Posts Tagged ‘Jonah Goldberg’

Must-Reads of the Week: The Obama 20-somethings, Graham’s Cojones, Fannie/Freddie, Naive Conspiracy Theorists, Saban, Obama=Socialism, Political Imitations, Underdogs, Lost!, and Julián Castro

Friday, May 7th, 2010

This is a busy season for me — but there should be some more substantive blog posts next week…

1. The Obama 20-somethings. Ashley Parker for the New York Times Magazine profiles “all the Obama 20-somethings” in an interesting profile of the new crowd in D.C. of smart, highly educated, highly motivated, civic-minded, young Obama staffers.

2. Lindsey Graham’s Cojones. You gotta hand it to Lindsey Graham — if nothing else, he’s got guts — from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:

The lone pro-gun lawmaker to engage in the fight was the fearless Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who rolled his eyes and shook his head when Lieberman got the NYPD’s Kelly to agree that the purchase of a gun could suggest that a terrorist “is about to go operational.”

“I’m not so sure this is the right solution,” Graham said, concerned that those on the terrorist watch list might be denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

“If society decides that these people are too dangerous to get on an airplane with other people, then it’s probably appropriate to look very hard before you let them buy a gun,” countered Bloomberg.

“But we’re talking about a constitutional right here,” Graham went on. He then changed the subject, pretending the discussion was about a general ban on handguns. “The NRA — ” he began, then rephrased. “Some people believe banning handguns is the right answer to the gun violence problem. I’m not in that camp.”

Graham felt the need to assure the witnesses that he isn’t soft on terrorism: “I am all into national security. . . . Please understand that I feel differently not because I care less about terrorism.”

Jonathan Chait comments:

There’s a pretty hilarious double standard here about the rights of gun owners. Remember, Graham is one of the people who wants the government to be able to take anybody it believes has committed an act of terrorism, citizen or otherwise, and whisk them away to a military detention facility where they’ll have no rights whatsoever. No potential worries for government overreach or bureaucratic error there. But if you’re on the terrorist watch list, your right to own a gun remains inviolate, lest some innocent gun owner be trapped in a hellish star chamber world in which his fun purchase is slowed by legal delays.

3. Why Isn’t Fannie/Freddie Part of FinReg? Ezra Klein explains why regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac isn’t in the financial regulation bill.

4. Naive Conspiracy Theorists. William Saletan contributes to the whole epistemic closure debate with a guide on how not to be closed-minded politically, including this bit of advice:

Sanchez goes through a list of bogus or overhyped stories that have consumed Fox and the right-wing blogosphere: ACORN, Climategate, Obama’s supposed Muslim allegiance, and whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir. Conservatives trapped in this feedback loop, he notes, become “far too willing to entertain all sorts of outlandish new ideas—provided they come from the universe of trusted sources.” When you think you’re being suspicious, you’re at your most gullible.

5. Saban. Connie Bruck in the New Yorker profiles Haim Saban, best known for bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the United States — but who made much of his fortune licensing the rights to cartoon music internationally. As a side hobby, he tries to influence American foreign policy towards Israel. He doesn’t come off very well in the piece, but at least this one observation seems trenchant to me at first glance:

Saban pointed out that, in the late nineties, President Clinton had pushed Netanyahu very hard, but behind closed doors. “Bill Clinton somehow managed to be revered and adored by both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said. “Obama has managed to be looked at suspiciously by both. It’s not too late to fix that.”

6. The Obama=Socialism Canard. Jonathan Chait rather definitively deflates Jonah Goldberg’s faux-intellectual, Obama=socialism smear:

For almost all Republicans, the point of labeling Obama socialist is not to signal that he’s continuing the philosophical tradition of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Clinton. The point is to signal the opposite: that Obama embodies a philosophy radically out of character with American history. Republicans have labeled Obama’s agenda as “socialism” because the term is widely conflated with Marxism, even though Goldberg concedes they are different things, and because “liberalism” is no longer a sufficiently scary term. Republicans endlessly called Bill Clinton a liberal, Al Gore a liberal — the term has lost some of its punch. So Obama must be something categorically different and vastly more frightening.

Goldberg is defending the tactic by arguing, in essence, that liberalism is a form of socialism, and Obama is a liberal, therefore he can be accurately called a socialist. But his esoteric exercise, intentionally or not, serves little function other than to dress up a smear in respectable intellectual attire. [my emphasis]

7. Imitating the Imitators of the Imitation. This Politico piece by Mike Allen and Kenneth P. Vogel explains how some elite Republicans are trying to set up a right wing equivalent of the left wing attempt to imitate the right wing’s media-think tank-political infrastructure:

Two organizers of the Republican groups even made pilgrimages earlier this year to pick the brain of John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who, in 2003, founded the Center for American Progress and was a major proponent of Democrats developing the kind of infrastructure pioneered by Republicans.

