A favorable profile of an opponent of same-sex marriage appears in today's WaPo Style. Not without the typical WaPo condescension, however.
In the seven years since October 2002 when we launched No Left Turns, our authors have written over 14,000 entries on this blog and our readers have left almost 60,000 comments. In the past year, over 350,000 people visited the site. We think the site has been long overdue for an upgrade, and we are happy to launch it today.
In addition to looking a bit better, the new site allows you to share our writer's comments on Twitter, Facebook, and many other web sites, it offers many improvements in the ways readers can comment on blogs, it offers a much better set of RSS feeds for those of us who use newsreaders like Google Reader, and it helps us fend off those pesky spammers who cluttered up the old site.
Take a look around, and if you have any suggestions for the site, please leave them as comments to this entry. Happy reading.
For the final 41 of those 50 years, following the assassination of Robert Kennedy, his younger brother Ted was not only the leader of a political family, but a synecdoche for American liberalism. Conservative candidates and organizations raised millions of dollars using Kennedy's image and words in direct mailings. Kennedy was the nation's leading liberal for so long that it seems obvious that the conservative opposition to liberalism was identical to its opposition to Kennedyism.
The story of the entire half-century is a little different, and more interesting. During John Kennedy's 34 months in the White House there were a number of signals that both he and his brother/consigliere Bobby couldn't stand liberals for the same reason that conservatives couldn't, and can't. Specifically, JFK seemed to disdain the sob-sister liberalism of Eleanor Roosevelt and Hubert Humphrey, which collapsed the distinction between politics and social work. The Kennedy administration, instead, was supposed to usher in the age of "liberalism without tears." Kennedy also seemed to disdain the high-minded dithering of Adlai Stevenson and the "amateur Democrats" who idolized him. Kennedy liberals prided themselves on being tough, decisive and vigorous. They were professionals.
Kennedy's admirers praised the tone of cool irony he brought to national politics. Conservatives weren't among those admirers, but felt that JFK's irony operated at only one remove from his cynicism, which they found reassuring. As president, Kennedy delivered Ted Sorenson's resonant lines about domestic policy impressively, but used or risked very little political capital to advance the liberal domestic agenda. His involvement in the civil rights issue, for example, was conspicuously cautious, even reluctant. It was clear, during his presidency, that Kennedy was no crusader, and far from clear what he really cared about and wanted to accomplish.
After Dallas, however, all of that ironic detachment was transformed into moral urgency. The rhetoric about which JFK had seemed so equivocal and done so little was transformed into sacred scripture. As James Piereson has argued, Kennedy's family and retainers began an aggressive campaign to turn his murder into a politically resonant tragedy, one that would see him remembered "as a martyr for civil rights and equal justice for all." Sen. Mike Mansfield, the Democrats' majority leader, said in his eulogy, "He gave us his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down." For the record, Mansfield was speaking of Kennedy's assassination rather than Christ's crucifixion.
"Once having accepted the claim that Kennedy was a victim of the national culture," writes Piereson, "many found it all too easy to extend the metaphor into other areas of life, from race and poverty to the treatment of women to the struggle against communism." Dallas saw the demise of liberalism without tears, which was replaced by a liberalism regularly operating at the brink of hysteria. Both the surviving Kennedy brothers got swept up in it. It wasn't sufficient for Bobby Kennedy to say that the war in Vietnam he had helped his brother launch was a mistake, or that the national interest would be better served by choosing a more promising and important battlefront for repelling Communist aggression. Rather, he told an audience in 1967 that what America was doing in Vietnam was not that much different from what Hitler did to the Jews. Nineteen years later, Ted Kennedy was equally fair-minded in declaring his opposition to Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution."
John Kennedy's death started an era where that sort of rhetoric was common and even obligatory. It would be a step forward if Ted Kennedy's death marked the beginning of an era where national issues, even the most important ones, are debated in the belief that decent, reasonable and intelligent people can disagree.
And so up early today to hear the news of Sen. Kennedy's passing, and getting bumped again to an unspecified date down the road. Whenever it happens, I'll let you know, along with my prayers for the health of Robert Byrd. I'm back down in DC now, where I shall be on Bill Bennett's radio show live in the studio for a full hour tomorrow morning starting at 7 am eastern time. Then on to the Cato Institute for a book panel at noon that should be interesting. Meanwhile, I have a long piece up over at NRO explaining the writing of the book.
