The manly Mansfield
explains WHO was the greatest MAN of the 20th century.
Here’s Kagan’s take on the new realism. The 21th century may well morph into one dominated by autocratic empires that achieve economic prosperity and techno-military power without much personal freedom. The state isn’t withering away anywhere but in Europe. Will the Europeans come out of their postpolitical fantasy to meet the challenges of Russia, China, and so forth? These challenges probably dwarf the one posed by radical Islam, unless an Islamic tyrant rises up with the Machiavellian qualities of, say, Putin. So those who prattle on about the universal victory of liberal democracy or spin libertarian dreams about apolitical globalization will be more and more out of touch. (It goes without saying that I’ve state this thesis provocatively for your consideration.)
That fair and balanced paper attempts to editorialize the truth about genocide, ethnic cleansing, and "humanitarian" and "peacekeeping" missions in Georgia. From the Russian view, the U.S. and NATO’s use of such terms is as nothing but fighting words with no "truth value," and so they are perfectly justified in responding in kind.
In the weeks before the Iowa caucuses Barack Obama was attacked by paleoliberals for saying Social Security had serious problems the next president had a duty to address. Progressives were “outraged,” according to Paul Krugman, because “Social Security isn’t a big problem that demands a solution; it’s a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders.” One of the reasons Krugman stridently preferred Hillary Clinton or John Edwards to Obama was that they both embraced the party line that, for Democrats, the less said and done about Social Security, the better.
Obama did not merely refuse to adopt this line. He treated it as not just a policy difference with his opponents, but a character difference. In an interview with National Journal on November 6, 2007, Obama said, “[The] American people have a right to judge how clear and how consistent have the candidates been in their positions. Because if they’re not clear and consistent, then it’s pretty hard to gauge how much they’re going to fight on these issues. You know, Senator Clinton says that she’s concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren’t going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her. . . . [The] voters should be concerned that she is running the textbook, classic Washington campaign, which is to avoid giving clear answers and getting pinned down, for fear that somehow you’re going to be tagged, either in the primary or the general election. I think that’s an old way of doing business.”
Thank God we dodged that bullet. Instead of the old, corrupt, dodgy way of doing business, we have Obama’s radically, transformationally new way of doing business, which is . . . strikingly déjà vu-ish. Everything Obama has done and said about Social Security in 2008 amounts to avoiding clear answers and not getting pinned down. During the primaries, he made it reasonably clear that whatever it was America needed to do about Social Security, all the changes were going to involve tax increases, not benefit reductions. At first, he indicated he was open to the idea that the 12.4% payroll tax should apply to all wages. “If we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500 [the ceiling before it was adjusted upward for inflation in 2008], we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall,” Obama wrote last year. (Ramesh Ponnuru argued that such calculations were overly optimistic.)
In June, after he had secured the nomination, Obama advocated weaker medicine. The tax increase he proposed then for Social Security would have a “doughnut” – wages between the current limit of $102,000 a year and $250,000 would be exempt. Earnings above $250,000 would be subject to . . . something. The boldness of the brave truth-teller’s proposal was undercut slightly when his campaign admitted that, apart from the $250,000 threshold, every detail about the Obama “plan” – “what the rate would be, when it would take effect, whether it would apply to employers, employees, or both, or what the tax base would be” – was still up in the air.
This week, in the Wall Street Journal, Obama’s top economic advisors, Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, rendered the Obama Social Security plan clearer - and punier. They began by applauding their boss for doing “what few presidential candidates have been willing to do by making a politically risky proposal to strengthen solvency by asking those making over $250,000 to contribute a bit more to Social Security to keep it sound.” (“Asking?” say the libertarians. Contribute? You mean the rich can say No?) Furman and Goolsbee ruled out applying the full 12.4% tax to income over $250,000. Instead, Sen. Obama “is considering plans that would ask those making over $250,000 to pay in the range of 2% to 4% more in total (combined employer and employee).”
