Category Archives: Political Opinion

David Frum calls for retreat

In the Washington Post this morning, David Frum calls for a full scale retreat of conservatives from the McCain presidential campaign.  In his piece, “Sorry Senator.  Let’s Salvage What We Can,” Frum argues that all resources should be diverted to saving what the Republicans can in Congress:

There are many ways to lose a presidential election. John McCain is losing in a way that threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him.

Frum cites a “senior Republican House member:”

There is not a safe Republican seat in the country.  I don’t mean that we’re going to lose all of them. But we could lose any of them.

Things aren’t better in the Senate where he cites 8 seats that could go down, including in such stalwart Republican states as Virginia (where Sen. John Warner’s seat … he’s retiring …. is almost a guaranteed loss) and North Carolina (where Elizabeth Dole will probably lose to Democrat Kay Hagan).  I’m getting almost daily emails about the GA race, where, extraordinarily, Republican Saxby Chambliss is in a death match against his Democratic opponent Jim Martin.  Democrats are not quick to forget the despicable campaign Chambliss ran against Dem Max Cleland last time around and the drag on Chambliss by the McCain campaign gives them just enough of a crack in the door to perhaps throw Chambliss through it. 

The Frum article takes a nasty turn when he begins to criticize “liberal Democrats” and MSNBC and the “left-wing blogosphere” for “a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism.”  That’s sort of a pot-meet-kettle argument.  The conservative media (think Limbaugh and O’Reilly for reference) has been, and continues to be, the most vitriolic voice on the airwaves.  The fact that Democrats are beginning to grow a collective spine should be threatening to the Republicans.  But militant?  Well, that’s a stretch.

Frum’s concern is that:

… this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named “fairness doctrine”; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.

Angry?  Well, yeah, we’re angry.  We’re angry that the Republican administration has mucked about in our Constitution and tramped on our civil liberties.  We’re so angry, that we want stricter regulations to make sure that citizens are guaranteed free speech … even if we hate what they’re saying.  We want tighter controls to ensure that citizens cannot be surveilled without cause.  We’d like a strict interpretation of what is tax deductible so that folks going to church on Sunday won’t be subjected to political intimidation.  We’re angry enough to not want to silence conservative radio.  As much as we may hate the lies, the vitriol, the violence inspiring hate speech that can spew forth, we recognize that, too, is free speech and without it, this just wouldn’t be America. 

I encourage you to read the rest of Frum’s piece.  He lays out his opinion of what the Republican party should do at this point.  It’s a sort of cut and run strategy:  leave the McCain camp out to dry and focus on the Congress which will be your base for the next presidential election.  When leading conservatives begin calling for all support, both moral and financial, to be pulled from a presidential campaign, the writing is probably on the wall.

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Filed under constitutional rights, John McCain, McCain Campaign, Political Opinion

Follow up on the Christopher Buckley endorsement

It appears that the conservatives are (shock) not so tolerant as one might hope.  Christopher Buckley has been co-opted into resigning from the National Review, the magazine his father, the late William F. Bukley, Jr., founded, over his reasoned endorsement of Barack Obama for President.  Buckley, indeed, took great care in distancing his endorsement from the magazine, instead publishing it in The Daily Beast.  Apparently, that was not enough to keep the National Review On-Line from getting in the “awkward position” Buckley was trying to help them avoid.  Here is part of his explanation, from The Daily Beast, on why he is leaving the NRO:


Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.

My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.) 

My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.  

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case. 

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me. 

Thanks, anyway, for the memories, and here’s to happier days and with any luck, a bit less fresh hell.


Filed under Barack Obama, People, Political Opinion

Olbermann takes it to McCain

Last night, I wanted to send Rachel Maddow champagne.  Tonight, it’s a bottle of scotch for Keith Olbermann.  Keith took it to McCain for the race baiting, hate and fear mongering campaign he is carrying on, while trying to make himself out to be the victim.  It’s clear, at least to me, that McCain is playing to the Klan element of his party by continuing to wholesale reject John Lewis.  Tonight, Keith did some yelling for those of us who are _ just _ so _ done.