UPDATE: C-SPAN says they will broadcast my Cato Institute book panel at noon (eastern) Thursday. This might change too, of course, but if it does go off as planned, tune in! Should be interesting because of the respondents, Bill Niskanen and James Mann.
The problem, in essence, is epistemological. Precisely because the disaster did not befall us, there will always be doubts that it was ever really heading our way or even all that dangerous. The preventive measures taken against it may have been successful and necessary, but the non-cataclysm can just as easily be used to argue that they were excessive or even hysterical.
Inevitably, many of those measures were conceived and executed hurriedly, on the basis of incomplete and ambiguous information. The adversarial nature of our politics guarantees that critics who want to will find many reasons to belabor the measures' costs and disparage their benefits. The typical reaction to the invisible achievement of avoiding a cataclysm, according to Dionne, is that many people "whose bacon was saved . . . do not want to admit how important the actions of government were." What happens instead is that "ideologues try to pretend that no serious intervention was required."
The ostensible point of Dionne's column is that George Bush, Barack Obama, and the leaders of other industrialized nations, deserve great credit "for acting swiftly when the global economy began coming apart" last year. The massive, unprecedented fiscal and monetary measures they fashioned and implemented at a time of contagious worldwide panic were decisive in preventing the world's economy from plunging into the abyss.
It's clear, however, that Dionne's framework can be employed more generally. As we approach the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it must be gratifying to George W. Bush that one of his most severe critics is now laying the groundwork for the argument that the Bush administration succeeded admirably at what became its central task. Bush served in the White House for seven years and four months after 9/11, during which there were no subsequent jihadist attacks on American soil.
The aggressive measures his administration undertook, overseas and at home, were routinely castigated by "ideologues" who, as each month passed without a second 9/11, became bolder and more disdainful in declaring Bush's policies unwarranted abominations. The implicit premise of these attacks is that no hard choices were required to prevent the next 9/11; the menu of policy options included many ways to combine a scrupulous concern for civil liberties and world opinion with the efficacious protection of civilians' lives and peace of mind.
One intellectually honest exception can be found in a few brief lines written by the late David Foster Wallace for The Atlantic in 2007. In them he asked if we should choose "to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?" Rather than hypothesize that the Patriot Act and Guantanamo were entirely unnecessary, Wallace entertains the possibility that they "really have helped make our persons and property safer" but still asks whether they are worth it: "Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don't even want to consider whether some things trump safety?" Braver Americans will, instead, incline to the belief that "a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price" of keeping our society free.
There are two problems with this position. First, there is no guarantee that if terrorists are not thwarted by our government they will limit themselves to attacks that occur "every few years" rather than every few months, and kill "hundreds or thousands" but not tens or hundreds of thousands. What even those who agree with Wallace are prepared to regard as "reasonable precautions" may, under those circumstances, evince much less self-restraint.
Second, among the reasons to regret Wallace's suicide, which occurred less than a year after this argument appeared in print, is that it makes it impossible to assess the question he raised so provocatively. The cool detachment with which Wallace contemplated the murder of thousands of his compatriots can never stand outside the shadow cast by his own death. In 1949 the Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson famously argued that the refusal to "temper . . . doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom" would "convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." Wallace leaves behind a critique of the war on terrorism that turns a metaphor into a tangible, and chilling, possibility.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
"Private insurance works well where it's least regulated. To find the unaffordable disasters, you must head to states such as New York or New Jersey that have pioneered the reforms Obama is peddling for the entire country. . . .Read the whole thing.
A 55-year-old man in Allentown, Pa., can choose from 99 plans starting as low as $141 a month for hospital coverage. A zero-deductible HMO plan costs $418 a month. Or he can pick a more flexible PPO, with a higher deductible and pay less monthly out-of-pocket for the premium.
Young people, "the invincibles," often skip insurance, because they have few assets to protect and little fear of getting sick. The congressional Democrats' solution is a tax increase by another name: Force employers to keep paying for them on their parents' expensive plans until age 26.
