Politics Roundup The Opinionsphere

Remembering Ted Kennedy: “He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.”

The tributes have obviously been coming in. The conclusion seems to be the same one I would have come to before: that Ted Kennedy was a great, but flawed man – and like all men and women, he should be celebrated, without tears for the good he did in his life.

Here’s a few articles worth reading:

In Timothy Noah’s Slate piece he declares Ted Kennedy, “The Kennedy who most changed America.”

George F. Will argues much the same thing in a piece that reminds me of his greatness as a columnist, despite all of his bitter distortions on climate change:

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts’ greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

Joe Klein meanwhile explains “how Ted Kennedy found himself” in a personal remembrance of the man he knew for many years.

Michael Tomasky writes in the Guardian in his moving piece:

One would be hard pressed to argue that Ted Kennedy’s death was a more bitter pill for the country than the deaths of his brothers before him – John, the young president whose assassination gave Americans a hard warning about the violent age they were about to enter, or Robert, the presidential aspirant who was thought at the time to be the last leader in America who might have been able to help the nation transcend that violence.

Nevertheless, the heavens have somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers.

Charles P. Pierce writes in a long piece about Ted Kennedy’s life and career about how the events in Chappaquiddick shortly before the first man landed on the moon affected the rest of Senator Ted Kennedy’s career:

She’s always there. Even if she doesn’t fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy’s anguished appeals to the country’s better angels. He was forced from the rhetoric of moral outrage and into the incremental nitty-gritty of social justice. He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous…

And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time.

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Election 2008 Roundup

Headline news

1. Principal bans rainbows on students’ clothes because they are “sexually suggestive” and “would make students automatically picture gay people having sex.”

2. As I try to break free from the crowd, one of the Hezbollah members grabs my arm. “You from America?” he asks. “I hate America, but I love Kobe Bryant.”

3. World’s most obese man tries to set world record for most weight lost.

4. Hillary Vows to Fight on for Edwards’ Endorsement: “My friends, I will fight for the endorsement of John Edwards, even if it takes all summer.”

Domestic issues Foreign Policy Politics Roundup

Two articles to mull over

World War III

Ron Rosenblum had this must-read article about World War III over at Slate magazine this weekend.

I think this is the urgent debate question that should be posed to both parties’ candidates. What happens if Pakistan falls into the hands of al-Qaida-inclined elements? What happens if Musharraf hands over the launch authorization codes before he’s beheaded?

Don’t kid yourself: At this very moment, there’s a high probability that this scenario is being wargamed incessantly in the defense and intelligence ministries of every nuclear nation, most particularly the United States, Russia, and Israel.

War is just a shot away, a well-aimed shot at Musharraf. But World War III? Not inevitably. Still, in any conflict involving nukes, the steps from regional to global can take place in a flash. The new “authorized” users of the Islamic bomb fire one or more at Israel, which could very well retaliate against Islamic capitals and perhaps bring retaliation upon itself from Russia, which may have undeclared agreements with Iran, for instance, that calls for such action if the Iranians are attacked.

If Pakistan is the most immediate threat, U.S., Israeli, and Iranian hostilities over Iranian bomb-making may be the most likely to go global. That may have been what the “very senior” British official was talking about when he said the Israeli raid on Syria brought us “close … to a third world war.” Iranian radar could easily have interpreted the Israeli planes as having its nuclear facilities as their target. On Nov. 21, Aviation Week reported online that the United States participated in some way in the Israeli raid by providing Israel information about Syrian air defenses. And Yossi Melman, the intelligence correspondent with Haaretz, reported a few days later that—according to an Israeli defense specialist—the raid wasn’t about a nuclear reactor but something more “nasty and vicious,” a plutonium assembly plant where plutonium, presumably from North Korea, was being processed into Syrian bombs.

How America Lost the War on Drugs

Ben Wallace-Wells meanwhile wrote this instant Pulitze prize contender for Rolling Stone on “How America Lost the War on Drugs” with the subhead: “After Thirty-Five Years and $500 Billion, Drugs Are as Cheap and Plentiful as Ever: An Anatomy of a Failure.”

On anti-drug advertisements

The ads, which ran under the slogan “The Anti-Drug,” had been designed by a committee of academics who apparently believed that kids needed to be shown that not doing drugs could be fun too. In one characteristic spot, a pen draws an animated landscape, with a cartoon boy avoiding the advances of cartoon dealers before driving off into the distance with a cartoon dragon on a cartoon motorcycle. “My name is Brandon, and drawing is my anti-drug,” the narrator says sweetly. The commercials made abstinence seem so lame they could have been designed by the cartels…

On the escalating political rhetoric

[Bush’s drug czar] Walters called citizens who plant and tend marijuana gardens “terrorists who wouldn’t hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties.”

