Monthly Archives: January 2008

Kennedy Hot Air

Froma Harrop on the ridiculous presumptions of the Kennedys:

…JFK was indeed a charismatic figure, but the more we learn about his Camelot in Washington, the less perfect it sounds. (One might start at the 1960 election, which was stolen with an assist by the mob.) Daughter Caroline was adorable, but could someone please explain her cosmic significance today?

The career of dynasty elder, Ted Kennedy, meanwhile, is headed for a disgraceful end. The Massachusetts senator has been caught in a sneaky plot to kill a clean-energy project in Nantucket Sound. Seems he doesn’t want to see wind turbines from his waterfront estate. “Don’t you realize — that’s where I sail!” he famously said.

The heck with his constituents, who live with some of the foulest coal-burning plants in the country. The heck with the United States, trying to free itself from foreign oil. The heck with the planet, threatened by global warming. Environmentalists now boo at the Kennedy name — not that many in the media have noticed.

In 1994, the family parked Ted’s troubled son Patrick in a Rhode Island congressional seat. Patrick recently condemned a wind farm proposal for his state — with references to “monster windmills.” You see, making any New England waters safe for wind turbines would undercut Dad’s efforts to keep them off his Hyannisport horizon.

Patrick moves in and out of rehab over pills and booze. In 2000, he shoved a security guard at Los Angeles International Airport. Later that year, he “trashed” a leased sailboat, according to the vessel’s owner. In the wee hours two years ago, he crashed his car into a barrier near the Capitol building. One wishes Patrick luck in recovery, but doesn’t his district does deserve a fully functional representative?

A new Obama ad shows the Illinois senator flanked by Patrick and Ted, with Caroline spouting the same sort of vacuous platitudes that (sadly) have characterized his own speeches. Obama is better than any of these people, and the spot emphasizes what’s missing in his campaign: substance.

In a non-romantic look at the family, “The Dark Side of Camelot,” author Seymour Hersh described John’s 1960 strategy as follows: “He made his mark not in the Senate, where his legislative output remained undistinguished, but among the voters, who responded to Kennedy as they would to a famous athlete or popular movie star.”

Sound familiar?

The Obama campaign has, with justification, criticized Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as another example of dynastic politics. But now that Obama is playing adopted son of the Kennedy clan, that argument falls apart. As for Clinton, her trolling for the endorsements of other family members lacked dignity. And she missed an opportunity to dismiss the Kennedy mystique as so much hot air.

Salute to Rudy

Maggie Gallagher nicely sums up Rudy Giuliani:

… Rudy Giuliani will come home to a New York that is now the most glamorous city in America, and largely because of what Rudy Giuliani did as mayor. “He’s the only politician who’s ever done anything for me,” a close friend and fellow survivor of the 1980s put it.

Those of us who lived through the grime, the garbage, the squeegee guys and the fear of the pre-Rudy era in New York have every reason to be profoundly grateful for Rudy’s record — but why should the good folks of New Hampshire, or Michigan or Florida be expected to care? What has he ever done for them? Rudy’s whole campaign was based on the theme of “leadership,” but because of his decision to run as a quasi-incumbent, he ended up oddly backward-sounding, returning repeatedly to his great triumphs such as welfare reform and crime.

The voters have moved on.

And so Rudy goes home, but with this consolation: He goes home to the glittering city on a hill he personally helped rebuild.

The Axis of Denial

The Washington Post, no less, takes the Democratic presidential candidates to task for refusing, during the weekend debate, to acknowledge success in Iraq and for factual misstatements:

…What Ms. Clinton, Mr. Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson … offered was an exclusive focus on the Iraqi political failures — coupled with a blizzard of assertions about the war that were at best unfounded and in several cases simply false. Mr. Obama led the way, claiming that Sunni tribes in Anbar province joined forces with U.S. troops against al-Qaeda in response to the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections — a far-fetched assertion for which he offered no evidence.

Mr. Obama acknowledged some reduction of violence, but said he had predicted that adding troops would have that effect. In fact, on Jan. 8, 2007, he said that in the absence of political progress, “I don’t think 15,000 or 20,000 more troops is going to make a difference in Iraq and in Baghdad.” He also said he saw “no evidence that additional American troops would change the behavior of Iraqi sectarian politicians and make them start reining in violence by members of their religious groups.” Ms. Clinton, for her part, refused to retract a statement she made in September, when she said it would require “a suspension of disbelief” to believe that the surge was working.

Even more disturbing was the refusal of the Democrats to adjust their policies to the changed situation. Ms. Clinton said she didn’t “see any reason why [U.S. troops] should remain beyond, you know, today” and outlined a withdrawal plan premised on a defeat comparable to Vietnam (“We have to figure out what we’re going to do with the 100,000-plus American civilians who are there” and “all the Iraqis who sided with us. . . . Are we going to leave them?”). Mr. Obama stuck to his plan for “a phased redeployment”; if his scheme of a year ago had been followed, almost all American troops would be out by this March.

Do You Feel the Glow?

New York Times columnist David Brooks calls Barack Obama’s Iowa victory an earthquake. Now I’m for anyone willing to put himself between the White House and the Clintons, but Brooks’ pious interpretation of Obama’s win is way over-the-top:

Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel
moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.

This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance.

Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result. Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity — the primordial themes of the American experience.

And Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No? [Emphasis added, and does that mean the Republicans must concede the election or be called racist if Obama wins the nomination?]

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift — filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.

He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.

Yet over the course of his speeches and over the course of this campaign, he has persuaded many Iowans that there is substance here as well. He built a great organization and produced a tangible victory.

He’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that “corporate greed is killing your children’s future,” seem old-fashioned. Edwards’s political career is probably over.

Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to gag.

A relatively small group of mostly white folks in an overwhelmingly “white” state voted for a black man. And this is an “earthquake.” As I understand it, the registered Democrats in Iowa are on the far left of a Democratic Party which since 1972 ( and particularly since the Iraq War) is an entirely left-wing, pacifist organization.

Brooks would have us believe that the Iowa result shows that we have moved “beyond race” to an new era in which a man is judged, in Martin Luther King’s words, by the content of his character rather than his race.

In fact, it proves the opposite: the Democrats who voted for Obama more than likely voted for him because of his race. Does anyone really believe that Obama would be running for president if it weren’t for his race?

It's Easy To Be Popular

In an editorial on the prospect of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg running as a third party candidate for president, The Wall Street Journal notes that Bloomberg is resting on Rudy Giuliani’s laurels:

…[Bloomberg] has … been able to play the role of nonpartisan healer in part because Mr. Giuliani was willing to take on the city’s liberal interest groups on taxes, welfare, crime and public order. Mr. Bloomberg has a better bedside manner than Mr. Giuliani, but it’s also easier to be popular when you’re not picking as many policy fights.