The topper is when the advisors mention, in passing, that the Social Security tax increase “would start a decade or more from now . . . ” That is, in 2018 or later, at least two years after a re-elected Pres. Obama leaves office. Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center threw up his hands when he got to that part. “Do the political math,” he writes. “Take the likelihood of any politician keeping any given promise. Discount for the time he says it will take to fulfill that pledge. Then discount it again if the effective date is scheduled for roughly the time of his post-Presidential book tour. The credibility factor is infinitesimally low. . . . Make no mistake, what Obama is really saying is that, at least for the campaign, he is walking away from Social Security and all of its problems. . . . [In] today’s political environment a tax fix with a 10-year fuse is no fix at all.”
This would all be easier to take if not for the preening by Obama and his advisors about the courage and candor of Mount Rushmore’s next visage. Even as they make it clear that Obama, too, will join the long line of politicians terrified of the third rail of American politics, the Obamanauts urge us to join him in celebrating his bold break with the cynical ways of the past. Talk softly and carry a big stick, said Teddy Roosevelt. Pose bravely and carry a big mirror, says Barack Obama.
I note also that the most recent stats from the Dept. of Energy show U.S. oil consumption is down 800,000 barrels a day in response to current high prices. Who says markets don’t work?
...which he calls ominous. Russia is deliberately echoing the language the U.S. and NATO used in its 1999 campaign against Serbia--genocide and ethnic cleansing--to describe the alleged war crimes of the Georgians. From the Russian view, it’s payback time, although the analogy really turns history upside down.
Most ominous about this new policy is its aim to undermine the statesmanship of Yeltsin, who converted inter-republic boundaries into international ones to check the aggressiveness of Russian communists and nationalists. His choice not to create a Greater Russia fended off what might have been disastrous ethnic conflict.
But now Russia might be heading in that "greater" direction, with its new intention to disregard the permanence of the borders established in the 1990s.
With the speculation that Obama might choose former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn as his running mate to shore up his national defense credentials, it might be worth taking a look back to when Nunn got his undeserved reputation as a "tough" Democrat on foreign policy. Back in the 1980s, he moved noticeably to the left when he pondered a possible run for president in 1988, especially on the issue of the ABM Treaty interpretation, where he wanted us to concede to the Soviets’ (late) narrow interpretation (after years during which the Soviets wanted the broad interpretation when it favored their missile defense research). Then Nunn rigged to the right (sort of) in opposing the INF Treaty in early 1988.
Reagan took note of Nunn several times in his diary. March 23, 1988: "On INF, San Nunn, a highly overrated senator, is kicking a tantrum which could cause trouble getting it ratified."
Sept. 14, 1988: "Sen. Nunn has become a real pain. He’s acting as if he’s the supreme authority on defense matters."
On still another occasion, Reagan wrote of congressional Democrats (without mentioning Nunn by name): "They are actually sitting on the Soviet side of the negotiating table."
Here’s some realism from a famous scholar who actually spends lots of time in Georgia. The real cause of the invasion was Russia’s incredible resentment toward the West; they thought of themselves as really striking against us. The Georgian government has become, for all practical purposes, just as nasty and authoritarian as the Russian one. We told Georgian leaders repeatedly not to do anything provocative, and they did anyway. And now the people of Georgia really hate us too. Maybe we should nuke them both (Charles doesn’t really say that, nor do I).
Here’s a clear statement of the position that that’s what we’re doing when it comes to the Russian incursion into Georgia. I sort of agree that it probably wasn’t some World Historical moment, and that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be lots more difficult and foolhardy. For me, the jury is still out on the audacity of the Russian hopes.
...where he explains the difference between Ridge and Bloomberg as possible running mates. One is merely pro-choice on abortion, the other is pro- a lot of things. We’re also reminded that Mac’s official statement on ROE v. WADE is clear and accurate.
How should America and our allies in Europe respond to Russia’s attempt to annex Georgia, or at least to Finlandize it? ( I take that to be the Russian goal). It seems to be a fait accompli. Georgia will, once again, be part of the Russian Empire.
