Good comeback to Mitt Romney

Today Mitt Romney “confused” the name of Barack Obama with Osama Bin Laden:

“I think that is a position which is not consistent with the fact,” Mr. Romney said. “Actually, just look at what Osam — uh — Barack Obama, said just yesterday. Barack Obama calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield. That is the central place, he said. Come join us under one banner.”

My always-clever co-worker Adam “Bags” Schlossman came up with a great comeback to this: “Hey Warren Jeffs–er–I mean, Mitt.”

Not every Dalai Lama fan is peace-loving (especially those of the denim shorts-wearing variety)

Overheard on Pennsylvania Avenue today at approximately 2:40 in the afternoon:

A tall, big man with spiky, short hair and a generic t-shirt/shorts (update: my co-worker remembers the shorts being denim) ensemble stops another man to ask about the Dalai Lama speech that is ocurring a few blocks away at the West Lawn of Capitol. He finds out that the Dalai Lama has already spoken and reacts:

“I thought he was supposed to speak at 2:30″

(Other man, says, that he already spoke).

“Well, that is really shitty.”

Who knew the peace-loving Lama could inspire such hostility?

Saturday at the protest

Yesterday, when I got off at the Archives Metro stop, I came face to face with the pro-war movement, a group you don’t hear about or see much nowadays, probably because their views–much as they’d like not to admit it–seem ignorant of the grave situation in Iraq. What particularly rankled me about this group, which did not even fill the one or two blocks on Pennsylvania Avenue that seemed to be their designated area, was how presumptuous their signs were. They parroted the mantra about “support our troops” and “support our country,” which at some point came to mean, keep the troops at war. This in spite of the fact that the anti-Iraq war protest had many veterans of the war in attendance, vocally protesting a war they know more about than the heavyset guy I saw by the metal barricade wearing a “9/11 Taught Me All I Need to Know About Islam Shirt,” whose post-protest plan was to watch some college football game.

Granted, those of us anti-war people do not know as much as the troops in Iraq either, though I’d take a guess that we read the news a little more than the prowar crowd. In fact, while the anti-war crowd seemed to be directly protesting against the administration and the war, the prowar crowd had a bone to pick with a more ill-defined force. One man I saw had a sign that read “hippies smell”; an elderly woman summed up her thoughts, “I think they’re loony, left and crazy.”

Unlike the anti-war group, who directed their grievances towards the decision-makers–the administration and Congress (that’s why they’re in D.C., right?)–the pro-war faction is protesting against…hippies? It is somehow remniscent of schoolkids in an argument that one wins through rational means, causing the other to protest with a bad sportsmanlike exclamation like: “you smell!” (20 years later, “hippies smell”). Somewhere along the way, the right-wing group I saw out yesterday decided to direct their anger at an amorphous group of hippies and not focus on the people who make decisions that impact their lives and the lives of the troops they supposedly support.

The fear of a ‘good plan’

The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.

Carl von Clausewitz

I have not yet seen Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, but it seems that many liberal-leaning folks are ready to criticize it right along with the conservatives. Though I can appreciate some of the complaints against Moore, his overall impact has been a positive one. It is just like us liberals to demand greater integrity and less polemic. As Glen Greenwald of Salon pointed out recently, conservatives jumped on the report that John Edwards spend a lot on a haircut, whereas liberals eschewed criticism of Mitt Romney’s expenditures on cosmetic improvements:

One of the reasons why vapid petty-personality “journalism” of this sort has so disadvantaged liberals and so advantaged right-wing fanatics is because the latter are not only willing, but droolingly eager, to exploit these sorts of themes, while liberals in general are highly reluctant, almost embarrassed, to do so.

Today’s liberals, for better or worse–mostly for better–operate on principles of higher integrity in debate and are quicker to criticize those that appear not to, whether it be the Politico or Michael Moore. This is all well and good until we start undoing what little progress we have made in the marketplace of ideas, which itself is not always calm and filled with reasonable debate but rather is sometimes shrill, emotional, and imperfect. Adherence to some sort of imagined civility in debate and imagined perfection in policy can often sink proposals that would better things, albeit incrementally.

There are two areas where liberals’ trepidation for settling and consequently abandoning higher aspirations might hinder us but should not: health care and Iraq. Some recent treatments of both subjects address the difficulties not only of making progress in these arenas but in convincing liberals to go along with incomplete progress.

