Friday, November 27, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanks, Sarah!

For answering my question:
Is it possible that the Palin Right has diminished the office so much that they really think any warm body with the right views on abortion can do the job? What planet do they live on?
Apparently, that's exactly it:

O'REILLY: Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?

PALIN: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values.

Well, there you have it! I was right.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lessons from Ft. Hood?

Allow me a respectful dissent from Jeff's take on some of the various reactions (specifically, those of Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg) to the shooting at Ft. Hood.

Jeff writes:
Both Goldberg and Sullivan effectively call for investigations into American Arabs/Muslims, particularly those in the military. Right, good idea: let’s alienate the few Arabs/Muslims who love their country – in spite of their country’s and fellow soldiers’ prejudices against them, drawn out by incidents like the Fort Hood massacre – enough to die for it.

Fort Hood was incredibly tragic, and incredibly sad. Did Major Hasan scream Allahu Akbar? It does not matter. He may have believed himself to be religiously motivated, he may have had ties to radicalizing Imams, but at the end of the day — he was clearly disturbed. Indeed, the military and society as a whole should watch out for people who gave warning signs of mental instability — but not warning signs based on their religious or ethnic identity, which is what Goldberg and Sullivan are demanding.

This characterization conflates the reactions of Goldberg and Sullivan, which were actually quite different. In fact, Sullivan wrote the following about the shooting on November 6:

It's a tragic massacre in the first place. It will doubtless increase suspicion of Muslim servicemembers, which in turn propels more religious polarization, which makes winning this war harder still. You can instantly see how the Malkins will spin this, and how a war on American Muslims can get jump-started in America.

And he posed the following questions about reactions to the shooting the same day:

[Should we] Screen all potential Muslim soldiers in [the] future? Have special surveillance of such soldiers? It's easy to see how this might make matters worse just as it might make them better. Michelle Malkin, remember, favored interning Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Is that what the anti-Jihadists now want for American Muslims? Or what, exactly?

Denial of these Islamist currents, even within the military, is dangerous and foolish. But equally, over-reacting to them is dangerous and foolish.

Sullivan's statements don't quite add up to "effectively call[ing] for investigations into American Arabs/Muslims, particularly those in the military." Granted, he did write that "if political correctness is preventing this vigilance, it needs to be pushed back, and hard," but that's a qualified statement, and in any case it seems pretty self-evident. If warning signs were ignored because no one wanted to cause offense, that's obviously unacceptable. (For the record, I think it's extremely unlikely that that will prove to be the case, and some of the people making this claim are just taking potshots at liberals.) But Sullivan made the suggestion in a qualified way, and explicitly rejected the "ROOT OUT THE MUSLIMS!" sentiment that undergirded a disturbing amount of conservative reaction.

Goldberg, for his part, wrote:

But I do think that elite makers of opinion in this country try very hard to ignore the larger meaning of violent acts when they happen to be perpetrated by Muslims. Here's a simple test: If Nidal Malik Hasan had been a devout Christian with pronounced anti-abortion views, and had he attacked, say, a Planned Parenthood office, would his religion have been considered relevant as we tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the attack? Of course.
I think he's wrong - aside from the usual suspects who jumped to conclusions within minutes of the news, there were quite a few people who considered that radical Islam could have something to do with this. But they recognized that a hotheaded reaction could provoke violence against a vulnerable minority group, so they withheld judgment. That's the obvious point that Goldberg misses: the situation with regard to American Muslims and radicals among them is much more tense than the situation with regard to American Christians and the radicals among them. No one is "ignoring" the meaning of this - we'd just like to know what that meaning is before putting American Muslims at risk for the sake of making political hay.