As we learned in the 20th century, and most centuries before that too, it is bad for a nation to let one its allies be wiped off the map. As ambition feeds ambition, taking one nation will only wet the Russian appetite for more, however irrationally. Doing nothing makes us look like a paper tiger.
But if Russia is about to annex one of our allies, and if we are not going to be able to prevent it, what should we do? There are other reactions that might be reasonable. In particular, we need to make Russia, and other nations of the world, know that we, and our allies in Europe, are serious about self-defense.
Others who are more versed in foreign policy should weigh in, but my first thought to that end, is that both we and our allies should increase the size of their armies. Robin Williams once joked that in England the police are unarmed, so they say, “stop, or I’ll say stop again.” That seems to have become the favored model of diplomacy in Europe. War is no longer seen as diplomacy by other means. It is regarded, like monogamy, as a relic of a former, less enlightened age. Russia, however, does not think that way.
Encouraging Europe to stand up to Russia would be good for both Europe and for Russia.
In his book on Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II, John O’Sullivan tells us that President Reagan hoped that SDI would render nuclear missiles obsolete. If they had but a slim chance of hitting their targets, then the world might be made free of them. This idea scared the powers that be in Western Europe. Without nuclear missiles, they feared, the Communists could overwhelm them with their superior conventional forces. MAD, it seems, was a cheep way of deterring the Soviet threat in Europe.
O’Sullivan notes the following exchange. Thatcher: "’If I follow that logic to its implied conclusion,’ she said, ’and do get rid of nuclear weapons, you expose a dramatic conventional imbalance, do you not? And would we not have to restore that balance at considerable expense?’"
Reagan: "’Yes,’ replied Reagan, ’that’s exactly what I imagined.’"
Reagan’s comment makes me wonder whether he saw America’s defense of Europe in the Cold War as a from of welfare. European politics grew somewhat infantile because American protection, combined with MAD, deprived it of the full responsibilities of self-government. Liberal elites like welfare, of course, partly because it makes them feel important. Reagan was more of a tough love kind of guy.
A serious response to Russia, by which I mean an acceptance in the EU and in European capitols that soft-power can never be a sufficient form of diplomacy, might not only be a reasonable response to Russian’s aggression in the narrow sense, showing Russia that Europe will not simply roll over in the face of naked aggression and energy blackmail, it might also be good for the European soul.
No, I don’t mean Georgia, Republic or state.
According to Karl Rove (remember him?), they are (drum roll, please) Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, and... (gasp!) Ohio.
The challenge for McCain will be galvanizing the social conservatives while keeping down Obama’s margins among college-educated voters in the suburbs. Tough, but not impossible.
Here’s the Belmont Club’s take on Putin’s claim that we must choose. If Russia really intends to bring the independent nation of Georgia to a real or virtual end, then we have to make it clear it wasn’t because we chose Russia (for help with Iran or any other reason) over our democratic ally. With Rice’s visit and our mini-"Berlin Airlift" we’re trying to tell the Russian leader that he’s the guy who has to choose.
The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman, for example, makes a living contributing these reflections to help sustain the American experiment in self-government:
"Though there was no particular evidence that the tire-gauge attack was having an effect, the McCain campaign’s glee was evident. Just days before, they had alleged that Obama’s criticisms of their tactics constituted ’fussiness and hysteria,’ and now here they were brandishing small, phallic objects bearing their opponent’s name.
"Meanwhile, McCain himself was sent out to pose in front of working oil rigs, to testify to his thirst for pulling more black gold from the earth. The message couldn’t be plainer: See that itty-bitty, little tire gauge? If you vote for Obama, that’s how big your penis is. If you vote for McCain, on the other hand, your penis is as big as this rig, thrusting its gigantic shaft in and out of the ground! Real men think keeping your tires inflated is for weenies."
And: "Republicans . . . have been expert at setting up their rigs to drill deep into the male voter’s lizard brain, down to where sexual insecurity resides. This is where they draw the line connecting the voter’s own worries to the Democratic candidate. This is how they turn fear into contempt and hostility, the same psychological move that makes some men react to an advance from another man – or even the sight of an effeminate man – with hatred and violence. See that Democrat over there? He’s a little prissy, isn’t he? Kind of girly. And if you vote for him, what are people going to think about you?"