On the subject of health care, Atul Gawande offers some cautionary words as we embark, with two of the leading Democratic candidates for president, on the most ambitious health care reform plans since 1993:

If, in 2009, we actually swear in a President committed to universal health care, the fight will turn ugly. The plan most likely to gather broad support will look something like the Edwards/Obama approach, which would subsidize health insurance for everyone who does not receive coverage through work or through existing programs. It would provide a choice of private insurance options, as in the Netherlands, and would probably add a Medicare-like government option as well. And it would require Americans to obtain coverage for, at a minimum, their children.

People on the right will attack the plan as a tax-and-spend nightmare, because it will have to include some mixture of increases in business and personal-income taxes. And they’ll say that it dictates your medical choices and gives government too much control. People on the left—Moore included—will attack the plan as a boondoggle for insurance companies, because it isn’t single-payer, and will say that it gives government too little control. Others will attack it for what it does or doesn’t do about malpractice litigation, birth control, acupuncture, and so forth. The debate will become angry and murky and mind-numbingly complicated, and the temptation will be to put off reform yet again.

That’s exactly when you’ll need to remind yourself of what’s really at stake. So if, in the throes of the debate, you find yourself experiencing blurred vision, headache, and vertigo, here’s a prescription: go visit an emergency room, clotted with the uninsured, and see what’s it like to try to get care. Or watch the movie. Either way, you’ll be outraged again.

It will be tempting to pan a plan that does not include X provision or that enriches Y corporation, but at some point, as Gawande suggests, we need to move to a health care system that insures as many people as possible over the current cruel, impractical system that we have today.

AMERICAblog points out that criticism that the Democrats plan for troop redeployment from Iraq does not anticipate the aftermath is both wrong and based upon a pie in the sky premise. That premise is that only a smooth way out of Iraq is a viable option against the status quo:

If the argument is that the aftermath will be so bad that we shouldn’t end the war, then that should be stated. But for people to wring their hands that Dems are being irresponsible, when the current legislative approach is *exclusively* a result of Bush repeatedly rejecting comprehensive, compromise, bipartisan efforts, is ridiculous.

I favor redeployment because I strongly believe the following:

1) Our current presence in Iraq is making the U.S. less safe.
2) Our current presence in Iraq is impeding the long-term development of Iraq.

The aftermath of the solution for those two problems (i.e., significant redeployment of our troops) won’t be perfect, and it won’t even be pretty. There are things we can do to mitigate that harmful effects of withdrawal, and we should do them. But the mere existence of potential for “chaos” (as if things are currently just fine!) is not a reason to abandon what’s right for the U.S. and what’s right for Iraq.

As Clausewitz said, there is always a temptation to reject a good plan for dreams of the perfect plan, but the perfect plan will never get implemented. It is virtually impossible for any ideal to stay in tact through the policy implemenation process. Looking forward to 2008, I hope liberals–when faced with several qualified, well-meaning candidates–do not take a flight of fancy into the world of ideals in order to avoid making real decisions that will have some elements of let down in them. The alternative–we must not forget–is much worse.

Top Ten Cool Things of the Year (in the U.S.)

This wasn’t such a great year. The situation in Iraq deteriorated even more, and yet OJ Simpson’s absurd book seemed to generate more outrage among some–namely the over employed entertainment media. So, what was great about 2006? Not a whole lot. Doing my best to remember what on earth happened this year, I’ll try to extract the few cool things that did happen, in no particular order:

1. Stephen Colbert at the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner: In May, Colbert helped draw attention to an event that usually serves as a bad inside joke for a few hundred people by humorously critcizing the president’s famous ego. He mocked Bush’s supposed steely resolve–”Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will”–cutting it down to the publicity stunt it is:

I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.

Not only was Colbert’s bit itself hilarious, but it became a watershed media event. YouTube, 2006′s ubiquitous website, proved especially useful in the days after the event, allowing people to access what really went down at the dinner rather than taking the mainstream media’s word for it. Their word was often non-existent, because many outlets initially determined the event not newsworthy–including The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune–despite the ramifications of the event: one of the country’s most clever comedians had pointedly skewered one of the most insulated of modern presidents, who was sitting just a few feet away. It should be no surprise then that the second target of Colbert’s routine was the lackadaisical media–many in attendance at the dinner–who have so often failed to vigorously question George W. Bush about his agenda:

Over the last five years, you people were so good—over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. … And then you write, ‘Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.’ First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!

