March 26, 2008


Is that Sen. McCain ridin' high, singing "Bomb, bomb Iran"?

What a choice we have: Major McKong, the relentless apparatchik and would-be national nanny, or the UNICEF-card internationalist Messiah called to restore "dignity" to the suffering peoples of the world.

March 23, 2008


Yes, I'm returning again to Jeremiah Wright.

We have been exposed, time after time, to the sensational and seemingly offensive snippets of the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, based on which we are asked to judge his parishoner, Sen. Obama.

But wait a minute. Aren't we supposed to consider the whole, or at least the context in which a man makes a statement?

I went back and listened to 10 minutes of the sermon, in which Rev. Wright refers famously to the 9/11 attacks as "chickens coming home to roost," explicitly echoing Malcolm X's statement to the same effect regarding the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy. (I so far haven't found Rev. Wright's collected works on line, although we will, Oscar, we will, no doubt alongside the songs of Ashley Alexandra Dupré--but only YouTube snippets under 10 minutes in length).

The sermon goes off on the 137th Psalm (136th to you Orthodox), "By The Waters of Babylon," a lamentation sung by exiles on their flight from the Bablylonian sack of Jerusalem, which ends in a fantasy of revenge:
O wretched daughter of Babylon,
Blessed is he who shall deal with you
As you dealth with us;
Blessed is he who shal get the upper hand
And dash your infants against the rocks.
To be sure, Rev. Wright goes off by way of a kind of footnote and rattles of the sins in the origins of this country, from the ethnic cleansing of the Indians to Hiroshima.

If God judges nations, as the Bible says he does, asks Rev. Wright, does not the U.S. have much to answer for as did the Kingdom of Judah? Although I might list different sins, it is hard to gainsay that notion.

But Rev. Wright does not leave it there, instead personalizing his message, saying that he must look to the heart of Jeremiah Wright, and examine his own relationship with God. This is traditional Christian teaching--look to the log in one's own eye, not the splinter in one's neighbors. This notion is antithetical to Americans' embrace of self-congratulatory exceptionalism, but is neither heretical nor wrong.

One could well ask whether, later in the sermon, Rev. Wright discourses not just on the injustices perpetrated by white America, but on the self-inflicted wounds of the black community. This would seem essential in a self-proclaimed Africa-central church. As might be expected, Pat Buchanan offers us a riff on these.

The notion of judgment, however, is not confined to churches tinged with Black Nationalism. Abraham Lincoln, who may not even have been a Christian, in his Second Inaugural spoke of the horrors of the Civil War as divine judgment for the sin of slavery (we'll leave the debate about Abe's sins out of this post). Commenters at places such as Chronicles, many of them White Southerners, castigate the state, and sometimes the nation, in terms as harsh as Rev. Wrights. Frederica Mathewes-Green, focusing on abortion, wonders what we have coming to us, although remembering Abraham's bargaining with God over Sodom, sees hope in the millions who, although their faith is a naïve and heretical thing, maintain a simple faith.

Long story short, Rev. Wright's style and his references may be peculiar to a particular politics, but his reference to judgment is neither unorthodox nor silly.

It is easier to see madness in Rev. Wright's references to conspiracies, such as the supposed origins of AIDS in a plot to kill blacks, or a similar plot to spread drugs in that community. This type of theory is rife in the black community, I hear, and wrong-headed though these accusations are, they are not without some basis, whether it's the Tulsa riots or the Tuskegee Experiment, that at least explains in part the willingness to expect the worst.

Not dissimilar is the tendency of many Jews to see every negative reference to Jews or to thje state of Israel as motivated by murderous antisemitism, or conservatives who saw Bolshevism in every tepid proposal for reform.

I hold no brief for the Rev. Wright's theology, or for black nationalist nostrums generally. I do believe, however, that like anyone else's statements, his should be viewed in context, and Sen. Obama, who is is own man and not a creature of his pastor, evaluated for his own statements and program.

Tentative ruling: statements, skillful and interesting; program, profoundly mistaken.