Commenters to our right and our left below think we’re being frivolous and/or hypocritical to devote so many pixels to the Edwards matter, what with World War V about to break out in the Caucasus. But there are several serious observations to make about this, several of which are suggested in Bill V’s post below.
It is not simply that Edwards is a hypocrite on several levels that makes this more than just a sex scandal: it is emblematic of a larger problem of contemporary liberalism that no one (except the Clintons!) has come to grips with.
As I explain to students, the paradox of the American presidency is that Americans want to look up to their presidents and presidential candidates, but they don’t want to feel that their presidents (or candidates) are looking back down on them. In other words, we want to put our presidents on a pedestal, but we want them to look at us at eye level. Not an easy trick. It is okay to be a patrician (FDR, JFK, Reagan to some extent, the first president Bush), but it is fatal to be seen as an elitist (Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, . . Obama??)
Now where does Edwards fall in these categories (patrician v. elitist)? Fairly easy call it seems to me.
The alternative is the common touch (Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Reagan again to some extent, Clinton, and GW Bush). Edwards tried to affect the common touch with his "son of a millworker"/on the side of the poor populism schtick, but it was obviously fraudulent.
And the aspect of MSM hypocrisy hardly needs to be adumbrated further.
The Belmont Club speculates that things may not have gone as badly for Georgia’s armed forces against Russia as we may think.
Meanwhile, Simon at Classical Values passes along news about a prospective imminent joint US-UK-French naval blockade of Iran (yes you read that right, the French), and how it connects to the Russia-Georgia story.
Now back to Edwards-bashing.
UPDATE: Fred Kagan paints a bleak picture, contrary to the Belmont Club.
That’s the opinion of Rush. Ivan the K sent me this link as part of a note saying both that this opinion is increasingly common in the world of conservative blogs and that he’s increasingly inclined to share its optimism. I have to admit that I haven’t yet felt the audacity of hope in the McCain campaign. But things aren’t hopeless either. I won’t dare deny that the character is there is Mac’s case, but I waiting to see more competence. At this point, my tentative guess is that polls actually understate Obama’s lead, because they don’t account for the probable increases in African-American and youthful turnout. I have to add that both Rush and his dittoheads aren’t what they used to be.
That’s the goal of the Russians, according to the authoritative George Friedman. To free themselves from their perception that they’re surrounded, they have to prove that U.S. and NATO guarantees mean nothing. Who can deny that they’re well on their way to doing that? Ukraine should be pretty worried, and what will we or the Europeans do if the Russians act on their thought that Ukraine is "not a real state" with real borders?
I can’t top Bill Voegeli’s takedown of the continuing absurdity of L’affaire Edwards, but I can put in a good word for the National Enquirer. These days all the action is supposedly on the blogosphere, but it was an old fashioned celebrity/gossip rag that did the shoe-leather and palm-greasing reporting that got the story.
And that brought back an old memory, and sure enough I was right: National Review columnist D. Keith Mano wrote way back in 1977 how the Enquirer was the second-most important conservative publication in America (after NR, of course). The piece is not available online, but I got it from the archives. A few samples:
I’ll tell you what America is. America is a three-hundred pound woman. This woman has two dogs, two TVs, hypochondria, and no secondary education. Also she’s broke, bored to tears, over forty (her husband was once alcoholic, unfaithful, crippled or laid off), and yet, despite all, she still believes in life after death. Got to be. She’s the only person who would buy National Enquirer. . .
Sounds rather like the constituency Edwards hoped to build upon for his campaign, doesn’t it? Southern Democrats of an earlier age--Mano alludes to George Wallace--would have understood this. More Mano:
Yet NE is the newspaper for lurid optimism, grossest good news. . . NE is penny-anti. Anti-government. . . Psychics apart, this is straight Wallace social conservatism. . . Contemptible? Sure. But let’s be realistic, very significant as well. Given its circulation National Enquirer is probably the second most important conservative publication in America.