The event was remarkable for fusing politics and entertainment for constructive good, for being accessibile to a mass audience, and for serving as a jumping off point for debate about the usefulness of the media. The Colbert performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is perhaps the emblematic event of a year of consumer participation in newsmaking.

2. The Democratic Victory in the 2006 Congressional Elections: One can easily imagine the media narrative that would have persisted had the Republicans maintained control of Congress after the November 2006 elections: that Americans were satisfied with the direction of the War in Iraq despite visible reservations, that the economy wasn’t bad enough to require a renewed focus on growing inequity–like the recent cuts in student aid and the failure to increase the minimum wage–and that, in general, Americans were satisfied with the Republican social agenda. A wisdom that had prevailed for years changed on November 7.

Up against a gerrymandered Congress, the Democrats still won big in the House. They also managed to eke out victory in the Senate, knocking out some formidable incumbents like George Allen of Virginia and Conrad Burns of Montana. Furthermore, they won with great help from the so-called “liberal bloggers,” whose fundraising, organizing, and message generating did justice to the term netroots. The Democrats in 2006 were not the Democrats of 1996, who relied upon the contributions of moneyed coffers and directed most of their energies to retaining the presidency rather than making inroads in Congress.

The new Congress is focusing on a different course in Iraq–though it is still up to the intransigent President to assume one–and on economic issues that were ignored under one-party rule. Plus, the 2006 election was also a victory against apathy, with the number of voters up in the usually less participatory midterm elections. Especially encouraging: 24 percent of Americans 18-30 voted, the largest percentage in 20 years.

3. Harvard, then Princeton and UVA, End Early Decision: In September, Harvard and then Princeton and the University of Virginia moved to end the early admission option, deciding that it favored savvier applicants from more advantaged backgrounds. Although other top schools do not yet see the need to eliminate early decision, Harvard at least brought to attention the need for universities to be attentive to the disparate sophistication of prospective students with the college application process. Although some schools, like my Alma mater Northwestern, have made some reasonable points on why early decision still suits them, it is good for universities to publicly discuss institutional inequities. Hopefully, Harvard and its peers will figure out how better to assist both low income and middle class students with the costs of their education.

4. TV Programming Continues to Improve: Although there is still drek on television–there always will be–some TV programming continues to delight. While I think some of the critics favorite shows, particularly “Weeds” and “Scrubs” are overrated, “The Office,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show,” and HBO programming continue to shine. “The Office” was rightfully awarded an Emmy for its fantastic ability to find humor in the mundane and for the genuine performances put forth by its cast. After a reportedly bumpy first year, “The Office” figured out how to adeptly adapt the British version to reflect the nature of the American workplace in year two. (Now, there is a French and German version of “The Office,” showing that the workplace is a universal source of humor, though not necessarily the same humor). Office romances, career dissatisfaction, narrow-mindedness, and the American work ethic are depicted realistically and hilariously. To think, 10 years ago, the only good things going on network TV were “Frasier,” “Friends” (meh) and “Seinfeld,” and the sitcom (shudder) reigned supreme. Hopefully, the cool event of 2007 will be that cable companies lose their regional monopolies and prices decrease (I wish).

5. Some Bad People Went to Prison: This year, Jack Abramoff and Jeffrey Skilling, two men who enjoyed far too much power in the 1990s, were convicted to formidable prison terms. Abramoff was convicted of conspiracy to bribe a public official, defrauding a client, and tax evasion, and was sentenced to the minimum of 10-years, in anticipation that he will cooperate with investigations of other corruption cases. He and his lobbying firm contributed to the excess of Republican-controlled Washington. Abramoff was intimately involved with disgraced former majority leader Tom DeLay, who his lobbying firm treated to trips to the North Mariana Islands, and Abramoff himself secretly funded the trips of other Republican Representatives. Abramoff’s corruption is too extensive to document here, but concurrent to his demise went the careers of a lot of disgraceful people, including DeLay, Randall “Duke” Cunningham, and Robert Ney.

Jeff Skilling, former CEO of the defunct Enron Corporation might be the person most single-handedly responsible for the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001, in which the state’s recently deregulated electricty grid allowed for Enron employees to manipulate the energy markets in there, causing prices to spike and supply to be unevenly distributed. Too bad Skilling can’t provide redress for all of the pension plans that were decimated by the Enron collapse as well as for the electricty bills and costs incurred by the state of California during the energy crisis.