March 21, 2008

Exactly: Charles Murray On Obama's Speech

It’s about time that people who disagree with Obama’s politics recognize that he is genuinely different. When he talks, he sounds like a real human being, not a politician. I’m not referring to the speechifying, but to the way he comes across all the time. We’ve had lots of charming politicians. I cannot think of another politician in my lifetime who conveys so much sense of talking to individuals, and talking to them in ways that he sees as one side of a dialogue. Conservatives who insist that he’s nothing but an even slicker Bill Clinton are missing a reality about him, and at their peril.

I can’t vote for him. He is an honest-to-God lefty. He apparently has learned nothing from the 1960s. His Supreme Court nominees would be disasters. And maybe he is too green and has lived too much of his adult life in a politically correct bubble. But the other day he talked about race in ways that no other major politician has tried to do, with a level of honesty that no other major politician has dared, and with more insight than any other major politician possesses. Not bad.
In other words, you don't have to agree with him, but give the man some credit.

Usually we wait until politicians we oppose are retired or dead to do the Strange New Respect thing, as with liberals on Barry Goldwater.

You don't have to vote for the guy, but give him some credit.

March 19, 2008

Bacevich's Conservatism

Andrew Bacevich, scholar and military man, and a soi-disant conservative, has come out for Obama, solely on the ground that he will withdraw from Iraq. In doing so, Bacevich sets forth his conservative principles:

Granted, when it comes to defining exactly what authentic conservatism entails, considerable disagreement exists even (or especially) among conservatives themselves. My own definition emphasizes the following:

  • a commitment to individual liberty, tempered by the conviction that genuine freedom entails more than simply an absence of restraint;

  • a belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law;

  • veneration for our cultural inheritance combined with a sense of stewardship for Creation;

  • a reluctance to discard or tamper with traditional social arrangements;

  • respect for the market as the generator of wealth combined with a wariness of the market’s corrosive impact on humane values;

  • a deep suspicion of utopian promises, rooted in an appreciation of the sinfulness of man and the recalcitrance of history.

I might not say it quite the same way, but it's a pretty good summary. Neither major party adheres to these principles.

Perhaps we need a new one. Dream on.

And BTW, as much as I respect him, I'm not endorsing Obama.

War, War vs. Jaw, Jaw

I've beat the teakettle about the spineless obsequiousness of American politicians to Israel and its supporters in the U.S. Of course, I've been accused of nefarious motives, which comes with that territory.

It should be said, however, that although the average Palestinian in the streeet has ben well and truly screwed by the nakba, the military defeat of the Arabs who sought to destroy Israel at the inception in 1948, accompanied by the departure, permanent in most cases, of much of he Arab population of what is now Israel; and then by the occupation.

All this is true, and one could produce a long litany of the crimes and misdemeanors of the successive Israeli governments, notably the relentless and unceasing construction of Israeli settlements, often inhabited by fanatics, in the 22% of cisjordanian Palestine potentially available for a Palestinian mini-state under the "two-state solution" favored by the international consensus as a resolution of the conflict.

None of this means it is easy to love the Palestinians, or to respect their leadership. They are either thieves or fanatics, or both; are death-obsessed; incompetent; and rarely follow realistic policies designed to improve life in the territories or to lay the groundwork for a state. If the occupier forcibly evicts its own settlers, and leaves you greenhouses, do you loot and destroy them? If you want a state of your own and you are at a military disadvantage, do you respond to the evacuation not by showing you can provide a peaceful border, but by lobbing ineffectual but annoying homemade rockets at civilians? Do you compete with your political rivals in incendiary rhetoric, rather than work to create a civil society?

Apparently the answer to these questions is "Yes," and accordingly, how anyone expects a two-state solution to work is beyond me.

Part of the problem is that every campaign in the long Arab-Israeli war has ended with an internationally imposed cease-fire. As a result, neither side can claim victory, and the fight is simply postponed. It may be time to let them fight, and let someone really win and the other side really lose.

I got an email from a well-meaning lefty friend, urging support for some petition for a cease-fire in Gaza and talks betweeen Hamas and Israel. Although I have no objection to Israel talking to the people who actually control Gaza as opposed to those who got kicked out, this is not going to cut it.

