Posts Tagged ‘Reihan Salam’

Misunderstanding Race and the Under-30 Voters

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Reihan Salam:

The fact that America elected an African American president is a tremendous source of pride to these [under-30] voters, I’m guessing.

This seems fundamentally off to me. My impression is that the pride in electing an African American – the sense of pride that America has done so – seems to belong more to the older generation. Those of my generation – the under-30 voters (of which Salam himself was when Obama was elected) – aren’t proud Obama was elected. If anything, we’re relieved. Some were confident he would win; others were afraid our country was too racist – but I’m not sure I know many people who were “proud” that we weren’t so racist as a nation as to block the best man from winning in a time of crisis.

Does anyone agree or disagree with these impressions?

Chinese Racism, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Power, Andrew Sullivan’s Catholicism, America’s Decline (?), and Megan Fox’s Savvy Self-Creation

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Chinese Racism. Reiham Salam posits that China’s ethnocentrism will retard it’s development into a superpower – especially given the demographic obstacles it is facing thanks to it’s One Child Policy.

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Power. Gabriel Sherman describes the world of Andrew Ross Sorkin, star financial reporter for the New York Times, in New York magazine. He describes the unique amount of power Sorkin has accumulated in financial circles, all from the paper that was traditionally lagging behind the others in financial journalism. Attending a book party, Sherman observes the way Sorkin is treated by the many powerful titans of Wall Street:

“What you noticed when you went was how many powerful Wall Street people were there to kiss his ring,” adds The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta, a party guest. “He’s a 32-yeard old guy, and there were all these titans of Wall Street crowding around to say hello and make nice to Andrew.”

That type of praise only makes your job harder of course.

Andrew Sullivan’s Catholicism. Andrew periodically writes these moving pieces about his Catholicism, and why he is still a Catholic. Yesterday, in an emotional response to a number of recent events, he writes:

Maybe I am too weak to leave and be done with it. But in my prayer life, I detect no vocation to do so. In fact, in so far as I can glean a vocation, it is to stay and bear witness, to be a thorn in the side, even if the thorn turns inward so often, and hurts and wounds me too.

I stay because I believe. And I stay because I hope. What I find hard is the third essential part: to love. So I stay away when the anger eclipses that. But the love for this church remains through the anger and despair: the goodness of so many in it, the truth of its sacraments, the knowledge that nothing is perfect and nothing is improved if you are not there to help it.

America’s Decline (?). John Plender writing in the Financial Times pokes several more holes in the growing consensus that China’s power will soon eclipse America’s. Rather, he sees China as returning to it’s historic position of economic power – increasing relative to America, but not eclipsing it given the various problems they are facing.


Megan Fox’s Savvy Self-Creation. When I saw the New York Times Magazine was writing a major article about Megan Fox I was intrigued. What about her might be interesting enough to hold up a feature? It turns out that there was quite enough. Lynn Hirschberg writes about a starlet whose main focus is her own image, the character she plays in the media. Fox deliberately holds herself apart from this character:

I’ve learned that being a celebrity is like being a sacrificial lamb. At some point, no matter how high the pedestal that they put you on, they’re going to tear you down. And I created a character as an offering for the sacrifice. I’m not willing to give my true self up. It’s a testament to my real personality that I would go so far as to make up another personality to give to the world. The reality is, I’m hidden amongst all the insanity. Nobody can find me.

As she studies Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, and other Hollywood icons, almost all of whom were overwhelmed by their characters, Fox seems to be searching for lessons she can take herself:

Monroe was her own brand before branding existed. “She lived her whole life as a character playing other characters,” Fox said. “And that was her defense mechanism. But Marilyn stumbled and lost her way. She became overwhelmed by the character she created. Hollywood is filled with women who have tried to cope. I like to study them. I like to see how they’ve succeeded. And how they’ve failed.”

Hirschberg didn’t seem to know whether Fox’s obsession with Monroe and other starlets would foreshadow Fox’s own decline, or whether it could be managed. The last lines Hirschberg leaves her readers with are plaintive:

In a few short weeks, she had gone from happily outrageous to virginal and controlled. It was, perhaps, a healthier attitude, but pale by comparison. “I have to pull back a little bit now,” Fox said. “I do live in a glass box. And I am on display for men to pay to look at me. And that bothers me. I don’t want to live that character.”

Mining Right Wing Critiques for Some Honesty

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I’ve gotten tired of being outraged at every self-serving lie and every new line crossed and picking apart idiotic arguments by right wingers. This served some purpose during the campaign – and I believe it is important to do when disinformation campaigns are being waged (as during August of the health care debate). But it is not what I feel most comfortable doing.

At the same time, I believe Republicans are undermining the two-party system and our democratic institutions by using their considerable clout to promote fantastical claims and lies about the efforts of their opponents instead of engaging in more pragmatic or fair-minded criticisms. Right wingers who back the Republicans have likewise mainly fallen into this trap – aside from a few notable exceptions (Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, David Brooks.)One of my goals then will be to not only promote these individuals – as Andrew Sullivan for example is – but to read the propagandist crap from more mainstream right wingers and mine it for legitimate criticism.