Here’s some troubling news. Can we really trust the judgment of a man who thinks what ABBA does is music, much less his favorite music? Of course, it’s no better (although no worse) to put Hip Hop at the top.
George Will says that if Georgia were in NATO, Russia would never have attacked. I have to admit I’m not at all sure about that.
This piece makes some sense. A snippet:
What can the West do? The first step is for the U.S. and its allies to rush military and medical supplies to Tbilisi. If we want democracy to survive there, Georgians have to believe that we have their backs. At the moment, the tepidness of the Western response has given them serious cause for doubt. In addition, Washington should lead the effort to devise a list of economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia that impose real costs for what Moscow has done. Russia should know that the West has a greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War than Russia, with its petroleum-dependent economy, does.
Next, the West should make use of Russia’s claim that its role in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is driven by the need to protect the populations there. If so, Moscow should have no objections to U.N.-sanctioned peacekeepers and observers moving into those two regions to replace the jerry-rigged system of "peacekeepers" that, until the war broke out, consisted of Russian troops, local separatist militaries and Georgian forces. If nothing else, the goal should be to put Mr. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, on their back foot diplomatically.
Read the whole thing.
In the statement he released last Friday, John Edwards said, “If you want to beat me up - feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.” Perhaps not, Senator, but I never back down from a challenge.
One week before his “Nightline” interview, the Center for Promise and Opportunity in Greensboro, North Carolina announced it was suspending operations. Edwards founded and helped fund the Center. Beginning in 2005, its “College for Everyone” program provided scholarships for poor kids graduating from Greene Central High School in the small town of Snow Hill. Over the first two years the program raised over $600,000 to help 190 students afford college.
Class of 2008 graduates from the high school will also receive financial aid from the program, but they will be its final beneficiaries. The program is being terminated, according to the Center’s director, because it was always intended as a three-year pilot project. Apparently, the hypothesis being tested was that if you give poor students college scholarships, then more of them will go to college. This might seem like a theory that could have been vindicated in a matter of weeks rather than 36 months. I’m not an expert in these matters, however, so I have to assume there were compelling methodological reasons to withhold judgment until three years’ results were in. The alternative explanation – that Sen. Edwards pulled the plug on the program when he realized he wouldn’t be boasting about it in his acceptance speech or any other kind of public address at the 2008 Democratic convention – is too absurd and spiteful to be taken seriously.
“Reaction to the [Center’s] announcement was one of disappointment,” according to one news account, strongly suggesting that the intention for the program to self-destruct after three years had not been announced in advance. The students and parents of Snow Hill, NC may now be able to help scientists test another hypothesis: If people have been led on, then they’ll get pissed off. Preliminary data suggests there might be something to this theory, as well. “Many disappointed students enrolled in the program questioned whether Edwards’ promises were anything more than campaign rhetoric,” according to the story.
Sen. Edwards came to national attention as the fierce critic of our country’s division into two Americas, “one that does the work, and one that gets the reward.” Edwards logged many years in each America. As he occasionally let slip during rare moments of autobiographical revelation on the campaign trail, he was a mill worker’s son. Edwards went on to become a millionaire trial lawyer and build a house the size of Portugal, the better to accommodate unexpected guests on Father’s Day.
Having passed a great deal of time in America #2, the part with warm meals and ample leg room at the front of the plane, Edwards has gotten to know quite a few of his fellow first-class passengers. One of them, a Dallas lawyer with the usefully aristocratic name of Fred Baron, served as the chairman of the Edwards-for-president finance committee. He also paid for Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, Edwards’ campaign staffer and paternity beard, to move to California. Baron says that he did this “on my own, without talking to Edwards or anybody, to try to help [Hunter and Young] move to a community to try to get away from” tabloid reporters.