Unless Palestine gets its Mandela, perhaps in the person of the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, or one side routs the other and expels most of the population, I don't think there is a solution; and if one comes, it may well be a one-state solution.

But don't hold your breath.

Zionist Leg

Sen. Obama, in his speech, made a surprisingly conventional, and rather forced obeisance to Zionism: he condemns "a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

Israel is an ally, for what it's worth, and sometimes has done our bidding against its better judgment, as in not retaliating against Saddam's SCUDs in Gulf War One, but "stalwart" smacks of pandering. This of course is what Obama is doing, kissing AIPAC's ring.

Meanwhile, an Obama emissary was struggling to convince a room full of committed Zionists that his man was just as pro-Israel as McCain and Hillary the Suha Arafat-kisser. (This via Jennifer Rubin). All this ring-kissing and ticket-punching is, frankly, disgusting, but that's politics.

The most revealing graph in the piece describes former White House aide Ann Lewis's notion of what an American President's job is regarding Israel:

Next question to Kurtzer: Obama's assertion that he needn't have a "Likud view" -- that of Israel's right-wing party -- to be pro-Israel. Kurtzer explained that Obama wanted to see a "plurality of views." Silence in the room.

To that, Lewis retorted: "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties." The audience members applauded.

I thought American President swore an oath to protect and defend the American Constitution, and implicitly, the American people. The notion that their role is blindly to follow the outcome of Israeli political debates is shocking. It's an antisemitic canard, nevertheless, in the minds of Zionist apologists, for Mearshimer and Walt, or me, to say that some in Israel Lobby demand of our politicians blind fealty to Israeli interests.

Because the whispering and email campaign about Obama being a secret Muslim or a Meccan candidate apparently is taking its toll among those Jews who actively support Israel and may base their votes on Middle Eastern questions, Obama may have had no choice.

In the person of Ann Lewis, the Israel Lobby inadvertently showed a bit more leg than it would have liked to do. We can only hope that Obama was pandering, and will be more even-handed if elected.

Don't count on it. The ring has been well and truly kissed, and Congress won't let a President Obama un-kiss it.

The Speech II--A Rhetorical Tour de Force

My 11th-grader is taking a course called "AP Language," which includes both a lot of writings taken from American history, and the study of rhetoric as technique. I gave her the text of the speech because as rhetoric, I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

Given the quality of American political discourse and our reticence about race, agree with it or not, this was the finest political speech of our generation.

Obama had to accomplish three things. He had to distance himself from the Rev. Wright's remarks while abandoning his previous implausible suggestion that he really didn't know about the kind of thing his pastor was prone to say. He had to avoid repudiating a man who had been his spiritual father for 20 years, which would ring false and be dishonorable. And he had to persuade at least his supporters and preferably others that he himself did not secretly share the weirdest of Rev. Wright's manias. He accomplished all three.

He accomplished more. He successfully explored the nuances of the racial attitudes of manyu blacks and whites, the anger of the black old men who Chris Rock observes are the most racist of all, and the resentment of whites constantly tagged with and forced to pay for discrimination. To begin to confront these issues in open expression is something no other American public figure has done. Even Oprah glosses over this stuff.

Nor do I believe he exploited his grandmother or threw her under the bus. What a poignant moment he describes. His grandmother's fear of assault by strange black men on the street was hardly irrational--even Jesse Jackson has admitted to such fears. And yet, his own grandmother was saying she feared assault from people who looked just like him. This incident may not be the equivalent of the ex-Marine Rev. Wright's "God damn America!" but it's a legitimate comparison, teaching that if we were honest, we all put our foot in it from time to time when it comes to race, a national sin and dilemma.

Do I buy his nostrums--more money for schools and the rest? Naah. I'm suspicious of social programs and the centralization of government, and I think the problems are rooted in a mxiture of genetics and culture that make them intractable, if not incapable of improvement.