I’ve had this thought in my head for a few weeks – and have been reading wit this in mind. But when reading items like this by Steve Huntley in the Chicago Sun Times, it becomes very difficult:

Someone’s brain is clearly addled – for there is nothing contradictory about claiming you inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression (which it technically was) and that it is even worse than was thought (especially as several weeks after Biden’s remark, the Department of Commerce released the official statistics revising its statistics down for the past year as it periodically does.)

It amazes me that such paragraphs get past an editor.

Other concerns – while perhaps legitimate – are so self-serving they are hard to reconcile with past views. For example, Wesley Smith over at National Review‘s The Corner did not from my reading of him bring up the subject of the “rule of law” at all during George W. Bush’s presidency. However, now he brings it up with a hard criticism of the Obama administration’s position on medical marijuana:

Part of the sleight of hand here is a subtle mischaracterization of the change. Obama is not “refusing to enforce federal marijuana laws” but rather shifting resources away from targeting these groups, or as Devlin Barrett of the Associated Press described it, prosecutors will be told that “it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.” And Smith doesn’t acknowledge the long tradition (he refers only to Andrew Jackson) of presidents refusing to enforce laws as part of the checks and balances described in most textbooks on the Constitution. Smith also ignores the far more serious violations of the rule of law that Bush committed in actually ordering the law be broken and declaring it void when it violated his duty to protect Americans.

This sudden concern for the rule of law – concern suggesting it was incredibly fragile and can be destroyed in an instant – seems to reinforce the point I made earlier – that the strong positions taken by conservatives regarding curbing executive power and discretion are entirely unprincipled. They have everything to do with the fact that a liberal is now in power and will be abandoned again when they have power.

However, I did find one conservative critique I could endorse: Marie Gryphon’s piece in the National Review that makes the case against scapegoating Ken Lewis of Bank of America. To blame him for accepting the deal he did – especially given the amount of pressure he was under from Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and those working with them is ridiculous. Whether or not there is a legal case against him, it should not be pursued.

Health Care’s Place in Obamanomics

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

This tidbit from James Pethokoukis’s blog over as USN&WR makes me want to read Douthat’s and Salam’s new book:

Another interesting healthcare reform option is highlighted by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in the book Grand New Party. Uncle Sam would require individuals and families to put 15 percent of their income into health savings accounts. If you run out of money before year-end, the government steps in. If you don’t, you get the money back or it rolls over into a retirement account.

This idea seems to have promise – though without seeing the ancillary details, there are some glaring issues with it on process grounds, even as you can see the proposal working out ratehr well under most circumstances in the world. It seems to penalize those with families, by reducing their retirement funds; those without an income would not have to face the trade-off that seems essential to their system working – choosing between retirement savings and health care; and preventive medicine would seem to be discouraged, although it is seen by most wonks as the surest way to reduce overall health care costs. Why get a regular check-up if you’re depleting your retirement savings to do so?

The plan seems designed mainly to tackle two political problems – the lack of health insurance for many Americans; and the moral hazard of having unrestricted access to health care. It’s rather ingenious, even if I’m not sure that the second factor should be taken too seriously. People want to avoid going to the doctor – or at least I do. This policy almost seems designed to create a massive sociological experiment. Aside from short-term medical emergencies, people would be forced to create health care and retirement strategies that balanced their long-term financial needs with their short-term health care decisions. Should I get the botox, or save more for retirement? Should I schedule this regular check-up? Should I spend money on these various preventive steps and live longer – or save more so I can spend my fewer years in a splendid retirement?

I’m sure it’s worth checking out the book just to see what other ideas Salam and Douthat have to reinvigorate conservatism.

But for now, Obama’s plan – or some variation between the rather similar Clinton, Obama, and Edwards plans – is the right way to go. It’s the shortest route to improving our current mess.

The core problem we need to solve though isn’t that our health insurance system as currently instituted is flawed, but that health insurance as the primary means of dealing out health care is flawed. Politically, the Obama/Clinton/Edwards path of patching up the current system is the only feasible one at the moment – to improve the status quo marginally. But there are far too many perverse incentives – for health insurance companies, for patients, for doctors in a health insurance system.

Of course, James Pethokoukis has greater things on his mind than our rotten health care system. He seems to be concerned that if Obama is able to pass a program that actually gives substantial benefits to Americans, it will move America to the left. Which is why he has now declared that it is the responsibility of the Republicans to stop this idea or face destruction. After all – the average American hasn’t seen much improvement in their lives as a result of the government in a long time. His theory is, once a competent liberal is able to pass a plan that substantially improves a problem in the lives of many Americans, then people will abandon the anti-government rhetoric of the conservative movement and abandon the program of incessant and regressive tax cuts.

