Congress, especially, have berated President Barack Obama for his policies, which limit drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas and attempt to reduce our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels.

The president’s opponents posit a seductive and simple idea: The U.S. has untapped resources that ought to be put to good use. If federal policy allowed more drilling, gas prices would drop — following standard rules of supply and demand.

But like so many simple ideas, this one is wrongheaded and shortsighted. The U.S. cannot drill its way into free-flowing, low-cost gasoline. The supply of U.S. oil isn’t big enough to make a dent: we have about two percent of the world’s known reserves.

The larger problem is one of worldwide demand (though speculators and Middle East …

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Yes, we need “death panels”

This morning, my colleague Jay Bookman had a very thoughtful post on why rationing health care — “death panels,” if you will — is quite necessary. I wrote on a similar subject in my Sunday column.

If we keeping spending our health care dollars disproportionately on the elderly, we will have little left to spend on children. That makes for an upside-down society that cannot thrive for long.

I happen to think the entire column is worth reading, but if your time (and patience) are short, focus on the grafs in which my brother, a Boston kidney doc, talks about dialysis for the elderly who are already dying:

If resources are limited (and they are), the nation needs to make choices – some more painful than others. My brother, Kevin, a Boston physician who treats kidney disease, talks about the Medicare program that pays for dialysis for anyone with failing kidneys — including the terminally ill. Started in the 1970s to help adults still in the workforce, its fastest-growing …

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