I wouldn't have been for free silver in Jennings Bryan's day. But the "Cross of Gold" was a brilliant speech. So was Obama's "More Perfect Union."

The Speech I-The Issue

I have been mulling over Sen. Obama's speech for some time.

The threshold issue is whether Sen. Obama's membership in a church whose pastor sometimes resorts to the rhetoric of black nationalism and anti-Americanism disqualifies him from seeking the Presidency, or whether it tells us something significant and negative about Sen. Obama's character and beliefs.

A great deal of nonsense has been written about this issue. One of the privileges of American citizenship is the right to opine that the country is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. People on all sides become strident from time to time about the failings of the government and the society. With somewhat lesser frequency they either predict or wish for national catastrophe. Whether it's pro-lifers going on about the murders of unborn babies, neocons about the fecklessness even of the Bush administration in going to war against evil, peacenikes hollering about militarism, or anti-immigrationists going on about the "national question" and what some of them even call the "treason lobby," Americans are not shy in pointing to imminent judgment and the alleged betrayals that are bringing it on.

White folks hearing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in snippets of his most strident rants are likely to be shocked both by his raucous style, and especially about his readiness to retail kooky conspiracy theories--AIDS was invented by the government to kill blacks, 9/11 was a plot, etc. These theories abound among blacks, and seen in the light of things like the Tuskegee experiment, they are wrong but not entirely incredible.

Politicians have strange bedfellows. In Obama's case, for a young man uncertain of his identity among Chicago blacks, and seeking acceptance and political support to join a church like Rev. Wright's may have been a bit calculating and perhaps unwise if he had known how far he was to go, but it's hardly a hanging offense, unless you buy the canard that Sen. Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate.

I don't buy that. If anything, he's sincerer than your average pol.

Nevertheless, given the feeding frenzy and the viral spread of the snippets of Wright's rants on the Web and on cable, Obama had to confront the issue. The result was The Speech.

And quite a speech it was.

March 7, 2008

Five'll Getcha Ten

This young woman, Eve Carson, was president of the student body at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She was shot last night by an unknown assailant.

No word yet, but five'll getcha ten the murderer was black, there will be no pronouncements by lefty faculty, no marches, no manifestoes. It doesn't fit the multi-culti narrative, even though black-on-white violence is far more prevalent than white-on-black.

There will also be no comment from Michelle Obama.

March 5, 2008

Hillary Rasputin

Grigory Rasputin was the favorite of the last Tsarina of Russia, who was favored for his ability to relieve the illness of the hemophiliac tsarevich. Fearing Rasputin's influence on the imperial couple would lead to disaster for the nation, Count Felix Yusupov tried to kill him. Rasputin just would not die. He was poisoned, shot, strangled, clubbed, and ultimately drowned.

The assassination was to no avail. The Tsar was forced to abdicate, and he and his entire family, including servants, were martyred by the Bolsheviks.

The analogy to Hillary is clear. The Obama campaign keeps trying for the coup de grâce, but Hillary just won't die. She keeps coming back. It's by no means clear who can win the nomination. Obama still has the lead in delegates, but she's won the popular vote in all the big states.

I find her grating and a dangerous would-be National Nanny, but her unkillability is uncanny.

McCain seemed sensible and substantive in his speech. The networks cut away from Barack before he stoped talking, saying they gave him the same amont of time as Hillary.

Our national nightmare goes on.

March 3, 2008

Has Obama Peaked?

There's a slight downtick in Obama's narrow lead on the RealClearPolitics poll average in Texas, and Hillary has remained consistently 5-6% ahead in Ohio.

Is it possible that he's peaked, and people who aren't rabid fans are having second thoughts?

I do think Obama carries Texas narrowly, and wins the delegate count there when that comes out, but Hillary holds Ohio. Blue-collar RI will go Hillary and BoBo Vt. for Obama.

That leaves NC, where Obama is favored, and Pennsylvania, where Hillary's about 9 points ahead. Unless she loses both Texas and Ohio, Hillary soldiers on. A donnybrook at the convention, especially if there's a credentials fight over Florida and Michigan, will leave the Dems poorly set up for the general.