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Filed under Barack Obama, John McCain, McCain Campaign, Political Opinion, Racism

Not Funny

Usually, when I read an Op-Ed piece at The New York Time, I find something that sets me off on my own tanget, causing me to cite a piece of the Op-Ed and create my own commentary.  This morning, however, I find that Bob Herbert’s piece it to important to carve up.  I hope you pay attention.

Amusing, But Not Funny

Sara Rimer of The Times wrote an article last week that gave us a startling glimpse of just how mindless and self-destructive the U.S. is becoming.

Consider the lead paragraph:

“The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.”

The idea that the U.S. won’t even properly develop the skills of young people who could perform at the highest intellectual levels is breathtaking — breathtakingly stupid, that is.

The authors of the study, published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, concluded that American culture does not value talent in math very highly. I suppose we’re busy with other things, like text-messaging while jay-walking. The math thing is seen as something for Asians and nerds.

Meanwhile, the country is going down the tubes. Felix Rohatyn, who helped lead New York City out of the dark days of the 1970s fiscal crisis, had an article in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books (with co-author Everett Ehrlich) lamenting the sad state of the U.S. infrastructure. Most Americans are oblivious on this issue. We’re like a family that won’t even think about fixing a sagging, leaky roof until it collapses on our heads.

New Orleans was nearly wiped from the map in the Hurricane Katrina nightmare, and 13 people were killed when a bridge in Minneapolis broke apart during rush hour, hurling helpless motorists 60 feet into the Mississippi River. Neither of those disasters was enough of a warning for us to think seriously about infrastructure maintenance, repair and construction.

Could these types of disasters happen again? They’re going to happen again. Mr. Rohatyn reminds us that nearly 30 percent of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

We haven’t even got sense enough to keep an eye on the water we drink. Citing a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Mr. Rohatyn and Mr. Ehrlich write: “Current funding for safe drinking water, amounts to ‘less than 10 percent of the total national requirement.’ ”

A country that refuses to properly educate its young people or to maintain its physical plant is one that has clearly lost its way. Add in the myriad problems associated with unnecessary warfare and a clueless central government that wastes taxpayer dollars by the trillions, and you’ve got a society in danger of becoming completely unhinged.

This is about more than the election of a president in a few weeks. The American people have to decide what kind of country they want.

Do they want one in which the top 1 percent hauled in more than 21 percent of all personal income in 2005? Do they want a country in which, as my former colleague at The Times, David Cay Johnston, has noted: the tax system “now levies the poor, the middle class and even the upper middle class to subsidize the rich”?

Do they want a country in which their democratic freedoms are eroded by a deliberate exploitation of their fear of terrorism, and their earning power is diminished by a crippling dependence on foreign oil?

These are exactly the kinds of issues that could be thoroughly explored, argued about, even obsessed over in a presidential campaign. Americans could drag their eyeballs away from their flat-screen TVs and give serious thoughts to important matters if they wanted to. Instead, we get silliness.

The news media, especially the talking heads on television, are addicted to the horse race, focusing around the clock on wildly proliferating polling data that tell us basically nothing. No one knows who is going to win this election. So why not spend a little quality time on where the next generation of jobs might be coming from, and why it’s critically important to ease the burden of health insurance coverage being shouldered by strapped families and businesses alike?

An article in Monday’s Times spotlighted some of the serious problems that have emerged in the No Child Left Behind law. Among the law’s unintended consequences, as Sam Dillon reported, has been its tendency to “punish” states that “have high academic standards and rigorous tests, which have contributed to an increasing pileup of failed schools.”

Say what?

Surely this is a good issue for discussion and analysis in the presidential campaign. Let the candidates have at it in their final debate. Let the pundits weigh in. And why not interview a few teachers, principals and thoughtful citizens?

Don’t hold your breath. Neil Postman warned us years ago about amusing ourselves to death.

The end is near.

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Filed under How to vote / voter info, Political Opinion

Further into the Twilight Zone: David Brooks and I agree

I’ve been agreeing a little too much with David Brooks lately.  That either means that I’m becoming more conservative (seriously doubtful) or the conservative movement is as flummoxed as I by the choices the Republican party has made this year.  I’ll go with the latter. 

Yesterday, I asked when exactly we decided in this country that it was better to have someone in the White House with zero intellectual curiosity over someone with a stellar brain.  David Brooks is on the same path.  In an Op-Ed in the New York Times this morning, he wrote the following:

The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

Brooks believes that Palin is a symbol of this move away from intellectualism to governance by “Joe Six Pack.”  She has, indeed, articulated this herself, hasn’t she?  He writes:

She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.