6. Immigrant Rallies Across the Nation: Often defined by their demagogic opposition, tens of thousands of immigrants and those in favor of immigrant interests rallied across the nation in April, drawing attention to their contributions and advertising their presence to Congress, which was then considering immigration reform. For a group that fills mostly the least desirable jobs in the country, immigrants get a lot of flack, despite that the United States is a nation of immigrants. A typical complaint against illegal immigrants is that they use up public services, but wouldn’t pushing for legalization and thereby getting them to pay into the system be a good way to prevent this? Of course, this would have to be accompanied by pay approximating a living wage…

7. FDA Approves HPV Vaccine and Plan B OTC: The current administration has not wholly succeeded in stymieing progress of its agencies. The FDA approved the Human papillomavirus vaccine and over the counter (OTC) Plan B contraception. Though religious zealots will probably tell you otherwise, there is never anything wrong with vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease. The idea that it encourages unprotected sex or sex in general is like saying that a flu vaccine encourages not washing one’s hands. The approval of Plan B also generated controversy, but it will make an unpleasant process easier to handle for many people.

8. An Inconvenient Truth Brings More Attention to Global Warming: In a year of erratic temperatures and a hostile climate, Al Gore used his influence and celebrity for good, bringing attention to the force behind climate fluctuations. It is amazing that the existence of global warming needs such a forceful defense, even though it is not in scientific dispute, but that is why Gore’s contribution was so constructive. Though of course not as watchable as a movie like Casino Royale, Gore does an admirable job of meticulously deconstructing the arguments against global warming and detailing those for it. If parts of our country are submerged under water in the not too distant future, Al Gore can (somberly) say I told you so.

9. Google Buys YouTube: In an acquisition that didn’t reek of evil, the search engine giant bought out the user-generated content giant. Not only does YouTube’s searchable video content model seem commensurate with Google’s model, but Google appears to be an encouraging parent corporation, managing to maintain the integrity and while innovating its other acquisitions, like this here software I’m using. (Meanwhile, the telecom market is consolidated by another dispiriting merger, as AT&T’s absorption of Bell South Corp. is approved by the FCC).

10. Bob Woodward’s State of Denial Released: The tipping point of popular opinion against George W. Bush must surely have been reached when Bob Woodward–establishment journalist and former Bush administration cheerleader–released State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. Woodward’s book seemed to cement the view that the War in Iraq was a mistake, and that its execution was poorly managed at best, providing an indictment of all of the key actors in the administration who consistently lied and misled over the years to save face.

This was a pretty difficult list to come up with, because this was a pretty difficult year, but I know I’m forgetting things. Please comment with any additional suggestions or any recommended subtractions.

Political Psychology

Great article at TPM about David Brooks and others like them and why they insist on mercifully defending a corrupt, hypocritical politics while voiceferously attacking made up enemies like the netroots and Ned Lamont:

It’s The Ghost of Left-Liberalism Past that spooks aging neoconservative and liberal war-hawk pundits. They keep summoning that ghost to displace a gnawing, growing anxiety borne of hypocrisies they dare not face in themselves: These are people who’ve done a bit too well in corporate America as we know it now to challenge its increasingly degrading seductions, inequalities and worse. Yet they’re too well-meaning to be comfortable defending it, either — except when they can find enemies and evils that are far worse, at home and abroad.

…Obsessing about what the late Michael Kelly called the left-liberal “sandalistas” is fundamentally a dodge, and it only reinforces a taboo on criticizing new configurations of capital, employment and consumption that are eviscerating social trust. Tuesday’s vote was in part a protest against that evisceration, for which conservative Republicans, their apologists and certain Democratic fellow-travelers like Joe Lieberman bear a lot of responsibility and have no answers. To shout that most liberals have none, either, isn’t an answer.

…Similarly, the War on Terror has never been threatened by an anti-war movement, whether led by Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan or Ned Lamont, as much as it has been undermined by that war’s own architects and apologists. “The Good Fight” against terror isn’t selling because Beinart and others have distorted that undertaking badly. Lamont felt driven by such nonsense and Lieberman’s truly awful record of supporting it to ignite the spark that changed the national conversation.