Yet the market has responded with products targeted at the needs of the young, such as Wellpoint's Tonik, which offers excellent protection, prescription drugs and preventive care for less than $100 a month for the under-30 set. . . .
Change the zip code from Pennsylvania to neighboring New Jersey, and choice plummets even as the cost per plan skyrockets. In New York, our 55-year-old has only 12 plans to choose from."
Ahmed Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers Co., a family-owned Saudi company known as Ahab, filed a lawsuit accusing Maan Al-Sanea, the billionaire owner of the Saad Group, of ``massive fraud,'' the Financial Times reported.
The suit, filed in New York, alleges that Al-Sanea ``misappropriated approximately $10 billion'' by obtaining loans and then diverting the funds received for his own use, the FT said.
Saad Group, also based in Saudi Arabia, told the newspaper it hasn't seen the claim and, if served with it, will respond vigorously.
Now comes the news that Democrats on the franking committee are censoring Republican mail to their constituents. The Democrats maintain that the Republican mailings violate the non-partisan rule for franked mailings.
"Cap and tax" was not the only phrase that was barred by the franking commission.
In addition to demanding changes to terminology about the Democratic energy bill, a proposed e-newsletter from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) was returned to his office with notes asking for detailed citations to back up passages critical of Democratic policies. In one instance, the commission asked that the word "Democratic" be removed from the text and "majority" be put in its place.
"The franking commission is not there to fact-check," Franks said. The commission "is not there to tell us what our own vernacular should be."
Franks said he was also asked to remove his reference to the stimulus package as the "so-called stimulus."
Franking rules stipulate that taxpayer-funded mailings cannot be used for campaign purposes. The rules also state that comments about policy or legislation "should not be partisan, politicized or personalized" and should avoid "excessive use of party labels."
But Franks said that by barring Republicans from using phrases such as "government-run health care" in communication with their constituents, Democrats "truly diminish free speech itself."
More and more Obama is being likened to Lyndon Johnson, with Afghanistan becoming his Vietnam. Maybe. But the better analogy is to Jimmy Carter, particularly the president analyzed by James Fallows in a 1979 Atlantic magazine article, "The Passionless Presidency." "The central idea of the Carter administration is Jimmy Carter himself," Fallows wrote. And what is the central idea of the Obama presidency? It is change. And what is that? It is Obama himself.
Meanwhile, for TV viewers,
I'm scheduled to be on "Morning Joe" with Joe Scarborough at about 8:40 am (eastern time) tomorrow morning, as my first media event. Scratch that: I've been moved to Wednesday morning, at 7:45 am (even worse for you west coasters).
In the meantime, Ed Driscoll, the impresario of PajamasMedia's "Silicon Graffiti" series, has posted this recent interview with me, which mentions and includes an excerpt from an appearance at Ashbrook back in 2001.
You won't see this but once every 50 years or so. An unassisted triple-play to end the Phillies-Mets game.
The Washington Post asked me and my climate studies partner Ken Green for a brief comment on the prospects for cap and trade in the Senate. Here's our answer. We didn't have enough space to propose the obvious solution: combine cap and trade with the health care bill!!
Since health care reform will require rationing, why not give out carbon and health care allowances to everyone, and then let us start trading amongst ourselves. I'll trade a colonoscopy for a month of driving Schramm's Hummer, for example. (Schramm doesn't have to have the colonoscopy; he can trade it for some high-emitting cigars.) Why this hasn't occurred to the same geniuses that gave us cash for clunkers is beyond me.
A recent poll reveals this, according to a Las Vegas paper: "It's the highest stakes ever for a Nevada election, and former boxer Sen. Harry Reid is on the ropes early. Either Republican Danny Tarkanian or Sue Lowden would knock out Reid in a general election, according to a recent poll of Nevada voters.
The results suggest the Democratic Senate majority leader will have to punch hard and often in order to retain his position as the most accomplished politician in state history, in terms of job status.
Nevadans favored Tarkanian over Reid 49 percent to 38 percent and Lowden over Reid 45 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll." .
From the latest Barron's:
One child left behind.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies projects that China will have more than 438 million over 60 by the year 2050; more than 100 million of them will be age 80 and above. There will be just 1.6 working-age adults to support people 60 and older, versus 7.7 in 1975, when food scarcity and overpopulation were more pressing concerns.