Ben Wallace-Wells’s conclusions

By virtually every objective measure, the White House had lost the War on Drugs. Last year, Walters boasted that drug use among teenagers has fallen since 2002 – ignoring the fact that overall drug use remains unchanged. The deeper problem is that the drug czar has stopped measuring anything other than drug use. During the 1990s, at the direction of Gen. McCaffrey, Carnevale had created a comprehensive system to measure whether we were winning the drug war. The system took into account drug price and availability in the United States, how difficult it was for drug smugglers to get their product into the country and the consequences of drug use on public health and crime. But Walters simply tossed out that system of evaluation – as well as the unflattering facts it highlighted. “Had we kept it,” Carnevale tells me, “we would see that the Bush administration has not made a positive impact on any of the measures.”

Most unexpectedly of all, crime – a problem that seemed to have been licked a decade ago – is beginning to creep back up. In October 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum released a report declaring that violent crime in the country was “accelerating at an alarming pace.” Murders were up twenty-seven percent in Boston over the previous year, sixty percent in San Antonio and more than 300 percent in Orlando. Even in the cloistered world of policing, complaints began to build about the numbers and about the cuts in federal funding. “The reality is a lot of police officers are politically conservative folks,” says Ron Brooks, the president of the National Narcotics Officers’ Association. “But there’s been a lack of leadership in this administration on this issue.”

Election 2008 Iraq Politics Roundup The War on Terrorism

Worth Mulling Over

  • Noam Scheiber over at TNR on how the media controls politics, specifically Huckabee’s campaign.
    His cynical theory which strikes me as highly plausible:

    1.) The beginning of what should have been a Huckabee boomlet in August happened way out in Ames, Iowa, while the beginning of the actual Huckabee boomlet this past weekend took place in Washington, DC, making it a lot easier for journalists, pundits, and bloggers to cover–and, er, create. (Though, in fairness, a lot of journalists trekked to Ames.)

    2.) Perhaps more importantly, the results of Ames weren’t announced until fairly late in the evening–8 o’clock or so if I recall–which was well after most MSM reporters had written their stories for the following day. (Many simply went back and inserted a few lines or a paragraph about Huckabee into stories that trumpeted Romney’s first-place victory, which was easily foreseen.) On the other hand, Huckabee’s speech last Saturday at the Values Voters summit happened around 11, and the result of the event’s straw poll were announced just after 3, leaving reporters with plenty of time to write about the reaction to Huckabee’s speech and his performance in the balloting.

    3.) Finally, because the first event was in Ames, which most reporters promptly departed, and the second was in Washington, where many reporters, pundits, and bloggers either live, work, or both, the media was able to soak in the afterglow of Huckabee’s performance this weekend, to chat about it with others who had witnessed it, and to therefore magnify it in their coverage in subsequent days. That wasn’t the case with the straw poll in August.

  • Andrew Sullivan pointed us to this relevant quote from 1866:

    “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism …” – The Supreme Court, Ex Parte Milligan, 1866.

  • Andrew Sullivan also wrote this great post describing how the decision to torture leads to the decision to invade Iraq, and how people who aren’t evil can end up committing great evils.

    Until they are both gone from office, we are in grave danger – the kind of danger that only torturers and fantasists and a security strategy based on coerced evidence can conjure up. And since they have utter contempt for the role of the Congress in declaring war, we and the world are helpless to stop them. Every day we get through with them in power, I say a silent prayer of thanks that the worst hasn’t happened. Yet. Because we sure know they’re looking in all the wrong places.

Election 2008 Roundup


  • Andrew Sullivan is still shocked at President Bush’s duplicity on torture;
  • Hillary Clinton adds Matt Drudge to her list of former enemies she has co-opted (Rupert Murdoch, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich being the most prominent);
  • A new study has shown that student debt is increasing twice as fast as starting salaries for college graduates; and
  • The wives of the presidential candidates showed up at a forum hosted by Maria Shriver. Not sure what that accomplished.
Baseball Election 2008 Humor Obama Politics Roundup

Worth Reading

Because the truth is, if you laid the resumes of the five leading candidates for the job – Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi, Tony La Russa, Bobby Valentine and Torre – on a table and removed the names, one would jump out at you. The one with the 12 straight playoff appearances, 10 division titles and four world championships over the past 12 seasons. That would be Torre’s. And if that’s not good enough to keep his job, what ever will be?