Must-Reads of the Week: Pete King, Manzi’s Thesis, Obama’s WoT, Literary Sex, and American Jeremiads


By Joe Campbell
January 8th, 2010

1. Pete King: Terrorist Sympathizer.

2. Manzi’s Provocative (& Conservative) Thesis. Jim Manzi wrote a really great piece that I was trying to figure out how to respond to for the National Interest – and it has gotten quite a lot of play in the opinionsphere. I found his piece rather compelling actually – as the description of a problem – although some commenators have pointed out some flaws in the statistics he used to back up his piece.

Read the responses by Jonathan Chait, Ross DouthatDemocracy in America, with Andrew Sullivan following it all closely and aggregating other responses (here, here, here, here…)

My sense now – without having fully delved into the back and forth and figured out who is right and wrong about the issues – is that Manzi confused his arguments a bit, massaging some data to back up one thesis when his real point was another. But he offers the first coherent conservative response to the world that Niall Ferguson described in an essay some months ago. (Ferguson had been bemoaning the fact that liberals had the only credible response to our globalizing world – but he tried to give the outlines of a conservative response.)

I’ll be writing more about this as time goes on – and in fact, it follows closely from the conclusions to my pieces on America’s fiscal crisis. (Introduction, Republicans, Democrats.)

3. Obama’s War on Terror. When Pete King told George Stephanopoulos that Obama’s mistakes in the War on Terrorism had lead to the attempted Christmas bombing, Stephanopoulos followed up and asked what specific steps King wanted Obama to take. King’s response was priceless: “I think one main thing would be to — just himself to use the word terrorism more often…” Thank you, Rep. King!

Peter Baker in an upcoming piece for the New York Times Magazine meanwhile reports on some of the many aspects of the Obama administration’s War on Terror – and how the administration sees Obama’s Cairo speech, its position on Israeli settlements, its outreach to Iran, its increased use of Predators and other military interventions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and its gradual shift to a more Rule of Law oriented approach at home are all part of a comprehensive strategy. One interesting tidbit from the piece comes as the incoming Obama administration and outgoing Bush administration coordinated their response to what were seen as credible reports of Somali terrorists traveling to Washington to attack Obama’s inauguration. The threat was serious enough – and the desire to maintain some continuity of government important enough that they took measures to ensure an orderly transition even if Obama, Bush, and all of the Cabinet members were taken out:

[E]veryone eventually agreed that Gates should stay away from the inauguration in a secret location. With no other member of Obama’s cabinet confirmed by the Senate, Gates — an incumbent cabinet officer who also had the imprimatur of the newly elected commander in chief — was the most logical person in the line of succession to take over the presidency should the worst happen.

4. Literary Sex. Katie Roiphe wrote a provocative column for the New York Times on how safe literary writing about sex has been since the much criticized Roth, Updike, et al. Ross Douthat followed up with some wry comment. And it all reminded me of this excellent blog post from Womanist Musings.

5. American Jeremiad. James Fallows writes an interesting piece from a more internationalist perspective that offers in its own way an informal counter to Manzi’s article above.

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