And of course, that right wing infrastructure was meant to imitate the left wing policy-media infrastructure of the left — the Brookings-New York Times axis. The whole imitation of imitation of imitation of imitation — spawning more and more organizations — reminds me a bit of those old Mad magazine comic strips:

8. The Underdog. Daniel Engber in Slate explores the underdog effect and various scientific studies of the underdog effect, including how it affects expectations:

The mere act of labeling one side as an underdog made the students think they were more likely to win.

9. Lost! Ed Martin in the Huffington Post is concerned with how the tv show Lost will end:

Not to put too much pressure on Lindelof and Cuse, but the future of broadcast television will to some extent be influenced by what you give us over these next few weeks.

10. Julián Castro. Zev Chafets of the New York Times Magazine profiles Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and one of the up-and-coming Democrats. The article entirely elided his policy ideas or and barely mentioned his political temperament — but was interesting nevertheless.

[Image by me.]

What Are Republican Principles Again? (cont.)

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Jonah Goldberg acknowledges how the political motives of the congressional Republicans may well backfire (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

Despite their successes in the newscycle, I think congressional Republicans made significant mistakes in how they attacked the stimulus bill. First, their recently discovered hatred for deficit spending is long overdue, but hardly persuasive given the previous eight years. The disconnect between their past actions and the requirements of the present crisis lend credibility to the charge that Republicans are just being petulant and partisan.

Previous post on this subject here.

Jonah Goldberg is Shocked

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Jonah Goldberg is a partisan hack – and I mean that with all due respect.

In this post today, Goldberg points out that Obama seems to be making a number of sensible appointments to major positions, none of which mark a radical change from the status quo – but all of which, from Obama’s perspective, will be improvements. You would think that Goldberg’s first reaction would be approval – as Obama is not turning out to be the radical that Goldberg had feared he would.

But no.

Goldberg instead channels his inner imaginary radical liberal who is outraged that Obama is going back on what his imaginary liberal thought was a promise of radical change.

He concludes:

It will be interesting to see how long Obama’s charisma can paper over reality.

But what his inner imaginary liberal should have realized – and what most real liberals did realize – was that Obama was not a radical or a leftist. By change, he didn’t mean revolution.

But Goldberg desperately wants to be right about something – reality be damned.

Did Obama violate the Logan Act?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

My sister just texted me to ask if Obama had violated the Logan Act – a law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. This apparently is the I’m sure this question is a result of this story by the infamous Amir Taheri. Even Jonah Goldberg of the National Review in his post on the matter concedes:

If memory serves, Taheri hasn’t always panned out…

This I suppose is Goldberg’s way of saying that he will fan the flames if it hurts Obama whether Taheri’s “reporting” is true or not. Most famously, Taheri recently claimed that the government of Iran was forcing Jews to wear yellow stars a la Nazi Germany. He refused to retract the story although the publisher of the story later issued an apology.

I don’t see an official response from the campaign yet on this issue, but I will post it as soon as I get it.

I’m sure it’s forthcoming as the McCain camp has issued an official response fanning these flames – saying that even the possibility that Obama may have violated the Logan act was “unprecedented.” Of course, McCain has been accused in the past of violating the Logan Act on a number of occasions – with regards to Georgia and Columbia; and the right has accused Nancy Pelosi of violating the Logan Act as well.

Pope Endorses Barack Obama in UN Speech

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Pope Benedict @ the United Nations

Not quite. But close.

Addressing the United Nations on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of reducing income inequality; of increasing international cooperation; of respecting the law; of having solidarity with the poor and weak; of opposing (unnecessary)1 war; of “giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation;” of creating “structures capable of harmonizing the day-to-day unfolding of the lives of people;” of the “protection of the environment…and the climate.” And like Barack Obama, though many conservative Catholics are loathe to admit, the previous pope, Pope John Paul II even specifically opposed the invasion of Iraq.

In the past eight years, the Republican party has come to stand for the right of the president to torture prisoners; for rising inequality and acceptance of corporate fraud; for elevating the executive above the Rule of Law and the other constitutionally co-equal branches of government; for ignoring the climate crisis; for refusing to give aid to the poor and weak because of potential “moral hazards” while bailing out big corporations; for preventive war; for refusing to engage in dialogue with our enemies. Pope Benedict’s speech was a direct challenge to the worldview and policies of the Bush administration and an articulation of basic moral principles and basic responsibilities of the state.

Within these principles articulated by the pope, we can easily find the mainstream Democratic agenda, a rejection of the radical policies of George W. Bush, and more specifically, an endorsement of the school of politics that Barack Obama stands for: talking with our enemies; avoiding unnecessary wars and violence; respecting the Rule of Law; reducing income inequality; promoting access to health care; and protecting the environment.

This is the Democratic agenda.

The Pope explained that it is the responsibility of “every generation [to] engag[e] anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs…motivated by hope.” I would call that a pretty good encapsulation of Obama’s appeal – that he represents a new generation striving to find the best way to manage the world and our nation “motivated by hope”.

Jonah Goldberg may call it fascism; Steve Marlsberg may call such efforts to reduce inequality and allow citizens access to basic needs Communism; Rush Limbaugh may call efforts to focus on the real threat of Al Qaeda in the Pakistani/Afghani border “cut-and-run.” But those who listened to Pope Benedict’s address to the United Nations can see that he stands with those the so-called “conservatives” have labeled fascists, communists, and cowards – and the pope understood that the basic moral values he stood for are the essence of what he called “freedom.”