Since the War on Terror is indeed different from the one in Vietnam, Lamont supporters have protested it and its Iraq miscarriage very differently from the way anti-war movement of the 1960s and ‘70s protested. But that hasn’t stopped [Slate columnist Jacob] Weisberg from invoking the ghost of McGovern and Brooks from writing that Lamont supporters “rationalize their [outrageous] behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country.”

When someone writes this way without realizing how accurately he is describing himself, he certainly won’t tell readers that Lamont lost mainly because most Republicans voted for Lieberman — who estimates that 75 percent of his voters were either unaffiliated or Republican – and that, even so, Lamont carried Connecticut’s largest, poorest and least-white cities against Lieberman overwhelmingly: Hartford by more than two to one, Bridgeport by nearly two to one, New Haven by three to two. Is that a Net roots triumph? Hardly. Does Brooks’ “comic sociology” hold the answer? Silence.

But who got all this going in the first place? Who, trapped in their own illogic and then their belated discovery that the world is a place too hard for Wilsonian idealism, wound up in the arms of a Senator who’d gone hook, line, and sinker with the Bush National Security Strategy? Can’t pundits and reporters stop peddling the line that Lamont was the candidate of Moore, Sharpton, and That’s not who he is or ever was, and it’s not what 40 percent of Connecticut voters endorsed, and Brooks, Beinart, and Weisberg should resolve not to insult them by reducing them to the demons in their own fevered imaginations.

“Resolve not to insult them by reducing them to the demons in their own fevered imaginations.” What a great point, and a really good article about people who cannot extricate themselves from 60s and 70s paradigms and who cannot acknowledge the influence their own privilege has on their need to defend the status quo. Read the whole thing.

State of Denial Vs. Learning from Mistakes

Just one more comment about today’s politics. One of the greatest accomplishments in Presidential history was the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which President John F. Kennedy was able to keep the military brass at bay to prevent a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. This achievement owes to Kennedy’s amazing ability to learn from past mistakes, namely, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as chronicled in Richard Reeves’s President Kennedy: Profile of Power–and I’m sure other places as well. The root of learning from one’s mistakes is admitting when one was wrong. Kennedy had it, George W. Bush apparently does not. From what I am reading about Bob Woodward’s new book State of Denial, and from what I have seen over the years, Bush wants to feel like he’s right even if he is not. This seems to explain why there are so many problems with how the war in Iraq was executed and how it has been managed. If a President is unwilling to admit there are problems with his strategy–and this is inevitable–how can he do his job well?

Independence Daze

It feels repetitive to say that John McCain is not really an independent. It also feels repetitive to say that the so-called dean of the Washington press corps does not seem to know what he is talking about. Yet, McCain still remains the GOP’s current best prospect for the presidency in 2008 and David Broder still remains the dean of the press corps–or at least, a prominent opinions writer–which is why I even think it worth mentioning either of them.

Broder’s astute political analysis from his September 21 column in the Washington Post has already been proven wrong. In that column, he hailed “the emergence of an independent force in elections and government” in Republican senators McCain, Lindsey Graham (SC), and John Warner (VA). These senators were part of “a new movement in this country”–never mind, as I pointed out earlier, that they have shown little interest during their long service in the U.S. Congress in hatching this so-called movement earlier.

In his own defense for supporting Bush all of these years, Broder insists that his two presidential opponents, Al Gore and John Kerry possessed a “know-it-all arrogance [which] rankled Midwesterners such as myself.” According to his biography, Broder was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and went to the University of Chicago. By his standards, I too am a Midwesterner, and I can say that myself and plenty of other Midwesterners (or pseudo-Midwesterners, since we are really from a vast Metropolitan area–though in fairness, one that was much smaller when Broder came of age) were more “rankled” by Bush’s pseudo-Texan, pseudo-populist pose than by his Democratic opponents possessing intelligence and exceptional competence. For those who did support Bush, I think many can say that they misjudged the man.

Back to Broder’s assessment of the three Republicans: now that McCain, Graham, and Warner are in effect supporting the Bush bill on detainee treatment, to the point where they are sanctioning the full-out denial of habeus corpus–a right defined by the U.S. Constitution–to detainees, it is clear, once again, that these men are not independents. That they look a bit more moderate than Bush is only a sign of how far to the right the Republican party has moved, but it should not influence a person like Broder’s basic ability to have some perspective on their politics and see that these three senators have been loyal to Bush as he and his administration have led this country into one disaster after another. To believe that the Republican Congress or some of its particular members is capable of independence is to totally disregard the precedent they have set over the last six-years.