Baron and Edwards have, so far, kept their story straight. “I had nothing to do with any money being paid, and no knowledge of any money being paid, and if something was paid, it wasn’t being paid on my behalf,” Edwards said in his “Nightline” interview, during which he seemed both bemused and utterly uncurious about benefactions being given by his friend in America #2 to others of his friends in America #1. No one is surprised that the redistribution of income is one of the results of the Edwards presidential campaign, but this pilot program, undertaken by Mr. Baron, sounds unexpectedly haphazard.
The National Enquirer, one of the few participants to emerge from l’affaire Edwards with enhanced credibility, reported that Ms. Hunter has been receiving $15,000 a month from “a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards’ campaign,” a man who has also been “shoveling cash” to Andrew Young. Now that he’s a private citizen with a good deal of time on his hands, perhaps Sen. Edwards could identify and reach out to this philanthropist. A call to Fred Baron seems like a good place to start, though Edwards may have lost the phone number, and even forgotten whether he left it in the part of his house in the eastern time zone or the part in the central.
Still, the effort would be worth taking, since it sounds like the stipends being given to Hunter and Young approximate the low-to-mid-six figure annual budget of the College for Everyone program. “Saving the middle class is going to be an epic battle, and that’s a fight I was born for,” Edwards said in a campaign commercial. If Citizen Edwards could use his legendary charm to persuade the contributor to the SilenceIsGolden.org charity to match that gift with one to revive College for Everyone, the sons and daughters of the mill workers and waitresses of Snow Hill could continue to help Edwards and America wage that fight.
Well, we’re headed off in the morning for the annual marathon camping trip. This time we’re headed here and here for sure. Probably also here (where it seems Nature just keeps changing) and possibly here. All of which is just a warm up for the ultimate destination of Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. But I’m really hoping we’ll get to go here while my son is hoping to go to this Dinosaur Center.
In any event, we’ll be busy and my access to the Internet (and electricity, running water, television and newspapers) will be less than limited until next month when I’ll have quite a bit of catching up to do in order to be ready for this.
Some have called Barack Obama the second coming of Jimmy Carter. Others have said that the appropriate historical parallel is Ronald Reagan--the eloquent semi-outsider who turned a close election into an epoch-making landslide. Our own Andy Busch isn’t persuaded by the latter analogy.
It does seem as if Russia can and probably will occupy all of Georgia over the next day or two.
1. Greetings from the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Coloradeo, where I’ll be speaking today (to the Miller Fellows etc.) on "How Significant IS the American Character?" Please drop by if your bobo-izing around Boulder. I saw the legendary Dr. Pat Deneen here last night, who expressed his deep admiration for NLT threaders.
2. The greatest WOMAN of the 20th century turns out to be, according to the preponderance of our expert testimony, Mother Teresa (no h). We’re still uncertain on whether she was great as a woman or as a Christian who happens to be a woman. We remember, of course, that Jesus was a man.
3. JWC turned our attention away from this issue: Who was the greatest WOMAN artist, novelist, poet, or philosopher of the 20th century?
I’m sure everyone was stunned by the news that Russian troops have moved into Georgia, and heavy fighting is reported in several cities. For members of the NLT community the story is especially alarming, as we wait for word that our friends, Joe Knippenberg of Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University and Peter Lawler of Berry College in the northwestern corner of the state, are out of harm’s way. I believe I speak for all NLT contributors and readers when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with both of you and your families during this difficult time.
I recall about 20 years ago economist John Rutledge predicting that General Motors would not longer exist some day. Looks like that day may be drawing near.
Eugene Volokh, kappelmeister of the Volokh Conspiracy, directs our attention to this interesting court ruling where a group of Navajo
indians native Americans sued the government to prohibit the use of man-made snow in a ski resort on federal land in Arizona. Seems the recycled water contained a tiny amount of human waste, which offended the spiritual sensibilities of the Navajos. The court, the normally wacky 9th Circuit, disagreed, and sent the plaintiffs packing.
I suspect this was really an environmental lawsuit--the greens don’t like downhill skiing--disguised as a religious freedom lawsuit. And it is confusing: I thought we are supposed to be for recycling?