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  1. I inserted unnecessary here although Pope Benedict did not. Although the pope spoke in this speech of avoiding war, I presume he speaks of this in the context of the “just war” theory that has been accepted by him and the rest of the Catholic Church in the past. []

Betting on the American People

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

I wanted to call this post, “The End of Hillary 2008” but there were no “knockout blows” in this debate. Only the gradual erosion of Ms. Clinton’s candidacy and the demonstration of Barack Obama’s resilience.

On October 30, 2007, the Democratic candidates for president debated in Philadelphia. At the time, I noted that this debate might mark”The Beginning of the End of Hillary 2008“. I based this prediction on the fact that the fundamentals of this election year favor Senator Barack Obama, and that Ms. Clinton had just made a significant mistake that played into her perceived weaknesses. Many people scoffed – and the conventional wisdom of the time was that although Ms. Clinton made a large blunder, she hadn’t offered a large enough opening for Mr. Obama to take advantage of. It is hard to recall now how obvious it seemed then that Ms. Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.

Now tonight, 170 days later, and 10 days before the umpteenth “final showdown” between the candidates, they debated again. In the October debate, Ms. Clinton complained that Tim Russert and Brian Williams were “ganging up” on her because they pressed her to answer questions that she was trying to evade, most specifically regarding driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

Tonight though Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos did gang up on Mr. Obama. They used a surrogate to ask if he was loved the country and the flag; they brought up the fact that he had once served on a charitable board with a former member of the Weather Underground; they of course mentioned Bittergate; they brought up again the comments of Reverend Wright. Ms. Clinton piled on – especially by trying to raise the issue of William Ayers, the former member of the Weather Underground who Mr. Obama knew from the charitable board and the University of Chicago and by saying, again, that Mr. Obama’s comments about “clinging” to religion, guns and nativism were elitist and out-of-touch. Watching her closely as she flung this mud – which had often been thrown at her in the past two decades – I thought I could see her squirm, as she refused to focus her eyes on anyone or anything in particular, looking up, then down, then left, and right, all awkward yet determined. I thought I could see Ms. Clinton’s conscience squirming as she tried to teach Mr. Obama the lesson that she had been taught: the only way to win is to ignore the issues and the truth as you know it, and try to bring down your opponent.

The National Review‘s Jonah Golberg halfway through the debate wrote on The Corner:

I’m no leftwing blogger, but I can only imagine how furious they must be with the debate so far. Nothing on any issues. Just a lot of box-checking on how the candidates will respond to various Republican talking points come the fall. Now I think a lot of those Republican talking points are valid and legitimate. But if I were a “fighting Dem” who thinks all of these topics are despicable distractions from the “real issues,” I would find this debate to be nothing but Republican water-carrying.

I think if he were more honest, Mr. Golberg might say he did find the debate to be “nothing but Republican water-carrying” and that the issues the moderators and Ms. Clinton kept pressing were “valid and legitimate” points only if “valid and legitimate” points were defined to mean those issues which would help Republicans beat Mr. Obama.

It’s worth noting how far Hillary Clinton has come – as demonstrated in the following video which many redditors will be familiar with:

(h/t The Nation ‘s Ari Melber.)

In the debate tonight, Ms. Clinton attacked Mr. Obama as an elitist, attacked him by invoking 9/11 (some 4 times by my informal count), and attacked him for associating with a former terrorist (a charge which Obama parried very well, pointing out that President Bill Clinton had pardoned several members of the same group that Ms. Clinton was attacking Obama for having served on a charitable committee with.)  Ms. Clinton has gone from the foremost victim of the Drudge-style smears and gaffes to the foremost practitioner of the varied and dark arts of dirty politics (now that Karl Rove has retired).  Tonight’s debate on ABC provided her with an ideal platform with sympathetic questioners who aided her.

And yet here is the key: Obama scored no knockouts, but he kept going, and he kept talking about the policy issues that matter to most Americans without looking like he was dodging the questions.  He answered, then pivoted.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And it worked.

What his candidacy comes down to is this: he is betting on the American people.  That’s why, when confronted with the incendiary statements of Reverend Wright, he didn’t do the typical political move and disown him; he condemned the comments and sought to explain why he still admired the man who said them, speaking to Americans as if they were adults.

Mr. Obama’s candidacy is not magical, as it did feel for a time in the days after Iowa.  What his candidacy is is grounded and methodical and competent and substantiative and groundbreaking.

Maybe there’s a bit of magic mixed up in there too – but it’s not in the candidate himself.  It’s in the hopes of the people who are coming into the political process to support him; it’s in the sense that America is righting itself after many, many rocky years; it’s in the movement that is swelling around his candidacy; it’s in the connection between Barack Obama’s story and the nation’s; and it’s in the fact that the candidate who is winning is the one who was willing to bet on the good sense of the American people.

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