So obviously, I'm far less inclined to support Goldberg's writings on the matter - I just wanted to make the point that their reactions were not the same. And to the extent that either of them call for investigations, Goldberg is much closer to that position, but he never actually advocates for such a thing. In fact, he says (regarding the case of Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy) that the witch-hunts and profiling against Jews after Pollard's arrest were wrong - but that the FBI should not have subsequently ignored suspicious activity by American Jews for fear of causing offense by seeming to profile them. The point is reasonable: if there is one spy, or terrorist, or whatever, that has infiltrated an organization, it is reasonable to assume (from a security perspective) that there could be others. This does not excuse profiling and witch-hunts. But it does mean that worries about political correctness should not override real security concerns. (In any case, as I said, I doubt political correctness had anything to do with the inaction on Hasan's case, so this is probably a moot point.) And I do agree with the argument that Jeff cites from Marc Lynch - that we have to combat a "clash of civilizations" narrative from emerging.

The reason I'm hesitant to judge either way is simple: the investigation is still ongoing. In the meantime, the wisest course is to withhold judgment about what this means until we know why Hasan did the things he allegedly did. Declaring that we understand what this means before we have all the facts in front of us is premature and potentially dangerous.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Case You Hadn't Heard

Sarah Palin, who was once (and to many, still is) the Future Of The Republican Party, has a book coming out in a few days. Apparently, its content is heavy on perpetuating campaign infighting. The book, of course, is called "Going Rogue," and so its main purpose is probably to salvage the narrative that Palin was mistreated by slick political operatives and rendered unable to get her message out to Real America. The real Sarah, I'm sure the book will tell us, is a hardworking, straight-talking, no-nonsense hockey mom who has no patience for cocktail-party Washington politics and campaign shenanigans.

OK. Now try to reconcile that with the fact that, after torpedoing a presidential campaign with her outrageous and offensive antics, she returned to Alaska and quit her job as governor before finishing a single term. Since then, she's been spending her time fighting (and losing) a media battle with a high-school dropout and soon-to-be Playgirl model. Who happens to be the father of her unwed teenage daughter's child. What a circus. Of course, to some this sounds like the exploits of a major political leader, and someday the President of the United States. Like Abraham Lincoln.

Is it possible that the Palin Right has diminished the office so much that they really think any warm body with the right views on abortion can do the job? What planet do they live on?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Today's Conservatism, In a Nutshell

If you want a near-perfect encapsulation of what passes for conservative "thought" these days, I highly recommend this celebratory post at the Corner. It hits all the main points: caring more about winning than being right; rejoicing in the real pain of gay people; a massive and unfounded persecution complex; a creepy and condescending practice of pitting all arguments as "real people" versus "elites" (who are gay! GAY!); masking nasty prejudices in smarmy, Leave-It-To-Beaver B.S. about "tradition"; and making lame allusions to people like T.R. in an effort to associate legendary Americans (and old-school Republicans) with the modern Republican party, even if those Americans would find today's Republicans repugnant. If there were some sort of ridiculous Reagan hagiography thrown in for no apparent reason, it would be the Corner Post To End All Corner Posts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Year Later

The news organizations are doing their "One Year Later" pieces on President Obama's election, so I thought I'd join in on the fun. If you've been reading the blog since January 20th, you already know my thoughts on his presidency so far (or at least those thoughts I've written posts about), so I thought I'd link to some old pieces about the election that turns one year old tomorrow.

October 28, 2008: "I Voted Today"

November 3, 2008: "What's at Stake Tomorrow"

November 3, 2008: "Really, Though..."

November 4, 2008: "Once More"

November 5, 2008: "A New Day"

November 5, 2008: "What This Means"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Obama at Dover

"As Obama comforted families at a tragic moment, he also had to contemplate a tragic dimension of his own presidency: It's nice to talk about change, but you can't wipe away yesterday." - Maureen Dowd.

This is a sad but important and insightful observation. I share her worries.

Obama was left a mess of incredible proportions by people who take no responsibility for their deadly mistakes. But I think the President has his eye on the ball, and I continue to hope this dark past won't swallow up our chance for a better future.

"I Noticed Something: You May Notice Something Quite Wonderful in Most Everybody You Meet"

From the original 1950s radio series "This I Believe," an essay from Robbins Milbank, who died in 1985. Listen to the recording if you can. This is a profound and beautiful piece.