The fear of socialism lingers like a spectre.

So, Pethokoukis proposes Republicans do anything they can to stop “Obamacare,” in order to save themselves. His little speech reminds me of a football coach trying to psych his team up for the game. But he’s playing with fire.

In light of this market disaster, this financial earthquake, some necessary changes are required to be made to our grand social bargain. Free trade is a good thing – but it creates chaos in it’s wake. The financial crisis is just the latest symptom. Obamanomics is a pragmatic, liberal approach to treating the core disease – which is not free trade or globalization, but destabilization. Obamanomics does not ideologically prescribe government intervention as Reaganomics proscribed it. Rather, it is a series of pragmatic first steps. It does not have as it’s goal the creation of some Great Society as previous versions of liberalism did; and it also does not merely try to find a Third Way between the Left and Right as Clinton did.

The key factor in understanding Obamanomics is that it does not force it’s values in the hoped for end result, but instead in the processes of getting there. Rather than imagining a perfect world and attempting to bring America to this goal, Obamanomics tries to improve what is already here, especially by instituting processes that inherently reflect core values like transparency, accountability, fairness, a long-term strategic orientation, and an aversion to government coercion.

7 Reasons Why Hillary Should Not Be the VP

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

[digg-reddit-me]Although I was never crazy about the idea, there was a time – several weeks ago now – when I considered the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket to be a potentially good idea. Andrew Sullivan’s excellent column floating the idea moved me somewhat – even as I tended to think that Senator Jim Webb would be a better choice. I had thought of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s description of Lincoln’s genius in organizing his “team of rivals” even before Sullivan mentioned it. And I thought that Obama could pull it off if any politician today could. But Maureen Dowd’s description of Obama’s and Clinton’s interpersonal dynamic struck me as accurate enough, and Clinton continued to campaign – standing up for her supporters – “hard-working white people”; comparing her efforts to de-legitimatize the process of delegate selection she at first endorsed to abolition; and in general acting as if Obama’s nomination were not only a personal affront to her but the end of the Democratic party.

So, I’ve soured on the idea. Here’s seven reasons why Hillary Clinton should not be chosen as Obama’s vice presidential running mate:

  1. From Rachel Maddow on MSNBC’s Inside the War Room just a few minutes ago:
  2. [It would be] very awkward for a vice presidential candidate to be on a presidential candidate’s ticket after she has made repeated references to his potential death. Yes, that would be weird.

  3. It will undermine the rationale behind Obama’s candidacy and make Obama look weak. As Reihan Salam of The Atlantic wrote:

    A backroom deal with Clinton would make a mockery of Obama’s language of hope and change. It would make Obama appear weak, and it would reward Clinton for running a campaign more vicious than anything Lee Atwater could have cooked up. More importantly, Obama would be choosing a fundamentally weak and unpopular running mate who has masked her marked executive inexperience through endless misrepresentation of her role in the Clinton White House – a role that begins and ends with a healthcare debacle that would have gotten anyone other than a First Lady fired.

    Or, to put it as John Edwards did:

  4. She doesn’t put a single state or demographic group on the board for Obama.
    She is a highly polarizing figure. The demographic splits in the primaries so far have been best explained by the Peabody award-winning Josh Marshall over at the Talking Points Memo: The only areas where Hillary has decisively beaten Obama are in the Appalachian region of the country. But Hillary is far from the best candidate to appeal to this group. Former Senator John Edwards, Governor Ed Rendell, Governor Ted Strickland, and especially Senator Jim Webb all would seem to have greater appeal to the Scotch-Irish Reagan Democrats of the Appalachia. Clinton’s base is entirely in the Democratic party where she is relatively popular, while Obama has substantial support among independents and even some Republicans. That is why Clinton has done better in closed primaries than ones open to independents or all parties (at least until Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos gained traction).
  5. Bill.
  6. She’s run a terrible campaign so far. Would she run a better campaign if she trying to win for Obama?
    Her campaign is already $21,000,000.00 in debt. She squandered enormous institutional and name recognition advantages. Does anyone still remember that she was the prohibitive favorite before “a skinny kid with a funny name” expertly managed one of the hardest fought campaigns in history?
  7. She shouldn’t be rewarded for trying to bully her way onto the ticket (after being told no “politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably“, threatening an “open civil war“) and for her bullying tactics during the rest of the campaign (threatening to withhold funds from the DNC; attacking Nancy Pelosi; lying about Obama’s record on abortion, NAFTA, and other issues; using voter suppression tactics in Nevada and Iowa; and undermining the legitimacy of the delegate selection process she agreed to when she thought it was to her benefit.)
  8. Her sense of entitlement.

As a bonus:

Hillary’s not going to help Obama win in November. Let’s get on to the main event already.

Drop out, Senator, and settle for becoming the next Secretary of Defense or a Supreme Court Justice.

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