Edited to add: See Harold Myerson’s op-ed “The ‘Moderate Republican’ Scam.” Several Republican incumbents who find themselves in close races fit into Myerson’s description. Though he sticks to Senators, representatives like Chris Shays (CT) and my district’s very own Mark Kirk (IL) fit the bill here. Myerson’s amusing term for these Republicans is “deathbed converts.”

Wrongful Perceptions of Israel

If you start agreeing with someone too much, be afraid, be very afraid. This is what I reassured myself today as I read popular Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas’s pronouncements on the recent Hezbollah attacks on Israel and Israel’s reaction. Moulitsas foolishly embraced a Clash of Civilizations mentality in explaining the current and quite brutal impasse between Israel and Lebanon:

It’s clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting. They have centuries of grudges to resolve, and will continue fighting until they can get over them.

Such a “centuries of grudges” framing, which sets up the conflict as if it is inevitable and as if groups like Hezbollah aren’t themselves independent actors is part of what keeps this conflict going. It implies that there is some inherent animosity that must occur between Jews and Muslims (without noting that the Muslim population is internally very diverse, in terms of economic status, ethnicity, etc.).

A perception that is held by some is that Israel is an aggressor because it is a formidable military power. This cause and effect is a bit sloppy: considering Israel is in the center of one of the most volatile regions in the world, and yes, it has the economic resources, and furthermore, is the main target of its neighboring countries, it would follow that Israel would want to build up a sizable military arsenal.

Some believe Israel is the aggressor. I don’t believe in wars of aggression, but in my mind, that fully squares with my feelings towards Israel, which is that it has a right and in fact a duty to defend itself against such wars. Those of us who are against wars of aggression must also be for strong defense against such wars.

Israel further gets perceived as an economic behemoth that oppresses the more destitute citizens of the neighboring Palestinian territories. However, people ignore the internal problems of those territories such as that the Palestinians have been led by a corrupt authority in the past in which its leader, the late Yasser Arafat, used foreign aid money on his own personal expenses and discreetly encouraged terrorist acts against Israelis rather than peace. He walked out of sweeping negotiations with Israel, therefore denying his citizens sizable gains and hopes for a life of peace. Israel does have a thriving economy compared to those of its neighboring states–something that is also held against the it, but this is not due to any pillaging of neighboring nations but to a strong democracy which inherently values the contribution of its citizens to its economic life. It would be nice if the House of Saud or the regime in Syria would focus more on reforming their country’s problems and less on finding a scapegoat.

This brings me to the final incorrect perception about Israel: those who believe Israel is an oppressor of Muslims ignore the more complex rivalries among the Muslim nations, such as Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. These Muslim countries are hardly brothers-in-arms, as Clash of Civilizations folks might believe, and if Israel were to dissolve, more internecine warfare would erupt, this time over the land. It is somewhat oblivious to think as some seem to, that it would all be easier in the Middle East if Israel just didn’t exist, if the Balfour Declaration hadn’t been written, if the Ottoman Empire hadn’t dissolved, if the Israelites hadn’t conquered Canaan (we can go back forever on this), but that is simply oblivious of geopolitical tendencies.


A state-owned company based in the emirate of Dubai has dropped its bid to run six U.S. ports after concern expressed by the Congress along with a strong resolution against the deal. One thing that bothered me has been the interpretation of this decision. The Chicago Tribune said this deal signified the Democrats first chance to look stronger on national defense and they took it. This therefore becomes a cynical attempt by the Democrats to capitalize on Americans’ negative associations of the Middle East. Lest we forget, however, that it is the media that has done so much to promote the myth that Republicans are stronger on national defense. Read most any article analyzing Democratic and Republican strengths, and it is suggested that national security is firmly in the Republican corner, notwithstanding that Osama Bin Laden remains at large, the U.S.’s port security still doesn’t inspect almost all of the cargo passing through, various assessments indicate the U.S. is still very susceptible to a terrorist attack, and the security situation in Iraq is disastorous. So if media outlets like the Tribune are going to accuse Democrats of cynically exploiting the ports issue (which I must disagree with because Congressional Republicans were as vocal as Dems on the issue and Democrats were most worried about why the UAE-based company didn’t get the usual background check before approval, which is a reasonable expectation), then they should stop promoting the equally cynical myth that Republicans are stronger on national security because they yell louder about our enemies.


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