Another prominent Republican intellectual has also signalled a turning of the back on McCain and his new strategy of cess pool politics, which is where one ends when one has stripped oneself of all higher thought.  George Will wrote yesterday,

Time was, the Baltimore Orioles manager was Earl Weaver, a short, irascible, Napoleonic figure who, when cranky, as he frequently was, would shout at an umpire, “Are you going to get any better, or is this it?” With, mercifully, only one debate to go, that is the question about John McCain’s campaign.

I think this is “it.”  The McCain campaign has all but promised that it will continue the Ayers line and bring in other attacks (Rezko, Wright) on Obama in the remaining days of the campaign.  If McCain were a more serious mind, he would enlist conservative intellectuals and gather the best economic policy team he could find to “talk smart” to the American people about how he will lead in these frightening economic times.  Main Street is watching the Dow fall another 500 points as I write this.  Folks recognize that they need someone smarter than their bartender to get us out of this mess.  McCain has yet to prove that he is that person.

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Our place in the world

I’ve said before that when Bush was elected to his second term, I almost couldn’t bring myself to move back to the States from overseas.  Living in S Korea at the time, my girlfriend bought me a t-shirt which read, on the front, “Official American Apology T-shirt,” and, on the back, “I’m sorry my President is an idiot.  I didn’t vote for him.”  It was written in about six languages.  Now that I’m down here in Alabama, the only one who wears it is my daughter, to sleep in.  Telling people here that I’m a Democrat is scary enough.  Wearing that shirt might get me kicked out of the PTA (!).

The goal of that shirt, of course, was to let anyone and everyone overseas know that I understood.  I understood that the people back home were under some sort of mass delusion.  Stupid had apparently been put into the water system in every city and town.  It was the only conclusion I could draw.  How does this country elect that man … twice?

In this election, Bush might as well be on the ticket again.  We have, in John McCain, a politician who would run rough shod over the world just as Bush has done.  And the world knows it.  Jonathan Freedland had a piece about just this in The Guardian on Sept. 10.  I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here is the part you need to read for my purpose:

Until now, anti-Americanism has been exaggerated and much misunderstood: outside a leftist hardcore, it has mostly been anti-Bushism, opposition to this specific administration. But if McCain wins in November, that might well change. Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves. For it will have been the American people, not the politicians, who will have passed up a once-in-a-generation chance for a fresh start – a fresh start the world is yearning for.

Freedland goes on to say:

For America to make a decision as grave as this one – while the planet boils and with the US fighting two wars – on the trivial basis that a hockey mom is likable and seems down to earth, would be to convey a lack of seriousness, a fleeing from reality, that does indeed suggest a nation in, to quote Weisberg, “historical decline”. Let’s not forget, McCain’s campaign manager boasts that this election is “not about the issues.”

It’s not only domestic and foreign policy issues at stake here, it’s our very soul.

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It’s still the economy, stupid

I know, the most recycled line in history about the economy, but it’s still true.  It is the economy this election cycle and things are only getting worse.  We awake this morning to two huge stories:

1.  Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection;

2.  Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch in a stock only deal.

World stock markets are tumbling, the dollar is falling, 7 international financial institutions have set up a fund to try and prevent other banks from crashing.  There is no doubt that the Dow will take huge hits today.  All of this is, of course, tied to the housing market crash (no, not a slump) that has dragged down the financial markets for over 14 months. 

The electorate should, and probably will, tie this crisis to the failed economic policies of the Bush administration and their failure to oversee the commercial banking industry.  Since McCain promises not much more than a continuation of most of Bush’s policies, wholesale, surely the American voters will understand that a McCain / Palin administration will not provide the answers to pull us out of the recession we’re in (face it, folks) and the darker days to come.  We can all revisit McCain’s admission that he really doesn’t get the economy, but we’ve been over that ground until the path is bare.  The facts are plain:  McCain is a Bush retread and we’re in trouble if we let him anywhere near control of this economy.

Update:  Here’s Obama’s response to these events:

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store.  Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.


I certainly don’t fault Sen. McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to.

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Filed under Political Opinion, The Economy